Why hate family?


According to Jesus, discipleship begins with complete allegiance to Him as Lord. Even the bond of familial love must yield to the eternal relationship of divine love accomplished for us in Christ!

Shockingly, Jesus said, If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and

persecution love hate uganda

Creative commons

wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

There’s no record of Jesus possessing any particular animus against fathers, mothers, sisters, or brothers. On the contrary, his statement here is not against families as much as it is for disciples. Why would Jesus issue such an ultimatum to his would-be disciples? Because he loves them!  His gospel really is the only means of escaping a perishing world under God’s sentence of death. If one wishes to escape sin and death, he or she must flee to Jesus Christ alone. It’s all or nothing. Life or death.

And Jesus is life.

This past May, Kuluseni Iguru Tenywa found life. He was so glad to be rid of his demons! For years, Tenywa had been tormented by demons. He says he was oppressed by them until he received Christ at a local gathering of Christians. While all of heaven surely rejoiced at this one sinner becoming a follower of Christ, those living in his village in Uganda were enraged against him. Before his conversion, 53 year-old Kuluseni Tenywa had served as the Imam of his Muslim village.

After his conversion, everyone in the village turned against him—everyone, including his wife and his four children. According to Morning Star News, his wife berated him, calling him an infidel and refusing to offer him food. By late June, a mob—led by Tenywa’s brother-in-law—had come for him. They destroyed portions of his farm and his store and intended to take decisive action against him. Desperate, Tenywa felt he had to flee for his life. He ran from his village, from his home, from his family on June 27. He has not seen them since.

Kuluseni Iguru Tenywa has thus far proved himself a faithful disciple of Christ. His life reflects the sober reality Jesus himself unfolded for his followers: “And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Matt 10:36). Sadly, the world has turned against this brother, but if God be for Him, who can stand against him!

Would you please take a moment to pray for this brother in Christ? His wife and children need our prayers, too. You can read more of his story here.

Chen Ups and Downs


UPDATE:

Poor Chen Guangchen. His case is reportedly moving along, but the answers are not coming to some serious questions about Chen’s future. Will there be retribution for those who helped Chen escape? Will he actually be permitted to leave the country? How is his health? Apparently, the U.S. Embassy has abandoned Chen. It is difficult to get information, and many folks, apparently, have lost interest in Chen’s case. Thankfully, Jennifer Rubin is still on the case and files this report for the Washington Post.  There is one bit of ominous news in her story–a journalist trying to cover the story has been expelled from China.

There are more ups and downs to Chen Guangchen’s life right now than you’d find on a Coney Island roller coaster.  It seems that Chen’s fate is all or nothing now. Supposedly, he is going to be allowed to leave China. The latest report says that Chen may be allowed to leave with his family and attend New York University as a fellow.  That would definitely be the up-side to this dilemma.

Realistically, though, Chen may never leave China. His closest friends and counselors admit that Chen is afraid, even while more popular news accounts see light dawning which points toward his freedom from China.  Honestly, there are three aspects of this case which cause me to fear a down-side to Chen’s future.

First, the U.S. and human rights groups on the side of Chen’s release have given away much of their original bargaining power.  As this New York Times article points out, the Obama administration made some mistakes early in the process out of the hope of a quick resolution.  The initial mistake was allowing Chen to be taken to the hospital (out of the embassy control) without ensuring that U.S. officials would be given access to him.  Since Chen has been in the hospital, U.S. officials have been denied access.  A second mistake was made when the Obama administration turned Chen over to Chinese authorities without securing guarantees of safety for him, his family, and his close friends who aided in his escape.

As a result of a weakened position, the U.S. cannot realistically demand freedom for Chen’s colleagues. So, the second aspect of this case which I believe does not bode well for Chen is the fact that his extended family, friends, and colleagues are now in serious danger.  Even as it was reported that Chen originally agreed to leave the embassy because his wife was being threatened, so, now, Chen may again succumb to threats against those whom he cares for and loves. They remain in serious danger (as this article details).  There are reports that officials from Shandong province are in Beijing, following Chen’s family and waiting to take them back into custody as well. Consider this short paragraph from China Aid:

Chen’s frail mother remains detained, his brother Chen Guangfu and nephew Chen Kegui will be sentenced, and the netizens who helped Chen escape, like He “Pearl” Pierong, still face charges.  Also, famed human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong was beaten on Friday morning for trying to visit Chen.  He reportedly has lost hearing after the beating.”

Third, thus far, the so-called agreement involves Chen being allowed to submit an application for study abroad.  Submitting an application for study abroad is a FAR cry from actually studying abroad. If this is all the promise that Chen is given by the Communist leaders in China, then Chen is not guaranteed anything.  Indeed, how awkward it would be for Chen to appeal to the very same authorities who have allegedly tortured and beaten him for the past two years in order to gain his release! Hopefully, the incident has been so public and so damaging to the Chinese government that they will decide their best option is to let Chen and his family leave China. (Side note here: For the last two years Chen has been unable to be with his son. His reunion with his son came only after he was taken to the hospital upon leaving the U.S. Embassy.

A hearing was held in the U.S. Congress today. C-SPAN has the video if you would like to watch.  Chen actually is telephoned during the hearing and speaks to the congressional committee about his case.

C-SPAN Chen Guangchen

Clarity on Honor Killings


I have posted several times about the troubling rise of so-called “Honor Killings” in North America. I am happy to report that Canada has stepped up to the plate and and taken a mighty swing against the heinous Muslim practice of killing your children in order to protect your honor.  One wonders how indeed it could be possible that honor might be upheld by murdering your offspring.  Nevertheless, Canada has called it like it is.  The Judge had this to say:

“It is difficult to conceive of a more heinous, more despicable, more honorless crime,” Maranger said. “The apparent reason behind these cold-blooded, shameful murders was that the four completely innocent victims offended your completely twisted concept of honor … that has absolutely no place in any civilized society.”

To which, Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson added that honor killings are “barbaric and unacceptable in Canada.”

Good job, Canada.  Let’s hope many more juries and courts will follow suit in Canada and the U.S.

Sadly, there is growing evidence that the problem is both misunderstood (in Western countries) and intentionally unrecorded (in Muslim countries).  The Middle East Quarterly tracks honor killings worldwide and reports that the often-reported figure of 5,000 per year is woefully deficient.  The number is much higher, although given the present circumstances that assertion is difficult to prove.  For political purposes, many end up distorting the figures and mischaracterizing the crimes as something other than what they are. As always, defenders of evil tend to obfuscate reality with more fake fog than a bad magician.  For once, a judge and jury have blown away the smoke and have made the matter clear.  Honor killings are barbaric and have no place in civilized society.

Path to True Blessing?


How do you know when you are blessed?  On first blush, you might respond that you know you are blessed when you have peace with God and peace with your wife and family.  Many of us would think we are blessed when we have plenty of money.  We think that NFL players who get paid 6 million bucks a year to catch passes are the ones who are blessed.

But what about Abera Ongeremu, is he blessed?  Ongeremu—a traveling evangelist—was visiting at a church in Olenkomi, Ethiopia, when members of the Orthodox Church there stormed the evangelical church building in which he was staying. They ordered him to burn his Bible.  He replied that he would not burn the word of life. So, they decided to burn him.  They tied his hands, poured diesel all over the room, started the fire, and locked the doors.  Ongeremu was certain this was his day to die, but his persecutors weren’t satisfied that their diabolical scheme was a sufficient outpouring of torture.  Thus, they dragged him back out of the burning church and beat him until he fell unconscious on the ground.  He did not die that day (you can read his story here).

