Jews Come Home to Jesus

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Nearly sixty thousand Jewish people live in the Twin Cities metropolitan area I call home. More than five million live in the United States, and over fourteen million in the world. The vast majority do not embrace Jesus as their Messiah and Savior. In fact, they believe that to do so would mean the end to their true Jewishness.

Even though thousands of Jewish people embraced Jesus in the early days of the Christian church (three thousand in Acts 2:41; at least another two thousand in Acts 4:4), some also claimed that Christians aimed to “destroy [the temple] and change the customs that Moses delivered to us” (Acts 6:14).

Nevertheless, the first and greatest Christian missionary, a Jew himself and former Pharisee, the apostle Paul, protested that he was “saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Messiah must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:22–23).

Great Sorrow, Unceasing Anguish

“Most Jewish people still turn away from Jesus as the one who fulfills God’s promises in the Jewish Scriptures.”

There have always been Jewish people in every generation who have believed this — that Jesus did not “come to abolish the Law or the Prophets,” but “to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). But the great sadness of true Christians — along with humiliation and grief at the way Jews have been treated through the centuries — is that most Jewish people still turn away from Jesus as the one who fulfills the promises of God in the Jewish Scriptures.

This rejection brought anguish to that great Jewish missionary and apostle. The most poignant words Paul ever wrote concerned his Jewish kinsmen:

I am speaking the truth in Christ — I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit — that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. (Romans 9:1–3)

Great sorrow and unceasing anguish. This is simply astonishing. “Great” and “unceasing.” Nothing else burdened Paul like this. I have often wondered how he kept on going. He had evidently learned a rare secret: that it is possible to be profoundly restful and content at the same time as being profoundly sorrowful (Philippians 4:11–12). In fact, he said he lived “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10).

Reject Jesus, Reject God

Out of this mysterious mingling of joy and sorrow, his prayers overflowed for his Jewish people: “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1). Which means that his sorrow and his prayers were moved by the heart-wrenching reality that they were not “saved” — that Jews who reject Jesus reject eternal life. When Paul’s message about Jesus was rejected by the Jewish leaders in Antioch of Pisidia, he said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46).

This is the heart of the matter. The good news of Jesus, coming and dying for sinners and rising again, was for Israel first. But that privilege did not mean Jewish people would escape judgment if they rejected the good news of Jesus.

To the Jew First

“Jesus did not come as one among many ways to God. He came as the true and only Jewish Messiah.”

A priority is given to the Jewish people in the Christian mission. Jesus himself came first “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:6; 15:24), not to the Gentiles. Only later did the good news for Israel spill over for all the nations (Matthew 8:11; 21:43; 28:19–20). The first missionaries of the Christian church preserved that priority for Jewish people in evangelism. “[The gospel] is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). This was God’s design: “God, having raised up his servant [Jesus], sent him to you [Israel] first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness” (Acts 3:26).

But neither Jesus nor his apostles taught that this priority meant Israel would be rescued from judgment in spite of turning away from Jesus. Jesus did not come as one among many ways to God. He came as the true and only Jewish Messiah and Mediator between God and man. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). And he taught plainly that to reject him was to reject God. Accepting him was the litmus test of whether anyone’s claim to know God was real. For example, he said,

  • “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” (John 8:19)
  • “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” (John 5:23)
  • “I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me.” (John 5:42–43)
  • “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here.” (John 8:42)
  • “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” (1 John 2:23)
  • “It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” (John 6:45)

So, it is not only the apostle Paul who says that the Jewish people who reject Jesus as the Messiah also reject eternal life, but Jesus himself said the same thing: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).

Great Hope for Israel

“The New Testament holds out spectacular hope for the people of Israel.”

But in spite of these weighty warnings, the New Testament holds out spectacular hope for the people of Israel. The apostle Peter calls Israel to “repent . . . that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus” (Acts 3:19–20).

