Daily Archives: March 29, 2016

[BBC] Why many Christians in China have turned to underground churches

.. today, according to some estimates, there are more Christians in China than Communist Party members. Up to 100 million will be celebrating across China this Easter weekend.

But what it failed to destroy, the Party still wants to control. So, an officially atheist government effectively runs its own churches and controls the appointment of its own priests.

Like Pastor Wu Weiqing from Beijing’s Haidian Church.

“We have to remember first of all we are a citizen of this country,” he says. “And we are a citizen of the Kingdom of God. That comes second.”

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Religious Freedom / Persecution

[Lapido Media] Analysis: The Battle for Pakistan

by ‘Our Correspondent’
..Pakistan is widely perceived in the West as being a den of fanaticism, yet this is a rank oversimplification. The overwhelming majority of Pakistanis are fundamentally decent, hospitable, and kind. Myopic Western narratives obscure any number of inconvenient facts: that far more Muslims are killed by terrorists than Christians; that the blasphemy laws are more often used as an excuse to seize valuable land than to score religious points; that there is a growing sense of outrage among Pakistanis at the brutalities committed in their country.

When terrorists attacked a church in Peshawar in 2013 a Muslim aid agency sent ambulances to help them, saving many lives. Even now SMS appeals for blood donations are doing the rounds; a taxi company in Lahore is offering free travel to hospitals for anyone who wants to donate blood. A friend of mine came across two men looting a bus station in Islamabad, chased them off, retrieved their loot, and promptly returned it to the authorities.

And yet the fact remains that there are organisations in Pakistan who consider it meritorious to park a car bomb next to a playground and blast dozens of giggling children to smithereens; who acclaim as a hero a man who machine-gunned a civil rights campaigner to death in an upmarket shopping area. The broad swathe of Pakistani decency and kindness is hedged in by a lunatic fringe of murderous zealots..

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, Asia, Pakistan

Statement on the Lahore Massacre from the Church of Pakistan

Via Facebook from Bishop Samuel Azariah, Bishop of Raiwind, and Moderator of the [United] Church of Pakistan – and there is also a video recorded by Bishop Azariah on Sunday.
Bishop Samuel Azariah, the President Bishop of Church of Pakistan condemns in strongest terms the terrorist attack in Gulshan Iqbal Park Lahore, claiming lives of innocent people.

Bishop Samuel Azariah, Bishop Irfan Jamil (Bishop of Lahore) and Bishop Mano Rumalshah (Bishop Emeritus of Peshawar) expressed their deepest condolences to the bereaved families and prayed for peace and speedy recovery to those who were injured in the blast.

The Lahore blast has taken lives of over 72 people and left over 300 injured, many of them children and women, when a suicide bomber blew himself up at Gulshan Iqbal Park on Easter evening.

Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, one of the largest parks of Lahore, is usually packed with visitors on weekends. But there was an extraordinary rush Sunday evening as a large number of Christians had turned up to celebrate Easter.

Following the blast, the President Bishop of Church of Pakistan visited the hospitals to console pray for the injured and analyze the situation.
Bishop Azariah, who actively participates in promoting interfaith activities, stated that such acts weaken and damage the struggle and effort toward bringing a relation of peace and harmony between Christians and Muslims.

It is unfortunate that these inhuman terrorists identify themselves as Muslims and by performing such barbaric acts damage the image of their faith community. In a context of this nature, it is the primary responsibility of our majority brothers and sisters from the Muslim community to identify, silence and eliminate this minority. This minority claims to be the real Muslims, and primarily acts against the teaching of Islam and this should be resolved.
Mere statements of condemnation and quotes from The Holy Scriptures are not enough. We as a nation have reached a breaking point that ”˜enough is enough.’ How many more soft targets have to be sacrificed?

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces

John Piper for Easter–I Have Seen the Lord

Today that question, that debate””Did Jesus really rise from the dead historically, bodily?””is not as prominent or as intense because, at one level, people feel that it doesn’t matter to them, because different people believe in different things, and maybe it happened, maybe it didn’t; and if it did, or didn’t, and that helps you get along in life, fine; but it doesn’t make much difference to me. I may or may not call myself a Christian, and if the resurrection seems helpful to me, I may believe it; and if it doesn’t, then I won’t, and I don’t think any body should tell me that I have to.