Would we call Ongeremu blessed, or cursed.  According to the Scriptures, Jesus calls this man blessed:

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10).

I doubt that we mean for anything like this to happen to others when we say to them, “God bless you.”  Indeed, when we seek the Lord’s favor and ask for His blessing, we are not at all hoping to be treated by the world the way Ongeremu was treated.  Quite the opposite, in fact, we are usually hoping that the blessing will cause the world to look on us with favor (thus giving us the job, the award, the contract, the admission to the school, etc.).

In the New Testament, however, persecution is a blessing.  “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me” (Matthew 5:11).  As we contemplate persecution (and the persecuted) we realize that blessedness is something more than (and something strangely different from) what we had imagined.  Blessedness is directly related to relationship to Christ—not to material prosperity.  The Lord does not say “rejoice and be glad” when you become rich.  Instead, He warns that it is hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven (cf. Matthew 19:24).  But Jesus does tell us when we are persecuted that we should “rejoice and be glad” for our reward in heaven is great.  This is, in fact, the way it has always been for the people of faith (Matthew 5:12).

To be blessed means to be in the presence of Christ.  Or, more specifically, it means that Christ is present with you (Matthew 28:20).  Such divine presence tends to make one invincible.  It means to be in right relationship to the Living God.   When we are made alive in Christ, no death will be a final threat to us. We cannot be threatened with death or any of death’s allies because death only promises to bring us nearer into the presence of Christ.  To be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor 5:8).  In Christ, we, too, are blessed like Ongeremu and will never be defeated.

 

What the Blind Man Sees


Blind human rights activist Chen has reportedly died from the torture and beatings he has endured at the hands of the Communist Chinese.  However, as this story notes,  no one can be sure of whether Chen is alive or dead, given the fact that the Communist government has sealed off access to Chen and has even shot at those trying to get a closer look at whether he is still alive.

Chen Guangcheng has been very active in the past, calling the world’s attention to the barbaric enforcement of the Chinese one-child policy. Whether he is alive or dead, the truth is certain that this blind man could see so much better than most what the value of human life actually is.  The video below is an excellent (and short) overview of Chen’s life.

 

Islam Run Amok


UPDATE: 

Thanks to Nina Shea, we now have word that Pastor Yousef did not waiver in his faith. He stood firm and once again refused to deny Christ.  From the court proceeding:

The Washington Post’s blog Religion Right Now posted a piece by Jordan Sekulow that included the following excerpt from court proceedings this week: “When asked to ‘repent’ by the judges, Youcef stated, ‘Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?’ The judges replied , ‘To the religion of your ancestors, Islam.’ To which he replied, ‘I cannot.’”

We should continue to pray, as his fate will be determined soon.

ORIGINAL POST BELOW:

As this news article from Baptist Press details, Islam in Iran is once again displaying its blood-thirsty side.  Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, a house church leader for 400 Christians in Iran, is subject to the death penalty because he will not renounce his faith in Jesus Christ.  Earlier this year, Nadarkhani’s execution was delayed so that he might be given the opportunity to recant.  According to the law, Nadarkhani must refuse 4 times before being put to death. He has already refused 3 times.  Today could mark the end of his life if he refuses for a 4th time to deny Christ.

The blood-thirsty nature of Islamic clerics in Iran is particularly on display in this case, given the fact that Nadarkhani was never a practicing Muslim. The fact that he is descended from Muslims is enough to warrant a charge of apostasy culminating in death.  The article

Pray for this man.

points out that he remains guilty of apostasy because he has Muslim relatives.  Even more, there is no law in Iran specifically calling for the death penalty for those who leave Islam.  Thus, even though Nadarkhani never left Islam, and even though there is no law against leaving Islam in Iran, this pastor may well be put to death for leaving Islam.

In short, Pastor Nadarkhani may be put to death for his faith in Jesus Christ. If so, his death will be a great injustice. Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time (or the last) that the body of Christ were treated unfairly and killed untimely.  May the Lord strengthen this brother with grace and peace and faith–and reward him with the crown of life if she should die.  To be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord.  It may well be the will of our God for him to be delivered as Peter and Paul and others often were. We should (as they did in Acts 12) pray to that end.

Some Relief for Sudanese Christians?


Sudan has been a nation at war for years.  The Muslims of the north have waged an all out war against the non-Muslims of the south, who are mostly Christians and animists.  As of today, South Sudan is a country of its own.  Let’s hope this move brings peace.  Indeed, let’s pray for peace.  The track record in Sudan has not lately been laced with peace.

For now, congratulations, South Sudan.  You are the world’s newest nation.

Maybe Some Good News from Iran


According to the Jubilee Campaign, there is good news from Iran.  Pastor Youcef will not be executed for being a Christian in Iran.  The report makes it unclear exactly what will happen next. It almost sounds as though he will be asked to deny Christ and return to Islam in order to have the charges dropped. I hope that is not the case.  We prayed for Youcef this past Sunday, and I am very glad to hear this report.  We should continue to pray.  Here is the update from Jubilee Campaign:

Iran annuls death term for Christian pastor: lawyer

TEHRAN (AFP): Iran’s supreme court has overturned a death sentence handed down to Yusef Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor accused of apostasy for having converted from Islam, his lawyer told AFP on Sunday.

“The supreme court has annulled the death sentence and sent the case back to the court in Rasht (his hometown), asking the accused to repent,” Mohammad Ali Dadkhah said.

Nadarkhani, now 32, converted from Islam to Christianity at the age of 19 and became a pastor of a small evangelical community called the Church of Iran.

He was arrested in October 2009 and condemned to death for apostasy under Iran’s Islamic Sharia laws, which however allow for such verdicts to be overturned if the convicted person “repents” and renounces his conversion.

After his conviction was upheld by an appeal court in Gilan province in September 2010, Nadarkhani turned to the supreme court. His wife, who was initially sentenced to life imprisonment, was released on appeal.

The lawyer said the verdict had been read out to him on the telephone and that he needed to travel to Rasht, where Nadarkhani is being held, to see the ruling for himself.

Dadkhah said he himself was sentenced on Sunday by a Tehran court to nine years in jail and a 10-year ban on practicing law or teaching at university for “actions and propaganda against the Islamic regime”.

The lawyer said he had been criticised for having cooperated with the Centre for the Defence of Human Rights, an organisation founded by Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, as well as for giving interviews to foreign radio stations.

“I have 20 days to lodge an appeal,” he said.

Good News for Freedom


I just read that Geert Wilders has been acquitted of his hate speech charges for voicing his opinions about Islam.  This is good news for the whole world.  If you haven’t followed the story, or you are not aware of its importance, see here or here or even here.

Remember


We are commanded in Hebrews 13:3 to remember those Christians who are suffering in prison on account of Christ.  Here is an opportunity for us to remember one.


From www.prisoneralert.com

Location: Iran (Islamic Republic of)
Arrested: October 2009
Days Imprisoned: 611

Recently, Pastor Youcef Nardarkhani was reportedly sentenced to death for apostasy. VOM contacts confirm that the pastor’s trial was held in recent weeks in the 11th Chamber of The Assize Court of the province of Gilan.

Pastor Youcef is one of several members of his church who have been imprisoned. In the past, the Iranian government has also imprisoned and released his wife. Pastor Youcef was arrested in October 2009 after protesting a decision by the government requiring that his son study the Quran.

Media reports suggest that Pastor Youcef was transferred to Lakan prison, which is supervised by the Political Police of the Islamic Republic. If a death sentence is officially handed down by the court and Pastor Youcef is executed, his would be the first judicial execution of a Christian in Iran in two decades.

