Thursday, August 31, 2017

Evensong sees a surge even as British church attendance declines

From here, where there is more:
LONDON (RNS) — The line of locals and tourists stretches about 400 people long, and one might think they are waiting to get into a play, a museum or even for ice cream.

But these people want to go to a church service.

In Britain, where churchgoing is mostly in decline, what has drawn the crowd on a late afternoon in August is evensong, the hymn-heavy evening service of the Anglican church taken from the Book of Common Prayer. This line was headed for the service at the famed Westminster Abbey, sometimes called England’s parish church.

Abbey officials estimate that there can be up to 700 people at evensong when the main choir is singing. Similar crowds can be found across Britain in cathedrals such as York Minster and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, and in Oxford and Cambridge.

But even in much smaller churches, evensong attendance is growing, attracting people who might otherwise never enter a church, and bucking the British trend in declining congregations. Some clergy are hopeful that it may be a way people are drawn into a deeper relationship with the church.
Read the rest.

If you would like to hear a Choral Evensong, there are loads of them on YouTube. One of my favorites, featuring the choir of Liverpool Cathedral (and England's largest pipe organ) is here.



Friday, August 25, 2017

Indiana Teacher Demands Parents Tell Kids to Stop Talking About God in Class

Religiophobia: (Noun) An irrational or obsessive fear or anxiety of religion, religious faith, religious people or religious organizations.  See also religiophobe, religiophobic.

From here:
MCCORDSVILLE, Ind. – Parents of McCordsville Elementary School students are upset after a first grade teacher sent home a letter asking kids not to talk about “God,” “Jesus,” and the “Devil.”



According to a release from the school, a debate about God took place in a first grade classroom earlier this week.  In response to the debate, the teacher wrote a letter about expectations in the classroom and sent it to parents.  The letter talked about school language and asked parents to have a “talk” with their children about the appropriate time and place to talk about religion.

[Notice that the teacher's letter (see photo above) doesn't say anything about a "debate."  It merely says the students were "using the words God, Jesus, and Devil in conversation."]

FOX59 obtained the letter from a parent of one of the students in the class, which reads in part:

“With Mccordsville Elementary being a public school, we have many different religions and beliefs, and I do not want to upset a child or parent because of these words being used.”

[Frankly, I doubt that McCordsville, Indiana (population: 6,485) actually has "many different religions and beliefs," whatever this relgiophobic, politically correct teacher may think.  But, even if it does have "many different religions and beliefs," all of those 6,485 residents, including their children, still have a First Amendment right to discuss their religion(s)—as the school superintendent rightly clarifies:]

But a letter from the Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation Superintendent Dr. Robbins says it is okay for students to talk about their beliefs as long as it does not disrupt class.

“To simply summarize, MVCSC employees can neither advance nor inhibit religious views.  Trying to limit a student’s view on religion is a violation of a student’s first amendment rights.  However, if the discussion becomes an academic disruption, then as a district, we can intervene to maintain the integrity of the educational process while at the same time being sure to not violate a student’s constitutional rights.”

District officials say they have met with the teacher about the school’s policies.  It is unclear whether she will face any disciplinary action.
When I was growing up two of the teachers in my elementary school were also Sunday School teachers at my church.  Two other teachers that I know of were Sunday School teachers in other churches.  Could we talk about God, Jesus, etc. Monday through Friday the same as we did on Sunday?  Well, perhaps not exactly the same as we did on Sunday; but religion wasn't a forbidden subject.  The end result was that we developed an integrated worldview where religion was a part of life, right along with math, science, history, literature, etc. 

We learned the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you) wasn't just in the Bible, it was sound ethics and a good guideline for building a healthy society where people respected and cared about each other.  Needless to say, bullying wasn't as much of a problem as it has become once we started taking things like God, the Bible, the Golden Rule, etc. out of our schools. 

If Christian parents don't stand up for our First Amendment freedoms, we are soon going to have a society where even common courtesy has disappeared and where our social ethics resemble the Lord of the Flies.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, August 14, 2017

Anne Graham Lotz: I Will Not Be Celebrating the Eclipse—Gives Prophetic Warning About Significance

Billy Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, has written a new blog post in light of the impending solar eclipse set to take place on August 21, 2017, titled “Is God’s Judgment Coming on America?”

