Category Archives: Religious Freedom

How religious liberty is played out in the current situation in Bulgaria and Eastern Europe.

Who is Your President?

United States presidential candidates in 2016
The United States presidential candidates in 2016

One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor, states Proverbs 29:23.

With political passions engulfing the globe one must ask if believers should stay away from politics? The answer is negative. Simply our “politics” is different. It is of the Kingdom of God, and not of the kingdoms of this world. When Christ declared to Pilate in John 18 that His kingdom is not of this world He did not mean that He is an escapist. Neither did He want that for His disciples. He  meant that the way He and His followers engage in this world defies its principles of corruption and rebellion. Just the opposite, Jesus’s own mission and the one He gave to the church is one of full engagement with the Gospel with all peoples and worldly powers (Matt 28:16-18)

We also need to remember that regardless of our well-devised political systems, and our preferences of one or the other, it is God who places rulers in place, and he removes them, per His own will. The principle of God’s ultimate sovereignty is well described in Daniel, chapter 4.

The Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes. (Daniel 4:25b).

The whole chapter speaks of the sovereignty of God. It overrides the so-called “sovereignty of the people” and of the sovereignty of a “nation.” Democratic elections are not the ultimate source of kingly appointments. See verse 17.

The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.’

The United States presidential elections of 2016 are a perfect example of these truths. Donald Trump, a man laughed at and vehemently opposed by both the political and media establishments, won the elections. His victory should be a sign to all, especially to Christians, that God’s will is ultimate and He is no respecter of man. The eternal plans of God will override all human plans for life and society.

His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:33-35)

Those who were laughing in arrogance at Donald Trump’s efforts to campaign for the presidency are not laughing anymore. They are crying (WARNING: Inappropriate language used by one of the featured political activists at the end of the video clip. Another one’s implied but soundless.).

Today’s planners of a future without God should learn from king Nebuchadnezzar:

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble. (Daniel 4:7)

Faith That Works: Worshiping God or Caesar?

manif-9 septI grew up in communist Bulgaria when public false worship of the national false god was mandatory. One of the major roles of the government, and why not the main purpose, was to ensure obedience to the ideology of the ruling cult – the communist party.

The  photograph o the left has recorded a so called “manifestation” of the people in Bulgaria under communism. All schools, universities, factories, and all workers had to show up for these parades and shout worshipful slogans to the communist party, the state and its leaders. The socialist utopia was at its highest frenzy.
Continue reading Faith That Works: Worshiping God or Caesar?

Freedom of religion and conscience in the Bible – Daniel 6

The Scriptures are filled with witness of how the believers’ faith collides with the deception of ungodly leaders in government and society. One such example we find in Daniel 6.

The excellence in Daniel’s work for the king becomes a source of envy for his “co-workers” in ruling the regions of the empire. They realize that they will not be able to catch him in a work-related blunder so they decide that his faith will be the reason for his fall. The anti-religious freedom lobbyists go to the king and ask him to pass a law that will mandate that for 30 days no one will pray to any other god but him, the king. “Not a bad idea,” the ruler thought.
Continue reading Freedom of religion and conscience in the Bible – Daniel 6

Religious Hatred and the Role of the State [in Bulgaria]

By Viktor Kostov

Published initially in Dnevnik, a daily Bulgarian newspaper, on April 25, 2011, after a violent attack on Jehova’s Witnesses building and assembly indoors in the Bulgarian city of Burgas
Link to video UNAVAILABLE
http://youtu.be/TH6adGKoSOA )

The attack on a religious minority in Burgas is not accidental. Violence against people who had gathered peacefully, without weapons, indoors, on their private property by hooligans whose supreme achievement is to mentally distinguish the colors of their favorite team and that of the opponent and to consider whether the match result is a loss or win.

When under the guise of its power the state violates its own laws the result is violence and division in society.

Continue reading Religious Hatred and the Role of the State [in Bulgaria]

Bulgarian Homeschooling Update

After the August 2010 conference in a remote Bulgarian town the Association for Home Education filed papers with the local court to register as a non-profit. The registration was denied in October. The founders of the registration voted in majority not to appeal the court’s decision to the higher courts. Since then a new homeschooling family in Sofia, a Christian couple with four children, withdrew their children from the state school system.
Continue reading Bulgarian Homeschooling Update

Pornography and religion — equal moral value?

I still remember how 30 years ago, during the years of the atheistic communist regime under which I was growing up we, 10-12 year old boys, had a fun thing to do. We used to go to one of the central streets of our town to look at a window which displayed items of Western diversion and propaganda. Among those items were pornographic magazines and films, and…Bibles and evangelistic tracts.
Continue reading Pornography and religion — equal moral value?

