Morning Devotional

Persecution in America

Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

[Matthew 5:11-12]

The Bible says that persecution of Christians will escalate during end times. The groundwork for widespread persecution of Christians is being laid in our own country. Right now, there is a moral revolution in our country that is proceeding at warp speed, and with that moral revolution is coming a cultural rejection of Christians and what they believe. In America right now we are experiencing a moral revolution that will lead to the marginalization, and ultimately, to the criminalization of Christianity.

Al Mohler describes a three-stage process of how a moral revolution occurs in a culture. Remember, the Germans did not take the Jews to the crematorium immediately. Instead, they first marginalized the Jews in the culture. They made the Jewish people objects of disdain, contempt, and hatred. They said, “The Jews are different than we are. They are hurting our society.” Only after they had marginalized the Jewish people were they able to take away their rights, even their right to live. That is what is happening with Christianity. Right now, there is an effort to marginalize Christians. People say, “Those Christians are bigoted. They are not good for society.” This marginalization of Christians will lead to the criminalization of Christians. We see that especially in the debates over homosexual marriage and gender identity.

Let’s look at Mohler’s three-stage process. Step number one: what was condemned is now celebrated. Homosexual marriage did not appear on the scene until 2001 in the Netherlands. Until then it was routinely condemned. Everybody understood that marriage was between a man and a woman, not just evangelical Christians but Jews and Muslims, conservatives and liberals. Yet suddenly, what was condemned is now celebrated.

Step number two: what was celebrated is now condemned. The idea that marriage is between a man and a woman is being condemned routinely. Anybody who says marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman is marginalized as a homophobe, bigot, and hatemonger.

Step number three: those refusing to celebrate are condemned. If you don’t join in the celebration of homosexual marriage, then you are a marked person. You will be condemned. You will have your business taken away from you. That is going to happen more and more and more. And it’s not going to be just against businesses, but it is going to be against the church as well. Are you going to be ready? Jesus said that persecution is going to happen, and we must be ready for it.

~ Dr. Robert Jeffress ~

Christians in the Crosshairs

 

In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.

[John 16:33]

Miriam Ibrahim, a young medical doctor, was arrested in the Sudan and tried and convicted for apostasy and adultery. She was convicted of apostasy because she converted from Islam to Christianity, and she was convicted of adultery because she had sex with her husband, who was a Christian, and the Muslims did not recognize that marriage. After her trial, she was sentenced to death by hanging for apostasy and to 100 lashes for adultery. The Sudanese prosecutor gave her the opportunity to recant her faith in Jesus Christ, but she refused. As a result, she was shackled and sent to prison. Prison officials refused to unchain her even when she gave birth. Due to the outcry of millions of people, Miriam Ibrahim was finally released. In an interview, she said, “There are many Miriams in Sudan and throughout the world. It’s just not me.”

One of the signs that Jesus said would precede His return to earth is an increase in the intensity and frequency of persecution for those who follow Him. Jesus said it this way in John 16:33: “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Today when we hear stories like the one of Miriam Ibrahim, we think, “That kind of thing happens in other places around the world, but it would never happen here.” There is no guarantee in Scripture that Christians who live in this country will be exempt from persecution. In fact, there is every guarantee that we will experience persecution.

Jesus said as much in Matthew 5. In verses 1-10 He describes the qualities of a disciple, in what we call the Beatitudes. Then He says, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (vv. 11-12). Jesus was saying, “If you are a follower of Me, then be ready for persecution.”

We are seeing an increase of persecution around the world. Did you know that there were more martyrs in the twentieth century than in all other centuries combined? Open Doors USA has reported that the level of persecution against Christians in the world is now at the highest level in modern times. Jesus said these things are going to be like the birth pangs of a woman; they will increase in intensity and in frequency. Persecution was part of the Christian movement at the beginning, and we are seeing it increase in frequency and severity around the world today. This is one of the signs that Jesus said would precede His literal, visible return to earth.

~ Dr. Robert Jeffess ~

Devotional

Signs of Jesus’s Second Coming

You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.

[Matthew 24:6-7]

Jesus had a lot to say about His second coming. In Matthew 24, He mentioned several signs would precede His visible return to earth. As we look at these signs, we must understand that in one sense many of these things are taking place right now. Throughout history, many of these signs have taken place. But Jesus said before He comes, these things will increase in intensity and frequency.

What are the signs? The first sign He mentions is spiritual deception. Jesus said, “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many” (v. 4). Now, in every age, there have been religious charlatans. Think about James Jones and David Koresh. But as we get closer to the end, the number of these false teachers will increase. In fact, toward the end, many people will claim to be the Christ. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 4:1, “The Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” Toward the end, we will see a rise in Satanism and the occult. And we are seeing that right now.