Lotz likens the scheduled eclipse-viewing parties and celebratory nature of “The Great American Eclipse” to the drunken feast thrown by King Belshazzar of Babylon in the book of Daniel. “While Belshazzar and his friends partied, they were oblivious to the impending danger. Belshazzar wound up dead the next day, and the Babylonian empire was destroyed,” she said.

Included in the post is a video from Australian pastor Steve Cioccolanti who discusses the signs in the Bible that point to the possible significance of the upcoming eclipse.

Lotz concluded by saying, “Regardless of whether or not the conjecture regarding America’s Eclipse is accurate, we know our nation and our world is in turmoil. Without doubt this is the time for God’s people to get right with God. To repent of our own sin. To share the gospel with our neighbors. And to pray that in the midst of his coming wrath, God would remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2).

Read Anne Graham Lotz' blog post.
Watch Pastor Steve Cioccolanti's video.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Kissinger Warns: Growing Danger of an ‘Iranian Radical Empire’

If the Islamic State is destroyed, the situation in the Middle East could end up being even more dire with the emergence of an “Iranian radical empire” in its wake, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger warned in an article published by CapX this week.

Kissinger cautioned that in the case of IS and Iran, the old aphorism “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” no longer holds true, since driving out the Sunni terror group would leave a “territorial belt reaching from Tehran to Beirut” that Iranian-trained Shia forces could occupy.
Across large areas of Iraq and Syria, an ideologically radical religious army, Isis, has declared itself a relentless foe of modern civilisation, seeking violently to replace the international system’s multiplicity of states with a single Islamic empire governed by Sharia law. In these circumstances, the traditional adage that the enemy of your enemy can be regarded as your friend no longer applies. In the contemporary Middle East, the enemy of your enemy may also be your enemy. The Middle East affects the world by the volatility of its ideologies as much as by its specific actions.
The outside world’s war with Isis can serve as an illustration. Most non-Isis powers — including Shia Iran and the leading Sunni states — agree on the need to destroy it. But which entity is supposed to inherit its territory? A coalition of Sunnis? Or a sphere of influence dominated by Iran? The answer is elusive because Russia and the Nato countries support opposing factions. If the Isis territory is occupied by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards or Shia forces trained and directed by it, the result could be a territorial belt reaching from Tehran to Beirut, which could mark the emergence of an Iranian radical empire.

The 94-year-old former secretary of state has in the past warned that the Middle East will “explode” if the “domination of the region by an Iran that is both imperial and jihadist” is allowed to continue.

Over the years, I have observed that Kissinger is more likely to be right when Israel's national security is at stake than when it is the US the is on the line. This is one of those instances.  (Essentially, Kissinger is working for the wrong government.)  He is absolutely right about the potential danger of a Shia Empire stretching from Tehran to Beirut.  But the immediate danger would be to Israel.  That is not to dismiss the danger.  Iran's territorial ambitions resemble Nazi Germany in the 1930's only set on a different continent.  With the NATO powers on one side and Russia on the other, this could be the setting for the start of WWIII.

"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: 'May those who love you be secure.'" (Psalm 122:6)

  

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Sometimes You Have To Fight To Do What is Right

It seems like hardly a week goes by without my reading of some food service employee refusing to serve or doing something to insult a police officer.  Either that or I read about some employee getting fired for giving free food to a police officer or military personnel.

When are these stupid corporations going to learn?  Real Americans like our police officers and military personnel.  We salute them, and we salute employees and businesses that respect these brave men and women who put their lives on the line in order that security, peace, and order, both at home and abroad, might be preserved.

I've never written about this topic before.  But after seeing this story from Katy, Texas, I just had to.
Texas police department commends teen nearly fired for offering cop free cookie

A Texas police department on Wednesday honored a teen who was almost fired for buying an officer a free cookie earlier this month.

