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Vissarion the Messiah of Siberia

Vissarion, Siberian Messiah
Vissarion, Siberian Messiah

An ex-traffic cop is billing himself as the second coming of Christ.  He’s not the first to start a cult in Russia’s fertile ground.  It’s always been hard for me to understand these groups, and the devotion to their cult leaders:

The Siberian messiah who calls himself Vissarion, meaning “He who gives new life,” is head of an isolated religious commune deep in the birch forests of Russia. Members of the Church of the Last Testament follow the laws of the self-proclaimed reincarnation of Jesus Christ, maintaining a largely vegan diet and skipping modern medicine to maintain harmony with nature. Five times a day, believers turn in prayer toward the mountaintop where Vissarion lives. The group’s calendar even dates from the day of their messiah’s birth.

Many of Vissarion’s followers are educated people from different European countries. Some of them used to work as doctors, teachers and engineers. One was even the former Belorussian deputy railway minister.  “When I saw him the first time my soul recognized him. I could not cope with my emotions and my soul cried, ‘It’s him, it’s him. He is on earth!”‘ Galina told me.  “It was as if a flood came down from the sky and my body was shivering nonstop!” Tatyana added.

Read the rest of the article to see the extremely uninspiring interview with Vissarion.


How many of us spend our whole days listening to noise.  We wake up and immediately turn on the tv, then listen to the radio in the car, and mp3 players when we walk.  When I’m at my desk, I have Pandora constantly running.  It got to the point where silence was almost unbearable.  Try driving in your car for even 15 minutes without the radio.  It’s tough.  I need the constant stimulation, even if it’s only in the background.  Music has always helped me concentrate.  With silence, I find that my mind just wanders … often to places that I don’t want it to.

Recently, however, I have been trying to conquer and reclaim silence, and I stumbled across an interesting post on silence and God:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven… a time to be silent and a time to speak…
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7b

The Bible says in Luke 5:16 that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places.” Jesus spent considerable time alone in silence to pray, rest, and focus on what priorities He should be devoting His time and energy to. This helps to explain why, in just three short years of ministry, Jesus had a greater impact on history than anyone else who has ever lived.

The Bible also describes multiple benefits of purposeful silence, including:

  • hearing from God (1 Kings 19:11–13)
  • waiting patiently for the Lord to act (Lamentations 3:25–28)
  • worshiping God (Habakkuk 2:20)
  • knowing God better (Psalm 46:10)
  • praying effectively (Luke 5:16)

If we’re undisciplined, silence can indeed be an enemy.  With the right focus, however, it can be a tool for reflection, introspection, and recentering of ourselves and our priorities.

By Dying I Live

A friend of mine lost her grandfather last year.  While in Florida helping out, her Grandmother gave her a wrinkled, torn piece of paper on which her Grandfather had written a poem.  Beautiful and simple:

By Dying I Live
by Arthur Neil DuBois (1931-2008)

By dying, I live.
By surrender, I win the victory.
By giving, I am made rich.
By kneeling, I stand firm.
By weakness, I am made strong.
By fasting, I am made fat.
By selflessness, I am made satisfied.
By praying for others, I am blessed beyond measure.
By serving others, all my needs are met.
By comforting the lonely, I receive fellowship.
By praising the Lord, I receive high honor.
By being a fool in the world’s eyes, I am made wise by the Lord.
By not seeking my own comfort, I receive all my satisfaction.
By dying to self, I will live forever.

She also writes about the difficulties of the family situation following her grandfather’s death, but also about how the Lord was using her and about the life that her grandfather built:

These last few days have been hell on earth for her [grandmother], and it has been almost unbearably hard to watch it happen. I say “almost” because, through it all, our Father has been faithful to guide and comfort us. He has been using my mouth to speak His Word to her in an amazing way. It seems that Scripture comes forth without any effort on my part to seek out the right word for the moment or to recall verses memorized in Sunday school. I open my mouth, or rather, my mouth opens and out come these words–His Words, apt and true, sometimes ones that I didn’t even know I’d memorized.

He also continues to remind me that the house I’m living in, the subject of the new debate, was built by a godly man, my great-grandfather, for the purposes of raising his family in a God-honoring way. Every nail was hammered into place with that purpose. In my grandma’s despondency, I was pushed to remind her of this. This house is God’s. It always has been. I have seen the enemy trying to infiltrate and subvert, taking advantage of the death of my grandfather, pillar of faith that he was, but the enemy has no place here. This place was consecrated to His service then, and we will fight to keep it that way. This house will not be a stumbling block or a millstone but a sanctuary.

