WEEKLY NEWS SUMMARY - JANUARY 12, 2022
In this week's Intersect, read about:
There's Chaos in Kazakhstan. Here's What You Need to Know
“The new year has gotten off to a very bad start in Kazakhstan. On Jan. 1, the government lifted a price cap on fuel, setting off a sudden and steep increase in the cost of liquefied petroleum gas, which most people in the Central Asian nation use to run their vehicles. That move sparked widespread protests that turned violent as security forces cracked down. In the days since, a presidential residence and the mayor's office in Almaty have been burned. The country's main airport has been stormed. As angry Kazakhs clash with police, there have been reports of looting. However, information is sketchy, as authorities have restricted access to the internet and social media in an apparent effort to thwart citizens' power to organize.” read more at NPR
Nearly 8,000 were arrested and over 150 people were killed during violent protests, Kazakhstan officials said Monday. Kazakhstan is a former Soviet republic that lies between Russia and China. A Russia-led alliance of six former Soviet countries sent peacekeeping forces on Thursday, following Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s request for support. Of the move, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken warned, "One lesson of recent history is that once Russians are in your house, it's sometimes very difficult to get them to leave." The Russian foreign ministry responded, “If Antony Blinken loves history lessons so much, then he should take the following into account: when Americans are in your house, it can be difficult to stay alive and not be robbed or raped.” But troops will begin withdrawing after stabilizing the Central Asian nation following the unrest, President Tokayev said on Tuesday, in a speech that took aim at wealthy associates of his predecessor. Distancing himself from his predecessor, Tokayev said that public discontent over income inequality was justified and that he wanted associates of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the ex-president, to share their wealth. Nazarbayev, 81, was the longest-serving leader of any former Soviet state, running Kazakhstan between 1989 and 2019, first as Communist Party boss and then as president. While the people now pay a fortune for gas, the former leader’s family and associates spent a fortune. Kazakhstan, the world's top producer of uranium and ninth biggest oil exporter, looks set to become increasingly beholden to Moscow. Tokayev made a point in his televised address on Friday of thanking Putin for his rapid support. But on the same day, President Tokayev also imposed a nationwide state of emergency and banned religious services, a blow to Kazakhstan's sizable Orthodox Christian population, which observed Christmas on Friday. According to Open Doors, “Legislation dating back to September 2011 restricts the ability to worship freely and Kazakhstan’s government has steadily increased its control over religious expression in the country, which means increased surveillance, raids on church meetings and arrests. It uses the threat of militant Islam to restrict more freedoms. Russian Orthodox churches experience the fewest problems from the government because they do not usually attempt to evangelize the Kazakh population. It is the Kazakh Christians from a Muslim background who bear the worst persecution, both at the hands of the state and from family, friends, and community. Some converts are locked up by their families for long periods, beaten and may eventually be expelled from their communities.”
Pray that God would work through the hearts of the leaders of Kazakhstan. The country has been a single-party government for decades and control is tight. Ask God to make known the truth of His Kingdom to the government. Prayer for Christians, particularly church leaders, who endure government suspicion and interference in their lives. Pray Christians would be able to worship without impediment. And pray for those who have converted from Islam, that they would be protected from oppression and persecution.
Why should the US be concerned about Kazakhstan? This helpful article answers 5 brief questions from the perspective of a former ambassador to the country.