Katy Police Department posted a photo on Facebook of Zachary Randolph, 18, with three officers, commending the teen for his "selfless deed."



"It was our pleasure to finally meet the young man from Great American Cookies, who did a selfless deed despite what others may have thought," the Facebook caption said.  "Sergeant McClure and the rest of the Katy Police Department would like to say thank you for supporting law enforcement and going the extra step to show your appreciation."

Randolph was working at the Great American Cookie Company in Katy Mills when he offered to pay for an officer's cookie, his mother Tami Randolph wrote in a Facebook post on July 5.  She claimed a family in the store verbally attacked him after the kind act and said, "Are you going to buy mine too?"  They also accused him of being racist and vowed to get the teen fired, according to the post.

Days after the incident, the company managers called the teen in and "wanted him fired."  He was ultimately placed on suspension.

"Thankfully his manager refused and said you are an excellent worker and and everyone agreed that you did nothing wrong," the mother wrote in the post.

"Since when does buying a police officer a cookie give anyone else a reason to attack someone?  And when did a Corporation want to FIRE someone for being KIND...?
When indeed?

Read the rest.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Putting the 'Judeo' Back in 'Judeo-Christian'

PJ Media has an interesting piece, which raises an important question about how Christians should relate to the Jewish roots of Christianity. I am taking the liberty of reproducing the article here in its entirety. But I do encourage you to visit the PJ Media site where there are many more excellent articles:
There’s a fascinating book review (I haven’t read the book itself) published online June 22 at Christianity Today whose topic tracks a question I’ve asked in writing for years. As I put it in a column years ago at the Mobile Register, “why aren’t Christians more Jewish?”

What I mean (and have written several times) is that even a fair amount of theological study hasn’t given me an answer to why Christians don’t still celebrate a lot of Jewish customs and holidays. Why don’t we still memorialize Yom Kippur or the Passover seder? Why don’t we light the candles of Hanukkah? Jesus and his disciples did, so why don’t we? Christianity was built on the foundation of Judaism, so why do we ignore so much of that foundation?

Obviously, our Pauline theology explains why we aren’t subject to every jot and tittle of every law in Leviticus, but we still are of a faith that cannot be understood without an understanding of our Jewish roots – and there is no good reason why major Jewish observances shouldn’t also be Christian ones.

All of which can serve as a predicate for Nathan Finn’s Christianity Today review of Gerald McDermott’s Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently about the People and the LandExplains Finn:

McDermott is part of a group of scholars who identify with the “New Christian Zionism” movement. Their goal is to convince contemporary believers that Israel is not the backstory of the church, but a key part of the future of the faith. In  Israel Matters, McDermott makes a nuanced case for the centrality of Israel in redemptive history—past, present, and future.

Jesus and his earliest followers never set aside Israel so they could establish a primarily Gentile religion. Jesus was a faithful Jew, as were most of his earliest disciples, including all of the apostles. Gentile believers have been grafted into Israel by faith, and while the Mosaic covenant has been fulfilled through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Abrahamic covenant (God’s promise to make a great nation of Abraham’s descendants and bless them with land) continues to endure.

Simply put, God is not finished with the Jews, and the future of Gentile Christianity is closely tied to the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel.

In short, Christians should look at the central tenets of Christianity and the central tenets of Judaism not as an either/or choice but as a both/and consummation. And we should open ourselves to “a fresh appreciation of the Jewishness of Jesus and his earliest followers.”

(Thank goodness, by the way, that most Christian denominations in the past 50 years have firmly rejected the once-prevalent understanding that Jews in general were responsible for the Crucifixion, rather than the historical and theological truth that the fault belonged only to a small group of Temple leaders and their most avid courtiers.)

Pope John Paul II was one of those firmly in the camp of “dual covenant theology” – another name for the beliefs also pushed by McDermott in the book being reviewed – and argued in a 1980 speech in Berlin that God’s covenant with the Jewish people had never been revoked. And in 1986 John Paul II said this: “With Judaism, therefore, we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers, and in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers.”

