October Features :
• IRAN – Over 450 Baptisms of Iranian believers
• CALIFORNIA – How Islam Progressively Takes Over Countries
• BELGUIM – Belgistan? ‘Sharia to be implemented worldwide’
• HAVANA – Suffering Made Cuba’s Church Grow
• USA – Playboy’s ‘Big News’ is Not what you Think it is!
• GISBORNE – Springing Into Spring at the Community Garden
Over 450 Baptisms of Iranian Believers
Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service reports that more than 240 Iranians were baptised recently in two large celebrations in the Iran region.
According to Elam Ministries a further 16 were baptised in a smaller service, and about 200 more are to be baptised at a fourth celebration.
‘We praise God for every Iranian who has been baptised recently,’ said a spokesperson for Elam Ministries. ‘Seven friends, who were there to support those being baptised, responded to a call to submit their lives to Christ for the first time at one of last week’s celebrations. These large baptism services are joyful day-long gatherings, with sessions of worship, preaching, prayer for the nation of Iran, Holy Communion and shared meals.’
One of the baptisms followed a conference which the entire church attended; the theme of unity threaded through all the teaching, and encouraged the church greatly.
‘We thank you for praying and supporting us as we seek to serve and equip Iran’s growing church,’ added the spokesperson for Elam Ministries. ‘Please pray for all those who were baptised, the seven new believers, and those who will be baptised soon.’
The ministry said that those who have survived persecution often need just as much prayer as those currently enduring persecution. It is relatively common knowledge that Christians in Iran can be imprisoned for their faith. New arrests and prison sentences hit the prayer headlines quite regularly. But less well known is the potential long-term psychological damage that persecution can cause.
‘Long after an abusive arrest, an extended stint in solitary, an intensive interrogation, or incarceration in a volatile ward, Christians can continue to suffer,’ said the story. ‘Once released, the trauma is not necessarily over: whether it’s dark nightmares, flashbacks, paranoia, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, the effects can sometimes be devastating and long-lasting. Especially for those who have endured physical or psychological torture, memories remain, fear and uncertainties cloud the mind, wounds need healing.’
In a separate story, Elam Ministries explained why we should pray for Christians post-persecution, requesting: ‘Will you join us in praying for long-term healing for all those who are suffering following persecution? The support of friends, family and church members is vital for recovery; let’s pray for wisdom as they seek to love, care and pray for survivors. Let’s pray also that those that need professional counselling support would find it, and that all survivors would continue to bring their pain, memories and questions before Jehova Rapha- our God who heals.’
How Islam Progressively Takes Over Countries
In Dr Peter Hammond’s book, Slavery, Terrorism and Islam, he documents the way Muslims slowly develop a presence in various countries and as their population numbers build, become more aggressive and assertive about exercising Sharia law.
‘Islam is not a religion, nor is it a cult. In its fullest form, it is a complete, total, 100% system of life, Dr Hammond notes in his book. ‘Islam has religious, legal, political, economic, social, and military components. The religious component is a beard for all of the other components.’
Their takeover of a country, what Dr Hammond refers to as Islamization, begins when the population of Muslims reaches a critical mass, and they being to agitate for various privileges. Open, free, democratic societies are particularly vulnerable. ‘When politically correct, tolerant, and culturally diverse societies agree to Muslim demands for their religious privileges, some of the other components tend to creep in as well.’
