Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Greetings from Saeed

Because of the intricacies of getting a message to the free world from the Stygian blackness of an Iranian prison, we are only now receiving Easter greetings from our dear brother, Saeed Abedini, currently imprisoned and tortured for his faith in a hospital prison in Iran.  We have written of Saeed's plight many times on this blog, but now, we pass along the latest message from the man himself.  For Christ's sake, and in obedience to Hebrews 13:3, let us not sin against the Lord by neglecting to pray for this brother, and for all of our persecuted and imprisoned brothers and sisters throughout the world.  These are the words od a man who is giving His all in service to His Saviour and Lord:

Happy Resurrection Day.

On the Eve of Good Friday and Easter I was praying from my hospital room for my fellow Christians in the world.  What the Holy Spirit revealed to me in prayer was that there are many dead faiths in the midst of Christians today. That Christians all over the world are not able to fully reach their spiritual potential that has been given to them as a gift by God so that in reaching that potential, the curtain can be removed and the Glory of God would be revealed.

Some times we want to experience the Glory and resurrection with Jesus without experiencing death with Him.  We do not realize that unless we pass through the path of death with Christ, we are not able to experience resurrection with Christ.
We want to have a good and successful marriage, career, education and family life (which is also God’s desire and plan for our life). But we forget that in order to experience the Resurrection and Glory of Christ we first have to experience death with Christ and to die to ourselves and selfish desires.

Jesus said to His Disciples:  “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24)

This means that we should not do things that we like to do (that God does not want us to do) and to do things that we do not like to do (but God wants us to do) so that He may be glorified.

So in addition to spending our days and night in doing the works of faith as described above, we should also transform our dead faiths into living and active faiths through the resurrection of Christ which is an active and constructive love that is effective.

In conclusion, let us resurrect our Dead faiths to living faiths by first dying to our selfish “resurrected” self and experiencing the cross of Jesus. Then we are able to experience the Glorious resurrection with Christ.

A Glorious life with Christ starts only after a painful death (to self) with Christ.

We will start with Christ.

Pastor Saeed Abedini
Prisoner in the Darkness in Iran, but free for the Kingdom and Light

Monday, April 28, 2014

Ukraine Muslims: Death to Beauty Contestant!

Here we go again: not in an Arab country this time, but way up in another of today's "hot spots," the poor, besieged Ukraine. Katya Koren, a 19 year old Muslim girl, had the unprecedented audacity to participate in a beauty pageant. The response of local Muslims? Well, what would you expect? They stoned her to death. After all, this is the "religion of peace," whose spokesmen are constantly bleating about how Islam "honors" women.

Quoting from this story in the London Daily Mail:

"A teenage Muslim girl was stoned to death under 'Sharia law' after taking part in a beauty contest in Ukraine. Katya Koren, 19, was found dead in a village in the Crimea region near her home. Friends said she liked wearing fashionable clothes and had come seventh in a beauty contest.

"Her battered body was buried in a forest and was found a week after she disappeared. Police have opened a murder investigation and are looking into claims that three Muslim youths killed her, claiming her death was justified under Islam. One of the three - named as 16-year-old Bihal Gaziev - is under arrest and told police that Katya had 'violated the laws of Sharia'. Gaziev has said he has no regrets about her death."

Did you get that? "Muslim youths," one of whom was 16 years old. Such devotion to one's "religion" is heartening in young people, isn't it? This is the same tactic the press uses when Muslim gangs go on the rampage in France, rioting and burning cars. "No, no, this doesn't reflect on Islam; these are just youthful hooligans. Let's not condemn a noble religion because of the acts of a few hot-headed young people." The press, and the Western politicians, are Islam's greatest allies in this world.

These were not renegades. These were typical Muslims who had been trained since childhood to read the Koran, memorize the Koran, and obey the Koran. And that's what they were doing. But it didn't happen in Saudi Arabia: it happened in the Ukraine. This is what's coming to America and  Canada, and has already arrived in Europe.