Pastor Youcef is a leader in the Full Gospel “Church of Iran” network, a group that stands apart from most house church groups in Iran.

Still Facing the Death Penalty
VOM contacts received word that Youcef Nadarkhani remains in prison in Lakan province in northern Iran. He continues to face the death sentence for apostasy. Last week our contacts were informed that a decision had been reached in his case. However, no one was informed as to what that decision was. Please pray for him and his family. Pray that his faith would stand firm regardless of circumstances.

Still Waiting
Pastor Youcef remains in the custody of the Islamic government of Iran under a death sentence at Lakan prison in Gilan province in northern Iran. He is being held in the main part of the prison with drug dealers and murderers. He is waiting for the Supreme Court to review his case and render a judgment on whether or not the death sentence will be carried out.

The situation is very difficult for his wife and children.

A Painfully Good Question


Persecution in the Philippines

I will be out of the country for a few weeks, but I wanted to leave you with a painfully good question that comes to us from a Jew:

“Why don’t Christians help Christians?”

The question was asked by Dennis Prager with reverent concern for the health of American Christianity.  His article (read it here) asks why Christians are not more vocal about the plight of their brothers and sisters in the Middle East.

Prager recounts how he has long been an activist on behalf of suffering Jews in Russia, and he acknowledges that Christians have been staunch allies along the way.  However, Christians never have seemed too active on behalf of other Christians.  And now, Christians are largely silent in the face of brutal oppression throughout the Middle East.  So, Prager asks, “Why don’t Christians help other Christians?”

I wish I knew the answer.  The cynic in me wants to respond hastily with severe condemnation: Christians don’t help because they don’t care about anything beyond their own personal peace and affluence (to borrow a phrase from Francis Schaeffer).  Christians are more intent on tapping into some secret prayer of power and clout which guarantees them money and fun than they are intent on understanding the global body of Christ.

Cynicism–though sometimes true–is almost always too simplistic and overly abrasive.  While some Christians may not care, the truth is many Christians do not even know.  When they find out, they respond with concern and generosity.  Ignorance, I believe, is a bigger factor than unconcern.

Yet, even ignorance can be malicious, as is indicated by Jesus’s teaching in Matthew 25.  At the end of time when Christ returns, he will judge all men, putting the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  To this judgment, men will cry, “When did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of you?”  Obviously, they are ignorant of having neglected Jesus, but Jesus does not excuse their ignorance; instead, he assigns them to a place of eternal punishment.  Ignorance is no excuse.

By and large, Christians are ignorant of the plight of their persecuted brothers and sisters.  The picture, as Prager paints it, is not an encouraging one:

In the Muslim world, Christians are being murdered, churches are being torched, entire ancient Christian communities — the Iraqi and Palestinian, for example — are disappearing. And, again, 2 billion Christians react with silence. There are some Christian groups active on behalf of persecuted Christians around the world. They do important work, and are often the primary source of information on persecuted Christians. But they would be the first to acknowledge that the Christian world is overwhelmingly silent when it comes to the persecution of Christians in the Muslim world.

Christians are not doing enough for other Christians.  Why are Christians silent? Again, I don’t know. I am thinking about this and other questions as I embark on a three-week adventure that will take me close (but not into) Muslim dominated areas, where Christians are facing persecution (see map above).  I want to understand why American Christians are concerned for the environment, the White House, and the latest book by the nearest evangelical heretic, but we remain largely unaffected by the body of Christ still suffering.

“Remember the [persecuted Christian] prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves are in the body” (Hebrews 13:3).

[May the Lord bless us to obey Hebrews 13:3]

Arab Spring More Like Kentucky Spring


Spring is supposed to be the time of blossoming life. Flower buds burst forth with petals gleaming white against the grassy green canvas of trees and lawns.  Purple, pink, and yellow splash

Spring Flowers

throughout the portrait we call spring.  It is springtime.  But in Kentucky, spring has brought violent storms, tornadoes, and rain.  Lots of rain. Historic deluges of rain rarely seen in these parts since the days of Noah.  Spring is supposed to be colorful and sunny, but it has proved, instead, to be dull and rainy.

Such is the way this spring has gone in Kentucky.  But we have no reason to complain.  As bad as the weather has been around here lately, the problems we have are nothing compared to those of Christians suffering through the so-called “Arab spring.”  If we think the storm clouds are hanging low over our horizon right now, we ought to think about what is happening to our brothers and sisters throughout Arab lands.

In Egypt, where many in America were celebrating the rise of “democracy” and demanding that Mubarak resign, Christians now face a bleak future indeed.  The Muslim Brotherhood is wielding political clout like a Saif al Din, seeking to enforce Shariah law on all Egyptians, including Christians.  If you want to know how destructive Shariah law is for non-Muslims, read this Andrew McCarthy piece.  The “progress” of the Islamic direction of the “New Egypt” has Christians Coptic Christian Persecutionbegging  to leave Egypt, even though there were Christian churches in the country before Islam ever existed.  One Coptic Christian leader says that he is already receiving hundreds of calls each week from Christians trying to flee from Egypt.

Egypt isn’t alone. In Iraq, the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Baghdad was bombed on Easter Sunday.  In India, more than 15,000 Christians took to the streets of Mumbai on Good Friday to protest the continuing persecution of the saints in India.  Christians in Orissa, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and other provinces have endured hundreds of violent attacks since 2008.

For a rundown of the persecution of Christians in Palestine and the Middle East, see here.  There is no shortage of persecution for Christians around the world this spring.  Even as the rain continues to fall in Kentucky, we should recall that the real storm is falling on our fellow believers in Muslim areas of the world.  The “Arab Spring” which was supposed to bring greater freedoms through the spread of democracy is turning out to be more of a Kentucky spring, where one violent storm is followed by another.

Out of the New Egypt


In his mid-twenties, Mikail Nabil has determined to make his life count. Like many Americans of the same age, Mr. Nabil spends his days keeping his friends and followers up to date through his blog posts and social networks.  And, also like many Americans, Mr. Nabil is not afraid to share his political views.  Unlike Americans his age, Mr. Nabil is now in prison for three years because of his activities.

Mikail Nabil is a Christian living in Egypt.  He has used the internet to voice his concerns about the direction of the “New Egypt.” Of particular concern for him is the manner in which the Army in Egypt appears to be violating human rights, especially the rights of other Christians. The violations include excessive violence against protesters, torture of prisoners being detained, and forced pelvic exams for all the young woman.  (These are not medical exams but “virginity tests” conducted by the soldiers).

In being arrested for telling the truth to the world, Mikail Nabil is being called “the first prisoner of conscience in Egypt after the revolution.” Undoubtedly, he is, considering that he is the first Egyptian arrested for his internet speech. Yet, he won’t be the last.  He is only the latest Christian to be arrested in Muslim Egypt. Many have gone before him, and, apparently, many will follow after in the not-so “new Egypt.”

Why the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?


Recently, a friend and brother in Christ bombarded me with a dozen or so questions pertaining to aspects of the Christian faith which have recently been puzzling him.  I asked and received permission from him to post my responses here on this blog, thinking that if he has these questions, then others may have them also. So, I will be posting his questions and my responses in the coming days, hoping to help and encourage him and you. Feel free to add your responses and to send in your questions as well.

QUESTION 1

Why Did God Choose to Put the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden?

Interesting question. The smart aleck in me wants to answer, “Where else would you want Him to put them?”  But I know better than to mock an honest question!  Besides, we will see in just a moment that the two trees had to be at the center of the Garden.