To be clear, this does not mean that the Polish pope or any of the Protestant leaders who have re-stressed Christianity’s Jewishness are arguing that Jesus isn’t the true path to salvation; what they aver is that we cannot separate Jesus from His Jewishness and that we cannot lessen the importance of the Old Covenant to our own faith.

There are many Jewish customs that not only do not contradict or undermine our New Covenant, but actually enrich it. Just because Christians are not required to eat only kosher food doesn’t mean we are not free to do so, or to join Jewish friends at a warm and festive seder meal.

Jews, of course, need not be Christians.* But there is a sense, and a truth, in which all Christians must be Jews.

Quin Hillyer is a veteran conservative columnist with a degree in theology. His faith-themed satirical novel, Mad Jones: Heretic, is due for publication this summer by Liberty Island Media.
[* I am not sure what the author means by this sentence,  but I read it in light of his earlier statement: "To be clear, this does not mean that the Polish pope or any of the Protestant leaders who have re-stressed Christianity’s Jewishness are arguing that Jesus isn’t the true path to salvation"...]
    

Thursday, June 08, 2017

GAFCON to consecrate Missionary Bishop for Scotland

From here, where there is more:
Today the Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church voted to finalise a change to their canons that attempts to redefine marriage. This action further marginalises faithful Anglicans in Scotland who uphold Jesus’ teaching on marriage.

Recognising the pastoral need that arose following the initial SEC vote (in June 2016), in April of this year the Gafcon Primates authorised the consecration of a Missionary Bishop to care for those who seek to remain faithful to the scriptures and Jesus’ teaching on marriage.

Today at a press conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, Archbishop Foley Beach, speaking on behalf of the Primates Council, introduced the new Missionary Bishop:

Statement on Gafcon Missionary Bishop by Archbishop Foley Beach

Good afternoon. Thank you for being here today. I plan to make a brief statement. Canon Andy Lines will make a brief statement. Rev. David McCarthy will make a brief statement. And then we will have a time for questions.

I speak to you today as the Archbishop and Primate of the Province of the Anglican Church in North America, and as a sitting primate on the Gafcon Primates Council. On behalf of the Chairman of Gafcon, the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, the Primate of All Nigeria, the Assistant Chairman, The Most Rev. Stanley Ntagali, and the Gafcon Primates Council: Grace and peace to you in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

We continue to have a crisis in the Anglican Communion as the virus of revisionist theology and practice continues to spread to various Provinces. Rather than correcting and disciplining those who have departed from the biblical faith and practice which has been handed down to us from the Apostles, some church leaders are embracing false teaching, and then going even further by promoting it around the world.

The Nairobi Communiqué from the Gafcon meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2013 clearly stated that the Gafcon leadership would not ignore the pleas of the faithful who are trapped in places where false doctrine and practice occur. We promised that we would provide pastoral care and oversight for those who remain faithful to Jesus’ teaching on marriage.

At our April meeting in Lagos, Nigeria, the Gafcon Primates decided to provide a missionary bishop for Europe with the initial focus on those in Scotland and those faithful Anglicans in England outside the Church of England. Today’s decision by the Scottish Episcopal Church to change the biblical and historic definition of marriage has highlighted the need to respond to the cries and pleas of those Scots who today have been marginalized by their leaders. The attempt to redefine marriage is not one that a faithful Christian can support.

The Gafcon Primates have asked our Province, the Anglican Church in North America, to take on the task of providing a missionary bishop for Scotland. Our Province was formed at the direction of Gafcon 2008 after many of the Provinces of Gafcon had provided the same kind of oversight for clergy and congregations in North America. They have asked us to consecrate Canon Andy Lines.

Canon Andy Lines

Our College of Bishops discussed and decided to accept this responsibility. Following the Canons of our Province, the Executive Committee of the Province was not only consulted, but also voted unanimously to support this endeavor. We also appointed an oversight Committee of Bishops to provide guidance and accountability for Canon Lines as he walks through our consecration process and to support him after he is consecrated a bishop. Archbishop Robert Duncan is chair of the committee which consists of three diocesan bishops: The Rt. Rev. Bill Atwood, The Rt. Rev. Charlie Master, and The Rt. Rev. David Hicks.

