AMERICA HEADED TO THE ASH HEAP OF HISTORY SAYS CHURCH LEADER
America has just marked its 239th Independence Day, the birthday of the nation. But after all these years of celebrating, Americans may soon be mourning its downfall. That’s the conclusion of researcher George Barna and historian David Barton in their book U-Turn: Restoring America to the Strength of Its Roots. These authors say the United States is entering its own version of the Dark Ages and that any civilization that’s gone where America’s headed has gone to ruin. “The founders gave us an amazing foundation,” Barna said, “And for us to trample on it and say ‘we’re going to build a new one’ is folly.” The authors said early Americans were inspired by the Bible and a Judeo-Christian worldview. “They believed people should read through the Bible once a year,” Barton said.
Not today. Christians don’t read the word anymore.” Today only 30% of Christians read the Bible and less than 10% have read it cover-to-cover. Only 9% of born-again Christians and 51% of pastors have a biblical worldview,” Barna said. The proportion of unchurched people has risen from 28% to 48% in six years,” Barna shared. “The fastest growing faith group in America is atheists and agnostics.” There has been a complete change in values from 240 years ago. Then, service to others ruled the day. “Your order of responsibilities was God, country, and family.” Barton explained. “That was the way they thought. That’s why the founding fathers believed that if someone came to you and said ‘we need you to run for public office,’ you were not allowed to say ‘no,'” he said.
“Now we are only worried about comfort, entertainment and security,” Barna suggested. “The average American family have a mortgage debt of about $130,000, a credit card debt of about $21,000, car debt of about $23,000, a college loan debt of about $24,000. We are so far in debt that we tolerate it in others. Like our federal government.” Barton said “It will take 107 years of the full production of the American economy to pay off the debt we have right now,” Barton said. “We are at a point now where 60% of Americans receive more from the government than what they put in,” he added. “You can’t sustain that. You now find those on welfare make more than teachers make in 11 states more than secretaries do in 39 states. We can’t sustain that,” he reiterated.
Barton said, “We can live in debt and extravagance, but be in slavery — or we can be free, but we have to use frugality.” “George Washington said ‘ You want out of debt? Just quit spending. And so the founding fathers were very, very, very clear that what would destroy a nation is debt,” Barton concluded. So where does that indicate America’s headed? “Into the ash heap of history,” Rev. Sam Rohrer, president of the American Pastors Network, suggested. Rohrer doesn’t want that to happen. He’s desperate for another outcome. “God’s hand of judgment, which is very obviously here, will put us on our knees until we look up,” Rohrer said. “When a culture begins to recognize that truth has not changed and God is truth, then the nation can be made whole.”
Rohrer’s doing what he can to make that happen. “This is a hope that God’s people, who hold the key, will wake up and discover, ‘We are the problem. We have walked away from You and the culture has followed us, not the other way around,'” Rohrer explained. Christians may doubt they’re a part of the problem, but Barna and Barton found in their research over and over again that church people — just as much as their government and as much as secular people, are guilty of the same kind of ruinous behaviours that are taking the nation down. “In a country where between 78 to 80% say they’re Christian, only 34% say they believe in absolute moral truth,” Barton said.
Barna regularly asks Christians and non-Christians about 70 moral categories — and these days he’s finding no substantive difference between Christians and non-Christians when it comes to most moral issues. “You can’t find a difference in behaviour between Christians and non-Christians anymore, and that’s not good,” Barton warned. Barna had a suggestion for Christians: “Stop pointing the finger and look at ourselves and say, ‘Are we really the Church that Christ died on the cross for?” He pointed out that what made America great was a dynamic partnership between church, family, and government,” he explained. Today, many doubt whether religious believers should even get involved in politics or guiding government.
Barton pointed out, “The Bible is full of examples of God’s people speaking prophetically to Kings and those in authority. For much of America’s history Christian leaders spoke publicly what the Bible had to say about proposed laws. And it went on for 170 years. It was very common in earlier days for state legislatures to invite a minister to come and speak to them.” Many today recoil from the church having so much input into secular government. But Barna suggested, “For us to say we are going to do it our way now is sheer arrogance.” Barna said today’s Americans believe they’re smarter than the founders, But the founders had biblical truth, wisdom, discernment, love and grace.” Our generation does not and is well on its way to destroying what they built.
Recently an Open Doors worker in Nigeria, travelled to meet some of the women freed from Boko Haram. All of the women had difficulty expressing the intensity of their ordeal. However Martina Paul, a mother of five, shared her story. “It was like living in hell. It is difficult to describe what it is like to be left in the hands of the enemies of Christ. The insurgents came to our village at night. I was with my husband and the kids. We said our prayers, went to bed, and woke up to the sound of explosions and gunshots all over the village. We heard cries of other people in the village, shouting the name of Jesus. The insurgents broke down our doors and entered. We were also shouting, calling on the Name of Jesus. They told us to stop calling on Jesus, but we persisted.”
