Some bad news or good news (depending on your perspective): Northridge Church will not have a Thanksgiving Eve service this year. As our staff and Oversight Team planned out 2014 almost a year ago, we decided to narrow down our Nights of Worship (aka Vertical Worship) down to five events - from the eight or nine we used to have, and Thanksgiving Eve was one that we eliminated this year.
If you are disappointed, then you can join me - because it is one of my favorite non-Sunday services of the year. There are a few primary reasons for this decision:
1) As our Sunday AM numbers keep climbing steadily, our Thanksgiving Eve service numbers have declined. As a church that intentionally attempts to keep things "simple" - we always evaluate what is and isn't working and eliminate what we feel isn't as effective as other efforts.
2) Christmas Eve more clearly fits our purpose of making "More and Better Disciples" than Thanksgiving Eve. Thanksgiving Eve is great, but isn't nearly as inviter-friendly or evangelism-effective as Christmas Eve.
3) We have decided to do Christmas Eve at all three campuses this year (three campuses, four services) - so we need the best out of our volunteers (band and production on all three campuses) on that date. So based on 1 and 2 - we felt it was best to skip Thanksgiving Eve this year so we don't "over-ask" and lose out on key volunteers for Christmas Eve.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask. If you are disappointed - again, you can join me. But for the sake of the overall mission, the staff and leaders felt it was the best decision, and I agree.
Who knows - it may be back next year. We will see. If we see continued growth in our Nights of Worship, that will be a good sign.
Every Sunday we play a 5 minute countdown video before we start all our services. The videos vary greatly from week-to-week - sometimes they're funny, serious, inspiring, viral videos, and so on - it's hard to know what video will be shown on a given Sunday.
There are two things we hope to accomplish with the videos:
Make those who are guests comfortable as they come into the building. The reality is - guests aren't typically late to church. They are nervous about coming to church (perhaps for the first time in years) - so they don't want to be late because they wrongly imagine walking in and everyone turning around and looking at them. So they are typically right on time or a bit early. So we want to help create a comfortable environment as they come in. Many churches are quiet as people enter - perhaps an organ playing. That is really intimidating to people who don't attend church. So our videos create an environment to create comfort for guests.
A second reason we play videos is that although guests usually show up to church on time or early, many regulars do not! So we began countdown videos in hopes of building anticipation so people don't want to miss the countdown.
But the reason I mention this today is because tomorrow's countdown is one you don't want to miss. It is an amazing story. So plan ahead and get into the auditorium six minutes before your service starts. The countdown is a bit longer than five minutes this week.
Could you help me out? What do you do during December to help you focus on Christ during Christmas? All the other things are great, but often can be distracting. So how do you personally focus on Christ during the Christmas season? I'd love to hear what you do or some suggestions you might make to others.
If you receive this by email, just reply. Or leave a comment on the blog, and I will read it there.
I'm doing some sermon research. Thanks for the help!
Dave and Hannah Hough used to attend Northridge Church, and now they are working as full-time missionaries in Nepal. They were sent by Samaritan's Purse - Dave is a doctor and Hannah works with Tiny Hands, an anti-human trafficking agency. You can look at their blog HERE. I follow their newsletter and enjoying hearing about their ministry in Nepal. This story about the persecution and amazing witness of Christians in Nepal really caught my attention. You can see it in its original form HERE.
Nepal is at a crossroads of country development and national identity. Currently there is a group of nearly 400 representatives from all political parties and ethnic groups, working together to make a national constitution. In the past, under the monarchy, Nepal was a strict Hindu nation where it was illegal to change faiths. Though this is not currently the rule, there is some confusion as to the enforcement of the past restriction. This past month, at the urging of a strict Hindu sect, a group of 40 pastors and Christians were arrested during a baptism at a local body of water. Four of those arrested were sent to jail. While they were there, they cleaned the prison facilities, did general maintenance work, and made friends with the guards and other inmates. The public outcry was so strong they were released after a few days. After they were released they returned to the prison with fruit and gifts for the guards and prisoners. The police have refused requests from the fringe groups to raid other baptisms. It was a great testimony of the local church and demonstrated that this previously strict Hindu nation has come a long way toward religious freedom and acceptance for all faiths.
Part of Dave’s work at the hospital is training new Nepali residents to be the future doctors of Nepal. While knowledgeable, experienced residents are a huge asset, new trainees can be a challenge, especially during this busy monsoon season. There is a difficult balance between teaching and patient care when the medical wards are overflowing. Most days there are patients sleeping on palates on the floor as all of the beds are full, and they are too sick to be turned away.
Hannah’s work with Tiny Hands had a bit of a hiatus for a few weeks this month as we hosted Irene and Nate, Hannah’s sister and brother-in-law. It was delightful to have visitors from home and show them a bit of our lives in Tansen and around Kathmandu. We also had a look through Nate and Irene’s eyes about the things that we consider normal here, (showering in buckets, boiling milk) and a sneak peak as to what a return to the U.S. might be like.