Canon Andy Lines is now canonically resident in the Diocese of the South as a “priest in good standing” after having been transferred from the Province of South America as a priest in good standing.

The Consecration will take place on the morning of 30 June in Wheaton, Illinois and the service will include Primates, Archbishops, and bishops from all over the world. Although the Anglican Church in North America is the consecrating Province, this is an initiative of the wider Anglican Communion.

Lastly, as the Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church in North America, I consider it an honor to serve the Scots in this way. After the American revolution in the United States, the Anglican leaders in England would not consecrate bishops for the newly formed Anglican Church in the United States. It was Scotland who came to our rescue and consecrated our first bishop, Samuel Seabury. It is Providential that we in North America are now able to honor our Scottish heritage by providing a bishop for the faithful in Scotland. It is my hope that the missionary bishop will lead an effort to plant dynamic churches all over Scotland which are Jesus-centered, practicing the teaching of the Bible, and holding to the long-standing tradition of the Anglican Faith. As Samuel Seabury once said:
“Error often becomes popular and contagious, and then no one can tell how far it will spread, nor where it ends. We must in such cases, recur to first principles, and there take our stand. The Bible must be the ground of our faith."

For further resources. click here.

Friday, May 12, 2017

North Korea's Christians are suffering. We cannot forget them

From here, where there is more:
By Vernon Brewer Published May 12, 2017

I will never forget my first day in North Korea.

As we drove over the Tumen River in 2007, our guide told us how North Koreans come to the riverbank and wait until evening to attempt the risky swim to mainland China. The border guards have orders to shoot on sight, and anyone attempting to cross illegally is subject to summary execution. Our guide then added, almost as an afterthought, “The Tumen has probably witnessed more deaths than any other river in the world.”

Once inside the country, I was suddenly struck by the eerie quietness that pervades the towns and cities we visited.

The streets were empty, absent of the usual traffic and busy city life, and the few people who found themselves outside seemed to meander aimlessly.
Today, I know brave Christians who smuggle Bibles disguised as phone books into the country. They risk their lives so others may have the opportunity to read the forbidden words of Jesus in their own language.
Convoys of ox carts replaced cars and public buses, and the buildings, with their water-stained stucco walls, looked hollow and gray. Electricity, too, was often cut off, so that at night entire towns were absorbed into darkness.

I was shocked to see students typing on keyboards while staring at blank computer screens at one government school. They were pretending to do their classwork while the power was out.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — a communist state of 25 million souls — is considered the most secretive nation on earth. Driven by the Kim family into isolation and a cultic reverence to the royal family, this small nation now threatens to destabilize the world with nuclear warfare.

Yet, while rumors fly about secret islands used to stage missile launches, and stories emerge of U.S. citizens being held in hard labor camps, a whole narrative of persecution against Christians goes largely unreported in the media.

For 16 consecutive years, Open Doors has ranked North Korea “the most oppressive place in the world for Christians.” Though exact numbers are hard to confirm — estimates range between 30,000 to 70,000 — tens of thousands of Christians are believed to be held in “kwanliso,” or political labor camps.

Often sick and malnourished, these captives are subject to extreme violence and crude torture, suffering beatings with electric rods and metal poles, and even being used as test subjects for medical experiments, as reported in Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s 2016 report on North Korea.

Christians are frequently sentenced to these labor camps simply for owning a Bible, as evidenced by the gut-wrenching story I heard from inside North Korea.

“There was one homework [assignment] I wish I’d never done,” said Eun, now in her 40s.

One morning, when Eun was in third grade, her teacher told the class, “Today we’re not going to give you homework.” Naturally, all the children celebrated the news, but the teacher wasn’t finished.

“However, when you go home, look for a book,” the teacher continued. “Normally it’s black. Normally it’s hidden. Normally it’s the book your mom or dad read when you sleep. Normally it’s hidden in the closet or the drawer or somewhere that’s not reachable, but if you look hard enough you can find this book.”

“And, if you bring it, we will honor you.”

