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Posts tagged ‘persecution’

10. Church Begins – Final Journey Completed

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10. Church Begins

Final Journey Completed

Acts 27:39 – 28:30

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Acts 27v39 – 28v6 When it was day, they didn’t recognize the land, but they noticed a certain bay with a beach, and they decided to try to drive the ship onto it. Casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea, at the same time untying the rudder ropes. Hoisting up the foresail to the wind, they made for the beach. But coming to a place where two seas met, they ran the vessel aground. The bow struck and remained immovable, but the stern began to break up by the violence of the waves.

The soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, so that none of them would swim out and escape. But the centurion, desiring to save Paul, stopped them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should throw themselves overboard first to go toward the land; and the rest should follow, some on planks, and some on other things from the ship. So it happened that they all escaped safely to the land.

When we had escaped, then they learned that the island was called Malta. The natives showed us uncommon kindness; for they kindled a fire, and received us all, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said one to another, “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped from the sea, yet Justice has not allowed to live.” However he shook off the creature into the fire, and wasn’t harmed. But they expected that he would have swollen or fallen down dead suddenly, but when they watched for a long time and saw nothing bad happen to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.

Along the journey, eventually the ship arrived at Malta. Everybody was safe and secure, but tired and bedraggled (Acts 27v39-44). The Roman centurion did not want to kill the prisoners he was guarding, because he wanted to keep Paul alive (Acts 27v24, 43). This group of people stayed in Malta for three months and all we know of their stay in Malta, is two quite remarkable events.

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9. Church Begins – Final Journey Commences

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9. Church Begins

Final Journey Commences

Acts 27:1-38

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Acts 26v19-32 “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to them of Damascus, at Jerusalem, and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance. For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple, and tried to kill me. Having therefore obtained the help that is from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would happen, how the Christ must suffer, and how, by the resurrection of the dead, he would be first to proclaim light both to these people and to the Gentiles.” As he thus made his defence, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are crazy! Your great learning is driving you insane!” But he said, “I am not crazy, most excellent Festus, but boldly declare words of truth and reasonableness. For the king knows of these things, to whom also I speak freely. For I am persuaded that none of these things is hidden from him, for this has not been done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” Agrippa said to Paul, “With a little persuasion are you trying to make me a Christian?” Paul said, “I pray to God, that whether with little or with much, not only you, but also all that hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these bonds.” The king rose up with the governor, and Bernice, and those who sat with them. When they had withdrawn, they spoke one to another, saying, “This man does nothing worthy of death or of bonds.” Agrippa said to Festus, “This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”

The Gospel of Jesus Christ has spread throughout the Roman Empire, and Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea. The Jewish leaders wanted Paul tried and executed, and Festus was willing to go along with that idea. However, Paul, ever guided by the Holy Spirit, appealed directly to Caesar! Paul was a Roman citizen and any Roman citizen had that right! So after what we call the three missionary journeys, Paul is now on a final journey – to Rome! We jump forward now to Acts 27 to look at this final journey.

Final Journey Begins

Luke records the course of the voyage in detail, and we can feel just how people travelled back in that time. The prisoners were probably put on the boat at Caesarea. They sailed up the coast of Sidon, to the east and north of Cyprus. At Sidon the centurion in charge of Paul, “in kindness…”, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs’ (27v3). Now as far as we know, Paul had never visited Sidon although perhaps he had met Sidonese people on his travels. This was to be the last time he would have had the fellowship and family worship of a Christian home and a wider company of believers. Strengthened and encouraged by this group of Christians, Paul was ready for any trouble that lay ahead for him.

