Armenia

13 08 2012

Armenia is a small, land-locked, mountainous state, consisting of 3 million people—most of which (94.43%), surprisingly enough, are Christians.

Claim to fame: ‘Armenia was the worlds’ first Christian nation and enjoys a great spiritual legacy of more than 1,700 years of Christianity’ (Operation World, p. 114) 

Historically, the country acted a a sort of buffer between the Turkish, the Russian and the Persian empires. It has rarely been independent over the past 2,500 years. It is situated to the west of Azerbaijan, north of Iran, east of Turkey, and south of Georgia.

The people know too well, a history of Genocide. In 1915-1917, Turkey failed to recognise the Genocide of Armenians, where some 1,500,000 deaths took place. Recalling this event, and thinking history did not matter, the tyrant Adolf Hitler once to his Army commanders, on August 22, 1939:

“Thus for the time being I have sent to the East only my ‘Death’s Head Units’ with the orders to kill without pity or mercy all men, women, and children of Polish race or language. Only in such a way will we win the vital space that we need. Who still talks nowadays about the Armenians?”

With the collapse of communism, however, came religious freedom.  ‘An intimate link between the government and the Armenian Apostolic Church continues, with some minor discrimination against other religious expressions’. (You tend to get that!)

It is a point of great praise and thanks—to the Triune God we know in Christ—for the endurance and survival of the Armenian Church throughout the centuries, amidst bitter opposition. Armenians at home and abroad, are increasingly interested in seeing grand renewal of faith in the land.

Jesus said: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).

Apparently there is not that much Bible reading done in this land. Pray for it to increase.

Dear Lord, we learn that good relations with neighbours are the key to Armenia’s future. Therefore we pray for ongoing progress in this regard, and for a renewed movement of the Spirit, unveiling the mystery of the gospel to the nearby nations, as they talk, work, live and play – in the same world, together. We pray that forgiveness of neighbouring lands, will win others to the life of grace—known in the Risen power of the crucified, suffering, all-loving Jesus, the Christ—Israel’s Messiah—God’s gracious King, for all nations.

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Also, came across this interesting link:
http://www.panorama.am/en/politics/2012/08/14/Fatwa-Armenians/

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Agape or Eros?

19 06 2012

There are two basic types of love—agape and eros—according to Scripture. True love, and fallen love.

C.S. Lewis has highlighted the four loves—agape, eros, philia (friendship) and storge (affection)—mentioned in Scripture. However, in the light of God’s love in the cross of Jesus Christ, Christians, filled with the Spirit of God, are now to live from and in and out of, agape love—in the Spirit’s enabling power.

Eros love is the pseudo-love, that which is in the world as a result of the fall. We might say, ‘fallen love’, following the fall into sin and death (Genesis 3). It is unfortunately the natural default position, for all of us who are fallen, sinners.

Recently here in Australia, a militant, homosexual lobby have taken it upon themselves to attack the public policy, leadership, and participants of the Christian group known as The Salvation Army—’the Salvo’s’.

The ‘Salvo’s’ are an non-discriminatory, free, ministry of mercy and kindness, to the needy in the whole community.

But their views of marriage, do not conform with a new, militant regime, demanding that all parts of society adopt the new ‘anthropology’. Salvo’s hold that celibacy is the true way for all outside of marriage. They hold that only Marriage—between a man and woman—is the legitimate context for the expression of sexual union—a traditional, Christian approach.

I think time would be well spent in understanding the huge difference between ‘agape’ love and ‘eros’ love. Self-giving, or self-getting. Agape love is the free, saving, atoning, suffering, self-giving love of God. Eros is ‘fallen’ agape. It can masquerade as true love, but it is not the agape love of Jesus Christ, of the Triune God.

The Salvation Army members honour, love, serve, proclaim, minister and represent Jesus Christ. Their ministry of mercy in giving to others freely, is consistent with the meek ‘agape’ love seen in the cross of Christ Jesus. This is the true serving, self-denying, forgiving, redeeming, agape love which lays down one’s life, for the benefit—now and eternally—of another. It is God’s redeeming agape love for the world.

Jesus said to ‘agape’ love your enemies and do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute you.

Much talk of love today is of ‘eros’ love.  It is not the same thing as ‘agape’. Tricky thing is, that in the human scene, ‘eros’ seems noble. While ‘agape’, an act of the will can seem weak.

“The crowd”, as they demand ‘rights’ and pressure organisations at the expense of true community, and of personal lives, miss this true agape love—saving love!  May the Spirit of God, make it known in the midst of a militant-legal approach towards the community, and this current fierce focus upon ‘the Salvo’s’.

“Thank God for the Salvos”!





