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/

 





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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flag of Chad





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





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

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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]

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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. 





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!

 

 

 





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/





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





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.





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





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




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.





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.





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.





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





Geoffrey C. Bingham dies – (goes home!)

3 06 2009

Geoffrey Bingham – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Today Geoff Bingham died. He is one of the dearest of men, that I know. He has been a friend, a mentor, a joyful preacher and teacher of the Christian faith, a doctor of theology, a missionary to Pakistan, a former POW in Changi in WW2, and a prolific and notable Australian author – and one to whom many, many people are grateful for his help and encouragement.

In particular Geoffrey has taught the heart of the Cross of Jesus Christ, and the grace of God known there, he has taught the hope and joy of creation redeemed through Jesus resurrection, and he has – perhaps as well as any – taught the Fatherhood of God.

Geoffrey has been a theologian and preacher of the heart! He has left a rich legacy in New Creation Teaching Ministries. 

May the Lord comfort Laurel—his dear wife, and his family, and the many, many people who will miss him. Much will be written about him. As the years roll on, many will undoubtedly discover his writings, and do so with great joy.

That is my small comment, for now.  … thanks dear Geoff, thank you!





a prayer for me, and for you…

2 06 2009

Dear Father, 

It seems a long time since we have had a proper talk. As Jesus has taught us to pray, so it is good to say, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name—your name! 

It is good to be able to pray to you. Thanks for short simple prayers. Thanks for little silent groans that you hear and answer. Thank you too, for the sanity that a longer, more framed, and almost formal prayer, brings to one’s mind.  (No wonder people—Anglicans—have for years, loved their book of common prayer). And then the Psalms are so good to read too. 

But it is time just for a slightly theological, prayer-full of the Spirit, rejoicing:

Thank you for sending your dear Son into the world, to become one with us – your beloved, yet sinful humanity.

Thank you Jesus for bearing our sins, in your body on the Tree, once, for all, to redeem this lost world of cities, towns, homes, lonely ones, and powerful nations.

Thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to us, to open our minds and hearts to know you, and love you, and to bring us insight and understanding of the gospel, and its centrality for all creation, for all of eternity.

Help my family and friends, Lord. Comfort, encourage, heal, humble, strengthen, quieten, forgive them, reconcile, and cheer them—all those good things!

Help me to encourage them. Help my life to be a small blessing to lots of people here and there.

(Even if it is simply talking kindly, and thankfully and thoughtfully, while appreciating the service and work, of the lady in the chicken shop, hot, tired, frustrated with things, greasy, and just serving one person after another—all of them hungry and in a hurry—and her in need of a cheerful moment. Bless your servants Lord, that this world may rejoice in hope now, and one day in full voice!). 

And now unto you O Lord, who by the power at work within us (the resurrection power) is able to do far more abundantly than all we can ask or think, to you be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.





基督死了。 基督上升。 基督再将来。

2 05 2009

基督死了。 基督上升。 基督再将来。

그리스도는 죽었다. 그리스도는 일어난다. 그리스도는 다시 올 것이다.

Christ Died. Christ is Risen. Christ Will Come Again.

Le Christ est mort. Le Christ est levé. Le Christ viendra encore.

O Χριστός πέθανε. Ο Χριστός αναστήθηκε. Ο Χριστός θα έρθει πάλι.

Christ è morto. Christ è aumentato. Christ verrà ancora.

Cristo murió. Se levanta Cristo. Cristo vendrá otra vez.

Christus stierf. Christus is toegenomen. Christus zal opnieuw komen.

Christ starb. Christ wird gestiegen. Christ kommt wieder.

キリストは死んだ。 キリストは上がる。 キリストは再度来る。
Христос умерло. Христос поднято. Христос будет приходить снова.
Christ morreu. Christ é levantado. Christ virá outra vez.
Well, no matter how you say it, the wonderful exclamation of life, hope, faith and the love which lies at the heart of creation, is such stunning, all encompassing truth, that the simple words – at the heart of the gospel sound out across the nations. 
Of course, Christ, or the Messiah is none other than Jesus of Nazareth. More than a prophet. More than a political King. More than a servant. He is the Man, in whom God himself has come among us, and now shares in the life of humanity, eternally. All this, in order that we may gain our bearings, through him, as our sin is forgiven, our lives reconciled to God, and our place in the eternal family secured.
Praise to the Lord.




