Welcome to , 27 Aug 2011
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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FIRST, THE NEWS:
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(Note: the "prayers" link in the heading will take you to this issue's "Prayer and Praise" list.)

BOUNCY INFLATABLE CHURCH BRINGS SERMONS TO REMOTE CONGREGATION
from Metro.co.uk

Select to see full-size! (24 Aug) Father Krzysztof Kowal, a Roman Catholic missionary from Poland, has had trouble gaining permission - and cash - to build a permanent place of worship in the Kamchatka peninsula - a 1,250-kilometre stretch located in far eastern Russia. But long-time friend Robert Wojcik, who builds inflatable toys for children in Kolobrzeg, Poland, stepped in to help by offering to build a temporary church for the isolated congregation.

Money-raising efforts helped to pay for the alternative structure, which will remain open even in extreme conditions. During winter time, temperatures can drop to minus 40 degrees in the Kamchatka region. Father Krzystof - who is a rector of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face parish - said he was thrilled with the design but did admit some might mistake it for a bouncy castle. Prior to obtaining the church, most sermons were conducted in rented hotel rooms or outside areas close to lakes and rivers. [read more...]


TAJIKISTAN: BAN ON CHILDREN IN WORSHIP "ONCE RAMADAN IS OVER"
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

(16 Aug) Although the highly controversial Law on Parental Responsibility for Education and Upbringing of Children has entered into force, state Religious Affairs officials have failed to explain to religious communities how its near-complete ban on children's participation in religious activity will be enforced. The head of the government's Religious Affairs Committee, Abdurahim Holikov, has been travelling around Tajikistan to explain the new Law.

Several Christian communities tried to find out from the Committee at a 12 August meeting. "Officials explained that the Law exists, but didn't explain how it will be put into practice," one Catholic told Forum 18 News Service. Hikmatullo Sayfullozoda told Forum 18 he had heard that "the President gave a verbal instruction to local administrations not to touch people during [the Muslim holy month of] Ramadan." Sayfullozoda fears that the authorities will act once Ramadan is over at the end of August. [read more...]


20 YEARS AGO, RUSSIA GAINED FREEDOM FROM ATHEISM AND OPPRESSION, RUSSIAN CHURCH SAYS
from Interfax-Religion

(22 Aug) The service to commemorate people who lost their lives in defending the White House was conducted at the memorial sign located the intersection of Novy Arbat Street and Novinsky Boulevard, Moscow. "We gathered together here to pray for people who had lost their lives in defending freedom and Motherland," head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Relations Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin said addressing dozens people who attended the service. He said many people had fearlessly taken to the streets 20 years ago "to defend freedom in this country and many of them expressed their aspirations as Russian citizens."

"Today, let us pray for those who shed their blood and those who lost their lives but stayed here or did something else to make our Motherland free," Father Vsevolod said. He stated that 20 challenging years had passed when "the country faced many concerns and troubles, it made many mistakes and committed crimes." [read more...]


UZBEKISTAN: MORE FINES, PHYSICAL ABUSE AND RELIGIOUS LITERATURE DESTRUCTION
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service

(26 Aug) Uzbekistan's authorities continue to punish peaceful religious believers with fines, physical abuse and court-ordered destruction of religious literature, Forum 18 News Service has learned. Police who raided a Protestant family's private home in Fergana assaulted the husband and confiscated religious literature, local Protestants told Forum 18 News Service. The religious books are being checked and officials are preparing an administrative case against the husband and wife and a family friend. Asked by Forum 18 what literature found in their home was banned, the Police Inspector who led the raid identified the Bible and the New Testament.

Courts in the capital Tashkent and eastern Syrdarya Region have handed down fines of up to one hundred times the minimum monthly wage to ten Protestants to punish them for unregistered activity. In both cases the courts ordered that confiscated Christian literature - including Bibles and New Testaments - be destroyed. Officials of the state Religious Affairs Committee refused to explain why peaceful religious activity continues to be punished and why courts order the destruction of religious literature. "I am no expert in those matters, and you called the wrong department," Zulhaydar Sultanov, Head of its International Relations Department, told Forum 18. [read more...]


HEAD OF KYIVAN PATRIARCHATE SPEAKS ABOUT ATTEMPTS TO DESTROY HIS CHURCH
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(16 Aug) "A year ago, an attempt was made to fight the Kyivan Patriarchate, to destroy it, to merge it with the Moscow Patriarchate. All the attempts were not successful. The attacks in Donetsk, Kyiv Oblast, in Kyiv, in other regions showed that not only our public (public organizations, political parties) but Europe and America stood up to defend the Kyivan Patriarchate," Patriarch Filaret said in an interview to Radio Freedom.

According to the hierarch, the people who intended to destroy the Kyivan Patriarchate realized that it is better not to touch it. The patriarch said it was indicated by the meeting of the president with representatives of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches. It showed that in Ukraine, despite the presence of many religions, all Christians churches coexist peacefully. ?It is another indication that the Kyivan Patriarchate exists and will continue to exist,? stressed Patriarch Filaret. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC, ORTHODOX LEADERS TALK OF EASING TENSIONS
from Catholic Culture

LAND SITES SELECTED IN MOSCOW TO BUILD 200 CHURCHES
from Interfax-Religion

ORPHAN OUTREACH TEAM HOME FROM RUSSIA
from Mission Network News

RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH CANNOT KEEP ROMANIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH FROM COMING TO UKRAINE
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

RUSSIAN SUPREME COURT SHUTS DOWN EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN MISSION
from Interfax-Religia

INNOVATIONS IN EVANGELISM CAME TO LIFE AT SCHOOL WITHOUT WALLS FESTIVAL
from Russian Ministries

HALF OF LITHUANIAN CITIES' RESIDENTS GO TO CHURCH ONLY ONCE A YEAR
from Baltic Course

See HOSKEN-NEWS Daily for more of the latest news!


