Writings of Branko's Blog

All around Central Europe


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The Sky under the Dust


(IlCieloSottoLaPolvere.com)

I saw a wonderful movie last night. 60 minutes, great length, a proper feature, actors, script, effects, music, credits and all… The script author and director Sergio Mascheroni, a PR specialist from Milan, Italy, shared an epic story, rather shared a Biblical message without using a Biblical story or narrative. For the first time in my life (not so short by now) I have seen a film with a Christian message, and one that is open and clear, and not hidden and undiscoverable. “I did not want to make a movie for the church, but for those who are outside of the church and do not know what the Biblical message is all about,” Sergio said. This world and sin puts dust over our heavenly bodies and hide the true nature we have, a heavenly nature, metaphor says. Take difficult and distant concepts and make them acceptable for the soul and for the spirit of people.

A gang is running away from the bank robbery, two men and two women. They are tired and need shelter, and enter an empty school, but a band of young teenage Christians are rehearsing for their Gospel concert tonite. They are taken hostage at gun point and the story goes on. “Jesus comes and blows our dust away,” Sergio says, and this is what the people are discovering in this movie.

One can clearly say that it is at a PR conference (where this screening occurred last night, TWR Europe’s PR eXchange in Payerbach, Austria). Higher percentage of Macs over the PCs, incredible screen backgrounds, great videos and audio, delightful presentations. And it is not over yet.

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To the Delight of People


Two shopkeepers were bitter rivals. Their stores were directly across the street from each other, and they would spend each day keeping track of each others’ business. If one got a customer, he would smile in triumph at his rival. One night an angel appeared to one of the shopkeepers in a dream and said, “I will give you anything you ask, but whatever you receive, your competitor will receive twice as much. Would you be rich? You can be very rich, but he will be twice as wealthy. Do you wish to live a long and healthy life? You can, but his life will be longer and healthier. What is your desire?” The man frowned, thought for a moment, and then said, “Here is my request: Strike me blind in one eye!”

This story was an illustration in a sermon I delivered one worm Sunday morning in one of the poorest countries in Southeast Europe. Of all the things I tried to say that day, educated, sorted out, elevated, well pointed, using smart illustrations with supporting verses, only this story brought smiles and shines to the faces. They finally could relate to something close to their ostracized and hurt culture, so that a black joke really, was communicating well.

I was talking on the 2 Kings 5 (report on the Syrian general Naaman and the skin disease who was healed after obeying the prophet Elisha, you know the story).

That little girl that was taken slave out of Israel, she could only wish and desire for her master Naaman for his disease to get worse. For pain and hurt to strike the enemy, would she not? I would. But she offered her help and sent the man to Israel – where there is a prophet of God who could heal him. Instead of desiring the worst for him, in her misery she rose higher than her honored master the general, wiser than her mistress, and more gracious than anyone I know in the Balkans of today.

I keep on looking for a ‘peacemaker’ in my part of the world, the one that will respond to an angel differently than the person in the story. Looking… looking… keep on looking…

TWR and its European Partners are developing a reconciliation project for their respective audiences. It will be launched in 2011.


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An old story, shared by late pastor to a friend of mine years ago who told it to me, and so I am telling it to you


It goes like this:

During the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia, the minister of religion organized a meeting. All the Evangelical and Protestant pastors were invited: Baptists, Brethren, Pentecostals, Methodists, other free churches, etc. At a meeting, the Communist minister addressed the pastors telling them that they are the worst hypocrites he ever knew in his life. And then he told them why: took the Bible in his hands from one of the pastors and asked them why were they not living according to the good Book?

It appears that the secret service informed minister in details about what was being preached in the churches and spoken about other Christians and other denominations. He heard that almost all denominations were in a dispute with all others, for whatever reasons.

The minister then asked all present whether the Bible does not speak about loving your neighbor and your enemy, and also loving the Communists? He then went on asking the shocked pastors whether their Jesus is the same one also in other churches and denominations.

Then the minister said, so the story goes, that he can order all of them to be closed, as they are not religious communities but social clubs, performing some sort of a show. Listening such words from an unbelieving person, all the pastors were speechless.

