The September 2005 PNEUMA INFORMER
In this issue
What's New at www.PneumaFoundation.orgNew Articles, Links, and other Features
Interruption in service
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Reports from Around the World
Bulgaria: Special Report
What Just Happened in Bulgaria?: 2005 Election Results and Regrets
While the eyes of the world were turned to the tragedy in the London subway, Bulgarian democracy lost yet a new parliamentary election. Coalition for Bulgaria, the newly renamed Bulgarian socialist party with communistic heritage swept the votes with 34%. The majority party of the past four years, Simeon II National Movement led by the former Bulgarian king remained second with 22% and the Turkish ethnic group Movement for Rights and Freedoms followed with 14%. The in-split "democratic forces" entered the election in three separate wings to win a total of 21% as neither one of the three passed the 10% barrier. Similarly, and surprisingly for all, was the win of the newly formed movement "Ataka" (Attack) which grabbed over 8% of the nation's voters. The last remains under suspicion because of its controversial campaign incorporating nationalistic and chauvinistic propaganda with anti-ethnic messages.
It is only a guess if the elections were fair, with approximately 50% national participation and over one million Bulgarians living and working abroad. Regardless, a government with socialist majority should be expected. Such will enforce extreme left direction in politics similar to the time before the Berlin Wall.
Bulgaria's entrance into the European Union will be delayed and the cooperation with NATO will be only minimal. Salaries may increase slightly, while prices will change drastically. The price of gas and bread have already gone up with hardly any time to forget the pre-election promises of political peace, economical prosperity, wellbeing of the people and security for the future. Promises will not be kept; in fact, they are already being broken. It is clear, that the Bulgarian people will suffer.
A socialist cabinet in Bulgaria can mean only one thing for the protestant movement in the country. The government will have authority and use it to strictly reinforce the new religious law. Orthodox monopoly over religious life will remain strong and the government will interfere in the business of the church through endless legalities or police force, much similar to the raids of July, 2004.
This is not new for the church in Bulgaria which went through a similar depression in 1996-97. It was during that time that the Bulgarian Christian Coalition was established to represent the evangelical believers in Bulgaria. Due to organizational, leadership and strategy flaws the Coalition received only 21,000 votes - hardly enough to enter Parliament. This failure should be a wake-up call for the Bulgarian Protestants, and especially for the Pentecostal majority among them. If the church indeed lives a political theology, as Moltmann claims, it is time for the church in Bulgaria to regain its rightful social place.
In the process of publishing this article several developments took place. After almost a month of political discussions and diplomatic stipulations, the Simeon II National Movement did not receive the Prime Minster's mandate and remained in the opposition. The leading Socialists and the ethnic Movement for Rights and Freedoms are expected to fail forming a successful cabinet, as many observers predict new elections in the fall. Please pray, that the Pentecostal churches will be able to continue their work and ministry regardless of the situation in Bulgaria.
Up-to-date information about the development of the government changes and political tension in Bulgaria can be viewed here:
Source: Dony Donev, www.cupandcross.com
USA: Bible Course Criticism Sparks Publicity That "Gets the Word Out"
The founder of an elective Bible course taught nationwide says her nonprofit organization has benefited from the media attention generated this week by a religious watchdog group that attacked the curriculum as pushing students toward conservative Protestant viewpoints and violating religious freedom.
In a news conference Monday, the Texas Freedom Network (TFN), which includes clergy of several faiths, said the course offered by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS) is full of errors and dubious research that promote a fundamentalist Christian view, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
NCBCPS President Elizabeth Ridenour dismissed the network as a "far left" extremist organization that is pro-homosexuality and pro-abortion. More than 175,000 students in high schools and junior highs by 312 school districts in 37 states, including Alaska, California and Texas, use the elective course. On the NCBCPS Web site, Ridenour said the course is concerned with "education rather than indoctrination of students.
She noted that the TFN's criticism "hasn't hurt us at all." "If anything, it's helped us get the word out," Ridenour told CharismaNow, adding that 12 school districts in the last month have added the curriculum. "People are calling and wanting it in their school districts."