Karl Barth – God in the History of His Deeds, on mp3

29 04 2009

Karl Barth: Great Theologian:

“evangelical theology is concerned with Immanuel, ‘God with us’… a happy science!”

The much-loved, much-studied, and much-criticised theologian, Karl Barth is not with us, bodily, for he is now, with the Risen Lord Jesus.

Karl has departed from his participation in this world—where sin and death are present. But, if you are interested, you can still … ha! read his books (this post was originally about an MP3 lecture in English. But it is no longer at that URL.  I am sorry to say, I can’t direct you to listen to him.  Oh well. If anyone knows where it went, please let me know!)

I—did—love the accent … as he spoke in English!

So instead of listening to a quote, why not read a little of his writing…

“The truth of the knowledge that Christ in his revelation has the power of the Creator, depends upon it being the acknowledgment of a fact and  not an arbitrary combination. Where this power is experienced, there is literally nothing to combine, creation and revelation are not two truths to be held side by side, compared with each other and put into touch with each other, but the one reality of Jesus Christ, as the Revealer with the power of the Creator.  And in that case this power of the Creator cannot be thought of as one specially related and limited to revelation. Augustine, therefore is right when he lets even the angels, and Luther therefore, is right when he lets even the broody hen, be created  by the Word. ” (p. 511-512, CD, Volume 1. Part 1)





Reality. Not Idols

25 03 2009

Yes, there is such a thing as reality. It is knowing Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, ascended as the LORD OF ALL CREATION, and reigning over your life this moment.  That is it!

We play too many games with our images of what we think life should be. This is paying homage to an ‘image.

Another word for an image, is an ‘idol’.

It does not have to be made of wood or stone. It can just be an idea in our head about how we think life should unfold, turn out.

Having met the risen Jesus, one of the friends he had, said, ‘Little children, keep yourself from idols’

The reality of Jesus christ, faithful friend, holy Lord, will not let you down, but will stretch you to live truthfully. This is constant, and difficult, and interfering with of our willful autonomy – but it is graciously good and wholly redeeming. Believe me.

So then, let us look to the Living Christ. He is the great reality,. He is life. Idols cannot act. They are silly superstition. So many people have them. Not just primitives either. It can be the intellectual sensible folks, who are most idolatrous.

Read Isaiah 45.

20 ¶ Assemble yourselves and come together, draw near, you survivors of the nations! They have no knowledge–those who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save.

21 Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? There is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is no one besides me.

22 Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

23 By myself I have sworn, from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness a word that shall not return: “To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.”

24 Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; all who were incensed against him shall come to him and be ashamed.

25 In the LORD all the offspring of Israel shall triumph and glory.

46:1 ¶ Bel bows down, Nebo stoops, their idols are on beasts and cattle; these things you carry are loaded as burdens on weary animals.

2 They stoop, they bow down together; they cannot save the burden, but themselves go into captivity.

3 Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from your birth, carried from the womb;

4 even to your old age I am he, even when you turn gray I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.

5 ¶ To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, as though we were alike?

6 Those who lavish gold from the purse, and weigh out silver in the scales–they hire a goldsmith, who makes it into a god; then they fall down and worship!

7 They lift it to their shoulders, they carry it, they set it in its place, and it stands there; it cannot move from its place. If one cries out to it, it does not answer or save anyone from trouble.

8 Remember this and consider, recall it to mind, you transgressors,

9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like me,

10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My purpose shall stand, and I will fulfill my intention,”

11 calling a bird of prey from the east, the man for my purpose from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have planned, and I will do it.

12 Listen to me, you stubborn of heart, you who are far from deliverance:

13 I bring near my deliverance, it is not far off, and my salvation will not tarry; I will put salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory.

….

Now folks. let me ask you are you trusting in an idol?

Let your heart and mind answer. Is your hop in an image, or in the Living God?

remember…. an idol, is an image….

so many people have an image of life, and how they think it should go….

so are you an idol worshipper…. or do your know the risen Christ Jesus, and his Father.

He said of Jesus, who is the only one never to have idols…. ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased’. … Here is the cracking breakthrough…. That is his Word to you, as you are baptised into Jesus. Wow!  Go, pleased with me? Wow!





Such Graciousness

19 03 2009

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

This is stunning.

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

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

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

Background:

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

But then, this amazaing thing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now:

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

This is the gospel. Such graciousness.





Australians… and beliefs

21 01 2009

What do Australians believe?

