Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Theme: End Times

Volume 4 No. 238 September 19, 2014

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Cape Cod Sunset - August 2014 by Dr. Jacob Mathew
Memories of Summer - 2014
Cape Cod (Massachusetts, USA) Sunset (Aug 2014)

Photo by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

TABLE OF CONTENTS
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1. Foreword

2. Bible Readings for This Sunday (September 21)

Bible Readings For First Sunday after Sleebo Feast

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_1st-sunday-after-sleebo.htm

3. Sermons for This Sunday (September 21)

Sermons For First Sunday after Sleebo Feast

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_1st-sunday-after-Sleebo.htm

4. Inspiration for Today

5. Are There "Signs" of the Second Coming of Christ?

The Olivet Sermon is divided into two major sections: first, Jesus dealt with the impending destruction of Jerusalem, and the "signs" that would herald that event (4-34); second, he spoke of his final return, and the lack of signs that would characterize that occasion (35ff) .

It is certainly a sad tragedy that hysterical speculators on Bible prophecy would take those "signs" that have to do solely with the destruction of ancient Jerusalem, and attempt to give them a modern application in the context of a nuclear Armageddon! ...

6. Jesus Teaches About the Coming Kingdom

There are many places in the Old Testament that tell about the time when God's kingdom will rule over all the earth. That promised future kingdom is something the Jewish people anticipated for a long, long time. As Christians, we also are waiting for that day, knowing that Jesus is the One who will then rule the world. It will be heaven on earth. ...

7. The End of the World!... Again?

Jesus talked about the coming reign of God. It is clear in the Gospel today that St. Mark expected a catastrophic kind of ending within the lifetime of his audience. It can be seen, however, not as trying to strike fear into people but rather to inspire them with hope. ...

8. Time and Eternity

God's timing is not our timing. From the viewpoint of eternity, even a thousand years can seem as quick as a day. God isn't slow at all in bringing the end but wants to give people as much time as possible to repent (2 Peter 3:9). ...

9. Holy Spirit - A Personal Experience

A poem by by Dr. Mercy Abraham.

10. Inspirational: Overcoming Obstacles and Challenges in Life

There are times in life when we are "certain" we know what's about to happen, only to be disappointed. I call those times "the almost ones." My life, as well as everyone else's life, is full of those "almost ones." ...

11. How Islam Conquered Christianity

Before the rise of Islam, Christians in ancient Persia experienced perhaps the most intense physical persecution any group of Christians have ever experienced. The church in Persia grew steadily, as missionaries from Antioch and Edessa ranged further east. Naturally, this caused some tension with the leaders of the established state religion, Zoroastrianism. The conflict between it and Christianity was often more acutely felt by the Zoroastrian clergy than that experienced by pagan priests in Rome. The clergy (called magi) often led in the persecution of Christians. ...

12. About Malankara World

Foreword
As we indicated last week, during the Sundays following  the Sleebo Feast, we look ahead at the End of the World and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the last days our Lord was on earth. Today, the lectionary looks at the Gospel Readings where Jesus talks about "end of things." The key teaching here is that no one knows when the end happens and hence we need to be alert and waiting,

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (September 21)
Sermons for This Sunday (September 21)
This Week's Features

Inspiration for Today
"All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all."

"He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well."

Cecil F. Alexander, 1848

Are There "Signs" of the Second Coming of Christ?

By Wayne Jackson

Church history is replete with examples of sensational "prophets" who have attracted public attention with the claim of knowing the time of the Lord's return.

William Miller, founder of the Adventist movement, announced that Christ would come in 1843; when that prediction failed, a revision was made and 1844 was set. That "prophecy" also has proved to be somewhat short of the mark.

Joseph Smith, of Mormon fame, taught that Christ would come no later than 1891, but he missed it too.

C. T. Russell, founder of the Watchtower organization, declared that the Second Coming would occur in 1914.

One of the more recent prognosticators is Hal Lindsey, author of the popular book, The Late Great Planet Earth, who has argued that the "signs" of Matthew twenty-four indicate that Jesus will return to earth by about 1988.

