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Posts Tagged ‘church’

kremlin

Forget military aggression. Russia just made it illegal to talk about Jesus outside of a church!

Russia recently passed a set of anti-terrorism laws known as the Yarovaya package, which places broad limitations on missionary work, including preaching, teaching, and any activity designed to recruit people into a religious group. When it became a public law on July 20, it rolled back 19 years of religious freedom.

While Christians have enjoyed great freedom since the Iron Curtain collapsed, these laws are Russia’s most restrictive measures in post-Soviet history. The new laws contain several heavy restrictions on missionary activity and evangelism. The changes include laws against sharing your faith in homes, online, in writing, or any public space except a recognized church building.

As it now stands, Yarovaya requires missionaries to have permits, makes house churches illegal, and limits religious activity to the premises of registered church buildings. The rules are so tight that Christians in Russia cannot email their friends an invitation to church under the new surveillance and anti-terrorism laws. Anyone who disobeys could be fined up to $780 and organizations could be fined more than $15,000. Foreign visitors who violate the law can be detained and ultimately face deportation.

Russia’s Baptist Council of Churches wrote an open letter calling Yarovaya, “the most draconian anti-religion bill to be proposed in Russia since Nikita Khrushchev promised to eliminate Christianity in the Soviet Union.”

As fellow believers, we should all be appalled and upset with the Yarovaya laws. When religious freedom is swept away with the stroke of a pen, it affects the entire church. Now is the time for Christians across the globe to seek the Lord and pray that God will intercede for our brothers and sisters in Russia. Ask that God will unite Russian Christians and that this time of trial can be used to strengthen and grow the church.

 

 

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crazy world

It may not be the politically correct way to say it, but sometimes I feel like the world has gone crazy. There are days when the common sense, decency, and values that I saw in my youth seem to have vanished from our culture. Common sense no longer seems common. Decency is no longer honored. And the values of yesterday feel strangely distant.

Take for instance these events. Presidential debates need a seven second delay or a PG-13 rating. Men must now be called biological males. Teen age girls can enter male locker rooms in a public school. The NFL won’t properly discipline or fire players who beat women unconscious. And it is now considered a public health issue that nuns provide free birth control. What in blazes is going on around here?

While it is easy to feel that the world has gone crazy, it has always abided by its own set of rules.

We live in a post-Christian society. The moral landscape of our day rests on shifting sand. Everyone does what is right in their own eyes, instead of following God’s example. The culture and practices of Christianity are mostly rejected or, worse, forgotten.

When we look at Scripture, the early church operated in this kind of environment. There was little or no Christian culture, only a cosmopolitan and secular society that focused on self. Rome and Corinth believers needed to be a community of contrast, one that shows the world a better way to live. They were encouraged to live and demonstrate light in a dark and twisted world. When we do this it shows that no one is beyond redemption and that God has a particularly soft spot for sinners. Messages that our world desperately needs to hear and understand.

And so again, it is up to the Church to live and act in a different way from our world. A way that dispenses grace like Christ and honors God. A way that demonstrates the Sermon on the Mount and the Great Commission.

We have the power to change this crazy world, not by looking down on it in disgust, but up to God, the One who consistently calls us to become the people we were designed to be. May God empower us to live as first century Christians who showed grace, compassion, and mercy to a crazy world.

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moore

During the past week, you could not help but see the horrible path left in the wake of a killer tornado.  The people of Moore, Oklahoma are no strangers to quick storms, but this tornado will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.  It killed 24 people, uprooted families, devastated multiple communities, destroyed schools, wrecked churches, and performed an estimated $2 billion worth of damage.

The scenes were reminiscent of the Joplin, Missouri tornado where 161 people were killed nearly two years ago.  The sights even reminded people of the Branson, Missouri tornado last year that did millions of dollars in damage along highway 76 and downtown.

During the recent storm in Oklahoma, much was totally destroyed and much is still needed by the survivors.  Emergency relief agencies were quick to respond.  State and federal aid workers were quickly on the scene to provide the basic necessities of life.  But I found it so very encouraging to see how the people of Joplin and Branson joined in the relief and recovery effort.

Joplin sent a team of public safety employees from the police and fire departments. Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr said that his community remembers the assistance it received in 2011 and feels an obligation to lend a hand in Moore.

Branson businesses, churches, and entertainers have conducted multiple benefits to raise funds for the Moore tornado victims.  As school is now out for the year, many classes are undertaking volunteer clean up efforts.

What a tremendous blessing!  These two communities understand the hurt and pain that this storm brought because of their past suffering.  By sending emergency personnel, donations, and volunteers they are able to offer help and hope to the people of Oklahoma.

It is a commendable example we find in scripture.  2 Corinthians 1:3-5 shares this, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”

We are called to comfort those in any kind of trouble.  We are to comfort just as God has given comfort to us.  This passage is a great reminder of how we can be a living sermon to people who do not know Jesus.  As Christians and faith-based agencies continue to provide comfort, let us join in the effort through prayer and gifts of our time and wealth.

The people of Joplin and Branson have painted a beautiful picture of how the “Church” should respond to people in need and fulfill the work of Christ.  The sufferings of the past are being redeemed and transformed into a holy and righteous effort to help people in crisis today.  I hope that this “faith-based FEMA” is able to continue and grow as people respond to this tragedy.

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National-Day-Of-Prayer

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013 is the National Day of Prayer.

You can join the effort in several ways.  You can attend an event in your community, go to a worship service, take time to pray at home, or commit to pray for an issue on the website http://nationaldayofprayer.org.

The National Day of Prayer is held on the first Thursday of May, each year as designated by the US Congress.  People are encouraged “to turn to God in prayer and meditation”. Each year since its inception, the President has signed a proclamation, encouraging all Americans to pray.

No matter where you are or what plans you have for Thursday, take time to share the concerns of your heart with the Almighty.

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