January 25, 2012
Here are some links worth reading and thoughts worth thinking…
- Sobering words from John Piper: 15 things to consider about abortion.
- From Reformed Theological Seminary: Tinker, tailor, soldier…pastor: how two Cold War foes became pastoral friends.
- Two hundred million girls are “missing.” A new documentary, It’s a Girl! The Three Deadliest Words in the World, explores the systematic gendercide taking place in India, China, and other areas of South Asia. Watch the trailer.
- Tim Challies releases the second in a series of helpful, visual graphics explaining basic frameworks of systematic theology. This is one is a visual graphic of the attributes of God. The first in the series was on the ordo salutis.
- Chris Koelle, artist and member of Downtown PCA in Greenville, South Carolina (pastored by my friend Brian Habig), has been creating a graphic novel adaptation of the Revelation. It is delivered through an app called “The Book of Revelation App” for iPad and iPhone. Here is Tim Challies’ interview with Chris.
August 10, 2010
The following note was just received from the staff of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Harrisonburg. The Assoicated Press released the final two names of missionaries killed by the Taliban last week in Afghanistan, and one of them was from our Presbytery. Please put this family – both immeidate and church – on your prayer lists and, if possible, ask your Deacons and/or members to help with the funds needed for expenses.
We have received word that Brian Carderelli was in killed in Afghanistan while working with the medical team giving aid in Nuristan. Brian Carderelli was a dearly loved member of Covenant Presbyterian Church. He grew up in the church, was a 2009 graduate of James Madison University (Digital Video degree), and after graduation volunteered in many capacities in the church. He loved people and was particularly concerned for the poor. He had been in Afghanistan since last September and was serving the IAM and various other organizations using his photography and videography skills to produce promotional materials and donor reports. Doctors Little and Woo had invited Brian on the Nuristan trip to document their work.
Brian was an eagle scout who loved the outdoors including hiking, snowboarding and surfing. In his spare time, he enjoyed photographing the beauty and the people of Afghanistan; and he was compiling an album of photos he had entitled, “The Beauty – It’s not all War”. Brian’s gentle spirit and witty sense of humor endeared him to all who knew him.
Brian was a Christian who was killed as he was fulfilling his life ambition to use his talents and training to show the love of Christ to the poor and disadvantaged. Our church family will greatly miss Brian.
Covenant Presbyterian has established a fund to help the Carderellis with expenses associated with Brian’s death. Please send contributions, payable to Covenant Presbyterian Church (“Carderelli” on the memo line), to Covenant Presbyterian Church, Attn: Kendal Butler, 32 Southgate Ct., Suite 101, Harrisonburg, VA 22801.
Kendal H. Butler
Director of Administration
Covenant Presbyterian Church
32 Southgate Ct., Suite 101
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
November 4, 2009
In Saudi Arabia these days a criminal can be crucified, though the practice differs from the Roman version. From Saudi court upholds child rapist crucifixion ruling:
A Saudi court of cassation upheld a ruling to behead and crucify a 22-year-old man convicted of raping five children and leaving one of them to die in the desert, newspapers reported on Tuesday. The convict was arrested earlier this year after a seven-year old boy helped police in their investigation. The child left in the desert after the rape was three years old, Okaz newspaper said. . . . In Saudi Arabia, crucifixion means tying the body of the convict to wooden beams to be displayed to the public after beheading.
Human rights activists quibble over the punishment for this particularly horrible crime. I suspect that beheading the criminal before crucifying him was seen, historically, as a merciful gesture. But the shame of crucifixion–displaying the malefactor for all to see–is undeniable.
This contemporary crucifixion preserves at least part of the significance of what our Lord Jesus went through: how heinous it was for Jesus to bear and take away the sin of the world, including child rapes! How repulsive the spectacle. How shameful, that he be lifted up, convicted and condemned, humiliated and killed.
Nietzsche and the death-of-God theologians, the new atheists who accuse God of immorality and child-abuse, those who mock and blaspheme God today, have nothing on what God already did of and to himself to redeem us.
“Bearing shame and scoffing rude/ in my place condemned he stood /sealed my pardon with his blood / Hallelujah! What a Savior!” (Philip Bliss, 1875).
September 3, 2009
Last year in our prayer meeting we spent a portion of time praying for the power of the Gospel to reach mightily into the Muslim world. 30-Days International (www.30-days.net) produces the “30-Days of Prayer for the Muslim World” Christian prayer guide coinciding with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan each year.
The origin of this international prayer network came about as a group of Christian leaders were praying during a meeting in the Middle East in April 1992. God put a burden on the hearts of these men and women to call as many Christians as possible to pray for the Muslim world. The annual, worldwide, 30-Days Muslim prayer focus gives Christians the opportunity to learn about Islam and pray for Muslims during Ramadan (Islam’s important annual month of fasting and religious observance).
