Friday, February 29, 2008

On This Day in Church History

rich3 I was delighted to see on the Christian History Institute website that they note that today is the day in 1948 that Richard Wurmbrand was arrested in Romania for his Christian activities.  Read the excellent article that summarized his arrest and testimony of faithfulness in the face of torture by clicking here. Click here to see the very first film ever recorded by Richard Wurmbrand in which he tells his testimony.


It was 60 years ago today (Sunday, February 29, 1948) that Richard Wurmbrand was snatched off of the streets of Bucharest as he was on his way to church.  A small group of secret police, accompanied by the governor, kidnapped him and took him to their headquarters. He was locked in a solitary cell and assigned "Prisoner Number 1."  For the next eight-and-a-half years, he will undergo horrific tortures at the hands of the brutal secret police. He will be told that his wife was imprisoned (which was true) as well as his son (which was not).  The Communists will play recordings of a child (the same age as Richard's son) being beaten in the cell next to his. Hearing the screams of the child, Richard nearly goes mad. The guards torment him, telling him his family would be no more and that he would never see them again.

How would Richard want this date to be remembered, do you suppose?  While I never knew Richard personally, I can imagine exactly what he would want; he would want us to remember those who are being persecuted for their faith. 

A few minutes ago, we learned that Bishop Faraj Raho, the Chaldean bishop of Mosul, was abducted today after he had celebrated the Via Crucis. Reports differ whether two or three men who were with him were also killed. The kidnappers are said to have already made ransom demands. No details were available as of this posting.  Rabban al-Qas, bishop of Arbil, has asked for the prayers of God's people. "It is a terrible moment for our Church. Please, pray for us," he said in an appeal to the world.

Remembering the life and example of Richard Wurmbrand, on this the 60th anniversary of his first arrest by the Communists, let us remember another church leader who is in hostile hands today. 

If you would interested in knowing more about the life of Richard Wurmbrand, we recommend that you start with our newest DVD "Richard Wurmbrand, The Voice of the Martyrs" and with the pastor's book, "In God's Underground", both of which can be ordered online.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


rcaf I was supposed to be on my way to Zurich via New York today.  I had planned for quite some time for meetings that I was to have in southern Germany and Switzerland with other leaders of other ministries that work with the persecuted church worldwide.  I had missed similar meetings last year due to my having just had a bone marrow transplant but planned to be ready to go for this year. 

And then, wouldn't you know it.... I caught the mother of all colds over the weekend.  At least, I think it might be a cold.  Not sure yet, but it also left me with a murderous sore throat and hives on my arms and legs, which makes my doctors think it might be strep throat or some other viral infection.  Having had pneumonia twice last year, they wanted to be extra careful. My transplant doctor ordered me to take a CT scan of my chest yesterday and took a number of blood cultures and the like.

And he told me to stay home.

Of course, this is not simply for my health and safety but also for the poor unfortunates who would be forced to sit beside me on the plane.  I am sure that I am not the only one who has had the person next to me hack and cough on me. I caught perhaps the worst cold of my life on a flight to Sri Lanka in just that manner.

So, here I am, sitting at home, grounded.  The antibiotics I was prescribed seem to be fighting the virus effectively and I expect to be back in the office tomorrow.  But I am frustrated; 1) at not being able to attend these important meetings for two years in a row, 2) at possibly appearing in the eyes of others to be unreliable because of health issues (even though this really had little to do with my transplant; this cold would have grounded anyone), 3) at not being able to fulfill aspects of my ministry (i.e. traveling) as a CEO.  I know that ultimately my reputation and service for Christ is ultimately in His hands.  The difficulty is leaving them there.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Was It Right for the Danes to Reprint the Cartoon? (a poll)

Recently, a US religion and public policy institute condemned the decision by 17 Danish newspapers to reprint a controversial cartoon depicting Muhammad that caused rioting throughout the world in early 2006. They argued that a responsible media is "sensitive to avoid affronting religious beliefs and contributing to conflicts between religions and their members due to religious differences." Others, however, argue that this is a call to self-censorship that gives too much power to those who seek to limit freedom of speech through intimidation and claims to offence. What do you think?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

So What Are You Reading In February?

