Persecution Fridays: Iran – “Dismantle Evangelism”

March 25, 2011 at 6:30 am | Posted in VOM Fridays | Leave a comment
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For more news on what’s really happening to Christians around the world go to the Voice of the Martyrs website: www.persecution.com

Iran: Dismantle Evangelism

Iran’s Religious Leaders Continue Public Attacks on Christianity

Ayatollah Vahid Khorasani spoke out against Christianity and evangelism during a recent religious class at the Islamic seminary in Qom, Iran. On Wednesday, March 9, Khorasani stated, “People [in Iran] have become Christians, and Shiite youths are being misled by Christianity.” His statements were published on the government website “Ayandeh.”

Khorasani told his students, “There is no one to tell to the government officials what this misled and distracted Christian evangelism is doing even in Qom.” Qom, an important religious city for Shiites, is home to the largest center for Shiite scholarship in the world. “Christian-deviated teachings are being diverted to our nation,” Khorasani said. “If the authorities even assume that something is going to shake their power, they will confront it with full force, but they do nothing against these evangelists who are misleading our Shiite youth population.”

Khorasani joins several other religious and political leaders in acknowledging the rapid growth of Christianity in Iran and criticizing the government’s inaction. During an October 2010 visit to Qom, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned against the growth of house churches in Iran. He called house churches “enemies of Islam.” Using similar rhetoric, the governor of Tehran Province, Morteza Tamaddon, has called Christians “radicals who want to corrupt and divert the body of Islam.”

The inflammatory words of Iran’s leaders seem to reflect a rising fear of Christianity within the government. In recent months, Christians in Iran have faced a systematic wave of arrests, and new converts from Islam have been especially targeted. More than 200 Christians have been imprisoned since Christmas. To date, 20 of them have seen no progress in their cases, and they continue to face difficult circumstances inside detention centers.

Evidence of the Iranian government’s disdain for Christianity continues to mount. During a routine inspection of a bus at a border crossing recently, the office of Contraband Search and Seizure, along with members of the revolutionary guard, discovered two boxes containing 300 New Testaments each. The revolutionary guards seized the boxes and burned the Bibles.

Genesis 9:1-7

March 14, 2011 at 9:32 pm | Posted in Bible Study | Leave a comment
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And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. “The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. “Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. “Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. “Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man. “As for you, be fruitful and multiply; Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.”

This week, we begin to look at life after the Flood. The ark has come to rest in the area of Ararat. The earth has dried out and the inhabitants of the ark have disembarked. All air breathing, land-dwelling animals not on the ark have been obliterated. Now, those who have survived the global destruction have been tasked with replenishing the earth (including dinosaurs). Here, as we begin chapter 9, we see that Noah is given this same task. Like his ancestor Adam before him, Noah is told by God that he and his sons should be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The eight humans that survived the Flood will be the ancestors of all of mankind after them. Each person on the planet today is related to one of the three sons of Noah. Continue Reading Genesis 9:1-7…

Persecution Friday: Pakistan

March 11, 2011 at 9:26 am | Posted in VOM Fridays | Leave a comment
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For more news on what’s really happening to Christians around the world go to the Voice of the Martyrs website: www.persecution.com

Pakistan: Christian Minister Killed

A pamphlet left by Taliban forces at the scene of the crime.

Pakistan’s only Christian cabinet member, Shahbaz Bhatti, was assassinated by gunmen on March 2, 2011. Shahbaz, a member of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, ardently advocated reforming Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which is often used against Christians. He is the second politician killed for criticizing the blasphemy law and calling for the release of convicted Christian Asia Bibi. The governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was killed on Jan. 4 after he publicly spoke out against the law. Several armed men opened fire on Shahbaz’s car in a residential neighborhood of Islamabad. Two of the men pulled Shahbaz’s driver out of the car while the third man repeatedly fired his Kalashnikov into the vehicle. Shahbaz was killed instantly. Pakistani television carried images of his bullet-riddled car. 

 Pamphlets attributed to Al-Qaeda and a branch of the Pakistani Taliban were distributed at the scene, warning that anyone who criticized the blasphemy law would be killed. Last November, Shahbaz joined Governor Taseer in championing the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death. Shahbaz had been receiving death threats since the governor’s murder. He said in several interviews that he was “the highest target right now,” but he vowed to continue his work and trusted his life to God, according to Compass Direct News. “I don’t believe that bodyguards can save me after the assassination [of Taseer],” he said. “I believe in the protection from heaven.”

