Welcome to , 09 Jun 2013
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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FIRST, THE NEWS:

98-YEAR-OLD HOMELESS BULGARIAN MAN DONATES THOUSANDS TO RESTORE CHURCHES
from Yahoo News

(31 May) An elderly man with a beard sits on the street corner hunched over, in a picture recently posted online. In another photo the man sits on a small bed in a shack and in another, he bends over to kiss a boy's hand. The description says the man is Dobri Dobrev, a 98-year-old man who travels 25 kilometers each day and begs on the streets of Sofia, Bulgaria. It says he lost most of his hearing during WWII. For Bulgarians, this isn't news. Dobrev is a fixture on the streets of Sofia, where many know his name but few, apparently, know that Dobrev isn't begging for himself.

It was only recently discovered that he has donated every penny he has collected - over 40,000 euros - towards the restoration of decaying Bulgarian monasteries and churches and the utility bills of orphanages, living entirely off his monthly state pension of 80 euros and the kindness of others. A scene from a film shows a devout Elder Dobri, as he is called, praying in a temple he helped to fund with his donations. "He never begs for money, people just put money in his little wooden box and he shows them respect," one blogger wrote. Though he's nearly a century old, it seems Dobri persists in his cause, day after day. [read more...]


RUSSIA: MIXED RESPONSE TO SWEEPING GOVERNMENT CHECKS
by Geraldine Fagan, Forum 18 News Service

(28 May) Representatives of hundreds of religious organisations inspected by state officials this Spring have voiced mixed impressions of the checks to Forum 18 News Service. Following its inspection, a Catholic parish in southern Russia is facing a heavy fine for fire safety violations. But this appears exceptional. Unlike major human rights organisations the checks appeared to target, most religious representatives surveyed by Forum 18 received only minor complaints.

Konstantin Andreyev, a Moscow-based lawyer, remarked to Forum 18: "The majority [of Public Prosecutor employees] did this quite formally, understanding that they just need to submit reports saying they checked." Protestant representatives in particular were unconcerned, and sometimes even defended the state's actions. But the Jehovah's Witnesses are worried about the possible consequences of a massive inspection of their Russian headquarters. [read more...]


RUSSIA WILL RULE OUT RISK OF RUSSIAN CHILDREN'S ADOPTION BY FOREIGN SAME-SEX COUPLES
from Interfax-Religion

(06 Jun) The risk of Russian orphans being adopted by same-sex couples will be fully ruled out, Russian Education and Science Minister Dmitry Livanov said. "We will eliminate this risk. We will fully rule out this risk," Livanov told reporters on Thursday. Russian children currently cannot be adopted by same-sex couples because the adoption of children by foreign couples is governed by the Russian legislation, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, he said.

"For this reason, we currently don't have this problem. However, of course, it is possible that people in other countries terminate their marriages and get married again. Here it is important to guarantee that all children adopted in Russia do not get into same-sex 'families'," he said. Livanov said changes will need to be made to the legislation and international treaties to avoid that. He said consultations are being conducted on the matter with France, where same-sex "marriage" has recently been legalized. [read more...]


UZBEKISTAN: OFFICIALS "ACTED LIKE BANDITS"
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service

(30 May) Uzbekistan has fined a 76 year-old woman 10 times the monthly minimum wage and ordered the destruction of her books, Forum 18 News Service has learned. Naziya Ziyatdinova was subjected to what the authorities describe as an "Anti-terror-Tozalash" ("Anti-terror-Cleansing") raid through a window of her flat, even though she has great difficulty walking as she has Parkinson's Disease. [ed.: "cleansing" is the same word that was used during Stalin's "purges."] She was removed from her bed and the contents of her home turned "upside down" by four officials acting illegally without a search warrant. Local Protestants described officials as having "acted like bandits."

Forum 18 was told that that the fine was "unaffordable" for Ziyatdinova, as her pension is very small and cannot even cover the medicines she needs. Each time she was taken to court she "felt very sick fearing harsher punishment." After one hearing an ambulance was called for her. However, Ziyatdinova did not sign a confession she was being pressured to sign. The Judge in the case, Khusniddin Dusnazarov, adamantly denied to Forum 18 that there had been any wrongdoing by officials. [read more...]