If I understand the question rightly, then you are asking something like, “Why tempt Adam and Eve like this?”  Why is there both a tree of life and a tree of knowledge of good and evil?

I think the answer is simply profound. God takes ordinary elements and speaks profound life lessons through them (think of Jesus with bread and wine).  The two trees are named.  Notice the difference in the names.  The one is the tree of life, but the other is not the tree of death.  These two trees do not represent two ways to life; they only represent one way to live.  In other words, the two trees are not opposites.  Adam and Eve could not be tempted with death.  They had no desire for death, no appetite for death.  So, the second tree in the Garden is not the tree of death; it is the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Why is this important? It underscores the nature of God, the nature of Adam and Eve, and the nature of the Fall.  Adam, Eve, and all of creation were created by God and declared “very good” (Gn 1:31).  Adam and Eve were not stuck in neutral, deciding whether to live or die. They weren’t caught in the balance between sinning and not sinning.  They were, in fact, good.  They were walking in fellowship with God.  They would not have been tempted to murder each other like their offspring were.  That would have been contrary to their natures.

However, it would not have been contrary to their natures to become more god-like.  They had a right desire for fellowship with God.  Therefore, becoming more god-like suited them like breast milk suits the nursing infant.  The tree of the knowledge of good and evil represented an increase in knowledge, an increase in wisdom, and an increase in understanding more of what God understood.  Surely, God Himself possessed infinite knowledge of good and evil.  So, for Adam and Eve to learn more of the knowledge God possessed would have been “natural” to them.

By nature, Adam and Eve would have been drawn to pursuing knowledge which would make them know more of what God knows.  And yet, this increase in knowledge was not good for them.  They knew that because God told them that it was not good for them.  He spoke a command against their partaking of the fruit from this tree.  So, in effect, Adam and Eve’s temptation came disguised in the form of two different good choices, each of which was according to their nature: Obeying God or seeking knowledge.

Adam and Eve had been given the responsibility of ruling over creation.  They needed knowledge suitable for the task.  They needed to understand animals and agriculture.  They needed to understand water, nutrients, harvests, and horticulture.  They needed to stay hungry for knowledge.  So, they were obviously able to be tempted through this otherwise good aspect of their nature as lords over creation.

They did not need the knowledge of evil in order to accomplish the work God had given them.  They could have had a very fruitful life (literally!) by tending the Garden and enjoying fellowship with God.  They needed knowledge, for sure, but they did not need the knowledge of evil. Instead, what they needed more than anything else was to depend upon the living God.  So, the first tree God gave them was the Tree of Life (Gn 2:9).  If they had eaten of that tree, continuing to rely upon God for their very lives, they would have lived.

Instead, they ate of the forbidden tree which instantly gave them the knowledge of evil (namely, their own!).  They immediately learned of their nakedness.  They were immediately ashamed.  And they immediately had the sentence of death hanging upon them.  Instantly, they went from being alive to needing salvation.  The instant one forgets his dependence upon his creator, he stands in desperate need of a redeemer.

So, the answer to your question is that God put the two trees in the center of the Garden of Eden to proclaim the central truth to Adam and Eve (and to all humankind) that He alone is the creator and sustainer of life.  In addition, the Lord used the two trees further to display His unspeakable mercy.  Even after Adam and Eve rebelled against Him and unleashed on themselves the curse of death, still, God acted mercifully toward them, sending them out of the Garden and sealing it off before they could eat of the Tree of Life.  If they had eaten of the Tree of Life after they partook of the forbidden tree, they would likely have sealed the death sentence on humankind forever.  God’s purpose was not to allow that; instead, God had purposed from the beginning to provide salvation.  So, he removed them from the Garden.

On a final note, God planted both trees in the center of the Garden to make known His glory to all humankind.  He did not need to “wait and see” what would happen with Adam and Eve.  He knew before they were created how it would all turn out.  Thus, his choice of the trees was not coincidental.  He ordered all of it so that His glory would be revealed—even through the sinfulness of Adam and Eve.

God put the two trees in the middle of the Garden—the central focal point of all creation.  The two trees stood at the center of the universe.  Life flowed forth throughout the rest of creation from this very central point (see Gn 2:10-14).  At the center of creation was the single question, “Who is God?”  A very close question, related to the first, was, “Who is man?”  These two questions were hanging in the air like ripened fruit on two different trees in the midst of the Garden of Eden.  Both questions were quickly answered in the Fall.  As it turns out, God is holy, just, and merciful.  Man is sinful, under a curse, and in need of redemption.  That, I believe, is why God put the two trees in the midst of Eden. To answer the two most basic questions of life.

The Pastor’s Wife


The position of “pastor’s wife” is a difficult one at any time in any place, but this recently released video of Sabina Wurmbrand puts it in a whole new light.  Sabina’s husband, Richard, was the founder of Voice of the Martyrs.  Her story is almost as dramatic as his.  This new video tells her story and is worth taking a few minutes to watch it. It gives some insight into Christian persecution and what the ministry is all about.

Jesus Is God Says John


Jesus Christ is Lord

The point of the Gospel of John is to demonstrate that Jesus is God so that the reader of the gospel would trust his soul into the care of this Jesus.  Folks who cannot see the divinity of Jesus in the gospel of John have not yet understood the gospel.  In fact, the reality of the deity of Jesus Christ fills the New Testament. If you don’t know Jesus as the incarnate God, then you don’t yet know him at all. He will not be accepted as a teacher or a moral leader or a good man–or even a prophet!  He must be accepted as God the Son if he would be your Lord and Savior.

Here is a nice, summary article on the teaching of Jesus as God in the New Testament.

Christians in Egypt Attacked by Army


The Assyrian International News Agency offers the latest update on the case of Christians in Egypt.  According to their news report, the Egyptian army feels free to lash out at Christians.  From the story,

Lawyer Hany Ramsis, one of the organizers of the sit-in who was present at the time of the attack, told Coptic Free Voice “We were surprised by the army attack. The youth were cleaning the place and some families who came from the provinces were packing. There were around 500 people still there at the time of the attack.” He said the soldiers cut the wire fences and started running towards the people, shouting “Allahu Akbar.”

The story goes on to report that 15 or more Christians were hospitalized after the attacks.  Most of the 15 had a combination of broken limbs and head wounds.  There were reports of gunfire.  Some claim that Christians were shot with live rounds, but those claims have not yet been established.

The Christians were able to video the incident (which you can watch here). However, the quality of the video is rather poor.  The incident happened at 3:45 a.m., in what should have been the closing hours of a “sit-in” demonstration.  Christians have continued protesting peacefully in Egypt in order to settle their claims of abuse, oppression, and persecution.  The Christians had agreed to stop their protest for a 9-day period to give the government time to respond.  This incident happened just hours before the scheduled stoppage of the protests.

Christians have a very tough assignment in Egypt and the Middle East.  They need our prayers. Pray for Christians in Egypt (2 Corinthians 1:8-11).


Japan Update on Christian Relief


The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 a very simple command to Christians, “Pray without ceasing.”  The attitude of prayer is one that characterizes the believer, even though—to many people—the exercise appears futile if not outright naïve.  Yet, prayer may, in fact, be the most important and most effective thing we can do.  Especially, prayer may be the most important thing we can do right now for Japan.  Going there would only create a further strain on dwindling resources.  We cannot go.  But we can pray.

One Christian lady speaking of the situation in Japan says,

All of us around the world can be there in prayer. Although it doesn’t make sense in human terms, perhaps the way that most of us can make the most significant contribution for the time being is to pray because the lives of others both physically and spiritually depend on it.

