Brand new song from Selah: The People of the Cross; and Honoring the Martyrs (part 2)

April 28, 2015

People Of The Cross

[Scroll down for new song from Selah – it’s SO good, Wow!  But the intro is inspiring, important and relevant…]

Last week I posted an entry about the Ethiopian, Kenyan and Egyptian martyrs: Lifting High the Cross: How the Martyrs Exalted Christ by Their Deaths (part 1) I have an additional entry I planned to post as a followup, but a very busy workload in recent days kept me from completing that draft.  Today I found myself with some unexpected free time between meetings and I was browsing Twitter catching up on various prayer needs and current events around the world…  Two posts on Twitter related to the martyrs killed by ISIS grabbed my attention, and I felt it very important to post them here.  So what was going to be a two-part series, will now be a three-part series.  I’ll hope to post the third entry on Thurs. or Friday.

The first tweet related to the martyrs today was posted by the famous Catholic monk and musician John Michael Talbot:

The full text of what he wrote was:

Coptic Christians in praise of Jesus in 2011 before the uprising of recent persecutions by fanatical Islam. This is the strength that gets them through the persecution today. Do we have the same?

I watched the linked video from the great Middle Eastern Christian channel SAT-7 (over 2 million views for this video!)

Here are excerpts from the lyrics in English – they utterly astound me in light of ISIS actions killing our brothers from Egypt & Ethiopia on the grounds that they were PEOPLE OF THE CROSS.  It is almost as if this song was written to prepare the church in Egypt for the time of testing to come.  INCREDIBLE.

Increase your praises to Christ, lift up the Lord with your tunes
Call out the heroes, His heroes, who walk with the cross before you
Increase your praises to Christ, lift up the Lord with your tunes
Call out the heroes, His heroes, who walk with the cross before you
Say that He has risen and death has no authority
And there is no forgiveness except through His blood
Say that He has risen and death has no authority
And there is no forgiveness except through His blood
And the light of the Gospel is increasing
[…]
Say that He has conquered darkness and its authority
He has lit up our days and given them color
And the light of day is increasing
[…]
Call out the heroes, His heroes, who walk with the cross before you
Say that He is He is defeating his foes
We’re winning with His testimony and blood
And our heritage is increasing
[…]
Call out the heroes, His heroes, who walk with the cross before you
Live the joy of heaven, joy, joy
Satan will wear the clothes of one in mourning
[…]
Increase your praises to Christ, lift up the Lord with your tunes
Call out the heroes, His heroes, who walk with the cross before you

No sooner had I finished watching that, then I glanced back at my Twitter feed, and the VERY FIRST tweet I saw was this from We Are Worship USA:

So, I went straight to YouTube to watch this video. This song People of the Cross was just released today – it’s on iTunes and other music download sites.

So powerful.  May this be true.

We are the People of the Cross.  We choose Christ and count all else as loss.  We won’t be shaken.  Hope won’t be taken. We are the People of the Cross.

May this be a rallying cry to the Evangelical Church in the West to truly live as People of the Cross, following in the footsteps of the martyrs from Egypt, Kenya and Ethiopia who have counted the cost and shown that Christ is worth dying for.

Go buy this song and keep listening and keep praying for the church around the world that we may not shrink back in the face of suffering and persecution….


Pray for Kenya – Good Friday statement from Abp. Wabukala

April 3, 2015

Somehow the suffering of Christians in Kenya today following yesterday’s killing of 147 students by Al Shabbab terrorists, as well as the memory of the recent martyrdom of 21 Coptic Christians in Egypt brings Good Friday into focus much more sharply this year for me.  Below is the statement and the request for prayer from the Anglican Archbishop of Kenya Eliud Wabukala.  May the Lord who suffered at the hands of evil men be near to those families who have suffered at the hands of terrorists.

