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Endurance in Adversity

A Brief Word

When I started shakethegates.org several years ago, my intention was to help believers in Christ not only stand firm in the evil day, but forcefully advance the Kingdom of God despite the overwhelming opposition of society. I’ve been busy living in a developing nation, discipling believers, translating the New Testament, trying to stay afloat. My high aspirations for this website have fallen far short of what I’d hoped to do with it.

Lately, I’ve been feeling increasing urgency to prepare believers for a level of opposition that few have ever known. Intense opposition is the norm for many believers around the world. People in those contexts have endured the unspeakable, yet continue to stand. Not so much in the West.

The best way that I know to prepare believers for what lay ahead is to drill down into the Word of God and draw out the meaning, exhortation, nourishment, and hope found there. After all:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV

I covet your prayer as I step into a new season of study, writing, prayerful thinking, and preparation. I ask you to pray that the Father will grant me sharp focus, a heart tender toward Him, skillful word-smithing, and clear understanding of His word in order that I might serve Him and you well in this endeavor.


A few weeks ago I published an article entitled At Hand which you can read here. The urgency of the New Testament writers (in that case, Paul, Peter, and John) was unmistakable. The world of their time was pagan and poised against the subjects of the King of Kings. Their rulers were notorious for their extreme immorality and their violent reigns.

Imperial Persecution

Emperor Nero was representative of many of the Roman emperors. According to Henry Halley (Halley’s Bible Handbook), under Nero’s persecution “many Christians were crucified, or thrown to wild beasts, or wrapped in combustible garments and burned to death while Nero laughed at the pitiful shrieks of burning men and women. Paul and Peter suffered martyrdom in Nero’s persecution.”

Nero is most known today for his maniacal fiddling while Rome burned. There were a litany of emperors between Nero and Domitian, who exiled John. Nero committed suicide, leaving the throne to Galba who reigned a grand total of 7 months and 7 days at which time he was murdered by the Praetorian Guard. Then came Otho, appointed by the Praetorian Guard who reigned for 3 months and 1 day. He committed suicide after losing a battle. Vitellius followed, reigning 8 months and 3 days before being murdered by Vespasian’s troops. Vespasian replaced him and ruled nearly a decade before dying of natural causes. Then came Titus, Vespasian’s son, who ruled 2 years and 2 months before dying of fever. Finally came Domitian, who ruled 15 years and 4 days before being murdered by court officials.

During Domitian’s reign, John was exiled to the island of Patmos where he penned Revelation, having survived, according to Fox’s Book of Martyrs, being boiled in oil.

Modern Persecution

Though most of us have not suffered under this sort of rule, patterns and trends would point toward the possibility that, as our societies disintegrate and people attempt to cast off moral restraint, people will eventually demand some sort of powerful rule, whether a government system or a strong individual. What followed the October Revolution of 1917? Stalin’s reign of terror. What followed the Wiemar Republic and the stripping of Germany’s military might following WWI? The rise of national socialism and its leader, Adolf Hitler. Pol Pot led the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, leaving a legacy of murder. What of Chairman Mao and the cultural revolution in China? Or Fidel Castro in Cuba?

In each of these situations, followers of Jesus have suffered persecution. Stalin instituted the Gulag. Chinese Christians have consistently suffered intense persecution and opposition since the cultural revolution. Hitler’s government not only exterminated 6 million Jews, it imprisoned and executed political opponents and Christians who did not hold with the party’s brutality and extreme evil.

It seems that humanity is once again attempting to set the stage for 20th-century-like upheaval. Creation groans. Humanity is drunk with rebellion and notions of revolution. This generation desires to cast off all restraint. Many of our information sources are merely propaganda machines, spreading dissension and hate toward all that is holy. As we drift along the flow of history (past and future), proponents and servants of the world system increasingly attempt to silence the voice of reason and holiness.

Read more . . .
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The Power of Doxology

When I was new to the Lord I learned an oft sung chorus simply called The Doxology. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow/Praise Him, All creatures here below/Praise him above ye heavenly host/Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.” It was sung after communion or at the end of the church service, in keeping with the Biblical tradition of book-ending a section of text with a “word of glory”, an ascription of value and worth to God. While this chorus is actually a Catholic prayer, doxologies are found throughout the Old and New Testaments.

