Sunday, August 30, 2009
1) For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
2) For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshipers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.
3) But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.
4) For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
5) Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:
6) In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.
7) Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.
8) Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein ; which are offered by the law;
9) Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.
10) By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
*Interesting article from Andrew Strom. Like Mr. Strom, I have no problem with people calling Jesus "Yeshua". Myself, I like particularly types of Messianic music, but one can see how observing the Old Law is problematic--we must put our faith in Jesus Christ and not in following such ordinances.
RETURN of THE JUDAIZERS??
-by Andrew Strom.
I have friends who call Jesus "Yeshua". I don't mind it at all. I have other friends who keep the Saturday Sabbath. It doesn't bother me too much, unless there is a kind-of "aggressive attitude" about it. But in recent years I have witnessed a worrying trend - that in my opinion is growing worse - and we need to address it.
Today when a Christian tells me that they are "Torah-observant" then all kinds of alarms go off. It may be that they are just into 'Hebrew roots' - but usually it is a lot more than that. We all know that in the early church, the biggest problem they had was with the "Judaizers" who went around trying to convince the Gentile Christians that they must obey the letter of the Old Testament Law. This shipwrecked the faith of many. It was the biggest problem they had. The book of Galatians is all about it - and many other sections of the New Testament. It was a battle between the old Law - with its subtle bondages - and the new walk of the Spirit and of grace.
A few months back, we published the testimony of a Christian woman who got involved with a Messianic group that slowly under- mined her faith in Jesus - and basically converted her gradually into a practicing Jew - even though they all thought of themselves as "Messianic Christians"! She realized later that in almost every way she had slowly had her faith in Jesus and the New Testament replaced with the keeping of the Torah. She had been "Judaized"!
And I fear this is happening to a great many Christians today - in all kinds of subtle ways.
This is exactly what the Bible warns against - losing the "simplicity" of the faith. And that is why Paul was so strong against the Juda-izers. He saw that Christians were being tempted - not to place their faith in Christ alone - but rather in Christ PLUS the keeping of the Law. It was no longer a simple trust in JESUS to be their righteousness. They now started to feel they had to keep the letter of the Old Law too - in order to be truly "holy". And so they became "Judaized". This is the worst trap possible. And so subtle!
Let us look at a few vital Scriptures. Please open your Bible to Acts 15:1-29. This whole passage is about a great meeting of the apostles to decide whether - with the new Gentile Christians - it
was "necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses" (v 5). So what did the apostles conclude about this? As Peter declared during the debate about it, "Why
do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?" (v 10).
At the end of the great meeting, the apostles put out a letter to the Gentile Christians that declared: "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well." (v. 28-29). And as far as the Old Law went, that was it!
In other words, no "Torah observance", no Sabbath, no circumcision, no Old Law apart from these few things. This brief list only. That was the pronouncement of the apostles. If they wanted to tell the Gentiles, "You must keep the Jewish Sabbath," then this was the place to do it. But it is definitely not included. And neither are a thousand-and-one other things from the Old Testament.
Of course, this should be no surprise to us. In Colossians 2, Paul tells us very clearly that Christ has "wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us" by nailing it to the cross (v. 14). He then goes on to say: "So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ."
So all these Old Testament practices are only a "shadow" of the New. In fact, as Hebrews makes clear, the entire Old Covenant was only a 'type' or shadow of that which was to come. It was not the real thing! It does not make us more "holy"! The substance is found in Christ - and Him alone. The Old Torah "requirements" were nailed to the cross with Jesus. We don't need them any more. If anybody ever tells you that the New Testament is simply a "continuation" of the Old, run a mile from that person. They simply do not know what they are talking about. In fact, what they are spouting is dangerous heresy.
Thus, as Paul tells us in Romans, observing the Sabbath is only necessary if our conscience is weak in this area - and we feel we have to:- "One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it" (Rom 14:1-6).
So we do not "have" to observe the Sabbath. It does not make us more 'holy' or righteous to do so. It is simply a matter of conscience. This runs against a lot of the teaching that is doing the rounds right now. There is a lot of dangerous "Back to the Torah"-type emphasis that is bringing a lot of harm to a lot of people. Many of them don't even realize what is happening to them.
