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Protestant Denomination Elects First Transgender Bishop, Who Celebrates 'Dismantling' Theology picture
Protestant Denomination Elects First Transgender Bishop, Who Celebrates 'Dismantling' Theology

Hundreds attend prayer vigil after Jesus statue toppled, American flag burned at NYC church picture
Hundreds attend prayer vigil after Jesus statue toppled, American flag burned at NYC church

Just 16 Percent of Millennials Classify as Born-Again Christians, Study Shows picture
Just 16 Percent of Millennials Classify as Born-Again Christians, Study Shows

Evangelical churches hold global prayer for peace in response to Israel-Palestinian conflict picture
Evangelical churches hold global prayer for peace in response to Israel-Palestinian conflict

Senior pastor, football coach arrested for relationship with 17-y-o student picture
Senior pastor, football coach arrested for relationship with 17-y-o student

59 Percent of Bible Readers Still Prefer a Print Copy, But There's a Generation Gap picture
59 Percent of Bible Readers Still Prefer a Print Copy, But There's a Generation Gap

Christians beheaded in Indonesia terror attack picture
Christians beheaded in Indonesia terror attack

Vatican weighs in on US bishops’ debate over denying communion to pro-abortion politicians picture
Vatican weighs in on US bishops’ debate over denying communion to pro-abortion politicians

Pastor Killed after Plane Crashes Into His Home picture
Pastor Killed after Plane Crashes Into His Home

My baby died at 36 days – why I’m embracing his life - Joy Granados picture
My baby died at 36 days – why I’m embracing his life - Joy Granados

Muslim Woman Faces an Honor Killing, Then Finds Hope in Christ After an Audible Voice from Heaven: 'Jesus' picture
Muslim Woman Faces an Honor Killing, Then Finds Hope in Christ After an Audible Voice from Heaven: 'Jesus'

How a special needs son taught his mother how to live picture
How a special needs son taught his mother how to live

Christian counsellor champions ‘biblical masculinity,' laments how men are feeling ‘marginalized’ picture
Christian counsellor champions ‘biblical masculinity,' laments how men are feeling ‘marginalized’

Saddleback Church Ordains Three Women as Pastors despite Denomination's Restrictions picture
Saddleback Church Ordains Three Women as Pastors despite Denomination's Restrictions

Canadian Police Arrest Pastor for Holding 'Illegal In-Person Gathering' picture
Canadian Police Arrest Pastor for Holding 'Illegal In-Person Gathering'

Keep up the good fight, mothers. The world needs you. picture
Keep up the good fight, mothers. The world needs you.

Another Christian Nurse in Pakistan Falsely Accused of Blasphemy picture
Another Christian Nurse in Pakistan Falsely Accused of Blasphemy

Christian and Missionary Alliance to Consider Calling Women Pastors picture
Christian and Missionary Alliance to Consider Calling Women Pastors

Pastor, wife attacked by man who allegedly bit their ears, gouged eyes picture
Pastor, wife attacked by man who allegedly bit their ears, gouged eyes

Biden Becomes 1st President to Omit 'God' from National Day of Prayer Proclamation picture
Biden Becomes 1st President to Omit 'God' from National Day of Prayer Proclamation

Church, be like Nehemiah: Pray, then act - Greg Laurie picture
Church, be like Nehemiah: Pray, then act - Greg Laurie

Where is the Church amidst the chaos of the ungodly - Hedieh Mirahmadi picture
Where is the Church amidst the chaos of the ungodly - Hedieh Mirahmadi

Evangelicals and casual sex picture
Evangelicals and casual sex

Pastor’s wife receives death threats after advocating for COVID vaccines picture
Pastor’s wife receives death threats after advocating for COVID vaccines

There is no shame in sharing your doubts - Jentezen Franklin picture
There is no shame in sharing your doubts - Jentezen Franklin

Pastors warn smartphone addiction 'major issue' in Church, offer solutions picture
Pastors warn smartphone addiction 'major issue' in Church, offer solutions

2 pastors from Beijing's Zion Church arrested 3 years after authorities forced church to close picture
2 pastors from Beijing's Zion Church arrested 3 years after authorities forced church to close

Diocese elects first female bishop amid $500 million legal battle over church property picture
Diocese elects first female bishop amid $500 million legal battle over church property

Police Rescue – then Jail – Christian Family Attacked in India picture
Police Rescue – then Jail – Christian Family Attacked in India

Pastor shares how openly confessing his struggle with same-sex attraction helps him in ministry picture
Pastor shares how openly confessing his struggle with same-sex attraction helps him in ministry

How to share God's truth in a subjective world picture
How to share God's truth in a subjective world

As Jewish followers of Jesus, we deplore deceptive techniques - Micheal Brown picture
As Jewish followers of Jesus, we deplore deceptive techniques - Micheal Brown

Supermodel Kathy Ireland reveals what drew her to Jesus, first encounter with the Bible picture
Supermodel Kathy Ireland reveals what drew her to Jesus, first encounter with the Bible

Texas town votes to become largest 'sanctuary city for the unborn,' ban abortion in most cases picture
Texas town votes to become largest 'sanctuary city for the unborn,' ban abortion in most cases

TD Jakes warns the Church has become 'deaf,' consumed with 'tribalism' picture
TD Jakes warns the Church has become 'deaf,' consumed with 'tribalism'

Is Christian Cohabitation the New Norm? picture
Is Christian Cohabitation the New Norm?

Judge Orders Doors Locked on Canadian Church Yet Pastor Remains Upbeat: 'Caesar Can Have the Brick and Mortar' picture
Judge Orders Doors Locked on Canadian Church Yet Pastor Remains Upbeat: 'Caesar Can Have the Brick and Mortar'

Nigerian church destroyed by herdsmen rebuilt with help of American pastor: It brings ‘healing and hope’ picture
Nigerian church destroyed by herdsmen rebuilt with help of American pastor: It brings ‘healing and hope’

China shuts down Bible App, Christian WeChat as new crackdown policies go into effect picture
China shuts down Bible App, Christian WeChat as new crackdown policies go into effect

Church Celebrates Drag Queen Sunday: Gets Condemned as 'Open Revolt' against God picture
Church Celebrates Drag Queen Sunday: Gets Condemned as 'Open Revolt' against God

Chinese authorities slap Catholic with hefty fine for providing chapel for 'illegal' mass picture
Chinese authorities slap Catholic with hefty fine for providing chapel for 'illegal' mass

Christian photographer continues legal fight against law that may force him to work gay weddings picture
Christian photographer continues legal fight against law that may force him to work gay weddings

Churches, lawmakers take part in 90-hour Bible Reading Marathon picture
Churches, lawmakers take part in 90-hour Bible Reading Marathon

Police in Pakistan Torture Christian into False Confession of Blasphemy picture
Police in Pakistan Torture Christian into False Confession of Blasphemy

Why every Christian must be involved in missionary work - Oscar Amaechina picture
Why every Christian must be involved in missionary work - Oscar Amaechina

Christian MP faces 6 years in prison for tweeting Bible verses on marriage, sexuality picture
Christian MP faces 6 years in prison for tweeting Bible verses on marriage, sexuality

Baptist pastor arrested for allegedly copying video showing girl being raped by adult male picture
Baptist pastor arrested for allegedly copying video showing girl being raped by adult male

Catholic Bishops May Demand Biden, Other Pro-Abortion Politicians Quit Taking Communion picture
Catholic Bishops May Demand Biden, Other Pro-Abortion Politicians Quit Taking Communion

Church is 'vital' to combating mental health crisis picture
Church is 'vital' to combating mental health crisis

Elderly Preacher Roughed Up, Arrested for Preaching Biblical Marriage on UK Street picture
Elderly Preacher Roughed Up, Arrested for Preaching Biblical Marriage on UK Street

From prisoner to pastor: How churches can support second chances - Jon Kelly picture
From prisoner to pastor: How churches can support second chances - Jon Kelly

Temmy's daily devotionals online main picture
By Temmy
Fri, April 30, 2021 9:14am
From prisoner to pastor: How churches can support second chances - Jon Kelly

Jon Kelly and his family. | Courtesy of Jon Kelly
Jon Kelly and his family


I first saw the inside of a jail cell when I was just 13 years old. Like so many people, young and old, I had lost my way. I thought that drugs and violence could save me. Instead, they only brought me, and everyone around me, a great deal of pain. At 19, I was arrested and incarcerated for third-degree murder for a role I played in a shooting that left a young man dead. I thought my life was over. I didn’t feel I had a future anymore.

When I got to prison, all the prison cells were full, and I had to be put in isolation. I sat there alone. I was so bored that I asked one of the corrections officers if they had anything to read and he gave me a Bible. This was the first time I had ever read the Bible. And as I began to read, I realized that God had more for me. He had brought me to that place of isolation so I could feel Him and hear Him without my life getting in the way. Prison was the best thing that ever happened to me.

God instilled in my heart the need to repent and seek forgiveness. I spoke with the family of the man I had helped harm. I had played a part in the death of someone they loved, and it was up to me to make things right. Together, supported by the Church, I overcame the guilt and shame of what happened and found a new way forward.

Today at age 38, I’m a pastor and a preacher of God’s Word. When I first felt God’s Word stirring in my heart, everything changed. In spite of my sin, the Lord reached out to me and gave me new life. I was oppressed by the weight of my sin and guilt, but God set me free to sing His praises and live for His witness.

It may sound incredible, but I don’t really think my story is all that special. At its heart, my story is just the story of the Bible told in my life by Christ working through me. It’s the story of sin, redemption, and second chances. And I know that most prisoners could tell the same story, if we let them. We in the Church just have to show them how.

We know from the Bible that Jesus has made all of us one family in Christ. God’s love is a fatherly love; when we accept that love and receive the good news of the Gospel, we become something that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. We become the family that every sinner needs to find their way back home.

The amazing thing about God’s grace is that it doesn’t discriminate. All are welcome in God’s family, and no one goes away hungry from the Lord’s dinner table. When God calls His people to Himself, every single person on Earth, whether they are at home in their living rooms or currently behind prison bars, is invited to answer.

But that’s not what the world thinks and says. The world divides God’s people into the good and the bad, the upstanding member of society and the outsider, those who belong and those who do not. To the men and women whose broken lives and shattered hearts lead them to crime and incarceration, the world gives nothing but shame and regret.

Plenty of well-meaning people talk a great deal about how to rehabilitate prisoners after they leave prison. They talk about jobs and they talk about housing. They talk about creating opportunities and they talk about building programs. But while all of these factors are important for rebuilding a better life after prison, they aren’t what’s most essential. They don’t address the root causes.

Most fundamentally, crime is always a moral issue. Poverty, joblessness, and other social circumstances can always push a person one way or another. But these situations alone can’t darken someone’s conscience to the harm done by crime or create the hopelessness, unhappiness, and brokenness that drives criminality. When people commit crimes like I did, they do so because they no longer feel that a life of loving, joyful companionship with their neighbors is possible. Men and women who commit crimes have lost their sense of God’s loving family.

So when the world piles shame and regret onto prisoners, it makes building a new life after prison impossible. People in prison are already hurting; the shame, regret, and guilt they feel during and after their sentence is a burden that prevents healing and weighs them down for a lifetime.

That’s what makes the Church so special as a vehicle for change. Only the Church can step into the brokenness at the heart of criminality and speak the saving message of God’s love. Only the Church can make the prisoner feel like they aren’t a leper, like they’re more than their guilt, like they can belong again to a family rich with grace and freedom.

To help give prisoners a second chance, the Church doesn’t need to be perfect. It doesn’t need to have a host of fully fleshed-out programs and resources at its disposal. All that the Church needs is the Gospel and a willingness to love prisoners as they would want to be loved. I speak from my own firsthand experience when I say that nothing is more impactful on the life of a former prisoner than being invited to dinner with friends, being given community responsibilities in a church, and being treated like a beloved family member in God’s kingdom again.

When Jesus was asked what God’s law commands, he answered with a simple message. God calls each of us to love Him with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37). The Church has a vocation to witness to that incredible, amazing love. And I speak both as a former prisoner and as a pastor when I say that that love alone is enough to transform hearts and create second chances that last a lifetime.

Source

https://www.dailydevotionalsonline.com/chatroom.php?alltime=yes#413 

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By Temmy
Fri, April 30, 2021 12:31pm
Elderly Preacher Roughed Up, Arrested for Preaching Biblical Marriage on UK Street

A screenshot from the video of Pastor John Sherwood's arrest by police in northwest London on Friday. Sherwood can be seen in the middle of the image. (Screenshot credit: Christian Concern)
A screenshot from the video of Pastor John Sherwood's arrest by police in northwest London on Friday. Sherwood can be seen in the middle of the image.

A UK Christian street preacher was arrested by police in northwest London on Friday and spent the night in jail because he proclaimed what the Bible says about marriage on a public street.

Breitbart reports Pastor John Sherwood and Pastor Peter Simpson of the Penn Free Methodist Church were preaching outside of the Uxbridge Underground Station located in Prime Minister Boris Johnson's own constituency.

Simpson described what happened to Sherwood in an article for the Conservative Woman website on Tuesday. Sherwood, who's in his early 70s, was preaching to people on the final verses found in Genesis 1 of the Bible's Old Testament.

"God's design in creating mankind was to set human beings in families, headed by a father and a mother, not by two fathers or by two mothers," he said. "The distinction within mankind of just two genders, male and female, made in the image of God, constitutes the essence of God's created order."

Simpson said a number of police officers appeared and began telling Sherwood they had received three complaints about his preaching. An officer reportedly warned him not to make any "homophobic statements."

After speaking to the police, Sherwood resumed his preaching, speaking on freedom of speech. However, a couple of bystanders in the crowd apparently shouted that his preaching was "homophobic" and "hate speech," and the officers returned to the scene.

One of the bystanders captured Sherwood's arrest on video and posted it to social media. The video shows Sherwood standing on a step stool as two police officers are talking to him. Much of their conversation is garbled. However, one police officer who can be heard, asks Sherwood to come down, and the preacher answered him. Then the officer tells Sherwood he is "under arrest" and he needs to "come down." Then three police officers are seen pulling Sherwood off the stool.

As one police officer is holding Sherwood's arm, the preacher tries to pull his arm up. This seems to anger the officer who appears to stop himself from kicking the elderly man.

This draws a response from the person who's videotaping the incident, yelling at police, "You're on camera. You're on camera."

Then two other officers step in to force Sherwood's hands behind his back, roughly treating him as they put him in handcuffs.

"This dignified man of God, who is in his early 70s, was marched off to a nearby police car, as one of the helpers from my church cried out, 'What has happened to us as a nation that a man can no longer preach from the Bible?'" Simpson recalled.

Christian Concern, a Christian rights watchdog in the UK, tweeted the video of Sherwood's arrest, writing: "Arrested for preaching the Bible in North West London. Pastor Sherwood is 75, notice how the arresting officer kicks him?"

In a statement given to Premier Christian News, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: "At 13:35hrs on Friday, 23 April, officers on patrol were flagged down by a member of the public who made them aware of a man allegedly making homophobic comments close to Uxbridge Underground Station."

"A number of other people also approached the officers with concerns about the man's language. Officers spoke with the 71-year-old man and he was subsequently arrested on suspicion of an offense under Section 5 of the Public Order Act," the spokesman said.

The outlet also reported Sherwood remains under investigation as his case has been forwarded to the Crown Prosecution Service for further review.

The elderly pastor spent the night in a detention center located near Heathrow Airport and was not released until noon the following day, according to Simpson.

Sherwood told Breitbart that during his stay in jail, he was questioned by officers about what he would do if he had a homosexual child.

"It is surely the task of police to ask questions about the specific alleged offense, not more general questions about why someone holds a personal view on an aspect of Biblical morality," he said.

This is not the first time Christian street preachers have had a run-in with the London police. As CBN News reported in February of 2019, preacher Oluwole Ilesanmi was wrongfully arrested by police when he was falsely accused of 'Islamophobia'. Video of Ilesanmi's arrest went viral on social media.

The viral video of the incident showed police yanking a Bible from Ilesanmi's hand, while he was pleading "don't take my Bible away. All I wanted was for them to understand the Word of God."

One month later, the Metropolitan police told CBN's Faithwire that, after it became clear that Olu had done nothing wrong, he was subsequently "de-arrested" and no charges were filed.

Ilesanmi was later awarded around $3,100 by Scotland Yard in July of 2019 after an investigation into the incident.

A metropolitan police spokesman said: "The Met respects and upholds the rights of all individuals to practice freedom of speech, and this includes street preachers of all religions and backgrounds. However, if the language someone uses is perceived as being a potential hate crime, it is only right that we investigate. In this case, it was deemed appropriate to remove the man from the area," according to Dailymail.com

Source

https://www.dailydevotionalsonline.com/chatroom.php?alltime=yes#415 

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By Temmy
Fri, April 30, 2021 12:46pm
Updated
Church is 'vital' to combating mental health crisis

Saddleback Church co-founder Kay Warren speaks at the 2021 EPA Christian Media Convention on April 29, 2021. | EPA Conference/Screenshot
Saddleback Church co-founder Kay Warren speaks at the 2021 EPA Christian Media Convention on April 29, 2021

As the pandemic has resulted in increased anxiety and depressive disorder among Americans, Saddleback Church co-founder Kay Warren says the Church can play a unique role in caring for those with mental illness and their families no matter how “messy” situations might be.

During a message delivered Thursday at the 2021 Evangelical Press Association Christian Media Convention, Warren, who co-founded the California-based megachurch with her husband, Rick, reflected on the death of her son, Matthew. He took his own life in 2013 after a life-long battle with mental illness.

“I'll tell you — I will miss my son every day for the rest of my life, until that glorious resurrection day when I see Jesus and see Matthew again,” she said.

After Matthew’s death, Warren founded Saddleback’s Hope for Mental Health Initiative to support individuals and family members of loved ones with mental illness and suicidal ideation.

She shared statistics revealing that one in five adults in the United States and one in five children will be affected by mental illness in the coming year. Suicide has become the second leading cause of death among people 10 to 34 years of age.

“Where do people go who are living with mental health challenges? Where do they go to find compassionate care and understanding? Where can they find hope for their dark days?” Warren asked. “I really believe that the Church of Jesus Christ needs to be that safe, welcoming, and compassionate place for all who suffer.”

“There's a desperate need for the Church to engage with individuals with mental health challenges and their families,” she added. “The Church is positioned to take strong leadership and to provide the help that others can't.”

The Kaiser Family Foundation reported in February that about four in 10 adults in the U.S. have during the pandemic reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, an increase from one in 10 who reported these symptoms in 2019.

The report also found that young adults have experienced various pandemic-related consequences, such as the closure of schools and loss of income that may contribute to poor mental health.

The foundation notes that during the pandemic, 56% of 18 to 24-year-olds reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder and are more likely than all adults to report substance use and suicidal thoughts.

Stressing that the Church can “fill in the gaps” that government programs and secular organizations leave behind, Warren cited statistics revealing that 25% of people who are seeking help in a mental health crisis will go to their priest, rabbi or pastor before they'll go to a mental health professional or physician.

“I seriously beg you, don't walk by the Church of God on your way to engaging the world on critical issues like mental illness,” Warren said. “It's going to be messy ... [but] the Church is the only vehicle that God has chosen to spread his message of compassion and mercy, and at the center of it all is Christ and His body, the Church.”

“You can't say you love Jesus and hate His Church or have no use for it or ignore it,” she continued. “It is His body, and in His church, in His body, there is a place for everyone.”

It doesn’t require a large church congregation or excessive wealth “to have an attitude of mercy and compassion and tenderness,” Warren said. Instead, it requires a “decision to care, to let your heart be touched by the suffering of fellow human beings, to allow their pain in some way to touch yours.”

A 2014 survey from Lifeway Research found that nearly half of pastors (49%) “rarely or never speak to their church in sermons or large group settings about acute mental illness.”

Additionally, about one in four individuals said they had either “stopped attending church, had not found a church to attend or had changed churches based on the church’s response to mental health issues.”

Mental illness “dehumanizes” people, Warren stressed. But the Church has the opportunity to open its arms and befriend and listen to those struggling.

“What if we held each other's hearts in our hands for a few moments and validated each other's significance ... and provided each other with the comfort that God has given to us,” she said.

The “most powerful thing” the faith community can do is “remove the debilitating stigma and rejection that those living with a mental illness encounter,” Warren said, adding: “The faith community is what I call a legitimizing force in society. If the Church says you're OK, you're OK."

The primary reason many people struggling with mental illness don’t seek help, she explained, is due to the stigma attached to it. But the Bible is clear that having an illness doesn’t mean “that you’re not valuable or that there’s something spiritually wrong,” she assured.

“Nobody wants to be thought of as having a mental health challenge,” Warren pointed out. “Mental illness is part of our body; it's part of the physical part of our body. And when you can let people know that it's not a sin to be sick and your church is a … safe place to bring your brokenness, then we're beginning to remove the stigma.”

Warren encouraged churches to hold mental health seminars, compile a list of some mental health professionals for referral purposes and offer hope to those struggling with mental illness.

The LifeWay study found that 68% of pastors surveyed said their churches maintain a list of local mental health resources for church members. Still, only about 28% said that families are aware those resources exist.

“Hope is the most valuable commodity that we have in the Church to offer people in profound pain,” she said.

“The Church is to offer hope at every stage and phase of life. That's what makes us different from every other organization trying to offer help in this space. We're here to stay. And we're here to continue to hold out hope.”

Source

https://www.dailydevotionalsonline.com/chatroom.php?alltime=yes#416 

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By Temmy
Fri, April 30, 2021 1:37pm
Updated
Catholic Bishops May Demand Biden, Other Pro-Abortion Politicians Quit Taking Communion

President Joe Biden in the Oval Office of the White House (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)President Joe Biden in the Oval Office of the White House

In June, Catholic bishops in the U.S. may decide to demand President Joe Biden and other pro-abortion politicians stop taking Communion.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee will be drafting a new document to clarify its position on how to appropriately address professing Catholic politicians who defy official Church teaching on abortion.

Kansas City Archbishop Joseph Naumann told the outlet Biden “presents a unique problem” for Catholics in that he claims to be devout but supports abortion and its expansion.

“It can create confusion,” Naumann said. “How can he say he’s a devout Catholic, and he’s doing these things that are contrary to the Church’s teaching?”

The official Catholic teaching from the Vatican states human life “must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception” and “from the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person — among which is the inviolable right to every innocent being of life.”

While this issue has certainly been raised before, it is of renewed importance to many Catholics as Biden is only the second Catholic president in the country’s history and the first to very clearly espouse pro-abortion views.

Naumann described Biden’s public view of abortion as “a grave moral evil.” In February, the archbishop told Catholic World Report that Biden “should stop defining himself as a devout Catholic.”

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone told the AP there is a “growing sense of urgency” on the matter, explaining, “Abortion is not just one among many important issues.”

“It is a direct attack on human life,” he said.

If approved, Naumann explained, the document would clarify that Biden and politicians with similar views should not present themselves for Communion.

The proposal must receive a two-thirds majority vote among the USCCB’s members in order to be approved.

There are some within the USCCB who disagree with the proposal.

San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy said he does not “see how depriving the president or other political leaders of the Eucharist based on their public policy stance can be interpreted in our society as anything other than a weaponized ion of the Eucharist … to pummel them into submission.”

As it stands right now, individual bishops are free to grant or deny Biden — or any other person — Communion. In October 2019, when he was still running for the Democratic presidential nomination, a Catholic priest in South Carolina denied Communion to Biden because of his pro-abortion views.

“Holy Communion signifies we are one with God, each other, and the Church,” Father Robert Morey of Saint Anthony Catholic Church explained at the time. “Our actions should reflect that. Any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of Church teaching.”

This week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki pushed back against the USCCB for its condemnation of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, who announced in April the Biden administration would be doing away with former President Donald Trump’s ban on the use of aborted fetal tissue for medical research.

Naumann said the “bodies of children killed by abortion deserve the same respect as that of any other person,” adding the government “has no right to treat innocent abortion victims as a commodity that can be scavenged for body parts to be used in research.”

“I think the White House respectfully disagrees,” said Psaki. “We believe that it’s important to invest in science and look for opportunities to cure diseases and that’s what I think this is hopeful to do.”

Source

https://www.dailydevotionalsonline.com/chatroom.php?alltime=yes#417 

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By Temmy
Fri, April 30, 2021 4:25pm
Baptist pastor arrested for allegedly copying video showing girl being raped by adult male

T. Elliott Welch, 34, is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Stanleyville, N.C. | Facebook/Stanleyville Baptist Church
T. Elliott Welch, 34, is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Stanleyville, N.C.

