Originally posted on agnus dei - english + romanian blog:

Conform hotararii consiliului municipal, se interzice predicarea Evangheliei in public. Interdictia se refera si la evenimentele, spectacolele, difuzarea de muzica, sau la strangerea de semnaturi, toate de natura religioasa.

Persoanele care doresc sa desfasoare o activitate publica in oras, trebuie sa completeze un formular si sa dea o declaratie in fata unei comisii speciale pe care municipalitatea a infiintat-o. Dupa aceste proceduri, comisia va evalua si va da un raspuns daca va aproba sau nu, cererea.

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Originally posted on VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED:

(World Watch Monitor) Sources from Syria’s embattled Hassaka province confirmed at midnight on Tuesday, Feb. 24, that at least 72 Assyrian Christian families – thought to be around 200 people – from three villages have been captured by the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Reportedly taken to the Arab Sunni village of Um Al-Masamier, the exact number of Christian hostages from the Tel Gouran, Tel Jazira and Tel Hormizd villages remains unknown.

An additional 50 or more families are still under siege in Tel Shamiram village, surrounded by IS fighters. Although on Monday Kurdish fighters from Syria’s Democratic Union Party (PYD) took back control of Toma Yelda, an important hill on the battlefront, the military struggle for Tel Shamiram is continuing.

According to Archbishop Mar Aprem Nathniel, the Bishop of Syria of the Assyrian Church of the East residing in Hassaka, only 200 Christian families remain in the Khabour region, more than…

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Originally posted on StationVI Blog:

December 6th

“A God who let us prove his existence would be an idol”

   ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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God has nothing to prove, and yet here we are constantly trying to get God to prove Himself. Imagine for just a second, how ridiculous this is. Me, little tiny man, asking God, creator of the universe, to prove Himself to me? Insanity!

My thinking is so warped, so upside down and backwards, that I can’t see it. God actually has proved Himself from time to time but He understands that this will never fully satisfy (or convince) our souls. I could see all the miracles of God, hear Him speaking audibly each day telling me what to do, and still… I would question and even complain. So it takes that measure of Faith to trust and believe that He is exactly who He claims to be.

God is no idol…

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JANUARY 22, 2013

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY

Two new books are now available for the Lenten season from Westminster John Knox Press.

God Is on the Cross from Dietrich Bonhoeffer presents forty stirring devotions to guide and inspire readers through Lent and Easter. Each day of the season includes a Scripture passage, with the devotions following themes of prayerful reflection, self-denial, temptation, suffering, and the meaning of the cross. Passages from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s letters and sermons are also included, along with an informative introduction to Bonhoeffer’s life.

Bonhoeffer (1906-45) was a Christian minister, seminary professor, and theologian who became one of the leading voices of opposition against Nazism during World War II. He was a founding member of Germany’s Confessing Church and was executed for participating in a plot to assassinate Hitler. His theological views have become highly influential in the years since his death.

Also available for Lent is N. T. Wright’s Lent for Everyone: Luke, Year C. The popular scholar and author provides his own Scripture translation, brief reflection, and a prayer for each of the days of the season, helping readers ponder how the text is relevant to their own lives today. By the end of the book readers will have been through the entirety of Luke, along with Psalm readings for each Sunday.

For the rest of the post…

Originally posted on veldez:

An Overview of the Ethics of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“I shall have no right”, Bonhoeffer wrote to Niebuhr before leaving America, “to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people….Christians in Germany will face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive, or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying our civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose; but I cannot make this choice in security.”

From G. Liebholz’s Memoir preceding the introduction to Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship

I sometimes wonder what we Christians mean when we say “we’re in the world and not of it.” Of course, I realize we usually mean we dwell here but we don’t allow the world to influence us—we have no part in the evil of this world. I cannot…

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Originally posted on in our own words:

The church is the body of Christ, not as a metaphor, but in reality. –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I used to have high hopes for the church. Idealistic even. But a curious thing happened to me on the way to idealizing the church. I spent some time in it. And I became jaded. I suspect in this I am not alone.

The picture that is forming of my two-and-a-half decades of time spent with the people of God spread throughout Northern California, Southern California, the Deep South and the Great Northwest looks more like twisted burning wreckage than anything else. The wreckage has been largely relational in nature. The logical center of my soul has been pleading with me for years now to give up the ghost.

Who has the emotional reserves to stay invested in a community with so much capacity for harm? Who in their right mind would give themselves…

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Not that long ago, most Americans didn’t know much or care to know much about Islam. It was just one more exotic but irrelevant religion that missionaries and National Geographicoccassionally talked about. One scholar noted, “Less than a year before September 11, 2001, the consensus of expert opinion was . . . that [Islam’s] impact had ended long before the Renaissance.” It took a massive terrorist attack on U.S. soil to abruptly bring Islam squarely into the center of the American consciousness.

