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Journey to Jerusalem Luke 13(11)

May 31st, 2012
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Scripture of the Day: Luke 13:22 -23

Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.(NIV)

It is a remarkable statement in several ways: firstly Jesus is going to Jerusalem deliberately with the full knowledge that he is going to die for the sins of the world. He is voluntarily giving his life for all of us.

But in the midst of this awareness, he is teaching others about the Kingdom of God. His mind is very clear and focussed on what are the real issues. He will see through any games very quickly.

His clarity of insight angers those who like to hide behind their religious piety.

Thus as Jesus moves closer to Jerusalem he is facing increasing opposition. The divide is getting wider.

Jesus had just contended that the kingdom is rendered present in the restoration of one, apparently insignificant, demonized woman and that the kingdom is like a mustard seed and a bit of yeast. If this is so, does this mean that the reach of salvation is negligible? It seems a very unambitious way of describing the Kingdom.

It doesn’t seem like a great work. It must have only modest goals.

This leads to the following question:

23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

Message for the Day

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 161 | Wed 30 May 2012

May 30th, 2012
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By Elizabeth Kendal

MAY 2012 UPDATE - During May we prayed concerning . . .  

* AFRICA (RLPB 157), where Christians are at risk from Islamic terrorism
  from one side of the continent to the other. 

UPDATE: Al-Qaeda-linked rebel forces that are controlling northern Mali
  have seized a key underground weapons and ammunition depot of the
  Malian Army in Gao. A regional security source confirmed the seizure,
  saying the vast cache of weapons will greatly boost al-Qaeda in the
  Islamic Maghreb's (AQIM's) striking power, adding that the group 'is
  today more armed than the combined armies of Mali and Burkina Faso'. 
  See RLPB 157 for critical prayer points, particularly that supply-lines
  will be cut off. 

* INDIA (RLPB 158), where militant Hindu nationalism, which is advancing
  unchallenged and with impunity, is bringing great suffering to the body
  of Christ. 

* ACEH, INDONESIA (RLPB 159), where a new Islamist governor is
  acquiescing to Islamic hard-line fundamentalists and escalating
  repression against the church. 

* SYRIA & LEBANON (RLPB 160), where sectarian violence is escalating and
  spreading, leaving large Christian minorities in great need of divine
  refuge and deliverance. 

'The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in 
whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my 
stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am 
saved from my enemies.' (Psalm 18:2,3 ESV)

MAY 2012 ROUND-UP - also this month . . .

* EGYPT: ISLAMISTS BLAME CHRISTIANS

Over 23-24 May, Egyptians voted to elect a president from amongst 13 
candidates. There was a low turnout of only 46 percent. The two front-
runners will go head-to-head in a run-off over 16-17 June. They are the 
Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi who polled 25.3 percent, and Ahmed 
Shafiq who polled 24.9 percent. Shafiq, a former air force commander, was 
former president Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister. For many, the run-
off presents an unthinkable dilemma: to risk the feared Islamists or to 
return to the reviled regime? This choice leaves many Egyptians very angry 
and deeply conflicted. The Islamists are blaming the unexpected rise of 
Ahmed Shafiq on the 'unfortunate' and 'sectarian' vote of Christians who, 
they falsely claim, were following directions from Coptic Church leaders. 
In reality, the Copts were totally free to vote according to conscience 
and Shafiq - who campaigned on a platform of stability and security - won 
most of his votes in the Delta provinces where Copts number only about 5 
percent. As Egyptian media fuel the rumours, the Copts are finding 
themselves under fire from both the Islamists and the young 
'revolutionaries'. On Monday 28 May rioting Egyptian youths ransacked and 
set fire to Shafiq's campaign headquarters in Cairo. Similar protests 
erupted in other cities. The fear now is that the run-off will accelerate 
the fracturing of Egyptian society and that the Christians will be 
slandered as spoilers of the revolution so that all anger might be 
deflected on to them. Pray for Egypt's threatened Christians.  

* INDONESIA: THE MYTH OF RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE

On Thursday 17 May, some 100 members of the Philadelphia Batak Christian 
Protestant Church in Bekasi, a suburb of Jakarta, in West Java, met for 
prayer and worship, surrounded - as they are every week - by a large angry 
Muslim mob. In direct violation of a Supreme Court ruling, local 
authorities refuse to let the church construct a building. Consequently 
the believers are forced to meet in the open air where they are vulnerable 
to weekly abuse and violence from members of the Islamic Defenders Front 
(FPI). As soon as Pastor Palti Panjaitan began speaking, the 600-strong 
Islamist mob began pelting the believers with stones, frogs and plastic 
bags filled with urine, forcing the believers to disperse. The police on 
guard did nothing to intervene and nobody has been arrested. Three days 
later (Sunday 20 May) the Islamists repeated the abuse, throwing mud, 
rotten eggs and cups of drainage water at the believers, forcing them to 
disperse after only five minutes.  Pray for the Church in Indonesia.  

