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Thursday, 30 October 2008

Chinese Crackdown

As we approach Nov 5th, many shops are selling fireworks including, I imagine, "Chinese Crackers". However, for Christians who live in China, the reality has more to do with Chinese Crackdowns, as the following report from Release International shows.

Beijing pastor ‘Bike’ Zhang Mingxuan’s brief respite from harassment has ended abruptly: he has been arrested, his house church has been shut down and his son brutally attacked.

After months of systematic persecution around the Beijing Olympics, Pastor Bike was allowed to return to Beijing in late-September, after an ‘enforced vacation’ in Hebei province, and worship with his house church in peace.

But this respite was short-lived. On October 16, Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials raided Pastor Bike’s home and beat his oldest son, Zhang Jian, with iron bars for 25 minutes. Officers then threw the family – and all their furniture – out of their rented flat.

When Zhang Jian’s mother Xie Fenglan called an ambulance, the receptionist told her she was not allowed to dispatch an ambulance for Zhang Jian because he was a relative of Pastor Bike. Zhang Jian, whose right eye may have been blinded in the attack, has discharged himself from hospital, despite needing surgery, because he fears for his safety. On October 22, Pastor Bike rang his son to say he had been detained – but was not allowed to say where. His wife and sister are now being held at a PSB-run hotel in Beijing.

Police have also sealed the door of Pastor Bike’s church and blocked it with two truckloads of rubbish. Its electricity supply has also been cut – and all this despite assurances from the PSB last month that he was free to worship. Pastor Bike is president of the Chinese House Church Alliance.
(Source: China Aid)

• Ask God to heal Zhang Jian physically – and fill him with His peace.

• Pray that influential members of the Public Security Bureau will again look favourably on Pastor Bike and his family – and leave them to worship in peace.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

The Blood of Jesus

On Wednesday, I was in one of the grandest locations that I have enjoyed for some time. I was, by invitation, in the magnificent Banqueting hall of Glasgow’s City Chambers. The invitation had come from the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service and was to mark the fact that I – and over 100 others – had donated amounts of 75, or more, units of blood, and I received a special Caithness Glass paperweight, and a lapel badge.
There was also a speaker, and a presentation, and I learned that just one unit of my blood could save the life of a number of prematurely-born babies and, of course, help to save the life of a child or adult going through an operation – emergency or otherwise; or someone whose blood doesn’t have the same “shelf-life” as most of us; or an older person whose only desire is to see the birth of a first grandchild, or the wedding of one of their own children; or extend the life expectancy of a child who is suffering from a terminal condition, but wants to enjoy a particular experience while still able.
This morning, at Liberty Community Church, we gathered around the Lord’s Table – as we do every week. There we ate a little bread that reminded us of the broken Body of the Lord Jesus, and that was followed by some grape juice that reminded us of the Blood that He shed, for us,, on the Cross at Calvary.
And that is this evening’s thought. I give a unit of my blood, roughly every three months, and I may help to save the physical life of one individual. I do this voluntarily, and receive no more than a cup of juice and a biscuit at the end. But all I can ever do is be part of the saving of a single human life. Even with my (now) 80 donations, only a relatively small number of people can be helped. And, of course, not everyone who received my blood is going to survive whatever it is they are going through.
The apostle John assures us that “… the blood of Jesus … cleanses us from all sin” (I Jn.1:7). Jesus’ blood can bring forgiveness, and eternal life – that begins the moment we accept His offer of salvation. And His Blood is effective for every man, woman, and child who looks to Him for help.
Of course, when my name was called out, I had to make the move to collect my award. It wasn’t brought to me. And although the blood of Jesus is so powerful in its effect, it is only so for those who make the move and accept it. He will never force it on us.
There’s only one way in which you and I may approach a Holy God Who cannot look on sin – and that’s if we come to Him, clothed in the righteousness of Jesus: washed in His blood.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

You Have Our Attention, Lord

I received this, a few days ago, from my wee cousin, Heather. Max Lucado has written it from a USA perspective but, in the present world financial meltdown, it applies equally well just about anywhere!
A prayer by Max Lucado - October 2008

Our friends lost their house;
The co-worker lost her job;
The couple next door lost their retirement;
It seems that everyone is losing their footing.

This scares us. This bailout with billions.
These rumblings of depression.
These headlines: ominous, thunderous -
"Going Broke!" "Going Down!" "Going Under!" "What's Next?"

What is next?

We’re listening. And we’re admitting: You were right.

You told us this would happen.
You shot straight about loving stuff, and worshipping money.
"Greed will break your heart", You warned.
"Money will love you and leave you. Don’t put your hope in riches that are so uncertain."

You were right. Money is a fickle lover and we just got dumped.

We were wrong to spend what we didn’t have.
Wrong to neglect prayer and ignore the poor.
Wrong to think we ever earned a dime. We didn’t. You gave it.
And now, tell us Father, are You taking it?

We’re listening. And we’re praying.
Could you make something good out of this mess?