***

Good Friday statement from the Primate of Kenya

‘Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother’
John 19:25

My dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this Good Friday we gather in our churches across Kenya in the shadow of a great and terrible evil. People who deal in death have slaughtered 147 people in Garissa, most of them students, and brought wrenching anguish to their families and a deep sadness to our nation.

These young people died because they were Kenyans and they were Christians. This attack was a calculated manifestation of evil designed to destroy our nation and our faith, but on this Good Friday we are reminded that the very worst evil can do is not the last word.

Through spite and blatant miscarriage of justice, Jesus dies the agonising death of the cross, but his last words are ‘it is finished’. The cross was not a tragic accident, but the fulfilment of God’s purpose to reconcile men and women to himself through the atoning death of his Son, a reality gloriously confirmed by his resurrection from the dead.

But we must not rush on to Easter Day too quickly.  Today we stand at the cross with Mary and the other women, heartbroken by loss and suffering and despite the horror before their eyes, not running away.

Horror is fresh in our minds too and let us not run away or deny it, but stay by the cross. We stay with Jesus, the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, we share in the grief of Mary and we share in the grief of those who have been so shockingly bereaved, but as Mary was to discover, we know that this is not the end of the story.

Jesus death upon the cross was not in vain. By his death, death has been destroyed. The stone rolled away and the empty tomb of Jesus assures us that death does not have the last word. As we think of those dear ones who died at Garissa because they were Christians, let us remember the promise of the Lord Jesus that nothing can separate them and us from his love.

Above all, let us resolve today that these deaths, and those of other Kenyans who have died previously at the hands of Al Shabaab, will not be in vain. We call on the government to do all in its power to protect the lives of its citizens and we call on the world community to recognise that this latest outrage is not just an attack on Kenya, but part of an assault on world peace. The time has come for the world to unite as never before in defeating this growing menace.

While governments have a vital role, even more important are the hearts and minds of ordinary people. Let us covenant together before God that we will never ever surrender our nation or our faith in Christ to those who glory in death and destruction. We will not be intimidated because we know and trust in the power of the cross, God’s power to forgive our sins, to turn death into the gate of glory and to make us his children for ever.

Amen
Archbishop, Anglican Church of Kenya

via the GAFCON website


Nigeria – Call to Prayer

May 11, 2014

Archbishop Okoh, Primate of the Anglican Church in Nigeria has issued a call to prayer.  Please continue in prayer for the kidnapped girls and their families, and for effective action against Boko Haram.  May the Lord give Christian leaders in Nigeria much boldness and wisdom.

call to prayer


Why should we care about, and pray for, GAFCON? – Part 1: By the Numbers

October 22, 2013

In an email yesterday, a friend challenged me, asking (I’m paraphrasing): “Why does GAFCON matter? Why should I care about it? I’m not in ACNA, it’s nice that some ACNA people get to go to an international conference, and they will enjoy good preaching, fellowship and worship, but how is this relevant?”

Those questions got me thinking… and also researching a bit. Let’s look first at the numbers:

GAFCON 2013:   Yesterday’s press release gives these attendance figures for this week’s GAFCON conference in Nairobi: “Although initially expecting 1100, the final total is 1,352 Archbishops, Bishops, clergy and lay people, men and women, from almost 40 countries. [I’ve seen the figure of 36 or 38 countries reported in other articles.] The number of bishops attending is 331, of whom 30 are Archbishops.”  Other reports mention that 27 of the 38 Anglican Provinces are represented.

Without any context, it’s hard to appreciate those numbers, so let’s compare GAFCON 2013 with some prior Anglican gatherings:

GAFCON 2008:  According to Wikipedia the first GAFCON gathering in Jerusalem in 2008 had 1148 delegates, including 291 Anglican Bishops, from 29 countries and 19 provinces.   GAFCON2 is 20% larger overall, with a 30% increase in countries and a 40% increase in number of Anglican Provinces represented.  (GAFCON2 includes delegates from 70% of the Provinces, while at GAFCON 1 there were 50% of the Provinces represented).

