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Category Archives: News stories

Packing so much into a short time

“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”  Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Jon, thanks for posting this quote. It sums up the news over the past few weeks.

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2016 in News stories, Quotes

 

Pray for our brothers & sisters in Russia, part 2

Last week, I learned that the Russian Duma was considering legislation on anti-terrorism that would severely curtail religious activity. The organization, Barnabas Aid reported that President Putin signed the law on July 3.

Last week we reported that President Vladimir Putin had until 20 July to decide whether to enact an anti-terror bill into law – which, despite protests from churches, includes many clauses that are strongly anti-Christian. In fact the bill, which is primarily aimed at anti-terrorist activities, was signed into law by President Putin on Sunday 3 July. Protestant Christians in Russia fear that the new law will be chiefly enforced as a weapon against them and not used against the Orthodox Church, which Mr Putin has favoured in the past.

The new law will require any sharing of the Christian faith – even a casual conversation – to have prior authorisation from the state. This includes something as basic as an emailed invitation for a friend to attend church. Even in a private home, worship and prayer will only be allowed if there are no unbelievers present. Churches will also be held accountable for the activities of their members. So if, for example, a church member mentions their faith in conversation with a work colleague, not only the church member but also the church itself could be punished, with individuals facing fines of up to 50,000 roubles (£580; USD770; €700). There are also restrictions on the extent to which churches can have contact with foreigners; for example, any non-Russian citizen attending a church service would be required to have a work visa or face a fine and expulsion from Russia.

Christianity Today reported the news in this article, “Russia’s Newest Law: No Evangelizing Outside of Church.” Mission Network News offered their view in an article, “Big Brother passes bill in Russia.”

How will this affect the pastors I know in Russia–Vanya, Sasha, Sandzhik? How will this affect the missionaries our church supports in Russia? How will this affect my missionary friends who invest, train, and mentor Russian pastors? How will this affect my future ministry in the country? How will this affect the Christ followers in Russia? Will the church be stamped out? Or will it flourish and grow even though it is driven underground?

I admit that I have more questions than I have answers right now. As several articles explain, a lot depends on how the law is enforced. If nothing else, we need to pray even more fervently for the Christ followers and global servants in Russia.

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2016 in News stories, Russia

 

Stop Dying!

Another article from The Moscow Times for the OIR file (Only In Russia) – “Russian Health Ministry Bans Patients from Dying to ‘Not Ruin Stats'”

Who knew that too many deaths spoiled the health statistics?

Thanks go to Norm Eddy and John Musgrave for posting the original article. It certainly gave me a reason to chuckle and roll my eyes.

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2016 in News stories, Russia

 

How far does your conscience stretch?

An Alabama county official refused to lower flags to half-staff this week in honor of the victims of the mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando, saying that doing so would signal a lack of resolve in the face of terrorism. While his “soul ached for the victims” and his family prayed “for them and for the world,” he did not feel it was a “valid circumstance” for lowering the flag to half-staff.

A student is given the assignment of writing a term paper defending evolution. As a Christ follower, they feel it will violate their convictions.

An employee is told to fly a rainbow flag at half-staff in front of their office building to signify mourning for the victims of the massacre in Orlando, FL. While they mourn the tragedy, they wonder if the action means they approve of a lifestyle that goes against their biblical convictions.

In the 1981 movie, Chariots of Fire, Olympic athlete Eric Liddell is scheduled to compete in the 100 meters during the 1924 Paris Olympics. However, he discovers that the preliminary heat is scheduled for a Sunday. Being a Sabbatarian, he refuses because it goes against his Christian convictions. The dialogue below reveals how the British athletic leaders try to convince him otherwise.

Lord Birkenhead: Liddell, he is your future king, are you refusing to shake his hand? Does your arrogance extend that far?

Eric Liddell: My arrogance, sir, extends just as far as my conscience demands.

Lord Birkenhead: Fine, then let’s hope that is wise enough to give you room to maneuver.

Lord Cadogan: Don’t be impertinent, Liddell!

Eric Liddell: The impertinence lies, sir, with those who seek to influence a man to deny his beliefs!

HRH Edward, Prince of Wales: There are times when we are asked to make sacrifices in the name of that loyalty. And without them our allegiance is worthless. As I see it, for you, this is such a time.

Eric Liddell: Sir, God knows I love my country. But I can’t make that sacrifice.

As a Christ follower, how do we practice our beliefs in an increasingly antagonistic culture? When do we stand firm and when do we compromise? How far can our convictions stretch before they break altogether and mean nothing?

Fortunately for us, the book of Daniel in the Old Testament provides some insights as to how we can live out our convictions in a culture that either ignores or rejects God.