Lindsey arrives at this conclusion by suggesting that the "generation" which witnessed the rebirth of Israel in 1948 would also witness the Lord's return. Since a generation is supposed to be about forty years, Lindsey surmises that Christ will return to effect the "rapture" (a notion without biblical support) by about 1988. He further concludes that since the rapture will be followed by a seven year "tribulation" period, Jesus will visibly appear by about 1995 to win the "Battle of Armageddon" and to thus commence his earthly millennial reign.

The alleged proof for the view that the Lord would return by 1995 or so was said to be found, as we mentioned above, in Matthew, chapter twenty-four.

As the Lord departed from Jerusalem (Matt. 24:1,2), his disciples called his attention to the temple buildings. The Lord then asked: "Do you not see all of these things? Truly I say to you, there shall not be here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down." Obviously, the Savior spoke of that awesome destruction of Jerusalem, which would be accomplished some forty years later.

As they sat on the mount of Olives, the disciples asked the Lord when "these things" would be and what would be the "sign" of his coming and the end of the world. They likely assumed that the destruction of the temple and the end of the world would occur at the same time. Christ, in the discourse to follow, sought to correct their misconception.

The Olivet Sermon is divided into two major sections: first, Jesus dealt with the impending destruction of Jerusalem, and the "signs" that would herald that event (4-34); second, he spoke of his final return, and the lack of signs that would characterize that occasion (35ff) .

It is certainly a sad tragedy that hysterical speculators on Bible prophecy would take those "signs" that have to do solely with the destruction of ancient Jerusalem, and attempt to give them a modern application in the context of a nuclear Armageddon!

The Signs

The signs which the Lord mentioned are found in Matthew 24:4-14. We will not take the time to discuss these in this article, but it is sufficient to say that every single one of them was fulfilled within the forty year span between the time of the Lord's discourse and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Let me recommend three good sources of material in this connection. (1-3) These are excellent study materials of this theme.

In the balance of this article I simply want to conclusively show that the "signs" of Matthew 24:4-14 could not find their fulfillment in the final return of Christ.

There are four strong arguments which show that the signs of Matthew 24:4ff relate to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

"This generation shall not pass away until …"

First, in that great verse which marks the "continental divide" of the chapter, Jesus plainly said: "Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass away, till all these things be accomplished" (34). The expression "all these things" refers to the signs that the Lord had given. And "all these things" - the signs - were to be accomplished before "this generation" passed away.

The question is - what is the meaning of "this generation"? Dispensationalists are fond of saying that "generation" has reference to "race," hence, it is merely an allusion to the Jewish race; and so, the Lord was indicating that these signs would be fulfilled while the Jewish race was being preserved (cf. The Scofield Reference Bible).

Such a view of "generation," however, is at variance with the use of that word in the New Testament. In their Greek Lexicon, Arndt & Gingrich comment that genea ["generation"] refers basically to "the sum total of those born at the same time, expanded to include all those living at a given time generation, contemporaries" (p. 153). A survey of several passages in Matthew's gospel will quickly confirm this (cf. 11:16; 12:39,41,42,45; 16:4; 17:17; 23:36). Clearly then, the signs of the Olivet lesson were confined to the first century.

Important ancient details

Though Lindsey and others contend that the descriptions of Matthew 24 suggest a 20th century, international nuclear conflict. Contextual considerations reveal that the Lord clearly had reference to an ancient and local situation.

Consider the following factors:

1. Christ plainly specified that the coming destruction would involve the ancient temple area ["the holy place" - 24:15] and the city of Jerusalem (cf. Lk. 21:20).

2. The disciples of Judea were warned to "flee unto the mountains" (16) - instructions that would hardly seem valid in a time of atomic attack! However, according to the testimony of the historian Eusebius, Christians, prior to Jerusalem's invasion, fled to Pella east of the Jordan River and so were spared the fate of the Jews.

3. The Lord warned: "Let him that is on the housetop not go down to take out the things that are in his house" (17). Again, such instruction would scarcely make sense if the Savior had been speaking of a modern nuclear assault. But it made perfect sense in view of the fact that the houses of old Jerusalem were flat-roofed and adjacent to one another. Accordingly, Christians might proceed, via "the road of roofs," to the edge of the city and escape (cf. Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life, p. 93).

4. The admonition, "Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter" (20) anticipates primitive conditions when travel would be difficult.

