Archive

Archive for May, 2014

WEA Religious Liberty Prayer News 26 May 2014

May 27th, 2014
Comments Off

Buddhist monks and authorities obstruct prayer meeting in SRI LANKA
 
24 May, It is reported that on 27 April, while a group of 30 Christians were gathered for prayer in Bandaragama, Sri Lanka, a mob of around 30 persons led by Buddhist clergy stormed the premises they were praying in, and demanded that prayer meetings be stopped.

According to reports, the police who arrived on the scene instructed the Christians to stop the prayer meetings since there was no prior approval from the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

However, according to Sri Lankan legislation, there is no legal requirement to obtain prior approval for religious worship activities.

Christians in Sri Lanka have been facing an increase in persecution over the past couple of years. According to statistics from the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka, 103 incidents of Christian persecution were recorded in 2013 – a 98% increase from 2012.

So far this year, there have been over 40 attacks on churches and Christians in Sri Lanka.

Prayer points:
Pray for boldness among church leaders in the front-lines of persecution in Sri Lanka;
Pray for God’s wisdom upon church leaders who serve in Buddhist-dominant villages;
Pray for Christians in the country to stand in solidarity with their fellow persecuted brethren;
Souce: NCEASL Incident Reports

Christian man jailed for refusing to pay fine for holding worship service in KAZAKHSTAN

16 May, According to reports, a Christian father of 3 was jailed in Kazakhstan for refusing to a pay a fine for leading an unauthorized worship service in his home.

Denis Yenenko was imprisoned for 6 days after he refused to pay a fine of USD 475 following a raid on his home in Sergeyeyka in 2013.

He was initially penalized for “participation in the activity of an unregistered, halted or banned religious community or social organization.”

It is reported that, in 2014, 39 people were fined for exercising their right to religious liberty in Kazakhstan.

Prayer points:
Pray that the charges against Denis Yenenko would be dropped;
Pray for more religious freedoms in Kazakhstan;
Pray that Kazakh Christians would take comfort in the knowledge of God’s sovereignty over the growing persecution in the country.
Daniel Wani with his wife Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, Source: Gabriel Wani/Facebook/news.com.au

8 month-pregnant Christian woman sentenced to death in SUDAN

20 May, An 8-month-pregnant Christian woman in Khartoum has been sentenced to death for her alleged conversion to Christianity. She was also sentenced to 100 lashes for having relations with her husband, who is a Christian.

Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, 27, was convicted on 30 April and on 11 May she was given 3 days to recant her Christian faith.

Meriam has been detained since February 2014. During her imprisonment, she has been denied bail, subjected to beatings and faced insufficient provisions of medication.

The couple’s 20-month-old son is staying in prison with Meriam, as authorities have denied the father the right to care for the child.

Prayer points:
Pray that the sentence will be overturned and Meriam would be released from prison;
Pray for Meriam and her unborn child’s health, that they would receive adequate medications;
Pray that the Lord would strengthen Meriam and enable her to trust Him during this difficult time;
Pray for Jesus’ comforting presence to be upon the family of Meriam.

Prayers

A new identity-past,present and future.

May 26th, 2014
Comments Off

When we talk about the good news of the gospel we are talking about a new creation in Christ. This means that we have a new identity.

 How complete is this new identity?

 Paul wrote The past or old has gone. The new has come.

 What does that mean?

 Our lives have three sections: the past, the present and the future.

 Our past is something we have basically by accident of birth and through many circumstances we had no control over. The reason I exist is partially because of a wounding at Gallipoli of my grandfather, who then met my grandmother when he was convalescing in the UK. If we looked at our existence mathematically there are impossible odds that any of us were conceived and born.

 One of the most interesting observations in Robert Hughes book the Fatal Shores was how a whole underclass in the UK who was written off by their superiors as having bad blood, irredeemable, came to Australia with a fresh start and created one of the most law abiding societies on earth.

 In many ways they lived” The past is gone. The new has come.”

 It is interesting to read who basically came in to the early church in Corinth

 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

 26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

 In their past they were seen as nothing. Slaves, ordinary, expendable people at the bottom of the pile.

 People outside the Temple because of their impurities came to Jesus and not only did he physically heal them, he restored them into the community with ” Go in peace”. He called them a son or daughter of Abraham. He had changed their past by taking their sins, regrets, pain and suffering upon himself and freeing the person from their past.

 Their past was no longer there— gone. Their past was now given a new identity in Christ. They could stand before God with all their sins removed.

 But we live in the present. In Christ we live in our new identity daily. We are not only reconciled by his death, but we are saved by his life. He comes to dwell within us. We are now the children of God, holy, beloved without accusation. Today we are God’s dear children who in the Spirit say Abba. So we also have a new present – a new identity that allows us to boldly come in to the presence of our Father as his children.

 But there is more.

 Revelation 21:5  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

 And God completes our new identity by giving us a new future. I make everything new.

 And we are not fully able to grasp how wonderful this will be. But we know it will exceed all our desires and imaginations.

So we have a new past, a new present and a new future.We have anew identity in Christ.

 One can begin to understand the sense of liberation ordinary people, particularly slaves felt when they heard this good news. They were not trapped in the identity this world gave them.

 There are incredible difficulties in really practicising the new life we have, particularly in a world that does not know who we are in Christ. Just imagine how difficult it would be  for a member of the Brahman caste in India to accept equality with an untouchable if they were called together in Christ.

 Or a black slave attending the same church with white masters throughout history. Or the Lord of the many with his servants.

Paul delicately endeavoured to practice this truth, restoring a slave Onesimus who has become a Christian since fleeing from his mater Philemon who is also in the church.

