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FEATURE ARTICLE – EVAN ROBERTS AND THE WELSH REVIVAL

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Evan Roberts was the central figure in the Welsh Revival, in Wales, often described as one of the purest, movements of the Holy Spirit in the history of the church.  Evan grew up in a coal mining community and quit school to become a coal miner at the age of twelve. At thirteen Evan Roberts received Christ as his Saviour. In his teens, he would attend every prayer meeting he could find, often, 6 out of 7 days a week.  He read and heard about some of the great revivals that had occurred in Wales and other places and became obsessed with the subject. He stated, “I could sit up all night to read or talk about revivals.” As a young man he was once forced out of his rented room by his landlady, who would hear him pray and preach in his room for hours on end, and concluded he was dangerous and quite likely insane.

At the age of 25 he woke up one night and found himself in the presence of God. His fellowship with God was so real, he stated:  “I found myself with unspeakable joy and awe in the presence of the almighty God … I was privileged to speak face-to-face with him as a man speaks face-to-face with a friend.” This deep communion went on for four hours, and then he fell asleep again. He was surprised to find that the same experience occurred the next night, again resulting in an extraordinary fellowship with God that lasted again for four hours. This continued every night for the next three months, as God revealed Himself in dramatic fashion to this young man, preparing him for his great calling that lay ahead.

Even after these experiences with Christ he continued to be burdened for more of God. He spoke with his friends and wrote, “I have built the altar, and laid the wood in order, and have prepared the offering; I have only to wait for the fire.”  He understood that fire falls on sacrifice.  Roberts attended a series of small meetings held nearby by the famous evangelist, Seth Joshua. Seth was also a man of prayer and used to prayer walk for hours asking the Lord of the Harvest to send out labourers into his harvest fields.  The Lord answered his prayer by raising up Evan Roberts. Seth prayed at the end of one of the services, “O God, bend us.” These words shook Evan Roberts to the core. Roberts recorded, “I felt a living power pervading my soul… It took my breath away and my legs trembled exceedingly.”

Roberts went on “This living power became stronger and stronger as each one prayed, until I felt it would tear me apart, I fell on my knees with my arms over the seat in front of me. My face was bathed in perspiration, and the tears flowed in streams. I cried out, “Bend me, bend me!” It was God’s commending love which bent me, what a wave of peace flooded my bosom…” This mighty baptism in the Holy Spirit transformed Evan. Before that time, he was quite serious and had a gloomy personality, but after this he radiated joy. Before he had been a timid and hesitant speaker, but now spoke with an authority and boldness that could hardly be resisted.  During a church service soon afterwards, Roberts saw a vision of himself speaking to the young people at his home church in Loughor and decided to head home.

His parents were puzzled to see their son home from college, and more puzzled still when he announced he had come to speak to the church (without being invited by the pastor) and was considering going through all Wales preaching and soul winning. The pastor of their home church didn’t quite know what to do with Evan. He decided to play it safe and allowed Evan to speak only after the main prayer meeting was over. Sixteen people and one little girl decided to stay and hear what he had to say.  Roberts wasted no time in getting to the heart of his message. He spoke about a fullness of the Holy Spirit that was available for Christians, but declared that they must fulfil four conditions:

  • Confess all known sin to God.
  • Put away all doubtful habits.
  • Obey the Holy Spirit promptly.
  • Confess Christ publicly.

On that first night, October 31st 1904, his teaching was accompanied with a deep sense of Holy Spirit conviction. By the end of the night all sixteen young people and adults had confessed Christ. So powerful was this first meeting that Roberts was given a second night to share, and then a third.  In one of those early meetings, Evan led the small group of people in what he called a chain prayer. He began by praying: “Send the Spirit now for Jesus Christ’s sake.” He then told everyone else in attendance to pray the same prayer out loud, one at a time. And so the prayer went around the room. After they had all prayed, Evan started a new section of the prayer: “Send the Spirit powerfully now for Jesus Christ’s sake.” Again, the prayer went around the room.

Now as it was being prayed, the Holy Spirit began to fall on some of those in attendance. Evan prayed again: “Send the Spirit more powerfully now for Jesus Christ’s sake.” After that prayer went around the room, Evan prayed the final section of his prayer: “Send the Spirit still more powerfully now for Jesus Christ’s sake.” That chapel meeting went on for hours and hours. Within the next few days, hundreds of people were attending the meetings. Within a few more days, a massive revival swept across Wales; changing the entire culture of the country and spreading to nations all across the earth.  He continued to lead meetings in his hometown each night at nearby churches and saw a total of 65 conversions that week.

Some of the meetings in the early weeks of the revival started at 7:00pm and continued on without any breaks until 4:30am the next morning. After just two months of meetings (from November 8 to December 31st 1904), there were over 34,000 conversions recorded. Two months after that, by February 28, 1905, there were 84,000 conversions recorded. It was an average of over 5,000 conversions a week!  From Wales, the revival began to spread to scattered cities in England, Scotland, Ireland, and the Isle of Man. It also spread as far as New Zealand, Madagascar, India, North America and Mexico, along with several countries within Europe, Asia, and Africa.  There was also great cultural transformation in Wales as the revival spread.

Shops closed down early so the workers could get a seat at the revival meetings. Bibles flew off the shelves in the bookstores. Longstanding debts were paid off, drunkenness and crime drastically declined, and relationships were reconciled. One night at a football game, the whole crowd broke out singing one of the revival worship songs!  So radical was the change in the coal miners that there was a slowdown in the mines. The pit ponies, so used to being cursed at and screamed at by the ungodly miners couldn’t figure out what to do when their transformed masters spoke kindly to them.”  Over a three-year period, approximately 250,000 souls came to Christ as a direct result of the Welsh Revival. After these revival years, Evan Roberts stepped down from public ministry and dedicated himself to a life of intercession. He wrote in one of his journals, “Before men I might reach a limited few, but before God I could reach the whole world!”

Source:  Dr Jason Hubbard – Executive Coordinator International Prayer Connections

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PNG PRIME MINISTER’S SPEECH AT THAT COUNTRY’S NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER

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Editor’s note: The acknowledgment of the existence of God let alone a public commitment to follow Him by national leaders is rare in today’s world. When a national leader makes such a public pronouncement it is worthy of recognition which is why we are publishing the speech of the Papua New Guinea Prime Minister at that nations recent National Day of Prayer and Repentance. We can only hope that one day the same may occur in our own nation.   

“Let me first thank the Body of Christ, (which I believe, consists of all Christian Churches), and the Department of Community Development and Religion for organizing and facilitating this platform on which I stand today to make this statement, in my capacity as the 8th Prime Minister of our Nation. People of Papua New Guinea, today, I stand here before God and his people with an overarching thought which permeates my spirit “That a nation who fears the Lord God of the Universe, shall be blessed”.   In my heart, I know that the event of this day marks, not just a National Occasion in our National Calendar but a grand occasion. I emphasize – a grand occasion, because, today marks a day on which our Nation invokes the Creator of all things, to intervene in our National affairs.

Our National Day of Prayer and Dependence speaks of us acknowledging the God of Israel as our strength against enemies, source of sustenance and origin of our very existence. Therefore, the value of this occasion is far greater than every other occasion on our National Calendar. My brothers and sisters, this day is different in that it is not a National Public Holiday, rather it is a solemn day of our people coming together in unison, to bow before God in humility and prayer, seeking His forgiveness, love and direction in a turbulent time of confusion, fear and panic. As leaders in the public domain, occasions and event are our norms, but, I do not take such an event of this value and greatness today, lightly.

Today, the Nation of Papua New Guinea rises in one voice, reaffirming our deepest convictions regarding fundamental issues which matter most to us as a Nation. As you all know, we have declared our intension to “Take Back our Nation and make it the richest Christian Nation on Earth”. The occasion today is grand because I stand here with this vision, seeking God’s wisdom, His strength and direction that He may establish His eternal will and purpose for us as a Nation just as He prayed, “they Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, or in Papua New Guinea, as it is in heaven.”  Brothers and Sisters, this day must not be confused with our traditional days of worship. This is the National Day of Prayer and Repentance, declared and gazetted by the Government of Papua New Guinea.

Therefore, I, as the Prime Minister of our Nation, stand here today, not as an invited Guest to a Church meeting. Rather, I stand here today as the Chief Executing Officer of the Government of Papua New Guinea, paying homage and tribute to the King of the Universe, the Lord Jesus Christ, invoking His unmerited favour and grace upon my Government for the sake of His Name and for the sake of His own people of this blessed nation. So, I stand to Offer to our King, the Highest Order of Protocol by leading and officiating on this Prayer Occasion with a higher purpose to cause the People of our Land to come with me to stand before our God in Solemn Prayer and declaration of our collective faith without fear, intimidation and shame.

I stand today before our God, to call on our mothers, our fathers, our sisters and our brothers, our girls and our boys including our substances and our possessions, our visitors and friends from other Nations, to pause for a moment with me, to acknowledge the most high God of the Universe, the God of Israel, who is now our God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Distinguished worshippers, brothers and sisters, I take this occasion as a Servant of the Most High God, appointed and mandated by grace, in His season and timing, to be His mouth piece and His instrument, to unleash a message that is un-quenchably burning and fiercely yearning in the heart of every genuine Citizen of our Land. I must state from the outset, that I have one business that I must complete, for which I had made it vehemently clear on the day I took Office as the Prime Minister.

For this reason, I was born and raised, and for which I am prepared to sacrifice and forego everything that the World could offer, and it is the message of our unshakable, inerasable heritage, crafted by the hand of God, meticulously and miraculously, giving us our national sovereignty, our very identity and our priceless gift of national unity.The National Day of Prayer is the most important event of our National Calendar, which symbolizes this special blend of National Sovereignty, under which 864 known language groups of our land are gloriously woven into one united people, one Nation. We truly are the Unite Nation on earth, the United Tribes of Paradisia.  Ladies and Gentlemen, listen to my words attentively and carefully. I came today to discuss without any apology, the very spirit of our Sovereign State, the very being of our Nationhood.

We are not just another collection of people aggregated into particular geographical location, demarcated by a political boundary. We are put here by design, not by fluke or by an evolutionary chance. This is what I have come to announce and discuss with you on this solemn occasion. The message is very simple and clear, yet so deeply profound, that it is impossible to be resisted, stopped or destroyed. The World would desire so much to know “how such a difficult and diverse people, trapped in rugged terrains and scattered atolls, could be brought together as one people.  How could any leader possibly carve a Nation out of an extremely fragmented tribal people? What really was the undercurrent power that worked day and night to aggregate a greatly diverse people into one Nation? What power indeed colonized our people and created a modern PNG?

Today, I came to discuss these questions and reaffirm the answer. The answer that I came to deliver today is coded wonderfully in these few words that I have thoughtfully selected: It was our colonial masters that gave us independence, (and we thank God for them) but, listen to me, it was the word of God that made us, it was the Bible that made Papua New Guinea, it was God who gave us our identity and established our national sovereignty and our modern history. Therefore, today we came together to reaffirm our faith and declare in unison, that our nationhood hangs entirely and safely on our faith in God as our Creator, Jesus Christ as God’s only begotten Son and our Saviour and the Bible as the infallible Word of God, which are the fundamentals of our common Christian Faith, that made us who we are.

We came today to trumpet this message throughout our Land and “shout again for the whole World to hear” who we are. We are here with this intent and purpose. I am overly delighted today to know that the preamble to our Constitution acknowledges the “guiding hand of God” who led this Nation of a thousand tribes, 864 known different languages and cultures to be stitched into one independent sovereign State.  Lest we forget, this solemn occasion today tells the story of how a greatly fragmented nation on Earth with a 1000 tribes, was meticulously woven into one single nation! Our Nation is one of the last “Wonders of the World”, so greatly divided geographically, culturally and linguistically, yet so miraculously stitched into one people. This is our timeless gift from the Lord through the work of the early missionaries.

Therefore, lest we forget, this occasion today also marks a solemn moment to reflect on the selfless sacrifices that the earlier missionaries and our pioneering converts made, to give us our National Identity and our Unity that is solidly founded on the Word of God. It was the work of the early missionaries and the early converts with the Word of God in their hands, who made the biggest and profound difference in our modern history. The missionaries and our local pioneering church leaders with the message of salvation, love, and forgiveness, were the frontiers and undercurrent power that worked tirelessly day and night making untold sacrifices. It was the work of the early Christian Churches that laid the foundation for our unification well before we were given Independence in 1975.

Today, we came together to remind ourselves, that this is an inerasable part of our national history which transcends our diversity and inspires our shared history as one people. The early political parties such as Pangu Pati undoubtedly rode on the waves that were created by the power of the Gospel, to unite our Nation. It is therefore fitting also that the Pangu Pati, which led the fragmented Nation into independence, riding on that wave, will yet again, after 40 years, under my leadership, consolidate the true and timeless foundation of our national sovereignty, our identity and our unity. Today, we came together to reflect on the power that made us. Many of us are products of the early Missionaries. If not all, a vast majority of learned Papua New Guineans today were impacted by the Church and the Church-run schools one way or another.

