Welcome to , 09 Nov 2013
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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from Russia Today

(29 Oct) A senior Russian Orthodox cleric has strongly opposed a suggestion by the leader of the populist nationalist LDPR party Vladimir Zhirinovsky to fight terrorism by imposing birth control in the predominantly Muslim regions. The idea has already caused a major scandal. The head of the Holy Synod's department for relations between the Church and society, Vsevolod Chaplin, says all peoples must develop freely and have as many children as they consider necessary.

"Russia can have a future only as a community of all peoples that created it and that have formed it over many centuries. This is why the people of the Caucasus who play a serious role in modern Russia's life and its history should develop freely, including the freedom to give birth to as many children as they deem necessary. The same applies to the Russian people," Chaplin said. He added that the issue of migration, both legal and illegal, was a very acute one, and that the authorities must hear and heed the popular opinion, but noted that "the outrage must not lead to the rooting of fruitless populist radicalism." [read more...]

by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

(04 Nov) The religious affairs official in Kazakhstan's capital Astana who initiated a case against local businessman Pyotr Volkov - which led to a fine for selling religious literature without a state license - has insisted to Forum 18 News Service that: "He was told not to sell religious literature." But Adiya Romanova denied that this is state censorship. Volkov has tried to gain a state license, and is appealing against both the fine and the failure to process his licence application.

Nine of the twelve fines known to Forum 18 to have been imposed in 2013 on book sellers are of about two months' average salary. In May, four books confiscated from a bookseller in East Kazakhstan Region - including two with prayers to Russian Orthodox saints Serafim of Sarov and Sergius of Radonezh - were ordered destroyed when the bookseller was fined. If it was carried out, this would be the first known time that a court-ordered religious book destruction has been carried out in Kazakhstan. [read more...]

from Interfax-Religion

(01 Nov) Victims of political persecutions suffered for faith were commemorated at the Butovo firing range, the Moscow Patriarchate reports at its official website. Names well-known today (of about one thousand people) killed in Butovo in the years of Great Purge were declared near the funeral ditches for several hours. The NKVD "shooting list" was voiced in compliance with the days when verdicts were carried out, photos of the killed people were shown at a special display. Rector of the Novospassky Monastery and other clerics read out the first names, then parishioners continued the reading. Several dozens of people including relatives of the victims, representatives of public organizations, figures of culture and science took part in the action.

Bishop Savva a conducted requiem for innocent victims at the Church of New Martyrs of Confessors. The former NKVD firing range in Butovo is known as one of the sites where victims of political repressions were killed and buried during the era of political repressions in the 1930s to 1950s. A total of 20,765 people, mainly Moscow and Moscow region residents, were executed here during the Great Purge from August 1937 to October 1938. The Butovo firing range is unique in Russia for the number of saints, whose relics rest in one place. Today, names of about thousand clerics and lay people killed in Butovo are known, several hundred of them are canonized. [read more...]

by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

(30 Oct) Because Pavel Leonov refused to pay a fine equivalent to about two months' average salary, for leading a religious community without state permission in East Kazakhstan, the Baptist Pastor was jailed for 24 hours, Forum 18 News Service notes. As he still refuses to pay, police on 28 October opened a criminal case against him. He now faces a possible maximum punishment of one year's imprisonment.

Pastor Leonov is one of more than 100 people known to have been fined in 2013 for, among other "offences": leading or participating in religious meetings without state permission; sharing their faith with others without being personally registered as "missionaries"; or distributing religious literature away from state-licensed venues. Fines are typically one or two months average salary, the most recent known fines having been imposed on Baptists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Hare Krishna devotees. [read more...]

from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(08 Nov) A roundtable on "European Integration: Hopes and Challenges," dedicated to the possible signing at the end of month of the association agreement between Kyiv and Brussels, was held in Kyiv on November 7. Deputy Head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine Maria Jurikova spoke at the event. She stressed in her speech that the European integration of Ukrainian society is a good thing, and that Brussels is not trying to impose their principles, as evidenced by the example of other countries such as Poland or Slovakia.

This includes issues such as tolerance toward sexual minorities and spreading Christian values. The representative believes that Europe is dominated by pluralism. She said that Ukraine has been implementing reforms, but the main risks that remain are the fears of the people and the unruly behavior of MPs which is not understood in Europe. She urged Ukraine to make all attempts to meet the requirements and mobilize for the successful signing of the association agreement in November. [read more...]

from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

(30 Oct) A little over a year after authorities in the Siberian city of Omsk banned a zombie flash-mob, they are again setting their sights on the world of the undead. This year's target: Halloween. "Celebrating mystical elements and content, which are defined by the promotion of a cult of death and its personification, can have devastating consequences for the psychological and moral well-being of students," says a statement posted on the Omsk Department of Education website. Local schools have been warned to prevent observance of Halloween or other festivals that promote "extremist attitudes."