If there are any teenage girls in the United States or elsewhere who are reading this, and considering participating in a beauty pageant, I'd advise against it. The Muslims wouldn't like it, and they are becoming a protected and preferred class in Europe and North America. Of course you should be concerned about your country's laws, but you'd also better be concerned about Sharia law. If something doesn't change, that'll be the only law that's relevant.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Cedar

 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou 
knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. (John 13:7)

We have only a partial view here of God's dealings, His half-completed, half-developed plan; but all will stand out in fair and graceful proportions in the great finished Temple of Eternity! Go, in the reign of Israel's greatest king, to the heights of Lebanon. See that noble cedar, the pride of its compeers, an old wrestler with northern blasts! Summer loves to smile upon it, night spangles its feathery foliage with dewdrops, the birds nestle on its branches, the weary pilgrim or wandering shepherd reposes under its shadows from the midday heat or from the furious storm; but all at once it is marked out to fall; The aged denizen of the forest is doomed to succumb to the woodman's stroke!
As we see the axe making its first gash on its gnarled trunk, then the noble limbs stripped of their branches, and at last the "Tree of God," as was its distinctive epithet, coming with a crash to the ground, we exclaim against the wanton destruction, the demolition of this proud pillar in the temple of nature. We are tempted to cry with the prophet, as if inviting the sympathy of every lowlier stem - - - invoking inanimate things to resent the affront - - - "Howl, fir tree; for the cedar has fallen!"
But wait a little. Follow that gigantic trunk as the workmen of Hiram launch it down the mountain side; thence conveyed in rafts along the blue waters of the Mediterranean; and last of all, behold it set a glorious polished beam in the Temple of God. As you see its destination, placed in the very Holy of Holies, in the diadem of the Great King - - - say, can you grudge that "the crown of Lebanon" was despoiled, in order that this jewel might have so noble a setting?
That cedar stood as a stately prop in Nature's sanctuary, but "the glory of the latter house was greater than the glory of the former!"
How many of our souls are like these cedars of old! God's axes of trial have stripped and bared them. We see no reason for dealings so dark and mysterious, but He has a noble end and object in view; to set them as everlasting pillars and rafters in His Heavenly Zion; to make them a "crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of our God." 
"I do not ask my cross to understand, My way to see - - -  Better in darkness just to feel Thy hand, And follow Thee."

  (From Streams in the Desert, Mrs. Charles Cowman, 1925)  

Sunday, April 20, 2014

"Beware the Easter Bunny"

At the risk of being labeled a grinch, I must say it: The time has come to dispose of the Easter bunny. Even if it means braving the outrage of the chocolate lobby and the egg pickers, we must drive the bunny back into his hole, where he can no longer desecrate the most sacred of Christian celebrations. I didn't always feel this way. My earliest recollections of Easter involved scurrying around the house in search of the colored eggs my parents had dutifully hidden. Then, dressed in their Sunday best, they would haul me off to church, explaining that this was one day I had to go. I didn't know why. Thus, in my pagan youth, I fit perfectly with the pagan roots of Easter. Though we Christians today moan about its "secularization," we've got it backward. Easter's origins can be traced to a host of pre-Christian cultures. Its name is attributed to Eastre (the Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility), Astarte and Ishtar (the Babylonian goddesses), and Oster (the German equivalent). The Eastre festival was celebrated on the day of the spring equinox, with honors given to rabbits, symbols of fertility, and brightly colored eggs representing the sunlight of spring and new life. (The ancient Druids, Hindus, Japanese, Chinese, and Babylonians also celebrated spring with sacred eggs.) In the early centuries of the Christian church, the resurrection celebration (based on the timing of Passover) coincided with Eastre's festival. As pagan peoples were Christianized, their rituals cross-fertilized with the Christian celebration, which in turn took on the pagan name. This merger of sacred celebration with pagan tradition survived through the centuries. But never has it flourished more than in America today, where it feeds on our contemporary view of pluralism. That term has come to mean not respect for diversity, but rather a reduction of differences to the lowest common denominator. The insipid result has even become the law of the land; as the Supreme Court ruled in the Pawtucket creche case, sacred events may be publicly celebrated only if they satisfy a secular purpose. So holy days such as Christ's birth and resurrection survive only if adorned with commercial trinkets. Little wonder that millions of Americans grow up, as I did, associating Easter with egg hunts rather than the fact that split history: God raised his Son from the dead! So, though the Easter bunny may seem a harmless bit of springtime fluff, in truth it diverts our attention from the centrality of the Resurrection. And that's not harmless. Consider the consequences when the gospel is presented without this central truth: Several years ago, a newly appointed Anglican bishop in England, David Jenkins, announced to an amused secular press that the Resurrection was merely a "conjuring trick with bones." Most evangelicals cringed and hoped the coverage would die down soon. It did. But when I was recently in Sri Lanka, half a world away from Jenkins's diocese, I saw the long-term results of his words. As I asked an insightful Anglican rector about the growth of Christianity in his nation, he shook his head. "We are losing badly to the Moslems. It all began with the Jenkins business." He went on to explain that aggressive Moslems are visiting Christians, quoting Jenkins as authority that they no longer need believe in the Resurrection. Since Moslems and Christians now both see Jesus as merely a prophet, they argue, why not worship together in the mosque? "They are killings us with our bishop's own words," he concluded. Tragic. Without the Resurrection, Jesus is just another great moral teacher. People may as well turn to Islam--or anything else. As I reflected on Jenkins's statement, I wondered if we evangelicals are not - - - unconsciously, to be sure - - - guilty of the same heresy. In our eagerness to win the unsaved multitudes, we so often concentrate our message on "what God can do for you." I don't mean just the blatant health and wealth gospel that dominates Christian airwaves, but the more subtle emphasis on personal peace, contentment, and the good life. The message focusing only on "why nice things happen to God's people" concerns not the historic Christ of the Scriptures, but rather a giant Easter bunny in the sky who benevolently dispenses colored eggs for his eager flock to find. And sometimes, again unconsciously, we obscure the central truth of the Resurrection when we make personal testimony our primary form of evangelism. When I was in India last fall I had many opportunities to tell what Christ has done in my life. The thousands of faces in those predominantly Hindu crowds would nod and smile as I shared my experience. Hindus believe all roads lead to God - - - if Jesus was my guru, that's fine. They all had their gurus, too. But when I spoke of the reason for my faith, the resurrection of Christ, the nods would stop. People's expressions changed and they listened intently. The fact of the Resurrection demands a choice, one that reduces all other religions to mere philosophies. So that's my beef with the Easter bunny. He may be cute, entertaining millions of children; but he's deadly. He obscures the historic truth of the Resurrection no less than Bishop Jenkins, and we Christians should stop playing along. Maybe we should leave the springtime ritual to our pagan friends, and boldly proclaim Resurrection Day, We'd no doubt offend a few folk, but the cross is supposed to do that. At least people might hear the truth about the day we call Easter. And while we're at it, we need to be sure they hear it all year long. Without the Resurrection at the center of the Christian message, we all may as well put our hope in the Easter bunny.