All our founding leaders were trained, coached and mentored by early Missionaries. Many current leaders are sons of either missionaries or Pastors or church workers. One of them is standing before you today to speak to you.  We are here today, also to remind ourselves of the work of our founding fathers who, under the guiding hand of God thoughtfully constructed our Constitution, directed the citizens of this Nation to “guard and pass on to those who come after us our “noble traditions” and the “Christian principles” that are ours”. Drawing from, and giving effect to, the moral foundation laid in the preamble of our Constitution, the founding father of our Nation, Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare, officially dedicated our Nation to God on this day, in 2007, and declared it a “National Day of Prayer.

On this occasion, as the 8th Prime Minister of PNG, I want to pay special tribute to our founding father for laying the Foundation correct, for the succeeding generations to build on.  On this note, I must also acknowledge the significant event which took place on 31st of July 2015. On that day, our leaders on the Floor of Parliament, unanimously passed a motion to place the antique 400 year old King James Bible in the chamber of our National Parliament. My predecessor, Hon. Peter O’Neil declared the Bible the “national treasure” of Papua New Guinea. Honourable Peter O’Neill, willingly accepted the antique Bible before a sea of people at Jackson Airport on 27th April 2015 and further directed the Bible to be placed in Parliament by a motion, introduced by the Governor of Southern Highlands, Honourable William Powi, representing the Prime Minster, for which, I pay tribute, on behalf of the people of Papua New Guinea.

This action is of historical significance, reaffirming our collective and undeniable resolve as a fully-pledged Christian Nation on Earth. It is a symbolic act which recognizes PNG as a Bible believing nation. It is a symbolic act which acknowledges the great work of missionaries in uniting the country into one Nation through the preaching of the Bible. It is a significant symbolic act that will go down in history and long remembered for many generations to come because the Bible stand above all development models and belief systems as the source of our national identity and our National unity. It signifies our resolve that the principles of the Bible must influence policies for long term development of our Nation as reflected in Strategic Pillar 6 of our Vision 2050.

If there is one task yet to be executed on our National Journey: that is to formalize our resolve by an Act of Parliament to declare PNG a Christian nation and protect the Bible as a symbol of our Christian faith and our National Treasure. It is my commitment today to work with the Church and our people to ensure that we achieve this goal. To this end, today, I announce to the Nation that my Cabinet has approved a law to go before Parliament to officially declare “PNG a Christian nation”. God’s people of Papua New Guinea, I request you today to join me in acknowledging God’s grace and his faithfulness upon our Nation, by ensuring that this law is passed on the floor of Parliament. Drawing from the strength of the Christian Church and the declarations of the former Prime Ministers, I stand today, to commit myself to this one cause, to introduce this Law on the Floor of Parliament to capture and protect the historical heritage of our faith, and to declare that we shall always seek God’s guidance for our development and direction.

I represent our collective view that Papua New Guinea is made up of a thousand nations within a nation. We are culturally and linguistically diverse. The natural divisions are obvious. The risk of disintegration is real. Unless we, as a nation, can quickly identify and embrace a common ideology as the basis of our National Unity for our common good, we are threatened by dangerous external forces and competing ideas that are detrimental to our Christian heritage which is the source of our democratic strength. PNG as a member of the global community, is open to competing ideas that have the potential to destroy our unity, our identity, our Christian values and Constitutional democracy. How can we craft a thousand tribes into a single nation? What will be the basis to unite this nation, the common ideal?

I have a moral duty to protect that which is near and dear to the very fabric of our people’s survival as a Nation. You and I are presented with a moral responsibility to build this nation on the sure principles of the Word of God as the historical roots of our National Unity as it provides the only common ideals. Therefore, let us all as a united and peaceful Papua New Guinea, as one people, take heed to God’s Word and act accordingly as leaders and citizens to keep proclaiming our well founded motto: “One Nation and One People” founded solidly on the sure Word of God. This is the undeniable truth about us and our proud and lasting legacy to pass on to the next generation.

In Conclusion:  Today, I am privileged to also announce that, after this program, we will proceed to the Boulevard in front of the National Parliament to launch a monument called National Identity and Unity Pillar, that symbolically captures the history of our journey to sovereignty and nationhood, which I have just explained. The fundament truth that I have echoed today, must be inscribed on every monument and tablet, lest we forget. It must be written in every book and institutionalized in every school curriculum. This truth, our heritage, must be preached, taught and passed on from one generation to another. It must be heralded from the mountain to the sea….it must be trumpeted again and again for the whole to hear, lest we forget the power that made our modern Papua New Guinea.

Therefore, the Unity Pillar, for which I will officiate the launching ceremony shortly after this program, is a physical embodiment of our sacred and precious national history, which must be practically represented and declared, for ourselves and for the whole world to know that we are a Christian Nation. I am compelled by our short but yet  profound history, to begin the process of rebuilding and restoring our nation founded on Christ the solid rock. The Foundation Stone of the Unity Pillar has been cut out of a precious gem stone known as Jasper, which is described in the Book of Revelation Chapter 21 and Verse 19, as first Foundation Stone of the walls of the City of New Jerusalem. Ladies and Gentlemen, on this precious germ stone, symbolically representing our National Foundation, shall be written the timeless Words from the first Book of Corinthians Chapter 3 Verse 11 which shall read: “for other foundations can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus”.

This is the sum total, the consummation of our short historical journey and direction that we must take into the future. Brothers and sisters, as we leave this place, with this message of our National Identity and Unity, which provides the justification for declaring PNG a Christian nation, may the Lord bless and keep us. May His face shine on us and give us His Peace. May the Lord of the Bible, who united us and gave us our National Identity as a Christian Nation, strengthen our faith against all forces of darkness. May our heart continue to glow and radiate the spirit of unity though the love of God, His life, His vision and His direction for PNG, and that the world may know that God has given no other Name under heaven, by who humanity shall be saved except Christ and him alone. To this end, I vow to commit myself. Amen.”

GOD BLESS PAPUA NEW GUINEA

HON. JAMES MARAPE, MP,

Prime Minister Papua New Guinea

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THE UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTH OF THE CHURCH’S STRUGGLE TO ACHIEVE RACIAL RECONCILIATION

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Editor’s note:  Whilst this article is referring to the Church in America there are a number of points which may be helpful also for us to understand in the Australian context, hence our publication of the article.

In the wake of global protests over inequality and police brutality sparked by the killing of George Floyd, many American Christians and churches are now struggling to strike the right note on racial reconciliation. Some religion scholars and pastors also warn that healing can’t happen without first telling the truth about the Church’s record on race. And in a field of varied experiences, competing narratives about what racial reconciliation means, warnings against political exploitation in the search for it, claims of apathy from white congregations and fearful leaders during an election year in the middle of a pandemic, telling the truth and engaging in constructive dialogue on the issue can be difficult to do.

“The Church across the United States probably reflects the rest of society, polarized,” Doug Weaver, professor of Baptist Studies and director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University, told The Christian Post in a recent interview when asked to gauge how the Church has progressed on the issue of racial reconciliation. “I have a Ph.D. student that works with me that says ‘we really shouldn’t talk about racial reconciliation; we should talk about conciliation because the hard work of conciliation never has happened.’ What he says is you can’t really reconcile what you never were together to begin with. And I think that’s a really good insight. The Church has struggled with issues of race from the very beginning of the story of the Church in the United States.”

While the concept of racial reconciliation is expressed in different ways in specific communities in the U.S., Racial Equity Tools explains that it includes public acknowledgement of racist events and crimes such as apartheid or violence against groups of colour. The process may also examine and make public the current impact of such events, as well as their historical occurrence. Individual victims can also be allowed to tell their stories for the record as one part of a healing process while individual perpetrators may also acknowledge their complicity. Formal and serious apologies are also often part of this work where victims can choose to accept or reject that apology.

The William Winters Institute for Racial Reconciliation defines it this way: “Reconciliation involves three ideas. First, it recognizes that racism in America is both systemic and institutionalized, with far-reaching effects on both political engagement and economic opportunities for minorities. Second, reconciliation is engendered by empowering local communities through relationship-building and truth-telling. Lastly, justice is the essential component of the conciliatory process, justice that is best termed as restorative rather than retributive, while still maintaining its vital punitive character.” Weaver said many Christian churches have been taking steps toward reconciliation through initiatives such as the New Baptist Covenant launched by former President Jimmy Carter in 2007, but these efforts have been limited in achieving effective reconciliation.

“They’ve developed programs with white and African churches that may be close by and in communities but have really never done much work,” Weaver said. “I grew up back in the 60s and the civil rights movement. Occasionally you would have white churches and black churches get together on a Sunday. And there might be a worship service and that was certainly progress but it was limited progress,” he said. “Looking at attempts at reconciliation in churches over the last 60 years, much of it hasn’t been good. You could say over the last 60 years there hasn’t been a lot of good work done. I’m encouraged by some of the work that’s being done by people but I also am disappointed especially when you look at certain churches today that have seemed to be so polarized politically,” Weaver said.

Many churches, particularly white congregations, Weaver explained, don’t see racial reconciliation as an actionable priority even though they may acknowledge that it is important.  This observation is supported by recent research from Barna, which shows that less than 30% of American churches are actively engaged in addressing racism or racial inequality even though most pastors agree that churches should oppose the social ills.  “It’s not that different racial groups don’t think issues of race aren’t important. It’s this question of how important they think it is. If you have a hierarchy of values, which ones are most important to you. I do think that’s where the Church at large can be indicted, and that race has not been at the top of the list even though it should be. Churches tolerate racial discrimination, history shows that,” he said.

Robert P. Jones, founder and CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, argued in a recent analysis how decades of research shows that white Christians are more racist than their secular counterparts and that white Christian churches, as cultural institutions have legitimized the dominance of white supremacy. His analysis is also presented in his latest book, White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity. “A close read of history reveals that we white Christians have not just been complacent or complicit; rather, as the nation’s dominant cultural power, we have constructed and sustained a project of perpetuating white supremacy that has framed the entire American story,” he wrote in a recent op-ed on the book published by NBC News.

“The legacy of this unholy union still lives in the DNA of white Christianity today, and not just among white evangelical Protestants in the South, but also among white mainline Protestants in the Midwest and white Catholics in the Northeast.” He added: “Consider the cultural context in which American Christianity, both Protestant and Catholic, was born. In the 18th and 19th centuries, as Protestant churches were springing up in newly settled territories after Native American populations were forcibly removed, it was common practice, observed, for example, at the Baptist church that was the progenitor of my parents’ church in Macon, Georgia, for slaveholding whites to take enslaved people to church with them.

As late as the 1940s, urban Catholic parishes in major cities such as New York still required Black members to sit in the back pews and approach the altar last to receive the bread and wine of the Eucharist.”  In the wake of George Floyd’s tragic killing, Christian leaders of all stripes expressed outrage and it sparked a flurry of repentant acts of charitable giving and, activism and prayer meetings seeking forgiveness for racism. Floyd’s killing also prompted President of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), J.D. Greear, to endorse the black lives matter movement as a Gospel issue while denouncing the organization behind it. Greear’s declaration attracted much criticism from many in the ranks of the SBC who conflated his support for the issue with support for the organization that also promotes a far-left agenda along with their advocacy for racial justice.

Weeks later, Pastor John Onwuchekwa, a black lead pastor of the diverse but predominantly black Cornerstone Church Atlanta, would announce that his congregation voted to leave the SBC even as the denomination highlighted data on how it was working on issues of diversity. Onwuchekwa publicly raised concern on social media how differently white and black church leaders see the concept of racial reconciliation. “I’d say the best way to enter into conversations is do your homework beforehand. One part is understanding that even the concept of racial ‘reconciliation’ is often a majority culture concept aimed at reconciling the races. While reconciliation is the ultimate goal, so many people treat reconciliation as the pathway as if the solution is as simple as reconciling two people that have an argument,” Onwuchekwa said.

“While the majority culture is often concerned with racial ‘reconciliation,’ minorities (who already have a ton of reconciled majority culture relationships) are concerned with something different, namely racial equality and justice. The gospel in action is needed to address these issues. And in order to understand how the gospel needs to be applied, there needs to be understanding as to what exactly is the problem. A proper diagnosis is needed,” he insisted. “In other words, (as stated above) before any conversation is helpful it’s important that both parties that come to the table are able to define the problem the same way.” Studies show significant gaps in the way people from different ethnic groups view racism.

A 2016 Barna study showed, for example, that while 59% of black U.S. adults strongly disagreed that racism is a problem of the past, only 39% of white adults strongly disagreed. There was also confusion on whether the Church specifically contributed to that problem.  While six in 10 U.S. adults somewhat or strongly disagreed, black Americans were nearly twice as likely as white Americans to view Christian churches as complicit.  For scholars like the Rev. Brenda Salter McNeil, associate professor of reconciliation studies in the School of Theology at Seattle Pacific University, who says she agrees with Onwuchekwa’s point about engagement on the issue, Christians listening to concerns about issues of racial justice in America is long overdue and she hopes the current dialogue will result in positive change.”