I found a box of letters that my great-grandmother wrote to her sister at the turn of the last century (1901 mostly). I also found a book written in 1848 Proverbial Philosophy: A Book of Thoughts and Arguments. Right up my alley. I intend to read its fragile and fragrant pages with care. And lastly, I found a some poetry from another relative written in 1880. All so interesting and enlightening. Be jealous.

I am sleeping in the room in which my dad spent his first few months of life. His crib was by the window where my dresser now stands. That’s kinda cool.

My grandmother has been sharing much of her wonderful marriage and life with my grandfather. Each new story leaves me both hopeful, eager, and in pain.

Preacher Paul Washer’s Wife Saved After Two Decades

Can you be a Christian your whole life, and realize one day that you’re actually not? Charo Washer grew up Christian and was married to a missionary for over a decade before she realized that she wasn’t actually saved. It’s not just a cute, catchy little prayer that “saves” us. Time and again the Bible tells us that if we are truly saved, we will show it. Not because we are saved by such works, but because when Christ comes into our hearts, he changes us. It can’t be any other way. Our old selves were dead in sin. If we are born anew, and made to be more like Christ, then how could we possibly be, act, live the same as before. Our thoughts, priorities, actions, feelings change. Not overnight, but they’re moving in a certain direction. Though not even all people who outwardly look like or profess to be Christians really are. Jesus spoke very clearly about this:

(Matt 7: 21-23) “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

In fact, Paul calls on us to take a good look at ourselves: (2 Cor 13:5)

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?”

The America version of easy salvation can become stale and legalistic. We often make it seem like a legal contract, made on our behalf by a very kind uncle. We get a nice inheritance, but we’re disconnected from the actual transaction. That was done 2,000 years ago by a very nice man, who suffered a little bit. Since most of us haven’t done anything we think is terrible – like murder – and since we’re generally good people, we often feel that’s it’s quite right for us to receive that inheritance.

As the speaker in the third clip points out, when God convicts us of our sin, it becomes personal. It’s so easy to just repeat the mantra that “we’re all sinners.” It’s an easy out, and it doesn’t make us think much. But do we truly understand that we’re sinners? No, not really. It’s only when God opens our eyes to the hurt and pain we’ve caused to Him, to those around us, to ourselves, that we begin to understand our fallen state. Only then can we truly repent. How can you ask for forgiveness if you don’t think you’ve done anything wrong? One of the ways that we know we’ve been saved is when we begin to hate the sin that we once loved.

Charo Washer went through the motions for decades, not because she wanted to, but because it was what she was supposed to do. God finally opened her eyes, after listening to her husband’s sermons for years. Three ten minute installments. The first two are Charo’s story, and the last is commentary. Well worth the listen:

Paul Washer’s Wife Saved – Part 1

Paul Washer’s Wife Saved – Part 2

Paul Washer’s Wife Saved – Part 3

the small stuff.

A friend of mine recent wrote this note and put it up on her facebook page.  I asked if she wouldn’t mind sharing here.  From an outside perspective, it might seem like a trivial matter, but it’s millions of little ways like this that God interacts in our lives.  I especially like one of her concluding thoughts.  If God cares so much about us that he takes care of little details, how much more, then, does he care about the big things.

the small stuff.

i totally should be asleep right now. but i just had an amazing experience (well, you may not classify it as “amazing” but then again you aren’t writing this note, now are you) and i felt the need to share it with whomever may happen to stumble upon this little section on facebook. so here we go.

