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Category Archives: Books and Quotations

Is This the End for Mideast Christianity?

The cover article in the November issue of Christianity Today written by church historian Philip Jenkins was entitled “Is This the End for Mideast Christianity?” After traveling through that part of the world for two and half weeks last month, I found this article particularly helpful and insightful. If you haven’t read the article yet, you should. Here are a few excerpts to whet your appetite.

For Christians in the Middle East, 2014 has been a catastrophe. The most wrenching stories have come from Iraq, where the nascent Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL in news reports) has savagely persecuted ancient Christian communities, including Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Syrian Orthodox. Iraqi Christians have declined rapidly in number since the first Gulf War in 1991, but survivors long believed they could maintain a foothold around Mosul.

This past summer, that hope collapsed. In a ghastly reminder of Nazi savagery against Jews, Christian homes were marked with the Arabic letter ن for Nazarenes—Christ followers—or R for Rwafidh, a term for Protestants, and inhabitants were targets for abuse or murder. Islamist militants have controlled Mosul since June 10. Even if the total extermination of each and every believer is not the goal, those ancient communities and churches face the prospect of utter ruin. To that extent, the end of Christianity in Iraq is within sight…

Matters changed swiftly during World War I. Massacres and expulsions all but removed the once very large Armenian and Greek communities in Anatolia (now Turkey). Counting Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks together, murder and starvation killed more than two million Christians between 1915 and 1922.

Emerging Arab nations also targeted Christians. Iraq’s slaughter of Assyrians in 1933 gave lawyer Raphael Lemkin a basis upon which he defined the concept of genocide. The partition of Palestine and subsequent crises in the region massively shrunk other ancient Christian groups. The modern story of the Christian Middle East is one of contraction and collapse.

By the end of the past century, Christianity in the Middle East had two great centers: Coptic Egypt, and the closely interrelated lands of Syria and Lebanon. They are now home to many refugee churches.

Today, Syria’s continuing civil war threatens to extend Islamist power still further. Islamic State flags have appeared in Lebanon. Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt has warned that both Christians and his own Druze people stand “on the edge of extinction.”

Read the entire article online here.

[For articles on similar themes, read “Christian Persecution in Iraq“; “Christian Flight from Syria“; and “Who Will Defend Mideast Christians?”]

 

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5 Must-Read Statements on the Church

Given my recent sermon, “Connecting Together,” on what it means to be the church, I wanted to share again some thoughts from one of my favorite thinkers on the church, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. His book Life Together is, in my opinion, the best book written on the nature of true community in the church. Here are 5 must-read statements on  the Church from Bonhoeffer:

  • “Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves. By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world.” [26-27]
  • “Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.” [27]
  • “Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together – the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.” [28]
  • “If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is not great experience, not discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.” [29]
  • “A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men….Let him pray God for an understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he may not wrong his brethren. Let him, in consciousness of his own guilt, make intercession for his brethren.” [29-30]

[These quotations are taken from John W. Doberstein’s classic translation of Life Together. A more recent translation with thorough annotations and a helpful introduction is found in Volume 5 of Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works.]

 

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Lesslie Newbigin on the Resurrectiona

In a recent posthumously published series of lectures, I came across this statement by Lesslie Newbigin on the resurrection. These words particularly leaped out to me in light of our recent journey through 1 Corinthians 15 at Eastbrook Church called “Resurrection Hope.”

Christ gives us the victory because He has broken the power of sin, and in breaking the power of sin, He has broken the power of death. Death is still a fact. In Adam all die. The barrier is still there. What we are assured of in Christ is that death is not the last word, but that God in His mercy is able out of the ruin of corruption and death of men and of man’s social institutions to raise up that perfect incorruptible society which is our true goal. It is the assurance that that goal is in the end to be reached – though we cannot reach it in a straight line by our own power. (Signs Amid the Rubble: The Purposes of God in Human History, p. 50)

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2014 in Books and Quotations

 

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Martin Luther on the Ninth Commandment

This past weekend at Eastbrook, I spoke about the Ninth and Tenth Commandments from Exodus 20:16-17 in a message entitled “The Neighbor.” I came across an interesting quotation from Martin Luther about the Ninth Commandment:

Knowledge of sin does not entail the right to judge it. I may see and hear that my neighbor sins, but to make him the talk of the town is not my business….Those are called backbiters who are not content just to know but rush ahead and judge. Learning a bit of gossip about someone else, they spread it into every corner, relishing and delighting in it like pigs that roll in the mud and root around in it with their snouts. This is nothing else than usurping the judgment and office of God, pronouncing the severest kind of verdict and sentence, for the harshest verdict a judge can pronounce is to declare somebody a thief, a murderer, a traitor, etc. Whoever therefore ventures to accuse his neighbor of such guilt assumes as much authority as the emperor and all magistrates. For though you do not wield the sword, you use your venomous tongue to the disgrace and harm of your neighbor. (quoted in David Hazony, The Ten Commandments, pp. 214-215).

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2014 in Books and Quotations

 

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The Treasure Principle book giveaway

the-treasure-principleAs we concluded our “Real Rich” series at Eastbrook this past weekend, I wanted to share a simple resource for those who want to keep digging into the topic of what it means to be really rich and also steward our finances wisely to honor God.

Randy Alcorn has a brief book entitled The Treasure Principle, which offers six key principles to understanding how we can view our finances appropriately and live in light of eternity. I am giving away one free copy of this book to one person selected at random from those who respond via my blog, Facebook or Twitter to this question:

What is one way you want to grow in honoring God with your finances?

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2014 in Books and Quotations

 

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Timothy Keller on Miracles

I came upon the follow thoughts from Tim Keller, author and pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, today while preparing my message. Perhaps I may utilize some of these thoughts in my message, but I thought I’d post them here today.

I don’t want to be too hard on people who struggle with the idea of God’s intervention in the natural order. Miracles are hard to believe in, and they should be. In Matthew 28 we are told that the apostles met the risen Jesus on a mountainside in Galilee: ‘When they saw Him, they worshipped Him; but some doubted’ (verse 17).

That is a remarkable admission. Here is the author of an early Christian document telling us that some of the founders of Christianity couldn’t believe the miracle of the resurrection, even when they were looking straight at Him with their eyes and touching Him with their hands. There is no other reason for this to be in the account unless it really happened.

The passage shows us several things. It is a warning not to think that only we modern, scientific people have to struggle with the idea of the miraculous, while ancient, more primitive people did not. The apostles responded like any group of modern people– some believed their eyes and some didn’t. It is also an encouragement to patience. All the apostles ended up as great leaders in the church, but some had a lot more trouble believing than others. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2013 in Books and Quotations

 

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What Are You Thankful For Today?

1000 giftsAll through this month, we have been talking about things for which we are thankful.

So, on this Thanksgiving Day, what are you thankful for?

At the end of the day on Thanksgiving, I will randomly select someone who responds on my blog and send you a copy of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2013 in Books and Quotations

 

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