CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

They Seek To Survive While We Indulge

Apr 29, 2010

I get plenty of emails pouring into my inbox every day. They can be sorted into at least three categories: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Two recent emails especially caught my attention because of the glaring contrast they provided to each other.

The first was an ad for a new book written by a very popular American Bible teacher. The ad assured us of what a vital book this is for the Christian community; a book with “an inspirational message that will resonate with readers everywhere”.

Indeed, we are told it “has debuted at # 7 on the New York Times hardcover advice books bestseller list”. We are also told that the author has “written more than 80 inspirational books that have been translated into over 80 different languages”. The book in question is, Eat the Cookies . . . Buy the Shoes. This is what the ad says of Joyce Meyer’s latest best-seller:

“In a fun and entertaining tone, with the new book, Meyer teaches that it’s OK to celebrate something we’ve accomplished or treat yourself to something for a job well done. With an inspirational message that will resonate with readers everywhere, the new book will help you find freedom to do something you enjoy and not feel guilty about it, to reward yourself for progress instead of punishing yourself every time you fail, and to give yourself permission to ‘lighten up’ when facing challenges – all while staying spiritually balanced and celebrating God and what He’s doing in you.

“‘This new book celebrates that we’re not built for guilt,’ said Meyer. ‘At some point, we all need to “eat the cookie and buy the shoes” in order to help us finish what we’ve started or as a way of celebrating something we’ve accomplished. Your “cookie and shoes” can be anything that you enjoy. God never intended for us to be under a heavy burden. In fact, God is the ultimate party planner and wants you to learn how to celebrate the victories in your life’.”

There you have it folks. God is the ultimate party planner, and Western Christians need to lighten up and party more, indulge more, and cater to self more. Yeah right. As if American (or Australian) Christians are in desperate need to hear that they take their faith too seriously, that they sacrifice too much for Christ and his Kingdom, that they are into too much self-denial, and that they really must learn how to indulge a little.

That is like telling Hugh Hefner he has got to lighten up a little and learn to indulge himself in a little bit of sex on occasion. It is like telling Lady Ga Ga that she needs to be a bit less serious, and learn to party just a bit more.

Sadly, the contemporary Western church is probably the most decadent, the most carnal, the most-self-indulgent, the most pampered, and the most me-centred church the world has ever known. And here we have a Bible teacher effectively telling us we need more of it!

I find it hard to believe that anyone would waste time and money on such a book. But the fact that it is already a best-seller simply tells us a lot about where most Western Christians are at today. What makes all this so utterly tragic is the contrast it provides to the other recent email I received.

The second email had arrived about a week earlier. Indeed, I have since received a number of copies of it from various places and various people. It has to do with the staggering number of Christian martyrs in the past year. From the middle of 2008 to the middle of 2009 there have been an estimated 176,000 Christians martyred for their faith around the world.

The email article says this: “That’s 482 deaths per day, one every three minutes. Martyrdom didn’t go away with the Middle Ages, according to reports from Open Doors USA, which now has combined efforts with actor Kirk Cameron of ‘The Way of the Master’ ministry as well as evangelist Ray Comfort of Living Waters ministry to focus on those who are being persecuted for their faith.”

It continues, “Emeal Zwayne, executive vice president of Living Waters, said that few Christians in the U.S. are even aware ‘that an estimated 176,000 Christians were martyred from mid-2008 to mid-2009. It’s so hard to believe that in this day and age so many Christians are losing their life for their faith. It’s as though we in the U.S. live in a different world from the rest of the Body of Christ. We want to ask the question that is on a few people’s lips – will persecution ever come to America? And if so, what can we do about it?’ he said.”

It also points out the major source of the persecution: “WND reported earlier this year when Open Doors USA released its 2010 World Watch List. The report cited North Korea, which reportedly uses Christians as guinea pigs to test chemical and biological weapons, as the world’s worst persecutor of Christians. The report said Iran, which may be using Christians as scapegoats for internal opposition to its president, is No. 2 on the Open Doors 2010 World Watch List. The report said Iran is among eight nations in the top 10 of the group’s ranking of the 50 worst persecutors of Christians in which Shariah, the Islamic religious law, is dominant. A total of 35 nations on the list are under some form of Shariah.”