Two days after authorities arrested T. Elliott Welch, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Stanleyville, North Carolina, for allegedly possessing child pornography, the church has yet to respond publicly to the allegations against their spiritual leader.

The Forsyth County Sheriff's Office announced on Tuesday evening that they arrested Welch, 34, after receiving a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

“We recently received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that an individual was uploading child pornography to the internet. After completing a search warrant at the residence in Tobaccoville, we arrested and charged T Elliott Welch, a 34-year-old white male with one (1) count of Second Degree Sexual Exploitation of a Minor,” police noted in a statement.

Second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor occurs when someone "knowingly records, photographs, films, develops, or duplicates material that contains a visual representation of a minor engaged in sexual activity or distributes, transports, exhibits, receives, sells, purchases, exchanges, or solicits material that contains a visual representation of a minor engaged in sexual activity," the statement added.

According to an arrest warrant, material showing a man raping a nude girl, who's believed to be between the ages of 10 and 12, was allegedly copied by Welch, the Greensboro News and Record reports.

Welch was detained at the Forsyth County Law Enforcement Detention Center with a secured bond of $50,000. Officials at the center confirmed with The Christian Post on Thursday morning that the pastor was released on bond Wednesday and he is scheduled to appear in court on May 13.

Calls made to both the church and Welch’s home went unanswered Thursday. A recorded message from First Baptist Church of Stanleyville still names him as their lead pastor.

While the church’s website has been disabled, social media accounts for the church, including its Facebook page, remain live. Nothing new has been shared on the page since Tuesday, despite calls from concerned members of the public and church community calling for the church to address the charge. Some on Facebook reminded commenters that Welch, who is married with four children, is innocent until proven guilty.

Information cited by the News and Record before the church’s website was disabled said Welch became their lead pastor in February 2020. Before that, he served as an associate pastor and minister of students at the church for nearly six years.

Source

https://www.dailydevotionalsonline.com/chatroom.php?alltime=yes#418 

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By Temmy
Sat, May 01, 2021 10:29pm
Updated
Christian MP faces 6 years in prison for tweeting Bible verses on marriage, sexuality

Finnish Member of Parliament, Päivi Räsänen. | ADF International
Finnish Member of Parliament, Päivi Räsänen

A Christian member of the Finnish Parliament is facing six years imprisonment for allegedly committing three crimes, including “hate speech,” for sharing her opinion on marriage and human sexuality on social media, on television and in a pamphlet.

The country’s chief prosecutor has brought three criminal charges against Finnish Member of Parliament and former Minister of the Interior, Päivi Räsänen, according to the Austria-based Christian legal group ADF International.

The politician, who is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and former chair of the Christian Democrats, has been under police investigation since June 2019 for publicly voicing her opinion on marriage and human sexuality in a 2004 pamphlet, for comments made on a 2018 TV show, and a tweet directed at her church leadership.

A medical doctor, mother of five and grandmother of six, Räsänen now faces two years in prison for each alleged crime, the group said.

“I cannot accept that voicing my religious beliefs could mean imprisonment,” said Räsänen in a statement issued by ADF International, which is representing her. “I do not consider myself guilty of threatening, slandering or insulting anyone. My statements were all based on the Bible’s teachings on marriage and sexuality.”

A Member of Parliament since 1995, Räsänen said she will “defend my right to confess my faith so that no one else would be deprived of their right to freedom of religion and speech.”

She said she holds on to “the view that my expressions are legal and they should not be censored.”

“I will not back down from my views. I will not be intimidated into hiding my faith. The more Christians keep silent on controversial themes, the narrower the space for freedom of speech gets,” she said.

ADF International Executive Director Paul Coleman added, “Freedom of speech is one of the cornerstones of democracy.”

“The Finnish Prosecutor General’s decision to bring these charges against Dr. Räsänen creates a culture of fear and censorship,” Coleman continued. “It is sobering that such cases are becoming all too common throughout Europe. If committed civil servants like Päivi Räsänen are criminally charged for voicing their deeply held beliefs, it creates a chilling effect for everyone’s right to speak freely.”

In 2019, Räsänen wrote a tweet questioning the leadership of her church for sponsoring the LGBT event “Pride 2019,” it was accompanied by an image of a Bible verse. As a result, she was accused of hate speech and interrogated by the police.

About the pamphlet, ADF International explained that Räsänen wrote it more than 16 years earlier to outline the official teaching of her own church on human sexuality. “Despite the police previously concluding that no crime had been committed, the Prosecutor General re-opened the file,” ADF International said.

The investigations include her comments on a TV show in 2018 in which the presenter came to her home and stayed overnight. In the program, they discussed religious matters, including Räsänen’s personal beliefs.

In a radio interview in 2019, Räsänen commented on the show’s topic of discussion, “What would Jesus think about homosexuals?”

In her 2019 tweet, she cited Romans 24-27 and posted a picture of the passage from the Bible.

The passage reads: “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.

“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

Räsänen is no stranger to controversy as she has become known as a prominent Finnish defender of traditional Christian views on marriage, euthanasia and abortion.

As Evangelical Focus noted earlier, Räsänen’s views are often more conservative than those in the ECLF leadership.

Source

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By Temmy
Sat, May 01, 2021 11:04pm
Updated
Why every Christian must be involved in missionary work - Oscar Amaechina


Oscar Amaechina is the president of Afri-Mission and Evangelism Network, Abuja, Nigeria. His calling is to take the gospel to where no one has neither preached nor heard about Jesus. He is the author of the book Mystery Of The Cross Revealed.

Every believer is a missionary by calling. The command of "Go Ye" is a general calling, but many Christians are wondering if it applies to them. The absence of discipleship in churches is responsible for this wrong assumption that there are specific people who are called for missionary work. It is true that not every Christian is deployed to the mission field, but those who are not commissioned to go to the field are commissioned to hold life lines for those who are.

We must all be involved because the command of "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Mathew 28:19) is not an option but a command that must be obeyed.

In Africa the last words of a dying man is taken to heart by his children. They work very hard to fulfill the wishes of their dead father and the children always remember and make references to such words as, "Before our father died, he told us…". The command of "Go Ye" is the last instruction that Jesus gave to His disciples in His earthly ministry and the early church took this instruction seriously, evangelizing Jerusalem, Judea, all Samaria and the uttermost part of the earth.

Are we expecting Jesus to come down with host of angels to evangelize the world? How can they hear if no missionary is sent to them? (Roman 10:14) Material things are important in this life but they will someday pass away, but the souls of men are eternal. Every Christians should invest in missions by going to work in the fields, by giving their money to support those who are called to spend all their lives laboring to reach the unreached, and by praying for success of the soul harvest project.

There is no better time to preach the Gospel than now; science is failing, disasters and calamities are on the increase. Many are searching for God for help. "He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame" (Proverbs 10:5). May we wake up from this disgraceful slumber because there is no time; Jesus will soon return and every believer will give account of his stewardship on the mandate of The Great Commission.

In Nigeria, it has become imperative that every Christian be involved in missionary work because if we do not, we stand the chance of becoming the last generation of Christians. According to Pastor Emmanuel Bosun (Secretary of Nigerian Christian Elders Forum), "Realistically speaking, Christianity is on the brink of extinction in Nigeria. The ascendancy of Sharia ideology in Nigeria rings the death toll for the Nigerian church. In 2018, we can say in 25 years from now, we are facing the risk of being the last Christians in Nigeria." If we refused to embark on aggressive evangelization of the entire Nigeria, we risk being wiped out.

All must be involved because of the unfulfilled prophecies concerning the return of Christ. Jesus stated that one of the preconditions for Him to return is that the Gospel of the kingdom must be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations (Mathew 24:14).

The return of Christ is a blessed hope for the persecuted Christians and all hands must be on deck to facilitate this return by going, giving and groaning so that the entire
world will hear the Gospel of the Kingdom that will serve as a witness to all nations.

Source

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By Temmy
Sat, May 01, 2021 11:58pm
Police in Pakistan Torture Christian into False Confession of Blasphemy

Picture of man in handcuffs

Police in Pakistan tortured a Christian man into confessing to a false allegation of blaspheming Islam and illegally kept him in custody for more than two months, his attorney said.

Salamat Mansha Masih’s attorney, Aneeqa Maria of The Voice Society, said police were required to present the 26-year-old Christian before a judge within 24 hours of arrest. Lahore police arrested Masih on Feb. 13 after Muslims overheard him reading the Bible in a park and accused him and a friend of ridiculing Islam and its prophet.

Masih was in custody for two months and three days before he was presented before a judge on April 16, Maria said.

“During this period, he was kept in at least three different police stations and illegal torture cells, where he was mentally and physically tortured to confess to the baseless accusation,” Maria told Morning Star News.

While incarcerated, police repeatedly threatened to kill him, she said. Family members were not allowed to meet him, and his mother and siblings saw him for the first time in two months when the police brought him to jail after his appearance before a judge. Even then police did not let them talk to Masih, whose father died 20 years ago, until a week later, she said.

“When we were finally able to talk to Salamat in private at the District Camp Jail in Lahore on Friday [April 23], he told us that he had suffered immense torture and verbal abuse during his illegal confinement,” Maria told Morning Star News. “The police investigators forced him to admit to blasphemy. They also tortured him into naming other members of the Bible study circle.”

Authorities also questioned him about the whereabouts of the friend with whom he was reading the Bible, Haroon Ayub Masih, also charged, who fled the city after gaining pre-arrest bail, she said.


The attorney said she regretted that neither the court nor senior police officials have taken notice of officers' illegal actions against Salamat Masih.

“This is a serious human rights violation, yet no one seems to be bothered about it,” Maria said, adding that she was preparing to seek bail for him despite slim chances of success.

“Obtaining bails in blasphemy cases has become virtually impossible now,” she said, citing pressure by an Islamist political party and a hardline group of Muslim lawyers to keep judges from granting bail. “One of my clients, Patras Masih, a 23-year-old blasphemy accused, is in jail for the last three years. I’ve moved six bail petitions for his release on statutory grounds, however, the judges keep issuing notices to the prosecution at every hearing instead of granting him bail.”

Masih and his friend, the 26-year-old Haroon Ayub Masih, were studying the Bible in Lahore’s Model Town Park on Feb. 13 when a group of Muslims approached and told them they should not read the Bible in public, Maria said. Haroon Masih returned home after the Muslims left, and when they returned to find Salamat Masih still at the park, the group summoned the park’s security personnel and falsely accused the two Christians of using derogatory words for the Koran and Muhammad, Maria said.

She said someone from the group of Muslims then called the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a far-right Islamist political party reportedly behind most blasphemy cases against Christians and the Ahmadiyya, a sect originating in Islam that Muslims repudiate.

The TLP leaders arrived and pressured police to register a case against the two Christians for derogatory remarks against Muhammad (Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code), punishable by death; defiling the Koran (Section 295-B), punishable by imprisonment for life and fine; and deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings (Section 295-A), punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine, Maria said. The complainant is listed as Haroon Ahmed.

When police started conducting raids on Bible circle members and taking them into illegal custody where they were also brutally tortured, Haroon Masih decided to flee the city, she said.

The Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and Khatam-e-Nabuwwat Lawyers Forum are believed to be involved in all blasphemy cases involving Pakistani minorities, especially Christians, Shia Muslims and Ahmedis in Punjab and Sindh provinces.

BLASPHEMY CASES
Earlier this month, two Christian nurses complying with a supervisor’s orders to remove stickers at a government hospital were arrested in Faisalabad after a Muslim employee attacked one of them with a knife for the removal of a sticker bearing Koranic verses.

Nurse Mariam Lal and student nurse Navish Arooj were charged under Section 295-B of Pakistan’s blasphemy statutes against “defiling the Koran” after an Islamist mob led by Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan demanded “death to blasphemers” inside Faisalabad Civil Hospital.

The blasphemy accusations against the two women come after Tabeeta Gill, a nurse at a Karachi hospital and a gospel singer, was slapped, beaten and locked in a room by a violent mob on Jan. 28 after a Muslim co-worker baselessly accused her of blaspheming Islam.

Police initially cleared Gill of denigrating Muhammad but later succumbed to pressure of an Islamist mob that converged on their station and charged her under Section 295-C.

False accusations of blaspheming Islam in Pakistan are common, often motivated by personal vendettas or religious hatred. The highly inflammatory accusations have the potential to spark mob lynchings, vigilante murders and mass protests. Currently, 24 Christians are in prison due to blasphemy charges. They are defendants in 21 blasphemy cases at various levels of the judicial process.

The government’s failure to curb the misuse of the blasphemy laws is emboldening false accusers, rights activists and church leaders say.

The U.S. State Department on Dec. 7 re-designated Pakistan among nine other “Countries of Particular Concern” for severe violations of religious freedom. Previously Pakistan had been added to the list on Nov. 28, 2018.

Source

Pakistan ranked fifth on Christian support organization Open Doors 2021 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

https://www.dailydevotionalsonline.com/chatroom.php?alltime=yes#421 

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By Temmy
Sun, May 02, 2021 12:06am
Churches, lawmakers take part in 90-hour Bible Reading Marathon

Thelma Dephas of Shiloh Baptist Church in Landover, Maryland, seen taking part in the 20th annual U.S. Capitol Bible Reading Marathon, a 90-hour front to back oral reading of the bible on May 6, 2009, on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. | TIM SLOAN/AFP via Getty Images
Thelma Dephas of Shiloh Baptist Church in Landover, Maryland, seen taking part in the 20th annual U.S. Capitol Bible Reading Marathon, a 90-hour front to back oral reading of the bible on May 6, 2009, on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

The annual 90-hour Bible Reading Marathon will kick off in Washington, D.C., Saturday as several congregations and members of Congress are expected to take turns reading from Genesis to Revelation in about four days.

The 32nd annual D.C. Bible Reading Marathon will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday. It will continue through 10 a.m. Wednesday. Hosted by the Indiana-based Bible distribution ministry Seedline International, the event will also be streamed online.

The event traditionally has taken place every spring on the West Terrace of the U.S. Capitol and has featured readings from members of Congress.

But the coronavirus pandemic postponed last year’s Bible Reading Marathon to September. This year, the impending inauguration forced the Bible Reading Marathon to find an alternate venue.

Last year, the event took place inside the headquarters of the evangelistic organization Faith and Liberty, located near the U.S. Supreme Court on Second Street. The organization seeks to take the “Gospel of Jesus Christ to the nation’s top elected and appointed officials.”

While Davidson sought to return the event to the U.S. Capitol this year, it will again take place inside the Faith and Liberty office.

Seedline International Director Keith Davidson told The Christian Post that the Capitol is still surrounded by fencing and razor wire, and they'd need a waiver to hold the reading for four consecutive days.

“So we weren’t able to secure that through the … Congress as of yet,” Davidson added.

In the past, prominent speakers, including elected officials, have participated in the Bible Reading Marathon.

Davidson said that this year, members of the House and some Senators will be participating by reading Scripture virtually. However, he couldn’t disclose which lawmakers because “it’s all questionable at this point.” He said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a former Republican presidential candidate, recorded a one-minute introduction.

“I think the Bible’s our first, most important document we have, and then the second would be our Constitution in this country,” he said. “And of course, the Constitution was … founded on biblical principles. And so, our goal is to try to get people to return back to that or think about that or show them the importance of it.”

Since the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, much of the Capitol has been surrounded by fencing and razor wire.

Davidson told CP that although “the fence is still up and they haven’t been issuing any permits as of yet,” he has applied for a permit to hold next year’s marathon on the West Terrace once again.

“Normally, when we’re outside … people sit in the front or groups stop and listen and certainly come by, but that’s the disadvantage of being in the building,” he said. “We will have the allowable limit — I think it’s 25 or 50. But we won’t have that many in the building because the building’s not that size, but we’ll have folks coming through. They’ll come read and then leave.”

Like 2020’s Bible Reading Marathon, the 2021 event will include a virtual component. Davidson estimates that between 400 to 500 people will participate online.

“We have 360 15-minute slots to fill. And this time, because of virtual reading, we had several churches who ... signed up,” he said.

“And so, they’ll take their time, and part of their congregation will be reading in that timeslot. So there will be some taking one hour, some two hours, so that all their congregants can read a portion of the scripture.”

Davidson lamented that “we have strayed extremely far” from biblical principles. But he remained optimistic that “there’s still a strong base” of “Christian believers and Christian principles” even though a majority of the country’s leadership has embraced “worldly” principles. He hopes that the marathon will inspire the nation to re-embrace biblical principles.

Source

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By Temmy
Sun, May 02, 2021 12:13am
Christian photographer continues legal fight against law that may force him to work gay weddings

Robert Updegrove, a religious photographer based in Virginia, sued the state over the Virginia Values Act, a law passed in 2020 that expanded discrimination protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity. | Alliance Defending Freedom
Robert Updegrove, a religious photographer based in Virginia, sued the state over the Virginia Values Act, a law passed in 2020 that expanded discrimination protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

A photographer suing Virginia over a law that would force him to service same-sex weddings despite religious objections is continuing his legal battle after a district court dismissed his complaint.

The Alliance Defending Freedom filed an appeal on Wednesday on behalf of Robert Updegrove of Bob Updegrove Photography in Updegrove v. Herring.

At issue is the Virginia Values Act, a law that took effect last July that expanded state anti-discrimination rules to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The law has been the subject of litigation from those who believe that, among other things, it unlawfully violates the religious liberty of business owners who seek to conduct their business in accordance with their religious beliefs in traditional marriage.

According to legal filings, Updegrove seeks to conduct his custom photography business for engagement sessions and wedding ceremonies "celebrating the union of one man and one woman" and "evaluates every wedding photography request he receives to determine whether he can fulfill that request consistent with his artistic judgment and religious beliefs."

ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs said in a statement released Thursday that he believes artists like Updegrove “should be free to choose the messages they promote.”

“But because of the state’s interpretation of its law, photographers like Bob face an impossible choice: violate the law and risk bankruptcy, promote views against their faith, or close down,” stated Scruggs.

“Bob and other artists deserve to have clarity on how this law affects their business. Free speech is too important, and the First Amendment protects everyone, no matter what side of an issue a person lands on.”

In late March, U.S. District Court Judge Claude M. Hilton ruled against Updegrove, arguing in part that the photographer lacked standing since the act “has never been enforced against” him “or any other person.”

“In the almost nine months since the statute became effective, no complaint has been filed under the statute,” wrote Hilton, an Reagan appointee.

“No case or controversy exists when a person expresses a desire to change his previously compliant conduct to violate a new statute that no person, government or otherwise, has ever sought to enforce.”

Formerly Senate Bill 868, the Virginia Values Act was sponsored by Democratic Sen. Adam Ebbin and signed into law by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam in April 2020.

In a statement last year, Northam said the law “sends a strong, clear message” that “Virginia is a place where all people are welcome to live, work, visit, and raise a family.”

“We are building an inclusive Commonwealth where there is opportunity for everyone, and everyone is treated fairly,” stated the governor at the time.

“No longer will LGBTQ Virginians have to fear being fired, evicted, or denied service in public places because of who they are.”

Virginia’s Virginia Values Act became the subject of multiple lawsuits, including ministry groups that took issue with the lack of religious exemptions for the act’s measures.

Last October, a group of churches and Christian private schools sued the state. They claimed the law forced them to “hire employees who do not share and follow their beliefs on biblical marriage, sexuality, and gender,” “prohibit the Ministries from terminating employees who oppose their missions and convictions,” and “make the Ministries use their facilities in a way that contradicts biblical teachings on sexuality, marriage, and gender.”

“SB 868 puts the Ministries in an impossible position: they must either abandon the religious convictions they were founded upon, or be ready to face investigations, an onerous administrative process, fines up to $100,000 for each violation, unlimited compensatory and punitive damages and attorney-fee awards, and court orders forcing them to engage in actions that would violate their consciences,” stated the complaint in part.

Similar lawsuits have been filed in other states.

Last August, a federal judge appointed by former President Donald Trump in Kentucky ruled that the city of Louisville cannot require a Christian photographer to work same-sex weddings because the “Constitution does not require a choice between gay rights and freedom of speech.”

Source

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By Temmy
Sun, May 02, 2021 12:27am
Chinese authorities slap Catholic with hefty fine for providing chapel for 'illegal' mass

Catholics sing on Christmas eve at a church in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, China, December 24, 2015. | (Photo: Reuters/Jon Woo)
Catholics sing on Christmas eve at a church in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, China, December 24, 2015.

Authorities with the Chinese Communist Party are now punishing those who provide worship venues for believers as religious persecution continues to escalate in the country.

According to Asia News, a Catholic in the town of Wangli in the Zhejiang province was fined last month for offering his private chapel to the bishop of Wenzhou diocese, Msgr. Peter Shao Zhumin.

Zhumin is only recognized by the Vatican, not by the Chinese Communist Party.

On March 16, Huang Ruixun, 56, offered his chapel to Shao and about 20 Catholics. Shortly after that, he was sentenced to a hefty fine of 200,000 yuan (the equivalent of about $30,000) under the charge of hosting the bishop for “illegal religious activities, also providing him with lunch, a rest room, etc.”

Huang was accused of violating the state-sanctioned church’s principle since Shao “was ordained by a foreign institution,” which “goes against the principle of independence, autonomy and self-administration of the Church in China.”

A 2018 China-Vatican Agreement, renewed last year, permits the Chinese government to propose new bishops to the Vatican through its state-approved Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, with the pope having veto power on the decision.

At the time of the signing, the Vatican said it hoped the deal would promote unity among China’s estimated 10 million to 12 million Catholics.

According to the press agency of the Roman Catholic Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, the complaint against Huang states that "facilitating illegal religious activities" is against regulations requiring that religious activities take place in places registered by the government.

The unofficial Catholic Church in China continues to suffer, and religious persecution has worsened in recent years.

Recently, the CCP shut down two Catholic Church-run children’s homes: St. Joseph’s Disabled Infant Home in Renqiu, Xianxian, in the Diocese of Cangzhou, and the Liming (Dawn) Home in the Diocese of Zhaoxian. Both of those homes are in the Hebei province.

The CCP also shuttered Catholic-run orphanages in Zhangjiakou and Zhengding, both in Hebei. Two years ago, an orphanage in Baoji, Shaanxi province, run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, was also shut down.

A local priest lamented earlier this month after children were transferred to state-run facilities that the government is “not only ignoring the beautiful contribution and quality social services provided by the Catholic Church, but wants in fact to destroy them.”

A report has claimed that children in state-run facilities are left "emaciated" and "low-spirited.”

According to newly-released reports, religious persecution in China intensified in 2020, with thousands of Christians affected by church closures and other human rights abuses.

Under the direction of Chinese President Xi Jinping, CCP officials worked to more fully control religion, according to a report released last month by the persecution watchdog China Aid.

Christians in both official, state-run churches and house churches were ordered to fly the Chinese flag and sing patriotic songs in services.

Authorities also were accused of directing ministers and priests to “sinicize” sermons or alter them to conform to CCP ideology.

China Aid’s April report also states that CCP authorities invaded Christians' homes, raided family gatherings and interfered with parenting decisions. Authorities also sued Christians for homeschooling their children or sending them to church-run schools in numerous instances.

The United States-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern notes that religious persecution in China could increase in the coming months thanks to a new policy.

The organization reports that the “Administrative Measures for Religious Personnel” going into effect on May 1 requires all clergy and religious leaders in China to “love the motherland, support the leadership of the Communist Party of China, support the socialist system, abide by the Constitution, laws, regulations and rules, practice the core values ​​of socialism, adhere to the principle of independence and autonomous management of religion, and adhere to China’s religious policy, maintaining unity national unity, ethnic unity, religious harmony and social stability.”

ICC warns that there will be “minimum space left for the underground Church to survive without being cracked down or harassed.”

“Increased punishment will become a norm for Christians participating in these religious activities not vetted by the state," ICC stated in a April 27 report.

Source

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By Temmy
Sun, May 02, 2021 12:35am
Church Celebrates Drag Queen Sunday: Gets Condemned as 'Open Revolt' against God

Woman looking like an OAP on duty

An Illinois church’s recent promotion of drag queen shows during its Sunday morning service was an example of “open revolt” against God’s intent for humanity, says a prominent author and theologian.

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., says the church – Hope United Methodist Church in Bloomington, Ill. – is promoting a “different” religion than Christianity.