The Global South Encounter Gatherings:  the 4th Global South Encounter in Singapore in 2010 brought together 130 Anglicans from 20 countries.  The 3rd Global South Encounter in Egypt in 2005 brought together 103 delegates from 20 Provinces.  GAFCON2 is 10 times larger than any of the Global South encounters, and brings together participants from nearly twice as many countries.

Lambeth 1998:  749 bishops present.  Lambeth 2008: “Over 650 bishops present.”  [Per a recent article by George Conger at Get Religion, 214 bishops were absent at Lambeth 2008.]  While all Provinces are represented at Lambeth, the representation is very unequal.  In 2008, more than 20% of the attending bishops were from the United States, while the US Episcopal Church makes up less than 3% of the total Anglican Communion membership.

The Anglican Consultative Council Gatherings, while including laity, clergy and bishops from the entire Communion, are much smaller, with less than 100 participants.  It is particularly important to note that, like Lambeth, this gathering is completely disproportional to the membership of the Communion.  The Episcopal Church in the US with about 1.2 million members, sends the same number of delegates as the Province of Nigeria with 18 million members (3 delegates each).

By contrast, GAFCON 2013 seems to have taken extreme care to be VERY representative of the membership of the Anglican Communion.   There are over 400 Nigerians attending GAFCON – approximately 34% of the attendees.  With approx. 19 million members, Nigerians make up about 25% of the Anglican Communion.  So, for once, there is a global Anglican gathering in which Nigeria and most of the large African provinces are represented fairly accurately according to their membership!

So, in terms of size and the make up of the participants alone, it’s clear that GAFCON 2013 matters!  I believe it is the largest truly GLOBAL and REPRESENTATIVE Anglican gathering in modern history.  GAFCON 2013 gives us a glimpse of what the Anglican Communion REALLY looks like.

The faces of GAFCON

An article by Andrew Symes at Anglican Mainstream last night highlighted Abp. Peter Jensen’s reading off the roll call of countries during yesterday’s GAFCON plenary session:

Recently retired Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen, the secretary for GAFCON 2, had to briefly fight back tears as was overwhelmed by the reality of the fulfillment of months of hard work and preparation. A list of countries represented was read out, which included Bermuda, Burundi, Fiji, Argentina, Gambia, India, Iran, Mauritius, Myanmar, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Singapore, South Sudan, Uganda, Germany, Sierra Leone and many others. Why are we here? Jensen asked, and said that the structures of the old communion could not contain the new wine of today’s confessing Anglicans.

So GAFCON is a step towards helping towards creating new wineskins for the shape of today’s Anglican Communion.  One look at the picture above makes clear the “new wine” is a reality that demands a response!

In the same article, Abp. Wabukala of Kenya, the chariman of GAFCON 2013 is quoted as follows:

According to Archbishop Eliud, this is a movement of global Anglicans for worship, fellowship, growing together in Christ, and mission, with the intention of “modelling how the Anglican Communion should operate

So in light of all of the above, my prayer request for GAFCON today flows from the Apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:

For through [Christ] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:18-22, ESV)

May this week in Nairobi be a time of building friendships, love and trust, strengthening the bonds of unity in Christ. May each individual present, and the delegates corporately, re-center themselves on the foundation of Scriptural truth, and with that foundation strong and solid, may the Holy Spirit do a wonderful work of knitting together and rebuilding a temple for the praise of His glory.

We who only know the current brokenness and destruction of the Anglican Communion can hardly imagine what new wineskins might look like…, what wholeness and health is.  May GAFCON 2013 be an occasion for God to impart His vision for the future.  May God help us glimpse the promise of new wine and new fruitfulness that’s ahead if we allow Him to reshape us.

Karen B.

UPDATE:  I just came across a lovely blog entry by a GAFCON delegate from Sydney Austrailia.  GAFCON Day 1 in Living Colour.  It echoes a lot of what I’ve just written in terms of GAFCON being a visible symbol of the true vibrancy and life of the Anglican Communion in Africa.


