Faith, Culture, and Politics – a Perspective by R.K. Ulrich

FROM R.K.’S CORNER

I always seek to remain faithful to the commission the Lord gave me in 1983 — be a bridge, don’t build one”  — be a bridge builder of relationships between God’s people here in the States and those living and serving among people yet unreached by the Gospel in other nations, that they also may hear the Good News and be saved.  Every month, for information, edification, and encouragement to our partners, I present stories in The Bridge Report of testimonies from men and women who joyfully, sacrificially, and with great courage serve the Lord and His people in some of the most challenging and dangerous places in the world.

Once in a while, however, I take a sidestep to feature a story pointing in a different direction.  In this issue, I will endeavor to shed light on an alarming cultural shift in the United States taking place before our eyes.  It seems to be replacing liberty, safety, and peace — the hallmark of the American way — with a discourse and behavior from people in public places that comes close to anarchy and mob rule.  “What is happening in America?” my friends abroad are asking. Please allow me to give you a perspective from being a foreigner who have made my home in the States for the last 45 years.

In the 2016 May issue of The Bridge Report, six months before the Presidential election, I presented an article on Christian Faith, Politics, and Culture from www.gotquestions.com.   There, the issue was raised: Should Christians be engaged in politics and the current culture? As followers of Jesus, what are our responsibilities in this realm as citizens of God’s Kingdom, and the kingdom of this world?  Read the full article:

http://www.bridgeinternational.org/2016/05/ 

Following are some excerpts from the article:

“It has been said that “religion and politics don’t mix.” But is that really true? Can we have political views outside the considerations of our Christian faith? The answer is no, we cannot. The Bible gives us two truths regarding our stance toward politics and government.

  1. The will of God permeates and supersedes every aspect of life. God’s will takes precedence over everything and everyone. What He has purposed, He will bring to pass, and no government can thwart His will (Daniel 4:34-35). In fact, it is God who “sets up kings and deposes them”  (Daniel 2:21), because “the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes” (Daniel 4:17). A clear understanding of this truth will help us see that politics is merely a method God uses to accomplish His will. Even though evil men abuse their political power toward their own end, meaning it for evil, God means it for good, working all things together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
  2. must grasp the fact that our government cannot save us! Only God can! We never read in the New Testament of Jesus or any of the apostles expending time or energy schooling believers on how to reform the pagan world of its idolatrous, immoral, and corrupt practices via the government. The apostles never called for believers to demonstrate civil disobedience to protest the Roman Empire’s unjust laws or brutal schemes. Instead, the apostles commanded the first-century Christians, as well as us today, to proclaim the Gospel and demonstrate lives that give clear evidence to the Gospel’s transforming power.   

The church’s unique, foremost God-given purpose does not lie in political activism or reform. Our mission lies in changing hearts through the Word of God, The Bible. When believers think the growth and influence of Christ can somehow be allied with government policy, they corrupt the mission of the church. Our Christian mandate is to spread the Gospel of Christ and to demonstrate His standards through our daily living.  Only as the hearts of individuals in a culture are changed by Christ will the culture begin to reflect that change.

Believers throughout the ages have lived, and even flourished, under antagonistic, repressive, pagan governments. This was especially true of the first-century believers who, under merciless political regimes, sustained their faith under immense cultural stress. They understood that it was they, not their governments, who were the light of the world and the salt of the earth! They adhered to Paul’s teaching to obey their governing authorities, even to honor, respect, and pray for them (Romans 13:1-8). More importantly, they understood that, as believers, their hope resided in the protection that only God supplies.  (The same applies to our Bridge partners, most of whom at this very moment live under repressive governments).

Perhaps the best way to understand our responsibilities in the social/cultural arena is to look to Jesus as our example.  Jesus lived in one of history’s most corrupt societies.  He did not come to earth to be a political or social reformer. Rather, He came  to make new creatures (His people) holy through the saving power of the Gospel and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. When people’s hearts are changed by Christ, godly governments and institutions will follow. What we need is not better government, but redeemed men and women who make better leaders in government!We are to be IN the world, but not OF it!  Part of being in the world is modeling Christ-likeness to the world and Christian love toward one another.

SO – HOW ARE WE THEN AS PEOPLE OF FAITH TO UNDERSTAND AND RESPOND TO TODAY’S ISSUES IN POLITICS AND CULTURE?  

