The enrollment deadline for our next free online course, "A Biblical Theology of Ministry," (← click!) is Thursday, 5 Jan.! The course starts on Monday, 9 Jan. and runs for 6 weeks. So enroll today, before you forget!
||FIRST, THE NEWS:
RUSSIA RELIGION LAW: STOPPING TERRORISTS, OR PERSECUTING CHRISTIANS?
from: CBN News
(02 Dec) Last summer, President Vladimir Putin extended a controversial 1997 law restricting religious activities in Russia. Christians in the West were more alarmed and concerned about the law than were Russia's Christians. They feared the law would prevent evangelism and slow the rapid growth of Christianity in the country. But now, six months later, one prominent Russian pastor says the Russian church can live with the law.
The author recently interviewed Pastor Sergey Lavrenov of Light of the Word Church in Tyumen, Western Siberia, who said the intent of the law is to prevent unrestrained access to the country by Islamic terrorists. He admits the law has placed restrictions on the activities of foreign missionaries, but when invited by a church, pastors and missionaries are not prohibited from preaching in Russian churches. Also, Lavrenov claims Russian citizens remain free to share their faith with others.
The author edited a video the interview into two parts. In the first video, Lavrenov discusses the intent of the law and who is being targeted. In the second video, Lavrenov talks about how Russian Christians are experiencing an awakening despite the religion law. Pastor Lavrenov says Russian legislators may consider several amendments to the law. [read more...]
BELARUS: STATE BLOCKS PARISH PRIEST NOMINATION
by Olga Glace: Forum 18 News Service
(07 Dec) The Belarusian government's senior religious affairs official has refused to allow Catholic priest Klemens Werth, a Russian citizen, to take up the ministry of parish priest in Vitebsk to which the Bishop had assigned him. Plenipotentiary for Religious and Ethnic Affairs Leonid Gulyako refused Bishop Oleg Butkevich's request for the compulsory state permission before any foreign citizen is allowed to exercise freedom of religion or belief publicly.
The Plenipotentiary has repeatedly denied Catholic applications for permission for foreign priests to serve in Belarus. In May a parish priest was forced to leave the country after 25 years' service. In July Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk-Mogilev [Mahilyow] managed to overturn the Plenipotentiary's repeated refusal to extend state permission for three of his parish priests only after the Archbishop published a letter to be read in all parishes in his Archdiocese. And in Bobruisk in Mohilev Region, the Regional Executive Committee warned a Baptist pastor that if his church again hosts foreigners who do not have state permission to conduct public religious activity a suit will be sent to court to strip the community of the right to exist.
The state retains tight controls over all exercise of the right to freedom of religion or belief. Meetings for religious purposes are allowed only if a community has managed to gain the compulsory state registration. Only registered religious communities are allowed to invite foreign citizens for any public religious activity. If the state grants such permission it is only valid for the one religious community which has obtained it. [read more...]
CRIMEAN AUTHORITIES FORBID THE "VOICE OF HOPE" CHURCH OF CHRISTIANS OF EVANGELICAL FAITH TO GATHER FOR WORSHIP
from: Religious Information Service of Ukraine
(05 Dec) The “Tabernacle” Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith (Pentacostals) in Kyiv has issued a formal appeal “to all Christian communities to support activities and statements in connection with the situation around the affiliate “Voice of Hope” Church in Bahchisarai town, to which the Crimean government sent a resolution stating the “impossibility to operate the premises.”
According to the report, on December 2, the “Voice of Hope” Christian Church in Bakhchisarai, a branch of the "Tabernacle" Church, received the decision of the Crimean occupation authorities that further the community can be deprived of the church premises on 29 Rakytskyy street. For over 10 years the Church has performed its ministry in Bakhchisarai: preached the word of God, helped low-income families, homeless people and others. The church runs two rehabilitation centers for drug and alcohol addicted, through which people can return to normal life.
In such a situation, senior ministers of the "Tabernacle" Church and the entire community appeal to all the concerned Christians around the world to contribute to the support of the “Voice of Hope” Church, requesting:
- To pray for the situation so that the right to gather in the church was restored.
- To disseminate a message appealing to stop the persecution of the "Voice of Hope" Church.
- To support and initiate measures aimed at settling the situation. [read more...]