- - - Charles Colson 

Copyright © The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview 2014

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Council of Europe Planning Crackdown on Christians

Now comes the word that the Council of Europe (CEU) is engaged in planning a sweeping new set of standards and proposed laws that would re-define and severely curtail religious freedom throughout Europe.  These new rules, if adopted, would apply to any religious group or denomination not "approved" by the Council, by defining them as "sects" and stripping them of many of their rights.  Although some branches of Islam, and some cults such as Scientology, could conceivably be affected, the real target is evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants.  The proposed changes could have very practical effects, such as forbidding Christians to educate their children at home, a right protected under Article 9 and Protocol 1, Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

For the benefit of Americans and others, be it noted that the Council of Europe is an entirely separate organization from the European Union.  The Council, formed in 1949, contains 47 member states, and cannot make laws; the European Union, the actual political alliance governing Europe, currently has 28 member states, and has the power to legislate and enforce laws.  However, the Council of Europe is regarded as a vibrant and historically important part of European history and culture, and works closely with the EU, especially in areas of education and culture.  In those areas, the recommendations of the Council are taken very seriously by the leaders of the EU.

A Report “on the protection of minors against excesses of sects” and a draft Resolution have been adopted by the Committee of Legal Affairs and Human Rights, and presented to the Parliamentary Assembly this month.  This report contains extreme and draconian definitions of what constitutes an acceptable "religion," as opposed to a "sect."  Although Vatican City is not a member of the Council, Roman Catholicism and mainstream Protestantism will be protected, but such "sects" as evangelical and fundamentalist Christians will not.  If passed by the EU, this legislation would instantly remove, among other things, the right of evangelical parents to educate their children at home; other consequences would undoubtedly follow.  As is happening all over the world, genuine Biblical Christianity is being marginalized and demonized by those who cry out for "human rights."

This is a long and sordid story, and the details can be found here. They should be read by anyone who is concerned with true religious liberty.  A petition against the Council's actions has received over 12,000 signatures, but has now been closed.  Regardless, anyone living in Europe should be aware of the situation, and oppose it with any means possible.

Europe, alas, has a long and scandalous history of religious oppression, from the Roman Empire to the  Russian pogroms to the Third Reich and beyond.  This is merely the latest example, and is a genuine outrage.  If this post sounds alarmist, one would do well to remember the words of T. S. Eliot:
"It is hard for those who have never known persecution,
And who have never known a Christian,
To believe these tales of Christian persecution."