Prayer Letter – March 2009

Prayer Letter – March 2009

Dear Friends,

The last two months were quite busy. It is God’s grace that works in us and helps us do what we do.

Mission in the Orthodox Context Prague, Czech, Feb. 8-11. Viktor presented a report on the totalitarian state and its tendency to use ideology or religion to impose a union of state and society and how this dynamic plays out in the post-communist Bulgarian situation. The report was presented at this scholarly conference held in the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Prague with participants from England, Czech, Romania, Armenia, Russia, Moldova, Ukraine, Bulgaria and other places. Viktor was able to connect with missionaries, missiologists and theologians working in the Eastern European context of various situations where the Orthodox Church is largely perceived as the national church. Our latest spring issue of Freedom for All which will go online before the end of March features several articles presented during the conference.

On the radio. Viktor was the guest in a midnight show on the national radio program “Horizon.” The subject was homeschooling as an alternative to the collapsed Bulgarian state-controlled educational system. There were many callers and a lively discussion. One of the callers almost in an accusing tone said: “You speak like an evangelical!” I told her that I have the constitutional right not to inform her of my convictions but that she is thinking in the right direction.

Moving, moving, moved! The move was a bit extreme since it was cold and snowy, but by God’s grace we are now almost settled into our new apartment in Vidin. We have unpacked all boxes and currently have only an electrical problem to deal with (the way some electricians do wiring here is beyond simple comprehension or explanation) and a few more leaks.

In the courts. Viktor was the counsel at the hearing of a group of Christian pastors in proceedings against a newspaper and a non-profit leader for disseminating false accusations against evangelical Christians on March 9. The next, and possibly final, hearing will be on April 9, in Sofia. This case of national and international importance was filed in order to fend off  other church-like slander against certain evangelical groups in the media.

Freedom of the Faith: Legal and Biblical Dimensions, March 13-15. Viktor prepared and was the main speaker at a seminar hosted by a multiethnic Church in Stara Zagora, a town of 150,000 people, 350 miles from our residence, in the southern part of Bulgaria (the announcement on the web, in Bulgarian).

This seminar dealt with complicated ideas so I brought it down to concepts and ideas which non-specialists could relate to, although freedom is not a difficult subject to connect with. I spoke at five meetings in three days and held two conferences with the main church leader. One attendant wrote to me after the seminar was over: “I would like to express my excellent impression from meeting you these several days at the seminar. All that happened, the understanding and the attitude toward the subject of freedom, gave light and set fire in the meetings. A new way of treating one another as believers was established. Some Jericho walls fell down. This was felt especially when a “strange quietness” was coming down in the room…I’d be happy for you to visit us again. I was seriously shaken and refreshed!”

The Bible is clear – do not brag about yourself, let others speak well of you. I am mentioning this positive feedback because it was the Holy Spirit who was moving and touching the lives and understanding of leaders and church-members during this conference. God’s desire is to bring His freedom to the church so that it will not bear the marks of a culturally burdened society but that of the love and truth of the Son of God and His community. But the words of encouragement by this believer were powerful for me.

Teresa led the church service and the teaching during Viktor and Yavor’s absence on the ministry trip. She had engaged several church members to act out parts of the message. The roles were those of Nicodimus, the woman at the well and doubting Thomas. The Vidin believers, who tend to be less interactive, gave feedback to Teresa only several days later. She was eager to grasp whether the message God had given her had reached the listeners. The remarks were positive.
 
The first activities have started in the Youth Club: the Sunday church meetings, daily prayer meetings, guitar lessons for unchurched teenagers and English lessons, and making hand-made jewelry to sell for support of the club projects. We are meeting every Tuesday with the small leadership team to work out the vision, the activities and the schedule and the management. Danny and Matty have joined the worship band – Matt is playing drums and Dan is on the piano. Yavor, who is a long-time worship leader, forms the band along with his two kids – Sara and Philip. During Sunday church services Viktor is teaching a series on depending on God, not on mammon, especially in a time of economic hardship. We will also be starting a course for young writers (age 16-25) which will last 8 weeks. The course will be hosted weekly in the club and will be lead by Yavor – an author of a collection of short stories, which we published in 2005.

Prayer needs: (1) please, pray for our hosting of 3 visiting teams of short-term missionaries between April 2-11. That we have wisdom about logistics and clear vision of the ministry and outreaches we are to do together; (2) Dealing properly with hostile neighbors in our new place.

Thank you for all your support and love,
Viktor, Teresa, and the boys

To make a donation visit this web page on our site:
http://www.kmission.org/support_us.htm.

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vikkostov@kmission.org