Eritrea

28 04 2020

Eritrea is in Africa. And it is surely a nation that needs our prayers.

In 1993, Eritrea espoused a Marxist ideology (which Ethiopia broke free of—and the Addis Ababa ‘Never Again’ Red Terror Museum tells the brutal story of ‘why’), and it placed severe restriction upon people’s freedom.

Capital: Asmara. A beautiful city.  It looks more European, than most African cities. Why? The Italian’s colonised Eritrea from 1890-1941.

Eritrea is bordered by the Red Sea. In terms of its people, they really belong together with their inland neighbour, Ethiopia. Many natural inter-related families. However, power-politics, increased poverty, suppression of genuine faith and religion, interference and war have produced a nation that has many troubles. Lord have mercy! May the help of God, in Christ, continue to flow to the people of Eritrea.

  • “Eritrea’s Capital Is Lovely. But Scratch the Surface and You’ll Find a Terrifying Reality. People are jailed in cellars of houses, a network of informers has destroyed trust between people and hundreds of thousands have fled. A rare visit to the ‘North Korea of Africa’. “
  • In Asmara, “The streets in the city center are spotless. There’s very little traffic, people walk in the center of the road, no one honks. Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, appears to be one of the loveliest and most pleasant cities in Africa. Orderly and quiet, the place seems like a sort of souvenir from the 20th century. As in Cuba, the cars are mostly old, from the 1960s and ‘70s. The many VW Beetles stand out. Italian architectural gems evoke the pre-World War II colonial period”.

  • “A stranger visiting the city won’t sense that anything is amiss. Outwardly, nothing suggests that this is one of the most insular dictatorships in the world, the North Korea of Africa. President Isaias Afwerki has ruled the country with an iron hand for 25 years. In Afwerki’s Eritrea, men serve in the army from age 17 until as late as age 50. Until recently, soldiers deployed along the borders were under orders to shoot anyone trying to flee to one of the neighboring countries. And throughout Eritrea, citizens are entangled in an extensive government-run network of informers: Students betray friends who have deserted the army; housewives inform on neighbors who criticize the regime and so on.” (Magazine, source, below).

  • See: https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/.premium.MAGAZINE-eritrea-s-capital-is-lovely-but-under-the-surface-is-a-terrifying-reality-1.7088041
  • See: https://www.wsj.com/articles/eritreans-flee-conscription-and-poverty-adding-to-the-migrant-crisis-in-europe-1445391364

Religions: (1) Sunni Islam (2) Orthodox (3) Roman Catholic (4) Lutheran.

Population: 6.7 million.    87% Semitic African, Afar, Saho, others.  7.8% Arab.

Language: Tigrinya, Tigre, Arabic, English.

Answers to prayer:

  1. The Growth of the Church in Eritrea is strong. Persecution and the closure of denominations produced a flowering house church movement. Many in prison have received the Gospel. (Operation World, p. 323)
  2. Jesus Christ has come into the world, for such a people as this. And he is establishing his people in places where many would imagine it to be impossible. The Ascended Christ is Lord over all governments, times and places.

Prayer Points:

  1. For peace with neighbouring Ethiopia.
  2. For religious freedom.
  3. For protection from severe persecution of Christians.
  4. For wisdom and courage for Christian leaders.
  5. For expelled missionaries and foreign workers who have a heart for the people.
  6. For the success of the radio and TV ministry.
  7. For the Living Lord to draw Eritreans to hope in him.

 

 

 





Equatorial Guinea

24 10 2019

The Republic of Equatorial Guinea is situated on the East Coast of Africa, bordered by the nation of Cameroon and Gabon. Nestled in the ‘Gulf of Guinea, it includes several islands, Bioko and Pegalu being two main ones.

Capital: Malabo (131,000 people) The capital is situated on the Isla de Bioko, where Spanish is spoken.  Other languages on the mainland include Bantu (77.3%) and French, and various other African languages among many tribes and groups.

New Capital:  Oyola (by 2020 – on the mainland)

https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/why-is-equatorial-guinea-changing-its-capital.html

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Corruption is a Major Problem:

Discovery of massive offshore petroleum deposits in 1995 transformed the economy. Oil revenues are a State secret. Large is the divide, between the filthy rich, and the struggling poor.

Here is how The Guardian newspaper viewed the Corruption of the nation. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/oct/23/equatorial-guinea-africa-corruption-kleptocracy

Points for prayer from Operation World:

“Training leaders and discipling believers are strategic and growing ministries. Three training institutions exist (Reformed, WEC, AoG) along with TEE programmes. YWAM runs short-term Discipleship Training Schools.

  • Pray that graduates may be used of the Spirit to evangelise the nation and disciple believers.
  • Pray for greater opportunities for laity to grow in their faith; the move from a nominal Catholic/animist worldview to a biblical one is a significant transition.

Missionaries have increased in number, including growing numbers from West and Central Africa, but they need wisdom in the convoluted socio-political situation. Several delicate and difficult situations in relating to indigenous leadership have occurred in recent years. Pray for grace and humility on the part of both expats and nationals. The main agencies are: EqGuiMsn, YWAM, AoG, WEC.” 

http://www.operationworld.org/country/equa/owtext.html

Prayer: Gracious Father, in such a rich and diverse nation, we can but pray for your Spirit to awaken hearts and minds to the knowledge of Jesus Christ as the Risen Lord over all of the affairs of humanity.  May the people know Jesus as Victor over death. May they know his power over all evil spirit, and evil leaders. Amidst the enormous amount of corruption and injustice (in the not-sharing of the economic benefits of petroleum), we pray that your humble love, will proceed into the hearts and lives of the many tribes and communities within this nation. We give thanks for those who know Christ in all his grace and power, and ask that in the weakness they feel, humanly speaking, they may communicate to glorious truth of the gospel in fresh compelling ways. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 





Czech Republic

16 10 2017

Capital: Prague.

Bordered by Germany, Poland, Slovakia, and Austria.

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Economy: One of the most developed economies in central Europe. A stfrong tradition of industry and manufacturing.

Politics:  “The bloodless ‘velvet revolution’ against Communist rule in 1989 was followed by rapid democratization and the ‘velvet divorce’ from Slovakia in 1993. Multiparty presidential democracy and EU member since 2004” (Operation World, p. 298).

Religion:  “A long turbulent religious history. Believers suffered, especially under the Communist regime. Subsequent freedom sees a significant falling and fading  of religious influence in Czech society – although it has not been a particularly religious society for hundreds of years.” (O.W.)

Non-religious 71%, Christian 26%

Prayer:

That the moral vacuum may be replaced with the wise and gracious plan of Christ for people and his world. “Freedom for Czechs has too often translated into a ‘free-for-all’.

That the dynamic church planting will continue to bear fruit. We give thanks that this nation has churches, that actually send missionaries to several European nations, and across the world.

For New expressions of Christian faith to emerge. For leadership – ‘a key to growth’.

 

 

 

 





Croatia

8 06 2016

Located in Europe, Croatia  is a Crescent-shaped country of 4.5 million people.  It is 91% Christian (primarily Catholic and Orthodox).  It is situated between the Danube River and the Adriatic Sea. It is a part of the Balkan States.

Capital: Zagreb (687,000)

Economy: “Long-term Communist mismanagement and the war with Serbs undermined a previously solid economy. Recovery is still in process, with relatively high unemployment and low wages. A resurgent tourist sector and the privatization of state industries have helped Croatia begin to turn the corner and develop over the last decade” (Operation World, p. 289).

Hatred: Some 1,600 years of rivalry between the Croat and Serb peoples, and their mutual hatred of one another was one of the potent factors in the terrible, horrifying Balkan wars of the 1990’s. “The iron bond shackling ethnicity to religion also hampers progress and stifles spiritual breakthrough” (Operation World). Forgiveness and love are of course keys to reconciliation and renewed trust.

Religion: Christian 91.6%, Non-Religious 6.01%, Muslim 1.9%, Jewish 0.10%, Hindu 0.02%, Buddhist 0.01%

Challenge to Prayer: Of the large Christian population some 87% are Catholic, and while there is a small but active Charismatic movement among them, and some very good Catholic leaders, it is sadly a nation where nominalism and empty rituals abound. According to Operation World, ‘Evangelicals are one of the few groups that straddle the ethnic divide. Many Bosnians, Croats and Serbs have been won to Christ and brought into the fellowship together.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for the gospel of grace spreading amidst a damaged society. Where the young people have little confidence for their future, and amidst high unemployment, may the Spirit of the Risen Lord bring renewed hope, and a desire for development and community, as the plan of God for creation, gives fresh impetus to rebuild the nation.

Part of the Balkan Peninsula:

It is difficult to obtain universal agreement on which nations belong to ‘the Balkans’. Most would include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro,Romania, Serbia and Slovenia. Parts of Greece and Turkey are sometimes owned as belonging to the mix.

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See details re Bosnia, also: https://nwcc.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/bosnia/

 





Côte d’Ivoire

7 06 2016

 

Known until 1985 as ‘Ivory Coast’ (English), Côte d’Ivoire is an extremely beautiful place.

It is an African west coast nation situated between Ghana and Liberia. It has rainforest to the south and savannah and highlands in the north.

Capital: Yamoussoukro (895,000 approx.) Abidjan is the economic, cultural capital. Population. 4.1 million.

Population:  24 million approx.

Operation World says: it is “One of the world’s largest producers of cocoa, coffee and palm oil” (p. 284).

They obtained independence from France in 1960.  But political coups, failed peace agreements, and political tensions have dogged the nation. As with many other African nation, there is a Muslim north and a non-Muslim (Christian and animist) south.

Religions: Muslim 41%, Christian 33%, Ethnoreligious 24%

Money: They use the West African Franc. As does Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo.

It is good to ponder the very existence, life, uniqueness and glory of every nation. For just as the nations enter the arena of the Olympic Games in a unique, noble, glorious manner, so too from Côte d’Ivoire, “people will bring into [the Holy City , the future community] the glory and honour of this nation” (Revelation 21:26).

Prayer Points:

  1. For political leaders who are visionary, non-partisan and free of corruption.
  2. For ways to handle million of immigrants from neighbouring countries.
  3. For the ongoing growth of the Evangelical churches, sharing God’s Word.
  4. For believers in Christ to resist the temptation to return to animist ways.
  5. For the demographic sectors of society needing the gospel.
  6. For the nearly 1 million people who have contracted AIDS in the country.
  7. For the ministries of many young people who have recently become Christians, to flourish.

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Ivory Coast.

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Language: French is used by 48% of the population. Also Jula is a native trade language in the north. There are 77 indigenous languages. Only half of these have Scriptures.

Politics: Independent from France in 1960. Lots of tension, and need for stability. Muslims is the north, and non-Muslim in the south. Missionary activity is very difficult.  Syncretism is big. So is Traditional religion.

Prayer: O Lord Jesus, Ascended and at work, we pray for new upcoming leaders who are free of corruption. We give thanks for the rise of Evangelical churches, and pray the blessing of hearing upon the Word; this is the true hope. For movement beyond nominalism in the Catholic churches. For bible teaching to expand, and missionary training to grow. For the many unevangelized people to be reached with the gospel.  For the young people to respind to the Word of hope. Lord hear our prayer.

 

 

 

 

 





Cook Islands

9 05 2015

“The Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau and Pitcairn are all officially, or unofficially in the case of the last, related to New Zealand. None are independent. All have seen a large part of their population move to New Zealand or Australia” (Operation World, Jason Mandryk, p. 278)

Over 100 coral atolls and volcanic islands 3,500 km northeast of NZ. Only 15 are inhabited.

Capital: Avura

Polynesian 89.2%

Language: English, and Cook Island Maori.

Self governing parliamentary democracy in free association with NZ.

Religion: Christian: 96%  wow!    Non-religious: 3%   Baha’i:  0.8%

On Pitcairn Islands all are Seventh Day Adventists. Famous for its settlement in 1790 by mutineers from the British ship, the Bounty.

Economy:  Fishing, Agriculture, Tourism, Offshore banking.

Prayer: May the Lord Jesus, living, and ascended continue to bless, guide, correct and renew in faith the peoples of this beautiful place in God’s world. We pray that the Scripture now in the local heart language may impact each person’s walk with God. We pray that – as people move away – those who remain will not be tempted to despair, but rather, trust the Living God for a good and rewarding future.





China (Republic of): Taiwan

20 02 2014

Taiwan (formerly ‘Formosa’, a name used by the Portugese) is a mountainous island, situated 160km east of mainland China. Taiwan includes the Penghu archipelago and the islands of Kinmen and Matsu. With a population of 24 million people it is one of the world’s most densely populated places.

Capital City: Taipae 2.6million       Life Expectancy: 78.5 years.

Economy:  High Tech goods.

Brief History: Taiwanese Aboriginal inhabitants owned the land. The Dutch and Spanish (1626-1642) established colonies there in the 17th century. Next, the Qing Dynasty of China (1683-1895) took over. Then it was under Japanese Rule from 1895—1945.  Again, Chinese rule prevailed under the Nationalist Government. When mainland China became subject to Communist Rule in the Mao Zedong power-grab of 1949, Taiwan became a refuge for the Nationalists, under Chiang Kai-shek. It remains independent, (uneasily) today, from mainland China.

Religion: It is a secular State with freedom of religion. It is a stronghold of both Buddhism and a ‘ubiquitous’ Taiwanese folk religion, with Confucianism, Daoism also quite prominent. Operation World (p. 260) says that Taiwan is still the only major Han Chinese population in the world where, from a Christian perspective, a significant spiritual breakthrough has never occurred.

Chinese Religion 60.74%;  Buddhist 28.8%; Christian 5.82%; Non-religious 2.31%; Other 2% +  (O.W.)

Prayer:  We pray for wisdom for Taiwan’s leaders, to continue to negotiate peaceful relationships with mainland China. We pray for corruption to decrease and a love of honesty, and of the truth to arise. We pray for the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and of God’s love for the people of Taiwan to be made known, through the ministry of the Christian churches. In particular we pray that the Christian people would become known as trustworthy, and a new open-ness to listen to the good news of Jesus would occur. We pray for the training of more Pastors to occur, and for the 33 seminaries and Bible schools to have a renewed energy, vision and enabling by the Spirit of God, in this matter. We pray for the Christian youth and university students to be given a deep desire to take up this call. We pray for missionaries to hear the call to this place, as the doors are wide open for full time work to take place here.  We give thanks for the joyful hope that Christ has already brought to Taiwanese people, and ask that it may occur more and more.

 





China: Provinces &…

12 08 2013

“Nearly all of China’s provinces are large enough in size and population to serve as countries in their own right. If taken individually 11 of them would be among the 25 most populous countries in the world. Specific prayer is warranted.” (Operation World)

China classifies their country into 55 official “nationalities”, but there are really over 500 ethno-linguistic groups.