The church was featured in an April 15 story in Religion News Service, which spotlighted 23-year-old Isaac Simmons, the church’s director of operations who goes by the name of “Ms. Penny Cost” as a drag queen. The church held a “Drag Sunday” on April 11 in which drag artists sang, prayed and performed. A drag speaker during the service said the goal was “celebrating and uplifting the voices of drag artistry within the church.” Drag itself, the speaker said, is “divine.”

The Illinois Great Rivers Conference’s Vermillion River District Committee on Ordained Ministry recently certified Simmons as a candidate for ministry, RNS reported. He likely is the “first drag queen certified” in the United Methodist Church, the news outlet said.

Mohler said the church is rejecting the core teachings of Christianity. Speaking on his podcast The Briefing, he called it “an intentional refutation and revolt against the very order of creation that God has given us,” and a “direct violation of the clear teachings of Scripture concerning the fact that those whom God has made as men should identify as men [and] those whom God has made as women should identify as women.

“That is found in paralleled scriptural teachings, by the way, in both the Old and New Testaments,” Mohler said.

It “would have been unthinkable” at “virtually any point” in Christian history for a church to embrace drag shows, Mohler said.

“It's because Christians were operating out of a Christian biblical understanding,” he said. “This is open revolt, and of course, you're going to see a division between those who are appalled by it – deeply troubled by it, deeply concerned by it and opposed to it on the one hand – and those who celebrate it and say that it's arrived far too late on the other hand.

“Just to state the obvious, you're looking not only at two different positions, as we will understand, you're looking at two different religions, and those two different religions cannot possibly continue to exist in one church or in one denomination.”

Referencing churches that embrace drag, Mohler said, “There is virtually nothing left of the historic Christian tradition.”

Mohler predicted a further divide between conservatives and liberals within the United Methodist Church.

“Once conservatives are out of the picture in the United Methodist Church, this is only the start of where things will go in the future,” he said. “And yes, right now, much of it is unimaginable, but it won't stay unimaginable for long."

Source

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By Temmy
Sun, May 02, 2021 11:46pm
China shuts down Bible App, Christian WeChat as new crackdown policies go into effect

A woman wears a protective mask as she passes a church on February 8, 2020, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China. The number of those who have died from the Wuhan coronavirus, known as 2019-nCoV, in China climbed to 724. | Getty Images
A woman wears a protective mask as she passes a church on February 8, 2020, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China. The number of those who have died from the Wuhan coronavirus, known as 2019-nCoV, in China climbed to 724.

China’s communist authorities are continuing their crackdown on Christianity by removing Bible Apps and Christian WeChat public accounts as new highly restrictive administrative measures on religious staff went into effect Saturday.

Father Francis Liu from the Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness said in a tweet that some Christian WeChat accounts, including “Gospel League” and “Life Quarterly,” were no longer available online, the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern reported.

When someone tries to access those accounts, a message reads, “(We) received report that (this account) violates the ‘Internet User Public Account Information Services Management Provisions’ and its account has been blocked and suspended.”

Bible Apps have also been removed from the App Store in China, and Bibles in hard copy are no longer available for sale online either, ICC added. Bible Apps can only be downloaded in China with the use of a VPN.

Another sign of the ongoing crackdown is that bookstores owned by the state-sanctioned Three-self churches have increasingly been selling books that promote President Xi Jinping’s thoughts and communist ideology.

“Even their WeChat accounts are turning into propaganda channels for CCP,” ICC said.

On Saturday, new regulations on religion that China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs released in February went into effect. The regulations’ Article 16 under Chapter III states that Catholic bishops must be approved and ordained by the state-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

According to the interpretation of the Union of Catholic Asian News, the regulations “indirectly assert that the election of Catholic bishops will be done by the state-approved system under the Chinese Communist Party’s direction and the Vatican and Pope Francis will have no role in it […] It runs contrary to the laborious China-Vatican deal on the appointment of Catholic bishops, signed in September 2018.”

A 2018 China-Vatican Agreement, renewed last year, permits the Chinese government to propose new bishops to the Vatican through its state-approved Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, with the pope having veto power on the decision. At the time of the signing, the Vatican said it hoped the deal would promote unity among China’s estimated 10 million to 12 million Catholics.

Further, Article 27 states that senior religious leaders will remain in their position for a term of three to five years, after which the individual must again submit their personal information to the authorities, said the U.K. based group Christian Solidarity Worldwide, explaining that it could be used to punish any criticism or failure to obey regulations by refusing their application to re-register.

The regulations in Article 3 include requirements that clergy “support the leadership of the Communist Party,” CSW added.

Furthermore, Article 12 stipulates that clergy must not “endanger national security” or be “dominated by foreign forces.”

Last month, Asia News reported that Chinese authorities punished a man who provided a worship venue for believers, fining him $30,000 under the charge of hosting “illegal religious activities."

According to recently-released reports, religious persecution in China intensified in 2020, with thousands of Christians affected by church closures and other human rights abuses.

Under the direction of President Xi Jinping, CCP officials are enforcing strict controls on religion, according to a report released in March by the U.S.-based persecution watchdog China Aid.

Christians in both official, state-run churches and house churches were ordered to fly the Chinese flag and sing patriotic songs in services.

Last October, internet censorship targeting Christians in China became so severe that even official government-sanctioned Christian groups started using the Chinese Pinyin initials “JD” to replace Chinese characters for “Christ,” China Aid reported at the time.

Two official government-sanctioned religious organizations — the Christian Council of China and the Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches of China — updated titles and descriptions of all their books on “Tianfengshuyuan,” their official WeChat bookstore, reported China Aid.

In 2018, the Chinese government banned the sale of Bibles at online bookstores across the country to comply with a “white paper” that dictated compliance with the “core values of socialism.”

Australia's ABC News reported at the time that copies of the Gospels had been removed from online retailers following the release of a regime document titled “China’s Policies and Practices on Protecting Freedom of Religious Belief.”

The white paper declared that Chinese faith communities “should adhere to the direction of localizing the religion, practice the core values of socialism, develop and expand the fine Chinese tradition and actively explore the religious thought which accords with China's national circumstances.”

China is ranked as one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians, according to Open Doors USA’s World Watch List.

The communist regime’s crackdown on religious freedom has also led the U.S. State Department to label it as a “country of particular concern” for “continuing to engage in particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

In an earlier interview with The Christian Post, the then-U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it was “certainly the case that the Chinese Communist Party [engages in] efforts to stamp out religious freedom every place that they find.”

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By Temmy
Mon, May 03, 2021 8:54pm
Nigerian church destroyed by herdsmen rebuilt with help of American pastor: It brings ‘healing and hope’

Agatu Methodist Church re-opened its doors on Easter Sunday, five years after it was destroyed by Fulani herdsmen in the Benue state of Nigeria on April 4, 2021. | Courtesy of William Devlin
Agatu Methodist Church re-opened its doors on Easter Sunday, five years after it was destroyed by herdsmen in the Benue state of Nigeria on April 4, 2021.

Five years after herdsmen destroyed a Nigerian church in a raid that killed hundreds, an American pastor and attorney helped rebuild the church in time for Easter Sunday, which brought “hope and healing in the midst of a very murderous regime.”

New York City Pastor William “P.B.” Devlin, CEO of the nongovernmental organization REDEEM!; and Emmanuel Ogebe, an international human rights lawyer from the U.S.-based Nigeria Law Group, partnered together to help mend the hurting Agatu community in the Benue state of Nigeria.

The two men helped raise funds to rebuild the community's destroyed Methodist church after a tragedy struck five years ago.

“Healing and hope: those are two great words that we’ve seen in a very practical way,” Devlin, the missions pastor at Infinity Bible Church in the Bronx, told The Christian Post in an interview.

Fulani attackers destroyed and burned the Agatu Methodist Church in February 2016. They killed five church members, hundreds of Agatu community members and destroyed over 70 homes.

In October 2020, Devlin visited Agatu and promised the church members that “by faith and by God’s grace and with hope in the Lord Jesus, the church will be completely finished by March 25, and then we will be in the finished church by Resurrection Day Sunday services [on April 4]."

"And we’re going to have a great celebration," Devlin recalled telling the Agatu community at the time.

When he visited in October, Devlin said there were goats eating grass in the ruins of the church building where worshipers still met under a canopy of grass to protect them from the sun.

“I looked in [the church] and I saw the goats eating the grass, and I was like, ‘what is this?’ And it just touched my heart. …,” he said. “For the past five years, the church has just struggled along.”

Devlin told the church members, “this is now a place for the goats, but God’s going to make it a place for the sheep.”

Devlin returned to the U.S. to raise the $30,000 needed for the reconstruction.

Within a few days, half of the money was raised.

He returned to Nigeria multiple times. And in December, work on the church began with the help of local laborers who re-constructed the church using the materials Devlin raised money to purchase, which stimulated the local economy, he said.

“Our hope is, as we raise money rebuilding churches destroyed by terrorists that we’re going to use local materials and local labor. And then, it becomes an economic engine,” he explained. “We’re actually decreasing the unemployment rate in these areas as well. … It’s multi-faceted.”

The community began to brim with hope as the church building took shape, Devlin said.

As the construction continued, the congregation continued to multiply, and the excitement spilled over into the community, he continued.

When Easter Sunday arrived, Devlin said the church service was packed.

Around 500 people gathered in the church — a building with a blue metal roof and yellow walls — on Easter Sunday for a service that lasted over five hours. According to Devlin, there was singing, dancing, worship, preaching, teaching and child dedications.

“People were just so encouraged and so filled with hope that their church was completed. …,” he said. “I told the congregation, ‘I’m not even a Methodist, but I saw your tears. … And Revelation 21 says that God’s going to wipe away every tear when we meet with Him.' I said, 'I wanted to follow God’s lead, so I came to Agatu to wipe away the tears that you have shed over the people who were killed, over the homes that were destroyed, and over your church that was destroyed.’”

He said the community invited Benue State Gov. Samuel Ortom, a Methodist bishop, and the local city council to the inaugural service. Ortom, who recently survived an assassination attempt, did not attend. But he sent a representative who promised financial investment in the community.

Joseph Odaudu, Ortom’s adviser on special duties, visited the service and commended the congregation for embracing peace despite the destruction, The Independent reported.

“There was just a sense of goodwill, of hope, in the midst of all the persecution of our sisters and brothers in Nigeria. There was an injection of hope, of love,” Devlin said. “It was really a message of hope that we wanted to give to our persecuted Nigerian friends.”

He said raising funds to rebuild the church showed Nigeria the persecuted church is not forgotten.

“It’s something practical that we were not only able to provide to the glory of God … and bring hope and healing in the midst of a very murderous regime, but it also gives hope to people here in the U.S. [who are willing to give].”

Last year, The Christian Post interviewed Agatu residents and humanitarian workers about the help the community has received in the wake of Fulani attacks that overran 10 of Agatu's 17 villages in 2016. Conflict with Fulani left about 60% of the region's residents displaced, according to the Agatu Resource & Innovation Centre.

Throughout the country's Middle Belt states, communal conflict has led to frequent attacks against predominantly Christian farming communities commonly carried out by radicalized Fulani herdsmen. Human rights groups estimate that hundreds of people were killed by Fulani attacks in 2020.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and ranks No. 9 on Open Door’s World Watch List for Christian persecution worldwide due to an “extreme” level of Islamic oppression.

Open Doors reports that "[m]ore Christians are murdered for their faith in Nigeria than in any other country."

The Global Terrorism Index ranked Nigeria as the third-most affected country by terrorism and reports over 22,000 killed by acts of terror from 2001 to 2019.

The U.S. Commission on International and Religious Freedom’s 2021 report warned Nigeria “will move relentlessly toward a Christian genocide” if action is not taken. Islamic extremism in northeast Nigeria has also led to thousands of deaths and millions displaced in recent years.

Nigeria was the first democratic nation to be added to the U.S. State Department's list of "countries of particular concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act for engaging in “tolerated systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom.”

As for his future of rebuilding destroyed churches, Devlin said there are still several churches in Nigeria in need of rebuilding.

Devlin said he had been approached by several churches destroyed by jihadists in Egypt and Sudan. He previously raised $100,000 to rebuild Zion Evangelical Church in Sri Lanka that was destroyed by jihadis during the Easter Sunday bombings of 2019.

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By Temmy
Mon, May 03, 2021 8:59pm
Judge Orders Doors Locked on Canadian Church Yet Pastor Remains Upbeat: 'Caesar Can Have the Brick and Mortar'

possible picture of Trinity Bible Chapel

A Canadian judge issued an order on Friday allowing local law enforcement to lock the doors of a church that repeatedly defied COVID-19 restrictions by meeting in person.

The doors of Trinity Bible Chapel in Waterloo, Ontario, were locked by police following the decision by the court, which limited the order to one week, although it could be extended. The court also found the church and its pastor in contempt of court for violating earlier orders, the CBC reported.

"The court granted interim relief in the form of an order directing the sheriff to lock the doors of the church on a time-limited basis. The doors are ordered to be locked, before midnight May 1, 2021, for one week," a government spokesman said, according to the CBC.

The church's case has drawn attention throughout Canada, the U.S., and the world.

In April, the church's pastor, Jacob Reaume, said he could face up to one year in jail after police charged him and the church for violating health restrictions by gathering on Easter.

On Sunday, April 25, police parked outside the church building and handed tickets to churchgoers for violating the local restrictions.

According to CTV News, religious gatherings in Ontario are limited to 10 people, whether indoors or outdoors.

In a blog post after the judge's decision, Reaume said he and the church are facing a total of $40 million in fines, with jail time.

"That's not enough, so they've taken our building," he wrote.

Ontario's restrictions on worship, he argued, are more severe than what is necessary.

"Not one of our pastors has ever buried someone who has died of COVID," he wrote. "We have around 600,000 people who live in this region. There are 588 active cases of COVID in the region, with 32 people in the ICU with COVID. That's enough to deem the public worship of Jesus Christ dangerous and enough for the Province of Ontario to kick us off our land and bar our doors shut. I'm not saying we'll never bury someone who dies of COVID. I'm not saying COVID hasn't brought harm. I'm only saying our experience doesn't line up with the hysteria whipped up by government and media, nor do the numbers warrant turning control of the Bride of Christ over to the Premier of Ontario."

The church will worship even if it does not have a building, Reaume wrote.

"They took our building because they think that will stop us from worshipping," he wrote. "For twenty years, our church has worshipped together each Lord's Day, and we've only met in our own building for eleven months. So the best part of our history, we have not owned a building. We managed just fine to gather together without our own building, and now we don't have our own building again. The early church met in the catacombs under Rome. The Covenanters met in fields. John Bunyan led his services in forests. Churches find ways to worship together, as surely as water flows downhill."

"... Caesar can have the brick and mortar," the pastor added. "We've kept the church for Jesus. He who seeks to preserve his church will lose it, but he who loses the church for Christ's sake will keep it."

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By Temmy
Mon, May 03, 2021 9:09pm
Is Christian Cohabitation the New Norm?

Young man and woman picture

Recently, researchers at State University of New York determined that descendants of immigrants to the United States typically lost the ability to speak their mother tongue by the third generation. Something similar, but far more serious, seems to be happening with Christians in an increasingly post-Christian culture. Each successive generation is losing the understanding of, not to mention the will to live by, Christian sexual morality.

Two years ago, a Pew Research survey found that half of American Christians think casual sex is “sometimes or always” morally acceptable. The slight silver-lining in that survey was that evangelical Protestants were by far the least likely group to express acceptance of casual sex.

Unfortunately, a new analysis calls into question just how committed the children of evangelicals are to Christian teaching in this area. These numbers reflect a larger trend among evangelicals: with each generation, American evangelicals increasingly adopt the attitudes of the wider culture toward sex and marriage. This time, the behavior in question wasn’t casual sex, but cohabitation.

In 2019, Pew Research reported that a majority – 58 percent – of white evangelicals said cohabitation is acceptable if a couple plans to marry. Views on cohabitation become noticeably less Christian among younger respondents. As early as 2012, the General Social Survey found that over 40 percent of evangelicals in their 20s agreed that cohabitation is acceptable even if a couple has no express plans to marry. And, earlier this month, David Ayers at the Institute for Family Studies found that nearly half of evangelical Protestants aged 15-22 who were not currently cohabiting or married, said that they would probably or definitely cohabit in the future.

Still, as dismaying as the attitudes of young evangelicals are toward sex, behavior is what most effectively erodes the Christian norm. Among those ages 23-44 who had already cohabited, a whopping 65 percent indicated they would likely or definitely do so again.

An important caveat, as is typically the case with these kinds of surveys, is that religious commitment makes quite a difference. Young evangelicals who attended church at least twice a month before the pandemic were the least likely to approve of “shacking up.” Yet, even they were a minority for their age group. Across all groups analyzed by Ayers, cohabitation had become, as he put in an article at Christianity Today, “a new norm.”

How can this cultural assimilation be slowed? How can the next generation be convinced of the sacredness of marriage, as a norm worth preserving and living? Again, the experience of immigrants offers an analogy. Research by one immigrant grad student at the University of Alberta found that “speaking the [native] language regularly at home” is the crucial first step in passing the mother-tongue from parent to child.

That may sound simple, and it is. The word for passing on moral values and behavior through regular instruction in the faith by parents and pastors is catechesis. The kind of catechesis necessary for this cultural moment not only involves the “what” of biblical morality, but the “why” and the living out of the “how.” According to Ayers, the lack of a reason given for God’s rules is a key factor behind young evangelicals drifting into behaviors common in the wider culture.

Whenever I teach worldview to students, I like to draw a triangle with three levels. Worldview is at the foundation of the triangle, values is at the middle level, and behavior is at the top. The idea is that one should evaluate what is true and good, build values from that, and allow that evaluation to shape behavior. Today, however, too many Christians live “upside down.” They unthinkingly embrace behaviors common in our culture, those behaviors shape their values, and they end up with an ultimately non-Christian worldview.

We need to approach teaching the next generation, especially when it comes to areas where the Christian vision is so different than the “new normal” in a “bottom-up” way. We must teach what is true about male and female, sex, and family, offering the what and the why. From there, we can work cultivate a strong set of values, by talking openly about what they are and by living them out together. Only from there will countercultural behavior blossom.

For any parents, grandparents, teachers, or pastors who want to see the next generation follow Christ in this culture, catechesis isn’t optional. Today, the Christian view of sex and marriage is like a foreign language, and the wider culture is actively catechizing them.

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By Temmy
Tue, May 04, 2021 9:30am
TD Jakes warns the Church has become 'deaf,' consumed with 'tribalism'

Bishop T.D. Jakes at the
Bishop T.D. Jakes at the "Healing the Racial Divide" summit in Dallas, Texas, on Thursday January 15, 2015.

In an increasingly divided society, Bishop T.D. Jakes has warned that “tribalism” permeates even the Church of Jesus Christ and is causing it to become “deaf” to the plight of those beyond its four walls.

“I think the first thing we need to do is go on an expedition and go beyond the borders of the safety of our sanctuaries and finally fulfill the Matthew 28:19 commission to go into all the world,” Jakes, leader of The Potter's House megachurch based in Dallas, Texas, said on “The Edifi Podcast With Billy Hallowell.”

“But before we teach them, let's listen. Because I think there's a huge disconnect between the sanctuary and the solar orbit that it encircles. And that difference makes a difference in how we approach the Great Commission.”

Jakes, who recently released his latest book Don’t Drop the Mic: The Power of Words Can Change the World, lamented the “tribalism” he said is prevalent both in Christian and non-Christian circles.

Tribalism is defined as a “strong loyalty to one’s own tribe, party, or group.”

He said people are “supported even by cookies on the phone and everything else to stay in your tribe.”

“Tribalism always leads to war. Always,” the 63-year-old stressed. “You have to break down the wall and not build walls between us, but draw circles around us and begin to talk. … I’m talking about actually becoming friends with people. It's hard to hate somebody you understand.”

Listen: subscribe to “The Edifi Podcast With Billy Hallowell.”

Drawing from the example of Jesus and other biblical heroes, Jakes stressed the importance of empathy and “listening.” He warned that “if you speak fluently and lose your hearing, your speech will deteriorate down to the level of your hearing.”

“I think that the Church has become deaf,” he said. “And in so doing, we're so busy teaching and talking. And we have our lines down pat and our talking points down, [but] we're not listening.”

“And we have to be listening. We're suffering as a country because we have a Congress, and leadership, and a society that doesn't seem to listen,” he added. “They're so busy fighting between the right and the left, that they can't hear the people they represent. It seems not to matter what the people think anymore.”

The New York Times bestselling author emphasized that change doesn’t come from “people on TV,” but from average people learning to understand one another.

“This is our country, not elected officials, not famous people, not rich people. This is our country,” he declared. “And if we want change, change has to start in our lives rather than becoming angry at what they are doing. It's up to us to make it a better world. … The mic is in your hands. Let your voice be heard. But listen to other people as well.”

Jakes is not the only evangelical leader to warn of the dangers of tribalism within the Body of Christ.

In January, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore warned that the crimes being perpetrated against religious minorities in China and elsewhere rely on “tribalism” and invisibility “where the rest of the world doesn't pay attention.”

“The way of Jesus Christ says that we pay attention to our neighbor on the side of the road who is persecuted, who is being beaten,” he said. “So let's pray for … persecuted peoples. Let's pray not just individually, but together, and pray for them by name.”

“Let's be the people who stand up for whoever is being made invisible, whoever is being intimidated and bullied in our own neighborhoods and in our own communities because we're the people of Jesus Christ.”

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By Temmy
Tue, May 04, 2021 3:03pm
Texas town votes to become largest 'sanctuary city for the unborn,' ban abortion in most cases

Supporters of the push to make Lubbock, Texas a
Supporters of the push to make Lubbock, Texas a "sanctuary city for the unborn" gather at a watch party held at Trinity Church in Lubbock, Texas on May 1, 2021.

One of the largest cities in Texas has become the most populous city in the country thus far to outlaw abortion within the city’s limits and become a “sanctuary city for the unborn.”

In a referendum Saturday, a supermajority of voters in the city of Lubbock, Texas, voted to approve an ordinance making it “unlawful for any person to procure or perform an abortion of any type and at any stage of pregnancy in the City of Lubbock, Texas.”

More than 62% of voters in the city of more than 250,000 residents voted to approve the referendum, while less than 38% voted against it.

In an interview with The Christian Post, Mark Lee Dickson, the founder of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn movement that lobbies nationwide to pass ordinances banning abortion at the local level, cheered Saturday’s “landslide” victory for the pro-life movement.

“I think it says a lot because Lubbock is the 11th-most populated city in the state of Texas and the 83rd most populated city in the United States of America,” he said.

The push to make Lubbock a sanctuary city for the unborn was instigated by Planned Parenthood’s plans to build an abortion facility in the West Texas city.

Dickson told CP that “Planned Parenthood did come into Lubbock, they opened up, they started performing abortions on April 15, just a few weeks ago. And Planned Parenthood also poured a whole lot of money into this election.”

“They … pushed a campaign … to … prevent this ordinance from being passed, and at the end of the day, they ended up losing that election,” he added. “Respectfully, I would congratulate them on their … campaign effort. But since this was a landslide election, it’s very obvious that the people of Lubbock have spoken. I am expecting that Planned Parenthood will obey … the laws of the city and … not perform abortions within the city limits of Lubbock, Texas.”

As Dickson explained, it was concern about a Planned Parenthood moving into another Texas city that launched the “sanctuary cities for the unborn” movement first place.

“There was an abortion facility in Shreveport, Louisiana, that at one time was looking at crossing the border to Waskom, Texas,” he said. “Waskom, Texas, is a small city that has … great churches, it has great restaurants, and I just felt like an abortion facility would be a great stain on that city because an abortion facility is a place that murders innocent children on a regular basis.”

“So, I reached out to the mayor, and he didn’t want an abortion facility coming into the city. So they decided to pass an ordinance outlawing abortion within the city limits,” Dickson continued.

Following Waskom’s lead, 22 Texas cities have passed similar ordinances: Naples, Joaquin, Tenaha, Gilmer, Westbrook, Rusk, Colorado City, Gary, Big Spring, Wells, Whiteface, East Mountain, New Home, Ackerly, Grapeland, Goldsmith, Carbon, Gorman, Murchison, Latexo, and now, Lubbock.

The Nebraska cities of Hayes Center and Blue Hill have also become sanctuary cities for the unborn.

“All cities at this point, with the exception of Lubbock, have outlawed abortion through their mayor and city council,” Dickson explained. “I think this is the appropriate way it needs to be done — through the mayor and the council the people have elected.”

