WIC Weekly April 26th 2020
Warsaw International Church
Mobile +48 601 331 032
Worship every Sunday at ul. Miodowa 21 (near Old Town) at 11:00 AM
Entrance from Schillera Street
An estimated 50+ people attended last Sunday’s live online service, during which Sister Marilyn sang two hymns: “Jesus Paid It All” and “No One Ever Cared Like Jesus”. Join us in participating in this Sunday’s service on Zoom by clicking on the following link:
Warsaw International Church - Weekly Zoom Service (Sundays @11:00 am) Time: Sundays @ 11:00 AM Warsaw Meeting ID: 375 882 822
Recordings of our Sunday services are available on our website.
Last Thursday we also held WIC’s first-ever online Bible study, with about 15 people participating. These Bible studies will be held every other Thursday at 6 pm CET. Links will be provided in WIC Weekly for you to join in if you are interested.
Please pray for an 8-year-old girl dying of cancer, for healing or, if that is not granted, for her to be welcomed into the loving arms of our Lord. Please also pray for her distraught mother, that she may feel peace in the midst of her pain and grief.
An elderly sister would welcome your prayers for her recovery following a fall in her home. Nothing was broken, but she was badly and painfully bruised.
Please remember in your prayers a sister whose mother has just passed away, and pray for that sister to be comforted and strengthened by the Lord in her present grief.
Please pray regularly for Muslims as Ramadan begins this Thursday, to last for one month. This year will be unusual for them, as their mosque prayers and parties can only be held online. At Ramadan, Muslims strive to purify themselves through prayer and meditation. Let us pray that this year the Lord God will touch their hearts like never before, as Jesus becomes real to them.
Apart from praying for your home nation or country, please also remember Poland in your prayers. There has never been a truly Jesus-centred revival in this country, and most Poles have no idea who Jesus is, despite thinking of themselves as Christians. Their religious ideas are far removed from what the New Testament teaches.
Please continue to pray for several of our worshippers who are unable to find work.
Last Sunday’s sermon
Readings: 1 Peter 1, 3-9; John 20, 19-31.
Today’s reading from John’s Gospel is a continuation of last week’s account of Jesus’ resurrection. On that same evening, the disciples are all together, in lockdown – not because of a virus, but simply because they’re afraid of the Jews. The Jews had succeeded in getting Jesus crucified, and they were in a mood to kill His followers too.
All of a sudden, Jesus is there with them, in their room! He shows them His wounds. Perhaps surprisingly, the disciples are not afraid – they are overjoyed to see Him again. Remember that Mary Magdalene had already reported to them that she had seen Him alive. In any case, Jesus’ first words to them are “peace to you!” – when Jesus comes to us, we have peace. However, this is going to be a short encounter. Jesus breathes on them and gives them His Holy Spirit. And then He disappears.
What would be the reaction if you told people that your dead relative or friend had appeared to you in the flesh? Would they believe you? I don’t think so. Maybe nobody would – because such things just don’t happen. So perhaps we shouldn’t criticize Thomas for not believing that Jesus had appeared after His death. Here in Poland, people refer to Thomas as “unfaithful Thomas” – but he certainly wasn’t unfaithful. He just wanted to see evidence that Jesus was alive. And a week later, he too saw Jesus, and was convinced. His words are memorable: “My Lord and my God!” Thomas could now see God in Jesus. That was probably a new development for him.
Isn’t this one of our main problems today – even of so-called Christians? How many people really believe that Jesus rose up from the grave? How many see God in Jesus? How many churches and pastors really see God in Jesus, and not just a great man? It’s an important question, because if we can’t see Jesus as our Lord and God, and as someone who rose from the dead, we are showing our unbelief in who God is. And that unbelief makes us weak, makes our church weak, makes our prayers weak when they should be powerful.
My wife has a friend in Canada. This lady belongs to the United Church of Canada – the biggest denomination in that country. She recently sent us a newspaper article about her church, which describes how that church’s teaching gradually drifted away from what the Bible teaches.
The church leaders decided to make its doctrines more reasonable for ordinary people. They started to teach that you don’t need to believe in Jesus to be saved. They said Jesus isn’t the only way to God. They said He couldn’t have risen from the dead. And that He wasn’t God, either.