  • Daniel was a teenager when he was taken as a prisoner to Babylon (Daniel 1:1-4, 6)
  • The Babylonian leaders wanted to change Daniel’s education, diet, and name (1:4-7).
  • Rather than eat the king’s food (which had probably been first offered to idols, or went against Jewish dietary laws), Daniel proposed a compromise (1:8-16). For ten days, he and his friends would submit to the education and name change, but follow Jewish dietary laws. The steward could then evaluate the results and Daniel and his friends would abide by the decision.
  • King Nebuchadnezzar builds a statue of himself and enacts a law that everyone has to bow down to the image. Daniel’s three friends—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—refuse and face the fiery furnace as a result (3:1-30).
  • Government officials who oppose Daniel enact a law outlawing prayer to anyone but the king (6:1-9). Rather than change his habits, Daniel continues to pray at the same time and same place as he had previously (6:10). Daniel is cast into the lion’s den as a consequence of disobeying the law (6:11-24).

Based on the example of Daniel and his friends, there is a time to suggest a compromise (ch. 1) and there is a time to stand firm in our convictions (chs. 3 & 6). If necessary, we must face the consequences for our choices. And God may, or may not, rescue us from the punishment. Regardless of the outcome, however, we need to be obedient and follow God (3:16-18).

I counseled the student writing the paper on evolution to present what the teacher asked for. The student could quote the teacher’s sources and give what was required. At the end of the paper, the student could then present what Scripture says on the subject. It was a compromise designed to meet the requirements while at the same time declaring their personal convictions.

The worker attached the hardware for the rainbow flag to be raised, but did not participate in any further ceremonies. They performed their duty without endorsing the decision.

As time goes on, Christ followers will face more and more situations where we will have to decide how far our conscience can stretch. May we have the wisdom of Daniel to know when to compromise and when to stand firm.

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2016 in Culture, News stories, Scripture

 

A time to weep

After reading the news over the past 30 days, I’ve come to the conclusion it is time to weep. We should weep for a culture where …

  • People live secret lives
  • We think that violence is the answer to our problems
  • Individuals kill others because they are different or hold different values
  • Evil appears to be winning
  • Politicians use tragedies to push political agendas
  • Politicians are more concerned about assigning blame than finding solutions and fixing problems
  • Political candidates are more focused on accusing the opposing candidate of wrongdoing than they are on stating what they truly believe
  • Animal life is valued higher than human life (On May 31, Ed Stetzer tweeted “In 5 days: 700 refugees drowned off Greece, 9000 babies were aborted in U.S., 68 were shot in Chicago … and a gorilla dominated the news)
  • Tolerance is elevated to the highest virtue, and if you disagree with my statement, you must be a “hater” because you are obviously intolerant
  • Christ followers are marginalized because we believe that the Bible speaks to the issue of right and wrong and not everything should be tolerated
  • We are so focused on vilifying religion that we miss when a company with conservative values like Chik-Fil-A goes out of their way to demonstrate compassion to those serving the victims of the recent shooting in Orlando
  • We have become so desensitized to violence and cynical about politicians that we no longer recognize when it is time to weep

 

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2016 in Culture, News stories

 

Weep with those who weep

Russell Moore, President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, has written a thoughtful response to the tragedy in Orlando, FL. His article, “Can we still weep together?” appears in TIME magazine. He concludes his article with some very thoughtful statements.

How then do we weep with those who weep?

Let’s call our congregations to pray together. Let’s realize that, in this case, our gay and lesbian neighbors are likely quite scared. Who wouldn’t be? Demonstrate the sacrificial love of Jesus to them. We don’t have to agree on the meaning of marriage and sexuality to love one another and to see the murderous sin of terrorism. Let’s also pray for our leaders who have challenging decisions to make in the midst of crisis. Let’s mobilize our congregations and others to give blood for the victims. Let’s call for governing authorities to do their primary duty of keeping its people safe from evildoers.

And let’s bear patiently with those who jump the gun, in arguing about the politics on social media. For many of them, the jump to talk about gun control or Islam or military preparedness or any other issue isn’t so much about pontificating as it is about frustration. They, like all of us, want this horror to end, and they want to do something—even if that’s just expressing themselves on Twitter.

As the Body of Christ, though, we can love and serve and weep and mourn. And we can remind ourselves and our neighbors that this is not the way it is supposed to be. We mourn, but we mourn in the hope of a kingdom where blood is not shed and where bullets never fly.

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2016 in News stories, Quotes

 

When cultures clash

Public schools are becoming the battleground in a clash of cultures.

Obama Administration to Give Schools Guidance on Transgender Use” – The title of the article appears to be misleading. Rather than giving guidance, the “federal government will tell public schools across the country on Friday morning that they should allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.” If they don’t comply, they stand to lose Title IX funds.

President Obama: Accept Transgenderism or Else” – Denny Burk, Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College has written a response to the letter from the Administration. Burk takes his response back to a basic binary truth, that God created us in his image as male and female (Genesis 1:26-28). Jesus himself recognized this as good and right (Matthew 19:4). “Understanding this binary used to be common sense, and this traditional understanding is no less true even if it is less common.”

From Agender to Ze: A Glossary for the Gender Identity Revolution” – Joe Carter, an editor for The Gospel Coalition has provided a glossary of 31 terms used by the gender identity movement. As Tim Challies points out, it reads like a dictionary of depravity. While it is not for the faint of heart, the list “should help you better understand the linguistic radicalness of the gender identity revolution.”

Certainly, much to pray about.

 

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2016 in Culture, News stories, Scripture

 
 
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