It concludes this way: “Iran, at No. 2, is the highest-ranking nation in the top 10 in which Islam is the dominant religion. Following are No. 3 Saudi Arabia, No. 4 Somalia, No. 5 Maldives, No. 6 Afghanistan, No. 7 Yemen, No. 8 Mauritania and Uzbekistan, which ranked at No. 10. Laos, another communist nation like North Korea, is ranked No. 9. Open Doors estimates there are 100 million Christians worldwide who suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation.”

Christians all around the world are being persecuted, tortured and put to death, and Christians in America are snatching up books by the millions telling them it’s OK to indulge and party. In much of the world simply to stay alive and keep true to one’s faith is the main thing happening, while in the West we spend money on books telling us to go and buy a new dress and get a new pair of shoes – because we deserve it!

How much more evidence do we need of the Babylonian captivity of the church in the West? The only really helpful thing left for most Western Christians to do is to get down on their knees and plead for God’s mercy. Otherwise we will simply keep sliding into the cesspool, if we haven’t already bottomed out.

www.christiannewswire.com/news/1088413731.html
www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=143493

[1151 words]

33 Responses to They Seek To Survive While We Indulge

  • Bill I have been seeking to raise the plight of the Copts in Egypt, and have apporached three Senators who supposedly are Christians, to see if they can raise the matter with the Foreign minister. I got so fed up one Sunday that I sent a “stinger” to all three Senators questioning their Christian faith. I got a reply from one via his policy officer who told me that he would contact the Coptic diocese here in Melbourne for more details. The other is comkgn to grips with a new shadow porfolio, whilst the third has not replied at all – perhaps too busy getting water down the Murray
    It makes me think how can Christians follow the heresy of the Prosperity Gospel ,when their Brethren are suffering around the world. Reading the Barnabas Fund emails and prayer alerts makes one aware that we are all members of the Body of Christ and when one suffers, we all do – except the prosperities!!
    Wayne Pelling

  • To Wayne Pelling – what are the Barnabas Fund emails and prayer alerts? How do I subscribe?
    Steve Davis

  • Thanks Steve

    It is headed up by Patrick Sookhdeo in the UK. They work on behalf of the persecuted church. Here is their main website: http://barnabasfund.org/
    They also have an Australian branch.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks for that Bill – I will have to get into praying for them.
    Steve Davis

  • Bill,
    Only a motivational and positive type sermon that will talk about personal gain and benefits, will easily draw in the crowd and built mega churches. So we should not be surprised that this is the trend now and not just in the USA. From Joyce Meyer to Robert Schuller, Joel Osteen etc., just to mention a few familiar ones. Who wants to hear about the cost of discipleship, worst still of being a martyr? Now do we still wonder why they attract huge crowds?
    What great faith those persecuted Christians have, even in the face of martyrdom. If Christians in the western world faces such violent persecution, will we be as strong? There may come a time soon. But so used to materialism and comfort, many of us may not endure. Lord help us remain faithful to You.

    Barry Koh

  • Bill – After recently reading “The Heavenly Man” (about Brother Yun) and then his book “Living Waters”, it is always good to see similar thoughts being expressed here. Open Doors is another organisation working with persecuted Christians, and there are several others I know of.

    I haven’t read any of Joyce Meyer’s books, so can’t comment whether the quotes you provide above are the unfortunate expressions of a marketing company, or do reflect the main theme of her writings.

    While the “ultimate party planner” comes across as a very unwise and disrespectful description of our God who is majestic in holiness, awesome in glory and working wonders, it is true that God is preparing a place for us in heaven, and there is no doubt it will be incomparable to anything here on earth.

    The problem comes when we start wanting heaven here on earth, rather than taking up our cross, denying ourselves and following Jesus.

    It is always humbling reading of Christians being persecuted, and starting to realise that our comfortable life here may not be a blessing, but rather a blindfold to the things that are important.

    Peter Baade

  • Amen to all that Barry and Peter!

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • There is a Christian radio station in Geelong that supports Joyce Meyer and her ilk. Their attitude is to be “all things to all people” but I fear that is a faulty understanding of what Paul really meant. And when Justin Peters was recently in the UK he was berated by a Christian TV station manager for having the gall to declare the faults of the money preachers. Maybe some parts of the Christian media are on the same gravy train?
    Lindsay Smail

  • Thanks Lindsay

    I must confess to not having read any of her books, but I have heard her on the radio now and then. I am not suggesting that all of her stuff is of no use. Probably much of it is alright. But books like this are so typical of the theological pap that most Christians are gorging themselves on. It is all so much fairy floss (or cotton candy). Our brothers and sister around the world are dying for their faith, and we are dying to buy a new pair of shoes or indulge ourselves because we ‘are worth it’.

