Christianity

Queen Elizabeth: ‘Easter Isn’t Cancelled’, Take ‘New Hope’ from ‘Risen Christ’

Queen Elizabeth II has delivered what is believed to be the first-ever Easter message of her 68-year reign, offering a message of hope to people confined to their homes throughout the holiday by the coronavirus pandemic. The 93-year-old monarch — who also serves as Supreme Governor of the Church of England — recorded this message in the drawing room of Windsor Castle, where she is herself in self-isolation as a result of the pandemic. The Queen recalled how “many Christians would normally light candles together” on Holy Saturday, the sombre day preceding Easter Sunday when Christ lay in his tomb — and, according to Christian teaching, descended into Hades and preached to the dead. “This year, Easter will be different for many of us, but by keeping apart we keep others safe,” the Queen said. “But Easter isn’t cancelled; indeed, we need Easter as much as ever. The discovery of the risen Christ on the first Easter Day gave his followers new hope and fresh purpose, and we can all take heart from this,” she added. “We know that coronavirus will not overcome us.” The Queen’s Easter message can be viewed or read in full by clicking here:

Happy Easter!    🙂

Who was St. Patrick and why does he still matter?

On March 17th, millions of people around the world will be mindful of St. Patrick’s Day. But who was St. Patrick? And why is a bishop who lived almost 1,600 years ago still important to us today? You may know Patrick as the patron saint of Ireland. You may have heard that he brought Christianity to the Emerald Isle. And you’ve no doubt heard all about the snakes and the shamrocks and other myths associated with him. But the real reason he still matters today is that his life demonstrates the call of God to share the Good News of the Gospel. And God still speaks to us today, if we’re willing to listen. Most of what we know about Patrick comes from his autobiographical Confession, which he wrote when a group of bishops in Britain tried to bring charges against him. The Confession begins with humility: “I am Patrick, a sinner, the most unsophisticated of people, the least among all the Christians, and among some, the most contemptible.” That humility was a way of life for Patrick, who was, in fact, British and not Irish. As the son of an official in the Roman Empire, he was born into privilege. But when he was just a child, he was kidnapped by the Irish and sold into slavery. In captivity, Patrick saw God’s hand in delivering him “out of a way of life where God didn’t matter for me.” Now a slave in a foreign land, overwhelmed by loneliness and starvation, he had a revelation: “There, the Lord opened up my understanding to my unbelief so that however late, I might become conscious of my failings and then remembering my need, I might turn with all my heart to the Lord my God.” After six years as a slave, Patrick heard a voice telling him to escape, and he miraculously made his way to freedom in Britain. For the next 18 years, Patrick dedicated his life to the church and became a bishop. Then he had another vision calling him back to Ireland to preach the Gospel. If you are a Christian of Irish or Scottish descent, you owe your Christianity to St. Patrick. You may also owe him your education. One of Patrick’s goals was for the Irish to become a people who could read the Bible. Patrick was known as a man of the Book, and the scriptures are scattered throughout his writings. In the fifth century, few could read, and many ancient writings, including the Bible, fell into disuse and were in danger of being lost. Patrick began a monastic tradition in Ireland that spread to the island of Iona in Scotland, and then on to continental Europe. Both the scriptures of the Jews, as well as the writings of the Greeks and Romans, were studied and copied in these monasteries, which became the forerunners of the modern university. St. Patrick was one of the first people in history to take a moral stand against slavery. In his Letter to Coroticus, he also condemned sex trafficking: “They who distribute baptized women as prizes….will be slaves in Hell in an eternal punishment.” The greatest message from St. Patrick is the call of God to preach the Gospel to every tongue, tribe and nation. In the Roman Empire of the fifth century, Ireland was considered the “ends of the earth.” Today, there are over 4,000 language groups that still don’t have even a portion of scripture available to them. Mission agencies agree that it is possible to complete the task of Bible translation, if not in our generation, then in the next. What is lacking are people who are willing to take up the task. And that is the lesson of St. Patrick. God still calls, and God still sends. God still wants to shake us “out of a way of life where God didn’t matter.” On March 17, the traditional day of Patrick’s death, let us celebrate the remarkable life of a slave who committed his life to God. With God’s help, Patrick changed a nation. Through Patrick’s example, may we realize that we can change nations as well.

