FIRST, THE NEWS:
RUSSIAN CHURCH HAS HIGH EXPECTATIONS FOR POPE FRANCIS - PATRIARCH
from RIA Novosti
(18 Dec) The head of the Russian Orthodox Church said at a meeting with a Roman Catholic cardinal that the Russian Orthodoxy had "high expectations" for Pope Francis's pontifical tenure. "Our expectations are high, because a lot of the ideas expressed by the pope to the church, the world and the society coincide with how we see it," Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill said at a meeting with Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
"And we share an understanding that today we need to boost discussions concerning problems that are a challenge to all Christians," the patriarch added. He said he was extremely pleased by how ties between the two branches of Christianity had recently strengthened. "I think it is very positive that more and more often we get an opportunity to meet with Catholic prelates, including from the College of Cardinals. I appreciate the possibility of a direct conversation, a dialogue," the patriarch said. [read more...]
TURKMENISTAN: "SINGING ABOUT GOD HERE IS BANNED"
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service
(20 Dec) Police and MSS secret police in Dashoguz in Turkmenistan have raided members of Light of the East Church, Forum 18 News Service has learned. Two homes of church members were raided and religious literature including personal Bibles were seized. One church member was threatened with a 15-day jail term and deportation, even though he is a Turkmen citizen. During one raid, on a rehearsal of songs for the following Sunday's meeting for worship, officials stated that "singing about God here is banned." The church was also threatened that it might lose its state registration, thus making it illegal.
A state religious affairs official who is also an imam told the church's Pastor Yuri Rozmetov that the Christian faith "is wrong" and pressured him to become a Muslim. Meanwhile, the level of fines to punish individuals and communities for exercising their freedom of religion or belief has been increased. And the state continues to limit the total number of Muslims allowed to take part in the annual hajj pilgrimage to 188 people including MSS secret police. Officials have refused to discuss the cases with Forum 18. [read more...]
REGULAR RELIGIOUS SERVICES ARE CONDUCTED ONLY IN HALF OF MOSCOW'S 958 ORTHODOX CHURCHES
(20 Dec) Moscow is home to 958 Orthodox churches, but regular religious services are conducted only in 473 of them, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said at an Eparchial Assembly session in the Russian capital on Friday. Of the overall number of Moscow's Orthodox churches, 144 are currently under construction, another 193 house secular institutions, and 24 have not yet been vacated by former tenants. As many as 1,515 priests work in Moscow, which also has 31 monasteries and convents.
Twenty new dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church and 11 archdioceses were established in 2013, Patriarch Kirill said. Today the Moscow Patriarchate has a total of 44 archdioceses and 269 dioceses, of which 160 are located in Russia. A total of 110 new dioceses have been established since Patriarch Kirill became the head of the Russian Orthodox Church five years ago. [read more...]
UZBEKISTAN: TEN FINES IN TASHKENT REGION, MORE ELSEWHERE
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service
(18 Dec) In September and October, at least 10 people around Uzbekistan's capital Tashkent were given heavy fines for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief, Forum 18 News Service notes. Eight people were fined after a police raid on a private home where two Presbyterian women, Rovza and Marina Sultanova, were teaching children. The two women were each fined 90 times the minimum monthly wage, with the other six given lower fines.
Judge Tahir Safarov of Tashkent Regional Criminal Court on 1 November upheld fines given to two members of an officially registered Presbyterian Church in Almalyk. He also upheld fines on six individuals who are not church members but who participated in the Church's activity with their children, according to the verdict seen by Forum 18. Judge Akmal Pirnazarov of Akhangaran City Criminal Court on 26 September had fined two church members, Rovza and Marina Sultanova, 90 times the minimum monthly wage or 7,163,100 Soms (about 3,250 US Dollars) for teaching a group of children in their private home. [read more...]