    When will we start to take our faith seriously? When will we realise that the Christian faith is not about ourselves? When will we pray like the two young Moravians who sold themselves into slavery to reach the lost, “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering”?

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Dear old “tell it like it isn’t” Joyce, one of the top 5 W.O.F preachers has had her hand in a lot of people cookie jar’s to the tune of around 100 million a year and no accountability.
    Her own fleet of cars, personal corperate Jet, now replaced with a better one (36 Million New) with pilots and stewardesses on standby, personal hairdresser, 23 thou commode, face jobs, holiday house on the water with the big boat and a compound with her mansion and houses for all the family. Even the 20 million ministry center has 5.7 million dollars worth of artwork and furnishings alone. “All paid for by the mainly female faithful!”
    She is on the record as saying “she now can live a sinless life” and also she is at a place where she can “Love the things of the world” and still retain the love of God in her heart.
    Here is the structure of her board.
    http://www.trinityfi.org/images/meyer02.jpg
    Here are the houses. Naturally patrolled by armed guards.
    http://www.apostasywatch.com/Wolves/WolfReports/JoyceMeyer/meyercompound/tabid/167/Default.aspx
    All because of her relationship with Jesus?
    Rubbish, it is a false Jesus.
    Rob Withall

  • Thanks Bill,

    I am at the same time convicted for my apathy to my suffering brethren and thankfull for a voice sounding the alarm. Appreciate your articles of robust truth expressed with sanctified straight talking.

    Glenn Christopherson

  • Many thanks Glenn

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • This is a very necessary message Bill. Thank you.

    Just to share a few thoughts related to the state of the Western church. I think it is also a case of Western Christians not knowing how to deal with their freedom and also not truly believing God’s word about them for some reason. God makes it clear we are worth a lot to Him, as much as His only begotten son even. I don’t have a problem with people expressing that in buying themselves things, and I believe none of us have, but we have this obsession with convincing ourselves we are worth something while we obviously struggle to believe it in the first place. After Meyers, another writer can write and sell something similar because after the shoes have been worn a few times and the cookie jar is empty, we see ourselves as worthless again-still not accepting God’s word that we are worth something.

    We sit bathing in all this freedom because generations before us did things God’s way and now we don’t know what to do with it. We get fat and bored. This freedom we have in traditionally Christian nations are meant to serve as platforms to transform our own communities and the nations of the world through the gospel. We are not spiritually fit and that is why we require and are open to motivational speakers to remind us: you are free, your debts are paid for by the blood of Christ, you can overcome the world… It is a sad state to be in though. One of my biggest questions is this: Will there ever be a nation which have seen revival and kept walking in it until Christ’s return? It is like there is this cycle going: satanic, pagan chaos, desperate people repenting, God healing the land and all other things in that country, people getting self-confident and relaxed, people getting back into pagan stuff and idol worship. Same story with the Israelites. Can the West embrace their freedom in Christ and serve the nations through it by means of the gospel? To us much have been given so much will be required from. I also understand that the root lies in our obsession with ourselves and our unwillingness to let God sit on the throne, so maybe things never will change but those who are called to act must do so nevertheless.

    These are just some thoughts I have on the matter.

    Servaas Hofmeyr, South Africa

  • “When will we pray like the two young Moravians who sold themselves into slavery to reach the lost, “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering”?”
    Bill, couldn’t think of a greater contrast to what we are today and that includes me. And what a greater heritage. These two men standing on the deck of a slave ship, waving a final goodbye to their families, heading out to a remote island where only slaves were allowed. And not only had they given up their lives “willingly” to be taken as slaves, they even were forced to pay for their own passages. And look what came out of their mouths! How far we have fallen in our prosperity and lack of persecution, the likes of which produced these young Moravians.
    I am sorry if I get a little mad, but the first story completely insults the life of the likes of these young men and of our Lord Christ Jesus. You can have one as presented in the new book you mentioned or the other, the young Moravians, but you cant have both.
    Rob Withall

  • Thanks Rob

    I have just written up the story of Zinzendorf and the Moravians here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2010/04/29/notable-christians-count-zinzendorf/

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thank you Bill

    This is an excellent article!!!!