Lately I’ve been thinking about doxology and this is what I’ve concluded: doxology has a powerful place in daily life. Consider the doxology included in the introduction to Revelation. “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”(Revelation 1:5-6, ESV) This one doxology, if internalized, has the power to revolutionize your life. In fact, this would be a great passage to meditate on at the beginning of each day this week.

This doxology is ascribed to Jesus and begins: “To him who loves us . . .” There are days when it can be a stretch to remember that He loves me. Perhaps I’ve not bothered to confess my sin and I’m feeling estranged from Him. Maybe the woes of walking in this world become heavy and I’ve neglected to release them to Him. Or I read the words and they merely bounce around my mind, never taking root in my heart. But not only did Jesus tell us that he loved us, he showed us. He said to his disciples in the closing hours of his ministry in his body: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13, ESV) That is precisely what He did for us. Allow this truth to sink down through the layers of your mind into the depths of your heart. Allow this truth to be a cornerstone to the foundation of your faith.

The doxology continues: ” . . and has freed us from our sins by his blood . . .” His love moved him from the Garden to Golgotha. Bloodied and tortured, he was nailed to a Roman cross in order to provide our reconciliation to the Father in Heaven who, by the way, loves us, too. When we were helpless slaves to our rebellion and rejection of God, he surrendered to the cross to free us to walk from death to life.

Having washed us by his blood, reconciling us to the Father, he ” . . . made us a kingdom . . . “ Not only did we become subjects to the King of Kings, he gave us a place of honor, allowing us to become kings with him, to share in his rule of the nations of the earth in the age to come.

He also gave us the privilege of becoming ” . . . priests to his God and Father “, that is to become mediators between the lost ones and the Father. Having been reconciled to the Father, we represent Christ to the world, appealing to its children to be reconciled to God. We not only intercede for the lost, we do all in our power to bring them to the Heavenly Father, that they too may be freed from their sins and be made new creations.
At this point the John puts hands and feet on the high praise given the King: ” . . . to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” May this never be merely a statement we make by rote before moving on with our day. First, says John, honor God with your life–forever. Second, surrender rule of your affections, attitudes, and actions to God the Father–also forever. That is, give him dominion of your being.

Meditating on these profound truths allows us the opportunity to begin our day basking in the love and gifts of God. As the truths take hold of our hearts, we respond by yielding the right to rule ourselves to God the Father, inviting him to show his glory, character, and majesty through us to draw a rebellious world to himself.

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Unmovable

My family and I live in the shadow of Mount Somau in Madang Province, Papua New Guinea. While remote by most of the world’s standards, we still have access to cellular service, however slow it is in comparison with Western standards. It is still fast enough to  allow us  to download news on our phones, though I’m not always sure that is such a great thing.

Charles Spurgeon once said that a preacher should hold the newspaper in one hand and a Bible in the other. Perhaps. The perceptive reader will do so to connect the dots between the predictions of the New Testament and the fulfillment of those predictions today. Indeed, Paul wrote to Timothy that there would come terrible times in the last days. 

The sensitive follower of Jesus is distressed by the unspeakable nature of what the world embraces as not only normal, but laudable. We should ask the question, as Francis Schaeffer once famously did, “How then shall we live?”

Jesus spoke at length about both the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of days. Consider what he prophesies as recorded in Matthew 24:9-13: “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” 

  God’s people have been persecuted, threatened, opposed, hated, and murdered for millennia. Our end might be martyrdom or imprisonment. We might be cast out of society and despised. Whatever form persecution takes, Jesus warns that the increase in wickedness will threaten our ability to love one another, let alone the lost. We will be tempted to fall away,  but endure we must. We dare not yield to the pressure our enemy exerts to overwhelm, discourage, destroy and silence us.

Saiva Creek overflows after an hours-long torrential downpour. The boulders do not move.

From Mount Somau springs forth a stream that flows from the heights to the bottom of the mountain. As it flows down the steep slopes, it flows over and around scores of  enormous boulders that determine where its course. Rain or dry the boulders rarely move.

Our role in society must be like those boulders. While society flows into greater dissipation, we must remain unmovable in our convictions, loyalty to the Father, and commitment to endure to the end. We must withstand the torrent in love.

Is it possible? If so, what reward is there for the conqueror?

  • “The one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7)
  • “To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.” (Revelation 2:17)
  • “To the one who conquers and who keeps my word until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations . . .” (Revelation 2:26)
  • “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” (Revelation 3:5)
  • “The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.” (Revelation 3:12-13)
  • “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.” (Revelation 3:21)