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Archive for April, 2013

I am in the Midst of You

April 26th, 2013
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Did ever one so high come so low?

Did ever one so great become so small?

Did ever one so strong become so vulnerable?

Did ever one so awesome become so unassuming?

Did ever one so glorious become so humble?

Did ever one so divine become so human?

Did ever one so mighty become so weak?

 Did ever one so rich become so poor?

Did ever one so majestic become so meek?

Did ever one so holy become so approachable?

Did ever one so wonderful become so unpretentious?

Did ever one so sublime become so accessible?

Did ever one so far removed come so near?

Did ever one so good become so dear?

 “…Is not this the Christ?” (John 4:24)

 –Jurgen Schulz

 This is the one who is in our midst and who will never leave nor foresake us.

 There are times we need to take stock to see where our focus is. Sometimes it can be a simple change in the way we view things

 Kerry Gubb wrote an article for Christian Odyssey:

 Stay Tuned

 Every now and then my car needs a tune-up. Not necessarily because it stops working. It can still take me places. But when it needs tuning, the engine runs sluggishly, the cylinders might start to miss or fire out of sequence, and the exhaust might start blowing out smoke. A mechanic fixes all that with a tune-up. The car runs more efficiently and burns cleaner. And the ride is far more pleasant. (Picture of car blowing smoke)

 A piano tuner does essentially the same thing when he adjusts a piano’s strings and hammers; discord turns to harmony. Tuning a radio screens out static noise and focuses on the specific wavelength of the broadcast so that it can be heard clearly and crisply. (Piano Tuner)

 Keeping your Christian life properly tuned is a bit more complex, but it’s quite do-able. There are various helpful checks and diagnostics available in Scripture to assist us in running cleanly, harmonizing with and hearing God.

 We are saved by grace. But that does not mean that God causes everything that happens in our lives and that we are responsible for nothing.

 Just as well! Because there’s much in our culture that can throw a Christian life out of tune. Take, for instance, that popular old chestnut: “Pray as if it all depends on God and work as if it all depends on you.”

 The idea is made credible by its originator: the celebrated St. Augustine of Hippo. It sounds reasonable. There is just one problem.

 It doesn’t work.

 It confuses the reality of our dependence on God.

 It throws the Christian life “out of tune.”

 Consider this: If everything depends on God, what would be the purpose or value of our thoughts and efforts? Did God make us robots, or did he give us creativity and unique personalities and talents to use in his service? On the other hand, if everything depends on us, how can we succeed in the face of our inherent weakness, inadequacy, shortcoming and faithlessness? As serious disciples, we certainly set out to do our best, but we know that our best isn’t good enough.

 The result: frustration, uncertainty, fear, wasted effort, discord, static and blowing a lot of smoke. Because we’re out of tune….

 You see, “It all depends on God” is true of salvation: we are saved by grace. But that does not mean that God causes everything that happens in our lives and that we are responsible for nothing.

 Likewise, the statement “It all depends on us” can leave us wide open to the vagaries of salvation by works. …

 Ignatius of Loyola, another historic notable, offered an alternative: “Pray as if everything depends on you; act as if everything depends on God.”

 This reversal of the admonitions still leaves the original problem. Awareness of our shortcomings should inspire fervent prayer. Confidence in God should bring assured strength and life to our own efforts.

 But the admonitions as written still imply that in daily life God is “way up in heaven” somewhere needing to be desperately begged for help, and that since everything depends on him, we actually have no responsibility for the outcomes we see in our lives.

 As people who know and acknowledge our weaknesses, who know and acknowledge our complete dependence on God, who live and walk by faith, let’s have a shot at tuning the terminology to something relevant and practical for today, while preserving the original intent of these two great churchmen.

 How about: “Do everything knowing God loves you, stands beside you and will never forsake you.”

 Tuning is often just a tweak. But it makes all the difference. It’s more than worth it. I’m no longer constantly frustrated and fearful. I’m more in harmony with God, there’s less static and I don’t blow as much smoke!

 The unexpected bonus was a quantum leap in my functional grasp of the “joy of salvation”, its accompanying peace of mind and calm confidence that every step of the journey is safely in the care of the Master. The ride is indeed far more pleasant. Read more…

Message for the Day

WEA Religious Liberty Prayer News 24th April, 2013

April 25th, 2013
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PRAYER ALERT

 

2 kidnapped Syrian bishops freed

Bishop Boulos Yaziji

On 22 April, 2 bishops of Aleppo, Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church and Boulos Yaziji of the Greek Orthodox Church were kidnapped by armed men, while travelling to the North of Aleppo. The driver of the vehicle, a Christian, was shot and killed in the incident.

 

According to reports, the 2 bishops were on a humanitarian trip as part of the negotiations to release 2 priests kidnapped in February 2013. 

 

The 2 bishops were freed on 23 April.

Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim
  • Pray that the family of the Christian killed in the incident would experience the comforting presence of Jesus
  • Pray that the 2 priests kidnapped in Febrary 2013 would be released
  • Pray that the violence in Syria would come to an end

Widow of slain Christian and a mother of 5 killed by Islamic extremists in SOMALIA

 

Somalia

23 AprilAl Shabaab militants have killed a widow of a Christian who was murdered for his faith last year.

 

On 13 April, Islamic militants shot dead, 42-year-old Fartun Omar, a mother of 5 in Beledweyne, Somalia.

 

According to reports the militants were searching for Fartun for several months because of her secret Christian faith. She was killed after being captured by the militants while fleeing the city.

 

On 8 December 2012, Omar’s Husband, Siad was killed by gunmen outside his home for converting from Islam.

 

Prayer points:

  • Pray that God would protect the children of Siad and Fartun
  • Pray that the children would experience the loving and comforting presence of Jesus in this time of heartbreak and trauma
  • Pray that God would spoil the plans of the Al-Shabaab and bring them to justice and repentance 

Imprisoned US Pastor, Saeed Abedini severely beaten at Evin prison in IRAN

 

Pastor Abedini
Pastor Saeed Abedini

15 AprilIt is reported that Saeed Abedini, the US pastor imprisoned in Iran has been severely beaten, denied proper healthcare and is experiencing fainting spells at the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran.

 

According to a report from the American Center for Law and Justice, pastor Abedini was severely beaten when prison officials took him to the hospital. Pastor Abedini’s family said that his physical condition is deteriorating after seeing the scars left by the beating.

 

Pastor Saeed Abedini was detained last year and sentenced to 8 years in prison for “endangering national security”. The real reason behind his sentence, however, is believed to be his Christian faith.

 

At Evin Prison, pastor Abedini has been threatened that he would not be released after 8 years unless he recants his faith.

 

Prayer points:

  • Pray for God’s healing mercy to flow through pastor Abedini
  • Pray that God would strengthen him to stand firm amidst the pressure to recant his faith

  • Pray that pastor Abedini will not let his heart be troubled but will put his trust in God

  • Pray that pastor Abedini will be released from prison

  • Pray that his family would experience Jesus’ loving presence during this difficult time

Read more…

Religious Freedom could be further restricted in KAZAKHSTAN
 

Kazakhstan flag

8 April,  According to reports, anyone who shares their faith could be jailed under proposed new laws in Kazakhstan.

  

The General Prosecutors Office stated that the purpose of the proposed laws is to curb extremist activity in the country. Subsequent to government approval, the draft laws are expected to be presented before parliament in July 2013.

  

It is reported that the draft laws aims to make sharing one’s faith – formerly an administrative offense punishable only by fine – a criminal offense that also includes corrective labour, community service or imprisonment up to 6 months.

 

Prayer points:

  • Pray that the proposed laws will not be approved by the government
  • Pray for wider religious freedoms in Kazakhstan
  • Pray for God’s guidance upon the Church in Kazakhstan 

Read more…  

Prayers

Mozambique Update

April 25th, 2013
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 Tim Maguire’s report:

Mozambique groupAccompanied by Dawie Maree, I returned mid-week from my travels up into Mozambique. Even though the roads are long and in poor condition and living conditions extremely basic, I somehow return rejuvenated after seeing the joy that these people have from embracing Christ. My words are inadequate for describing the experience, and I wish you could all come along so that you could see and feel it for yourselves, as 11 Polokwane members did this year, hiring a taxi and spending two days of the conference with our Mozambique brothers and sisters. This year there were about 750 people in attendance at our headquarters in Morrumbala. The Easter conference is for our Mozambique pastors (about 100 in total) but others just arrive, drawn by a thirst for knowledge of him and fellowship.

This year’s theme was “Who is Christ.” When I arrived I discovered after talking to some of the leaders that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have had a fairly strong influence within some areas and some of the understanding of who Christ is was distorted.

Mozambique high techIt is a surreal feeling, being surrounded by mud and grass huts, no plumbed water or electricity (though they had managed to hire a diesel powered generator), eating basic food cooked over open fires, yet having access to vast online resources due to mobile internet. I was immediately able to go online, search our international GCI website for relevant articles, translate them into Portuguese (using Google translate), print them on a small laser-jet printer we had purchased for them (which is usually operated by a battery and power inverter fed from a solar panel, also bought by GCI South Africa) and distribute them to all the pastors to study further. What a privilege it is to participate where the Holy Spirit is working!

Thanks to funding from GCI Canada, I was able have a tow-bar put on my car to take a trailer with me on this trip. It was loaded with clothes donated by members and congregations, as well as food, Bibles and “Talking Bibles,” GCI t-shirts for our pastors and fivewater purifying units, which were installed in and around Morrumbala. That the trailer had two blow-outs on the way and we had only one spare wheel is a story for another day! The final day of the conference concluded with a moving Communion service.

Prayer request: Unfortunately, when Tim returned from Mozambique, he fell ill with malaria. After several days of high fever and sickness, he is returning to health. Please pray for his complete recovery, and for our members in Mozambique who face this dangerous disease on a regular basis without even the benefit of pain killers. Malaria is the most common cause of death in the region.

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