Friday, September 22, 2006

Persecution Around the World

From International Christian Concern

9/21/06 Indonesia (ICC) Indonesian Christians Executed -- The three Christian men facing the death penalty in Indonesia have been executed by firing squad. The men were executed just after midnight on Friday, September 22, 2006, Indonesia time.

9/15/06 Somalia (ANS) Convert from Islam to Christianity Killed in Somalia -- Somali Christian sources report that Ali Mustaf Maka'il, a college student and cloth merchant, who converted from Islam to Christianity eleven months ago, was shot and killed in the Manabolyo quarter of Mogadishu

9/16/06 Palestine (AsiaNews) Two Churches Struck In Nablus As Muslim Countries Criticize Pope – As Muslims persist in heaping criticism on the pope’s speech in Regensburg, there have been elements of violence. There is also speculation about political exploitation of the criticisms leveled against the pontiff.

9/16/06 India (BosNewsLife) India Hindu Militants Attack House Church As Violence Spreads – Dozens of Hindu militants stormed a house church in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, where several other Christian gatherings were attacked earlier in the week

9/17/06 Somalia (Christian Post) Italian Nun Slain by Somali Gunmen -- Sister Leonella was shot in the back four times by pistol-wielding attackers as she left the Austrian-run S.O.S. hospital after finishing nursing school for trainee medics. Her bodyguard was also slain. There was no claim of responsibility for the attack, which came just hours after a leading Somali cleric condemned the pope's remarks last week on Islam and violence

9/18/06 India (Evangelical Fellowship of India) Attack on Church Building and Christians in Amritsar, Punjab -- Uday Singh, the priest of the Church stated that some unscrupulous persons had entered the Church and indulged in an act of sacrilege of historic and religious items, including the holy book

9/18/06 Islam ( Al Qaeda threat to 'slit throats of worshippers of the cross' -- Al Qaeda militants in Iraq vowed war on "worshippers of the cross" and protesters burned a papal effigy on Monday over Pope Benedict's comments on Islam.

9/18/06 Uzbekistan (Church Leadership Development International) Government Clamps Down on Religious Freedom -- Pastor Seeks Refugee Status -- Sergey Khripunov a citizen of Uzbekistan who serves as a pastor overseeing five churches and is Church Leadership Development International’s (CLDI) key ministry contact in Central Asia, was illegally deported from his own country.

9/19/06 Pakistan (AsiaNews) Young Christian Arrested For Blasphemy – The boy was arrested for allegedly tearing pages from a tafseer, a book explaining the Quranic verses. Both have been charged under section 295B of Pakistan’s Penal Code, better known as the blasphemy laws, which stipulate life imprisonment for those who desecrate the Koran.

9/20/06 Eritrea (Compass Direct News) Eritrea Orders Protestant Assets Confiscated
– The Eritrean government demanded this month that the Kale Hiwot Church surrender all its property and physical assets to the government.

9/21/06 Indonesia (WorldNetDaily) Machete Attack Survivor Working On Rehab -- The only survivor of a machete attack by radical Muslims on four Christian high school girls successfully has had surgery on her massive injury, and officials say they are working on additional treatments for her.

9/21/06 Nigeria (This Day) Muslim Youths Burn Churches
-- Irate Muslim youths went on rampage yesterday in Dutse, Jigawa State capital, setting ablaze and looting 10 churches belonging to different denominations. However, no life was lost, even as the Police seemed helpless in stopping the rampaging youths.

9/21/06 India (ICC) Pastor’s Family, Christian School Attacked In Two Separate Incidents -- A pastor and his wife were beaten up by a mob of about 40 people near Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka state, while a Christian school in the city was attacked three days later.

9/21/06 Cuba (BosNewsLife) Cuba Christian Rights Activist Biscet "Tortured" in Prison
-- Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet said the government of the Communist island "tortured me during eight years; they have done so trying to drive me insane though, thank God, I have been able to preserve my sanity…" Dr. Biscet claimed that prison authorities and others "continue torturing me because I live in a box with no windows or natural light, no water, with a mattress that feels as if one were sleeping on a plank, a stone unfit for a human being."

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

How Should We Respond to Islamic Outrage?

John Piper has written a very provacative & stimulating article entitled, "How Christians Should Respond to Muslim Outrage at the Pope's Regensburg Message About Violence and Reason."

