Kidnapped Priest Released in Turkey

I read this report from Mission Network News this morning and thought of the Apostle Paul’s feet that walked miles and miles through Turkey sharing the gospel. He penetrated the inner regions spreading the message of peace and reconciliation in the ancient cities of Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Troas, and Ephesus.

Today, Christians are constantly under attack.  As recently as April of this year, 3 workers in a Christian publishing office had their throats slit in a gruesome attack motivated by religious hatred.

May God protect what He planted and is planting in this country–in the Book of Acts we see that the Word of God cannot be imprisoned, murdered or snuffed out–it is a Living Word.

7 December, 2007

turkeymap.gif

Turkey (MNN) ― Compass Direct reports good news in a kidnapping in southeastern Turkey.  According to their sources, unidentified assailants kidnapped Father Edip Daniel Savci, 42, last Wednesday. 

Two days later, he was freed by his captors 43 miles north of Midyat where he was kidnapped.   Church officials can’t confirm the identity of his kidnappers or whether a ransom was paid, but kidnappers had made a ransom demand of 300,000 euros. 

Deputy Governor Aziz Mercan said, “Given the information obtained from the priest, we now know who the perpetrators are, and security forces are tracking them down now.” He declined, however, to give the suspects’ names.

Most of Turkey’s 75 million people are Muslim, and it has barely 100,000 Christians–mostly of Greek and Armenian origin.

Although the incident appears to have been motivated by money, there are scattered reports that mission groups think Turkey’s anti-Christian atmosphere may have influenced the kidnappers.

Pray for opportunities for Christians in Turkey to share the truth of Christ. Despite the government reforms to facilitate joining the European Union, there is no indication of increasing religious freedom.

While the Turkish constitution includes freedom of religion, worship services are only permitted in “buildings created for this purpose,” and officials have restricted the construction of buildings for minority religions. In other cases, those who dare to profess Christ face harassment, threats and prison. Evangelism is difficult.

However, Glenn Penner of Voice of the Martyrs Canada says, “The church is continuing to move forward, and Christians are continuing to witness. But, of course, it does cause some anxiety. There have been a number of attacks on evangelicals in the last two years, and they’re wanting to know, ‘Will our government stand up for us? Will they defend us? Or will they allow us to be shot, killed and attacked with impunity?'”

Pray for those in Christian work in Turkey.

Core Issue

Hebrews 3Today, I started a personal study of the Book of Hebrews.

It seems a perfect follow up to the study of Acts from the Fall. It is fun to speculate with the scholars about whether the eloquent Apollos or the encouraging Barnabas wrote this book.  For now I do not think it was Paul.

Richard D. Phillips suggests that this book was most likely written to Jewish Christians living in Rome in the A.D. 60’s.  These were the ones that God had Paul heading to Rome to encourage in faith.

With the audience in mind it is easy to see why it opens with “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophes, but in the last days he has spoken to us by his Son,…”

Having come through the persecution of Christianity under Claudius in A.D. 49, these Christians were facing another wave of dangerous hostility and evidently were now tempted to escape the suffering by reverting to Judaism and renouncing their loyalty to Jesus. 

I am anxious to see Christ unfolded in all His Supremacy and to believe again that He has dealt with the core issue that separates us from God in a way that no other religion offers.  This study will be another journey of seeing with the eyes of faith what is real (Hebrew 2:8). 

When I do not “see” reality–that everything is subject to Prophet, Priest and King Jesus; I live in unbelief and there the ground is fertile for growing hefty branches of ugly, sinful heart attitudes!

“Lord I believe, help my unbelief”  (Mark 9:24)

Nothing will be Impossible for God

images Today, I asked the Lord to unite my heart with those of His children who are sitting in dark jail cells because of their love of Jesus. 

Today, I confessed to the Lord that I rarely think of those who are persevering in faith after been ostracized and hated by family and friends because they honor the name of Jesus.

Today, I thanked God that He is a God who sees the distress of each of His suffering saints with the eyes of compassion, that He hears their cries for mercy and His heart inclines to rescue, that He is a God of justice and a Shepherd of His flock.

Today, as I sit in comfort, I asked the Lord to comfort my brothers and sisters with the prayers of those who have the persecuted church on their minds and hearts.

Today, in this devotional, I was reminded that nothing will be impossible for my God.  AMEN

What’s better than life?

I began my morning reading the Mission Network News report.  As I scanned the stories, this one from Africa caught my eye.  The study of Acts has tenderized my heart once again to the truth that the spread of the good news of Christ comes at great cost.  Therefore, it is news of great worth!

