Thursday, October 31, 2013

Eritrean Christian dies in prison

ERITREA (BP) -- A Christian woman perished from pneumonia in an Eritrean prison after facing harsh conditions and denial of medical treatment -- all because she would not renounce her faith.

Open Doors, an organization supporting the global persecuted church, reported this week that Wehazit Berhane Debesai is the 25th known Christian to have died in prison in Eritrea. According to the report, the exact date of death of the woman in her 30s is unknown. Eritrean authorities arrested her a year ago. They held her near the Ethiopian border for being involved in Christian activities outside the Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran church groups.

Debesai's death came as government forces arrested 70 Christians who met for prayer in the capital of Asmara, according to Open Doors. It is the third time the pastor who led the prayer event has been thrown in prison for his faith. This latest development brings the total number of Christians arrested this year in Eritrea to nearly 300. Local Christians call it the government's most serious campaign against the church so far.

In what may be a separate event, according to conflicting reports, government security forces arrested 185 Christians praying together in a suburb to the north of Asmara. According to Release International, a United Kingdom-based group serving the persecuted church, most of those arrests involved women.

"Our Eritrean partners say church leaders fear this mass arrest could herald a new clampdown on Christians and a wave of further detentions," Paul Robinson, chief executive of Release International, told the UK-based charity Cross Rhythms.

The Christians were believed to have gathered to pray for the country's refugee crisis. The United Nations reports thousands of Eritreans try to flee every month despite an alleged "shoot-to-kill" policy by security forces against anyone attempting to escape.

"The arrest has alarmed underground church leaders, who fear that this may be a sign of things to come," Robinson said.

According to International Christian Concern, an organization supporting persecuted believers, Eritrea is one of the world's worst persecutors of Christians. More than 2,000 Christians are believed to have been imprisoned for their faith.

All churches not sanctioned by the government were outlawed in 2002, and their leaders have been arrested since then. Religious groups the government does allow to operate do so under severe restrictions and are also persecuted.

An Open Doors observer asked for Christians to pray for their fellow believers who remain in prison for their faith.

"They are secluded in underground dungeons, metal shipping containers and military detention centers. They face exposure, hard labor and insufficient food, water and hygiene," the observer said. "They are regularly denied medical treatment for malaria and pneumonia which they contracted while in prison or diseases such as diabetes, hypertension or cancer that they may have had prior to imprisonment."

Eritrea is ranked No. 10 on the Open Doors 2013 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians.
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John Evans is a writer in Houston. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

 http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=41382

Monday, October 21, 2013

Keep Jesus Out of Your Socialism (Part 2) by Michael Youssef

Michael Youssef | Oct 20, 2013


In part one of this series, I made clear, from the words of Jesus and the New Testament, that ministering to the poor and the needy among us is the work of Christian individuals and the church, not the secular government. Jesus said, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. . . ." Today's Religious Left wants to change that to, "He has anointed the federal government to preach good news to the poor."
The Christian gospel is a message of salvation, not a message of income redistribution and raising our neighbor's taxes. Jesus said that the way to serve the poor is by giving generously of our own resources. "But when you give a banquet," He said in Luke 14, "invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
The Religious Left is very generous—with other people's money. In fact, I believe the founder of the Religious Left was none other than Judas Iscariot. When Mary, the sister of Lazarus, anointed Jesus with costly perfume just days before the crucifixion, Judas lectured her and said, "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?"
Notice that Judas put on a show of caring for the poor—even though the money was Mary's, not his! The motives of Judas, John 12:6 tells us, were corrupt and self-centered—and Jesus responded with a stinging rebuke.
At least one of the Lord's disciples was a "social action Christian" in the Sojourners mold: Simon Zelotes (Simon the Zealot). Just as Sojourners president Jim Wallis was once president of the Michigan State chapter of the militant Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Simon Zelotes was a young political radical who attached himself to Jesus because he thought Jesus would lead a revolt against the Roman Empire.
Simon saw Jesus as a political Messiah who would topple the powerful while lifting up the poor and oppressed. But Jesus was not a political Messiah. He didn't attack the Roman Empire. He did battle with the Evil Empire of Satan himself.
Jesus didn't tell the Roman government what its budget priorities should be. Why? Because His agenda was much larger than the agenda of Simon Zelotes or the Religious Left. His eyes were fixed on eternity. He said, "My kingdom is not of this world."