She is correct.  We can contribute to the relief of the people of Japan through our prayers.  Because of the work of Christ as our high priest, we can enter the holy place and make our requests known to God.  We must be in prayer for the families who have lost so much—that they might gain the reward of redemption.  Our God who delivered Christ over to the worst sin and death ever executed is able—as he displayed in Christ—to redeem the worst scenario into an eternal victory.  From an eternal perspective, there remains hope.  So, we must pray.

We must pray for the workers who are on the ground, for their strength, their endurance, and their witness.  May the Lord give them strong hands and a mighty tongue with which to serve both physical and spiritual needs.  Let us pray indeed that great love would be poured out through the resources of many nations and—more importantly—many Christians and their churches.

We can also give thanks to God.  According to this article, Baptists are already on the ground in Japan, assessing both the scale of the damage and the scope of the relief effort.  Baptist Global Response is developing a strategy to provide disaster relief on behalf of Christians in Japan. Without ceremony, fanfare, applause, or even thanks, Christians are already pouring out their money and their lives to serve the needy people of Japan.  So, be encouraged. The world may mock us, hate us, disparage us, and demean our efforts to speak—but it does not matter, and it will not deter us from serving others with love. We are free to love God and love others—regardless of whether others ever return love to us. We are free.  For that, we can be thankful.

If you are interested in helping Japan in a way that will use 100% of your donations to relief, then check out the BGR/IMB work that is already unfolding.  Volunteers do all the work. Christians are remarkably efficient at handling disaster relief.  So, keep up with the work we are doing in Japan.  Join in if you can. And, remember, pray without ceasing.

Where Peaceful Muslims Stand


I don’t understand the outrage against Representative Peter King.  He is asking whether there is a problem with Islamic terror within the population of Muslims in America.  The sensible nature of his inquiry is on display in the shootings at Ft. Hood and in the attempted bombing of Times Square and in the attempted bombing in Detroit and in the attempted bombing in Oregon—not to mention the fall of the World Trade Center and the more than 3,000 souls who perished in a single day of Islamic terror.

Muslim Rep. Keith Ellison weeping at hearings on extent of radical Islam in America.

I watched a news report concerning these hearings, and the audience appeared overly eager to pronounce the patriotism of Muslims in America because there was a Muslim man killed on 911 in the World Trade Center.  Yes, he was a courageous American, but the 19 other Muslims who carried out the terrorist attack that day certainly were not.  The question being asked by Representative King is not whether Muslims are patriotic in general.  The question is not whether the majority of Muslims are terrorists. No one thinks that the majority of Muslims are terrorists.  But anyone who doubts whether the majority of terrorists are Muslims is a lunatic.  The majority of terrorists in the world and in the United States are Muslims. It is a fact.

This fact needs to be admitted by all so that a measure of sanity might again prevail.  The question is not whether the average American Muslim is a terrorist.  The question is whether the average American Muslim understands the nature of Islamic terror.  Indeed, the question is whether the average American understands the nature of Islamic terror.  We desperately need to get a handle on the reality of Islamic terror.

Calling a member of congress an Islamaphobe because he is asking important questions is childish, and, worse, it is deadly.  The case of Major Hassan in Ft. Hood, TX, shouts as an indictment against our feigned outrage concerning Muslim inequality in America. Major Hasan was propped up in his position as a Captain and a therapist in the army, even though he was known to have sympathies with Jihadist terror movements. So, while he was plotting the murders of 13 innocent and unsuspecting Americans, our military leaders were appeasing him at every turn so as not to give the impression that there is any bias against Muslims.  Granted, there should be no bias against Muslims, but there should be no bias toward them either—especially when those Muslims are known to have ties to terror cells!  How many Americans have to die before we wake up from our drunken stupor of political correctness?

I am glad Representative King has the fortitude to ask some basic questions to find out how many Major Hasan’s are plotting to kill American citizens.  I don’t want America to become like Egypt or Ethiopia, where Muslims slaughter non-Muslims at an alarming rate.  I don’t think anyone living in Soul (Atfif), Egypt, really cares that the majority of Muslims are peaceful.  All they know is their village was ransacked and burned, and their relatives were killed by Muslims in the name of Allah.  Likewise, in the Jimma zone of Ethiopia, 59 churches have been burned, 28 Christian homes have been destroyed, and more than 4,000 Christians have been displaced in the name of Allah.  Do these thousands of displaced people need to be told that the majority of Muslims are patriotic and peace-loving?  It hardly matters to them.  What matters to them is finding a place to live now that Muslims destroyed their homes.

The sad reality is that Egypt and Ethiopia are not as bad as other Muslim areas.  To act as though there is no problem with Islamic terror is to act as a fool who naively offers the hangman his own noose.  Moderate Muslims are irrelevant.  They do not speak for Islam.  If moderate Muslims wish to become a relevant part of the conversation, then let them speak out against Islamic terror rather than speaking out against an American representative who is trying to do something about it.

When has there even been such an Islamic outcry against acts of terror as there is now an Islamic outcry against Representative Peter King of New York?  When there is, then we will know where the peaceful Muslims stand.

More News About Christians in Egypt


As feared, the revolution in Egypt appears to be escalating the violence against Christians in the home place of the pyramids.  According to this news report, Christians in the village of Soul (which is 30 kilometers from Cairo) were ambushed by a mob of 7,000 angry Muslims.  The Muslims stormed the Church of St. Mina and St. George, setting the facility ablaze.

The church and all of its contents were lost.  Included in the loss were a number of ancient relics which the church had preserved.  In addition, the whereabouts of the pastor and three deacons is unknown.  Some have said that they perished in the blaze; others claim they are being held captive by the Muslims.

Nina Shea, who has been covering this story for the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, reports that the churches in Egypt are now more vulnerable than ever because the guards who once were keeping watch over them now are engaged in other matters relating to the protests and demonstrations.  The churches in the provincial areas remain unguarded and have become easy targets for Muslim violence.

On February 23, there were heavy machine gun attacks by armed men against two monasteries in Egypt.  Allegedly, these attacks were in response to “zoning violations.”  In the Soul village attacks, the reason for Islamic ire was ostensibly a rumored relationship between a Christian man and a Muslim woman.  Muslims apparently were outraged that a Muslim girl would be involved with a Christian man, on the one hand, and irate, on the other hand, because of the unwillingness of the girl’s father to kill her in order to restore honor to the village. (See more on honor killings).

According to International Christian Concern, a similar instance occurred in a separate village which ended with two people being killed and another church torched. And, in yet another attack against Christians,  Nina Shea also reports that members of the Muslim Brotherhood stormed a Christian school in downtown Asyut, shouting “Allahu Akbar,” while attempting to take over control of the school.  The school was built a century ago by Presbyterians.

Suffice it to say, the news does not look good for Christians in Egypt.  Of course, some may say that the Christians must learn to stop angering the Muslims.  Maybe the Christians should work harder to comply with local, arbitrary zoning laws so armed militants won’t be forced to storm their unarmed facilities and unload heavy machine gun fire on peaceful monks.  Or, Christians could possibly commit themselves to refusing any urges of affection toward Muslims of the opposite sex.  Yet, even then, I suspect that some other reason for outrage would emerge.  It almost seems like Muslims in the Middle East just want to kill Christians.

Persecution in Ethiopia


Earlier today, I posted a blog about our Ethiopian adoption.  In that blog, I noted that one of the factors of our adopting from Ethiopia was the fact that the children suffered there in a way they did not suffer in the Philippines.  Sadly, two new incidents out of Africa demonstrate the point all too plainly.