5. "Pray ye that your flight be … neither on the sabbath" takes into account the fact that the gates of the ancient city would be closed on the sabbath (cf. Neh. 13:19) a fact, of course, which did not obtain after the destruction of the city.

Jesus teaching regarding the Second Coming

The illustrations introduced by Jesus to insure preparedness for his Second Coming preclude the possibility of signs being given to determine the time of that event.

In a number of vivid historical illustrations, the Lord declared that no time indicators would be given to signal his Return; rather, the Judgment Day would catch men unawares.

Note the following:

1. As the people of Noah's day continued business as normal "until the day" that the flood came, "so shall be the coming of the Son of man" (38,39).

2. The people of ancient Sodom were unaware of the impending disaster until "the day that Lot went out from Sodom," even so "after the same manner shall it be in the day that the Son of man is revealed" (Lk. 17:28-30).

3. Christ declared that he would come at an unexpected time, even as a thief does. "If the master of the house had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken through. Therefore be ye also ready; for in an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh" (43,44; cf. 1 Thes. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:10).

4. The parable of the virgins in Matthew 25 surely teaches the lesson of constant preparation, for the bridegroom will come at the most unexpected time [the midnight hour - a most surprising time for a wedding!].

There is nothing in Matthew 24 that lends support to the theory that Christ gave some signs that would herald the end of the world.

Jesus' own words

One of the most persuasive points demonstrating that the Lord gave no signs by which the end of time could be calculated is the affirmation of verse 36. "But of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only."

The argument is devastating: though Jesus gave the signs of Matthew 24:4-14, not even he knew when the time of his Second Coming would occur. It must therefore be obvious to anyone (save those totally deceived) that the signs of Matthew 24 can in no way be employed to figure the time of the Lord's Return!

Does it not seem odd that modern "prophets" can read Matthew 24 and predict the time of the end of the world; yet not even he who spoke the message was able to so decipher it?!

There are no signs concerning the time of the end of this age. Let us strive, therefore, to be always prepared for the Lord's Return, or death, whichever comes first.

References:

1. J. Marcellus Kik, Matthew XXIV, Presbyterian & Reformed, 1948.

2. Roy Deaver, "Matthew 24" in Premillennialism - True Or False?, Wendell Winkler, Ed. , 1978, pp. 105ff.

3. Cecil May, "Matthew 24," The Biblical Doctrine of Last Things, David Lipe, Ed., 1984, pp. 115ff.

About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.

Copyright © 2013 Christian Courier. All rights reserved.

Jesus Teaches About the Coming Kingdom
Gospel: Luke 17:20-37

There are many places in the Old Testament that tell about the time when God's kingdom will rule over all the earth. That promised future kingdom is something the Jewish people anticipated for a long, long time. As Christians, we also are waiting for that day, knowing that Jesus is the One who will then rule the world. It will be heaven on earth.

One day some of the Pharisees asked Jesus when God's kingdom would come. Knowing that they would not be citizens of that kingdom unless they believed in Him, Jesus answered their question by telling them that the kingdom of God was among them. That is, the God of that kingdom, the One who would one day rule the world, was standing right in front of them, offering blessings that would be enjoyed by every one of that kingdom's citizens. In that sense, God's kingdom isn't coming, it's here right now! Although Jesus is not yet ruling everyone in the world, He is ruling over everyone who has submitted his life to Him.

Later with His disciples, Jesus spoke more about the time when He would return to rule the world. He didn't tell us everything we might want to know, but He told us everything He wanted His disciples and us to know.

First, Jesus made clear to His disciples certain things that modern Christians know quite well: He would suffer and die and then be gone from earth for a considerable amount of time. His followers would want Him to come back much sooner than He would. Knowing how much we would long to see Him, Jesus warned us against being deceived by reports of His supposed return. When He comes back, Jesus said we'll know it, because He won't be sneaking back and hiding somewhere! His return will be as evident as lightning flashing across the sky.

Second, Jesus reiterated to His disciples what He previously said to the Pharisees: His return would not be ushered in with visible signs immediately preceding it. People would be caught unprepared and would be living their lives just as they always had.

