Prayers for our friends on the American Gulf Coast as Hurricane Isaac approaches – UPDATED

From CNN:

As of Tuesday afternoon, Isaac’s maximum sustained winds were at 75 miles per hour, just strong enough to give it hurricane status, as it churned northwest through the Gulf at about 10 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said.

Forecasters expect Isaac to gain strength before it makes landfall, which could be as early as Tuesday evening.

“Hurricane conditions are expected to reach the coast by late afternoon,” and the storm’s center “should reach the coastline of southeastern Louisiana as early as this evening,” the hurricane center said.

Isaac’s forward movement is expected to slow down, and if it slows enough that it makes landfall after midnight, it will strike on Katrina’s seventh anniversary.

Read the rest here.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Louisiana, and especially with Grandmère Mimi, a faithful reader and commenter on this blog, and her husband Tom, who live in Thibodaux, not far from New Orleans.

UPDATE: Mimi says on her Facebook page this morning that they are all OK. Thanks be to God.

‘the wind boisterous’

Yesterday Earl died. He and his wife have been members of our church for over a decade; we all loved Earl’s mischievous sense of humour and his ready willingness to help out when our parish was serving at the soup kitchen at St. Faith’s or the Bissell Centre. Earl was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis four years ago, and his last few days were spent on a respirator. Many people prayed for a miracle, but it didn’t come. His wife and children and grandchildren are going to need a lot of prayer now, and a lot of love.

Marci and I are in that middle stage of life where bits of our bodies are starting to wear out and cause trouble. She goes in for ‘minor surgery’ today (it involves full anaesthetic, but it’s minor…???). In and out without an overnight, so they say.

And meanwhile there’s Joe, recovering at home from surgery for colorectal cancer that left him without much of a bowel system any more, and there’s Terry, travelling down to the Mayo Clinic with her husband to see if the doctors down there can do anything about the headaches that have flummoxed our doctors here. There’s my Dad and Mum, dealing with the challenges posed by Dad’s Parkinson’s disease, and Erika’s Dad, recently diagnosed with lung cancer.

And did I mention that our church is looking seriously into the face of a $1.8 million building project? We need to do it to serve a growing congregation and a growing community, but it’s a step of faith, to be sure! A bit like Peter being invited by Jesus to walk on the water. That was the New Testament reading at Morning Prayer this morning. The challenge was for Peter to keep his eyes firmly fixed on Jesus who had called him, but it wasn’t easy to do. I love how the King James Version puts it:

‘But when (Peter) saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me (Matthew 14:30).

‘The wind boisterous’; yes, we’ve had a lot of that lately, in both the literal and metaphorical senses. Give us grace today, O Lord, to keep our eyes on you, and when we don’t (for one reason or another), reach out your hand to save us.

Update on Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani

Early this morning, the ACLJ received this troubling news from Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani’s attorney in Iran, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah. Mr. Dadkhah firmly denies that the court has agreed to overturn Pastor Youcef’s death sentence. He believes this is a lie spread by the Iranian secret service, even to members of his own family, to stop the media from reporting on this case.

Read the rest here. And please pray.

Please pray for Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani

The following article is lifted in its entirety from the website of Christian Solidarity Worldwide. Please pray.

Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani has twice refused to recant his Christian faith during two court hearings held in Rasht, Gilan Province on 25 and 26 September. Sources close to CSW indicate that recanting will again be demanded at sessions scheduled for 27 and 28 September, and that if he continues to refuse, he will be executed thereafter.

Pastor Nadarkhani was tried and found guilty of apostasy (abandoning Islam) in September 2010 by the court of appeals in Rasht. The verdict was delivered verbally in court, while written confirmation of the death sentence was received nearly two months later. At the appeal in June 2011, the Supreme Court of Iran upheld Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani’s sentence, but asked the court in Rasht, which issued the initial sentence, to re-examine whether or not he had been a practicing Muslim adult prior to converting to Christianity.  The written verdict of the Supreme Court’s decision included provision for annulment of the death sentence if Pastor Nadarkhani recanted his faith.

Following investigation, the court in Rasht has ruled that Pastor Nadarkhani was not a practicing Muslim adult before becoming a Christian.  However, the court has decided that he remains guilty of apostasy because he has Muslim ancestry.  Pastor Nadarkhani’s lawyer, Mr Mohammed Ali Dadkhah, has made it clear to the court that the repeated demand for recanting is against both Iranian law and the constitution.  The court replied that the verdict of the Supreme Court must be applied, regardless of the illegality of the demand.

The death sentence for apostasy is not codified in the Iranian Penal Code.  However, using a loophole in Iran’s constitution, the judges in Rasht based their original verdict on fatwas by Ayatollahs Khomeini, the “father” of Iran’s revolution in 1979, Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, and of Makarem Shirazi, currently the most influential religious leader in Iran.

Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, of the Church of Iran denomination, was arrested in his home city of Rasht on 13 October 2009 while attempting to register his church. His arrest is believed to have been due to his questioning of the Muslim monopoly on the religious instruction of children in Iran. He was initially charged with protesting; however the charges against him were later changed to apostasy and evangelising Muslims. His lawyer, Mr Mohammed Ali Dadkhah, a prominent Iranian human rights defender, is also facing legal difficulties. On Sunday 3 July a court in Tehran sentenced Mr Dadkhah to nine years in jail and a 10-year ban on practicing law or teaching at university for “actions and propaganda against the Islamic regime”. He is currently appealing the sentence.

