Thought for the day: Pray for persecuted Christians!

We have been commanded to pray continually, and especially for each other. We usually pray for those nearest us, people we know and are familiar with, including their problems and heart aches. When it comes to people in faraway countries with their different cultures and customs it is not so easy. But it is true that persecution of Christians is increasing, and there are now more Christian Martyrs than at any time in history, and is increasing.

The 2016 World watch list on Christian Persecution is out: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/ and it lists the 50 countries with the strongest persecution of Christians. There are 57 countries participating in the Organization of Islamic Corporation (OIC), and makes for interesting reading, since a few of the countries have Christian majorities

What follows is a list of 70 countries to pray for: It consists of the 50 countries on the persecution watch list, and the 57 countries in OIC.

The list contains the name of the country, total population in millions (2014 estimate), Christian population in millions (estimate from Operation World with updates when known), GDP per capita (CIA 2014) and persecution index (from opendoorsusa.org).

First the 37 countries in OIC in order of persecution:

Republic of IRAQ                                 37    0.3      15,300    92      ISIS Sharia

Islamic Republic of AFGHANISTAN 33    0.001   1,900     88     ISIS Taliban Sharia

SYRIAN Arab Republic                       18    0.5        5,100     87     ISIS

Islamic Republic of PAKISTAN        192     4          4,700      87   ISIS Taliban

Republic of SOMALIA                        11     0.005      500       87    Failed state

Republic of The SUDAN                    41     3           4,300      84    Sharia

Libya                                                       6.3   0.15    15,900      79    ISIS

Republic of YEMEN                           27     0.01      3,800      78    ISIS   Sharia

Federal Republic of NIGERIA         186    90          6,100      78   ISIS   Sharia(north)

Republic of MALDIVES                       0.37  0.0003 13,300    76  Sharia

Kingdom of SAUDI ARABIA             32     1          52,300     76    ISIS  Sharia

Republic of UZBEKISTAN                 30    0.4         5,600     70

Turkmenistan                                       5     0.1       14,200      65

State of QATAR                                   2.3   0.2     137,200      65     Sharia

Arab Republic of EGYPT                   93     10       10,900      64     ISIS

(State of ) PALESTINE (authority)      5     0.07      4,900      62     HAMAS

BRUNEI-DARUSSALAM                     0.5   0.05    79,900      61

Hashemite Kingdom of JORDAN      9      0.2       12,000      59

Republic of DJIBOUTI                     0.9     0.04      3,100       58

MALAYSIA                                       30       2.2       25,100       58

Republic of TAJIKISTAN                 9       0.08        2,700       58

Republic of TUNISIA                     11       0.02       11,300      58

 Republic of AZERBAIJAN             10       0.4         17,800     57

People’s Rep. of BANGLADESH 163      1              3,400      57

People’s Dem. Rep. of ALGERIA  40      0.1         13,900      56   ISIS

Union of The COMOROS                0.8    0.005      1,500       56

State of KUWAIT                                4      0.2         70,700      56

Republic of KAZAKHSTAN           18      3.8         24,100      55

Republic of INDONESIA              260      40          10,700       55    ISIS  Sharia

Republic of MALI                           18       0.25        1,700        55     ISIS

Republic of TURKEY                     80      0.25      19,700        55

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES             9      0.5        66,300        55    Sharia

Kingdom of BAHRAIN                    1.4   0.08      49,000        54

Republic of NIGER                        21      0.05       1,100         53

Sultanate of OMAN                       4.7      0.08      43,800        53

Then the 20 Islamic Countries not in the top 50 on the persecution index

Republic of ALBANIA                    3        1.3          11,400

Republic of BENIN                      11         2.5         1,900

BURKINA-FASO (Upper Volta)   19         2.9         1,700

Republic of CAMEROON           24         13          3,000

Republic of CHAD                        14        3.2        2,600

Republic of COTE D’IVOIRE     23        7.5         3,100

Republic of GABON                    1.8       1.1        20,800

The Islamic Rep. of The Gambia 2         0.06       1,600

Republic of GUINEA                   13         0.5         1,300

Republic of GUINEA-BISSAU      1.9      0.2         1,500

Republic of GUYANA                  0.8      0.35        6,900

KYRGYZ Republic                        6        0.3          3,300

Republic of LEBANON                 6        1.3         18,100    ISIS Hezbollah