Each year a new prayer guide booklet is published in a number of languages and locations around the world. The booklet is illustrated and contains daily readings with prayer points and informative background articles focusing on the Muslim world. Check out the site’s resources and join in praying for light of Christ to shine into darkness of Islam.
October 21, 2008
Gayle Williams, a 34-year-old dual British-South African national who worked with Christian relief organization SERVE Afghanistan, was gunned down by two assailants on a motorcycle in the streets of Kabul on Monday. Gayle ministered to handicapped Afghans.
Even National Public Radio reported the murder on a top-of-the-hour newscast yesterday. Here is the link to the Yahoo story.
As the headline indicates, the Taliban boast of their bloody deed:
A spokesman for the militants said the Taliban ordered her killed because she was accused of proselytizing.”This woman came to Afghanistan to teach Christianity to the people of Afghanistan,” Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press. “Our (leaders) issued a decree to kill this woman.”
It is tempting to use a word like tragedy to describe this. But then I think of John Piper’s words in Don’t Waste Your Life (paraphrased): A life spent in unheralded service to the perishing poor for the sake of Jesus Christ is no tragedy; rather, it is a glory. Her life was neither wasted nor lost (Mark 8:35). By contrast, how many of us are wasting our lives in empty pursuits?
September 4, 2008
In our prayer meeting during September we will spend a portion of time praying for the power of the Gospel to reach mightily into the Muslim world. 30-Days International (www.30-days.net) produces the “30-Days of Prayer for the Muslim World” Christian prayer guide coinciding with Ramadan each year.
The origin of this international prayer network came about as a group of Christian leaders were praying during a meeting in the Middle East in April 1992. God put a burden on the hearts of these men and women to call as many Christians as possible to pray for the Muslim world. The annual, worldwide, 30-Days Muslim prayer focus gives Christians the opportunity to learn about Islam and pray for Muslims during Ramadan (Islam’s important annual month of fasting and religious observance). This year’s motto is: “Loving Muslims through Prayer.”
Each year a new prayer guide booklet is published in a number of languages and locations around the world. The booklet is illustrated and contains daily readings with prayer points and informative background articles focusing on the Muslim world. Printed copies of the prayer guide are sold out, but an online daily blog version is available here.
November 19, 2007
According to an article that appeared in the April, 2003, issue of The Banner of Truth, Presbyterian missionaries began working in Iraq in 1836. Some five congregations belong to the Assembly of Evangelical Presbyterian Churches-Iraq. The oldest of these congregations dates to 1840 and is located in Mosul. The National Presbyterian Church in Basra dates to 1940. Other congregations are located in Kirkuk and Baghdad.
According to tradition, in the first century the apostle Thomas evangelized the region on his way to India. Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an estimated 600,000 Christians lived in the country of 22 million people. By far the largest group is the Chaldean Catholic Church, followed by the Assyrian Church of the East (called the Nestorians), the Syrian Orthodox Church, and the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Informed accounts tell us that the Ba’ath party of Saddam Hussein tolerated the presence of Christians in Iraq. After the March, 2003, invasion and toppling of the Hussein government, radical Islamic forces felt free to harass Christian churches. As a result, it is believed that most Iraqi Christians fled to Jordan, Syria or the northernmost region of Iraq.
In an article by Michael Yon on his personal website last week, he tells the story of a 15 November church service held at St. John’s Church in Baghdad. The story includes some beautiful photographs. It was the first service held in St. John’s in years–since nearby St. George’s Church was destroyed and a number of clergy in the area were kidnapped and killed. Yon reports that a crowd of locals welcomed home the Roman Catholic bishop. “They were joined at the service by soldiers from the 2-12 infantry battalion, many of whom had fought hard to secure these neighborhood streets. Members of the hard-fighting Iraqi Army 3rd Division were also here for this special day.”
Many local Muslims were in attendance at the service (and yes, it was a Mass–and yes, there are huge theological issues with the Mass–just hold on that for a few minutes, OK?). The locals sent out a plea for their Christian neighbors to come home.
I’m not going to engage in analysis about the American news media or speculate about the significance of the presence of local Muslims at a Catholic mass in a Baghdad neighborhood. What is interesting is the “Y’all come home” plea to the Christians who have fled. Whatever relationships were like prior to 2003, whatever politics are in play, whatever kind of understanding these folk have or don’t have about the gospel, the local Muslim neighbors want their Christian neighbors to come back. That says a lot for the kind of people these Christians are. Could the same be said in your neighborhood if the Christian folk moved out?
June 20, 2007
In stark contrast to the previous blog post about the Episcopal priest from Washington who has declared herself 100% Christian and 100% Muslim is this from The Boston Globe about Lina Joy. Here’s an extended quote to cut to the chase:
Malaysia’s best known Christian convert, Lina Joy, lost a six-year battle on Wednesday to have the word “Islam” removed from her identity card, after the country’s highest court rejected the change.