Paul clearly tells us in Galatians that you can lose your salvation by beginning to rely on the Law in your Christian walk: "You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain" (Gal 4:10-11). He then goes on to say, "You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace."
(Gal 5:4). Alarming statements, are they not?
You see, it is a direct insult to the work of Christ and to God for us to go back to the "works of the Law" to try and make us more 'righteous' in His sight. It is placing our trust in something other than just Jesus. We are "adding works" for our salvation. And it will not do.
I believe that just like the Galatians, a lot of people today need to repent of trying to add the Old Law to their salvation - sometimes in subtle ways - sometimes major. This is not the kind of thing to toy around with. It can be utterly deadly. If you are someone who is adding "Torah observance" to your faith, I urge you to repent.
The testimony of the woman who slowly lost her faith in Jesus through Messianic Torah-observance can be found at the top of our website. Here is the link-
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
Christian Law Firm Fights 'Ridiculous' Criminal Charges Against School Officials
The Pace High School principal and athletic director are accused of violating a consent decree – which prohibits all district school officials from promoting, endorsing, or causing religious prayers during school-sponsored events – and face criminal contempt charges.
Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, said on Fox News on Monday that the two administrators stand to lose, collectively, 70 years of their life investment into the school district.
When Principal Lay asked Freeman to bless a meal during a luncheon in January, "they never thought that this would be a violation of any order," Staver, who is representing the two men, said.
"They certainly never thought they would be defending themselves under a criminal contempt charge and face up to $5,000 in fines and up to six months in prison, and they never thought that they would jeopardize their collective 70 years of employment (retirement benefits)."
The notorious American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint about the prayer to U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers. The ACLU had previously filed a lawsuit against the high school on behalf of two unnamed students who alleged that school officials regularly promoted religion and led prayers at school events. The lawsuit was settled with a consent decree, approved by both parties, early this year.
Following the complaint, however, Judge Rodgers initiated criminal contempt proceedings against Lay and Freeman "for willfully violating the court’s temporary injunction order."
Their lawyer, Staver, argues that no students and only a few employees were present at the luncheon in January. The people who attended were "private individuals not associated with the school, other than they were part of the boosters club" that donated money to the school for a new athletic field house.
Lay stated in a February 4 letter to district Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick, however, that culinary class students prepared and served the meal.
Glenn Katon, director of the Religious Freedom Project for the ACLU, told CNN that it did not request the two men go to jail over the possible violation of a court order.
He said the challenge is "about the students' right to be free from teachers and school administrators thrusting upon the students their religious beliefs."
Meanwhile, the recent proceedings have teachers and staff "running with fear not knowing what they're going to do next," according to Liberty Counsel's Staver.
Staver, who believes the criminal contempt charge is "ridiculous," says the ACLU has been placing people monitors on campus to check for any religious activity.
They're "trying to literally eliminate anything that's religious," Staver said on Fox News. "They've just been uber sensitive to this kind of activity and they literally are trying to erase it not just during the school day but even after the school day on school campus and even now off campus.
"So the teachers and staff are running with fear not knowing what they're going to do next."
Liberty Counsel filed a motion to intervene to challenge the consent decree, which it believes "unconstitutionally infringes on the rights of teachers, administrators, and students."
In May, as a result of the decree, senior class president Mary Allen who was expected to speak at her graduation ceremony was removed from the lineup because she might say something Christian.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Ecstasy & Agony
A Year Later, the Lakeland Outpouring Still Stirs Emotions
By Cary McMullen
LEDGER RELIGION EDITOR
Last summer, hundreds, thousands of sick people came to Lakeland hoping to get well again.
They came not to see doctors but a balding, Canadian biker-dude evangelist named Todd Bentley, who was in the midst of leading a long Pentecostal revival at which many people said they were miraculously healed.
Among the sick were Robbie Susan Moore and Linda Chen. Both were told they were in the end stages of cancer. Both received prayers to be healed. Within months, one inexplicably was free of cancer. The other was dead.
Such were the contradictions of the Lakeland Outpouring revival. For 188 days, it was - depending on who you talked to - loud, frustrating, joyous and an event where sick people were miraculously healed or false and dangerous doctrines were presented. It drew as many as 300,000 people from around the world and polarized opinions in the Pentecostal world.