This is how it works, according to Dr. Hammond (Left):
When the Muslim population remains under 2% in a country, they will be seen primarily as a peace-loving minority and not as a threat to other citizens. This is the current situation in:
• Australia — Muslim 1.5%
• United States — Muslim 0.6%
• Canada — Muslim 1.9%
• China — Muslim 1.8%
• Italy — Muslim 1.5%
• Norway — Muslim 1.8%
As the Muslim population reaches 2% to 5%, they begin to recruit from ethnic minorities and disaffected groups, within prisons and street gangs. This is happening in:
• Denmark — Muslim 2%
• Germany — Muslim 3.7%
• Spain — Muslim 4%
• Thailand — Muslim 4.6%
• United Kingdom — Muslim 2.7
Muslims protesting in London
‘From 5% on, they exercise an inordinate influence in proportion to their percentage of the population,’ Dr Hammond notes. ‘For example, they will push for the introduction of halal (clean by Islamic standards) food and increase pressure on supermarket chains to feature such food on their shelves – along with threats for failure to comply. This is happening in:
• France — Muslim 8%
• Philippines — Muslim 5%
• Sweden — Muslim 5%
• Switzerland — Muslim 4.3%
• The Netherlands — Muslim 5.5%
• Trinidad & Tobago — Muslim 5.8%
Soon they begin to apply pressure to allow Sharia law within their own communities (sometimes ghettos).
‘When Muslims approach 10% of the population, they tend to increase lawlessness as a means of complaint about their conditions,’ Dr Hammond notes. ‘In Paris, we are already seeing car-burnings. Any non-Muslim action offends Islam, and results in uprisings and threats, such as in Amsterdam, with opposition to Mohammed cartoons and films about Islam.’
A Muslim girl in Europe makes her views known
Mark Ellis is a seasoned ASSIST senior correspondent (www.assistnews.net) and founder of the acclaimed http://www.Godreports.com
Belgistan? ‘Sharia to be Implemented Worldwide’
Dan Wooding also reports the graffiti on a building in Belgium says it all: ‘Welcome to Belgistan.’ In fact, some are now calling it the ‘Muslim capital of Europe.’
According to Dale Hurd, CBN News Senior reporter, ‘Brussels is the capital of Europe. But some are now calling it the Muslim capital of Europe. Muslims are still a minority in Belgium, but in the capital of Brussels, they’re already the largest religious group, comprising one-quarter of the city’s population.
In less than 20 years they’re expected to be the majority. Sharia4Belgium, is the most confrontational Muslim group in the country.
Many don’t take the small group seriously. But Sharia4Belgium (the terrorist organisation) head Fouad Belkacem ( left), alias Abu Imran, sounded very serious when he told CBN News he expects Muslims to dominate Belgium and the world: ‘The Sharia will dominate. We believe Sharia will be implemented worldwide.’
Hurd stated that Sharia4Belgium is a public relations nightmare for those Muslim groups that try to play down their ties to radicalism and Sharia law.
Imran was completely open with CBN News, saying Islam and Sharia law are inseparable, and that democracy is evil: ‘Sharia is Islam, to be clear. There is no difference between Islam and Sharia, it’s just a name. Democracy is the opposite of Sharia and Islam. We believe Allah is the legislator. Allah makes the laws. He decides what is allowed and what is forbidden.’
CBN News asked Imran about self-described ‘democratic Muslims’ who are against the extreme parts of Sharia law. ‘That’s really funny when I hear someone say I was speaking to a “democratic Muslim,”’ Imran replied. ‘It’s the same thing as saying I was speaking to Christian Jew, or a Jewish Muslim or something like that. It’s impossible. How could you meet a Jewish Muslim or a Christian Jew? And the Muslim who says he’s against Sharia, he’s not a Muslim. It’s impossible.’
Like in many countries across Europe, a culture war over Islam is well under way in Belgium.
Last month, the mosque of Charleroi was desecrated when a pig mask was affixed to its gate. Then the daughter of the head of Belgium’s right wing party, An-Sofie Dewinter, posed in a bikini and burqa with the words in Dutch, ‘Freedom or Islam. Someone later painted over the poster, giving her a full burqa. Dewinter received death threats. On YouTube, Imran called her father, politician Filip Dewinter ‘a pimp’ for letting her pose in a bikini.
‘This community is a dirty, perverted community. We see that this community is breaking down, so we need to save this community like we saved it in Spain,’ Imran said, referencing the Muslim invasion of Spain 1,300 years ago.