Provinces & Municipalities:

Anhui Province (Capital: Hefei)

Beijing Municipality

Chongquing Municipality

Fujian Province

Gansu Province

Guangdong Province

Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region

Guizhou Province

Hainan Province

Hebei Province

Heilongjiang Province

Henan Province

Hubei Province

Hunan Province

Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (Nei Mongol)

Jiangsu Province

Jiangxi Province

Jilin Province (Capital: Chang-chun 3.6million)

Liaoning Province (Capital: Shenyang 5.2 million)

Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region  

Qinghai Province

Shaanxi Province

Shandong Province (Capital: Jinan 3.2 million)

Shanghai Municipality

Shanxi Province (Capital: Taiyuan 3.2 million)

Sichuan Province

Tianjin Municipality (Capital: )

Tibet—Xizang Autonomous Region

Xinjian Uyghur Autonomous Region

Yunnan Province (Capital: Kunming 3.1million)

Zhejiang Province (Capital: Hangzhou 3.9 million)

this post is also a work in progress…..





China

12 08 2013

Population:  1,350 million (or 1.3 billion people)  

                           [Good News* …..possibly 130,000 Christians]

Capital: Beijing (Peking): 13 million

DSC04500.JPG Trevor@Tiananman*Other huge Cities: Shanghai   16.6 million, Chongqing   9.4 million, Tianjin   7.9 million

Life Expectancy: 72.9 years

Church in China: “God has protected and grown the Church in China on a scale unforeseen by anyone a few decades ago” (Operation World).

A Outline of the Dynasties/Republics:

Ancient Times XDynasty 2100 -1600 BC
Shang Dynasty 1600-1027 BC
Zhou Dynasty Western Zhou 1046-771 BC
Eastern Zhou 771-221 BC
Qin Dynasty 221-206 B.C.
Han Dynasty (Confucianism revived) Western Han [Silk Road opens] 206 BC – AD 25
Eastern Han  [Paper invented] 25-220
Three Kingdoms Wei 220-265
Shu Han 221-263
Wu 222-280
Western Jin Dynasty 265-317
Eastern Jin Dynasty 317-420
Southern Dynasties Song 420-479
Qi 479-502
Liang 502-557
Chen 557-589
Northern Dynasties Northern Wei 386-534
Eastern Wei 534-550
Northern Qi 550-577
Western Wei 535-556
Northern Zhou 557-581
Sui Dynasty 581-618
Tang Dynasty 618-907
“Five Dynasties” Later Liang 907-923
Later Tang 923-936
Later Jin 936-947
Later Han 947-950
Later Zhou 951-960
Song Dynasty Northern Song 960-1127
Southern Song 1127-1279
Liao Dynasty 907-1125
Jin Dynasty 1115-1234
Yuan Dynasty              [1271-1292 Marco Polo’s journey] 1279-1368
Ming Dynasty 1368-1644
Qing Dynasty 1616-1911
RC – Republic of China (Sun-Yat-sen & Chiang Kai-shek) 1911-1949          (CKS fled to Taiwan)
PRC – People’s Republic of China 1949-2013 (today)* [Mao’s Cultural Revolution 1966-1976]

Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976): Chairman Mao Zedong caused great suffering for the Chinese people, when he implemented his Cultural Revolution. It is estimated that about 20 million lost their lives during that period of harsh and repressive rule. Strict Control over religious groups, by government was instigated under the Communist Regime.

Religious Groups Officially recognised and strictly controlled:

1. Buddhism

2. Daoism

3. Islam

4. Protestant (TSPM – Three Self Patriotic Movement)

5. Catholic (CPA) – Catholic Patriotic Association

However – The unofficial Christian House Church Movement has been amazing.“The state recently recognized that there are over 300 million religious believers and over 50 million Christians in unregistered networks” (OM, p. 215)  The massive growth of the Christian Church here in China is unprecedented in human history.

Prayer Points:

A. Thankfulness for (1) the survival and growth of the church (2) The faith and commitment of Christians (3) Christians are now found in every stratum of Chinese society (4) Christians are engaging in social issues (5) the government has a changing attitude towards the church (6) There have been many welcome changes (7) There’s a growing unity within the Church (8) Local hearts have Missionary vision way beyond China itself (see the ‘Back to Israel’ movement) (9) The Media has wonderful publishing opportunities for Scripture within China.

B. Petitions for (1) Wise use of the window of opportunity for spiritual receptivity (2) China’s rising prominence in the world stage (3) China remains officially atheist, (4) Massive powers and forces at work within Chinese society, some not assisting the gospel, such as restriction of information, corruption and scandal, urbanization, ethnic unrest and political and economic reforms, (5) Challenges in Population Growth(6) Social and health needs (7) A looming environmental crisis.

Pray for the Church in China to grow and flourish and influence the nation for blessing and good, as yeast in flour for baking.

Pray for the links with Chinese Christian students in overseas countries to be part of that leavening effect.

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” (Mt 13:33 )

Provinces & Municipalities Have had a Varied Response to the Gospel:

Anhui Province:      Capital – Hefei (approximately 9 million house Christians; 16.2% Christian (2nd largest after Henan)

Beijing Municipality: CHINA’S Capital (4.5% Christian)

Chongqing Municipality: Christian 9.8% 

Fujian Province: Capital – Fuzhou

Gansu Province: Capital – Lanzhou

Guangdong Province: Capital Guangzhou (Canton) 8,9 million, Christian 4.5%

Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region: Capital – Nanning

Guizhou Province: Capital – Guiyang

Hainan Province: Capital – Haikou (A tropical island facing Vietnam, the southernmost and smallest province, tourist haven)

Hebei Province: Capital – Shijiazhuang

Heilongjiang Province: Capital – Harbin 4.3m  (China’s most northerly Province)

Henan Province: Capital – Zhengzhou, Christian 18.3%

Hubei Province: Capital – Wuhan (Astride the Yangtze River; Wuhan known for education)

Hunan Province: Capital – Changsha

Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (Nei Mongol): Capital – Hohhat

Jiangsu ProvinceCapital – Nanjing, Christian 9.2%

Jiangxi Province: Capital – Nanchang

Jilin Province: Capital – Chang-chun

Liaoning Province: Capital – Shenyang

Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region: Muslim 34%, Christian 4.0%

Qinghai Province: Capital – Xining

Shaanxi Province: Capital – Xian (The Ancient Capital)

Shandong Province: Capital – Jinan (3.2 million), Christian 5.1%

Shanghai Municipality: China’s largest and wealthiest city (after Hong Kong), Population19.5 million

Shanxi Province: Capital – Taiyuan

Sichuan Province: Capital – Chengdu   (the Panda Province)

Tianjin Municipality: The Port City of Beijing

Tibet – Xizang Autonomous Region: Capital – Lhasa, Lamaistic Buddhist 80%

Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region:  Muslim 61.4%  Christian 4.1% Lamaistic Buddhist 1.4%

Yunnan Province: Capital – Kunming (3.1 million), in a Province of 46 million, Christian 7.2%

Zhejiang Province: Capital – Hangzhou, Christian 19.5%

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Chad

18 07 2013

11.7 million people

African: ‘desert in the north, dry grassland in the centre, thick bush in the south’.

Capital: N’djamena

People: Complex mixture of 150 or more ‘peoples’.

Official Languages: French (for the elite), Arabic, and 133 Other languages

Economy: 80% in subsistence farming. 80% below poverty line. Corruption is rife.

Politics: Independent from France in 1960. Since then, violence, insurgencies and coups. Conflict in neighbouring Darfur saw 400,000 refugees spill across the border. One tribe, the Zaghawa, dominates the government. Much spent on military hardware.

Religion: Muslim 52.84%   Christian 38.46%  Ethnoreligionist 7.7%  Other 1%

Freedom of religion. So far. This is unusual, but a truly secular approach functions.

Notes:  The number of Muslims seeking to know more of Christ continues to grow. Many unreached peoples are being reached for the first time with the gospel. Those disillusioned with Islam, especially from Darfur, are particularly open to news of the God of hope, in Jesus Christ. Many appreciate the loving, welcoming ministry of Christians.

Prayer Point: The need for a stable and just government is great – Lord have mercy. As Islam grows in ascendency, then the problem with viewing Christians as inferior, is a growing reality. We pray for Christians to have wise leadership, and a fair hearing from government. We pray that the old traditional religions with all their spiritual fears, may be overcome by the work of the Holy Spirit and good news of a Sovereign, true Lord. We pray that tribalism will not cripple congregations of faith, hope and love. We also pray for the training of leaders, to take place amidst such poverty that so many experience.

Also: “There are more unreached peoples in Chad than in any other African country” (Operation World, p. 208)

May the missionary work continue to bring blessing and growth in the gospel, particularly to young people. May the Chad missionaries have good success in their Bible translation work.

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Central African Republic

15 07 2013

République Centrafricaine

‘A landlocked state in Africa’s geographical centre. Variation from tropical forest in the southwest to semi-desert in the northeast’ (Operation World, p. 201   NOTE: …much of this article is indeed taken direct from the Operation World book).

Capital: Bangui

Population: 4.6 million

Peoples: About 80 ethnic groups – and complexity.

(1) Adamawa-Ubangi 78.7% with about 35 ethnic groupings. Largest Gbaya 27.8%, Banda 21.9%, Mandja 9.5%, Mboum 6.0%, Yakoma 5.5%, Bokoto 3.6%

(2) Sudanic 6.2% 12 groups on the northern border. Zande 3.0%, Banda-Dukpu 2.7%

(3) Bantu 3.0%, 10 groups in southwest.

(4) Fulbe 3.6% Bagirme Fulbe 2.4%, Mbororo 1.0%

(5) Sara-Bagirmi 4.9%, Kaba 2.0%, 10 other groups.

(6) Arab 2.8% Nomadic Shuwa Arabs 2.2%

(7) Pygmy 0.3% Five groups mainly in the southwest forests.

(8) Other 0.5% Caucasians and groups dispersed from neighbouring countries.

Literacy 48.6%  Official language French and Sango (trade language used by most of the population).

All Languages 82   Indigenous languages 71     Languages with Scriptures 5Bi 8NT 10por 9w.i.p.

Economy: Rich in natural and mineral resources, but underdeveloped infrastructure and landlocked status limit income. Diamonds account for 55% of exportsConflict in neighbouring countries and within Central Africa Republic (CAR) has undermined any potential to exploit the nation’s resources. Farmers account for most of the working population. Health facilities are limited. There is a massive economic gulf between the richer capital and the poorer hinterlands.

Public Debt 96% of GDP.  Income/person $459 per annum (1% of USA)

Politics: Independent in 1960, the nation has thus far not utilized her freedom.  Periods of democracy have been interspersed with military regimes and Bokassa’s “Empire”, 1976-1979. The current president came to power through a coup in 2003 and was then fairly elected in 2005.  Constant rebellions and military coups slow progress.  Already-poor infrastructure is further damaged by frequent conflict; rebel groups constantly appear and upheavals in surrounding countries make the rebuilding task a difficult one for a government already beset by the traditional challenges of tribalism, nepotism and corruption. The many rebel factions in the north are being monitored through the UN presence but the east is unstable due to the presence of the LRA which has spilled over from Uganda and Sudan.

Religion: Freedom.

Christian 76.37%  Muslim  13.8%  Ethnoreligionist 8.6%  Non-religious 0.92%  Baha’i  0.31%

Points of Thanksgiving:

1. Solid Foundations are laid for developing a national-level strategy for mission and evangelism that spans denominational and organizational lines. The potential for massive church growth and consolidation exists; there is a growing interest among the churches for evangelism to unreached people groups.

2. Praise God that the national Church is emerging as a vehicle for witness and service.  National missionaries and agencies are on the increase, and indigenous-led ministries are springing up.  Bible translation work in mother tongues and literacy in the churches are progressing as well.

Prayer Points:

1. The physical human needs are immense. Pray for

(i) peace and stability, (ii) the economy to grow due to wise use of resources, (iii) unemployed people who desperately need work, ask the Lord, for opportunities to emerge through business people who can help transform the nation,  (iv) health improvement in relation to HIV/AIDS, diseases from malnourishment, clean water availability, hygiene and poverty.

2. Widespread Evangelism was not followed up with discipleship, and this lead to nominalism and syncretism,  and denominational rifts, and wrong priorities, such as lack of honestly and and moral integrity.

3. The unity of the church. Need to incorporate the new and independent churches into the acceptable category.

4. Leadership Development: 15 Bible Schools need staff and students and funds. Womens’ Ministry need further encouragement.

5. Young People and Children: Almost half the population are under 15, but too few churches are discipling the next generations.

6. Bible Translation. Only two indigenous languages have a fully translated Bible: Sango and Zande.

7. The Less reached: pray for people in the dangerous northern lobe, for Muslims, for people in the forest areas.

8. Mission Agencies: Pray for greater partnerships, joint vision, and new church planting movement initiatives.

9. Christian media and help ministries: Pray for proper coordination of radio, literature, the Jesus film, recordings and the work of the Haggai Institute, Operatiion Africa, and others reaching out to the business community and academic elite.

C.A.R. (Africa)

C.A.R. (Africa)

images Central African Republic





Cameroon

18 04 2013

Capital: Yaounde 1.8 million.  Total Population in Cameroon 20 million.

Geography: On the continental ‘hinge’ between West and Central Africa. Semi-arid in the north, grasslands in the centre, rainforest in the south.

Cameroon

286 “Peoples” – 52% Bantu: “One of Africa’s most ethnically and linguistically complex countries” (Operation World, p. 189)

Economy: Agriculture, oil exports. Lots of rain and minerals. High unemployment, high debt level, high corruption. Even so, they have a high literacy rate for an African country.

Politics: A German colony from 1884—1919, then divided between Britain and France. Independence 1960.

Religion: Secular state that guarantees religious freedom. Islam is strong in the north, especially among the Fulbe, and interfaith tensions have increased over recent decades, especially with the increased profile of more radical Islam.

Christian 53.8%     Muslim 26%     Ethnoreligionist  19%

Prayer Points:

1. ANSWERS – give thanks for

(i) the growth of evangelicals since 2000 despite the decrease in high-profile campaigns [or because of that decrease, perhaps?   …just sayin’];

(ii) many significant leaders – professional, military, police and political – have been converted to Christ, giving hope for changing a society infamous for corruption – even regular prayer meetings are taking place when parliament is in session.

(iii) Media use for evangelism has increased, building upon the legalisation in 2000 of Christian private radio and TV broadcasting (according to OW, p. 190)

2. That Cameroon internal forces may be overcome: (i) Corruption is deeply entrenched and widespread; (ii) has deep division of language, politics and faith [religion] – a recipe for trouble, but something the gospel and its message of The Reconciler, is perfectly “designed” to overcome; (iii) integrity in leadership – pray for examples, a few more and a few more people to speak up and act truly in righteousness, rather than perpetuating the ‘status quo’.

3. The Spiritual Poverty of the Churches is a great tragedy. Nominal Christianity is a bigger problem in Cameroon than in most of Africa.  

Dear Lord Jesus, may your Presence stir afresh an awareness of the power of your Lordship to bring lasting light and helping hope and practical peace wherever your love is made known, and lived in, and prayed for – to spread.