Thanks to Gordon Robertson for that faith-based history lesson on the life of St. Patrick.  Gordon president and CEO of The Christian Broadcasting Network, is the executive producer of “I Am Patrick,” a docudrama on the life of St. Patrick from CBN Films. For more information go to IAmPatrick.com.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!     🙂

Trump declares Sunday a National Day of Prayer

Hours after declaring a national emergency because of the coronavirus, President Trump suggested the nation look to God for “protection and strength.” On Friday evening, Trump declared Sunday a National Day of Prayer and pointed out how the public has historically found solace in faith during times of crisis. The first Sunday of every March since 1988 has been designated a National Day of Prayer in the United States, but Trump personalized this year’s day of prayer to address the outbreak of COVID-19. “It is my great honor to declare Sunday, March 15th as a National Day of Prayer,” Trump wrote. Trump laid out the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic during an an address in the Rose Garden on Friday afternoon. He announced that the Food and Drug Administration plans to have 1.4 million testing kits available for the public by next week and as many as 5 million by the end of March. “We are a Country that, throughout our history, has looked to God for protection and strength in times like these,” he added. During his address, Trump promised access to up to $50 billion in aid to state and localities as communities brace for the disease. “No matter where you may be, I encourage you to turn towards prayer in an act of faith. Together, we will easily PREVAIL!” Trump wrote in a follow-up tweet.

Jonathan Morris: My favorite Bible verse

The practice of picking a favorite Bible verse goes against every theological bone in my body, for two reasons. First, because Sacred Scripture is best understood as a whole. Second, because focusing on a favorite passage risks distracting us from passages that are less pleasant to our ears, but perhaps more needed. I cringe, for example, when I hear politicians or even pastors quote a favorite line or two of the Bible to justify an action or prove their point. Popular verses like “judge not lest you be judged”—while true—are often appropriated to shut down rational, moral discourse. Theological musings aside, I do have favorite Scripture verses. The one I’ll share with you here has been material for deep reflection as I traversed through major life change this past year. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). This verse is about discernment. It’s about getting our mind and heart in the right place to know in which direction we should go when we face real-life decisions. The author of this verse, Paul of Tarsus, is writing to the early Christian community in Rome. He knows they have already committed to following the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, but they are living in a hedonistic society and they struggle to know and do what is right. The first part of this verse is a warning that what we think or feel isn’t always right. Paul tells the Romans that our minds are warped by worldly ways of thinking. If this was true in the times of Paul (the Epistle to the Romans was written circa AD 55), it is even truer today. We are brainwashed by the daily onslaught of commercial and social media. To counter this, Paul encourages us to allow God’s grace and truth to seep into our minds and renew it. As he puts it: “be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” “Transformation” is a strong word. The original Greek word for transformation is “metanoia,” meaning existential conversion. This spiritual conversion is not about changing our behavior out of shame or guilt. Conversion is a decision of the will to turn away from sin, do an about face, and walk toward God who is calling. The second part of this verse is even more inspiring and challenging. Paul says that once we have taken the step toward “metanoia” or “conversion” we still need to test things out to see what God really wants of us. He says “so that you may test what the will of God is, that which is good, and acceptable, and perfect.” Paul is being brutally honest that it’s not always easy to know what we should do when we are faced with an uncertain future. Paul tells the Romans to test things out. In other words, if we think we know what we should do, but aren’t sure, we should go ahead and give it a try. I have found this very simple spiritual advice by Paul to be profoundly helpful. Here’s one final reflection on this verse. Paul’s exhortation to the Romans to take seriously the renewal of their minds in order to discern God’s will for their lives, suggests that he believes their decisions are important. He is honoring the significance—the power—of human activity. Other ancient spiritual teachers, before and after Paul, placed so much emphasis on God’s power that human choice was dismissed as insignificant. But in his letter to the Romans, Paul doesn’t belittle the real struggle of discernment. He doesn’t say, for example, “just leave it all in God’s hands”. Christians believe deeply in a personal, providential God, a divine being who cares about and, in varied ways intervenes in human affairs. But, mysteriously, this all-loving and all-powerful God has willed that this Divine Providence be subject, in part, to our free-will agency. In other words, our choices matter, and discernment is the way to get it right.

Agreed.  Thanks to Jonathan Morris for his inspired insight.  Jonathan is a former Catholic priest who stepped down from that “calling,” but who is still very active with his faith.

Christians suffered an increase in persecution last year with 245 MILLION facing violence or oppression around the world – 30 million more than a year ago

Christians around the world suffered a huge increase in persecution last year – with around 30 million more people being targeted than in the previous year. A report by Open Doors, a Dutch charity that supports persecuted Christians showed that in total, 245 million faced violence or oppression in 2018, with 73 countries listed as danger zones for Christians. China has been named among the most dangerous places to be a Christian after new laws governing religious expression led to raids and the demolition of scores of churches. At least 50 million people expected to experience some form of repression this year as the government tightens its controls over religious worship While India has also seen a spate of against ultra-nationalists against non-Hindu minorites – the report claimed. ‘Rising nationalism is leading to similar persecution in other countries such as Bhutan, Myanmar and Nepal where national identity is tied to religion,’ the charity said. Open Doors said in its 2019 World Watch List, which ranks 50 countries, that one in three Christians face high levels of persecution in Asia – as India entered the top 10 for the first time. It comes just three weeks after British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt ordered an independent review into the persecution of Christians worldwide.

