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Archive for the ‘World Magazine’ Category

Christians are being persecuted and oppressed all around the world simply because of their faith in and commitment to Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord and lords. When I hear of their plight, I’m challenged and moved to prayer.

World magazine recently highlighted several accounts of nations where persecution is a reality. Here is one of them, written by Jamie Dean:

Less than 130 miles away, another Iranian pastor faces a severe test of strength: Benham Irani, 41, is serving six years in prison in Karaj for so-called actions against the state. His alleged crimes includes pastoring a group of converts  and sharing his Christian faith with Muslims.

The pastor is languishing. In mid-August, CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide – my note) reported that Irani was suffering from sever bleeding due to a  stomach ulcer and colon disorder. Sources told the group that prison authorities beat the pastor during the early days of his imprisonment, and that he now struggles to walk.

By late September, the Minnesota-based Present Truth Ministries reported that officials had denied Irani adequate medical care (including potentially life-saving surgery), and that the pastor was vomiting blood. Without intervention, advocates fear the husband and father of two young children could die within a few months.

Later in the article, Dean wrote:

In Iran, advocacy groups aren’t the only ones reporting Christians’ suffering. In late September, two human-rights experts from the United Nations reported that Iranian authorities were intensifying their clampdown on evangelical churches.

Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, estimated that Iranian authorities arbitrarily arrested and detained more than 300 Christians since June 2010. Shaheed said “scores of Christians” remained in jail “for freely practicing their religion.”

Advocacy groups believe that number is far higher. CSW reported a “steep rise” in persecution against religious minorities in Iran during 2011 and 2012. The list of developments include: “waves of arrests and detentions; regular raids on church gatherings; harsh interrogations; physical and psychological torture (including demands for recantations of faith and for information on the identities of fellow Christians); extended detentions without charge; violations of due process; convictions for ill-defined crimes or falsified political charges; and economic targeting through exorbitant bail demands.”

Many Iranian Christians, writes Dean, “don’t share their cases publicly because of the threats of Iranian authorities. Borji (Mansour Borji, and Iranian pastor in London – note of explanation mine, not the author’s) says the harassment includes authorities forcing churches to close, confiscating church property, closing mid-week Bible studies, shuttering Sunday schools, and confiscating and destroying Bibles and other Christian literature: ‘It’s an attempt suffocate the church.’ Despite the worsening crackdown, Borji says that house-church networks report growth, including increasing numbers of converts. If Bibles aren’t available, some churches rely on satellite television for Christian teaching. And they also welcome visitors, despite the risk of spies, he says: ‘Many people do not let that fear paralyze them.'” (November 3, 2012, pp. 66-67)

Hebrews 11:36-38 sums up our brothers and sisters in Christ, like these, being persecuted: “Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated – of whom the world was not worthy – wandering about deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

Pray for our brothers and sisters – that their persecution would end and that they would d stand firm in the face of it – and pray for yourself.

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WORLD magazine produces a week-in-review radio broadcast and podcast called The World and Everything in It that is well worth a listen – actually more than just “a listen.” It’s very well-done in addition to being informative and enlightening. You can find the episodes here. I recommend it for your listening pleasure.

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We know this is true, but here’s more proof.

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If God wanted to prove His existence to everyone, why doesn’t He just do a bunch of really big miracles? If He did that, everyone would believe, right?

God certainly could do a whole bunch of big miraculous things that would get everyone’s attention – there’s no question about that. But I don’t think everyone would believe in response to the miracles. Miracles don’t seem to have much lasting value, at least in those who witness them.

Janie B. Cheaney wrote this in a recent WORLD magazine:

The answer to that may have more to do with who we are than who He is. The spectacular defeats of Ra and Isis and Baal had no life-changing effect on pagans as a whole, and only little more on believers. Reports of parting the Red Sea made the inhabitants of Jericho shiver, but only Rahab and her family actually changed their allegiance because of it. Poor Dagon, god of the Philistines, seemed to hold the upper hand when the Ark of the Covenant was stolen and carried into his temple, but he ended up minus hands – and head – the next morning (1 Samuel 5). Though embarrassing, the incident did not convince the Philistines to ditch Dagon, only to return to the rival with a peace offering. Yahweh 1 – Dagon 0 – he may be a schmuck but he’s our schmuck.

Even among God’s people, spectacular confrontations had no lasting effect. Remember the Israelite response when fire fell from heaven and devoured Elijah’s altar, after the prophets of Baal had worked themselves into a tizzy trying to coax a little spark from Baal. “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!” had as much staying power as shouting “USA! USA!” at victorious Olympic events: a feel-good moment that may glow for a week or a month, but won’t change a life.