After two weeks sailing, they landed at Myra, in what is now southern Turkey. They then changed ships, for one heading towards Italy, and their next stop was Crete. The time of year was now late October, and the weather was quickly getting worse (27v10). The captain and owner of the ship thought that it was wise to seek a new place in which to stay for the winter. Paul foresaw the disaster, and said so. Paul, it must be said, did believe that God was ruler of the winds and waves and would get him to Rome come what may. He was simply stating that it was better to be safe rather than sorry, to arrive in Italy safely in spring rather than not arriving at all. Paul’s advice set the scene for the events that happen later on in the voyage in which God once again confirmed Paul’s discernment and calling by miracles and mighty works, even if it had no immediate effect on those responsible for the decision to sail on regardless.

The sailors were not fools however. They waited until the weather improved before starting to sail from Crete (27v13). Their optimism was soon blown away by a strong wind, which started to blow them towards Africa. Day after day after day, for two weeks they ran with the wind, hoping that the wind would stop, and at the same time seemingly waiting for the ship to sink. The sailors were probably starting to reflect on their life and commitments, or the lack of commitments. During this time, Paul intervened to encourage their disheartened spirits.

Encouragement

  • A call for faith (27v21-26) – By this time, everybody on board must have been aware that Paul was right in his warning not to sail on. He said they should keep their courage, because no-one would lose their life, even if the ship was damaged beyond repair. But why should they believe this? Because God had sent an angel to assure Paul that he would arrive in Rome, to stand trial before Caesar. Paul had faith in God that it would happen just as he had promised. They should take courage. All people, whether Christian or not, are in the same boat of life. All people share a common life of ups and downs. Godless sailors lived because of godly Paul. Yet it is up to us as Christians to share a message of hope to all those who do not believe. These sailors, even though they were blessed by God to survive this disaster, may not survive the next voyage of disaster, and then they would end up in hell. Regardless of their blessings, they stayed lost if they didn’t come to Christ in faith. For Paul, however, to live was Christ and to die was gain (Philippians 1 :21). Whatever trials we face as believers, we must hold fast to the glory of Jesus. The real issue, Paul tells his shipmates, is not whether we live or die, but what will you do with Jesus? Paul spoke of God’s promises and his faith in God. He invited them to believe in God, just as he did.
  • A call for unity – stay together (27v27-32) – Their crisis came fourteen days out of Crete. They were about to land at Malta, in conditions that were worse than awful. Some sailors were trying to sneak off in the life-boat. Paul, however, insisted that all hands were necessary if any were to be saved, and the centurion prevented them from escaping.
  • A call for effort – The promise of God, always includes the means to fulfil His promise. God doesn’t commend or give His power to the faithful, so that they may be lazy and not plan, when there is a definite reason to be careful. When God makes a promise to us, we must be responsible to receive his promise. God promises to save us, yet it is our responsibility to accept by faith His Son Jesus Christ. Paul always reminded them of God’s promise. He urged them to take food so that they would be strong when the time was needed for strength. He once again reminded them of the promise of God. He also witnessed to them, when eating, by giving thanks to God. Paul was a man of a God and a man of action, a man of the Spirit and common-sense, a man who combined spirituality with sanity, faith with works, a man who was heavenly minded and of earthly use.

Christians, should be the most practical people in the world, because the Lord has given us the real truth about the real world and its real needs. How do you respond to the world? Are you like Paul?

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3. Church Begins – Persecution

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3. Church Begins – Persecution

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The world was changing, particularly for the Jewish people. They were still under the rule of the odious Romans, in the land God had given them. For centuries they had been expectant of a Messiah, a King, to rise up and rid them of the Roman oppressors. When the Messiah, Jesus Christ, did come – they missed Him. They had misunderstood what the Messiah was to do. The Messiah was not to lead a political revolution as they thought, but rather lead a spiritual revolution, bring people back into relationship with God. The worldview of the Jewish people needed to be changed. When worldviews need wholesale change of focus, problems arise. The embryonic church, followers of Jesus Christ the Messiah, was soon to feel pressure to change back.