Proverbs 4:23

13 10 2009

There is a Proverb, that keeps speaking to me. No. Rather, there is a Triune God, who keeps speaking to me, through these words:

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life (NRSV Proverbs 4:23).

Just in case you missed it, here are some other versions.

NIV Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
NAS Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.
GWT Guard your heart more than anything else, because the source of your life flows from it.
KJV Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
BBE And keep watch over your heart with all care; so you will have life.
DRB With all watchfulness keep thy heart, because life issueth out from it.
DBY Keep thy heart more than anything that is guarded; for out of it are the issues of life.
WEB Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it is the wellspring of life.
YLT Above every charge keep thy heart, For out of it are the outgoings of life.




Such Graciousness

19 03 2009

‘Such graciousness!’ The other night, while considering John’s Gospel, chapter 4, it came to me that the one thing that the woman at the well was moved by—changed by—was ‘such graciousness’ imparted by Jesus towards her. This woman, of whom he was fully aware, what a mess of life she had made – with five husbands and another man as well—he loved, he received, he be-friended. He did this, not by ignoring her failure, but by loving her in spite of them. But more than that, he ‘right-wised’ her. He “righteous-ed” her. He justified her. He accepted her; he welcomed her. Not by by-passing the mess, but by giving himself graciously to her.

This is stunning.

During this past term I have been covering some old rich insights, from church history. While looking at the Reformation, I came across Martin Luther’s statement, prior to his coming into a dynamic Europe-tearing faith in Christ.

Martin Luther the monk, said: ‘If I could believe that God was not angry with me, I would stand on my head for joy’. His friend and mentor in grace, Staupitz, tried to convince him of God’s graciousness, but he could not see it, or feel it, of know it.

Sometime later—after the renewed—Martin Luther, had weighed into a debate in criticism of indulgences. He was not initially against the indulgences as such-there was a Papal theology widely accepted for it;  it was just that indulgences were being ‘hawked’ to pay for St. Peter’s Cathedral, and Martin was deeply offended by the manner in which an authorized itinerant showman, named Tezel, was at work on behalf of himself – as well as the papal system.  It stirred everything up, in the world, when he attacked that.

Background:

Pope Leo X issued the sale of indulgences to fund the completion of St. Peter ‘s Cathedral in Rome. John Tetzel was an itinerant papal-fundraiser, who promised his hearers immediate release, according to his rhyme: ‘As soon as the coin in the moneybox rings, the soul from purgatory springs’, and again, ‘Throw your money into the drum, heaven’s gates open and in walks mum’. If a person bought an indulgence for himself it would ‘wash awash the foulest of sins, even if the person had raped the Virgin Mary’. He was crude, tasteless, vulgar, and even contrary to the official theology of indulgences—for at the least the church did teach that the purchase must be accompanied by repentance to be effective. Luther had pastoral responsibility for teaching students, as also for the church where he preached. His concern was a very practical one, that people were being ripped off by such a corrupt and blatant scheme. Luther had no desire to stir up a public quarrel, let alone begin a movement to tear apart the very fabric of Europe. He was not even criticising the official sale of indulgences, just Tetzel’s perversion of the practise.

But then, this amazaing thing:

Luther’s revelation concerning the meaning of Romans 1:17.

He said, ‘I hated that word “righteousness of God,” which …I had been taught to understand philosophically… I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners… I was angry with God …I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience. Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted. At last, by the mercy of God…I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live”. Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. Here a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me.’ (John Dillenberger (Ed.), Martin Luther: Selections From His Writings, Doubleday, New York 1961, p. 11)

This, I think, is what the Samaritan woman at the well experienced, in John 4.

It is what gets at us, most deeply of all!

God right-wises us. In the gospel, God is shown to be righteous, not for getting his pound of flesh in punishment for sin. But rather, in taking sin seriously – as Jesus had done with the troubled woman – God still comes to us righteously. And as he comes to us, righteously, it is as the friend who justifies us. He is seen to be righteous in his exercise of grace!  Wow.

This is a turn around 180 degrees from what some have called ‘legal’ repentance.  Legal repentance is not genuine repentance. It is a trick-contract with God. Legal repentance is a little heavy deed of self, in order to get off the divine hook of guilt.

Like buying a pizza, you pay the price (repentance), you get the pizza (grace). No! No! No! That is sometimes how we think it works, in our sinful heads. No. God does a great thing in the gospel. And when Jesus comes to us, it is to bring us the Fruit of that great dying death.

Now:

God comes in generosity, and looks upon us, in mercy, and sets us right. What a scenario. He tips us right way up.  Judicially all is sorted; but practically, it is God’s graciousness that just does that, that is amazing. So lovely, so gracious. Not counting our sins against us. Wow.  

This is the gospel. Such graciousness.








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