Bosnia

23 01 2013

Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a mountainous Balkan state situated amidst the nations of Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia.

Capital: Sarajevo. Population: 3,750,000. Language: Bosnian

The shameful war in the early 1990’s shattered this beautiful country, and devastated the once effective agrarian infrastructure.

Politics: It is helpful to hear the story: “Bosnia separated from Serbia in AD 960 and, during the 500-year Turkish occupation, many Bosnians became Muslim.  WW2 saw hundreds of thousands of Serbs exterminated by Croat and Bosniak Nazi collaborators. The breakup of Yugoslavia led to a Croat-Muslim alliance in support of independence in March 1992, which was swiftly and militarily contested by the Serb minority.  The three-sided war among Serbians, Croatians and Bosnians caused immense damage, loss of life, displacement of millions and wartime atrocities (most notably by Serbs upon Bosniaks). The war ended in 1995 with no winner and the nation partitioned between the Serb Republic and the Croat-Muslim Federation.  Real power lies with NATO and international agencies, trying to orchestrate a transition to a feasible post-war arrangement.” (Operation World)

And one more point: “Ethno-nationalistic religious confessions replaced communism as the prevailing ideology”.

Communist Background: April 7, 1963, the new Yugoslav constitution proclaimed Tito to be the president “for life” of the newly named Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Tito’s dictatorial leadership swiftly suppressed opponents.Image

Points for Prayer:

1. VIOLENCE: Forgiveness alone, can address the deep-seated anger over so much violence. Justice must flow, with reconciliation, for war-crimes so horrendous they are difficult to comprehend.

2. POVERTY: Economic transformation needed to address poverty, which is endemic.

3. ENTRENCHED RELIGION: Freedom in Christ is the only hope of liberating entrenched ‘religious communities’. 

4. GOOD NEWS: Creative means for sharing: The Alpha Course has helped to share Christ’s love. New means are needed continually. Broadcasts, Jesus film, etc.

5. Expatriate Christian input: is needed for believers in Bosnia, in order to bring the good news to their nation.  Pray for effective networking for the gospel’s sake.

6. The unreached are many.

(1) Bosniak Muslims.

(2) Orthodox Serbs: Islamic Rule for 500 years has made them bitter, and angry.

(3) The largely Muslim Romani (Gypsy) and the wholly Muslim Turks.

(4) The students. Note: “Among 30,000 tertiary students (the majority in Sarajevo), there are fewer than 40 believers.  Young people are very pessimistic – “more than 60% want to leave the country”. Pray that youth and ‘brains’ will come to know Christ, and remain in the nations to serve, with hope, for the future.





Bangladesh

15 09 2012

Several weeks ago, I met two doctors in Australia, from Bangladesh. They have moved here for their safety, their future, and for the sake of their young son. While they wait to upgrade their qualifications, they have applied for and accepted very menial tasks in a factory here. In a most enlightening conversation, I learned that they are Hindu people. I also learned that they had been subjected to severe pressure, and aggressive behaviour from members of the Muslim community in Bangladesh. Since they are now in the minority, they find themselves bullied for money and favours. They said, that life would be far worse for them, if they were not a general and a specialist doctor (medical practitioners)respectively. Being doctors, they were privileged to live well, in the upper echelon of society. However, for Hindu people in lesser jobs and place in society, life is most difficult amidst the now strongly Muslim nation. Although they come from a family of medical doctors, they feared for the future of their son in Bangladesh. Unless he too, qualified as a doctor, life ahead looked to be very difficult indeed for him. It was unsafe. People were aggressively dishonest. Law and order was breaking down badly. A car left on the road would simply be stolen. Unlike in Australia, where cars are left there unattended overnight all the time. Few, by comparison, are ever stolen. This shift to Australia, was very difficult—away from the people, and the land they loved. But alas, pressure, pressure, pressure. By contrast, they said that the only pressure in Australia, was for money to live and pay expenses. The couple said that they did not know any Christians back in Bangladesh—perhaps one they thought, on recollection.

Of the 165 million people, 14.6 million live in the capital, Dhaka.

89% are Muslim, 9% Hindu, and Christiansen: a mere 0.66% off the population. Even less were Buddhist or other faiths.

