The June 2003 Pneuma Informer
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Reports from Around the World
AIDS/HIV may be the deadliest disease in history
Southern Africa has been described by UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS Stephen Lewis as the "canary in the pandemic" for the rest of the world. New predictions of the growing pandemic in Eastern Europe, India, China, and Russia are lifting the estimated worldwide number of HIV infections to as many as 100 million by 2020. Putting this terrible statistic into perspective, the Black Death in 14th–century Europe killed only 40 million and the 1918 flu epidemic claimed 45 million lives. The only more deadly illnesses may be the killer diseases which decimated Central and South America's populations, brought by Europeans who discovered and colonized the Western hemisphere.
Source: Witness, Jan/Feb 2003 (page 17), quoted in Current Thoughts & Trends
AIDS in Asia
AIDS–related diseases take the lives of 1,192 people every day in Asia. Another 2,658 become infected. New cases reported in 2001 totaled 1.07 million, 17% more than the previous year.
Source: Pulse, Nov 22, 2002 (page 1), quoted in Current Thoughts & Trends
Switzerland: historic Reformation traditions reconcile
"On Saturday, 3rd May 2003, a moving reconciliation service was held in Zurich's Grossmunster (Minster), where reformer Huldrych Zwingli preached," reports Christa Heyd–Westerhausen. The Swiss group 'Stiftung Schleife' organized the service. "Descendants of the Anabaptists, severely persecuted under Zwingli, entered the church to the accompaniment of bells. Mennonites and Amish, among other groups, had come from the USA and Canada specially for this event: the present–day heads of Zurich's church asked for forgiveness for the sins of the past, which was granted them by an Amish Bishop. Reverend Reich, head of the Zurich Church Council, was presented with a Brethren Table, at which the Brethren still celebrate Communion as in those days. Reverend Paul Veraguth, Reformed vicar in Wattenwil, Switzerland, himself from an Anabaptist family and whose church stands on confiscated Anabaptist property, has published a short history of the Anabaptists during the Reformation period (Schleife Verlag, Winterthur, in German). This day of reconciliation can reduce the tension between the State Church and independent churches for the future. Today's independent churches can now better identify with the pre–Reformation and Reformation–period Anabaptist movement."
Healing for old wounds in Mennonite families
Representatives of the Anabaptists in Switzerland and the USA, such as Mennonites led by Bishop Lloyd Hoover from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, spoke of the hurts resulting from their difficult history and Anabaptist fixation. "Today, I would like to speak about a part of the Anabaptist soul which is hardly ever mentioned," said Mennonite Janet Richards. "It is not true of all Anabaptists, and not all Anabaptist churches feel this way, but we have recognised that our church and even family life is far from the joy, peace, freedom, love and also rebuke which God wants from us. We have been formed by years of persecution, and hurts and sins have been handed down through the generations. They have caused great damage in the children's' hearts, who themselves become fathers with their own unhealed wounds. My upbringing was the same as that of my parents and grandparents. It was at times as strict and unwavering as excommunication and church discipline of the first Anabaptists, or today's Amish. Discipline was exercised with little understanding of grace. The joy of the Lord was missing in our upbringing and schooling, which concentrated on being serious, and warning us against silliness. Legalism was handed down from father to son and daughter."
Reformed Church confesses Anabaptist persecution as wrong
Ruedi Reich, President of Zurich's Reformed Church Council, spoke of a 'tragic rip' in the Reformation in Zurich. "Today, we recognise the independent and State Church expressions of Evangelical Church as of equal value; we need each other, can learn from each other and complement one another. At the time of the Reformation, nether State nor Church recognised this. The Swiss Reformed Church persecuted the Anabaptists. The wrongs done to Anabaptists and related movements over centuries was a betrayal of the Gospel, which we confess, shocked, before God. We declare that the Reformed Church and the Anabaptist movement are twigs on the same Evangelical branch of the large Christian tree. We must recognise and respect each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, even though we live our Christianity in different ways according to our different traditions."
Source: Peter Schmid and Christa Heyd–Westerhausen, theo.westerhausen [at] tiscalimail.de by way of Friday Fax 2003, Issue 21.
United States: Few Christian parents offer spiritual training
Most parents believe that they are primarily responsible for the spiritual development of their children, but few of them spend time interacting with their youngsters on religious matters.
