Welcome to , 23 Nov 2013
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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FIRST, THE NEWS:

MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE AND VATICAN REVIVE JOINT COLLABORATION
from Asia News

Select to see full-size! (13 Nov) These are days of intensified exchanges between the leaders of the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church, who have both revived collaboration on issues of mutual interest such as the rights of Christians in the Middle East, the fight against secularism in the West and ecumenical dialogue. This is two weeks from to the much-anticipated visit to the Vatican by the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, whose policies in the Middle East, especially in Syria, go hand in hand with the issues promoted by the Orthodox Patriarchate and have found an unexpected ally in the Pope. Some claim that the event would contribute to a further rapprochement between the two sister Churches, which, however, deny there is a need for a "political mediation" in this sense.

These were the words of the Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Angelo Scola following his meeting with Kirill on 12 November in Moscow. At the same meeting, the Patriarch expressed his appreciation for the work of Pope Francis, noting that "never before have our Churches had so many things in common. Our historical disagreements cease to play a critical role," was the hope expressed by the Orthodox primate, to which Scola responded saying that ecumenical dialogue "has never hidden the differences, but it is able to overcome them by affirming our shared values," referring to an "ecumenism of the people" already tangible in exchanges between the two communities in the diocese such as that of Milan. This environment of openness and friendliness was also enhanced by the words of the Head of External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk Hilarion, who announced on November 12 that talks were underway about the possibility of a "meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow in a neutral country." [read more...]


PUTIN TO DISCUSS SYRIAN PEACE PROCESS WITH PONTIFF AT VATICAN MEETING
from Interfax-Religion

(21 Nov) Syrian settlement prospects will be an item on the agenda of Russian President Vladimir Putin's meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican on November 25. "The issue will be touched upon at the audience with the Pontiff," Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov said. Pope Francis sent a message to Putin before the G20 St. Petersburg summit of September 2013 to laud Russia's chairmanship in the Group of Twenty and to oppose the use of force in the settlement of the Syrian conflict.

"The message created a constructive background for the discussion of the Syrian crisis at the St. Petersburg meeting of the G20 leaders. Interesting and rather positive developments occurred later on, in the light of the initiatives put forward by our president," the Kremlin representative observed. There will be some other topical international issues on the meeting's agenda, Ushakov said. "Special attention will be given to the protection of the Christian population in North Africa and the Middle East," he said. [read more...]


KAZAKHSTAN: "THEY NEED PERMISSION FROM THE LOCAL AUTHORITIES"
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

(21 Nov) Up to 16 police officers and journalists - led by the local religious affairs official - raided the meeting for Sunday worship on 10 November of a small Baptist congregation in Oral (Uralsk) in West Kazakhstan Region, local Baptists complained to Forum 18 News Service from the town on 21 November. Ten of those present are due in court to face possible fines of one or two months average salary. The Council of Churches Baptist congregation in Oral had begun its 10 November meeting for Sunday morning worship when local police arrived, led by the head of West Kazakhstan Regional Akimat (Administration) Religious Affairs Department Talgat Nygmetov, local Baptists told Forum 18. Accompanying them were journalists with video-cameras and smartphones.

"They immediately started filming without asking permission and without introducing themselves," one church member present complained to Forum 18. Nygmetov of the local Religious Affairs Department tried to halt the service, but church members insisted they would carry on until the service was over. But without waiting for the end of the service, police officers took four church members out of the meeting and took them to the local police station. Police drew up a record of an "offence" against 10 individuals - Sergei Krasnov, Ivan Isayev, Serakli Kumargaliev, Vladimir Nelepin, Aleksandr Nelepin, Andrei Labinsky, Nikolai Novikov, Kenzhetai Baytinov, Vladimir Trifonov and Anatoli Lazarenko. All face trial under Article 374-1 of the Code of Administrative Offences. Hearings are due, at least for some, on 28 November at Oral Specialised Administrative Court, according to court documents seen by Forum 18. [read more...]


UKRAINE AND WORLD COMMEMORATE VICTIMS OF 1932-1933 HOLODOMOR
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(23 Nov) On Saturday, November 23, Ukraine and the world will commemorate the millions of victims of the Holodomor of 1932-1933. This is an unprecedented crime in the history of the world: millions of deaths, tens of millions of unborn children, shattered human destinies, the exhausted soul of the Ukrainian people. The scale of this tragedy is unimaginable. It is called the Holodomor. Its essence is genocide. The heads of the Ukrainian churches call on believers and people of good will to join the commemorative events and help organize them.