AT ROUNDTABLE, UKRAINIAN CLERGY WARN AUTHORITIES AGAINST DECEIVING AND PERSECUTING THE PEOPLE
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
(13 Dec) A nationwide roundtable "Let's Unite Ukraine" was held today in Kyiv. The meeting, chaired by the first President of Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk, was attended by President Viktor Yanukovych and former Presidents Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yushchenko, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, Speaker Volodymyr Rybak, leaders of the opposition - Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Vitali Klitschko, and Oleh Tyahnybok - and representatives of the public, students, and clergy. From the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk and Cardinal Lubomyr Husar attended the meeting. Patriarch Filaret represented the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP), and from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) the meeting was attended by Metropolitan Anthoniy of Boryspol and Brovary.
Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk, addressing Viktor Yanukovych, pointed out that the people cannot be spoken to in the "language of guns. If there is a desire to reach a mutual understanding and solve the crisis that has escalated, you must listen to the Ukrainians' aspirations for European integration." As for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the patriarch stressed, this church stands on the side of the people who want to live in a European Ukraine.
The patriarch paid particular attention to the issue of the persecution of students participating in the EuroMaidan, including the Ukrainian Catholic University, for their open pro-European stance. Patriarch Sviatoslav severely criticized the calls that students received from the prosecutor's office and the interrogations. This shameful practice should be stopped immediately. Patriarch Filaret (UOC-KP) said that people cannot be deceived. All year the authorities fed the Ukrainians promises of a European future, and when the time came to sign an Association Agreement with the EU, the government cheated the people: "You cannot build a country on deception," with these words Patriarch Filaret addressed the president. [read more...]
CHRISTIANITY VS ISLAM: WHAT FUTURE AWAITS EUROPE?
from The Voice of Russia
(19 Dec) The standoff between Christianity and Islam in European countries is becoming more and more dangerous each year. According to some experts, today the European community is facing a harsh choice: if the islamization of Europe continues, one might soon have to say good-bye to Christianity in the countries of the Old World. For a number of years on the eve of Christmas various European countries are shaken by scandals. In an increasing number of states the authorities refuse to put up in public places that integral attribute of the holiday, a Christmas tree, decorated with a nativity scene. The politicians explain their actions by their fear to insult the religious feelings of those who don't believe in the Biblical stories. The demand to take off the Christian attributes primarily comes from Muslim communities, which are more and more aggressively trying to impose on the West their moral and religious values and view of the world.
Back in 2005 the Russian writer and journalist Elena Chudinova published her anti-utopian novel called The Mosque of Notre Dame: 2048. Back then that warning book appeared to most Western politicians to be an impossible fable. But today it has become clear that the present standoff between Christianity and Islam in European countries is caused by nothing other than the crash of the ideology of tolerance and multiculturalism, Elena Chudinova thinks. "Over half a century that ideology ruled the minds of Europeans, but as a result has led to fairly complex problems, which now have to be solved this or that way. Unfortunately, nobody knows yet the correct solution to those problems, as there has never been a similar situation in the history of European countries. However, in any case European politicians will have to give up their position as an ostrich hiding his head in the sand saying that there is no religious standoff at all." [read more...]
ISLAMISTS HELD OVER ARSON ATTACK ON RUSSIAN CHURCHES
from RIA Novosti
(12 Dec) A group of Islamists have been detained on suspicion of arson attacks on churches in Russia's Republic of Tatarstan, local police said Thursday. The young men from a non-traditional Islamic group, aged between 22 and 35, allegedly set two Orthodox churches on fire in mid-November using Molotov cocktails, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. A wooden church in the village of Lenino was completely destroyed, while in the second case a guard managed to put out a fire in a church in the town of Chistopol, the ministry said.
Police are investigating whether the suspects were behind two other arson attacks last month on churches in Tatarstan, a predominantly Muslim republic. Muslims and Christians have traditionally lived in harmony in Tatarstan. In the last few years, a number of violent incidents have taken place, including an attempt on the life of the most senior Muslim cleric in the republic in 2012, that the authorities blamed on Islamist radicals from the north Caucasus. [read more...]