The second sign of the end times is international conflict. In Matthew 24:6-7 Jesus said, “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” Leon Trotsky, a Marxist philosopher and revolutionary, is credited with saying, “Whoever longs for a quiet life has been born in the wrong generation.” He wrote those words almost 100 years ago. The world wasn’t peaceful in his day, and it is not peaceful today either. See if any of these places sound familiar to you: Iraq, Syria, the Ukraine, Hong Kong, the East China Sea, Crimea, Chechnya, Serbia, Kosovo, Lebanon, Kashmir, Somalia, Yemen, Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. These are just a few of the hot spots in the world. Think about it: 70 years ago American troops were fighting in Germany and Japan. Then they moved to Korea. Then Vietnam. Then they moved to the Persian Gulf and the Middle East. We can add to the list of countries Afghanistan and Pakistan, and who knows how many other Middle Eastern countries will be added to the list.

We are seeing international conflict on an unprecedented scale around the world. Jesus said this is a sign of His soon return.

 

~ Dr. Robert Jeffress ~

What Jesus Said about the End Times

Just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.

[Matthew 24:27]

In Matthew 24:27 Jesus said, “Just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.”

When Jesus spoke these words, it was on Wednesday of His final week on earth before He was crucified. On that day, Jesus took His disciples to the temple in Jerusalem so He could pronounce a judgment against the religious leaders. After He pronounced that judgment, look at what happened: “Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him” (Matthew 24:1).

Herod’s temple was a magnificent place of worship. “He said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down’” (v. 2).

I thought about this passage while driving past the United States Capitol in Washington, DC. Imagine you were taking a group on a tour of the Capitol, and you pointed at the building and said, “One day terrorists are going to destroy this place and tear it down brick by brick.” The Secret Service would surround you so fast you wouldn’t know what happened! It was that way in Jesus’s day. The disciples were scared to talk about it in the temple area, so they went to the Mount of Olives. Sitting on the Mount of Olives and overlooking that spectacular temple, they asked, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (v. 3). The disciples were asking about three separate things. Yet notice that they treated all three of those things as simultaneous events: the destruction of the temple, the second coming, and the end of the age. They did not understand that while all these events were future, they would be separated by thousands of years. The temple was destroyed, just as Jesus predicted, in AD 70 by the Romans. But the subsequent events–the second coming and the end of the age–would be separated from the first event by thousands of years.

That brings up a principle we need to understand about Bible prophecy: the principle of near and distant fulfillment. Many of the prophecies in the Bible are placed together even though they are separated by hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Imagine you are looking at a mountain range from a distance, and you see two mountain peaks that look as if they are next to each other. But that is an optical illusion because as you move closer to the mountain range, you notice that those two mountain peaks are separated by a long valley. In reality, they are far apart. It’s the same way with many of the prophecies in the Bible. Although from a distance the events seem close together, they are actually many years apart. Also, many prophecies have two fulfillments: they are fulfilled in the near term but also have an ultimate fulfillment that can occur thousands of years later. That is true about the first and the second comings of Jesus.

~ Dr. Robert Jeffress ~

Evening Devotional

What to Do When Memories Won’t Go Away

A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.

[Proverbs 19:11]

What are we to do if the memories of our sins toward God and others, or other people’s sins toward us, won’t go away? Let me give you some practical suggestions I have found helpful.

First, release those memories if possible. It is true that every experience is chemically and electrically recorded in our brains, but it’s also true that some of the trivial hurts we experience can be dismissed from our consciousness if we choose not to dwell on them. Somebody came to me after a church service and said, “Pastor, I want to ask your forgiveness for something I said to you two years ago.” Well, I didn’t remember what they said. Either when they said it I was preoccupied with something else, or I didn’t think it was that significant. I just let it go. Therefore, it wasn’t part of my consciousness. Whenever possible, we ought to dismiss minor offenses. That’s why Proverbs 19:11 says, “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.”

Second, recall your own failures. Admittedly, some of the past wrongs done against us can’t be easily dismissed; they require action. In a former church I served, one of the leaders was caught in immorality. A church member told me, “I can’t look at this person without thinking about what he did. Every time I see that person I think about the sin he committed.” I said, “Let me give you this suggestion. You are not going to be able to quit thinking about that. So whenever you see that person and remember what he did, I want you to recall a sin you have committed–a secret sin so embarrassing that if it were displayed for the whole church to see, you would crawl under the pew. Whenever you look at that leader and recall his sin, remember your sin as well.” That’s what Jesus had in mind in Matthew 7 when He said, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged” (v. 1). Jesus was not saying, “Never make a judgment about anyone or anything.” Instead, He was saying, “Don’t pronounce a final condemnation of declaring that somebody is beyond God’s forgiveness.” He continued, “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you” (v. 2).

