Welcome to , 07 Jul 2013
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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FIRST, THE NEWS:

RADICAL LEFTISTS TORCH CHURCH IN RUSSIA - POLICE
from RIA Novosti

Select to see full-size! (06 Jul) Two followers of a Russian leftist leader are accused of torching a church in the city of Nizhny Novgorod in protest against a recent pro-church law, regional police said Saturday. The duo pelted an Orthodox Christian church in the city in central Russia with a Molotov cocktail last week, police said on their website. However, the Molotov cocktail only burned one window sill, reports said earlier.

The attackers were members of the unregistered Left Front, a political vehicle for firebrand leftist leader Sergei Udaltsov, police said, without providing their names. The suspects said they were protesting against last month's law that introduces punishments for offending religious believers' feelings. The opposition claimed the bill was infringing on non-believers' rights and linked it to the church's ideological alliance with President Vladimir Putin, whose presidency bid was endorsed last year by church head Patriarch Kirill. [read more...]


BELARUS: PRAYING IN HOMELESS SHELTER A CRIME
by Olga Glace, Forum 18 News Service

(02 Jul) A young Catholic layman who turned his home in a western Belarus village into a shelter for homeless people, with its own prayer room, is being accused of leading an unregistered religious organisation, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. Aleksei Shchedrov - who says he has helped about 100 local people since December 2011 - is being investigated on criminal charges which carry a maximum possible sentence of two years' imprisonment.

hchedrov denies the authorities' accusation of founding an unregistered religious organisation. "I am a Christian and I started to help those who are in need," he insisted to Forum 18 on 24 June from the village of Aleksandrovka, Grodno [Hrodna] Region. "I give them food, a bed, a bath and clothes and I pray together with them. But this is no religious organisation, just charity." [read more...]


PUTIN SIGNS LAW BANNING ADOPTION BY SAME-SEX COUPLES
from Interfax-Religion

(03 Jul) Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed the federal law amending certain legal articles regarding orphans and children not in parental custody, the Kremlin press office said. The law was passed by the Russian State Duma on June 21, 2013 and was approved by the Federation Council on June 26, 2013. The federal law bans adoption, custody or patronage of children by same-sex couples.

This measure is aimed at guaranteeing that the children have a balanced upbringing in their adoptive families and at protecting their mental health. Such precautions are due to the authorities' awareness of possible negative influences from such an arrangement: artificial imposition of untraditional sexual behavior and spiritual suffering and stress, which, according to psychologists, are often experienced by children with same-sex parents. [read more...]


U.S. THREATENED BY RUSSIA'S CHRISTIANITY
from Pravda

(01 Jul) If you ever wonder why the weasel west media always calls Putin a dictator or demonizes him, just look at what has been happening recently. By watching the U.S. news last week one would think all of America has turned gay with the Supreme Court ruling on married same-sex couples. The New York Times called it "major victories for the gay rights movement." Some even compare it to racial equality. Recently President Putin signed a 'gay propaganda' ban and a law criminalizing insult of religious feelings. If Putin was the dictator the West claims, the new law that defends Christianity would have been in effect immediately after the pussy riot blasphemy which happened last year.

Oddly enough the West is the only place where some Christian leaders are gay. Their Christian churches omit certain biblical teachings against homosexuality. Yes, Russia's Christianity and anyone who defends it rain on the gay parade and their upside-down world. In the past they demonized Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and ridiculed Christians in America as crazed right-wingers. They danced when President Reagan, Jerry Falwell and Charlton Heston died. There is no longer a real powerful conservative in the West the liberals fear. [read more...]


MEMBERSHIP IN BAPTIST CHURCH IN UKRAINE IS DECLINING
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(04 Jul) Today membership in the Baptist Church, which is one of the most influential Protestant denominations in Ukraine, is decreasing, and in comparison with the previous decade fewer number of people are baptized. Last year, 1,145 Baptists Churches in Ukraine did not baptize a single person. This was announced at the regional Missionary Forum of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, held June 22 in the Gospel House church in Khmelnytskyi, Religion in Ukraine reports.