Over the past 2 days, Muslims in Ethiopia have been raiding Christian villages and burning Christian churches.  According to International Christian Concern (ICC), five Christian churches have been razed over the past two days.  In addition, two homes of Christian evangelists have been razed as well.  Thousands of Muslims have taken to the streets to participate in the violent outcry against the Christians.  The present violence appears to be centered around Asendabo, Ethiopia.  No Muslims have yet been detained or arrested.

This present violence is only the latest episode of Muslim violence in Ethiopia.  Just last week a group of 17 Christian college students were mobbed while they were conducting a mission trip to Oma Village, Ethiopia.  In both of these cases, the Muslim mobs overpowered the police to get at the Christians who were the targets of their ire.  In this instance, the Muslims beat the students and stoned them, but they were unable to kill them.

Both instances demonstrate that Muslim violence is growing as Muslims become a larger percentage of the population of Ethiopia.  ICC suggests that we encourage the Ethiopian government to crack down on such violent persecution.  Of course, the New Testament urges that we pray for our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia.

You may contact the Ethiopian embassy at (202) 364 1200.

Christian Killed in Pakistan


You might remember that as the drama of Said Musa was unfolding, I pointed out that part of the difficulty facing the Afghan government was the threat of an uprising among the masses of Muslims who would be outraged by leaders unwilling to execute the death penalty against those who supposedly blaspheme the prophet Mohammad by converting to Christ.  I suggested that Afghanistan need only look to the south to see what might happen.  Just two months ago, more than 50,000 Pakistanis protested in favor of a murdering bodyguard who killed the governor he was supposed to be protecting simply because that governor had the audacity to question the legitimacy of killing someone on account of his being a Christian.

Now, it has happened again.  The only Christian in the Pakistani government was killed yesterday.  Shahbaz Bhatti, a Roman Catholic who was outspoken in his opposition to the truly barbaric anti-blasphemy laws in Pakistan, was gunned down while he sat in a car outside of his mother’s home.  Bhatti was 42 years old.  He was the minister of minority affairs in Pakistan.  His life’s work was given to bringing about unity among the various people groups of Pakistan.  Peace, unity, social justice, inter-faith harmony, and human equality—these were the ideals for which Shahbaz Bhatti stood.  And these are the ideals for which he died in Pakistan.

I get so frustrated when I see happy little righteous-types in their Honda hybrids sporting their “coexist” bumper stickers—you know the ones that have the crescent moon as the “c,” the Star of David as the “x,” and the cross as a “t.”  I think, how naïve does one have to be to preach coexistence equally to Jews, Christians, and Muslims—as though there is any relation between the “horror” of Christians hoping to keep the definition of marriage in tact and the ungodly appetite for murder prevalent among millions of today’s Muslims.  If one is really concerned about peaceful coexistence, then he ought to join the fight against Islamic jihad.  Decry acts of violence such as this murder of a peaceful Christian who gave his life to inject some sanity into a place that would surely benefit from its effects.

And some other ways to get serious about coexistence?  Stop parading laughable liberal icons like Michael Moore around as though they are saying something courageous.  Whatever he is, Michael Moore is not courageous.  Neither are the activists against traditional marriage courageous.  Nor, as a matter of fact, are environmental activists courageous.  None of these groups—none of these liberal iconic causes—can approach the courage of Shahbaz Bhatti, who actually gave his life for the cause of coexistence.  I am tired of vacuous liberal platitudes in the face of genuine evil.  Real men—like Shahbaz Bhatti—need our encouragement and our aid.  The distance separating the east from the west is a smaller distance than that which separates today’s liberals from men like Shahbaz Bhatti.

Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute points out that Minister Bhatti refused to get married because he did not think it would be fair for a wife and children to live under the constant burden of death threats.  Bhatti determined that he would give his life for the cause of human coexistence in Pakistan.  And, now, this real hero has indeed given his life for that cause. Let’s pray his life was not in vain.

A Letter from Shoaib


Though Shoaib’s letter is not as powerful as the letter we posted from Said Musa last week, there is an urgency about this letter.  It is clear from the letter that Shoaib is appealing to the Afghan Government based on its own constitution.  He is appealing to the government for justice, which is what the government is supposed to provide.

However, governments often forgo justice in the name of political expediency.  Indeed, Shoaib’s biggest fear is that the government will yield to Islamic pressure and follow Shariah law, which he says would surely mean his death.  So, I think our first priority is to appeal to the Lord of the universe, the one for whom the mountains melt like wax (Ps 97:5).  Remember Proverbs 21:1, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.”

Beyond appealing to the Lord Almighty, we may also wish to appeal to the U.S. Embassy.  The contact information (courtesy of ICC) is as follows:

Afghanistan embassy in the U.S.
Phone: (202-483-6410).
Web address is www.embassyofafghanistan.org.

Also, courtesy of Baptist Press and ICC, there is a translation of Shoaib’s Letter:

“My name is Shoaib Said Assadullah. I am 23 years old. For the last four months I have been imprisoned in Qasre Shahi prison, Mazar-e Sharif for the crime of apostasy, which means I’ve changed my beliefs.

“Not only has my freedom been taken from me, but I [am] undergoing severe psychological pressure. Several times I have been attacked physically and threatened to death by fellow prisoners, especially Taliban and anti government prisoners who are in jail.

“These assaults on my human dignity have affected me negatively, close to the point of death. On the other hand, the court has delayed their decision so that my apparent psychiatric problems will be cured. I do not think this is possible in prison.

“My case is supposed to be sent to the court shortly, because the prosecutor has the right to hold a case only for 30 days. The court’s decision is most definitely going to be the death penalty for me, because the prosecutor has accused me under the Clause 139 of the [Afghan] criminal code which says, ‘If the crime is not cited in the criminal code, then the case has to be referred to the Islamic Shariah law.’

“Furthermore, my mother died less than a month ago from the grief that her beloved son was jailed with the threat of the death penalty over him. The authorities did not even allow me to attend the funeral ceremonies and pay my respects to her. This is against Clause 37 of in the [Afghan] law regarding prisons.

“Not seeing my mother for the last time was more painful than anything else. I would like to add that freedom is a gift from God. This means that we have to respect human freedom and dignity. Clause 24 of Afghan Constitution says, ‘Human freedom and dignity is an unalterable right. The government is committed to respect and protect human freedom and dignity.’

“Article 3 of the [U.N.] Universal Declaration of Human Rights is violated if the Afghan government does not respect Articles 18 and 19. [1] Article 3 of Declaration of Human Rights says: ‘Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.’ Simply stated, if Sharia law is implemented in my case, the Articles 1, 2, 3, 18 and 19 of the Declaration [of] Human Rights will be violated.

“I request that you follow my case.

“Sincerely,

“Shoaib”

See the People


Yad Vashem, the Jewish museum of the Holocaust, has published a short video which chronicles the fate of thousands of Jews at Auschwitz.  The video doesn’t take long to watch, and it doesn’t contain any gory photos of the unspeakable horrors which happened in that ungodly place. It is merely a page-by-page perusal of a photo album that inadvertently made its way out of Germany and into the Yad Vashem Museum. This photo album simply shares pictures of people, pictures of human beings who were treated as though they could easily be discarded from the earth.  And so they were.

Take a few minutes to remember the victims of Auschwitz.  Just look through this photo album filled with pictures of people.

The Auschwitz Album

Said Free but Shoaib in Danger


In a wonderful sign of Christian unity, thousands of Christians took action on behalf of Said Musa, an imprisoned Christian facing death in Afghanistan for converting to Christianity.  Said Musa HAS BEEN FREED from prison and is now safely out of the country.