Here is a summary:

1. Admit that the Christian church has often been too entangled with civil governments, with the result that violence has been endorsed by the church as a way of accomplishing religious, and not just civil, goals.

2. Make clear that the use of God-sanctioned violence between Israel and the nations in the Old Testament is no longer God’s will for his people.

3. Admit that there are many Muslims today who do not approve of violence in the spread of Islam.

4. Point out how Islam, in its most sacred writings and authoritative teachings, belittles Jesus Christ, not just occasionally in the news, but constantly by its dominant claims.

5. Point out that, in response to this constant defamation of Jesus Christ, there are no public threats or demands for apologies.

6. Do good to those who hate you—and, of course, those of other faiths who don’t hate you (Luke 6:27).

7. Seek to win others to saving faith in Jesus by persuading with words, not imposing with force.

8. Always be ready to die, but never to kill, for the sake of commending Jesus Christ as the Son of God who died for sinners and rose again as the Lord of the universe.

9. Pray for the salvation of all those who belittle Jesus Christ.

10. No matter the cost, continue to exalt and commend Jesus Christ as the great and only Savior that he is.

As some of you may know, the Rev. Tim Keller of Redeemer NYC had the opportunity to speak before the President and other dignitaries and families of the victims of 9/11 at this years memorial service. Tim's son, Michael Keller, made the transcript available after the Keller received a copy of it because President Bush asked Karl Rove for a written copy of it.

(HT: Steve "The Reformissionary" McCoy)

Michael writes...

Below is a sermon that particularly resonates with me on multiple levels. First, it is a sermon delivered by dad to 9/11 victims’ families and national dignitaries (Bush, H. Clinton, Bloomberg, Pataki, Giuliani, etc) about suffering and what they can do with their very personal suffering that still exists. It impacted me because I saw concisely in the sermon the power the resurrection has to those suffering. Secondly, it was a sermon given at an interfaith memorial (8 min long) and therefore as a student currently studying presentation to multiple audiences, I was impacted at both the kindness he had towards the “resources” of other faiths, but also the honesty and clarify that he still spoke from his own convictions. This is the way, to affirm others, and still not lose the distinct Gospel voice that we deem as so powerful in today’s society. Lastly, it impacted me because while many others would have used the pulpit in front of so many political figures to espouse either their own political views, or some well meaning, yet hopelessly ill-timed, alter call type message- dad focused on those suffering and in pain and tried to speak to them in their loss of their loved ones with the message that there is a God, the God, who knows exactly what it feels like and can therefore relate to them in their pain. Way to go dad.

Below is the transcribed version of the sermon done by individuals at the White House who also apparently liked it.


Ground Zero/St Paul’s Chapel Tim Keller
Sep 10, 2006

As a minister, of course, I’ve spent countless hours with people who are struggling and wrestling with the biggest question - the WHY question in the face of relentless tragedies and injustices. And like all ministers or any spiritual guides of any sort, I scramble to try to say something to respond and I always come away feeling inadequate and that’s not going to be any different today. But we can’t shrink from the task of responding to that question. Because the very best way to honor the memories of the ones we’ve lost and love is to live confident, productive lives. And the only way to do that is to actually be able to face that question. We have to have the strength to face a world filled with constant devastation and loss. So where do we get that strength? How do we deal with that question? I would like to propose that, though we won’t get all of what we need, we may get some of what we need 3 ways: by recognizing the problem for what it is, and then by grasping both an empowering hint from the past and an empowering hope from the future.

First, we have to recognize that the problem of tragedy, injustice and suffering is a problem for everyone no matter what their beliefs are. Now, if you believe in God and for the first time experience or see horrendous evil, you rightly believe that that is a problem for your belief in God, and you’re right – and you say, “How could a good and powerful God allow something like this to happen?”

But it’s a mistake (though a very understandable mistake) to think that if you abandon your belief in God it somehow is going to make the problem easier to handle. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Letter from Birmingham Jail says that if there was no higher divine Law, there would be no way to tell if a particular human law was unjust or not. So think. If there is no God or higher divine Law and the material universe is all there is, then violence is perfectly natural—the strong eating the weak! And yet somehow, we still feel this isn’t the way things ought to be. Why not? Now I’m not going to get philosophical at a time like this. I’m just trying to make the point that the problem of injustice and suffering is a problem for belief in God but it is also a problem for disbelief in God---for any set of beliefs. So abandoning belief in God does not really help in the face of it. OK, then what will?