4. Pray For more co-operation between the many African and Western Evangelicals and Pentecostal Groups.

5. For Quality Leadership and Discipleship Training among the shallowness of many churches.

6. Pray For a Growing Sense of the Church’s Mission

7. Young People are frustrated by the unchanging political status quo, high unemployment, cheating and bribery and favouritism. We pray that in this climate the young people will have the strength and vision of Christ and REFUSE to turn to crime, prostitution and violence as their way ahead. We pray for the Student Ministry movements to be effective and for schools and universities to lay a foundation thereby, for a fruitful future.

8. Pray for Less Reached People Groups: Muslims are a majority in 59 people groups. Also the many peoples among the Mandara Mountains need to hear the Word, as some breakthroughs are occurring. The Baka/Pygmies in the southeastern forests – are being reached at last, pray for a hearing amidst their animist ways. The northern plans people are being pressured by Islam – pray for inroads of freedom in the gospel to be a truly appealing contrast.

9. A missionary growth of interest and of contributors to the great task of Bible Translation and mobilisation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





Cambodia

9 04 2013

A fertile forest-covered Asian nation of 16 million people, on the Mekong River – and bordered by Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.

Sadly, whenever Cambodia is mentioned, many immediately recall images of the brutal leader, Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge and ‘The Killing Fields’.

However, this – like all nations – is an amazing place, with a history of survival from deep suffering, poverty, corruption and difficulty.

Cambodia

Cambodia

  Capital: Phnom Penh – 2 million people

images-2

Cambodia 2

Operation World says: “One of the world’s poorest countries and heavily dependent on foreign aid. Years of war and genocide followed by venal and corrupt governments have hindered development and kept most of the population poor; 38% live below the poverty line. Significant progress is being made in economic development, but the rural poor are being left behind. Agriculture, garments and tourism are the biggest earners, with offshore oil/gas deposits promising future income. Illegal logging and the sex trade enriches a small number of wickd men, but causes suffering to many.”   [* Public debt is 63% of GDP]

images-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Religion:

Buddhist 83.34%   (12.5 million)

Ethnoreligionist 4.8%

Christian 3.13%   (471, 162)

Chinese 2.85%

Muslim 2.3%

Other 0.26%

Hindu 0.22%

“Buddhism has been the national religion since the 15th Century.  The Khmer Rouge sought to eradicate all religions; 90% of Buddhist monks and most Christians perished. Since 1979 there have been periods of more tolerance, and since 1990 Christians have been allowed to worship openly, but a few limitations on mission activity have been legislated as well” (OM. p. 185)

Christian Churches: (interesting the great strength of the Pentecostal/Charismatic brands)

Foursquare Gospel Church (“the biggest!” at 62,000 and 135,000 affiliates – wow);

Others, include Catholic Church, River of Life, Assemblies of God, Methodist, Baptist, Khmer Evangelical church,Seventh Day Adventist, Harvest-time Ministries, New Life Fellowship, Cambodia for Christ.

Prayer Points:

1. Give thanks for the unprecedented – and unexpected – church growth over the last 20 years.

2. Pray for healing of hearts and lives:

“the scars of the terrible genocide of 1975-1979 remain evident.  Nearly two million were killed over 60,000 lost life or limb to landmines and most of the population over age 30 need deep healing from the trauma of their losses and suffering”.

Pray for Justice to be seen to be done; International tribunals are having difficulty in bringing government and judiciary on board with the justice process, and the culture of corruption and impunity holds sway. The Khmer Rouge trials should assist greatly.

3. Spiritual Darkness persists – ubiquitous ‘spirit-shrines, Buddhist opposition to any ideological rival, moral collapse, structural-sin, pray for light. Jesus said: “I am the Light of the World”.

4. Pray for a break in structural-sin seen in bad patterns of (i) Land Grabbing, (ii) Child labour, sex trade victims (100,000) – 20% of tourists exploit this trade, homeless children and orphans, HIV, (iii) drug trafficking and drug abuse has increased greatly – not good for any future in any nation, but especially here.

5. Give thanks for the triumph of Christ and His Church in Cambodia. It has ‘survived against all odds’. As Jesus said, ‘I will build  my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it’. CMA missionary workers laboured for 47 years, from 1923 until they saw a breakthrough. Then the Church was nearly extinguished through the slaughter of the 1970’s. During the 1990’s however, churches spread well to all 19 provinces. And so we pray for continued freedom of religion, freedom from the past’s terrible sin and hatred, for children and young people to be discipled to follow Jesus and know the power of his love to heal and re-establish a nation, for a great vision to be realised where the 11,000 villages without a church may have one established.

6. For Mature Leadership for the churches – this is the greatest challenge. For Bible schools, existing Pastors, Unity among churches, foreign Christian workers t come and help.

7. Christian ministry to physical needs is a major concern. Murder of the educated and those with skills, makes expatriate input essential. ‘Rehabilitation, orphanages, reconstruction, health care, projects for agriculture, fisheries, water management, education are all areas that can benefit. But not merely making ‘rice Christians’ with handouts! This is resented by the Buddhists. 

8. Prayer for the less-reached peoples, among the Buddhist majority, the Cham – almost entirely Muslim, Fojihed Muslims – with magic and superstition, the tribal peoples – 18 major southeast Asian people groups remain ignorant of hearing the gospel, ask for new witnesses to go.

9. Literature, the JESUS film, Audio, Video and radio resources all are appreciated – pray for their success in reaching Cambodians, with the living Word of the Living Christ Jesus. Praise the Lord for what we see happening in this nation, and pray for a greater awakening.





Burundi

3 04 2013

Situated south of its ‘twin’ Rwanda, it is a mountainous, fertile country on the northeast shore of Lake Tanganyika.

Burundi-Map

Capital: Bujumbura has 480,000 people, and is the major city, in this African nation.  Burundi has the second highest population density in Africa.

Life expectancy is 50.1 years and some 38% of the population are under 15 years of age.

Language: They are a Kirundi-speaking people (98%), with the split like this: Hutu 83.6% and Tutsi 13.6%, and the Twa Pygmies 1% are neglected by the other groups. Also some others, small percentages: Congolese, Lingala, Arab, French (an official language); also English usage is widespread.

Freedom of Religion.

Christian                         90.46%

Muslim                                5.5%

Ethnoreligionist               3.8 %

Baha’i                                  0.08%

Economy:   ‘Landlocked and overcoming decades of conflict’ (OM, p. 181), Burundi is in a lot of debt and as such, is heavily dependent on outside aid.

Exports: Tea and Coffee, Mineral Resources – largely unexplored. Soil erosion is a major problem, due to over-crowding. A very poor nation.

Recent History:  For 400 years the minority Tutsi’s had Lordship over the majority Hutu people. Independence from Belgium cam in 1962, and the Tutsi constitutional monarchy was replaced by a military Tutsi regime.  Burundi has had an appalling human rights record, but peaceful democratic elections in recent years (2005, 2010) have helped to establish better community relationships.

Prayer Points:

1. The socio-political situation is one of cautious hope, amid a fragile peace.  A violent eruption claimed 300,000 lives in the 1990’s.

2. The President is a former leader of a rebel Hutu group. He is a Christian man. Pray for him to give wise leadership.

3. There is a surplus of firearms – leading to crimes of armed robbery.

4. There is a lot of corruption. Pray for the gospel to bring lasting change in hearts and activities.

5. The Church had experienced great revival in the 1950’s, and is recognised as the crucial institution for reconciliation.

6. Leadership in the churches is in short supply. Pray for the Bible schools and Christian universities, and Modular training programmes.

7. The Twa Pygmies are socially marginalized, and their health and educational prospects are grim; but there are Christians among them. Pray for their future.

8. The Burundian Refugee population. “Over 12% of all Burundians were displaced by genocide, many for more than 5 years (Tanzania). For restoration.

9. Most Christians have no idea how to minister to the rapidly growing Islamic population. Pray for new outreach to Muslim peoples.

10. Children. Over half a million children have lost at least one parent. Malaria and AIDS are also problematic. Violence is common. School is needed for all. Pray for ministries to children by the NGO’s and other groups to be established and growing.

11. There is a genuine need for expatriate Christian workers to return, after all were expelled from the nation.

12. Christian media. There is a great shortfall of bibles and Christian literature. Illiteracy is 58% among adults.

Dear Lord Jesus, Risen from the grave, please draw people to yourself in Burundi, and give the Churches fresh leadership and renewed vision for the deep work of reconciliation. May this take place not merely politically, but in the heart of this people. We pray for reconciliation in the Cross of Christ, to be understood to be unto their One Heavenly Father, One Lord, One Spirit, One Faith, One Hope, One Future –  and may they all be baptised into a new unity in sharing life and building up the nation. Help them Lord to tap into their mineral wealth, and not to be exploited. We pray for forgiveness to be known between Hutu and Tutsi people, and love to grow for the Twa Pygmies. 





Burkina Faso

26 03 2013

A land-locked African country of 17 million people. One of the world’s poorest countries.

Capital: Ouagadougou 1.9 million.

Water-carryingBurkina Faso

Cotton is the main cash crop. About 90% of the population rely on subsistence agriculture, which is vulnerable to drought. Can you imagine?

Gold and other mineral resources are in the land, and signal possibilities of increased wealth.

High national debt and low levels of education make progress difficult.

Political History, Briefly: Independent of France in 1960, but with 6 coups since 1966, with ‘the military’ in power often; multiparty democracy has been introduced.

Religion: Muslim 52.2%;  Ethnoreligious 26.44%;  Christian 20.69%;  Non-religious 0.65%;  Baha’i 0.02%

Churches:

  • Roman Catholic                                1.08 million;
  • Assemblies Of God                           611,732
  • CMA                                                      28,200
  • Evangelical Church Association  25,926
  • Reformed                                              10,825
  • Apostolic Church                               12,500
  • Baptist … and others…. less

The increase of Christianity, particularly evangelicals over recent decades has been very promising.  The AoG have a strong missionary vision, and many have been converts from Muslim backgrounds.

Prayer Points:

1. Poverty: pray for Aid, development and micro-finance and micro-enterprise that will actually life the people out of poverty rather than create further dependence. Pray against corruption in the government and the aid industry that siphons resources away from the people most in need of it; pray for creative solutions to this longstanding problem.

2. The many Burkinabe’ – (information from OW) “…who emerge for work. An estimated three million Burkinabe’ worked in Cote d’Ivoire before violence broke out there in 2002. Large numbers fled back to Burkina Faso, but are now returning to Cote d’Ivoire. As many as 70% of these emigre’s convert to Islam while away from home. Burkina churches are taking up the challenge by sending pastors and missionaries to reach these Burkinabe abroad, especially AoG, CMA and WEC, but more are needed.

3. Rapid Urbanisation continues as subsistence agriculture and traditional rural life proves inadequate to support families or to keep young people occupied.

4. The spirit world is very real in Burkina Faso, where as the saying goes: ‘the population is 50% Muslim, 20% Christian and 100% animist’. The power of the occult needs to be decisively challenged and broken, to see that Jesus Christ is Lord. “Few countries in West Africa are more dominated by idolatry, fetishism and secret societies. Even in churches, occult power is wielded, hampering and polluting the message of Christ” (OM).

5. The evangelical churches need leadership and unity.

6. The unreached include 27 people groups (nations). 17 of these are Muslim. The challenges are huge … (see page 179 Operation World). 

7. Missionaries and a strong Mission Vision.

8. Christian Aid and Relief – adds credibility to the message of Christ, in significant ways here.

9. Young People: Street kids are increasingly common. Student ministry, and educational ministry, is crucial to reach many too.

10. Bible Translation: help!

11. Media Ministries. Pray for the fruitfulness of the Radio broadcasting of the gospel into remote areas.





British Virgin Islands

15 02 2013

A most beautiful place in the Caribbean. And a tax haven. Temperatures of 32 degree maximum in summer, and 29 degrees in winter, with this tropical climate moderated by the Trade Winds. With a 45.3 inch annual rainfall, there is also a hurricane season.

There are 15 inhabited islands, amidst an archipelago totalling 60 coralline and volcanic islands. They are the most northeastern of the Leeward Islands.

People: A high percentage were foreign born, 88.8% African Caribbean, 6.9% Euro-American, 3.1% East Indian, and English is the official language.

Economy: Tourism and offshore finance dominate the economy. Over 550,000 companies are registered here, with all the consequent implications of being a tax haven.

Population:   27, 000

Capital:       Road Town  9,600 people.

File:Roadtown,_Tortola

Road Town is situated on by far the largest island, Tortola (20km x 5km).

History: In 1672 the English captured Tortola  Island from the Dutch.

Religion: There is freedom.

Christian            84.94%

Other                    7.29

Non-Religion        5.3%

Muslim               0.88%

Largest Christian Church: Methodist – 2,865 members [5,500 Affiliates]

Other Churches: Anglican, Seventh Day Adventist, Church of the Nazarene, Catholic, Baptist, Others…

Motto: “Where there is no vision, the people will perish”.

In this ‘Paradise’ [as in all of them in this world], there is corruption, and there is crime. Interestingly most of the population profess to be Christian, and church attendance is high. However, apparently ‘the fruit of faith is not evident‘ (OW, p. 171).

Prayer: That Christian lifestyles would be consistent with the confession of faith, that a move of the Holy Spirit may awaken people to give thanks and praise to God for such a blessed home, and for the gift of eternal life, and hope of redemption for all creation, and to pray for the mercy of God’s love in Jesus Christ to reach a needy world.

 





Brazil

5 02 2013

 

 

 

Rio - Brazil

 

This statue of “Christ the Redeemer” overlooks the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, in South America.

Capital: Brasilia 3.9 million.

Other Huge Cities: Sao Paulo 20.3 million; Rio de Janeiro 12m, Belo Horizonte 5. 9m, Porto Alegre 4.1m, Salvador 3.9m

Brazil (to my surprise) is the world’s 5th largest country in both area and population. We do not hear much of Brazil in Australia. Perhaps that is because the official Language is Portugese, and we are just quite unfamiliar with it.

The Operation World Prayer Guide says: “Brazil is a melting pot of nations, with much intermarriage and blending of the many immigrant ethnicities. Most Brazilians have at least some mixed ethnic heritage”.

Peoples:

1. European 50.2% including world’s largest diaspora of Portugese, Italian and Spanish people. 2nd largest German dispersion.

2. Mixed Race 38% Mestizo and Mulatto.

3. African 6.4%

4. Asian 5.6%

5. Amerindian 0.41%  275 indigenous tribal groups speaking 185 different languages. Wow!

Economy

Vast natural resources and a huge labour force combine to produce an emerging superpower, especially in agriculture.  A major challenge will be to increase agricultural space without wrecking the precious Amazon and Pantanal ecosystems. 

Religion: Freedom. Large Catholic bias. Christian 91.4%. Ethno-religionist 5.4%. Non-religious 2.24%. Muslim 0.29%. Other…

Answer to Prayer: The sustained increase of evangelicos (from 2 million in 1960 to 512 million in 2010). Wow!  Brazil is one of the largest evangelical populations in the world, with a massive missionary Movement. They have large scale events celebrating Jesus!