Mike Johnson, a lawyer for the national council, agreed. "The most telling factor is the network held a conference instead of filing a complaint in court," Johnson, who has been inundated with media interviews this week, told CharismaNow. "That says it all. There's no legal problem with the approach of this curriculum. If there were one, we would have been legally challenged a long time ago."
He cited a 1999 legal opinion by four lawyers, including two constitution attorneys from Notre Dame and Princeton, calling the course permissible under constitutional guidelines.
Ridenour, a commercial real estate broker who said she formed the NCBCPS in 1993 after deciding that she had long been "duped" into believing the Bible could not be taught in public schools, said the course has stayed within legal limits, "The New York Times" reported.
"The central approach of the class is simply to study the Bible as a foundation document of society, and that approach is altogether appropriate in a comprehensive program of secular education," Ridenour said.
TFN president Kathy Miller said her group looked at the NCBCPS after the Odessa school board voted in April to offer a Bible class, the AP reported. According to TFN, 52 Texas school districts offer the class.
In Odessa, more than 6,000 people signed a petition in support of offering a Bible class before the proposal was approved in April. Although representatives of the Bible curriculum council had attended school board meetings in Odessa, superintendent Wendell Sollis said course materials have not been selected. The class will be offered starting in fall 2006.
Source: CharismaNOW http://www.charismanow.com/a.php?ArticleID=11609 Used with permission.
Somalia: first Somali church
In 2002, Somalia was listed as the least-reached nation in the world, with only one evangelical Christian for every 67,314 inhabitants. German missionaries in Somalia have sent the following news: "For 15 years, Somalia has stood for anarchy, hunger, death, violence and refugees. The nation has now managed to form a new Government. Many Somalis have experienced death-bringing hate, and know that Islam never managed to bring peace to their nation. When they hear that Jesus prayed for his murderers while on the cross, they are deeply touched. Perhaps God had to allow the situation in Somalia in order to open the people for the Gospel. For decades, there were very few Christians, and even today, many pay for their faith with their life. Now, though, couples and even entire families are coming to Jesus, and children are hearing the Word of God in the churches. A dream held by missionaries for decades has just been fulfilled: a few months ago, a number of Somali groups joined to plant a church. Even Government officials have to admit that their nation is no longer 100% Moslem. The new Christians are growing in faith and assuming more and more responsibility . . ."
Source: Adapted from FridayFax 2005/31. Used with permission.
Helping with Reports
Other News and Headlines
The PNEUMA INFORMER editor is looking for volunteers that could help gather and format reports for publication in this email newsletter. If you would be interested in helping with this, or if you have a one-time suggestion of an encouraging story or report of what God is doing in the world, please write to the INFORMER editor by using the email address found on the Contact Us page.
for Current News and Links
See other news to pray and praise God about in the Prayer Requests department below.
Report the News
We are looking for stories about what God is doing in the world, reports about the persecution of Christians, and information about significant trends and ministry opportunities. If you have a news item to report, please send an email to the PNEUMA INFORMER. http://www.pneumafoundation.org/contactus.jsp
Resources You Can Use
Internet Evangelism Training
Free training videos for online evangelism strategy: writing, chat and followup. TruthMedia.com are one of the leading web evangelism teams. They have now shared their considerable experience in a range of short streamed videos (from 1 to 5 minutes). http://ied.gospelcom.net/training-videos.php
Source: Web Evangelism Newsletter August 05. www.web-evangelism.com Used with permission.
Film Quotes and Audio/Video Clips
"Looking for a good sermon title or a launching point for an illustration? Connect with your audience's understanding of pop culture by using AFI's list of the top 100 film quotes of all time," (says the Pastors.com newsletter): http://afi.com/tvevents/100years/quotes.aspx#list
Current movie video clips: http://www.hollywoodjesus.com
Mission-related clips: http://ied.gospelcom.net/video.php
Audio clips: http://www.audiopot.org
LifeWay/eMediaLink video short competition winners and other clips: http://guide.gospelcom.net/rd?b05august-lifeway
Source: Web Evangelism Newsletter August 05. www.web-evangelism.com Used with permission.