Did you know that in the 2001 Census, Australians identified in the following ways – when it came to belief or religion, or spirituality?

Christian       69%

No Religion  16%

No Reply        10%          

                                            NOTE:   TOTAL thus far… 95%

Then… of the remaining 5% it went like this:

Buddhist                                         1.94%

Muslim                                            1.53%

Hindu                                              0.52%

Jew                                                    0.46%

Aboriginal & TSI/Traditional    0.3%

           (… then there are the smaller home grown varieties of New Age, and so on).  

It is a big surprise to many people, that only 5% of Australians are in the ‘Other Religions’ category.

Point: Christian faith teaches that we should honor all people, of all creeds. It also teaches that the resurrection of Jesus is Public Truth. (Leslie Newbigin) 

 Q. Is it appropriate that we, all therefore, walk on tenterhooks in these matters?  

Thought for the Day: Could these figures be a major contributing factor as to why Australia is a generally fine place to live?





Pateriology: Study 2

22 10 2008

STUDY 2
Pateriology: The Person and Work of the Father

Available Studies

Last week we saw the general absence of studies in the Person and Work of the Father. A curiosity for sure! We noted that Christology, and Pneumatology were both readily available as topics for study. However to study Pateriology seems to be rarely done, within the church. The importance of Jesus words, concerning the Father, and his relating to the Father, as well as his Post-resurrection teaching to Mary Magdalene – My Father and Your Father – suggest this needs redressing. Sources of study can be found particularly in John’s Gospel, but also in the Sermon on the Mount. Add to this the witness of Paul, Luke, and others, to the Father, and we have much material. We also have the riches and insights of theologians, who love the Father.

What is to be done?

There is a story of a famous huntsman who, when asked about the best way of trapping a fox, replied: ‘Start trapping – the fox will teach you!’

We could say – start studying, The Person and Work of the Father, Pateriology – and the Father will teach you. Indeed, it is even better than that – surely. If the elusive fox can be our teacher, how much will our Heavenly Father, teach us the good things we need to know.

Jesus said: “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone. 10 Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-11)

Covenant Father; Covenant Son

In the Old Testament, we note that Israel knew God as Covenant Father, and Israel was the Covenant Son.

Some 700 years before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah wrote of their God:

For you are our father, though Abraham does not know us and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O LORD, are our father; our Redeemer from of old is your name. (Isaiah 63:16)

Also Hosea 11:1

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

We can say that the One who had redeemed his people from Egypt had a close relationship of which the full revelation was yet to come.

The Incarnation – in these last days

The Father speaks and reveals himself by a Son, the Son:

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Hebrews 1:1-3)

Jesus came, yet still people missed the Father – The Forgotten Father.

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

(John 14:9)

Even the close disciples failed to grasp the fullness of Jesus relationship with the Father, until after the crucifixion and resurrection. Indeed, it took the terrible cross, and the subsequent teaching concerning the Kingdom of God from the Risen Lord – during forty days – and then the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, for the new believers to be able to understand, that, God is … truly Father:

And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6).

The revelation of the love and unity, and purpose at the heart of the crucifixion of Jesus, revealed the love of the Father, for his people.

Patripassionism

Now, we ask: Is there a grain of truth in that heresy Patripassionism?

Patripassionism confuses the Persons and Work of the Father and that of the Son. It claims that the Father suffered on the cross. However, it was Jesus, the Son who was nailed to the cross. The Father and Son are not the same Person. They speak to one another and have separate wills to engage, even when wholly united, as One in the work of the cross, and in all things. Heresy is usually going too far – an overstating of some point – in teaching to the detriment of other matters.

All Things Are Yours

But Paul writes: “For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future–all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God”. (1Corinthians 1:21-23) Heresies are ours, to learn of error; they are also there, sometimes, because hovering nearby is a great question, looking for an answer. It is probably this: Did/does the Father suffer?

The Initiative in the Sending

The Father is not the Son; they are discrete persons. The Son has come down from heaven, and the Father has sent him. (A work!)

37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent. (John 5:37-38)

28 Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own. But the one who sent me is true, and you do not know him. 29 I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” (John 7:28-29)

The Motive of the Sending is Love

In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1John 4:10).

