|Volume 18 Number 12 December 2016||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
If you or I were to go on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict either of us? This is no idle question in many parts of the world, and it may become a reality in some sense even in western countries that characteristically and historically have been at least tolerant of Christianity for hundreds of years.
Two Gospel preachers of the churches of Christ were arrested in December 2015 by Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) in its criminal investigation of them for national security crimes. They “were charged with numerous offenses, including waging war against the state, espionage and undermining Sudan’s constitutional system” (McKay). Their fate is now in the hands of a prosecutor for the Attorney General.
Essentially, brethren Kuwa Shamal Abu Zumam and Abdulraheem Kodi are being investigated for being Christians and promoters of the Christian faith in the predominantly Muslim nation of Sudan. Christianity is an affront to the Sudan government’s march toward implementation of an entirely Muslim nation under strict Sharia Law. These Christians are particular targets because they have documented and disseminated the brutal and deadly assault upon Christians in Sudan; since leaking such information to the world community may invite international scrutiny, the Sudanese government considers this to be a breach of national security.
If convicted, they face the death penalty. This is precisely the import of Revelation 2:10, which reads, “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (NKJV). Christians must not only be faithful as long as they live, but they need to have the resolve to live faithfully even if being Christians is the reason for which they may be persecuted or even killed. We must ask ourselves, “Do I have that resolve?” Furthermore, if we profess to have that resolve, is it evident in our daily lives by our priorities in life, our speech, our dress, our conduct and behavior, our worship, etc.?
Western nations, including the United States of America, are persecuting Christianity in lessor ways than what presently is unfolding in Sudan. Yet given time, this persecution could escalate to the extent of the spiritual war now raging in European, mid-eastern, eastern and African countries.
The foregoing is a smattering of ongoing and progressing encroachments on biblical values. It seems that everyone has rights – except for Bible believers. So-called “public accommodation” harnessed with anti-biblical, venomous onslaughts toward every righteous way threaten each Bible believer – not hypothetically, but actually. Just what is public accommodation, and how does it and will it likely in the future affect Bible believers? “In US law, public accommodations are generally defined as facilities, both public and private, used by the public. Examples include retail stores, rental establishments and service establishments as well as educational institutions, recreational facilities, and service centers” (“Public Accommodations”). In 1987, religious organizations were granted an exemption from public accommodations.
It is plain to see that Christians and other Bible believers are under vigorous attack in public, in their vocations and even in their homes. The strictures that already have affixed themselves on foreign soil to sermons, writing, radio, television and the Internet cannot be far behind in likewise buffeting Americans, too. Contemporary Christians, like those of 2,000 years ago, when legally forbidden to preach and teach about Jesus (Acts 4:17; 5:28), must say as did the apostles, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
We return to our original queries: “Is there enough evidence to convict you or me if you or I were put on trial for being Christian?” “Do you and I have sufficient resolve to practice Christianity despite persecution and perhaps even to die for the Christian faith?” “If necessary, are we willing to risk financial ruin, loss of vocation and imprisonment as disciples of Christ?”
Please pray for America, other nations and especially for those who because of biblical beliefs have suffered and are suffering for the cause of Christ. Please remember fervently in prayer the plight of our Sudanese brothers in Christ who may forfeit their lives for our Lord Jesus Christ.
With the apostle Peter we must concur that it is immensely more difficult to live for Christ than it is to be willing to die for Christ (Matthew 26:35, 51-52, 69-75). “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8 NKJV). “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).
“Canada Holds American at Border for Being a Christian.” 12 Apr. 2014. Culture News. 7 Dec. 2016. <https://culturecampaign.blogspot.com/2014/04/canada-holds-american-at-border-for.html>.
“Canada: Pastor Found Guilty of Hate Crime.” 5 Dec. 2007. Culture News. 7 Dec. 2016. <https://culturecampaign.blogspot.com/2007/12/pastor-found-guilty-of-hate-crime.html>.