    Donna Opie

  • Why is it that when I discuss apathy and nominalism in the church, everyone agrees and has had enough of the status quo. Nearly everyone disagrees with numbers at any cost, with relevant-ism at the expense of holiness, with the poverty of lukewarmness and with standing in church where watching the performance remains unchallenged. But nothing changes. Why is that? Some of us pray that a ground swell of repentance from the present deadness to a holy fervor might overtake us.
    Tony Morreau.

  • Hi Bill, I just watched a video with Joyce Meyer in full tilt arguing that Christians need to interpret “receive” as “receipt”, meaning its OK to go after the big bucks. Of course she will need to share the cash with, Benny, Kenneth, Oral, Rodney, Cleflo, and heaps of others, who were at it long before she entered the milking bails, and who, like her and the rich young ruler, prefer to have their treasure on earth, rather than in heaven. No disrespect, they all know how to do their routine really well, pity the martyrs and suffering Christians aren’t catered for in their worldview.
    John Heininger

  • Bill we desperately need this type of straight talk to shake us out of our apathy & complacency. Thank you for being a prophetic voice to our nation. May God have mercy on us for being detached from the real issues of life that are affecting our brother & sisters worldwide.
    Diana Hallas

  • Bill see Andrew Bolt’s comment on this:
    http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/04/29/elects-iran-commission-womens-rights/ report that Iran has just been elected (“by acclamation” says the original, meaning without an open vote) to the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

    Another long march through the institutions?

    John Angelico

  • Brother Yun, ‘the heavenly man’ is in Canberra from 20 to 22 May 2010.
    I believe there are still some bookings available. Not exactly sure on the name of his web site, but should be able to find it through a simple google.
    I will be there, the Lord willing. I believe he has much to share about the sufficiency of Christ in the valey of the shadow of death.
    Blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  • Thanks Ursula

    Here is a website with the details of his visit: http://www.heavenlymancanberra.org.au/heavenlymancanberra/Home.html

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Another great article, Bill. I used to watch Joyce Meyer’s TV show years ago. It seemed that in the early days of her ministry her message was quite biblical, but it also seems that over the years as she has become more popular she has just become another health & wealth prosperity preacher.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  • Admittedly many would not take their faith seriously and wouldn’t think twice for the few who attend church on a Sunday morning and scream at a football match in the afternoon without giving a second thought about Christ and what he did. It reminds me of a book by a Bonhoffer called The Cost of Discipleship I read many years ago but couldn’t really understand but talked about Cheap Grace and Costly Grace. I imagine that would be an article in it’s self.

    So, what would be concidered the fine line of enjoying the gifts from God of living in a country like Australia, like football matches, music, eating, drinking and still having the freedoms to worship him? Or should we feel guilty about it and really reflect on what our faith means?

    Carl Strehlow

  • Thanks Carl

    Yes I offer some Bonhoeffer quotes in my comments under this article: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2010/04/21/on-making-disciples/

    As to your final question, each believer has to ask himself just who or what is really number one in his life. What do we put first in our lives? All these other things are OK as long as they are in the right place and in proper priority. But I fear far too many believers have self first, and entertainment, and recreation, etc., way above dedication and service for Christ and His Kingdom.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Your article link was forwarded to me this morning and I just wanted to thank you for your many contributions through Saltshakers – and this article which is sadly spot on. I have been to one of the countries on the World Watch list over 15 times working with believers. It was very humbling sitting next to a brother in a prayer meeting who had just been beaten up by the FSB trying to get names from him. I give no details for obvious reasons.

    Thank you again for your labours and insightful commentaries – very much appreciated.

    Denis Shelton, Sydney

  • I have recently finished reading ‘Light Force’ and ‘Secret Believers’ by Brother Andrew. Particularly poignant was a letter from Afghani Christians to the then President George W Bush, contained in the latter book.

    The flashing red light message that the letter sends to the western church is that the Qur’an is the seventh century rationale for twenty first century Islamic Imperialism that offers three choices, reversion [conversion is not their perspective as Islam is our natural state], debilitating subjugation or death. The Afghani letter makes very clear that even in everyday life life, Sharia Law makes no room, or compassion, for ‘infidels’. Fundamentalist terrorism is only one manifestation of their jihad.

    I submitted to Bill a few months ago in these pages that one Christian option is to consider taking to the anti-discrimination authorities the apparent hatred and discrimination that may be interpreted to occur in the Qu’ran. Such an option was considered not feasible.

    We laud the two ‘martyrs’ on the slave ship – can we not in the failing comfort of our national laws bring to account – before it is too late – the alleged discriminating words contained in the Qu’ran?