Third, when memories of an offense won’t go away, remember your past act of forgiveness. Do you remember the Westerns that used to be on television on Saturday mornings? I watched them all the time, and I even had a little toy set of gun and holsters that I used to wear. The good guys in those television shows never went around with only one gun; they always had two pistols. And when they would confront the evil guy, with lightning speed they would pull both pistols out of the holster. We need to use that same principle whenever we are confronting painful memories. Yes, it is true that we are likely going to recall what somebody did to us, but with lightning speed, we ought also to pull out the other pistol and remember that we forgave that person. Don’t ever pull out one without pulling out the other.

~ Dr. Robert Jeffress ~

Morning Devotional

Choosing the Apostles

When day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles.

[Luke 6:13]

After Jesus prayed all night, “He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles” (Luke 6:13). What is the difference between a disciple and an apostle? A disciple is a follower of a rabbi. A disciple seeks to imitate not only his leader’s words but also his example. To be a disciple of Jesus means to model your attitudes, actions, and affections after Jesus. It means to love what Jesus loved, to act like Jesus acted, and to think like Jesus thought. Then out of Jesus’s disciples came twelve apostles. An apostle is one who is sent forth. The twelve apostles were a unique group chosen to proclaim the message of Jesus.

I observe three things about the list of apostles in Luke 6:14-16, as well as in the similar lists in Matthew 10:2-4 and Mark 3:16-19.

First, the lists begin with Peter. Peter was the leader of the apostles, but do you know what’s interesting? Peter was the greatest failure of all the apostles. He denied Jesus three times. He was a major screw-up as an apostle. Yet Jesus chose Peter to be the leader. Doesn’t that give you hope? It doesn’t matter how much you have failed or what is in your past. God can take your mistakes, forgive them, and redeem them.

Second, the lists end with Judas Iscariot. Judas is the one whose betrayal of Jesus for 30 pieces of silver led to Jesus’s crucifixion. You may think, “Why did Jesus choose Judas? Did He make a mistake?” No, it was part of God’s plan. Jesus chose Judas because He knew God could use the evil in Judas’s own heart to accomplish His purpose. God can take evil people and evil circumstances, and He can use them for your good and for His eternal purpose.

Finally, the lists are comprised of young men. When we think about the apostles we tend to think about old guys. However, most Bible scholars believe these men were probably in their late teenage years, early twenties at the most when Jesus chose them to be apostles.

Luke 6:20 tells us that when Jesus began to teach, He turned His gaze toward His disciples. We need to remember that the Sermon on the Mount is a message for Jesus’s followers, not for the unsaved. There is nothing in this passage that tells you how to go heaven when you die. There is nothing about God’s forgiveness through Jesus, the cross, or the blood of Christ. This was a message for Jesus’s disciples. Interestingly, Jesus was in the midst of relentless criticism from the Pharisees, but He did not spend his time answering the criticism of the Pharisees. Instead, He focused on investing His time with His followers.

~ Dr. Robert Jeffress ~

Evening Devotional

Jesus’s All-Night Prayer Meeting

It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.

[Luke 6:12]

This week we are learning about the Sermon on the Mount. The setting for this sermon is key to understanding what Jesus is saying.

“It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12). What “time” is the verse talking about? The answer is in the preceding verse. “But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus” (v. 11). The Pharisees were enraged by Jesus and His teaching, so they plotted to kill Him. Jesus was aware that His time on earth was very limited, so at this time He went off to pray all night.

Have you come to grips with the fact that your time on earth is limited? The inevitability of death produces one of two reactions. One reaction is to eat, drink, and be merry. If this life is all there is, then you should have all the pleasure, recognition, and money you can get, because one day you are going to die. The second reaction, the one that lasts beyond your death, is to invest your life in something that will outlast it. The Bible says there are only two things that will last for eternity: the souls of people and the Word of God. So if you want to have a life that continues after you die, then you will spend your life investing the Word of God in the souls of people. That’s what Jesus decided to do. He decided to instill His teaching in people.

That is what discipleship is all about. Discipleship is spending your limited time on earth helping other people be faithful followers of Jesus Christ by instilling His Word in them. Remember what Paul said to Timothy? Paul knew his life on earth was limited, so he said to his young protégé, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). We need to entrust the message of the gospel to other men and women who will carry on the faith after we die.

That’s exactly what Jesus did. Jesus knew His time on earth was limited. He wanted to pass along His message to twelve men who would spread it throughout the world. He needed guidance from his heavenly Father about which twelve men to choose, so He had an all-night prayer meeting to seek God’s wisdom in making the right choices.

By the way, what are you so concerned about in your life right now that you would devote just five minutes a day to pray for? Is there anything in your life–your children, your work, the health concern of a friend or yourself–that you are willing to spend five uninterrupted minutes a day praying for? Jesus knew how important prayer was, so He prayed all night.

~ Dr. Robert Jeffress ~