WIC Weekly December 20th 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
Last Sunday our service included a testimony given by Brother Kenz, who is temporarily living in Azerbaijan with his family. Kenz shared with us how he was tortured for his faith in Pakistan, and how he and his family were forced to flee the country to save their lives. As refugees without work, they are in great financial need.The five-person family needs 250 dollars a month as an absolute minimum, and will not receive any assistance from the state of Azerbaijan. If anyone has suggestions how they can be helped, please feel free to contact me (Pastor Harry). WIC is contacting Open Doors about their case.
This Sunday we will host a guest preacher - our UK-based evangelist friend David Harris.
THERE WILL ALSO BE A SERVICE ON CHRISTMAS DAY at 11 am CET. We would love you to join us on that special day. Please bring a candle with you to light during the service! Our Sunday School children will also be performing a Christmas song!
Here is your link for the service this coming Sunday on Zoom at 11 am CET Meeting ID: 818 1714 5932
Recordings of our Sunday services are available on our wic.org.pl website or by googling "Warsaw International Church YouTube".
Five Messages from Pastor Harry to Seekers and Unbelievers in the Coronavirus Age have been recorded on YouTube. IF YOU KNOW ANY SEEKERS, UNBELIEVERS OR DOUBTERS WHO MIGHT BENEFIT FROM WATCHING THEM, PLEASE SEND THEM THIS LINK TO THE MESSAGES:
Thank you for all your support and prayers for our church and for one another.
Should you wish to make a contribution to WIC, the church's bank details are as follows:
Warsaw International Church Santander Bank Polska S.A. IV/Oddział w Warszawie ul. Jana Pawła II 17 00-854 Warszawa Polish złoty (PLN) account: PL 63 1090 1056 0000 0000 0600 9128
We thank the Lord for the safety of Brother Issayas' relatives in the troubled Tigray region of Ethiopia.
We also give praise to God for watching over 12-year-old Kacper, who is now recuperating at home after his operation to straighten his spine.
We continue to pray for Szymon, recovering from pulmonary embolism. The recovery is a long-term process, and we pray that he may return to active life as quickly as possible.
Please continue to pray for Kenz and his family, that they may resolve their financial crisis and find a country in which they will be granted asylum.
Brother Bogosi would welcome your prayers that he and his family may be able to fly to Poland after the Christmas holiday.
Sermon preached by Pastor Harry on 13 December
Psalm 126; Isaiah 61, 1-4. 8-11; 1 Thessalonians 5, 16-24; John 1, 6-8. 19-28
In this third week of Advent, the Christian Church concentrates its attention on joy: not only the deep joy that Christians should be experiencing in their daily life, but also the joy of knowing that the Messiah – Christ, the Anointed One of God – came to earth to save people. “Be joyful always”, writes Paul in 1 Thessalonians. “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”. How I wish we could all live up to this standard!
Today’s psalm – Psalm 126 – expresses the inner joy felt by the Jews when God brought them out of captivity and back into their homeland. They had been through very hard times in Babylon – working as slaves, servants or second-class citizens – and now, all of a sudden, they were free to return home. They realized that the Lord had done these great things for them. Joy was in their hearts, even though their homeland had been devastated. They knew that God had kept His covenant to restore them.
The prophet Isaiah too, in today’s Old Testament reading, saw it as his mission to bring some hope and joy to the demoralized Jewish nation. He encouraged them: Do not grieve in Zion! Do not be sad that your country is in such a terrible state. Rebuild it, with God’s help! Because now you are free”. Isn’t that encouragement for us as well, when we look at our world in crisis? Instead of being sad about it, let’s make it a better place to live, because God is with us!
And what was the mood when Jesus was born, hundreds of years later? Wasn’t it similar? Sixty years before the birth of Jesus, Israel had been invaded by the Romans, and it was now just a province of the Roman Empire. The kings who ruled Israel – like Herod the Great, who was king when Jesus was born – they were Jewish, but they had been approved and appointed by Rome. Many Jews longed for political independence, and so they were unhappy – just like the Poles were under communism.
But at the same time, there was an expectancy that the Messiah would one day come and set them free. So when Jesus was born, and proclaimed as the Saviour of God’s people, those who had heard of His birth were filled with deep joy. They too gave thanks to the Lord, because they realized that this was God’s work. God was faithful in keeping His covenant with His people.
So this was the context when John the Baptist began his ministry. Jesus and John were both the same age: about 30 years old. This means that for 30 years, in the land of Israel, many Jews were depressed because their country was occupied, but they were also excited because they knew that the Messiah was already living among them! There had been joy when He was born, but Matthew’s Gospel tells us that Jesus and His parents had to flee to Egypt as refugees, to escape King Herod who wanted to kill the baby. When the family returned to Israel after some years, they settled quietly in Nazareth. But no one knew where the Messiah was, or indeed who He was – including Jesus’ brothers and sisters. Perhaps even His parents started to have doubts, because nothing was happening.
