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Politics Latest Messages: uhh...you are OVERLY sensitive and BTW this is not..

Freed pastor Andrew Brunson urges young American Christians to - prepare for persecution

Posted: Oct 15th, 2019 - 6:30 am

The American pastor whose two-year imprisonment plunged Turkey into a diplomatic feud with the United States urged young Christians in his home country to prepare for the persecution he sees gathering for them on the horizon.

Pastor Andrew Brunson, 51, told the Washington Examiner how troubled he has been by the ominous trends he has observed in American culture during the year since his dramatic, high-stakes release from a Turkish prison. Drawing on the ordeal he recounts in God's Hostage, his new memoir published Oct. 15, Brunson also offered insight into what he gained from his suffering and how he learned to be faithful to God even when he is silent.

"It's actually very normal throughout history," Brunson said, reflecting on religious persecution. "The abnormality is to not have persecution, but we haven't had that much in the West. And so people don't expect it, and when you don't expect it, then you are not prepared for it."

Brunson and his wife Norine had expected persecution of some kind during their 23-year ministry in Turkey, but it fell upon them suddenly in 2016. They were among the tens of thousands detained in the wake of an alleged coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Rights crumbled for everyday Turks as political turmoil roiled the NATO country, and many were imprisoned without a trial.

Thinking they had been summoned by local authorities to renew their residence permits, the Brunsons were instead arrested and told they would be deported. Norine was released after two weeks, but Brunson's imprisonment would drag out for two years while Erdoğan used him as a political pawn.

Turkey Western Detainees
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends an Aug. 30, 2018 military graduation ceremony in Ankara, Turkey.
(Presidential Press Service via AP)
Compromised media colluded with a corrupt political system to demonize the innocent pastor, who was accused of using his religion to undermine the government. The charges against him carried potential life sentences. Shuffled back and forth between dismal prisons, he would face both solitary confinement and group detention with devout Turkish Muslims who disliked him because of his nationality and faith.

When his predicament drew the attention of President Trump, the firm diplomatic response from the U.S. would disrupt world markets and catapult the unassuming Brunson into the international spotlight.

[Also read: Trump appearing before evangelicals as Turkey policy imperils Kurd-protected Christians]

During the 735 days that led him from his squalid jail cell to the Oval Office, Brunson passed through a refining fire that tested his faith. Growing up as the son of missionaries, he had read many "triumphalist" biographies of famous Christians, some of whom claimed to have had supernatural experiences. When it came time for him to suffer, he was met instead with the silence of God.

"I had expected that I was just going to have a really strong sense of God's presence and a sense of grace, and I didn't," he reflected. "And that really surprised me." He fell into a crisis of faith that he described as "a real offense toward God, anger toward him; disappointment and brokenness."

In his book, Brunson recounts with heart-wrenching detail the despair that almost consumed him in his confinement. As setbacks piled up and his conditions worsened, he questioned if God had abandoned him or if the will of God had been thwarted. His vivid nightmares grew nearly indistinguishable from his waking life. His prayers dwindled to short, exhausted pleas of, “Jesus, help me.” Faced with the possibility of a life lived alone, he contemplated suicide.

"I had been very weak and broken a number of times," Brunson remembered, his voice brimming with emotion. “I just wanted to get out of prison, and that was all I cared about.” During his torment, a verse struck him from the second chapter of Philippians, in which the apostle Paul wrote, "Everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ."

Turkey American Pastor
Andrew Brunson, an evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, North Carolina, arrives at his house in Izmir, Turkey on July 25, 2018.
(AP Photo/Emre Tazegul, File)
Those words "plunged straight into my heart," Brunson confessed. He became acutely aware of the many Christians around the world who were praying for him and for Turkey. His thoughts turned to the "great cloud of witnesses" who went before him, but also to those young Christians who are coming behind. "This impressed on me the need to be a good example, and so I would refocus, decide to persevere, and even though I felt alone, I would declare, 'I am not alone.'"

What sustained him through his despair was his love for God and for others, which was often not a feeling, but an act of the will. "I questioned God's personal love for me, his faithfulness; whether he was true, his goodness," Brunson said. "And I had to come to the point where I said, 'Whatever my circumstances, whatever I see or don't see, I need to declare God's character.'"

He began to proclaim daily what he believed about Christ, regardless of how he felt. Taking a cue from Richard Wurmbrand, a pastor who was tortured for 14 years by the Communist regime in Romania, Brunson even danced in the prison courtyard as an act of worship.

Brunson challenged God's character because of his circumstances, but he eventually realized that it was his own faithfulness that was being tested. "It is true that God tests his children. That doesn't mean that he causes all the difficulties that we have. I don't believe that. But in the midst of our difficulties, he does test us and many people fail in the valley of testing."