Second, I believe we need to grasp an empowering hint from the past. Now at this point, I’d like to freely acknowledge that every faith - and we are an interfaith gathering today – every faith has great resources for dealing with suffering and injustice in the world. But as a Christian minister I know my own faith’s resources the best, so let me simply share with you what I’ve got. When people ask the big question, “Why would God allow this or that to happen?” There are almost always two answers. The one answer is: Don’t question God! He has reasons beyond your finite little mind. And therefore, just accept everything. Don’t question. The other answer is: I don’t know what God’s up to – I have no idea at all about why these things are happening. There’s no way to make any sense of it at all. Now I’d like to respectfully suggest the first of these answers is too hard and the second is too weak. The second is too weak because, though of course we don’t have the full answer, we do have an idea, an incredibly powerful idea.

One of the great themes of the Hebrew Scriptures is that God identifies with the suffering. There are all these great texts that say things like this: If you oppress the poor, you oppress to me. I am a husband to the widow. I am father to the fatherless. I think the texts are saying God binds up his heart so closely with suffering people that he interprets any move against them as a move against him. This is powerful stuff! But Christianity says he goes even beyond that. Christians believe that in Jesus, God’s son, divinity became vulnerable to and involved in - suffering and death! He didn’t come as a general or emperor. He came as a carpenter. He was born in a manger, no room in the inn.

But it is on the Cross that we see the ultimate wonder. On the cross we sufferers finally see, to our shock that God now knows too what it is to lose a loved one in an unjust attack. And so you see what this means? John Stott puts it this way. John Stott wrote: “I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the Cross. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?” Do you see what this means? Yes, we don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, but we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us! It can’t be that he doesn’t care. God so loved us and hates suffering that he was willing to come down and get involved in it. And therefore the Cross is an incredibly empowering hint. Ok, it’s only a hint, but if you grasp it, it can transform you. It can give you strength.

And lastly, we have to grasp an empowering hope for the future. In both the Hebrew Scriptures and even more explicitly in the Christian Scriptures we have the promise of resurrection. In Daniel 12:2-3 we read: Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake….[They]… will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and…like the stars for ever and ever. And in John 11 we hear Jesus say: I am the resurrection and the life! Now this is what the claim is: That God is not preparing for us merely some ethereal, abstract spiritual existence that is just a kind of compensation for the life we lost. Resurrection means the restoration to us of the life we lost. New heavens and new earth means this body, this world! Our bodies, our homes, our loved ones—restored, returned, perfected and beautified! Given back to us!

In the year after 9-11 I was diagnosed with cancer, and I was treated successfully. But during that whole time I read about the future resurrection and that was my real medicine. In the last book of The Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee wakes up, thinking everything is lost and discovering instead that all his friends were around him, he cries out: "Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead! Is everything sad going to come untrue?"

The answer is YES. And the answer of the Bible is YES. If the resurrection is true, then the answer is yes. Everything sad is going TO COME UNTRUE.

Oh, I know many of you are saying, “I wish I could believe that.” And guess what? This idea is so potent that you can go forward with that. To even want the resurrection, to love the idea of the resurrection, long for the promise of the resurrection even though you are unsure of it, is strengthening. I John 3:2-3. Beloved, now we are children of God and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope purify themselves as he is pure.” Even to have a hope in this is purifying.

Listen to how Dostoevsky puts it in Brothers Karamazov: “I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, of the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood that they’ve shed; and it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify what has happened.”

