God Created the Heavens and the Earth

Paul summarizes the essence of Christianity in Acts 17:16-32 as he speaks before the meeting of the Areopagus. He begins by introducing the fact that God created the heavens and the earth, which is foundational to our Christian faith. This one simple truth mandates not only the way we relate to God, but also the way we look at the world and each other.

God created the heavens and the earth. This means He is all-powerful and incomparably greater than man. However, from the very beginning of the world, man has persistently tried to surpass God. Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil in order to become like God. Their descendants built the Tower of Babel to reach the heavens and to create a name for themselves. Then THEIR descendants despised and killed God’s prophets, even crucifying the Messiah. Even today we live in an age where people play God in the name of science. But if we truly believe that God created the heavens and the earth, we should know to be humble and to fear God. He does not live in temples built by men nor does He need our offerings or sacrifice.

Again, God created the heavens and the earth. This means that everything and everyone He has created is valuable. In a world that emphasizes overpriced self-sufficiency, worth is assigned according to one’s wealth, influence, power, and usefulness. It is a world that looks down upon the weak and the poor. However, God loves all His children and He will provide for us even when we fail to do so.

God has given us proof by raising His son Jesus Christ from the dead and we need to look no farther than the Cross to see His saving grace and repent as He has commanded.

To watch other Voice of the Martyrs videos, visit the Voice of the Martyrs Video Page!

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Please don’t study the Bible

It seems almost unbiblical to ask Christians not to study the Bible, and yet a careful reading of the text supports the request.

As a teacher of the Bible, one of my first instructions to students is to find the best study Bible they can…and then cut all of the study notes out of it so that only the biblical text remains. In reading that text, one will find (in, for example, the NIV), that the word “study” only occurs four times, three of which are in used pejoratively.

One of those four references, Ecclesiastes 12:12, advises, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.” In few categories of literature are more books made than in the study of the Bible. The effect is hardly to make the Bible more accessible but rather to convince potential readers of the Bible, either implicitly or explicitly, that it would be inadvisable to read the Bible without first (or simultaneously) acquiring a good grasp of theology, geography, culture, church history, and–today’s obsession–the “Story” (usually capitalized) that is alleged to run so obviously through it, though apparently not obviously enough to be discovered without reading a book about it first.

Making “study” the word most commonly paired with “Bible” is costly to discipleship. I know many Christians who have studied the Bible but who have never really read it. If one studies the Bible, one tends to interpret it rather than straightforwardly doing what it commands, no matter one’s doctrines about biblical literalism or inerrancy. Rev. Richard Wurmbrand, the founder of Voice of the Martyrs, called interpretation of the Bible a “bad habit and a source of strife.” In a letter to VOM supporters in July 1980, he wrote:

When Jesus said to the disciples, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the leaven of Herod,” (Mark 8:15) He was warning them specifically against becoming like the Pharisees who were concerned with debating and interpreting God’s word rather than living a Godly life. The parable of the good Samaritan illustrates the Lord’s disappointment with this false attitude.

“.. They (the disciples) reasoned among themselves saying it is because we have no bread.” (Mark 8:16) The apostles clearly misinterpreted Christ’s statement. If they failed, despite being by the Lord’s side, what chance have we to interpret correctly?

Rev. Wurmbrand then shared a series of headline news items from the day–Afghanistan invaded by the Soviets; President Carter boycotting the Moscow Olympics; and an especially poignant note about school girls paying for their protest in the streets of Kabul: “Fifty-one of the girls were shot; hundreds of innocents were jailed. Others were drowned in pits full of feces; many were buried alive.” He continued:

You can interpret such events in the light of prophecies or speculate about the sense of innocent suffering as mentioned in different Bible verses. But, to interpret is a sin because Christians are called upon to act according to His command, not to interpret. You have acted [through your participation in VOM]; you have helped, and we thank you for this.

Be ye doers of the Word, not merely interpreters, one could say. Our contemporary thinking, shaped by the Christian publishing and seminary industries, is that it is necessary for us to study our way to right interpretation and then act. But much of Jesus’ teaching method involves trying to get his disciples to act their way to right interpretation by the power of the Holy Spirit; hearing the Word, in other words, for the sake of doing the Word so that we might hear the Word more clearly as a result of what we have experienced, by the grace of God.

I was speaking at a conference in the United States several years ago, doing a Q&A session about North Korean underground Christians. An earnest man had his hand raised to ask a question, so I called on him. He said, “How do North Korean Christians interpret the passages in Daniel 7:25 and Daniel 12:7 about ‘time, times and a half,’ and of Revelation 11:2’s ’42 months’ and Revelation 11:3’s ‘1260 days’?” I thought about it for a few moments and then replied, “You know, I can honestly say that I don’t think they’ve ever thought about it.”

This is not to say that North Korean underground Christians don’t read Daniel or Revelation. They read it passionately when it is available to them, as do most of the underground Christians I’ve encountered. But they don’t read it in order to study it or interpret it. They read it for guidance about what to do in the very real, life-or-death situations of persecution they face, often daily.

We would do well to imitate them. Today, let me encourage you to pick up a Bible and simply read it and do what it says. Make sure to read several pages, rather than reading a single verse. That’s the best way to understand it–simply reading it, and reading more of it, and reading it again and again. Ignore the verse and chapter markings. Set aside your concerns bout misunderstanding and misinterpretation; the Lord will correct those as you seek to do the Word by the power of his Holy Spirit.

Tolle legge. It beats studying the Bible any day.

 

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Belarus Pastor: Why A Hostile World May Be The Best Place For Christians

Pastor Dmitry Lazuta from Belarus visited Voice of the Martyrs Korea as a part of the 2016 Martyr’s Spirit Speakers Series to share about church growth in the midst of oppression and the meaning of suffering for Christians.

From his experience of being a Christian under both communist oppression and religious freedom, he concluded that the best time for church growth is “something between freedom and persecution, the time of oppression.” Currently in Belarus, it is difficult not only to officially register a church but even to rent a place for worship. These difficulties, however, have helped the Christians to not become complacent but be spiritually alert.

It is important to keep in mind that these kinds of oppression and persecution are not confined to certain geographical regions. Pastor Dmitry’s conclusion mentioned above does not apply only to Christians in Belarus. Persecution is and should be normal for all Christians, as we live in a world that has always been hostile to Christ.

In fact, in 1 Peter 4:12-13 the Apostle Peter encourages us by writing, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”

Therefore, count it as joy if you are being persecuted for your faith, because persecution is normal and Christ has suffered for us. What an honor it is to follow his path.

To watch other Voice of the Martyrs videos, visit the Voice of the Martyrs Video Page!

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