A year ago, on Aug. 9, 2008, Bentley left the revival just as news got out that he and his wife, Shonnah, were separating.
The revival continued for awhile, but the crowds who flocked to see Bentley, hoping for miraculous cures, melted away.
Within months, Bentley married a woman who had been a volunteer at the revival, further scandalizing opponents and followers alike. His reputation was in tatters.
According to a scholar who has studied recent Pentecostal movements, the Outpouring occupies a memorable, if not historic, place among religious revivals for its size and worldwide reach - and for its controversy over extravagant miracle claims and Bentley's conduct.
"This revival was unique in that it was quickly covered virtually every night through God TV and the Internet.
Also, the Florida Outpouring became quite quickly one of the most divisive moments in modern Pentecostalism because of all the controversies about Todd," James A. Beverley, professor of Christian thought and ethics at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto and associate director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion in Santa Barbara, Calif., wrote in an e-mail interview.
The revival's leaders say they had no idea it would grow to such proportions.
The Lakeland Outpouring began on April 2, 2008, at Ignited Church, an Assemblies of God congregation on Lakeland's north side. Ignited's pastor, the Rev. Stephen Strader, had invited the flamboyant Bentley to lead a week of services.
At the time, he was an independent evangelist who headed Fresh Fire Ministries, based in Abbotsford, British Columbia.
A former drug and alcohol abuser who spent a short stint in jail as a teenager on a molestation charge, Bentley is covered in tattoos and favors biker-style attire.
A favorite technique while leading services was to shout "Bam!" as he touched (or in some cases, shoved or kneed) people to "impart" the healing power of the Holy Spirit.
From the beginning, the revival devoted a lot of attention to the miraculous.
After the first week, attendance swelled, fed by an international audience watching live streamed services on the Internet and, later, on a religious satellite channel, God TV.
People watching from remote locations claimed they, too, had been healed.
The stories of Chen and Moore were among the many "testimonies" gathered by revival staff, even though, as in Moore's case, not all healings were valid, a point Bentley himself concedes. (See accompanying stories.)
Two weeks of services stretched to four and beyond. People flew to Lakeland from as far as South Africa and Australia.
The revival changed venues several times in search of a place to accommodate the thousands who were arriving daily, some desperate for healing from physical and mental ailments, some eager to participate in the rapturous services, some simply curious. Others were dragged along by friends and relatives.
In a phone interview from Morningstar Ministries in Fort Mill, S.C., just outside Charlotte, N.C., where he has been undergoing a "restoration" process, Bentley, 33, said he noticed something different right away.
"I had never experienced such a tangible weight of God or the ease with which people would testify they'd been healed. So many testimonies were coming in over the Internet," he said.
MIRACLES AND CRITICS
By late July, as the services met in enormous tents on the grounds of Sun 'n Fun, as many 10,000 people attended nightly. The miraculous claims multiplied.
But there were plenty of critics. For years, Bentley had claimed he had supernatural visions, such as spiritual visits to heaven that included encounters with figures like the apostle Paul, and visions of angels, including one named Emma.
Bentley says now he did not emphasize those visions in Lakeland, but traditional Pentecostals were alarmed that they smacked of heresy.
The Assemblies of God published a document as the revival was going on that did not mention the Florida Outpouring by name, but warned pastors and church members to beware of teachings that could not be upheld by the Bible.
Others said Bentley and revival leaders made too many claims for miracles that could not be verified or strained belief.
Bentley routinely read testimonies that came in over the Internet claiming that someone who had died had been resurrected because of prayers offered at the Outpouring. News organizations from around the world descended on Lakeland. ABC News and the Associated Press reported they investigated claims of healings but could not verify them.
After a couple of hoaxes, Bentley and Strader say they began issuing disclaimers on unverified miracles.
"There were a few stories that turned out to be false. I don't throw the baby out with the bath water. I can't say I or anybody else claimed too much," Bentley said.
But Beverley said Bentley should have been more careful.
"Whatever Todd thinks now, he talked too much about angels and made so many unsubstantiated claims about miracles that he brought his credibility into question," he said.
And all was not well behind the scenes as Bentley began dealing with marital problems. Strader said he sensed something was wrong in June when Bentley became less accessible.
"I never dreamed it was with Todd. I thought it was his organization," he said.
Bentley said his marriage had been shaky for years.