Prominent in our minds in Australia, are the bodies of the weak, starving masses shown on our TV’s some years ago, during times of great hunger and war. We give thanks to the Lord, that there has been some progress in recent years in the fight against poverty. May it continue.

Micro-credit has helped many people to begin to re-establish a fruitful, useful life once again.

Religion: “Bangladesh was a secular state from 1971-1988. However, in 1988 Islam became the official state religion. Officially there is religious freedom, but this is being steadily eroded by Islamist pressure and a legal system lacking safeguards for ethnic or religious minorities. Islamists are a strong and growing minority.”

Bangladesh was part of Pakistan for 24 years. Independence came in 1971 after a bitter civil war; there has been political instability thereafter, with assassinations, 18 military coups and a nine-year military dictatorship which ended in 1991. One of the Islamic world’s only democracies is rendered ineffective by unrest and personal animosity between two women, who have led the two main political parties. Military and Islamist groups remain influential and ready to pick up the pieces should the state fail. Often rated among the world’s most corrupt nations. Many have been the floods and cyclones.

Among the world’s poorest nations… Nearly half the population lives on less that $1 per day.

A solid social foundation for progress is lacking. Education levels are low. There is very little in the way of infrastructure. There are very few natural resources. Most people work in agriculture or textiles for “scandalously low wages”. Overpopulation creates many problems. There is a frightening vulnerability to changes in climate and economy. Floods, swollen rivers, rising food prices, monsoons, and so much money needing to be spent on food, makes improvement and security issues, seem a long way off.

Prayer points. Please pray:

  • For the preaching of the gospel to bring many to know Jesus Christ.
  • For honesty (corruption is endemic and deeply rooted). in government.
  • For more than political lip service to democracy, showing Christ to those caught up in favour of Sharia Law.
  • For a deep change so that Islamists will not merely dominate people’s lives.
  • For the churches, that have been “growing faster than the population rate“. Wow.
  • For the people-movement tribal churches among the Santal, Munda, Khasi, Garo, Maramei, Ralte, Mizo, Poi.
  • For the churches among the lower caste Hindu section of the community, who love the good news of Jesus!
  • For the Outreach to new people continue to succeed.
  • For means by which believers and churches may be self-sustaining.
  • For leadership for the churches.
  • For the Key Interdenominational residential schools (College of Christian Theology Bangladesh, and the Christian Discipleship Centre).
  • For the Denominational Bible Schools and Seminaries—AoG, GFA, ABWE, Free Baptist, Anglican, Adventist, Lutheran and Church of Bangladesh.
  • For Indigenous Bible Schools offering training in local community outreach, tailored to the needs of culturally Muslim followers of Jesus.
  • For the NGO’s – over 20,000 registered which almost seem like a “second government”.
  • For the Bengali people—by far the largest unreached people in the world, numbering around 240 million globally. Of these, 140 million are in Bangladesh alone, and are often bound to ‘folk Islam’ a blend of Sufi and Hindu.
  • For Hindu Bengali people, where there are 228 Hindu people groups/ or castes of which 204 are classified as least-reached/unreached. “Only among 14 groups has there been any significant response. The upper castes have remained resistant to the gospel.”
  • For the tribal peoples who’s very existence is threatened as the population explodes and pushes further into their lands.
  • For the Bihari Muslims (Urdu speaking) who are unwanted by Pakistan and stigmatized as traitors in Bangladesh for their role in the 1971 war. Most still live in dozens of former refugee camps.
  • For the Rohingya Muslims. As many as 250,000 of them have fled persecution from the Buddhist Myanmar government, and are huddled in refugee camps facing starvation—they have never been given the gospel.
  • For more evangelism and church planting.
  • For at risk people—the poor children. So many hundreds of thousands pushed into being child labourers, and millions of them forced into being sex workers—a living hell.
  • For Christian business investors seeking to show mercy—they are welcomed by this country.
  • For Scripture to reach those who want it. It is in huge demand. Pray for those working on the production of literature, and in media outreach.
  • For those millions who are illiterate to hear the Word through others, who tell the stories of Jesus, and the work of His Cross, for the nations of the World in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Risen, reigning Lord Jesus, we pray for the people of Bangladesh to hear of your presence now, and your resurrection victory over poverty, death, evil, cruelty, and godlessness, and may they receive with joy your Holy Spirit, and be assured of salvation amidst the terribly difficult problems they endure. O Holy God, Father of orphans, humble friend to the oppressed, may your grace flow out upon this nation, that they may grow and live to your glory, your future, your plan and your joy—even now. O Lord, we groan as we ponder such a large mess amidst such a mass of humanity, where every person matters to you. O Father! Amen.