Kingdom of MOROCCO             34        0.03        7,800     ISIS

Islamic Rep. of MAURITANIA      4        0.004     4,300    Sharia

Republic of MOZAMBIQUE        28      12           1,200

Republic of SENEGAL              15        0.5        2,400

Republic of SIERRA LEONE     6.5      0.6        2,100

Republic of SURINAME              0.5     0.25      16,300

Republic of TOGO                     7.5       3             1,500

Republic of UGANDA                40      35           1,900

And finally 13 Non Islamic Countries on the Christian persecution index

North Korea                                          25        0.5        1,800       92

Eritrea                                                     5         2            1,200       89

Kenya                                                    48       36           3,100       68

India                                                   1326      30           5,800        68

Ethiopia                                               102       63          1,600        67

Myanmar                                              54          5           4,800       62

Central African Republic                     5          3.5            600       59

Laos                                                       7         0.14         5,000      58

China                                                1382        105        13,300       57

Tanzania                                               50          27          2,700       57

Bhutan                                                   3          0.01        7,700       56

Mexico                                                 129        120         18,000     55

Colombia                                              49           50         13,500    55

One more verse to the Hillary Clinton Nursery Rhyme. Hillary the felon.

Hillary, Hillary, where have you been?th19XAEMTF

“It’s none of your business, for  am the queen.”

Hillary, Hillary, are you a felon?

“In a dream that the right wing conspirators dwell on.”

The whole nursery rhyme: http://lenbilen.com/2015/05/17/hillary-clinton-as-a-nursery-rhyme/

Thought for the day. The Hew Hampshire Primary or whatever.

 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” (Matthew 21:21-22)

Watching the New Hampshire primary election the thought came to me. How many have prayed for their candidate to win, and if so, how many did it in faith, without doubting? Regardless of how many prayed for their candidate, there can only be so many winners in any election. The rest, having prayed in faith, not doubting will be disappointed. Some will be disappointed in God. Did God fail them?

Some will say yes, God failed them, but even more will question their faith, and acknowledge their doubts that God is capable of doing anything. So they blame themselves, the disappointments mount, and their prayer life takes a hit.  Jesus’ half-brother James put it succinctly: You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:3).  It is enough to forget the whole thing.

Or is it?

Many people are careful to add to their prayers: If it is your will, but even this caveat shows we acknowledge we really do not really know God’s will, and we resign us to the fate that our most sincere prayers are probably useless anyway.

Nothing could be further from the truth. God commands us to “be continually in prayer” and the promise in Matthew is repeated in Mark11:23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. And in John 16:23 the apostle quotes Jesus: “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. These are words from the Lord Jesus himself, so they must mean something, or God’s word cannot be trusted.

The answer is found in the age old question: What is the purpose of our being here on earth anyway? Does God really care? At first glance with terror, war and lawlessness spreading all over the world, God no longer cares. As one who has been reborn from above I can attest that God cares very much, and He really desires to have fellowship with us. There is nothing that compares to knowing you are loved by God and having fellowship with Him.

But back to whatever. The promise is not as ridiculous at it seems at first glance; all factions cannot get their petitions fulfilled. We must dig deeper: Jesus said in John 14:13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  And in John 15:14 Jesus states: You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. Jesus doubles downs in verse 16: You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. And the answer to how we should live is found just above in John 15:9-12:

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

There it is: The greatest commandment, and if we abide in Him we can ask whatever, because it aligns with His perfect will.

Lest we be puffed up, this is still true: In Isaiah 55:8-9 God states:“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.

