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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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Unity – the driving aim in Jesus’ prayer

2014-11-13 13.14.09A couple of weeks ago, I was visiting the Middle East, in order to spend time with some friends and church partners there. Jordan is one of the most stable countries in the midst of a particularly turbulent region, thanks to a variety of factors, including . Even though the Christian population of Jordan is less than 3% of the entire nation, the relative stability of Jordan gives tremendous opportunities for the church and individual Christians to touch the lives of those who are seeking refuge in their country.

In one part of the country, where refugees are spilling over the border from neighboring Syria and Iraq, I witnessed a number of people and groups from various backgrounds working together. The needs are massive, but the total amount of work being done was much larger than what one person or group could do on its own.

It is amazing what happens when people come together to serve a great need with greater unity. Read the rest of this entry »

 
 

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All I Want for Christmas

All I Want for Christmas Series Gfx_4x3 Title

Beginning this weekend, November 29/30, we begin a new series at Eastbrook entitled “All I Want for Christmas.” Christmas is a time when many of us begin to write down what we hope to acquire. Sometimes we write down simple lists of gift ideas, but other times we begin to write more serious lists of personal needs or world hopes. In the church year, Advent is a time of anticipation and expectation leading up to the Messiah’s arrival that focuses some of our strongest hopes and desires through the word of the prophets. So, what are you really waiting for this year?

November 29/30 [1st weekend of Advent] - “All I Want Is for God to Show Up”

December 6/7 [2nd weekend of Advent] – “All I Want is Some Good News”

December 13/14 [3rd weekend of Advent] – “All I Want is a New Beginning”

December 20/21 [4th weekend of Advent] – “All I Want is Someone to Believe In”

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2014 in Communication, Eastbrook

 

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What Are You Thankful For?

thankful

Giving thanks and showing gratitude to God is an act of worship. This is why we read in Psalm 106:1, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

But it is not just for the material goods or obvious blessings that we are to be thankful. In fact, the Apostle Paul, writing to a fledgling church in Philippi while he is imprisoned, urges the believers toward thanksgiving in the face of worry. He writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).

Even more strongly, in another letter, Paul calls Christians to give thanks as part of fulfilling the will of God: “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

So, as part of your worship this Thanksgiving holiday, why not share some of the things you thankful for?

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2014 in Discipleship

 

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The Legacy of Faith (discussion questions)

Faith Life Series Gfx_4x3 TitleHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “The Legacy of Faith,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This was the final message in our series “Faith Life.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. Who is someone you know who has held onto faith in God over the long haul of life? What did that look like?
  2. This weekend at Eastbrook, we conclude the “Faith Life” series by looking at the end of Abraham’s life in Genesis 25:1-11 and the New Testament reflection on his life in Hebrews 11:8-19. In preparation for this study ask God to speak to you through your study of the Scripture, and then read both Bible passages aloud.
  3. Over these last few months, we have journeyed with Abraham from His original calling by God in Genesis 12 through many ups and downs to the conclusion of his life here in Genesis 25. What has caught your attention most over the last few weeks concerning the life of faith?
  4. In Hebrews 11:8-12 and 11:17-19, the phrase “by faith” introduces several instances of Abraham’s life of faith. How would you summarize each of these “by faith” statements about Abraham?
  5. In the midst of discussing Abraham’s specific life of faith, the writer of Hebrews addresses a very unique aspect of faith in 11:13-16. What would you say the writer is addressing and how does this relate to Abraham?
  6. What do you think it means to live by faith in such a way that we “long for a better country” (Hebrews 11:16)? Is this part of your life of faith or not? What do you think it would look like for you to live in this way?
  7. From what you read in Hebrews 11:19, how would you characterize Abraham’s view of God? Why do you think Abraham’s faith was so strong?
  8. As you reflect on this study, what do you want your legacy of faith to be? If you are alone, write it down somewhere so you can think about it further this week. If you are with a small group, take some time to discuss these things with one another. Close in prayer.
 
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Posted by on November 25, 2014 in Eastbrook, Scripture reflections

 

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Some Things Are Just Better Together

 

EvangelVision-Ad-600x600-2014It’s a privilege to be featured on the EvangelVision blog today. What follows is an excerpt, but you can read the full post here:

There are certain pairs of things that just seem to go together. You know some of them: peanut butter and jelly, salt and pepper, cookies and milk. I’m sure you could name some of your own. In fact, many of these actually seem better together than simply on their own.

Jesus talks about something like this in His earthly ministry. When Jesus was asked what the Greatest Commandment of the Law was, He responded:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (Matt. 22:37-40)

This is the Greatest Commandment. It is an important summary teaching from Jesus, guiding who we are and the way we live with God and others. In this we are called to demonstrate love for God and others as followers of Jesus.

Later, at the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus speaks another important summary teaching to His disciples. Before returning to the glory of the Father, Jesus says:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matt. 28:18-20)

We often call this statement the Great Commission. It summarizes the outward actions of the Church in relation to others. Specifically, we are to proclaim the love of God in Jesus Christ to all peoples that they might also become followers of Jesus.

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2014 in Evangelism

 

The Legacy of Faith

Faith Life Series Gfx_16x9 TitleMany times we ask what it looks like to leave a legacy behind when our life draws to a close. But as we concluded the “Faith Life” series this past weekend at Eastbrook Church, I wanted us to think about what sort of faith legacy we will leave behind.

To conclude this series on the life of faith from Abraham’s journey in Genesis 11-25, we looked at Hebrews 11:8-19. There, the writer to the early church describes the ways in which Abraham left a legacy of faith through the way he lived his life.

The outline and video file for the message are below. You can listen to the message via our audio podcast here. You can access the entire series of messages from the “Faith Life” series here. You can also visit Eastbrook Church on VimeoFacebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2014 in Communication, Eastbrook

 

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