Welcome to , 20 Oct 2012
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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FIRST, THE NEWS:

VIDEO: UKRAINIAN BOY TEACHES BIBLE LESSON WITH A GLASS OF WATER - IN PUBLIC SCHOOL
from Christian Chronicle

Select to watch the video! (8 Oct) Last year a post about a 9-year-old boy in Arkansas summarized what he learned through daily Bible reading got a lot of attention - 146 comments and nearly 300,000 views. Now, a video produced by Eastern European Mission shows that children's knowledge of God's love isn't limited to the United States. Workers with EEM - a church-supported ministry that provides Bible and biblical literature to churches, schools and individuals across Central and Eastern Europe - visited School No. 16 in Rivne, Ukraine, recently. The school is receiving a shipment of Bibles and literature from EEM, financed through its recent Million Dollar Sunday (which raised more than $1.5 million, EEM reports).

At the school, a teacher introduced the visitors to a young boy who had won the school's Bible Story Presentation Competition recently. Using a glass of water, the boy demonstrated how man's efforts to fill the void in their lives fail. Using a bit of stagecraft (and some dish soap, we're guessing) he then demonstrated how God can fill us to the point of overflowing - literally. "We had to look hard at each other to make sure we were really seeing what we thought we were seeing," said Richard Baggett, EEM's vice president for advancement, in a blog post. "Never did we expect to have this experience in a public school in a major former communist country." [read more...]


KAZAKHSTAN: CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION, "HALLUCINOGENIC" COMMUNION DRINK, "EXTREMIST" BOOKS?
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service

(19 Oct) Two unrelated Protestant Churches in different parts of Kazakhstan were raided in early October, ostensibly over a criminal case launched 15 months ago. The case follows a complaint by the mother of a member of Astana's Grace Church that it harmed her health, allegations Church members denied to Forum 18 News Service. Masked police searched the Church and seized computers, valuables and religious books they insisted were "extremist" (though they could not explain what was extremist or who had declared them so). Police requested church members to give blood specimens to see if the Church uses "hallucinogenic" substances for Communion.

Nine days later the unrelated New Life Church in Oral (Uralsk) was raided in the same case. Asked by Forum 18 why masked police broke into Grace Church in a manner Church members found threatening, Senior Investigator Vyacheslav Glazkov adamantly denied this. "We did not threaten anyone, we just made a search." Members of both Churches fear the authorities will use the case to prevent them gaining the compulsory re-registration for religious communities to be allowed to continue operating after 25 October.

Police revisited Astana's Grace Church today (19 October), but as they did not have a warrant church members refused to let them in, they told Forum 18. The raids came just before the 25 October deadline for the re-registration of all religious communities across Kazakhstan. This was mandated in the highly restrictive amendments to the Religion Law which came into force on 25 October 2011. Signed into law at the same time was an Amending Law amending nine other laws and legal provisions, which similarly violated the country's human rights commitment [read more...]


UNIQUE TURKIC-LANGUAGE ARABIC-SCRIPT NEW TESTAMENT FOUND IN BASHKORTOSTAN
from Interfax-Religion

(19 Oct) Researchers at Bashkortostan's national library have found a rare edition of the New Testament in the archives of religious Turkic-language Arabic-script books, the Zaki Validi National Library said on its website. The rare New Testament was discovered by researchers of the Manuscripts and Rare Books Department in an archive of 40,000 books. "It is a unique sample of Orthodox religious literature and a source for studying the Muslim people's languages, published by Scottish missionaries back in the early 19th century," Antonina Gezikova, the head of the library's Manuscripts and Rare Books Department, was quoted as saying.

The New Testament, discovered in the Ufa archives, was published in the Western-Kypchak version of the Turkic literary language, which is close to the Karachai-Balkar and other Western Kypchak vernaculars, she said. "The translation is very interesting and differs strongly from all translations dating back to the early 19th century," she also said. Gezikova said that at the start of the 19th century Russian Emperor Alexander I allowed Western European missionaries to do their missionary work among the Muslim ethnic groups in the North Caucasus. In 1802, the Scottish Missionary Society got permission to open a mission near Aul Karras Syltanayu outside Beshtau-Pyatigorsk. [read more...]


