Welcome to November 1. Today we will discuss two events that happened on this day in Russian history.
First, in the early 1800’s Russian Czarism was spreading throughout its corner of the world. It found that a great benefit to pursuing its goals was found in supporting Christianity as many Germans had migrated to the Southern Caucasus. 200 years ago, a large, growing Russian government promoted Christianity and allowed Lutherans to spread throughout some of the areas that Russia had conquered including Azerbaijan.
On November 1, 1894, Nicholas II became the last Czar of Russia. Towards the end of his reign, during a reconnaissance flight in 1916 by a Russian pilot flying over Mount Ararat, word came back that a large vessel resembling Noah’s Ark was seen. With this information, Nicholas II sent an expedition of 150 soldiers to the region. Rosovitsky indicated that it appeared to be a gigantic barge made from oleander wood (a very rot-resistant wood), and was about the length of a city block. The inside was filled with small and large rooms, the small ones having what appeared to be metal cages. Because this was during WWI and at the same time the Russian Revolution broke out, some sources state that the information got back to Nicholas II but couldn’t be followed up on, and the photos and maps disappeared. Other sources state the soldiers returned during the Revolution, not even knowing it was taking place, and of course, the photos and maps disappeared and all but two of them were captured and arrested by Lenin’s Bolsheviks.
In time, under Lenin, this new nation (the U.S.S.R.) became less and less tolerant of religion in its borders. By the 30’s, the anti-religious fervor of the Soviet Union had grown so much that scores of churches were shut down, and many Lutheran pastors were arrested on various charges. The state did not like that Lutherans were still instructing youth in religion, and that these Germans colonists were still celebrating religious holidays, confirmation, baptism, etc.
Of some of the arrests made, on November 1, 1937, Pastor Paul Hamberg, (the last to lead the Lutheran Church in Baku), along with seven members of Azerbaijan’s Lutheran community (including three women) were executed by the Stalinists. By the next year the formal Lutheran church was fully nonexistent in Azerbaijan.
- Religious tolerance is the cry of the day. “Coexist” bumper stickers with various religious symbols dominate many cars. But, ever notice that true Christianity is never tolerated by pagans?
- Most everyone loved what Jesus did, but He was vehemently hated for the things He said and the religious expectations He set for living righteously.
- Peter and the Apostles were persecuted for evangelizing and standing firm on Who Christ is.
- Stephen was martyred for teaching Christ.
- Continue on in history and follow the attacks on those who dared translate the Bible, on missionaries, and the brutal massacres of Christian families by ISIS.
- And, an 18thand 19thcentury Christianized Russia was pro-Lutheran in Azerbaijan even though the primary Christianity in Russia practiced at the time was the Russian Orthodox Church. But, when man-centered atheism became its religion, no version of Christianity was safe within the U.S.S.R.’s borders.
- Now, look at America today. The views of Christianity in Europe always influence Canada before finally taking over in the U.S.A. Religious tolerance is fast disappearing in many of the lands that saw the greatest benefits of the Reformation.
- Look back over your life and consider how much less Christianity and its truth claims are tolerated today than say 10, 20, 30 years ago or more. What observations do you make? _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Jesus states we are to be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). How can we implement this in our lives today in 21st century America as the winds of change amass? _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- We are never told to fight for Christianity, or to Christianize the world. We are told to stand firm on God’s Word, to obey God rather than men, and to evangelize and disciple our world. With this in mind, what are some ways you can prepare for the next decade or two of declining acceptance of God’s holy, inerrant, infallible, authoritative Word and His Bride, the Church? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Noah’s Ark is not a cute fairy tale for Sunday School kids. It is a story of the sinful wickedness and violence of mankind being judged by God. Oddly, while a pro-Christian Russia went off looking for the Ark, they that returned were greeted by an anti-Christian/anti-God Soviet Union that forced its will on people by slaughtering and torturing millions.
- Do you realize that many theologians find Russia in end-times prophecies in the Bible, but the U.S. is not at all present in biblical prophecy, meaning we are probably no longer in existence when the Tribulation takes place? __________________________________________________
- Do you realize that the U.S. is not special in and of itself? (i.e. we are notGod’s chosen people, and this is notthe Promised Land) ___________________________________________________
- Think about it—we (Christians) are supposed to be aliens in a foreign land, sojourners on our way to our promised home where our citizenship is. We are already seated in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). America is where God has placed us, but it is notwhere we will spend eternity.
- As we enter the weekend, let the lost and dying world of our communities, state, and country burden us to live and preach the Gospel. Let us not be caught up in patriotic tangents, or politics, or the cares of this world. Let us be about our Father’s business. The same spirit of antichrist that was in the world a hundred years ago purging Soviet lands of all things Christian is alive and well today. If Noah’s Ark teaches us anything, God will save a remnant for Himself, and just like Noah, we are to be preachers of righteousness, ready to move on when and where He sends us. Let His glorious Gospel ring out from our lips, but let us also prepare to stand in a wicked age that may require the lives of those who name the name of Christ.