Take action now to stop the execution of Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani

The Foreign Secretary and the Archbishop of Canterbury intervened last night to try to save a Christian pastor in Iran who has refused to renounce his faith to escape a death sentence. An Iranian court gave Youcef Nadarkhani, 34, a third and final chance to avoid hanging, but he replied: “I am resolute in my faith and Christianity and have no wish to recant.”
The persecution of Christians across the globe is real.

Do pray for Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani. Then act by signing this petition whilst there is still time to do so.

Update: “CSW has facilitated the sending of over 19,000 emails from campaigners to the Iranian embassy in the UK and continues to pursue advocacy on behalf of Pastor Nadarkhani.”

HT The Times

Can you say ‘Yes’ in Koine Greek?

Neither can at least 30 Greek Professors by the looks of things…

Write the Greek word/phrase for the following common English words or phrases:

  1. Yes
  2. Chair or Seat
  3. Ball
  4. Cat
  5. Monkey
  6. Nine
  7. Red
  8. Cold
  9. Nose
  10. To jump
    Bonus: “Hello, how are you?” “Goodbye!”

After the audience [of 30 Greek Professors] had finished, I collected their quizzes. The average “grade” was 0.4 out 10 correct. Most testees could not answer any of the questions correctly, although they tried. The highest grade was 2 out of 10. Now, this audience included many scholars who had written best selling Greek textbooks and grammars. Of course, I won’t name names!

Makes me feel an awful lot better!

We’re experts at filling out paradigm charts. We love to explain the historical role of the digamma in irregular verbs. We can nerd on an on about proclitics and enclitics (ok, maybe not, but you get my point ). What we lack is simple proficiency in Greek.

Daniel R. Streett is on a roll over at καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

Could a blindfolded monkey write some of our worship songs?!

So let’s not reach for ‘fridge magnet phrases’ – let’s be poets and wordsmiths whose quest to find fresh expressions is itself an act of worship… It’s about having discernment, knowing when to use a phrase and when not to. I’d err on the side of “not”, even if just for a personal exercise. When tempted to slip into fridge magnet ‘praise phrases’, let’s choose instead to try harder, dig deeper, and craft a more beautiful, fresh and unique way of describing our beautiful and unique God.
A worthy exhortation.

Easy for me to say as someone who doesn’t write worship songs but…  My experience of those songs that really ‘work’ are that they appear to have been written out of a deep experience and consistent lifestyle of conviction by the Holy Spirit and revelation of Jesus.

It’s perhaps not surprising that as we struggle to put into words what we have come to know in our hearts, that we find ourselves adopting the register of scripture.  Creativity and familiarity can co-exist.

I think the call for creativity and fresh expression, though, is recognising that the worship ‘scene’ can be a bit of an echo chamber at times, reflecting the language of other worship songs rather than fresh engagement with truth.

In any case, heartfelt worship songs that ‘connect’ will have more to do with the position of the worshipper and the journey of the community no matter how clever the lyrics.

God in China

There was an excellent broadcast on BBC Radio 4 last week in which Tim Gardam, Principal of St Anne’s College, Oxford explores the role of “God in China.”1 A conservative figure for the number of Christians in China would now be 70 million.

That’s a lot.

It’s perhaps no wonder than that Christianity is still treated with suspicion by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), whilst at the same time, there are many who call for increasing levels of acceptance. What Dr Gardam’s piece highlights well is the genuine tension in China between the official Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) churches and the ‘underground’, unofficial house churches.
Interpreting the TSPM is both complicated and controversial. The demand from believers has been for a ‘space’ in society where the individual could “govern his whole life and thought by Christian ideas and principles.” The practical developments around the modus vivendi that is the TSPM demonstrates both the problem of continued government interference with this ‘space’ for religious activity, and the reality of how some Three-Self churches are able to avoid the more restrictive aspects of the arrangement in practice.

There is a real danger in viewing the official church with derision and contempt, and presenting them as a moribund organisation that has outlived its usefulness. There are some very real compromises without question (the forbidding of ‘evangelism’ amongst the populace by TSPM churches of under–18s springs to mind.) There are some very real failings of the TSPM, and memories of the betrayal of house-church Christians by their TSPM peers in the 1950’s and opening years of the Cultural Revolution die hard. Yet the there are areas where religious accommodation has afforded to the official wing of Protestant Christianity in China a negotiation of gradual freedoms that simply would not be possible without its legal, and necessarily compromised, status.

Yet the reality of CCP meddling in church activity, while an issue treated with some care, has not been met by all registered church leaders with a somnambulant conformity, where they have proven unwilling or unable to respond. In reality, the degree of control wielded by the state is uneven the regions and there are many examples of official and unofficial churches working closely together – even of believers attending morning ‘house churches’, only to join in worship with TSPM believers in the evening. It is also, incidentally, categorically not the case that TSPM churches and their pastors are not themselves subject to persecution.

It doesn’t have to be a case of either or. Religious accommodation in an atheist state and house churches that go beyond the boundaries of legality can both be legitimate and spirit-filled responses in my view.

The state of Christianity in China is more than a search for autonomous space for religious activity. Being a Follower of Jesus and sitting under his lordship can be seen as at odds with the communist state. But the ways in which the lordship of Christ – just as it did for Paul and his believers across the Roman Empire – can express itself in many different, creative and surprising ways.

Just a few thoughts.

  1. Apologies if either the effluxion of time or the lack of UK residence prevent you from enjoying this  ↩

What Would Hillary Clinton Have Done?

What’s likely to cost Obama his re-election isn’t that he did a particularly bad job in the (awful) situation he inherited, but that the strong messages of “hope” and “change” in his campaign — a significant part of what got him elected — convinced so many people that he could do more than he actually can as president.

The search for the liberal Messiah who can transcend the mire of politics continues… Hilary may not have faired any better, but maybe she would have managed expectations better?

Via Marco.org and Rebecca Traister.

Approaching the Scriptures

The goal of the Bible has always been to bring us into an encounter and relationship with God (see John 17:3). If knowing the Word and knowing God were synonymous, then the scribes and Pharisees, who memorized the entire Old Testament, would have been the first people to recognize and receive Christ. But their very approach to the Scriptures set them up for spiritual blindness. They abandoned the true purpose for studying the Word by exchanging a relationship with God for academic arguments, and never demanded that their theology lead to an encounter. [Kris Vallotton]

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life [John 5].