RUSSIA: P* RIOT, BLASPHEMY, AND FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
by Geraldine Fagan, Forum 18 News Service

(15 Oct) The way that Russia has handled the P* Riot case indicates that the authorities are using it to intensify restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, Forum 18 News Service has found. A shift from the Kremlin's initial response to the case suggests that a claimed moral outrage was not the motivation to prosecute, and that support for the Moscow Patriarchate is tactical. Since the Extremism Law was adopted in 2002, officials have used the same selective determination of what causes offence to persons of one worldview to restrict the freedom of religion or belief of people with a different worldview.

This approach now also targets supporters of atheism, as well as non-Christian and pseudo-Christian religions. Arbitrary state prosecutions of some manifestations of religion or belief - such as by Jehovah's Witnesses and Muslim readers of Said Nursi's works - may soon be further strengthened by controversial proposed "blasphemy" amendments to the Criminal Code and Code of Administrative Offences. The legal chaos proposed by state representatives after the P* Riot trial thus continues a well-established trend. [read more...]


UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT COMPLICATES REGISTRATION AND INCREASES CONTROL OVER RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(17 Oct) On 16 October, contrary to the agreement with the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, the Supreme Council of Ukraine passed Bill 10221 making alterations to the Law of Ukraine "On freedom of worship and religious organizations," reported the Institute for Religious Freedom. The passed law considerably complicates the procedure of assumption by religious organizations of the status of a legal person as it introduces two unmatched registration procedures, that of statutory documents and state registration (entering in the unified register of legal persons).

Bill 10221 also complicates the procedure of obtaining by foreign religious ministers of permissions to stay in Ukraine required for issuance of visas. Religious organizations are now to apply for such permissions in the Ministry of Culture in Kyiv which is in contradiction to Article 24 of the Law of Ukraine "On Freedom of worship and religious organizations." In addition, the bill allows the authorities to exercise control over observance of the laws on freedom of worship and confession like in the Soviet times. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

UKRAINE PRESIDENT URGES TOUGH PUNISHMENT FOR CROSS-CUTTING FEMINISTS
from Russia Today

PEOPLE'S RELIGIOUS FEELINGS SHOULD BE RESPECTED, BUT RUSSIA IS A SECULAR STATE - PUTIN
from Interfax-Religion

MOSCOW'S "RUSSIAN-AMERICAN INSTITUTE" IS UP FOR SALE
from Russian Evangelical Alliance

ALBANIA SEES MORE THAN A GLIMMER OF HOPE WITH THE HELP OF THE GOSPEL
from Mission Network News

COMMITTEE ON BIOETHICS OF UOC-MP CONSIDERS LAW ON DEMOGRAPHIC REGISTER
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PRIESTS MAY ENTER POLITICS IN EXCEPTIONAL CASES
from ReligioPolis

METROPOLITAN HILARION OF VOLOKOLAMSK MEETS WITH POPE BENEDICT XVI
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

UKRAINE TAKES AIM AGAINST 'GAY PROPAGANDA'
from BBC News

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

We are saddened to learn of the Russian-American Christian Institute's bankruptcy and impending sale of their building (see "OTHER NEWS HEADLINES"). Cheryl and I taught there when we lived in Moscow. It has been a beacon of harmony between Russian Christians, both Evangelical and Orthodox, as well as Western Christians. But the Institute has been under pressure from the government and local citizen groups, and student enrolment has dwindled over the past few years. The Institute plans to rent a few rooms in the building and continue teaching social work, mainly through distance education. It seems the idea of religious freedom and liberal arts education is fading in Russia.

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Ministry as Worship (latreia) and Divine Service (leitourgia)

[This is an excerpt from Chapter 3 of my book The Ministry Driven Church, available HERE.]

"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." This text, Rom. 12:1-2, is one of the central passages on worship in the New Testament. The Analytical-Literal Translation uses the phrase "intelligent, sacred service"1 and the KJV uses "reasonable service"2 for logikin latreian in the Greek instead of "spiritual service." The root word "service" is latreia in Greek, and Strong's Dictionaries define it thus: "ministration of God, that is, worship: - (divine) service," and is derived from "latris (a hired menial); to minister (to God), that is, render religious homage: - serve, do the service, worship (-per)."3 So we see here that the original meaning of latris in classical Greek pertained to the labor of a hired menial, i.e., practical service, but by the first century latreia had taken on a wider meaning, including ministry to God. And St. Paul indicates with the adjective logikin that in addition to being spiritual, it must be carried out intelligently and reasonably.

