|FIRST, THE NEWS:||
(Note: the "prayers" link in the heading will take you to this issue's "Prayer and Praise" list.)
PATRIARCH KIRILL OPENS CHERNOBYL MEMORIAL CAMPAIGN IN KIEV
(20 Apr) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia attended the opening ceremony of memorial events to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl Power Plant accident. "He will ring the Chernobyl bell on the night of the catastrophe at 01:23 a.m.," Archpriest Nikolay Balashov, deputy head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations, said at a Moscow-Kiev video conference.
The ceremony was held in the church complex located in the Darnitsa District of Kiev. The Dartnitsa district is the one where the memorial Chernobyl campaign starts each year. According to Father Nikolay, the Patriarch will visit Ukraine together with Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Byelorussia and hierarchs in charge of dioceses affected by nuclear pollution.
Yury Andreyev, President of the Ukrainian Chernobyl Union, expressed hope that Patriarch's visit would help bring the Chernobyl exclusion zone "back to normal life" within the decade to come. He said the radiation level at the station exceeded the norm by 50-60 times, however, Patriarch's blessing would not take long and his stay there would not "seriously affect his health." [read more...]
CHRISTIANS OF EASTERN AND LATIN RITE OBSERVE HOLY WEEK
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
(18 Apr) On Monday, April 18, Christians of the Eastern and Latin traditions started the Holy Week remembering the last days of the earthly life, sufferings and death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. During the Holy Week, the believers observe the strictest fast and spend even more time attending church and praying than during Lent. This is the time to prepare for the main church feast, the Resurrection of Christ (Easter). The Great Thursday, Friday and Saturday are considered especially important. On each of these days, in churches, passages from the Gospel about the suffering of Christ are read and special rituals and prayers are performed.
On Great Thursday, the believers remember the instituting at the Last Super of the sacrament of the Eucharist (from the Greek "gratitude"). Great Friday is the most sorrowful day of the ecclesial year, as it was on Friday when Jesus was crucified and died on the Cross to redeem human sins. On the Great Saturday, according to the teaching of the church, the body of Christ was in the tomb. After the morning service, the believers get their Easter bread, eggs and other food blessed. In the evening, they gather in churches for a celebratory service to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. This year, the Christians of the Eastern and Latin traditions celebrate Easter on April 24. [read more...]
MOSCOW UNIVERSITY AGAINST CONSTRUCTION OF NEW ORTHODOX CHURCH
from Spero News
(13 Apr) As they did when plans were unveiled for a new mosque, Muscovites are in uproar over Mayor Sergei Sobianin's plans for new Orthodox churches in the city. An open letter signed by students, teachers and graduates from Moscow State University (MGU) on Monday appeared on line against the construction of a new church on their campus, which is located on Sparrow Hills overlooking the capital. A day later, the letter already had 100 signatures, and the petition was going strong. For the signatories, the plan was "paradoxical" and "in contradiction with the spirit of a university education" if the institution "openly sided with one particular religious confession" over others.
The letter noted, "The situation in which ecclesiastical power tries to infiltrate the secular culture of a university discredits both civilian institutions and the Orthodox faith" since "religion, beyond any creed and including Orthodoxy, for many is a profoundly personal matter." The authors of the message emphasise that the Church in Russia is separate from the state, and that a secular university "cannot become an arena for religious propaganda." Instead, the MGU "must offer students a view on the world that is as pluralistic and broad as possible." [read more...]
UZBEKISTAN: RAIDS AND CONFISCATIONS AS STATE WANTS "RELIGIOUS ORGANISATIONS WHICH WILL STAY QUIET"
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service
(19 Apr) Uzbekistan's NSS secret police with other officials have carried out two raids on an officially registered Baptist church in the capital Tashkent, Forum 18 News Service has learned. Over 50,000 Christian books, a large quantity of printing and office equipment, and a sum of money personally belonging to one person were confiscated. In contrast to the confiscated literature and equipment, no official record was made of the confiscation of the money belonging to a church member was made.