There is no question that the Judeo-Christian worldview and values have been the underpinning of Western civilization, which means the common values shared by Judaism and Christianity, as expressed in the Bible.  It was the bedrock for the three documents you see here, The Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776), The Constitution (June 21, 1788), and The Bill of Rights (December 15, 1791).  These three documents, collectively known as the Charters of Freedom, have guaranteed the rights and freedoms of Americans for over 200 years.

WE THE PEOPLEWe hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.“

Replica of the United States Bill of Rights, documenting the 10 amendments to the US Constitution.

Most of the Founders were not what we today call “born again believers”. Some of them even questioned the deity of Christ. Nevertheless, they understood that their society’s values and conduct were derived from the absolute moral laws of the Bible.

They believed that humans are created in the image of God, which led them to design institutions and laws meant to protect and promote human dignity. Because they were convinced that humans are sinful, they attempted to avoid the concentration of power by limiting the national government to carefully enumerated powers. The Founders were committed to liberty, but a liberty restrained by absolute moral laws.  They never imagined that provisions of the Bill of Rights would be used to protect licentiousness. And they clearly thought moral considerations should inform legislation.

WHAT DOES THE ABOVE HAVE TO DO WITH CURRENT EVENTS, YOU MAY ASK. MY ANSWER: EVERYTHING!

We have just completed the most ugly, bruising, divisive, and cruel hearings in the confirmation of a new Justice, Brett Kavanaugh, to the Supreme Court. To understand what happened, a movement  still growing in intensity, we have to see beyond the ugly rhetoric and conduct during this process.  It drew deeper battle lines between the two political parties in Congress, the Democrats and the Republicans, and deepened the divide in the population, which had become more evident in the last two Presidential elections.

An intense  war is raging in this country and throughout the Western world at large between two ideologies—not between the two kingdoms Jesus spoke of, “…My Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), and “…Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12:17) — but  within the kingdom of this world on views of governance. The battle is between the Judeo-Christian World View, governed by the rule of law based on the Constitution, and the Secular Humanist World View, also called the Postmodern Neo-Marxist ideology, governed by situational ethics.  That means there is no need for God, man needs no outward moral guidance or restraints; he has the power, wisdom, and ability within himself to establish new laws as society evolves and changes.

What made the Kavanaugh hearings so brutal was that his confirmation would result in a majority (5-4) among the Justices who interpret the law in light of the Constitution — a situation the opposition vehemently opposed.  Their main fear, among other issues, is that the Court with Kavanaugh as the swing vote, might strike down the controversial Roe vs. Wade law on abortion. Several  states permit a woman to terminate her baby up till the day of birth.  In their fervor to win, politicians ignored a cornerstone in the law – from the Bill of Rights, which declares that all are equal before the law, and that a person is presumed innocent till proven guilty.  They accused the nominee of improprieties without any shred of corroborating evidence!  Kavanaugh was tried and found guilty in the court of public opinion, while the left-leaning press cheered on!  In the end, Justice Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court. 

As the midterm election is less than a month away, the question remains—What kind of America do you want… one where the Constitution is respected and followed, especially by Supreme Court Justices committed in their rulings to uphold the American individual’s rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; where you have freedom to take personal responsibility for your life, and where honest, hard work is rewarded? … Or, a society where the government is run by an elite group of leaders who define the moral codes of their citizens by their own situational ethics and enforce political correctness according to their own ideas,  and one in which you are dependent on the government for sustenance and direction for your life?

Politics do not work the righteousness of God, but a benevolent government will help believers lead tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity” (1. Tim. 2:2).   Good citizens of both  the Kingdom of God and this world, should strive toward that.

My American friends: This nations stands at the edge of a fault line!

YOUR  VOTE COUNTS ON NOVEMBER 6!!

 

 

Joe Sellars – his Journey from Grief to Joy

Joe and Denise

Hello Everyone,

This is Joe Sellars, former missionary to Germany.  In September 2012, you received the last update on our life and ministry, which R.K. published right after having attended the homegoing celebration service for Shelli, my wife of nearly 25 years, after her three year battle with colon cancer. 

God had given us an adventurous life, and as always, He showed us his faithfulness!  He was so good to us through the entire cancer battle.  Even though it ended in Shelli’s death, His abiding presence was always with us, truly giving us the “peace that surpasses all understanding.” His love, grace, mercy, peace, and comfort were always there for me in the sorrow and grief, holding me close enough to hear His heartbeat through one of the most trying and challenging times in my entire life.