Therefore, the event was called "Year of Mission" for special attention in 2013 is paid to missionary activities. The organizers named goals and objectives for the churches for the next 10 years, which included doubling the number of churches and spiritual growth of believers. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

ALEXANDER SEMCHENKO, RUSSIAN PROTESTANT LEADER, UNDER HOUSE ARREST
from Russian Evangelical Alliance

RUSSIAN BAPTISTS SELF-DESTRUCTING: WHAT AWAITS PROTESTANTISM IN RUSSIA?
from Religiopolis

MOLDOVAN PRO-GAY POLITICIANS CAN'T TAKE COMMUNION
from EuroNews

FOREIGN GAY COUPLE SEXUALLY EXPLOITED CHILD BORN BY RUSSIAN SURROGATE MOTHER
from Interfax-Religion

ORPHANS IN RUSSIA WILL GET A CHANCE TO EXPERIENCE CHRIST'S LOVE AS U.S. INTERNS REACH OUT
from Mission Network News

PATRIARCH SHEVCHUK ASKED FOR FORGIVENESS FROM 'EVERY POLISH FAMILY WHO LOST RELATIVES FROM THE HANDS OF MY COMPATRIOTS'
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

ALBANIAN EXTREMISTS ATTACK ORTHODOX CHILDREN'S BUSES IN KOSOVO
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

ESTONIAN LUTHERANS LASH OUT AT MORMONS RE-BAPTIZING DECEASED ESTONIANS
from Baltic Reports

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

It is shocking that leftist extremists believe they have a moral right to torch a church - see our first news article - simply because a law was passed saying it is wrong to offend believers. In other words, they believe it is their moral obligation to offend believers by burning down their churches!

But even more surprising is the fact that Pravda, the former communist flagship newspaper of the USSR, is praising traditional Christianity and denouncing secular humanism in the West. Twenty-five years ago in 1988, as we celebrated the millenium of Christianity in Russia and mourned its suppression under the Soviet regime, I could not have imagined that today in 2013 we are mourning the decline and suppression of the Christian worldview in the U.S. and its rebirth in Russia. Quite a turnaround!

Our last news article and the first two news headlines describe the decline, splitting and even "self-destruction" of the Baptist denominations in Ukraine and Russia. It is discouraging to learn that these leaders - many of whom I knew personally when we lived in Russia - continue to split and quarrel, sincerely believing that each has the freedom to interpret the Bible as he sees fit, leading to further fragmentation of Christianity.

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Ministry as Liberation (eleutheria)

[This is an excerpt from Chapter 12 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.]

Liberation, liberty or freedom - various ways the word eleutheria is translated - brings us to a vast semantic field of meanings and related concepts. For example, how does our freedom in Christ relate to God's predestination of our lives? How does our freedom as citizens of God's kingdom relate to our responsibilities as citizens of earthly governments? But most importantly, how do I integrate my freedom as a Christian with my being called to ministry (diakonia)?

We looked at Rom. 6:14-22 as we were considering ministry as servanthood (pais) and bond-service (douleuo). In v. 15 Paul asks the rhetorical question, "What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under grace? May it never be!" Grace transforms our desires so that we don't want to sin, we want to do God's will. It is not an easy-believism that excuses sin by saying we're not under the Law of Moses so we can do whatever we please. We also see in this passage that the word "free" is used three times. Paul uses it to form a chiasm:

A B
""Being made free from sin, you became bondservants of righteousness." (v. 18) "For when you were servants of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness." (v. 20)
C D
"What fruit then did you have at that time in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death." (v.21) "But now, being made free from sin, and having become servants of God, you have your fruit of sanctification, and the result of eternal life." (v. 22)

Notice carefully the logic of Paul's argument here: we are either (A) free from sin and servants of righteousness, or (B) free from righteousness and servants of sin. We have a choice, and if we choose (B) the result is (C) death, but if we choose (A) the result is (D) sanctification and eternal life - thus the X-shaped chiasm. There are no other choices available to mankind: as Joshua told the Israelites, "Choose this day whom you will serve!"