Time for my monthly report on what I have been reading lately. Unfortunately, February has been a very busy month for me and so I have not had the time to read as much as I would like.  However, I have had time to squeeze in three new books:

crucial 1. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler.  One of the key aspects of working with people is how you engage in meaningful discussions and decisions.  The key is to create an environment where people feel safe enough to share what they know so that wise decisions can be made.  This is the focus of this book.  I am going to have to reread this book, I confess, because I read it over a very busy weekend in San Diego. I am planning on reading its sequel, Crucial Confrontations as well, which is built off of the same model.

thefaith 2. The Faith by Charles Colson. In the foreword, Colson writes:  "Would you give your life for a cause you didn't fully understand? Would you try to convince someone else to join you? No, neither would I. Which is why I decided to write this book..."  The purpose of this book is to answer the questions, "What do you believe?" "Why do you believe it?"  "Why does it matter?" In short, to discover the faith that Christians throughout history and today contend for... and die for.  VOMC will be making this book available for sale online as soon as our order comes in and in our April newsletter.  

crazy 3. Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back by Frank Schaeffer.  This is the most disturbing book I have read in a long time.  As a long time student of the author's parents, Francis and Edith Schaeffer, I was both intrigued and saddened by this alleged expose of the "real" story of what it was like to grow up in this famous family.  I will not go into all of the accusations and revelations he makes, but I wonder why Frank felt so compelled to try to ruin his parent's reputation.  His disdain for the religious right (which he claims to have helped start) drips from the pages of this "confession" and his faith seems nebulous at best and nonexistent at worst.  One wonders if this man ever truly knew the God of his parents. I am also left wondering why, if the Schaeffer family was as dysfunctional as Frank claims, why there were no reports of such over the many years that people lived in community with them at L'Abri? 

Well, that's it for this month. I have a stack of books that I hope to put a dent in next month.  Let me know what you are reading.  I am always on the hunt for a good book.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Marketing the Ministry

marketing In today's world, the temptation to market one's message is strong.  All around us, we hear slogans, jingles, and sound bites.   "You have to get your message out there!" advertisers tell us. "Let us help you to get the public's attention."  Wanting to do our best to fulfill our mission of raising a voice for the voiceless, these words hit a responsive chord. 

But then I hear Jesus' words in Mark 1:44 to a leper that He had just healed: "See that you say nothing to anyone!"  How odd. Then I am reminded that our Lord told parables not to reveal the Good News but to hide it (Mark 4:11).  I look at Jesus' life and I realize that He did very little to self-promote His ministry. He resisted the temptation to cheapen His life by becoming a commodity.  It was because He is the incarnate Son of God that He showed God's love through His miraculous works.  But miracles were not what He ultimately wanted to be known for.   This would not encourage false expectations in His followers and the crowds that He had no intention of fulfilling.  His destination was, of course, Jerusalem and the cross.  It was as the suffering Servant that His identity and God's love was most fully expressed; not through signs and wonders, but through suffering and self-denial.  And this was not (and still is not) a very "marketable" product for the masses.  And neither is the message of the Persecuted Church.

And is this message of weakness and human foolishness that proclaims the glory of God more loudly than any billboard or advertising campaign ever could.  But only for those who will listen.  "If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear." 

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Truth is truth

I admit that I haven't said much publicly about the detention of suspected al-Qaida terrorists in Guantanamo Bay. I should have and I could have.  I would have and not because I am sympathetic to Omar Khadr's case, like many Canadians are.  I do believe that these men should face justice if proven guilty and I consider Khadr to be responsible for his actions, even though he was 15 years old at the time of his detention. Don't try to convince me that Omar Khadr didn't know exactly what he was doing when he allegedly lobbed a hand grenade at Sergeant First Class Christopher Speer, a 28-year-old medic with the U.S. Special Forces. 

However, what is going on at Guantanamo Bay is outside of the rule of law.  And that is wrong, regardless of one's crime.

Yesterday an American friend of mine with whom I share quite a number of ideological and religious values wrote a blog entitled "Close Guantanamo Bay" which summarized much of what I have been feeling and thinking for a while.  This blog is good evidence that one can be ideologically conservative and stand firmly on the side of human rights and justice. Liberals do not have a monopoly on these issues, as much as they like to think they do.  Here is what Todd wrote:

Nicholas D. Kristof's article in the New York Times yesterday is worth reading, though sobering.

If Americans don't believe that a principle extends to our enemies, then do we believe it at all? If something is true and right, then it is true and right for all people, not simply for US citizens or our friends or family members. Truth is truth.

I believe the time has come to close down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. If there is evidence that those imprisoned there have committed crimes, then let a prosecutor present that evidence and let a jury decide a just punishment. If there is no evidence, then release these men and send them back to their home country. Will some of them go back and take up arms against us again? Yes, undoubtedly they will. But do we really believe that "all men are created equal," as our founding fathers said? If we do, then these men deserve the same rights as I do. Unending detention without trial is wrong, whether it is done to a Christian in Myanmar, an American on the south side of Chicago or a person who took up arms against our troops.

One of the bedrock principles of the United States of America is that a person is innocent until they are proven guilty. If we ignore our principles and stoop to the level of our enemies in an effort to defeat them, they've already won.

Bravo, Todd.  I couldn't have said it better.  I wish I had said it earlier myself.

Where are the Nail Prints?