But then, all of a sudden, John the Baptist arrives on the scene. He says he isn’t the Messiah, even though he’s baptizing people in the River Jordan. The Pharisees consider this to be very strange, because if anyone was baptized in those days, it was Gentiles – non-Jews – who had converted to Judaism. But this guy John seems to be treating Jews like Gentiles, by baptizing them! So the Pharisees question John’s authority to baptize God’s chosen people as if they were Gentiles! John makes it clear that he’s paving the way for the Messiah, who will reveal Himself very soon. In fact, the very next day, John himself reveals Jesus as the Messiah, with the words: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” The sin of the world – not just of the Jewish nation. The Pharisees didn’t know what to think – but many Jews were filled with joy at those words.
A famous French theologian (Henri Nouwen) once wrote that the difference between joy and happiness is that happiness depends on external conditions, but joy is the experience of knowing that you are loved unconditionally, and that nothing – sickness, failure, persecution, war or even death – nothing can take that love away. So joy can be present in the midst of hardship and suffering.
This explains how people can be joyful but unhappy all at the same time. Like the Israelites who returned to their homeland: it was devastated, which made them sad, but they were inwardly joyful because they knew the Lord was keeping His covenant with them. And also like in the days of John the Baptist: the country was occupied, which depressed the Jews, but they were excited and joyful that the Messiah was coming. So they flocked to John to be baptized – in other words, to be purified, cleansed, after confessing their sins. There was a spiritual revival among the Jews, just as Jesus began His ministry.
Dear Friends, the situation of many of us is also difficult right now: no job, no money, no health, etc. The unbeliever asks: how can there be joy when things are so bad? But as Christians, we know what a deep, inner joy is: the joy of having the Holy Spirit in our hearts. It’s the rainbow in the clouds, isn’t it? – a sign within us that God is keeping His covenant with us, and is with us.
Your life might be one big cloud right now – no sunshine. But the rainbow is there, to give you hope and joy. That rainbow is the Lord, and He makes it possible for us to give thanks, yes, in all circumstances – and to be joyful always. You might think that God doesn’t save you from your situation. But that’s wrong – He has saved you! The question is: have you entered into a relationship with Him? Have you stepped into that covenant relationship? God’s greatest blessings have already been given to you – “It is finished”, said Jesus on the cross. But you only take possession of the blessings when you enter into a relationship with God.
We say we have faith in God. But very often we just have faith in our own feelings. Our feelings rule our lives. Today, as we focus on that inner joy connected with knowing that God is with us, let’s turn away from being dominated by our unreliable feelings – our depression, sadness, anger, fear, or whatever – let’s turn away from their dominance, and have a steady faith in Christ alone, and in what He did for us on the cross. Because the more fully we enter into that covenant relationship with the Lord, the more inner joy we will have. The rainbow will be more important than the cloud. May this be true for each one of us. Amen.
Readings for 20 December (4th Sunday in Advent)
Verse for the week: [The angel told Mary about Jesus:] "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end" (Luke 1, 32-33).
Responsive reading: Psalm 89, 1-4 and 19-26. Old Testament reading: 2 Samuel 7, 1-11 and 16. New Testament reading: Romans 16, 25-27. Gospel reading: Luke 1, 26-38.
Food of the Spirit
Testimony: I Grew Up A Fervent Evangelist For Islam
I grew up in a Muslim family on the coast of Kenya. My father served as an imam, and I was one of the muezzins (Muslims who call others to pray five times a day) at a local mosque.
The only school I ever attended existed to educate young men in the ways of Islam and to help them grow as Muslims. I was being trained to defend the Muslim faith and to share it with others. As a young man, I became one of the best and most well-known evangelists for Islam in my region.
Early in life, my father had taught me to hate Christians and even to beat them if necessary. I was trained to believe that Christians were on the same level as animals. We were not allowed to associate with them in any way.
A Miraculous Transformation
In 2009, my life was forever changed. The day started out just like any other: I woke up and went to the local mosque to start calling people to pray. I was set to recite the adhan (Muslim call to prayer) into the microphone so that my call could be heard throughout the city. But when I tried to speak, nothing came out. Leaving the mosque, I saw my friend Ali in the street and I tried to explain what had happened, but he wouldn’t believe me.
We went back to the mosque, where I stepped up to the microphone and attempted to call the adhan once more, but again my voice would not come out. Ali was as surprised as I was. We both were nervous, but he took over my duties so that I could go home for the day.