* KUWAIT: CHURCHES EVICTED AS ISLAMISTS CONSOLIDATE

On 2 February Kuwaitis went to the polls to elect a new parliament. All 
four female MPs lost their seats and hard-line Islamists (including 
Salafis and members of the Muslim Brotherhood and conservative Popular 
Action Bloc) secured 34 of the 50 seats. As reported in RLPB 151 (March 
2012) the new parliament is drafting a law that will ban the construction 
of new churches. On Thursday 3 May, the parliament ruled to amend the 
penal code to impose the death penalty on any Muslim who insults God, 
Mohammad and his relatives or the Qur'an. (Such blasphemy is essentially 
akin to apostasy). If the accused repents, the sentence is reduced to five 
years in prison plus a fine. Non-Muslims found guilty of insulting Islam 
will be sentenced to 10 years in prison. Two house-churches affiliated 
with the National Evangelical Church in Kuwait recently found they were 
unable to renew their leases. Whilst both have found temporary 
accommodation, they fear it will be impossible to find permanent meeting 
places as pressure is applied to landlords not to lease to church groups. 
Expatriate Christians are beginning to fear for their safety. Kuwaiti 
converts will doubtless find their already tenuous security diminishing 
too. Pray for Christians in Kuwait.  

* ZANZIBAR, TANZANIA: CHURCHES TORCHED AS MUSLIM SEPARATISTS RIOT

Jumuiya ya Uamsho na Mihadhara ya Kiislamu (Swahili for the Association 
for Islamic Mobilisation and Propagation) is a radical separatist group.  
Muslims belonging to Uamsho rioted in Zanzibar across the weekend of 26-27 
May as they called for the release of Mussa Juma, an Uamsho leader. 
Clashes with police erupted in the historic commercial and tourism centre 
of Stone Town and two churches were torched. Rev Ambrose Mkenda of St 
Michael's Roman Catholic Church said rioters invaded the church, poured 
petrol on the structures and set the place alight, stoking the fire with 
burning tyres. The church was razed. Bishop Dickson Maganga of the 
Tanzania Assemblies of God church in Kariakoo said that rioters broke into 
the church and burnt plastic chairs before setting fire to his car which 
was 'reduced to a shell'. The police and fire brigade put out the fire 
before it spread. Senior members of Uamsho were arrested, as were scores 
of rioters. Tanzania's government has pledged to have a new constitution 
in place by 2014. Uamsho is demanding a referendum on Zanzibar's secession 
from Tanzania and this is expected to be a major issue in the 
constitutional debate. Tensions are high.

Prayers

Journey to Jerusalem Luke 13(10)

May 30th, 2012
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Scripture of the Day: Luke13:19-20

19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” (NIV)

No reference to the mighty cedars of Lebanon, used in the OT. This kingdom is established through means other than the coercive power and intrigue usually associated with the establishment of a new order. His dominion deliberately seeks out those who do not belong to the socially powerful and privileged.

This shrub grows extravagantly into a large tree: emphasising the bounty of God’s favour and the universal reach of God’s empire.

20 Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

We have to enter the domain of a first century woman and household cook in order to gain perspective on the domain of God.

The character of leaven is work that is hidden but pervasive. Notice how such a small portion of yeast can work through 60 pounds of flour: this would produce food to feed as many as 150 people. An enormous yield for a peasant family.

Conclusion: these parables declare that satanic dominion is being repealed and the Kingdom of God is made present even in such inconsequential acts as the restoration of an ill woman who lived on the margins of society.

It in many ways reminds you of the statement in Zechariah 4:10 Who despises the day of small things.

The Kingdom of God appears to be sown in weakness, but it is raised in power. It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory

The following story shows how it is in a decision that may be unknown , hidden, within the corruption and perishability of war, life is raised for many.

The painting below was by an artist and based on the description of both pilots in this story, many years later.

Look carefully at the B-17 and note how shot up it is – one engine dead, tail, horizontal stabilizer and nose shot up. It was ready to fall out of the sky. Then realize that there is a German ME-109 fighter flying next to it.

Charlie Brown was a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot with the 379th Bomber Group at Kimbolton, England . His B-17 was called ‘Ye Old Pub’ and was in a terrible state, having been hit by flak and fighters. The compass was damaged and they were flying deeper over enemy territory, instead of heading home to Kimbolton.