"I can't say I would have done things differently with Shonnah. It was already falling apart," he said. "It was a personal problem I brought with me into Lakeland. The hope in the back of my mind was that we were going to work it out. I didn't want it to hurt the kingdom of God or the revival."
Shonnah Bentley and the Bentleys' three children came to Lakeland for a while, but in July, they returned to Canada.
"We couldn't get back that friendship and intimacy. She did her best to support me. There was just too much fighting and bickering," he said.
Bentley confided his problems to a revival volunteer, Jessa Hasbrook, who occasionally helped keep the Bentleys' children.
The Fresh Fire board later described the relationship as "unhealthy," but Bentley denied having an affair with Hasbrook, as was rumored later by bloggers.
"There was no sexual affair going on in Lakeland. It was wrong to get emotionally involved so quickly. It made things look more scandalous," he said.
There were also rumors that Bentley was drinking, a problem since Pentecostals generally forbid the use of alcohol.
He says now that after his wife left, he turned to alcohol on "a few occasions," including once in public, but "I did not become an alcoholic."
Before word got out that he and his wife were separating, Bentley left the revival.
He met with Strader and turned the revival over to him and made a farewell appearance on Aug. 9. He told his staff about the separation with his wife and flew to California, where he stayed with friends, he said. Strader said it was a few days later before he learned the true situation.
Bentley said he "went into a cave," made no public appearances and dealt with divorce proceedings.
Bentley resigned from the board of Fresh Fire but didn't formally separate from the organization until this year. Strader returned the revival to Ignited and continued the nightly services, but crowds dwindled to a couple of hundred.
The revival's final service was on Oct. 12, barely noticed at the time. Bentley and Hasbrook married in March, shortly after Bentley's divorce was final.
Beverley said the revival provoked intense differences that still linger.
"The Lakeland Revival brought out two dangerous traits in analysts, both pro and con. First, people often adopted an 'all or nothing' approach as if the revival was either pure gold or from the pit of hell. Second, it was also amazing how both revival fans and critics would pronounce judgments on the inner motives of the other side. A complex, messy revival - with complex personalities in the mix - demands nuance, especially since both good and bad things happened," he said.
Bentley has been undergoing "restoration" counseling from fellow Pentecostal evangelist Rick Joyner at Morningstar Ministries.
He said he has clarified his doctrines and repented of behavior that caused pain and disillusionment and is preparing to return to the ministry.
In an agreement with Bentley's former organization, Fresh Fire Ministries renamed itself Transform International, and Bentley started a new organization, Fresh Fire USA, and a Web site (freshfireusa.com).
RETURN TO MINISTRY?
His supporters say his divorce and remarriage should not stand in the way of his ministry.
Colleen Fader, of Ellenton, who visited the revival in April and says her kidneys were healed, said Bentley's problems are between him and God.
"God uses imperfect people. Todd can't heal anybody. It's God," she said.
Critics say that while some good things may have happened, Bentley's leadership was too deeply flawed, both doctrinally and morally.
The Rev. George O. Wood, the Assemblies' general superintendent, or highest official, said recently Bentley's failings disqualify him from leading services in Assemblies churches.
"I don't understand why anyone in their right mind would ever give Todd Bentley a platform again. I believe in redemption, but for some things you forever forfeit your public ministry. This man has proven by his lifestyle to be who he is, and our churches shouldn't be using him, period," he said.
Others are more circumspect. Strader said he could not invite Bentley back to Ignited Church because Assemblies of God policy forbids divorced people from leading services. But he said he would be willing to visit services elsewhere led by Bentley.
"Divorce, adultery and fornication are not unpardonable sins. ... Do I feel like Todd has done everything he needs to do to be restored? No. He has a long way to go," Strader said.
Bentley said he hopes to preach within the next year.
"Don't count me out. I'm getting my personal life, my character and my doctrine in order.
"I'm going to take responsibility, humble myself and not be afraid to say I sinned, I'm sorry. ... I'm emotionally and physically ready. The fire and the passion is there," he said.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Televangelists to Appear in Macy’s Parade
New York City’s annual Macy’s Parade will include several new floats this year: a line of seven televangelists will be spotlighted near the middle of the many parade entries. Reverends Jesse Duplantis, Kenneth Copeland, Steve Munsey, Paul Crouch/TBN, Juanita Bynum, Paula White, and Todd Bentley will make their debuts with floats ranging from extravagant to just plain indulgent.