The Religious Left has missed the meaning of that statement. Yes, there is a place for Christian social action—but that place is in a personal lifestyle of generosity and compassion to the poor. Jesus didn't tell the rich young ruler to become a political activist and affect public policy. He said, "Go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
It's true, there's poverty in America, and some of the poor can't lift themselves out of poverty without help. Some are physically or socially disadvantaged. Some are down on their luck. They need and deserve Christian compassion and the good news of the gospel.
But a huge number of people receiving government assistance are substance abusers, welfare cheats, or chronically lazy. Doesn't the Bible tell us, "If a man will not work, he shall not eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10)? Why must the "makers" of society support the "takers" of society? That's not compassion. That's theft. Wouldn't it be more compassionate to encourage the takers to develop self-respect by becoming productive citizens?
Would Jesus endorse government policies that encourage and enable addiction, indolence, and welfare fraud? Certainly not. The Religious Left should read His parables, especially the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), the Parable of the Vineyards (Matthew 20:1-16), and the Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:33-46). In those parables, Jesus blesses hard work, personal responsibility and the freedom to achieve.
Government programs can't separate the truly needy from the welfare cheats—but private Christian charities can. Private charities are far more effective than government at meeting needs, changing lives, eliminating fraud and waste, and dispensing compassion. Our stance as Christians should be pro-compassion, not pro-bureaucracy.
The place for compassionate Christian social action is in the church, and in the lives of individual believers. When the church becomes a political pressure group, telling the government, "Confiscate more wealth from those who earned it and give it to those who have not," then the church has formed an unholy union with the kingdoms of this world.
Income redistribution is not Christianity. It's Marxism—and mixing the two only pollutes the Gospel and betrays the Great Commission.
Stay tuned for Part 3: Is America a "fallen nation"?

 http://townhall.com/columnists/michaelyoussef/2013/10/20/keep-jesus-out-of-your-socialism-part-2-n1728485

Keep Jesus Out of Your Socialism by Michael Youssef

Michael Youssef | Oct 13, 2013


The headline of the full-page ad asks, "What Would Jesus Cut?—A budget is a moral document." The text continues, "Our faith tells us that the moral test of a society is how it treats the poor."
The ad was produced by Sojourners, a self-described "evangelical" organization whose slogan is "Faith in Action for Social Justice." The ad was signed by Sojourners president Jim Wallis and more than two dozen Religious Left pastors, theologians, and activists. They urge our legislators to ask themselves, "What would Jesus cut?" from the federal budget.
How would you answer that question? My answer would be, "It's a nonsense question. Your premise is faulty. Your priorities are not His priorities."
Jesus had many opportunities to confront the Roman government about its spending priorities. It was, after all, one of the most brutal regimes in history. If the question "What would Jesus cut?" has any biblical relevance, we should be able to cite instances where Jesus lectured the Roman oppressors the same way the Religious Left lectures America.
Just compare ancient Rome with America today. Rome sent its armies out to conquer; America sends its soldiers out to liberate. Rome demanded tribute from other nations; America sends aid and emergency relief around the world. Rome enslaved nations; America rebuilds nations.
If the federal budget is a "moral document," what does it say about America? It suggests to me that America may be the most moral nation on earth! Name one other country that has spent $15 billion fighting AIDS in Africa. Name one other country that has provided more disaster relief, that has built more schools and water treatment plants, that has supplied more food aid around the world, that has sent more doctors, teachers, and technical advisers to developing nations.
Even America's military budget—much of which is being spent to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan—reflects the basic compassion and unselfishness of the American people. Clearly, America hardly deserves any scolding from the Sojourners soapbox.
Did Jesus ever lecture the Roman Empire about its budget priorities? In Matthew 8, when the Roman centurion approached Jesus in Capernaum, our Lord could have said, "How dare you, a Roman warmonger, come to Me asking favors? Change your priorities! Tell your bosses in Rome to stop buying chariots and start funding welfare programs!" But Jesus didn't lecture the centurion. He said, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith!"