Our 10th anniversary on July 31st was an especially special time of celebration!
At almost 7 months, Adah has started solid foods and has very specific tastes. Lido (Nepali baby cereal) - thumbs down, banana - meh, rice and milk - kind of ok, rice and dahl(lentil) - so far the winner! We also found out she is taller than the shortest man on Earth who happens to be Nepali!
Ellis loved spending time with her Aunt ‘Re-Re’ and Uncle ‘Make’ this month, and she didn’t mind missing exam time at school either. Yes, they do give exams to 3 year olds in Nepal!
Hudson is in the losing teeth and growing daily stage of life. Irene and Nate were surprised to find such a toothless 6 year old, with such short pants.
A great visit with Irene and Nate. We are so grateful they were able to come to Nepal.
The release of the 4 jailed pastors and the giant step toward freedom of faith in Nepal.
The training of the Nepali residents and patience for Dave and the other physicians as they work with them.
In the next 6 months 3 of the senior doctors will be leaving, continue to pray for more committed Christian, Nepali physicians to feel called to serve in the hospital.
This is not hundreds of years ago - this is less than one week ago. Please read this article and pray for Christians around the world who suffer and are in danger because of their faith.
Into the Fiery Furnace: Christian Couple in Pakistan Burned for Blasphemy
Prime minister pledges justice after mob kills pregnant wife and husband.
[ POSTED 11/6/2014 03:43PM ]
COURTESY OF LEAD
In the most provocative incident since Pakistan’s highest court ruled this summer that blasphemy law abuses should be reined in, a Christian couple were beaten and burned to death on Tuesday following accusations that the wife—five months pregnant—had burned the Qur’an.
Shahzad Masih and Shama Bibi were bonded laborers (seen by many as a modern form of slavery) at a brick-making kiln who lived in a small Punjab town named for the first Anglican missionary to Pakistan. After a mob threw them into the same kiln, protests erupted in the provincial capital, Lahore, and the nation’s capital, Islamabad.
The Muslim nation’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, quickly condemned the mob action as “an unacceptable crime.” He authorized the government of Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province and home to most of its blasphemy cases, to prosecute the couple’s killers.
“A responsible state cannot tolerate mob rule and public lynching with impunity,”stated Sharif, according to The Express Tribune. “The Pakistani state has to act proactively to protect its minorities from violence and injustice. We must promote religious and ethnic diversity in our society as a virtue.”
News of the death of the couple, who left behind four children (two were relatives’ children whom they were raising), was first reported by a Pakistani advocacy group,Legal Evangelical Association Development. Despite making up less than two percent of the population, Christians make up “a high proportion of bonded brick-kiln workers in Punjab,” reports Human Rights Watch.
Masih’s sister-in-law told WWM that the incident arose following a neighbor’s overreaction to Bibi disposing of her late father-in-law’s black magic amulets. "Shama never meant any disrespect to Islam as she was totally illiterate and had no idea what the amulets contained," said Parveen Bibi. "A few people recognized partially burned pages in the ash and raised a cry that Shama had burned the Qur’an."
The brick kiln’s owner refused to let Bibi and Masih flee their village without paying their bonded loan, reports WWM.
Eventually a mob formed. "The mob broke into the room and then dragged both of them out to the courtyard,” a relative of Bibi’s told MSN. “Shama was already dead by the time the Islamist zealots had thrown her body into the kiln. Shahzad was still alive when he was shoved into the fire.”
This latest episode of “vigilante justice” comes five months after Pakistan’s Supreme Court in June ordered the creation of a police task force to “eradicate” what one member of parliament described as a “social evil that has taken root in our society in recent years.” A national Council for Minorities Rights was also mandated to “monitor the practical realization of the rights and safeguards provided to minorities under the law.”
In September 2013, more than 80 Christians lost their lives after bombs went off following a church service at All Saints Church in Peshawar. The incident joined past high-profile attacks in Lahore's Joseph Colony in March 2013 and the city of Gojra in 2009 that prompted hopes that outrage would lead to blasphemy reform.
Instead, blasphemy accusations remain common. In August, three Christians were charged with blasphemy in separate incidents, reports WWM. In one case, Christians seeking land to bury their dead attempted to work with a local politician to secure property only to have Muslims argue that their own dead were already buried there. The plight of Christians finding burial sites was also chronicled last month by the Washington Post.
“With the new group (Sharif's administration) it is impossible. I don't have any hope,” she said. “The blasphemy law fits the definition of terrorism. It's a terror law. It's a way to instill terror. Everybody is scared of this law.”
Earlier this year, Open Doors moved Pakistan up to number eight (from 14), on a list ranking the worst countries in the world for Christians.