Later, three church leaders and the caretaker were given fines ranging between 50 and 100 times the minimum monthly salary. Officials have refused to give reasons for their actions, but there has recently been a harshening of official actions against the possession and supply of religious literature. One Tashkent Baptist, asked by Forum 18 what might be behind the raids and confiscations, commented: "The authorities are interested in having small pocket-size churches and religious organisations, which will stay quiet and not have much religious activity." [read more...]
RUSSIAN EVANGELICALS LEERY OF ORTHODOX CHURCH
from CBN News
(21 Apr) For decades, the Russian Orthodox Church was persecuted under the Soviet Union's Communist Party. Since the early 1990s, the church has grown in size and influence as its relationship with the Russian government has improved significantly. However, that cozy relationship worries the country's evangelicals. For eight years, Yuri Sipko ran one of the largest Baptist organizations in Russia. Now, 20 years after the fall of Communism, he worries about the growing threats against the country's evangelical movement.
"The collapse of Communism was supposed to usher in an era of greater religious freedom, but I'm concerned we are moving in the wrong direction," Sipko said. What makes the Russian evangelicals very concerned is an emerging relationship between the Russian government and the Russian Orthodox Church. "For example, the government recently introduced religious classes based on the principals of the Orthodox Church in public schools," said Sipko. [read more...]
UZBEKISTAN: POLICE ASSAULT BAPTIST, GIFT TO CHILDREN'S HOME A "VIOLATION"
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service
(15 Apr) Uzbekistan has levied a large fine on a Baptist in the capital Tashkent -who was physically assaulted by police - for giving a children's Bible to a work colleague, Forum 18 News Service has learned. Galina Shemetova, a female member of an officially registered Baptist Church, gave a children's Bible in the summer 2010 to one of her work colleagues at the Tashkent Metro. She was subsequently charged under the Code of Adminstrative Offences' Article 240 Part 2 ("Attracting believers of one confession to another [proselytism] and other missionary activity").
On 1 April Shemetova was leaving a Tashkent hospital after medical treatment, for which she had been granted sick leave from her work. Then, in the sight of medical personnel, "police officer Vadim Kim of the Metro Police struck Shemetova on the head, and dragged her by her hair into a police car," a person who wished to remain anonymous for fear of state reprisals told Forum 18 on 14 April. The existence of this as an "offence" breaks the international human rights standards Uzbekistan has formally committed itself to implement.
Also, in the central Navoi [Nawoiy] Region, an officially registered Baptist church's gift to a children's home has led to the church being raided and its pastor being given an official warning. Zarafshan Baptist Church decided at its 15 August 2010 general meeting to transfer 400,000 Soms (235 US Dollars) to the bank account of the local children's home, which is called "Happiness". The church - as it is required to do - sends its quarterly financial statements to the regional Justice Department.
This led to a raid on 12 March 2011 and a formal written warning from Khudayberdy Norkobilov, Zarafshan's Public Prosecutor, and other officials on 28 March. Zarafshan city officials were reluctant to explain the raid and the warning, but Norkobilov and Nizomidding Ergashev, head of the city Tax Department, told Forum 18 on 12 March that the order to do this "came from the Justice Department." [read more...]
RETURN OF CHURCH PROPERTY SHOULD BE MATTER OF PUBLIC ATTENTION AND CONTROL, PRESIDENT BELIEVES
from Ukrainian Radio
KAMAZ TRUCK LOADED WITH 3,888 BIBLES IS STOLEN IN SOUTH MOSCOW FEW DAYS BEFORE EASTER
UOC-MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN DEMAND TO GRANT IT STATUS OF DOMINANT CHURCH
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
RESIDENTS OF EAST MOSCOW REGION CALL FOR IMMEDIATE CONSTRUCTION OF SEVERAL CHURCHES
METROPOLITAN HILARION: CHRIST ENTERED INTO JERUSALEM NOT TO SEIZE TEMPORAL POWER BUT TO SACRIFICE HIMSELF FOR THE SALVATION OF ALL
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate
SCHOOL WITHOUT WALLS EASTER OUTREACHES
from Russian Ministries
See HOSKEN-NEWS Daily for more of the latest news!