The activist said that the referendum in Lubbock was “afforded by the Lubbock City Charter.”

“I’m glad that we had the opportunity to put it for a citywide vote,” he said. “But in normal circumstances, we shouldn’t have to do a citywide vote.”

“Now all these ordinances, I’ve been involved with the drafting of those,” he continued. “And so how this process works is that people in these cities have … expressed interest to see abortion outlawed, and I work with those residents in those cities and do my part to help them accomplish that goal.”

The referendum vote comes after the city council voted against the ordinance in November due to concerns that it could result in a lawsuit challenging the measure's constitutionality.

The ordinance bans most abortions in the town, except in cases when a woman's life is at risk. The measure also allows family members of women who receive abortions to sue anyone who assisted, according to Reuters.

It is unclear when the measure will take effect in Lubbock.

In May 2020, the ACLU sued seven cities that passed sanctuary for the unborn ordinances. According to Dickson, those cities were represented at no cost to taxpayers by Jonathan Mitchell, the former solicitor general for Texas.

“After three months, the ACLU withdrew their lawsuits, and so those lawsuits did not cost the cities or taxpayers anything, and abortion remains outlawed in every city that was sued,” he claimed.

However, Dickson lamented that when the city of Omaha, Texas, received an open record request from the ACLU after outlawing abortion, “their attorney got scared and walked the ordinance back to a non-binding resolution.”

After withdrawing the lawsuits, the ACLU claimed that the “seven cities we sued quickly backed down and revised their ordinances to allow pro-abortion organizations to operate within the cities and stop calling them 'criminal.'”

According to The Marshall News Messenger, the lawsuits were dropped after cities amended ordinances to decriminalize the organizations.

The ACLU is mulling its legal options in Lubbock and believes the measure is unconstitutional as there are fears it could impact abortion access in West Texas as the city serves as a medical hub in the region.

Dickson believes that pro-life activism has taken on new importance now that the federal government has come under complete control of the pro-choice Democratic Party.

Stressing the need to “do everything we can to stand up and be a voice for life for the sake of unborn children who are dying daily,” Dickson emphasized that the sanctuary cities for the unborn movement proves that “we can do things on the local level and we can get the job done.”

The referendum in Lubbock was not the only victory for the pro-life movement to come out of Texas on Saturday.

In a special election to replace the late Republican Rep. Ron Wright, who formerly represented Texas’s 6th Congressional District, two Republicans advanced to the runoff election. That ensures that the seat will remain in the hands of the GOP. Democrats had hoped to flip the district, which has become increasingly competitive in presidential elections.

According to Daily Kos Elections, former President Donald Trump won the district by 3 percentage points in the 2020 presidential election, after winning it by more than 12 percentage points in 2016.

Susan Wright, the widow of the late congressman, and Jake Ellzey will face off head-to-head after taking the top two spots in Saturday’s jungle primary.

The national pro-life grassroots organization Susan B. Anthony List endorsed Wright and cheered the results of Saturday’s election.

“Susan’s outspoken advocacy for the unborn and their mothers, her strength of character and her extensive experience as a community leader make her deeply suited to represent the deeply pro-life state of Texas,” asserted SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser.

“We are confident she will prevail over her opponent and look forward to seeing her stand up against the extreme pro-abortion Biden-Harris-Pelosi agenda in Washington, which is radically out of step with Texas values. Susan’s voice will be yet another outstanding addition to the historic class of pro-life women serving in Congress.”

As the SBA List has noted, the 117th U.S. Congress has a record 31 pro-life women serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. That number will rise to 32 if Wright is elected.

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By Temmy
Tue, May 04, 2021 4:44pm
Supermodel Kathy Ireland reveals what drew her to Jesus, first encounter with the Bible

Model Kathy Ireland poses for photographers at the 82nd Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, March 7, 2010. | REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Model Kathy Ireland poses for photographers at the 82nd Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, March 7, 2010.

World-renowned supermodel Kathy Ireland recently revealed details about her faith walk and her first unexpected encounter with the Bible.

Ireland has been a featured model in Sports Illustrated's swimsuit edition for more than a decade, including the 25th-anniversary issue, which became the highest-selling cover of all time. Now at 58, Ireland said she's surrendering to Jesus, following years of picking and choosing what aspects of Christianity she wanted to follow.

Ireland first became intrigued with God at age 18. At the time, she was an up-and-coming model living in France.

"I was living in Paris and it was really a hard time," Ireland said in an interview with Fox News. "I know it might sound glamorous, but I was alone modeling."

One night in 1981, while going through her suitcase, the former cover girl found a Bible in her bag, placed there by her mother.

"I didn’t even know how to read one," Ireland admitted. "I’d never read one before in my life. I opened up the book of Matthew. And as I’m reading in the middle of the night, I knew I was holding the truth in my hands. There wasn’t anybody in the room saying, ‘Be this denomination or that denomination.’ It was like, ‘I want to follow Jesus Christ.’ And He was nothing like I thought."

"In my industry, at that time, it was filled with a lot of really sketchy guys," she continued. "I was drawn to how powerful Jesus was. How loving and honoring he was of women. It gave me such comfort. And so, he became my Lord and Savior. The experience forever changed my life."

However, she continued pursuing her career, and although she eventually became a successful supermodel, she revealed that the Bible was hard for her to study.

"Some things I would read and really love," she told Fox News about her Scripture reading. "And other things, I would read and say, ‘Oh, that must be a typo. That’s a different interpretation or a cultural thing. Certainly doesn’t pertain to me.’ So I was picking and choosing what I liked and neglecting the rest of it.”

“I was trying to mold God into what I wanted Him to be, rather than just surrendering and letting Him make me into the person He made me to be. And oh my goodness, He was so patient. I was 44 when I finally read the whole Bible. It continues to teach me every day."

Ireland is now married and has three children and a successful business. For her, she said the overarching theme while reading the Bible was always God asking her to put Him first, which eventually helped her learn spiritual disciplines that changed her life for the better.

"The message that I just felt pounding in my heart was, ‘Put me first. And I’ll give you more time, better time with your kids.’ So I started to set my alarm for 15 minutes [every morning] for a quick prayer. Those 10 minutes of prayer and reading turned into an hour and more. It’s not a duty. It’s a joy. It’s my daily bread and water," Ireland added.

"And on days that I don’t do that, it’s not a good idea because if I open my mouth to say something, I’ll be apologizing before 8 a.m.," she acknowledged.

Ireland founded Kathy Ireland Worldwide in 1993 and has since gone on to be listed by Forbes as “one of the most successful women in America” who built a $420 million fortune. According to the outlet, she lent "her name, taste and marketing prowess to some 17,000 products."

Among her humanitarian efforts, Ireland supports many nonprofits, including YWCA Greater Los Angeles as an ambassador, and the Dream Foundation, Providence Educational Foundation, 911 for Kids/AEF, and the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Ireland also serves as International Youth Chair for the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation, as well as an ambassador for the American Cancer Society and ambassador for the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

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By Temmy
Tue, May 04, 2021 4:55pm
Updated
As Jewish followers of Jesus, we deplore deceptive techniques - Micheal Brown

Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and has served as a professor at a number of seminaries. He is the author of 25 books and hosts the nationally syndicated, daily talk radio show, the Line of Fire.
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and has served as a professor at a number of seminaries.

The headlines used words like “outrage” and “shock” in describing the news that a man thought to be a Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) rabbi living in Jerusalem was allegedly a Gentile Christian missionary. How could this be?

According to various news outlets, neither he nor his late wife were Jews at all, using forged documents to become Israeli citizens and choosing a Haredi lifestyle in order to infiltrate the religious community.

The Jewish News reported, “Outrage in Jerusalem over ‘rabbi’ exposed as Christian missionary. Israeli media say the man, named as Michael Elkohen, infiltrated a Charedi community in a bid to convert its members.” The headline in Yeshiva World News proclaimed, “New Shocking Details On The ‘Chareidi’ Missionary Family In Jerusalem.” (For a very personal perspective, see here. Elkohen claims that he used to do missionary work 7-8 years ago but has since “repented.”)

But it was not only these traditional Jewish news sites that expressed shock and outrage. The headline in Israel Today, a Messianic Jewish publication in Israel, read, “Shock After Christian Family Found Living as Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem.”

Yes, Jewish followers of Yeshua (Jesus) were taken aback as well, since we too denounce deceptive missionary tactics.

As stated in an official Jews for Jesus document titled, “Jews for Jesus Principles of Ethical Ministry” (sent to me after I requested a statement from David Brickner, head of Jews for Jesus), “We are Jews. We believe in Jesus. In light of this, we clearly present who we are and what we believe (the Gospel message). We deplore materials and techniques that are deceptive or coercive.”

Similarly, Eitan Bar, one of the leaders of the Israel-based, Messianic Jewish evangelistic organization One for Israel, responded to my request for a statement, writing, “I am not familiar with the case nor do I know the family. However, as I wouldn't want someone to deceive me saying he is a believer only to later find out he lied to me so he can ‘witness’ his faith to me, so I expect believers to hold to high standards and not deceive others by not sharing with them their true faith.”

So, on both a professional level, as reflected in the Jews for Jesus document, and on a personal level, as reflected in Eitan Bar’s email, we reject deceptive missionary techniques.

That’s why we have organizations with names like “Jews for Jesus” (I would say that’s pretty clear!). And that’s why organizations like Chosen People Ministries have mission statements reading, “We exist...to glorify God, proclaim the Gospel to the Jew first and also to the Gentile, and develop resources and programs to accomplish this task.” I would say that’s pretty clear too.

What, then, did Paul mean when he famously wrote 1 Corinthians 9:19-23? There he explained, “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”

He was speaking of cultural sensitivity rather than duplicity, taking on additional traditions (as a Jew himself) that he didn’t need to in order to reach some of his Jewish people, while forgoing those traditions (while still upholding Torah) in order to reach the Gentiles.

As Tsvi Sadan wrote in Israel Today, “Though some might be tempted to think there is nothing wrong with this kind of behavior [speaking of the Gentile couple in question], which supposedly follows the concept of ‘to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law,’ let’s just say that this kind of understanding turns Paul into a con artist. To better appreciate the problem with such people, think how you would have reacted if an upstanding member of your local church turned out to be a Muslim who prays to Allah five time a day in the privacy of his home. Even with best intentions, wannabe Jews are still deceivers, plain and simple.” (For a fine academic study, see David J. Rudolph, A Jew to the Jews: Jewish Contours of Pauline Flexibility in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.)

Then why do Messianic Jews have Messianic congregations rather than churches? Why do they celebrate Passover rather than Easter? Why do they still identify as Jews?

It’s because they (in this case, we) are still Jews, and many of us seek to follow in the footsteps of the earliest disciples of Jesus, themselves Jews. The fact that some of us are not at home with later church traditions (such as the separation of the celebration of Messiah’s death and resurrection from Passover) is not a deceptive missionary practice. Rather, it is a sincere conviction of our faith.

What about Haredi Jews who are secret believers in Yeshua? This is not a matter of deception but of pragmatism, since those who lived their entire lives as ultra-Orthodox Jews will virtually lose everything the moment they openly express their faith. If some of them choose to continue to live in their communities as Haredim, sharing their faith privately and discreetly, that is certainly their choice. But under no circumstances should that be compared to a Gentile family claiming to be Jewish and posing as something they are not in order to proselytize others.

What about Christian workers in other, extremely dangerous parts of the world where their true identity must be hidden in order to avoid arrest or death? Here too is not a matter of deception but of pragmatism, as they do not claim to be atheists or Muslims or Hindus. Rather, they share their faith privately rather than publicly.

In light of the revelation about this allegedly Gentile couple, Shannon Nuszen, herself a former missionary but now leading the Israeli organization Beyneynu, stated, “It is very important [to] perceive that we’re not anti-Christian, however Judaism doesn’t take kindly to deception, and ‘covert’ strategies to transform our individuals. We demand honesty, integrity, transparency, and mutual respect.”

Ironically, though, when a Christian organization like GOD TV, working with local Messianic Jews, stated last year that its intent was to preach the gospel of Jesus on Israeli TV, the reaction against the network was so intense that the government shut it down.

My appeal, then, as a Jewish follower of Jesus, is simple: You are obviously free to reject our message, as most of you do. But please do not attack us for being forthright about who we are. We, too, strive for “honesty, integrity, transparency, and mutual respect.”

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By Temmy
Tue, May 04, 2021 5:01pm
How to share God's truth in a subjective world

Rev. John B. Sorensen, D.D. is the President/CEO of Evangelism Explosion International, headquartered in Arden, N.C. EE has been a leader in equipping Christians to share their faith for more than 55 years. For more free tips and resources, visit evangelismexplosion.org.
Rev. John B. Sorensen, D.D. is the President/CEO of Evangelism Explosion International, headquartered in Arden, N.C. EE has been a leader in equipping Christians to share their faith for more than 55 years.

Let’s face it. We live in a world where our view of truth has become subjective. The moral absolutes that have guided society for thousands of years suddenly have become relative. What’s right for one person is wrong for another. And if we question the status quo, we are labeled “intolerant.”

Many people don’t want to acknowledge an absolute truth because they don’t want to face their sin. If there is no absolute truth, then how could there be an absolute morality? And if there is no morality, there is no sin. They believe the absence of an absolute truth is a license to do what they want. They see it as freedom. But ultimately, we know that “freedom” is false. Sin is nothing but bondage – a set of chains that leads to destruction and despair.

Regardless of what the world says, there are still many people in the world who are searching for something deeper. They are searching for truth. That truth is only found in Jesus Christ. But they can only know it if we, as believers, are willing to step out in faith and share that truth with them.

So, how do we share God’s truth in such a subjective world?

Truth, by its own definition, is very narrow. Only the right answer is true. Everything else is false. Real truth doesn’t change. Someone can believe that 2+2 is 5, but it doesn’t change the math. The answer is 4. When we talk with others about absolute truth, we can remind them that they can believe whatever they like, but their belief alone doesn’t make it true. We can encourage them to pursue truth, not mere opinion, belief, or whatever is politically correct at the moment.

Once someone is truly open to knowing the truth, then we have an open door to present God’s truth. But as 1 Peter 3:15 admonishes us, we must do this with gentleness and respect. Don’t push. Ask permission before you share about spiritual matters. Some people will be open to listening. Others will not. Respect their wishes, and pray for another opportunity. But if they are willing, proceed with compassion and concern for their eternity.

Share what God has done in your life. Your story is powerful because it is unique and personal. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and share how God has changed your life.

Keep the focus off what the world says and on what God has said and done. True freedom only comes from knowing the truth. The truth of God’s word is what the person need to be set free (John 8:32). If at all possible, keep distractions at a minimum while explaining the greatest news of all.

Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to the person’s heart. Remember, it’s not our job to convict people of their sin. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job. It is our job to share the Gospel. But always ask if they are ready to take that final step and accept the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. They might just say, Yes!

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By Temmy
Wed, May 05, 2021 11:24am
Pastor shares how openly confessing his struggle with same-sex attraction helps him in ministry

Pastor and author Ed Shaw appears on the Church Leaders podcast. | YouTube/Church Leaders
Pastor and author Ed Shaw appears on the Church Leaders podcast.

A pastor who struggles with same-sex attraction shared how God has used his experiences to equip him in his ministry and reflected on how the Christian community can best support same-sex attracted individuals in their midst.

During an interview on The Church Leaders podcast, Shaw, the pastor of Emmanuel City Centre in Bristol, England, said the thing that God has most used to make him grasp the Gospel of grace and equip him to be a pastor is his experience with same-sex attraction.

“When pastoring somebody who is same-sex attracted, rather than thinking, ‘The thing I need to sort is their sexuality,’ you know, you want them to become more and more like Jesus. And actually, you need to be open to the possibility that God is going to use their sexuality … to help them become more and more like Jesus,” he said.

Shaw serves as the director of Living Out, a ministry that seeks to encourage Christians, equip churches, and engage the world with God’s plan for sexuality and identity. One of the best things pastors and church members can do, he said, is acknowledge that there are people struggling with gender and sexuality in their midst.

“For a pastor and for a leadership team in the church, thinking through these issues, one of the first things they need to think through is, we will probably already have people in our midst for whom same-sex attraction, questions around sexuality and gender identity are big things that they’ve perhaps never felt able to talk about in the context of an evangelical church,” he explained.

According to survey data released by Gallup, one in six Gen Z adults identify as LGBT — the highest percentage of any generation in history — and that number is likely to continue to increase. Additionally, almost half of LGBT adults in the United States are religious, according to a recent report from the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute.

When it comes to reaching out to the LGBT community, it’s important to remember that they have a “posture of fear” toward the Church — and “we need to bridge the gap.”

“A big thing to realize, if you don’t realize it already, is just [the LGBT community] will be thinking, ‘You are evangelical Christians; therefore, you hate us.’”

The Church should also apologize for “not reaching out in love and compassion” during the height of the AIDS epidemic,” Shaw said.

“What we’ve got wrong in the past is allowing there to be a perception that the worst sin possible is gay sex,” he said. “That there’s loads of sins here, but the worst possible sin that anybody could ever commit is having sex with somebody of the same sex. And that … we never get anything particularly significantly wrong, and we are looking down at you, gay people, who have got everything wrong.”

“We haven’t actually applied the Gospel to ourselves and to gay communities,” he added.

Shaw encouraged other pastors to be “open and honest” about the sins they struggle with and “jump off the pedestal. Like other sins, he said, same-sex attraction “shouldn't in and of itself be a disqualification for ministry.”

“I am trying to live out the biblical sexual ethic, I've tried to do that in response to the Gospel of grace,” he said. “I am in many ways, in most ways, no different to any other pastor. I'm someone who is struggling with patterns of sin in my life. I’m usually being more public and open and honest about them than many pastors are.”

“I am seeking to live in the light of the Gospel,” he added. “I believe that God's Word is authoritative. I'm not in a gay relationship; I have no intention of being in a gay relationship. I am seeking to help others in being open and honest about their struggle.”

Shaw briefly touched on his own experience with same-sex attraction, explaining that it felt “natural” as he imagines “heterosexuality felt for my peers as they grew up.”

“One of the big questions I’ve often had, and I really struggled with in some stages, was, ‘Well, why have I got this sexuality? Why do I experience sexual desires? Why do I have this capability to love yet can’t put it into practice with another man? … When actually, just learning that the most fundamental reason that I’m a sexual being, you’re a sexual being, you have powerful sexual desires, I have powerful sexual desires, is to help us to grasp, first of all, God’s love for us,” he said.

“My sexuality is there to help me appreciate God’s love for me. When I feel the strength of sexual desire, I’m actually getting just the smallest insight into the strength of God’s love for me.”

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By Temmy
Wed, May 05, 2021 11:31am
Police Rescue – then Jail – Christian Family Attacked in India

Picture of India flag

Police in India who initially took a pastor and his family into custody to protect them from an attack by a 300-member Hindu extremist mob were pressured into jailing them under a baseless charge of forcible conversion, sources said.

Pastor Manu Damor, 35, remains in Depalpur jail a month after the Easter Sunday (April 4) attack on the worship service of five families at a Christian’s home in Rangwasa village, Indore District in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Though Betma police had assured him and his wife that they would be allowed to go home morning after their first night of detention, they were instead charged with serious crimes and sent to two separate jails.

The pastor sent his two oldest children, ages 4 and 5, home with another Christian family detained and released that night, while his 18-month-old girl remained with him and his wife, Asha Damor, until the next morning.

After hearing the charges against them in a court hearing on April 5, the couple handed their still-nursing 18-month-old to the same Christian family who took the other children after police warned them of widespread COVID-19 in the jail. The children were sent to another town to live with their grandparents the same day, while their mother remained in Indore District jail until her release on bail on April 12.

“I had never left my children alone, and my children had never lived without me,” Asha Damor told Morning Star News. “It was traumatizing for them to stay without me for a week. After my release I was told that my 18-month-old would often cry and trouble the relatives a lot. Even the older children missed me so much that they stopped taking food.”

Pastor Damor had called police for protection when members of the mob began beating down the door and tearing through the roof after he had led worship in the house, his wife said.

“The police initially detained us to safeguard us from being killed by the mob,” Damor said. “However, the tables turned after large crowds of Hindu extremists and influential political people began to pour into the police station the late evening of our detention.”

The couple was shocked the next morning to hear that their case, initially described as a “small matter,” had become big and they would have to go to jail after appearing before a judge.

“We were not informed that someone has done a formal complaint against us the same night, and that an FIR [First Information Report] had been registered against us,” Damor said. “We were not interrogated by the police, nor our statements were recorded. We were shocked when the FIR was read before the magistrate, which stated that we had allured a woman named Leela Bai and committed to pay her 3,000 rupees [US$40] every month if she agreed to convert to Christianity.”

Calling the allegation baseless, she said she had never visited or spoken to Bai.

“We do not know how they persuaded the police and convinced them to book us under such a stringent law,” Damor said.

They were charged under the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance, 2020, which prohibits “unlawful conversion from one religion to other religions,” and under the Indian Penal Code’s Section 294 for “obscene act/song in public place.”

TEARING THROUGH ROOF
After leading the Easter morning service at a village four miles from Rangwasa, Pastor Damor and his family, residents of Betma village, reached Rangwasa for a 4 p.m. service at the home along with four other families, including the host family.

As they finished worship, four or five villagers walked inside the house and began questioning them, Damor said. When the Christians objected to the questioning, the intruders left and returned with mob of more than 300 villagers who surrounded the house and demanded they hand over the pastor.

The women of three families were standing in front of the door trying to block the assailants, Damor said.

“The mob manhandled the women while they were trying to break the door to get to where we were hiding,” she said.

Hurling obscenities, the Hindu extremists reviled the pastor and other Christians, with some peeping through a window into the room where the pastor and another visiting family were hiding and threatening them.

“We will kill you and send your dead bodies from here,” one of the Hindu extremists said.

One group of assailants broke the door of another room and made their way to where the Christians were taking refuge, while another climbed onto the roof and began to dismantle the metal sheet above their room, Damor said.

“We were very scared and called the police,” she said. “We requested them to come fast, as the agitated mob was making their way from every side. It was a very scary sight. We prayed for God to send help.”

Some of the assailants began to break the family’s motorbike.

“They broke our motorbike, broke its lock and were draining the petrol,” Damor said. “They were about to burn our motorbike when the police arrived and stopped them. The people on the roof had also managed to open a portion of the roof and were about to jump inside our room, when the police arrived and took us to the Betma police station. We were so grateful to the Lord and thanked Him for sending the police in time and saving us.”

LEGAL HURDLES
Damor was kept in a cell with 23 other women prisoners. Knowing a pandemic lockdown would begin in the state the evening of April 12, she prayed for bail and praised God that she was released that day and re-united with her children.

The Session Court has refused bail for Pastor Damor, and his counsel has petitioned the High Court, a local pastor said.

An officer at the Betma police station who did not disclose his name told Morning Star News that the investigating officer in the case, Sub-Inspector Padam Singh Kayat, had been transferred and that a new officer had not yet been assigned.

“The case diary for this case has been sent to the High Court, but as the High Court is closed due to the lockdown [extended weekly to April 30], the diary has not been sent back,” the officer said. “Once the diary is received, a new investigating officer will be assigned to this case.”

Damor’s attorney said he would decline to comment in order to avoid creating any more trouble for Pastor Damor.

Bachubhai Bhabor, senior pastor of the church where Pastor Damor helps shepherd the congregation, said he was deeply concerned about the harassment and case delays.

“What worries me is that Pastor Manu is still inside the jail,” he told Morning Star News. “He is suffering for no fault of his. He has been falsely implicated, and the police have joined hands with the accusers. Instead of taking action against the attackers, the police have booked an innocent couple, and this is causing them great harassment.”

INTIMIDATED CHRISTIANS
Residents of Rangwasa are terrorizing the three Christian families in the village, sources said.

“The villagers are threatening them,” Damor said. “The villagers have told them that if I or my husband are seen even passing by that village, they will burn us alive and also burn the believers.”

The three families refuse to approach police for protection.

“They say that the police are siding with the Hindu extremists, and that even when our pastor called the police for protection, they came and arrested Pastor Damor and his wife instead of the attackers,” said one area Christian, whose name is withheld for security reasons. “We do not trust the police.”

On March 27 the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act of 2021 replaced the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance of 2020, but police inexplicably filed the charges under the 2020 ordinance, which penalized religious conversions by “misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, inducement (or allurement) or by any fraudulent means or by marriage.”