That is strong and that last sentence is particularly strong…but if the resurrection is true, it’s absolutely right. Amen.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Prayer Requests

Hey Folks,

We'd like to throw some items out for your consideration in prayer:

* Pray for our growth in personal holiness & Christ-likeness.
* Pray for patience as we learn about this culture and place. It is very humbling not knowing how to find much of anything in this place and having to be so reliant on others to do just about anything. So pray for patience & endurance.
* Pray for the kids & their safety here. Make that for the whole mission team. We are some of the only gringos in this place and we constantly feel like we stand out because we do. Lots of folks are curious and needy.
* Pray for our acquisition of the Spanish language. In fact, pray that if God doesn't grant the gift of tongues and /or the interpretation of tongues, that He would grant the quickest acquisition of another language that has ever been accomplished in the history of the world. Our whole family is taking lessons.
* Pray for the healing of my back. As many of you know, I've had 2 surgery's on my lower back and now I've stirred stuff up down there again. I have constant pressure on a nerve in my lower back which causes quite a bit of discomfort and gnawing pain most of the time. I have found a therapist in town who is treating it and it seems to make progress from time to time.
* Pray for the advance of Christ's kingdom here. Pray for our three churches, for the encouragement of the pastors who serve them. And pray for the unviversity ministry that meets every Friday night.

"May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make His face shine upon us (selah)
that Your way may be known on the earth
Your saving power among all nations." ~ Ps. 67:1-2

The Ability / Inability To Take A Hit

If you have been following the news lately, you know that the Pope has stirred up a hornet's nest by implying that Muhommed was 'evil & inhuman.' Actually, he was quoting a 14th century Byzantine emperor who said, "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." [It is curious that for many, the historical record of Mohommed's actions is absolutely irrelevant. And as John Gibson at FoxNews notes, "As The Times and TIME magazine and others have pointed out, it's hard to think of another religion that presently calls for war and death as the method of bringing the faith to the unenlightened."]

Now regardless of what you think of the Pope's comments, many folks are left scratching their heads that a religious and social phenomenom that wants to be taken seriously as the essence of peace simultaneously calls for violence when anyone insults, criticizes, or calls into question the actions and / or teachings of Muhommed /Islam. For example, the cries have gone out that the Pope must be executed. Death to the Pope. A nun was shot and attacks upon churches in Palestine have increased. Protesting outside Westminster Abbey, Anjem Choudary said, "The Muslims take their religion very seriously and non-Muslims must appreciate that and they must also understand that there may be serious consequences if you insult Islam and the prophet....Whoever insults the message of Mohammed is going to be subject to capital punishment....I think that warning needs to be understood by all people who want to insult Islam and want to insult the prophet of Islam."

All this is to say that I believe that Islam is fundamentally incapable of 'taking a hit.' For all their talk of Allah being merciful, Allah is not capable of taking a hit. Contrast this with Christianity's teaching that God took on flesh in the person of Jesus Christ and took THE ULTIMATE hit when he was beaten, stripped, humilliated, insulted, and crucified.

If you didn't read Piper's excellent article on "Being Insulted" when all the hullabaloo erupted when the Danish cartoonist characterized Muhommed, then you should check it out. Piper says,

"The work of Muhammad is based on being honored and the work of Christ is based on being insulted. This produces two very different reactions to mockery....That’s the most basic difference between Christ and Muhammad and between a Muslim and a follower of Christ. For Christ, enduring the mockery of the cross was the essence of his mission. And for a true follower of Christ enduring suffering patiently for the glory of Christ is the essence of obedience. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:11). During his life on earth Jesus was called a bastard (John 8:41), a drunkard (Matthew 11:19), a blasphemer (Matthew 26:65), a devil (Matthew 10:25); and he promised his followers the same: “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household” (Matthew 10:25)....It means that a religion with no insulted Savior will not endure insults to win the scoffers. It means that this religion is destined to bear the impossible load of upholding the honor of one who did not die and rise again to make that possible. It means that Jesus Christ is still the only hope of peace with God and peace with man."

Lord, give us the ability to follow the Lord Jesus and to take hits for His glory--not only to take them, but also to rejoice in them.

"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church..." (Colossians 1:24).

"...and when they [i.e., the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council] had called in the Apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, [and shouted death to their enemies? threatened violence & terrorism? No, they left...]rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name" (Acts 5:40-41).

Update: My good friend, Brian Franklin, sent me this commentary by Chuck Colson.

Monday, September 18, 2006

"Humility" by CJ Mahaney

From time to time, I want to share with you some of the stuff that I am reading that is impacting my life. A man for who I have great respect and whom I have only discovered in the last few years is CJ Mahaney. I have several of his books, including Living The Cross-Centered Life and Why Small Groups? The book I'm currently reading is called Humility and it is a gem. Coming in at around 160 pages (& small ones at that), it is easily digestible and packs a powerful punch.