Challenges to Prayer: Corruption, Poverty, Crime Racial problems, Catholicism in crisis – a desperate shortage of Priests.

Liberation Theology, Prosperity Theology, Theological Disagreement, 4,000 distinct Evangelical Groups:

The problems and prayer-points and diversity of fruitfulness, need and mixture of all sorts of dynamics make this place most difficult to assess. Except to say that the Christian faith is alive and well, and the church is making a significant impact on the society.

Interesting note: “Brazil’s most widely sold books are about magic, the occult and psycho-graphed (dictated by the dead) books. Evangelicals are not avid consumers of Christian books, despite there being many Christian publishing houses. Pray for more Christian books that will resonate with the Brazilian mentality to both disciple Christians and challenge non-Christians” (OW, p. 168-169).

Internet: “This is an increasingly vital part of effective young people’s ministry in particular.”

Happy Days Brazil. I would love to visit!

Ah South America!

Ah South America!

 

 

 





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.





Bolivia

11 12 2012

Bolivia is a land-locked Latin American country. And what a history it has. Prior to European Colonization the Andean region of Bolivia was a part of the Inca Empire.  The conquistadors took control of the region in the 16th century. During the Spanish colonial period it was known as ‘Upper Peru’.

(Peru is to the West, then the sea… while Chile is southwest, and Brazil to the north. Paraguay and Argentina are to the south).

Bolivia

Independence from Spain came in 1825. But. Over 200 successful coups or revolutions have retarded genuine progress.

“Once South America’s richest area, but corrupt, unstable governments, the fall in silver, tin and cotton prices on international markets and a poor infrastructure render it the continent’s poorest nation”.

Population: 10 million. Of these, 9.1 million identify as Christian (7.7 million Catholic).

The Roman Catholic Church remains the official State religion—and that is a problem, in so far as the other groups experience discrimination.

“Pray that the millions of nominal and Christo-pagan Catholics might come to a living faith in Christ”. (OW)

Leadership Training is a desperate need. Evangelical Christians are praying the nation may grow to consist of 30% Christian.

CapitalLa Paz (administrative) 1,673,401; Sucre (legal) 288,000, Other major city: Santa Cruz 1.7 million.

 





Benin

31 10 2012
  • Witch doctors.
  • Voodoo.
  • Animism.
  • People-smuggling.
  • Black market.
  • Corruption.
  • Syncretism.

Consider Benin. A republic in Africa of only 9.3 million people, situated between Togo and Nigeria. It is a nation with complete freedom of religion. It became Independent from France in 1960. “After seven coups and one Marxist regime, a democracy was formed in 1991. The government has since remained stable and witnessed a smooth transition via elections from the previous president to its current one.

This is one of the world’s poorest countries. Agriculture is key to the economy, but the movement is towards rapid urbanisation. It trades heavily with neighbour Nigeria. Cotton accounts for half of the GDP. Income per person is $828.

Christians with a heart for mission and language translation, please note: this is probably the least evangelised non-Muslim country in Africa, with many unreached peoples. Pray for ministry of the knowledge of Jesus Christ and his resurrection power at work in the world, to reach:

1. The Fon – voodoo still permeates their lives.

2. The Gbe – includes 19 southern peoples from the Kwa/Guinean grouping.

3. The Ede Nago – located on the southern border with Nigeria – no Scripture in their tongue.

4. Muslim peoples – in the far northern prt of the nation,

5. The Fulbe (Fula) – several thousand came to Christ through Western (SIM, AoG) and indigenous ministries.

6. The 1.3 million urbanites of the cities of Porto-Novo (Capital), Cotonou and Parakou.

So, much to consider, hey?

  • Responsiveness to the gospel is high in many places.
  • More workers are absolutely vital.
  • Bible Translation remains a pressing need: Nearly half of Benin’s languages are without a Bible or even a NT.
  • Media opportunities abound: Radio, TV, the JESUS film, audio recordings on CD and MP3.

The country is a long narrow piece of land. The official language is French.

Religious make-up:

  • Christian                   40%
  • Ethno-religionist    36%
  • Muslim                      23%
  • Other                            1%





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.





Bahrain

15 09 2012

So you’ve heard the name, but not sure of where it is actually located…or much else?

Bahrain is situated in the Arabian Gulf between the Qatar Peninsula and Saudi Arabia.

It is a group of one larger and 32 smaller barren islands, and is linked to the Saudi Arabia Peninsula by a causeway. The King Fahad Causeway was opened in November 1986, and has since been used by millions of passengers and vehicles.

Wow!

The make-up of the population is most interesting: Arab 50%, Iranian 15%, Bahraini Farsi 10%, South Asian 15% (Indian, Malayi, Tamil, Telugu, Pakastani), East Asian 7% (Chinese, Korean, Filipino), European 1.5%, Other 1.5%.

What about faith? Muslim 83% and 9.8% Christian, Hindu 6%. Proselytizing Muslims is illegal. Expatriate Christians are very free to worship together in churches; practitioners of other faiths are free to do the same. With limited compounds though, dozens of congregations mus share the same building.

“Bahrain enjoys greater freedom than almost all Gulf countries and therefore is spiritually strategic. With greater freedoms, the accompanying vices are becoming problems. Many Saudis and Kuwaitis visit here to enjoy the more relaxed environment. Pray for them to meet Christians and encounter the gospel. Pray for the king as he leads the nation forward”  (Operation World, p. 130).

Christian Ministry: For over a century the American Mission Hospital has been well known and highly regarded. Pray that this may continue and that there may be fruit from the tactful witness of believers.

Local Believers: Praise God fo them, and pray that their testimony to fellow Arabs will flourish.

Among the large expatriate community: pray for courage and wisdom to share their knowledge of the Risen Jesus, and his Lordship over death, hell sin and evil, for all humanity—the New Humanity in him! Education there opens many opportunities. Pray for the teachers, and their testimony to the Living Christ.

The labour force is 59% foreign, drawn from more than 50 nations. Wow! They are however, often treated poorly, and there are great expectations from their family at home in poor circumstances.  Pray that within these groups, many will be drawn into contact with Jesus Christ.

Media ministries: High speed internet gives access to Christians across the globe, through chat, and all kinds of Christian resources.  Christian literature is available in Manama. The Bible Society works to make Scripture available in Arabic, and other languages. Christian TV and radio is accessible via satellite broadcast; so inquiry about Jesus can be made anonymously. What a fascinating place.

May the Living, Risen, Ascended Jesus, Lord of all, Son of Man, Son of God, friend of sinners, and crucified Saviour of the World, speak and minister to many hearts in Bahrain, of the hope, grace, mercy, peace and joy, that lies in knowing him.  Come Spirit of God, the Holy One. Come, Spirit of Jesus the Son, Spirit of the Father, and speak to the spirits of those who live and work in Bahrain.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CM9bpL6VkxU





Bahamas

15 09 2012

“Holidaying in the Bahamas” has become a popular saying, that rolls off the tongue. But since there are more important things in life, for the people of the Bahamas—indeed for us all—then some other aspects of life in the Bahamas need to be considered, for this archipelago of 700 coral islands between Florida and Cuba. For, 40 of them are inhabited by human beings, for whom Jesus, the Christ, laid down his life.

For the 345,736 residents some 80% are African Caribbean, 11% European and then there are others. Of these people some 94% identify themselves as Christian. And we thank God for the strong Christian legacy and the public faith of many political leaders, praying afresh for the unifying work of the Bahamas Christian Council, and we are thankful for the increasing influence of the National Day of Prayer.

The four major challenges for prayer are:

1. Materialism: this has been stimulated as we may expect, by Tourism. Displays of foreign wealth of staggering proportions, tax shelters and ostentatious living, has affected general public morality, and outworks itself in violent crime, drug us and armed robberies.

2. Christian commitment is low. Congregations lack adequate pastoral care, and lack many eager participants in the Lord’s work—his mission of grace, and needful judgment, to the world.

3. The younger generation need to be reached with good news, and integrated into the larger body of Christ.

4. The growing Haitian diaspora—a needy group—are resented by the Bahamians.

This little blog article simply highlights the prayer needs of the world, according to the magnificent book serving the Christian church, entitled ‘Operation World’, edited by Jason Mandryk. 





Azerbaijan

6 09 2012

Azerbaijan: 87% Muslim, 2.75% Christian. (Others include Non-religious, Jewish and Baha’i). Population: 9 million people. Unfortunately, Christianity retains an unhealthy association with Russian Imperialism, Armenian enmity and Western neo-colonialism.

Most Azerbaijani towns and villages have never been reached with the gospel at all.

They do not know of the resurrection of Jesus, of hope, and of the purpose of his sufferings and death. “And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim Christ?”…”Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word—the preaching—of Christ’. (Romans 10:14c, 17). That is, as we go, it is Christ Jesus who himself preaches to a person’s heart and mind and conscience.

The capital, Baku was ‘the world’s original oil-boom city overhj a century ago’. Even so, some 40% of the people live in poverty.

Situated to the west of the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan has Russia and Georgia, to the north. It has Armenia to the west. It has Iran to the south.

A quick overview of the political background helps:

“A long history of subjugation by Arabs, Mongols, Persians, Turks and Russians. Independent in 1991 from the USSR. A difficult first decade was beset by internal coups and war with Armenia over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in West Azerbaijan. Nearly 1 million Azeris were displaced by this conflict. The President, re-elected in a shady election, is the son of the previous president. They have overseen a political shift away from Russia toward Turkey and the West.” (Operation World, p. 126)

The number of believers in Jesus Christ continues to grow, although most Christians are still foreign ethnicities. the majority of believers are in Baku … where there are many Azeril-led and Azeri-language congregations. However the church faces intensifying opposition even as it grows. Draconian registration laws are making it difficult for Christians, and for all faiths, including Muslims. The Caucasus peoples, and minority groups of peoples, like Talysh, Tat and Kurds, remain largely unreached.

Special Point from a news item: “Azerbaijan faces serious problems with gender mainstreaming and women’s rights protection”.

Christian literature, Bible translation and quiet expatriate ministries are taking place. However there is a need for more radio programmes in Azeri.

In this politically volatile nation, O Lord, grant your peace, so that less military expenditure will be needed. Amidst the nation, may the Word of Christ , the Living One, go forth with power, to tell the joyful news of Christ Jesus—and his gracious, genuine, joyful, secure kingdom over all.

http://www.eng.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/13393/

Good news: Christian music, literature, poetry and other expressions of worship and culture are beginning to flourish.





Austria

5 09 2012

Austria: 82% Christian, but quite a bit of very nominal Catholicism. A good sprinkling of Lutherans as we might expect, among this nation, where 91% of the 8.3 million, are Germanic people. Austria is a landlocked country, with The Alps in the south and west, and the flat plains of the River Danube to the east. Famous for ‘The Sound of Music’, a popular American musical picture, winning 5 Academy Awards… ‘Do-Re-Mi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIjobdArtiA

A mixed prosperous economy, of agriculture, commerce and tourism—with culture, music, art and beautiful scenery in abundance. All this serves as a thin glaze, over a deeper human despair. Rates of suicide are high, as is abortion and alcoholism. The evangelical and charismatic churches, though quite small numerically, are working, praying and seeking to be a fresh influence in the life of Austrian people. Pastors are in great need, as are more full-time workers in missionary work. ‘Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out more workers into the field’ (Matthew 9:38).

In particular there are many unreached pockets of people, such as six ethnic groups from the Balkans, as well as Muslim Turks, Afghans, Kurds and Pakistanis.

Witness among the student population is a fruitful area of work. Vienna the capital (1.7million) host thousands of international students. All 7 universities have active ministries among them. There are growing prayer ministries among teenagers, and SU and CEF are focussing on school age children. Lots to do, but hopeful signs. May the Living Lord Jesus, bless the people of Austria with a good hearing of the Word of Life!

Image





Australia

19 08 2012

Australia!

It is most interesting, even strange, to see your own nation listed objectively, among the nations of the world in terms of both:

(1) Answers to prayer and (2) Challenges For Prayer.

I have already cited the details of Australians and their beliefs from the 2011 census:

Religious Affiliation
  • Christian   61%       (13.15 million)
  • Buddhist    2.5%    (  0.52  million)
  • Islam         2.2%     (  0.47  million)
  • Hinduism   1.3%     (  0.27  million)
  • Judaism    0.5%     (  0.09  million)
  • Other        0.8%     (  0.16  million)

See: https://nwcc.wordpress.com/australians/

The nation is in many ways, envied by so many nations of the world, in terms of space, living conditions, wealth, health and freedom for the gospel to be proclaimed and engaged in at a public level. This is not to say, however, that there is not a daily battle in influencing or wanting to enlarge, the minds and hearts of the Australian public towards the things of Christ. There is a battle.

* One of the figures I like to quote in terms of need for prayer and renewal, is the fact that there are about 10,000 Christian Pastors or Minister-leaders, or Priests/elders, across this nation of 22 million people.  There are another former 10,000 Christian Pastors or leaders, etc. who have been sidelined due to sheer weariness, difficulty, rejection, physical or mental illness, disaffection, loss of faith, boredom or in some case, even unbelief. These people are sort-of casualties of ‘church systems’, or of human church-institutional life generally. Lord of the Church, we pray for a renewal of ‘participation in ministry’, for many of these leaders.

Now we shall turn to the objective list of needs, as cited by Operation World.

1. Australia is undergoing many changes:

(a) Increasing pluralism and aggressive secularisation: (See for example: http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2012/05/07/it-is-wrong-to-judge/

(b) Sustained immigration has created a multi-cultural country, where fast growing religious and ethnic minorities cause considerable tensions in communities that have taken for granted, and now want to retain Christian and/or Anglo-Saxon heritage.

(c) Australia’s role as a regional peacekeeper and stable democracy is a blessing to many countries, such as Timor, Bougainville, Solomon Islands, and others. However attitudes towards refugees and asylum seekers are strained because of the constant inflow of people.

(d) The precarious ecology is overexploited – in urdan settings as much as in rural ones. Water availability, land-usage, drought, the pressure from mining companies all add to the yearly stress of the nation. Native koalas, and Tasmanian devils, are examples of the local species under threat. Ferral animals abound in outback Australia, doing incredible damage. We pray for wisdom in conservation and stewardship. See also my article Big Concerns.

2. The Church in Australia faces a mighty challenge – “to remain relevant”. [Personally, I would not put it this way. Church will ever be relevant to the nation, as the guardian and voice of the gospel]. While some 61% identify as Christian, only 10% of the nation regularly attend church. Increasingly there are negative attitudes towards the churches. There is an individualised ideology, which works against Christian community! We pray for reformation and revival of the Christian community within society.

