Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Urgent Update: Asia Bibi

The case of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian prisoner whose case we have followed here and here, has now reached its most crucial stage thus far: her death sentence, for allegedly blaspheming the "prophet" Muhammad, is being fast-tracked for a hearing in the Pakistani Supreme Court.  Christians are urged to continue in their prayers for this woman and her family.

From The Christian Post:
By Anugrah Kumar
October 19, 2014|7:30 am

The U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide has called on Pakistan's Supreme Court to be prompt in hearing the appeal of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman and mother of five children whose death sentence for "blasphemy" was upheld by the Lahore High Court this week.

CSW also called for proper security for Bibi, whose appeal was rejected by the Lahore High Court Thursday.

The Christian mother has "endured grueling conditions in nearly four years of detention on death row, much of it spent in solitary confinement," CSW said in a statement. "Her health has suffered and she has had severe restrictions on visitors."

The Christian rights group explained that her prolonged detention is partly due to security concerns, as blasphemy law victims are often attacked by Islamist extremists. "There has been a lack of progress in her case, with five hearings cancelled this year alone, as well as the intimidation of judges and lawyers."

Bibi's lawyers have said they will now appeal the death sentence in the Supreme Court, which is the only hope.

"We are disappointed and terribly upset over the decision, however we look forward to the appeal in the Supreme Court, with optimism and with the hope that the Supreme Court of Pakistan will do justice in this case," Michelle Chaudhry, president of the Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation, was quoted as saying.

Bibi "has wrongly been convicted of blasphemy," Chaudhry added. "We remain optimistic that the rule of law will prevail and justice will be done. For now that is our only hope."

Bibi was sentenced in 2010 following an incident the previous year where she was harvesting berries with a group of Muslim women in Sheikhupura. The Muslim women accused her of drinking from the same water bowl as them, which was considered unclean as she is a Christian. Following an argument, the women went to a local cleric and told him that Bibi had blasphemed against Islam.

Bibi's appeal hearing was initially scheduled to take place on March 17, but was delayed and rescheduled, before finally taking place Thursday.

"We are deeply disappointed by the decision of the Lahore High Court," CSW's Chief Operating Officer Andy Dipper said, calling the sentence "a tragic reminder of the continued abuse of the dysfunctional blasphemy laws and the underlying weaknesses in Pakistan's justice system."

"Deeply-rooted problems of prejudice, inefficiency, corruption, and under-resourcing are amplified in blasphemy cases, and even more so for religious minorities," Dipper added. "The only hope she has for justice is when the case is heard in the Supreme Court."

CSW urged Pakistan's Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk to consider Bibi's case "with the utmost urgency, and to ensure her safety both throughout and after the process."

The rights group pointed to a June 19 Supreme Court judgment recommending the establishment of "a special bench to entertain complaints of violations of fundamental rights of minorities in the country."
A proactive approach to providing justice for Bibi would prove the Supreme Court's commitment to ensuring fundamental human rights and justice for all citizens of Pakistan, it said.

See also:
Update on Asia Bibi (Mission Network News)
Lahore: Christian activists ask Supreme Court to deliver speedy justice for Asia Bibi (AsiaNews.it)
Pakistan court upholds Asia Bibi death sentence (BBC)
Persecuted Christian: Will Pakistan's Asia Bibi be killed for alleged blasphemy? (Fox News)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

"It's already been gotten right!"

What would you say if someone decided Shakespeare's plays, Charles Dickens' novels, or the music of Beethoven could be rewritten & improved?
 I'll be right back. . . 

(Between his unsuccessful campaign for the Republican nomination for President in 1976, and his defeat of President Jimmy Carter in 1980, private citizen Ronald Reagan, a veteran broadcaster, delivered over 1,000 daily radio broadcasts on political and related topics.  His broadcasts were more like Paul Harvey than Rush Limbaugh, but they were pure Reagan.  Here, as aired on September 6, 1977, are The Great Communicator’s reflections on the King James Bible.)

 Writing in the journal "The Alternative", Richard Hanser, author of The Law & the Prophets and Jesus: What Manner of Man Is This?, has called attention to something that is more than a little mind boggling. It is my understanding that the Bible (both the Old & New Testaments) has been the best selling book in the entire history of printing.