Since that day, questions about violence and Islam have lingered in the American mind: do these violent terrorists truly represent Islam? Is violence intrinsic to the Muslim faith? Having once been a student at a boarding school for missionary kids that was attacked by Islamic terrorists in an effort to frighten Christian missionaries out of the country, these questions are not hackneyed abstractions for me.

As I observe Christians trying to come to grips with the Islamic world, violence in Islam remains a deeply important problem. As Christians, the issue is important to us not simply because we believe that Christianity is true and all other religions are false, but because we have the duty and privilege of proclaiming the gospel to all peoples, including Muslims. While others may have the option of keeping “those Muslims” out of sight and mind as much as possible, Christians must draw near them.

Better Question to Ask

The question at hand presupposes the possibility of determining the true Muslim faith, which is something not even settled within Islam itself. In fact, the recent upsurge in violence perpetrated by Muslim groups is related to the fact that multiple groups are contending for the undisputed title of the “true successors.” Much as Protestants and Catholics argue over the true successors of the apostles, Islam faces the question as to the identity of the true successors to Mohammed. But unlike the Bible, the Qur’an does not really provide enough footing on its own to resolve the question.

A better question to ask is whether or not there is a legitimate place for violence within Islamic tradition. The answer is yes. The primary means of determining this right in Islam is power. According to Islamic thinking, if you are in power and succeeding, then God is clearly blessing and supporting you. If you are not, then God has chosen not to bless you. Of the first four caliphs after Mohammed, three of them were violently murdered, either by assassination, mob, or in battle, all by “fellow” Muslims who supported other leaders. The first two Islamic dynasties came into power by slaughtering those who held power before them. Islam’s history only gets bloodier from there, since might makes right in a way that is foreign to the Judeo-Christian world. Despite the shocking number of Christians or secular Westerners being killed by Muslims, Muslims are killing even greater numbers of other Muslims.

Political leaders as well as terrorist groups use force to establish themselves as the rightful leaders of the Muslim world. Political leaders might portray themselves in a more civilized manner, but the governments of places like Saudi Arabia and Iran are just as willing to commit violent acts for the sake of gaining and maintain power, even if it means commiting them against their own citizens (or other people groups that happen to live within their borders). The Washington Post recently ran a story comparing the justice system of Saudi Arabia to that of ISIS. The only difference, basically, is that the Islamic State brags globally about their enforcement in an effort to prove their devotion.

Three Undergirding Principles 

Why else does violence broadly retain a position of legitimacy within the Islamic tradition? I think three theological and cultural issues undergird violence within Islam.

1. Coercion and Belief 

Christianity teaches that God does not desire mere outward obeisance. He wants heartfelt obedience and living faith. As Paul says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9). Therefore, we cannot coerce someone into becoming a Christian. All we can make through coercion is hypocrites. However, you can force someone to become a Muslim (though probably not a truly devout one). All five pillars of Islam are behavioral. Each one can be fulfilled without heartfelt conviction.

Islam means “submission.” Christian means “little Christ.” Even in their labels, you can see a clear difference in priorities between the religions. One promotes discipleship—teaching others to follow. The other promotes conquest (internal and external). Shabbir Akhtar, who lectures at Old Dominion University, argues in D. A. Carson’s book The Intolerance of Tolerance, “Ultimately Islam will (and ought to) win worldwide dominion, because Islam alone, and certainly not Christianity, is internally constituted to be an imperial religion.” This kind of thinking has no place in biblical Christianity.

2. Land 

You can see Mohammed’s sword in Topkapi Palace, Istanbul. Of all the supposed relics of Christ, no one has ever claimed to have found his sword. Jesus said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my disciples would fight to keep me from being handed over” (John 18:36). Jesus rebuked Peter for “going to war” to prevent his arrest. There is no such thing as a Christian nation, because the new heavens and the new earth have not been fully inaugurated. There is such thing as a Muslim nation, because every piece of land that belongs to a Muslim nation belongs to Allah.

While Christians grieve the decline of Christianity in places like Europe, we cannot legitimately go to war to reclaim it for Christ. Instead, we pray and evangelize. Furthermore, Christ’s kingdom advances not in territory but in and through the people who claim him as their King. However, when Muslim lands become less Muslim, that is a direct affront to Islam that must be redresssed.

3. Honor and Shame 

The importance of honor is a key cultural difference between the West and most Muslim countries. Rejection or mockery of Mohammed or Islam is a personal attack on every Muslim. Every person who leaves Islam to become a Christian shames Islam because he communicates that it is unworthy of belief. Christ teaches us that to be shamed by the world for the sake of the Lord is honorable (1 Pet. 4:14). Muslims have no clear category for receiving that shame as a commendation of their faithfulness to Allah, since only success is a sign of God’s blessing. So when Islam is undermined, it must be fiercely defended.

