PASTOR GLEN'S BLOG
October 10, 2018
I read with interest the blog from another pastor in our presbytery (Bill Campbell – Hendersonville Presbyterian Church), who attended Andrew Brunson’s last trial. Since Andrew will be on trial for the third time this Friday (October 12th), I thought it would be helpful as we reflect on our own challenges as a Christian in America. Also, as I will be continuing our study of 2 Peter this Sunday and specifically focusing on growing in godliness, I believe Dr. Campbell’s comments are insightful for our own need to grow as Christ followers in our culture.
For the Kingdom,
Relations between the United States and Turkey seem to hinge on a single man: Andrew Brunson. The story of his two-year detention in Turkey has our country riled, Turkey reacting, and the world reeling. Most of the media coverage focuses on the politics that have transformed this pastor-turned-prisoner into a pawn.
There is another way to look at this international showdown. If we turn the spotlight away from the American and Turkish presidents to the populace, we see an angle that becomes somewhat personal. Stated concisely, Andrew’s plight highlights a spiritual problem. I am not talking about a clash between religions; I am talking about the gradual erosion of America’s faith.
I am a pastor in the region Andrew Brunson calls home. It was with a sense of obligation and a hope to encourage him and his wife that I attended his most recent, July 18, trial in Turkey. I came away with a new perspective. I saw in Andrew and his wife, Norine, and in the Turkish pastors who attended, something that we are rapidly losing in America. I was with people who so embraced their Christian convictions that they were willing to put their lives on the line to keep them. The pastors attending Andrew’s trial had also served time behind bars for their beliefs. Being around them was life changing for me. It deepened my long-held Biblical convictions.
True convictions are not things we own; they own us. They grow and eventually glow once refined by fire. Such convictions gave birth to the early Church. They were also seen in the principled resolve through which our forefathers led a revolution and out of which America was born. For most of our history, such a depth of character and resolve continued to guide Christians. We may recall, for example, leaders of revival, abolition, civil rights, and social justice. Or, we may remember the student volunteer missionary movement in the early 1900s, when more than 20,000 missionaries sailed from our shores on the fuel of their belief, taking their coffins with them because they knew they would probably not come back alive.
The comforts of America have made our convictions cozy. Cultural experts have declared America a “post-Christian” country. Seventy percent of us register as Christian and yet where is the evidence that we are following Christ? Sociologists also label us a “post-modern” generation because most of us don’t believe in absolutes or definitive truth. Hence the confusion about what a true Christian should look like. The moral standards embraced by many who attend church are not much different than those who do not. The root problem is not a lack of morality, but a lack of commitment to beliefs from which morality arises.
It can be difficult to see what we have lost because it is so close to home. Some history about Turkey, however, is eye opening. Once called Asia Minor, the Turkey of Bible times was the cradle of Christianity. It is now the nation with the slimmest percentage of Christians. Paul spent more time doing ministry work in the Ephesus of Asia Minor than in any other city. Jesus’ closest disciple, John, later pastored in Ephesus. He was then exiled to the Island of Patmos, from which came his letters to the seven churches, each located in cities of ancient Turkey (Revelation 2-3). These letters have living application for today. Ephesus was warned that if they did not regain their first love for God, they would lose their light. Only ruins remain. Andrew Brunson is being held in the city noted for the persecution and killing of Christians, then called Smyrna. Persecution continues there, though the name has been changed (to Izmir).
Here is the point: America, the nation with the greatest number of Christians, can gradually become much like Turkey if we don’t wake up and live our faith with true conviction. And Turkey may experience a great awakening before God if we continue to pray, and if believers there continue to live with boldness. This same story is being replayed worldwide.
In his trial, Andrew Brunson boldly proclaimed his beliefs. The judge told him to keep his beliefs to himself, to which Andrew declared they were the reason he was in prison. Andrew proceeded to say that he forgave Turkish officials for persecuting him, even as Christ, dying on the cross, forgave us and continues to forgive. I listened to his words with amazement. The Turkish pastor next to me who was interpreting for me, paused to explain that he had offered himself as a witness for Andrew at the trial. I thought that to take such a stand could lead to repercussions in his life. What I know for certainty is that it led to repercussions in my life. I’ll never be the same.
I came away from a week in Turkey with a sense that I and others who claim to be Christians need to pray not only for Andrew’s release from Turkey, but for our release from materialism and half-hearted, lukewarm Christianity. I already knew I needed such a release, but visiting Turkey and seeing the plight of Christians there first-hand, was for me the opening of a prison door.
William P. (Bill) Campbell is pastor of Hendersonville Presbyterian Church, in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina. He is also president and founder of Scripture Awakening, Inc. (ScriptureAwakening.com), which offers resources to help people read, study, and live the Scriptures. Also provided are study guides to help people better understand Turkey and the Seven Churches of Revelation.
Rev. Dr. Stephanie Black
Please Pray for Stephanie:
For thirty emerging leaders in South Asia that Stephanie spent the month of September with.
For the participants in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland's Accredited Preachers Course, and for Stephanie as she tries to give them the 'big picture' of God's story in the Bible - final two Saturday sessions are Oct 13 & Nov 10.
For Stephanie to see clearly which doors God may be opening for ministry projects in 2019 and how to prioritize various opportunities - time to start planning!