Two Christians killed in Northern Nigeria

Nigeria (MNN) — Voice of the Martyrs Canada reports the deaths of two young Christian men in Nigeria. According to a Compass Direct report, the pair died at the hands of Muslims militants in Kaduna state. Local Christians believe these two murders are an effort to wipe out Christianity from northern Nigeria and stop ministry growth. Although the government is trying to initiate dialogue between the two faith groups, their efforts have been undermined by the wave of violent attacks on Christians.

Full story: http://www.MNNonline.org/article/10522

My mind considered the stories of Stephen who was the first Christian martyr and James who was beheaded for his faith in Christ.  These saints and others seemed to understand what the Psalmist meant when he penned the words, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.” (Ps. 63:3)

The martyrs all believed Christ was worth more than life, more than falling in love, more than marrying and having children, more than seeing their children grow up, more than making a name for themselves, more than having the dream spouse, the dream house, and the dream cruise.  Christ to them was worth more than all their plans and dreams.  They all said, “It is better to be cut off in the midst of my dreams, if I might gain Christ.” ((John Piper, “Life’s Blood,” Tabletalk December 2001, p. 53))

Christ is the treasure that is better than life!  He is real life.

Dangerous Confusion

J.I. Packer has lamented: “At no time, perhaps, since the Reformation have Christians as a  body been so unsure, tentative, and confused as to what they should believe and do. 

confusionCertainty about the great issues of Christian faith and conduct is lacking all along the line.  The outside observer sees us as staggering on from gimmick to gimmick and stunt to stunt like so many drunks in a fog, not knowing at all where we are or which way we should be going.   

 Preaching is hazy; heads are muddled; hearts fret; doubts strain our strength; uncertainty paralyzes action…We know in our bones that we were made for certainty, and we cannot be happy without it.  Yet unlike the first Christians who in three centuries won the Roman world…we lack certainty.”

We want to present the world with an upbeat message.  We want to create a positive image.  We want to emphasize the many and substantial benefits of the Christian life.  We want to put on a happy face.  A. W. Tozer decries this accommodated version of the Gospel as a “spiteful cruelty to the lost and languishing–a cruelty misguidedly offered in the name of comfort.”  This updated message of indifference does not slay the sinner; it redirects him.” 

Furthermore:  “It gears him into a cleaner and jollier way of living and saves his self-respect.  To the self-assertive it says, “Come and assert yourself for Christ.” To the egoist if says, “Come and do your boasting in the Lord.”  To the thrill-seeker it says, “Come and enjoy the thrill of the Christian life.  The idea behind this kind of thing may be sincere, but its sincerity does not save it from being false.” ((George Grant, “By a Slender Thread,” Tabletalk, May 2002, 16.)) 

Righteousness from God

comes through faith in Jesus Christ

to all who believe (trust) in Christ.

(Romans 3:22)

How’s your self-esteem?

“Too many Christians never see that self-love comes out of a culture that prizes the individual over the community and then reads that basic principle into the pages of Scripture. The Bible, however, rightly understood, asks the question, “Why are you so concerned about yourself?” Furthermore, it indicates that our culture’s proposed cure–increased self-love–is actually the disease…Need theories can thrive only in a context where the emphasis is on the individual rather than the community and where consumption is a way of life. If you ask most Asians and Africans about their psychological needs they will not even understand the question!” ((Edward Welch, When People are Big and God is Small, P & R Publishing, 81 and 87))

DSC02777 (Small) As I read this quote, I remembered the days of interviewing African women who were seeking a job as housemothers for 10 previously orphaned children. Trying to get to know them as quickly as possible I would naively say, “Why don’t you describe yourself and your hopes and dreams for me.” The women would stare at me with a confused look and say, “JjaJa, I don’t understand the question.” It was not a language difficulty–it was that they never spent a moment of their lives pondering such a self absorbed question! It never occurred to women who are daily consumed with thoughts of “How will I make it today?” to think about themselves or ponder an uncertain future. They live in a culture that prizes the good of the community and care almost none for the aspirations of the individual as we do. People with little, and certainly not familiar with a consumer culture but with a pervasive joy and contentment. Are we missing something by having so many somethings?

I remember one time going to church with Auntie Edith and asking, “Edith what is his name?” She said, “JjaJa, you mzungus care very much about names–here we greet people by saying, “Hello Ssebo” (Sir) or “How are you Nnyabo” (Madam), we don’t ask for names!” Again, she was helping me see that her world view was not individualistic –she was not living in a culture that could afford to pursue the esteem of self. As Welch has suggested, what if the cure we seek–a better self-esteem–is the disease from which we need to be delivered?