Cuban Christian Persecution Persists

cuban christian persecution

Although the leadership changed, Cuban Christian persecution continues. The government views Christianity as a threat to communism. Police interrogate church leaders who resist teachings that are contrary to God’s Word. Church leaders also disobey government restrictions on Christian witness. The government forbids unregistered and new churches. Cubans still are poor, with the government controlling every aspect of life.

Major Religions:

Most Cubans are atheists. A significant number of Cubans practice Santería.

Cuban Christian Persecution:

The government persecutes Christians.

What It Means to Follow Christ in Cuba:

Because of its global reputation, the Cuban government changed persecution tactics. Government officials call Christian leaders to meet with them. The police then jail them for up to 48 hours. The government either seize church buildings or hires gangs to destroy churches. The government does not allow new church buildings. Many Christians meet in unsanctioned “house churches.”

However, the church continues to grow. Some of the country’s 1 million believers do not own a Bible. Although not imprisoned, the police watch Christians so closely. It feels like they are under house arrest. In addition, Christians are often denied jobs and educational opportunities.

Access to Bibles:

Although the government allows some Bible distribution, they still restricts access to Bibles. Two years ago, Cuba allowed the legal purchase and sale of Bibles only to members of the ecumenical Protestant church. But most Christian literature remains illegal. There are no Christian bookstores on the island. Bibles can cost up to a third of a worker’s monthly income. Give Bibles

Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) Work:

VOM distributes Bibles and supports discipleship and evangelism. Give to VOM’s Global Ministry

pray for cuba

Prayer Opens Prisons

russian jail

(Daniel 6:11)  The men who had spoken to the king watched Daniel and saw him praying to his God for help.

Daniel prayed despite the king’s decree. He knew that praying was dangerous. But he also realized that prayer was vitally important. Examine his dilemma. Praying would cost him his life. Yet, not praying would kill him spiritually.  It was a difficult choice. However, his relationship with God was more important than his life.

In Russia, prayer also met with great opposition. The devil knows only too well that praying people are victorious people.

One day, I was arrested with 30 other brothers in Moscow. The police locked us up in an ice-cold cell. It was a few days before Christmas. We thought we would not be home for Christmas. It was no use complaining. One of the brothers said, “Let’s pray.” We all knelt down on the cold concrete floor. We prayed for an hour. The policeman was dumbfounded. He said, “What kind of fanatics are you? How dare you pray in an atheist police station?” A long conversation followed.

Later, the officer said, “We don’t know what to do with you. If we imprison one of you, he will convert another prisoner. If we imprison two, another two will be converted. Go home, you won’t bother us there.”

He was right. Prayer gives strength and opens doors. If it doesn’t open the doors of prison cells, it opens people’s hearts inside prisons. What a powerful weapon! Use it.

via Gerhard Hamm from Russia; he spent many years in prisons and labor camps in Northern Siberia.

LGBTQ+ Threatens to Burn Down Church

newquay baptist church

UK Pastor John Williamson of Newquay Baptist Church faces violent threats from the LGBTQ+ community for saying that homosexuality is a sin.

According to Christian Concern, Williamson wrote, “Wonderful news!” in response to a news article reporting the cancellation of the Cornwall Pride Parade. The parade was to occur on August 29.

An online user asked Williamson why he celebrated the cancellation. The pastor replied, “Because I don’t think sin should be celebrated.”

Williamson referred to Scripture to defend his stance on homosexuality.

The pastor shared the article on his personal Facebook page. He also noted that his church prayed for the parade’s cancellation.

“We also prayed that the Lord would save the organizers. One prayer answered. Now we wait for the second prayer to be answered,” he added.

Parade organizers learned of Williamson’s page. They took a screenshot of his post, tagged his church, and posted it with online users’ anti-LGBTQ+ comments.

The names of the users were blocked out by Cornell Pride, to make it look like Pastor Williamson made the negative comments.

Williamson’s wife received online threats. Her husband’s head was superimposed upon an image of homosexual pornography that was shared online.

Cornwall Pride followers reported the pastor to police for committing a hate crime.

Williamson received many threats. Members of the LGBTQ+ community protested outside of his church during Sunday’s service. They threatened to have the church’s charity status revoked. They also threatened to deport the pastor to Australia’s homeland.

Amid the threats, Williamson met with two members of Cornwall Pride. He continued to defend his stance on homosexuality. He shared a tract that explains why homosexuality is a sin.

But the group shared images of the tract online. This gave the appearance that Williamson was promoting hate speech.

Christian Concern shared a screenshot of a post. One member proposed to burn down Newquay Baptist Church. It was met with support.

Another user chanted, “LET’S BURN A CHURCH! LET’S BURN A CHURCH!”

Another member suggested having a mass sex orgy at the church.

Police officers told Williamson that he should not offend anyone in the LGBTQ+ community.

According to Christian Concern, the Cornwall Police are sponsors of the LGBTQ organization.