Yet, the Lord Jesus states in John 16:12-13  “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.”

There we have it: The Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth, enough to give us grace and lead us day by day, but not so much that we can go forward all by ourselves.

 


Thought for the day. My fathers testimony song.

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. (John 15: 7-10)

My father was a middle school teacher in a city with many immigrants and refugee children from the second world war. There were Finns, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Polish, Serbs and an occasional Jew. Many children came from single moms since this was a textile city.  So naturally he was a flaming liberal. But he had a very developed sense of right and wrong. He had a way with children, so the administrators gave him a large number of children from broken homes. He always tried his best to help them succeed in spite of hardships, and even now, 60 years later they call my mom in thankfulness, even going so far as to say “He saved my life”. Then in the 60’s and 70’s he saw the excesses of a socialist government, year after year taking more than the salary increases in additional taxes, so the take home pay every ear was a little bit lower. Meanwhile we had raging inflation. After his retirement my mom took a job as a therapist for people with cognitive challenges. Many had been in state facilities all their lives. The social administrators decided one day that they too should lead normal lives and gave them a dinner at the town’s most expensive restaurant. Not only did they not appreciate it, but they wanted to go back home and eat what they were used to. When my father found out the size of the bill he said bluntly: That’s it. From now on I am a conservative. But now he had to search out, how shall we then live, so he started going back to his childhood faith, the faith he abandoned as a young man because of the hypocrisy he saw in those to proclaimed to be Christians.

Meanwhile my wife and I had been saved and one of my brothers married a strong Christian, and he searched for the truth.

At his funeral we sang Eventide (Abide with me), and looking through his writings I found this poem:
There is a road that’s leading heaven bound.
A strait and narrow, not like others found.
It ends abruptly at a raging sea,
Don’t doubt, your faith your wanderer’s staff shall be.
That road is leading homeward just the same,
through evil seas of sin, and guilt, and shame.
There is a bridge appearing on the scene;
To land that no-one mortal ever seen.
This land of hope and grace and peace sublime.
Thank God, You let me find that road in time.
Written by my father (in Swedish) in 1978.

©Lars Bilén 1978 (1912-2004), tr. Lennart Bilén 2015

Wow! Looking at the poem I heard the roaring sea and i heard Finlandia in my head for the first verse. Then for the second verse, Eventide became the obvious choice.

My father indeed found the only way, reconciliation through Jesus Christ.  Only a few years later he lost much of his creative abilities, but he was ever thankful God had let him find that road in time.

 

Thought for the day: The origin and journey of the song “How great thou art.”

Clouds have always been my fascination. They come and go, form and disappear, cool by day and warm by night. But most impressive of all are thunderstorms, forming when the temperature and humidity are high, transport a lot of water vapor to higher elevations, there condensing as rain or ice, coming down, cooling and watering the earth. Clouds and thunderstorms are the thermostat of the earth. Without it the earth would respond like climate models, predicting a sharp temperature rise as carbon dioxide levels increase. The models are all flawed, since they predict a hot spot in the troposphere over the equator, but there is none. The thunderstorms in the tropical doldrums take care of that. “Settled science” instead has settled on ignoring the lack of the hot spot, for to acknowledge it would make the global warming claim invalid.

I thank God for providing us with a thermostat that protects the earth from overheating, and especially for thunderstorms!

Such was the case in July 1885, when Carl Boberg,  a 26 year young pastor of a Mönsteråsvikensmall congregation of the Swedish Missionary society was the honored guest of the ladies’ auxiliary annual picnic, held in a meadow near Mönsteråsviken, (a bay of the Baltic Sea in southeastern Sweden). The day was perfect, the sky was clear, pleasant temperatures, the cows were grazing on the meadow, the birds were singing, in short,  a pastoral idyll. Then it happened. In a few short minutes thunderclouds appeared out of nothing. There was no time to go home, so they all sought shelter in a barn close by. The rain came down hard, and lightning struck a nearby tree. Then as suddenly as it started the rain stopped and all was calm. In Sweden it turns much cooler after a thunderstorm, and the birds sing like they got a new lease on life.