FOUR CHINESE BAPTIST CHURCHES EXIST IN UKRAINE
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(05 Jun) At a missionary forum in Luhansk, pastor Yin Haozhan and his wife, Duan Zhiyue, talked about serving among Chinese students, Religion in Ukraine reports with reference to the site of Baptists in Ukraine. "In 2010 in Luhansk a Chinese-language church appeared. It is the smallest among the four Chinese churches in Ukraine. But despite this, God blesses us. We are few, because every year about 10-15 of our students return to China as part of their exchange. Brothers and sisters talk about God to their parents and family, and many have become believers. Mission is the duty of every Christian. Thanks to modern technology - transportation, telephone, Internet - the world is without borders. We should use these tools for mission, and we will not have to go far to do this," said the pastor.

A young minister, Artur Nadiyiv from Brianka, studied Chinese and is eager to go on a mission. "The one meaning of the Christian life is to be a witness, because only people will be in eternity. Not our talents, our apartments, cars, property and money. Only those people who come to God through us," he says. Artur expressed his for all people to see how great the Lord is, and that He is not only the God of Ukraine but God of other peoples. [read more...]


RUSSIAN PATRIARCH WARNS MONKS TO ABSTAIN FROM ONLINE SIN
from RIA Novosti

(08 Jun) The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has urged monks on Mount Athos to turn their backs on the Internet, in order to protect themselves from online temptations, the Russian media reported on Saturday. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia reportedly described the Internet as a hotbed of sin and temptation, and said that monks who forsake worldly pleasures in real life should do likewise on the Internet.

However, speaking at the Zograf Monastery at Mount Athos, he also urged priests, who live in the community and are allowed to marry, to use the Internet more actively in the course of their holy mission, Russian media reported. Later in the day, Archdeacon Andrei Kuraev sought to clarify the Patriarch's words, which he says are open to interpretation. The Patriarch was not, Kuraev argued, saying that he thinks monks are like "lustful teenagers, for whom access to the Internet means access to porn. I think he was talking about other threats - about unregulated information (and rumors) about church life," Kuraev wrote in his blog. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH (SPC) ASSEMBLY: SUFFERING OF SERBS IN KOSOVO-METOHIJA CONTINUES
from In Serbia

RUSSIA: GOVERNMENT CHECKS ON RELIGIOUS ORGANISATIONS SEEK "EXTREMISM"
from Forum 18 News Service

ORTHODOX BELIEVERS ARE CALLED TO BE SALT OF THE EARTH, LIGHT IN UNIVERSE - PATRIARCH KIRILL
from Interfax-Religion

BAPTISTS OF SERBIA AND RUSSIA DEVELOP "A PARTNERSHIP WITH A DIFFERENCE"
from Russian Evangelical Alliance

HIERARCHS OF UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH (MP) INVITE ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW I TO UKRAINE
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

PUTIN SIGNS LAW BANNING "EXTREMISTS" FROM RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS
from Portal-credo.ru

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

Dobri Dobrev, the beggar in our lead news story, is an example of extreme humility and self-emptying (kenosis), as Christ emptied Himself and became man, humbling Himself even unto death. How many of us are willing to forsake seeking our own physical comfort and financial security, as this man has done? When we compare this beggar's humble faith in action with the machinations of one religious hierarchy against another hierarchy, guess which comes out the winner?

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Ministry as Moderation (epieikes) and Self-Control (egkrateia)

[This is an excerpt from Chapter 11 of my book The Ministry Driven Church.
It's also on our website as an online course, and you can try out the course's interactive questions HERE.]

The verses that speak loudest to me about moderation are Phil. 4:5-7, 11-12 and 19 (MKJV) -

Let your moderation (epieikes) be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. ... Not that I speak according to need, for I have learned to be content in whatever state I am. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound. In everything and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. ? But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.1

The word epieikes can also be translated "gentleness" and many Bible versions use this word. But when we look closely at the above text, it becomes clear that Paul is writing about the attitude Christian believers ought to have toward needing material things: "Do not be anxious about anything," "Not that I speak according to need," "both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need" and "my God shall supply all your need."