Then, more fully than anyone in the New Testament, Paul unfolds the hope of the gospel for Israel. Not only is there a “remnant, chosen by grace” in every generation who will believe on Jesus (Romans 11:5), but also the day is coming when the “full inclusion” of Israel will turn to Jesus and be saved (Romans 11:12).

As a Gentile, I am, so to speak, a wild olive branch, not a natural one. The “olive tree” of the Abrahamic covenant is not “naturally” mine. But because Jesus is the Messiah for all peoples, I am grafted in “contrary to nature.” I owe my salvation to inclusion in the Jewish tree. With this analogy, Paul argues, “If you [Gentiles] were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural [Jewish] branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree” (Romans 11:23–24). Then, stunningly, he says, “In this way all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26).

Tragic Present, Glorious Future

This New Testament picture of the glorious future of Israel in relationship to Jesus, together with the picture of the tragic present of Israel out of relationship to Jesus, is what makes my heart ache for ethnic Jews today. Perhaps you have Jewish friends who fear that faith in Jesus would be an end to their Jewishness.

Consider the words of Jewish Christian Avi Snyder:

“Let’s not give up on praying for a great ingathering of ethnic Jews for Jesus in our day.”

Faith in Yeshua is not a threat to our Jewish existence. Rather, faith in Yeshua is an affirmation of our identity as Jews. The God who saved us through our faith in Jesus is the very God who deepens our Jewish identity through that very same faith. More often than not, Jewish people who believe in Yeshua experience a heightened commitment to their Jewish heritage and roots. By coming to Jesus, we discover that we’ve come home.

Let’s not give up on praying for a great ingathering of ethnic Jews for Jesus in our day, and let’s heed Snyder’s plea that we Gentile Christians not give up on getting the Messiah’s gospel to his kinsmen:

Silence about the gospel is not love. Silence is the enemy of the salvation of my people. Silence is the enemy of the salvation of any people.

New post on This Day in Presbyterian History – January 14: Work on the Shorter Catechism

by archivist

A Bellweather of Our Church’s Health?

Dipping into an article by the Rev. Stuart Robinson [pictured at right], titled “Recently Discovered Memoranda of the Westminster Assembly” (The Southern Presbyterian Review, 27.4 (October 1876): 730-759, we find this excerpt on the Westminster Assembly’s work on the Shorter and Larger Catechisms:—

The Catechisms, Larger and Shorter, were discussed with equal care before the whole Assembly, as reported from their Committees, question by question.  Under date of January 14, 1646, the record is :

“Upon motion made by Mr. Vines, it was Ordered :

“That the Committee for the Catechism do prepare a draught of two Catechisms, one more large and another more brief, in which they are to have an eye to the Confession of Faith, and to the matter of the Catechism already begun.” [cf. Van Dixhoorn, Minutes & Papers of the Westminster Assembly, vol. 4, p. 399]

wsc_london_02To Dr. Tuckney was assigned the Shorter Catechism.

It is not until April 12, 1648, that we find the Minute of their completion, as follows :

“The proofs for both Catechisms shall be transcribed and sent up to both Honorable Houses of Parliament.  Ordered to be carried up on Friday morning by the Prolocutor with the Assembly.”
[Session 1049., cf. M&PWA, iv.749.]

“APRIL 14, 1648, Friday Morning.

“Prolocutor informed the Assembly that he had delivered the Cate­chisms, and was called in and told that they had ordered six hundred copies with those proofs to be printed for the use of the Assembly and two Houses ; and give thanks to the Assembly for the same.”
[Session 1051, cf. M&PWA, iv.750.]

Use of the Westminster Shorter Catechism has had its ups and downs. In the Southern Presbyterian denomination throughout the first half of the 20th-century, there were often nearly one thousand children per year who would memorize the whole of the Shorter Catechism. The Christian Observer would annually print an honor roll with the names of these children. It is interesting (and depressing) to watch over the next few decades as, year by year, those numbers declined. Even as late as 1958, there were perhaps a thousand in that list. But by 1975, the list of names had shrunk to less than two hundred. Finally, by 1988 the publisher had given up on this annual feature. If we tried to put together such a roster today, where would we stand? Every good Presbyterian will acclaim the value of the Shorter Catechism, but how many actually use it? How many disciple their children through the memorization of it?