Third, when Jesus returns to the earth, He will come with judgment. Many people will die, suffering God's wrath, just as they did during the flood of Noah and the destruction of Sodom. Because entire cities and towns will be destroyed, Christ's followers will have to be cautious not to put themselves into danger by joining the ungodly when God's wrath falls upon them. Jesus reminded us of Lot's wife, who died looking back to a city that God was destroying. However, although there is the possibility of one of us making a mistake, there is no danger of God making a mistake. We don't have to worry about Him accidentally killing us, because Jesus told us that two people could be working side by side or even sleeping in the same bed, and one would be taken and the other saved. God knows those who are His, and He won't treat them like the ungodly.

Q. If you heard a report on the television news that Jesus had recently returned and was living in France, would you believe it?

A. I hope not! Jesus told us not to believe any reports of His return because we'll all know it when it happens.

Q. Let's suppose you are alive when Jesus returns. You happen to be driving home from a vacation and have just about arrived at the outskirts of your city when fire falls from the sky over and on your entire city. Should you drive as fast as you can to get to your house to rescue your prized possessions?

A. No, you should stay away from any area that looks as if God's wrath is falling on it.

Application:

All true Christians hope that Jesus will return in their lifetime. But even if He doesn't, at death we get to immediately be with Jesus in heaven. Then, when He does return, we will return with Him. That might be even better than being on the earth and seeing Him return!

The End of the World!... Again?

Gospel Reflections by Father Gerry Pierse, C.Ss.R.

Gospel: Mark 13:24-32

Some years ago, when I was teaching, I gave the students an assignment to be handed in on the following Tuesday.

They all hollered "We won't do it!"
"Why not?" I asked.
"It would be waste of time," they said, "the world will end on Monday."

For the nth time someone had predicted the end of the world and there were people gullible enough to believe them! I warned the students that they would be in trouble if they appeared in class without their assignments on the following Tuesday - and nobody did!

During the next few years, we can expect to hear more predictions of darkness, desolation and the end of the world. From one point of view it is to be expected that such aberrations should happen. It is, however, sad that so many people will get excited and become agitated by news of visions or threats of destruction and yet they will not follow the core message of Jesus.

The matter of the end for each of us and the end of the world itself is one that is often touched on in the Bible. In our Christian understanding the "end of time" has been anticipated in the death and resurrection of Jesus. In Jesus our salvation has already been achieved but we are not yet fully enjoying it. (I heard one professor explain the idea of being saved 'already' but 'not yet' by describing how he had got the smell of dried fish coming from the kitchen before breakfast. He knew already that it was there while he was not yet enjoying it. So, too, with the reign of God!)

Jesus talked about the coming reign of God. It is clear in the Gospel today that St. Mark expected a catastrophic kind of ending within the lifetime of his audience. It can be seen, however, not as trying to strike fear into people but rather to inspire them with hope. "Take the fig tree as a parable; as soon as its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. So with you when you see these things: know that he is near, at the very gates… heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away."

The message of Jesus is one of hope to be found in the world as it is. It is a message that tells us that God is journeying with us in the trials and difficulties of life and that his word is ever present to shine the light of hope on our paths. This word is challenging and disconcerting:

"What good is it to gain the whole world if you lose your soul?"

"Love your enemies; pray for those who persecute you."

"The greatest amongst you is the one who serves."

"There is joy in heaven when a sinner repents."

"Woman, has no one condemned you? Neither will I condemn you."

"Seek first the kingdom of God and all the things that you fret about will be given to you."

These words are challenging because they turn our usual values upside-down. But they also inspire us, guide us and give us hope and comfort. Once heard, we cannot forget them. For though heaven and earth shall pass away these words will not pass away.

The British writer Arnold Lunn tells about one time he was on a boat trip when a certain lady was plaguing him with theological questions. He answered her with quotes from the Bible and from the teaching of the Church but the woman would not accept what he said.

Then he interrupted her to say, "you must be a very inexperienced boat traveler. As you got on the boat I noticed that you put your left foot on board first. Everyone knows that you will have bad luck if you step on a boat with your left foot first!"

The next time she came on board he noticed that she nearly tripped into the water in her effort to step aboard right foot first. Lunn thought it remarkable that she would believe the infallible Lunn in something that he had just made up, and that she would not accept the authority of the Church or the words of Scripture. So, too, we tend to complicate our lives and our prayer by looking for the extraordinary, when the Lord is to be found most often in the simple and in the ordinary.

