Posted in christianity, integrity, missionaries, news, test all things

Christian Martyrs about to be executed, or mind-controlled North Koreans mourning their dictator?

North Korea is the most closed nation on earth. Extracting any reliable information from that closed dictator-led nation is near impossible. Still, reports leak out. Depending on the source, some of them are more reliable than others.

There is a recent report that the new dictator, Kim Jong Un, son of the old dictator, Kim Jong Il, held a mass public execution last November 3. November you say, and we’re just hearing about it now? That is how slowly real news leaves the closed and mysterious country of North Korea. If the reports are true at all.

The reports say that the executions were held publicly with children forced to watch. There was no clear reason why the executions were held, other than for some infractions such as owning a bible or watching a South Korean film.

There are more recent reports that the dictator has ordered the execution of 33 Christians, for the crime of having had contact with a South Korean Baptist missionary. Those reports seem more reliable.  Read more here.

I am extremely saddened by these events. We are told that Christians throughout the Church Age will be persecuted or even killed for the faith. It doesn’t make knowing the fact of them happening in front of our faces any easier to take.

However, something that diminishes the honor due missionaries and martyrs who give their life on earth for the faith in a brutal, lonely death is when undiscerning Christians, well-meaning no doubt, fall for easily discovered ruses. Like this:

Accompanying the recent story about the November executions, often appears this photo of alleged about-to-be killed North Korean Christians-

These are not Christians. These are not believers about to be killed. These are young North Koreans mourning the death of their beloved Kim Jong Il, AKA “Dear Leader”, “Superior Person” and “Father of the People.” The are victims, brainwashed and mind-controlled atheists in a locked country, suddenly bereft of their ‘god.’

How do I know this? A 5 second google search yielded this photo published in Russia Today in December 2011, not March 2014. The headline to the article in which this photo originally appeared states,

Kim Jong-il dead: Grief & mass hysteria in North Korea (VIDEO)

And the caption states, “Pyongyang residents react as they mourn over the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang (Kyodo / Reuters)”

Please, if we are to test all things regarding what we are taught by bible teachers and preachers, then let’s extend that to testing Christian news before we pass along information about missionaries and martyrs. Far too often on Facebook, twitter, or other social media and blogs, I find mindlessly repeated hoaxes, false information, and just plain obvious ruses that diminish the credibility of Christians. Let’s stay as pure as we can, on behalf of the One of whom we speak. Check it out before you pass it along. In other words, Google is your friend.

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Now as to some real news about a N. Korean missionary, this is from Voice of the Martyrs-

North Korea: Missionary Released

UPDATE #2
After being detained for two weeks for attempting to distribute gospel tracts in North Korea, John Short, 75, was released by North Korean authorities on March 2. The Australian missionary, who resides in Hong Kong with his wife, had traveled to Pyongyang as part of a regular tour group on Feb. 15. The following day, he was questioned about the gospel tracts and subsequently detained. Upon his release, he was flown to Beijing, where he was met by officials from the Australian embassy. He is expected to return to his home in Hong Kong.

UPDATE #1
Praise God that North Korean officials deported John Short to Beijing on March 2, 2014.

ORIGINAL STORY
Australian missionary John Short, 75, was questioned and detained by North Korean authorities on Feb. 16., reportedly after police learned of gospel tracts in his possession.

Short, who has lived in Hong Kong with his wife for the past 50 years, traveled to Pyongyang on Feb. 15 with a tour group, and police questioned him at his hotel the next day about the Korean-language gospel tracts that he was carrying. Officials reportedly asked him who translated the material into Korean, who sent him and to what organization he belongs.

Short’s wife was informed of his detention by a member of the tour group who was allowed to leave on Feb. 18. The tour company has made repeated calls to North Korea, but officials have refused to provide any information.

North Korea is considered the worst persecutor of Christians in the world. Although its constitution provides for freedom of religion, the practice of any non-state-sanctioned religious activity is prohibited. Possessing a Bible, praying to God or Jesus, and meeting with other Christians all are punishable by death.

The Australian government is working on Short’s behalf through its embassy in South Korea and has also requested help from Sweden, which has an embassy in Pyongyang.