Williamson expressed concern about the threats. He said: “As Christians, we seek to speak the truth in love. We welcome all people to our services,” including members of the LGBTQ+ community.

However, Williamson stated that the Bible says all people need to repent from their sin and place their trust in Christ.

“It would be unloving for us to remain silent about what God’s Word says about sin. We, therefore, must proclaim the truth that homosexuality is a sin. But God loves sinners, and Jesus can forgive all our sins.”

Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre is representing Pastor Josh Williamson over the incident.

“It’s common in the UK to see threats and calls for violence against Christians for voicing their opposition to LGBT Pride,” Williams stated. “Police forces should show Christians they take this seriously. They should protect their free speech against mob threats rather than telling them to keep Christians quiet.”

“Christians are called to repay evil with good. I have no doubt that Pastor Williamson will continue to share the reality of sin and the good news of Jesus Christ with Newquay’s people,” she concluded.

via Christian Headlines

Victor’s Crown through Temptation

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him,” (James 1:12).

Louisa Stead stood on the beach with her four-year-old daughter and watched her husband drown as he tried to rescue a child in the waters off Long Island, New York.  The loss of her husband and persistent health problems kept her off the mission field and brought a testing time in her life. Left without sufficient support, she and her daughter experienced poverty and hunger.  One night, she sent her daughter to bed, knowing that there was no food for breakfast. She prayed for a miracle. The next morning someone left food and money on her doorstep. The Lord answered her prayer. In joyful response, she wrote these treasured words:

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, Just to take Him at His word;

Just to rest upon His promise, Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord.”

I’m so glad I learned to trust Him, Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;

And I know that He is with me, Will be with me to the end.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!  How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er!

Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!  O for grace to trust Him more!

Riches and worldly security may fail, but Jesus never fails!  Every time you win a victory over temptation, there is a victor’s crown awaiting you.  But more than that, there is a loving Heavenly Father who watches and provides for His own.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning,” (James 1:17).

Genuine Healing

The Book of James deals with genuineness in the Christian life.  In his final instructions, James addresses three groups of people: the persecuted, the happy, and the sick (James 5:13-20).

The word translated “afflicted” refers to the hardship of persecution (v. 13). The apostle instructs the persecuted to pray.  There is no promise that the suffering will stop, but as a saint prays, the persecuted receives new strength from the Lord to endure the hardship faithfully.

To those who are “happy,” James says they should “sing psalms of praise.”  Notice that psalms are not “blue-bird-on-my-shoulder” songs, but songs about the faithfulness of God.

The word translated “sick” does not refer to colds or the flu, but to a disabling illness.  Notice that it is the sick person’s responsibility to call the elders!  The elders do not possess the gift of mental telepathy; they cannot read our minds!  A literal translation of verse 14 is important: “having anointed him with oil, let them pray over him.”  There are two different words often translated “anoint.”  In this verse, the word refers to applying medicine.  Taking one’s medicine precedes time spent in prayer!  The results of healing are then left in the Lord’s hand.

Notice that healing in this passage is more than physical.  It includes spiritual and psychological healing as well.  Often there is a direct relationship between personal sins and physical diseases, e.g. smoking and lung cancer.  The prayer of faith first of all cleanses one from sin within before healing.

James gives four principles for healing.  First, confession of sin is healthy—do it.  Only full confession can lead to full restoration.  Second, praying for others is essential—practice it.  Third, medical assistance is imperative—obey it.  Fourth, when healing comes, praise God for it.

Saint Patrick

Patrisaint_patrickck was born Patricius in Roman Britain to a wealthy family.  When he was a teenager, Patrick was kidnapped and sold as a slave to an Irish warlord.  Six years later, he escaped.

After he returned home, Patrick started studying for the priesthood.  But his six years of slavery put him permanently behind his peers in school.  During his studies, Patrick received God’s call to evangelize the Irish, who still practiced human sacrifice and slavery.

Patrick preached the Gospel for thirty years in Ireland.  By the end of his ministry, the Irish abandoned human sacrifice and slavery.

Patrick became the saint of the downtrodden and the excluded.  Patrick preached against slavery when the Pope refused to condemn slavery.  While his contemporary, St. Augustine, spoke of women as the personification of temptation, Patrick honored women as persons of great worth to the Kingdom of Christ.  Thomas Cahill said, “Patrick is the first male Christian since Jesus to speak well of women.”

Patrick first gave himself to Christ.  Then Patrick followed Christ by giving himself to those who enslaved him.  Through his love and life example, Patrick led the Irish to Christ.

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen,” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Genuine Riches

“Your riches are corrupted,” (James 5:2).

The Book of James teaches that genuine wealth is not found in money (verses 1-6).  The Apostle is not condemning making or accumulating wealth, per se.  What the Apostle condemns is ill-gotten gains on the backs of the poor and a person’s absolute trust in those riches.