‘We need to save this community and enlighten this community with Islam,’ he told CBN News. And Islam is flexing its muscle. Girls in bikinis have been attacked, and in some Muslim neighbourhoods, Sharia law is enforced.
A ‘Fascist Ideology’
Woman being punished under Sharia law
‘The big cities in Europe are first places we can see what will happen when the majority is Muslim,’ warned Sam van Rooy, co-editor of an important new Dutch language book called Islam: Critical Essays on a Political Religion. ‘We see it in the big cities: Brussels, Amsterdam also, Rotterdam and Antwerp. Islam is a fascist ideology, and it’s not a religion like Christianity and Judaism. The danger in it is that it has a religious side, not like Communism and Nazism, which are only ideologies, but Islam has a bit of both.’
Imran, said Hurd, is looking forward to someday replacing Belgian law with the Sharia law, including amputation for theft, stoning for adultery, and death to homosexuals.
‘A lot of people, when they hear about Sharia, immediately start thinking about amputations, stoning, killings. That’s just, I don’t know, one-thousandth of the Sharia,’ he said. ‘Did you know that in 1,302 years of the Islamic state, with the Sharia implemented, we had something like 60 hands cut off, amputated? So in 1,300 years, 60 hands. Is that really a number that you can say is frightening to everyone? And if you’re not a criminal, why should you be afraid of Sharia?’
Sharia showdown looms
A showdown over Sharia is coming because the high Muslim birthrate is changing the political landscape. The most common baby name in Brussels for four years running has been Mohammed.
CBN News asked Imran if he thinks it’s just a matter of time before Muslims are the majority in Belgium. ‘Of course,’ he replied. ‘Even the disbelievers themselves – they say in 2030 something like that – there will be a majority of Muslims here in Belgium. Here in Antwerp in the schools, 40 percent of the children are Muslim, so no problem.’
This sign says it all
Imran offered this advice to the white native Belgians who want to stop the coming Muslim majority: ‘If they want to push us back or something, I don’t know, maybe they can start by marrying four wives and have a lot of children. Start with that and they will have a chance, but I don’t think so.’
Van Rooy also said he sees a Muslim future for Belgium. ‘I don’t think it’s going to stop,’ he told CBN News. ‘I am very pessimistic. And I think more and more Belgian people will leave Brussels, so it will become a real Islamic capital in decades.’
‘I don’t think we’re very far away,’ Imran agreed. ‘The victory of Allah is very near. So, I think the West and Europe needs to prepare itself for a wave of Sharia and Islam.’
More information, http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/world/2012/March/Belgistan-Sharia-Showdown-Looms-in-Brussels/
Suffering Made Cuba’s Church Grow
Jeremy Reynalds, ASSIST Senior Correspondent, reports a Book of Acts home church explosion:
As Cuba transitions to a new relationship with the United States, there’s a renewed interest in learning how the church there has fared for the last 50 plus years.
According to a story by Heather Sells for CBN News, the short answer is: Amazingly well. In fact, many believe the hardships and suffering have paved the way for an explosion of church planting.
Comfort not a concern
On a typical Sunday morning in Cuba, CBN News reported, you can find churches across the island overflowing with worshippers. Many meet in homes and others meet in churches that look more North American, but operate in a very different political climate.
Space is the biggest challenge for many churches. Under current government rules they typically cannot buy land or expand. One church CBN News visited responded to the rules by building several stories up. Others cram into homes and multiply when they become too big.
ASSIST’s Norma and Dan Wooding visiting a church in Cuba some years ago
Pastor ‘Miguel’ (Not actual name) leads a church that used to meet in an apartment, but now meets in the yard next to his apartment building. ‘When you have 80 to 100 people meeting in an apartment it’s hard, very hard,’ he told CBN News. ‘And neighbours get upset.’
It’s a common theme in Cuban churches, but it seems to have also helped to encourage church growth. In the past 20 years more than 16,000 evangelical churches have opened their doors.