On November 21-22, the Civic Committee organizes in Kyiv the International Forum "My People Exist, My People Will Always Be!" The forum will include an international symposium "The Holodomor of 1932-1933 in Ukraine: History and Memory" and the world premiere of the opera "Holodomor. Red Land. Hunger" by American composer of Ukrainian origin Virko Baley. On November 21-23, the exhibition "Totalitarianism in Europe," which will feature the totalitarian histories of Lithuania, Latvia , Estonia, Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine, will be held at the Ukrainian Home. [read more...]


KAZAKHSTAN: CENSORSHIP "IS NOT CENSORSHIP," TIGHTENED CENSORSHIP PLANNED
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

(15 Nov) As Kazakhstan's prior compulsory censorship of almost all literature about religion steps up, a senior official of the government Agency of Religious Affairs (ARA) appeared confused about what religious books and other materials are legal and in what circumstances a religious book legal in one place becomes illegal in another. Galym Shoikin, a Deputy Chair of the ARA, insisted to Forum 18 News Service from the capital Astana that unless a book or object is banned by a court, it is legal. But books or objects that are legal cannot be distributed unless they have undergone censorship by the ARA, he added. When Forum 18 pointed out that this was censorship, Shoikin of the ARA insisted on 31 October that: "This is not censorship - it is defending the interests of our country."

The 2011 Religion Law does not specifically define "religious literature, other informational materials of religious content, and objects of religious significance," but does impose censorship on them (see F18News 23 September 2011 ). Though this lack of definition will change if draft changes to the Law are adopted. Shoikin of the ARA refused to specify what is or is not meant by the Law's terms. Asked for example if Russian writer Leo Tolstoy's writings on religion, ethics and philosophy were subject to religious censorship, he declined to answer. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

ORTHODOX NATIONALISTS FIGHT UKRAINE'S APPROACH TO EU
from Interfax-Religia

UKRAINE SUSPENDS PREPARATIONS FOR SIGNING EU DEAL
from ABC News

UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY CALLS ON YANUKOVYCH AND AZAROV TO RENEW COOPERATION WITH EUROPEANS
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

WIDESPREAD ABORTION IN KAZAKHSTAN COMES FROM MARXISM AND WESTERN HEDONISM, BISHOP SAYS
from LifeSite News

KAZAKHSTAN: AT LEAST 146 FINES IN 2013 - AND COUNTING
from Forum 18 News Service

HOMOPHOBIA SHOULD NOT BE CREATED IN SOCIETY - PUTIN
from Interfax-Religion

OLYMPIC OUTREACH PLANNED IN SOCHI, RUSSIA
from Mission Network News

METROPOLITAN HILARION SPOKE IN ROME ON "THE FAMILY, CHRISTIANITY, SOCIETY: AN ORTHODOX PERSPECTIVE"
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

In our first two news articles, we see a growing collaboration between Eastern and Western Christian leaders, not papering over the differences between them, but recognizing the need to cooperate together in this present world against the growing secularism in the West, and to support the persecuted Christians in the Middle East, especially in Syria, and elsewhere in the world.

Under "OTHER NEWS HEADLINES" the first three links describe the difficult decision Ukrainians have recently made to not sign an agreement for further integration with the EU. On the one hand, Russia has promised 20 billion dollars in aid to Ukraine, which otherwise would be insolvent in just a few months, and many Ukrainian church leaders and laypeople were strongly opposed to the EU's insistence that Ukraine recognize "gay rights" and release from jail former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko. But on the other hand, there are many others in Ukraine who want integration with the West.

(After you've read this issue, please tell us what you think! Write your feedback in our comment form, and it will appear immediately so that others can respond.)

Ministry as Truth (aletheia) and Light (fos)

[This is an excerpt from Chapter 16 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 English mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead (1861 - 1947) stated - "There are no whole truths; all truths are half-truths. It is trying to treat them as whole truths that plays the devil." Once again we are treated to a paradox by one of this world's wise men: if all truths are half-truths, then that statement itself isn?t entirely true! Human efforts to debunk all absolutes demonstrate their own absurdity - "There are no absolutes, and that's the absolute truth!" And yet millions or even billions of people take these nonsense statements seriously.

The concept of truth is fundamental to higher mathematics and computer science. A bit is either "on" (true) or "off" (false) - there is no in-between state. To deny the concept of truth is to say that computers don't make a bit of sense (pardon the pun). But it is indeed very difficult to discover what absolute truth is, one might even say it is humanly impossible. That is the dilemma modern man finds himself in: truth is necessary, but extremely elusive. How do we find our way out of this dilemma? We as Christians believe it is possible only through divine revelation - "The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. We gazed on his glory, the kind of glory that belongs to the Father's unique Son, full of grace and truth (aletheia). For while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth (aletheia) came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:14 and 17). Jesus Christ is full to overflowing with truth, and that is how we can know truth!

