The Only Martyr’s Death Worth Dying


'The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer' by Jean-Léon GérômeChristians in the United States are increasingly alarmed at the rise of the martyrdom of fellow believers across the world. When dying for our faith comes to our own shores, it’s even more troubling.

Jesus said this:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”
—John 15:18

We often think of the tossing of Christians to the lions in ancient Rome when we think of being hated for the Faith.

A list of Christian faith and practice that drew the attention of the Romans:

  • Rapidly spreading the Faith throughout Rome
  • Caring for infants otherwise left to die
  • Caring for the sick, infirm, and elderly
  • Affording women rights ordinarily not given to them
  • Expressing monotheistic beliefs about the nature of God

Only one of the above, though, convinced Roman leaders to send Christians to die a martyr’s death in the Colosseum.

Today, the following beliefs and practices of Christians in the United States raise the ire of those who might hate us:

  • Espousing a pro-life / anti-abortion stance
  • Supporting conservative politicians and politics
  • Opposing same-sex marriage
  • Making wild predictions about End Times
  • Opposing permissive cultural mores

Can you spot the telling difference between the two lists?

What got Christians martyred in Rome? Their monotheistic view of God. It was how Christians depicted the nature of God that Roman leaders saw as an immediate threat. The other factors may have contributed, but they were not the final cause. (I would recommend Rodney Stark’s The Triumph of Christianity for further details.)

Today, fellow believers in other countries are martyred for the same reason as ancient Christians in Rome. Consider too the message of the apostles. It was their view of who God is, talking about Jesus, and putting Him above all else that enraged others enough to kill them.

If you and I must die a martyr’s death, the only real martyrdom, the only genuine reason to die for the Christian faith, is the person of Jesus. Be hated because we believe Jesus Christ is Lord.

Being hated for anything on that second list is not the point. Being hated for being opinionated about social issues, or voting for conservative politicians, or for homeschooling, or for anything else that is not Jesus is not martyrdom for the Faith.

Meditate on that earlier Bible verse for a moment.

I write this today because of my concern that we may be unclear on this. The way we talk about why people might hate Christians has little to do with the person of Jesus Christ and what we think about Him. Instead, it seems to be about our opinions on everything else.

There’s enough scandal in the person of Jesus and what He said and did to rock anyone’s world. But, in the United States, is Jesus truly the primary reason people hate Christians? If not, then we need to change the focus of our rhetoric.

One day, if they do come us, let’s ensure we die for the right reason.

Blood Moons, Shemitah,, and Last Days Nonsense


Four Horsemen of the ApocalypseWhere I live, everyone has been running around like crazy, preparing. Kids are off school. People have been buzzing about how it might all go down, and who will be chosen and who will not. Some have been anxious, others elated. What has long been awaited is finally upon us.

In other words, it’s the week of the county fair.

You thought perhaps I was speaking of something else?

Like that blood moon thing. Oh, that’s yesterday’s news. Who’s going to win Best of Show in cattle is more important right now.

As for me, I’m not so much a county fair person. I’m more concerned with the aftermath of this month of September within the pathetic prophetic community in charismatic and dispensationalist Christianity.

An unhealthy fascination with the Jewish holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which fall within September, is an area of concern. This year is also a Jubilee year in Judaism, which happens every 50 years (7 X 7 Shemitah years plus one) and marks a time of the forgiving of debts and the releasing of those in bondage of any kind. Add in the blood moon tetrad we just experienced, and all manner of End Times craziness afflicted us in 2015.

Over at Charisma magazine online ( and it’s sister site,, it’s business as usual, save for a few rare posts wondering why nothing happened. For the last year or so, these sites have been spewing predictions about this month’s eschatological “certainties.” I know this because my Facebook pages have been strewn with Christians posting End Times articles sourced from these two websites.

What was supposed to happen as prophetically announced through various pricey books, DVDs, teaching seminars, and other big money generators was the end of the world, the Second Coming of Christ, the exposing of the Beast and Antichrist, the Last Battle, all manner of Israel-related stuff, signs in the heavens, and signs on earth.

Oh, and that Catholic leader guy visited America. Surely he had to fit into all that too. Had to. Gotta read all the signs.