When the B-17 flew over an enemy airfield, a German pilot named Franz Steigler was ordered to take off and shoot down the B-17, but when he got airborne and closed on the B-17, he could not believe his eyes. In his words, he ‘had never seen a plane in such a bad state’. The tail and rear section was severely damaged, and the tail gunner wounded. The top gunner was dead, with his remains spread all over the top of the fuselage. The nose of the plane was smashed and there were holes everywhere.

Despite having ammunition, Franz flew to the side of the B-17 and looked at Charlie Brown, the pilot. Brown was scared, as he struggling to control his damaged and bloodstained plane.

Aware that Charlie had no idea where he was headed, Franz waved at him to turn 180 degrees. Franz then escorted and guided the stricken plane to, and slightly over, the North Sea towards England . He then saluted Charlie Brown and turned away, back to his base.

When Franz landed, he told the CO that the plane had been shot down over the sea and he never told the truth to anybody. Charlie Brown and the remains of his crew on the other hand, told all at their de-briefing, but were ordered never to talk about it.

More than 40 years later, Charlie Brown wanted to find the Luftwaffe pilot who saved the crew and after years of research, Franz was found. He had never talked about the incident, not even at post-war reunions.

They met in the USA at a 379th Bomber Group reunion, together with 25 people who were alive – all because Franz never fired his guns that day.

When asked why he didn’t shoot them down, Stigler later said, “I didn’t have the heart to finish those brave men. I flew beside them for a long time. They were trying desperately to get home and I was going to let them do that. I could not have shot at them. It would have been the same as shooting at a man in a parachute.”

Both men died in 2008

We are inspired by such stories because in the anonymity of such a horrendous situation, we sense a glimpse of something better we are meant to reflect.

Thus where do we find the Kingdom of God?

This woman is portrayed in a very lowly way and yet described as a daughter of Abraham. This means that Jesus is turning upside down and denouncing the honour-shame system of his world.

It also means that Jesus’ work with such a lowly obscure person contrasts to the more ostentatious public religion of the synagogue represented by this synagogue leader in this synagogue on this Sabbath.

The Kingdom of God will be found in the hidden unknown ordinary areas of life: in what may seem small gestures of human compassion outside all the piety of  religious orthodoxy.

When an airman saves the life of his enemy, we sense there is a better way. We sense we are getting a glimpse of what we are meant to be.

The use of Lord by Luke means that Jesus is the authority to interpret God’s salvation purposes. Both Jesus and the synagogue ruler appeal to scripture. However Luke presents Jesus as the divinely sanctioned interpreter of scripture.

It is in him we have a true hermeneutic of scripture. Technically we could say that Jesus could have waited until the next day. But he knew the compassion of God and how the rescuing of people from bondage is true religion.

And it is interesting that those not locked into fixed authoritarian structures sense he is right: but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.

To his critics he was dangerous because he was popular with the ordinary person who had not invested their intellect in making God fit into their religious categories. To them he was dangerously watering down law and order and their control over people’s obedience. He had no sense of place, time and who should be acceptable. He had opened the Kingdom of God to place human need first. He was revealing that God is for us all – no matter what our status is and that there is no discrimination in the fatherly heart of God towards any of his children—even those the righteous deem as outside.

It is so contrary to the natural inclinations of the human heart, particularly the religious human heart.

This scene prepares us for a growing hostility as he moves in his mission to Jerusalem. Jerusalem represented everything that was impressive, awe inspiring, God ordained in religion. Yet there was one coming to visit it, who challenges its authority, its very legitimacy before his heavenly Father.

But the challenge will be in these small ways that sow the seed of the Kingdom of God in this world. For in a very quiet way God is revealing a true understanding of what it means to fulfil the law. And the fulfilment comes in a person who describes himself as the Son of God: God is His Father.

He sees the outsider and calls her a daughter of Abraham. He reveals how distorted religious reasoning becomes when it divorces it from the human condition and the Father’s compassion towards us.

Jesus will not be bullied and will continue to be Lord, speaking with such authority that no matter how respectable or influential Jerusalem may be, he will expose the emptiness, the hollowness of the outward piety by such acts toward those not seen by those who are blinded by their own righteousness.

So to answer our original question: what sort of person will fellowship in the community of God’s people?

Only those Christ liberates from their bondage. Those who hide behind their interpretation of the Torah, or the suitable behaviours of the synagogue and exclude others on their interpretation of scripture, will have to face a Saviour who gives salvation through himself to those who recognize their own powerlessness.

We are seeing more and more the fulfilment of the old saying: Jesus gives comfort to those who are troubled but he troubles those who are comfortable.

Message for the Day