3. Evangelicals are a dynamic and diverse entity. The Sydney Anglican diocese is an example of conservative, biblical strength, as is a growing minority in the Melbourne diocese. The greatest growth has been in the Pentecostal/charismatic church groups. Put together, they would constitute about the Third Largest group behind (1) Roman Catholic and (2) Anglican. The other large church, The Uniting Church in Australia since 1977 [formerly Methodists, Presbyterian and Congregational], has been deeply affected by political power-wielding of many with ‘liberal’ theology.

(a) Mainline churches are in varying degrees of polarisation

(b) Christian Holistic ministry – to the homeless, drug addicts, poor and the disabled – is an area of great opportunity.

(c) The Ideological debate with secular materialists: many hot topics such as human origin, human sexuality and the existence of God, are under public scrutiny, attack and debate.

4. The Missions Vision Within Australian churches is mixed: a small minority of churches maintain a once large work as a missionary sending nation. We pray for a renewal of perspective in regard to going, sending and giving to other nations. 

5. Less Reached Peoples Are found in increasing numbers and diversityPray for outreach to continue to:

(a) People in working-class urban areas

(b) Muslims

(c) Chinese

(d) Vietnamese

(e) Diverse people from the Balkans and Eastern Europe

(f) Jews – number over 100,000

(g) Southern Europeans

6. The 550,000 Indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

(a) Most Aborigines are Christian

(b) Pray for the Aboriginal Evangelical Fellowship

(c) Pray for the nearly 500 missionaries in 26 denominational agencies

(d) Bible Translation is in Progress

7. Student Ministry needs greater attention. 600,000 students in 40 universities are served by small student groups on each campus.

8. Young People and Children: A drastic drop in Sunday school attendances, and weekend sport on Sunday, has proven a challenge to Schools Ministry  Groups to reach the children and give them opportunity to hear the gospel. Government, secular opposition, the considerations of other religions, and an often unhelpful, even hostile mainstream media continue to make this aspect of ministry somewhat difficult.

9. Pray For the Christian Media

Radio, Literature, Visual Media, The Internet, (including Facebook) all provide good opportunities to the Word of Christ to go forth in a deeply beneficial way, to the nation.





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.

—– —– —– —– —–

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





Argentina

13 08 2012

The Capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires City, has some 13 million people.

The nation is over 40 million, and the Latin American republic is primarily made up of Hispanic people – 79.1%.

And can you believe, there are as many as 1 million illegal immigrants living there from other Latin American countries.

The official language is Spanish, with 25 other Indigenous Languages spoken too. These are a highly educated people, with great agricultural production in beef, soybeans, wheat and corn.

  • “Inept governments took the nation from one of the world’s richest in 1900 to almost total economic meltdown” (OM). A strong recovery has occurred since 2001, but a high rate of poverty and unemployment among the poor, continues.
  • 89% Christian, primarily Catholic. But evangelicals enjoy respect and freedom.
  • Renewal of Christian faith and large scale evangelism has deeply affected the nation since 1983. Revival has occurred in Olmos High security prison, with half of the 3,000 inmates, now Christian.  It has spread, as one might imagine.
  • There is a 200,000-strong Jewish community – one of the world’s largest: highly secularized and prosperous.
  • The sophisticated upper class are hard to reach with the gospel.
  • There are up to 500,000 slum dwellers.
  • The missionary vision of the nation Church is growing and maturing, and it possess great potential to make Argentina a great sending nation.
  • One of their great, well know Liberation theologians was Dr. José Miguez Bonino.

http://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/general-secretary/tributes/jose-miguez-bonino.html





American Samoa

11 08 2012

American Samoa is a great holiday destination—so we are told!  Situated northeast of Australia (& New Zealand), in the Polynesian Pacific, the Territory of American Samoa, is a centre for Tuna fishing, and canning. The major limitation to productivity, here, is the ongoing effect of of devastating hurricanes. A total of 69,500 people live on an area of 199 sq. km. The people are primarily Christian—95% in fact.  There is a YWAM base here, and evangelical churches continue to make a fruitful contribution to community life; there is quite a large Mormon contingent present too.

  1. A large numbers of Samoans became Christians when the London Missionary Society, first sent missionaries in the 1830′s.
  2. Englishman, John Williams—’the Apostle of Polynesia’—firstly encountered human sacrifice, infanticide (burying a little child alive) and a common level of sexual promiscuity. The work of the gospel within the first believers eventually brought reform to all this. Williams battled with the LMS, for the necessity of a ship, to do his regular work and visitation in the region.
  3. The capital city is Pago Pago—once the major whaling port in the Pacific.
  4. In WW2 the number of U.S. Marines in Pago, Pago, outnumbered the local population, deeply affecting local culture.
  5. The currency, as you might expect in American dollars.
  6. The islands there include: TutuilaAunu’uTa’ū, Ofu‑OlosegaRose Atoll and Swains Island
  7. They play cricket, baseball, basketball, soccer, Rugby League, and …. yep, American football.
  8. In 2009 there was a major Tsunami, with flood damage, and over 120 people lost their lives.
  9. The possibilities of damage due to the fault-line tectonic plates, or from wild weather, are ever-present.

Prayer: Thank you for the influence of the gospel in this place. May this beautiful part of your world continue to be a blessing to those who live there, and for all who visit. May the church continue to bear witness to Jesus Christ in the hospitality, and participation in the world. 





Afghanistan

4 08 2012

In Afghanistan, the population consists of:

  • 29,074,395                Muslims, [29 million]
  • 20,000                        non-religious,
  • less than 15,000     Christians
  • less than 3,000       Hindu

…this is not counting the foreign military.

There are 48,000 mosques, but not a single Christian church building.

Problems include:

(1) Threat of violence from the Taliban,

(2) Health risks—infant mortality rate (diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery, pneumonia), lack of clean water for 78% people.

(3) Refusal to allow women to receive medical care from men. (Sigh!!)

(4) The disabled—1million—often from landmines… have little provision for their care.

(5) Poverty and living standards

(6) Drugs—”are a scourge on the nation, and indeed the world”.  90% of the world’s opium grown here. Heroin and opium addicts abound.

They are receiving billions of dollars in foreign aid; hopeful signs: people under 20 have known nothing but war, and long for education, employment and freedom.

WOMEN: The status of women especially warrants prayer. Very few have heard of Christ’s love. Life expectancy for them is only 44 years. They are treated harshly and only 5% go to secondary school, and over half are brides at under 16 years of age. Many commit suicide.

They need Scripture, literature, audio resources, radio is a useful way to share the gospel. The Jesus film was a great help to many. Mobile phones are being used to share Scripture on audio-text files.

Prayer:

عزیز خدا پدر ما، که در عیسی مسیح به ما می آیند، کمک به مردم افغانستان برای شنیدن و آموختن از عشق، امید خود را، قدرت خود را به تغییر ملت ها، و قدرت قیام خود را در محل کار در جهان امروز است.تشکر از شما که شما در حال فرستادن مردم برای به اشتراک گذاشتن عشق خود را در این کشور، در میان تمام ظروف سرباز یا مسافر و دچار مشکل و تدمير.با تشکر از شما برای رسیدن به رحمت خود.ما به خصوص برای زنان و دختران جوان دعا می کنم به مهربانی شما را می شنوید، عزیز خدا زندگی واقعی.در نام عیسی مسیح. آمین.

Dear God our Father, who has come to us in Jesus Christ, please help the people of Afghanistan to hear and learn of your love, your hope, your power to change nations, and of your resurrection power at work in the world today. Thank you that you are sending people to share your love in this country, amidst all the mess and trouble and destruction. Thank you for the reach of your mercy. We especially pray for the women and young girls to hear of your kindness, by revelation – dear true Living God. In Jesus name. Amen.

Tahmina Kohistani





Global Hot Spots

4 08 2012

Operation World, edited by Jason Mandryk, lists the following as Global Hot Spots:

1. The future of Jerusalem

2. The Korean Peninsula

3. Somalia

4. Central Africa

5. Afghanistan and Pakistan

6. China’s growing self-confidence and assertiveness

7. Sudan’s deep divide

8. Iran

9. The Himalayan region

10. The Mexico—US drug corridor

11. The West African fault line between Islam and Christianity …esp. Nigeria

12. A Southeast Asian corridor—from Myanmar through Thailand to Malaysia & Indonesia

13. The Caucasus

14. Immigration into Europe—’an unstoppable tide of humanity’





Operation World—A Prayer Guide to Every Nation

4 08 2012

I have been genuinely amazed at the content of a book called, ‘Operation World’. It gives an extraordinary insight into the health or otherwise of Christian churches with the nations of the world.  It tells very informative facts, accurate details, problems, and needs of the countries of the world.

Great reading. Inspiring.

It is often a great experience for people to visit other countries and cultures. I like doing this. It is an even more wonderful thing to share the gospel with other people—especially people who are so different in language and culture and background and circumstances. But to find that the same Risen Ascended Jesus—once of Nazareth, and now Living evermore—is speaking and ministering to another person’s heart and life and community, is a thing of strange delight and joy.

It is the mystery of the profound work of the Holy Spirit, in the depths of another person, that we are enabled, in some small, but significant way, to share in, as those who’s own lives, bear witness to Jesus the conqueror of death and sin, and hell, for the human race.

It would be good to reflect upon other countries, for a while, and to pray for the Christians living there, who are seeking to bring hope to the people of their country. Why not sample and then buy, this excellent book:

http://www.operationworld.org/

God has come to the world, in Jesus Christ, and his hope is designed to reach every tribe and nation.





Big Concerns—in Australia

9 07 2012

We have a great country here in Australia.  However we also have some big concerns. Here are just a few:

  • Mining. Community Life in Country Australia needs genuine support from Federal and State Government Regulation. One prime reason is that Mining Companies—in the race to get rich—are abusive of the people in small towns and rural areas, Aboriginal communities in distant regions, farmers, their roads and town infra-structure, community life and resources. It is not for nothing that biblical wisdom calls upon people to suppress greed, and curb foolish desires.
  • Ferral Animals in Outback and regional Australia. Camels, Pigs, Goats, Zebras, Foxes, Cats, Dogs, Cane Toads, and more are not being targeted and kept in check to a sufficient degree. This is decimating many parts of the landscape. We need to invest public money to control these creatures.  Political parties like the Greens are silent about this stuff, (while they almost dismantle an Indonesian Beef industry). We need more political will and wisdom to effect action, and encourage shooters to take this in hand, for the benefit of all Australians.
  • Marriage is Foundational to Community and to Life. It is mere popularism to jettison centuries of wisdom, by changing the marriage act to include homosexual relationships. There is enough confusion about life as it is, without this change being foisted upon everyone to satisfy the desires a so few!
  • Foreign Investment in Farming Land. We urgently need to severely restrict land ownership to Australian people—if we want a secure future for our food production, and wellbeing of our nation, overall. Government lack strength of will to address this. It is urgent. Learn from New Zealand. Learn from China. Learn Quickly please.
  • The River Murray. As a South Australian it is easy to see how the power of the Eastern States and their desire for more and more water, is to the detriment of efficient farmers at the bottom end of the River. The situation is being addressed, and I hope it succeeds. It just makes sense to have a healthy river all the way to the sea.
  • Prime Agricultural Land in Tasmania. The Forestry Industry in Tasmania has abused local communities, and abused good farming land. The buying up of the best land for the planting of small timber to be used for wood-chipping is wrong, and harmful to local communities and their life-blood. Again big and powerful seems to triumph over local, people-matters. Ask farmers around Deloraine. Forestry has surrounded small farms, buying out other landholders, giving the farmer unwanted shade and wallabies, stealing underground water supplies, stopping rivers and ruining community life. Sheer money madness. Meanwhile some faceless investor in Sydney with too much money profits from growing trees, and gets tax-breaks at the expense of Tasmanian community.
  • Suburban Housing Plans. In such a vast nation, it is unfortunate to see the lack of planning for space for people to enjoy. In Adelaide large house blocks where children can play and people can retain their sanity, are just being carved up to cram in more houses. This is folly. When there is a chance to retain land for parks and gardens, the government is just carving up the land for real estate. Sheer madness. Human beings need space.
  • Fishing. The recent decisions to grab so much of the ocean for national parks, and the ongoing restrictions on fishing by recreational people is madness. Meanwhile large Pirate trawlers are not being checked or stopped in far off areas of our Oceans. This is the clearly the wrong approach. But green consciences seem easily salved by poor solutions.
  • Coles and Woolworths Supermarkets are a greedy Duopoly. It is a great shame that this has been allowed to develop. These large companies ruin primary industries with their capacity to dominate prices, and exert their powerful will at the expense of local growers. People such as the dairy industry, the beef and wine, and fruit and vegetable industries matter. We are allowing them to be treated with contempt and disdain, by this dominating retail outlet. It is wrong. PRoduct labelling is deceptive and there seems to be a lack of bite in the ACCC. Home brands dominate. Sadly, people just ignore the plain wisdom of Dick Smith. Wake up.
  • Insurance Fear. We need to address the amount that small people, and local community can be sued. Much of our fun activity is curbed by insurance fears. This needs to be addressed at a legal level, so that community can regain their freedom to hold events.  How often do we hear that something has been changed for fear of insurance claims. Take a large slippery-dip for example, or a circular whizzie wheel in a children’s park, even climbing on an old train!  Recover freedom!
  • Youth And Children: Our young people need more areas to play. This is linked to the insurance and space issues. People in the cities need a small fortune for their young people to lear to ride a motorcycle and have fun in spaces.
  • Overseas Aid: The Budget decision to forestall the contribution of Government to Overseas Aid, in the face of global economic concerns was an example of sheer ALP selfishness and ALP self-interest. It is an example of not keeping our Word—another from the ALP. It is an example of not genuinely feeling that we are part of a global life, where we need to care for others less fortunate. Bad leadership, very bad.
  • Drugs, Crime, Bikie Gangs: Our society is being badly affected by home invasions, suburban killings, drive-by murders, gang warfare, addiction to drugs, an illegal and destructive methamphetamine industry, prostitution, pornography, robbery,intimidation, threats to murder and criminal activity. Police need better powers within the legal system to attack this horrendously growing and alarming trend. It is linked to International Crime, and is not an easy issue to solve. Penalties must be far tougher, and the ability to get a conviction made simpler. Do it!
  • Abortion: The attitude of our Australian society towards the abortion of babies is horrifying. We have succumbed to a deceptive view of when life begins, and have failed to speak of the rights of a child in the womb, to be cared for, and have a right to begin life in this world. Careful thinking even from a non-faith perspective will soon show that this is a person in their early stages, within the Womb. We must listen and give voice to the stories of those who have seen the horror, seen the baby-child move away from the knife, as they were slaughtered, without a voice, without a right to love.
  • Pay Rises for Politicians: It is shameful that our politicians can all conspire and agree to greedy $40,000 to $100,000 per year type pay-rises (not base pay… pay rises of this magnitude) in 2012, while pensioners and self-funded retirees who have contributed greatly to building the nation, are left to turn off heaters in winter, to survive economically. Poor form, real poor.
  • Payment for Elite Sport: The Payments given to AFL footballers is out of control. $500,000 to $800,000 a year for catching and kicking a piece of leather. It is madness. And it is sending the wrong message to youth, to small communities, and ordinary people concerning the place of sport in our lives. It affects young people their willingness to enjoy sport, to volunteer, and serve generously. The elite players get big heads. Ugly pride is rewarded! They are not worth it. Why should local people who like sport be paying through sponsorships for this?
  • Sharia Law: the creeping concessions being made to the demands of Islam will deeply affect our future. One only needs to look at England, France or the Netherlands to see the unhelpful changes to community life which this had afforded. Rights for women—married and for young girls and their future freedoms, approach to married life, restriction to dress-codes, butchering of meat, refusal to integrate, formation of ghettos, community anger, separation from others. The policy of closing a swimming pool for males in country Victoria, is a classic example, as is the banning of ham-sandwiches at local council luncheon.  We need courage and a clear and broad, well thought-out understanding of the true nature of freedom and the need for regulation within society, to enhance freedom.
  • Government speechmaking:  Any society which puts ‘the economy’ ahead of ‘community life’ is heading for trouble. Our speech-writers need to change their rhetoric to put people and their communities first. Only then, will we be in a genuine position to be a rich blessing to others—including other nations, refugees, and the world generally.
My views are held by many others, I know. My personal thinking is deeply affected by the need to care for people first, families, youth, the elderly, communities; and also for the environment with which we have been entrusted to enjoy, and to receive its benefits gladly. I am glad and sure, that to follow Jesus in the power of his Spirit is the way for people, communities and families to be a blessing to the creation, into which we have been placed. Renewal and reform of faith, and action is alway possible. Lets do some!