It is quite a coincidence that the world commemorates the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, a monument to the folly of human presumption, as Japan attempts to cope with its Fukushima nuclear disaster, and as we also commemorate the Resurrection of Christ, the awesome event that conquers our human folly, pride and sin. This year, both Eastern "Pascha" and Western "Easter" coincide. We continue to witness the struggle between church and state in former soviet bloc countries, which is really nothing other than the struggle between the Spirit and the flesh writ large. But we are confident that Christ has conquered, and in Him we too will conquer.
God in Christ created the world, including mankind, as "very good." Adam and Eve enjoyed God's presence and glorious splendor. But from the very start, God foreknew they would fall into sin and lose that glorious splendor of koinonia-communion with Him. Before the beginning of time, God begat His Son Who would come into the world, and by His atoning Death and victorious Resurrection restore mankind and all the universe to the glorious splendor of the first creation, and even greater and more glorious.
In Luke 9:28-36, Christ revealed a foretaste of this glorious splendor to Peter, James and John in His Transfiguration. The same Greek word, metamorphoo, is used in Romans 12:1-2, where St. Paul writes: "Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed (metamorphoo) by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God."
But just before Christ was transfigured (metamorphoo), He told His disciples - "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever will lose his life for My sake, the same will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits his own self? For whoever will be ashamed of Me and of My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed, when He comes in his glory, and the glory of the Father, and of the holy angels" (Luke 9:23-26).
In order to be restored and transformed into Christ's glorious image and likeness, we must take up the discipline of dying to self and following Christ. "It is for discipline that you endure. God deals with you as with children, for what son is there whom his father doesn't discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have been made partakers, then are you illegitimate, and not children" (Hebrews 12:7-8). This is the discipline of discipleship, it is not legalism:
"But to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. But whenever one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed (metamorphoo) into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:14-17). The Law of Moses isn't done away with for all mankind: it is still a tutor to bring us to Christ. But when we turn our lives over to Christ in faith, the Spirit of the Lord begins to transform us into Christ's image "from glory to glory." Liberty isn't a blank check to do whatever we want, it is freedom from the slavery to sin and freedom to serve Christ.
Thus, our restoration and transformation isn't automatic and instantaneous, like turning on a light with the flip of a switch. It is a life-long process, a struggle toward sanctification and redemption: "But of Him (God), you are in Christ Jesus, Who was made to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30). "Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no man will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). The spiritual life is a struggle, like wrestling: "For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world's rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12).
Our struggle is against false religions and ideologies that war against the knowledge of the true God: "For though we walk in the flesh, we don't wage war according to the flesh; for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the throwing down of strongholds, throwing down imaginations and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; and being in readiness to punish all disobedience, when your obedience will be made full" (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). This includes pseuto-Christian heresies: false definitions of God, Christ and salvation.
When "Jesus therefore said to those Jews who had believed him, 'If you remain in My word, then you are truly My disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (John 8:31-32), He also told them - "Most certainly, I tell you, before Abraham came into existence, I AM" (v. 58). Freedom doesn't mean that we can believe whatever we want about Jesus, that maybe He was just a created being, a holy man, perhaps born of the virgin Mary, but not the pre-eternal God Incarnate, as Muslims believe. No, true freedom only comes by remaining in the fullness of His word, confessing Him as the I AM, then we will know the whole truth that makes us free.
So in conclusion, our restoration and transformation into the image and likeness of Christ is an ascetic struggle toward holiness, grasping the fullness of the truth of Christ, and wrestling "against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." This is the promise of Christ's Resurrection for our personal lives!
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Prayer and Praise:
S. Pray for the continuing struggle to overcome the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 25 years ago.
M. Ask the Lord to clear the way for construction of a new church building near Moscow State University.
T. Pray that Uzbekistan's secret police will return the 50,000 Christian books, the equipment and money they confiscated.
W. Uphold in prayer religious freedom in Russia, and harmony between Evangelicals and Orthodox Christians.
T. Pray for Galina Shemetova who was physically assaulted by police in Uzbekistan for giving away a children's Bible.
F. Also pray for the registered Baptist church in Navoi, Uzbekisatan, raided for making a $235 gift to a children's home.
S. Praise the Lord for Christ's glorious Resurrection, and pray that we too will be transformed to walk in newness of life.
Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...
Bob & Cheryl
p.s. The Church is not a welfare program, it's more like an NFL team - No Free Lunch.
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