Supreme Court Heard Oral Arguments in Vaccine Mandate Cases
“The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Friday in two cases on an emergency basis. Both cases involve lawsuits stemming from the Biden administration’s attempt to expand vaccination of Americans in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and COVID-19’s seemingly limitless variants. The first case, NFIB v. OSHA, arose from challenges filed by employers (including The Heritage Foundation) and states against the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s vaccine-or-test mandate (known as an emergency temporary standard, an emergency rule applying to employers with 100 employees or more). The second case, Biden v. Missouri, involved state-filed lawsuits that sought to block a vaccine mandate issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under the Medicare and Medicaid laws for workers at health care facilities.” read more at the Daily Signal
The Daily Wire reported that it is possible for the court to rule in favor of one case and against the other. George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley noted that the conservative justices seemed more skeptical of the legality of the OSHA employee mandate than the mandate for healthcare facilities receiving Medicare and Medicaid. The Daily Signal reported that “most of the oral argument in the OSHA and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services cases was devoted to a discussion of the facts rather than to the law,” with much discussion revolving around the severity of the virus and the perceived consequences of refraining from a vaccine mandate. In one instance, Justice Sotomayor incorrectly claimed, “We have over 100,000 children, which we've never had before, in serious condition, many on ventilators.” In an interview on Fox News, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky stated that the actual number of children currently hospitalized from COVID-19 nationwide is less than 3,500. A judge’s duty is not to ask, “what is beneficial for society,” but rather, “what is legal?” Otherwise, the judge could supersede the law written by the representatives of the people. This would override the separation of powers, which is an essential check on the abuse of power and a protection of our liberty. The separation of powers not only refers to the different authorities of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, it also refers to the different authority of the federal government versus the state governments. Jay Sekulow of the ACLJ stated, “I don’t believe that OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has the constitutional or statutory authority to do this.” He believes it should be left to the states to decide. Scott Keller, former Texas solicitor general was correct in arguing that even in the interest of curbing the virus’s spread, “our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends.” Good news came from a federal District Court last Monday. Judge Reed O’Connor issued a preliminary injunction preventing the Biden administration from punishing a group of U.S. Navy SEALS who have religious objections to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Judge O’Connor stated “There is no COVID-19 exception to the First Amendment. There is no military exclusion from our Constitution."
Praise God for the ruling at the lower Court and pray that the Supreme Court will rule justly. Pray for a spirit of humility for all the justices, and that they will seek God’s wisdom in their rulings.
A dear friend who serves as a doctor and heads up the hospital system in my area, is adamant that what is playing out before our eyes is in fact a spiritual battle. Spend time in prayer before our Lord. Use this prayer taken from the book of Daniel as a guide.
Chicago Union Leaders OK Plan to Resume In-person Class
“Students are poised to return to Chicago Public Schools after leaders of the teachers union approved a plan with the nation’s third-largest district late Monday over COVID-19 safety protocols, ending a bitter standoff that canceled classes for five days. While school districts nationwide have faced similar concerns amid skyrocketing COVID-19 cases, the labor fight in union-friendly Chicago amplified concerns over remote learning and other pandemic issues. The deal, which would have students in class Wednesday and teachers back a day earlier, still requires approval with a vote of the union’s roughly 25,000 members.” read more at The Associated Press
In a recent Briefing, the situation was aptly framed, “The union of Chicago public school teachers is so powerful that even the very democratic, very liberal current mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot, has come to understand that the Chicago Teachers Union is the enemy of the good for children and is the enemy of the mayor, in this case. Mayor Lightfoot has made some amazingly candid statements critical of the union and of its leadership.” While the battle between teachers’ unions and city officials continues, it’s the students who are suffering the consequences. Dr. Zeke Emanuel, a former member of President Biden’s COVID-19 task force, stated, “I agree with Mayor Lightfoot that kids have to be in school, and we know that virtual learning did not work. It was a failure across the country and we kept kids out way too long,” School districts across the U.S. say they are seeing a surge of student misbehavior in the return to in-person learning, after months of closures and disruptions due to the pandemic. A principal in Louisiana expressed a sentiment being heard across the US, “We knew it was going to be a problem with kids transitioning back from virtual, because they haven’t been in school for a couple of years. You have eighth-graders that are now 10th-graders or seventh-graders that are now ninth-graders, and no time to really acclimate.” Parents are expressing their concerns as well. Over 55% of parents said virtual learning negatively impacted their children’s academic performance, while 60% said it negatively impacted their mental health, according to a recent survey. An eye-opening blog post by the wife of a school teacher expressed, “Since my husband began teaching about 10 years ago, things in the school system have been changing. Increased activity on devices, video games, and television seem to contribute to the decline. As well as the lockdowns associated with COVID-19. Something seemed to happen during that time when students were unable to go to school last year and the year before. This year the students have come back unruly and disrespectful, even at the once “nice” schools. But this year the level of rebellion and disrespect is at a whole different level…the behavior is school wide – it’s become a culture.” But as she says, “the single most important thing you can do is pray for your teachers.”