The ruling threatens to further polarize Malaysian society between non-Muslims who feel that their constitutional right to religious freedom is being eroded, and Muslims who believe that civil courts have no right to meddle in Islamic affairs.
“You can’t at whim and fancy convert from one religion to another,” Federal Court Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim said in delivering judgment in the case, which has stirred religious tensions in the mainly Muslim nation.
He said the civil court had no jurisdiction in the case and that it should be dealt with by the country’s Islamic courts.”The issue of apostasy is related to Islamic law, so it’s under the sharia court. The civil court cannot intervene.”
…Lina Joy, 43, was born Azlina Jailani and was brought up as a Muslim, but at the age of 26 decided to become a Christian. She wants to marry her Christian boyfriend, a cook, but she cannot do so while her identity card declares her to be Muslim.
In 1999, the registration department allowed her to change the name in her identity card to Lina Joy but the entry for her religion remained “Islam.”
Malaysia, like neighboring Indonesia, practices a moderate brand of Islam, but Muslims account for only a bare majority of Malaysia’s population and are very sensitive to any perceived threats to Islam’s special status as the official religion.
Malaysia has been under Islamic influence since the 15th century, but big waves of Chinese and Indian immigrants over the last 150 years has dramatically changed its racial and religious make-up. Now, about 40 percent of Malaysians are non-Muslim.
How about the line from the Chief Justice: “You can’t at whim and fancy convert from one religion to another,” about a conversion that took place over a decade ago!
In 1 Corinthians 10:21-22 the Apostle Paul declares in no uncertain terms, You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? In short, you can’t live a double life. Can you imagine the apostle’s reaction to a Corinthian elder (and yes, this is assuming Paul would not first question why he is talking to female elder!) who said, “I am 100% Christian and 100% a devotee of Aphrodite. At the most basic level, I understand the two religions to be compatible. That’s all I need. I look through Jesus and I see Aphrodite”? You don’t have to imagine his reaction. You just read it in the first sentence of the paragraph.
The story of the Rev. Ann Holmes in Washington and the story of Lina Joy in Malaysia provide a remarkable lesson about religion. For the former, religion is like a fashion accessory, putting a Muslim prayer scarf on the head five times a day and wearing an Episcopal clerical collar in between times. And it all feels good inside. For the latter, religion is a question of basic identity—under whose law will I live, whom shall I marry, where will I go, will I put myself and my family in jeopardy by standing for my faith against powers opposed to that faith, will I live or die?
In stating the issue this way, I do not doubt Rev. Holmes’ sincerity in her beliefs, but I do question whether she has any understanding of Christianity or Islam that does justice to either religion. She speaks of her “conversion” as a matter of identity, but that identity seems to boil down to the idea that you can be Muslim at breakfast, Episcopalian at dinner (in the South this is the meal eaten around noon), and Muslim again by happy hour (but I think you’d want to be Episcopalian at happy hour).
Call me when the New York Times reports on the imam who adopts Judaism as a supplemental faith.
June 18, 2007
These are the words of the Rev. Ann Holmes, ordained as an Episcopal priest more than 20 years ago and, until recently, director for faith formation at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle. According to a recent article in the Seattle Times,
…for the last 15 months, she’s also been a Muslim — drawn to the faith after an introduction to Islamic prayers left her profoundly moved…Redding doesn’t feel she has to resolve all the contradictions. People within one religion can’t even agree on all the details, she said. “So why would I spend time to try to reconcile all of Christian belief with all of Islam? At the most basic level, I understand the two religions to be compatible. That’s all I need.”
She says she felt an inexplicable call to become Muslim, and to surrender to God — the meaning of the word “Islam.” “It wasn’t about intellect,” she said. “All I know is the calling of my heart to Islam was very much something about my identity and who I am supposed to be. I could not not be a Muslim…I look through Jesus and see Allah.”
Let me suggest that the Rev. Holmes, who has just been hired by Seattle University as a visiting lecturer in New Testament (!?!?!), might find the welcome and acceptance she experiences in western Washington a bit less friendly should she do any traveling in the Middle East.
May 30, 2007
What question could a kind, gentle American seminary professor ask to get himself run out of the famous Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem? Let me suggest you to take few minutes to read a short piece by Dr. Reggie Kidd, Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, entitled ‘The Deity of Jesus–So What?’ , and you will find more than an interesting encounter with Islam, but a rich discussion of the beauty, sweetness and necessity of eternal God taking on human flesh. Dr. Kidd (he would prefer you call him Reggie–with a hard ‘g’) reflects on the question, ‘What difference does it make that Jesus is not just man (though certainly that), but also God?’ Or to personalize the question a bit: ‘What has Jesus done for us that no human could do?’