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.





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.





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.





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/





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.





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?








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