Learning to tell stories
Storytelling is the number one means of communicating anything! According to the International Storytelling Center, there are six stories you need to learn how to tell: who I am stories, why I am here stories, my vision story, teaching stories, values in action stories, and "I know what you are thinking" stories: http://www.storytellingcenter.com/resources/articles/simmons.htm
Story-telling is an essential means of evangelism: http://guide.gospelcom.net/resources/parallel.php
Source: Web Evangelism Newsletter August 05. www.web-evangelism.com Used with permission.
Excerpts from the Summer 2005 issue of the PNEUMA REVIEW
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From "Rightly Understanding God's Word Context of Genre Continued" by Craig S. Keener
. . .
Wisdom teachers, or sages, often taught in easily memorize-able sayings called proverbs. Most cultures have some familiarity with this genre; Americans have sayings like, "Haste makes waste," and traditional African societies have made much more abundant use of proverbs.
Proverbs are short, succinct statements of general principle. As such, they are summaries of what is normal, not unconditional promises for all circumstances. Some general principles may actually conflict with one another in practice in specific situations. Thus in Proverbs 26:4-5 one should both answer a fool according to his folly, and not answer a fool according to his folly. For his sake you should correct him; for your sake you should be careful not to become like him. Both are true principles, and recognizing both requires us to keep attentive to the breadth of Scripture, rather than taking one text and reading it into all others without first considering the meaning of each text.
One who preaches from Proverbs may wish to gather different proverbs on the same topic and preach them together. This is important because most of the Book of Proverbs consists of sayings in random order, so normal rules of context do not apply. But the broader context of genre does apply, and pulling together other wisdom-sayings on the same topic can be very helpful.
By ignoring the genre of Proverbs, some have used isolated proverbs as unconditional promises which they may then "claim" with certainty. Some, like Job's friends, therefore use Proverbs' general principles about success for the righteous to condemn as lacking in faith those who do not experience such success. This approach completely misunderstands the nature of proverbs. Some have also come up with strange doctrines by taking individual proverbs out of the context of the larger collection of sayings on the same subject.
For example, some say that we can speak things into existence based on some proverbs (as well as some other texts out of context). They note that the tongue can bring death or life, hurt or healing (Prov 18:21; 12:18). But when one compares other proverbs about the tongue bringing healing or life, their meaning becomes clear: you can edify or hurt others by your speech, and you can get yourself into trouble or help yourself by how you speak to others (Prov 12:14; 13:2-3; 18:20; 21:23). Other statements in Proverbs about healing include the well-being of those who choose trustworthy messengers (Prov 13:17), have tranquil or joyful hearts (14:30; 17:22), receive good news (25:25) or hear encouraging words (16:24). Many texts emphasize the therapeutic value of the tongue, especially in relationships (12:25; 15:1, 4, 23; 25:11-12, 25). Egyptians and Mesopotamians also had proverbs about the tongue and about words bringing healing or death, not in the sense of speaking things into existence but in the sense of getting one in trouble or out of it (see, e.g., the "Words of Ahiqar").
We should also note the "rhetorical function" of proverbs. Ancient sages offered proverbs in short, succinct statements as general principles. Proverbs were poetry (often with the second line contrasting with the first line), and they were short summaries that would not list all possible exceptions to the principles they articulated. They might use humor, hyperbole (rhetorical overstatement), irony, and other means to communicate graphically; proverbs were intended to be memorable and practical, not detailed statements of philosophy and certainly not legal guarantees. We must read them according to the character in which they were written.
We briefly mention some other kinds of wisdom literature. Job and Ecclesiastes both challenge the kind of conventional wisdom in Proverbs: What happens when the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper? That the Bible includes these books reminds us that the general principles in Proverbs are principles only, not ironclad guarantees that we can "claim" as if God is obligated to answer them. (He does, however, often answer our prayers of faith, including faith strengthened by such principles. But that is a different matter.) That the Bible also includes such a wide range of perspectives (although not contradictions) also may warn us to keep our own boundaries wide: God may send many Christians to us with different kinds of wisdom, and we should have the wisdom to embrace all kinds of wisdom. We may meet those who tend to be cautious and skeptical (like the cynicism of Ecclesiastes), those who have learned through the sufferings of Job, and those who have seen general principles of God's faithfulness to the righteous; we should welcome them all, and help them to work together in Christ's one body, just as different books of the Bible work together in one canon.