“Church of Christ Minister Kwa Shamal Re-Arrested.” 31 May 2016. Christian Solidarity Worldwide. 7 Dec. 2016. <https://www.csw.org.uk/2016/05/31/news/3126/article.htm>.
“Government Bans Pastor from Speaking Against Homosexuality.” 11 Jun. 2008. Culture News. 7 Dec. 2016. <https://culturecampaign.blogspot.com/2008/06/government-bans-pastor-from-speaking.html>.
“Homosexuals Force Closure of Iowa Wedding Chapel.” 20 Jun. 2015. Culture News. 7 Dec. 2016. <https://culturecampaign.blogspot.com/2015/06/homosexuals-force-closure-of-iowa.html>.
Jolly, Dave. “Court Upholds Law that Could Imprison Pastors for Preaching Biblical Doctrines.” 2 Nov. 2012. Last Resistance. 7 Dec. 2016. <https://lastresistance.com/court-upholds-law-that-could-imprison-pastors-for-preaching-biblical-doctrines/>.
Macedo, Diane. “Man Sues California Mall after Guard Arrests Him for Having Conversation about God.” 12 Feb. 2010. Fox News. 7 Dec. 2016. <https://www.foxnews.com/story/2010/02/12/man-sues-california-mall-after-guard-arrests-him-for-having-conversation-about.html>.
Mohler, Albert. “Criminalizing Christianity: Sweden’s Hate Speech Law.” Christian Headlines.com. 7 Dec. 2016. <https://www.christianheadlines.com/columnists/al-mohler/criminalizing-christianity-swedens-hate-speech-law-1277601.html>.
---. “The Bible as Hate Speech? Gays Win Big in Canada.” Christian Headlines.com. 7 Dec. 2016. <https://www.christianheadlines.com/columnists/al-mohler/the-bible-as-hate-speech-gays-win-big-in-canada-1220787.html>.
McKay, Hollie. “Christian Pastors Face Death Penalty if Convicted in Sudan.” 21 Sep. 2016.Fox News World. 7 Dec. 2016. <https://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/09/21/christian-pastors-face-death-penalty-if-convicted-in-sudan.html>.
Parry, Hannah. “Texas Baker Refuses to Make Wedding Cake for Gay Couple Because She Claims their Marriage Goes Against her Christian Beliefs.” 25 Feb. 2016. DailyMail.com. 7 Dec. 2016. <https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3464222/Gay-couple-feel-dehumanized-Christian-baker-refuses-make-wedding-cake.html>.
“Pastors Face Fines, Jail for Refusing ‘Gay Wedding.’” 19 Oct. 2014. Culture News. 7 Dec. 2016. <https://culturecampaign.blogspot.com/2014/10/pastors-face-fines-jail-for-refusing.html>.
“Public Accommodations.” Wikipedia. 7 Dec. 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_accommodations>.
“Oregon Bakery Owners Pay More than 135G in Damages over Refusal to Make Cake for Gay Wedding.” 29 Dec. 2015. Fox News U.S. 7 Dec. 2016. <https://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/12/29/oregon-bakery-owners-pay-more-than-135g-in-damages-over-refusal-to-make-cake-for-gay-wedding.html>.
Starnes, Todd. “City of Houston Demands Pastors Turn Over Sermons.” 14 Oct. 2014. Fox News Opinion. 7 Dec. 2016. <https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/10/14/city-houston-demands-pastors-turn-over-sermons.html>.
---. “Man Facing Jail for Hosting Home Bible Study.” Todd Starnes on Radio. 7 Dec. 2016. <https://radio.foxnews.com/toddstarnes/top-stories/man-facing-jail-for-hosting-home-bible-study.html>.
---. “Preacher Arrested for Calling Homosexuality a Sin.” Todd Starnes on Radio. 7 Dec. 2016. <https://radio.foxnews.com/toddstarnes/top-stories/preacher-arrested-for-calling-homosexuality-a-sin.html>.