“My husband embraced me and the kids, all the while calling on the name of Jesus. The attackers drew him away and shot him in front of us and then set the house on fire and went away with us to the forest. I was pregnant and pleaded with them to spare us, but they took me and the children captive.” Martina delivered the baby after five months in the camp. But the insurgents killed her child because she had thanked God in the name of Jesus for the child’s birth. The military rescue operation did not come a day too soon.
Another women, Elizabeth, spoke to Isaac and recounted what happened from when she had first arrived in the camp. On the first day, the women were made to eat Debino (dates). This is used as part of the initiation into the sect and a sign of ownership over those eating them. They were then told to convert to Islam and given new Muslim names for easy identification. Those who refused to cooperate with this were killed. When we arrived in the camp, some of the girls who were captured with us refused to be Islamised. They stood firm in Christ. I saw them being stoned to death as they called on Jesus. I was terrified and agreed to become a Muslim to spare my life,” the 20-year-old Elizabeth told Isaac.
Isaac was told the abducted women were given as wives to fighting members of Boko Haram. Those who protested these forceful marriages were punished publically as a lesson to others. Punishment could be 80 strokes in public, or death, either by shooting or slitting of the throat. Unfortunately this was a common occurrence with rape and death threats a daily part of life. Abducted victims were also trained in basic warfare either by Arab militants or captured military officers. This involved being shown how to kill, how to defend oneself, and how to be confident in the face of danger. Leaders also went around the different camps looking for men and girls willing to perform suicide bombings.
These women thank God for sparing their lives. In the midst of the harrowing tales of suffering and trauma, they testify that the Lord has heard our prayers for them -not only in the rescue, but in His sustaining grace to them as they faced each day’s brutality in the camp. 25 year old Waliya Samiyu shared with Isaac, “God never let me down. My friends lost their lives in my presence. I went through hardship. I was raped. But I clung to God who knows me. I cried to Him day and night. At night, when everyone was dealing with their trauma, I gazed at the stars in heaven and constantly reminded God of His promises in times like these. He kept his promises. I survived it. Now I am free. To God be the glory.”
At the military barracks in Yola, the women are kept under heavy security for their protection. They do not know how long they will stay there and a long term plan for them to return into normal society is yet to be formulated. This raises concerns for the future of children like 10 year old Alisa. Alisa spoke with Isaac and told him, “I have no one to help me. But I am sure that if God allowed my parents to be killed, He will take care of me. The way He rescued me shows that He has something for me in this life.” Isaac told us, “The rescued believers were encouraged by our presence at a time when they felt the world had abandoned them. Hearing that the larger body of Christ has been praying for them restored a measure of confidence, hope, and acceptance.”
. praising God for the women who have been set free, that they have survived this ordeal and He has brought them through it.
. for the women still imprisoned by Boko Haram as they face the same ongoing ordeal.
* for the soldiers of Boko Haram, that God would open their eyes and they would lay aside their weapons seeking His forgiveness.
Gennady Zyuganov, leader of Russia’s modern-day Communist Party, believes Lenin and Jesus had much in common. Both sought to “save humanity” with a message of “love, friendship, and brotherhood”. Speaking in Moscow on the 145th anniversary of Lenin’s birth, Zyuganov claimed that the Soviet Union was an attempt to establish “God’s Kingdom on Earth”. Had he heard the speech, Lenin may have turned in his grave. After all, some 200,000 clergy were murdered during the first 20 years of the Soviet era, according to Kremlin reports, while millions of other Christians were persecuted for their faith. “The more representatives of the reactionary clergy we shoot, the better,” Lenin once said. Thousands of churches were destroyed under early communist rule.
Those that survived were turned into warehouses, garages, or museums of atheism. Although a limited Orthodox revival was permitted under Joseph Stalin during the Second World War, anti-religion propaganda and discrimination against believers continued up until the mid-1980s. One Soviet school textbook printed in the 1950s called Christianity a “perverse reflection of the world”. Zyuganov’s comments created a storm in Russia, as critics pointed out the apparent contradictions in his mingling of communist and Christian beliefs. The Communist Party is the second most powerful political party in Russia today, after Vladimir Putin’s United Russia.