Source: Sundays into Silence - A Pathway to Life. Copyright © 1998 by Claretian Publications

Time and Eternity

by Craig Blomberg

"But do not forget this one thing, dear friends. With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day" (2 Peter 3:8)

In context, Peter is explaining that the apparent delay in Christ's return should not be viewed from a human vantage point with respect to time. God's timing is not our timing. From the viewpoint of eternity, even a thousand years can seem as quick as a day. God isn't slow at all in bringing the end but wants to give people as much time as possible to repent (2 Peter 3:9).

Extrapolating from the immediate context, there are many unanswerable questions about time and eternity with which philosophers wrestle. The end of Revelation 10:6, in older translations, was sometimes rendered, "time will be no more," leading to the notion that the eternal state does not include a succession of moments. But modern translations recognize that this clause means, "There will be no more delay," that is, before the end of human history as we know it. It may be that time is not something God created but simply an inherent part of the existence of any form of consciousness. We just don't know.

What does seem clear is that, if I borrow models from mathematics and think about a line extending to infinity, then even the longest finite period of time is just a miniscule blip in that graph. Technically speaking, it can't be graphed, because any definable segment of the line would still be too long! In more poetic forms that is what Peter was saying. And he wasn't inventing the idea; he was quoting Psalms 90:4, a marvelous prayer of Moses reflecting on God's sovereignty as he considered how fleeting life was....

How much more can we look forward to never-ending, grand reunions with living Christians we wish were closer. How many baby boomers like me imagined when our high-school and college-graduating classes said their tearful goodbyes to people they thought they might never see again, that e-mail and Facebook would make that abundantly possible decades later? How many foreign missionaries of past eras setting sail from their homelands never to talk to their families again could have even fantasized as science-fiction developments like Skype and webcams that now can put people in instant communication with each other from virtually anywhere in the world? How much more will we cherish eternal life that eliminates all barriers among God's people, and most important of all, the barriers we cause ourselves through human sin, keeping relationships from being as perfectly loving and joyful as possible.

I often tell people that the hardest thing about my job is saying goodbye to ¼ of my closest friends every year. Maybe there's a little exaggeration there, but not much. I love getting to know students. Few other jobs could possibly put one in touch with so many phenomenal servants of God. I wish I could develop a close relationship with every one of them but of course that is impossible. Circumstances lead one to acquaintance with many but deep friendships with only a few.

One of those graduates I counted as a close friend from several years ago had the opportunity to accept a ministry in Denver recently but was also being wooed by a ministry in another country. After months of waiting, with all signs suggesting that my friend would accept the call to Denver, at the last minute, with my excitement building to a fever pitch, the choice was made for the other ministry. I was stunned—both at the choice and how I was experiencing all four stages of grief simultaneously: disbelief, anger (especially at the other ministry for its "theft" of my friend), sorrow and, yes, also acceptance.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God "has set eternity in the human heart." I don't pretend to understand much of what that involves, but I'm convinced a part of it has to do with the fact that even when we are physically present with our closest friends, every celebration, every special event, every happy memory goes by all to fleetingly. We are creatures who understand, however dimly, something of the unending sinless fellowship that we were made to have with God and each other and we long for it. When even feeble approximations of that fellowship are rudely snatched away from us in this life, whether through death or through departure, we intuitively recognize how wrong that is. Praise the Lord that one day this separation will be rectified—forever. And that's a whole lot more than even a thousand years!

Source: Today's Topical Bible Study

Holy Spirit - A Personal Experience

by Dr. Mercy Abraham

O Lord, My God, I'm so glad to taste Thy love
To know Thee as I do all my life.
Thy love, Thy kindness, so deep and fathomless
That granted me the Holy Spirit today
Was it a dream that has come true?
In the twilight sublime
I saw that I was in total darkness
With no light to see my path through the dark passages

But I was not alone, there was an old lady
I had to keep her safe, so I prayed
Oh Lord, give me Light and I saw a flame
In my hand, it was glowing, but not burning
With its light, my whole body was lit
Oh the Light was so wonderful, I was so delighted
I could see a book which I wanted to read
Passages, poems flowed before my eyes

Then I opened and strained my eyes
But there was no book, so I woke up and sat alone
With this sweet taste on my lips
Oh God it was so wonderful to know
Thy Love that granted me a forlorn sinner
This prize, not deserving to me.

