Writings of Branko's Blog

All around Central Europe

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My Person of the Year [blog]

This is the time of the year when almost all magazines and news programs on TVs put on an issue with special sections recalling people and events that made news during the previous year. It is always amazing to see who makes to be the ‘woman of the year’ or ‘man of the year’, politician, sportsman, banker, Wiki –click or leak, and so on.

But not only the ‘famous’ people get into the news. There is also plenty of space for predictions, or prophecies. Many magazines also include articles by experts predicting what they expect to see happening in the years ahead. Some even go so far as to make predictions covering 10, 20, or more years in the future. In the past, a few of these predictions have proven amazingly accurate, while others couldn’t have been more wrong.

For example, back in 1967, experts predicted that by the turn of the century technology would have taken over so much of the work we do that the average work week would be only 22 hours long, and that we would work only 27 weeks a year. As a result, one of our biggest problems would be in deciding what to do with all our leisure time.

Well, I don’t know about you, but that prediction certainly missed the mark as far as my life was concerned!

Another interesting article, about the ‘famous’ people, I read a couple of years ago in Croatia. There was this man who was interviewed. He left then Yugoslavia in late 80ies and went to Central Asia, made himself rich on oil rigs and finally returned to Croatia. As a publisher of a magazine that speaks of business he prophesied on the future business climate. When asked how can he be so sure he is right – his response was: the Bible speaks of me, in Matthew 24:24: For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect… and then he said: “Look the Bible speaks of me here.” The interviewing journalist asked the question one more time…

One of the persons of the year is: leader of the year, a right man for the right time, as one title suggested. An innovative leader, business leader, military leader, the worst leader of the year, industry leader, there is even an wikipedia list of many names in the Evangelical world who were associated with some sort of a scandal, or court case.

There seems to be many leadership models today. Very popular topic, courses offered everywhere. Even some biblical ones. Mostly, there is no issue, but I have noticed that there is not enough talk on one very important personality – Jesus.

Secular world does not speak of Jesus. Hardly anyone wants to know what would Jesus do, or what the Bible says on particular matters in life. It is like these verses in the Bible where it is stated that people will follow other teachers and will be amused by some miracles or words of knowledge. Some do say Jesus was master teacher, a very very good man who made a social revolution in the Roman Empire, others recognize him as one of the prophets of God. Others put him in the manger and speak of little Jesus boy.

Somehow, the world ridicules Christmas in its original meaning, and some of us let this overwhelm us and our families also. How about you?

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Amused but Saddened [blog]

Anyone involved in Christian ministries in Europe knows how difficult is to get financial support from the state, region or EU (this statement is not valid for two major traditional Christian denominations for which there are no limitations). People following the development in this area for years now are aware only of a handful of examples when a rule not to fund ‘religious’ organizations was NOT implemented against the Evangelicals. The total amount of funds eventually allocated is very small, in range of several hundreds of thousands of EUR. Administrative hurdles, hundreds of pages of documents, local and international bureaucracy – ever hungry for more papers with more stamps and colorful stickers attached to it, and particular ‘gnostic’ language of these applications present themselves as great troubles. Anyone who attempts to fill them properly and ethically gets into the, kind of, topsy-turvy situation close to impossible, and ultimately gives up. So, the money goes elsewhere.

Most people I spoke with think EU funding for their religious activities is not realistic and the territory as being possessed by the ‘giants in the land.’ They have heard of failures, some saw them, and they do not even try anymore. This situation is unchanged for years and the EU red-tape guardians are keeping it shut, closed and unavailable.

I was saddened but amused when I read in International Herald Tribune (20-21 Nov. 2010) the story titled “Elton John doesn’t qualify for state aid, E.U. tells Italy.” This article shows that the European Commission ordered Italy to pay back 720,000 EUR, used by the local authorities to pay for the September 2009 Elton John’s concert in Naples. Apparently ‘picking up the tab’ for a concert was a bit too much even amidst thousands of projects being funded from the EU every year – lavishing billions of euros of taxpayers’ money.

Reading the whole article I learned of the following projects being supported from the same source: Roma education money was spent on two local football teams (in Slovakia) and funds for the improvement of leadership skills were used in a vegetable processing plant. Another example given was about 411,000 EUR for a Hungarian dog fitness and rehabilitation center that was never built in the first place.

There will be a day when excellent and important projects from Christian non-profit organizations in a need of funding will make its way to the ‘judges’ in Brussels and we will see them supported from that side also. I believe there is a proper, legal and ethical way to do so. After all, we are engaged in life changing activities helping people find meaning in their lives.

Let us hope that those responsible will soon use their common sense, if they have left their faith hanging in some old closed in a basement…

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The Jesus Model of Leadership cont. [blog]

Serving Sacrificially

Jesus also taught 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 teachings speaking on the subject of sacrificial service was Jesus remarks about the Pharisees and publicans of the day in Mt. 6:1-5. Jesus rebuked their practices. Christian leaders of today should not act in a similar way nowadays.

Being Humble

Why would God choose Mary, a young inexperienced, unmarried peasant girl from a rural village, to be mother of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ?  Mary answers this question in the opening lines of her song:-

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for He has been mindful of the HUMBLE estate of His servant.”
Luke 1:46-48

This theme continues right through the Bible and is brought home to us forcefully by James and Peter where they quote Proverbs 3:34:

“God opposes the proud BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”

In verses James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 it seems that God even picks a fight with those who are proud. Jesus not only taught this truth (Matthew 23:12) but he modeled this attitude for all to see (Philippians 2:5-11).

The only description Jesus makes of himself is in Matthew 11:29: I am humble and gentle.  And he tells us to learn from him.

The New Testament repeatedly teaches the servant-hood theme, that Christ likeness is servant-hood, that leadership is best displayed in servant-hood. True servant-hood is not reluctantly squeezed out of us but flows from a place of maturity and stability that ends the internal war that tempts so many towards achieving greatness. Fractured spirituality lies at the heart of this and leaders around the world are observed, grasping and wielding unchecked power and a quest for personal greatness. Fractured spirituality has to do with knowing what the word of God says but seemingly being unable to live in its truth to the place of health and peace. Part of the answer is to help humankind through, apart from anything else, healthy modeling from leaders.

Healthy leaders will be found amongst those who are discovering in the very depths of their hearts and lives, that once you have become a son or daughter of the King of Kings, the quest for significance is ended, there is no ‘up’ or promotion from there and that this place is given….by grace alone!