After that meeting things changed for better. Criticism from the pulpit stopped, pastors started to speak in accord with one another. Unity among the believers were growing to such extent that the government started to respect them and the term ‘sect’ left their vocabulary. Even the dominant RC church quit looking at small evangelical churches as some sort of a ‘foreign sect’ but as local denominations.

Pastor Jan Kriska, who shared the story with a friend of mine,  was a renowned evangelist and preacher of his time, in all of the Czechoslovakia and beyond. And the minister, the one who rebuked the pastors, 11 years later gave his life to Jesus. This is a true story, as I am telling you what I heard from my friend, who heard it from Pastor Kriska, who was one of the participants in these events.

Jesus said in John 17:20-22: My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one…

Do we need a new rebuke nowadays?


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Europe Needs Jesus [blog]


I shared the below text with Judy Clauss of “judyblog” (www.twr.org/judyblog)

When recently asked, ‘Do you believe in God?’ this is how Europeans responded:

Turkey 95%

Austria/Lithuania 52%

United Kingdom 38%

Norway 32%

Estonia/Czech Republic 16%

Etc.

It’s obvious that the religious climate of Europe has changed in the last 100 years. What was once considered as ‘Christendom,’ nowadays is just a weak shadow of what was before.  

Today, I think we can speak of ‘Five Europes:’ one of traditional churches (Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox); one of ever rising post-everything (post-Christian, post-missional and post-modern); one of secularism and materialism; one of liberal theology (mainly older Protestant denominations); and, one of being challenged by Islam, its culture and Sharia law.

It’s not easy to reach people in such an environment, but across border lines and in spite of the color of their passports or local vernacular, the needs of people remain the same: reconciliation with God, reconciliation with their neighbor and reconciling with themselves. This is where the message of Christ is piercing like a double-edged sword.  

TWR’s radio ministry is crossing boundaries of many European countries delivering the message in a heartfelt language, offering hope and giving direction, the path of Jesus. TWR networks, collaborates and partners with 31 Christian media organizations in 30 countries of Europe. 

Visit www.twreurope.org for more information on TWR work in Europe and beyond.


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Serving Yes, but How? [Branko’s blog]


Just a little controversy for this entry i keep on thinking for some time now. Jesus thought his disciples about the importance of serving sacrificially. Known are verses on giving a life for a friend, turning the other cheek, forgiving seven times seventy, loving our enemies, etc. One of the important teachings for me, speaking on the subject of sacrificial service in not so direct way, was Jesus remarks to the Pharisees. In His rebukes to this group of publicans, his disciples could hear something of the valuable teaching for themselves.

Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. (Mt 6:1-5)

There are numerous examples of Christian leaders of today who are in an ongoing pursue of titles, positions, recognitions, board memberships, a pin, a plaque or a medal. More titles – larger impact they seem to be projecting to this world, is it not? People are a kind of delighted if specially honored in a church meeting, or other occasion, especially public. I see so many libraries in Christian training institutions with the publicly displayed names of the donors. I see worship services on TV showing people praying, and then aggressively soliciting funds for the ministry, even bending the Bible verses to make a point, while donor names are publicly recognized, streaming to all viewers from the screens of this global ‘altar’ of today.

Sometimes having a title could be justified with fundraising issues and cultural circumstances – for in order to discuss ministry support one needs to be at level with another, etc. While I understood the intention, I am sorrowed by “Christian” environment that brought us to this position. Is it just the convenience of using such titles or it is something else here? Are we stealing ourselves the ‘pay’ that we should receive in heaven?

Are we always watchful of an opportunity, seeking the Carpe Diem situations (Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero – “Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the future”)? Are we looking for a more comfortable seat in airplane, a more juicy salad, a line with fewer customers waiting, this year’s model of a cell phone, a latest software upgrade? What about 15 different Bibles sitting on our shelves? Problem I see in me is that I grow older but not wiser. I keep on doing the same mistakes, constantly rearranging priorities to accommodate my present perceived material needs.

I believe we ought to be watchful of our attitude about this issue daily. If you have not done so recently, check yourself. I am afraid some of us might be surprised by the intensity of this matter in our lives, even if we do not pay any attention to it, not any more (for most of us) nor church teaches nowadays about these verses. In Jesus rebuking of some religious practices of the day, we have an important teaching and this was not only for the Twelve.