It is true that we need a certain amount of material things such as food, shelter and clothing. But these basic needs easily slide into desires for More, Newer, Prettier, Bigger and Better. The advertising business has learned how to "create the need" for the latest, tastiest or most advanced things - clothing styles, flavored coffees, mobile phones, music players, digital cameras, computers and cars. As Wendell Berry writes in Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community, -

We live in a time when technologies and ideas (often the same thing) are adopted in response not to need but to advertising, salesmanship, and fashion. Salesmen and saleswomen now hover about us as persistently as angels, intent on "doing us good" according to instructions set forth by persons educated at great public expense in the arts of greed and prevarication.2

You are constantly bombarded by advertising. So you wake up one fine morning with the idea in your head, "I just have to buy a new _____ today!" Madison Avenue brainwashing has done its job on you. When we step back and think about it calmly and rationally, it becomes clear that more and more people on earth cannot continue consuming more and more things ad infinitum. Something is seriously wrong with this picture! Psychologists call it "cognitive dissonance," but we ordinary people call it just crazy. He who dies with the most toys is nonetheless dead. There must be higher values in life, something greater to live for than mere material things. The answer is found in the above passage: "The Lord is at hand." Christ's return is just around the corner. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, ready to burst into full view!

St. Paul uses the same term in Titus 3:2-3, instructing believers "to speak evil of no one, not to be contentious, to be gentle (epieikes), showing all humility toward all men. For we were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another." When we look at the phrase "serving various lusts and pleasures" it seems clear that Paul has "to live in moderation" in mind for epieikes. In that case, the Greek word praotes that is translated "humility" should rightly be translated as "gentleness." So Paul is writing essentially the same message to Titus' church as he wrote to the church at Philippi: "live in moderation, showing all gentleness toward all men, don't be driven crazy by desires for more, bigger and better things which will poison your relationships with people around you."

Strong's Dictionaries define epieikes as "appropriate, that is, (by implication) mild: - gentle, moderation, patient."3 Thus, epieikes is living in a manner that is "appropriate" for followers of Christ. When Yahweh called Abram, He said, "I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you. In you will all of the families of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 12:3). And God promises to bless us, His chosen people, but not so that we will squander it on ourselves; rather so that we can be a blessing to others. That is the appropriate way for God's people to live.

There is another aspect to moderation - Deut. 8:6-20 records how Yahweh instructed Moses to warn the Israelites as they were going to enter the Promised Land overflowing with milk and honey that they must not forget Yahweh and think it was their own abilities that had gotten them all this wealth. If they began thinking that way, they would turn to idolatry! Yahweh gave them all of the abundant natural resources of the Promised Land so that He might establish His eternal covenant with Israel. God's blessings have a material aspect that takes place in time and space, but their purpose is eternal, so that His people can be a blessing to others. To relate to material wealth in any other way degenerates into idolatry. Solomon put it very succinctly - "God, I'm asking for two things before I die; don't refuse me - Banish lies from my lips and liars from my presence. Give me enough food to live on, neither too much nor too little. If I'm too full, I might get independent, saying, 'God? Who needs him?' If I'm poor, I might steal and dishonor the name of my God"4 (Prov. 30:7-9, MSG). This is an excellent description of living in moderation.

Conversely, the prophet Jeremiah issued a stern warning to Shallum, king of Judah, that he would receive a donkey's burial for his selfish disregard for the poor and needy -

"[Woe to him] who says, I will build me a wide house and spacious chambers, and cuts him out windows; and it is ceiling with cedar, and painted with vermilion. Shall you reign, because you strive to excel in cedar? Didn't your father eat and drink, and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Wasn't this to know me? says Yahweh. ... He shall be buried with the burial of a donkey, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem" (Jer. 22:14-16 and 19).