From our archives and reposted for GAFCON – Walking in the Light, the East African revival

October 22, 2013

Back in January 2009, in conjunction with a prayer campaign we were running here at L&B for the Primates’ Meeting in Alexandria Egypt, my colleague Jill W. wrote a post about the East African Revival.  With all the talk of the East African Revival today at GAFCON, there were some folks searching on Anglican East African Revival, and so the following post got a number of hits and caught my eye tonight.  It seemed very apt to reblog this tonight and adapt it for use in praying for GAFCON.

The East African Revival–Walking in the Light

One of the great themes of the East African Revival was the view that true Christian conversion must be accompanied by a contrite confession of sin. After being convicted of their wrongs by the preaching of the cross, believers should be willing to give public testimony to what Christ has done in their lives and be willing to make restitution to anyone who has been harmed by their sins. There is a plethora of stories in East Africa of new believers returning things that had been stolen, or confessing past ethnic hatred or sexual misconduct. Such a confession must be accompanied by a willingness to lead a new life of honesty and openess, a lifestyle described as ‘walking in the light.’

If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.1 John 1:6-7

This revival, which began in 1929, spread from Rwanda to Uganda and Kenya. Also, Burundi and Tanzania were affected. It shaped the Protestant church in eastern Africa, and it has also helped shape the current Anglican crisis. The primate of Rwanda, Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini, moved by what he coined “spiritual genocide” in the Episcopal Church, was involved in the establishment of the Anglican Mission in America. After the consecration of Gene Robinson, the primate of Uganda, Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi, with his bishops broke communion with TEC and refused to accept any official monies from her, and Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya said, “Repentance must begin with the leadership. The church leadership must repent. Are the bishops role models? And the theological seminaries? . . . ECUSA has kicked itself out of the Anglican Communion. You can act in such a way to kick yourself out. It pains us because we want to have everyone in the communion. It is the leaders that are responsible.”

Lord God Almighty,
Unbound by time, You set a light on a hill for this present darkness. We thank You for the East African Revival. We thank You for the light that shines from Mt. Kilimanjaro, across the Serengeti, to the headwaters of the Nile, and down the East African Rift. […] may there break out in [GAFCON] a revival that will spread throughout the Anglican Communion.

Bright Morning Star, may a new day dawn in the Communion–a day of contrition and restitution, a day of repentance and testimony. We cry out, May [the GAFCON attendees and Anglicans throughout the world] revere Your name! Sun of Righteousness, rise with healing in Your wings.


Bright Morning Star, we honor Your name. Heal the Anglican Communion! Lead Your angel-armies and free us from this bondage. May the [GAFCON delegates] leave the meeting, leaping with joy and bursting with energy, like calves released from the stall.


Bright Morning Star, we want to walk in Your light. Amen.


Praying for the GAFCON Conference – praying for the Primates who are attending

October 21, 2013

According to the press release from the GAFCON conference yesterday, these Primates are attending this week’s GAFCON conference in Nairobi:

Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya and chairman of GAFCON

Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul, Primate of Sudan

Archbishop Robert Duncan, Primate of the Anglican Church in North America*

Archbishop Henri Isingoma, Primate of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Primate of Nigeria

Presiding Bishop Tito Zavala, Primate of the Southern Cone

[UPDATEthis article from a Ugandan paper states that Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of Uganda will be attending.  ]

It is possible that other Primates are attending, but not named in the article, we will update the list as we become aware of any other Primates who are present in Nairobi.

In reviewing the list of the Anglican Communion Primates last night, it struck me that only two of the 38 Primates were serving as Primates in 2003 when the Communion was torn apart by the actions of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church in the United States.  Ten of the Primates have been serving two years or less, including many of the Primates from the strongest Global South provinces.   So there has been a sea change in leadership since the events of 2003, and even since the first GAFCON conference in Jerusalem in 2008.