It’s not a new problem, though. In his review of Dr. Ashbel Green’s then-recently published Lectures on the Shorter Catechism, Dr. Archibald Alexander wrote:—.

But if we do not entirely misinterpret the temper and taste of the times in which we live, doctrinal catechisms, and lectures explanatory of such catechisms, are not the books which will be sought after and read with avidity. The religious taste of most readers is, we fear, greatly vitiated by works of fiction and other kinds of light reading. Nothing will now please, unless it be characterized by novelty and variety; and while many new means of instruction have been afforded to our youth, in which we sincerely rejoice, we are so old fashioned in our notions, as to feel regret that in our own church those excellent little summaries of Christian doctrine, the Westminster Catechisms, are falling with many into disuse.”
[The Biblical Repertory, and Theological Review, Vol. 2 No. 2 (1830): 299]

Words to Live By:
Few things in this life just fall into our laps. Most good things take work to acquire, develop and maintain; discipline bears a good fruit for the long term. The value of the Westminster Shorter Catechism has been acclaimed by many, but for how many of us is that acclamation mere lip service? The year is still young, and its not too late to slip in another resolution. Wouldn’t this be a great year to work on the Shorter Catechism?

archivist | January 14, 2017 at 12:05 am | Categories: January 2017 | URL:

5 Overlooked Gifts of the Spirit


piosi /

When it comes to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, it is easy for Christians to think of some kind of special power to walk on water, healing people miraculously, or even the dead being raised. Christians often sound like we want to change the world for God through extraordinary means. And yet, what we find in the New Testament with the close of the apostolic era is a Spirit who is changing the world through very ordinary means and gifts. Here are five overlooked gifts of the Holy Spirit that God uses to change the world.

1. The Church’s Constitution

Just as modern states have laws and constitutions, God gave his people, the church, a constitution that governs all she says and does—the Bible. Through the extraordinary ministry of the prophets and apostles in Jesus’ day, the Spirit delivered Christ’s rule inscribed in an actual book: the Bible (inspiration). This unique Word of God is the preeminent gift of the Spirit. This Word now constitutes the new covenant community, the church. The new covenant community gathers around a new mediator, Jesus, who has broken down all the boundaries that we see in the Old Testament. We no longer make ourselves holy through ceremonies or being descended from a certain family line. We are made holy by the blood of Christ which washes us through the preaching and teaching of God’s Word through the power of the Spirit.

Through the ordinary ministry of pastors today, the Spirit guides the church by opening our hearts through what is already written by the preaching of the Word (illumination). The Spirit shapes this fellowship of believers by this written constitution that has unique authority over our lives for all our beliefs and practices.

2. The Church’s Elders

The Spirit brings Christ’s official roles as prophet, priest, and king to us by the Word of God through ordinary ministers, deacons, and elders. The elders uniquely rule the church of Christ; yet, they are in no way mediators to God. They serve Christ, the only mediator, as they serve the people of God.

Christ directs their authority according to his Word—the constitution that frames their appointed rule. They merely relay the wisdom, mysteries, and salvation of Christ to guide and direct the people of God in the salvation he alone has provided.

3. The Church’s Ministers

The particular offices of minister and elder have been given by the Spirit of Christ to equip all of the saints in their vocations and callings.

We are equipped through them to be prophets, priests, and kings in the world, declaring Christ’s work, battling sin, living to righteousness, and bringing God’s Word to our neighbors. The pastor is the shepherd who assists the elders in their rule and is sent by the Lord to teach and instruct, building up the household of God as servants of the Word of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

4. The Church’s Deacons

Christ does not merely rule our hearts but our bodies as well. He is equally concerned for our physical needs and wants. The gifts of the Spirit, therefore, include the ministry of the diaconate, serving the temporal needs of the saints.