Pray for teachers. If you have students in your home, pray for their teachers. Or maybe you know a teacher personally, pray for them. Pray collectively for every teacher that loves the Lord to be strong in their faith and every teacher that doesn’t know the Lord to come to know Him through their jobs. Pray for the students of faith who are struggling to find who they are, how they fit in, and what they can do to make a difference. Pray for God to use them as a light in the darkness and give them boldness through His Spirit. Pray for revival in the schools. That the Holy Spirit would be moving and working even in the darkest places.
Chances are, you know a teacher. In a recent Forbes article, almost half say they are thinking of leaving their jobs because of the overwhelming stress, low morale and the extra burdens being placed on them right now. Reach out to 1 or 2 individuals this week who you know are in the teaching profession and simply give them encouragement and support. A personal note, a small gift, a listening ear, can all go a long way.
Bible Podcasts Are Numbers 1 and 2 on Apple's Chart: 'Interest in the Bible Is Expanding’
“The two most popular podcasts in the United States right now are not about sports, news or even pop culture. They're about the Bible. "The Bible in a Year," hosted by Catholic priest Mike Schmitz, is No. 1 in the U.S. on Apple's podcast charts, while "The Bible Recap," hosted by Tara-Leigh Cobble of D-Group, is No. 2. ‘The Bible in a Year’ features Schmitz reading Scripture and providing commentary in podcasts that span around 20-25 minutes. In ‘The Bible Recap,’ Cobble walks alongside the listener and reviews that day's Bible reading. Each podcast lasts around eight minutes. The podcasts rank higher than podcasts by The New York Times, NBC, Joe Rogan and NPR.” read more at Christian Headlines
To put this in perspective, think of where we have come in history: the Bible was not always available to every common person. The only way most could hear God’s Word was through the teachings of those in church authority–they were dependent on them to accurately convey God’s truth. The advent of the printing press and the first English translation of the Bible marked a breakthrough in the ability of everyone to read and know the Bible for themselves, “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things [the Apostle Paul’s teaching] were so.” (Acts 17:11) The invention of podcasts marks a similar milestone for the Bible’s availability. We not only have access to God’s Word in written and spoken form whenever we want, but if we have an internet connection, we have access to every Bible teacher on the planet. While Christians in China are dealing with the suppression of Bible apps, in America, our particular challenge is to discern correct from false teaching in the sea of abundant information. As our young people encounter various Bible teachings on social media platforms, we must help them learn to recognize the truth, as Timothy’s mother and grandmother did. (1 Timothy 1:5, 3:15) Last week, tens of thousands of 18 to 25-year-olds gathered in Atlanta, Georgia for the Passion 2022 Conference. In accordance with Isaiah 26:8, which says, "Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts," attendees were exhorted to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission, study God’s Word, and live out the purpose for which they were created. Praise God that He is still calling, sanctifying, equipping, and leading many believers, just as He promised! Let us pray that as we read and study His life-giving Word, our attitude would reflect David’s in Psalm 119:97-99, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.”
Father, we praise You for not leaving us alone with no revelation, purpose, or hope. You spoke to us through Your servants who were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21), and You revealed Yourself to us. Give us a willing spirit that desires to read Your Word and know Your truth in this age of confusion. Help us to teach it to our children continually, that they would delight in You.
It is Finished 2022 is dedicated to helping you follow through on your New Year’s resolution and finish reading the Bible…in three months! Visit their website and consider taking the challenge. Click here to learn more.
My Faith Votes—is a nonpartisan movement that motivates, equips and activates Christians in America to vote in every election, transforming our communities and influencing our nation with biblical truth. By partnering with national faith leaders, My Faith Votes provides resources to help Christians Pray, Think, and Act to create an America where God is honored in the public square.