What is truth? That was the same question Pontius Pilate posed to Jesus in John 18:38. This world's rulers and wise men have puzzled over this question for centuries and haven't found the answer. Strong's Dictionaries simply define aletheia as "true, truly, truth, verity."1 It is defined better in Thayer's Greek Definitions -

Objectively: what is true in any matter under consideration, - what is true in things appertaining to God and the duties of man, moral and religious truth, - the truth as taught in the Christian religion, respecting God and the execution of his purposes through Christ, and respecting the duties of man, opposing alike to the superstitions of the Gentiles and the inventions of the Jews, and the corrupt opinions and precepts of false teachers even among Christians; subjectively: truth as a personal excellence, that candour of mind which is free from affection, pretence, simulation, falsehood, deceit.2

While these definitions are helpful, they are a little circular because they use in the definition the word being defined. What is truth then? It seems to be a rather elusive thing! But if we really want to know what truth is, look closely at Jesus, because He said - "I am the way, the truth (aletheia), and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me" (John 14:6). And those people who follow Him experience truth and radiate it to others around them - "But whoever does what is true (aletheia) comes to the light, so that all may see that his actions have been done in God" (John 3:21).

We must follow Him with an attitude of worship - "But the hour comes, and now is, when the true (alethinos) worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth (aletheia), for the Father seeks such to be his worshippers. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (aletheia)" (John 4:23-24). The word here for worship is proskuneo which means "to kiss, like a dog licking his master's hand; to - literally or figuratively prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence, to adore); worship."3 It is used in the Bible for homage given to God or to people of great honor. The quest for truth is rewarded with success only when we submit ourselves in worshipful service to our Master, Jesus Christ!

Now is the time to relate aletheia-truth to diakonia-ministry. We already have seen that worship (latreia) is linked to ministry. Our key passage for the ministry driven church, Eph. 4:11-13, teaches us that all of God's people are to do the work of diakonia-ministry in order to make the church, the Body of Christ, grow. In the very next verses Paul warns us to watch out for pseudo-clever men whose self-appointed task is to deceive by sophistry, but instead we must speak the truth - "that we may no longer be children, tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; but speaking truth (aletheia) in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, Christ" (Eph. 4:14-15).

The ultimate goal of ministry is to help each other grow up into Christ's likeness. Part of this involves telling the truth. The world considers it socially acceptable to tell "white lies" for convenience, for example, you call your employer and say you're sick, but actually you're doing something else such as going to a job interview or meeting someone from out of town. Even Christians sometimes tell "white lies" to other Christians for similar reasons, but this destroys trust and fellowship in the Body of Christ. A few verses later, in Eph. 4:25, Paul writes - "Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak truth (aletheia) each one with his neighbor. For we are members of one another." In order to minister to the building up of the Body of Christ, we must speak the truth to one another.

We once knew a mission leader who was a pathological liar. He would excuse it by telling me - "It's easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission. I just say I'm sorry, I didn't know." The consequences, however, of constantly telling lies can be eternally fatal - "But for the cowardly, unbelieving, sinners, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their part is in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death" (Rev. 21:8). How do we pull up the weeds of lies in our life, and live in honesty and openness toward one another? We must daily drink deeply from God's Word, the well of truth - "Jesus therefore said to those Jews who had believed him, 'If you remain in my word, then you are truly (alethos) my disciples. You will know the truth (aletheia), and the truth (aletheia) will make you free'" (John 8:31-32). Jesus consecrated Himself to the truth, so that we also can be consecrated, made holy, in the truth - "Sanctify them in your truth (aletheia). Your word is truth (aletheia). For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth (aletheia)" (John 17:17 and 19). This leaves no room in the Body of Christ for half-truths and deliberate deception by not telling the whole truth.

Sanctification is holiness, consecration, being set apart. Holiness implies godliness and honesty because it comes from the Holy Spirit, Who is the Spirit of truth - "When the Counselor has come, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth (aletheia), who proceeds from the Father, he will testify about me" (John 15:26). When the Spirit of truth comes into our life, He will enable us to distinguish between truth and error - "However when he, the Spirit of truth (aletheia), has come, he will guide you into all truth (aletheia), for he will not speak from himself; but whatever he hears, he will speak. He will declare to you things that are coming" (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit will give us a "sixth sense" for discerning truth in a jumble of news, misinformation and deliberate disinformation, and He will even enable us to foresee things that are yet to come.