THIS SUNDAY- This Sunday, Pastor Glen continues his new sermon series entitled, “Pursuing Spiritual Maturity” based upon 2 Peter. His message this Sunday, will be “Growing in Godliness,” based upon 2 Peter 1:5-7. Please read the text before worship at 9:30am. Nursery care and elementary classes are provided during the worship service each Sunday.
Adult Sunday School class - This Sunday, we will begin a new study of the letters to the Corinthians. Join us in the Chapel on the Sunday School floor immediately following worship!
Harvest Party - Join us for a Harvest Party with games, music, treats and lots of family fun, at the Roberts’ farm on Sunday, Oct 28 at 3pm! Invite your friends and family! Please contact Cindy Roberts (email@example.com) or Kelly King (firstname.lastname@example.org) to sign up to bring something or volunteer to help with activities!
Prayer Gathering - November 4th at 3:00 p.m. for the Persecuted Church at Staunton Mall (in the former Peebles store). More information to come . . . But mark your calendar now!
Women’s Business Bible study with a Christian Worldview - Why do we have those books that we read for work, and then another set of books we read for church? What if we read the books for work, and see if there are Christian principles to apply, or how we as Christians can stay true to our faith when challenged with things possible counter to our faith. The study will meet at Starbucks on Tuesdays beginning on October 16th for 7 sessions, ending November 30 or December 6 depending on Thanksgiving week.
· 5:45: Place your coffee order and visit
· 6:00 Discuss the book and reflect on Biblical principles
· 6:45 Prayer time
· 7:00 Time for work
PRAYER CONCERNS & PRAISE REPORTS
“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” - Colossians 4:2
Larry Roberts - Pray for Larry who had shoulder surgery recently; pray that this surgery is effective and helpful for him.
George Wilson – Pray for George as he continues to get accustomed to his new apartment at the Woodland in Farmville: 2003 Cobb Street, Rm 211, Farmville, VA 23901.
Rose Parler – Please pray for Rose as her hip went out again, and she has not been able to get around very well. Please pray for relief of pain and for peace and for healing.
Bill Flournoy - Please keep Bill in your prayers concerning various health issues.
Jackson (Sid Langrall's grandson) - Please pray for Jackson's health situation and for his mother, Christy.
Darren Estes (Kat Galloway's son-in-law) - Please pray for physical and spiritual health for Darren who has lost sight in his left eye due to a burst blood vessel.
Beth Crownover (Beth Childers’ cousin) - Please pray for healing for Beth who has been diagnosed with cancer; praise that the pancreas was clean but the bile duct and liver had cancer.
Jay & Dede Hamilton – Dede reports that they are thankful for better hearing, but having difficulty adjusting to new changes. They need and appreciate prayers so much.
Janine Heitzenrater (Candi Brown's cousin) - Please pray for her as she undergoes treatment for cancer.
People affected by Hurricane Florence - pray especially for those in our presbytery (which includes North & South Carolina, as well as Virginia and part of West Virginia).
PEOPLE WHO ARE UNCHURCHED in our community; there are people all around us who need the Lord! Pray that we will truly be salt and light in Waynesboro and beyond!
HOPE COMMUNITY CHURCH – Please pray for God’s guidance as we discern the possible next location for our church family.
The Rev. Dr. Andrew Brunson – Andrew has been released from prison and is now on house arrest. His next trial is THIS FRIDAY, OCTOBER 12. Please continue to pray that:
Pray that Andrew will be strengthened, emboldened, and released: Isaiah 42:3, Isaiah 40:31, Luke 4:18.
Pray that Norine will not grow weary: Exodus 17:12, Isaiah 40:29.
Pray that the Brunson’s children (Jordan, Jacqueline, and Blaise) would walk in the steadfast love of the Lord: Lamentations 3:22-23.
Pray that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of Turkey, would be directed by the Holy Spirit: Proverbs 21:1.
Ramsey Persing (Cru) - Ramsey had knee surgery recently to repair ACL and PCL in his right knee. Please pray for quick healing and recovery.
Other Prayer Requests & Praises:
Jack Brown - Please pray for Jack who had a major heart attack. The next couple of days are critical!
Greg (Joe Morse’s co-worker) - Pray for Greg, who is being released from jail and needs the Lord.
Isaiah Martin - Please pray for Isaiah (1 yr old son of Tim Martin, Augusta Co. Commonwealth's Attorney) who is a patient at UVA's NICU.
Carol Ambler (friend of Carwiles) - Please pray for Carol whose cancer has returned.
Pammie (Melissa Bare's sister) - Please pray for Pammie as she has stage 3 liver non-alcoholic fibrosis which is the stage right before cirrhosis. Pray that her liver would be healed and that she would be able to lose the 15 pounds the doctors suggest.
J.D. (Ted Brown’s friend) - Please pray for J.D. who has cancer.
Jo Beth Walling - Please pray for Jo Beth who is undergoing treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Parker Staples (son of Cindy Roberts’ friend) – Pray for Parker, a 7-year-old diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, and his parents, as Parker receives medical care at UVA. Additional prayers for fundraising efforts going on to support the family.
If you would like to add someone to the prayer list or would like to update a prayer concern, please contact Kelly King at (540) 471-4551.