As I looked back, years before, I had the same love and I'm so glad
I know its not a dream, it is the Truth and the Love that has bought me years back
The same today as ever before
The Light burning but not consuming, lighting up my paths before me, so I will not stumble
For my heart is flooded with Thanksgiving
It is Thy Love, Thy Kindness Lord
That granted me this gift which I cherish each and every day of my life.

Editor's Note:

Malankara World readers know Dr. Mercy Abraham very well. She is a very talented poet and has contributed several poems to Malankara World. This week, Mercy celebrates her birthday. We want to wish her many happy returns. A note written by her son, Mithun Abraham, provides a closer look at Mercy:

"I'm so thankful for a mother who is a great example of a humble Christian heart, everyday. The times when I am frustrated with life, she always brings me back to reason why we are here on earth. Oh to love Jesus with everything we have regardless of the circumstances.

Love you mother for the good example even being half the world away from each other."

Inspirational: Overcoming Obstacles and Challenges in Life

by Michael Jordan Segal, MSW

I saw him from across the room, walking toward me, and my heart leaped with anticipation.

Just before I noticed him, I had been the guest speaker at the fraternity's father-son dinner, sharing my life story of goals and my change of goals after surviving being shot in the head during my college years at the same university. I also spoke to them of present day goals and the changes of life direction and how one attempts to overcome obstacles.

I thought the talk had gone very well. The fathers, as well as the sons, were very receptive, asking me many questions. Then, as we were about to leave, I saw a businessman, with his son in the fraternity walking toward me. I thought, rather, I knew, what he was about to do: he was going to ask me to go to Dallas to motivate and inspire his very large company.

As he came even closer my heart began to race. "Mike," he said, "thanks for a great talk..." I was so happy - sort of on a "high" waiting, expecting the invitation to come to Dallas. However, I'll never forget what he said instead as he continued, "...but you're parked behind us and we are late for our next event. My son and I have tickets to see Jerry Seinfeld perform in concert."

I was crushed. I thought he was coming over to make arrangements for me to speak in Dallas at his mega company. What was I going to do? What could I do? Well, I did the only thing I could think of doing – I MOVED MY CAR!

There are times in life when we are "certain" we know what's about to happen, only to be disappointed. I call those times "the almost ones." My life, as well as everyone else's life, is full of those "almost ones." I almost was on "20/20" with Diane Sawyer, but I was not; I almost was on "The Today Show," but I was not; I almost had many speaking jobs - but for some reason or another they fell through. I have learned that's o.k. It happens. It's part of life. The key is to "push on." It doesn't really matter how many times you get "knocked down". What really matters is how many times you get up.

Years ago, I was at work at the hospital. A boy was brought into the ER. He was in a coma after having been in a car accident. The family was going crazy, trying to get their son, their brother, to just "wake up." Nothing they did helped and nothing the doctors did helped.

However, out of frustration the father shouted, "WAKE UP…WAKE UP! YOU JUST WON THE LOTTERY!" But this too did not seem to help. But the family did not give up. They "pushed on"-- encouraging him every day and expressing their love for him--but he still remained in a coma.

Then, one day, six weeks later, their son and brother "woke up." He opened his eyes and began speaking. The first thing he said was: "Where is my money from the lottery?" That family "pushed on."

As I said, "Everyone has some obstacles in life." The key to overcoming 'obstacles' in life or disappointments is in 'pushing on,' and 'getting up'. Sure, life has challenges, but life also has many great fulfillments and achievements and accomplishments.

But I need to stop writing now because I have to prepare for my appearance on "60 Minutes." (One can always hope!)

About The Author:

Shot in the head during a robbery, Michael Jordan Segal defied all odds by first surviving and then returning to college. He then earned two degrees with honors, married his high school sweetheart, Sharon, and became a father to their daughter Shawn. Mike is a social worker in Houston and an author (currently he has two book projects he's working on: an autobiography-possibly entitled A SHOT OF INSPIRATION and an anthology of his short stories). He also is a popular inspirational speaker sharing his "recipe" for recovery, happiness, and success before conferences, businesses and seminars. Please visit: www.InspirationByMike.com.