But this requires that we walk in the Spirit, not in our own egocentric way, cleverly manipulating God's Word for our own sordid gain; rather, using it to build up the Body of Christ - "But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by the manifestation of the truth (aletheia) commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God" (2 Cor. 4:2). Paul writes that God "desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth (aletheia), to which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth (aletheia) in Christ, not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth (aletheia)" (1 Tim. 2:4 and 7). It is striking how often the apostles use the word "truth" over and over, repeating it several times in the space of just a few phrases. It becomes clear to us that they were not careful to couch their words in "maybe" or "perhaps" or "in my opinion"; instead, they boldly asserted that the Good News of Christ is the truth. They did not say, "If you want to believe it, then it's true for you; but if you don't, then that's okay too!" As we read the New Testament, it becomes strikingly obvious that the truth of the Gospel is not relative or subjective; it is objectively true everywhere and for everyone.

There are several warnings in the New Testament to beware those who try to distort the truth - "Foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you not to obey the truth (aletheia), before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth among you as crucified?" (Gal. 3:1). Notice that Paul writes "obey the truth" and not merely "agree to the truth." Truth is not just an abstract concept, it is the hard reality of those actions we are morally obliged to take when we believe the truth about Jesus Christ's crucifixion for our sins. The Christians in Galatia had gotten off to a good start, but then some Judiazers came along and tried to convince them to follow the Law of Moses - "You were running well! Who interfered with you that you should not obey the truth (aletheia)?" (Gal. 5:7). Again Paul uses the phrase "obey the truth." Truth isn't a word game we play; it is reality.

The ultimate source of this deceit is the lawless one, Antichrist, who is empowered by Satan -

... even he whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, with all deception of wickedness for those who are being lost, because they didn't receive the love of the truth (aletheia), that they might be saved. Because of this, God sends them a working of error, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be judged who didn't believe the truth (aletheia), but had pleasure in unrighteousness. But we are bound to always give thanks to God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief in the truth (aletheia) (2 Thes. 2:9-13).

In order to be saved, people must have a "love of the truth." If not, God will send them error so they will believe a lie, to their own judgment. The fad philosophies of relativism and situational ethics are simply rationalizations for those who have "pleasure in unrighteousness." But if someone loves the truth he is on the path of "salvation through sanctification."

Many highly educated people are "always learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth (aletheia). Even as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so do these also oppose the truth (aletheia); men corrupted in mind, reprobate concerning the faith" (2 Tim. 3:7-8). This brings to mind some university professors and even Oxford-educated politicians who are moral reprobates, who either reject the faith totally or cynically manipulate religion for their own ends.

Our response as servants of the Gospel is to "give diligence to present yourself approved by God, a workman who doesn't need to be ashamed, properly handling the Word of Truth (aletheia)" (2 Tim. 2:15), and to "stand therefore, having the utility belt of truth (aletheia) buckled around your waist, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness" (Eph. 6:14). Truth is the "utility belt" to which the soldier of Christ fastens all the rest of his spiritual armor. If we lack truth, none of the other items of our spiritual armor stay with us, they fall off.

Three times the Apostle John warns if our actions don't match our words, the truth isn't in us -

If we claim that we have fellowship with him but keep living in the darkness, we are lying and the truth (aletheia) is not in us. "If we say that we do not have any sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth (aletheia) is not in us. The person who says, 'I have come to know him,' but does not continually keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth (aletheia) is not in that person" (1 John 1:6, 8; and 2:4).

So the positive side of the coin is to love the truth and live according to the truth - "For I was overjoyed when some brothers arrived and testified about your truthfulness and how you live according to the truth (aletheia). I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are living according to the truth (aletheia). Therefore, we ought to support such people so that we can become their helpers in spreading the truth (aletheia)" (3 John 1:3-4 and 8). The Good News we spread, combined with doing diakonia-ministry to the poor, the maimed, the lame and the blind, is the truth from God lived out in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, His apostles, in the lives of those they discipled, and it must be lived out in our lives!

Endnotes to Chapter 16:

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

2. Thayer's Greek Definitions, (www.e-sword.net, 2004).

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


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Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Thank the Lord that the Moscow Patriarchate and the Vatican will work together to fight Western secularism.
Mon. - Pray that Putin's meeting with Pope Francis will help bring about an end to the civil war in Syria.
Tue. - Intercede for ten members of the Baptist church in Uralsk, Kazakhstan arrested for unregistered worship.
Wed. - Pray for the souls of the millions murdered in the 1932-1933 "Holodomor" starvation genocide in Ukraine.
Thu. - Pray against the arbitrary and growing censorship of religious books and other materials in Kazakhstan.
Fri. - Thank God that Ukraine has refused the EU's offer of integration on the terms of accepting "gay rights."
Sat. - Ask the Lord that all Christians would abandon relativism and speak only the truth in Christ.

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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