They all went home, and the young pastor pondered the events of the day. He

080419-11, digital 28,8 mb RAW, 12-00 Koltrast, Turdus merula Uppland
080419-11, digital 28,8 mb RAW, 12-00
Koltrast, Turdus merula
Uppland

heard the Coalthrush singing its melodic, beautiful drill and in a distance he heard the church bells ringing from Kronobäck’s church. The bay was calm like a mirror, and inspired he started penning the song “O store Gud”. Here is the first verse:

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the works Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Refrain:
Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

He continued to write and write of all the mighty works that God has made and what He has given us through His word, and continued long into the night. Before going to bed he had penned over twenty verses. The next Sunday he wove the poem into his sermon. They all loved it, but that was about it. Slowly the word got around the poem was pretty good, after much editing down 9 verses were published in the local newspaper Mönsteråstidningen in 1886. Carl Boberg didn’t make any efforts to publish it further, and was surprised when he heard it sung a few years later to a Swedish folk melody (in 3/4 tempo). This was then published in the periodical “Sanningsvittnet” (witness of the truth)  in 1891.

It was translated into German by an Estonian, Manfred von Glehn. Five years later it was translated into Russian by Ivan S. Prokanoff, the Martin Luther of modern Russia. It was published in a book with the title “Cymbals”.

Later, while in the Carpathian Mountains of what is now Western Ukraine the English Missionary couple Hine heard the song sung in Russian, this time as a wandering song in march tempo. He got impressed by God’s great works in the Polish mountains, and as Stuart Hine heard the people singing it on their way to church he penned a translation. This become the second verse:

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Refrain

From now on the English version is different than the Swedish original. This is the origin of the third verse: It was typical of the Hines to ask if there were any Christians in the villages they visited. In one case, they found out that the only Christians that their host knew about were a man named Dmitri and his wife Lyudmila. Dmitri’s wife knew how to read — evidently a fairly rare thing at that time and in that place. She taught herself how to read because a Russian soldier had left a Bible behind several years earlier, and she started slowly learning by reading that Bible. When the Hines arrived in the village and approached Dmitri’s house, they heard a strange and wonderful sound: Dmitri’s wife was reading from the gospel of John about the crucifixion of Christ to a houseful of guests, and those visitors were in the very act of repenting. In Ukraine (as I know first hand!), this act of repenting is done very much out loud. So the Hines heard people calling out to God, saying how unbelievable it was that Christ would die for their own sins, and praising Him for His love and mercy. They just couldn’t barge in and disrupt this obvious work of the Holy Spirit, so they stayed outside and listened. Stuart wrote down the phrases he heard the Repenters use, and (even though this was all in Russian), it became the third verse that we know today:
And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Refrain

The second world war broke out, and the Hines were forced to return back to England, but they continued their ministry. The fourth verse was was added by Stuart Hine after the Second World War. His concern for the exiled Polish community in Britain, who were anxious to return home, provided part of the inspiration for Hine’s final verse. Hine and David Griffiths visited a camp in Sussex, England, in 1948 where displaced Russians were being held, but where only two were professing Christians. The testimony of one of these refugees and his anticipation of the second coming of Christ inspired Hine to write the fourth stanza of his English version of the hymn. According to Ireland:  One man to whom they were ministering told them an amazing story: he had been separated from his wife at the very end of the war, and had not seen her since. At the time they were separated, his wife was a Christian, but he was not, but he had since been converted. His deep desire was to find his wife so they could at last share their faith together. But he told the Hines that he did not think he would ever see his wife on earth again. Instead he was longing for the day when they would meet in heaven, and could share in the Life Eternal there. These words again inspired Hine, and they became the basis for his fourth and final verse to ‘How Great Thou Art’: 

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

Refrain

The complete song was soon published, not in England but in the Soviet Union (in English).  The famous Gospel singer George Beverly Shea got hold of it, liked it a lot, but he wanted to change two words in the first verse: Instead of works, he wanted to use worlds, and instead of mighty he wanted to use rolling. Very reluctantly Stuart Hine agreed, but only for use in the Billy Graham Crusades. It was first sung in Canada in 1955. It became so popular that in Billy Graham’s 1956 New York Crusade it was sung at all 99 events, and from there the song spread out through all the world, even back in Sweden where the new version became the popular one.