Reverend Duplantis will be showing off a huge prosperity-themed float, complete with a mini-mansion and several luxury automobiles following behind it. The marble mansion will include a small pool and a spa, as well as golden floors and elaborate candelabra. As well, the float will be decorated with flowers flown in from Fiji, Hawaii, and Guam. Reverend Duplantis will sit atop the mansion, throwing seed to onlookers in order to promote his famed sow-a-seed doctrine. “If you sow seed like I do, you laity can get as rich as I am! And I’m really, really rich!” Duplantis will yell as his float moves along the city streets.
Next in line will be Reverend Copeland’s float, a masterpiece in artwork designed by the Italian architect Flavio Penitelli. “It’s gonna be a super-sized KC ministry jet made completely of red and white roses,” said Kenneth. “We’re taking up offerings right now all around the world to fund this anointed three-million-dollar project.”
Third in line will be Steve Munsey’s float, which will be a gigantic hundred dollar bill formed by green and white carnations. “We praise God now, and we’ll be praising God in 2010 for His many riches in glory! Our ministry is blessed!” Mr. Munsey animatedly told parade producers.
Fourth in the televangelist row will be Todd Bentley’s float: a huge female angel formed by white daisies. Fifth will be Paula White’s float: several enormous letters made of carnations that simply spell “Paula White.” Sixth will be Juanita Bynum’s float: a large fancy designer pen sitting next to an emergency prayer kit. The prophetess will also sit atop her float and prophesy wealth to American Christians if they sow into her ministry. Both Paula and Juanita will utilize flowers flown in strictly from Japan. And, last but not least will be TBN’s float: hundreds and hundreds of dollar signs made of green and white petunias. “We want people to know that even though we have half a billion dollars in the bank, we still need them to become partners with us, to send in their seed now. If they don’t, God can’t bless them and we can’t continue our work,” TBN founder Paul Crouch told reporters yesterday.
The only other religious-themed float in the parade will be from a small non-profit called ‘Did You Feed Me? Ministries.’ It will only contain one small bouquet of flowers held by the ministry founder, Buck Sheeshan, as he shows videos, videos of starving African children, on large televisions placed around the float. Asked why he entered a float in the parade, he replied with tears in his eyes, “I’ll do anything it takes to raise the money needed to fill the stomachs of these precious kids, including parading their needs before the whole world. I dare not parade myself, as love would not do such a thing (1 Corinthians 13); but I do dare parade God’s heart and His will before those who have ears to hear and eyes to see.” Sheeshan, who sends missionaries into inland Africa and Haiti, still lives in a 1999 double-wide mobile home outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, refusing to use the offerings sent his ministry for anything other than helping the poor and spreading the gospel. “How could I do otherwise? How could I grieve God by serving myself at the expense of the hungry?” he told a NY Times reporter. “Did Jesus take his offerings and spend them on worldly nonsense? No, the foxes had dens, the birds had nests, but Jesus had nowhere to lay His head. Actually though, He made His home in the Father’s presence, an unseen dwelling place more luxurious, spacious, and beautiful than anything you and I could ever imagine. Its splendor and glory makes Donald Trump’s Florida mansion look like a little tin shack.”
The seven televangelists say they will collectively spend over sixteen million dollars for the floats, enough to feed Ethiopia’s hungry population for over five years. Justifying the expense, Reverend Duplantis stated, “Prosperity sometimes comes at a price, I guess. But I’m not gonna feel bad that God has decided to bless me financially. I’m His son, and by golly I’m blessed and I’m gonna live blessed! Amen!”
(Note: this is satire.)
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
After 20 years without internal elections Fatah, the main party of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, breathed some new life into its body yesterday, sending many of its "old guard" stalwarts packing and electing a new generation of leaders — including one serving a life sentence for killing Israelis.
The Fatah gathering in Bethlehem was the first time that the movement, founded by the late Yassir Arafat, has its held congress in the Palestinian territories. It was also the first time in two decades that the Western-backed Fatah, which has recognized Israel as a state, has held such a meeting. Arafat, who died in 2004, had always found ways of delaying and dodging any convention that might challenge his power.