The result is that the United Church of Canada is losing members drastically; and so are other liberal churches all over the world. Maybe they thought that, by appealing to popular opinion, church membership would increase, but the opposite is true. The churches that are growing are the ones that teach what the Bible teaches. I’m sure that when the coronavirus crisis ends, the biblical churches will be even stronger, because God’s power will be with them. We need believers – not disbelievers or doubters.
Only if Jesus is God can He come back from the dead, and breathe on His disciples and say: “Receive the Holy Spirit” – in other words, receive the Spirit of God! That event is really the beginning of the Christian church – not Pentecost, which came later. At Pentecost, there was a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit, but the disciples had already received the Spirit when Jesus breathed on them. They were “born again” through the resurrection power of Jesus, which Peter mentions in our first reading, and were made spiritually alive.
But then Jesus says something else, which may sound astonishing to some. He tells His disciples: “If you forgive anyone their sins, they are forgiven; and if you don’t forgive them, they are not forgiven”. How are we supposed to understand that? Does it mean that we disciples of Jesus have God’s power to forgive or not forgive the sins of others? Surely only God can do that?
In a passage in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says something very similar. He gives His disciples what He calls the “keys of the kingdom of heaven”: “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven”.
Having keys to something gives you an advantage over other people – you can have access to something that they don’t have access to. Having a key can give you authority. Having a key can give you power. In this case, power to forgive. Power to bind, or to loose. What is this key? Do you know what it is? It’s prayer. We can have prayer power.
The amazing thing that Jesus – God the Saviour – does here is that He delegates part of His work to us. Can we grasp that? It’s awesome. God wants His church – you and me – to cooperate with Him in getting people saved! He does the saving – but we are called to move Him to act. Not because He can’t do the job without us; but simply because He wants to involve us in His work.
The Bible tells us that “God wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth” (1 Timothy 2, verse 4). But what is the truth? Is the truth just an idea? No! Jesus said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”. The truth is not a concept. The truth is a Person – Jesus Christ. God wants everyone to see Jesus as Thomas saw Him: “My Lord and my God”. And so He gives us the keys to help this to happen – to help others see Jesus as God. In this sense, He gives us the keys to forgive, to bind and to loose.
Now, who or what is it that is bound, and needs to be loosed? Who or what is it that is not forgiven, and needs to be forgiven? Surely this is everybody who does not know the Lord? God has chosen to act through me and you. When we pray, spiritual power is released which moves God to release the captives from their misery, and to forgive their sins. We have the power of the keys, which opens the door for God to act. God must bring people to life spiritually – and this is why our prayers are so important.
In the meantime, of course, we are all being affected by the coronavirus. It’s affecting Christians as much as anybody else. We’re all affected in some way, but some are suffering much more than others. But our reading from 1 Peter teaches us that, even “though now for a little while we may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials”, we can praise God for what He has done for us through the resurrection of Jesus. In fact, says Peter, our trials make our faith stronger and more genuine, so that we end up praising God even more! In this crisis, we can find a stronger resolve to pray for those around us, and indeed for ourselves – and the result will be a blessing.
Brothers and Sisters, when things get difficult for you, be encouraged by Peter’s letter: the trials are nothing compared with the blessings which God wants to send. So let us practice the ministry of the keys, and cry out to God to save the world – to save our loved ones! Remember: our prayers can and should have power! Amen.
This Sunday’s readings
26 April is the Third Sunday of Easter.
Verse for the week: [Peter said:] “Repent … in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2, 38).
Psalm: 116, 1-4. 12-19.
1st New Testament reading: Acts 2, 14a. 36-41.
2nd New Testament reading: 1 Peter 1, 13-23.
Food of the Spirit
Lockdown Blessings For The Indian Church
As India continues its attempt at the world’s biggest social isolation effort to halt the new coronavirus outbreak, millions are struggling to navigate weeks of cancelled public transit, closed businesses, and therefore no Sunday services.
Many smaller churches have their attendees join the livestreams of larger churches. Our own sunrise service on Easter, conducted on Zoom, drew 250 people—despite its 5 am start.
After greeting Christians and praising “Lord Christ” in Good Friday and Easter tweets, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced this week his decision to extend the lockdown until May 3, due to the lack of widespread testing for the virus as the death toll rises.