When I got home, I tried to relax and calm my mind. My heart was heavy, and I felt troubled. I went to my kitchen, grabbed a thermos, and started to make hot tea. I poured the tea into a mug and was about to start drinking when I saw that the tea had turned red, a dark red that looked like blood. I left the tea on the counter and took a walk, hoping to clear my mind after a day full of seemingly crazy events.
During my walk, I came to a marketplace where a large crowd had gathered around the back of a pickup truck. Getting close enough to hear and see what was going on, I listened as a Christian missionary was preaching. He was clearly a Kenyan, just like me, and not someone who had come here from the Western world. I was skeptical and kept my distance, but I listened to what he was saying.
After the man had finished preaching, I felt compelled to approach him. Because I was known very well in that area, the pastors who were with him (they were also Kenyan) initially blocked me from coming forward, but the missionary allowed me to talk with him. He shared the gospel with me, and right then and there everything felt different. I saw everything that had happened during that day in a new light. I knew that God was the one who wouldn’t let my voice come out; He was the one who turned my tea blood red, as a symbol of Christ’s blood spilled on the cross for me.
The Holy Spirit changed my heart, and I gave my life to Jesus. The missionary told me to go tell my family what had happened, and I did as he requested, even though I knew my father would not like it. Sure enough, he saw my conversion as an abandonment of Islam and an act of personal betrayal. He called my uncle, a well-respected leader in the Muslim community, to ask for advice on how to handle this crisis. My uncle recommended having me excommunicated. But my father was in no mood for half-measures: He wanted me dead. He ordered me to get out of the house right away, and I wasn’t even allowed a moment to gather my belongings.
After my father had left the house, I returned and saw my sister. She told me that my father had burned all of my belongings behind our house. She had been washing clothes at the time, and she gave me one set to take with me.
That night I ran away, staying outside on a park bench. It was a cold night, and I considered returning to my father and apologizing. But as I prayed, I found new strength in Jesus Christ. The next day, I went out and started sharing my testimony, explaining what Jesus had done for me and how others could receive him as well.
I found the missionary who had shared the gospel with me, figuring I would stay the night with him and his fellow pastors before leaving the next morning. But soon we heard that my father had sent people out looking for me, people who would kill me if they found me. So that night, around 3 a.m., the group of missionaries escorted me out of my hometown.
They brought me to a city eight hours away. A longtime member of a local church took an interest in me and started to disciple me. Another member even allowed me to stay in his home since I had no place to live.
The more I got settled in this strange new place, the more I felt a call to the ministry. I started sharing the gospel to lost people in the area, gathering a group of about 10 people in the area to disciple as I had been discipled.
I hoped to attend a Bible school, so that I could become a better preacher and teacher of the gospel, but I did not have the money to pay for it. So I started traveling around and visiting different churches and congregations, where I had the opportunity to preach, teach, and share the story of my conversion.
Yet danger kept stalking me. After visiting one church in the region for five days, preaching and sharing the gospel, I learned that some men had come there looking for me. They had been sent by my parents. In the mosque where I grew up, an announcement had gone out that I was wanted, dead or alive.
Counting The Cost
Over the years, I’ve continued to travel and visit different churches under the support of the national missionary organization that aided me at the time of my conversion. In April of 2017, I took a new step of boldness. Alongside one of my own disciples, I journeyed to a city close to the border of Somalia, where the population consists mostly of Somalis who were members of my own ethnic group. I had ventured there to do what God had put in my heart so many years ago: sharing Christ with Muslims in my homeland.
We had planned out a four-day trip. On the first day, as I started to preach and share the gospel, a crowd gathered. As I continued evangelizing, the crowd became angry, and a few people complained to the police that I was causing trouble.
The police arrested me and took me to jail. I was punched and kicked by other cellmates and by the corrupt police officers. I learned that the man I had been discipling had left to return home. But I continued to share Christ, and 10 Somalis came to know Jesus as Lord in jail. On the fourth day, I was released, and I walked straight from the jail to the market where I had preached the gospel. Seven Muslims prayed to receive Christ that day. In the Gospels, Jesus tells the crowds that anyone who would follow him must be prepared to leave everything behind for the sake of carrying a cross (Luke 14:26–27). Since becoming a Christian, I’ve had many occasions to count the cost of discipleship. On top of having to flee from my home and family, I was forced to part ways with the Muslim woman I was set to marry (though God later saw fit to provide me with a wife at one of the churches I visited). On several occasions, people from the cities I’ve evangelized have shown up at my home in the middle of the night to threaten me and my family. I have been beaten by crowds five different times.
And yet, when I think of even the worst suffering—of all the slaps, punches, and kicks I’ve endured—I still “count it all joy” (James 1:2, ESV). I’ll gladly surrender everything for the cause of Christ and to reach my Muslim brothers who are blind.
Aaban Usman (pseudonym); from ‘Christianity Today’
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