The Meta-Narrative AD

14 05 2012
The Word Became Flesh
  • 4 BC John the Baptiser (The Greatest of all the Prophets)

Magi from the East...

  • Incarnation: Birth of Jesus of Nazareth, Life, Ministry
  • 30 AD Death of Jesus
  • 30 AD Resurrection of Jesus
  • 30 AD Ascension of Jesus and Current Reign
  • Pentecostal Spirit
  • Acts of the Apostles: Peter, James, John, Paul, Others
  • ‘The Spreading Flame’: Christian Faith and Community
  • Growing Opposition: Nero, Rome
Turning Points: “2000 Years of Christ’s Power”  (M. Noll, N. Needham)
  • 70 AD   The Destruction of Temple (Jerusalem)
  • 100, 200, 300: Expansion, Persecution, Emperors, Theologians
  • 325    Nicene Creed
  • 481    Chalcedon and Heresies
  • 530    Benedict and Monasteries

Luther, the Augustinian Monk - History Maker

  • 600    Gospel in China (Nestorians and Others)
  • 630    Muhammad Conquers Mecca with (sword not Word)
  • 800   Charlemagne Crowned on Christmas Day, …“by the Pope”
  • 1054  East and West Divide
  • 1095 The Crusades begin
  • 1382 John Wycliffe’s English Bible completed
  • 1521  Reformation: Luther (& later …Calvin)
  • 1534  England – Henry VIII
  • 1540 Counter-Reform, Loyola
  • 1738 Revivals: Wesley, Whitfield, Edwards
  • 1789 French Revolution
  • 1793 William Carey to India
  • 1807 Robert Morrison to China
  • 1854 David Livingstone to Africa
  • 1904 Revival in Wales
  • 1906 Azusa Street, LA, Pentecostals
  • 1907 Pyongyang, (North) Korea, Revival began
  • 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference
  • 1914-18 World War One  (P.T. Forsyth – “think in centuries”)
  • 1922 Karl Barth on Romans; and 1934 Barmen Declaration
  • 1929 Totoyohiko Kagawa, Indigenous Missionary in Japan
  • 1939 World War Two: Suffering and Nations
  • 1945 New Beginning, Service in Love (G. C. Bingham)
  • 1962 Second Vatican Council
  • 1966 Pray for China (cf. Mao’s Cultural Revolution
  • 1979 Aboriginal Australia Revival From Elcho Island
  • 1989 Fall of Berlin Wall: ‘The Twilight of Atheism’ (A. McGrath)
  • 2001 New York Twin Towers: Faith, NOT Religion
  • 2004 Tsunami Indian Ocean and Theodicy
  • 2012 Attempt to redefine Marriage (US Obama)
  • … New things
  • … More new things
  • … The Eschaton
  • Date Not Known: ‘Behold I make all things new’ [the ‘old things’ transformed into the ‘new’]
  • The Age to Come – Eternity – Glorification of All Things




Europe’s Past Is Today’s Hope

6 10 2009

Europe continues to be a difficult place for the gospel to take fresh root, and to make real headway. Only today, I received a request for support for a missionary couple, as they endeavour to take the Word of truth into … Italy. Ha – just think… the Apostle Paul wrote his great letter of truth, concerning the world, and life, and the future, to … the church in Rome. We should read Paul’s Letter to the Romans often!

What a strange thing human history can seem to be. One of the most unusual days, and perhaps disappointing in terms of unwise use of power, was when Charlemagne, was crowned by the Pope, as leader of the ‘Holy Roman Empire’, on Christmas Day, 800 AD. In a short Church History lesson (2009), I wrote the following:

Charlemagne crowned by Leo III

On Christmas Day, 800 AD, in Rome, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne as emperor. This signified a shift in power structure, for the church in Rome, in relation to the all of the Kings of Europe.  In theory, church and state were now in harmonious interplay. How did a Pope ever come to crown a world ruler? Can you have a Holy Roman Empire?