    Look to Europe for current lessons that may well be Australia’s position in a few years time. Martyrs under the protection of Judeo-Christian laws or martyrs under Sharia law appears to be an option for us today but not perhaps, for our descendants living today.

    Ray Robinson

  • Hi Bill,

    We have a monthly prayer meeting for our persecuted brethren, using resources from Barnabas Fund, Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors, Release International, China Aid – in fact anything we can get our hands on. I have also been writing occasionally – not as often as I ought – to our brothers and sisters in prison and also to governments to advocate for their release. It’s an important ministry and I would encourage your readers to access the Voice of the Martyrs website where there is a lot of information to help if you would like to be part of a ministry to build up and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ. Each year I compile a list of as many names of Christian prisoners that I can get hold of, adding to it each month and this is a major focus to direct our prayers at the prayer meeting every month. Some we have been praying for over a period of years such as Pastor Gong Sheng Liang and his niece Yi Ling.

    It is sad that the western church is largely not aware of what is happening. In fact a few years ago, I prepared a message to educate believers of two linked concerns – the plight of the persecuted church and the need for believers to know their Bible, challenging them to start memorizing chapters rather than verses. I have been inspired by the love of the persecuted believers for their own Bibles and they think nothing of memorizing whole chapters because there are do few, if any, Bibles to go around. My church prayed for me and commissioned me giving full support in this proposed ministry. However, not one church I approached was willing to hear the message even with a letter of introduction from my senior pastor. And the reason why? I was told that the congregations would find the message too challenging, worrying and extreme. Well, I would hope so!

    Apologies Bill if I have gone on too long.. this topic is a passion of mine.

    Kerry Letheby

  • Thank you Bill for a wonderfully challenging article.

    I am a supporter of Open Doors’ Australian branch, and regularly receive updates via mail on the plight of Christians around the world. The passionate and persevering faith of non-Western Christians in the face of unimaginable hardships and persecution invariably puts the Western church (of which I am a part) to shame. I am grateful that you have sought to highlight the the struggles of many brothers and sisters – something that seems to be little talked about in most churches here.

    Scott Buchanan

  • Hi Steve Davis,
    apart from the Barnabas Fund http://barnabasfund.org two other links for news/prayer mailouts on the persecuted church I’d recommend are Open Doors http://www.od.org or Open Doors Australia http://www.opendoors.org.au and Voice of the Martyrs http://www.persecution.com

    Patrick Sookhdeo (Barnabas Fund), Brother Andrew (Open Doors), Richard Wurmbrand (VOM) are all the real deal.

    For some countries, such as North Korea much of the info is only individually shared. If you have a particular desire to learn more about/help/or go to North Korea, Open Doors is involved in there and is a good place to start or you can contact me through Bill for others who work in there in different capacities.

    Garth Penglase

  • Bill,

    I had composed a draft email letter to send to my local newspaper, based on the information you provided here of 176,000 Christians martyred in 2008-09, 1 every 3 minutes. However, when I checked the Living Waters website, it associated this figure with the Open Doors ministry. My wife and I are long time supporters of OD.

    I emailed Open Doors Australia to have this figure of martyrs verified. OD contacted OD USA and this is the reply I received today from OD:

    “I have heard back from our USA base and the information you are questioning was taken from another ministry and was not a part of any information from Open Doors USA. In fact, Open Doors USA strongly suggested that LW [Living Waters] discontinue reference of that number, explaining how such figures are virtually impossible to prove and that associating the findings in the same article with OD suggests we support the findings – and we do not. I underscored the point by adding that OD takes very conservative stands on any figures even when we can substantiate them.

    So please do not pass on to your Christian friends.”

    Therefore, I would not recommend passing on this information as Open Doors does not believe it is a reliable figure.

    Spencer Gear

  • If persecution comes only a small slice of the western church will remain.
    Tony Harkin

  • Thank you for the timely,incisive and prophetic article. Notwithstanding the accuracy of the statistics, we DO KNOW that a large number of Christians are being persecuted and martyred daily. I am also a supporter of Barnabas fund and OD. I have also been to some countries who are hostile to the gospel and see the persecution first hand.

    The concept of Lordship and discipleship are highly unpopular in our self-indulgent church culture of the West.
    I pray that your article can find greater resonance and conviction among genuine disciples to wean ourselves from feeding only on self-indulgent and self actualization books and teachings.

    Jeremy Wong

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