God is willing to go to the length of suffering and dying to enter into fellowship with man. There is a misunderstanding of the Christian doctrine of atonement that goes something like this: God is an angry God, angry at men because men have sinned, and he decides to condemn mankind; but Christ intercedes for man, and God’s vengeance is sated by punishing Christ instead. Although this is a travesty of the Christian position it has unfortunately been too often suggested by interpreters of the atonement as well as by their critics. But Forsyth, who said, “The doctrine of grace and the doctrine of the atonement are identical,” the true interpretation is that the atonement flows from grace, it does not “procure” grace. This extremely important insight means that our reading of the atonement is more like this: Because God loves men, he suffers on their behalf, bears himself the weight of their wrongdoing, and this restores fellowship, or reconciles. Grace is not something Christ earned for us from God; grace is rather something God gave us in Christ. “Do not say: ‘God is love. Why atone?’ Say: ‘God has atoned. What love!’[1]

Note then, that the Father atoned – what sending love!

And in this sending, atoning love did and does the Father suffer?

Father and Son Carry and Suffer the Misery of Ages

Jesus said: the Father and I are one (John 10:3). He also said, the Father is in me and I am in the Father (John 14:10). When we see the Cruciality of the Cross we see the action of the Father giving up his Son in love, and the Son honoring the Father. God, the Father, was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. We are often made aware of the sufferings of Christ. However, P.T. Forsyth draws our attention to the depth of the Father’s suffering too, saying: ‘And the Father suffered in His Son even more than the Son did’.[2]

There is an Eye, a Mind, a Heart, before whom the whole bloody and tortured stream of evolutionary growth has flowed. We are horrified, beyond word or conception, by the agony and devilry of war, but, after all, it only discharges upon us, as it were from a nozzle, a far vaster accumulation of such things, permeating the total career of history since ever a sensitive organism and a heartless egoism appeared.[3]

World War 1 was an occasion, to turn anew to the sufferings of God, the Father, throughout human history:

This misery of the ages, I have said, vanishes from human thought or feeling, till some experience like war carries some idea of it home. But there is a consciousness to which it is all and always present. And in the full view of it He has spoken. As it might be thus: ‘Do you stumble at the cost? It has cost Me more than you—Me who see and feel it all more than you who feel it but as atoms might. “Groanings all and moanings, none of it I lose.” Yea, it has cost Me more than if the price paid were all Mankind. For it cost Me My only and beloved Son to justify My name of righteousness, and to realise the destiny of My creature in holy love.[4]

P.T. Forsyth spotlights the love of the Father, for the Son, and calls us to consider this. (We are often very self-centred when we ask questions concerning the unfairness of life, and of our sufferings). He continues, along the lines that the Father, might say, concerning his Son, Jesus:

And all mankind is not so great and dear as He. Nor is its suffering the enormity in a moral world that His Cross is. I am no spectator of the course of things, and no speculator on the result. I spared not My own Son. We carried the load that crushed you. It bowed Him into the ground. [5]

The Father Takes the Initiative in Dealing with Sin

In 1 Peter 2:24 we read of Jesus that:

‘He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross…’.

There is a footnote to the text where other manuscripts include the words: ‘carried up our sins in his body to the tree’.

This is the action, or work of Jesus. But what of the Father’s work?

Isaiah 53:6 says of the crushing load of the suffering servant:

‘The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all’.

This seems to indicate the Father’s action, of laying the sin upon his son, as Abraham took the knife to kill his son Isaac (Gen. 22:10). Only this time, there is not another ram in the thicket.

Further, Matthew 26:31 has it written of the action coming upon Jesus, and of the deserting flight of the disciples:

‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered’.

It is the Father, surely, who takes the initiative here, to deal with sin, once for all, laying the burden, and its horrendous judgment upon the Son. This is a love-action, for the whole of creation, and it is also a severe action – that sin is dealt with. It must happen. The Father brings such complete judgment upon evil, that His dear Son is abandoned up for us all. He is utterly forsaken. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me. (Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22) – the essence of these words really must be grasped. Geoffrey Bingham has written:

If he were not separated, then would sin have been really dealt with? If this alienation of the human spirit from God is the very essence of wrath, then was God’s wrath really poured out on the Cross upon sin, and was it borne by Christ, if he were not forsaken? The answer must surely be, ‘The wrath was poured out upon sin, and for man’s sake he was forsaken’… What we fail to understand is the utter desolation that is indicated by the cry. If to be forsaken is the utterness of suffering (and it is), then he actually has to suffer this. If some special knowledge tells him he is not essentially forsaken, then he does not suffer to the full. Let us understand this: he did suffer to the full. Failure to understand this cry is failure to understand the terrible nature of sin and the high wrath of the eternal God, who must destroy evil by His burning action of holiness.[6]

Jesus must know and bear the dreadful anger of God upon all sin, once, for all. It is only as a person by the Spirit, sees these facts that they can be truly at peace.