One of the biggest revelations God gave us on this journey was what we called The “Daniel 3” faith (Daniel 3:17-18).  It refers to the three young Hebrew men about to be thrown into the fiery furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar.  Their response to facing death was:

  1. We know God can save us,
  2. We know God will save us,
  3. But even if He doesn’t save us, we will praise the Lord.

I have a hard time understanding how some people can walk through similar trials without Jesus.  It was a dark time of my soul, but like in the story of  Job, God has restored every area of my life. Below, I address how God has met me by showing Himself as my faithful Father in the areas of  Finances, Family, Faith and Future.

FINANCES

Many of you who are reading this report were used by God to help me in my time of need.  Shortly after Shelli passed away, I was faced with the daunting task of paying all of the medical expenses we had incurred.  We also needed to pay for a van that a local car dealer had “loaned” me to test drive for over 3 months after my old van was literally run into the ground from the thousands of miles of driving to and from medical appointments, surgeries, chemo and follow-ups.   If I had had to pay all the bills that were accrued, it would have cost me nearly $700,000.  We had a woefully inadequate health insurance, so after the first month of this journey, we were moved to a cash payment status.

Family, friends, churches and even strangers stepped in, and by God’s grace, literally within two months of Shelli’s death, all the bills and the van were paid for!  Vanderbilt Medical Center simply wiped out hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt.  Thousands of dollars came in through my local church, as well as the Bridge International.  One afternoon, I called a company I owed over $60,000 to discuss a payment plan.  I was holding the last statement in my hand when I asked the lady on the other end of the line for my current balance.  Instead of saying some amount just under $60,000, she said that I owed all of $16!  I was in shock!  I asked how that could be, and she answered she had no idea.  All she knew,  was what the invoice on her computer showed that amount. One medical facility after another were paid off in full – debt vanished or was simply forgiven.  If you were one of the many who gave – thank you so very much!

FAMILY

I am a firm believer that God’s original plan in the Garden involved a man and a woman, a husband and wife, in covenant relationship where they were “towards” each other.  One was to be the help-mate for the other, the strength to their weakness – two being truly better than one.

Just under two years after my first wife passed into eternity, God restored this plan to my life.  On June 7th, 2014 I married one of the most amazing women I have ever met.  Denise is a  hero of the faith (but that is another story for another time).  She is passionate for the Lord. She is loving, kind, discerning, fiery, and absolutely gorgeous, as well.  She is giving me the most amazing home a man could ever hope for.

Denise Sharing her Testimony

Together, we have already been ministering to families, singles, and hurting people.  I am excited to learn what else God has in store for us in the future.  Denise is a woman who understands the Biblical concept that she is the spotless Bride of Christ and is fully embraced by her Papa God.  At our wedding, she stood at the back of the church behind two massive white flags.  When those flags parted at the particular music cue in the processional, there was literally a gasp that echoed through the crowd.  She appeared as if she had just stepped in from the very presence of God!  We were given a taste of what the children of Israel must have felt when Moses returned from standing in the cloud of glory in the presence of God.  She shares His love, peace, compassion, grace and mercy with everyone she comes in contact with.  She has a gift of discerning a person’s situation and seeing the big picture like no one I have ever met before.  She is a blessing to me and many others!

FAITH

In early 2013 God began speaking to me and reminded me of how, after leaving the Army in 1996, I was heading into an Information Technology Career, just before He threw me a curve ball and called me into full time church base ministry.  “Do you remember that IT thing?  It has now come full circle and I am calling you into full time market place ministry.  It is time to get outside the four walls of the church building.”  After much prayer and discussion with my pastor and the elder team, I stepped down as Youth Pastor in August, 2013 and began pursuing certifications in computers. This was a huge shift for me, but God was faithful. Since that time, I have a couple of IT certifications and working for my brother-in-law’s IT company in tech support and sales.

I have had many opportunities to minister to people outside the four walls of the church building.  For example, a couple of days ago I met with a potential client who is fighting her own battle with cancer.  At the end of our meeting I asked her if it would be OK for me to pray for her.  She smiled and said, “absolutely.” So right there in her office, in the middle of City Hall, the presence of the Lord filled the room and she was encouraged.  I am fully expecting to hear an amazing report from her the next time we meet together.

I am extremely blessed with the job I have. Please pray for us as we look to the future to see how God will transform, grow and use this business to release me more into ministry each day. 