According to the latest study from the Barna Research Group (BRG), close to nine of 10 parents of children under 13 – 85 percent — believe they have the primary responsibility for teaching their children about religious beliefs and spiritual issues.
But related research revealed that a majority of parents do not spend any time during a typical week discussing spiritual matters or studying religious materials with their children. Although about two out of three parents of children under 12 attend religious services at least once a month and generally take their children with them, most are willing to let their church provide all of their youngsters' spiritual training.
Released yesterday, the survey of 1,010 adults found that parents typically have no plan for the spiritual development of their children, do not consider it a priority, have little or no training in how to nurture a child's faith, have no related standards or goals that they are seeking to satisfy, and experience no accountability for their efforts.
"[Children] are one of the most significant and fertile mission fields, yet the very people who claim responsibility for ... [their] spiritual growth ... are doing little about it beyond dropping their kids off at church," said BRG president George Barna. "Churches could help more by being increasingly proactive in preparing parents to handle that responsibility wisely."
Source: Charisma News Service May 07, 2003. (Click here)
Sudan: new believers in the Khartoum area
Swiss mission agency Kingdom Ministries recently received news from northern Sudan that a church–planting movement was started following a conference in February 2003. The area around Khartoum was divided into three regions, with a clear strategy for saturation church planting. So far, 160 people have come to faith in Jesus, and several house churches have been started. The church planters show the Jesus Film, speak about Christ and pray for the sick and demonized. They regularly see God work, according to the local leaders: a child brought her grandmother, who had been sick for 9 months. The woman was physically healed. An ex–Catholic, who had married a Muslim, decided to follow Jesus. Another woman had been barren for six years and rejected by her husband. Seventy–one visits to the witch doctor had brought nothing, but after the Christians prayed for her, she became pregnant. Five women and two men who worked for a privately–run brothel were saved and are now members of newly–planted churches.
Source: Kingdom Ministries info [at] kministries.ch by way of Friday Fax 2003 Issue 24, June 13.
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Resources You Can Use
Websites for Church Legal, Tax, Non–profit, and Risk–management issues
Please note that some of these links are to for–profit businesses that are offering helpful information but are seeking churches as clients. Inclusion in this list does not represent endorsement by the Pneuma Foundation.
UK affiliate: http://www.churchinsurance.org.uk
Article 'Clergy, Church, and Law: Reducing the Risk of Kidnapping'
By Richard R. Hammer. From Enrichment by the Assemblies of God.
Pray for America
The General Council of the Assemblies of God is hosting a two–and–a–half hour prayer meeting on Sunday, August 3. This meeting will be held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and will be attended by numerous national leaders including President Bush. People of all denominations are invited to participate in the event.
Thoughts to Ponder
"It is not too much to say that the fullness of God consists in God's self–emptying, God's power to give up God's very life for the sake of others, indeed of every other. It is this which we see in the Incarnation: Christ empties himself for the sake of humanity, and in this act of supreme self–surrender Christ affirms the fullness of God's almighty love."
— Michael Jinkins from Invitation to Theology
"The church has magnificent buildings, superb equipment, trained leadership, excellent teaching materials, organizational ability, and yet lacks that one thing that could take all these tools and make them the channel of God's will. In spite of its ever–increasing membership, the church lacks the spirit of God's growing love and understanding that can transform it from an efficient organization into a loving, dynamic fellowship where men and women become vitally alive with faith, love, and hope."
– Thomas M. Steen
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Excerpts from the Summer 2003 (Vol 6, No 3) issue of the Pneuma Review
The 'Pneuma Review' is a quarterly printed journal of ministry resources and theology for Pentecostal and charismatic ministries and leaders.
From 'Secret Codes in Matthew: Examining Israel's Messiah' Part 10: Matthew 15 by Kevin M. Williams
. . .
And He answered and said to them, 'And why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 'For God said, 'honor your father and mother,' and, 'He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death.' 'But you say, 'Whoever shall say to his father or mother, 'Anything of mine you might have been helped by has been given to God,' he is not to honor his father or his mother.' And thus you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition (Matthew 15:3–6)
As Yeshua exemplifies time and again, the Tanakh, the Old Testament, is an excellent tool for combating spiritual delusion. He also demonstrates that he not only has mastery of Scripture, but of the oral law as well.