Ancient forbidden Christian text of Jesus’ ‘secret teachings’ to his ‘brother’ found

Biblical scholars have discovered the first-known original Greek copy of an ancient forbidden Christian text that purportedly describes Jesus’ secret teachings to his “brother” James, an early leader of the Church. Geoffrey Smith and Brent Landau, religious studies scholars at The University of Texas at Austin, located the rare text in Oxford University archives earlier this year. The experts found several fifth- or sixth-century A.D. Greek fragments of the First Apocalypse of James, one of the books from an ancient collection known as the Nag Hammadi library. Previously, the text was thought to be preserved only via translations in the Egyptian Coptic language. Only a small number of texts from the Nag Hammadi library, a collection of 13 Coptic Gnostic books discovered in Egypt in 1945, have been found in Greek, their original language of composition. Also known as the “Gnostic Gospels,” the books are seen as key documents for understanding Gnosticism, an ancient belief system. The First Apocalypse of James, like the other books in the Nag Hammadi library, was deemed heretical or forbidden by the church because it fell outside of the fourth-century religious boundaries that defined the 27-book New Testament. Experts were thrilled by the discovery of the ancient fragments, which are owned by the Egypt Exploration Society. “To say that we were excited once we realized what we’d found is an understatement,” said Smith, an assistant professor of religious studies, in a statement. “We never suspected that Greek fragments of the First Apocalypse of James survived from antiquity. But there they were, right in front of us.” The document is said to describe Jesus’ secret teachings to his “brother” James. Details of the “heavenly realm” and future events, such as James’ inevitable death, are revealed, according to The University of Texas at Austin. “The text supplements the biblical account of Jesus’ life and ministry,” Smith added. There are a number of interpretations of references to Jesus’ siblings in biblical texts. The Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark, for example, refer to Jesus’ brothers, including James. James, also known as “James the Just” was a leader of the early church – one interpretation of “brother” may thus be a close spiritual relationship as opposed to a fraternal biological link. The First Apocalypse of James describes James as not Jesus’ brother “materially.” Other interpretations describe James as Jesus’ step-brother or cousin. The manuscript, which uses neat, uniform handwriting and words separated into syllables, was probably a teacher’s model used to help students read and write, according to the experts. “The scribe has divided most of the text into syllables by using mid-dots. Such divisions are very uncommon in ancient manuscripts, but they do show up frequently in manuscripts that were used in educational contexts,” said Landau, a lecturer in the UT Austin Department of Religious Studies, in the statement. Landau notes that the teacher who produced the manuscript likely “had a particular affinity for the text.” The document, he explains, appears to be a complete copy of the forbidden ancient text.

Fascinating!!    🙂

Biblical prophecy claims the world will end on Sept. 23, Christian numerologists claim

A Christian numerologist claims that the world will end next Saturday when a planet will, supposedly, collide with Earth. According to Christian numerologist David Meade, verses in Luke 21:25 to 26 are the sign that recent events, such as the recent solar eclipse and Hurricane Harvey, are signs of the apocalypse. The verses read: “25: There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ “’26: Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.’ Sept. 23 is a date that was pinpointed using codes from the Bible, as well as a “date marker” in the pyramids of Giza in Egypt. Meade’s views are not endorsed by Roman Catholic, Protestant or eastern Orthodox branches of Christianity. Meade has built his theory on the so-called Planet X, which is also known as Nibiru, which he believes will pass Earth on Sept. 23, causing volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and earthquakes, according to British newspaper The Sun. NASA has repeatedly said Planet X is a hoax. For a certain branch of evangelical Christianity, Revelation 12:1–2, describes the beginning of what is known as the rapture and the second coming of Christ. The passage reads: “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.” In the passage, the woman is Virgo. On Sept. 23, both the sun and the moon will be in Virgo, as will the planet Jupiter. However, this occurrence happens naturally once every 12 years. There is also a rare alignment, known as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah,” which the conspiracy theorists are hanging their hats on. According to the Express, author Jonathan Sarfati wrote that the same planetary coincidence previously happened four times in the last millennium. “As usual with any astrology (or Christian adaptations of it), one cherry-picks the stars that fit the desired conclusion,” Sarfati wrote, according to the Express. “There is nothing to suggest that 23 September is a momentous date for biblical prophecy, and Christians need to be careful about being drawn into such sensationalist claims.”