While Communist Party members regularly glorify both Lenin and Stalin they have lifted restrictions on membership for religious believers, even though its constitution remains based firmly on Marxism-Leninism. It was Karl Marx who famously called organised religion “the opium of the people”. Critics suggest Zyuganov’s comments are a cynical ploy aimed at attracting Orthodox Christian voters, while also holding onto the party’s traditional core of Leftist supporters. Nostalgia for the Soviet Union is common in today’s Russia and Orthodox Christianity plays an increasingly important role in political and social affairs. “There is a craving for the sacred among the Russian people,” says Maria Lipman, an analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
Lipman also notes that whilst 70% of Russians identify themselves as Orthodox Christians in opinion polls, only a tiny percentage regularly attend church services. “Zyuganov is trying to take votes from Vladimir Putin,” says Ilya Ponamaryov, from Russia’s Left Front opposition movement. “A true communist is unlikely to believe in God.” In recent times President Putin has successfully portrayed himself as a defender of “Orthodox Christian values” against what he describes as the morally bankrupt West. But not all Russian Orthodox believers are comfortable with this startling Soviet-Christian comparison. Andrei Zolotov, a journalist and Orthodox believer says “For me, communism is a satanic religion.”
ISIS is calling it their ‘religious duty’ to destroy Egypt’s pyramids and Sphynx. Greg Musselman is a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs Canada. He says, “The military is defending strongly and the government is vowing to put these guys down. But it will be difficult to stop.” Two years after President el-Sisi led a military takeover promising to restore order and security in Egypt, the jihadi insurgency is not only not slowing, but the ferocity of their attacks are shaking the stability of the country. The growing power of the militants poses an immediate threat, explains Musselman. “ISIS and their affiliates, when linked together, become a little more scary. They have been able to cause such damage in places like Iraq and Syria. They embolden each other” Musselman says.
Egyptians searching for hope are leaving in increasing numbers from the region. He says, “People just want to get out of the country.” Part of the reason might be due to what has happened in the past with instability in Egypt, he adds. “The Christians become more vulnerable because they are truly in the sights of groups like ISIS and their affiliates in places like Egypt.” Here’s the thing: “Persecution is nothing new to Christians in Egypt”, confirms Musselman. It’s the level of wanton, unpredictable violence that has people reconsidering staying. Even if it’s for a season, though, they are weighing the cost. “As Christians want to bring their families here to Canada from places like Egypt because of the violence, it certainly is diminishing the workers.”
With fewer Gospel workers, there’s a void at a critical time. “Many are coming to know the Lord from Muslim backgrounds because they’re starting to ask questions about ‘what is this religion about?’ and ‘where is this violence coming from?’ ‘Is this just an extremist group or is this something that is inherent within the religion of Islam?'” The violence in Egypt, while not directly targeted at Christians, is having the same effect as overt oppression. On one hand, “You’ve got those who are becoming more passionate and pressing on with the Gospel”, and on the other, “You’ve got others leaving the country.” What to do? “Pray that the Lord would continue to strengthen His Church and raise up workers in the harvest fields.”
IRANIAN CHARITY PRAYING NUCLEAR DEAL LEADS TO FREEDOM FOR CHRISTIANS
A charity which reaches out to Iranian Christians says it’s praying and hoping that Iran’s nuclear programme deal will allow the West to have more influence on Iran and the right to freedom of worship. As part of the agreement the country will get rid of 98% of its stockpile of enriched uranium. In turn sanctions imposed by the United States, European Union and United Nations will be lifted allowing Iran to return to the global oil market. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said the deal marked “a new chapter” in relations with the world and the Islamic republic. Speaking in Tehran, Mr Rouhani said: “The sanctions regime was never successful, but at the same time it had affected people’s lives.”
President Obama gave an address moments after the deal was made. Addressing critics he said: “This deal is not built on trust. It is built on verification.” Revd Lazarus Yeghnazar, President of 222 Ministries said: “Once again Iran and its leadership has been given a unique opportunity. “Many are apprehensive both Iranians and non for its past track record over three decades. I’m praying and hoping they will seize this opportunity….to do something accountably and respectively both for the Iranian citizens and the international community. In a pragmatic sense I exercise a cautious optimism and on a spiritual sense I prayerfully look forward to praying for all the leaders in the country.
Christians world-wide are praying that God will soften their hearts and that they will leave the Christian community alone to worship their God as they want.” Announcing the deal, Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, appeared on stage alongside Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. He said: “Today we are creating the conditions for building trust. No-one ever thought it would be easy…Despite twists and turns in the talks, hope and determination enabled us to overcome all the difficult moments.” The deal’s been labelled a ‘bad mistake’ by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said it would lead to Iran getting a “cash bonanza” which will enable it to “continue to pursue aggression in the region and the world”.