FUTURE

Currently, my wife and I are working to eliminating all of our debt and positioning ourselves to have more time and financial freedom to head back out for short term mission trips.  I don’t currently see God leading me back to the mission field as a full time missionary, but rather drawing me back to short term missions.

When I look back at my life, some of the times I felt most alive, was when I had a herd of teenagers around me while leading them on a mission trip.

I know that God never removes His calling, therefore I believe that one day I will return overseas, being used by God to expand people’s world view and watch as God shows Himself to them in ways that they have never imagined.  My heart-cry is still and will always be “Living the Great Commandment to Fulfill the Great Commission.

The Sellars having Breakfast in our Home during their Visit

FROM R.K.’S CORNER

Living the Great Commandment to Fulfill the Great Commission” was Joe and Shelli Sellar’s ministry motto, as well as the standard by which they attempted to live their life together. “Our lives are not just about ministry, but about relationship, about living our lives so that others see Jesus in us — bringing Him honor in everything we do”, they were quick to explain.  And their lives reflected that!

Joe and Shelli had in common that they both grew up in Tennessee, were saved and had a burden for Europe.  After they were married in 1988, Joe served in the U.S. Army in Germany. There they came across The Bridge, so in 1999, when they were ready to move to Germany as full time missionaries, they contacted us, and we joined them in a 13 year partnership which proved very fruitful.

In 2010, Shelli  found she had been unexpectedly enlisted to run a new race that culminated in her death on September 3, 2012: battling stage IV metastasized colon cancer. We stood with the family through their battle, contributing with prayer and finances. Since Shelli’s death, some have asked, “What has happened to Joe and their two children?” You will find the answer in this issue where Joe is giving us an overview of his life after Shelli.  Two years after her passing, God provided a new wife for Joe.

Last week, when they visited us in our home,  Steve and I were introduced to Denise, a remarkable young woman from an Arab, Muslim background who encountered Jesus as a teenager, embraced the Christian faith, and has been persecuted for that decision.  Theirs is the story of a faithful God who brought the two of them together from sorrow and hardship to joy and fulfillment in the union of marriage, and calling them to be living testimonies of God’s grace and love!  We are looking forward to learn what God has in store for them!

 

 

Sarajevo, Bosnia: The Lighthouse Shines in a Land of Darkness

UPDATE BY ROBERT JURJEVICH

The Center For Life THE LIGHTHOUSE was founded by Bob and Eileen Pressler in 2001 for the purpose of establishing the first pro-life ministry in former-Yugoslavia. Northriver, a United Kingdom Christian foundation, purchased a building for the ministry.  They added a third floor apartment for Bob and Eileen to live in and oversee the facility. When Eileen passed away in the Fall of 2016, Sandrina was asked to become the new director of the pro-life ministry. In the Spring of 2017, the Northriver owners expressed their desire to transfer ownership of the facility to THE LIGHTHOUSE ministry.

When we first sat with the attorney to discuss the transfer of ownership, she told us the legal process would take 2-3 months. Finally, on July 30, after 18 months of legal work, we sat together with the completed documents in front of us.  After a few laughs, a few minor changes, and a few photos, we signed on the line. The moment we had long waited for, came and went in a matter of seconds. After 18 years, the Christian foundation Northriver officially donated their facility in Sarajevo to the ministry Center For Life THE LIGHTHOUSEIt is highly unusual in Bosnia,” the notary said at the signing, ”for one organization to release a property as a donation to another organization.”

That brings us to where we are today – awaiting the Bosnian tax office to inform us of their appraisal of the facility’s value, which will require us to pay a 5% property appraisal tax up front. Upon completing the payment, we will be issued a new property deed, and the ownership process will be 100% completed!

Presently, Sandrina and Edita, her assistant, are focused on establishing a strong presence of THE LIGHTHOUSE on social media platforms and promoting the website   as a primary source for Bosnian women to find information and answers to their questions concerning pregnancy, abortion and other relevant issues facing women, — see www.svjetionikcentarzazivot.com.

Monthly ads are being run on Facebook to promote a culture of life, the value of life, and the life of the unborn. In a land where abortion is a form of birth control, the opportunities to reach Bosnian women with a pro-life message are challenged by a mindset that is opposite to it.