The 2021 act calls for 10 years in prison and hefty fines in some cases. State Home Minister Narottam Mishra presented the 2021 bill in the House on March 1, it passed in the Assembly on March 8 and came into effect on March 27.

The hostile tone of the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, against non-Hindus, has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, religious rights advocates say.

India ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, as it was in 2020. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position worsened after Modi came to power.

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By Temmy
Wed, May 05, 2021 6:50pm
Diocese elects first female bishop amid $500 million legal battle over church property

The Rev. Ruth Woodliff-Stanley, who in 2021 was elected to become the first female bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. | Courtesy the Rev. Cn. Ruth Woodliff-Stanley
The Rev. Ruth Woodliff-Stanley, who in 2021 was elected to become the first female bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.

The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, which is still in the midst of a yearslong legal battle with a breakaway group over several church properties, has elected its first female bishop.

The Rev. Canon Ruth Woodliff-Stanley won the election on the second ballot at a special meeting of the convention held by the diocese on Saturday, beating out four other candidates.

On the second ballot, Woodliff-Stanley received 13 votes in the Lay Order, which required at least 10 votes to win, and 26 votes in the Clergy Order, which required at least 18 votes to win.

Molly Hamilton, director of communications for the diocese, told The Christian Post that a few “canonically-required consents” are still needed from the Standing Committees and bishops of The Episcopal Church before Woodliff-Stanley can begin working.

“We expect this to occur in the coming two to three months,” noted Hamilton, who directed CP to a letter that Woodliff-Stanley wrote to the diocese while still a candidate for bishop.

In her letter, Woodliff-Stanley detailed her church leadership ground, ties to South Carolina, and past work with regional bodies that experienced division.

“I’ve worked with dioceses experiencing conflict and schism and comprehend the scope and magnitude of the challenges ahead,” wrote Woodliff-Stanley. “I understand the ministry of a bishop to be humble and holy work, joyful and collective work we do together on behalf of Jesus.”

In 2012, then-South Carolina Diocese Bishop Mark Lawrence and a majority of the diocesan leadership voted to leave The Episcopal Church, due to theological differences and the reported poor treatment of Lawrence by the denomination.

Since then, there have been extensive legal battles over the $500 million worth of property and the trademarks of the diocese between the breakaway group and those still loyal to The Episcopal Church.

In 2017, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in favor of The Episcopal Church and its local group, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, concluding that at least 29 of the 36 properties belong to the national denomination.

However, in June 2020, South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Edgar Dickson, who had been tasked with enforcing the ruling, instead issued an order concluding that each parish owned their own properties.

Hamilton of the Episcopal Diocese told CP that, at present, both sides are waiting for the state Supreme Court to determine “whether they will uphold their earlier ruling.”

“The Federal Court ruled in September 2019 in favor of our diocese granting that The Episcopal Church in South Carolina is the historic Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina with all rights to the name, trademarks, and the diocesan seal,” Hamilton explained.

“The opposing side has appealed that ruling and all appeals are currently awaiting the South Carolina Supreme Court decision on the state property issues.”

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By Temmy
Thu, May 06, 2021 10:04am
2 pastors from Beijing's Zion Church arrested 3 years after authorities forced church to close

A Chinese Catholic woman prays at the government-sanctioned Xishiku Catholic Church on August 14, 2014, in Beijing, China. | Getty Images/Kevin Frayer
A Chinese Catholic woman prays at the government-sanctioned Xishiku Catholic Church on August 14, 2014, in Beijing, China.

Two preachers from the heavily persecuted Zion Church in Beijing were forcibly taken from their homes and are being held in detention for interrogations after authorities with China’s Communist Party forced the church to shut down over three years ago.

Persecution watchdog group International Christian Concern reports that, according to urgent prayer requests sent out by the now-disbanded house church, police apprehended preacher Qie Jiafu at his home in Changping district at 11:30 p.m. on April 28 for interrogations.

Qie’s wife received only one phone call from the police two days later, informing her that Qie was placed under 10-day administrative detention for violating Article 54 of the Regulations on Administrative Penalties for Public Security. He was also fined $77 (500 Yuan).

Preacher Huang Chunzi was reportedly detained at the same time, but her apprehension was only discovered three days later. Church members last heard from her on April 28, when she notified them that authorities were at her door. She soon went missing.

After being detained for more than 72 hours, authorities have yet to notify her only contactable family member and have refused to reveal the why, when, and where of her detention.

ICC said the church is asking for prayers so that Huang will be given “all the strength she needs from the Lord, and that the Lord will make way so the church can gain current updates.” They also pray for “sufficient grace for Preacher Qie and the many servants who are paying the price for Christ in this day and age.”

Zion Church, established in 2007, used to be the largest unofficial Protestant church in Beijing, reportedly drawing 1,500 congregants every Sunday. In September 2018, city authorities forced the church to shut down and confiscated “illegal promotional materials.”

The Beijing Chaoyang district civil affairs bureau reportedly said that by organizing events without registering, the church was breaking rules forbidding mass gatherings and was “legally banned” and its “illegal promotional material” had been confiscated.

Despite the church's closure, members have faced continued harassment and persecution at the hands of authorities.

Zion Church Pastor Ezra Jin Mingri has been banned from leaving the country for nearly three years, and his daughter, Grace Jin, was unable to register for law school in the United States in July 2019 due to travel restrictions placed on her by authorities.

Gina Goh, ICC’s regional manager for Southeast Asia, said that the arbitrary arrests of the two Zion Church preachers indicate Beijing’s intention to root out house churches.

“Along with the ‘Administrative Measures for Religious Clergy,’ which came into effect on May 1, the Chinese government wants all religious leaders to submit to the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership and its ideology. Those who do not will face persecution. The ongoing crackdown against Christianity in China deserves the world’s attention,” Goh said.

Officially, China’s constitution guarantees religious freedom. However, since President Xi Jinping took office in 2013, the ruling Chinese Communist Party has tightened restrictions on religions seen as a challenge to its authority.

Churches are being monitored and closed down across the country, whether they are underground or part of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the officially sanctioned Protestant church in China. The government has also used high-tech surveillance to oppress and monitor believers.

Other crackdowns on Christians have involved ordering Christians to renounce their faith and replace displays of Jesus with portraits of Chairman Mao and President Xi Jinping, as well as the ongoing demolition of churches.

Last week, it was reported that CCP authorities removed Bible Apps from the App Store in China, and Bibles in hard copy are no longer available for sale online either. In China, Bible Apps can only be downloaded with the use of a VPN.

Pastor Bob Fu, founder and president of China Aid that provides legal aid to Christians in China, wrote on Twitter: "On Wednesday official WeChat public accounts aimed at providing resources on Bible & guides on edifying the church to Chinese Christians were suddenly suspended. #CCP suspends Old Gospel &The Gospel Coalition. Both have a large number of readers within China's pastoral network."

Open Doors ranks China at No. 17 on its World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians are most persecuted.

The communist regime’s crackdown on religious freedom has also led the U.S. State Department to label it as a “country of particular concern” for “continuing to engage in particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

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By Temmy
Thu, May 06, 2021 11:40am
Pastors warn smartphone addiction 'major issue' in Church, offer solutions

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Two pastors have offered practical advice for combating smartphone addiction — an issue they said is permeating the Church at an unprecedented rate.

Smartphone addiction is one of the “major pastoral issues” of today, Joe Rigney, an author, seminary professor, and pastor at Cities Church, said in a video posted on the Gospel Coalition website, yet it only emerged in recent years.

“I think anytime when we’re preaching at our church and we make an application to technology and smartphones ... you can feel it palpably from our people that there’s a hunger for, ‘Yes, we feel like there’s something wrong here, and we just don’t know exactly what to do.’ Because we feel like they’re so ‘essential’ to living. They’re so useful in so many ways, yet it feels like there’s something that’s off,” he said.

The first step in combating smartphone addiction, Rigney said, is admitting there’s a problem to begin with.

“I think the first thing is just to admit and recognize that if you’re a pastor or if you’re a layperson, you’re not the only one, and this is a more widespread problem, and you need to admit that it is a real problem,” he said. “I think that probably the first thing is just to really face it squarely — these little devices have been designed by some of the smartest people on the planet to make sure that you’re on them all the time, and you’re not Superman.”

Instead of reaching for a smartphone at the beginning of the day, Rigney recommended reaching for the Bible or spending time in prayer.

“If I resist [my phone] and get to prayer, Bible ... all of a sudden when I’m getting out the door I’m like, ‘Oh, that was good. That was a good morning.’ I feel different than if I had been scrolling around the house for 30 minutes before the kids woke up,” he reflected.

Dave Mathis, the executive editor for desiringGod.org and a pastor at Cities Church, agreed that to “get a bigger sense of what your life is for, what your life is about,” it’s important to “pray first thing, and to pray last thing, rather than check the world.” He stressed that smartphone addiction takes away from the important things in life, like spending time with one’s children.

“[One] of the great tragedies is to live with such gifts and count them as small things, or to count them as an annoyance, or to count them as pulling us away from these amazing and silly devices that we carry around,” he said.

“I find extended time on the smartphone is depleting,” Mathis added. “It’s draining. I come away and my eyes feel strange, emotionally I feel like I have less energy.” In contrast, spending time with loved ones or expending energy in the service of others makes him feel “better.”

“There’s brain chemistry behind that, too, not just spiritual significance. So one thing about these phones is also how inactive they make us, and God didn’t make us to be inactive. That’s one thing to fight in the process,” he said.

Rigney encouraged believers to intentionally put their phones aside to find “refreshing freedom,” adding: “I’m putting it over there because I want to deliberately remove this shackle, not accidentally remove the shackle.”

Numerous studies have linked smartphone addiction to depression, stress, anxiety and other mental health issues. A recent OnePoll survey of 2,000 adults that was commissioned by Vision Direct found that adults are spending 4.5 hours a day on smartphones.

Nina Schroder, a mental health therapist at Virginia Commonwealth University, told The Christian Post that in light of these statistics, “students have to understand what is going on” with the risks of excessive screen time.

“I don’t think they completely understand the effects of screens,” she said. “I want people to understand that there are negative effects of high screen use.”

“I’m not saying that everything about screen use is bad, because there are some great uses. But we have to be mindful about how much we’re using it, how we’re using it, when we’re using it, and how it’s affecting us.”

In a recent op-ed for CP, Pastor Greg Laurie said the antidote to smartphone addiction is to simply “be still.”

“We need to make a conscious effort to disconnect from this barrage of media. This doesn’t have to be a permanent thing (though that wouldn’t be the worst idea ever) but it does need to be intentional,” he said. “We need to sit down, look at each other, and talk.

"This is a critical time for the Church and faith communities to step forward. This doesn’t mean we have to offer our version of everything culture has, but rather something the culture is severely lacking. I’m talking about authentic, loving community filled with people who go out of their way to engage with others — especially those who are young — and then take them under their wing to mentor and ‘disciple’ them.”

Source

https://www.dailydevotionalsonline.com/chatroom.php?alltime=yes#439 

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By Temmy
Thu, May 06, 2021 11:47am
There is no shame in sharing your doubts - Jentezen Franklin

Pastor Jentezen Franklin's new book
Pastor Jentezen Franklin's new book "Love Like You've Never Been Hurt" addresses forgiveness and healing from a broken heart.

Some of us have taken the message of Christianity and put it in a box marked, “Don’t ask—don’t tell.” Ever feel like you need permission to weep when you lose a loved one? Or feel intimidated about admitting, “I really don’t know for sure?”

In John 20:25, Jesus disciple Thomas confesses, “Unless I see… I will not believe.”

The story of doubting Thomas teaches us that it’s okay to admit our doubts and reservations. In fact, if you don’t, you won’t grow. You’ll wind up with somebody else’s answers, and in many cases they will be inadequate for your questions — even if you’re honest enough to ask them. If you go your whole life without breaking open that box of hard questions, you’ll end up facing the difficult times in life without the proper tools to deal with them.

Like many of us, Thomas felt unequipped when facing the difficult questions surrounding God’s redeeming power. Before his interaction with Jesus in the Gospel, he relied on the faith of others around him. And it’s hard to blame him for this when we consider he was in the company of Jesus’ disciples!

After hearing of the resurrection of Jesus, Thomas admitted he would be doubtful until he saw “in [Jesus’] hands the print of the nails.” The Bible tells us: “After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (John 20:26-28).

It is important to note that Jesus did not chastise Thomas in front of the other disciples — who clearly did not need physical proof — for his doubts. Instead, He had grace with Thomas and ensured he got the proof he needed.

He understood that any question arising from an honest heart isn’t a skeptical question; it’s a search for truth. Ultimately, God relishes these moments when our doubts are cast away by His truths. Times of doubt can become classrooms of learning when they drive you to God for answers.

More than anything, God wants us to pursue Him and develop a deep, personal relationship with him, something that is only possible when we address our doubts without shame. We need our own personal experiences with the Lord, and our questions can lead us to a deeper relationship with Him. A personal inquisition of God’s truth will always produce a more meaningful and lasting revelation than hearing second-hand about these experiences in someone else’s life.

This means we ought to liberate ourselves from the shame of praying, “Lord, like Thomas, I still struggle with some doubts.” None of us have fully come to terms with the many broken pieces of our lives. Know that you are not alone in this. In fact, on this side of eternity, some pieces of the puzzle will remain a mystery. But it’s comforting to know that our Father accepts us in our doubts and hesitations and that he doesn’t ignore our questions.

The good news is, Thomas finally reached the place where he could say, “My Lord and my God.” And he will be patient with you as you strive to reach that place as well.

So how do we get through our doubts? Like Thomas. By facing them honestly, bringing them to Jesus, and walking out our faith in a more personal way along our journey through life.

Source

https://www.dailydevotionalsonline.com/chatroom.php?alltime=yes#440 

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By Temmy
Thu, May 06, 2021 11:53am
Pastor’s wife receives death threats after advocating for COVID vaccines

A researcher works on a vaccine against the new coronavirus COVID-19 at the Copenhagen's University research lab in Copenhagen, Denmark, on March 23, 2020. | AFP via Getty Images/Thibault Savary
A researcher works on a vaccine against the new coronavirus COVID-19 at the Copenhagen's University research lab in Copenhagen, Denmark, on March 23, 2020.

Emily Smith is an epidemiologist at Baylor University, the wife of a Baptist pastor, and a mother. She has been working hard to help her fellow evangelicals understand the urgency of getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

Though she has received vociferous criticism and even death threats, she is committed to her calling: “I just feel such a sense of obligation, especially from a Christian perspective, to be the Good Samaritan, and hopefully get people to band together and still wear their mask and get a vaccine.”

Jamie Aten is executive director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College. In his work, he has helped his fellow evangelicals deal with hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and other disasters. His ministry has been widely received with gratitude.

When he began urging his fellow evangelicals to get vaccinated against COVID-19, however, some of the responses he received were ugly. He even had to file a report with the sheriff’s office where he lives after getting an email claiming his work on vaccines was “punishable by death.”

Biblical citation labeled 'hate speech'

C. S. Lewis observed that “courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”

A new policy in China went into effect last Saturday. It requires all clergy and religious leaders in China to “support the leadership of the Communist Party of China, support the socialist system,” and “practice the core values of socialism” while adhering to the “autonomous management of religion.” As a result of this policy, Chinese Communist officials removed Bible apps and public Christian WeChat accounts. Bibles in hard copy are no longer available for sale online.

Communist authorities recently closed Catholic Church-run children’s homes and orphanages and have ordered Christians to fly the Chinese flag and sing patriotic songs in their services. A recent publication includes China among sixty-two countries, comprising two-thirds of the world’s population, that violate religious freedom.

Finland is not on the list, but a member of its parliament is facing six years imprisonment for allegedly committing three crimes, including “hate speech.” A medical doctor and the mother of five, she has publicly voiced her opinion defending biblical sexual morality. One of her “crimes” was quoting Romans 1:24–27, a tweet for which she was accused of hate speech and interrogated by the police.

“I will not back down from my views,” she said. “I will not be intimidated into hiding my faith. The more Christians keep silent on controversial themes, the narrower the space for freedom of speech gets.”

'God’s story, my story, and their story'

Jacob Bland is the new president and CEO of Youth for Christ, a ministry that began in 1944 when Billy Graham served as its first full-time staff member. Today, it operates in over one hundred nations and has more than 160 chapters across the U.S. Bland explained his organization’s strategy in a way I found compelling: “The way we look at it, there are three stories that are overlapping: God’s story, my story, and their story.”

To advance God’s kingdom, we learn the stories of those who need Jesus, then we share his story by showing how he has changed our story and can change their story.

In yesterday’s Daily Article, I described the urgency of defending biblical morality in an increasingly antagonistic culture. I also noted the importance of living the truth we proclaim, knowing that our lives must be the first sermon we preach.

How can we be the change we wish to see? Paul’s letter to a church in an antagonistic culture offers us clear and compelling guidance.

When Paul came to the Greek city of Thessalonica, a mob responded to the gospel by attacking followers of Jesus (Acts 17:1–10). Nonetheless, the apostle encouraged Thessalonian Christians to “stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us” (2 Thessalonians 2:15). He reminded them that their salvation came “through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (v. 13), that divine-human partnership by which we accept God’s word as true and the Spirit uses that truth to transform our lives.

The basis for our salvation is “our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace” (v. 16). Paul could therefore pray for the Lord to “comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word” (v. 17).

Four empowering imperatives

This passage calls us to four simple commitments that are transforming for us and our influence:

One: Remember that God is love (1 John 4:8). Because he “loved us” in the past, he has given us “good hope through grace” for the present and “eternal comfort” for the future. No matter who you are or where you are, God loves you.

Two: Believe God’s word is truth (John 17:17). What the Bible says about sexuality or any other issue we face is the unchanging, life-giving truth of God.

Three: Submit to the sanctification of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18; 1 Peter 1:2). He alone can make us like Jesus (Romans 8:29), transforming us into the kind of people whose lives will draw the world to our Lord.

Four: Stand firm for your Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58; 16:13). The greater the opposition to Jesus, the greater the opportunity for courage that glorifies our Lord.

A song on the radio

As we choose to follow Jesus with courage, it is vital to remember that we need God’s grace just as much as anyone who rejects God’s grace. The other day, I was driving home from the office and heard a powerful song by Sidewalk Prophets on the radio. Titled “You Love Me Anyway,” it includes these lyrics:

I am the thorn in your crown
But you love me anyway
I am the sweat from your brow
But you love me anyway
I am the nail in your wrist
But you love me anyway
I am Judas’ kiss
But you love me anyway

Source

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By Temmy
Thu, May 06, 2021 11:58am
Evangelicals and casual sex

People in bed having sex

Last August, Pew Research announced the findings of a new study with a provocative headline: “Half of Christians say casual sex is sometimes or always acceptable.”

As is the case with many studies, a “Christian” for the purposes of this study meant anyone who “identified” as one, without taking into account orthodox belief or degree of commitment. Still, the results are disturbing.

In particular, what the study reveals about self-identified evangelicals is especially troubling. According to Pew, less than half of evangelicals surveyed were willing to say that casual sex is never acceptable. Seventeen percent said casual sex was “rarely” acceptable. Twenty-four percent said that it was sometimes so, and twelve percent (one in eight!) said that casual sex was always acceptable.

Remember, these are evangelicals talking about casual sex here or, as the survey defined it, “sex between consenting adults who are not in a committed romantic relationship.” We’re talking Tinder and the infamous “hook up” culture.

That any Christian would find this behavior ever acceptable is astounding, but that more than one-third of evangelicals are fine with occasional promiscuity? (The survey also found that nearly three-in-five approve of cohabitation, with two-fifths of them planning to doing so.)

At root, what this survey reveals is a failure of catechesis. Or, to be more precise, a failure of the Church combined with the resounding success of cultural forces to catechize. Specifically, churches have failed to teach young people a true, Christian understanding of sex and the human body.

It will sound ridiculous to some, especially those wounded by or obsessed with “purity culture,” to say that churches haven’t catechized people about sexual morality. The popular assumption is that Christians are always talking about sex!

Missing in these “hot takes” are two things. First, we are a full generation past the heyday of “purity culture,” if there ever was one. Since the 1990s, the pendulum has fully swung in the opposite direction, more than overcompensating for any past stridency. It’s not that many churches modified their views on sex outside of marriage; it’s that they stopped talking about it. Or, when they did, many were so focused on apologizing for how they did it in the past that they forgot to teach the actual morality part in the present.

Either way, many young evangelicals learned to be OK with causal sex and cohabitation in churches sounding what the Apostle Paul called an “uncertain trumpet” on the matter. Embarrassed by what Christianity has to say about sex, the emphasis was placed on assuring people that sexual sin is “no big deal,” no worse than any other sins, and that we shouldn’t be too “judgy.”

Second, within those churches that did continue to proclaim (and rightly so) that God cares about sexual behavior, there was often a failure to connect sexual morality to God’s creative purposes for sex (or, to put it differently to connect “the what” with “the why”). To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, before we can know what to do with something, we need to know what that something is for.

In many cases, the Church was merely decorating a thoroughly secular vision of sexuality, the kind now largely taken for granted in our culture, with a sort of external Christian morality. Surface-level catechism is no catechism at all.

In contrast, there is absolutely nothing uncertain or surface-level about the cultural catechism about sex. In our world, it’s those who abstain from sex outside of marriage who have to explain themselves. Those who embrace children as God-given blessings of the sexual act who have to defend their point of view. It’s Christians who must justify their strange opinions about sex.

Even if churches effectively catechized in the area of sexuality, that prospect would be daunting. Advances in technology and the omnipresent internet only add to our immersion in the culture’s worst messages. With an uncertain trumpet coming from the Church, maybe we should be surprised that even more of our young people aren’t okay with causal sex and cohabitation.

Still, we should remember that Christianity arose within the paganistic and sexually abusive Greco-Roman world. In that world, biblical morality was seen as life-giving, hopeful, and good. The same Scriptural truths that transformed the Western mind are as potent today as ever.

Source

https://www.dailydevotionalsonline.com/chatroom.php?alltime=yes#442 

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By Temmy
Thu, May 06, 2021 3:48pm
Where is the Church amidst the chaos of the ungodly - Hedieh Mirahmadi

Courtesy of Hedieh Mirahmadi
Hedieh Mirahmadi

Every day police officers have only seconds to make life or death decisions about threats to public safety, and they do not have the luxury of carefully deliberating other options. In one instance, the officer is charged with 2nd-degree murder for using her firearm instead of a taser even though the suspect was armed and was trying to outrun the police. In the other case, the officer fatally shot the teenager poised to drive a knife into another person.

Both the media and some politicians were quick to blame the police and reignite the passion for defunding police departments across the U.S. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib went so far as to public comment on Twitter that "policing in our country is inherently and intentionally racist. No more policing, incarceration, it can't be reformed."[1] Regarding the knife-wielding teenager, the media hosted numerous experts to explain how de-escalation tactics should have been used since the young lady was a product of the foster care system and could not self-regulate her emotions.[2]

In my two decades of experience training and consulting for both local and federal law enforcement on building early intervention programs for potential terrorists, if there was a real and credible threat of violence by an individual, other forms of intervention were immediately ruled out. The clear line of demarcation between community actors such as health care professionals and the police was when a person posed a physical threat to society. Multidisciplinary teams that can de-escalate a crisis are not utilized when there is a violent crime in progress. If the use of deadly force, carrying a weapon with the intent to use it, is no longer the standard for the role of law enforcement, chaos ensues.

God sets up a standard for man of prohibiting violence and loving one's neighbor as yourself, as well as equity and justice for all in the sight of God. We are taught forgiveness and compassion towards our enemies and that vengeance belongs to the Lord. Our rule of law and respect for authority are based on these Biblical principles. Without a moral standard based on Biblical values, morality becomes relative. Some claim that violence is justified to destroy systematic oppression or personal grievances, as we see in these cases and when the rioting breaks out in cities across the U.S. At the same time, others decry the violence when their business is burned, or their home is attacked. Law and order will continue to decline if the use of violence is morally justified based on competing versions of social justice.[3]

The most tragic aspect of this rise in moral relativism is that the church is almost entirely absent from the national dialogue. There are competing voices from conservative pundits and the liberal media, but we hear very little from the pulpit condemning the violence. Very few pastors are speaking and writing publicly to denounce the degradation of our societal norms. There are no national calls of repentance and asking the Lord to intervene for His people.