(OK, so the next blog can include some good stories of good things that are happening)





Not free in Iraq, but free in Australia

3 07 2012

I heard on ABC radio today, with Ian Henschke, an interview he had with Nadia, who was formerly living in Iraq.  She was granted her application to come and live in Australia as a refugee, a resident. Back in Iraq, every time a family member goes to work, we hug, in case we do not see each other again. It is very fearful for her and her family there. They thought it may be different after Saddam Hussain was deposed, but not so. Still the political and religious killing continues—if to a lesser degree. It will need a miracle to change, she says.

She said something close to this: ‘In Iraq, we are not free, for we would be killed because we are different. In Australia we are free to hold different political, religious and cultural views, and we can still all live together in peace’.

She said she was Algerian, formerly of Iraq. And that none of the Arab countries would accept her living in their country. We know that Islam is predominate there. But often dare not mention this fact.

Anyone who says that ‘all religions are the same’, and who think Islam is on a par with Christian faith, is living in a mist and a haze.

In Australian society, we should not ignore the profound influence of Christian faith upon society, and upon nations.

To dismiss this point, is to live in make-believe-land: ‘make-believe-all-religions-are-the-same’.





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”!





Turning Points—in Church History

24 05 2012

Study Material. — is being prepared, and is available, for the average Joe or Josephine, to take a quick overview (by concentrating upon some of the Major Turning Points) of 2000 years of Christian activity:

TURNING POINTS:

UNDER CHRIST’S PRESENT REIGN

The book Turning Points, by historian Mark Noll has been the primary book from which the studies have been prepared. Indeed, Mark has chosen the following as Turning Points worth focussing upon:

The Fall of Jerusalem

70 AD

The Church Pushed out on its own

1

The Council of Nicaea

325

Realities of Empire

2

The Council of Chalcedon

451

Doctrine, Politics, and Life in the Word

3

Benedict’s Rule

530

The Monastic Rescue of the Church

4

The Coronation of Charlemagne

800

The Culmination of Christendom

5

The Great Schism of East and West

1054

Division Between East and West

6

The Diet of Worms

1521

The Reformation: Protestantism

7

The English Reformation

1534

A New Europe

8

The Founding of the Jesuits

1540

Catholic reform & global Outreach

9

The Conversion of the Wesley’s

1738

The New Piety

10

The French Revolution

1789

Discontents of the Modern West

11

The Edinburgh Missionary Conference

1910

A Faith For All the World

12

Further Turning Points of the 20th Century

to 2000

Pentecostalism/Communism etc.

 

 


[1] Mark A. Noll, Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity, Baker Books/IVP, 1997.  

Book Reviews





All You Nations

22 05 2012

1 Praise the LORD, all you nations! Extol him, all you peoples!

2 For great is his steadfast love toward us, And the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever, Praise the Lord! 

 – Psalm 117

1 αλληλουια αἰνεῖτε τὸν κύριον πάντα τὰ ἔθνη ἐπαινέσατε αὐτόν πάντες οἱ λαοί

2 ὅτι ἐκραταιώθη τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια τοῦ κυρίου μένει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα

– Psalm 117

 

By the Spirit (Gen. 1), God in Christ, has created all the nations. God in Christ Jesus is of course interested in all the nations. Indeed in Christ, God has redeemed the nations, through Jesus death and resurrection. Now in the ascension of Jesus Christ, the nations are seated in heavenly places, “in Christ”.

We have a human being who represents us there, at the right hand of God. The human being Jesus, is spatially somewhere!! His humanity was not reabsorbed into the Godhead. Jesus the man did not somehow “throw off” his manhood, and revert to the pre-incarnation situation of the Son of God; he remains Man and truly man, forever. And we are in Him. He is also truly God, truly the Son of God.

In Christ! This is the true destiny of the nations – redeemed in Jesus Christ. To opt for hell is a strange and shocking option folks.  Therefore, change your mind about God, have faith in him, for he is good. Turn to him anew in trust, and in sincere thankfulness for his redemptive plan. He bore our sins, took our guilt upon himself, he bore away our unbelief, and in his crucifixion, bore the judgment of this tragic sin. He did this in his abandonment! While we were still enemies of God, he entered into our hell, and bore the judgment of God’s ‘no’ upon our evil. This is love. This is grace. This is the action of the God of grace.

Begin, therefore, to live as One who has – by the Holy Spirit’s indwelling – been forgiven fully, and given the gift of eternal life. Receive the Holy Spirit, none less than God himself, indwelling, abiding in your life, thoughts, mind and human heart. Come into God’s Presence as one wholly sanctified. 

Hey all you nations – Praise the Lord! 

You Australians, Praise the Lord!

中国,赞美主!  (哈利路亚赞美主)

Μπορείτε Έλληνες  αλληλουια αἰνεῖτε τὸν κύριον

Voi italiani! Lodate il Signore!

Ju shqiptarët! Lavdëroni Zotin!

Siz Türkler! Allah’a şükretmek!

Bạn Việt! Ngợi khen Chúa!

شما ایرانی ها! ستایش پروردگار!

Wewe Waafrika! Bwana asifiwe!

Usted peruanos! Alabado sea el Señor!





Vishal Mangalwadi

17 05 2012

Seeing the world through Indian eyes. That’s what I have been doing a bit lately. And it is a very stirring, thought-provoking exercise.

I have been reading a book by Vishal Mangalwadi, entitled: The Book That Made Your World. It is a great book!

A great read!

It is subtitled: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization

The subtitle could be misleading. This is not just a ‘three cheers for the Bible’ kind of book. Nor is it going to simply bolster the views of the hard-line fundamentalist, as the title may suggest.  Rather, these are the words of a man who has come into the rich flow of wisdom, and truth.  Indeed, he puts much emphasis upon the importance of “truth”. He has come to see in a very profound way how the wonderful benefits experienced by countries like Australia, America, England, Canada, Germany, France, and Scotland—to name a few, have flowed from a Bible-given understanding of the world, its purpose, of humanity and of its hope, and of God and his character as revealed in Jesus Christ.

This is a book for the benefit not only of individuals, but for musicians, for those who are troubled by the death of rock legends, like Kurt Cobain, or the enduring love of Johann Sebastian Bach.

It is a book for readers of history, ponderers of culture, and leaders of Nations. It is a rewarding read for those interested in why many nations have not succeeded. Why has poverty engulfed so many nations?

Mangalwadi addresses questions like:

  • ‘Rationality: What made the West a Thinking Civilization?’.
  • ‘Technology: Why Did Monks Develop It?’
  • ‘Languages: How Was Intellectual Power Democratized?’
  • ‘Caring: Why Did Caring Become Medical Commitment?’
  • ‘The Future: Must the Sun Set on the West?’

I first heard Vishal Mangalwadi address a modest sized crowd of listeners in Adelaide, in October, 2011. I would like to have heard more from him. I would like more people to have been able to be there to hear him.

There are some You-Tube links:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nHV3j8InRQ

But I suggest you purchase the book, and have a read for yourself.  I certainly have benefited from such an enjoyable read, and from a man who does evidently have a very keen intellect.  And not only that, he does stack of original research – to find out if what he is being told is true. What a good idea.

He also wrote :

  • The World of Gurus
  • In Search of Self: Beyond the New Age
  • Truth and Transformation: A Manifesto For Ailing Nations
  • Legacy of William Carey: A Model for Transforming Culture
  • Missionary Conspiracy: Letters to a Postmodern Hindu
  • India: The Grand Experiment
  • Quest For Freedom and Dignity: Caste, Conversion and Cultural Transformation
  • Astrology

For further resources: http://www.revelationmovement.com/





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




Tender Regard ~ Henry Scougal

14 05 2012

The entire human race—has been made in God’s Image. That means, that we should regard highly, every human being we meet. This may sound a bit strong, a bit over-the-top, a bit of ‘living in fairy-land’, a bit unrealistic, particularly as many people we meet have behaved so terribly, said so many things that sound shocking, and unhelpful, and hold such views of life, God and humanity which we find to be distasteful – to say the least.

Even so, that is the deal. That is what is expected. That is why Jesus says: love your enemies (Matthew 5:44).

Henry Scougal (1650-1678), died at the age of 27. By then, he was already Professor of Divinity at Aberdeen University. Henry wrote a very influential small book, entitled, The Life of God in the Soul of Man. He said:

“The meanest and most contemptible person whom we behold is the offspring of heaven, one of the children of the Most High; and however unworthy he might behave himself of that relation, so long as God hath not abdicated and disowned him by a final sentence, he will have us to embrace him with a sincere and cordial affection” (p. 124).

Yes, disagree as we might, God has ‘a very dear and tender regard‘ for us all… for you, and for me.

We know this, for certain, through the ministry of Jesus Christ.

http://www.ccel.org/s/scougal/life/





The Resurrection of Jesus—Our Own Experience!

7 04 2012

When speaking of the resurrection, we Christians often try to muster some quality, written, historical evidence, to advance ‘The Case For Christ‘. This is sometimes called ‘Apologetics’.

We also point to the radical change of heart and hope and new boldness, shown forth by the once fearful, and denying disciples.

We point to the details of the many ancient prophecies, (David, Moses, Isaiah and others), that are seemingly, arguably fulfilled by Jesus life, death and resurrection.

We point to the baptising preaching activity of John the baptist, before he was murdered, and his pointing to Jesus. We point to the witness of Stephen before he was murdered. We point to the many people in history—who would rather die than deny Jesus—before they were murdered.

We point to the unusual conversion of a famous Pharisee, Paul (Saul), who was so hostile to the message about Jesus, before he so suddenly became a Christian. We point to the large number of people who actually touched, heard, saw and witnessed the Risen Jesus alive after his crucifixion. There were at least 10 occasions, recorded in the Bible.

We point to the historical reliability of the New Testament itself.

We point to the stunning record that over 500 people saw Jesus alive, after his death, at one time in Galilee.

Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died (1Corinthians 15:6).

In the laws of evidence, whenever a witness to an event is called before a court, and swears to tell ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth‘, then the court is bound to listen carefully to what the witness has seen and heard, and to take it on face value. And believe the good will of the witness, until other contrary factors may show that the face value of the story lacks credibility.
This is still what all people are bound to do when they see and hear the written evidence of so many accurate and valuable texts from the writers in the early church, as found in the Bible.
However, there is one under-estimated testimony or witness to Jesus Living Presence which it is very important to highlight. And that is, our own story! Our own experience. And that is not merely our experiences! But the very experience of faith itself, which we know!
People are prone to dismiss our ‘experience’ as somehow deluded. Or they see our coming to be a Christian, as a weak moment in our lives, when we needed outside help. Or as some feigned experience, of a Person, that is not really there. However, the fact is that Christians are not primary telling of the things ‘they do’, to try to honour God. Rather we are speaking of the ongoing experience that we have, of the Risen Christ Jesus guiding our lives, and effecting them in highly significance ways. However, in saying that, what we realise, is that the Christ we know by faith is far greater than our experiences of Him, however good and fine – or not – they may be. Faith receives the creative impact of Jesus Christ.
As P. T. Forsyth says: “We know him by faith to be much more than he has ever been to our experience”.
“I know him, and the Church knows Him, as a person of infinite power to create fresh experience of Himself, which is experience of God. My contact with Him by faith is continually deepening my experience of him. And, as my experience deepens, it brings home a Christ objective in history, and creative of the experience, and of the life, and the deeds of a whole vast Church, meant, and moving, to subdue mankind not to itself, but to the faith of the Gospel.” (from The Person and Place of Jesus Christ, P. T. Forsyth, Independent Press, London, 1909, p. 203)
He goes on to say:
“My experienced salvation is not a passing impression but a life of faith. It is not a subjective frame but an objective relation, and even transaction. The peace of God is not a glassy calm but mighty confidence. My experience here is the consciousness not of an impression on me, but of an act in me, and by me.” (p. 204)
What Christ has done for me has become possible only by what He did more powerfully for others whose faith and experience have been deeper and richer than mine, but who reflect my experience all the same, even while they diversify and enlarge it mightily. Standing over my experience is the experience of the whole evangelical succession. And standing over that is the historic fact of Christ’s own person, and His consciousness of himself (“All things are delivered to me of the Father”) as Lord of the world, Lord of nature in miracle, of the soul in redemption, and of the future in judgment.” (p. 204-205)
“Faith is the grand venture in which we commit our whole soul and future to the confidence that Christ is not an illusion but the reality of God. “
So, as we celebrate Easter, we do so with others. Many others. Centuries of others, for whom the reality of faith is greater than the other things in life that they have been fairly certain about. Praise God, for faith’s certainty. And for the reality we know, and our small experience of such a greatness and such a mighty message, and wonderful Lord.Image




The Bursting Wineskin

16 08 2010

Jesus talked about the New People of God, (The New Testament Church) as New Wine.

It would burst the Old Wineskin of Judaism.

Well it also bursts the “Churchy” Wineskins that we get into our own head, nation, denomination, etc:

All over the world, Christian churches have, unfortunately, taken up a weakened view of the church and ministry, by adopting an idea that kinda-seems right but is not.

Example of what happens:    

* Clergy are put in place as the “trained” leaders.