 As we go through Paul’s letter to Philemon, we will hear how Paul seeks to give one individual the freedom to enjoy in God’s family his new identity in Christ.

Read more…

Message for the Day

Reading the Book of Judges from a Christian perspective

May 12th, 2014
Comments Off

 

Recently we have been going through books from the OT at one of our in -home Bible Studies. We did an overview on Judges.

 Now it is quite an unpleasant book – very hard at first to see how it fits in to a Chrisitian understanding of the world.

 I remember in preparation for the study praying for a Christian insight into this book. I didn’t just want to study the history of Israel. And the book is not written with that in mind anyway. It is a theological book. It is about God and his relationship to Israel.

 As I went through the book one could see all the main characters had flaws or were evaluated by different criterion than we would. There also are tensions in the book about what happened in the invasion of the Canaan and what is the best way for Israel to be governed in their relationship to God.

 The main tension is: Should they rely on charismatic leaders that God chooses or be united under a heriditary King? The final verse raises this: In those days Israel had no king.everyone did as he saw fit.

 Judges consists of selected stories involving different regions.

 The only time we see any real form of the tribes united is when they seek vengeance at the end of the book and almost wipe out the tribe of Benjamin. Another very brutal and unpleasant story.

 Now you may be asking: Why are we hearing a message based on Judges?

 I realized as I went through the study that it would be helpful to address how a Christian group can study such a book. It is part of inspired scripture for us.

 2 Timothy 3:14-17

 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

 In this first section I would like to just to go through Judges 2 to see the pattern of the book.

 It is important to be aware that under Joshua we could have the impression that Israel succeeded in driving out the inhabitants of the land. Judges corrects this by revealing this didn’t happen, with many areas in which Israelites and others remained living side by side.

 Now for an overall summary of the book.

 Judges 2

 1 The angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you,

God is not the problem. He is faithful to his covenant.

2 and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? 3 And I have also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.’”

So the problem is with Israel and its disobedience to the covenant. So we can sense one of the reasons for the book is to remind people of the lessons of covenant breaking: the blessings and cursings of Deuteronomy.

4 When the angel of the Lord had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, 5 and they called that place Bokim.[a] There they offered sacrifices to the Lord.

6 After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to their own inheritance. 7 The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel.

8 Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. 9 And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres[b] in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.

While this is true, their disobedience also took place under Joshua and they were unable to remove the inhabitants of the land. But at least Johua knew what God had done for Israel and thus walked carefully before the Lord, knowing who he was.

Now we see a summary of the repeated cycles in the book.

10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.

11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals.

12 They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshipped various gods of the peoples around them.

They aroused the Lord’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.

14 In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist.

15 Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.

16 Then the Lord raised up judges,[c] who saved them out of the hands of these raiders.

17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord’s commands.

18 Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshipping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.

This describes a descending cycle of violence and chaos from bad to worse. This is the pattern throughout the book.

20 Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors and has not listened to me, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. 22 I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it as their ancestors did.” 23 The Lord had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.

So this the situation described in Judges God now permits and uses it to to test and try the people.

We could say there are two major themes: Israel’s spiritual and political decline and Yahweh’s gracious and repeated deliverance of Israel.

It is a shameful period of Israel’s history. Israel was in decline, its judges had feet of clay, and that Yahweh and Yahweh alone was the hero of the period, who graciously and repeatedly saved Israel, despite their persistent unfaithfulness.

The leaders who are raised by God are called judges. It refers always to a human leader, and one who exercises many different powers or functions, not merely judicial. We think of the word “judge” really in a judicial context, but that was not the extent of the function of the judge. The Israelite judge was actually primarily a military leader, commissioned with a specific task, and only in times of national crisis.

The judge had a charismatic quality, which in several cases is expressed by the phrase, “the spirit of the Lord came upon him.” God would raise up the judge to deliver the people from a specific crisis.

The judge might muster troops from two tribes, or three tribes, sometimes only a clan or two, which suggests that there was no real national entity at this particular time. We never see more than one or two tribes acting together or some clans of a tribe.

But the institution of judges never created fixed political forms. And each judge differed from the last in background, in class, and even gender. We do have one female judge, Deborah, who did exercise judicial functions evidently.

The judges are overall pretty dodgy characters. You’ve got the illegitimate son of a prostitute. You’ve got a bandit. Idolatry and Baal worship is always present.The judges are not chosen necessarily for their virtue. Many of them seem to fall into the type of the trickster, a bit like Jacob. Some of them are crafty, tricky types.

For example Gideon is explicitly chosen for his weakness, and not because of his strength. It turns out that he is quite a ruthless fighter, and he is clearly not a devout Yahwist. So Gideon, builds an altar despite the fact that we know Deuteronomy insisted on centralized worship and prohibited outlying altars or multiple altars.

He is also known, his other name, if you will, is Jerubbaal. It is a name that is made with Baal, meaning Baal will strive, or Baal will contend. So this is an alternate name for Gideon. He erects an idol. The people of Shechem, where he is — after his death they continue to worship Baal Berit, the Baal of the covenant, which is an interesting sort of merger of Baalism and covenantal religion.

Jepthah is an outlaw. Samson is hardly a moral exemplar. So these are not meant to be idealized heroes.We don’t read the OT to get role models on how to live.

Then towards the end: you have some interesting chapters. 17 and 18 tell the story of Micah and his idolatrous shrine. And then finally, the quite horrifying and gruesome tale, beginning in chapter 19, going on through 20 and 21 — the story of the Levite’s concubine and the civil war.

So I ask: how do we read such a book as Christians?

Read more…

Message for the Day