“I do think that we’re at a tipping point. I do think that we’re in the middle of what I call a catalytic event or some people call a Kairos moment. One of those kind of undeniable, life-changing moments in history where everybody regardless of how we feel about it we won’t be able to not say that had an impact on us in some way shape or form,” McNeil said. “There are certain times where whether we agree or disagree, it’s undeniable that this is a historic, strategic time that we are living in right now. If I had to say what I make of it, I think we’re living in a strategic moment in history that will become a defining moment. People will ask us, where were you? What were you writing about? They’ll be saying to me, what were you preaching about, they’ll be asking the church, what did you do?”

It was a mild day on Oct. 29, 2015, when McNeil publicly warned more than 1,000 Christian leaders in New York City that the Black Lives Matter movement’s message on racial justice should not be ignored by the church after she, along with other clergy, met with some of the organization’s leaders in Washington, D.C., and they complained about the church’s hypocrisy on race. “The ways we have not shown up for these young people who see us as inactive and lacking innovation. You see in every generation, there are seismic cultural shifts that wake us up to the reality that what’s going on in the world around us must be paid attention to. Such is the case with the Black Lives Matter movement,” McNeil said at the time during the Movement Day 2015 conference, hosted by the New York City Leadership Centre at the Hilton Midtown Hotel in Manhattan.

A year earlier in 2014, protests had erupted across the United States over the police killings of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner, 43, who died tragically after he was placed in a chokehold by now former NYPD police officer Daniel Pantaleo. The public response to their deaths catapulted the Black Lives Matter movement to national prominence. While the lack of connection to the church among those behind the movement was troubling for many conservative Christians, McNeil suggested after meeting with the group’s leaders that God was using them to speak to the issue of racial reconciliation. “God’s talking to these young people. And these young folks have something to say and we might not like how it’s packaged, but I believe God is breaking in and saying something,” she said at the time.

While McNeil agrees with Weaver that conciliation is a logical prerequisite for racial reconciliation, if the issue is being examined from a biblical perspective, she argues a higher level of reconciliation, at least conceptually, can be arrived at. “If conciliation has to do with what we’ve done historically in this country, there has not been any conciliation, therefore you can’t reconcile that. But God, I think, has called us to an ideal that is not rooted in history. It’s an ideal that is rooted in the Imago Dei. It’s rooted in the Kingdom of God and God at the beginning said when creation was made, declared ‘this is good,’” McNeil said.  “We are reconciling that. We are reconciling ourselves to what we’ve been called to be by God and how far we’ve fallen from it.

That’s the calling of the Church, I think, to reconcile ourselves to the call of God that all people would reach their full God-given potential. We don’t do it but that’s what we’re trying to reconcile. That for which God came and for which God created the Church, this multiethnic, multinational, multilingual group of people who represent the Kingdom. That’s the call of reconciliation.” As many churches seek out practical ways to express racial reconciliation, McNeil explained that facilitating multiethnic churches managed the right way are a step in the right direction.  “You do need to have people from diverse backgrounds together who know each other in order to have some sense of empathy for what each other experiences. So diversity and multiethnic churches have helped to create more senses of people having connections to one another,” she said.

When it comes to racial reconciliation in the Church, McNeil also argued that it should not stop at just relational connections. “When we create just relational connections and not move that relational connection to then mobilize us toward systemic change, then what we’ve created is more like a Kumbaya club, where we look diverse but it’s still in the terms of white dominant culture,” she explained. “It doesn’t matter that we sing songs in Spanish or that we eat with chopsticks or do things that demonstrate that we’ve got a diverse worship leader. That’s not enough. What we’re really looking for is those relationships to mobilize, to then care about what’s happening to people who represent those racial groups.”

The Seattle-based professor noted that in order for racial reconciliation to be effective, churches need to offer reparations like simply telling the truth about what’s broken. “This is why young people don’t believe in the reconciliation movement because it’s been relational and it’s had nothing to do with repairing what’s broken. I think what people have said about reparations, it’s almost like ‘just give us our money.’ I believe there is a biblical call for reparations,” she said, pointing to Isaiah 58:12. “You know in the Old Testament the Bible says ‘and you shall be called the restorers and repairers of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in safely. I believe that reparations means to repair what is broken. I believe that it begins with telling the truth about what’s broken and who broke it. And then to make a commitment to fix that,” McNeil said.

“We have broken the process of voting for people. Black people were not permitted to vote in this country. To tell the truth about that would be to say, we did that, white Americans forbade people to register to vote. So how do you repair that? You repair that by registering, actively working to register people of colour to vote. That’s reparations,” she continued. “Reparation is fixing what was actually broken. Every time we keep not telling the truth about what’s broken in our country, redlining where banks would not give loans to black people or people of colour. That’s just true. So the economic system, or the G.I. Bill, favoured white men who came home and did not let people of color, to get the same home loans. So the real question is to tell the truth that the United States did that and then to say what would have to happen to repair that.”

When asked why many churches were not actively involved in educating their congregations about issues of racial reconciliation, McNeil acknowledged that some pastors were afraid of raising the issue.  In June, for example, Bishop Scott Volland and his wife, Debra, reported they were booted out by The Heights Church in Columbus, Mississippi, for supporting the idea that “black lives matter (as a human fact)” and standing with protesters against racial injustice.  Fear of repercussions like the one faced by the Vollands, said McNeil, contribute to outcomes like the recent Barna poll showing that even though most pastors oppose racism or racial inequality, less than 30% of American churches are actively engaged in addressing the social ills.

“They know how to do racial reconciliation. The problem is they will get put out. Their congregations will vote against them,” McNeil said. “That’s people knowing if I bring this up in my church, that’s why we’re silent. We know that nobody should be strangled for nine minutes. Nobody whose hands are handcuffed, who is begging for their lives should be killed on the street. Nobody. If they say that, the churches will put them out of their jobs. So they struggle with the tension of knowing that most white churches will fire that pastor and he will lose his job. So they find themselves caught between pleasing their congregations and staying someplace in the middle or completely silent about it,” she explained.

“Jesus was crucified and Jesus was crucified by religious people. It was religious people who crucified Jesus and they know that religious people will kill them, will kill their career, will kill their retirement benefits, will kill their ability to get another church.”  When asked if pastors should be blamed in part for the state of church culture on race, McNeil said even though the fear she sees in churches makes her sad, pastors like all humans should be offered grace when faced with difficult situations.  “I think we’re human,” she began. “I feel so sad because I think that the Church was supposed to be this radical countercultural community that represented what God was like on earth as it is in Heaven and somehow we were supposed to be this courageous community of Christ followers who would demonstrate the Kingdom of God, but we’re human.

We’re like Peter who said I’ll never forsake you and when it’s a life and death situation, he denies Jesus. “I think that we are more human than we know and so we try to find a middle of the road place to be where we’re not evil but we’re not really good. We’re not against it but we’re really not for it. You know that place? How you find that kind of compromise place?”  “That lukewarm spot?” this reporter suggested. “Right. That’s what I think,” she said. “I don’t think people are bad necessarily. I think more people are lukewarm and I think that this time that we’re living in, I think lukewarmness is being demonstrated for not being helpful. I think that’s why Jesus said I’ll spit you out my mouth. I think this is a place where you are either for it or you’re against it. And you can’t play the middle and I think too many Christians have tried to play the middle.”

The times, said McNeil whose new book, Becoming Brave: Finding the Courage to Pursue Racial Justice Now, are “demanding” that Christians choose faith or fear. “I think Christians are scrambling because, for a long time people have been able to be successfully in the middle. This time is demanding that we choose a side,” she said. “I used to think that the opposite of faith was doubt. No. You know what keeps us from walking by faith? Fear.” Pastor Francisco Vega, leader of the A.R.C. (Awakening and Reformation Centre) in Atlanta, Georgia, and co-founder of Conservative Clergy of Colour, a nonpartisan group that seeks to restore faith in government and serve as surrogates for Christ in the culture, agrees that fear has kept many pastors from tackling difficult cultural issues from their pulpits such as race, abortion and homosexuality.

“I want to encourage pastors that when we have weak preaching, it would produce weak disciples. But if we have strong biblical teaching, we are not afraid to walk the tightrope of truth in addressing issues that are prevalent in our culture today. And we ensure we have a loyalty to express biblical values and it’s not our own personal opinions and people could see that from God’s Word, they love God more than they love their pastors, their presidents, their congressman their politicians, and many love God even more than their own opinions,” Vega said. “If every pulpit got fearless and spoke the truth from God’s Word about cultural issues today scripturally, this whole situation in our country could be turned around in six months. We need pastors who are fearless, who are bold who will stand up against cancel culture.”

While the Black Lives Matter organization has helped to bring attention to an issue his group affirms, Vega urged Christians to ensure that they maintain a Gospel-centred narrative on racial reconciliation and not one bereft of it. Pointing to the work of Christians in abolishing slavery, the Church, he said, despite its tortuous history with slavery, has also always been a part of the reconciliation movement. “There’s a misnomer circulating that the Church in America has been silent and complicit regarding race relations and that all progress has been some secular movement outside of Christian influence. Historically, that’s inaccurate,” Vega said. “Abolitionism was pioneered even in England before we established our colonies in the Americas.

There has always been Christian leaders who have influenced racial reconciliation movements, many of us don’t realize, as Christians and conservatives of colour or otherwise that we may be in chains today if it wasn’t for not only black Christians but white Christians and white abolitionists, brothers and sisters who actually pioneered abolitionism, trained former slaves to read and to write,” he said, pointing to historical icons like abolitionist Frederick Douglass. “They did it because God’s Word inspired our Constitution and our Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal. And there were genuine Christians in our nation fighting from day one, for racial equality and so the Church has been on the frontline whereas CNN and MSNBC and others come with one-sided narratives or broadcasts that seem to implicate the Church’s silence.”

Vega described the progressive Black Lives Matter organization as a Trojan horse seeking to exploit the issue of racial inequality to pursue an anti-biblical, political agenda. “We believe it was ingenious to employ the term ‘black lives matter’ because it would almost impute anyone who opposes it because it would seem they would say, if you oppose certain ideologies or approaches, protest models, that you are actually affirming racism because you’re saying black lives don’t matter,” he said. “We actually believe that was an ingenious manipulative ploy to draw universal support for that organization, which the founders have openly championed that they are trained Marxists.” He then referenced Manning Johnson’s book, Colour, Communism and Common Sense to highlight the agenda to exploit black pain.

“He spoke about rising through the ranks and he revealed even back then in the ’60s how there was an intentional movement to draw African Americans toward Marxism and to try to ideologically transform the nation. He wrote an entire book about how communism and socialism try to engender and constitute black pain and plight for perverse politics. And he wrote in that book a masterpiece exposing that,” Vega said. Vega also pointed out that the Black Lives Matter organization sought to ideologically destroy the nuclear family, which every Christian needs to oppose. “When they assault the nuclear family, every born-again Christian should be very aware that they are trying to reinvent and revise the image that God Himself inspired in the book of Genesis for the nuclear family,” the Atlanta pastor said.

Vega noted that while not highlighted in mainstream media like Black Lives Matter, there are many Christian movements like the Atlanta-based OneRace, that’s focused on racial reconciliation through Christian revival. “Through prayer and fasting, relationship and collaboration, OneRace exists to displace the spirit of racism and release a movement of racial reconciliation across the nation. God desires a young adult movement that will counter the tide of racial division in our cities and nation. “For years and years, pastors of different colours, black, white, Asian and Hispanic have been meeting and actually eating in each other’s homes,” said Vega, who supports the work of the movement co-founded by two pastors, one black and the other, white.

OneRace co-founder Garland Hunt, who is black, is a trained lawyer and serves as the senior pastor of The Father’s House. Co-founder Billy Humphrey, who is white, has served as the director of IHOP Atlanta since 2004. “We believe racial reconciliation can’t just be an event. Racial reconciliation has to be a lifestyle where you are integrating and  appreciating each other on a daily basis. Whether it’s happening with conversations in middle schools, high schools, on campuses at universities, if you’re intentionally reaching out to what is different and diverse from you, you are honouring it, you are appreciating it and so that’s something that I know that they do,” Vega said. He explained that through the multiethnic group, believers have come together in prayer and taken action like fundraising around justice issues and working with legislatures to effect change.

Rather that focus on justice as it relates to just one racial group, Vega said, OneRace works to lift all boats in a Gospel-centred way. “Anyone who lifts their ethnic identity, their earthly ethnicity above Christ, that is ethnic idolatry,” he said. Vega also urged churches not to forget their purpose in America, which is to be the conscience of the nation. “I believe personally that when you look at American history, you see a healthy respect of clergy and our elected officials. Martin Luther King (MLK) spoke about that. The Church is not the state and the state is not the Church because the Church is the conscience of the state,” he said. “He (MLK) warned that if we lose our understanding of our role as being the conscience of the state then we will devolve to country clubs.