PARENTS SAY ONE SUSPECT IN TATARSTAN CHURCH ATTACKS TORTURED
from Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
BELARUS: KGB RELEASES PRIEST, BUT HOUSE ARREST AND TREASON INVESTIGATION CONTINUE
from Forum 18 News Service
UKRAINE NOT PREPARED TO LEGALIZE SAME-SEX "MARRIAGES," AS DEMANDED BY EU - AZAROV
PATRIARCH SHEVCHUK TO RUSSIANS: "THIS IS NOT MADNESS - IT IS A MANIFESTATION OF CIVIC COMMUNITY IN UKRAINE"
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
UKRAINIANS TURN TO CHRIST AS PROTESTS CONTINUE
from Mission Network News
NEWS WATCH: LENIN STATUE TOPPLED AT EU RALLY IN KIEV
UKRAINE: DIVIDED LAND, DIVIDED CHURCH
from Deutsche Welle
UKRAINIAN DISORDERS MAY PRODUCE UNIFIED UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
from Russia Religion News
See HOSKEN-NEWS Daily for more of the latest news!
The majority of our news articles and headlines deal with the unrest in the Ukraine. It is difficult to make complete sense of it all, from a distance across the ocean: an amazing example of this is the contradiction between our last two news headlines: "UKRAINE: DIVIDED LAND, DIVIDED CHURCH" and "UKRAINIAN DISORDERS MAY PRODUCE UNIFIED UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH." The latter headline is wishful thinking, in my opinion, as are many of the other articles and headlines about the Ukraine.
The real reality is that Russia and Ukraine are working out a new relationship, hopefully based on mutual respect... if not on equality. Russia, being three times larger and much richer in natural resources, will always be the senior partner because it can offer Ukraine financial bailouts that the EU isn't able to offer. But Ukraine is more spiritually vibrant, having the majority of all Eastern Rite parishes and believers, as well as multitudes of Western Rite Catholics and Protestants. Ukraine's leaders are trying to perform a tricky balancing act between Ukraine's religious, historical and practical ties to the East, and its humanistic, democratic longings toward the West. I am doubtful they can pull it off.
But perhaps the most important news articles are the least obvious, the issues we wish we could ignore: CHRISTIANITY VS ISLAM: WHAT FUTURE AWAITS EUROPE? and ISLAMISTS HELD OVER ARSON ATTACK ON RUSSIAN CHURCHES. This is "the elephant in the room" we're ignoring: Christianity is being pushed into a corner by "tolerant" secular humanists who can't tolerate Christmas trees or manger scenes of the Baby Jesus in public, but at the same time they insist that we all must tolerate the pushy advances of Islam in the West and around the world. What are the underlying spiritual forces at work here? The common factor between Islam and secular humanism is their denial of the Incarnation, the divinity of Christ: "Every spirit who doesn't confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God, and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of whom you have heard that it comes. Now it is in the world already" (1 John 4:3).
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[This is an excerpt from Chapter 17 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.]
Paul instructed Timothy - "I exhort therefore, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions (enteuxia), and giving of thanks, be made for all men" (1 Tim. 2:1). This is the classic passage on the various kinds of prayer, including intercession. Strong's Dictionaries define intercession as "an interview, that is, (specifically) supplication: - intercession, prayer."1 But by far the best definition I find for intercession is in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - "to assail anyone with petitions, to urge, to interpose on behalf of a person."2 So we see that intercession is specifically prayer or interposing on behalf of another person.
When we considered the topic of sanctification, we looked at the passage Luke 11:5-13, in which Jesus teaches us to "ask, seek and knock" by introducing it with a short parable - "Which of you, if you go to a friend at midnight, and tell him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him?'" (verses 5-6). The point often missed here is that the person asking to borrow three loaves of bread isn't asking for himself, but for another friend. That is intercession! We are to "ask, seek and knock" in prayer not for our own desires, but pray persistently on behalf of another, for his needs. That is the spiritual ministry which must accompany our practical diakonia-ministry for the disabled and needy people of this world.