first let me preface why i classify my “experience” as amazing. so i have been spending alot of time in the gospels lately-doing a little studying on the life of Jesus. (I am also reading “Just like Jesus” by Max Lucado- i highly recommend it and any other book by him) but anyway, I was reading the other day about a man who came to Jesus (well, there are several of these stories in the bible) and asked Him to heal his servant without Jesus actually having to come to his house and personally see or touch the man- and Jesus was glad to heal the servant because of that master’s faith- HIS TRUE BELIEF THAT JESUS COULD AND WOULD DO IT. Also, there is another passage that really supplements stories like this (and the one i am about to explain)- It is in Mark, and Jesus is talking to the disciples about having faith about the things they can do with the power of God…like telling a mountain to move for example. He tells them that if they truly believe that they can do it (or have received whatever they have asked for in prayer) then it will be done for them. Ok, so that is powerful. As I was driving home tonight- super late and in the COLD and RAIN, i remembered that I didn’t have my access card to get into my apartment building. (I lost it-again. responsibility is definitely not my best quality) I also had 3 big laundry bags full of clothes that I needed to get into my apartment asap- and there are never ANY spots after like 9pm in my parking lot…which means i was going to have to park across the street and walk the whole way back (with the previously mentioned conditions still in effect). So remembering what I have been reading in the Word, I just started asking God if he would not only provide a parking spot for me in the good lot, but that someone would be around to let me in to the building. (At like 1 am on a Sunday night- my chances didn’t look good…at all). But I chose to believe in what God COULD do for me and not what seemed likely. Well what do you know, I pulled up and BAM- parking spot right outside my door. Might as well have had my name on it. Once I got all of my bags out of my car, I walked up to the door and just stood there- having complete faith that someone was going to come out. And sure enough, not 1 minute later, two girls walked out of the door on their way to wherever people go at 1 am on a Sunday night. I just grinned and walked right on in.

All that to say…if God cares that much about me getting a good parking spot and literally opening doors for me to get inside my apartment, how much more does he care about things like internship opportunities for the summer, who I am going to marry, where I am going to live after law school, how I am going to pay off my loans, etc. etc. The main thing I feel like God is trying to teach me right now is what authentic faith should look like in my life- and any other Christian’s life for that matter. It’s not only knowing that God wants the best for us (which He does- and that is very important to know), but also believing that those good things ARE FOR SURE GOING TO HAPPEN FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE IT! I guess my point in making this an open note and not just one for the journal is to encourage anyone who may be struggling with what God can/wants to do in your life. God loves each of us the same (thank goodness, because I can think of ALOT of people who “deserve” His love more than I do) and if he loves all of us the same, he wants to give YOU that good parking spot (or whatever you are praying and believing Him for) just as much as he wanted to provide it for me. That’s my favorite thing about God- he isn’t limited in His resources of what He can do for us-heck, he created all of this. Of course it’s His to give away!

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, BELIEVE THAT YOU HAVE RECEIVED IT, and it will be yours.” -Mark 11:24

I hope you smell what I’m steppin’ in here. It just made my night and I couldn’t help but share. I hope this encourages someone out there who may be pondering what God is all about like it did for me.

Broken and Born Again

Our culture of celebrity fascination thrives on the fact that there are beautiful, rich people who have everything and lead the lives that we all want.  They go to the best parties, drive the best cars, have huge houses, eat the best food, and date the hottest people.  Even when things go wrong, it’s spectacular.  I mean, who hasn’t, from time to time, wanted to shave all their hair and wear a pink wig? Then show ’em all two years later with a comeback!

What we don’t see is the hurt, and the loneliness.  More often than not, the most famous, the most popular people in the world are broken inside.  They have literally everything that this world can offer.  Like Solomon, they’ve tried it all – and nothing satisfies.  Celebrities suffer from the same issues as all of us.  In fact, they’re often magnified because of the pressure and spotlight put on them.

I may not know you personally, but I do know there is a sense of loneliness inside every man and woman. Everyone is lonely, deep down inside. Even if you are married or have lots of friends, there is still a deep-seated loneliness inside of you. Sometimes it sweeps over you when you are surrounded by people. What it really is is a loneliness for God.

And not only is everyone lonely, but everyone feels guilty – guilty about something they have said or done and now regret. It’s a guilt that is hard to shake. It can’t be drowned in drink or psychoanalyzed away.

That’s where much of the extravagance and acting out comes from.  What do you do when you have access to everything, and you still want more?  You go more and more extreme.  Britney’s breakdown was actually a pretty understandable reaction to the pressure cooker that she was put in.  She was broken.  Though she had everything in the world, she didn’t have the one thing that would make her whole.  Like all of us, she needs God, and to be born again.