First, hoarded wealth is destructive.  When the accumulation of wealth is one’s ultimate goal, it will be a hollow victory.  Wealth has a way of corrupting a person or of disappearing like rust to metal.   The Great Depression, the Great Recession, Runaway Interests, the Mortgage Meltdown, etc, all point to the fact that material wealth can disappear in an instant.  If all you’re trusting in is your financial portfolio, where will you be if it all disappears?

Second, tainted wealth can be confiscated (verse 4).  Even Christians can get caught up in the whirlwind of fraud, all to accumulate that million-dollar portfolio.  The Bible teaches that Christians who get their wealth by fraudulent means will be judged by Him.

Third, self-indulgent wealth is enjoyable for a season, but God will be the judge of whether you deserved it or not.  The Apostle does not condemn vacations or retreats.  What God condemns is wasting His blessings solely on self.  God blesses us to bless others, not indulge ourselves.

How we accumulate and spend our finances is important.  The Bible extols hard work and God blesses honest labor.  God will not bless get-rich-quick schemes.  God wants us to depend on Him, not just our ingenuity.

Where is your trust?  Is your trust in God, or in cold, hard cash?

Genuine Relationship with God

“Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God,” (James 4:4).

The fourth chapter of the Book of James concerns the genuineness of one’s relationship with God.  A right relationship with God teaches us how to relate to others differently.   We no longer act the way the world taught us to act.  Changing a behavior pattern learned over tens of years is difficult, but not insurmountable.

Instead of fighting, we pray (verse 3).  God teaches us that it is better to wrestle with Him in prayer than to wrangle with men.  God can do more through prayer than we can through fighting.

Instead of lusting and envying after worldly things, we can find contentment where we are in our journey with God.  That does not mean that we stop and retreat forever.  It just means that we enjoy the scenery as we journey through life.  God’s Spirit will not dwell where there is worldly lust (verse 5).

Instead of being conceited and looking out for number one, we need to be more interested in God’s Kingdom and will (verse 8).

Instead of criticizing and tearing people down, we should encourage and build people up (verse 11).

Instead of living our plans, we should live and do God’s will.

Genuine humility is swallowing my preferences to obey God’s will.  “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (verse 17).

Genuine Wisdom

“[The tongue] is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison,” (James 3:9).

A hotheaded woman told John Wesley, “My talent is to speak my mind.”

Wesley replied, “Woman, God wouldn’t care a bit if you buried that talent.”

Our tongue reveals a lot about us: what we think, how we spend our time, and where we live.  James deals with the tongue in his chapter on wisdom.  Why wisdom?  Proverbs 12:18 says that “the tongue of the wise brings healing,” and in 18:21 that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.”  Words have the power to heal or destroy.

The tongue guides life (verses 2-3).  A small piece of metal in a horse’s mouth can guide and make a horse turn.  A farmer once said, “Horse sense is seldom hitched to a waggin’ tongue.”  A small piece of wood or metal can turn a massive ship around.  And our little tongue can change a person’s life.

The tongue harms life (verses 5-8).  The tongue is like a tiny spark that can destroy a whole forest in flames.  The tongue can rip a person to shreds, as surely as a wild animal.  A tongue lashing can poison a person’s whole life.  A sharp tongue is no indication of a keen mind.

The tongue blesses life (verses 11-12).  Words can refresh a person like a fountain spring on a hot day.  The tongue can give encouragement and strength, like the sweetest fruit from a tree.

Did you ever notice that it takes a child two years to learn to talk, yet it takes a man his whole life to learn how to keep his mouth shut?

A wise person’s words are not laced with profanity.  Rather, they are laced with purity, peace, gentleness, mercy, friendship, and integrity (verse 17).  What do your words reveal about you?

Genuine Hospitality

“If ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin,” (James 2:9).

The Book of James is about genuineness in the Christian life.  Chapter two deals with hospitality in the church.  The ushers kowtowed to the “needs” of the rich and powerful.  

They could not see beyond the superficial, “the goodly apparel.”  A person may wear the latest fashion, yet his soul may be clothed in filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  An evangelist illustrated this point.  He said, “I look pretty good,” as he showed his new suit.  Then he took off his shoes to reveal that his socks had holes.  He removed his coat and revealed that the back of his shirt was torn and ripped.  From appearance, he looked good, but a closer inspection revealed that his rich appearance was riddled with holes and tears.  It is more important to be clothed with spiritual apparel: the robe of righteousness, the garment of praise, the clothes of humility, the whole armor of God.

The ushers also could not see beyond the material, “the gold ring.”  A person may be rich in material possessions, but poor and pitiable in spiritual treasures.

The ushers also could not see beyond the temporal, “sit in a good place.”  A person may have all the right connections today, and be indicted for fraud tomorrow.

Let’s examine our own judgments about people.  How quick are we to size someone up based on their appearance or speech?  I was born in the South and my accent is thick.  My resume often rises to the top for a job interview until they call me on the phone. When they hear my southern accent, they assume that I am dumb, slow, lazy, and not intelligent.

But thanks be to God.  He does not look on the outward appearance or hear the southern drawls.  He looks at the heart, and He wants us to look deeper into the souls of people.