Eun ran home, arriving before her mom. She looked everywhere, through drawers, cabinets, underneath mattresses, until she finally found a small, black, leather-bound book. She hid it inside her bag and took it to school the next morning.

At school, Eun’s teacher gave her a red scarf — the sign of a good kid in communist North Korea. Eun’s mother didn’t allow her to be involved in government-sponsored extracurricular activities, so Eun had never had the opportunity to receive this honor.

With the scarf around her neck, she ran home to tell her mom what had happened — but her mom wasn’t there. In fact, Eun waited all night for her mom, but she never arrived. When Eun got to school the following day, with an empty stomach, she found out the parents of 14 other students also hadn’t come home the night before.

Many people don’t remember that in the early 20th century, Pyongyang was known as the “Jerusalem of the East,” or that Christianity played a major role in the history of the Korean peninsula.

Even after communism began to overtake North Korea, Christianity’s influence was so prevalent that Kim Il Sung’s father was a Christian and his father-in-law a Presbyterian minister.

Today, I know brave Christians who smuggle Bibles disguised as phone books into the country. They risk their lives so others may have the opportunity to read the forbidden words of Jesus in their own language.

During this time of great political intrigue surrounding North Korea, we must not forget the country’s Christians. Countless thousands of them suffer daily for their faith.

--------
Vernon Brewer is the founder and president of World Help, a Christian humanitarian organization that exists to serve the physical and spiritual needs of impoverished communities around the world.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

United Airlines: "Putting the Hospital in Hospitality"

This video has gone viral and has appeared on every major news program. But I am posting it here anyway because this kind of corporate misbehavior must not be forgotten.




Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Why Do So Many Muslims Hate Dogs?

From PJMedia, where there is more:
A Muslim taxi-driver in England, one Abandi Kassim, was recently fined for refusing to take on a blind passenger’s seeing-eye dog because, as Kassim claimed: “For me, it’s about my religion.”

There have been many such cases in the U.S., the UK, and Canada of Muslims refusing to pick up fares with seeing-eye dogs. Many of the Somali taxi drivers who made up three-quarters of the 900 taxi drivers at the Minneapolis airport refused to pick up blind passengers because of their dogs. When forced to do so, some of them simply quit.

In Toronto, a guide dog’s owner was refused taxi service by a Muslim driver. In Saskatchewan, the same problem. In Montreal, in Ottawa, and all across Canada, Muslim drivers have refused service to seeing-eye dogs. In London, in Nottingham, in Reading, and in Tunbridge Wells, taxi drivers have refused service to fares with dogs.

Blind or poorly sighted people with guide dogs have been forced by Muslim bus drivers to get off -- often to calm the hysterical reaction of other Muslim passengers. Much worse, killings of dogs, chiefly by poison, in areas populated mainly by Muslims has been reported in Spain, Sweden, France, and Great Britain.

This Muslim hatred for dogs, as even many non-Muslims now know, has its origin in a celebrated hadith from the most authoritative collection, that by Bukhari:
Once Gabriel promised the Prophet (that he would visit him, but Gabriel did not come) and later on he said, " We, angels, do not enter a house which contains a picture or a dog." (Sahih Bukhari 4.54.50)
Two hadith from Sahih Muslim vividly convey Muhammad’s murderous hatred of dogs:
Abdullah (b. Umar) (Allah be pleased with them) reported: Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) ordered the killing of dogs and we would send (men) in Medina and its corners and we did not spare any dog that we did not kill, so much so that we killed the dog that accompanied the wet she-camel belonging to the people of the desert. (Sahih Muslim 3811) 
Ibn Mughaffal reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) ordered killing of the dogs, and then said: “What about them, i. e. about other dogs?” and then granted concession (to keep) the dog for hunting and the dog for (the security) of the herd, and said: "When the dog licks the utensil, wash it seven times, and rub it with earth the eighth time." (Sahih Muslim 551)
Dogs are to be killed, according to Muhammad, with the only exception made for those that are used for hunting or to guard a herd of cattle. But why? And why the mysterious coupling of two disparate items deemed haram: “pictures and dogs”?
Read the rest.