Of course You can. You always have.
You led slaves out of slavery,
Built temples out of ruins,
Turned stormy waves into a glassy pond and water into sweet wine.
This disorder awaits your order. So do we.

Through Christ,
Amen

"God will always give what is right to His people who cry to Him night and day, and He will not be slow to answer them." (Luke 18:7)

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Death - and resurrection


On Monday, Joyce and I visited Edzell Castle, in Angus. As we drove there, we had to pass Edzell Parish Church from which a large crowd of people were leaving – mourners at the funeral of someone who was obviously well-known and/or important in the local area. I found myself thinking of the Saturday evening session at the Liberty Community Church Weekend when Paul Graham, the main speaker, had spoken powerfully from I Thessalonians 4:13-18 on the subject of the resurrection, and the wonderful assurance that the Christian has that physical death is not the end.
Death, it has been said, is the great leveller. It comes to each and every one of us. The peasant in his hovel, and the king in his palace, are both subject to it. There is no escape; no place to hide from “the grim reaper”. Perhaps that is why it is feared by so many – we recognise its inevitability, and its mystery. I suspect that that is also why, when we are obliged to speak of it, we prefer to use euphemisms such as the person having “passed away”; been “lost”; even having “kicked the bucket”!
The Bible makes no such attempt to avoid the “D” word. Speaking to Joshua, YHWH states clearly: “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them – the children of Israel.” (Josh 1:2). Old Eli, who trained the great prophet, Samuel, was told, bluntly: “… your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead;” (I Sam 4:17). The Lord Jesus didn’t mince His words either. Speaking to the disciples, we read that He “… said to them plainly, 'Lazarus is dead'.” (John 11:14).
One of the smaller booklets on my study shelves has the intriguing title “Death with a steady eye”. Its basic message is that, for the Christian, physical death is nothing to be feared. We can meet it, and face it, with our eyes open. The reason for this is, of course, that Jesus has already conquered death and, if we are truly His, then we share in His victory.
Until the Lord’s return – whenever that may be – each one of us will have to face up to the fact of our mortality. The important thing is to be certain that we can face it “with a steady eye” – by having placed our trust, unreservedly, in Jesus. If I can be of any help, please leave a comment (that will not be made public!) and I’ll be happy to do what I can.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Quotable Quotes

Later today, we head off for a church weekend. Then we move up to Laurencekirk, on the Aberdeenshire coast, until Friday of next week. Lack of internet access means that I’ll not be posting anything during this time, so here are a few “quotable quotes” to keep my faithful readers going.

“God isn’t as interested in my ability as in my availability” (Anon.)
“No matter how many smiles I give away, I always have one more “ (Me!!)
“Church is not something we go to; rather it’s something we belong to.” (Rick Warren)
“Either we trust God, or we play God” (Word for Today)
“We know that, in everything, God works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose” (Paul; Rom 8:28)

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Persecution of Christians in India

Three More Christians Killed in Orissa; Opposition Reported in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Three more believers were martyred and twelve others were severely wounded in a fresh wave of violence in Orissa, India, on September 30. The latest attacks occurred in villages near Kandhamal, which has been the epicentre of violence against Christians since August 22.
The violence in Orissa came as attacks in two other Indian states targeted a Christian pastor and a Bridge of Hope centre.
An estimated 30 Christians have been killed and thousands of others have lost their homes since Hindu extremists went on a rampage after their leader, Swami Laxmananda Saraswati was murdered. His followers are seeking revenge for his death, for which Christians have been blamed. However, Maoists have claimed responsibility for the murder.
A Gospel for Asia correspondent in Orissa said Tuesday's attacks came at 4:30 a.m. when mobs of as many as 5,000 Hindu extremists attacked three separate villages. The extremists burned down about 150 homes and three churches. The Indian media reports that police opened fire in an attempt to disperse the violent forces.
The mob also reportedly attacked the local police station, demanding that two people arrested in connection with the ongoing riots be released. Media reports from within the country also indicate that the extremists have blocked all roads in and out of the area of the attack with rocks and boulders to prevent police from bringing in additional forces.
Since the violence began August 22, six people who attended GFA-related churches in Orissa have been killed by the Hindu extremists, who have personally attacked more than 2,000 believers from these churches. The extremists have also burned down 630 homes belonging to believers who attend GFA-related churches and destroyed 22 churches where GFA missionaries serve as pastors.
Many Christians are still hiding out in the dense jungles surrounding their villages. They are suffering from the effects of starvation, disease and monsoon flooding that wrecked the state in September.
With the continued violence and the roads blocked, it is impossible for GFA Compassion Services teams to get into Orissa to distribute aid.
Missionary Beaten in Uttar Pradesh
Gospel for Asia missionaries are also dealing with persecution in Uttar Pradesh, where Hindu extremists have attacked a pastor and have set their sights on a Bridge of Hope centre.
On October 1, the extremists attacked a Bridge of Hope centre and a church in Magapatti, Uttar Pradesh. The pastor of the church, who is a GFA missionary, was badly beaten in the attacks.
Hindu extremists continue their campaign to obliterate Christians in Orissa, India. On Tuesday, they destroyed another 150 homes like this one, along with three churches.
The extremists have been systematically threatening the parents of the children in the Bridge of Hope centre for the past few weeks. The centre was closed as a precaution and no children were on site when the extremists attacked the missionary.
Christian Aid Workers Forced Out of Bihar
Another gang of anti-Christian extremists forced out Christian aid workers attempting to help survivors of flooding in Bihar. The incident occurred on September 25 in the state's Purnia district where aid workers were assessing needs and handing out cards for people to exchange for supplies. The group was planning to help at least 2,500 families.
The extremists accused the group of taking advantage of the situation to lure the people into Christianity by offering relief materials.
The aid workers, who have been in Bihar since September 1, were able to move their base to another area and continue operations.
GFA missionaries in the affected areas shared the following prayer requests:
Please pray for the families of those killed in Orissa, that they would be comforted by the Word of God and that they would remain strong in the midst of intense persecution.
Pray for those wounded in Tuesday's attacks. Several of them have life-threatening injuries and are not expected to live. Pray for their healing and that it would be a testimony of God's glory.
Pray for the people hiding in the jungles and those living in relief camps. Pray especially that God would provide a way for Compassion Services teams to reach them.
Pray for healing for the missionary in Uttar Pradesh.
Pray that the Bridge of Hope center in that community would be able to reopen and that the children could go to school without fear.
Pray for the many Christian organizations attempting to distribute relief supplies in Bihar.
Pray for the extremist and militant groups who are opposing the Gospel to come to know Jesus as their Saviour.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Commitment.