Moses demanded Pharaoh to set the Israelites free, Elijah destroyed the prophets of Baal during the reign of King Ahab, and Daniel refused to bow in worship to King Nebuchadnezzar. God's elect always spoke truth to power when the power went against God's will for man. The Bible is not a series of fairytales. It is God's living word to be used for instruction and teaching.[4] God's people can't sit idly by when lawlessness, evil, and violence run rampant. Under the new covenant with Christ, we no longer go to a physical building of a temple. Our bodies are the temple[5] of God, yet, the importance of repentance and prayer to God is timeless and applicable today. For example, we can use as guidance the Prayer of Solomon 2 Chronicles: 6:12-42 honoring God, repenting, and asking for blessing upon the land. It says [in part]:

Lord my God, give attention to your servant's prayer and his plea for mercy. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence….Forgive, and deal with everyone according to all they do, since you know their hearts (for you alone know the human heart), so that they will fear you and walk in obedience to you all the time they live in the land you gave our ancestors.

….When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy...and if they have a change of heart in the land... and repent and plead with you...and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul….then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their pleas, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people, who have sinned against you.

In American history, George Washington and the founding fathers found strength in the preachers of the day who encouraged them to fight against the tyranny of the British. They believed it was a calling on their lives to set up a nation under God and the church was there to support them from the pulpit.[6] It was the little-known black robe regiment that provided the prayer and the word of God to support the revolution, not to mention soldiers who fought alongside them[7]. The freedoms we enjoy today exist largely due to their support to the politicians who enshrined those beliefs in the nation's founding documents. Where is that regiment today?

The problem with the church, in many cases, is allegiances and alliances that are against God. Whether it is setting up false gods of fame and popularity or being afraid to confront the ungodly trends of the day, we are divided against ourselves. Jesus warns that a "city or house divided against itself, will not stand."[8] So, if we are unwilling to defend the truth of the Gospel, we may find ourselves irreparably lost like past generations until the remnant intercedes in a way that the Lord accepts[9]. As the Apostle Paul so passionately says:

"and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the Gospel."[10]

[1] https://twitter.com/RashidaTlaib/status/1381745303997534216

[2] https://www.vox.com/22406055/makhia-bryant-police-shooting-columbus-ohio

[3] https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/03/us/us-crime-rate-rise-2020/index.html

[4] 2 Timothy 3:16

[5] 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

[6] https://calvarycch.org/god-in-america/

[7] https://nationalblackroberegiment.com/history-of-the-black-robe-regiment/

[8] Matthew 12:22-28

[9] Romans 11:5

[10] Ephesians 6:19

Source

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By Temmy
Thu, May 06, 2021 8:51pm
Updated
Church, be like Nehemiah: Pray, then act - Greg Laurie

Greg Laurie is the senior pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California. He is the author of more than 70 books, including his latest, “Jesus Revolution,” host of the national radio broadcast “A New Beginning” and the founder of Harvest Crusades. | Greg Laurie
Greg Laurie is the senior pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California. He is the author of more than 70 books and the founder of Harvest Crusades.

On this National Day of Prayer, as the country continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic and injustice, we can look to a biblical figure for guidance: Nehemiah, whose name means “comforted by God.”

Greg Laurie is the senior pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California. He is the author of more than 70 books, including his latest, “Jesus Revolution,” host of the national radio broadcast “A New Beginning” and the founder of Harvest Crusades. | Greg Laurie
Thousands of years ago, Nehemiah was cupbearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia when he received news from his Jewish countrymen that the wall of Jerusalem had been destroyed and its gates had been burned to the ground. After hearing this devastating report, Nehemiah wept and fasted for many days.

He knew he had to do something about the situation — but first, he prayed.

Sometimes when we look at our problems, we only want a spiritual solution: we pray but we don’t want to take action. Other times, we want to act, but we don’t want to pray.

We all have something to learn from the life of Nehemiah.

Nehemiah acknowledged the greatness of God.

He began his prayer for his nation with, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments…” (Nehemiah 1:5).

Before anything else, Nehemiah acknowledged God’s greatness.

The word “awesome” is one that gets tossed around a lot without much thought to its meaning. So, what does “awesome” really mean? It means awe-inspiring, usually in a way that is associated with terror or weightiness.

When we meditate on God’s greatness, we begin to see our problems in their relative smallness, but not insignificance. Nehemiah’s problems were real and they were serious; he was not out of touch with reality. He understood his only hope for restoration for his nation was in God. In the midst of his tears, he chose to proclaim God’s greatness and praise him for his love.

Nehemiah reminded God of his promises.

Notice how Nehemiah addresses his prayer to “the God who keeps his covenant” (Nehemiah 1:5). Did Nehemiah need to remind God of one of his attributes? No. God is omniscient, which means he is all-knowing. So why would Nehemiah remind God of something when he prayed?

I think it was his way of reminding himself as much as he was reminding God. Perhaps he was thinking about God’s promise to and covenant with Abraham:

“‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly. ...And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you’” (Genesis 17:1-2, 6-7)

It was as if Nehemiah was saying, “God, you promised to provide for all of our needs, so I’m praying in light of that.” When we say, “Lord, I've been reading your promises, and I remember your promises, and I’m reminding you of your promises,” that’s a good thing. God delights in not only our reading through the Bible, but also our praying through the Bible.

Nehemiah confessed his sin.

Nehemiah continued:

“Let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father's house have sinned.We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses” (Nehemiah 1:6-7)

As we look at Nehemiah’s life in the Scripture, we don’t read of any notable sin. He didn’t worship false gods like many of his fellow Israelites, yet he said, “I have sinned.” Sometimes we pray for other people to change. But first we must pray and confess our own sin and ask God to change us.

Nehemiah experienced revival.

The United States is in need of a spiritual awakening and a reckoning. But true revival starts with each one of us.

What do I mean by revival? I mean restoring to original condition, coming back to life, so that we might be the people that God intended us to be. We are called to pray for our leaders and for the nation as a whole. And while we can pray for other people to change, we have to pray that God would change us. Revival is personal before it’s public.

God answered Nehemiah’s prayer, but God determined that Nehemiah was the one through whom he was going to bring change, and he ultimately sent him to rebuild the walls in Jerusalem. I’m not trying to compare the modern United States of America to Israel of Nehemiah’s day. Nonetheless, we can learn from the way Nehemiah prayed and then acted.

If we desire that God intervene in our lives and in our nation, then let us pray: acknowledging God’s greatness, meditating on his promises and confessing our sin. Then let’s go out and do the work.

Source

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By Temmy
Thu, May 06, 2021 9:06pm
Biden Becomes 1st President to Omit 'God' from National Day of Prayer Proclamation

Biden delivering an address

President Biden on Wednesday issued a National Day of Prayer proclamation that touted the "power of prayer" and invited Americans to "give thanks," although the proclamation's absence of the word "God" sparked criticism and marked the first time that's happened in modern history.

By a 1952 law, every U.S. president must issue a proclamation designating a National Day of Prayer. This year the day fell on May 6.

"Today, we remember and celebrate the role that the healing balm of prayer can play in our lives and in the life of our Nation," the proclamation reads. "As we continue to confront the crises and challenges of our time – from a deadly pandemic, to the loss of lives and livelihoods in its wake, to a reckoning on racial justice, to the existential threat of climate change – Americans of faith can call upon the power of prayer to provide hope and uplift us for the work ahead."

On the National Day of Prayer, "we unite with purpose and resolve, and recommit ourselves to the core freedoms that helped define and guide our Nation from its earliest days," it reads.

"We celebrate our incredible good fortune that, as Americans, we can exercise our convictions freely – no matter our faith or beliefs," it reads. "Let us find in our prayers, however they are delivered, the determination to overcome adversity, rise above our differences, and come together as one Nation to meet this moment in history."

The proclamation, though, omits the word "God," making Biden the first president not to include "God" in his proclamation in the modern history of National Day of Prayer proclamations. The omission is ironic, because secular groups in recent months have criticized Biden for discussing religion too much.

According to the text of proclamations at UC Santa Barbara's American Presidency Project, every proclamation since 1953 – the first year proclamations were required under law – had included "God" until this year. Most proclamations mentioned "God" multiple times.

David Brody, the chief political analyst for CBN News, criticized the proclamation for what it didn't include.

"Joe Biden's National Day of Prayer Proclamation has been released and it doesn't even mention God once! How do you release a proclamation about prayer and not mention God at all?" Brody wrote in a tweet.

President Trump's 2018 proclamation mentioned "God" multiple times, such as: "On this National Day of Prayer, let us come together, all according to their faiths, to thank God for His many blessings and ask for His continued guidance and strength."

President Obama's 2015 proclamation referenced God three times, including in the following phrase: "Through prayer we find the strength to do God's work." Obama's 2010 proclamation read, in part, "On this day, let us give thanks for the many blessings God has bestowed upon our Nation."

President George W. Bush's 2003 proclamation read, "We come together to thank God for our Nation's many blessings, to acknowledge our need for His wisdom and grace, and to ask Him to continue to watch over our country in the days ahead."

President Clinton's 1995 proclamation read, "Let us not forget those painful lessons of our past, but continue to seek the guidance of God in all the affairs of our Nation."

President George H.W. Bush's 1991 proclamation read, "As one Nation under God, we Americans are deeply mindful of both our dependence on the Almighty and our obligations as a people He has richly blessed."

President Reagan's 1987 proclamation encouraged Americans to "turn our faces and our hearts to God not only at moments of personal danger and civil strife, but in the full flower of the liberty, peace, and abundance that He has showered upon us."

President Carter's 1979 proclamation read, "We endure and remain a land of hope because of the basic goodness and strength of our people and because the God of us all has shown us His favor."

President Ford's 1976 proclamation, issued during the nation's bicentennial celebration, read, "Let us also reflect on the profound faith in God which inspired the founding fathers."

President Nixon's 1973 proclamation read, "America is a nation under God."

President Johnson's 1967 proclamation read, "Let each of us pray that God will endow us with the constancy to prevail in defense of freedom, and with the courage and resolution to preserve and extend His blessings of liberty."

President Kennedy's 1962 proclamation read, "May we especially ask God's blessing upon our homes, that this integral unit of society may nurture our youth and give to them the needed faith in God, in our Nation, and in their future."

President Eisenhower's 1959 proclamation read, "Let us remember that our God is the God of all men, that only as all men are free can liberty be secure for any, and that only as all prosper can any be content in their good fortune."

President Truman's 1952 proclamation encouraged Americans to "beseech God to grant us wisdom to know the course which we should follow."

In 1952, Truman signed a bill into law requiring presidents to issue a National Day of Prayer proclamation.

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By Temmy
Fri, May 07, 2021 1:44pm
Pastor, wife attacked by man who allegedly bit their ears, gouged eyes

Pastor Timothy Johnson (R) and his wife Renee. | CBS Chicago
Pastor Timothy Johnson (R) and his wife Renee.

A Chicago pastor and his wife who were beaten during an unprovoked attack by a man who chewed off pieces of their ears and gouged both their eyes are now receiving an outpouring of support from the public as they fight to recover at a hospital.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, 28-year-old Elijah Rule Hill Prince, who is undergoing a psychiatric evaluation, is facing aggravated battery and attempted murder charges for his brutal attack on Pastor Timothy Johnson, who is a minister at Salem Baptist Church, and his wife, Renee, on Saturday.

“This is not a dream, this is not a movie, this is not an episode of a crime show — this is our life,” wrote the couple’s daughter, Destinee Johnson, about the attack on her parents in a statement on Facebook. “I don't have the words to say, sometimes I don't have the strength but the strength of my parents keep me going. We do need your prayers. We need your love.”

Rule Hill Prince, according to prosecutors cited by the Chicago Sun-Times, first attacked the pastor while he was cleaning the alley behind his mother-in-law’s South Side Chicago home in the 10500 block of South Emerald Avenue after he tried selling Johnson something and the pastor turned down the offer.

“My brother just told him, ‘No, I’m OK. No thank you. I’m not interested.’ And he just attacked him,” the pastor’s sister, Rhonda Hutcherson, told CBS Chicago.

A reporting of what happened next was like “listening to a horror movie,” according to Judge John F. Lyke Jr.

Rule Hill Prince allegedly put the pastor in a chokehold and hit him in the head with a shovel he had been using. He then punched him in the face, gouged his eyes with his fingers, bit his ears, the top of the pastor’s head then spat in his mouth. He then stuffed a three-inch block into the pastor’s left eye.

When the pastor’s wife realized what was happening, she ran to his aid, but Rule Hill Prince allegedly grabbed her by the hair and gouged her eyes with his fingers too. He also bit her ears, ripping off “large chunks” and spit on her. When she fell to the ground, he reportedly kicked her several times.

Her husband managed to call 911 for help after pulling a wooden object from his eye. Rule Hill Prince fled the scene after a neighbor yelled at him, but he was later apprehended by police. Prosecutors said Rule Hill Prince’s mouth, face and the elbows of his jackets were covered in blood which he called the “blood of peasants.”

“They have suffered life changing injuries that will impact them and our family forever.
Our father has also been battling Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma for the last 10 years. Simultaneously, he and our mother have been caretakers for their mothers/our grandparents,” Destinee Johnson wrote in a GoFundMe campaign for her parents that had raised more than $68,000 as of Thursday evening.

Prosecutors say Renee Johnson is now missing parts of both her ears, suffered two black eyes, bruising to her head and face. Her husband is suffering from vision impairment, a broken orbital bone and other injuries, including missing pieces of his ear.

Judge Lyke, who said the allegations against Rule Hill Prince “shocks the conscious,” ordered him held on $5 million bail until another hearing on May 10.

“They’ve done so much for the students and people in this city, and so [for] this to happen to them is just unfortunate,” the couple’s son, Antonio, told CBS Chicago.

“My parents’ hearts are so big. My parents’ love is overflowing. We don’t know why this happened, right. But it’s a nightmare,” his sister added.

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By Temmy
Fri, May 07, 2021 1:52pm
Updated
Christian and Missionary Alliance to Consider Calling Women Pastors

lady reading a Bible and smiling

The Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) is considering altering the title restrictions at the denomination's annual General Council meeting, which is set for the end of May in Nashville. It will also be held online for those who cannot attend.

Though no decision will be enacted until 2022, the Alliance will discuss the possibility of allowing women to be titled as pastors in the future, Christianity Today reports.

The denomination does not currently ordain women but rather consecrates and licenses women for priesthood. According to Church Leaders, the rank of pastor is reserved for men, but women in CMA churches administer baptisms, weddings, funerals, hospital stays, counseling, and other services.

The Official CMA policy would authorize women to fill "Key places of leadership in the Alliance at the local church, district, and national levels" while calling themselves pastors. The two-year training and vetting process for men and women is currently the same, but men are ordained while women are consecrated—a difference in name but not in effect.

Some women who are currently consecrated to serve in the CMA say the policy reform would provide much-needed linguistic clarification. However, not everyone feels this way.

According to polls of more than 3,000 CMA members, 61 percent think women should be titled as pastors and that there should be no differentiation between the terms "Ordained" and "Consecrated." However, the majority of people think only men should be elders. And a small minority, just one out of every ten respondents, think that women already hold too much authority within the denomination.

CMA's President, John Stumbo, is backing the change in title, stating, "I believe we've been inconsistent in our documents and inappropriate in some of our policies. Any place we find that our policies limit people from ministry beyond any limit given by the Scriptures, are we not in error? I am among those who interpret the Scriptures through the lens of male-only eldership, yet I believe we've been inconsistent in our documents and inappropriate in some of our policies."

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By Temmy
Fri, May 07, 2021 2:05pm
Another Christian Nurse in Pakistan Falsely Accused of Blasphemy

nurse bearing a stethoscope

Nurse Sakina Mehtab said she was stunned to see videos of her Muslim colleagues marching on hospital premises in Lahore, Pakistan last week, shouting Islamist slogans and accusing her of blasphemy.

She has since gone into hiding after receiving anonymous calls threatening to “maim and kill” her over the false allegation.

Mehtab had shared a video on WhatsApp of a Pakistani Muslim in Paris criticizing the response of Pakistani people and officials to a European Union Parliament resolution – an issue unrelated to any religious element, but her Muslim colleagues mislabeled it as critical of Islam.

“There was no religious element in it, but a group of nurses spread lies that the video was anti-Islamic and accused me of blasphemy,” said Mehtab, due to retire from the Punjab Institute of Mental Health (PIMH) in Lahore in two years. “My life has been put at serious risk with this false allegation, and I don’t know how I’ll be able to resume work at the hospital with the fear that someone might attack me from nowhere. My fear is not unfounded.”

Hours after she shared the video, a large group of Muslim nurses and paramedical staff, some armed with clubs and sticks, staged a protest rally. Witnesses said the protestors intimidated Christian workers in hospital wards and repeatedly tried to provoke them into fights. There are about 345 Christians in the 600-strong workforce.

The protestors then stormed into a hospital auditorium that Christian staff members and patients use for worship and prayer, desecrated Bibles and other property and asserted that there would be no more Christian prayer gatherings there, she said.

“The Christian workers showed great wisdom by controlling their emotions, otherwise the situation could have turned very violent,” another Christian nurse told Morning Star News, speaking on condition of anonymity.

She said the timely intervention of security agencies forced PIMH Executive Director Muhammad Ashraf to designate a one-person “committee” to inquire into the conflict – but that the person chosen, Nursing Superintendent Khalida Sulehri, was biased.

“The committee was a farce, because Sulehri herself was involved in the dangerous propaganda against Sakina and had encouraged the Muslim workers to take out the protest rally,” she said.

DENIALS
Ashraf told a delegation of Muslim and Christian representatives on Monday (May 3) that the issue had resulted from a “misunderstanding.”

“Sakina and the other Christian nurses have apologized for sharing the controversial video, and that issue is sorted,” he claimed, declining to say what action might be taken against those who made the false allegations.

Denying that the protestors had desecrated any Christian materials, Ashraf said a former executive director in 2019 had allowed Christian staff members 30 minutes of worship per week in the auditorium, but that now they were demanding that it be designated as a church.

“There’s no provision of ‘church’ in any government hospital or department, so naturally I can’t allow this,” he said, asserting that Christian staff members’ refusal to allow any other event in the auditorium was a major cause of the recent conflict.

The unnamed Christian nurse denied this assertion, saying the Christian workers were being targeted under a systematic plan to “replace them with Muslims.

“This is the second attempt to trap a Christian worker in a false blasphemy case,” she said. “The administration’s bias towards Christians is evident, because no action has been taken against the persons who brought the false charge against Sakina and put her life at risk.”

She said the auditorium “church” issue was being used to pressure Christian workers.

BLASPHEMY LAWS
The protests marked the third instance this year of Christian nurses being falsely accused of blasphemy in Pakistan.

On April 9, two Christian nurses complying with a supervisor’s orders to remove stickers at a government hospital were arrested in Faisalabad after a Muslim employee attacked one of them with a knife over the removal of a sticker bearing Koranic verses.

Nurse Mariam Lal and student nurse Navish Arooj were charged under Section 295-B of Pakistan’s blasphemy statutes against “defiling the Koran” after an Islamist mob demanded “death to blasphemers” inside Civil Hospital, their attorney said. Conviction under Section 295-B is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine.

The two Roman Catholic nurses are in judicial custody while their families have gone into hiding out of fear of Islamist mobs.

On Jan. 28, Tabeeta Gill, a nurse at a Karachi hospital and a gospel singer, was slapped, beaten and locked in a room by a violent mob after a Muslim co-worker baselessly accused her of blaspheming Islam. Police initially cleared her of denigrating Muhammad but later succumbed to pressure of an Islamist mob and charged her with insulting Islam’s prophet, punishable by death under Section 295-C. Gill has reportedly fled the country to avoid arrest.

False accusations of blaspheming Islam in Pakistan are common, often motivated by personal vendettas or religious hatred. The highly inflammatory accusations have the potential to spark mob lynchings, vigilante murders and mass protests. Currently, 26 Christians are in prison due to blasphemy charges. They are defendants in 22 blasphemy cases at various levels of the judicial process.

EU RESOLUTION
The European Parliament on April 30 adopted a resolution calling for a review of Pakistan’s Generalized Scheme of Preferences status, which provides preferential access to EU markets through reduced tariffs, in view of an “alarming” increase in blasphemy accusations in the country, as well as a rising number of attacks on journalists and civil society organizations.

The resolution also calls on the government to “unequivocally condemn” incitement to violence and discrimination against religious minorities in Pakistan.

Repealing or amending Pakistan’s blasphemy laws is unlikely due to fierce Islamist sentiments in the Muslim-majority country, rights advocates say, adding that Pakistani authorities must be urged to immediately implement effective procedural and institutional safeguards at the investigative, prosecutorial and judicial levels to prevent abuse of these laws.

The U.S. State Department on Dec. 7 re-designated Pakistan among nine others “Countries of Particular Concern” for severe violations of religious freedom. Previously Pakistan had been added to the list on Nov. 28, 2018.

Pakistan ranked fifth on Christian support organization Open Doors 2021 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

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By Temmy
Mon, May 10, 2021 1:09pm
Keep up the good fight, mothers. The world needs you.

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, executive producer of “Breakthrough” with 20th Century Fox and author of “From Survive to Thrive: Live a Holy, Healed, Healthy, Happy, Humble, Hungry, and Honoring Life” (Charisma House Publishing), a best-seller on Amazon. CNN and FOX News have called him “the leader of the Hispanic Evangelical movement” and TIME magazine nominated him among the 100 most influential leaders in America.
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, executive producer of “Breakthrough” with 20th Century Fox.

I wouldn't be here if not for the prayers of my grandmother. She prayed nightly for each of her many grandchildren by name. I wouldn't be here if not for the prayers of my mother that sustain me to this very hour. There are moments that I'm fighting darkness and the pressures of this world, and I know my mama is praying for me. She sends me text messages all the time telling me she’s praying for me, reminding me of the promises of God.

Many wonderful mothers and fathers spend sleepless nights worrying that their mistakes will have long-term effects on their children. But does your broken marriage guarantee that your child will one day divorce or be divorced by their spouse? No. Are your present financial struggles an indicator of your child’s future poverty? Of course not.

Why? Because Jesus has broken every curse. When Jesus said, “It is finished” on the cross on Good Friday, it was finished. The bonds of sin and shame were broken. Mothers, your children will make you proud. Their lives might be in shambles right now. They may not be serving God or want anything to do with him. But I believe the Holy Spirit can touch the hearts of your children to such a degree that even prodigal sons and daughters will come back home.

That’s why it’s important that we confront the “giants” in our lives, giants like depression, anxiety, fear, sin, confusion and addiction. Our fallen giants will be the bridge that our children utilize to step into their God-ordained purposes. If God can bring us out of bondage to those giants, then God can bring our children out, too.

According to Apostle Paul, we are more than conquerors because God conquers on our behalf (Romans 8:37). By the grace of God, we can leave a spiritual inheritance for our children that will allow them to walk in divine purpose — a purpose hell cannot stop.

To every mother who has the courage to believe her role as a parent or guardian is a sacred trust — not just for the birth mothers, adoptive mothers, foster mothers, but for the spiritual mothers as well — I want you to hear me. There is a special blessing for the mothers who weather the storms of life, and we know mothers are storm chasers and storm survivors. The blessing is for the mother who wakes up in the wee hours of the morning to feed her children and the blessing is for the mother who wakes up when that baby is now a teenager or an adult, interceding and weeping for her child.

I pray you receive all of these blessings for you and your children and their children for years to come. But how do we realize all of these promises?

We need to tell our children about them. Tell your children about the cross, about the empty tomb. Don't just tell them that Jesus delivers; show them how he has changed your life. Don't just tell them to pray; show them how to pray.

If we instruct our children in the ways of the Lord, when they get older, they will not forget those teachings even if they wander from them for a while. So receive the peace of God right now in your home, in your mind and in your soul. Your children will not inherit your sins. Your children will inherit your blessings.

Keep fighting the good fight, mothers. You are more than conquerors.

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By Temmy
Mon, May 10, 2021 1:27pm
Canadian Police Arrest Pastor for Holding 'Illegal In-Person Gathering'

Image Source: YouTube Screenshot/Artur Pawlowski TV

Canadian Pastor Artur Pawlowski was arrested Saturday for allegedly holding a church service that violated new public health orders pertaining to gatherings.

Pawlowski and his brother Dawid were accused of organizing and attending an in-person gathering earlier that day, Calgary Police said in a statement.

"Artur Pawlowski and Dawid Pawlowski have both been arrested and charged with organizing an illegal in-person gathering, including requesting, inciting, or inviting others to attend an illegal public gathering, promoting and attending an illegal public gathering."