Behind those two different kinds of unbelief””the kind from 40 years ago and the kind from the present day””is a different set of assumptions. For example, in my college days the assumption pretty much still held sway, though it was starting to give way with the rise of existentialism, that there are fixed, closed natural laws, that make the world understandable and scientifically manageable, and these laws do not allow the truth of the claim that someone has risen from the dead to live forever. That was a commonly held assumption: The modern world with its scientific understanding of natural laws does not allow for resurrections. So unbelief was often rooted in that kind of assumption.

But today, that’s not the most common working assumption. Today the assumption is not that there are natural laws outside of me forbidding the resurrection of Jesus, but there is a personal law inside of me that says: I don’t have to adapt my life to anything I don’t find helpful. Or you could state it another way: Truth for me is what I find acceptable and helpful.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Apologetics, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Easter, Theology

Martin Luther for Easter 2016–A Sermon on the Fruit and Power of Christ’s Resurrection

Christ himself pointed out the benefit of his sufferings and resurrection when he said to the women in Mt 28, 10 – “Fear not: go tell my brethren that they depart into Galilee, and there shall they see me.” These are the very first words they heard from Christ after his resurrection from the dead, by which he confirmed all the former utterances and loving deeds he showed them, namely, that his resurrection avails in our behalf who believe, so that he therefore anticipates and calls Christians his brethren, who believe it, and yet they do not, like the apostles, witness his resurrection.

The risen Christ waits not until we ask or call on him to become his brethren. Do we here speak of merit, by which we deserve anything? What did the apostles merit? Peter denied his Lord three times; the other disciples all fled from him; they tarried with him like a rabbit does with its young. He should have called them deserters, yea, betrayers, reprobates, anything but brethren. Therefore this word is sent to them through the women out of pure grace and mercy, as the apostles at the time keenly experienced, and we experience also, when we are mired fast in our sins, temptations and condemnation.

These are words full of all comfort that Christ receives desperate villains as you and I are and calls us his brethren. Is Christ really our brother, then I would like to know what we can be in need of? Just as it is among natural brothers, so is it also here. Brothers according to the flesh enjoy the same possessions, have the same father, the one inheritance, otherwise they would not be brothers: so we enjoy with Christ the same possessions, and have in common with him one Father and one inheritance, which never decreases by being distributed, as other inheritances do; but it ever grows larger and larger; for it is a spiritual inheritance. But an earthly inheritance decreases when distributed among many persons. He who has a part of this spiritual inheritance, has it all.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christology, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Easter, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology

Karl Barth for Easter-‘the proclamation of a war already won’

[Easter]…is the proclamation of a war already won. The war is at an end ”“ even though here and there troops are still shooting, because they have not heard anything yet about the capitulation. The game is won, even though the player can still play a few further moves. Actually he is already mated. The clock has run down, even though the pendulum still swings a few times this way and that. It is in this interim space that we are living: the old is past, behold it has all become new. The Easter message tells us that our enemies, sin, the curse and death, are beaten. Ultimately they can no longer start mischief. They still behave as though the game were not decided, the battle not fought; we must still reckon with them, but fundamentally we must cease to fear them anymore. If you have heard the Easter message, you can no longer run around with a tragic face and lead the humourless existence of a man who has no hope. One thing still holds, and only this one thing is really serious, that Jesus is the Victor. A seriousness that would look back past this, like Lot’s wife, is not Christian seriousness. It may be burning behind ”“ and truly it is burning ”“ but we have to look, not at it, but at the other fact, that we are invited and summoned to take seriously the victory of God’s glory in this man Jesus and to be joyful in Him. Then we may live in thankfulness and not in fear.

–Karl Barth Dogmatics in Outline (New York: Harper and Row, 1959), p. 123

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Easter, Theology

(Crisis) Regis Martin–The Unforeseen Triumph of Easter

“If to be warmed,” T.S. Eliot reminds us in Four Quartets, “then I must freeze / And quake in frigid purgatorial fires / Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.”

In short, it is only by our willingness to pass through the dark night of a cross that cannot be circumvented that we may find ourselves looking without shame upon the face of God. “For love to be real,” Blessed Mother Teresa warns, “it must cost, it must hurt, it must empty us of self.” And it is never too soon to get started. Nor, come to think of it, too late””unless one is already dead. (“It is too late!” cries Longfellow, the poet, lamenting the swift passage of time. But then adds: “Ah, nothing is too late / Till the tired heart shall cease to palpitate.”) And since, as Leon Bloy reminds us, “Christ will remain in agony until the end of time,” there may yet be time.