This morning was a very special one in Liberty Community Church – at least for Joyce and me! Having attended for a couple of years, we finally made it into full membership. After we had been welcomed in by Colin MacPhie (the “senior” elder), another of the elders, Alan Brodie, prayed for us. I can’t remember every word that he uttered, but I couldn’t forget his emphasis on the concept of commitment – our commitment to the Lord; our new commitment to the fellowship; and the fellowship’s commitment to us.
It’s quite a concept. And it’s one that is basic to the life of the Biblical Christian (not that there is really any other!!). Indeed, it is Jesus Himself Who provides what we might term a “contract for commitment” – you’ll find it in Dr Luke’s account of the Gospel, at what we refer to as Chapter 14, verses 25-35.
If you read that section of the New Testament, you’ll notice that it concerns the terms He asks. There are certain conditions that must be met if we are to be considered true disciples of Jesus. The first of these is that we must have absolute loyalty to His Person. No matter how strong and deep our love for those closest to us in our human relationships, our love for Him must make that love appear to be like hatred by comparison! Our relationship with Him must take priority. And, linked to that is identity with His purpose. That purpose, in its essence, was to bring new resources into mankind’s situation through His great sacrifice at Calvary. So where do we fit in? Well, Liberty Community Church is currently going through a series of lessons on “40 Days of Community”. Part of the teaching is that we look out for one another – and that includes the “others” whom we know who do not know Jesus, the Christ, as personal Saviour, Friend, and Lord. If our line is that we “can’t be bothered” about others, then we are not committed to Jesus – we are not His disciples.
But this contract for commitment also has to do with the tasks to which He calls. There are two basic tasks, the first of which is building. It’s the story of a man who wanted to build a tower. But, before doing so, he carefully made up a list of all of the materials that he would require, worked out the cost, and checked his bank balance in order to confirm that he had sufficient funds. The one who is committed to Jesus undertakes to build a tower – of love and compassion; of service and sacrifice. And such a one must consider the cost – a life of self-denial and watchfulness. But not only are the committed disciples faced with the task of building. We are also faced with battle. The Christian life is always a conflict – and Jesus promised nothing less. If we take a truly Christian stand, then we may be assured that we will make enemies. We need to be good-quality soldiers, committed to our Commander-in-Chief Who is Jesus and Who, by His own death and resurrection, has already gained the victory for those who are committed to Him.
The last thing we may note in those verses from Luke 14 concerns the truths of which He warns. Jesus states two particular truths, the first of which has to do with the quality discipleship requires. "Salt”, He says, “is useful only while it retains its saltiness.” But if salt loses this essential quality, how is it going to be restored? So, in discipleship. This commitment is an essential quality – Jesus Himself says so! And He speaks, too, of the disaster uselessness invites. We may “sign the contract”, as we go through the waters of baptism; or as we come into membership of a particular fellowship of God’s people – and then quietly opt out of any form of service, or even involvement. And, as soon as we do, we become useless – as useless as a handful of tasteless crystals would be to season a pot of soup!
Christian commitment – it’s not for the faint-hearted. But for those who do commit themselves, body, mind, and spirit, to the Living Lord, there is the assurance of His Presence throughout the whole of this life – and throughout eternity itself; power, through the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit; and the wonder of the parenthood of Almighty God. It’s not easy – but it’s well worth it!