TURKMENISTAN: WHO IS OBSTRUCTING RUSSIAN ORTHODOX DIOCESE?
by Felix Corley: Forum 18 News Service
(30 Nov) The Russian Orthodox Church appears no nearer to achieving its goal of a fully-fledged diocese in Turkmenistan, despite an early November visit by two foreign-based hierarchs. "The Orthodox Church wants a diocese and resident bishop in Turkmenistan," a lay Orthodox Christian from the country, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of state reprisals, told Forum 18. "This was raised officially by Metropolitan Kirill when he visited Ashgabad as far back as 2008, before he became Patriarch. But it hasn't yet happened."
Archbishop Feofilakt (Kuryanov), the Russian-based "temporary" administrator of the Turkmen parishes on behalf of the Moscow Patriarchate, and Metropolitan Vikenty (Morar) of Tashkent, who lives in the Uzbek capital and is head of the Central Asian Metropolitan Area, were allowed a four-day visit to the capital Ashgabad [Ashgabat] from 3 to 6 November 2016.
Fr Mikhail Stolyarov, spokesperson for the Moscow Patriarchate's Uzbek Diocese, explained that Metropolitan Vikenty had travelled alone to Turkmenistan, as often happens on his pastoral visits. "I wasn't there," he told Forum 18 from the Uzbek capital Tashkent on 29 November. "But as far as I know, no meetings were held with officials during the visit. At least, the Metropolitan didn't mention any. So nothing could have been discussed with them." [read more...]
PATRIARCH KIRILL URGES EUROPEANS TO FOLLOW CHRIST CONTRARY TO PUBLIC FASHION
(07 Dec) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, who is visiting Switzerland, urged Christians not to cave in to the "mainstream" of public tastes, but following the martyrs' example to witness to unchangeable truth of God.
"Modern society is inclined to see in the Church a certain system that serves to its demands and even its tastes. And if tastes of modern society contradict to Christian convictions, then there appears a theme of witnessing to the truth of God. We know how sometimes Christian communities cave in to these tastes... as if they accept that they are ready to consider these tastes and thus step aside from the truth of God," the patriarch said on Wednesday after the liturgy on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the Russian parish of Resurrection in Zurich.
He recalled martyrs of the old, who witnessed to Christ Crucified and Resurrected. "But martyrdom has not ceased. We know that it takes place today... and all of us are called to witness to God's truth," the primate said. The context of this witness can be different, it may include the sphere of public relations, mass media, social nets, families. And each Christian parent should witness to children the truth of God," the patriarch said. [read more...]
PATRIARCH FILARET: ‘INDEPENDENT UKRAINE NOT POSSIBLE WITHOUT AN INDEPENDENT CHURCH’
from: The Ukrainian Weekly
(09 Dec) “Independent Ukraine is not possible without an independent Ukrainian Church.” These were the words of Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate at the opening of his remarks during a visit to the Home Office of the Ukrainian National Association and its two weekly newspapers. The visit occurred on November 7, during the primate’s most recent pastoral visit to the United States, where he has some 20 parishes. At the UNA, Patriarch Filaret addressed employees, blessed the staff and the premises of the Home Office, and gave an exclusive interview to editors of Svoboda and The Ukrainian Weekly.
When asked, "This year marks 50 years since you became metropolitan of Kyiv. What has changed since that year, 1966, when the Church was still under pressure from the Communist regime, to today? How has the role of the Church changed?" - he replied: "Our task at the time of the Soviet Union was to maintain the people’s faith despite the unfavorable circumstances, the atheism of the government, the limits on freedom of religion. We could serve and preach only in churches, but the Church succeeded in saving the people’s faith in their hearts and souls. This faith among the people became one of the reasons for the fall of the USSR. The godless system did not have faith; in fact, it attempted to create its own religion. And it fell apart due to the power of the people’s faith in God."
"Today in independent Ukraine we have the freedom to preach not only in churches, but also on the radio, on television, in the press. …Principles of Christian ethics are taught not only in Sunday schools, but in regular schools. This teaching is part of the curriculum and it is taught with the permission of parents. …The Ukrainian state needs the support of the Church. Without such support, the state cannot exist. In Ukraine, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate, which has close to 20 million believers, became this foundation. Also, the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church holds strong positions in support of Ukraine’s statehood. And that is why the independent state has a strong foundation."
"Russia’s war against Ukraine has demonstrated that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is not on the side of the Ukrainian state. Their peace is a peace under conditions of enslavement. Our peace is a just peace in an independent Ukraine, where a person has complete freedom. And we stand for such a peace. The unity with Russia that is sometimes proposed means loss of statehood. This has been the historical experience of Ukraine." [read more...]
OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:
UZBEKISTAN: MORE LITERATURE-RELATED ARRESTS, RAIDS, FINES, JAILINGS
from Forum 18 News Service
NEARLY A HALF OF UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX SUPPORT A UNIFIED LOCAL ORTHODOX CHURCH – A POLL
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
SERBIA: WAR, RECOVERY, HOPE
from Mission Network News
OLD CURSE WAS BROKEN WHEN THE CATHEDRAL OF CHRIST THE SAVIOR WAS BUILT IN MOSCOW
ANTI-EVANGELISM LAW USED AGAINST LONG ESTABLISHED BAPTIST CONGREGATIONS
from Religiia i Pravo
YOUNG CHRISTIAN PROFESSIONALS IMPACTING KYRGYZSTAN
from Mission Eurasia
MONASTERY CATHEDRAL AND PREMISES RETURNED TO UKRAINIAN CHURCH IN ODESSA
RUSSIAN CHURCH AUTHORITY SUGGESTS DINOSAURS LIVED WITH HUMANS
NOW, OUR VIEWS:
Here are a few of this week's "Daily" posts. For more...
Go To: Daily News & Views and Share the latest
posts in your Social Media streams. Check it daily!
- and go to Daily News & Views for more!
Our first news article RUSSIA RELIGION LAW: STOPPING TERRORISTS, OR PERSECUTING CHRISTIANS? paints a rosy picture of the situation for non-Moscow-Patriarchate Christians in Russia - exactly what the government wants inexperienced foreigners to believe. But this is contradicted by our "Other News" headline ANTI-EVANGELISM LAW USED AGAINST LONG ESTABLISHED BAPTIST CONGREGATIONS - written by a Russian believer who knows what's really happening. Previous Hosken-News issues have listed several instances of negative effects from the new "Yarovaya" religion law in Russia. Consider the source when you read or listen to the news: every bit of news is colored by the reporter's point of view!
(09 Dec) As the New York Times article "Foes of Russia Say Child Pornography Is Planted to Ruin Them" explains, Vladimir Bukovsky, a Soviet dissident now living in Cambridge, England, was recently called into local police headquarters for questioning about "forbidden images" believed to be in his possession: some anonymous person had reported on him. Police confiscated his computers and found child porn photos, only to later learn that they had been planted on one of his computers by unknown - probably Russian - hackers in order to discredit him.
Such Russian hacking and planting of "kompromat" - compromising information - has long been a common method of destroying the reputations of people opposed to the Russian government's goals, but in the digital age it has reached new heights. Disinformation and "fake news" is a tool frequently used by leftists both in Russia and in the West to disable and ruin their political opponents. Therefore, it is important for people (such as myself) to frequently monitor all images, especially new ones, on our computers and maintain tight computer security.
In our "Other News" headline NEARLY A HALF OF UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX SUPPORT A UNIFIED LOCAL ORTHODOX CHURCH – A POLL, the sociological study showed that 12.7% of all respondents identify themselves as “just Christians,” 8.2% consider themselves Greek Catholics, 64.7% of Ukrainians identify as Orthodox, 39.5% of those say they belong to the UOC Kyiv Patriarchate. The second largest group (25.4%) consider themselves “just Orthodox,” 23.3% consider themselves faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate). 44.3% of Ukrainians who consider themselves Orthodox, support “the necessity to set up in Ukraine one Local Orthodox Church independent from other religious centers outside Ukraine.” If we add in those who identify themselves as “just Christians” (I personally know that many ex-USSR Christians visit both Orthodox and Evangelical churches), that 44.3% would likely be considerably higher.
Please support Agape Restoration Society by your e-check or your credit or debit card: click on the "Donate" button there.
The Elephant in the Room
In the last two essays we've been considering the question - "Is perfection possible, and if so, how much?" And the answer was - "Just barely!" In the Sermon on the Mount the Lord Jesus Christ said - "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Mat. 5:48) and "Enter in by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter in by it. How narrow is the gate, and restricted is the way that leads to life! Few are those who find it" (Mat. 7:13-14). When someone asked Him - "Lord, are they few who are saved?" He said to them, "Strive to enter in by the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will seek to enter in, and will not be able" (Lk. 13:23-24).