In order that the apostles might give due diligence to the task of prayer and the preaching of the Word, the diaconate was created so these important tasks would not be forgotten.

The deacons allow ministers to give themselves to prayer and God’s Word, and they allow the elders to care for the spiritual government of the church. The diaconate serves as a reminder that Christ is still fully human in heaven and cares for us in body and soul.

5. The Church’s Unity

No believer is an island, isolated from the church. Similarly, no local church or denomination is the one catholic church apart from sister churches. They are only one and catholic as they exist together in Christ through the faithful preaching of the gospel and administration of the sacraments.

In this communion, the gifts of the Spirit are used by Christ to care for the temporal and eternal welfare of his commonwealth and colony of heaven, uniting us to himself and to each other.

This unity spans history, as well as every niche demographic of our day, connecting us to the “faith once delivered to the saints.” This unity of doctrine and practice binds us in our faith, hope, and love as we long for the day when the Spirit rolls the heavens back at the coming of Christ.


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Christian evangelist cleared at Sheriff’s Court | Christian Concern

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A Christian evangelist has been cleared of threatening and abusive behaviour, at a trial in Kilmarnock, Scotland.

Gordon Larmour was charged with behaving in a “threatening or abusive manner aggravated by prejudice relating to sexual orientation” and “assault”, after he shared the Christian position on homosexual practice with some young men in the street.

The trial happened on 9 January at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court.

Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Gordon was found ‘not guilty’ after the evidence against him broke down.

Sharing the good news

Gordon, who often visits Irvine to offer gospel leaflets to people, offered a leaflet to a group of young men who were passing through the town. He shared with one of the men how meeting God had turned his life around.

Another of the men, who said he was a homosexual, asked Gordon for God’s opinion of those who engage in homosexual practices. Gordon told him what the Bible teaches.

Gordon’s answers angered the man and he tried to hit Gordon. The young men then began to chase Gordon and shouted abusive comments at him.

Police officers called to the scene were told by the young men that Gordon had made ‘homophobic’ remarks, so he was arrested and taken to a police station and held overnight.

Insufficient evidence

Gordon was charged with behaving in a “threatening or abusive manner aggravated by prejudice relating to sexual orientation” and “assault”.

At the trial on 9 January 2017, two of the young men who spoke with Gordon appeared as witnesses, along with a police officer.

The Sheriff made the decision for the case to be heard in private, concerned for the sensitivities for one of the young men.

But the young men’s accounts of the events did not agree, and the police officer was unable to say for certain whether Gordon had said anything more than “the act [of homosexuality] was wrong”.

Because the evidence against Gordon broke down, Gordon’s solicitor, CLC allied lawyer Alastair Ross, made a submission of ‘no case to answer’.

The Sheriff found that Gordon was ‘not guilty’ only an hour after the trial began.

‘A wonderful result’

Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, commented:

Gordon Larmour

“This is a wonderful result for Gordon and for Christian evangelists in the UK. Freedom of speech is being consistently undermined in the UK, but here is a win for common sense.

“It is a great surprise that this case was heard in private, and the accusers should have had the courage to give their evidence in public. It is a great relief that the judge ruled in favour of Gordon, because the case simply did not stand up to scrutiny.

“Christians need not be intimidated, and should take advantage of the freedom we have to share the good news about Jesus, who is the only hope for our nation.”
Please join us in thanking God for this excellent result and pray that Gordon and others who seek to spread the good news of Jesus in Scotland, and elsewhere in the UK, will be encouraged by this victory.
Related Links:
Kevin DeYoung: Is it wrong for a Christian to defend their rights?