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Daniel 8 – Worlds In Conflict

ASIF Bible Study 3rd November 1993

Daniel 8 Worlds In Conflict

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We come tonight to a very interesting passage of Scripture. From Chapter 2 to 7, we have had a wide angled panoramic view, and now from Chapter 8 to 12 we zoom in on specific areas which were previously covered in Chapters 2 to 7. In Chapter 7, we have seen that the prophet Daniel had a dream of 4 animals, which were a winged lion, a bear, a winged leopard and a beast. So let us read together Daniel 8.

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Church Moves Ahead – Part 12

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G’day and welcome to Partakers and our series Church Moves Ahead, where we look together at the history of the early church, and in particular its persecution. We are taking brief excerpts from an ancient book, Foxes Book of Martyrs.

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This excerpt is from Chapter 2 – The Ten Primitive Persecutions – The Seventh Persecution, Under Decius, AD249. ~

 

Peter, a young man, amiable for the superior qualities of his body and mind, was beheaded for refusing to sacrifice to Venus. He said, “I am astonished you should sacrifice to an infamous woman, whose debaucheries even your own historians record, and whose life consisted of such actions as your laws would punish. No, I shall offer the true God the acceptable sacrifice of praises and prayers.” Optimus, the proconsul of Asia, on hearing this, ordered the prisoner to be stretched upon a wheel, by which all his bones were broken, and then he was sent to be beheaded. ~

Nichomachus, being brought before the proconsul as a Christian, was ordered to sacrifice to the pagan idols. Nichomachus replied, “I cannot pay that respect to devils, which is only due to the Almighty.” This speech so much enraged the proconsul that Nichomachus was put to the rack. After enduring the torments for a time, he recanted; but scarcely had he given this proof of his frailty, than he fell into the greatest agonies, dropped down on the ground, and expired immediately.

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Social Action – sherif

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Social Action speaking out against injustice

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As Christians, we have a responsibility to speak up and out, for those in our community – both local and global – who have no voice and are the victims of all kinds of social injustice. We are to work for social justice and be involved in social action – that’s part of our loving of other people radically. The oppression and persecution of people is anathema to the Lord our God and it is to be for us as Christians! Speaking against any form of social injustice, on a local, national or global scale, is a Gospel imperative! Jesus Christ spoke out against all forms of injustice and we as His followers must be compelled to do likewise. Where a minority is maltreated and discriminated we should be at the forefront of demanding justice for all! We are to be promoting civil rights and using all aspects of the law to do so. We are to be working to ensure the poorest members of our community, both local and global, are cared for and the oppressed freed!

In your country, this could mean peaceful demonstrations and interacting with your political representatives! Look at some of the great reformers or social activists of the past: Wilberforce helping to abolish slavery; or Martin Luther King Jr. at the forefront of ending segregation and racism. May each one of us, on the local, national and international stages, play some small part in ending prejudice, suffering, racism, poverty, bigotry, abuse, oppression and other injustices. As John Stott once said: “The reason for our acceptance of social responsibility… is simple uncomplicated compassion. Love has no need to justify itself. It merely expresses itself in service wherever it sees need.” As Jesus of Nazareth once said: “Love God and love other people.”

Here is a case in point – let us practically show radical love. Sherif Hassan Abdelwahab Mohamed was going to Cairo to take his new wife to meet his family and comfort them after the death of his father.

1. Sherif is an Egyptian citizen.

2. Sherif is married to Emma, a British citizen.

3. Emma has no criminal record.

4. Sherif has no criminal record.

5. Sherif is a follower of Jesus Christ.

6. Sherif was detained on 9th Nov 2010.

7. There has been no contact from him for the last 24 hours since he said he would be in contact.

No charges have been brought. No questions have been answered. No indications of his location have been given.

The latest news, is that Emma has bought a plane ticket for Sherif to return home. If he doesn’t use it, it will prove:

  • either that the emails we’ve received have not been from him
  • or that the authorities have not been keeping their word

Whatever happens, we still need to keep up the pressure

Visit www.releasesherif.com and follow the instructions on how to speak up for this man! There are draft letters you can send to those in Government officials in the USA, UK and Australia. As well as addresses for the Egyptian embassies and consulates in those country! Help this Christian brother and lets see him reunited with his family!