Shoaib Assadullah

But Said Musa was not alone.  Another Christian—Shoaib Assadullah—is facing the same possibility for his crime of converting to Christ.

Shoaib, in his early twenties, was arrested on October 21, after he gave a New Testament to one of his friends.  The friend gave the New Testament to Muslim authorities, who summarily arrested Shoaib.  Though he has not been formally charged, this young man also faces the death penalty under anti-conversion laws in Afghanistan.

Even though Shoaib’s family does not agree with his conversion to Christ, they are spending their time and their money trying to get him free.  According to this report, Shoaib’s family has exhausted their income and savings trying to save his life.  As his father said, “He’s my son. Whatever he believes, I have to help him.”  His father’s help has not prevailed over the authorities.

Shoaib remains in jail facing death for converting to Christ.  In December, Shoaib was offered the opportunity to be freed if he would renounce Christ and return to Islam.  He refused, and the judge told him that he would either be sentenced to death or he would be in prison for 20 years.  Though he has appealed, he remains in prison, possibly facing death for faith in Christ.

As International Christian Concern says, “We must remain vigilant and keep the public and diplomatic pressure alive by continuing to shout with one voice for Shoaib Assadullah until together, we can also celebrate his release.”  Amen! We must keep up the good work for Shoaib even as we celebrate Said Musa.

And we must keep praying (see 2 Corinthians 1:8-11).

Why Said Musa Really Went to Jail


The news is still positive concerning Said Musa. We should remember that his help has come from above, just as Paul’s help came to him through the prayers of the saints (2 Corinthians 1:8-11).

International Christian Concern has a good piece concerning Said Musa’s case from an American political perspective.  There are other well-done news stories, too.  The New York Times article I referenced yesterday may be the best among them.  But the proverbial saying surely holds true; when you want to know something, go straight to the horse’s mouth.  (Skilled horsemen can tell the age of a horse by looking in his mouth).

So, those wanting to know about Said Musa and about why he is in jail should go straight to the source–to Said Musa himself.  Here is the last letter which has been received

Letter from Said

from Said Musa, and it is remarkable.  It is a little hard to read, given the broken English, misspelled words, and difficult grammar.  But just like the Revelation of John, though some things are hard to make out, they are so full of glory that it makes the labor of reading them nothing but joy.  Take about 10 minutes to read this letter and see if it does not impact your life.  You will know why he really went to jail.

From his perspective, Said Musa is not in jail because of discrimination, intolerance, oppression, or any other man-centered reason.  Said Musa is in prison to do the will of the Father, and, Oh, how well he has done that from his prison cell!  Work through the letter, and you will see what I mean.

More on Said Musa


Concerning Said Musa, there are reports that American pressure is working.  All the tweets and prayers are having an effect.  Denny Burk, once again, has done a great job of getting out the information.  His post today details the signs of hope for Said.  So, we should keep the pressure on as much as possible.  I have linked here an article which has several links at the bottom of the page which will take you directly to the people and agencies you need to contact.

Said Musa

A New York Times story offers this glimmer of hope from a prosecuting attorney in Afghanistan:  “Based on Shariah law, whoever converts from Islam should be sentenced to death,” said the prosecutor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “But based on international agreements that Afghanistan has accepted and agreed with, Sayed Mussa has a chance to be released.”

I have learned more about Said, and I have to say his faith is strong indeed.  He has received help from no one.  He has been assigned 2 lawyers, neither of whom has ever helped him.  Indeed, the judge prohibited the first lawyer from helping him.  The second lawyer showed no desire to help him.  And to make matters worse, during Friday prayers, the mullahs have been broadcasting the message that anyone who defends an infidel is also an infidel.  That message appears to be resonating with defense lawyers.

Not only did judges and lawyers abandon him, but, apparently, even the International Red Cross disposed of this innocent man.  He worked with the Red Cross for 15 years, helping to fit people with prosthetic limbs.  Mussa himself has an artificial leg, and, so, he has been able to help many others adjust to living with an artificial limb. According to this story (which is now 2 months old), the Red Cross refused to help their former employee on the grounds that he was arrested for religious reasons—never mind the fact that their professional pledge is to help whoever has need.

Still, as I said, Said’s faith is strong.  He first heard of Christ in a crisis situation.  During an earlier Afghanistan war, he watched his neighbor’s house destroyed by a bomb.  His neighbor had 8 children.  According to the story, the bomb leveled the house, killing 7 of the 10 family members.  The one thing which impacted Said more than seeing the house bombed however was watching a group of fearless ladies run into the bombed house and begin digging, trying to help anyone who may have lived through the horror.  Though there was continuing gunfire, the women did not waiver from offering their lives in aid. Said was impressed.

“When I saw these women and their compassion for my people, it affected me,” he said. “I asked people who they were and they said they are the followers of Jesus Christ.”

 

 

Full Update on Said Musa


Said Musa

As you have probably read, Said Musa is scheduled to be executed within the next three days. It has been encouraging to see so many people waking up the horrific realities of Christian persecution, especially as it exists in Muslim countries.  The Christian Post points out that Christian leaders from Rick Warren to rap artist Shai Linne have been tweeting and re-tweeting the case of Said Musa, a Christian scheduled for execution in Afghanistan because he chose to follow Christ.  It seems as though my friend Denny Burk started the snowball that is now rolling downhill to stop this execution when he urged followers to contact President Barack Obama.

As Paul Marshall points out, President Obama has certainly weighed in on matters much less important in the past, including his official statement of condemnation against a fringe, Florida pastor who merely threatened to burn a Quran.  Surely, the President has an opportunity to stand up for freedom and human dignity, particularly given the fact that Afghanistan professes to be a democratic government and the further fact that the U.S. military and U.S. tax dollars are flowing freely throughout Afghanistan to support this government.

Indeed, the involvement of our money and military in Afghanistan has led many to sound the alarms against our helping this country if they are going to use our aid for the unjust executions of non-Islamic peoples. Mark Krikorian, himself a descendant of Christian refugees from the Middle East, calls attention to our spending billions in Afghanistan to supporting this government which is about to execute a Christian unjustly.  Krikorian quotes the Afghanistan Chief of Staff, who says of Christians like Said Musa, “They must be sentenced to death to serve as a lesson for others.”  So, in the name of teaching people an Islamic lesson, Said Musa must die?  And what is this valuable life lesson?

Apparently, the lesson is “Don’t even think about freedom of religion.”  Said Musa’s crime was apparently his decision to follow Christ instead of Muhammad.  According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights—a document which Afghanistan signed and ratified—citizens of the country are supposed to have freedom of religion and the right to a fair trial.  Musa got neither.  Instead of freedom of religion, Said Musa is sentenced to be hanged for the crime of getting baptized.

From the standpoint of the International Covenant, Afghanistan is violating its own stated commitments to human freedom.  By my count (at least ostensibly), Musa’s case violates Article 6, Article 7, Article 9, Article 10, Article 12, Article 14, and, especially, Article 18 of their covenant agreement with the nations of the world.  So, why is it that now—when democracy is on the march in the Middle East—this government would pursue such a hypocritical and barbaric course of action against an innocent Christian?