Here’s the scorecard:

Blood moon tetrad events – FAIL

Wonders related to Shemitah – FAIL

Attacks on Israel – FAIL

Armageddon – FAIL

The Second Coming of Christ – FAIL

The Rapture of the Church – FAIL

Wow, that’s surprising, isn’t it? Not one of those things either happened or signaled anything.

What gets me is that we’ll go on about our business, get ready for fairs, go to work, cheer or lament our local football teams, and nowhere will there be an admission from all these “prophets” who made a fortune hocking End Times nonsense that they were ultimately dead wrong about everything they predicted. And nowhere will there be an apology from the editiorial staff at Charisma that they rode this nuttiness for all it was worth and that they’re sorry for having done so.

I fully believe that Jesus will return one day. I fully believe it will be during a time of great unrest and turmoil. I fully believe that a war between the forces of God and the forces of Satan will erupt sometime in the future.

But all these End Times predictions by self-anointed prophets in polyester suits seem more like astrology, numerology, divination, and outright witchcraft than anything Christian that proceeds from the throne of God Almighty.

God is not a god of error, confusion, and fear. He is not found in earthquakes and windstorms, but instead speaks in a still, small voice, yet one that carries devastating and lasting authority.

My advice to fellow believers is to stop funding and promoting charlatans who attempt to make money by peddling loud, scary predictions. Just stop. Please. Don’t buy their materials and don’t repeat their silliness in social media and elsewhere.

I also hope you will consider that today will be no different than yesterday, and that no apologies will come from those who spoke wrongly. Consider that sometime in the next year we will get another run-up of predictions heading into next September, and by the same “prophets,” and they will be wrong then too.

Whatever we do, we cannot and should not forget or excuse these failed prophetic words. We cannot go on as if the failure of these predictions does not matter. The only way the Church can be strengthened is if we stop supporting the predictions and predictors. One reason lost people no longer look to the Church for answers is because of this nonsense. It must be dealt with.

If any of us fell for all this, we should not lie to ourselves that we didn’t. Instead, we should get before God and get real with Him about our obsession with all things End Times and our tendency to fall for related nonsense. My fear is, if we don’t deal with it, should the Liar of All Liars arise in our lifetimes, we will believe his or her lies just as readily as we believed all these mistaken “prophets.”

I will add that perhaps we should examine the truthfulness of our eschatology. Is falling for this again and again a sign that perhaps what we believe about the End Times is flat-out wrong? Christians have held many differing views of the End. Perhaps the one we currently hold is incorrect.

In conclusion, I offer this.

The smartest religious people of Jesus’ day completely blew both the prediction of His first coming and its means. They got everything so hopelessly wrong that even when the anticipated Messiah stood before them, they could not see.

I believe Christ’s Second Coming will be just as surprising and confounding. It won’t occur the way we think or at the time we believe is most perfect. Yes, we are in the Last Days, but God has not stated to us the exact number of those days.

Until that Final Day of these Last Days, keep doing the work of the Kingdom and relax in letting God choose when and how He will bring it all to its conclusion.

Quote about Evangelicalism & Theology Nails It


Mark Strom

“Evangelicals have benefited enormously from the faithful and creative labors of many theologians. I certainly acknowledge that for myself. But there are other less acknowledged sides to the story of theology:

– its inability to connect with everyday concerns;
– its use to patronize and disdain others;
– its role in propping up an elitist system of leadership;
– its deadening effects on young theological students;
– its promotion of pedantry and destructive debate;
– its second-hand character that minimizes genuine creative and new perspective;
– the ways it imposes law in the name of protecting grace;
– the ways it preempts and gags conversations that might otherwise break new ground in integrating faith and life.

“There is great value in laying a foundation of beliefs. But the methods and disposition of theology have failed to deliver its promise of a richer personal knowledge of God. Theology and church have by and large abducted the conversations that rightfully stand at the heart of the gathering.”

Reframing Paul: Conversations in Grace & Community by Mark Strom (IVP, 2000), p. 125

(Hat tip: Rob Wilkerson)

While that quote may be 15 years old, I believe the issue still exists, and in the form that Strom critiques.

We need theology. How should we teach and practice it in our churches and schools?

Your comments appreciated.