* Laity (from ‘Greek’ word ‘Laos’), meaning ‘The People’ are gathered to follow, or be passive recipients of the Clergy teaching and leadership:

MODEL No. 1:   The ‘old’ diagram of the church — Clergy at the top, the Laity beneath:                      

                           CLERGY

_______

                            LAITY

MODEL No. 2:   The ‘new’ diagram of the church  

                     

              LAITY        […CLERGY, within]

MODEL No. 3: The New Testament Church

Commenting, Geoffrey Bingham writes:

“All members of Christ’s body are ministers (diakonoi) and the changes history has wrought in the Church have been unhappy ones. I have made the point that the outward form of ministry is wrong, but that Christ has raised up both domata and charismata in succeeding years. Underneath the clergy-laity order, the true order of the Church must have beenand is—in spite of the imposition of the biblically wrong clergy-laity division.”

From ‘The Beautiful City of God’ by Geoffrey Bingham, p. 149-150

http://www.newcreation.org.au/books/pdf/377_BeautifulCityGod.pdf

May the Church of today be a genuinely bursting movement of the Spirit, Jesus leading onward and inspiring, new ways ahead – in this type of formation:

Church NT (Model 3)

 





Australian Society

17 05 2010

Someone on ABC radio, the other night said of Australian Society: “we live in a multi-faith society, not a secular society. Some 75% of Australians lay claim to a faith, or sorts”. Well said. Most identify as Christian – even if many of these may be nominal, rather than dynamically or actively so.

It has implications for the premise on which we conduct our public conversations.

It would be great to wake up to our rich Christian heritage.





Aboriginal Communities… and Christ

7 10 2009

Many Aboriginal Australian people are Christians.  Many Aboriginal people are eager that more of their own people might become believers in Jesus, the Son of God, too. They know that the life of a Jewish man, who lived to be 33 years of age, some 1974 years ago, has much to do with their past, their present and their future. The God of creation, is the One who, through the Word – Christ the eternal Son, made this land of Australia, and placed his people – made in his image and likeness – within it.

The good news of Jesus of Nazareth, risen for all nations, came to this land, through the exploration, movement and settlement of mainly European people.  This news made a huge impact upon many Aboriginal People.

Sadly, the disrespect, the attitudes, the cruelty and cultural snobbery and insensitivity that came on the same ships, with it, was often far from honorable; it was in many instances brutal, violent and harsh. Churches were often wrong in their judgments. Decisions were often unwise, and tragic in their consequences. The stolen generation is a case in point.

Nevertheless, the gospel came. It came, and in time, it was received with great gladness. It still is, in parts and in communities, as redeeming grace stuns people afresh.

Briefly: A very significant awakening to the person of Jesus, and to his Father—the Father, the Creator of the Universe—took place on Elcho Island in 1979.

Australia is a land known to many as ‘The Great South Land of the Holy Spirit’.

On Sunday nights I attend the ‘Adelaide Berean Church’ in Queenstown – almost into Port Adelaide. Amidst the weekly local news, other news comes from across the State and across the Australian continent.

It is again, news among several Aboriginal communities, that they are seeing a fresh move of the Spirit, and an awakening to the Lord’s love and presence.  It is early days, but it is good to pray for these things, and to share in this way, in what the Lord is doing.





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!





The Truth About Policing and Skid Row

29 09 2009

Society is replete with views of how law-making and policing should be carried out. Beneath pragmatic views of the outworking of the law in society, are views and assumptions.  Thanks Heather; see link at:…Heather MacDonald

We all have view and assumptions, about the nature of humanity, and the function of the law in the universe, and the way and place of grace, graciousness, mercy and compassion – as well as the possibilities of redemption and newness.

Some people take the view that certain sections of society, are victims, and have come to a place in life, virtually beyond redemption.

Some take the view that human beings in poverty, are primarily victims of the systems in society.  They speak of systemic sin.

Some people take the ultra-hopeful view that all sections of society have the possibility of redemption, always. Or almost always.

Some people take the legal view that there are laws, police, bad citizens and good citizens. Break the law, and thats it!  Obey the law, and you will be OK.

Jesus Christ knew what was in humanity – crowned with glory and honor, in creation, yet, now, with a heart—since the fall into sin—that is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt. The Scripture also speaks of ‘the mystery of lawlessness’.

One can live in this mystery, with hope, and take a helpful view of law, when the great dynamics of Man created, fallen, redeemed, and destined, are taken into account. Lawmakers, police and those who would like to transform (or engineer) society, need a full-orbed view of these dynamics. A truncated view will leave everyone in bitter tears. A grand view, will enable mercy and compassion to function within the good law of a hopeful society.

The question is, are we a truly hopeful society?

And with that, do we still have the framework needed to act wisely?

Having trained and served in the Police Force, when I first left school, I have always found it interesting to consider contrasting approaches to the function, and policing of the law within society.

Certainly lawlessness is a frightening prospect. Evil runs rampant, wherever it can.  Restraining evil, is a very gracious and kind thing to do. Not to mention – necessary.

I have listened to the proponents of providing legal injecting rooms for drug addicts in Sydney’s Kings Cross – demands for such, often coming from loud voices in my own national church body. I have never been convinced that this is really compassion, at all.

Compassion is a quality that both understands the human condition, and at the same time has a hopeful view, concerning the possibilities for help, and in particular real redemption.

May those who work amidst the poorest and darkest corners in street ministry, be strengthened to proclaim the Christ, who makes all things new.  Jesus, walks our streets, and feels  our pain, and His Spirit groans awaiting the hope filled future, that resurrection power will yet finally bring in all fulness. Even now, the future is breaking in upon us. Human beings are not hopeless, nor beyond redemption.

Good law in society, is surely an expression of love. It is never merely man-made regulation; it is the way of love, for our good benefit.

May the Lord help the local police, to do their job with gladness; may the police – who are never thanked quite enough, for the good things that they do – also know there is a day for the redemption of all things, so that they do not lose heart, and capitulate to mere cynicism, and then, retirement. Or worse.

May the Lord open our hearts to reconsider the glorious, honest, biblical view.





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!





All Things Must Pass

12 09 2009

All Things Must Pass’, by George Harrison is a collection of music, a 1970 record album, which, as the title suggests, announces the impermanence of all things – life, love and mop top pop bands.  It is ironic that this album stands as one of his greatest legacies!  It was produced at a significant time: The Beatles had broken up as a band, only 6 months beforehand, George’s wife Patty was falling for his best friend Eric Clapton. And George’s mother had just died—things were quickly very different. Looking back over the years of the Beatles huge stardom, this album was ‘his hand full of earth upon the coffin’ of the band (M. Cheney).  Interestingly enough, a song emerging at this same time was Harrison’s search to know God: ‘My Sweet Lord’, (“I really want to know ya yea”…. in, I think, Eastern religion terms). It was a popular song!

All Things Must Pass, is a saying which echoes (sort-of) that of Jesus’ own statement:

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away

(Matt. 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33).

Not quite all things must pass, then! The words of Jesus have an eternal quality, because they are spoken by the eternal one: How about that?

Saul (or Paul), like many others, fiercely opposed that idea. Maybe you doubt it? But he did come to know it. So can you. It all hinges on the present activity of this Risen Man, this Son of God, and the work of his Spirit in you and me, now.

In the light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and seeing that the new eternal kingdom has arrived in him, and will coming fully at his next coming-appearing, the Apostle Paul put it like this:

For the present form of this world is passing away (1Corinthians 7:31).

We don’t like it when our world changes rapidly. But there is a good aspect to it… Do you think much on the good aspects of this statement?

It was on this insight, that Paul charted his course through life. He had rich insight, and certain faith, in what Christ was doing, and had done. In him there is a new creation. The old things are not only passing away, but, indeed, in a human being who is ‘Christed’ – forgiven, and made new, then those ‘old thing’ are made new.

Many things in our old world—that we liked—are passing away. This we find hard. These are some of mine, or my parents… experiences, think on your own:

(1) The good old slower life, when people had no cars and computer, but they did have time to chat by the roadside, with the horse and dray creating little road noise.

(2)  The good ol’ days when England, Australia, and the noble Westminster system of government, worked well, and people could speak at length, and gain a hearing, and reflect – and not be manipulated by a smart 20 second sound-bite.

(3) The days in Europe, recovering from WW2, as growth and peace came in various places, industry grew, the new possibilities opened up, and the whole future was not threatened by the growth of legalistic Islam, and ghettos and terrorist bomber violence.

(4) The days when a monogamous mum and faithful dad and numerous children, and grandparents, and uncles and aunts, were accepted as the normal basis of family life, and the push, push, push, for the a new anthropology, and view of marriage was not ‘in your face’.

(5) Ice cream and chips were reserved at Christmas or a birthday, not in the weekly supermarket trolley; childhood obesity was not hear of; you could play in the trees, miles from home, without a ‘keep out’ sign, or a sanctimonious ‘safe plastic sterile playground’ [to ward of the insurance claims], or a greenie initiative preventing your joy, you could run home without fear of being molested, stolen, beaten up, or of finding no one at home; these were great days!

(6) There are squillions of thoughts, multiplying, however…

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, who, although Christians, had become bogged in a few deficient ideas: He gave them some health-giving instructions concerning married life, unmarried life, normal creational human passion, and working in the things of the gospel, in the light of this fact:

For the present form of this world is passing away (1Corinthians 7:31).

Here is the full text.  Try and read it with prayer, not just a critical eye! 🙂

7:1 ¶ Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is well for a man not to touch a woman.” 2 But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.

3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

5 Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 This I say by way of concession, not of command.

7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind.

8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. 9 But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.

10To the married I give this command–not I but the Lord–that the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does separate, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.

12 To the rest I say–I and not the Lord–that if any believer has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.

13 And if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. It is to peace that God has called you.

16 Wife, for all you know, you might save your husband. Husband, for all you know, you might save your wife.

17 ¶ However that may be, let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you. This is my rule in all the churches.

18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but obeying the commandments of God is everything.

20 Let each of you remain in the condition in which you were called.

21 Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever. 22 For whoever was called in the Lord as a slave is a freed person belonging to the Lord, just as whoever was free when called is a slave of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters.

24 In whatever condition you were called, brothers and sisters, there remain with God.

25Now concerning virgins, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.

26 I think that, in view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are.

27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not sin. Yet those who marry will experience distress in this life, and I would spare you that.

29 I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; 33 but the married man is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided.

And the unmarried woman and the virgin are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, so that they may be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please her husband.

35 I say this for your own benefit, not to put any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord.

36 ¶ If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his fiancee, if his passions are strong, and so it has to be, let him marry as he wishes; it is no sin. Let them marry. 37 But if someone stands firm in his resolve, being under no necessity but having his own desire under control, and has determined in his own mind to keep her as his fiancee, he will do well.

38 So then, he who marries his fiancee does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better.

Yes folks, what a piece of writing!
Yes, it needs some clarification. A commentary will help.
The hope is, that in Christ, you will ‘do well’!
The point is there is a noble, creational way of living, in the present age, in the light of the impending crisis, yes, the coming of the kingdom. This is it. It is a gracious kingdom, with room to move, under the gracious care of the Lord, for each of us. Are you keeping uppermost in mind what matters most?

The world of sin and death, is passing away, and the world of holiness and life, is breaking in upon us. Amidst all the uncomfortable changes, faith sees Jesus.

Jesus Christ, and his kingdom. Thy Kingdom Come.





The Gift of Hearing the Mysteries

8 08 2009

LISTEN, I WILL TELL YOU A MYSTERY![1]

It is a momentous occasion to stand as a servant of Christ at the graveside of a much loved person – who has died – and to declare these words of the Apostle Paul – Listen, I will tell you a mystery! – to those who are pondering – what’s next? – for that person in the coffin.  The very utterance of the mystery[2]– a word picture -, which follows, can open a person’s ear to hear God, and their heart to respond to the Risen Jesus – bringing all the love, comfort and assurance of Our Father, and the gift of eternal life. But not all will hear.

One person hears the word and understands it, embraces the truth of it, and bears fruit in their life (Matthew 13:23) while another hears the words that are uttered, but at best makes a superficial response, and at worst hears nothing but religious god-speak. This further hardens them to words of eternal life.  Markedly different responses to the Word – apathy, hostility, or joy and gladness – can baffle and perplex[3] the speaker. After telling the parable of the sower to the whole crowd, Jesus later told his disciples:

To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.’ (Matthew 13:11)

The powerful interaction between God’s spoken word, and receptivity – or not, within the human heart is inscrutable (Romans 11:33).  We do know that it has to do with the will, and the degree of readiness to know the will of God, and to do it.[4]

On one occasion Jesus marvelled at the unbelief that he encountered (Mark 6:6), while on another he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit, and gave thanks to the Father for the twin action of revelation and concealment:

At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Luke 11:21-22)

Apart from the gift of new birth – from above, Nicodemus could not even see the kingdom of God let alone enter it. And if he had not begun to comprehend the earthly things: such as the wind-blowing attribute of new birth – then he could never grasp the heavenly things: such as the incarnation (John 3:13), the atonement (John 3:14), God’s love (3:16), cosmic salvation (3:17), condemnation (3:18), and judgment (3:19)[5]. The gift from above is a must.

IT HAS TO BE GIVEN TO YOU

Matthew 13:1-9 is the familiar parable of the sower ((Mark 4:1-9; Luke 8:4-8). We note:

1.     The Sower[6] is Jesus. (Matthew 13:3; 13:37 the one who sowsis the Son of Man).

2.     The seed – the word of the kingdom – falls upon four different soil types, but only the seed, which falls on good soil, bears fruit. This is genuine hearing.

3.     Jesus appeals for willingness to hear: Luke 8:8 says that Jesus “cried out” (Gk: phoneo echo) to the crowd: “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

4.     Within human history, the disciples (in Matthew) are given a unique part to play. Those who were around him along with the twelve (in Mark) – are informed alone (in Mark), of their highly significant role within the vast plan for human history. They are being given something, that other godly people had longed for:

a.      To you it has been given to know the secrets [mysteries] of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. (Matthew 13:11b).

b.     But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it. (Matt. 13:16-17)

5.     Isaiah 6:9-10 is quoted to show ‘the inevitable outcome’ of Jesus simple message will be hardened hearts, and judgment.[7] The disciples learn that this is the way a parable functions. It sifts the hearers: Fruit as faith is present, otherwise judgment.

6.     The setting of Matthew 13, seems to highlight a vital connection between doing the will of my Father in heaven (Matthew12:50) and the deed of hearing Jesus. Cf. Matthew 13:38, where the refusal to hear Jesus, results in unbelief in Nazareth.

More will be given

Jesus urges the disciples to keep listening, hearing and learning, promising them that – more will be given: “For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. (Matthew 13:12).

All of Jesus teaching would be integral to the future role of the disciples. Further mysteries – he told them many things in parables (Matthew 13:3) – were revealed somewhat progressively concerning the kingdom of God.  More would be given to the men who were to be the Apostles – the preachers of the word of the cross – between this point of Jesus ministry, and the full revelation of the mystery of the gospel. They would be given rich insights – revelation – into the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, and the mystery of the gospel – you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16). And even this revelation came out of the blue – from the Father, and would be further transformed in the light of the Cross. All inadequate concepts of both ‘Messiah’ and ‘Son’ would be replaced in future days.