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Worlds In Conflict Daniel 8

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Daniel 8

Worlds In Conflict

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We come tonight to a very interesting passage of Scripture. From Chapter 2 to 7, we have had a wide angled panoramic view, and now from Chapter 8 to 12 we zoom in on specific areas which were previously covered in Chapters 2 to 7. In Chapter 7, we have seen that the prophet Daniel had a dream of 4 animals, which were a winged lion, a bear, a winged leopard and a beast. So let us read together Daniel 8.

Daniel 8 – In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, even to me, Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first. I saw in the vision; now it was so, that when I saw, I was in the citadel of Susa, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in the vision, and I was by the river Ulai. Then I lifted up my eyes, and saw, and behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last. I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; and no animals could stand before him, neither was there any who could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and magnified himself. As I was considering, behold, a male goat came from the west over the surface of the whole earth, and didn’t touch the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. He came to the ram that had the two horns, which I saw standing before the river, and ran on him in the fury of his power. I saw him come close to the ram, and he was moved with anger against him, and struck the ram, and broke his two horns; and there was no power in the ram to stand before him; but he cast him down to the ground, and trampled on him; and there was none who could deliver the ram out of his hand. The male goat magnified himself exceedingly: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and instead of it there came up four notable horns toward the four winds of the sky. Out of one of them came forth a little horn, which grew exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the glorious land. It grew great, even to the army of the sky; and some of the army and of the stars it cast down to the ground, and trampled on them. Yes, it magnified itself, even to the prince of the army; and it took away from him the continual burnt offering, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. The army was given over to it together with the continual burnt offering through disobedience; and it cast down truth to the ground, and it did its pleasure and prospered. Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said to that certain one who spoke, How long shall be the vision concerning the continual burnt offering, and the disobedience that makes desolate, to give both the sanctuary and the army to be trodden under foot? He said to me, To two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed. It happened, when I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, that I sought to understand it; and behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man. I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision. So he came near where I stood; and when he came, I was frightened, and fell on my face: but he said to me, Understand, son of man; for the vision belongs to the time of the end. Now as he was speaking with me, I fell into a deep sleep with my face toward the ground; but he touched me, and set me upright. He said, Behold, I will make you know what shall be in the latter time of the indignation; for it belongs to the appointed time of the end. The ram which you saw, that had the two horns, they are the kings of Media and Persia. The rough male goat is the king of Greece: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king. As for that which was broken, in the place where four stood up, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not with his power. In the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors have come to the full, a king of fierce face, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power; and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper and do his pleasure; and he shall destroy the mighty ones and the holy people. Through his policy he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and in their security shall he destroy many: he shall also stand up against the prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand. The vision of the evenings and mornings which has been told is true: but seal up the vision; for it belongs to many days to come. I, Daniel, fainted, and was sick certain days; then I rose up, and did the king’s business: and I wondered at the vision, but none understood it.

This is the Word of the Lord, let us be Thankful to God for it.

Father as we come to look at this part of your Written Word the Bible, speak through me so that You alone will be honoured and glorified. I pray and that we may leave here knowing we have met with you and heard from you. Amen.

Introduction

Here in Chapter 8, we look at the bear, which here is described as a ram, and a winged leopard that is described as a goat. Unlike his previous two visions which occurred at night, this one occurs during the day. Daniel was transported in the Spirit to Susa, a major city of the Babylon & Persian empires. He sat down beside the Ulai canal, nine hundred feet wide and connected two large rivers so that boats could easily pass from one to the other. Spiritually seated by the river, he lifted up his eyes. He saw a ram, a male sheep, that had two horns, and as he watched, one of its horns became larger than the other. We can be in no doubt that this ram is symbolic of the Medo-Persian Empire, because it is told to us in verse 20. The horn that grew large was the Persian empire, which gradually took over from the Medes. The king of Persia also carried the image of a ram in front of him whenever he went into battle. It is natural for rams to be aggressive and to butt. The ram here goes in every direction, but east. Historically we know that the Medo-Persian empire did not gain much territory to the East. Suddenly – the dream changes.