Pastor ‘Nestor’ and his wife ‘Rosa’ (Not actual names)live in one room above their tiny house church. He told CBN News, ‘One of the things that has made us grow in faith has been the limitations and the difficulties.’ On Sunday mornings and during weeknight services, only a few will have a real seat. ‘People here don’t care how comfortable they are,’ Rosa said. ‘They could be exhausted from working all day and they will sit on a bag of rocks, a stitched up chair, or stand the whole service, and they’re okay with that.’
Casual government suggestion leads to home church movement!
Cuban church leaders say events led by the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s sparked the current church planting explosion. ‘When the Russian government collapsed Cuba went through a lot, and people started looking to churches for hope,’ Pastor ‘Julio’ (Not actual name) told CBN News.
At the same time, the government ended its atheistic philosophy that denied the existence of God and instead declared itself a secular state, prompting an entire generation to question what it believed.
During that period a government official told Cuban Baptists that the government could not authorise the construction of new buildings but suggested that believers meet in homes. The casual suggestion sparked a house church movement that many have compared to church history recorded in the book of Acts.
Pastor ‘Francisco’ (Not actual name) is one of thousands of Cuban house church pastors who follow the gospel with tremendous passion. He came to the Lord after having dreams about Jesus for three years. Now he leads a small neighbourhood church that meets three times a week.
‘We have evangelised everyone who lives in this area, a New Testament Bible to each home,’ he told CBN News. ‘We can’t stop – we won’t stop – because even if they won’t accept the Lord the first, second, third or fourth time, even so – we can’t stop until they come to the Lord.’
Victory through challenge
CBN News said the growth of the church in Cuba is even more miraculous given the country’s poverty. The average monthly government salary is $20, and professionals typically make less than $50. Still, Cuban churches are known for their generosity and willingness to sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. ‘What we have we want to share with others,’ Francisco said. ‘What we have, not what we have left over.’
Another obstacle facing Cuban churches is spiritual warfare in the form of Santeria. It’s a system of beliefs influenced by West African religions and Catholicism. Santeria is known for its rituals and ceremonies.
CBN News said Pastor ‘Nestor’ has faced resistance right in the neighbourhood. During one Sunday morning worship service, a group of Santeria followers stood just outside the church and began beating their drums. ‘It was kind of like a spiritual face-off,’ Nestor recalled. ‘The church just started praying and then we prayed for rain and all of a sudden there was thunder so they had to leave.’
Church leaders in Cuba say they’re enjoying a new season of relaxed restrictions. It’s easier to evangelise outside the church and they receive more permits to hold special events.
Still, CBN News said, most churches cannot expand or buy land. They cannot produce Christian radio or television shows. They must also work around a dysfunctional economy. At Pastor Nestor’s church, remodelling plans for the sanctuary are on hold indefinitely until the church can obtain much-needed cement.
‘Sometime without suffering there’s no challenge,’ Pastor Nestor told CBN News. ‘And without that challenge, there’s no victory.’
Jeremy Reynalds (email@example.com) is also a freelance writer and the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico’s largest emergency homeless shelter (www.joyjunction.org) Recommended: A Sheltered Life – http://www.ashelteredlife.net and his newest book From Destitute to Ph.D – www.myhomelessjourney.com
Playboy’s ‘Big News’ is Not What you Think it Is
Esther Laurie, (www.churchleaders.com), reports:
Playboy has some big news and it may not be what you’re thinking. Next March the magazine will no longer carry nude photos. The New York Times shared, ‘the print edition of Playboy will still feature women in provocative poses. But they will no longer be fully nude.’
The easy access to pornography and nudity online has been Playboy’s fiercest competitor and the internet seems to have won this battle, at least for now. But this is not a win for Christians or conservatives by any means.