We Shall Overcome – The Compromising Church – (Revelation 2:12-17)

My latest column in the Revelation series on Christian Today has already caused a furore and a storm of abuse and outrage from ‘Christians’ who accuse me of not loving or bringing the teaching of Jesus.  Ironically in so doing they prove the point of the article, that much of the Christian church has become hopelessly compromised and confused.  You can read the original column Here

The following is an expanded version:

We Shall Overcome

We shall overcome is the well known protest anthem associated with Pete Seeger and the Civil Rights movement. What most people don’t know is that it was originally a hymn by the Rev Charles Albert Tindley, a minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. It is a great oneline summary of the message of Revelation, and a timely word for the Church in the West today.


Because we are in deep trouble. Just as he did with the church in Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17) Jesus does ‘have a few things against us’.   With the State replacing God as the source of our morality in our society, and with the materialistic and power idols of our culture being combined with an increasing sexual confusion and immorality, there is an enormous temptation for us to compromise on what the word of God says. The governing elites of our culture tell us what the new morality is and the church so often just meekly follows along – ‘discovering’ that the bible didn’t really mean what it said, that there are a variety of interpretations and that we show ‘the love of Christ’ by going along with the new morality of the culture.

Compromising on Sexuality 

This is especially seen in the current troubles besetting the church about the issue of sexuality. Our society is now telling us that sexuality and gender are ‘fluid’. Marriage is being ‘redefined’ and anyone who does not go along with this is regressive, ‘on the wrong side of history’, and cruel. Those in the church who buy into the new morality are warmly applauded. The Archbishop of Wales, Barry Morgan, is the latest example of a clergyman who comes out with the teaching that the Bible is unclear, there are numerous interpretations, although his liberal one (which nicely coincides with the culture) is of course the correct one.

Those who don’t buy into this are mocked, derided and abused. And even reported to the police. When ‘Cranmer’ wrote a blog which critiqued an article by Vicky Beeching in The Guardian, but did not personally attack her, another ‘evangelical’ Jayne Ozanne reported him to the police for ‘hate speech’!

Recently in a Scottish border town the South African charismatic preacher, Angus Buchan was invited to speak at an evangelical charismatic church. I don’t think that Mr. Buchan is my sort of preacher and I disagree strongly with some of his views, but surely the mark of a mature democracy is that you allow the expression of views that you find distasteful? If freedom of expression only means that those who agree with you (or the current zeitgeist) are able to express their views then that hardly constitutes ‘freedom of expression’!  Once the social media mob got hold of this the media outrage followed, the militant secularists called for blood and local politicians sought to ban this ‘outrageous’ preacher? Not only did the local council give in, sadly so did the church, apologizing for any ‘hurt’ they caused and seeking to ‘engage in dialogue’ with the local LGBT ‘community’. And suddenly the pastor was being described as ‘a very nice man’ by the militant secularists. (My rule of thumb? – if militant fundamentalist secularists are calling you very nice, it’s a fair indication you’ve got something wrong!).

This is how intimidation works in today’s culture. If a Christian teacher refuses to teach what is contrary to their faith, they are portrayed as a narrow minded bigot and the dogs of war are unleashed. They would do well to keep their job.  On the other hand a Christian head teacher is lauded for handing out books about lesbianism to primary school children and feels good about ‘showing the love of Christ’.   A Stonewall diversity award will doubtless soon be winging its way.   Christian leaders, especially those who are ‘evangelical’ are kept out of the media if they hold to the same view of marriage Jesus did, but let them announce they have changed their minds and suddenly all manner of media doors are open for them.   Those who were formerly ‘narrow’ and ‘bigoted’ have morphed into ‘courageous’ and ‘brave’ leaders.  They are the acceptable face of Christianity for the modern world.

This is nothing new.