“Born Again” has been so overused in our culture that it’s become a catchphrase, losing in large part it’s original meaning.  For non-Christians, it means “crazy, radical, extreme Christians.”  You’ll hear things like, “Oh, he’s a ‘born-again’ Christian.”  As if there are “non-born-again” Christians.  For those familiar with Christianese, it means “someone who has said the prayer of acceptance and become a believer.”  While the second definition is much closer to the truth, it still misses the deeper meaning.  Greg Laurie has put up a nice summation of what it means to be “born again:”

The Bible talks about a man who was very aware of his mortality. He was someone who had climbed his corporate ladder, if you will, a man who was powerful, successful, famous and wealthy. He was also devout, religious. Yet there was a hole in his heart that he didn’t know how to fill. He had heard about a rabbi named Jesus who was performing miracles, giving sight to the blind, restoring hearing to the deaf, healing leprosy and even raising the dead. No one had ever heard of such things. But most significantly, the things Jesus said were changing the lives of people.

Nicodemus came to Jesus respectfully looking for answers, and Jesus cut to the chase: “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3 NLT). In other words, “Let me just get to the bottom line with you, Nicodemus. You need to be born again.”

The problem today is that we don’t know what this phrase means anymore. The term “born again” has been pirated, emptied of its meaning, dragged through the gutter and given back to us, minus its power. Jesus said, “Unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Literally, it means to be born from above. It is a change on the inside.

God loves you, no matter what you have done, no matter what sins you have committed, and no matter how many failures you have had. God loves you. And He will change you.

But to believe not only means to take hold of something; it also means to let go. To let go of the sin that separates you from God is called repentance. The Bible says of this, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19 NIV).

We are all broken in one way or another.  We are all lonely, and we all feel guilty.  We try to escape it, drown it, forget.  We think the things of this world, if only we had more and better, would fill that void.  History and the news are full of people who’ve tried – and failed spectacularly.

Jesus is the Great Physician, the Great Healer.  Many take this at its physical meaning.  God can, and sometimes does, heal our physical ailments.  But more importantly, he heals our hearts, he heals our souls.  It’s only when I’ve been completely broken that I understood the power and meaning of born again, and the healing and restoration that God offers to us all.

Psalm 119: Why Aren’t Things Going My Way??

Sometimes it seems that even though we’re doing everything right, we’re living as we should, things just aren’t working out the way we think they ought to.  Psalm 119 has David crying out just that sentiment:

153 Look upon my suffering and deliver me,
for I have not forgotten your law.

154 Defend my cause and redeem me;
preserve my life according to your promise.

David’s prayer reminds us that if we love God, then we will love his commandments, and that God will not leave us.  Often, we think we know what’s best for us, what we need at any given time.  I’m in a situation like that right now.  I want something that is right in front of my eyes.  I want it more than I ever have anything else in my life.  It seems like God has forsaken us.  How can he not understand that this job, this person, this possession is exactly what I need??  If he loves me, why does he not give me what I need?

More often than not, we don’t actually need it.  Quite regularly in my life, I thought I knew the answer, I knew what was supposed to happen.  I’d looked at the possible choices, done a thorough examination, and picked the right one.  “This one, God.  This is what I need.  Now please give it to me.”  Every time that I was denied what I wanted, however, the alternative ended up being infinitely better.  Every time.

Live with God, walk with God.  Follow his commandments, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.  I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.” (Psalm 119:11, 14)  Know that when we do this, we come closer to God, and he has promised that he will defend and redeem us.

Take a few minutes to think about and write down any times when you thought you knew the right answer, but God said no, and ended up giving you something much better.  Write it down and thank God for those times.  Not only is he worthy of the praise, but it will help you remember that just becuase things aren’t working out as we want them now, it’s because God wants to give us something even better than that which we would pick for ourselves.

Pope begins Bible-reading marathon

Yesterday I wrote about how important it is to make an effort to read the Bible daily.  It appears that the Pope is of a similar mind, and earlier this month, he started a week-long Bible-reading marathon:

RAI state TV began its program called “The Bible Day and Night,” with Benedict reciting the first chapter of the book of Genesis — the holy text’s opening verses about the creation of the world.

The marathon will feature more than 1,200 people reading the Old and New Testament in over seven days and six nights.

Besides Roman Catholics, members of other religions, including Jews, Protestants and Orthodox Christians will participate.

Every few chapters the reading was being interrupted for Christian or Jewish religious music, and opera star Andrea Bocelli led the first interlude Sunday by singing Bach’s “Praise the Lord.”

Hopefully this will inspire more than just a temporary hightened appreciation for scripture, but will cause people to start reading the Bible for themselves.