Many rich nominal "Christians" in the West live in spacious mansions paneled in fine wood, and their children have grown up and moved away, but the parents are keeping a house that is much larger than they need "in case the kids come for a visit." So two-thirds or more of the house sits vacant for 51 weeks of the year. What hotel or motel manager would keep two-thirds of his rooms vacant for 51 weeks of the year in case a convention might come to town? It would be far less expensive for those parents to rent a suite in a nearby motel for the kids and grandkids for a week. All that wasted space in empty-nester houses is wealth that could be invested in God's Kingdom, building ministry centers for poor and needy disabled people in town.

These rich nominal "Christians" may have raised their right hand or come forward for prayer as a teenager. They may even be good, law-abiding citizens, go to church, read the Bible, attend a home fellowship in their church, and sincerely believe they have eternal life. But what did Jesus say to the rich young man who asked Him what to do so that he could have eternal life?

Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except one - God. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder,' 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not give false testimony,' 'Do not defraud,' 'Honor your father and mother.'" He said to him, "Teacher, I have observed all these things from my youth." Jesus looking at him loved him, and said to him, "One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, taking up the cross." But his face fell at that saying, and he went away sorrowful, for he was one who had great possessions. Jesus looked around, and said to his disciples, "How difficult it is for those who have riches to enter into the Kingdom of God!" The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus answered again, "Children, how hard is it for those who trust in riches to enter into the Kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God." They were exceedingly astonished, saying to him, "Then who can be saved?" (Mk. 10:18-26)

Please note that Jesus "loved him" - He didn't condemn him, calling him a "filthy rich exploiter" or something of that sort. But at the same time, Jesus didn't condone the rich man's trust in his material possessions. Jesus gave the man an opportunity to choose between wealth and following Him, but sadly the young man chose to hold on to his riches. What great difficulty rich people have parting with their great possessions! And yet, one day they will most certainly part with them: naked we came into the world, and naked shall we leave it. We can't take one cent or even one kopeck, 1/26th of a cent, with us when we die! It is a sad but true fact that poor people are more generous givers, considering the percentage of their income that they sacrifice to the Lord, but rich nominal "Christians" tend to be rather poor givers.

How many other passages deal with our attitude toward material riches? Consider these - "For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits his own self?" (Lk. 9:25). "Carry no purse, nor wallet, nor sandals. Greet no one on the way" (Lk. 10:4). We know of one American "missionary" to Russia who left with a full load of luggage, but had to return in order to take another 16 pieces of luggage back to the U.S.! Perhaps most to the point is this -

For we brought nothing into the world, and we certainly can't carry anything out. But having food and clothing, we will be content with that. But those who are determined to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful lusts, such as drown men in ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some have been led astray from the faith in their greed, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (1 Tim. 6:7-10).

Having enough to eat and sufficient warm clothing to wear (it is -9 Fahrenheit outside as I write this in Moscow) is epieikes-moderation. Having more leads to temptation and many harmful lusts that can ruin your testimony and even destroy you! Greed has led many astray from the faith. So we must "be free from the love of money, content with such things as you have, for he has said, 'I will in no way leave you, neither will I in any way forsake you'" (Heb. 13:5).

Endnotes to Chapter 11:

1. Modern King James Version, op. cit.

2. Berry, Wendell, Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community, op. cit., xi.

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

4. The Message, (www.e-sword.net, 2004).


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Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Praise God for the wonderful testimony of His humble servant Dobri Dobrev in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Mon. - Pray that genuine Christian organizations in Russia will not closed down in this "extremism" sweep.
Tue. - Thank the Lord that Russia is ensuring that adopted orphans will go to traditional families.
Wed. - Pray for elderly Naziya Ziyatdinova in Uzbekistan who was subjected to an "Anti-terror-Cleansing."
Thu. - Thank God for the four Chinese-language churches in Ukraine preaching to Chinese exchange students.
Fri. - Pray both for monks on Mount Athos and for ourselves to abstain from temptations on the Internet.
Sat. - Ask the Lord to show us and all Christians how to be content with living simply, in moderation.

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. Live your life so that the preacher won't have to lie at your funeral.


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