Agreed..

 

Christian persecution: How many are being killed, where they are being killed

This past Palm Sunday was a dark day in Egypt. Suicide bombings at two Coptic Christian churches, one in Alexandria and the other in Tanta left 45 people dead and many more wounded. Although there has been an uptick in violence against Christians in the region, Egypt is hardly alone in a long list of countries — many in the Middle East — that are violently hostile towards Christians. A list generated by Open Doors USA, a nonprofit organization focused on serving persecuted Christians, shows the Middle East accounts for a majority of countries ranked in the top 10 for extreme persecution of Christians. In order, the countries are as follows: 1. North Korea 2. Somalia 3. Afghanistan 4. Pakistan 5. Sudan 6. Syria 7. Iraq 8. Iran 9. Yemen 10. Eritrea Egypt ranks No. 21. According to the Christian advocacy group, one in 12 Christians today experiences high, very high or extreme persecution for their faith. Nearly 215 million Christians face high persecution, with 100 million of those living in Asia. The Center for the Study of Global Christianity, an academic research center that monitors worldwide demographic trends in Christianity, estimates that between the years 2005 and 2015, 900,000 Christians were martyred — an average of 90,000 Christians each year. From Nov. 1, 2015, to Oct. 31, 2016, Open Doors documented as many as 1,207 Christians who were killed around the globe for faith-related reasons during the 2017 list’s reporting period. This is a conservative estimate since it only includes documented cases and does not include statistics from North Korea and large areas of Iraq and Syria.

Some sobering data on this Easter..  To read the rest, click on the text above.

Christianity in Iraq is finished, says Canon Andrew White, ‘vicar of Baghdad’

He is one of the world’s most prominent priests, but Canon Andrew White – known as the “Vicar of Baghdad” – has reached a painstaking conclusion: Christianity is all but over in the land where it all began. “The time has come where it is over, no Christians will be left. Some say Christians should stay to maintain the historical presence, but it has become very difficult. The future for the community is very limited,” White told Fox News this week. “The Christians coming out of Iraq and ISIS areas in the Middle East all say the same thing, there is no way they are ever going back. They have had enough.” Thirty years ago, there were approximately 1.4 million Christians in Iraq. The number dwindled to around 1 million after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, and a year ago it was estimated that there were less than 250,000 left. Numbers have continued to decline as families flee, and today even approximate figures are difficult to obtain.

And, as we all know..  It was Obama’s foolish decision (against the advice of virtually EVERY General officer on active duty at the time, and retired) in 2010 to just unilaterally pull all U.S. military forces out of Iraq, that caused a power vacuum, and the emergence of ISIS/ISIL, which then in turn led to a wholescale genocide of Christians in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere in the Middle East.  What an incredible moron he was..  And THIS is the consequence of that liberal agenda-driven idiocy.  To read the rest of this tragic story, click on the text above..

Christ’s burial slab uncovered for the first time in centuries

Researchers have uncovered the stone slab in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre venerated as the resting place of Jesus Christ. The slab, which has been covered by marble cladding since at least 1555 A.D., has been exposed as part of a major restoration project at the church, National Geographic reports. “The marble covering of the tomb has been pulled back, and we were surprised by the amount of fill material beneath it,” Fredrik Hiebert, archaeologist-in-residence at the National Geographic Society and a partner in the restoration project, told National Geographic. “It will be a long scientific analysis, but we will finally be able to see the original rock surface on which, according to tradition, the body of Christ was laid.” The rock surface, or “burial bed” was hewn from the side of a limestone cave following Christ’s crucifixion, according to Christian tradition. Christ’s resurrection from the dead is a core tenet of Christian belief – the gospels say that the tomb was found to be empty by those who visited it a few days after the crucifixion. The “burial bed” is now part of a small structure called the Edicule in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, National Geographic reports. The Edicule, rebuilt between 1808 and 1810 following its destruction by fire, is being restored by scientists from the National Technical University of Athens. The restoration, which includes the Edicule’s interior tomb, is being overseen by the National Technical University’s Chief Scientific Supervisor Antonia Moropoulu. “We are at the critical moment for rehabilitating the Edicule,” Moropoulou told National Geographic. “The techniques we’re using to document this unique monument will enable the world to study our findings as if they themselves were in the tomb of Christ.” National Geographic reports that, after the marble slab was removed, a grey-beige stone surface was exposed. Scientists will use monitoring tools to study the surface.

Wow!!  Can’t wait to see this NatGeo special!   🙂