Fast forward. Another Gregory, Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085), instituted reforms, which ultimately led to the papacy emerging in the 12th and 13th centuries, as the most powerful office in Europe.

Fast Forward: By 1409, there was one Italian Pope, Urban, in Rome, another French one, Clement from Avignon,. But neither stood down, as of necessity, a third Pope, Alexander V, was elected. Three Popes. And one was preaching a crusade against another and selling indulgences to pay for it.

In World History, many Christian leaders, (if not all to some extent) have really failed in their specific calling to continue to announce the good news of the gospel to the world. Some have become too theologically clever, and too politically careful, or manipulative, to be able to really bear witness to Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the world, through his death and resurrection. Nevertheless, Jesus ever remains Lord of all current affairs, of life itself, of death, and of creation, with its future in his hands! This is an amazing claim.

I was heartened, therefore to read this article in Christianity Today, concerning the current Pope, and his recent words. It is good to be a person, who, in spite of many obstacles, and when often being misunderstood, does not give up in one’s calling to proclaim the good news for the human race. check out this article:

Europe’s Past Is Today’s Hope | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

I hope you are not giving up, on your calling, or compromising it, wherever that may be!





Timothy I, Dialogue with the Caliph al-Mahdi

23 09 2009

Timothy I, Dialogue with the Caliph al-Mahdi at Roger Pearse.

Philip Jenkins, in ‘The Lost History of Christianity’ tells how Timothy had a most interesting conversation, proclaiming Christ amidst his Muslim political culture:  This excerpt shows some of it. Timothy is speaking … :

And I replied to his Majesty: “O our victorious King, in this world we are all of us as in a dark house in the middle of the night. If at night and in a dark house a precious pearl happens to fall in the midst of people, and all become aware of its existence, every one would strive to pick up the pearl, which will not fall to the lot of all but to the lot of one only, while one will get hold of the pearl itself, another one of a piece of glass, a third one of a stone or of a bit of earth, but every one will be happy and proud that he is the real possessor of the pearl. When, however, night and darkness disappear, and light and day arise, then every one of those men who had believed that they had the pearl, would extend and stretch his hand towards the light, which alone can show what every one has in hand. He who possesses the pearl will rejoice and be happy and pleased with it, while those who had in hand pieces of glass and bits of stone only will weep and be sad, and will sigh and shed tears.

“In this same way we children of men are in this perishable world as in darkness. The pearl of the true faith fell in the midst of all of us, and it is undoubtedly in the hand of one of us, while all of us believe that we possess the precious object. In the world to come, however, the darkness of mortality passes, and the fog of ignorance dissolves, since it is the true and the real light to which the fog of ignorance is  absolutely foreign. In it the possessors of the pearl will rejoice, be happy and pleased, and the possessors of mere pieces of stone will weep, sigh, and shed tears, as we said above.”

And our victorious King said: “The possessors of the pearl are not known in this world, O Catholicos.”—And I answered: “They are partially known, O our victorious King.”—And our victorious and very wise King said: “What do you mean by partially known, and by what are they known as such?”—And I answered: “By good works, O our victorious King, and pious deeds, and by the wonders and miracles that God performs through those who possess the true faith. As the lustre of a pearl is somewhat visible even in the darkness of the night, so also the rays of the true faith shine to some extent even in the darkness and the fog of the present world. God indeed has not left the pure pearl of the faith completely without testimony and evidence, first in the prophets and then in the Gospel. He first confirmed the true faith in Him through Moses, once by means of the prodigies and miracles that He wrought in Egypt, and another time when He divided the waters of the Red Sea into two and allowed the Israelites to cross it safely, but drowned the Egyptians in its depths. He also split and divided the Jordan into two through Joshua, son of Nun, and allowed the Israelites to cross it without any harm to themselves, and tied the sun and the moon to their own places until the Jewish people were well avenged upon their enemies. He acted in the same way through the prophets who rose in different generations, viz.: through David, Elijah, and Elisha.