Pornography – just a click away
As Time wrote, ‘In the battle for hearts and minds, porn has won. It is now as exotic as chewing gum and just as ubiquitous on main street as gum is on sidewalks.’ Pornography is cheap and free, easily accessed and just a click away. A magazine simply cannot keep up with what the internet has to offer. The magazine has lost their shock value.
The Atlantic wrote, ‘The move was approved last month by Hugh Hefner, the magazine’s legendary founder and editor in chief, but it has been one that has been a long time coming. First, pornography is widely available – and easily accessible – online, making the efforts of generations of pubescent boys to clandestinely acquire copies of Playboy and magazines like it seem positively antiquated. Second, changing cultural norms have made such magazines seem exploitative of women.’
Don’t be confused, Playboy isn’t concerned about the exploitation of women, they are concerned with their numbers.
Here’s what The New York Times stated, ‘Playboy’s circulation has dropped from 5.6 million in 1975 to about 800,000 now, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. Many of the magazines that followed it have disappeared. Though detailed figures are not kept for adult magazines, many of those that remain exist in severely diminished form, available mostly in specialist stores.
‘Penthouse, perhaps the most famous Playboy competitor, responded to the threat from digital pornography by turning even more explicit. It never recovered. In August of last year, its website dispensed with nudity. As a result, Playboy executives said, the average age of its reader dropped from 47 to 30.
This is where the concern lies for many. The change means more users and more users starting younger. Pornography is vicious. Could this be paving the way for porn to be more socially acceptable? There are models and porn stars who are legitimately hired, but there are so many more women and children who are trafficked, kidnapped, tricked and turned into sex slaves for the porn industry. Pornography is a form of sex trafficking.
This news is something every church leaders should be aware of. Our culture is more desensitised to porn than ever. Porn dehumanised people and cheapens sexuality. We need to have honest and brave conversations about God’s vision and purpose for sexuality and we need to have those conversations early.
Esther Laurie is a staff writer at ChurchLeaders. Her background is in communication and church ministry. She believes in the power of the written word and the beauty of transformation and empowering others. Link: http://estherlaurie.com
Springing into spring at the community garden
Marc Huggins, Gisborne Church of Christ, reports that the church launched a community–centred outreach last month.
‘We’re putting in a special effort to get the New Gisborne Community Garden ready for the growing season – preparing beds, weeding planting, forming paths, building seating – there’s lots to do,’ says the associate minister (Communications).
As well as pastoral encouragement for congregational involved, the church magazine also ran with an inspiring notice: ‘If you have an interest in gardening, or you’re just happy to get your hands dirty working alongside others, please come along. A good time is guaranteed and we’ll be enjoying some home-made pizzas from our new wood-fired oven – as a reward for our labours.’
Produce from the community garden is given to community groups to distribute to families around the region who need a helping hand.
Spring Into Spring and Producing Food is Good Healthy Fun are catchy themes of this venture, which aims not only to bless the local community with wholesome local produce, but to reach people who don’t attend church or know the love of God in a personal way.
John Randles (Ph: 03 5420 7869) heads a committed team in this venture. ‘We’re believing that the “reward for our labours” will be more than pizzas – that this will prove an introduction to us and to our church. That locals will see in a practical that we care for our community, that we’re walking the talk,’ he commented enthusiastically.
Gisborne Church of Christ is a vibrant church reaching the people of the picturesque Macedon Ranges and beyond. Though the church building is located in Gisborne, many of our people travel from Melton, Kyneton, Riddells Creek, Macedon, Sunbury, Woodend, Diggers Rest and other surrounding towns.
The church is delighted with its new Saunders Road extensions. Now able to seat 250 and running a variety of programs to involve members and meet local needs, it warmly welcomes new attenders. Link: www.gisbornechurchofchrist.org.au ____________________________________________________________________________________
Disclaimer: Articles and links, as well as the source articles linked to, do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ConnectingwithYou! Our thanks to various sources, mainly to Dan Wooding and ASSIST News Service, link: www.assistnews.net