What he was saying is I think where we went wrong in America is that evangelicals have to be reminded that as born-again Christians, we do need to seek elected officials that represent Judeo-Christian values or standards of morality in the highest offices of the land but we also cannot only focus on the religious spheres of influence when it comes to transformation through the Gospel,” the Atlanta preacher explained. “What you see is ultimate movements like the LGBT movement and other movements who were effective 20 years ago through a strategy saying, we’re going to take the arts, the media, we’re going to take music. The Church cannot just focus on elections … they also need to have a strategy to influence music and the arts and culture.”

Despite the tense discussions that have arisen about the Church’s role on the issue of race, Prof. Weaver said he hopes the difficult events of 2020 will mark a turning point for the nation on race. “I think we all hope it’s a turning point. One of the issues about the civil rights movement is that it has lost momentum and some will go ‘well, that’s in the past. And we don’t need to worry about that anymore.’ But I think the death of George Floyd is hopefully a turning point that shows the civil rights movement needs to be ongoing in the battle against the oppression of black people and minorities in the country,” Weaver said. “What I hope is that this is a turning point and that those people who have been reluctant to worry about racism, have moved it up, looked at the Bible and said ‘wait a minute, this is something we have to do and it has to be part of our life.’”

Source: By Christian Post Reporter Leonardi Blair

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CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP SEEKS TO EDUCATE PRESIDENT TRUMP IN SPIRITUAL WARFARE

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Editors note:  I regularly receive comments from readers wondering why Church leaders do not seek to inform our National Leaders of the spiritual nature of the conflicts being played out before us across the world. This feature article is an edited version of a letter written by a Catholic Archbishop to President Trump wherein he seeks to do just that. From 2011 to 2016, the writer, Catholic Archbishop Carlo Maria Viogano, served as the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, meaning he was the Holy See’s diplomat to America. He is known for shedding light on financial and sexual abuses within the Catholic Church.

Mr. President,

In recent months we have been witnessing the formation of two opposing sides that I would call Biblical: the children of light and the children of darkness. The children of light constitute the most conspicuous part of humanity, while the children of darkness represent an absolute minority. And yet the former are the object of a sort of discrimination which places them in a situation of moral inferiority with respect to their adversaries, who often hold strategic positions in government, in politics, in the economy and in the media. In an apparently inexplicable way, the good are held hostage by the wicked and by those who help them either out of self-interest or fearfulness.

These two sides, which have a Biblical nature, follow the clear separation between the offspring of the Woman and the offspring of the Serpent. On the one hand there are those who, although they have a thousand defects and weaknesses, are motivated by the desire to do good, to be honest, to raise a family, to engage in work, to give prosperity to their homeland, to help the needy, and, in obedience to the Law of God, to merit the Kingdom of Heaven. On the other hand, there are those who serve themselves, who do not hold any moral principles, who want to demolish the family and the nation, exploit workers to make themselves unduly wealthy, foment internal divisions and wars, and accumulate power and money: for them the fallacious illusion of temporal well-being will one day – if they do not repent – yield to the terrible fate that awaits them, far from God, in eternal damnation.

In society, Mr. President, these two opposing realities co-exist as eternal enemies, just as God and Satan are eternal enemies. And it appears that the children of darkness – whom we may easily identify with the deep state which you wisely oppose and which is fiercely waging war against the Children of Light in these days – have decided to show their cards, so to speak, by now revealing their plans. They seem to be so certain of already having everything under control that they have laid aside that circumspection that until now had at least partially concealed their true intentions. The investigations already under way will reveal the true responsibility of those who managed the Covid emergency not only in the area of health care but also in politics, the economy, and the media. We will probably find that in this colossal operation of social engineering there are people who have decided the fate of humanity, arrogating to themselves the right to act against the will of citizens and their representatives in the governments of nations.

We will also discover that the riots in these days have provoked civil disturbances, believing they would be followed by repression which, although legitimate, could be condemned as an unjustified aggression against the population. The same thing is also happening in Europe, in perfect synchrony. It is quite clear that the use of street protests is instrumental to the purposes of those who would seek to bring to power those who embody the goals of the deep state and who express those goals faithfully and with conviction. It will not be surprising if, in a few months, we learn once again that hidden behind these acts of vandalism and violence there are those who hope to profit from the dissolution of the social order so as to build a world without freedom.

Although it may seem disconcerting, the opposing alignments I have described are also found in religious circles. There are faithful Shepherds who care for the flock of Christ, but there are also mercenary infidels who seek to scatter the flock and hand the sheep over to be devoured by ravenous wolves. It is not surprising that these mercenaries are allies of the children of darkness and hate the children of light: just as there is a deep state, there is also a deep church that betrays its duties and forswears its proper commitments before God. Thus the Invisible Enemy, whom good rulers fight against in public affairs, is also fought against by good shepherds in the ecclesiastical sphere. It is a spiritual battle, not one of the flesh.

The United States has in you a President who has courageously defended the right to life, who is not ashamed to denounce the persecution of Christians throughout the world, who speaks of Jesus Christ and the right of citizens to freedom of worship. Your participation in the March for Life, and more recently your proclamation of the month of April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, are actions that confirm which side you wish to fight on. And I dare to believe that both of us are on the same side in this battle, albeit with different weapons.

For this reason, I believe that the recent attacks that you have endured are part of the orchestrated media narrative which seeks not to fight racism and bring social order, but to aggravate dispositions; not to bring justice, but to legitimize violence and crime; not to serve the truth, but to influence political outcomes. And it is disconcerting that there are Bishops who, by their words, prove that they are aligned on the opposing side. They are subservient to the deep state, to globalism, to aligned thought, to the New World Order which they invoke ever more frequently in the name of a universal brotherhood which has nothing Christian about it, but which evokes the ideals of those wanting to dominate the world by driving God out of the courts, out of schools, out of families, and perhaps even out of churches.

The American people are mature and have now understood how much the mainstream media does not want to spread the truth but seeks to silence and distort it, spreading the lie that is useful for the purposes of their masters. However, it is important that the good, who are the majority, wake up from their sluggishness and do not accept being deceived by a minority of dishonest people with un-avowable purposes. It is necessary that the good, the children of light, come together and make their voices heard. What more effective way is there to do this, Mr. President, than by prayer, asking the Lord to protect you, the United States, and all of humanity from this enormous attack of the Enemy? Before the power of prayer, the deceptions of the children of darkness will collapse, their plots will be revealed, their betrayal will be shown, their frightening power will end in nothing, brought to light and exposed for what it is: an infernal deception.

Mr. President, my prayer is constantly turned to the beloved American nation, where I had the privilege and honor of being sent by Pope Benedict XVI as Apostolic Nuncio. In this dramatic and decisive hour for all of humanity, I am praying for you and also for all those who are at your side in the government of the United States. I trust that the American people are united with me and you in prayer to Almighty God. United against the Invisible Enemy of all humanity, I bless you and the First Lady, the beloved American nation, and all men and women of good will.

Signed Carlo Maria Vigano,  Titular Archbishop of Ulpiana Former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States of America

Mr Trump responded by calling the letter one of the most important he had received and thanking the Archbishop for the many fascinating insights contained in the letter.

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HOW THE CORONAVIRUS IS CHANGING THE WAY WE DO CHURCH

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When the new coronavirus forced the shuttering of her church’s in-person services in line with a stay-at-home order, Jeanne Stevens, lead pastor of Soul City Church in Chicago, grieved a little.  Her church was in the middle of a $9 million fundraising campaign and she had to change plans quickly.  “We were 10 days away from people making commitments,” Stevens revealed during a recent virtual gathering of several prominent pastors.  She said she paused the capital campaign and explained to her congregation why.  “In some ways we had to grieve that loss and grieve that change.  I think it also was a beautiful invitation to our church and them seeing our leadership have a willingness to really trust and listen to God and be willing to make a turn,” Stevens said.

“I’m grateful that we did it.  Grateful that we said, ‘God you’ll tell us when and if we are supposed to re-engage this campaign.’  When I do walk over to the church and I see all the vision guys and commitment cards, I just weep a little bit,” she said with a slight chuckle.  Since the explosion of the coronavirus across the country, Stevens, along with several other megachurch pastors who were a part of the, say the pandemic has caused them to abruptly change the way they do church and plan for life in the wake of a virus whose trajectory still remains uncertain.  Research firm Barna Group released the results of a new survey conducted March 20 to April 27, showing how churches have been impacted by the coronavirus and how they are planning to reopen.

While some churches have already started reopening, most pastors (54%) forecast an opening by June while some (46%) said it could be July or August before they open their sanctuaries to in-person services again.  A majority of the pastors in this study also noted that they were preparing to put significant precautions in place to reopen their churches.  The most common precautions included asking people to avoid touching (77%); asking people to sit further apart (75%); and not passing an offering plate (53%).  Some 84% of the pastors in the survey also confirmed that they planned to ask people who are feeling sick to stay home after social distancing requirements are lifted.

About one-third (32%) of leaders who are taking precautions said they would require congregants to wear a mask for any in-person services or church gatherings.  Another 33% said they will not offer food and drink such as coffee and donuts when they return to in-person gatherings.  A majority (87%) said they would also cancel mission trips for the remainder of the year.  “As a nation, we’re looking at a situation from which there’s ‘no going back.’  As a society, we will feel the impacts of the virus for a long, long time whether it’s simply a heightened awareness of sanitation practices or a new sense of gratitude towards our community,” David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group and author of the bestselling book Faith For Exiles, said in a statement.

“When it comes to the church, nearly every single pastor has had to adapt and to bring on new digital tools and resources for their congregation.  I don’t see those going away anytime soon.  I think having to grow and evolve has created stronger church ministries, restructured how we think about discipleship, and forever changed how we’re measuring organizational impact,” he added.  Along with changing her fundraising plans, Stevens has also had to change her messages to be more responsive to the needs of her congregants during the pandemic.  “We just started a series on how to win at waiting and a good friend of ours, NBA player Kyle Korver who plays for the Milwaukee Bucks, came in and we interviewed him, and talked about what does it feel like as a basketball player on a winning team that looked like going to the finals, how does that feel to have to wait now?” Stevens recalled.

“We got so much feedback from people who appreciated that conversation because all of us are waiting.  And so for us to pay attention and not be tone deaf to what’s happening in the world, I think our communities and our congregations are appreciating that our ears are open versus just saying, ‘well, we have this series planned and we’re just going for it anyways,’” she said.  While many pastors have been preaching to cameras inside empty auditoriums, Surratt explained that his multi-campus church in South Carolina shifted streaming sermons from inside an auditorium to a room that reflected a more intimate living room setup to mimic the environment from which many people are now engaging.

He also adjusted his teaching calendar and is now having fewer guest preachers to ensure that his congregants are hearing from him more frequently. “We have 14 different campuses and I’ve been on zoom calls with each of those campuses.  Those are some of the things that I hope continue long after we go back to meeting.  There are ways that we can connect with our church that aren’t as hard as they seemed like they would be now that everybody’s been forced to live in this new reality,” Surratt said.  “We’ve got seniors groups that have learned how to do Zoom and they’re making that happen.  So the advantages are going to be that everybody’s trained onto this technology so that we can do more with it when we go back to ‘normal.’”

As many of these megachurch pastors wait to see what the end of the coronavirus pandemic will look like for their churches, they all agree that making the best use of technology to engage with their church has been more than a lifeline.  “We’re just trying to maximize technology, trying to make the best of the online church experience, trying to do discipleship as best we can in this space,” said Bryan Carter, senior pastor of Concord Church in Dallas, Texas.  “I think we all realize, even when we get back to our venues there is an investment we made on this side that will help continue to grow and develop the Kingdom.” Small groups, technology and efficiency.

Pastor Bryan Carter of Concord Church in Dallas, Texas, whose church has more than 9,000 members, told the group that now that his church is doing ministry exclusively online, they have been reaching more people.  The ability to have members, such as singles or seniors who live alone, gather in small groups using technology has been a boon for helping people participate in real communities.  “We are really excited.  I think everyone is seeing that we are reaching more people.  The one thing about going to online church is that you reach more people.  And so one of the dynamics of reaching more people is now we got a chance to really do a community,” the Dallas pastor said.

“Many of us agree that small groups provide a great, great channel of next steps particularly for some of the new people that we’re reaching, as well as our current congregation.  What we’ve discovered as we talk to people, particularly our singles, is that they long for community.  They long to get connected.” They miss the conversations, he said, and “groups give us a great platform to do that.”  Matt Chandler, lead pastor of The Village Church in Texas, noted that at his church, a variety of organic small groups have emerged among members using video-conferencing platforms like Zoom to connect through prayer and worship.  “They’ll just get on and one person would play a guitar or sing, all muted, then spend time praying,” he said.