Coming in from the West, races a male goat that is travelling so fast that its feet do not touch the ground. Verse 21 tells us that this is the Greek Empire, and the horn is its ‘first king’ Alexander the Great. In actual fact he named one of his sons, Alexander Goat. The feet not touching the ground signified the speed with which Alexander won battles over a vast area from Africa to India. The goat in verse 6 collides with the ram, breaks the rams’ horns and humiliates it, crushing and destroying it. This reflects how the Medo-Persian Empire fell to the Greeks.

Then we read that the goat, at the height of its power, was broken by the unseen hand of God. Alexander the Great became inflated with pride at the speed and number of battle victories, but his arrogance was short lived and he died at the age of 32. The goat, Alexander, was replaced by 4 horns. These historically are – Macedonia under Cassander; Thrace and Asia Minor under Lysimachus; Syria under Seleucus; and Egypt under Ptolemy. Again, history has followed what Scripture said would happen.

In verse 9, Daniel notices that ‘Out of one of them came a little horn.’ From a small beginning it grew to great power, and its power stretched south and east, and then into the ‘Beautiful Land’ of Canaan. There is no doubt that this refers to that horrible man of history, Antiochus Epiphanes. He, as predicted, came from the Seleucid section and took Egypt with an immense army, following that by taking Elymais and Armenia. Then he invaded Canaan. This man, the little horn referred to, arose as the great persecutor of God’s people.

Things to Learn!

There were 5 main things that we learn about his rule from this passage –

1. v10/24 No justice. He persecuted the Jews. Stars being either leading Jews or authorities.

2. v11/12a No righteousness. He exalted himself higher than the Prince of Peace, and blasphemed God by holding idolatrous sacrifices in the temple.

3. v12b/25 No truth. He attacked truth consistently and practised deception. He would often wait until he had someone’s trust before turning upon them.

4. v12b No peace. Evil prospered

5. v25 No mercy. He was struck down by the invisible hand of God. It is documented that he fell ill in a small town in Egypt, and while on his sick bed, wrote to the Jews saying that he himself would become a Jew if only God would save him. God showed him no mercy, for the evil that he had performed on God’s people and the attacks upon God Himself.

In verse 14, we are told that it would last about 2300 evenings and mornings until the sanctuary will be made holy again. Some scholars say that this is about 6.25 years. Antiochus Epiphanes rule lasted from 171 to 165 BC. Other teachers say that this is about 3.5 years. The temple was used for heathen sacrifice for the last 3.5 years of Antiochus Epiphanes life. The end of time referred to in verses 17 – 19, could refer to 2 things. Firstly, it could refer to the end of Antiochus Epiphanes reign of terror over the Jews, when the Jews could expect the Messiah to come and end God’s indignation with the Jews. Secondly, it could mean the period of the Gentiles, which is from Nebuchadnezzar’s reign to the 2nd coming of Jesus.

Applying it to ourselves!

Whichever theory is correct, there are still applications that apply to our lives today.

Firstly, rampant evil and not peace will rule on earth until Jesus comes again. We look around the world and we see conflicts and wars everywhere – Iraq, Afghanistan, throughout Africa & Asia. There will be always people like Antiochus Epiphanes. People like Hitler and the slaughter of the Jews in the 1930’s & 1940’s; or Idi Amin in Uganda; or Pol Pot and the Khemer Rouge in Cambodia/Kampuchea; Stalin and the former USSR Communist bloc; Ceacescu and Romania. The submission to the state or government of all citizens, being forced to accept government decrees. There will also always be the limitation of freedom to worship.