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Daily Supply

And his allowance was a continual allowance given him of the king, 
a daily rate for every day, all the days of his life. - - - 2 Kings 25:30

Jehoiachin was not sent away from the king's palace with a store to last him for months, but his provision was given him as a daily pension. Herein he well pictures the happy position of all the Lord's people. A daily portion is all that a man really wants. We do not need tomorrow's supplies; that day has not yet dawned, and its wants are as yet unborn. The thirst which we may suffer in the month of August does not need to be quenched in April, for we do not feel it yet; if we have enough for each day as the days arrive we shall never know want. Sufficient for the day is all that we can enjoy. We cannot eat or drink or wear more than the day's supply of food and raiment; the surplus gives us the care of storing it, and the anxiety of watching against a thief. One staff aids a traveller, but a bundle of staves is a heavy burden. Enough is not only as good as a feast, but is all that the veriest glutton can truly enjoy. This is all that we should expect; a craving for more than this is ungrateful. When our Father does not give us more, we should be content with his daily allowance. Jehoiachin's case is ours, we have a sure portion, a portion given us of the king, a gracious portion, and a perpetual portion. Here is surely ground for thankfulness.

Beloved Christian reader, in matters of grace you need a daily supply. You have no store of strength. Day by day must you seek help from above. It is a very sweet assurance that a daily portion is provided for you. In the word, through the ministry, by meditation, in prayer, and waiting upon God you shall receive renewed strength. In Jesus all needful things are laid up for you. Then enjoy your continual allowance. Never go hungry while the daily bread of grace is on the table of mercy. 

- - - Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Morning and Evening

Friday, April 4, 2014

Asia Bibi: Update

There are new developments in the case of Asia Bibi, the young Christian woman sentenced to death for "blasphemy" in Pakistan in 2009. For the third time, the hearing of her court appeal has been postponed, as she languishes in solitary confinement in a Lahore prison, separated from her husband and five children. After prosecutors failed to appear in court for her two previous hearings, Asia's case has been rescheduled for hearing on April 14, ten days from now.  Christians are urged to continue in prayer for this woman and her family.

Asia Bibi's crime consisted of taking a drink of water while working in the fields on a hot summer day.  In June of 2009, while harvesting berries along with other women from her village, Asia, then 38 years old, was ordered by her co-workers to fetch some drinking water from a nearby well.  She obeyed, but paused to take a drink for herself.  Her fellow laborers were infuriated, because Asia is a Christian, and they said that it was forbidden for an "infidel" to drink the same water as a Muslim.  When the other women began to denounce Christianity, Asia stood fast, and said, "I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind?"

That remark, as they say back home, "tied the rag on the bush." When word of her statement reached the men of her village, a riot broke out, and a mob (of men, naturally) came to her home, beating her and her family.  Lahore police took her into "protective custody," but she was immediately charged with blasphemy by the pious, gentle followers of "the religion of peace."  The Mohammedans, who constantly bleat that "there is no compulsion in religion," held a trial, but Asia's testimony in her own behalf was ineffective, because Islamic law only gives the testimony of a non-Muslim half the weight of a Muslim's words.  She was sentenced to death, and has been in prison ever since, awaiting appeal and/or execution.

If you're a Christian, please pray for this dear woman's upcoming hearing. (You can send her your prayers by visiting this site, which also includes a petition for her release.) If you're not a Christian, but simply an honest unbeliever who hates injustice, ask yourself why America's tax dollars are being given to the savage, barbaric nation of Pakistan, which permits this sort of thing. It's a good question, since her hearing will be held the day before America's tax deadline.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Saeed speaks

Here is Saeed Abedini, the Iranian-born American pastor for whom the Christian world has been praying for so long.  We've discussed Saeed's situation at various times on this blog, but we've never heard from the man himself.  Here are two messages from this dear brother, recorded prior to his arrest, imprisonment, and torture in Iran; last year, he asked a visitor or family member to post these messages online.   The first is a brief recounting of Saeed's personal testimony of his conversion to Christ; the second is a heartbreakingly poignant message of encouragement to other Christians who are troubled or persecuted.



At the time Saeed made these videos, he did not know what lay ahead in his own life.  But, by all accounts, his inhuman brutalization by the Iranian Muslims has not lessened his zeal or his faithfulness, although it has brought him to the brink of physical death.  It is the duty and opportunity of those of us who remain free to pray for our dear brother's safety and release, and for his family; and for the other Christians being persecuted around the world.  Saeed Abedini's name may not be a household word in this frivolous, mad world, but I'm convinced that he's one of God's heroes.  He's certainly one of mine.

Jacob & Rebekkah, Saeed's children