The verb form of enteuxia is entugchano, which we see in Rom. 8:26-27 and 34 -
In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weaknesses, for we don't know how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit himself makes intercession (huperentugchano) for us with groanings which can't be uttered. He who searches the hearts knows what is on the Spirit's mind, because he makes intercession (entugchano) for the saints according to God. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, yes rather, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession (entugchano) for us.
When we intercede in prayer, we are undertaking a priestly ministry. A priest is a go-between, an intercessor between God and man. That task may seem overwhelming, but here the Apostle Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit makes "hyper-intercession" over and above our intercession. The word "for" is also "huper," so the verb prefix is repeated as a preposition to emphasize this verb, which occurs only once in the entire New Testament. Thus the weak little prayers that we barely manage to utter are straightened out, magnified, and made "hyper" and interpreted into a divine language that we can't comprehend as the Holy Spirit and Christ both intercede before God the Father for us. As we do the spiritual ministry of intercessory prayer for others, the Holy Spirit and Christ are doing the same ministry for us on a higher plane!
Sometimes the concept of intercessory prayer is indicated by the context, even if the Greek word enteuxia or the verb form isn't used - "As they served the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, 'Separate Barnabas and Saul for me, for the work to which I have called them.' Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away" (Acts 13:2-3). Also - "Brothers, my heart's desire and my prayer to God is for Israel, that they may be saved" (Rom. 10:1). In both of these passages believers prayed for other people, in the first case for Barnabas and Saul who were being sent out as missionaries and in the second case for unbelievers.
Paul takes his line of argument forward in the next chapter of Romans by using entugchano in an almost negative sense - "God didn't reject his people, which he foreknew. Or don't you know what the Scripture says about Elijah? How he pleads (entugchano) with God against Israel: 'Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have broken down your altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life'" (Rom. 11:1-3). Elijah was interceding against the false prophets of Baal and the king of Israel who supported them, but for the common people of Israel. At times we need to intercede against wickedness, corruption or just plain neglect in high places in order to "interpose on behalf of" the poor, the maimed, the lame and the blind. So we see that diakonia-ministry for disabled and neglected people should include intercession on the social level of "interposing" as well as on the spiritual level of "interceding." At times we must interpose at social bodies such as agencies for handicapped people to ask how we can work with them on behalf of a specific disabled person, or interpose at an educational institution to help a disabled person enroll and take courses in order to begin a new profession more suited to his condition.
Because of our cultural context in Russia, we must examine the question: Can the saints in heaven intercede for those on earth? A few passages in Revelation support this idea that is held by Orthodox and Catholics - "Now when he had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints" (Rev. 5:8). Incense is often associated with intercession and atonement in the Old Testament.
The fact that the saints in glory are not simply asleep until Christ's Second Coming is evident in Rev. 6:9-10 - "When he opened the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been killed for the Word of God, and for the testimony of the Lamb which they had. They cried with a loud voice, saying, 'How long, Master, the holy and true, until you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?'" The location of these saints' souls under the altar and their cry for their blood to be avenged reminds us of the Old Testament sacrifices on the altar. But the pertinent fact here is that the saints are conscious and are crying out to God.
The third instance is in Rev. 8:3-4 - "Another angel came and stood over the altar, having a golden censer. Much incense was given to him, that he should add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. The smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel's hand." Again, incense is associated with the prayers of the saints, presumably those in heaven if we take into account where this action is taking place.
Endnotes to Chapter 17:
1. Strong's Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries, op. cit.
2. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (www.e-sword.net, 2004).
2. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (www.e-sword.net, 2004).
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Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...
Bob & Cheryl
p.s. Live your life so that the preacher won't have to lie at your funeral.
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