Now another attempt has been made to improve it. I say 'another' because there have been several fairly recent efforts to quote "make the Bible more readable & understandable" unquote. But as Mr. Hanser so eloquently says, "For more than 3 1/2 centuries, its language and its images, have penetrated more deeply into the general culture of the English speaking world, and been more dearly treasured, than anything else ever put on paper." He then quotes the irreverent H. L. Mencken, who spoke of it as purely a literary work and said it was, "probably the most beautiful piece of writing in any language."

They were, of course, speaking of The Authorized Version, the one that came into being when the England of King James was scoured for translators & scholars. It was a time when the English language had reached its peak of richness & beauty.

Now we are to have The Good News Bible which will be in, "the natural English of everyday adult conversation." I'm sure the scholars and clergymen supervised by the American Bible Society were sincerely imbued with the thought that they were taking religion to the people with their Good News Bible, but I can't help feeling we should instead be taking the people to religion and lifting them with the beauty of language that has outlived the centuries.

Mr. Hanser has quoted from both the King James Version & the Good News Bible some well known passages for us to compare. A few thousand years ago Job said "How forcible are right words!" [Job 6:25] The new translators have him saying "Honest words are convincing." That's only for openers. There is the passage [Eccl. 1:18], "For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow". Is it really an improvement to say instead, "The wiser you are, the more worries you have; the more you know the more it hurts?"

In the New Testament, in Matthew, we read "The voice of the one crying in the wilderness. Prepare ye the way." [Matthew 3:3] The Good News version translates that, "Someone is shouting in the desert. Get the road ready." It sounds like a straw boss announcing lunch hour is over.

The hauntingly beautiful 23rd Psalm is the same in both versions, for a few words, "The Lord is my shepherd" but instead of continuing "I shall not want" we are supposed to say "I have everything I need."

The Christmas story has undergone some modernizing, but one can hardly call it improved. The wondrous words "Fear not: for; behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy" has become, "Don't be afraid! I am here with good news for you."

The sponsors of the Good News version boast that their Bible is as readable as the daily paper – and so it is. But do readers of the daily news find themselves moved to wonder, "at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth"? Mr. Hanser suggests that sadly the "tinkering & general horsing around with the sacred texts will no doubt continue" as pious drudges try to get it right. "It will not dawn on them that it has already been gotten right."

This is Ronald Reagan. Thanks for listening. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Liena's Prayer

What does it mean to be a Christian in Syria today?

In the midst of all the savagery and atrocities coming from ISIS and the other followers of Muhammad comes this answer, from a young Syrian woman named Liena.  Produced by The Voice of the Martyrs, this video shows the reality of life in Syria, and presents a challenge for Christians everywhere.


The release of the video precedes the 2014 International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on November 2.  Our prayers for Liena and her family, as well as for such suffering saints as Saeed Abedini and Asia Bibi, must continue.  They're praying for us.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Victory ... then the crash

And he was sore athirst, and called on the LORD, and said, Thou hast given this
 great deliverance into the hand of thy servant: and now shall I die for thirst? 
 (Judges 15:18)

Samson was thirsty and ready to die. The difficulty was totally different from any which the hero had met before. Merely to get thirst assuaged is nothing like so great a matter as to be delivered from a thousand Philistines! but when the thirst was upon him, Samson felt that little present difficulty more weighty than the great past difficulty out of which he had so specially been delivered. It is very usual for God's people, when they have enjoyed a great deliverance, to find a little trouble too much for them. Samson slays a thousand Philistines, and piles them up in heaps, and then faints for a little water! Jacob wrestles with God at Peniel, and overcomes Omnipotence itself, and then goes "halting on his thigh!" Strange that there must be a shrinking of the sinew whenever we win the day. As if the Lord must teach us our littleness, our nothingness, in order to keep us within bounds. Samson boasted right loudly when he said, "I have slain a thousand men." His boastful throat soon grew hoarse with thirst, and he betook himself to prayer. God has many ways of humbling His people. Dear child of God, if after great mercy you are laid very low, your case is not an unusual one. When David had mounted the throne of Israel, he said, "I am this day weak, though anointed king." You must expect to feel weakest when you are enjoying your greatest triumph. If God has wrought for you great deliverances in the past, your present difficulty is only like Samson's thirst, and the Lord will not let you faint, nor suffer the daughter of the uncircumcised to triumph over you. The road of sorrow is the road to heaven, but there are wells of refreshing water all along the route. So, tried brother, cheer your heart with Samson's words, and rest assured that God will deliver you ere long.  

- - - Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Morning and Evening

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Muhammad Rapes Again

Another heartbreaking example of the way women and girls are treated by "the religion of peace," this time in Syria.  Here is Rawan Milad Al-Dah, who was 16 years old at the time this video was made in 2013.  In addition to the automatic curse of being born in a Mohammedan country, Rawan was also caught up in the struggle between President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian rebels attempting to overthrow him - - - the same rebels being provided with aid and materiel by the Obama administration.  The rebels used Rawan, and only God knows how many others, as unwilling "temporary wives" in their "sexual jihad" (Jihad Al-Nikah).  When they were done with her, they presumably went back to using American weapons to attempt the overthrow of Assad. Listen as Rawan describes, yet again, the fruits of Islam:


Make no mistake: there are no "good guys" involved in this conflict. Assad himself is one of the nastiest characters in the Mideast, which is saying quite a bit, and everyone from the United Nations to the Obama administration despises him, which is why America has been arming his opponents.  But now, within the past year, the greater threat has come from ISIS.*  ISIS and the Syrian rebels are now battling for supremacy, while Obama and other Western leaders wonder if they shouldn't join forces with Assad after all.  But that's a geopolitical matter; the treatment of women and children by all Mohammedans, even when the women are coming in from "civilized" countries and whoring themselves out voluntarily, is more personal, and more horrific.  It's impossible to sympathize with Assad or his enemies, but anyone who doesn't curse the name of the demon-possessed Muhammad, when hearing Rawan's story, has a cold heart indeed.

That's Islam, praised by Western leaders as "a great and peaceful religion," and even now engaging in sexual slavery as far from the Mideast as England.  The "religion" of Muhammad: coming soon to an area near you, if it's not already there.

*ISIS, the members of which refer to themselves as "the Islamic State," stands for "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria."  However, such sympathizers as Barack Obama refer to the group as ISIL, meaning "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant."  What's the difference?  Very simple, and very telling: the Levant encompasses the West Bank of Israel.  When the Muslims in these various groups quit killing each other (itself a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, Genesis 16:11, 12), they will certainly move on to destroy Israel.  That is the sworn duty of every Muslim alive.

Monday, September 22, 2014

"All the Advantages"

Have you ever known a man or woman of whom it could be said, "They had all the advantages?" Someone who had, not just the necessities of life, but all the "extras," from childhood on?  Money .... fine schooling ... loving parents ... travel ... the "right" friends and contacts ... and, apparently, everything that anyone would need to create a happy, successful life?  Of course you have. We've all known such people.  And have you ever seen such a person simply squander it all, and end up a shipwreck, a "loser," an unmitigated failure?  Yes, you've probably seen that, too.  Or lived it.

We often say that such people were "born with a silver spoon in their mouth."  For the vast majority of the human race, of course, it's not that way.  As The Who sang, years ago: "I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth!"  And some people have no spoon at all.


But it doesn't always work out, does it? People write stories and poems about people who had "all the advantages," but came to unhappy ends, like Edwin Arlington Robinson's "Richard Corey." Tragically, there are plenty of real-life Richard Coreys. I've known some.  Maybe you have, too.  I knew a man who was the Mayor of a small Southern town, owned his own business, had a lovely family ... and ended up a suicide. I know a man who was a respected judge in California, and ended up in federal prison. And, apart from such dramatic examples, we've all seen lives that started out with a flash and a happy burst of power ... but ended in misery, anguish, and poverty.

We've also seen, or heard about, the apparent opposite: people who were born with none of the advantages, but through hard work and vision, enjoyed great worldly success.  Many professional athletes fit into this category.  We admire their stories ... but even then, some of them can't handle the success, and go into a downward spiral of poverty or drugs or multiple marriages, none of which seem to work out.