However, despite all the disruption and our inability to worship together as usual, I believe the pandemic lockdown is being used by God to use His church in a new way.
Two things were happening before the pandemic hit. First, the church was severely opposed. Second, because of this opposition, there has been a prayer movement that resulted in great unity among the national Christian community. Churches have begun to overlook their historical denominational divisions, bringing the Indian church to the cusp of revival. There has been news of breakthroughs in the work of the Holy Spirit in places and among people. And in spite of severe opposition, the church has been responding maturely and collectively to its challenges. As a result, the church has been growing spiritually and numerically.
Church leaders across denominations have fostered a misperception in the pews—and in the watching world—that Christians concentrate their efforts solely on Sunday gatherings. Commitment to the church and its goals has been gauged by Sunday morning attendance. Thus, at the initial stages of the pandemic, only a very small portion of churches in India were responding practically to the upcoming challenges.
Following the lockdown, churches began scrambling to put plans together. I asked one congregation how they planned to hold their services, and their response was rather naïve. They said that churches cannot close their doors, believing that the Bible mandates weekly group worship in buildings and that God grants health to the faithful. Because of this general attitude, it took three weeks for many churches to get their feet under them and to provide online alternatives.
When churches started streaming their services online, they were surprised at the audience they received. I know of small churches that normally had less than 100 people attend on an average Sunday now have more than 700 viewers online. Our own church, Bible Bhavan Christian Fellowship, which has been livestreaming for more than four years, saw a 300 percent increase in viewership. People have been watching from all over India, and all around the world. We have received responses from as far as Africa and South America.
Indian churches have been praying for the Lord to enlarge their borders, and the Lord has answered with an unexpected opportunity to reach more people.
The challenge that churches now face is harnessing this new reach and developing tools for follow-up and discipleship in a new teaching model. For example, our midweek ministries have taken on a life of their own as physical attendance is no longer a criteria. Our groups for men, women, youth, and pastoral care have more participants and from farther away, which is good because we are ministering to many more people. While we had to close our Bible schools in seven locations, we are moving our complete syllabus from written materials to audio, visual, and digital versions. We were too busy doing the Lord’s work to think of this before, and we might have missed the bus on such innovations if the lockdown had not happened.
As churches deal with the reality of increased community needs—since many people are unable to perform their jobs during the lockdown—they face complicated decisions. In the past, many churches were apprehensive when responding to the poor, since they could be accused of having an ulterior motive to convert those they were serving. Many churches also did not have adequate resources or tools to help their non-Christian neighbours who had no interest in the church.
Now, I have heard amazing stories from our multi-site congregations across North India where neighbours who once were hostile towards us have come forward and supplied the church with free food and aid to distribute to vulnerable community members. At one of our churches, the neighbours even volunteered to come with our team to provide aid to the community, and shared that it came from the local church.
As the Indian church is expressing its love for those who are suffering the most, previously antagonistic neighbours are partnering with the church in our expressions of help. This marks a new day.
For example: I know a local church community in rural North India that has been struggling even in the best of times. Despite showing genuine love and concern for the community around them, they have continually faced opposition and threats. After COVID-19 hit India and a nationwide lockdown was put in place, the local police showed up at the doors of the church. The pastor was apprehensive. The police brought a request from the government for the church to make 1,000 cloth face masks in its centre to be distributed among the community. The officers then accompanied the pastor to a local cloth shop, specially opened for them to procure the necessary materials.
What the police did not know was that this church community had been praying for ways to respond during the lockdown. The Lord answered by providing an opening to serve and the potential for better relationships with the authorities.
Finally, a common refrain being heard in all Indian churches and denominations is to repent. Even in our conservative Indian culture where sins are not openly confessed, people are being more transparent. The church is repenting of its own sins, the sins of the city, and the sins of the nation. We pray this prayer regularly: “Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
The world we will come back to after this pandemic will look very different. Therefore, the church’s priorities must turn from looking inward to looking outward.
I believe the church has been ushered into a new age of growth and engagement with each other and with the world around us. We are witnessing a huge turning after God. The last revival in India was in 1905-1906. If all the nations of the world repent, then we can anticipate a mighty movement from God in our times.
Isaac Shaw is senior pastor of Bible Bhavan Christian Fellowship.
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