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Here is one account of a martyr we will meet in heaven, killed under Diocletian’s persecution beginning in 304AD. From Foxe’s Book of Martyrs

Agrape, Chionia, and Irene, three sisters, were seized upon at Thessalonica, when Diocletian’s persecution reached Greece. They were burnt, and received the crown of martyrdom in the flames, March 25, A.D. 304. The governor, finding that he could make no impression on Irene, ordered her to be exposed naked in the streets, which shameful order having been executed, a fire was kindled near the city wall, amidst whose flames her spirit ascended beyond the reach of man’s cruelty. 

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O, for the day when we are all beyond reach of man’s cruelty, under the shelter of the arms of Jesus! When all children will be translated instantly to a place of safety and love. When the aged and infirm receive their resurrected, glorified bodies and can run and leap in joy toward Jesus and kneel without pain at His feet. When persecution is no longer a word in our vocabulary and it has lost all power to instill fear or cause death. That day is coming, brothers and sisters, it is coming.

Posted in discernment, false teachers, test all things

False Teachers and flatteries

I write about discernment very often. I post essays showing how to discern and detect a false doctrine or a false teacher. Oftentimes I name the teacher or the doctrine.

Just as often, I receive comments denying that person could possibly be false. One of the most common rebuttals I receive regarding why someone can’t be a false teacher is that “They preach Jesus”. Or, “They use scripture.”

First of all, it stands to reason that since satan masquerades as an angel of light, “Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

We are supposed to test the spirits. (1 John 4:1). This means “Test, dokimazo, a term used in metallurgy to assess the purity of metal.” (source)

In discernment, it is important to do three things when approaching the topic. First, actually read the bible. If one never reads it, one will never know that warning verse is in there. Second, stop and think about what it means. Lift your eyes from the book, slow down, and think about what the Spirit is telling us here when He inspired Paul to write this verse, and every word in it. “masquerades”, “light”, “ministers”, etc. Third, put application on the ground. The bible is a book of intellectual depth, a historical document unparalleled, sensitive and beautiful poetry, but it is also a manual of life. We are to lift our eyes from it and look around and apply its words to what we do, say, and hear.

source

In this case, we’re told that it isn’t surprising satan and his minions roam around as angels of light, therefore we know that satan’s deceptions will be both common and expected. Disguises means that initially one will not be able to tell that the teacher or preacher is from satan. He will wear a mask. Only if the mask slips or if the teacher varies from the word will we be able to detect who he really is. (I refer back to #1, read the bible). Usually it takes time to tell if a teacher is true or not. This is because it takes time for fruit to ripen. (Matthew 7:16).

Now as for the actual application and detecting, and back to the ‘oh but he can’t be false, he preaches Jesus!’ comments. Let’s take a look at the beginning of the bible and the end. In Genesis 3 and Revelation 6 we are given examples of the two most successful deceivers the earth has ever and will ever see, satan, and the antichrist.

In Genesis 3 satan is introduced to us as subtle. In Genesis 3:1 the first thing said about satan is that he is subtle (crafty). In the bible, a thing mentioned first is the most important. So if there is a list of qualities, look at the first one, or if they are repeated, (ie, HOLY HOLY HOLY) it is the author’s way of emphasizing. We have CTRL-B for bold font now, but in those days they simply mentioned the first thing first that the Author wanted emphasized. For example, though satan was the most beautiful of all the angels, (Ezekiel 28:12), this is not the first thing mentioned about him. The first mention is a negative quality, he is crafty.

In Daniel 8:25 we are also told that the coming antichrist will cause craft to prosper. In both cases the word is used in a negative sense. It means deceit, treachery and cunning.

We see a picture of all this in Revelation 6:2,

And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer.”

You see the antichrist rides a white horse. He is holding a bow (but no arrows). He wears a crown. So the antichrist is disguised. He is masquerading. He appears on a horse of a heavenly color (white), having kinglike qualities, (crown) and holding a bow but no arrows (an nonthreatening diplomat rather than a bloody warrior).

As to that last one, a bow but no arrow, a diplomat rather than bloody warrior, the devil and the antichrist use their voice to win the kingdom. The devil speaks, he doesn’t kill directly. His words are his weapons.

He cloaks himself in the liturgical vestments of the clergy while using smooth oratory to win over undiscerning believers to doctrines of demons.
Source
The coming antichrist does it the same way. By speaking flatteries.