Shahbaz was a committed Christian. In a BBC video recorded just four months ago, Shahbaz said, “I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ, who has given his own life for us. I know what is the meaning of cross. And I am following the cross.” He joined the Pakistan People’s Party in 2002 and was appointed the Federal Minister for Minorities in 2008, the first Christian to hold the position. According to Release International’s CEO, Andy Dipper, “Shahbaz was an uncompromising supporter of minorities in Pakistan who face abuse and unfair treatment. He was fully aware of the risks in speaking out. Extremists have succeeded in destroying another good man.”

Badges

March 9, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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I write this not knowing exactly where it’s going to go or how it’s going to sound, so if I sound a little harsh or it rambles on a little bit, please forgive me. Lately, I’ve been thinking about something and it was sparked by some of the things that I’ve seen and heard over the past week or so. There have been instances where I’ve seen Christians talking about something that is dear to them and when someone disagrees with them, they are instantly defensive. Or, if things aren’t like they think they should be, those that are not lining up with their view aren’t saved, or at the very least are seen as lesser because they don’t agree. It’s kind of sad really. It did get me thinking however.

I’ve been a Christian for about 10 years now. In that 10 years, I’ve seen and done a lot of things. Some of those things I wish I could take back. I was a part of the Word of Faith “movement” for awhile. Ignorance isn’t pretty sometimes. By the grace of God, I’ve been drawn out of that and have become sounder in my understanding of scripture. I’ve also been a part of Precept Ministries for about 6 years. When I say “a part”, I don’t work there. What I mean is that I see (and others seem to feel this way too) that those who are involved with Precept on any level are one big family. I know of two or three people that I bug almost constantly with questions and they never seem to mind.

All of this comes to my point very randomly. It seems that it is very easy for Christians to wear everything they believe like a badge. They do this with just about anything really. They do it with their denomination, which version of the Westminster confession (or other confessions) they hold to, they do it with the teachers they follow, and it can even get down to music style or type of service they have. This past week I stopped and began to look at this. From what I see in scripture, there isn’t supposed to be this kind of divisive attitude:

Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. (1 Corinthians 1:10-17)

Here, Paul says that there shouldn’t be divisions, but there are. I’ve heard snide remarks concerning all kinds of different Christians beliefs and ideas. I’ve even seen the kind of separation that Paul talks about here. I’ve seen people argue over whether or not you’re a Calvinist and those that aren’t (or haven’t thought about it, or didn’t know, or don’t really concern themselves with it) are looked down upon. It’s like their saying “I’m of Calvin” and those who aren’t are somehow not as pious. I’ve seen the same thing happen with popular teachers of today’s time (or even of times past). People like John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Paul Washer, Mark Dever, Phil Johnson, and others have had their names brought up in arguments like they are the leader of a completely different sect of Christianity. I doubt that any of them would approve.

I’ve seen arguments where someone will ask a question or point something out to think about and another will respond with a link to what John MacArthur says on the subject. Or they will talk about what R.C. Sproul says about it. Or Calvin, or Luther, or Dever, or any one of a number of other great men and women. My question about this is, should it matter? I am glad to read what any of these men and women say because they are all much, much smarter than I am, but at what point do we stop and look at the scriptures ourselves? When do we become in danger of putting these men/women and their teachings above scripture itself? Do I agree with everything that John MacArthur teaches? Nope. (Some of you may have just started praying for my salvation and that’s ok….I appreciate the thought) Does that mean that I think that everything he teaches is wrong? Nope. I just disagree with him on some things. The same thing goes for the other men listed. None of them got it/get it completely right! Gasp! I know, I have said things that would rile up many people, but these are things that the men above already know. They know that they don’t have everything right. If they did, they would be God, and last time I checked they’re not.

This doesn’t keep people that listen to their teachings from wearing the names of these men like a badge. John Calvin would be appalled at the use of his name in the way it is today because he was a humble man who didn’t want the attention for himself. He didn’t even have his grave marked so that no one would attribute anything to him that he didn’t deserve. Luther was the same way. And, from what I understand of many of today’s great teachers, they would be in agreement with this. So, if that is the view of those men, why isn’t it our own? Why do we continue to wear someone’s name or ideas like a badge? Why are we quicker to throw out something they wrote than what the scriptures say? It doesn’t make sense to me.

While I cannot say the exact reason for every instance of this happening, I can think of a few that might be the case. One reason may be that the people posting the other stuff haven’t studied the scriptures themselves. It is much easier to find ready-made bits of theological argument to toss out instead of doing the work yourself. Another reason may be that they agree with what the other person said. That’s all well and good, and I find myself in this place often enough. But I have tried not to just become another mouthpiece for any man, regardless of how good or respected a teacher they are. I would rather take what they say and compare it to scripture (like the Bereans) in order to make sure that it’s right. I’ve been burned often enough for taking something someone else wrote at face value only to find out later that it is completely wrong.