I think this fact may be hugely significant – virtually none of the Primates can even conceive of what the Communion was like (especially in regards to the Instruments of Unity) before the Communion was torn apart.  All they know is the “new normal,” which is actually the “new broken!”

These facts suggest two prayer topics.  I encourage us to pray:

1) For God to help orthodox Primates and leaders to forge truly deep bonds of trust and understanding and partnership during the GAFCON conference. This is a pretty new cast of characters without a lot of history of working together.

2) For God to give fresh vision of what a fruitful and healthy Anglican Communion (or at least a healthy and strong “sub-communion grouping” of the Global South and orthodox Provinces) could look like.  When all you know and see is brokenness, it can be very hard to imagine that good health and wholeness is really possible.

The Scripture passage I find coming to mind this morning as I think about and pray for GAFCON is this wonderful passage from Ephesians 3:6-12 – especially verse 10:

Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

It’s sometimes hard to wonder what good can come from a conference.  Lots of talk, more “words” …, more documents or statements.  But I’m reminded this morning of how God reveals His power and wisdom through the Church – even as weak and broken and divided as we are on this side of heaven.  May God cause the unsearchable riches of Christ and His glorious light to shine forth more brightly and be known more widely because of this gathering, and may the Lord strengthen orthodox Primates and leaders in attendance by His authority.  May God’s wisdom triumph over all the forces and powers of hell this week as Christ’s name is lifted up!

—-

*of course Apb. Duncan is not officially recognized as an Anglican Primate by the Anglican Communion Office, but he is treated equally as a Primate by the Global South leaders, and I believe he serves on the GAFCON Primates Council.


Mark 8:22-26

August 6, 2013

8/6/2013, #30, 3rd Quarter 2013

Then he came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to him, and begged him to touch him. So he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when he had spit on his eyes and put his hands on him, he asked him if he saw anything. And he looked up and said, “I see men like trees, walking.” Then he put his hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly. Then he sent him away to his house, saying, “Neither go into the town, nor tell anyone in the town.” (Mark 8:22-26)
      Jesus, place your hand upon us again so that we may see clearly.

      Holy Spirit, remove our blindness and soften our hearts.

      Father, please help us be obedient to Jesus’ directions as to when we should speak and when we should be silent. Thank you.

Tuesday: 78:1-39 * 78:40-72; 2 Samuel 7:18-29; Acts 18:12-28; Mark 8:22-33
Wednesday: 119:97-120 * 81, 82; 2 Samuel 9:1-13; Acts 19:1-10; Mark 8:34-9:1

      Notes from the Front Line

***** News from Bishop Grant and Doctor Wendy
Dedicating Nininyang’s new church
Roller-coaster! The thought sprung unbidden to mind as we turned off the main road and deliberately nose-dived into the ditch. Just how deep the ditch was, was hidden by the tall grass. I was reassured by the encouraging smiles and waving hands of our guides, mostly hidden in the head-high grass, as they directed us away from the thorny acacia bushes, and in between fields of maize, towards Nininyang’s new church – the roof just visible in the distance. We had arrived!! We were to spend the night resting and preparing for tomorrow’s service – the dedication of the new church! We had plans, after leading an impromptu welcome service, for a quiet night in our tent, in the church. The congregation had other plans. We could not possibly really want to be left alone – they could all spend the night with us!!! Party time!!! We can cook tomorrow’s feast, shout, laugh, sing (of course AT the top of our lungs), and beat the drum enthusiastically with ALL our might!! We emerged from our tent in the pre-dawn dark in some haste when the noise reached a new crescendo. “Were they calling us to get up?” we wondered. Peter Kuel, priest in charge of Nininyang mission centre, met us with his gentle smile, “Why are you up so early?”
      No matter, we could sit with the ladies as they prepared the feast on the ground in front of the church. I never realized just how grey cow intestines were, but perhaps they had blanched under the doleful eye of the cow’s head, sitting together with the tail, seeming to observe all the preparations with less than an enthusiastic air. A feast of Kop (mixed maize and wheat flour) was prepared by two delightful but unfortunately incessantly coughing ladies. Too late we learned that it was mixed with unboiled water, much to our later intestinal regret.
The dedication service was a mixture of joy and sorrow. Merle raiders had attacked the village next to us, killing some, kidnapping others. Peter Kuel’s niece was one of the children killed. A dear lady who had walked from a nearby village bringing with her the gift of a goat, was prevented from attending the service. She arrested that morning on the charge of having, by witchcraft, killed someone who had been bitten by a snake. Peter and a member of the congregation who was a policeman obtained temporary release for her, pending trial the next day. We prayed with her. “It is impossible! She is a Christian!” declared Peter. We all gathered round and prayed.