I can still see the remains in the mass graves in the destruction of Cambodia coming from my television screen, where even to think any kind of individual thought was suppressed and all books were destroyed. Or the pictures of the desecration of the millions of Jews during the 2nd World War. Or how about the persecution of religious peoples under the regimes in China, Romania and the former USSR. And here in England, or the USA or even Australia, the threats to us and our Christianity are probably more subtle. We see the media laughing at people like Cliff Richard, Billy Graham and other well-known Christians, whenever they are in the spotlight. In many countries around the globe, where Christianity is illegal, suppressed or forced to fit into the confines of Government thinking.

The attacks upon us here in the West are not so direct, but much more subtle. Frogs, when placed in a pot of cold water do not feel the subtle rise in the water temperature when the pot is placed on a stove with a low heat. Let us not be frogs. One day we are going to be attacked because we are Christians, and to think otherwise is clearly unbiblical.

Secondly, what do we do when it comes. It is natural for us when persecution hits us to ask why, but our reaction should probably be like the 2nd angel and ask “How long?” We shouldn’t be surprised when persecution comes to us, and be like the Romanians who also asked, not why, but How long?

Thirdly, notice that the people who commit such atrocities, and are great powers here on earth, are described as ‘little horns’ and are just that, little. Little in comparison to our awesome God. He is the invisible hand, who merely sweeps them away with one quick brush of his ‘invisible hand’. Is this not a God worthy of our praise and worship? These men could only harm the flesh, not the soul. Their power was brittle, like the horns on the goat and ram, and broken by the hand of God. Where is Hitler now? Dead and buried. Where is Stalin? Dust in the frozen ground. Where is Antiochus Epiphanes now? Dust blown in the wind. Where is Alexander the Great? Dust spread across the deserts he so easily conquered. All these men are dead, but where is our God? Alive forevermore!

Fourthly, we bow the knee not to a rampaging ram or a galloping goat, but to the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who is our horn of Salvation. When all other horns have come and gone, we still have our horn of salvation in Him. When all the rams and goats have crossed the stage of history, God has His Lamb (Rev 5:12-13). All through the Bible, and all history as we know it, there have been dominions and powers that have lasted only a short passage of time. The kingdom of Jesus, however, is not a passing fad or temporary kingdom but an everlasting one with Jesus Himself as the Lamb and Horn of Salvation. That is why we can take Jesus into our place of work and study and into our cities with power. Even if all our friends and family reject Jesus, we should still identify with Him. All other powers are simply passing in the wind. No other power will prevail, and His peace will rule upon earth. All that harms His people will come to nothing, and we will live forever with Jesus as our Horn of Salvation.

Fifthly and lastly, we need to deal with the ‘little horns’ of sin within our lives. Horns, throughout the Bible and history have been symbolic of power. Whatever sins are hidden in our hearts, we need to get rid of them and repent of them. For the longer any individual sin is within us, the more power it tries to control us with, if we do not hand it over to the Lord in prayer and action. The less we repent of sins, the less we grow in spiritual maturity and personal holiness. Let each one of us destroy the power of the ‘little horns’ of sin, by repenting and turning away from them, and allowing our Horn of salvation, destroy them by continuing to hand them over to Him.

Conclusion!

You may not be yet a follower, so I would urge you most strongly to accept His call upon you. You may not get another chance. This Jesus Christ said he was coming back again. Not as a baby next time, but in full glory, power and majesty. He will be coming back to gather those who are in relationship with Him and to wipe the tears of suffering and joy from their eyes. Those who are found not to be in relationship with Him will spend eternity without Him. He gives each of us, innumerable opportunities to enter into relationship with Him. This Jesus wants to connect with you in an intimate, spiritual relationship – His eyes wander the earth looking for those willing to submit themselves to His authority. If that is you, then please do see Pastor Adam, one of the leaders or the person that brought you here tonight, to find out how you can start this relationship with the Living God, Jesus Christ. He calls you by name.

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