The fact is that we all serve someone or something, be it God, family, our country, wealth, career, an ideology or baser things such as sex, alcohol, narcotics, electronic gadgets, or our bellies. We are either servants of God, or servants of sin. Therefore such a thing as absolute liberty does not exist: philosophers say it is not a "Ding an sich," a thing unto itself, it is not an absolute self-existing category. We can't do whatever we want whenever we want to, because we inevitably become enmeshed in, entangled with, or enslaved to whatever we become deeply involved in. The Apostle Paul is saying here that true liberty is the ability to break out of bondage to sin which leads to death, and be liberated to serve God which leads to transformation into Christ's image and to eternal life. Paul concludes this passage by writing - "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 6:23). Serve sin, and collect your pay - death; or serve God and receive the free gift - eternal life.

What exactly is liberation, liberty or freedom (eleutheria)? Strong's Dictionaries define it as "freedom (legitimate or licentious, chiefly moral or ceremonial): - liberty."1 Here again we see the choice is between legitimate freedom and illegitimate licentiousness. A couple chapters later, Paul describes in more detail the glory of our final sanctification that is yet to come - "For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of decay into the liberty (eleutheria) of the glory of the children of God" (Rom. 8:20-21). Notice carefully the wording here: it is translated correctly as "the liberty of the glory"2 as Vincent's Word Studies tell us, instead of "the glorious liberty" in the KJV. After Christ's Second Coming, the glory of the children of God will shine forth because we will be free from the tendency toward death in our previous mortal bodies.

I have seen how the fear of death holds people, even some Christians, in bondage. Personally, I get thrilled when I think about the opportunity of dying and going into the presence of God! But "the liberty of the glory" also means that we will be free to do, be capable of doing things that we weren't capable of doing in our mortal bodies. Now we are not free or able to instantly be transported to another place, but in our glorious bodies we will be. We recall that Jesus in His resurrection body could pass through walls, appear and disappear at will. He could travel through time and space instantly. I am not free to do that now, but then I will be!

Remember that when Jesus announced His ministry, He quoted the prophet Isaiah - "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim release (aphesis) to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to deliver (aphesis) those who are crushed, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:18-19). The word aphesis is sometimes translated "liberty" so it falls within the semantic field of eleutheria, but it has some additional meanings: "freedom; (figuratively) pardon: - deliverance, forgiveness, liberty, remission"3 according to Strong's Dictionaries. Now let us examine another passage to see how eleutheria and aphesis are related -

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 (eleutheroo)." They answered him, "We are Abraham's seed, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How do you say, 'You will be made free (eleutheros)'?" Jesus answered them, "Most certainly I tell you, everyone who commits sin is the bondservant of sin. A bondservant doesn't live in the house forever. A son remains forever. If therefore the Son makes you free (eleutheroo), you will be free (eleutheros) indeed. (John 8:31-36)

Verse 32 is often quoted out of context - "You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." But it is only by remaining in His Word, being faithful to His teaching, that we are truly His disciples. Then and only then can we experience true freedom. But what kind of freedom is Jesus talking about here? It is obvious that the Greek words are derived from the same root as eleutheria, but on closer examination we learn that they have rather different meanings. When Jesus said, "The truth will make you free (eleutheroo)," He used a word that means "to liberate, that is, (figuratively) to exempt (from moral, ceremonial or mortal liability): - deliver, make free."4 But when the Pharisees (see v. 33) rebutted His claim, they said, "be made free (eleutheros)?" They were using a word that means "unrestrained (to go at pleasure), that is, (as a citizen) not a slave (whether freeborn or manumitted), or (generally) exempt (from obligation or liability): - free (man, woman), at liberty."5 So we see that they were thinking on a secular level, about slavery to a master. But Jesus extended the meaning of freedom by saying in effect, "When the Son sets you at liberty from slavery, you will be made exempt from moral, ceremonial or mortal liability." So Jesus was connecting eleutheria to aphesis, pardon from sin and its penalty.