“I’ve been incredibly encouraged as a pastor to just watch how people have organically said, ‘let’s just get together and worship and pray.’”  He explained that people have managed to make meetings a lot more efficient while keeping their normal routines with the use of online platforms.  “I think normal rhythms with shorter meeting times suited us best.  So if we usually met on Sunday afternoon, then we would have our Zoom link-up on a Sunday afternoon.  It’s just the length of time we gathered together has shrunk a little,” he said.  “I think like most of us here in Texas, nearly everywhere, are now having to, home-school.

What you learn when you home-school when your kids are in public school is that if you take away electives and you take away changing classrooms and you take away gym class, you know a week’s worth of school can be done in an hour and a half,” he joked.  “I think if you take away the kind of mingling in the kitchen and you’re just doing a brief update on how everybody is doing, praying for each other and then you’re diving into either the sermon-based small group,” he said.  Stevens also sang high praises for small groups online and argued that it could be one of the things that remains after the coronavirus pandemic is over.

“We’ve been amazed at the growth that we’ve had both people watching on the weekend and people joining groups and being virtually connected.  I just heard the story of a woman who is leading a recovery group and she has people from three different states in the recovery room,” the Chicago preacher said.  “They would have never been able to do that before and so while I believe people are hungry to connect in person, and they will long for that to happen after we are on the other side of this, I do think we are exploring ways that people can still virtually connect if they don’t have the physical location advantage for them,” she said.  “It’s something that our task force is starting to explore, how can we reach more people through our groups.”

She also agreed that online ministry has allowed people to be a lot more efficient.  “I’m with Matt, our people were shortening the length of time.  There is a very real thing called Zoom fatigue.  And people experience it and more times on screen it’s challenging and so we’re really encouraging people to shorten their time and they’re appreciating that,” Stevens said.  Rich Kannwischer, senior pastor of Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia, said he recently started a partnership with Fuller Theological Seminary which has been “doing online spiritual formation through their online education for years.” “We’re trying to learn from them and the interactive platforms they’ve been using for education.

This is one area where certain sectors of education are way ahead of the church.  We’re going to try and catch up with them on how do you not just dispense content online and have a conversation but how do you actually create community with particular aims and goals.  So that’s one of the things we’re experimenting with right now to see what that might mean,” he noted.  As a result of the online migration, he said attendance at meetings have been near perfect partly because people have nothing else to do but because they no longer have to do other things like commute to meetings.  The meetings themselves, he admitted, are more focused and efficient.

He noted, however, that while virtual meetings may work well for already established communities, it was more challenging to integrate new people into these virtual communities.  As for restarting in-person services, many of them expect to be some of the last places to reopen particularly because of their megachurch status.  Some pastors are considering having multiple services with smaller gatherings over more days, including Saturday, as well as helping people overcome fears of gathering again.  Dave Dummitt, new senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago, said, “We talk a lot about over communicating.  We want to over communicate all the precautions that we’re taking so that they know that this is a safe place to come to.”

“Things like greeters having gloves on, kids area gets disinfected after every service, maybe not passing the plate, maybe not doing meet and greet time where we shake hands.  Some of those things that we’re doing we want to make sure we over communicate to people” Dummitt said.  Rev. Dr. Miriam J. Burnett, a practicing physician and public health expert who serves as the medical director of the African Methodist Episcopal Church Health Commission, said that while it is fine for churches to plan for ministry in the aftermath of the pandemic, she would not recommend gathering again until infections are “near zero.”

“Unless the numbers have gone to near zero, not trending downwards but trending off, that’s not a conversation that can happen now.  It can be a planning conversation for six months or so down the line when we actually see these numbers drop but that’s not a conversation that needs implementation in the next couple of weeks,” Burnett said.  “When you look at the demographics of most churches, especially the African American community, they are all high risk,” she said.  Burnett, who also leads the Historic Jones Tabernacle AME Church, said she asked which of her members did not fall into any of the six at-risk categories when it comes to the coronavirus “and not one hand could go up.”

“My hand couldn’t go up either.  So based on who you have in your congregation, you can or cannot reopen because we are all high risk or have someone we are caring for who are high risk,” she said.  “It’s OK to hold that reopening conversation now.  We are holding conversations.  I met with my trustee board on ensuring the church is deep-cleaned and removing chairs so that the social distancing actually happens,” she explained.  “How do we come back into the sanctuary for service?  What system are we going to use for cleaning mics?  What system are we going to use to make sure that all of the mics work so that everybody has their own so we’re not passing.  “I don’t think the world is going to be normal.  The question is, what’s the new normal?  That’s the ultimate question.  The only thing we can do is plan and make our plans fluid.  That’s the key, making your plans fluid and be always ready.”

Source: Christian Post

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FEATURE ARTICLE: BLACK LIVES MATTER PROTESTS

By Feature Articles

Quickly dispensing with coronavirus social distancing protocols, BlackLivesMatter protestors across the globe are marching.  Some lawless types are also looting.  Some are even killing.  It’s a scary, dangerous mess.  And while most protestors are sincere and well intentioned, there is something else going on here.  It’s called identity politics and it poisons everything it touches.  As Christians we must not fall for this destructive new tribalism.

George Floyd’s death is a tragedy.  A police officer abused his power and a man died.  The officer should be punished accordingly, and he has been.  But two wrongs don’t make a right.  Rioters, looters, and violent protesters should also be punished accordingly, because there is no excuse for crime.  This violence has a backstory; a political narrative.  For several decades now, political forces which want destruction through division and violence have gained a hold on culture.  They have successfully convinced an entire generation to see society as a collection of warring tribes.

The war is a war of power, not truth.  That’s why it plays out in violence, suppression, no-platforming, and propaganda, not argument, dialogue and logic.  The tribes are blacks versus whites, gays versus straights, religion versus everyone, man versus woman, cis versus trans, right versus left, etc.  It is breeding resentment, victimhood, hatred, and discontent.  Look no further than those who have swallowed it whole, Clementine Ford, for example. It’s destroying people. Indeed, these race riots are a case study in identity politics:

Step 1: Take one person’s sin: deadly abuse of power.
Step 2: Identify the sinner’s attributes: white, male, police officer, etc.
Step 3: identify the victim’s attributes: black, man, etc.
Step 4: Choose the contrasting attributes that have most political leverage: white vs black/racism narrative.
Step 5: Apply the sinner’s guilt to everybody with their attribute: whites are racist power-abusers.
Step 6: Don’t hold back, because you’re innocent, and they’re all guilty: rage against “whiteness” – riots, looting, destruction, abuse, hate, not against one man, one institution, or even one city, but everyone and everything that you think represents “whiteness”.  Or, alternatively, sit back and justify the rioters for the same reason.

This is not about truth.  It’s war and it’s about power.  It ends really, really badly.  It has done so across all cultures, throughout all time.  The foulest violence and the vilest hatred has come from this sort of tribal thinking time and again.  From the Tutsis and the Hutus, to the gas chambers or the gulags, and the stain of slavery on America’s history.  The seeds of this start small.  They start with the narrative of divided tribes; a narrative that is well and truly among us.  Women bristle at masculinity and forever push for empowerment over the men in their lives, blacks live with festering resentment over “white privilege,” the trans community believes their mental struggles are stigma-based and the whole LGBTQ world is sincerely convinced that Christians hate their guts.  Now, white men are trying to get a piece of the victim pie, too, by saying they are the last remaining non-recognised victim group in family law, poverty, suicide etc.

The death of George Floyd has been another chance for political forces with an agenda to stoke the hate, fuel the warfare narrative, and convince a nation of racist tribalism (as well as all other tribalisms).  The combined activity of these political forces is tearing apart a nation.  It’s getting worse, not better.  It’s happening in Australia, too.  ANTIFA moved quickly.  Organised, responsive, and agenda-driven, bussed into Minneapolis to kick-start riots.  Opportunistic looters joined them, not to mourn Floyd, but to gratuitously steal and destroy.  And it’s contagious.  The whole nation has joined them.  It’s a powder keg waiting to blow.  When tribes are in a battle that’s lasted for generations, and there is no such thing as unifying truth to help you resolve things, your only answer is violence and power struggle.

Meanwhile, the statistics are clear.  4% of black homicide victims are killed by cops.  12% of white homicide victims are killed by cops.  A police officer is 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black man than an unarmed black man is to be killed by a cop.  I could go on all day with the data.  Sadly, an entire generation is primed and ready, because they believe in the identity politics creed.  Thanks schools, thanks universities, thanks media, and thanks government who fund it all.  The idea that one man’s sin is a collective sin is dangerous.  Individuals are responsible for their actions and should be individually punished, whether that be abuse of power or looting or anything else.

The real issue is that a police officer abused his power, it has happened before, to both black and white victims.  He has been punished severely for doing wrong, as he should be.  One of the sadder aspects of this is I doubt whether Floyd would have wanted it.  He seems to have been quite an amazing Christian convert with a heart for ministry.  Christians, please do not drink the tribal kool-aid.  It’s destroying us.  It’s a vehicle for terrible hatred and the entrapment of victimhood.  It’s about power, not truth.  Fortunately, our hope is not in the kingdom of this world, but in the kingdom of God which cannot be shaken.

Source: Martyn Iles, Managing Director Australian Christian Lobby

The International Prayer Council has issued the following prayer alert:

No doubt you have been following the news of the death of George Floyd, which was an awful act of police brutality against an unarmed black man in Minneapolis last week.  The video of his uncalled-for murder has sparked great outrage, protests, rioting and looting for the last 9-10 days in many cities across the USA.  Antifa and Black Lives Matters, are two of the organized radical groups that have entered in to commandeer this protest movement.  Both espouse a form of Marxist revolutionary ideology, calling for the destruction of the state, defunding and ending of all police forces, the military, government and the removal of all borders.

The “liberation” of America “begins with its death” according to one of their planning strategies.  They are seeking to ignite a civil war and hundreds of thousands of Americans, especially youth, are docilely going along thinking this is a struggle for justice when they are actually being manipulated and used to achieve these radicals’ Marxist endgame.  Now, this dangerous movement of rebellion is also spreading and affecting other nations as well.  Tonight, I heard that demonstrations have broken out in at least two dozen cities spanning five continents.

Please pray for the overthrow of these thuggish groups.  Let’s agree and pray that these provocateurs will be arrested, brought to justice and punished for their sedition and other crimes.

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FEATURE ARTICLE 9th May 2020

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To all our mothers, we wish you a very Happy Mother’s Day and thank you for all you mean to all of us.

JUST A MUM?

A woman, renewing her driver’s licence was asked by the woman at Registry to state her occupation.  She hesitated, uncertain how to classify herself.  ‘What I mean is,’explained the woman at Registry, do you have a job or are you just a …?’  ‘Of course I have a job,’ snapped the woman. ‘I’m a Mum.’  ‘We don’t list ‘Mum’ as an occupation, ‘housewife’ covers it,’ said the recorder emphatically.

I forgot all about her story until one day I found myself in the same situation.  The Clerk was obviously a career woman, poised, efficient, and possessed of a high sounding title like, ‘Official Interrogator’ or ‘City Registrar.’  ‘What is your occupation?’ she probed.  What made me say it?  I do not know.  The words simply popped out.  ‘I’m a Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations.’  The clerk paused, ball-point pen frozen in mid-air and looked up as though she had not heard right.  I repeated the title slowly emphasizing the most significant words.

Then I stared with wonder as my pronouncement was written, in bold, black ink on the official questionnaire.  ‘Might I ask,’ said the clerk with new interest, ‘just what you do in your field?’  Coolly, without any trace of fluster in my voice, I heard myself reply,  ‘I have a continuing program of research, (what mother doesn’t) in the laboratory and in the field, (normally I would have said indoors and out).  I’m working for my Masters, (first the Lord and then the whole family) and already have four credits (all daughters).  Of course, the job is one of the most demanding in the humanities, (any mother care to disagree?) and I often work 14 hours a day, (24 is more like it).

‘But the job is more challenging than most run-of-the-mill careers and the rewards are more of a satisfaction rather than just money.’  There was an increasing note of respect in the clerk’s voice as she completed the form, stood up and personally ushered me to the door.  As I drove into our driveway, buoyed up by my glamorous new career, I was greeted by my lab assistants, ages 13, 7, and 3.  Upstairs I could hear our new experimental model, (a 6 month old baby) in the child development program, testing out a new vocal pattern.  I felt I had scored a beat on bureaucracy!  And I had gone on the official records as someone more distinguished and indispensable to mankind than ‘just another Mum.’

Motherhood!  What a glorious career!  Especially when there’s a title on the door.

Does this make grandmothers ‘Senior Research associates in the field of Child Development and Human Relations’

And great grandmothers ‘Executive Senior Research Associates’?  I think so!

I also think it makes Aunts, ‘Associate Research Assistants.’