In his place shall arise a contemptible person to whom royal majesty has not been given. He shall come in without warning and obtain the kingdom by flatteries. (Daniel 11:21)

Why should it be any different for all of the mini-antichrists (1 John 2:22) to insinuate themselves, by flatteries, smooth speech?

For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. (Romans 16:18).

Of course they speak of Jesus (more often, they speak of God than Jesus, but anyway…) The second word out of satan’s mouth was ‘God.’ False teachers will speak of God. They will speak of Jesus. They will use scripture. Testing the spirits does not mean you stop there. It means really listening. Then it means comparing what they say with the bible.

These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied. It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. As the heavens for height, and the earth for depth, so the heart of kings is unsearchable. Take away the dross from the silver, and the smith has material for a vessel; take away the wicked from the presence of the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness.” (Proverbs 25:1-28)

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Further reading

Testing the Spirits

Sinclair Ferguson: What is Discernment? 

Spiritual malpractice

Posted in facebook, hoax, Pastor Jeremiah Steepek, test all things

(UPDATED) Pastor Jeremiah Steepek: I’m a French model, and they can’t put anything on the internet that isn’t true

(Update at bottom)

I do quite a bit of work on Facebook, keeping up with friends (in exactly the way my Asperger heart enjoys keeping up with them- at a technological distance, lol), do some witnessing and a lot of encouraging.

Quite often, depressingly often, someone will re-post what, at least to me, is an obviously a hoax. The tropes and tripes are constantly circulating. They used to come fast and furious via email, with forwarding to mass numbers of friends on contact lists. Today it’s Facebook and sometimes Twitter. It is a wonder that the social media hoax-investigative outfit, Snopes, doesn’t self combust with the overload. There are virus email hoaxes, giveaway email hoaxes, charity hoaxes, bogus warnings, email petitions, protests over things that aren’t even real, email chain letters, celebrity email hoaxes, prank emails, fake celebrity death notices, and on and on and on. If people want to be taken in by the Nigerian Prince who needs money or the bogus warning about the parking lot stalker, so be it. Youse guys pays yer money and youse takes yer chances.

The hoaxes that circulate so widely are never usually religion-oriented so my irritation at seeing the one that is circulating now is greater than usual. It is this:

Pastor Jeremiah Steepek (pictured below) transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the 10,000 member church that he was to be introduced as the head pastor at that morning. He walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service….only 3 people out of the 7-10,000 people said hello to him. He asked people for change to buy food….NO ONE in the church gave him change. He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit in the back. He greeted people to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks, with people looking down on him and judging him.

As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such. When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation… “We would like to introduce to you Pastor Jeremiah Steepek”….The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation…..The homeless man sitting in the back stood up…..and started walking down the aisle…..the clapping stopped with ALL eyes on him….he walked up the altar and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment….then he recited

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning…many began to cry and many heads were bowed in shame…. he then said….Today I see a gathering of people……not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples…when will YOU decide to become disciples? He then dismissed service until next week…….Being a Christian is more than something you claim. It’s something you live by and share with others.

“OK”, I thought when I first saw this, “it is probably a hoax.” Do I possess X-ray vision to see behind the LCD screen to detect the “HOAX” watermark? No. Did the Spirit audibly tell me? No. Am I telepathic? No. How or why can a person see almost immediately that this is a hoax, then? Because I thought about it, deconstructed it, and decided that this didn’t really happen. I didn’t say anything on FB but left it up to its own cyclical trajectory to see where it went. Today Snopes published their research conclusion, “Erm, nice story, not so very true.” Hoax Slayer found the same.

How could you tell this wasn’t going to be a true thing? Many reasons.

First: the dirt on the man looks real. Do the homeless in tv shows ever really look homeless? No, and that is because it takes a long time to get grime under the first layer of skin cells to become an almost permanent member of your body. There is a look to homelessness that comes from months and years of no access to proper sanitary conditions. The man in the photo looks homeless. Absolutely. And it turns out, that he is.

Snopes: “Additionally, the photograph of “Pastor Jeremiah Steepek” that accompanies the online version of this story is actually a picture of an unidentified homeless man snapped by photographer Brad J. Gerrard in Richmond (London): “I was walking down the street in Richmond, saw this man talking to someone, could see he was quite a picture in the making. On the way back, when he was free I had a short conversation with the gentleman and he agreed to let me photograph him. I liked the result. He was very friendly.”