So... what's the elephant in the room? What are the unspoken and likely unconscious assumptions in our minds when we hear such sayings of the Lord? Perhaps we say to ourselves - "Oh, that's really not possible in today's world!" or "No problem, I've got it made!" The former implies that I'm out of luck, there's no way I can live up to it. And the latter implies that I may think too highly of myself, that I'm one of God's very special people. Where do these ideas come from?
As I wrote in the 12 Nov. issue of Hosken-news, Romans 5:12 is the key verse: "Therefore, as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin; and so death passed to all men, in that all sinned." When St. Jerome translated the original Greek New Testament into the Latin Vulgate, this verse became: "Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world and by sin death: and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned" (1899 Douay-Rhiems Catholic Bible). Note "in whom" (masculine pronoun) vs. the Greek - "in that" (neuter pronoun).
The neuter pronoun is just one letter in Greek, but either Jerome's knowledge of Greek wasn't that great, or he held a prior belief that it *must* refer to Adam, but in any case, he rendered it as "him," and This One Letter has changed the West's dominant theological system! Based mainly on this verse in the Latin Vulgate, St. Augustine developed his doctrine of original sin and guilt passing on from Adam to all men. And even though most modern Bible translations including the modern Catholic Bible have corrected this translation error, the Western doctrine of original sin and guilt in all of us has remained.
St. Augustine built his doctrine of predestination mainly on this verse. If I'm guilty of Adam's original sin but God's grace is not intended for me, I'm predestined to damnation, the situation is hopeless - there's nothing I can do about it, I'm out of luck, I can never be perfect. But on the other hand, if God's grace is intended for me, I'm delivered from original sin, predestined to be one of God's elect, I've got nothing to worry about: no matter what I do it's OK, I've got my ticket to heaven! What's wrong with this scene?
First and foremost, this doctrine stating that God chooses to predestine the vast majority of mankind to burn in hell for all eternity has become the primary reason for doubters rejecting the whole idea of God: it is the main cause of atheism in the West. Who would want to believe in such a malevolent deity? How many millions of people today have become atheists because of this false dilemma? The flip side is that if I think I'm one of the elect, one of the righteous, then everything I do is righteous: many who call themselves Christians behave worse than unbelievers because of this self-righteous, false notion.
Secondly, because both the damned and the elect are predestined to their eternal fates, they have no choice in the matter, so they are freed of moral responsibility. How can I responsible for my actions if I have no choice but to do evil? How can I responsible for my actions, on the other hand, if I have no choice but to believe and go to heaven? Thus the doctrine of original sin making all mankind guilty, and the follow-up doctrine of predestination actually demolish the idea of sin: nothing is either right or wrong, good or bad, because moral responsibility does not exist. We are merely animals that follow our natural instincts. So these two doctrines are self-contradictory, they collapse upon themselves.
But the teaching of the Eastern Church doesn't suffer from either of these defects: even though original sin has weakened human nature and made us prone to sin, we still have free will and can choose to resist temptation. The many mentions of "perfect" and "perfection" in the Scriptures are not meaningless, they're very meaningful for us. Here are just a few of them:
"Having been made perfect, He [Christ] became to all of those who obey Him the author of eternal salvation" (Heb. 5:9).
"Therefore leaving the doctrine of the first principles of Christ, let us press on to perfection -- not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works, of faith toward God" (Heb. 6:1).
"For the law appoints men as high priests who have weakness, but the word of the oath which came after the law appoints a Son forever Who has been made perfect" (Heb. 7:28).
"God having provided some better thing concerning us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect" (Heb. 11:40).
"Therefore, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:1-2).
Do you see the pattern emerging here? Christ had the same weakened human nature as we have, He was tempted in every way just as we are, but without yielding to sin. He attained perfection: "having been made perfect." So we are urged to "press on to perfection," "let us run with patience the race."
Life isn't easy, it's a constant battle against the temptations of the lusts of the flesh (sexual sin, gluttony, drugs, alcohol), the lusts of the eyes (greed and coveting), and the pride of life (ego, status). Christ endured to the end, and so can we: "But he who endures to the end shall be saved" (Mat. 24:13).
YOU CAN ALSO READ THIS at our Hosken-News Blog, and write your COMMENTS there!
Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...
Bob & Cheryl
p.s. Unless I love God with all my being and my neighbor as myself, all my ideals, health & wealth "ain't wuth a hill o' beans!"