©2014 by Michael Jordan Segal, MSW; All Rights Reserved

How Islam Conquered Christianity

by Jon Pentecost

It wasn't by the sword, though that did come first. It wasn't by persecution. It was through the pressures of peace and finances.

Back in the 7th and 8th centuries, Muslim conquerors didn't aim to destroy Christianity. They simply wanted to control it. However, they did manage to extinguish the church's witness. And it happened by offering security and financial stability.

Before the rise of Islam, Christians in ancient Persia experienced perhaps the most intense physical persecution any group of Christians have ever experienced. The church in Persia grew steadily, as missionaries from Antioch and Edessa ranged further east. Naturally, this caused some tension with the leaders of the established state religion, Zoroastrianism. The conflict between it and Christianity was often more acutely felt by the Zoroastrian clergy than that experienced by pagan priests in Rome. The clergy (called magi) often led in the persecution of Christians.

A consistent, region-by-region persecution of Christianity started in Persia around 340 AD and lasted for over 40 years. It's estimated that as many as 190,000 Persian Christians were martyred during this time – far worse than anything ever experienced in Rome (Samuel Hugh Moffett, A History of Christianity in Asia, Vol 1, 144). And yet, in all this time, though the church was decimated in terms numbers, conversions continued and the Gospel spread. Like a twisted version of Whack-a-Mole, every time the authorities cut down one Christian leader, another would spring up somewhere else.

The Muslim iteration of the Persian Empire took a more 'tolerant' approach. Though pagan worshipers were fair game for forced conversions, Christians and Jews were permitted to maintain their religion under Islamic rule. In fact, Muslim rulers were typically happy to have Christian citizens, since Christians made up their own special tax bracket, which made them especially useful to those who were living off of taxes.

But this new peaceful life came at a cost for Christians.

The first element was that Christians were commanded: "You shall not display the cross in any Moslem town, nor parade your idolatry, nor build a church…nor use your idolatrous language about Jesus the Son of Mary to any Moslem." (A.S. Tritton, The Caliphs and their Non-Muslim Subjects, 13f). Christians were tolerated as long as they kept their religion to themselves, out of the public sphere (sound familiar?) and did not try evangelizing any Muslim. Those who did not obey were efficiently executed. Christians had a simple choice: they could continue evangelizing and die, or keep quiet and be left alone.

To our shame, these brothers and sisters for the most part chose to keep quiet.

The first and most fundamental lesson for us today is that the gospel is 'good news.' A church that stops spreading the good news will not be able to retain the gospel itself. When the gospel is no longer treated as news to be shared, it is no longer the gospel. When Christians chose the option of comfort at the cost of evangelism, the individual people may survive, but the church will wither.

Second, the tax status of Christians meant that they were essentially double-taxed. This wasn't a new challenge in and of itself. But if the gospel was not worth dying for, it certainly wasn't worth paying for. Bit by bit, the extra taxes tore relentlessly away at the dead, gospel-less portions of the church, a tragic manifestation of the reality; "Where your treasures are, there your heart will be also" (Matt 6:21).

The church in ancient Persia had once seemed full of promise and evangelistic power. But now, there are only a few remnants of those churches remaining. And for the most part, they are ethnically rather than doctrinally defined. Before the impact of the modern missions movement, there was little Christian vitality left in those parts of the world.

When Zoroastrian Persia offered the church no choice, the church remained faithful in the midst of persecution. But when Muslim Persia offered Christians the choice between comfort or hardship, the church (for the most part) chose comfort. Rather than sacrificing themselves for the gospel, they sacrificed the gospel for themselves.

The warning is not difficult to see here. Physical persecution still seems a long way off in the West. But economic and social pressures to privatize our religion, to keep our Jesus to ourselves, are clearly present and escalating.

There are some things that we cannot afford to give up. When faced with the choice between comfortable silence or long-suffering faithfulness, the question is never about the church's survival. The gates of hell shall never overcome it (Matt. 16:18). The question is whether the Lord will use us, or someone else, for the spread of his fame.

About The Author:

Jon Pentecost serves on staff at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He holds an M.Div from SBTS.

Source: Christianity.com Daily Update

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