The gathering was seen by many as a risky move by Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat’s successor as Fatah head and Palestinian president. His rule has proven highly unpopular, compared with the iconic leader he replaced — the party was trounced in the 2006 elections by the militant Islamist movement Hamas. Mr Abbas’s efforts to renew peace talks with Israel failed as Jewish settlements continued to grow and his faction lost a bitter war with Hamas in Gaza and was widely accused of being self-serving and corrupt in power.
The meeting in Bethlehem was a stormy one at times and was disrupted by Hamas’s refusal to grant Fatah officials from Gaza permission to leave, a tactic reminiscent of the Israeli army and which served to further entrench the de facto separation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
But yesterday’s vote showed that the party was willing to heed Mr Abbas’s admonition to reform before next year’s planned elections. He wants the party to win back the trust of a disillusioned population, tired of Fatah’s ineffectiveness yet suspicious of Hamas’s increasingly oppressive rule in Gaza.
After a congress that had to be extended from three to eight days, the delegates elected to the Central Committee included Marwan Barghouti, now serving a life sentence after an Israeli court found him guilty of planning terrorist attacks during the bloody days of the second Palestinian intifada.
Barghouti, 50, is seen as the kind of savvy street fighter who might be able to heal the rift between Fatah and Hamas, and is emblematic of the Fatah young turks – raised next to Israelis, speaking fluent Hebrew, willing to negotiate for a two-state solution but not afraid of resorting to armed resistance to Israel’s presence in the territories.
However, the other member of the younger generation to be elected, Mohammed Dahlan, is only likely to exacerbate tensions between Hamas and Fatah. He was the movement’s iron-fist enforcer in Gaza for years and was widely reviled by Hamas for cracking down on its members.
Mr Barghouti, who has remained politically active despite being behind bars, has been widely tipped as a possible successor to the 74-year-old Mr Abbas, who was re-elected as the party’s leader on Saturday.
But the voting delivered some stinging defeats to Fatah veterans such as Ahmed Qurei, a former Prime Minister who played a key role in the negotiation of the Oslo peace accords in the 1990s. He failed to rally support for his Central Committee candidacy.
The infusion of younger leaders into Fatah’s higher echelons comes at a time when the US Administration is pushing for a breakthrough in peace talks. Washington’s envoy is expected in the coming weeks to present the US blueprint for a regional effort to end the protracted conflict.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Eight Christians burnt to death in Pakistan after Koran is ‘defiled’
From The Times
August 3, 2009
Paramilitary troops patrolled the streets of a town in eastern Pakistan yesterday after Muslim radicals burnt to death eight members of a Christian family, raising fears of violence spreading to other areas.
Hundreds of armed supporters of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an outlawed Islamic militant group, set alight dozens of Christian homes in Gojra town at the weekend after allegations that a copy of the Koran had been defiled.
The mob opened fire indiscriminately, threw petrol bombs and looted houses as thousands of frightened Christians ran for safety. “They were shouting anti-Christian slogans and attacked our houses,” Rafiq Masih, a resident of the predominantly Christian colony, said. Residents said that police stood aside while the mob went on the rampage. “We kept begging for protection, but police did not take action,” Mr Masih said.
Police and local officials said that at least eight people, including four women and a child, were killed in the fires. Two others died of gunshot wounds. Residents said that the casualties were much higher; one claimed that the number of dead could be in the dozens as many bodies were still buried under the rubble.Shahbaz Bhatti, the Minister for Minorities, said that 40 Christian homes were torched in rioting. He said there was no truth to allegations that a Koran had been defiled, and accused the police of ignoring his appeal to provide protection to Christians.
Tension started mounting last week after Muslims accused three Christian youths of burning a copy of the Koran. They denied the allegations, but clerics called for their death. On Saturday hundreds of supporters of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an outlawed Sunni sectarian group, poured into the town from surrounding districts. The group is believed to have close links with al-Qaeda and has been involved in several terrorist attacks targeting security forces in recent years.
Television footage showed armed men running through the streets, gunfire, and women and children wailing. Blackened furniture lay outside burning homes, while a group of people rushed a man suffering from burns on a cart through the streets. Rehman Malik, the Interior Minister, said that the paramilitary troops were sent after police and the local administration failed to control the situation. Security forces were also placed on high alert to prevent violence from spreading to other towns of Punjab.