Omsk's effort to rid the city of Halloween - a Western holiday that has become increasingly popular in Russia - follows a series of statements from high-ranking Russian Orthodox Church officials warning of the ghoulish effects of its observance. "At first, people play with an evil spirit as a joke, but then they begin to play seriously with these things," Vsevolod Chaplin, a leading Orthodox Church official, told LifeNews, a website believed to have ties to the country's security services. "Then the serious problems start: sickness, despondency, and despair." [read more...]


from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

from CatholicCulture.Org

from Interfax-Religion

from Russian Evangelical Alliance

from Mission Network News

from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

from Interfax-Religia

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Our first news article, "THE ORTHODOX CHURCH OPPOSES BIRTH CONTROL IN MUSLIM REGION," and the news headline "VANDALISM OF RUSSIAN CHURCHES ECHOES SOCIAL TENSIONS," both illustrate the religious and ethnic tensions that are boiling up in Russia. Last month witnessed mass riots in Moscow in which a Muslim from a Central Asian republic, formerly a part of the USSR, was killed. The Orthodox Church and the Russian government are trying to strike a mediating tone, while at the same time working to maintain Orthodox Christian values as foundational to Russian culture. This is in the face of a rising Muslim population among Russia's varied regions, what some have called "the Islamization of Russia."

Concurrently we note the efforts of the EU delegatkion in Ukraine to call on Ukrainian Christians to pray for the successful signing of EU association agreement... something that most Christians there are loathe to do! And in the following article, "HALLOWEEN THE LATEST THREAT TO RUSSIA'S ORTHODOX VALUES," Radio Free Europe mockingly describes the city of Omsk's effort to rid the city of Halloween because it advances occult practices. It seems that the West is attempting to force anti-Christian values on formerly atheistic, now Christian Eastern Europe. But just the opposite might happen: read the article "WILL UKRAINE BE EVANGELIZING THE WEST?"!

Ministry as Grace (kharis) - Part 2

[This is an excerpt from Chapter 15 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.]

Let us now examine how grace, the saving and sanctifying power emanating from God, was at work in the Lord Jesus. The Apostle John described Jesus' Incarnation this way - "The Word became flesh, and lived among us. We saw his glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace (kharis) and truth. ? From his fullness we all received grace (kharis) upon grace (kharis). For the law was given through Moses. Grace (kharis) and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:14 and 16-17). When the Son of God was conceived by the Virgin Mary and was born as the baby Jesus, He was already filled with grace. In Luke 2:40, just before the story of His boyhood visit to the temple in Jerusalem, we read - "The child was growing, and was becoming strong in spirit, being filled with wisdom, and the grace (kharis) of God was upon him." Jesus was so amazing, even as a young boy, that people couldn't help but notice His great wisdom and grace.

And in John 14:12 we find the answer to how God's grace was at work in Jesus, and we learn how we can receive grace (kharis) upon grace (kharis) - "Most certainly I tell you, he who believes in me, the works that I do, he will do also; and he will do greater works than these, because I am going to my Father." Jesus explains that God's grace or power that He possessed to do great works of diakonia is available to any believer who is totally consecrated to God. The difference doesn't lie in the fact that He is the Son of God - although He is! - Jesus performed these great works while in His mortal human body that had limitations like we have; no, the difference is that Jesus was totally committed to do the Father's will, and that is why He was full of grace (kharis)! We can receive the same fullness of grace (kharis) if we will simply consecrate ourselves wholly and without reservation to doing the Father's will. A few verses later, in verses 16 and 26, Jesus promises to send the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, Who transmits God's power to those believers who are cleansed and consecrated vessels.

The Apostles experienced this same power after Peter and John were commanded by the Sanhedrin not to witness in Jesus' name - "With great power, the apostles gave their testimony of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Great grace (kharis) was on them all" (Acts 4:33). Here we see that "great power" is used in parallel with "great grace," making the two almost synonymous. In the preceding verses we read how, after receiving this threat and praying, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and preached God's Word with boldness.

Several other Scripture passages refer to grace in the context of ministry: Acts 11:23; 14:3 and 26; 15:11 and 40; and Rom. 1:5. But perhaps most striking is the way St. Paul begins every one of his letters with the blessing "grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ" or some slight variation of those words. Peter, John and Jude all include a similar grace blessing at the beginning of most of their letters and in the book of Revelation. These passages all show that the apostles believed they were transmitting grace, the saving and sanctifying power of God, by their words. To put it more precisely, they transmitted saving and sanctifying grace by preaching the Word which is the gospel of grace - "Now, brothers, I entrust you to God, and to the word of his grace (kharis), which is able to build up (epoikodomeo), and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified (hagiazo)." (Acts 20:32).