Source: Anonymous

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Feature Article 11 April 2020

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WHY I AM PAYING NO ATTENTION TO THE COVID-19 CONSPIRACY THEORIES

By Michael 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 in America, the Line of Fire.

Hardly an hour goes by without someone sending me the latest “must see” video or article.  This is the one, I am told, that explains it all.  This is the one that connects the dots.  This is the one that reveals the truth. With all respect to those sending me these links, I’m going to pass for now.  It’s not that none of them could be true.  Or that there is not some truth in many of them.  It’s simply that: 1) there are far too many theories to investigate in any depth;  2) in many cases, from our vantage point, it’s impossible to investigate the claims;  and 3) for the most part, our lives go on just the same whether or not the claims are true.

It’s not to say there is no Deep State.  Or that I believe everything the World Health Organization puts forward.  Or that I trust China.  Or the secular media.  It is simply to say that I do not have years of extra free time to evaluate every opposing claim.  It is also to say that some of the claims are far too wacky even to consider.  For example, in response to my video, “How Should Believers Pray During a Global Pandemic?”, Daniel G. wrote this: “Good news. The entire virus-game is a hoax.  It’s a game of make believe being played by children who’ve given their souls to Satan.  So go outside.  Hug people.  Don’t wear the mask or take the vaccine.  Each are the Mark of the beast.  Satan will know his followers by those wearing the mask because they are Satan’s deceived.”

There you have it.  If you wear the mask, you’ve taken the mark of the beast (from the Book of Revelation).  You are now known to the antichrist.  You have been deceived by Satan himself.  As for the virus itself, it’s a hoax.  Just make believe!  To call this pathetic is to be kind.  Especially as church buildings in Italy have been used to store all the coffins.  Especially as the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel and New York is mourning its newly dead.  Especially as we’re hearing more reports about health workers and grocery store workers dying.  Especially as this is touching our families and our friends.

Do I have concerns about a vaccine? Yes, but not because of a microchip that would identify me to the antichrist.

Do I believe that major world players have their own agenda with the virus? Absolutely.

Do I believe that, right here in America, from virtually every political corner, there are some diabolical plans in the making? It wouldn’t surprise me at all.

Is it possible that this virus was manufactured in a lab?  Or that it was an animal virus that was mishandled in a lab?  Or that it is a naturally-evolving virus that was intentionally allowed to spread through misinformation?  Or that some would like to use this crisis to push for a one-world government?  My answer is yes to all of the above.  Any of these, alone or in combination, could be true.  But at this point, I see no possible way that we can determine what, exactly, is true.

On the other hand, what we can do is determine not to be moved by fear. We can determine to work practically for the good of our nation and our economy.  We can determine to take wise steps to protect our own safety.  And we can do all this regardless of the veracity or mendacity of the latest theory.  In my new book When the World Stops: Words of Faith, Hope, and Wisdom in the Midst of Crisis, I devoted one chapter to the subject: “Who or What Sent the Virus? (And Does It Really Matter?)”

In this chapter, I included some of the responses to my Facebook and Twitter requests for a list of the oddest theories about the origins of the virus.  (Trust me: there are some real doozies on the list.)  I also examined spiritual theories that explained the spread of the virus (from God sending it in judgment to Satan sending it as an act of destruction, among other possibilities).  In the end, though, what matters is how we respond.  In other words, when I’m driving in a car and the rain starts pouring down, I don’t ask whether it was a natural phenomenon.  Or the result of manmade climate change.  Or the work of nefarious North Korean scientists (or Martians).  Instead, I turn the windscreen wipers on.  That’s what we need to do with COVID-19.  Turn on the windscreen wipers.

From my first article on the virus (dated March 2), my position has been the same.  This is certainly serious, but this is not the end of the world.  This is a major tremor, but not nearly the final earthquake.  To date, the virus has taken roughly 75,000 lives, which is about the same amount of deaths attributed to the common flu each year.  But in this case, there are 75,000 deaths only because extreme measures were taken to prevent more.  Otherwise, the numbers could have been astronomical – and we have yet to see how the continent of Africa will fare.

Again, it is very possible that some of the theories floating around today will be proven true in the days ahead.  I am by no means scorning or mocking all of them.  I am simply saying that, in my humble opinion, it’s best to deal wisely with what we know for sure.  It may not be exotic.  Or fascinating.  Or breathtaking.  But it works.

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Feature Article 14 March 2020

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DOOMSDAY MESSAGE HAVING DANGEROUS EFFECT ON CHILDREN

There’s a new fire and brimstone, but it’s not coming from preachers.  It’s coming from climate alarmists and it’s causing children to panic, according to a new report.  Imagine Christianity stripped of all its redemption. We are imperfect sinners, eternally at odds with God, bound for damnation, and there’s no way to change course, there is nothing that can put us in right standing with God.  Imagine the bleak reality of a Christianity without Jesus.  That’s the artificial religion of climate change.  It has religious teachers, such as scientists, environmental activists, and progressive politicians.”  It even has evangelists like 17-year-old Greta Thunberg.  But there is no redemption.  There is no hope.

The religion of climate change is like a doomsday device with no solution.  I’m not an expert on the environment nor do I know the intricacies of the science behind it, so I’m not making an argument here about the legitimacy of the issue.  But I do know this: our way of talking about the climate is dangerous.  A newly released survey from BBC Newsround found children are suffering nightmares, losing sleep, and developing unhealthy eating habits over fears about climate change.  There has been plenty of other research, too, showing climate change alarm is bad for mental health.

In fact, in a 2018 review of the psychological effects of climate change on children, Australian researchers found the issue increases kids’ risk of developing PTSD, depression, anxiety, phobias, and substance abuse problems, among other things.  But I think the research is getting it wrong.  The catalyst for people’s anxiety is not climate change.  It’s the idolization of the hopeless issue that’s causing problems in people’s lives.  We are, as pastor and author Tim Keller put it, taking good things, like tending to the earth (a role God gave to humans), and making them “ultimate things.”

“Sin is not just doing bad things,” Keller said.  “It’s turning good things into ultimate things, because it ruins your soul, destroys community, and dishonours God.”  Every climate change evangelist is preaching the hopeless message of eternal destruction with only one patently impossible solution: every leader around the world simultaneously embracing their particular solution to the issue.  I don’t blame Thunberg and others for being so fearful.  In 2018, climate change scientists claimed we have only a dozen years to quell the environmental “catastrophe.”  And 1 year ago, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Dem-New York) admitted she fears the world “is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.”

So we shouldn’t be surprised when Thunberg says things like this: “This is all wrong.  I shouldn’t be up here.  I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean.  Yet you all come to us young people for hope.  How dare you.  You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.  We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is the money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth.  How dare you.  For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear.  How dare you continue to look away.  It’s sad, not because I judge Thunberg or others like her for their fears or their passion.  It’s sad because they have been sold a religion without redemption.

They have bought into a belief system that puts total trust in things that are created rather than in the God who created them, and in the end, it is guaranteed to fail them.  In his letter to believers in Corinth, the apostle Paul wrote: “My dear friends, flee from the worship of idols.”  At the time, the Corinthians were tempted to put their trust in pagan statues made of wood or stone.  Our idolatry doesn’t look like that anymore, but it’s still very much alive.  Nowadays, it’s sneakier, and disguised as compassion and zeal for things that matter.  We should be concerned about things like caring for our environment.  But we shouldn’t, as Keller said, take those good things and make them “ultimate things.”

There’s no doubt this earth will ultimately fail.  But it will fail not because we didn’t work hard enough or because we didn’t pass the right legislation or because we didn’t take action quickly enough.  It will end because, one day, Jesus will return to form a new heaven and earth.  In the meantime, we should work to care for the world around us, steward our time and resources wisely, and trust in God’s ultimate promise of redemption.  Don’t put your trust in a small-G god who can’t deliver; trust in the one true God who already has.

Source: Tre Goins-Phillips, Editor Faithwire

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Feature Article 15 February 2020

By Feature Articles

THE COMING TOGETHER OF WORD AND SPIRIT

When the new church phase is on the wane, there will be evidenced in the churches something that has not been seen before: a coming together of those with an emphasis on the Word and those with an emphasis on the Spirit.  When the Word and the Spirit come together, there will be the biggest movement of the Holy Spirit that the nation, and indeed the world, has ever seen. (Smith Wigglesworth)  This coming together of the Word and Spirit has been confirmed by others, including R.T. Kendall, former pastor of Westminster Chapel and Christian author.  By word I mean the centrality of the gospel.  By spirit I mean signs, wonders and miracles.

It will mean a spontaneous combustion of power and authority for the Church and a wake-up call to the nation.  Both of these nationally recognized spiritual leaders have prophesied a heaven-sent “movement” of God, ignited by a coming together of the Word and the Spirit. If we want to embrace this word and position ourselves for heaven’s “spontaneous combustion,” I believe it will take the Word-based Evangelicals and the Spirit-fuelled Charismatics and Pentecostals to pursue even closer relationships in prayer, practice, and initiatives.  Rather than just acknowledging each other’s presence in the room, we need to huddle in prayer, and start taking notes from heaven.

This next move of the Spirit will require a coming together of believers that is much deeper than in days gone by.  Intercession is requiring a oneness of heart and mind that can only happen when we embrace the apostles and prophets, the Word and the Spirit, and acknowledging the value and power of each.  It must influence the way we worship together and pray together, for this is the only way to access heaven’s power and authority.  Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone.

In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.  And in Him we are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)  Two years ago I had a profound dream that highlighted God’s heart concerning the coming together of the Body of Christ.  I saw a group of people, huddled together in the corner in earnest intercession. Behind them in the distance was a mountain.  I knew it represented kingdom authority and heaven’s council.  The intercessors were seeking to connect and align themselves to this mountain in order to break through and bring heaven’s authority to bear on the earth.

Yet, the connection was not clear.  Interaction with this mountain was blocked.  Knowing we were not fully aligned, I stepped out of the group and began to move to the centre, holding an invisible kind of line connected to this mountain.  I knew we had to come into perfect alignment in order to break through.  Finally, after continuing to move little by little toward the middle, watching this line of communication eventually settle into place, I waited.  After a few moments I saw something begin to move in the distance.  Slowly but steadily I saw three distinct Beings emerge from the heart of the mountain.  Closer and closer they came until I saw what they were.

Three large eagles, stately, bearing immense authority and grace.  As they drew closer, I knew they had been summoned.  I also knew they were looking at me.  As they drew nearer a fear and dread began to come over me at the authority and might I sensed coming from them.  They were deliberate, forceful, yet moving cautiously, looking, listening.  At last, the three huge figures hovered immediately above me, looking down at me with a silent yet unmistakably loud message: “We come together, or not at all.”  I woke from this dream shaking in the Fear of the Lord.

I had never experienced the power and presence of the Trinity before.  Their call was unmistakable, and I knew it was a charge to the Church.  It was the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit speaking to us as we are desperately praying for breakthrough in both the nation and in the Church.  Until we acknowledge the fullness of each person of the Godhead, we will not see the fullness of heaven come to the earth.  We cannot pick and choose which expression of the Trinity we prefer.  We cannot focus on one at the expense of the other.  Each represents and expresses God’s heart and character in a different dimension.

God, our Creator and loving heavenly Father.  Jesus Christ, the Word become flesh and the only way to salvation through the cross.  Holy Spirit, the full expression and manifestation of the Father’s heart.  They are One.  They cannot be divided.  If we want heaven to come to earth, they must come together.  In our intercession and interaction as the Body of Christ, we must honor and celebrate those expressions and messages that are different from ours.  Those who focus on the Father’s unconditional love must be willing to acknowledge the call to righteousness.  Those who celebrate the gifts of the Spirit must do so in love and submission to the Living Word.

Those who call for a higher standard of scriptural integrity must also be willing to embrace activities of the Spirit that are not easily understood or proof-texted in Scripture.  We do not have to compromise our convictions in order to value and honor other parts of the Body and the assignment they carry (1 Corinthians 12:12-14).  God speaks through many voices and each voice that is connected to His heart carries a needed message.  Yet, each is but a part of the whole.  If we do not see the value of each part, we will miss the whole message.  In the dream I had to get out of my comfortable corner in order to align my heart with heaven.

I had to step outside my familiar group and surroundings in order to summon a response.  The connection I was looking for was a heart connection.  I needed to tune my heart to God’s in order to comprehend the fullness of His plans and purposes.  To do that, I had to be willing to go into unfamiliar territory so I could receive new input and new perspectives.  The Lord is inviting us to pay more attention to the frequencies of heaven than to our own familiar wavelengths.  In our interactions, prayers and communications, we can honor one another and give value to the particular message each brings and the role each part plays.

When we hear God’s purposes fully expressed through each part of the Body, we will truly connect to His heart.  His Spirit within us will help to filter out the unnecessary parts and lesser things so we can hear the full council from heaven.  Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free, and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14 NIV)

Source: Wanda Alger, Intercessors for America

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WHAT IS NATIONAL CHRISTIAN HERITAGE SUNDAY?