No pastor is going to be able to fake a real look to homelessness with that much authenticity between the time he is hired and the time he has to show up on the first Sunday. Never mind the clothes, which also looked authentic. And never mind the beard and the hair. It takes a while for hair and beard to grow that shaggy, even if a pastor had a beard and long hair in the first place. How long does he have between the job acceptance and the first sermon? Months? No hardly ever. If a church needs a pastor they need him now.

I lived in a VW Camper van in the desert for three months, and on a sailboat for two years, I know about grime, and what happens when you go long stretches without full immersion in hot water. Even though we took sponge baths and showered in marinas, the first time we stayed in a hotel, about four months out, I had to take two baths, soaking for almost an hour total before the water was clean.

Secondly, the hoax includes the little detail that that it was a large congregation, likely to dilute the first thing that would come to our mind when reading this- wouldn’t somebody recognize him? Well, even in a large congregation of 10,000, the answer is yes. The elders who hired him, the associate pastor who would have been there to introduce him, all the men that knew him from the interviews and the practice/interview sermon, would have recognized the man. Even worse, is that the story as written says that the “elders were in on this”, so, the pastor not only lied but put a stumbling block in front of his brothers and caused them to lie too.

That was the physical evidence.

Let’s look at the biblical evidence. Is this kind of thing likely to happen? The answer to this is no.

To pull off a scene like this, a pastor would have had to lie, perpetrate the lie over time, and fool people. Is a pastor who loves Jesus going to begin his tenure with the flock he is hired to protect going to TRICK THEM? EMBARRASS them? USE THE BIBLE for a gotcha moment? Use the pulpit to turn attention to himself instead of Jesus? Of course not. If he was hired then it must have been deemed that he was a bible-loving man, and the elders had adhered to this:

“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach,” (1 Timothy 3:1-2).

Above reproach meaning not a liar and a trickster.

Is a pastor going to abuse the pulpit, a section of sacred ground to pull off a trick that hurts people? No.

“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28)

Did Jesus come in secret and by subterfuge, trick the people into self-examination? No this scene would be an abuse.

“‘And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.(Jeremiah 3:1).

A man after Jesus’ own heart would not be a liar and a trickster, teaching by subterfuge.

“Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret.” (John 18:20)

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

And if the man the elders had hired was a wolf, a false shepherd, he would not care about the homeless and not deign to dress down in the first place.

People, don’t accept these things but test all things. (1 John 4:1). Don’t say to yourself, ‘it did happen.’ But say “did it happen? Are these things true?” (Acts 17:11).

Now, it certainly is a nice parable. It presents a picture in our minds that is really relevant and quite vivid. What would I have done in that situation? Am I showing partiality? How would I respond if a homeless person came to my church? All that is good.

But alternately, we must also ask questions about the scene as if it was your pastor who did that, and a newly hired one, too. “Would a pastor trick us? Is this how he plans to teach us as our shepherd? Is it right to abuse the pulpit to make a point? If he lied once, will he pull another one again? Is this the basis on which we forge a relationship?”

One other thing: the pictured real homeless man is a real person, but the someone who started this hoax is using him to perpetrate a lie. I don’t like that.

Conclusion: “If that trope about “Pastor Steepek is true, then I’m a French Model.” Bon jour.

Update

The Blaze weighed in this morning

The man in the photo has a name, it is Surrey, and he abides in Richmond England. Here is photographer Brad Gerrard’s flickr page with the same photo of the man that is supposedly Pastor Jeremiah Steepek but is not.

And amazingly, this story is resonating wildly- two hours after I posted my deconstruction of it last night, the post received 1,600 hits. That was between 10:00 and midnight, no less. This morning it is climbing rapidly over 2,000. Only a few times in five years has a post I published garnered so much attention so quickly. (Man spends his savings in advance of the rapture, Comet Elenin, Sideways necklace, and Ghost Horse of Tahrir Square). As always, my goal is not just to report what is happening, but how to critically think about it through the filter of a biblical worldview.
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Further reading

This blogger did a good job of deconstructing it too.