Violence in the Human Heart

These factors contribute to violence in Islam, but more than anything else they condemn the human heart. Physical violence has been a distinguishing mark of all humanity ever since Genesis 4. Violence is not unique to Islam. It’s a distinctive of sinful human hearts. In other words, Islam does not make people violent. Sin does. As a man-made religion, Islam is just one more tool people use to harden the heart and embrace sin.

But common grace also extends to Muslims. Not all Muslims are given over to the violence that the system could potentially justify, just as your atheist/secular neighbors don’t fully embrace every sinful behavior that their non-theist worldview could justify.

Christian Response to Violent Persecutors

How should Christians respond to the reality of Islamic violence? The secular West is scrambling for an answer but coming up empty. Every time we see another attack by Muslim terrorists, public figures sprint to opposite sides of the ring. One side says the violence proves terrorism is the inevitable outworking of Islam, the other that beliefs had nothing to do with it.

The world around us struggles because they are unable to see Muslims as people whose value exists in their personhood, not their beliefs. The world thinks of people in binary terms. Either Muslims are “good people” or extremists who belong with the likes of Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot.

But we know—or should know—that Muslims are humans created in God’s image and distorted by the fall. They need the same gospel as we do. Muslims are not the enemy, but they are in bondage to him.

For the rest of the post…

A HOLY EXPERIENCE

Only three days later, people go around with these crosses right on their foreheads.

It’s only three days after the world found out that The 21 died for being The People of the Cross, three days after that incomprehensible video stated they were “chopping off the heads of those that have been carrying the cross illusion in their heads” —-

that people all around the world people wear these sooty crosses right there on their faces, right above their eyes. Right there on their heads, shaping their minds.

Like they want to be known and marked and counted as one of those. One of His.

There are these sooty crosses smudged on countless foreheads and that’s what is murmured like a brave and honest refrain around the world today, words from our Genesis beginning:

Dust you are and to dust you will return. 

Dust.

Humanity was formed of dust and our human bodies will return to dust.

Three days later people wear it like a like a courageous confession of reality: For all our beautiful bluster — we are just beautiful dust. It’s like this early echo of what will be said over all our graves: “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

For the rest of the post…

The Call for the Next 40 Days: To the Nations & People of The Cross
The Call for the Next 40 Days: To the Nations & People of The Cross

Originally posted on The Queen Life:

Here’s another nugget from my Bonhoeffer devotional. Psalm 119:1 is the focus.

Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.

Referring to “new beginnings,” he says that we drive ourselves into “fruitless fear” when we question whether we made the right beginning. When we are born again we are on the way with God, and this question is now settled for us. Fruitless fear comes from a constant search for the new beginning (uh oh). 

fruitless efforts grapeSide Note: These Bonhoeffer writings are from another time (mid-20th century), and he says fruitless fear is the result of the ones already on the way with God searching for a new beginning. This grabbed me because today, in the 21st century church, some of us market the new beginning to believers.

Fruitless fear keeps us tied to the letter of the law, where we stay in…

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Guest Post by Thomas R. Schreiner

Most of us have read the story of 21 Egyptian Christians kidnapped in Libya. An ISIS video showed about 12 of them being beheaded, and it is quite certain that all of them were murdered.

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 7.59.17 AMWe Are Not Surprised

Jesus told us to expect persecution, teaching his disciples that unbelievers would hate us just as they hated him (John 15:18-20).

Jesus predicted that some of those who kill us “will think” they are “offering service to God” (John 16:2).

Even though most of us won’t lose our lives for Christ’s sake, we should not be surprised if we do. All of us need to be ready to surrender our lives for Christ. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).

We Are More Than Conquerers

Jesus calls us “to be faithful unto death” to receive “the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).

Jesus also calls us to rejoice when persecuted, for it is a great honor to die for our Lord and Savior, and our reward will far exceed our suffering (Matt. 5:10-12; Acts 5:41). Naturally, we may be frightened and scared at such a prospect, worried that we don’t have the strength to suffer. And we don’t have the strength in ourselves, but God promises to be with us in the fire and the flood (Isa. 43:2), and he promises to give us grace to endure the hardest things. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8).

In dying for Christ’s sake, in not loving our “lives even unto death,” we are not losers but winners; we are not overcome by evil. Instead, we are “more than conquerors” (Rom. 8:37; Rev. 12:11). Those who are slain for Christ’s sake come to life and reign with Jesus Christ (Rev. 20:4).

We Grieve with Those Who Grieve

Paul says that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Still, the matter is not simplistic, and life is not easy. We “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). Paul said that if Epaphroditus had died he would experience “sorrow upon sorrow” (Phil. 2:27). Grief floods the hearts of those left behind.

We Pray for Both Our Enemies and Our Suffering Brothers and Sisters

We need a special grace to pray for the salvation of those who have done such a great evil.

We also pray for our brothers and sisters suffering around the world; we plead that God would grant them his joy and strength and perseverance to endure until the end.

We pray that God would protect them and sustain his church.

For the rest of the post…

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