By Feature Articles

National Christian Heritage Sunday celebrates the Gospel of Jesus Christ arriving on Australia’s shores. The date for 2020 is Sunday 2nd February.

Australia’s first minister, Rev. Richard Johnson, arrived with the first fleet on the 20th January 1788.  Then, on 3rd February 1788, Rev. Johnson held the first Christian service in Australia.  This event is celebrated on the first Sunday in February each year.  As Australia’s first Chaplain, Rev Johnson, spent 12 years in Australia from 1788 to 1800 with several roles as military and prison chaplain, parish priest, missionary to the indigenous community, and as a husband, father and provider during the early years of food deprivation.

He and wife Mary lived on the ship Golden Grove for some months before a building was built with a thatched roof which continually leaked during heavy rainfall.  William Wilberforce and John Newton, the former slave trader of Amazing Grace fame, were the chief sponsors of the Botany Bay chaplaincy.

Newton becoming Johnson’s mentor, confidant and advisor, calling him the “first Apostle to the South Seas”.  Newton with William Wilberforce founded the Eclectic Society seeing Johnson as “the means of sending the gospel to the other side of the Globe”.  It was William Wilberforce in 1786 who suggested to the then Prime Minister William Pitt to have a Chaplain.

Careful preparations were made for the first service.  The convicts were ordered to ‘be as clean as circumstances will permit’ and ‘no man is to be absent on any account whatever’.  The guard was to be changed earlier than usual, so as to give those who had been relieved ‘time to cleanse themselves before Church’, and the ‘Church Drum’ was to beat at 10 0’clock.  The Fleet had been in Sydney Cove the previous Sunday, but no service was held until order had been created on shore, the service taking place the following Sunday the 3rd February 1788, 232 years ago on a nearby grassy hill, the text being Psalm 116:12; ‘What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?

Watkin Tench reported that the behaviour of both the troops and convicts was ‘equally regular and attentive’.  Little is known about Richard’s wife, Mary as there is only one letter recorded of her corresponding with friends or relatives.  She must have been a very pioneering, courageous, adaptable, patient, caring women.  Johnson was a man of prayer and hope looking beyond the immediate and mortal, believing in God’s sovereign purposes for this new nation.  He had brought with him over 4,000 pieces of Christian literature including 100 Bibles and 400 New Testament’s.

He was encouraged not to yield to the secular battle at the time raging against the Age of Faith being challenged by the Age of Reason & Relativism, a battle that continues to this present day!  After Arthur Philip left in December 1792, Major Francis Grose took over administration of the colony & was uncooperative viewing Anglican Evangelicals and Methodists as trouble makers though he gave significant support to Rev. Bain the regimental chaplain, who was not an evangelical.  Evangelical Anglicans back in England were criticised both externally and within their own church.

He was Australia’s pioneer educationalist establishing Australia’s first schools.  Among Rev Richard Johnson’s qualities were that he had a kind disposition, was generous, humble & devout.  He was humane shown by fostering aboriginal children including a 15 year old girl Abaroo whose parents had died.  He visited on numerous occasions the huts of many convicts and visited before his departure the prison hulks, considerably distressing him.

He was dedicated & hardworking, receiving very little help from the authorities especially building the first Australian church with little help.  He paid for it himself.  He use to get up sometimes at 4.00 AM to travel to Parramatta to preach & performed numerous funerals, marriages and baptisms, as well as consoling those about to be executed.  To be precise by Oct 1792 he had performed 226 baptisms, 220 marriages and 854 burials.  God blessed his farming, producing Australia’s first Citrus orchard.  He grew Australia’s first wheat crop.  His garden in Bridge St in 1790 produced nearly a thousand cucumbers as well as other fruit & vegetables.

On his 100 acre farm granted to him which he called Canterbury Vale, the suburb now named after it, by 1795 he had cropped 38 acres of wheat that yielded 16 to 18 bushels per acre probably becoming Australia’s first wheat farmer, and by 1800 the year he left he had grown an acre of orange trees, nectarines, peaches & apricots as well as a two acre vineyard and stocked 150 sheep plus some cattle and horses.  Tench recorded that he was the best farmer in the Colony.  He also suffered hardship.  In the early settlement they had little food and poor accommodation and he later developed health problems.

He had dysentery on the voyage out, was continually exhausted from his labours, on occasions had little sleep when guarding his home from looters, and lived in a rain drenched house.  The Johnsons suffered disappointment and grief.  Their first child was stillborn.  Milbah their next child died just after returning to England.  You can read more about the foundations of the church in Australia at http://www.nchs.net.au/resources.htm  This article was supplied with thanks to Christian History Research founders of National Christian Heritage Sunday.

Source: Dr Graham McLennan, Head of the National Alliance of Christian Leaders and Christian Historian 

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MIGRANT UNDERCLASS: ARRIVING WITH DREAMS, ENDING IN CHAINS

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(Editor’s note: This article is published to stimulate interest and prayer for a humanitarian situation that appears to be somewhat out of control in our nation yet not widely understood by the general public.  It is not a political statement on our part but an attempt to expose slavery like exploitation within Australian society.  Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of the situation and of the personal actions of those seeking work in our country without entering through our immigration program, God cannot bless our country when we treat people in such a way.  We must pray that a solution can be found that is honouring to both God and man and in the interests of all Australians.)

Imagine, for a moment, being a woman who comes to Australia on the promise of having a job as a cook and a visa for a new life.  Then imagine being told to work without pay for six months.  Then being told to pay tens of thousands of dollars for that visa.  Then being fired when you refuse to pay.  That is one example of the exploitation going on in this country against migrant workers who arrive with dreams and end up in chains.  While the cook had a “temporary skill shortage” visa, she was totally exposed to the restaurant owner who treated her like an indentured labourer.  Once she refused to pay, she had only 60 days to find a new sponsor.

Now imagine a worker without a visa.  She signed up to a scam overseas, let’s say Malaysia, and applied for asylum as soon as she landed in Sydney.  Her claim will take two years to be decided.  She works illegally and will be dependent on her “sponsors” for everything.  “The conditions are shocking,” says Matthew Kunkel of the Migrant Workers Centre in Melbourne. “It’s not hyperbolic to say the conditions for some of these workers in Australia are like slavery.”  Kunkel represents workers who are cheated by employers because they are vulnerable, such as students from Colombia or labourers from Vanuatu.  Some of these cases make headlines, but many claims are only lodged when these legal workers are at the end of their stay and have nothing to lose.

Nobody will ever hear of the illegal workers.  They have no status. They lodge no claims.  Their exploitation is invisible.  The problem is obvious for those who care to look.  The number of people arriving by air and claiming asylum reached 95,000 over the past five years.  About 65 people are still arriving every day.  Some are genuine refugees.  Most are not. About 90 per cent have their claims rejected.  Once their claims go through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, they wait two years on average before they go home.  They used to wait one year, but the longer the delay the greater the incentive to seek illegal work.

Since the start of July, about 80 people a day have claimed asylum after landing at an Australian airport, revealing a shift in people smuggling operations. It is easy to stoke fears about foreign workers or anxiety about asylum seekers.  That is not what this article is about.  What, after all, is the threat?  The exploitation of workers, legal and illegal, keeps prices down.  And there are no boats.  It is easy to turn a blind eye to this sort of problem.  Yet these exploited workers are all around us.  We don’t move without them keeping our cities working.  We don’t eat without them getting food to our plates.  The Australian economy is now built on an entire strata of the workforce made up of cheap labour from overseas.

More than 95,000 people have claimed asylum after arriving by plane in the past five years.  The Australian ideal is to build a nation with migrants who enter the workforce and have a pathway to permanent residency and citizenship.  When that ideal works, it makes Australia the best country in the world.  But what if it fails?  What if Australian society actually depends on illegal workers who have no pathway to citizenship and are only here until their luck runs out?  They are temporary and disposable. No sick pay.

No award rates. No options.

Consider, for example, another cook.  She flew in from the Philippines on a tourist visa and was fooled into thinking she could get a further visa.  Then she fell out with her employer.  She was sleeping in a train station by the time the Migrant Workers Centre came to her aid.

These cases are merely illustrative.  Illegal workers do not seek headlines.

Yet there is no secrecy about the big picture, and where the pressure is coming from.  In the year to June, 57 per cent of the refugee claimants at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal came from Malaysia, while another 15 per cent came from China.  These were followed by Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, India and Pakistan.

As with migration in general, the destinations are Sydney and Melbourne: 37 per cent of the claims are made in NSW and 45 per cent in Victoria.  The source countries have not changed much over recent years.  What has changed is the size of the crowd at the arrivals counter.  It was 8252 a year four years ago and 24,520 last financial year.  This is now a political flashpoint.  Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and Immigration Minister David Coleman insist everything is under control.  Labor’s home affairs spokeswoman, Kristina Keneally, calls it a crisis.

Crisis or not, this is a genuine test for the people who are supposed to be in charge.  The Coalition told Australians it had the borders under control, so this is about the everyday business of government. Managing the show.

Running the country.  The government says it is on top of the situation because it rejects applicants who are not genuine refugees.  It does not say how many of those rejected are currently in the community, working perhaps while they appeal.  And it cannot be sure of the abuse some of these workers face.  Can it check every kitchen?  Every nail salon?

These workers are obviously a small proportion of the workforce and a tiny share of the travellers who walk through the airport arrivals halls every year.  Even so, why shrug off the percentage when the arrivals are on track for 24,000 this year?  Coleman is getting the annual rate down slightly, but the year is not over and it is too soon to declare mission accomplished.  The cook mentioned at the beginning of this column is still in Australia.  Kunkel says she is trying to recover some of her wages.  Her future is uncertain but at least she has a visa.  Spare a thought for others who do not.  The underclass may seem invisible, but it’s there.

Source: David Crowe Chief political correspondent The Australian Newspaper

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DO YOU NEED ENCOURAGEMENT IN INTERCESSION? READ THIS!

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Lord, may we obey Your voice, regardless of the request.  In the early 1950s, an American missionary named R. Edward Miller was working in a small city in Argentina.  He had been labouring for years without results and he felt he had tried everything he knew how to do, except sustained, concerted intercession.  Without telling the people in his congregation, he began to pray eight hours a day, asking God for revival in his own life and in theirs, as well as in the wider community.  All by himself, he prayed and prayed, adding fasting to his regimen because he was so determined to get results.  After at least six months of daily prayer, the Lord spoke one word to him: “Continue!”

He kept praying for several more months.  Eventually the Lord spoke again.  This time He told Miller to announce nightly prayer meetings at the church from 8:00PM to midnight, starting the following week.  Miller objected.  “Lord, are you sure?  If I hold prayer meetings, the only ones who come will be the little old ladies.  And all they will do is to sit and watch me pray.”  The Lord seemed to nod and say simply, “I know.”  Miller went ahead and announced a week of nightly prayer meetings.  As he predicted, the only people from his congregation who showed up were three of the little old ladies.  And, yes, all they did was sit silently and watch their pastor pray for four hours.

At midnight, he asked if any of them had received a word from God.  One of the women raised her hand and reported having had a strange desire to come up and knock on the wood table in the front of the sanctuary.  That seemed too foolish to be a real word from God.  They all went home for the night.

Next night, same thing.

The same three ladies arrived, sat down, and did nothing but watch Miller pray his heart out for four hours.  At the end of the evening, the same woman reported having the same sense about knocking on the wooden table.  This was crazy.  They adjourned for the night once again.

The next two nights were exactly the same.

The woman did not want to make a fool of herself, so she refused to knock on the table. Miller wondered, What if obedience to this strange instruction would turn out to be the key to something big?  The missionary tried to figure out a way to get the lady to at least try it out.  It was the final night of the scheduled meetings.  Again, only those three little old ladies came into the sanctuary to watch Miller pray.  This time, when he found out that she had had the same impulse for the fifth night in a row, he said, “Sister, we’re all going to walk around the table and knock on it.”  He figured that she couldn’t refuse to follow through if the rest of them were doing it.

He went first. He walked past the table and struck it with his hand.

“Thunk.” The other two women did the same.  “Clunk. Thunk.”  Finally the third woman stepped up to the table and knocked her knuckles on it.  Suddenly, the Holy Spirit came.  The four of them were overwhelmed with the glory of the presence of God.  On the spot, they began to worship God in ways they had never done before.  The news spread fast, and more people began to join them in nightly prayer times.  After everyone in the congregation had been touched by God, the revival spread to the capital city of Buenos Aires where eventually thousands of people gathered in an outdoor stadium in 1954.

The great Argentine revival of the early 1950s had begun, all because one man watched and prayed and followed through to the best of his ability.  “All prayers counts. Just keeping on Knocking!”

Source: Shared by James Goll on his website, God Encounters Ministries.