Security in Gojra, which has a Christian population of about 50,000, was tightened yesterday as funerals were held for the eight victims. Christians make up a small minority of Pakistan’s 160 million people and have been the target of attacks by Islamic extremists before, particularly in eastern Punjab.
Christians also face intimidation because of discriminatory blasphemy laws, including one that carries the death penalty for defiling the Koran and images of the Prophet Muhammad. The law is often misused to settle personal scores.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
WHERE DID the GOSPEL GO??
-by Peter Hansen.
A Desperate World in Need of the Pure Gospel!
The world is in deep trouble!
Billions of people are living in poverty around the world. About 2.8 billion people are living on less than two dollars a day. Millions are dying from starvation and diseases in the Third World. The global financial crisis has caused millions to lose their home and the world has probably just seen the beginning of a major global crisis that not even the financial experts could have foretold. The threat of nuclear war is hanging in the air and the most powerful nations of the globe are fighting for the last reserves of oil.
While some families can’t even afford a single meal on the table each day, others are addicted to drugs, gambling and alcohol. Millions in the west are so mentally depressed that they try to escape this world of loneliness in alcohol, drugs, perversions and suicide. The world is screaming for help and solutions for a messed up society that has nothing to offer but endless talk shows and online entertainment.
People are seriously desperate for finding a deeper meaning, hope and inner peace. This world seems to have everything to offer, but in reality is more out of control morally and spiritually than ever. I can boldly say that this world needs the full gospel message of Jesus Christ. Not another sermon or conference about self happiness, but the pure full gospel of salvation. That is the one and only thing that can bring peace to the mind and restore the soul.
But how sad it is that the preaching of the full gospel has been downgraded to some cultural light gospel show with fancy stage performance and blinking lights! Where are the full gospel preachers who dare to stand up for the truth, who dare to preach salvation, hope, hell, holiness and grace. Where are those who proclaim that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven?
The problem is that millions of people have been deceived and blinded with a feel good gospel, a light lukewarm message that only talks about happiness, prosperity, self-development and “me, me and me” instead of “Him, Him and Him!”
Where did the gospel go?
Is today’s modern church really afraid of teaching the full living gospel? Is it afraid of being politically incorrect and offending the masses? Many churches are on a very dangerous path. A path that will only lead to possible destruction. Let me point out, that if there is no gospel message of sin, grace, repentance and salvation there is zero!
And while thousands of churches are playing “seeker sensitive churches” and being politically correct, millions of non-believers are screaming for spiritual truth that can give them real hope and reality based on the word of God. The truth of the gospel will set them free, but if there is no one preaching the truth of the gospel, many will go to hell, believing in a different gospel (2 Corinthians 11:3-4) (Galatians 1:6-7) . That is the hard facts. A very good place to read and study what Jesus is saying is in Matthew chapter 24. Jesus mentions here in chapter 24 that many will be deceived by false prophets and teachers.
It is so easy for self-proclaimed prophets to make up weird crazy doctrines and get thousands of followers, because in many churches there is a great lack of Christian discipleship based on the word of God. The focus on Jesus and his teaching and discipleship has been replaced with “feel-good teachings” that totally lacks the important teachings about repentance, sin, hell,grace and holiness.
On a five week mission trip to Ethiopia recently I was scheduled to speak in different churches. In my sermon preparation I felt a deep conviction to preach and focus more on the gospel that Jesus taught and His life, more than I had ever done before. And the pastors and local evangelists were amazed and almost shocked by the clear gospel teaching, because they were not used to that!
We have to remember that the gospel is what sets us free. We need to bring the full gospel back in our churches, mission fields and to a desperate seeking world. There is only one hope and that is Jesus Christ. We have to renew our passion for being in the presence of Jesus. We must take up our cross and lay down ourlives and follow Christ and be filled with the Holy Spirit. We must renew our minds daily in God’s presence. We must study the lifeof Jesus and the Word of God and let it become part of us, inside out.
The living word of God will change your life and you will see its powerful effects, and not only will you be empowered by his Word, the world around you will experience the saving and healing power of Jesus Christ. Make the gospel the focus of your life and ministry and tell others as well.
-Peter Capili Hansen.