Reading the Bible Daily

One of the main things I don’t think Christians do enough is read the bible.  I know I don’t.  I went years where I never opened the bible, only hearing it occasionally when I would go to church.  We think to ourselves, “I get it, I know the story.  God created everything, the Jews left Egypt and wandered in the desert.  Jesus came and died for our sins.  What else do I need to know?”  We treat the bible as if it’s some stale source of theology that is best left to our preacher, instead of what it is – God’s primary way of communicating to us.

I recently made a decision to start reading the bible again, setting the goal of reading at least a little bit every day.  It’s hard to do.  We have so many other things filling up our time, it seems like we can’t spare any.  But that’s not true.  Sure, we have a set amount of time every day, and we can only do so much.  How we fill up that time shows us our priorities in life, and trying to make time for bible reading has made me realize that my priorities aren’t entirely in order.

Before I know it, after I get home from work and relax, it’s really late and I still haven’t made time for the bible.  Somehow, I found time to watch a couple of youtube videos, read a ton of news stories, email my friends, IM people on gchat, comment on facebook photos, listen to music, play a bit on my guitar (that I’m still learning), and countless other fillers.  All that, but somehow I have “no time” to read the Bible.

Even after a short time of concentrated effort at reading the Bible regularly, I feel the positive effects.  Being in the word reminds us of who God is, what he has done, and what he promises to do in our lives.  It also connects us directly to our faith.  Protestant broke off, in part, because we felt that everyone had the right to read scripture for themselves.  We don’t need it spoon-fed to us.  We’ve taken something that our ancestors struggled for, and thrown it aside.

Beyond grounding us in the Lord, reading the Bible regularly also corrects us.  It reminds us of God’s standards.  The longer we are out of the word, and out of Christian fellowship, the more we think that we can just live “good,” lives.  Good, of course, being defined by ourselves, and generally loosely.  The Bible lets us know God’s standards very clearly.  We can’t hide from what’s written on the page, and it serves as a useful tool to check ourselves and our behavior.

If you’re not already, I encourage you to take up the same challenge I have placed before myself.  Read the Bible every day. Set a time, perhaps right before bed, and pick a book.  Just start reading.  Don’t treat it as some obscure, dense text.  View it as the living word of God.  You’ll be amazed how just this act can deepen your faith, understanding, and peace.

Pope Decries Godless Nature of Modern Societies

Pope John Paul II did a lot to bring Catholics and Protestants together, and deservedly holds a special place in the heart of American protestants.  He was culturally and socially conservative, which provided the bridge across which our intellectuals crossed, creating a conversational dialogue on issues fundamental to the faith.

Pope Benedict XVI has largely followed in his footsteps, at least doctrinally.  Culturally, there has been a bit of hostility because of certain statements, but on the issues, he is following the path John Paul’s laid.  As Cardinal Ratzinger, under John Paul, Benedict was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, whose job is to “promote and safeguard the doctrine on the faith and morals throughout the Catholic world.”  This organization used to be called the Holy Office of the Inquisition, so you can imagine that they take Catholic teaching pretty seriously.

This past weekend, Benedict opened “worldwide meeting of bishops on the relevance of the Bible for contemporary Catholics:”

“Today, nations once rich in faith and vocations are losing their own identity, under the harmful and destructive influence of a certain modern culture,” said Benedict, who has been pushing for religion to be given more room in society.

A document prepared for the meeting rejects a fundamentalist approach to the Bible and said a key challenge was to clarify for the faithful the relationship of scripture to science.

Benedict is spot on.  It seems that the more material wealth a society has, the less spiritual they are.  Mother Teresa noted the same thing:

There are different kinds of poverty. In India some people live and die in hunger.

But in the West you have another kind of poverty, spiritual poverty. This is far worse. People do not believe in God, do not pray. People do not care for each other. You have the poverty of people who are dissatisfied with what they have, who do not know how to suffer, who give in to despair. This poverty of heart is often more difficult to relieve and to defeat.

Last week, I read 1 and 2 Kings, and the same principal was noted there.  David lived most of life in extremely difficult circumstances – a hard life on the run from Saul.  David’s son, Solomon, reigned over a period of peace and unparalled prosperity.  David was far closer to God than Solomon, who fell away and built places of worship for all of his non-Jewish wives.  David, whose constant companion was suffering, felt the need and closeness of God.  Solomon, who lived in comfort, filled all of his material needs and found no need for God.

Christians all around the world, but especially in the developed, wealthy West ought to pay special attention that we don’t allow material wealth to crowd out God – because the material only provides temporary satisfaction at best, and often not even that.