The German Luther Bible translates logikin latreian here as "vernuenftiger Gottesdienst"4 and the modern usage of "Gottesdienst" means "worship service" such as on Sunday mornings. But the underlying meaning is "God's service," so true worship is serving God, and serving God is true worship. Therefore worship that does not entail service or ministry is not true worship.

In contrast to latreia, the word eidololatreia means idolatry or the worship of images, false gods. In 1 Cor. 10:14 Paul commands us, "flee from idolatry." In Gal. 5:20 he lists idolatry as one of the "works of the flesh" and in v.21 warns "that those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God." Also, Paul urges believers to "put to death" the earthly traits, including "covetousness, which is idolatry" (Col. 3:5). Thus we see something deeply embedded in our fallen human nature that fights against and resists the worship of the one true God: any passion or pastime, hang-up or hobby demanding our ultimate allegiance or constant attention is idolatry. Greed (covetousness) is a form of idolatry, the passion for acquiring material things that replaces our passion for God. Today's materialism and consumerism, driven by captivating advertising, shoves aside worship of the one true God and replaces it with laboring to acquire shiny new cars, expensive toys and electronic gadgets. Paul warns us: ruthlessly kill that desire to acquire; put it to death: it is idolatry! God alone is worthy of our latreia, our worship and service!

Even religion, when it degenerates into mere formalism, becomes the enemy of true worship. Jesus said in John 16:2, "the time comes that whoever kills you will think that he offers service (latreia) to God." This is exactly what took place with Israel (Rom. 9:4-5), "whose is the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service (latreia), and the promises; of whom are the fathers, and from whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God, blessed forever. Amen." (See also Heb. 9:1 and 6.) The Jews were totally convinced that they alone practiced true worship and thus were absolutely certain that they were serving God by crucifying Jesus, persecuting Paul and putting to death other early Christians. Today, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists sincerely believe they are serving their gods when they persecute and kill Christians. Can our response be to simply call for religious tolerance?

In their book The New Tolerance, Bob Hostetler and Josh McDowell write - "Today's doctrine of tolerance ... goes far beyond the dictionary's definition of tolerance. Webster's defines tolerate as 'to recognize and respect [others' beliefs, practices, etc.] without sharing them' .... But that's not what the word means any more ... The new tolerance is defined as the view that all values, beliefs, lifestyles, and truth claims are equal."5 Western relativistic pseudo-tolerance, the half-hearted teaching that "any god will do, just as long as you are sincere," is no match for the zeal of violent religious extremism. Some world religions have very little tolerance of any worldview other than theirs, while they violently insist that all other worldviews should tolerate them. If you have a football game where one side insists on rules that permit it to score goals while the other side must go no farther than mid-field, guess who is going to win?  But this isn't just a game. Tolerance must be reciprocal, or not at all. Christianity teaches peace, love for one's enemies and patient, steadfast faith under persecution, but it does not teach relativism, that any god will do. Such pseudo-tolerance is also idolatry. True latria-worship belongs only to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Endnotes to Chapter 3:

1. Analytical-Literal Translation, (www.e-sword.net, 2004).

2. King James Version, (www.e-sword.net, 2004).

3. Strong's Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries, op. cit.

4. German Luther Bible, (www.e-sword.net, 2004).

5. Hostetler, Bob and McDowell, Josh, The New Tolerance, (Carol Stream, Illinois, Tyndale House Publishers, 1998), 125.


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Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Thank the Lord for the testimony of the 8-year-old boy in a Ukrainian public school, teaching a Bible lesson with a glass of water.
Mon. - Pray for the two raided Protestant churches in Kazakhstan, one suspected of using "hallucinogenic" substances for Communion.
Tue. - Praise God for a just found Turkic-language New Testament in Arabic script published by Scottish missionaries 200 years ago.
Wed. - Pray that the furor over the "P.R." female punk band's PR stunt, arrest and sentencing in Moscow will soon die down.
Thu. - Ask the Lord for continued religious freedom in Ukraine, as the state has passed a new law for stricter control over churches.
Fri. - Pray that those who cut down crosses and desecrate churches will be apprehended, and that such offenses will be stopped.
Sat. - Ask God that people will understand and begin to practice true worship (latreia) and divine service (leitourgia).


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. The Church is not a welfare program, it's more like an NFL team - No Free Lunch.


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