And so, as always, it will require the mindset of a servant; one who in looking to be first must search out the last. That at least is how Jesus sets about explaining the hidden peripeties of the gospel, showing us by his life and death how “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for the many” (Mt 20:28).

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Anthropology, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Easter, Theology

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Eric Milner-White

Make our hearts to burn within us, O Christ, as we walk with thee in the way and listen to thy words; that we may go in the strength of thy presence and thy truth all our journey through, and at its end behold thee, in the glory of the eternal Trinity, God for ever and ever.

–Eric Milner-White (1884-1963)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Easter, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.

–Psalm 103:1-2

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Pakistan's Christians: the precarious position of a minority community

The suicide bombing Sunday in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore, along with published comments attributed to the militant Muslim group that claimed to carry it out, have served to grimly underscore the precarious position of Pakistan’s Christians.

At least 70 people were killed in the Easter attack, mostly women and children.

Ahsanullah Ahsan, spokesman for Jamaat-e-Ahrar, a breakaway Taliban faction in Pakistan, said the attack specifically targeted Christians.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Pakistan, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

Karl Vaters–This Easter, Let’s Tell a Better Story

But reality is more powerful, deep and penetrating.

How much Jesus loves me is a better story than how much I’m trying to love myself.
The greatness of the creator is a better story than the reflected greatness of the creation.
Grace is a better story than success.
The cross is a better story than recovery.
The resurrection is a better story than anything.

And ”“ one more thing ”“ it’s true.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Easter, Eschatology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology

NZ Anglican Bishops condemn Pakistan bombings

The Anglican Archbishops of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia have condemned an Easter Sunday suicide bombing in Lahore, Pakistan which killed at least 70 people.

“The targeting of the innocent, in this case Christians celebrating Easter, is the hallmark of terrorism and such cowardice should be condemned,” the Archbishops said.

They said people of peace from all faiths should stand in solidarity to condemn the bombing.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anglican Provinces, Asia, Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Inter-Faith Relations, Pakistan, Religion & Culture, Theology, Violence

Onion–Scientists Slowly Reintroducing Small Group Of Normal, Well-Adjusted Humans Into Society

In an ambitious attempt to revive a population long considered to be on the brink of extinction, scientists announced Friday they have slowly begun to reintroduce normal, well-adjusted human beings back into society.

According to officials at Cornell University, where for the past 18 years conservation researchers have operated an enclosed sanctuary for humans who are levelheaded and make it a habit to think before they speak, the endangered group is being cautiously reintegrated into select locations nationwide in hopes that they can reestablish permanent communities and one day thrive again.

“We’ve worked for years to stabilize our society’s dwindling population of sane, generally reasonable people, and within the safe confines of our refuge we’ve finally seen their numbers start to bounce back a little,” said Josh Adelson, head of the Cornell research team, which moved the remaining members of the group into a protected habitat in 1998 to keep them from dying off completely. “Now, we can very gradually begin to release this rare breed of rational humans back into the general public. With luck, they can survive and prosper.”

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Posted in * General Interest, Anthropology, Humor / Trivia, Theology

George Marsden–”˜Mere Christianity’ Still Gets a Global Amen

During March Madness several years ago, the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Emerging Scholars Network ran “The Best Christian Book of All Time Tournament.” Beginning with 64 entries, participants voted on a series of paired competitors through elimination rounds. C.S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity,” a first seed, easily made the Elite Eight, where it handily defeated St. Augustine’s “City of God.” In the Final Four it beat Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Cost of Discipleship,” but in the finals it was edged out by Augustine’s “Confessions.”

Not bad. Who else could have gone up against Augustine? And Lewis hadn’t even planned for “Mere Christianity” to be a book. During the dark days of World War II, the writer presented four sets of BBC radio talks on basic Christianity. He had these published in several paperbacks. Not until 1952 did he collect them together under the new title.

The book always sold well, but in an unusual trend, its popularity has grown with time. Since 2001, “Mere Christianity” has sold more than 3.5 million copies in English. It has been translated into at least 36 languages and is said to be the book that, next to the Bible, educated Chinese Christians are most likely to have read. Its greatest popularity is in the U.S., where it is still read by thoughtful evangelicals, along with thousands of Catholics, Orthodox and mainline Protestants.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Apologetics, Books, Church History, Theology