He must, as man, be taken from the Holy Presence and go out into the place of the damned. He must suffer it all, or not at all.[7]

Leon Morris concurs regarding this actual fact of forsaken-ness. The meaning of Jesus words, are that he was cut off from the Father.[8]

Another scholar, R. W. Dale would never allow that Christ only felt forsaken. He said,

‘I shrink from saying that even in my calmest and brightest hours I have a knowledge of God and the ways of God which is truer than Christ had, even in His agony. I dare not stand before His cross and tell Him that even for a moment He imagines something concerning God which is not a fact and cannot be a fact’.[9]

Forsyth alerts us to the wrecked world, where the mending requires something very deep:

Things are so profoundly out of joint that only something deeper than the wrecked world can mend them, only a God of love and power infinite, making his sovereignty good once for all, though mountains are cast into the sea. The only theodicy is not a system, but a salvation; it is God’s own saving Act and final judgment, incarnate historically and personally. The Cross of Christ, eternal and universal, immutable and invincible, is the moral goal and principle of nations and affairs.

If it seem ridiculous to say that a riot and devilry of wickedness like war is still not out of the providence of Christ’s holy love, it is because we are victims of a prior unfaith. It is because we have come to think it a theological absurdity to say that the Cross of Christ outweighs for God in awful tragedy, historic moment, and eternal effect a whole world ranged in inhuman arms. We do not really believe that it is Christ, ‘crucified to the end of the world’ (as Pascal says), that pays the last cost of war. That God spared not His own Son is a greater shock to the natural conscience than the collapse of civilisation in blood would be.

Again, Forsyth has nailed it. We too, in our day, have come to think it a theological absurdity to say that the Cross of Christ outweighs for God in awful tragedy, historic moment, and eternal effect a whole world ranged in inhuman arms. Theologians, preachers and churches – we have all too often failed to declare the whole counsel of God in this matter. We have been slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.

For civilisation may deserve to collapse, if only because it crucified the Son of God, and crucifies Him afresh. But if God spared not His own Son, He will spare no historic convulsion needful for His kingdom. And if the unspared Son neither complained nor challenged, but praised and hallowed the Father’s name, we may worship and bow the head.[10]

Hallowing the Father’s Name [Matthew 6:9]

We may worship and bow the head, before our Father, who has so spent everything – to redeem his renegade people. All this glorifies the Son, and he in turn, the Father. No length is spared. Creation rejoices.

‘Behold – see what love the Father has given us…’ (1John 3:1)

That we – the rebels – should be judged, healed, forgiven, sanctified, brought home, and called sons and daughters of the Father!

This suffering achieved the Father and the Son’s shared purpose for the world – together with all the Spirit’s help:

On the third day He rose with a new creation in His hand, and a regenerate world, and all things working together for good to love and the holy purpose in love. And what He did I did. How I did it? How I do it? This you know not how, and could not, but you shall know hereafter. There are things the Father must keep in His own hand. Be still and know that I am God, whose mercy is as His majesty, and His omnipotence is chiefly in forgiving, and redeeming, and settling all souls in worship in the temple of a new heaven and earth full of holiness. In that day the anguish will be forgotten for joy that a New Humanity is born into the world[11]

[1] Robert McAfee Brown, P. T. Forsyth: Prophet For Today, Westminster Press, 1952, p. 82-83

[2] P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, NCPI, p. 169

[3] P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 164

[4] P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 164

[5] Ibid.

[6] Geoffrey C. Bingham, Christ’s Cross Over Man’s Abyss, NCPI p. 68

[7] Ibid, p. 70

[8] Leon Morris, The Cross in the New Testament, Eerdmans, 1965, p. 45

[9] R. W. Dale, The Atonement, 1902, p. xli

[10] I believe it was David Brainerd, 1718-1747 who was able to praise and hallow the Father’s name even as his own family members were murdered, as he was dragged in a tortuous manner across a prairie, for his testimony to Jesus; all in the service of bringing the gospel to the North American Indians in Delaware.

[11] P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 164­­–165








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