It was tough being a Christian in Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17).   It was a major city which claimed to be the first city of Asia, vying with Ephesus and Smyrna in much the same way as Manchester, Liverpool and York might vie to be the premier Northern English city. It had a massive library of 200,000 volumes and was the centre of the religious life of the province. There was a huge hill that rose to 1000 feet above sea level and had many temples. It had the temple of Asclepios the God of healing closely associated with the snake; a temple of Zeus and most importantly the first temple in the area dedicated to Augustus and Rome. This latter made it the centre for emperor worship in the province. The Romans were smart that way. They didn’t need people to give up their local ‘gods’ (who didn’t exist and therefore could not be a threat), all they needed to do was ensure that they included the Emperor (who did exist and was an ever present threat) as a ‘god’.  The titles of Lord, saviour and God were constantly applied to the Emperor. No Christian would ever give those titles to anyone other than Christ.

Satan’s Throne

It is little wonder that Jesus describes Pergamum as the place where Satan has his throne – an especially bold statement given the identification of the throne with the Roman emperor and (for the Greeks) with the throne of Zeus. Just being a Christian meant that the political, religious and cultural authorities were being challenged.
And that challenge was met with a vicious response. The Christian Antipas was killed. . This is the first occasion of the Greek word for witness being used of one who laid down his life on account of witness to Christ.

So you would imagine the story would be…”well done you faithful Christians. You have endured even unto death.” But the realism of the Bible again shines through. Even in the most faithful churches there can be real problems.   Jesus had a few things against them….and just as he spoke to Pergamum so he speaks to his church in the West today.

The Church was able to resist the 14-year-old Emperor cult, but they seem to have given in to the attacks from within. Satan not only persecutes, he seduces.   The church had some people who held to the teaching of the Nicolatians. They were followers of Nicolaus (no –not St Nicolaus, otherwise known as Santa!) who taught, like Balaam in the Old Testament, that idolatry and sexual immorality were ok.  These were the characteristic features of the Greco/Roman pagan society. Features which the Nicolatians went along with doubtless thinking that they were showing ‘the love of Christ’. But this was not showing the love of Christ, it was affirming the hatred of the world for God. It was a denial of Christ and complicity with the evil that destroys the world.

As Bauckham points out: “Clearly a church which listens to the Nicolatians or imitates Babylon cannot bear faithful witness to the truth and righteousness of God.   The churches must be exposed to the divine truth in the Spirit’s words of prophecy, if they are to be lampstands from which the seven Spirits can shine the light of truth into the world”

Today Christians who are compromising on the teaching of Christ, at just the point where the world is attacking it, are following the way of Balaam and the Nicolatians.   Meanwhile those who don’t compromise and don’t give in to the pressure can feel increasingly under siege.   It is vital that such don’t develop a siege mentality. We do this by remembering who it is we follow and who is ultimately the victor. The whole book of Revelation is focused on the conquering Christ. Ironically Nicolaus means ‘conquer the world’. The devil was seeking to conquer the world not so much by persecution but by seducing the Church.
Jesus’s word is not confused. It does not depend on senior clerics letting us know how it ought to be revised in order to fit into their worldview. If Christ has anything against the Church in the West today it must be the way that so much of it has usurped the role of the Holy Spirit and created a new religion, complete with their own personal, comfortable, harmless Jesus, and our own confused, inane ‘word’. He calls us, His Church to repent of tolerating such confused and poisonous teaching. To turn back. Not to follow their way. He says, stick to my way and I will give you the hidden manna and the white stone. What are these? William Still suggests “the hidden manna is undoubtedly the secret bread of the word of God which sustains afflicted servants of God in their day of trouble until their enemies marvel at their steadfastness and strength.” The confused mess of modern ‘liberal scholarship’ is a dish that poisons and destroys, not the manna that builds up.

The white stone was a ticket and a symbol of admission to the heavenly banquet. It’s our party ticket!  It’s a new name, indicating a new identity and the name of Christ. It’s on stone which means it’s durable and lasts forever.

Christ is telling us that those who go along with the Zeitgeist, those who compromise his word in a culture which hates it, will have their 15 minutes of fame but, in the words of Newton’s hymn, ‘solid joys and lasting treasure, none but Zion’s children know’.  Maybe its time for the Church to wake up, strengthen what remains and is about to die. Whoever has ears; let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

The Victorious Persecuted Church