He begins by quoting Isaiah 66:2, and then contends, "Humility draws the gaze of our Sovereign God." Ponder that.

Here are some other great quotes...

"The real issue here is not if pride exists in your heart; it's where pride exists and how pride is being expressed in your life" (p. 29).

Quoting Charles Bridges, Mahaney perceptively says that pride "lifts up one's heart against God" and "contends for supremacy" with Him (p. 31). "Lord, in that moment, I was contending for supremacy with You. Tha'ts what it was all about. Forgive me."

In another section, Mahaney refers to the need to humbly accept sleep as a gift. He encourages us to pray at night, "Lord, thank You for this gift. The fact that I'm so tired is a reminder that the I am the creature and only You are the Creator. Only You neither slumber nor sleep, while for me, sleep is something I cannot go without. Thank You for this gracious, humbling, refreshing gift" (p. 84).

I'll have more to come from this book. I'd encourage all my friends to get this book and seek to learn to be more like Christ.

Friday Night RUF

This past Friday night, I had the privIilege of preaching for the first time at our RUF meeting (known previously & locally as the Society of Saint Augustine, or SSA). I taught about the Lord Jesus & the forgiveness of sins from Luke's Gospel and Bill Bradford translated for me. We had about 25-30 students for the evening. Pastor Geraldo has done a great job of gathering students here, and we are excited about what the future holds!!! Here are some pictures of the evening:

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Language Mistakes

I'm sure that it will not be the last, but I made my first (at least that I'm aware of) embarrassing mistake in speaking Spanish. I took a taxi the other day and told my taxi cab driver that I am new to Trujillo and I am anxious to learn much. I said that I wanted to learn about his city, his people, his language and his "país" which means country or nation, but what I said instead is that I wanted to get to know his "pies" which means feet. When I saw his face drop, I reiterated it thinking that I just didn't articulate it well.

I'm just glad he didn't make me get out of the car right then!

Friday, September 8, 2006

Colton Boy is 7!!!

I can't believe it. I no longer have any young children. On Wednesday, Colton turned seven years old, which just makes us feel very old now. All the Peruvians are amazed that we have 5 children all between the ages of 7 & 11!

Here are some pics of the bday party we had for him. We had a great time for the special boy!

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

A Friend, Brother, & Father in the Faith

Knox & Ginger Chamblin

One of the great privileges of my life was to study at Reformed Theological Seminary--Jackson under Dr. Knox Chamblin. I studied Pauline Epistles, Greek, and the Parables of Luke in Greek with him during my years of study. Knox and his lovely wife, Ginger, have come to Peru for the week to participate in our first ever Spiritual Life Conference for the mission team.
Our Mission Team at a Retreat Center

We have had a great time studying the Scriptures, reflecting on life and mission, and the cause of the Gospel in this world. Knox and Ginger have been great examples to me and my wife, and we hope that the Lord will find us faithful as the Chamblins have been faithful in serving Him throughout the years. They are such a great inspiration to "fight the good fight" and to finish well.

John & Heather get some quality time with the Chamblins

Knox is also teaching a module this week on the Parables of Matthew for our churches, seminarians, and other believers in the area. Last night, we had 50+ in attendance. Please pray for the endurance of the Chamblins, and for the fruitfulenss of their minsitry here.

John, Heather, & Alonzo Ramirez listening to Knox teach on doing what is necessary over what is urgent (cf. Luke 10:38-42)

Monday, September 4, 2006

A Glorious Mess!!!

We wanted to let all our friends back home know that we finally got our stuff late Thursday night (around 9pm) after spending all day trying to get it released from the port. It was like having Christmas in September. Our kids definitely thought so! And although our house is a complete wreck, it is absolutely beautiful.

I think the most beautiful thing was being able to sleep in our own beds. It's like being on vacation for a while and longing to get home to sleep in your own bed, know the feeling? We went approximately 57 days without our belongings. Second to the bed was our couches, and how can you rank long lost books (I still can't find a few that I was particularly looking forward to holding again. I'm sure they will show up.

At any rate, thanks for your prayers and encouragement. We finally feel like we can settle down and begin a routine.