We have already looked at 1 Cor. 3:10, but it bears repeating - "According to the grace (kharis) of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder (architekton) I laid a foundation, and another builds on (epoikodomeo) it. But let each man be careful how he builds on (epoikodomeo) it." Paul's particular grace or gift of ministry was to plant new churches on the foundation of the gospel of grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Later, in writing to the Corinthian church on the topic of marriage vs. celibacy, he stated - "Yet I wish that all men were like me. However each man has his own gift (kharisma) from God, one of this kind, and another of that kind" (1 Cor. 7:7). The word kharisma shares the same root as kharis, and obviously has a similar meaning. Paul's gift of celibacy helped to equip him for his missionary task, the grace of planting churches all over the Roman Empire. Still later, in 1 Cor. 12:4 Paul writes - "Now there are various kinds of gifts (kharisma), but the same Spirit. There are various kinds of service (diakonia), and the same Lord." Here we again find a link between the grace-gifts and diakonia: The Holy Spirit's power through the various kharisma-manifestations empowers us to perform our unique diakonia-ministry to one and the same Lord. It is erroneous and divisive to conclude that if we have different gifts and ministries we can't work together in the same organization or church!

How should we employ these gifts of God's grace, His saving and transforming power? St. Peter tells us - "As each has received a gift (kharisma), employ it in serving (diakoneo) one another, as good managers of the grace (kharis) of God in its various forms" (1 Pet. 4:10). Once more we find the grace-gifts linked with diakonia! The grace-gifts should be used to serve one another, not for self-gratification, just as freedom should be used to serve one another (Gal. 5:13). Also, notice here how Peter is using kharisma and kharis as synonyms. The particular gift (kharisma) a person has is a manifestation of the grace (kharis) of God, His power poured out on us.

And how does a person receive a particular gift (kharisma)? Twice Paul instructs Timothy - "Don't neglect the gift (kharisma) that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the elders" (1 Tim. 4:14). And also "For this cause, I remind you that you should stir up the gift (kharisma) of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands" (2 Tim. 1:6). The laying on of apostolic hands, as we also read in Acts 6:6 about the first six deacons, confers a special grace, divine power for a specific task. As Paul tells Timothy, do not treat the gift lightly, use it or lose it. God gives His grace-gifts so that we can serve Him!

We have already examined Heb. 12 when we were considering wholeness-teleiosis. In that same chapter we find some important teaching on grace. The author, in the context of discipline and correction, exhorts us in verse 15 to be "looking carefully lest there be any man who falls short of the grace (kharis) of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby the many be defiled." We must be careful not to let bitterness creep into our lives, which could cause us to fall short of continuing to receive God's grace. In verse 25 the author warns against turning away from God, because we have the firm hope of an unshakeable kingdom (verse 27). And in verse 28 he links together grace and service: "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us hold on to grace (kharis). By it, we may serve (latreuo) God acceptably, with reverence and awe"4 (HCSB). Again we see the continuing process of receiving the kingdom, which is itself unshakeable, but our receiving it is continuing and unfinished. So we must hold on to grace, God's transforming power, which enables us to serve Him acceptably.

Our response to God's antecedent, initiating grace is to worship and serve Him, writes Paul Hanson in his book The People Called -

Israel became a people because of divine initiative. Its birth rested on no human merit. It was explainable solely in terms of God's grace. The particular nature of the initiating act revealed the unique nature of the God Yahweh, a God who embraced the cause of the most humble and oppressed, making them a people with dignity and freedom. The notion of community that unfolds in the Bible can be understood adequately only by clearly recognizing its origin in the initiative of a gracious God. Israel became God's people by responding to divine grace. All the terms for the community of faith in the Old and the New Testament have this response quality; for example, qahal (assembly), eda (congregation). sod (assembly), and ekklesia (assembly, congregation, church). In each case, God is understood as the One who has gathered the people.5

Here we see that God is the author, the initiator of koinonia-community through His act of grace. We become His people, His assembly, "by responding to divine grace." And our response is also of grace as we make use of the grace-gifts we freely receive from Him to do the work of ministry and thus build up the Body of Christ. Grace is most certainly the free gift of God, but it is not cheap: it cost God His only begotten Son to give us this gift. And when we freely receive it, we place ourselves under the sovereignty of the Lord God Almighty to serve Him faithfully forever.

Endnotes to Chapter 15:

4. Holman Christian Standard Bible, (www.e-sword.net, 2004).

5. Hanson, Paul, The People Called, (San Francisco, California, Harper & Row, 1986), 24.

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Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Pray that the Church in Russia will act as mediator between extremists and Muslim ethnic minorities there.
Mon. - Intercede for businessman Pyotr Volkov in Astana, Kazakhstan, fined for selling religious literature.
Tue. - Remember in your prayers the 2,000 priests and laypeople executed at Butovo during Stalin's purges.
Wed. - Pray for Baptist Pavel Leonov in Kazakhstan, imprisoned for refusing to pay a fine of two months' salary.
Thu. - Ask the Lord to give Ukrainians courage and wisdom to resist EU attempts to force "gay rights" on them.
Fri. - Thank God that the city of Omsk, Russia took a firm stand against the introduction of Halloween practices.
Sat. - Intercede for all Christians, that we will reject "cheap grace" and return to God's true grace, doing His 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. Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.