One need look no further than to their neighbors to the south to answer the question.  Government leaders in Afghanistan don’t want to face the charge of hypocrisy; they don’t want to be seen as barbaric by the outside world.  But they also don’t want to die.  About a month ago, a governor in neighboring Pakistan made a statement to the effect that he believed executing converts from Islam to Christianity was inappropriate.  The governor’s bodyguard shot and killed him.  The execution, though an awful blow to democratic ideals in this volatile region, was probably not enough to dissuade leaders from speaking publicly against executing Christians. Yet, what followed has surely had a chilling effect.  According to this news report, about 50,000—yes, 50,000—people took to the streets to celebrate the man who murdered his boss.  They protested loudly against any changes to the current laws against blasphemy in Pakistan.  One would have to be a fool not to notice the signal this sends to leaders of Muslims in this area.  For us, another life lesson is made clear: Not all protesters are seeking democracy.

Understand the pressure that has been put upon the government of Afghanistan.  Surely, they need our prayers, too.  They feel the heat of an Islamic furor that longs for its satisfaction in the execution of Christians and any others who refuse to submit to Allah.  In some ways, I think these leaders are less callous about life than Secretary Clinton and President Obama must be.  President Obama risks nothing by taking a stand for Said Musa.  His life is not in danger, but his voice might just save Said.  The government leaders in Afghanistan, on the other hand, are probably risking their lives by considering a cancellation of the scheduled execution. The seriousness of the situation will make clear what each government thinks of the value of human life and human freedom.

Jesus’s teaching becomes soberly clear in a situation like this:  “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in Hell.”  For Said Musa, the fears are real.  But so is his faith.  He says of his present situation, “My body is theirs to do what they want with. Only God can decide if my spirit goes to hell.”  Whether he lives or dies, Musa surely does not appear headed for the coward’s end (Revelation 21:8).  Faith is giving him clear sight.

If you would like to remember this brother in prison, as though in prison with him, since you yourself are in the body of Christ (Hebrews 13:3), then you will want to pray for Said Musa, that his faith would not fail, that he would not shrink back, and that we would not be silent.

Then, you may want to speak. I have different contact pages below.

Contact Afghanistan embassy in D.C.  http://www.embassyofafghanistan.org/contact.html

Contact US embassy in Afghanistan: http://kabul.usembassy.gov/contact.html

Contact the President at the White House: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact

» Pray for Said Musa | Denny Burk


» Pray for Said Musa | Denny Burk.

My good friend Denny Burk has done a great job compiling articles, information, and suggested action concerning Said Musa at his blog, which you can reach by clicking the link above.  Thanks, Denny.

We spoke of and prayed for Said Musa during our service today. I am still trying to get an update on his situation.  I have not yet found anything updating his status. I have prayed for him, of course. Hopefully, you have, too. This is one of the stories that should be covered but isn’t.

The entire world was in an uproar when a single, fringe pastor threatened to burn a Quran. Do you remember that? General Petraus and even President Obama spoke out against the threat of burning a book.  Now, we have a real human atrocity being played out before our very eyes.  A man has been tortured, abused, sexually assaulted in prison, unjustly convicted of the “crime” of converting from Islam to Christ, and, now, is likely to be executed by a judge simply because he chose to not to be a Muslim.  There have been no statements by the President.

Afghanistan says that they allow freedom of religion, but they are about to kill someone for daring to exercise it.  And the world is silent. Leaders are mute.

Contact President Obama and politely urge him to speak up against this violation of human dignity.  http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact

China One Child Tragedy


I know the story of Xiao (pronounced “Sha-ow”) is not “news” right now, considering that it happened last fall, but, still, the tragedy of China’s one-child policy is brought out in such starkly human terms that it is hard to ignore. It is a sad story.  Xiao Ai Ying and her husband were expecting their second child.  Eight months pregnant, Xiao was already letting her first child feel the baby move and already talking about what it would be like when the new child arrived in their home.  But the new child never did arrive in their home.

The child became yet another victim of China’s one-child policy.  Police held Xiao in custody, and, after questioning her, they injected her womb with a solution to kill the child.  She was then taken to a hospital in order to deliver the dead child.  Xiao’s baby did die.  And now, in accordance with the “Family Planning” controls of the People’s Republic of China, life is supposed to be better for Xiao and her family.  If you watch the couple speak of the ordeal, you get the clear sense that their lives were not made better by the government’s family planning.

Interestingly, the news media who covered the incident seemed to get diverted by geography.  The story became less about the practice of forced abortions in China and more about the surprise that it happened in a metropolitan area.  The news reporters appear surprised, however, because they expect the Chinese government to uphold the value of life.  Forcing a woman to have an abortion while she is 8 months pregnant seems an awful lot like… well, like killing a baby.  This reality obviously made the NPR news crew a little nervous.  So, following the lead of the Al Jazeera reporter who originated the story, they made the story about how surprising it was that this happened in a metro area instead of in a rural area.

But, really, what difference does it make where this horror unfolded?  The reporter’s narrative is supposed to be that only in the “hick” and “backwoods” areas of China would one find these forced abortions, but that is a silly narrative.  All over China, there is a one-child policy for the sake of family planning.  Chinese officials admit that they vigorously promote family planning to lower the growth of their population.  Even in the supposedly more humane metro areas, women who violate this one-child policy are subject to a fine of up to $40,000 and then a forced sterilization after the birth of the child.  Granted, this is “more humane” than a forced abortion, but it is still inhumane.

This horror in China is a direct outgrowth of the policies of Communist government of China.  There is no inconsistency between the official policy and the practice of forced abortion.  The news reports make it sound as though there is this vast inconsistency between the Communist government and some of its overzealous local leaders who go too far.  In other words, the news reports make it sound as though this forced abortion is merely the result of zealous upstarts wanting to make for themselves a name, and that it isn’t connected to official Chinese policy.

But of course it is connected directly to the official Chinese policy, which is why some responsible lawmakers called on President Hu Jintao during his recent visit to the White House to reverse the forced abortion policy in China.  NPR assumes the news angle for this story is a vindication of Communist leaders.  The news agency goes to some lengths to assert that the central Communist commanders must be unaware of the awful realities of forced abortions.  But the argument doesn’t seem to fit.  The argument agrees that the  local government officials are dependent upon meeting their population target goals in order to advance their careers, but then the argument leaves the problem at the level of these local governments. Local officials supposedly get too excited about meeting their population goals, and so they go too far.  Rather than simply encouraging abortions, they actually cause abortions.

But wouldn’t that argument be something like a parent telling his child that he will get an allowance if he steals $10 per week worth of merchandise from Wal-mart and then, when the racket is made public, turning the child in as a thief?  Who is setting these population target goals? Why are they so important at the local level?  Isn’t it because they are deemed important at the higher levels, you know, at the levels of the people who decide who gets promoted and who does not?  Maybe rather than focusing on the supposedly overzealous local leaders, the news reports need to focus on the Communist leaders who insist upon setting population goals as a means of enforcing the one-child policy.

It is astounding how quickly the ugliness of abortion (I mean “family planning”) is colored over so that attention is diverted away from reality.  This news story about Xiao Ai Ying and the baby who had to die in the name of family planning tells us something about ourselves.  We know the awfulness of abortion.  The writers of the NPR story are uncomfortable with the reality of abortion and the reality of China’s forced abortion policy, but their problem is that they cannot face the reality of their own repulsion.  To do so would acknowledge the need to repent of supporting abortion.  To acknowledge the awfulness of this awful reality would be to surrender the “freedom” of after –the-fact birth control.  Though we know how hideous it is to kill babies in the womb, we still want the freedom to do it to escape the responsibility of parenthood and maintain our right to sexual promiscuity.  That seems to be all the abortion debate is really about–at least in America.  In China, women have more than the right to an abortion.  They have a duty.  The government sometimes enforces this duty.