We find that St. Paul brings out this point very clearly in Rom. 8:1-2 - "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in union with Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free (eleutheroo) from the law of sin and death." Paul uses the same term that Jesus used, not the word the Pharisees used. They were talking about secular freedom, but Jesus and Paul are talking about spiritual freedom that leads into eternal life. Today people complain about infringements of their freedom and civil rights due to the war on terror, but the best reply I have heard is, "When you're dead, you don't have any civil rights." Likewise, it doesn't matter when you're dead eternally if you had secular freedom or were a slave on earth.

St. Paul connects freedom (eleutheria) with glory again in 1 Cor. 3:17-18 - "Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (eleutheria). 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." First, notice the source of liberty: the Spirit of the Lord. Liberty is not a self-existent absolute; it depends on God's Spirit in us. Note also the verb "are transformed" is present continuous tense, "are being transformed" in Greek and Russian. This is an ongoing process as we walk in the Spirit, Who makes us free from the law of sin and death, and Who gives us true freedom.

In the preceding verses of this passage Paul explains that God's glory appeared but then faded away when the Law was given to Moses. But under the New Covenant, it grows from one degree of glory to another degree of glory, from being free from sin so that we can serve the Lord, to the glorious transformation of our bodies when we see Christ face to face. How does all of this relate to ministry? In v. 9 Paul writes - "For if the service (diakonia) of condemnation has glory, the service (diakonia) of righteousness exceeds much more in glory." When we minister doing diakonia to the poor, lame, maimed and blind, the glory of Christ shines through, because that is exactly the ministry Jesus Himself performed, taught His disciples to do, and then commanded them to teach others to do the same.

Again in Gal. 5:1-4 Paul links liberty together with grace, and bondage together with law -

Stand firm therefore in the liberty (eleutheria) by which Christ has made us free (eleutheroo), and don't be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Behold, I, Paul, tell you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing. Yes, I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. You are alienated from Christ, you who desire to be justified by the law. You have fallen away from grace.

We must stand firm and constantly resist the pull of the flesh to revert back to a secular, worldly view of freedom: "You can do whatever you want; go ahead and sin so that grace may abound!" This is the pharisaical, hypocritical worldview. Then St. Paul makes a shocking statement: "If you want to be justified by the law, you are alienated from Christ and you have fallen away from grace!" Those are very strong words, but they aren't mine, they're from the pen of the Apostle. We can fall away from grace and cut ourselves off from Christ if we twist liberty into legalism or license. How can that be?

This is the same Paul who wrote such comforting and assuring words of God's foreknowledge of us and His predestination for us in Rom. 8:29-30 - "For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Whom he predestined, those he also called. Whom he called, those he also justified. Whom he justified, those he also glorified." God, he writes in verses 38-39, will not let anything separate us from His love - "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Here we see clearly the free will/predestination dilemma.

Endnotes to Chapter 12:

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

2. Vincent's Word Studies, (www.e-sword.net, 2004).

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

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.


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Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Pray that the Lord will have mercy on the two radical leftists who firebombed a church in Nizhnyi Novgorod.
Mon. - Intercede in prayer for Aleksei Shchedrov in Belarus, accused of a "crime" - feeding and clothing homeless.
Tue. - Thank God that President Putin has signed a law banning adoption of Russian orphans by same-sex couples.
Wed. - Pray that the U.S. and the West in general will return to Biblical Christianity, as Russia is trying to do.
Thu. - Ask God to bring the Baptists and other Christians in Russia and Ukraine back to the unity of the faith.
Fri. - Thank the Lord that Russian, Ukrainian and Moldovan believers are taking a firm stand against gay marriage.
Sat. - Pray that Christians both in East and West will realize freedom is the desire and ability to do God's will.

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. Democracy can only survive until the people find their way to the public purse. - Plato
Socialism can only survive until it finally runs out of other people's money. - M. Thatcher


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