. . .
Craig S. Keener, Ph.D., is professor of New Testament at Eastern Seminary. He is the author of ten books, including Gift & Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today (Baker Academic, 2001), and is married to Dr. Medine Moussounga Keener.
Read the rest of this article in the Summer 2005 issue of the PNEUMA REVIEW www.pneumafoundation.org/intro_pr.jsp
- Pray for believers in Eritrea: In the first known death of a Christian imprisoned by authorities during a crackdown of believers, a believer reportedly has died as a result of mistreatment in detention. According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Kelati Awalom, a member of the Rhema Church in Asmara, died at his home on July 24 after he was released from prison where he was beaten.
Awalom had been detained on three separate occasions. According to information received by the Eritrean Christian Web site Erishalom, while in detention for the third time recently, prison guards beat Awalom so severely that one of his arms was paralyzed.
Meanwhile, 70 Christians arrested at a wedding celebration in Asmara on May 28 may have been sent to a detention centre in Wi'a, one of the most inhospitable parts of the African country. According to reports received by the religious liberty group Release Eritrea, the believers, who include popular gospel artist Essey Estifanos and several of his friends, were promised freedom on condition that they express allegiance to the Orthodox, Catholic or Lutheran churches, the only religions that are sanctioned by the government other than Islam.
On August 5, a worldwide day of prayer and fasting for Christian prisoners in Eritrea was held at the urging of Eritrean Christians. Some 500 Christians are currently imprisoned in Eritrea.
A CSW fact-finding team that recently visited Eritrean refugees in a neighboring African country heard graphic testimonies of the severe punishments meted out to any Christians in the armed forces who are caught praying or are found in possession of Bibles or other Christian material.
Source: CharismaNOW http://www.charismanow.com/a.php?ArticleID=11632 Used with permission
- Alexandrina in Bulgaria writes: "I have been fighting severe eye staphylococcus infections but I believe God is in control. Please, keep me in prayer." Reference Number: 9001970
- Andrew writes: "I'm called of God to minister to his people. Being in ministry for some years now, I've realized the necessity of acquiring Theological & Biblical studies. In my efforts to seek for studies, my major obstacle has been raising college fee. Therefore I would like to indicate my request for your prayers." Reference Number: 90019817
- Pray for believers in Sri Lanka: A full gospel congregation was recently banned from meeting for worship because authorities felt Buddhist opposition to the church could lead to a disturbance of the peace.
According to the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEARLC), on Aug. 7, a mob of around 50 people led by a Buddhist monk arrived at the Foursquare Gospel Church in Horana, located in the Kalutara District, threatening the believers to stop their meeting, Assist News Service (ANS) reported. The group also told the congregation to leave the church and not return.
On July 31, the same mob interrupted the congregation's Sunday worship and harassed believers. Although the church requested for police protection, authorities did not arrive during the Aug. 7 incident. The pastor once again called the police station, this time to request intervention. The police called both parties to the police station to resolve the matter, but authorities ordered the pastor and his congregation to stop meeting for worship. The church has also been instructed not to try to relocate, according to WEARLC, ANS reported.
Source: CharismaNOW http://www.charismanow.com/a.php?ArticleID=11721 Used with permission
- "I am Rev. Hre L., Director of Free Gospel Mission in Myanmar. Free Gospel Mission is working among the Buddhists and nonbelievers. Since we the Christians are being opposed by the Myanmar military government, it is hard time to evangelize, but we believe that this is the best time to reached them with the gospel of salvation. Moreover, we are now insufficient for the mission work. Therefore, we the Free Gospel Mission bring to you these special prayer requests: 1. Pray that we may filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. 2. Pray for the physical needs, especially daily bread. 3. to win the lost souls." Reference Number: 90019739