Later in the article, Cheaney writes:

The true age of miracles is now: Instead of merely being exposed to scenes of wonder that fade within a generation, human beings are being remade from the inside out, as the Spirit works from the outside in. (April 10, 2010, p. 26)

Cheaney echos something I’ve always believed as a Christian – the greatest miracle is when God changes a life from the inside out beginning with regeneration, continuing with sanctification, and culminating in glorification.

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Andree Seu has written another excellent, thought-provoking article. She seems to do that on a regular basis. In “The Active Heart” (Aug. 23/30 – WORLD), she writes:

“Fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Timothy 6:12) has always struck me as a good slogan or political rallying song. I had no idea what it meant. Now I see that it has nothing external about it at all. You will never see someone “fight the good fight of the faith.” It all happened when you weren’t there, alone on a country walk, just between him and the Lord. That’s where the blood and sweat and the dying occurred. By the time you spotted the fellow out in public – in the visible battlefield, or at a PTO meeting, or pushing away some lucrative job offer, or not leaving his wife – the heavy lifting was already done. One often detects a certain peace in the presence of such people.

A couple of paragraphs down, she writes:

And the corollary is that there is no Christian life except the moment-by-moment kind – more pointedly, the moment-by-moment choice to believe God. The Christian life is not lived on the level of doctrine, or our various observances, or our political action, though all these are required. And what that moment-by-moment faith in God looks like a brawl. If there is no constant battle, there is probably no authentic life. The battle can be joyful, but it is a battle. And it comes with a promise:

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).

I got an illustration of this as I was driving home one day last week. As I was trying to change lanes on one of the freeways I travel (until we move, that is!), a certain car (or to be more specific, the driver of the car) wouldn’t let me or anyone else into his lane. My first thought was, “Just wait until he wants to change lanes! If he’s next to me, I’m not going to let him.”

It was at that point that the battle of the mind kicked in. My attitude was certainly wrong and not Christlike at all. I had to change my mind to something along the lines of, “If he wants into my lane and I’m next to him, I’ll let him in. I need to treat him the way I want to be treated. I need to show some grace.” Just one small example of what Seu was writing about. Moment-by-moment faith really is a brawl, but it’s the brawl God had called us to.

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Andree Seu of World Magazine has hit the nail on the head once again with a thought-provoking post on World’s blog. It’s called “Beyond “Mere Men.”” 

Her first sentence is:

Is there anything about you that if people only knew, they would not judge you so harshly?

Her point is that God is at work in all of His children, but at different speeds and times. People may wonder about your grumpiness or shyness or tendency to put your foot in your mouth, but they may not realize how far God has brought you by His grace. Because of that, we need to give each other a large helping of “benefit of the doubt.”

Check out Seu’s post (and her archive) – you’ll be glad you did.

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Marvin Olasky from World Magazine interviewed Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City regarding his book “The Reason for God.”  Here is a question relating to the problem of evil. Enjoy!

World: When you’re told that meaningless suffering and pointless evil show that God is nonexistent or confused, how do you respond?

Keller: The problem with saying that suffering is meaningless is that it assumes that your vantage point is the ultimate vantage point. One of the problems is that from our vantage point most suffering looks meaningless. Sometimes when you get perspective and you look back, you realize that something was accomplished there.

You have to be very, very careful about this. It depends on what people mean by suffering. The world is broken by sin, so there are all kinds of things that God did not design the world to contain. The original world the way He created it did not have hunger or human death. Even from the perspective of eternity. we will look back and say, suffering did create meaningless in me because I am not meant to die.

In other words, we’re built for a love that we never depart from. Wherever you lose love because somebody dies or moves away or gets sick or something, God has explained that part of meaninglessness. He’s explained it as part of the fall. So we know why it’s happening if we accept the Christian narrative.

When you say God has allowed suffering to continue because He’s evil, that’s different. Just because you can’t think of a good reason why God hasn’t stopped it doesn’t mean there cannot be any. First you have to acknowledge that the meaninglessness you feel in the face of suffering is part of the fact that we are not created for these things and now we are facing them. Then we have to acknowledge that our vantage point is not everything.

Later in the interview, Keller says,

The existential answer is that only Christianity believes that God has entered the suffering world. We don’t know what the reason is that God allowed evil and suffering to continue, but we do know what the reason isn’t: It’s not that He doesn’t love us, because if He didn’t love us He wouldn’t have gotten involved. Whatever the reason is it’s mysterious but it’s not indifference. The cross proves that.

Good stuff, Tim! There’s a lot to think about there.

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