Again we turn to the Talmud and its commentary on 'vows concerning dedicated property' to get a better understanding of the context of our passage.
If a man was forbidden by vow to have any benefit from his fellow, and he had naught to eat, his fellow may give (the food) to another as a gift, and the first is permitted to use it. It once happened that a man at Beth Horon, whose father was forbidden by vow to have any benefit from him, was giving his son in marriage, and he said to his fellow 'The courtyard and the banquet are given to thee as a gift, but they are thine only that my father may come and eat with us at the banquet.' His fellow said, 'If they are mine, they are dedicated to heaven.' His fellow said, 'Thou didst give me what is thine only that thou and thy father might eat and drink and be reconciled one with the other, and that the sin should rest on his head!' When the case came before the Sages, they said: 'Any gift which, if a man would dedicate it, is not accounted dedicated, is not a (valid) gift' (Mishanah Nedarim 5:6).
Yeshua's answer to their question really demonstrates some of the shallowness of the 'tradition of the elders.' We may rightly ask, 'What kind of vow would prohibit a father from taking food from his own son?' In a rational world, nothing ought to cause such a prohibition. However, this is rarely a rational world. People can say all variety of hurtful things and make all kinds of unfortunate vows in the heat of the moment. For instance, a father–son argument may have taken place in which the son makes an off–handed comment about 'not wanting anything from you!' In the presence of witnesses, such a statement is considered a vow, and even though a casual covenant, nonetheless it was considered legally binding.
There is a great deal we could say about such casual covenants, and much that should be said. In our society we comment on all variety of things which in the biblical era would have gotten us into trouble: 'Let's do lunch,' or 'I'll give you a call,' or the like are—after the ancient form—vows. Those may seem rather innocuous, but even our Messiah said 'let your yes be yes and your no be no, anything beyond is evil (Matthew 5:37). Given the other things we say in our society such as, 'I'm never going to speak to you again,' or 'That's the last time I'm ever setting foot in that house,' and we begin to see how common vows have become—even if we don't realize we have invoked one.
Rather than deal with reconciliation, and bringing the father and son back together in a healed relationship, the oral law would uphold the vow, actually keeping the relationship fractured. Yeshua's answer reminds these Pharisees—as well as it reminds us today—that our priority is not to give torn parent/child relationships sanctuary, but to remember God's commandments of honoring and treating others as we would like to be treated.
. . .
- Read the rest of this article in the Summer 2003 issue of the Pneuma Review. Footnotes appear with the full article in the journal.
From 'Rightly Understanding God's Word' Chapter Two: Learning Context. Part 1 of 2 by Craig S. Keener.
7. Resisting the Devil in James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8–9; Ephesians 4:27
James contrasts the peaceful wisdom which is from God (3:13, 17–18; 'from above' was a typical Jewish way of saying, 'from God') with the contentious wisdom which is from the devil (3:14–15). Then he warns his audience not to try to hold both perspectives as if they were compatible. Those who try to follow both God's and the world's wisdom at the same time are spiritual adulteresses (4:4). Submitting to God and resisting the devil (4:7), then, is rejecting the world's evil way of treating one another and preferring the gentle approach that comes from God. To adopt this new way of treating others requires repentance (4:8–10).
1 Peter refers to a situation in which Christians are being persecuted (1 Pet 4:12–16); in 1 Peter 5:8–9, the devil apparently seeks to crush believers by seeking to turn them from the faith. Resisting him therefore means withstanding the persecution. In the context of Ephesians 4:27, one resists the devil by refusing to deceive or stay angry with one's fellow–believers (4:25–26); in the whole context of Ephesians, this is part of 'spiritual warfare' (6:11–14, 18).
. . .
- Read the rest of this article in the Summer 2003 issue of the Pneuma Review.
See Pneuma Review Subscription
- Pray for the people of Congo: The war that has ravaged the Democratic Republic of Congo and its neighbors has taken more lives than any conflict since World War 2, with estimates of deaths being at least 3.3 million people (see one report here). Please pray for the peace of God on this nation.