Police say they served the Pawlowski's a new court order prior to Saturday's church service but the brothers were detained because they "chose to ignore the requirements."

The arrests come after Alberta Health Services received a directive to stop various gatherings and rallies that defy public health orders across the province.

Pawlowski is a longtime street preacher and the pastor of the Cave of Adullam congregation in Calgary.

He gained international attention when police showed up at his church on Easter weekend checking for compliance with local COVID guidelines.

CBN News has previously reported on several Canadian pastors willing to stand up and fight for their religious freedom.

Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church in Edmonton received a similar health order before he was sent to jail for 35 days for not following it.

Coates is currently on trial for not following government COVID-19 health rules.

His church began meeting at another location when police put a fence around it, a barrier that was later torn down by protestors.

And Life Church Muskoka in Ontario had its worship service interrupted by police while trying to fully comply with government COVID-19 restrictions.

The church called the police response "heavy-handed."

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By Temmy
Tue, May 11, 2021 9:51am
Saddleback Church Ordains Three Women as Pastors despite Denomination's Restrictions

A woman likely being ordained as pastor in the church

Last week, Saddleback Church, a California-based megachurch led by Pastor Rick Warren, announced its first ordination of three female pastors.

According to The Christian Post, the announcement was made on the church's Facebook page last Thursday.

"Yesterday was a historic night for Saddleback Church in many ways! We ordained our first three women pastors, Liz Puffer, Cynthia Petty, and Katie Edwards," said a post shared to the Saddleback Church Facebook page. "We commissioned three new elders, Anthony Miller, Jeremiah Goley, and Jason Williams! And we appointed Pastor Johnny Baker as the new global leader of Celebrate Recovery!"

Saddleback Church is the largest church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, which holds to the view that women are not to be ordained as pastors because God has called men and women to different roles.

Owen Strachan, a theology professor at Grace Bible Theological Seminary, commented on the post, describing the ordination as an example of "unbiblical developments," adding that the "time to leave is NOW."

"Now is the time to leave and find a sound congregation. Do not delay. There is no spirit of competition in what I write here; what Saddleback is doing grieves me, and I have no doubt grieves many in the congregation," he argued.

"Churches that affirm women pastors are opposing the Word of God, and opposing the Word of God means opposing God himself," Strachan added.

To make his case, Strachen cited the apostle Paul's words in 1 Timothy 2:9-15, which features the verse, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet."

According to Christianity.com, this view is a part of complementarian ideology. Complementarianism asserts that men and women were made to fill different but complementary roles. Under this ideology, women are restricted from serving in certain church leadership roles, such as the pastorate. Egalitarianism, on the other hand, asserts that men and women were made as equals and can assume the same leadership roles. Under egalitarianism, women are permitted to serve in ministerial positions.

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By Temmy
Tue, May 11, 2021 10:13am
Some German Catholic Priests to Defy Pope Francis, Plan to Bless Gay Unions Despite Vatican Ban

Vicar Wolfgang Rothe, left, blesses the couple Christine Walter, center, and Almut Muenster, right, during a Catholic service with the blessing of same-sex couples in St Benedict's Church in Munich, Sunday, May 9, 2021. (Felix Hoerhager/dpa via AP)
Vicar Wolfgang Rothe, left, blesses the couple Christine Walter, center, and Almut Muenster, right, during a Catholic service with the blessing of same-sex couples in St Benedict's Church in Munich, Sunday, May 9, 2021.

Germany's powerful Catholic progressives are openly defying a recent pronouncement from the Roman Catholic Church that priests cannot bless same-sex unions by offering such blessings at services in about 100 different churches all over the country this week.

The blessings at open worship services are the latest pushback from German Catholics against a Vatican document released in March.

As CBN News reported, the Vatican's orthodoxy office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said Catholic clergy cannot bless same-sex unions because God "cannot bless sin."

The two-page explanation, published in seven languages and approved by Pope Francis, distinguished between the church's welcoming and blessing of gay people, which it upheld, but not their unions.

The Vatican holds that gays must be treated with dignity and respect, but that gay sex is "intrinsically disordered." Catholic teaching holds that marriage between a man and woman is part of God's plan and is intended for the sake of creating new life.

Since gay unions are not intended to be part of that plan, they cannot be blessed by the church, the document said.

"The presence in such relationships of positive elements, which are in themselves to be valued and appreciated, cannot justify these relationships and render them legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing since the positive elements exist within the context of a union not ordered to the Creator's plan," the document said.

God "does not and cannot bless sin: He blesses sinful man, so that he may recognize that he is part of his plan of love and allow himself to be changed by him," it said.

Pope Francis has endorsed providing gay couples with legal protections in same-sex unions, but that is in reference to the civil sphere, not within the church.

Could Part of the German Church Leave the Catholic Church?

The dozens of German church services celebrating blessings of gay unions are the latest escalation in tensions between conservatives and progressives that have already sparked alarm that part of the German church could break with the Vatican.

Germany is no stranger to religious division. Martin Luther launched the Reformation there 500 years ago.

Pope Francis, who has championed a more decentralized church structure, has already reminded the German hierarchy that it must remain in communion with Rome during its reform process, known as a "synodal path."

In Berlin, the Rev. Jan Korditschke, a Jesuit who works for the diocese preparing adults for baptism and helps out at the St. Canisius congregation, will lead blessings for LGBTQ couples at a worship service on May 16.

"I am convinced that homosexual orientation is not bad, nor is homosexual love a sin," Korditschke told The Associated Press. "I want to celebrate the love of homosexuals with these blessings."

The 44-year-old said it is important that homosexuals can show themselves within the Catholic Church and gain more visibility long-term.

The head of the German Bishops Conference last month criticized the grassroots initiative for gay blessings which is called "Liebe Gewinnt" or "Love Wins."

Limburg Bishop Georg Baetzing said the blessings "are not suitable as an instrument of church political manifestations or political actions."

But, Germany's powerful lay organization, the Central Committee of German Catholics, or ZdK, which has been advocating for gay blessings since 2015, positioned itself once more in favor of them. It called the document from Rome "not very helpful" and explicitly expressed its support for LGBTQ blessings.

"These are celebrations of worship in which people express to God what moves them," Birgit Mock, the ZdK's spokeswoman for family affairs, told the AP.

The ZdK has been taking part in the "synodal path" meetings for more than a year with the German Bishops Conference. They are due to conclude in the fall. The meetings include talks about allowing priests to get married, the ordination of women, and a different understanding of sexuality, among other reforms. The process was launched as part of the response to revelations of clergy sexual abuse.

The Catholic News Agency reports a German Catholic group has appealed to the country's bishops to unite with Rome and stop the blessing of same-sex unions planned by some priests to begin this week.

In a statement, Clara Steinbrecher, leader of the Maria 1.0 group said: "The planned blessing celebrations are a targeted provocation in the direction of Pope Francis and should therefore be omitted by the priests."

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By Temmy
Tue, May 11, 2021 1:52pm
Updated
Christian counsellor champions ‘biblical masculinity,' laments how men are feeling ‘marginalized’

An overhead view of a man reading scripture in a dark room, window light illuminating the pages from above and behind him. Horizontal image with copy space. | Getty Images
An overhead view of a man reading scripture in a dark room, window light illuminating the pages from above and behind him.

A notable Christian professional counselor has advised men to reclaim their “biblical masculinity” amid mounting attacks on manhood by the mainstream culture.

Tim Clinton, president of the American Association of Christian Counselors, co-authored the book, Take It Back, with prolific writer Max Davis. In it, they counter critiques and corruptions of masculinity by various entities within modern American culture and champion biblical ideals of manhood.

One example cited in the book was the release of guidelines by the American Psychological Association in 2018 that described “traditional masculinity” as being a “particular constellation of standards” that include “anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence.”

Many conservative social commentators interpreted the guidelines as expressing hostility toward masculinity and the healthy attributes it brings to culture and civilization.

“It's no secret that there’s been a real beat-down on men in the media and our culture,” Clinton told The Christian Post. “In response, there has been an aggressive and radical push to feminize men.”

“Many men feel marginalized — like they have to almost apologize for being a male. We want to say to men all over America, ‘it’s OK to be a man, to be masculine!’ Honestly, it’s crazy we have to say this.”

Clinton told CP that he and Davis “are not justifying any sinful or unhealthy behaviors, but we are making a distinction that while behavior can be toxic, it does not mean that masculinity is toxic.”

“Masculinity has been labeled as toxic, and most men are accused of everything from misogyny to being buffoons,” continued Clinton. “There is also a difference between traditional masculinity and true biblical masculinity. Now more than ever, we need godly men: men who know who they are and harness their roles and responsibilities.”

The Christian Post interviewed Clinton about his book, views on masculinity and criticism of his work. The following is an edited transcript of that interview.

CP: One of the things you stressed is that true godly masculinity doesn't involve mere physical stature or brute strength. You emphasized in the book that the idea that men shouldn't cry is "not true" and "not biblical." How else do you believe traditional American cultural ideas get it wrong about masculinity?

Clinton: I think some have unfortunately confused roles and responsibilities with men being superior to women in marriage. The progressives have also missed it when they try to claim men and women are the same. They are not. Men and women are equal before God, but different.

Then, there’s this stereotype that masculine men don’t know how to love, or show affection, that they are hard and emotionless, or they just don’t get it. While that behavior may be true of some men, there are a lot of men who are tender and strong. They know how to love and be loved.

Through the ages, there have been godly men who know how to love, who care for the brokenhearted, who are tender toward their children, their spouses, and people in general. We want to exemplify that, not the media narrative that is out there.

CP: In one chapter, you warn about men not being good enough gatekeepers of their families, and then later on in the chapter, you quoted the now-disgraced apologist Ravi Zacharias in an authoritative manner. Were you aware of the allegations against Zacharias when you were writing the book, and what's your opinion of the allegations?

Clinton: The final and edited Take It Back manuscript was completed in 2019. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the book’s release was delayed. It’s tragic what we are hearing and learning about Ravi Zacharias. Obviously, we wouldn’t have quoted him had we known then what we are learning now.

CP: In one chapter about men and women, you wrote: "They are equal, but they are not the same." Would you say that the complementarian model best exemplifies the godly masculinity you write about in the book? Or can this godly masculinity be just as properly lived in other, possibly more egalitarian, models?

Clinton: We explore godly men throughout the Bible, and our ultimate focus is on Christ as our model. We make no apology by stating Christ-likeness should be the anchor and heart of what it means to be a man, that Jesus was the Supreme model for masculinity. He was a man. Not only that, He was the PERFECT man.

This in no way is meant to be disparaging to women. Jesus is their model too! Yet, if men modeled the way Jesus respected and elevated women, never in a patronizing way, in a culture that looked down on women — the way He loved all people and served to the point of laying down His life, what an impact we would have on the culture.

Jesus wept and washed feet and was compassionate and sensitive to the pains of those around Him. He also stood strong against evil. He drove the money changers out of the temple with a whip, making quite a scene. He was a carpenter with calloused hands that ultimately stretched out those hands to take the nails for us.

There is no room for a culture of sexism or toxic behavior in true biblical masculinity.

CP: You describe at length the many ways in which Western society is opposed to masculinity. When would you say that proper, godly masculinity was promoted and advanced by Western society? Is there a time period within the past, say, 200 years, that you believe serves as a better example?

Clinton: What we are trying to say in the book is there is toxic behavior by men, but it is a mistake to label godly masculinity as toxic. The focus should be on correcting the behavior by changing the hearts of men, but not at the expense of masculinity.

Toxic behavior has existed since the beginning of time, perhaps covered up more in the past. So exposure of this behavior has been a good thing. At the same time, though, in the past, masculinity was not demonized.

My father, for example, was part of what Tom Brokaw called the "Greatest Generation," World War II veterans. He faithfully served in the U.S. Navy and spent time on the U.S.S. Pennsylvania in the South Pacific. He loved God and took seriously Nehemiah 4:14, which says, "Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and fearsome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses" (NKJV).

Even though he served three churches as a pastor, he always made our family a priority. We would hunt and fish together, throw a ball, go swimming and kneel together. I often describe him as the kindest man I have ever met.

CP: Some have accused you of engaging in plagiarism with the book, specifically the first chapter and its resemblance to passages from George Foreman's book, God in My Corner. How do you respond?

Clinton: Of course, the accusations are false.

Co-author of Take It Back, Max Davis, has written nearly 40 books and one of them was with George Foreman, whom he spent many hours with, helping to capture his life and craft his message.

Aside from having four citations in the roughly four-page story, this section is partially drawn from Max’s relationship and interactions with him. This is Max’s gift. He helps leaders articulate their messages and it has blessed scores of people for many years.

Though, you should also know that the book went through significant editorial processes to begin with and went through sophisticated software to catch any citation errors afterward (which happens sometimes when one writes large bodies of work).

We have also subsequently consulted with the publishers of both books and agree there are no issues or concerns and have put this issue to rest.

We are praying that God will use this book in a powerful way to challenge and encourage the hearts of men and bring hope and healing to many individuals and families.

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By Temmy
Tue, May 11, 2021 4:49pm
How a special needs son taught his mother how to live

Paige Brydon and son, Miller | Courtesy of Christian Action League
Paige Brydon and son, Miller

Most doting parents have grand ambitions for their children, like the mother who was asked about her two kids in elementary school and answered: “The doctor is in the third grade, and the lawyer is in the first!”

That’s what came to my mind recently while listening to Paige Brydon at a press conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. Brydon spoke in favor of proposed legislation in the Tarheel state that would ban elective abortions based on sex, race, or the presumption an unborn child has Down Syndrome.

Brydon said that at age 24, she became pregnant, and the father didn’t want anything to do with her or her baby. She knew she was without the kind of support she needed to keep the child. So, with great anguish, she terminated her pregnancy.

A few years later, she happily married and became pregnant again with her first child, a boy!

“We were so excited! Surely, we were going to have the next President of IBM!” said Brydon. “But upon his delivery, we discovered Miller [the boy’s name] had Down Syndrome. We were floored. In my heart, I thought it was God’s retribution for the abortion.”

But Brydon said as Miller grew, her love and appreciation for him daily intensified as she observed this amazingly “sweet, funny, albeit slow little fella.” Miller was so full of life. She added:

“He has danced at the White House, lapped the NASCAR track, has been on magazine covers, made numerous television appearances, and now is a part of Bear Food – a gourmet peanut butter business, which was developed by Miller’s brother, Mac, to provide job skills to special needs adults.”

Then Brydon shared a story about Miller, which I thought, had profound significance. She told it so marvelously well; I’ll share it here with you just as she did with the press. She said:

“Rewind with me to a Christmas pageant held at our church several years ago. Miller was around 20-21 years old – a young adult. As usual, during one portion of the Christmas pageant, the little children of the church appeared dressed as angels to sing Christmas carols. As they were singing, a rough-looking homeless man walked into the sanctuary. Clearly, he had not bathed or changed clothes for quite a while, but was proclaiming now he was drug-free. All of the adults were thinking… ‘maybe for about 3 hours’ … Yet as he watched these precious children sing and heard the heavenly sound of their voices, he started weeping – hard weeping – and started shouting, “It’s so beautiful! It’s so beautiful!” He then fell face down in the front of the church, crying so hard his body shook.

“The congregation and pastors were stunned. Certainly, we weren’t going to kick him out, but something needed to be done. I could also see uncertainty and fear rising in the children. I closed my eyes and earnestly prayed, ‘Oh Lord, please send someone forward who will know what to do. Please, Lord…”

“When I opened my eyes, I saw Miller, and in all of what screams, ‘brokenness’ moving toward the man. He knelt on the floor beside him, placed one hand in the air, praying, and with the other hand, started gently rubbing the man’s back.

“Miller wasn’t rattled; he wasn’t afraid. He didn’t back up or back off.

“He was kind, and gentle, tender, and exhibited a rare form of love and acceptance that we hardly ever see these days.

“The gentleman slowly quieted down, took some deep breaths, and a wonderful peace came over his body. There was a pause, and then the ‘normal’ people moved in.

“We were stunned! That day, I became acutely aware of Miller’s purpose on this earth so much more than mine.

“See, I thought God had sent me a special needs child, so I could teach him how to live. The truth is, I was the one with special needs, so God sent Miller to teach me how to live.”

As the kids were growing up, how many times has a harried mother or father said to them, “I hope you have a child just like you.” Of course, the statement is always made in the negative.

Nevertheless, if we are judicious about the matter and see our children through God’s eyes, we would understand that a child is an unspeakable gift no matter the circumstances. I would suggest that what’s wrapped up in the package of a child is so remarkable; we mustn’t ever disregard it in any way or situation.

Our expectations for how things ought to be, even our dreams for our children’s futures, are not always what God has planned. His designs are so much better and superior to our own. He can do far more than we could ever think or imagine. Moreover, our child should be so fortunate to have a child just like the one we’ve been given.

Parents must seek to faithfully raise their children in the ways of God, love them unconditionally, pray for them regularly, and leave the rest to Him. And Mom or Dad, while you’re doing this, be careful to listen for the voice of God. You might learn something important about yourself.

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By Temmy
Tue, May 11, 2021 5:34pm
Muslim Woman Faces an Honor Killing, Then Finds Hope in Christ After an Audible Voice from Heaven: 'Jesus'

Aisha was born in Amman, Jordan to a strict Islamic family (Image: screen grab from IFoundTheTruth.com)
Aisha was born in Amman, Jordan to a strict Islamic family

Several Muslim-background believers in Jesus Christ are telling their miraculous testimonies of how they found true hope and salvation after years of pain and searching under Islam.

In a series of testimonies called "Souls & Stories", they're explaining how Christ made Himself known to them in supernatural ways.

Aisha was born in Amman, Jordan to a strict Islamic family. Her father abused her verbally and said things that should never be said to a daughter, but her religion was not a source of peace for her during those painful years. Instead, she felt constant condemnation from Islam.

When Aisha and her family moved to the U.S., she was desperate to be loved, and she got pregnant at 17. She knew her father was obligated by Islamic culture to kill her for dishonoring her family. Fearing for her life, she decided to get an abortion – a shame she carried for many years to follow.

In Islam, "her sins were unforgivable," and she had been taught that she was "hated by Allah." Suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts, she searched relentlessly for forgiveness and hope. One day as she cried out to Allah for mercy, that's when she heard an audible voice say one word: "Jesus."

After hearing that voice from heaven, Aisha turned her prayers to Jesus asking Him to reveal Himself to her.

"That was the first time I felt any sense of peace, was when I prayed to Jesus," she explains.

That one supernatural experience gave her an insatiable hunger for truth, and in Romans 5:8 she found the truth and forgiveness she desperately desired.

After so many years of feeling constant judgment from Allah, Aisha finally discovered that Jesus was full of mercy and compassion for women.

She says the stark contrast between the way the Islamic religion treats women compared to how Jesus treated women played a significant role in her decision to follow Christ.

"You saw Jesus walk up to women with an element of tenderness, and you know, the woman at the well, the woman who had a bleeding disorder, Jesus called her 'daughter,' and that was huge for me to read because in Islam women aren't regarded highly at all," Aisha says.

She points out that under Islam she had to beg Allah for mercy without feeling she would ever receive it, but she discovered Jesus is truly merciful. "All throughout scripture you see Jesus gravitate towards sinners and the outcasts," she says. "It was really interesting to see the tenderness that Jesus had toward sinners and outcasts whereas in Islam there would be shame and condemnation and literal death in certain situations."

Years later, Aisha's father was dying from alcoholism when she felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to call him.

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By Temmy
Tue, May 11, 2021 5:56pm
My baby died at 36 days – why I’m embracing his life - Joy Granados

Joy Granados pregnant with baby Mateo Augusto and husband, Vini, at the beach. | Photo Credit: Tia Mireya
Joy Granados pregnant with baby Mateo Augusto and husband, Vini, at the beach.

My name is Joy Granados. I’m a 38-year-old woman with cystic fibrosis who has struggled to become pregnant because of my age and disease. On April 5, 2021, my husband Vini and I buried our child 36 days after he was born. We were told by doctors that he was “incompatible with life” because of Trisomy 18, but the hundreds of people who attended his funeral physically and virtually disagree. So do Vini and I.

My brother is a Catholic priest who delivered Mateo’s homily. I gave the eulogy. Republished below with minor edits is what was delivered for Mateo and 200 attendees on April 5. What I want people to know is that Vini and I embraced Mateo’s life to the fullest for 259 combined days of pregnancy and post-birth life. It was heart-shattering, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

The sorrow is often more than Vini and I can bear. But I will be Mateo’s mother for eternity, and Vini his father.

Eulogy

Thank you so much for being here to celebrate with us the life of Mateo Augusto.

As a child, I always loved the Choose Your Own Adventure books. These are books where you can choose the ending you want, by turning to a different page in the book. How I wish Vini and I could just turn to a different page in the book of our marriage for a different ending to the life of our son.

As most of you know, I have cystic fibrosis. When Mateo was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, I realized that I had been given CF for my son. A son who would have a lifetime of doctor’s appointments and would need a mother who knew how to be his best medical advocate and protector. Something that CF taught me throughout my life. I wanted the ending to be that, just like his mama, Mateo beat all the medical odds, and the miracle of his life would continue to glorify the kingdom of God.

God told me in prayer, shortly after my first trimester, “I took care of you and your Cystic Fibrosis and against all odds, you survived. I have plans for your son and I will take care of him, you need to just trust me and embrace his life. Well, God’s definition of “taking care” of Mateo and my definition were very different.

Yet this ending has brought us blessings that we could not otherwise have experienced. The blessing of Mateo interceding for us from heaven. We have felt the grace and strength of the supernatural as you all have prayed for Mateo and our family. Vini and I were humbled by watching the care and love that Mateo received from his doctors and nurses each day, while fighting for his life with us. We were so blessed by those caregivers, including Dr. Steinhorn, who flew in from San Diego on a red eye to monitor Mateo’s portable vent (that Hopkins made happen) so we could have a few hours together at home instead of the thirty minutes as originally planned. That truly was a direct gift from God.

I didn’t know that death could be beautiful for those left behind, until I bathed, washed, dressed and prepared my son's body to be taken by the funeral home. I drank in that face. That sweet face that was free of tape and tubes. The face of how God exactly made him. I loathe the fact that only once my son was dying could I see that face.

As Mateo was dying in our arms at home, a scene from the Trilogy Lord of the Rings, came to me. The scene when Sam held Frodo in his arms after Frodo had been stung by Shelob, the spider, and Sam presumed Frodo dead. With tear stained cheeks, Sam told his companion and friend, “Please, Mr. Frodo, don’t go where I can’t follow. Wake up, Wake up!” Now, our cheeks were tear stained and Mateo was going where we could not follow, at least FOR NOW, and our hearts shattered.

Vini says, and I agree, we are both better human beings for having known Mateo. He has changed us, and we will never be the same. He has made all things new for us, as Christ makes all things new for all of us. We have learned so much from our son. We have learned to embrace the joy of the present and let go of the fear for the future. I have learned the purpose of my life as a mother and the feeling of completeness I now have because I have been able to experience it. The purpose of being a mother, MATEO’s MOTHER. I take comfort in the words my uncle Bill said to my father at his son’s burial, “the good news is, it doesn’t get worse than this.”

Now we walk through a valley of tears but amidst the tears there still is joy to be felt. The joy of 36 days of Mateo snuggles and those sweet eyes, MY EYES. The joy that my son was an incredible source of light and love on this earth and that he inspired so many. Not all Trisomy18 parents can say the same. Our hearts are shattered, but we need to count our blessings as Jesus counts our tears of which there are many. Some doctors say, "Trisomy 18 babies are incompatible with life." Well Mateo IS compatible with life and as his Tio Father Scott says, “but maybe he was not compatible with this world.” His soul is too pure, so the Lord brought him home. Since his passing, I have moments where I feel a sense of peace and a slight pressure around me, as though Mateo is hugging and comforting his mama, even in death, as I tried to comfort him in life.

Driving home from the hospital, we asked Mama Mary to come and take our son, to her son, when the time came. Many of you had the privilege of knowing my grandmother, Lorraine, grandmolie. I had a vision that night that once Mama Mary brought Mateo to Jesus, grandmolie ran to the gates, pushing people out of the way, saying, “get out of my way, THAT’S MY GREAT GRANDSON!”

The thought of grandmolie watching Mateo, who is no longer disabled, running, laughing, and playing always brings a smile to my face. Our boy is in the highest pinnacle of heaven, for people who never sinned on Earth. How perfect. Amen.