In the Middle Ages there was a popular story about the fourth century saint, Martin of Tours in which Satan appeared to him but not as we often picture the devil.  No tails, pitchfork, flames or smoke. Rather he appeared clothed in splendid robes, wearing a crown and surrounded by a glorious light.  He announced, with a voice like music, that he was Christ, Himself.  Martin gazed upon him in dazzled silence.   "Martin," said the Evil One. "Why don't you believe? Can't you see that I am Christ?"

Martin replied.  "Where are the nail prints? Where is the scar from the spear" There were none. As soon as he asked that question, the apparition vanished.

That is a question we must ask of every messenger who claims to come from God.

Where are the nail prints?

Hinn-Benny I was reminded of this as I watched an expose on Benny Hinn last night on television.  Hinn is presently under investigation by the US Senate Finance Committee because of concerns that have come to light over his alleged extravagant misuse of donors funds.  This is not the first time that Hinn's credibility has been called into question.  But like a Teflon pan, however, nothing seems to stick to him permanently and his supporters continue to flock to him like the angel of light he portrays himself to be.  I, however, want to yell out whenever I see his image on the television, "Where are the nail prints??"

When the apostle Paul needed to defend his ministry against his critics in Corinth who questioned whether his ministry was really from the Lord, how did he answer?  Did he point to his conversion stats, the number of churches he planted, his baptism figures, or donation records?  Did he strut around in expensive, tailor-made white suits with gold embroidered lettering on his breast?

No, these are Paul's credentials that prove that he is a servant of Christ: far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.  (2 Cor. 11:23-28)

How I wish we could pull our eyes off of those whose lives and ministries are marked with success, riches and glory and look to those whose lives and service are marked by suffering, sacrifice, and shame.  This is a temptation for believers wherever we live.  I have seen persecuted believers seduced by the musical voices of those who promise much and deliver little (see Jude 12 and 2 Peter 2:17-19).  Oh, that we as God's people would look away from the dazzling light, the fancy clothes, and the crowns, close our ears to the musical voice and look, instead, for the nail prints.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Rise of the Terrorist Bunny

bunny Truly one of the saddest things I have seen in a while is an episode of the Hamas TV children's program "Pioneers of Tomorrow" aired on Al-Aqsa TV on February 2-9, 2008. This is the same program that, last July, saw one of its main characters, Farfur, being beaten to death by an "Israeli agent". Farfur was a controversial Mickey Mouse look-alike character who frequently made anti-US and anti-Israeli comments and encouraged children to martyrdom in the fight against Israel.

Now a new character has joined the cast - Assud the Bunny. Assud returns from "the diaspora" following the death of his brother, Nahoul the Bee. Nahoul was depicted on the show as dying because he could not get to a hospital in Egypt for surgery.  Learning of his brother's "martyrdom," Assud declares, "Just like Nahoul took Farfour's place when he was martyred, I will replace Nahoul, Allah willing." He asks the the show's host, a young girl named Saraa, "We are all martyrdom-seekers, are we not, Saraa?"  She responds, "Of course we are. We are all ready to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of our homeland. We will sacrifice our souls and everything we own for the homeland." The program concludes with Assud vowing to "get rid of the Jews and eat them up."  (To view this program, click here)

With this kind of programming poisoning the minds of children, how in the world will there ever really be peace in this region?  The producers of this program have no shame and no honour.  I stand by what I wrote in July concerning this program and its creators; to use children's programming in this way is despicable and unjustifiable. Western leaders who propose that Hamas should be treated as a legitimate organization that must be included in peace negotiations in the Middle East should seriously consider whether this is the kind of group that they really want to see in power anywhere. This is not a group that respects human rights or human life. Hamas is a terrorist organization and as such, cannot be trusted with the safe-keeping of anyone's children.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Remember Mohammed Hegazy

hegazy Mohammed Hegazy is a courageous man.  Seeking to have his national ID documents legally changed to reflect the fact that he has become a Christian, this former Muslim has recently been denied this chance by an Egyptian court.  In effect, he has been told that he cannot convert, regardless of his personal beliefs.  And I thought that Islam taught that there was no compulsion in religion! 

And yes, the followers of this most peace loving religion have threatened to kill this man for his courage.  Last week, one of our colleagues had the opportunity to meet Hegazy in Cairo. He told our colleague that he is living under growing pressure of his relatives. They declare in interviews in national newspapers that they definitely will kill him in order to bring Mohammed's wife and his newborn baby daughter back to the Islamic fold.

As national newspapers have reported frequently on his case, Mohammed's face and situation are well-known in Egypt. Many Muslims militants want to kill him and so he now has to live in secret places.  He is deeply concerned about his wife and daughter. He told our colleague that he is frequently moving from one place into another and is feeling stressed. But he knows that God is with him.