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

All I can say about that first news article is - "It takes all kinds! I suppose it's better than having a 'worship team' of a rock band or scantily-clad dancing girls in church."

The new HTML5 version of our Agape-Biblia "combo" user interface in English, Russian, Spanish, German or French works best in Firefox 4.0 and higher, and lets you type your daily prayer requests, your journal entries, and your notes for any chapter in the Bible directly into the appropriate web pages in your HTML5-capable web browser, and store your info between sessions. This makes it much easier for you to update your daily prayer requests, add a new journal entry, or make notes on any chapter in the Bible. This same information of yours will appear, no matter what language you switch to on our www.Agape-Biblia.org website.

As we think back, twenty years ago this weekend Cheryl and I were in Moscow during the coup that attempted to remove Mikhail Gorbachiov from power. We witnessed tanks in the streets and hundreds of thousands of people demonstrating against the coup, giving soldiers food and convincing them not to side with the hard-liners. By the 27th of August it was all over: the coup leaders called the tanks off the streets, soon Gorbachiov resigned, and Boris Yeltsin took over as leader of the country. There was a great hunger for spiritual reality, an upsurge in church attendance and in the next few years millions of Bibles were printed in Russia and Belarus. Russia was being transformed!

Grace: God's Transforming Power

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In the last issue of Hosken-News I wrote: "The ability to change also comes from the outside: the grace of God is more than merely 'a free gift' that gives us a free ticket to heaven - it is God's almighty, transforming power that enables us to change. God works, and we are co-laborers together with God: He's the senior partner without which our efforts are almost impossible. God does His part, and we must do our part." Today I'd like to flesh out that point some more.

First, Jesus taught that many people are invited to the heavenly wedding feast, but some will be cast out: "For many are called, but few chosen." And "the faithful and wise servant" will be rewarded, but the evil servant who "eats and drinks with the drunkards" will be cut into pieces. And those on His right hand who cared for the hungry, the thirsty, the strangers, the naked, the sick and the prisoners will inherit the Kingdom, but those on the left will go into eternal punishment (Matth. 22:8-14; 24:42-51 and 25:31-46). So God's gracious offer of salvation requires a response on our part that involves our actions.

St. Paul wrote: "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we would live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ; Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good works" (Titus 2:11-14). In Greek the word "instucting" is paideuo, which also can also be translated "discipline" or "punish" or "train" (as with children). So this text could be translated: "the grace of God teaches-disciplines-punishes-trains us to lead godly and upright lives."

In 1 Corinthians 2:12 we read St. Paul's words: "But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that were [freely] given to us by God." Most English translations insert the word "freely," but in Russian, German, Spanish and French a word that means "freely" isn't found, they simply use "given." In Greek the word "given" is charizomai, from the same root as "grace" and "spiritual gifts." Just a little further on, St. Paul continues: "According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another builds on it. But let each man be careful how he builds on it. For no one can lay any other foundation than that which has been laid, which is Jesus Christ. But if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or stubble; each man's work will be revealed. For the Day will declare it, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire itself will test what sort of work each man's work is" (ch. 3:10-13).

St. Paul also 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. Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:1-2). Further on, in verses 3-8, Paul writes about the grace given him, and the spiritual gifts (graces) of leadership, prophecy, service, teaching, exhorting, giving, and showing mercy, given to Christians. So we see how the grace of God is more than merely "a free gift" that gives us a free ticket to heaven: God's grace is the power that transforms our minds and teaches-disciplines-punishes-trains us to lead godly and upright lives. God's grace will change our minds, our way of thinking and our actions!

And finally, echoing the Gospel story of the Transfiguration of Christ in Luke 9:28-36, St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:12-18:

"Having therefore such a hope, we use great boldness of speech, and not as Moses, who put a veil on his face, that the children of Israel wouldn't look steadfastly on the end of that which was passing away. But their minds were hardened, for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains, because in Christ it passes away. 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 into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit."

The amazing thing here is that the Greek word for "transfigured" in Luke 9 is the same word as "transformed" in Romans 12 and 2 Corinthians 3. God's ultimate plan for us is to transform us into the same glory of Christ that shone forth in the Transfiguration: see 2 Peter 1:3-4 - "His divine power [grace] has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and virtue; by which He has granted to us His precious and exceedingly great promises; that through these you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust."


Prayer and Praise:
Sun. - Praise God even for the inflatable church on the Kamchatka peninsula, and pray it will draw people to Christ.
Mon. - Pray against the new Law on Parental Responsibility for Education and Upbringing of Children in Tajikistan.
Tue. - Praise the Lord for the 20 years of freedom from atheism and oppression in Russia beginning in August 1991.
Wed. - Ask that the Protestant family in Fergana, Uzbekistan will get their Bible and the NT back, and not be fined.
Thu. - Pray that Ukrainian Orthodox believers would have their own autonomous Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Fri. - Praise God for the sites selected in Moscow to build 200 churches, and for the 19 already under construction.
Sat. - Ask the Lord that all Christians - including you and me - will choose to be transformed into the glory and image of Christ.

 

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Select to see full-size!   Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...

  Your fellow-servants,

  Bob & Cheryl

p.s. Thank God for the gift of each day: that's why it's called "the present."


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