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By Temmy
Tue, May 11, 2021 6:19pm
Pastor Killed after Plane Crashes Into His Home

picture of a coffin

A Hattiesburg group is banding together to assist the family of a pastor killed in a plane accident on Tuesday night.

As they were sleeping on the night of May 4, an aircraft crashed into Gerry Standley's family home on Annie Christie Drive in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, causing the house to erupt into flames.

Gerry, an assistant pastor at Wayside Holy Temple Church, his wife Melinda, their daughter Arrianna and their grandson Eli were all inside when the house caught fire. Gerry was killed when the small civilian plane crashed into his home. Gerry and Melinda had just celebrated their 22nd wedding anniversary.

Standley's younger brother, Cobrin Varnado, told WLOX that, even though they lost a man dear to all of them, they can still pull together and get through it as a family. "We can't do what he did, but his young brothers, his sons, his nephews, we can come together and uphold the family like he would. He was a remarkable man," he said.

The funeral costs and damages from the fire and other unexpected damages from the horrific situation have created an immense need. So a GoFundMe was set up by a Hattiesburg group. The fundraiser, at the time of this writing, has raised $11,200 for the family. The donations will assist Melinda and her family through this incredibly difficult period by covering funeral costs, bills, repairing things destroyed in the crash, and any other financial needs that might occur.

The pastor's niece, Charlisha Standley, told local news outlets, "Right now, my family is in a time of need, so we need all the help that we can get."

You may also donate directly through the Hattiesburg Police Department's benefit fund, which they have set up, by going to the front desk of the Hattiesburg Police Department at 300 Klondyke Street, Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

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By Temmy
Wed, May 12, 2021 6:47pm
Vatican weighs in on US bishops’ debate over denying communion to pro-abortion politicians

US President Joe Biden(C) leaves Holy Trinity Catholic Church in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington,DC on January 24, 2021. | AFP via Getty Images/Nicholas Kamm
US President Joe Biden(C) leaves Holy Trinity Catholic Church in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington,DC on January 24, 2021.

The Vatican sent a letter to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops giving advice and warnings regarding a possible move by the American leadership to deny communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

In recent times, there has been much debate within the Catholic Church about whether to deny communion to elected officials who support or advocate for abortion despite identifying as Catholic.

Cardinal Luis F. Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Catholic Church, sent a letter to USCCB President Archbishop José H. Gomez on the issue, which was first reported by America magazine on Monday.

Ladaria warned that having a blanket policy to deny communion to pro-abortion politicians could present problems when seeking “to maintain unity” in the Church.

“… the formulation of a national policy was suggested during the ad limina visits only if this would help the bishops to maintain unity,” wrote Ladaria, as reported by America magazine.

“The congregation notes that such a policy, given its possibly contentious nature, could have the opposite effect and become a source of discord rather than unity within the episcopate and the larger church in the United States.”

The cardinal recommended that the bishops talk with politicians “within their jurisdiction who adopt a pro-choice position regarding abortion legislation, euthanasia, or other moral evils, as a means of understanding the nature of their positions and their comprehension of Catholic teaching.”

Following dialogue among themselves and the politicians, Ladaria explained that if they draft a document on the matter, it “would need to express a true consensus of the bishops on the matter, while observing the prerequisite that any provision of the conference in this area would respect the rights of individual ordinaries in their dioceses and the prerogatives of the Holy See.”

“… it would be misleading if such a statement were to give the impression that abortion and euthanasia alone constitute the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching that demand the fullest accountability on the part of Catholics,” added Ladaria.

In June, the USCCB will hold a national meeting to consider a draft document that, if approved, would recommend that pro-abortion Catholic politicians be denied communion.

Even if the document is approved, however, it would only recommend the denial of the Eucharist, with local dioceses still being allowed to make their own rules on the issue.

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of California released a pastoral letter earlier this month in which he directly told pro-abortion Catholic politicians that they should not receive communion.

“Your Catholic ideals inspire you in your work to help those who experience discrimination, violence, and injustice, and you deserve the gratitude of your fellow Catholics and our nation for this service. But we cannot empower the weak by crushing the weakest,” wrote Cordileone.

“If you find that you are unwilling or unable to abandon your advocacy for abortion, you should not come forward to receive Holy Communion. To publicly affirm the Catholic faith while at the same time publicly rejecting one of its most fundamental teachings is simply dishonest.”

On the other hand, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego said in February that denying communion to Catholic officials over their support for abortion was a “very destructive” idea.

“I do not see how depriving the President of other political leaders of Eucharist based on their public policy stance can be interpreted in our society as anything other than the weaponization of Eucharist,” stated McElroy, as reported by CRUX Now.

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By Temmy
Fri, May 14, 2021 3:35pm
Christians beheaded in Indonesia terror attack

Police are seen outside the Lidwina Catholic Church after a knife-wielding attacker wounded four church-goers in Sleman, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, on February 11, 2018. | Reuters/Antara Foto
Police are seen outside the Lidwina Catholic Church after a knife-wielding attacker wounded four church-goers in Sleman, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, on February 11, 2018.

Four Christian men were beheaded in a horrific terror attack in Indonesia on Tuesday.

The attack occurred in Kalimago Village, Poso Regency in Central Sulawesi, and has been blamed on Islamist extremists belonging to the terrorist group, East Indonesia Mujahidin.

Two victims were members of the Mamasa Toraja Church. Another came from Toraja Church and one from a Catholic Church in the area.

They were aged between 42 and 61.

Their murders come just half a year after four other Christians were killed at a Salvation Army outpost in Sigi, Central Sulawesi.

Open Doors' local partner in Indonesia Ari Hartono — whose name has been changed for security reasons — said, "Central Sulawesi locals are still traumatized from the terrorist attack in Sigi last November and have not recovered yet. We're not sure if the attack is religiously motivated even though the victims are Christians."

"It could be an act of survival. After the Sigi incident, the terrorists in Central Sulawesi have been increasingly pressed by the police and the Army," he added. "Their logistics is exhausted. The only way to survive is to rob people of food. In this area, there are many farmers who live in the forest far from the village and they were the ones targeted by the terrorists."

Indonesia is ranked No. 47 on Open Doors' World Watch List, an annual ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution.

Ari is asking Christians to pray for the peace of God in the area.

"Fear and intimidation are trying to take over people's hearts, but God's power is more powerful," he said.

"Pray for protection over God's people in Poso and Central Sulawesi. As long as these terrorists are not caught, the threat lingers.

"People are afraid to go to their field, therefore they cannot work and produce crops. This will affect their economic situation. The Madago Raya Task Force are hunting this terrorist group. We pray for their protection, strength and wisdom to do their job, and pray that they will catch these perpetrators."

Christians have been targeted in parts of Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority country, in recent years.

In Makassar, South Sulawesi, 20 worshipers were injured in a suicide bomb attack as they left a Palm Sunday church service marking the start of Holy Week.

Dozens were killed in a church suicide attack in Surabaya, East Java, in 2018.

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By Temmy
Fri, May 14, 2021 4:42pm
59 Percent of Bible Readers Still Prefer a Print Copy, But There's a Generation Gap

Americans who read the Bible still prefer to read a print copy over a digital version

Americans who read the Bible still prefer to read a print copy over a digital version – but attitudes are quickly changing.

That’s according to a new survey by the American Bible Society and Barna that found 59 percent of Bible users in the United States prefer a print version over various digital versions or an audio Bible. The findings are included in the 2021 State of the Bible survey.

Although a majority still favor a physical copy, that’s down from 65 percent in 2020 and 72 percent in 2019. In 2016, 81 percent preferred a print copy.

The survey found a major generation gap in preferences.

Print copies are favored by a majority of elders (84 percent), baby boomers (72 percent) and Generation X members (56 percent). They are less popular among Millennials (47 percent) and those in Generation Z (44 percent).

A majority of Millennials and those in Generation Z prefer either a Bible app, a website/computer program, or an audio Bible.

“Smartphone or tablet use of the Bible among younger generations is increasingly popular,” an American Bible Society analysis said.

Among other findings in the survey:

21 percent of Bible users say reading the Bible brings them comfort. Other top emotions include feeling peaceful (19 percent), encouraged (17 percent) and hopeful (16 percent).
Only 12 percent of Americans say they are “highly” knowledgeable of the Bible. Thirty-one percent say they are “moderately” knowledgeable, while another 31 percent say they are “somewhat” knowledgeable. One-fourth (26 percent) say they are “not too” knowledgeable.
A majority (54 percent) of Americans say the nation would be worse off without the Bible. That’s an increase from 2020 (49 percent).

“This belief in the Bible’s value to the United States aligns with a sense that the Bible upholds American values,” the analysis said. “Faith (72 percent), hope (71 percent), and love (69 percent) … are widely agreed upon as values the Bible is essential for sustaining.”

The survey was released Tuesday and based on interviews with 3,354 Americans in January.

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By Temmy
Fri, May 14, 2021 5:19pm
Updated
Senior pastor, football coach arrested for relationship with 17-y-o student

Edward Williams, Sr. is senior pastor of Jesus People Full of Faith Ministries in Pembroke Pines, Fla. | Facebook/JP Full of Faith
Edward Williams, Sr. is senior pastor of Jesus People Full of Faith Ministries in Pembroke Pines, Fla.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools confirmed Thursday that they have fired Edward Williams Sr., a popular football coach and leader of the Jesus People Full of Faith Ministries, after he was arrested for allegedly being involved in an inappropriate relationship with a 17-year-old student at Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High School in Florida.

“Miami-Dade County Public Schools is disturbed to learn of this allegation. As soon as the anonymous tip surfaced on Tuesday, Miami-Dade Schools Police launched an investigation and an arrest was made. The individual’s employment with M-DCPS has been terminated, and he will be prevented from seeking future work with this district. M-DCPS will continue to act swiftly against any individual who compromises our efforts to safeguard the wellbeing of our students,” the school district said in a statement to The Christian Post.

A police report cited by Local 10 said Williams, 44, was romantically involved with a 17-year-old girl at the school even though they both denied having sex.

The victim told investigators that they were waiting for her to turn 18 before going public as a couple. She also told Miami-Dade Schools Police officers that they are “in love, have held hands, and kissed.” One of the texts from Williams she showed police suggested the student might have done more than just kissing and holding hands with the married pastor.

“Baby, give me one chance, baby, baby, baby, give me one chance. I can’t believe I lost my girl. Please what if we make love one last time, it won’t be the last time, but for a while,” the text message from Williams to the student said.

The pastor was employed with the school district from 1999-2017 and then returned in June 2020 and had no previous disciplinary record, officials told CP.

It was unclear Thursday if Williams remained in leadership at Jesus People Full of Faith Ministries. Church officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Information from the church’s website lists Williams as a Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High School graduate who studied at Iowa State University and played professional football in both Canadian and the Arena Football leagues.

The church also states that he is committed to preaching the Gospel.

“Edward is committed to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, so when the call came for ministry, it was no hard decision. Edward’s desire to see people live their lives to the fullest in Christ made the call and commitment to Pastor in the South Florida area an easy one. Edward’s strong belief is God has blessed us to be a blessing to others,” the church says.

He and his wife, Jessidria, have two children, De’Onte and Edward Jr.

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By Temmy
Yesterday at 9:57am
Evangelical churches hold global prayer for peace in response to Israel-Palestinian conflict

Members of Israeli security and emergency services work on a site hit by a rocket in Ramat Gan near the coastal city of Tel Aviv, on May 15, 2021, following the launching of rockets from the Gaza Strip controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement towards Israel. - An Israeli man was killed after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza hit the central city of Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv, police and medics said. | GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP via Getty Images
Members of Israeli security and emergency services work on a site hit by a rocket in Ramat Gan near the coastal city of Tel Aviv, on May 15, 2021, following the launching of rockets from the Gaza Strip controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement towards Israel. - An Israeli man was killed after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza hit the central city of Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv, police and medics said.

Responding to calls by evangelical leaders to designate this Sunday as a Global Day of Prayer for Peace and Security in the Middle East, many churches across the United States are praying for peace in Israel as a week of violence in the region is being described as the worst since 2014.

“We call upon Evangelicals, & others around the world, to pray for Israelis & Palestinians victimized by Hamas terrorists,” reads a tweet by the Rev. Johnnie Moore, president of the Congress of Christian Leaders, and the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference on Saturday.

Hamas militants started launching rocket attacks on Israel last Monday as tensions had been brewing over a court case to evict several Palestinian families in East Jerusalem and Israeli police clashed with Palestinians near the city’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site.

Palestinian militant groups in Gaza have fired over 2,300 rockets toward Israel since the outbreak of fighting on Monday, the Israel Defense Forces said, according to The Times of Israel.

Since Monday, at least 181 people have been killed in Gaza, including 52 children and 31 women, with 1,225 injured, according to the Hamas-controlled health ministry, BBC reported, adding that Israel has said dozens of militants are among the dead. At least 10 people, including two children, have been killed by militant attacks on Israel, according to Israeli officials.

“Evangelicals pressed pause on their lives to defend the State of Israel and the Jewish people against Hamas terrorists and their Iranian backers,” Moore told The Jerusalem Post. “Our community pushed back online in response to the disinformation coming from the terrorists, reached out to politicians obsessively, and this weekend tens of millions will pray for Israel in their churches.”

Jason Yates, CEO of My Faith Votes, also expressed his support for Israel.

“As Christians, we support the people of Israel because they are God’s chosen,” he said in a statement to the Post. “As Americans, we celebrate the State of Israel as an ally and the only democracy in the Middle East. … We call on President Biden to publicly stand with Israel without equivocation and make his position clear — the United States will not tolerate terrorism in any form, domestic or abroad.”

The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to hold an emergency meeting on Sunday to discuss the ongoing conflict, and an envoy of the Biden administration is in Israel to hold talks.

Also on Sunday, Israel’s security cabinet is scheduled to discuss the operation in the Gaza Strip. According to the Post, senior defense officials pushed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Saturday to start working toward a ceasefire that would bring an end to the IDF operation.

On Saturday afternoon, an Israeli airstrike demolished the Al Jala building in Gaza City that housed offices of The Associated Press, Al Jazeera and a few other media outlets. The Israel Defense Forces said the building was used by Hamas’ military intelligence services and the media offices were used as “human shields,” The Times of Israel reported.

“Prior to the strike, the IDF warned the civilians in the building and gave them sufficient time to evacuate the building,” the Israeli military was quoted as saying.

Abu Obeida, the spokesman of Hamas’ military wing, has threatened to respond by targeting central Israel. “Residents of Tel Aviv and the center must be on standby,” the Times quoted Obeida as saying.

On Saturday, President Joe Biden spoke with both Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, urging de-escalation. Biden also reaffirmed his support for Israel’s right to defend itself while expressing concern about the deaths of civilians, including children, and the safety of journalists, The Wall Street Journal reported.

In a speech, Netanyahu thanked Biden for his support and promised to limit civilian casualties, The Times of Israel reported, saying the White House said in a statement that Biden “reaffirmed his strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza. He condemned these indiscriminate attacks against towns and cities across Israel.”

Last Wednesday, 40 U.S. senators, led by Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, signed a letter, calling on Biden to support Israel’s right to retaliate and end sanction relief with Iran, which backs Hamas.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who has been historically supportive of Israel, also tweeted recently in support of Israel after the missile attacks.

“Israel unequivocally has the right to defend itself & its people, & I condemn today's unjustifiable attacks by Hamas against innocent civilians,” Hoyer tweeted. “Israelis & Palestinians both deserve a future of peace & security, & I hope both sides take positive steps to promote that end.”

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By Temmy
Yesterday at 12:33pm
Just 16 Percent of Millennials Classify as Born-Again Christians, Study Shows

The latest study from the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University

The latest study from the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University revealed a “seismic generational shift” between the worldviews of older Americans and younger Americans— also known as Millennials.

The research, which is the third release in CRC’s American Worldview Inventory 2021, found that millennials (ages 18 to 36), when compared with the older generation (55 and over), are significantly less likely to hold to traditional biblically-based teachings, including the nature of God, “original sin”, salvation, creation, life after death, human purpose and biblical morality.

On the other hand, millennials were significantly more likely than older Americans to believe in horoscopes, Karma, evolution, and reincarnation. They also hold to the beliefs that success is defined by personal happiness, owning property fosters economic inequality, abortions and pre-marital sex are okay, and getting even with others is defensible.

“Gen X and the Millennials have solidified dramatic changes in the nation’s central beliefs and lifestyles,” George Barna, CRC Director of Research, explained in a statement. “The result is a culture in which core institutions, including churches, and basic ways of life are continually being radically redefined.”

When it comes to beliefs in personal salvation, 40 percent of people 55 and over identify as born-again Christians, whereas a mere 16 percent of Millennials meet the criterion. Alternatively, younger Americans were more likely to hold to Moral Therapeutic Deism, which has been deemed a counterfeit version of Christianity because it is more centered on self than God.

Despite their differences, AWVI 2021 found that that dominant worldview among all four generations – Millennials, GenXers (37 to 54), Baby Boomers (55 to 74), and Builders (75 and older) – is Syncretism, a blend of differing worldviews as opposed to holding to a singular worldview.

In an analysis of the data, Barna Research Center noted that the shift in America’s religious landscape began nearly 60 years ago as the Boomer generation sought to bring in aggressive spiritual change. Millennials, however, have shown to have further severed the ties with traditional biblical views and values.

AWVI 2021 is the first national survey analyzing biblical and competing worldviews. It was conducted in February 2021 among a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults.

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By Temmy
Yesterday at 12:53pm
Hundreds attend prayer vigil after Jesus statue toppled, American flag burned at NYC church

A vandal pushed over a statue of Jesus’s crucifixion and torched an American flag hanging outside St. Athanasius Church in New York City. | Facebook/St. Athanasius Church
A vandal pushed over a statue of Jesus’s crucifixion and torched an American flag hanging outside St. Athanasius Church in New York City.

A Catholic church in New York City received support and solidarity from the community as hundreds of people came to attend a prayer vigil in response to what appears to be a hate crime involving the toppling of a statue of Jesus and the burning of an American flag outside the parish.

“On such a short notice we all came together to show how strong our Faith is! What an amazing crowd! We are one community! We are one family! We love each other!” said St. Athanasius Church in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn in New York on its Facebook page about Friday night’s prayer vigil.

Friday morning, the church wrote a post about the vandalism. “We are deeply saddened to inform you that the Cross on our Church property was vandalized last night. This exhibition of violence and religious hatred is very disturbing. This is definitely an offensive act not only to our Parish but to the Catholic Church!”

The vandalism occurred Thursday night when an unknown person jumped the fence at the church, pushed over a statue of Jesus’ crucifixion and torched an American flag hanging outside the church, the New York Post reported, adding that the statue broke into pieces.

In a statement released by the Diocese of Brooklyn, the parish priest, Monsignor David Cassato, called it “an act of hatred.”

“… Today is the saddest day of my 20 years here at this parish,” he said. “I went over and spoke to the students in the school about what happened, telling them that hate never wins. We are, and must be, a community that continues to share the message of Easter, that which is of love, hope, and forgiveness.”

The statue of Jesus’ crucifixion, the pastor said, was installed in 2010 to honor the memory of his mother. The parish said it plans to repair and reinstall the crucifix in the same location.

“I went over and spoke to the students in the school about what happened, telling them that hate never wins,” Cassato added. “We are, and must be, a community that continues to share the message of Easter, that which is of love, hope, and forgiveness.”

The NYPD is investigating a possible hate crime.

An online fundraiser has been started by one Antoinette Maggiore to raise $5,000, and $3,000 had been raised by Sunday morning.

“As we all know this past year has been a trying time for many. Many of us have leaned on our faith and church leaders to help us through,” the fundraiser says. “… Sadly, our dear neighborhood church, St. Athanasius, was vandalized in a disturbing act of hatred and violence. I know others, like myself, feel a sense of sadness and grief. The cross fell, but as we believe, if we unite in our sorrow, we will only rise stronger through Christ. Let’s help restore the church that has helped us through our trying times.”

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By Temmy
Yesterday at 1:47pm
Updated
Protestant Denomination Elects First Transgender Bishop, Who Celebrates 'Dismantling' Theology

Photo by Lena Balk/Unsplash
Photo by Lena Balk

Over the weekend, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America became the first mainline Protestant denomination to elect a transgender bishop.

The Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer, who was born female but now identifies as male, using the pronouns “he” and “they,” was elected Saturday, May 8, to serve as bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod of the ELCA.

Rohrer was approved by 209 votes, barely surpassing the Rev. Jeff Johnson, pastor of University Lutheran Chapel of Berkeley, who received 207 votes, according to a press release from the denomination.

The transgender pastor, currently leading Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in San Francisco, will be installed as bishop Sept. 11 at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Walnut Creek, California.

Rohrer has made news before. In 2018, the minister was featured in Cosmopolitan. Rohrer, who identified solely as “they” at the time, said, “I haven’t really figured out how I want to have my body in the rest of my life.”

On Sunday, Rohrer celebrated the ELCA’s election by praising the Lutheran synod, presumably for “dismantling” the clerical standards put in place at the first council of Nicaea in A.D. 325.

It appears Rohrer was likely referring to Canon 1 of the first council, which states, “If any one in sound health has castrated himself, it behooves that such a one, if [already] enrolled among the clergy, should cease [from his ministry], and that from henceforth no such person should be promoted.”

“The first council of Nicaea’s first action was to try to limit the leadership roles of trans pastors and bishops,” tweeted Rohrer. “I’m grateful the Lutherans of the [Sierra Pacific Synod] are beginning to dismantle this and some of the other hurdles [black, indigenous, and people of color] and LGBTQ pastor’s [sic] encounter.”

In addition to violating the theology established at the first council of Nicaea by approving a transgender bishop, the ELCA is also forsaking the writings of German theologian and Church reformer Martin Luther, in which the denomination claims to find its “roots.”

Luther wrote in his 1522 work “The Estate of Marriage” that sex is immutable and “divided” by God “into two classes, namely, male and female.”

In the first part we shall consider which persons may enter into marriage with one another. In order to proceed aright let us direct our attention to Genesis 1 [:27], “So God created man… male and female he created them.” From this passage we may be assured that God divided mankind into two classes, namely, male and female, or a he and a she. This was so pleasing to him that he himself called it a good creation [Gen. 1:81]. Therefore, each one of us must have the kind of body God has created for us. I cannot make myself a woman, nor can you make yourself a man; we do not have that power. But we are exactly as he created us: I a man and you a woman. Moreover, he wills to have his excellent handiwork honored as his divine creation, and not despised. The man is not to despise or scoff at the woman or her body, nor the woman the man. But each should honor the other’s image and body as a divine and good creation that is well-pleasing unto God himself.

This shift within the ELCA toward an increasingly progressive view of sexuality should not come as a surprise. While the denomination claims to have a reverent view of Scripture, the ELCA does not see the Bible as the inerrant Word of God.

James Thorson, pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, an ELCA congregation, said in 2018 he was drawn to the denomination in part because many within it reject biblical inerrancy.

“I was reclaiming the view that the Bible isn’t an inerrant oracle dropped from heaven but more like a messy, earthen vessel holding the treasure of the saving Gospel message,” he told Living Lutheran. “That’s what most ELCA professors and pastors teach, and I realized that was where I belonged.”One of the most famous ELCA ministers, Nadia Bolz-Weber, founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, said in 2018 Christians “should never be more loyal to an idea or an interpretation of a Bible verse than we are to people.”

She also at one point reportedly said, “The Bible is not God. The Bible is simply the cradle that holds Christ. Anything in the Bible that doesn’t hold up to the Gospel of Jesus Christ simply doesn’t have the same authority.”

Scripture, however, speaks differently of itself.

In John 1:1, it states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Then, in 2 Timothy 3:16, it says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

Even Jesus, in John 10:35, said Scripture “cannot be broken,” meaning it is entirely true and reliable. Jesus also told His disciples in Matthew 24:35 that, although heaven and earth will pass away, His words are eternally true.

As for Rohrer, Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a conservative theological think tank, rebuked the transgender pastor’s attitude toward the theology outlined at the first council of Nicaea, comparing the incoming bishop’s views to those espoused by first-century Gnostics who rejected “ecumenical orthodoxy in favor of secret knowledge stressing self-actualization and inner journeys instead of salvation and worshipping the Creator.”

“No doubt much more ‘dismantling’ must be done before true justice and knowledge can prevail against the external authority of revelation proposed by historic Christianity,” Tooley warned, “or so the Gnostics, yesterday and today, always proclaim.”

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