- Longtime Pneuma Review writer, Kevin M. Williams, has shared this request with us: 'Earlier this week I turned in a new manuscript for a booklet entitled My Jewish Friend's Faith. It's not a 'how to evangelize' book—there are plenty of those in the marketplace. Rather, it's an explanation of the differences between the various sects of Judaism, in terms Evangelicals can better understand. It tries to break down some of the Jewish stereotypes that are common among many Christians, and helps them understand why Jewish people (from the religious to the secular) react negatively to traditional "Christian" witnessing techniques.
It is written to encourage readers to enter into substantive dialogue with their Jewish friends, which may in turn open up opportunities to discuss faith issues with understanding and sensitivity, rather than Bible–thumping. The manuscript rests with the powers that be, who seemed most eager to receive it. If you would, please pray that God's will shall be done.'
- A Pastor in Southern India writes: 'I thank every one praying for us! Every day some servants of the Living God come to me for fellowship, counseling, financial help for their families and for their church needs! They are men and women whom the Lord saved from the bondage of idolatry, demonic and diabolical sickness! But their families and communities threw them out! In spite of severe persecution and utter poverty these people are faithful in going from one village to another, proclaiming the good news with undeniable proof! The Lord is giving them souls from these villages who want to follow Jesus! These dear servants of the Lord beg for Church buildings, at least a thatched shed where all can come and worship! They also need bicycles and a small 50$ monthly support! Pray that the Lord may help me to build His work by opening the hearts of our fellow brothers and sisters around the world to wisely make use of this freedom and establish His Kingdom!' For more information about this evangelistic ministry, write to Member Services and refer to Account 100205195.
- 'Thanks for praying for the Cell Groups Ministry in Bhopal. You may also pray for us as we are also working among broken families and doing the work of counseling and praying for their problems. We need wisdom and understanding to deal with the problems and become an effective tool for unification of the families again.' – Pastor Prem Kumar
- Pastor Abraham Emmanuel in Sri Lanka writes: 'These days our Country experiencing a heavy rain. Most of the place are under Water. The cities called Ratnapura, Galle and even Colombo are completely covered by water, the water level is above 12 feet in Ratnapura. More then 70,000 People are became homeless and about 100 people died. Praise and thank God our program did not affected by rain. Please pray for this homeless people.' In other news from Sri Lanka, Pastor Emmanuel reports that Christians are being severely persecuted. Pastor Sumith Gunasekera of Margaya Church in Embilipitiya was taken from his home at night by men claiming to be police who repeatedly stabbed him and left him for dead. Please pray for his healing and the protection of his family. View recent pictures of Nazarene Mission's Levites Camp:
- Author William De Arteaga pastors a Hispanic congregation at St. Jude's Episcopal Church in Marietta, Georgia. He has asked that we pray that the Lord would provide a secretary to alleviate some of the administrative tasks he has in order to devote himself more to prayer, the Word, and writing. Dr. De Arteaga is author of Quenching the Spirit and Forgotten Power and has been featured in the Pneuma Review.
- The Pneuma Foundation editorial committee is praising God that others are being blessed through their efforts. An article from the Spring 2003 issue of the Pneuma Review was summarized and printed in Current Thoughts & Trends. The article featured was "Leading worship in a small group" by Brent Helming. Try finding the summary here.
- Joe Joslin, a contributing editor to the Pneuma Review, writes, 'I was offered and accepted a full time position with Holland Community Hospital upon graduation from my clinicals at the end of June. It wasn't the ideal shift, but I'm thankful to get my foot in the door somewhere until I can get on first shift. Thank you for all of your prayers and support. You'll never know how much they meant over these last 2 1/2 years!'
- Prayer Answered: Tax–exempt status recognized by Federal Government. Thank you for praying with us about this request (mentioned the March 2003 issue of the Informer). The Internal Revenue Service of the U.S. Dept. of the Treasury has recognized the Pneuma Foundation as a 501(c)(3) organization exempt from tax. With confidence you may send tax–deductible contributions to the Pneuma Foundation for which you will receive a receipt at year–end or after each donation is made. The Foundation had been given the standard five–year advanced ruling period and has now been fully recognized as qualifying as a tax–exempt public foundation.
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It was reported in the April 2003 issue of the Pneuma Informer that the periodical Refleks was published by a Pentecostal research library in Oslo, Norway. The journal, which publishes articles in Norwegian and English, is not affiliated with the Acta-biblioteket research library in Oslo. The editors regret any confusion this may have caused.