CSW’s Special Ambassador Stuart Windsor said, “CSW is calling on key members of the international community to urgently raise Pastor Nadarkhani’s case with the Iranian authorities. His life depends on it, and we have grave concerns regarding due process in this case, and also in that of his lawyer, Mr Dadkhah. The verdict handed down to Pastor Nadarkhani is in violation of the international covenants to which Iran is a signatory, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICPPR), which guarantees freedom of religion and freedom to change one’s religion. It also violates article 23 of the Iranian Constitution, which states that no-one should be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.”

Time is of the essence. Please take action today.

CSW is calling for urgent prayer and action on behalf of Pastor Nadarkhani today.  Please email the Iranian embassy as soon as you can, urging them not to go ahead with the execution following the trial.

Here is my email:

To: Mr. Kambiz Sheikh-Hassani, Chargé d’Affaires and Head of Mission, Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Canada

Dear Sir:

I am writing to express my Christian solidarity with my brother in Christ, Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, currently on trial for his life in Iran on the charge of apostasy, although in fact he was never a practising Muslim adult.

As you are no doubt aware, Pastor Nadarkhani has been charged, and faces execution, solely on the basis of his adopting Christian faith. As such, it seems that the Islamic Republic of Iran is violating its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 18 includes a provision for the right to “have or to adopt” a religion, which has been interpreted authoritatively by the UN Human Rights Committee as including the right to change one’s religion. Iran’s constitution sanctions Christianity as a legitimate minority faith and asserts that Christians are allowed to freely carry out their religious rites. Article 23 asserts that no one may be “reprimanded simply because of having a certain belief”. 

I therefore respectfully express my hope that the Iranian judiciary will cease to pursue their current course of action against Pastor Nadarkhani and will acquit him of all charges, in accordance with Iranian and international law.

I thank you for hearing my request and passing it on to the appropriate authorities.

May God bless you and your country.

Yours faithfully,
Tim Chesterton

Joe Walker

Half an hour ago I learned the news that my dear friend Joe Walker died early this morning after a short and increasingly painful battle with cancer.

Joe was one of the truest and most thoughtful and honest Christians I have ever met. He was my friend in prayer, in laughter and fun, in music, and in ministry. He was a true kindred spirit. Rest in peace, my dear friend, and rise in glory.

Meanwhile, let us all pray for Joe’s wife Alisa and for their children Emily, Adam, Sarah Joy, and Justin.

Prayer Request

Those of you who pray, please pray for my good friend and colleague Joe Walker. Joe is married to Alisa and is the father of four school age children, Emily, Adam, Sarah Joy, and Justin; he is also the rector of St. Timothy’s Anglican Church here in Edmonton. Back in June Joe was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive and fast-acting form of cancer; he has one fast-growing tumour in the small intestine and another on the liver. For various reasons his cancer is inoperable, and from a medical point of view all that can be done is to keep him as comfortable as possible.

Joe’s wife Alisa has recently sent out this letter and asked that it be passed around.

July 27th, 2011

Dear Family and Friends and all our Prayer Supporters,

This is the first mass email I am attempting.  If you are a professional in another capacity and wondering why you are on this list, please forgive me I just could not at present remove your name from the group.  To everyone else, please pass this on to your church prayer team or to any friends that you think would like to pray for my husband.

The verses that have been going through my head these last few days are a call to all of us.  Men of faith rise up and sing of the great and glorious king.  You are strong when you feel weak.  In your brokenness you’re complete.  Rise up women of the truth.  Stand and sing to broken hearts.  Who can know the healing power of our awesome King of love.  Rise up church with broken wings.  Fill this place with songs again of our God who reigns on high.  By his grace again we’ll fly.

This is my hearts cry that we will sing and praise God for who He is and with thanksgiving we will make our requests known to him.  It is no secret to God that Joseph and I desire healing this side of heaven.  Today while there is life, I am constantly on God’s lap thanking him for all the ways in which He is providing for us and pleading with him to have mercy on my husband and heal him.  So many of you have been sent by God to support us in different ways and I want you to know how grateful we are and I pray that God will provide for you and meet your needs out of His abundance.  Your time before God’s throne on my husband’s behalf is an incredibly valuable gift.  Thank you.

Last week, we went to the Cross Cancer Institute and at present they are not able to provide any therapy for Joseph.  The intestinal tumour is at present, stage four, and has spread to other organs and chemo would simply make him sicker.  I knew in my gut from the second day that we were in the hospital that we were in a boat from which only God could rescue us.  Now it is official.  After being in the hospital for a month, we have now been home for ten days enjoying each others company.  Joseph’s nausea is better and he is able to keep some food down and his bowels are working so much more effectively.   We thank God for these mercies.  He is exhausted most of the time and we pray for energy and freedom from pain cramps.  All these are big physical issues that seem very scary and sad at times but I am convinced and believe God’s word that nothing is too big for Him.  Nothing is impossible with God.  With stubborn relentless faith we keep asking that the power that raised Christ from the dead and that gives life to us will heal my husband’s body.  In obedience I want to speak words of life.  I will not give up because of what I see in the flesh but I will press on in faith thanking God for what He has done, is doing and will continue to do.  I accept God’s will and pray that it be done.  For today, God’s will is that we pray for each other that we may be healed.  James 5:13-16.

Here are two sections that have encouraged me.  Romans 4:17-21.  Against hope, Abraham believed in hope the promises of God.  Even though his body was as good as dead, He did not waver in unbelief regarding the promises of God but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had the power to do what he had promised.  And Psalm 33 (along with 34, 62, 91).  But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.  We wait in hope for the Lord.  He is our help and our shield.  In him our hearts rejoice for we trust in his holy name.  May your unfailing love rest upon us , O Lord even as we put our hope in you.

Thank you so much for reading this and taking the time to bring us before God in your prayers…

In Christ, Alisa

Please keep them all in your prayers.