How different it is for the man or woman who knows Jesus Christ!  For those who have received Jesus Christ according to John 1:12, the beginning doesn't determine the end, and they're not reliant on their own talent or cleverness or "advantages" to achieve what God wants in their lives.  Of course, this also applied to those people in the Old Testament who, while not knowing Jesus, followed the true God faithfully.  Life isn't a bed of roses for such people, of course, and God often leads a Christian from one problem to another .... but God is leading, and controlling the situation.

Do you remember Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, and grandson of King Saul? He was certainly born into a distinguished line, but things fell apart quickly. Saul and Jonathan both died at the Battle of Mount Gilboa, when Mephibosheth was only five years old (1 Samuel 31). His nurse, in a panic, fled the royal palace, and accidentally dropped the child, causing him to be permanently lame (2 Samuel 4:4).  Now he was an orphan, injured, and on the run, at five years old!  "All the advantages" had disappeared overnight ... except one.

Because, years later, King David was thinking about Jonathan, who had been his dearest friend, and wanted to do something for him. And David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may shew him kindness for Jonathan's sake? And there was of the house of Saul a servant whose name was Ziba. And when they had called him unto David, the king said unto him, Art thou Ziba? And he said, Thy servant is he. And the king said, Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may shew the kindness of God unto him? And Ziba said unto the king, Jonathan hath yet a son, which is lame on his feet .... Now when Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, was come unto David, he fell on his face, and did reverence. And David said, Mephibosheth. And he answered, Behold thy servant! And David said unto him, Fear not: for I will surely shew thee kindness for Jonathan thy father's sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually. And he bowed himself, and said, What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am? Then the king called to Ziba, Saul's servant, and said unto him, I have given unto thy master's son all that pertained to Saul and to all his house. Thou therefore, and thy sons, and thy servants, shall till the land for him, and thou shalt bring in the fruits, that thy master's son may have food to eat: but Mephibosheth thy master's son shall eat bread alway at my table (2 Samuel 9:1-10, selected).

That's how Mephibosheth had come to see himself: as a "dead dog."  But David blessed him in a way he had never dreamed possible, simply for the sake of someone else.  Just as God the Father blesses every Christian, for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ.

We may never eat at the King's table in this world, but we have the King's constant and eternal Presence with us.  Talk about an "advantage!"

There was another man who was apparently born with "all the advantages," and didn't lose them. But he never received the blessing that Mephibosheth had .... because he rejected it.

And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich (Luke 18:18-23).

He was rich, was some sort of "ruler," and, apparently, an upright man, at least morally.  He only had one problem.  He wasn't willing to meet Jesus on Jesus' own terms. He was drawn to Christ; he recognized His authority.  But when Jesus got to the "bottom line," he rejected him.  And there have always been more "rich young rulers," who are unwilling to receive God's kindness, than Mephibosheths, who are willing.

Jesus doesn't want us to sell all of our possessions, of course: at least, not as a condition of salvation.  (He may lead individuals to do certain things after conversion, or He may not.) He wants us to be born again, by an act of the will, as described in John 3:3-8. And after we've done that, we have an advantage that even some of the greatest heroes of the Bible didn't have.

Moses was used of God as few people in history have been used; but, apart from a few conversations with God, he didn't have constant access to, or fellowship with, the Lord Jesus Christ.  We do.

King David never had the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit, nor did anyone else before Jesus' Resurrection.  But we do .... even when we mess things up.

The disciples of Christ, who walked with Him for three years, never had constant, intimate, uninterrupted fellowship with him ... but we can.

Perhaps you were born with a plastic spoon in your mouth, or no spoon at all.  Perhaps you had "all the advantages," but blew them all, and disappointed so many people, yourself most of all.  But once you come to Christ ... or even fifty years after you've come to Christ ... none of that matters.  Every day is a new day, every failure brings us closer to God's next great victory in our lives, and His blessings are "new every morning."

In the words of my grandfather: "The past is prologue, the present is unparalleled, and the future is as great as our faith in God."

Keep going!   Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him (1 Corinthians 2:9)!

Hallelujah, what a Saviour!