There have been over seventeen hundred documented recordings of “How Great Thou Art”. It has been used on major television programs, in major motion pictures, and has been mentioned as the favorite Gospel song of at least three United States’ presidents.

How Great Thou Art, How Great Thou Art!

 

 

Thought for the day. The just shall live by faith.

Now the just shall live by faith;
But if anyone draws back,
My soul has no pleasure in him. (Hebrews 10:38)

After having come to faith the first week in February 42 years ago after reading the Gospel of Matthew I grappled with what to read next. I remembered my school years in Sweden, where we had a daily dose of Christianity. Our teacher liked the old stories from the Old Testament, so every morning she drew a map of Palestine, as it was called at that time and talked about Abraham and Jacob and Moses. We were supposed to have Old Testament in grade one and the New Testament in second grade, but our teacher loved the Old Testament so much we never even got around to hear the stories about Jesus. So I read Genesis and Exodus, but when I came to Leviticus, I decided that was too much law for anyone, so I switched back to the New Testament, but which book? Having read the Gospel of Matthew I decided on the letter to the Hebrews, after a brief visit to first Corinthians 13. It was most powerful, but it raised more questions. Am I totally secure in Christ, of are there conditions I have to meet to be fully saved? Then in Hebrews 10:38 it hit me: I must live by faith. I didn’t have to know all the answers, it wasn’t even important I knew the questions. But the second part of the verse started to worry me: if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. I suddenly realized the faith part was not partial, I had to go all in. As a child I was baptized and confirmed, and I wanted to think that was enough; God knows who is his, but this time it was different, I had to take a stand in obedience and testify of my faith in Christ. So I signed up for baptism, and to my delight my wife decided to join, even though she was 6 months pregnant.

Coming out of the pool, I felt a wonderful release, my wife smiled in agreement; yes at that point I fully knew His soul has pleasure in me.

Through joys and hardships this has never left me, I regained my sense of wonder, and I can sing again the old Swedish hymn: How Great Thou art!

Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump worth ten points. He blew it all on skipping the debate in Iowa. A Limerick.

When Palin endorsed, her act bumped Trump up ten.

With Kelley the Trump-killer in it again,

he refused to debate,

lost it all, sealed his fate.

A second place loser, all pain and no gain.

Donald Trump was solidly in second place in Iowa, about 5 points behind Ted Cruz. Marco Rubio was way behind. Then, on Jan 19 Sarah Palin endorsed him, an endorsement worth at least ten percentage points. See graph:Iowa-Republicans-graphThen Donald Trump refused to debate right before the Iowa caucus unless Megyn Kelly was removed as a moderator. Unlike CNN, which caved in to Trump’s demands, Fox News stood their ground and refused to cave in, “on journalistic grounds.” print2The media should never cave in to political pressure. Having skipped the debate, Cruz and Rubio had the leadership fight to themselves, and could shine, all at the expense of Trump. The chart to the left shows the high water mark for Donald Trump.

Between the debate and the Iowa caucus Trump lost all the ground he gained from the Palin endorsement. Ted Cruz held his ground, but the big gainer was Rubio.

It is now a three way race, and this will very likely lead to a brokered convention.

All bets ate off.

I can understand Sarah Palin’s initial endorsement of Donald Trump, with his broad crossover appeal to disenchanted people, then having a chance to win the primaries outright. With his refusal to debate we are almost ensured a brokered convention. Personally I prefer Sarah Palin to enter the race on her own, making it a brokered convention, containing a majority of true conservative delegates.