This week during our daily children’s creative workshop at our church, Sandrina sat with a lady who has been bringing two boys every day for the last three weeks. It turns out she was not their grandmother as we thought, but their nanny. While they sat together, the lady became very talkative and asking Sandrina about herself. Sandrina shared about her work through THE LIGHTHOUSE ministry in helping women, especially in the areas of pregnancy, education, and counseling. The lady immediately opened her heart and shared that, several years prior, she had had an abortion.  During the Bosnian civil war (1992-1995), she became pregnant with her second child after just 6 months of giving birth to her first. With tears in her eyes, she recounted how she chose to have an abortion.  After that, she was never again able to bear children. She encouraged Sandrina and expressed  how important the pro-life ministry of THE LIGHTHOUSE is. ”Abortion is a dark secret in the lives of many Bosnian women which is never  spoken openly about”, she said.

RAFAEL FELLOWSHIP

Our church family, RAFAEL FELLOWSHIP, is located in one of the most densely populated areas of Sarajevo, which is 95% Muslim. Among Bosnia’s population of 4 million, there are only about 400 Protestant evangelicals in the nation. Like most ministries and churches in Bosnia, we have experienced our share of hopes and disappointments in pioneering a new church over the past five years.

While our fellowship meets on Sunday mornings for worship service, our facility is presently used during the week for the following outreaches:

  • Monday evenings – a sort of AA group meets that is providing help, not only for alcoholics, but mostly for drug addicts.
  • Tuesday and Thursday afternoons – a member of our church family provides a program for children with special needs.
  • Monday through Fridays – we provide a daily 2-hour creative workshop for children.

Whenever there are no other activities in the local community, we open the facility for the neighborhood teenagers to get them off the street. We build  personal relationships with them through music and games.

OUR FAMILY

Our Family in 1995

As full-time missionaries on the field, we are only able to see our own children once or twice a year. In June, we came together in The Netherlands for a very special occassion – the wedding of our youngest son Joshua to his bride Joyce. All our children and their spouses love the Lord, which is a tremendous blessing to our hearts. Here is an update on our kids, with photos from 1995 and 2018:

Our Family in 2018

Johan & Kristen (to the right) live in Virginia Beach, VA.  They volunteer in different capacities in their local church. Johan is a corporate CPA/Auditor; Kristen a corporate lawyer who recently became a partner in the law firm. As young professionals, they are directly influencing the Marketplace.

Lennart & Lydia (right of newlyweds) live in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where they serve on the staff at Crossroads International Church. They are expecting their first baby (our first grandchild!) in January, 2019!

Timothy & Julianne (couple on left) live in Nashville Tennessee, USA. After a number of years as a children’s and youth pastor, Timothy is now working on staff at Gideon’s International as an assistant to the international director. Julianne is a registered nurse, and will be soon finishing up her training as an anesthesiologist.

Joshua and Joyce, the newlyweds, live in Amersfoort, The Netherlands, where they both serve on staff at Thousand Hills International Church as youth pastors and support staff.

PRAYER NEEDS FOR …

  • our finances, and the remaining funds for the property appraisal tax, estimated to be a total of $20,000.00.
  • for favor to be granted by the authorities for permanent resident visas to replace our present two year visas.
  • Sandrina – to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in the further development of THE LIGHTHOUSE, as there are many opportunities available for the pro-life message.

FROM R.K.’s CORNER

Robert and Sandrina Jurjevich need no introduction to our longstanding Bridge friends who have, for nearly thirty years, followed their adventures as missionaries with a call to serving the Lord in the Balkans, specifically among Muslims in the city of Sarajevo.  If you are not familiar with their background and history, I encourage you to take time to check them out on prior pages on this  website.  Please click on the following links:
http://www.bridgeinternational.org/2013/06/
http://www.bridgeinternational.org/2015/08/
http://www.bridgeinternational.org/2018/05/
This issue is a celebration of a long awaited answer to prayer! Their ministry finally owns a building which is housing their home, pro-life ministry, and their church’s many mercy outreach ministries to the community.  This is a dream come true since the 1992-95 Civil War destroyed the first church they had planted, scattered the believers, and bombed their apartment, which burned to the ground with all their belongings.  THE LIGHTHOUSE teems with joyful activities, and reflects the light and hope of the Gospel to the people of Sarajevo through Robert and Sandrina’s labor of love!

NB!  If you want to partner with the Robert and Sandrina and their ministry to reach the Bosnian people with the Gospel – the Good News of  Jesus Christ – please click on the DONATE button above and mark your gift 8345 BOSNIAN WORKERS  Thank you!  R.K.