“Supremes Rule Bible as ‘Hate Speech’ in Canada.” 18 Mar. 2013. Culture News. 7 Dec. 2016. <https://culturecampaign.blogspot.com/2013/03/supremes-rule-bible-as-hate-speech-in.html>.
“Visalia Mall Sued After Threatening Arrest for Religious Speech.” 24 Jan. 2013. Pacific Justice Institute. 7 Dec. 2016. <https://www.pacificjustice.org/press-releases/-visalia-mall-sued-after-threatening-arrest-for-religious-speech>.
Lifting Holy Hands
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
In Paul’s inspired letter to Timothy, he declared, “I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8). In this one verse we learn a great deal regarding man’s communication to God. Prayer is such an important part of the Christian’s life. Of course, prayer is act of worship. Given the context of 1 Timothy, it appears that Paul was dealing with a mixed assembly of men and women and how each was to conduct himself or herself within the assembly of the church. There are at least three notable things for us to consider.
Firstly, we see the plan. “I will therefore that men everywhere…” Interestingly, Paul made it abundantly clear that in a mixed assembly “men” are the ones who are to pray. The word the Holy Spirit chose is not anthropos, which is the generic word for mankind when no gender is specified. However, Paul was specific; he used the word aner, which is gender specific referring to males only. God specifically gave leadership roles in the church and in the home to men.
Secondly, we see the posture, “…lifting up holy hands…” This section of the verse has led many well-meaning people to believe things that are simply not true. For example, some have taken this verse to mean that we are to literally lift up our hands while singing. However, this verse has nothing to do with singing at all. The context is prayer. Also, what significance would lifting up our literal hands have regarding worship? If we dig just a little bit into God’s Word, we can understand that this phrase of “lifting holy hands” is a figure of speech called a synecdoche, which is when a part (hands) is put for the whole (lifestyle).
The idea of lifting hands in prayer is borrowed from the Old Testament. When Solomon prayed at the dedication of the temple, “he spread forth his hands toward heaven” (1 Kings 8:22). In one of his prayers, David exclaimed, “Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto you; when I lift up my hands toward your holy oracle” (Psalm 28:2). To the superficial, hypocritical worshippers in Isaiah’s day, the Lord God said, “And when you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; yes, when you make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood” (Isaiah 1:15). While the Hebrews did lift up their hands in worship, that was certainly not the only acceptable posture. Prayer was made standing (1 Samuel 1:26), kneeling (1 Kings 8:54), prostrate (1 Kings 18:42), audibly (John 17:1; 18:1), silently (1 Samuel 1:13), with bowed head (Genesis 24:26) or with uplifted eyes (John 17:1). Obviously, a particular posture in prayer was not what God was emphasizing.
Also, literally speaking, there is no such thing as “holy hands.” This figure of speech was used to denote and describe a holy person. For example, in Proverbs 6:16-19 God used several body parts metaphorically to denote several evil actions: “haughty eyes,” “lying tongue,” “hands that shed innocent blood,” “wicked heart” and “feet that run to mischief.” While these body parts are used, they more accurately describe the person. The point being made by Paul in 1 Timothy 2:8 was that those men who pray, especially publically, must be holy men.
Lastly, we see the positivity, “…without wrath and doubting.” Prayer must be viewed as a result-giving practice. So often, we fail to really believe that prayer can change things. Our confidence must be sure and steadfast when it comes to prayer! James reminded his readers that prayer must be wrapped in confidence (James 1:5-6). Someone correctly said, “We pray for rain and leave our umbrellas at home.” How silly! God can and does answer prayer!
One of the greatest teachers of humility is communication with God. Prayer helps us to realize that we are not sufficient on our own. We need our Creator! Prayer allows God to open His benevolent storehouse and bless His faithful children. Men, when you are privileged to lead a group of Christians in prayer, never take that responsibility lightly. Remember, you are treading on “holy ground.” One’s life must be pure, and one’s prayer must be sure when coming into the presence of Almighty God!