Mohammed asks for our prayers. He also asked that we raise publicity in our countries regarding his case in the hopes of putting pressure on the Egyptian government.   Will you join in praying for Mohammed, his wife Christine (formerly Zeinab) and daughter Mariam?  If you have a blog, will you tell his story?  And will you take a moment to write to your local member of parliament or to the foreign affairs minister in whatever country you live in and ask him or her to look into the case of Mohammed Hegazy and ask him or her to express your government's concern with the Egyptian government over this violation of this family's right to religious freedom? The Egyptian Constitution seemingly allows for religious freedom, and Egypt has ratified international human rights treaties which grant the individual the right to adopt a religion of their choice. The ruling on Tuesday January 29, however, highlights just how different the reality is for converts like Mohammed Hegazy.

In Canada, you can write to:

The Honourable Maxime Bernier,
Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A6

To find the contact information for your Member of Parliament, click here.

Friday, February 08, 2008

God is a righteous Judge... (Ps. 7:11,12)

The following is a blog from VOMC's Volunteer Ministries Coordinator, Malcolm MacLeod originally posted on January 22 on his weblog VOMC Ambassador Network.  Hope you will check out his blog from time to time.  Malcolm frequently has some pretty significant things to say. - GP

This morning I'm a little overwhelmed as I think of the infinitely holy nature of our God. Habakkuk 1:13 springs to mind, 'You are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong...' (ESV). Crystal clear and solemn as this text is, it was another passage that stimulated this time of meditation: Psalm 7:11 and 12, 'God is a righteous Judge, yes, a God who is indignant every day. If a man does not turn and repent, [God] will whet His sword; He has strung His [huge] bow and made it ready [by treading it with His foot]' (Amplified Bible).

What an awesome thought and sight (if, like me, you have a pictorial mind!) Could it be that the 'free' church has largely forgotten this vitally important aspect of God's character? I fear so. God hates sin with a hatred which, like His love, is beyond our understanding. He hates half-hearted Christianity. He hates and is infuriated by superficial professions of faith. If there is no genuine repentance and a running after holiness (cf. Col. 3:1-17) in the life of the man or woman who claims to 'walk with God', to be in a living relationship with Him, there is trouble on the horizon.

These thoughts lead me to consider the importance of the lessons taught us by persecuted Christians. Even supposing Christians were not persecuted today, there is ample evidence from the New Testament Church and also the Church of the early centuries to teach us, without a shred of ambiguity, what it really means to be a disciple of Christ.

So what are some of the lessons learned from the Suffering Church? What are some of the marks of true Christianity that I have witnessed in the lives of persecuted believers? Four come immediately to mind: 1) Uncompromising faith in God and submission to His perfect unfolding plan. 2) Devotion to Christ and the furtherance of the gospel, irrespective of the personal cost. 3) A love that is sincere and sacrificial towards the Body of Christ and 4) Perseverance in the face of a rising tide of hatred and opposition.

There are many more lessons, but, oh how convicted we should be by the four mentioned! Were brother Yonas (of whom I wrote recently) to visit your church and mine, would he witness the four 'marks' I mentioned and saw in him, and his companions in the Lord while visiting them? Food for thought.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Tortured For Christ: The Film

The Voice of the Martyrs recently discovered a digital copy of the very first film that Richard Wurmbrand produced after his release from prison. Known under the same name as his best-selling book, "Tortured For Christ", this film was shown in churches and meetings across North America. I thought that I would like to share it with you. Just click on the picture below to view this one-of-a-kind classic film.

Does Salman Hossain Have the Right to be Loathsome?

The online rantings of a Bangladeshi-Canadian university student from Mississauga have come under investigation by the RCMP counter-terrorism forces, who have advised Salman Hossain that he is being investigated for incitement and facilitating terrorism.

Borrowing from the headline of an editorial in today's National Post, Salman Hossain has shown himself to be a loathsome individual, writing such drivel as: ""Any and all Western soldiers getting prepared to enter Muslim nations like Afghanistan or Iraq should be legitimate targets by any and all Islamic militants either in the attacked nations or in the western nations --if there were any planned attacks against Canadian/ American soldiers by 'Muslim militants' in Canadian soil, I'd support it." Other postings state, ""When do I get to shoot a few Jews down for attempting to blow up dozens of mosques in America right after 9-11? Why f---ing target the Americans when the Jews are better?" He has no respect for anti-war demonstrations, saying that they "will do sh$$," and describes a "mass casualty" attack in Canada as "a well considered option" and "the best way to compel western soldiers to get out of Afghanistan/Iraq."

How should we respond to such an individual? In a free society, does someone have the right to say such things? Lorne Gunter has written a challenging editorial in today's National Post in which we argues that Salman Hossain does have such a right until he crosses the line into criminal conspiracy. This, Gunter argues, Hossain has not yet done. Whether you agree or not (I tend to), this is an issue worth discussing and thinking about. You can read the full article by clicking here.