Their ongoing glorious glimpses of Jesus identity (Matthew 17:1-8; 2Peter 1:18), their subsequent failures – when they would all desert Jesus and flee (Matthew 26:56) – and then their being present as Jesus suffered and died – their reception of forgiveness and peace as they witnessed and heard the resurrected living Jesus, his post-resurrection teaching concerning the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3), his astonishing ascension into heaven, and his community shaking outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33), and the further understanding that came at that point (John 16:13) would all constitute a unique ‘living in the mysteries’, and would equip them for their crucial work as apostles and heralds of the gospel. Such insight has been called The Messianic Secret’. [8]

The Apostolic Gospel and the content of the Epistles is Given

The Epistles within the New Testament serve a crucial, unique function in the preaching of the gospel. Although the disciples did not fully understand much of what Jesus taught them at the time – what they did grasp was a deposit, which later came into its own. Jesus’ parables functioned in a cryptic (Gk: kruptos) manner:

“No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden [Gk: kruptov: concealed] that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret [Gk: apokrufov: kept secret] that will not become known and come to light. Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away.” (Luke 8:16-18)

Like a cryptic crossword, essential clues were yet to be revealed. The early conversations that the disciples had with Jesus alone  – in the dark – could never have broken open to them fully, until the light of the cross and resurrection, and the day of Pentecost had come (John 16:13). Then, that which had been but whispered was proclaimed ‘from the housetops’.   (Cf. Matthew 10:26-27)

P. T. Forsyth writes:

The apostolic interpretation is an integral part of the revelationary fact, process, and purpose, a real though posthumous part of Christ’s own continued teaching. In the Apostles took place a revelation of revelation – and a revelation of it once for all.[9] And Forsyth again:  The Gospels float in the Apostolic Gospel. Not only is Luke Pauline but even Mark.[10]

Every Message is a Gift

The Apostle Paul asks for prayer, from the church, to enable his daily proclamation.

Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak (Ephesians 6:19-20)

God had set Paul apart before he was born, called him through his grace, and was pleased to reveal his Son “in” him. On the Damascus road, Paul had undergone a ‘Christological explosion’, as the Risen Jesus – a mystery, confronted him. He ‘heard a voice’ (Acts 9:4). That he might proclaim Christ among the Gentiles (Galatians 1:15-16). Yet even Paul was always contingent upon the Lord’s giving him a message, for each occasion.

MYSTERY AND MYSTERIES

The New Testament refers to numerous mysteries, as well as one mystery.  In the parable of the sower, the singular and plural are used of the same incident.[11] Geoff Bingham’s comment is a clear summary of this matter:  We can safely say that ‘the mystery’ is the overall reality of God, and His plan for the history of creation.  We can also safely say that ‘the mysteries’[12], though each one in itself, yet all are parts of the one great mystery[13].

The Mystery of Lawlessness – or Iniquity

‘For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed’. (2 Thessalonians 2:7)

Paul wrote this to alert his readers, that ‘an immense blasphemy will take place, the like of which they would never imagine.  Evil being and evil action do constitute a mystery, but for the believer a revealed mystery, warning him of what lies ahead’.[14]

Insight into the dynamics of the clash of the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan is not something that can be grasped by mere explanation.  Revelation is needed. To perceive dark, sinister elements at work in the world, can be – to say the least – perplexing and disturbing.  Rod James depicts Satan as ‘the cosmic terrorist’.[15] The working of his woe is a mystery.  Also, the deceptive, addictive and seductive powers of sin are yet at work in us who believe. I know that sin and guilt combine to reign o’er every thought of mine, and turn from good to ill.[16] We often feel deeply the hidden evil of our own hearts, and we are shocked to the core at the depths of our corruption, as we discover, by revelation, something of what it means that the thoughts and intentions of the human heart are only evil continually (Genesis 6:5). Evil lies close at hand, and sin clings so closely (Hebrews 12:1) even as we delight in the law of God in our inmost being (Romans 7:22).  The mystery of iniquity, or lawlessness may never be fully understood but we are alerted to it, for wise living.

Mystery a Positive Concept in the NT

A mystery… in the New Testament, is a truth which is revealed to the initiated – the person who is born anew of the Spirit – but which remains closed off from the uninitiated, that is, those unable to receive the truth.[17]

It is crucial to distinguish between hearing the mysteries, and all forms of religious mysticism, including so-called Christian mysticism.[18] A finger placed to the lips is a gesture well known to Buddhist piety.  Such a gesture is made as an affirmation that mystery is ‘that about which one must remain silent and really only can remain silent’.[19] It is not uncommon for theologians, philosophers, and religious leaders to employ the word ‘mystery’ to denote ideas such as ineffability, darkness, and impenetrability. In order to avoid wrong ideas conveyed by the English word ‘mystery’, and to emphasise the revelation that has come in human history, fully disclosed in Jesus, Marcus Barth prefers to translate the Greek ‘mysterion’ as ‘secret’. God’s secret has been make known.  He claims:

It is impossible to demonstrate that at any place in the New Testament it signifies an insoluble puzzle or incomprehensible – and yet believed – mystery, though the English translation ‘mystery’ may suggest this meaning.[20]

In Christian history, a negative spin has often been given to the term ‘mystery’.[21]

One of the dark puzzles of the history of theology is the way in which this positive New Testament understanding of mystery has constantly been suppressed hermeneutically in theology. Talk about God is often understood in the tradition as mysterious talk. But it was thought to be mysterious because its object, God, cannot actually be known by our thinking. Talk about God is accordingly regarded as inauthentic talk. This hermeneutical scepticism with regard to the speakability of God can be so intensified that the demand is made not to speak of God at all because our thought cannot genuinely know him. It is virtually a kind of theological self-commendation to introduce “God” as an unspeakable term. As doubly enlightened theologians, we have been taught that what cannot be known is something we cannot talk about.  And “whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent” [22]

John 1:18a says: “No one has ever seen God”. But what follows, is at the heart of the New Testament:  “It is God the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, who has made him known” (John 1:18b). The Word has become flesh. God himself is now accessible:

One can discover what distinguishes the Christian mystery from all others. In the Hellenistic mysteries revelation took place through special rites and ecstasies. In the apocalyptic literature the mysteries of God are revealed by visions or angelic beings.  But in the NT the disciples meet the revelation or mystery of God in a historical event, in Jesus who is the Christ.[23]

TAKE HEED HOW YOU HEAR

Take heed then how you hear; for to him who has will more be given, and from him who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away. (Luke 8:18 – RSV)

Jesus was and is genuinely concerned that people should hear him. P. T. Forsyth wrote:

“The more we fix our attention on the object of our certitude, the more we humbly realise that it is a something given. Its source is not in us. It is of grace.  The men of discovery, of inspiration, tell the same tale.  Truth finds them not they it.  All that is in us is a welcome, a response, a correspondence to it – not indeed a passivity but a receptivity.”[24]

Hebrews 3:12-19 amd 4:2 warns and exhorts believers, to exhort one another every day to keep hearing. Sin is deceitful. Any of us can become hardened! Our ministries can become crusty. Our participation in the mysteries is dependent upon continually hearing God’s voice with faith. This always necessitates a personal encounter with the Giver – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and a subsequent worshipful action in life. Struggle and genuine disturbance are likely at this point. Open our ears Lord! And help us to listen.

These mysteries are so wonderful – marriage – the profound mystery, and the mystery of glorification, to name but two, and all that they mean for the future of creation.  How could we grow dull about such things?  It was said that deficient ecclesiology kills soteriology.  Perhaps it often has. How could we as Christians ever sing of the mysteries as a Sunday morning dirge?  How could we really grow tired of the mystery?  It happens.

Substitutes are devised daily, in our ‘idol factory’ (Calvin), as replacements for the authentic mystery.  Of ourselves, we can never reason our way to know God, as he is in Christ, although we may fathom out some conclusion that there is a God: theism (Antony Flew)[25] But this is neither hearing God, nor a saving faith. We can easily look on at unbelievers dabbling in religious endeavour, in the occult, in atheistic philosophy, and new age forms of age-old Gnosticism, in secret societies, and the like. All are a rejection of God’s word to us in history, and are the judgment of a crass refusal to hear the mysteries of God. However, as believers, we too can devise our substitutes for living in the mysteries.

When this occurs, faith must come once again by hearing. Hearing must be given by the preaching of Christ – the Living Jesus preaching to us. We hear him (Romans 10:17). He deals with our guilt, he obliterates our dullness, he imparts his love (a joyous mystery) we hear him gladly – and he gives to us the knowledge of, and a share in the whole dynamic plan of God’s history, from the beginning of creation through to the new creation, and all that this entails – the whole counsel of God.  The key to our stewardship is to be a person who is ‘always living in the mystery’[26]. We must be persistently acting upon what we hear, and not giving way to cowardice, laziness or apathy. I will tell you a mystery: in Christ, that person in the coffin has a great future!

* Paper Previously published as © 2005 T. R. Faggotter New Creation Teaching Ministry School


[1] 1Corinthians 15:51 Also1Corinthians 4:1  ‘Think of us in this way as…stewards of God’s mysteries’.

[2] ‘A mystery is a reality disclosed, a reality, which could not be otherwise known’. See Geoffrey C. Bingham, The Glory of the Mystery and the Mystery of the Glory, NCPI, 1998, p. 17

[3] ‘…mysteries are not puzzles to be solved, but realities in which to live’ ,  Ibid. p. 5

[4] Leslie Newbigin, in Proper Confidence, Eerdmans, 1995, p. 38-9 says: “Because the ultimate reality in the Bible is personal, we are brought into conformity with this reality not by the two-step process of theory and practice, vision and action, but by a single action comprised of hearing, believing, and obeying. The operative contrast is not between theory and practice; it is between believing and obeying on the one hand and the refusal of belief and obedience on the other.  Believing and obeying are not two separate moves. When Jesus says to Simon, “Follow me,” the response is a single act of faith and obedience; there is no gap between a mental action of believing and a bodily action of following.  The human person is not a mind attached to a body but a single psychosomatic being.’

[5] Nicodemus was quite possibly born from above, but we don’t quite know. (John 7:50; 19:39)

[6] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, IVP, 1992, p. 335

[7] Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah, IVP, 1993, p.79

[8] William Wrede, The Messianic Secret, Cambridge: Mowbrays, 1971. See also J.D.G. Dunn, “The Messianic Secret in Mark”, TSF Bulletin 69, 1974, p. 7-14.

[9] P.T. Forsyth, The Principle of Authority, NCPI, 2004, p. 133

[10] Ibid. p. 140

[11] Mathew 13:11 and Luke 8:10 refer to “the mysteries” (ta mysteria) – plural, of the kingdom of God, while in Mark 4:11 the word used is “mystery” (ton mysterion) – singular.  When Jesus likened the Kingdom of heaven to various examples: a mustard seed – yeast that a woman mixed – treasure hidden – a merchant searching for pearls – a net thrown out for fish – and so on, each parable is really a mystery within the primary mystery.  Likewise, Paul writes in 1Corinthians 4:1 of being stewards of “the mysteries”  – plural, while in Ephesians 3:9 the reference is to “the mystery” – singular.

[12] A comprehensive list of the NT mysteries would include the following references:

1.     The Mystery of the Kingdom (Matthew 13:11, Mark 4:11, Luke 8:10)

2.     The Mystery of the Hardening of Israel (Romans 11:25)

3.     The Revelation of the Mystery (Romans 11:25-26)

4.     The Mystery of God (1Corinthians 2:1)

5.     The Mystery of Glorification (1Corinthians 2:7)

6.     The Mysteries of God (1Corinthians 4:1) –Stewards

7.     All Mysteries (1Corinthians 13:2)

8.     A Mystery (1Corinthians 15:51f)

9.     Mysteries uttered in the Spirit (1Corinthians 14:2)

10.   The Mystery of His will (Ephesians 1:9)

11.   The Mystery of Christ (Ephesians 3:3)

12.   The Mystery of the Integration of the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:6, 3:9)

13.   Marriage: the Profound Mystery (Ephesians 5:32)

14.   The Mystery of the Gospel (Ephesians 6:19)

15.   The Mystery hidden throughout the ages (Colossians 1:25-27)

16.   God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself (Colossians 2:2; 4:3)

17.   The Mystery of Iniquity – or Lawlessness (2Thessalonians 2:7)

18.   The Mystery of our Faith (1Timothy 3:9)

19.   The Mystery of our Religion (1Timothy 3:16)

20.   The Mystery of the Seven Stars (Revelation 1:20)

21.   They Mystery of God (Revelation 10:7)

22.   The Mystery of the Woman – Babylon (Revelation 17:5-7)

Many mysteries are not directly named as mysteries, but can be classified as such: For example:(1) Sanctification: See Walter Marshall, Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, Tyndale Bible Society.(2) The revelation of God, as love, and the central matter of the propitiation and God’s wrath, in order to deal with sin, and establish peace is a mystery unveiled in the text of 1John 4:7-10.

[13] G.C. Bingham, p. 73 gives further insight into the meaning of the passage.

[14] Ibid, p. 67

[15] Rod James, Unity ‘Fails’ in All the Earth, in The Ministry and Message of Reconciliation, NCTM Ministry School, 2003, p. 141

[16] Frank B. St. John, c. 1879, in New Creation Hymn Book, No. 218

[17] G. C. Bingham, p. 27

[18] ‘Are you listening to God?’ can be an ambiguous question, without Apostolic substance to the teaching.

[19] Eberhard Jüngel, God As The Mystery Of The World, Eerdmans, 1983, p. 251

[20] Markus Barth, Ephesians: Translation and Commentary on Chapters 1-3, The Anchor Bible, vol. 34, Doubleday, New York, 1974, p. 124

[21] This has a long history dating back to around 482 AD and the work of a theologian known as Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite (not to be confused with the person of Acts 17:34). His teaching has had an enormously detrimental influence on thinking concerning God. He says: “We approach Deity in its concealment only after we have set aside all thinking.”  See E. Jüngel, p. 8

[22] E. Jüngel, p. 251

[23] G.W. Barker, ‘Mystery’ in The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Vol. III, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1986, p. 453

[24] P.T. Forsyth, p. 82

[25] See ‘Why the world’s most famous atheist, now believes in God’ by James A Beverley, Christianity Today:, April 2005, Vol. 49, No. 4, p. 80 http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/004/29.80.html

[26] G.C. Bingham, p. 30





What We Believe…

4 08 2009

What do we confess to be true about the world we live in, and life itself, and eternity, and judgment?

The Nicene Creed:

We believe in one God.

the Father, the Almighty,

maker of heaven and earth,

of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,

the only Son of God,

eternally begotten of the Father,

God from God, Light from Light,

true God from true God,

begotten not made,

of one Being with the Father.

Through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation

he came down from heaven:

by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from

the Virgin Mary and was made man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;

he suffered death and was buried.

On the third day he rose again

in accordance with the Scriptures;

he ascended into heaven

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead

and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father (and the Son).

With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified

He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

We look for the resurrection of the dead,

And the life of the world to come. Amen








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