In Matthew 22, when the Pharisees asked if it was right to pay taxes to Caesar, the Lord could have thundered against Caesar's misplaced budget priorities. Instead, He said, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."
In John 18, Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect, a friend of Caesar. Why didn't He give Pilate an earful about the injustice of Roman rule? If ever there was a time for Jesus to "speak truth to power" and become the "social justice Messiah," that was it!
But Jesus didn't preach the social gospel to Pontius Pilate. Oh, he spoke truth to power, all right. He delivered a profound message to Pontius Pilate—and to you and me: "My kingdom is not of this world."
Now, I'm not saying that Christians are never called to confront their government. God bless Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church for standing against Nazi genocide. But that's not the situation here.
And I'm not saying there isn't a social and compassionate dimension to the Christian gospel. There certainly is! Jesus had great compassion for the poor.
He preached in Nazareth, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor." He sent word to John the Baptist, "The deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor." Jesus presented the obligation to help the poor as an individual responsibility, a Kingdom responsibility—not the duty of the secular government.
Both the religious and secular Left in America seem to want government to replace the church in ministering to the poor and needy. One of Barack Obama's first proposals as president was a plan to slash tax deductions for charitable donations by high-income taxpayers. President Obama reasoned that a tax deduction "shouldn't be a determining factor as to whether you're giving that hundred dollars to the homeless shelter." Maybe so—but since private charities do so much good for the poor, why eliminate incentives for charitable giving? Could it be that liberals see private charities as competing with the big government welfare state?
In Romans 13, Paul tells us that we pay our taxes and support the government so that we will have a just, orderly society in which law-abiding citizens are protected from wrongdoers. But the responsibility for mercy and compassion belongs to the church—not the government.
What would Jesus cut? When He stood before the Roman Empire, He didn't suggest cuts. He received cuts. His flesh was cut by Roman nails and a Roman spear. He was bruised for our transgressions, and with His cuts we are healed. That's the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Stay tuned. In Part 2, we'll see how Jesus dealt with the "radical leftists" among his disciples.

 http://townhall.com/columnists/michaelyoussef/2013/10/13/keep-jesus-out-of-your-socialism-n1721832

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Christians being careful of rhetoric in politics

While there are a great many subjects that create large amounts of  emotion and can raise the level of rhetoric quickly, there is probably none more emotional than politics. When Christians engage in politics, and our discussions of politics, we need to make sure that we are careful of our rhetoric and keep it consistent with our rhetoric in other things.Recently we, in the convention, had a dust up of controversy over Calvinism. In the end we agreed that we need to be unified in purpose and agree to disagree on other things. It was also determined that we need to be careful of our rhetoric with each other. But it seems that in politics we excuse some things we would otherwise condemn. I am a bit concerned over the rhetoric with regards to Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Rand Paul. I see a lot of rhetoric that is inconsistent where they are concerned.

First, some of us are working to divide each other. Pitting Ted Cruz and the Tea Party against everyone else is not Christian rhetoric. In fact it is the very rhetoric and divide that the extreme liberal left has worked to achieve. While some may not agree with the method guys like Cruz and Paul use we need to be careful not to forget that we are all looking for the same thing. Suggesting that "Hey, I am like Reagan and you, you are just the Tea Party" is not only divisive but it is childish. It seems Ronald Reagan has left a legacy that makes people want to be like him. The problem is we have reached a point where everybody wants to claim him as their model for what ever they want but cannot seem to back up that claim with anything substantive. Reagan has become an excuse for division and ungodly rhetoric rather than what his legacy was really about which is unity.

Secondly let's be sure not to make claims or characterizations of anyone including our politicians that are misleading or are flat out not true. Sometimes things our politicians push for or do can be quite extreme and vial. For example there are quite a few politicians that push for unfettered access to abortion. And I believe wholeheartedly that we need to speak up about such atrocities. Where we ere, I believe, is when we pit a man who stands up for what he believes to be true and label him with things like "purist" and suggest that he is something other than what he claims to be. We need to be careful in assigning motive to people we cannot actually confirm from them.

These things are not part of what Christian rhetoric should look like. We as Christians should not obtain our phrases and talking points from the secular media. When Christian rhetoric starts to look like that then we can know that we are moving in the wrong direction. Let's step back and take a look at our rhetoric and make sure it represents the very God who saved us and bought us with a price.