Instead of wearing someone else’s name as a badge of honor (“I’m in so-and-so’s camp”), shouldn’t we be wearing Christ? Isn’t that what Paul’s main concern was? The people of Corinth were so focused on the divisive nature of the cliques that they completely neglected (or worse negated) the truth of Christ’s gospel that they were supposed to be preaching. They were not preaching the gospel like they should have been. Instead, it was all about who’s group they were in and it was causing divisions. I don’t see how this helps grow, edify, or equip the saints for the work of service. I do see how this can cause people to not come to Christ.

Before someone gets confused or misunderstands me, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t talk about different things. We can even debate some stuff. This is good and it sharpens us. I have debated for years and can be blunt and even harsh sometimes. But, when we debate, we must remember who we’re debating. If we are debating Christians, we must remember that they are our brethren – we aren’t supposed to doggedly attack them because they disagree with us on some things that aren’t foundational. If we are debating non-Christians, then it should be handled with grace so that they might be saved. If we are debating heretics, then we can be a little more forceful, but we must still be careful. If someone is following a heretic out of ignorance, then we must treat them like any other non-Christian and season our speech with grace so that they might be saved from the heresy. If, on the other hand, the person is someone who has heard the truth and has spent much energy denying that truth (especially to the point of teaching others that truth), then we shouldn’t hold back. We should let them know the truth and make it clear that they are heretics. Even this should be done with grace though, and that’s something that I’ve seen missing in much of the ongoing “debates” lately. Again though, I have to say, we have to make sure we understand just who we’re debating with!

In the end, it is the gospel that matters most. It is not wearing other people as a badge or absolutely condemning everyone that disagrees with you even on the smallest points. If we can’t even discuss things among ourselves without having everything meltdown or explode into a flurry of unfair and graceless comments, why do we think that those outside the church are going to be turned from their sins or lead to Christ? They won’t if we’re not presenting Him to them in every way.

I have been guilty of wearing others as a badge and I have gotten better about not doing it. Personally, I couldn’t care less about names. I tend not to like labels very much. It is way to easy to attack others on one point of what they believe instead of their beliefs as a whole. I just want to follow what scripture says, and allow it to change me to be more like Christ. I want that for others too. If I end up wearing someone else as a badge, please forgive me. If I get passionate about some things and forget who I’m talking to, forgive me for that as well. And I’ll try to do the same for my fellow Christians….

Persecution Fridays: Cuba

March 4, 2011 at 10:17 am | Posted in VOM Fridays | Leave a comment
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For more news on what’s really happening to Christians around the world go to the Voice of the Martyrs website: www.persecution.com 

Cuba: Persecution Increases

Pastors and Christian leaders in Cuba are reporting a shift in how the government treats Christians. The government appears to have moved away from higher profile forms of oppression, such as threatening to shut down or destroy churches, and is now focusing pressure on church leaders, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

Church leaders both within and outside of the Cuban Council of Churches (CCC) report receiving frequent visits from state security agents and Cuban Communist Party (CCP) officials. The CCC is an umbrella organization representing Protestant churches. These visits and meetings seem to have the intent of intimidating church leaders and making them aware they are under close surveillance.

In October 2010, Pastor Homero Carbonell decided to resign as leader of La Trinidad First Baptist Church in Santa Clara after prolonged government pressure and threats, according to CSW. He hoped giving up his leadership position would alleviate some of the demands on the congregation, but nothing has changed.

Pastor Carbonell, a respected high-level denominational leader, denounced the government persecution in an open letter, according to CSW. He wrote that spurious accusations against him, including allegations that he is associated with the counterrevolution, brought a series of penalties to his church. The pastor also described how the Religious Affairs Office has treated the church over the past three years. In one meeting with the Religious Affairs Office, officials told Pastor Carbonell to “behave himself.”

CSW reports that the government’s attention on Pastor Carbonell and his church may have been prompted by the church’s refusal to expel family members of political prisoners and members of human rights or pro-democracy groups.

Religious groups in Cuba are under the authority of the Religious Affairs Office of the CCP’s Central Committee, rather than a government body. Church leaders have complained for years about difficulties dealing with the Religious Affairs Office, especially with regard to permission for church repair or construction. Many of VOM’s partners in Cuba have faced conflict with authorities while building or repairing churches. Some get around requirements by constructing structures with roofs but no walls.

Bibles and Christian literature may be imported into the country only through the Cuban Council of Churches, which, according to CSW, represents a minority of churches. This limitation has led to a severe shortage of religious materials in Cuba. VOM friends help bring Bibles and other materials into the country through other channels and also sponsor a clandestine printing press for Christian literature.


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