It was clergy training days as we returned home from Nininyang. I’ll let Grant tell of this.

…And Sorrow
      Every month the clergy of the Gambella region in western Ethiopia come for two to three days of training. We are reading through 1 Corinthians, reading a book on the 39 Articles of Religion, and talking about pastoral issues in the area.
      At a recent gathering one of the clergy came to me during a break. “Bishop, I have a problem. I need help to understand something”. David Onuk is the priest for the Opo people a small language group two hours into the bush from Gambella town. Although the Ethiopian census number only 1,700, there are probably closer to 5,000 Opo people in the world (it is hard to count people who are so isolated). In the last few years many of them have become (Anglican) Christians.
      David’s problem took me by surprise, so I brought the story to the assembled clergy to discuss. A 19-year old nephew, James, who lived with David and his family, had gone off with a group of other young men to hunt for honey in the forest. They found a nest in a tree and James climbed the tree to retrieve the honey. The bees attacked and James fell from the tree impaling himself in the chest as he landed. By the time David reached the scene James was dead. Then David explained his dilemma. James is the first Opo Christian who has ever died. Some of the people are confused. Are Christians supposed to die? What happens to a Christian when he dies? David explained that the Opo have no view of an afterlife (at this point Grant the pastor was supplanted by Grant the student of African religion: really? I’ve never heard of a group of Africans with no view of an afterlife? Almost all Africans have some way of understanding the ancestors and their continued , usually shadowy, existence after death).
      After relating the details of the story, and after receiving comfort and assurances of prayers from the other pastors, we turned to an attempt to help David to communicate the meaning of this event to his people. The passage which, in the end, seemed most helpful was 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, but especially the first two verses:
      “We do not want you to be uninformed brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve as those who have no hope. For, since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.”
      Paul, it seems, had encountered a problem in Thessalonica which was similar to the problem that the Opo were having. Didn’t Jesus defeat death? Doesn’t John 3:16 say that those who believe in Jesus “will not perish”? So what does it mean that Christians die? We talked for quite a while about that fact that Jesus himself faced death. We talked about the resurrection of Jesus and how Jesus’ resurrection is the “first fruits” of our future resurrection. We talked about how we do not have to grieve as if facing death means facing total loss and emptiness, but how our grief is intermingled with true hope – because Jesus rose, we have the assurance of being raised with him. James, even now, is truly in Christ.
      Rt Rev Dr Grant LeMarquand and Dr Wendy LeMarquand are missionaries of SAMS (Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders) Bishop Grant is area bishop for the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia, Eretrea, Djibouti); under the Most Rev Dr Mouneer Anis, Bishop of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa

***** Prayer Table, Zion ,Colton Cold Brook Dr. S.Colton, Jo Ferris Fri. Aug. 2,2013 9:30–11:00am, Sunny, breezy, high 60’s –pleasant

Steve— not today! thanks

Doug and Joan –general health

A man who sped around the corner in his car.–no wave

A Man on the cell phone as he drove–no wave.

6 other no wave— prayed they come to know the Lord.

Albany Intercessor


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