“Afterwards He confirmed the faith through Christ our Lord by the miracles and prodigies which He wrought for the help of the children of men. In this way the Disciples performed miracles greater even than those wrought by Christ. These signs, miracles, and prodigies wrought in the name of Jesus Christ are the bright rays and the shining lustre of the precious pearl of the faith, and it is by the brightness of such rays that the possessors of this pearl which is so full of lustre and so precious that it outweighs all the world in the balance, are known.”

And our victorious King said: “We have hope in God that we are the possessors of this pearl, and that we hold it in our hands.”— And I replied: “Amen, O King. But may God grant us that we too may share it with you, and rejoice in the shining and beaming  lustre of the pearl! God has placed the pearl of His faith before all of us like the shining rays of the sun, and every one who wishes can enjoy the light of the sun.”

See:

http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/timothy_i_apology_01_text.htm

This also leads one to ponder the whole book, by Jenkins:

The Lost History of Christianity – P. Jenkins

Cheers!





The Joy of Jesus

15 09 2009

Jesus’ words really are captivating. They were, and they still are. It was observed by the temple police, as they heard Jesus, that: ‘Never has anyone spoken like this’ (John 7:46)

What about these captivating words: ‘I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete (John 15:11 )

Joy. Joy. Joy. Joy. Joy. Joy. Joy. Joy. Joy. Joy. Yep!

You may often feel a lack of joy, a dearth of joy.

There is so much in our media, and our lives, that makes it seem a joyless world.

Sadness is very prevalent. We need no examples.

But the joyless world is passing away. For the man of joy, has come.

Listen to the promise again:

Abide in me…. that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

Abide is the Greek word meno ‘meno’, also translated ‘remain’, or ‘dwell’. Remain in me. Keep in fellowship with me. Keep talking to me. Keep being filled with the Spirit of God. Keep being a person with with the Spirit, in whom is love, joy peace…

The joy of Jesus in us? Yes, indeed. Here, is the Man of Sorrows (Isaiah 53:3b) deeply acquainted with grief—who was made to be sin for us, as he bore our griefs, guilt, sadness, shame and failures in his body on the tree, once for all—who is also the most truly joyful human being to ever walk the face of the earth.

Meditate upon this man, who has all things in his hands. This man of joy is near. This man who gives joy to the brokenhearted. Two old hymns, keep coming to mind:

Jesus thou joy of loving hearts‘, and ‘Joy to the World, the Lord is come’!

Are you joyful?  Do you find such questions annoying? Do you answer that we only have joy by faith, and not by sight? Do you admit it is a deep joy, but not necessarily a smiling joy? Do you have the joy of Jesus, now?  Does this seem a bit of an inward question, to you? Are you frying bigger fish than this?  Have you the global political scene in your sights? Or the local contribution that you are going to make? Are you deeply bent on justifying yourself by your achievements? Is yours a joyful contribution?  Are others in your life affected by the joy of Jesus? Is it coming through in your life? Is there a joy

May you be filled with the joy of Jesus. May the joy of knowing the Father, and all things being in his hands, be in you! May the joy of the Holy Spirit renew you today.

The joy of Jesus, is a joy which comes to us, in the joy of the one who has conquered sin and death. The joy of Jesus is the joy which is a secured joy, of an eternal God, lodged actively in a person, and now given to us. The joy of Jesus! The joy of Jesus in us, and our joy complete. Complete. Full. More than sufficient. Real joy. Spreading joy. Global joy. Eternal joy. Present joy. No one will take your joy from you. Joy that can’t be stolen. Joy.

Joy. Short word. Profound effect.





Three things come not back

3 06 2009

Three things come not back – the spoken word, the spent arrow, the missed opportunity. 

Sometimes pithy little sayings stay with you. Like this one.

They have their place. Yes, they can be trite cliche’s. And, yes they can be annoying. And yes, they can keep one in baby land – in a way… by avoiding tackling a longer piece of thoughtful work. They can be an illusion, thinking we now have something deep, when we don’t. But they can act as a valuable prod, to be about what counts. And to go about things in a gracious manner. 30 years later, or so, one can still recall that spoken word, which went out – and it jarred, grated or offended.  It is out there now! 

And missed opportunities? Enough said.

The spent arrow!

I guess… it may have cost many an Indian warrior, his life. Or his lunch.








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