Determined not to fail, Brunson recalled an exercise done by Dan Baumann, a missionary who had been imprisoned and beaten in Iran in 1997. Imagining a locked box in which he banished his fears and unanswered questions when they crept up, Brunson would say, "No, I don't understand. I am hurt, but I refuse to allow these doubts to remain, to entertain them." His choice to believe despite his doubts marked a turning point for him. His focus shifted to eternity, when he would have to answer to God for his life.

Brunson's harrowing fourth and final trial in October 2018 marked the culmination of many months of diplomatic wrangling between the U.S. and Turkey, as well as an inundation of prayer from all over the globe. The pastor of Brunson's home church in North Carolina, who attended two of the trials, said Christians traveled to Turkey from as far away as Estonia to pray for Brunson in person. "Some have said I was the most prayed for man in the world," Brunson reflects in the epilogue of his book.

The prosecution's case disintegrated that morning as witnesses flipped their testimony. Brunson was nevertheless forbidden to bring a defense, and he wept as the judges pronounced him guilty of supporting terrorism. "I was still innocent, even though they found me guilty," Brunson wrote. "And I still loved Jesus." His faith had been tested and proved resilient.

Brunson later learned a deal was struck to release him despite his guilty verdict. Within 24 hours, he and Norine were praying for the president at the White House.


— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2018
Now that he has been reunited with his family back home for a year, Brunson feels a new burden for his native country and for young Christians such as his children, who are living in what he discerns to be an increasingly anti-Christian society.

Brunson elsewhere said he has been "astounded at the speed with which the U.S. is imploding" and how anti-Christian sentiment has surged during just the few years he was isolated. "The whole Trump election and everything that happened afterward, I knew very little about it. So when I came back to the states and just started reading and following news, it was just such a contrast to the environment that we had been in even four to six years ago."

"It seems that the culture has become more overtly hostile," he said, pinpointing how large corporations are now joining the media and political classes to push positions that often oppose biblical teaching. A segment of elite society has long regarded Christians sneeringly, he said, but opposition is now bubbling up everywhere and "is now spread to where it's more of a grassroots thing that is growing."

[Related: Beto O'Rourke says churches should be taxed if they refuse to support gay marriage]

“There is a turning in our culture that used to have more respect for Christianity, and that is now becoming unpopular,” Brunson observed, explaining how young people are increasingly rejecting God and religion entirely. "And Christians are portrayed as being bigots, racist, and basically evil. And so, for someone to stand publicly as a Christian — especially a young person — they're going to get a lot of pushback from their peers.”

With the advent of social media, he said, the backlash is even more intense and immediate. He noted how many have already been publicly shamed for having the wrong views on liberal issues, which often leads those around them to avoid controversy by remaining silent.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult for people to stand for Jesus publicly, to stand unapologetically for him, to stand for the things that the Bible teaches is true,” Brunson said. Much of the battle rages over how truth and morality are defined, and he foresees the clashing worldviews leading to a point where Christians in the West might be called to suffer for their faith as he has.

Donald Trump, Andrew Brunson
President Trump shakes hands with pastor Andrew Brunson.
(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Worried they are not factoring the possibility of persecution into their thinking, Brunson said he is concerned that many American Christians take for granted their historically unusual freedom. "We have basically a little island throughout history here," he said, but he warned that as Judeo-Christian values wither in Western societies, so too will the rights on which they are based.

"These are values that need to be carefully guarded," he said. "They are not innate to man's nature. They've been built carefully over the years and developed over years. It's a culture and culture is taught. It's passed on from one generation to another. So if one generation refuses that culture or doesn't teach it or pass it on, then you can lose that within a generation. And I think we're very close to that."

[Related: William Barr warns of 'militant' secularism in speech about declining religious values]

"So it's headed to a place where Christians will be persecuted," he said, and he warned that many churches and Christians will "adapt and just kind of slide into the culture" because they are afraid.

To prepare for this temptation, Brunson advised young Christians to cultivate both the love and fear of God that sustained him through his suffering. He said they must determine now that God loves them and they love God and to always keep an eye to the fact that someday they will stand before him to render an account.

To that end, Brunson wants his new book to embolden the cloud of witnesses coming behind him. Brunson remains humble. "Maybe God chose a weak man to serve as encouragement to others who feel weak," he reflects in his last pages.

"I think the value of my story is that, hopefully, it will be an example," he said, adding that he desires it will "encourage the next generation of Christians to stand for the Lord unapologetically."

LINK/URL: Freed pastor Andrew Brunson urges young American Christians to


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