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WHEN CHRISTIANS GET INVOLVED GOVERNMENT CAN BE TRANSFORMED

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Article by Karen Hardin, intercessor, author, minister and literary agent. Her work has appeared in USA Today, World Net Daily, Intercessors for America, Charisma, CBN.com, The Elijah List, etc.

If you poll the majority of Americans, most of us want to simply live our lives, raise our families and serve God.  But as government has grown in dominance and control of our nation and its people, we can no longer remain in the background or remain silent.  Instead we must act.  How can we do that?  According to Jesse Leon Rodgers, “By getting Christians back into government rather than the silent posture we have taken over the years.”  Rodgers is doing that very thing through a biblical, reformational form of city governance which is based upon the model of the governing elders of the ancient cities of Israel and the function of New Testament Eldership.

Rodgers is chairman of the Oklahoma Watchmen on the Wall Network; the pastor’s network of the Family Research Council and founder and president of City Elders an organization that is introducing this biblical structure in the state of Oklahoma USA. and the transformation taking place is amazing.  So far, forty-two of seventy-seven counties in Oklahoma have embraced this new structure in which governing city leaders sit at the table to work side-by-side with Christian leaders in their city to bring strength and transformation.  City elders are shepherds, civil servants, and stewards.  They are experienced and recognized leaders from the Church, civil government, and business.

As Rodgers and his team continue working to introduce this model to every county in Oklahoma, they are already receiving requests to assist in other states as well.  Why is this important?  The truth is, we’ve been lied to that the church and its people are to remain separate from government.  It’s not in our Constitution and it’s not in the Bible.  Instead, within the pages of the Bible, we see example after example of religious leaders taking on the role to assist in the organization and development of governing the people or speaking into governmental leaders.

When the task of governing the Israelites became too burdensome, Moses called upon the Lord who said, “The Lord said to Moses: ‘Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people.  Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you.  I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them.  They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.’” (Num 11:16-17)

Daniel and Joseph of biblical days both served as advisors to government leaders.  The Apostle Paul, as a religious leader of his day, referred to government laws and interacted with government leaders. (Acts 16:37, 22:25)  So, how do Christians transform our nation?  State-by-state, city-by-city, town by town.  According to Mark Nittle, transition director for Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, “We don’t need a revitalization plan.  We need an infrastructure plan.  What we currently have is not sustainable.  For example, in Oklahoma in many of our county seats, the government is the largest employer!  Our Constitution’s language is outdated and needs to be updated.  Our school system needs to be reorganized and restructured to better utilize the funds available.”

Although Nittle was referring specifically to Oklahoma, this can be said for almost every state in our nation.  As this is addressed, we will begin to see real change.  Our country is in crisis and on the verge of socialist takeover.  This is in part because the biblical example of Christian elders and leaders in government positions has been abandoned because of the misuse and deceptive interpretation of “separation of church and state,” which Jefferson used to describe the need to protect the Church and religion from the government, not the reverse.

What can we do?

  1. Pray.

Therefore, I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour (I Tim 2:1-3).  We need to recognize that we have a biblical mandate to pray for those in leadership over us.  It doesn’t say only for those you like or agree with, but for ALL who are in authority.  It also doesn’t mean you pray against them.  We are to pray for them.  Also, pray for those Christian leaders who are working behind the scenes to support our government, and help bring about transformation.

  1. Get involved.

For far too long the Church has stood on the sidelines as our governments and schools have been taken over by those who do not fear or reverence God.  We can no longer simply point at the problem, but must be willing to join in to help bring change.

  1. Give.

I was talking with a courageous woman who had recently made the decision to enter a tough political contest against a well-known and long-running Democrat in a Democrat dominated area in New York.  It is a courageous move and an up-hill-climb due to the district she is in.  As I talked with her she said, “People often tell me they are behind me and will pray for me.  And I need that! But I also need finances.  We are working to get a website up, flyers in the mail, and have to pay for television and radio ads.  It takes money and I can’t do this without help.”  We have to realize that prayer by itself is not enough.  Faith without works is dead.  We need to open our wallets and put our money where our mouth is.  If there is a God-fearing candidate willing to put their name and time on the line to help bring about transformation, the least we can do is get behind them financially to help them.

  1. Spread the Word.

A brave young woman in the city where I live courageously ran for a position on our liberal-dominated school board in the last election.  She campaigned hard.  Unfortunately, because it wasn’t a presidential campaign, most people weren’t listening.  Although she worked hard, she lost.  Later, when I posted about the loss and frustration of the lack of voter turnout, numerous Christians responded by saying they didn’t realize the election was even taking place!  This is an area in which everyone can help.  How?  We can spread the word.  Talk about upcoming elections.  Be informed.  Search out when elections in your local area are taking place.  Be there and take others with you.

Talk about candidates and why you support them to your family, friends, and those you meet.  Be willing to engage in conversations, rather than remain silent.  Some may say, it’s a personal issue, so we shouldn’t get involved.  Is it a personal issue?  Yes.  I take it personally when current political leaders try to remove God from our nation.  I take it personally when the Constitution is twisted and those in government positions try to steal the freedoms for which those who have gone before us so courageously fought.  I take it personally when our schools, city councils, and judgeships are ruled by those who are strategically working to remove parental input in the lives of our children and brainwash them to their agenda.  You should take it personally as well.  It’s time we get involved to not only pray, but to take back our nation city-by-city, town-by-town and state-by-state.

Source: Article by Karen Hardin, intercessor, author, minister and literary agent.

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IS CHRISTIANITY MAKING A COMEBACK?

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The scene is rocking, and the most racially diverse I have encountered in contemporary London.  Lots of Afro-Caribbeans, plenty of Asians, lots of white folks, too, and almost every other variety you can imagine.  The joint is hopping.  Singer and guitars and a big, big sound.  Boom! Boom! Boom!  After the “concert” the big crowd, as diverse in age as in ethnic origin, spills out on to a precious patch of green in central London, there to enjoy an informal lunch of many ethnic cuisines, curries, paella, chilli con carne, pizzas and ice cream.  There’s no cost, though you can make a donation if you like.

I am attending the Sunday morning service of Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB), one of the most dynamic and important Anglican parishes in the world (though the good folks there would never make such flattering comparisons about themselves).  The big feature of the service is the music.  But the spiritual highlight, perhaps, is the legendary pastor, Nicky Gumbel, interviewing Christian musician couple Matt and Beth Redman.  Gumbel and the Redmans are stellar names in British evangelical Christianity.  One of Gumbel’s books sold more than a million copies.  The Redmans have both written books of Christian testimony and they are sell-out musicians in the US and Britain.

The big story of contemporary Britain is the radical loss of belief. It is a transforming social dynamic.  But there are now, perhaps equally important, tentative signs of a counter-trend.  Right next door to HTB, is the Brompton Oratory, the historic, world famous Catholic church.  Just a little before the rocking and rolling at HTB, the Catholic priests at Brompton Oratory celebrated the old Tridentine mass.  Not only is this mass conducted in Latin, the liturgy follows the ancient rites from the 16th-century Council of Trent, which was universal in the Catholic Church until it was replaced with an updated liturgy in vernacular languages by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.

The music at the Tridentine masses is sublime, exquisite, liturgical, stylistically a world away from rock ’n’ roll contemporary style.  I have been to mass and other services at the Brompton Oratory a few times and they, too, are strikingly well attended.  These two churches, so superficially different, are, in my view, not so different after all.  One, with its ancient Latin liturgy, looks shockingly countercultural.  The other, hip and groovy, seems to be riding the wave of contemporary culture.  But the liturgy and music in both places is based squarely on the words of the Bible, Old Testament and New, and the message of basic Christianity is also essentially the same.

Tellingly, both forms of Christianity are thriving, in London and elsewhere.  Holy Trinity Brompton uses contemporary cultural style but it does not endorse the contemporary culture in toto any more than the Latin mass Brompton Oratory folks do.  Beth Redman, in her impressive comments, recounts how she has basically gone off Twitter and scaled back her Facebook.  Partly this is theological; the Bible says do your good works in secret.  Partly it is, like everything in this tradition, experiential.  She found that even when she was trying to pray, her iPhone distracted her.  She was inclined to check it.  So she chucked it.

She tells people to be careful of the films and television they watch, of the evil they put in their heads.  She and her husband also had much to say about more profound issues of life, but I was struck by the good and uncompromising nature of her social media advice.  The genius of this style of Christianity is that it is as hip and groovy and contemporary as you like, but it doesn’t shirk tough messages that in other contexts may sound wowserish.  The question is whether the two Bromptons and the other signs of life in contemporary British Christianity are really signs of hope, or are they more like crowded lifeboats bobbing around in the wake of a sinking ocean liner?

Whether you are religious or not, the pivotal point of history that we have reached in Britain and western Europe is awe inspiring, and little understood.  Britain and western Europe have abandoned the faith of their fathers, and even more their mothers, and with it much of their cultural and civic inheritance.  Before asking whether the trend has reached a turn, we must realise how staggering the trend is.  According to well-based research published last year, among 18 to 29-year-olds in France, there are as many practising Muslims as there are Catholics.  As many young Muslims go to mosque in France as young Catholics go to mass.

In London, the most religious part of Britain, of a total population of more than eight million, there are 4.1 million people who self-identify as Christian and 2.4 million who self-identify as Muslim (although Christians at last seem to be holding their numbers).  According to survey results of two years ago, 7% of 18 to 29-year-old Brits identify as Anglicans, while 6% identify as Muslims.  There are three reasons Muslim numbers have grown so fast.  They have been a very big part of the immigration cohort.  They generally have more children than non-Muslims do, and are much more successful than European Christians in passing on their faith to their children.

It is not necessary to be in any way anti-Muslim to recognise that this represents a huge, epic shift in the cultural and civic identity of Europe.  People who follow other religions are also growing in Britain, among them Hindus and Sikhs, and even, off a very low base, Orthodox Haredi Jews.  All of these religious groups are more successful than Christians in maintaining their religious affiliation across generations.  There is one critical point of context that is slightly mitigating.  For a long time now, Christianity has been a nominal affiliation for huge chunks of European populations.  So secularisation, the loss of God, has meant in part the end of nominal Christianity.

As Nick Spencer from the influential London think tank Theos tells me: “For the last generation or two, Christian identity and ethics are no longer the default position.  That’s been replaced by a default liberal outlook, me and my choices.”  But the civic identity of Europe, and its civilisation more broadly, derived overwhelmingly from the Judaeo-Christian tradition.  Britain is now, according to the surveys, a majority atheist society, as are some other west European nations.  This is a much stronger trend in western Europe and Britain than it is in the US or Australia, though all Western nations are experiencing some version of the same symptoms.

There is a debate about whether secularisation is a process that has progressed over centuries, from the Renaissance de-emphasising the divine in art, through the wars of Christianity to all the savage disruptions of the 20th century, or something much more sudden.  The classic account by Callum Brown, The Death of Christian Britain, argues that the process was much more sudden.  It was kicked off by the cultural revolution of the 1960s, the sexual revolution and everything that followed.  Brown’s book suggests that Christianity reached a high point in Britain in the early 20th century, but the proportionate numbers of Christians were still not far below those highs in the 50s.

Indeed, there had even been some serious revival of Christian sentiment and practice in the 40s and 50s.  There is some evidence, at least a suggestion, that the decline of Christianity in Britain has now hit bottom and may be slowly turning around.  If that is so, it is in part at least because of the efforts of Gumbel.  He is the son of a German secular Jewish refugee.  Oxbridge educated, he was a highly successful barrister.  He converted to Christianity through reading the New Testament.  Although he did not found it, he has run the Alpha program, one of the most successful Christian formation and evangelisation efforts in modern history, since 1990.

It is an approach to teaching the basic Christian faith mainly to non-Christians, although so many nominal Christians have so little knowledge of Christianity, and contemporary Western culture provides almost no positive signs or clues to it, that the distinction between non-Christian and nominal Christian when people first come into contact with Alpha can be pretty meaningless.  Around the world, perhaps 26 million people have taken the Alpha program.  Within Australia alone, a half-million have done so.  A week and a half after I attend the service at Holy Trinity Brompton, a friend arranges that I might go and see Gumbel at his home near the church.

Whatever his success with selling books and the like, his house is modest.  He makes me a cup of tea and we walk through to his study, which is book-lined and lived-in, a little ramshackle, and contains more than one chair that doesn’t bear very vigorous use.  He doesn’t think Christian decline is inevitable, ongoing or irreversible: “If you take the church in the UK, people think it’s a steady decline.  But actually it’s back and forth. In 1750 the church had declined to almost nothing.  “There were 10,000 sex workers walking the streets of London and 16 people at St Paul’s Cathedral on Easter.

Then along came the Wesleys (John Wesley was an Anglican minister who founded the Methodist denomination) and William Wilberforce, and Christianity builds all the way to 1910.  “From 1910 onwards there’s been a decline.  But even within the cycles there are reverses.  When Billy Graham came there was a blip of growth.  “The question is: are we at the end of that decline?  The old Christians are still dying but the young are still coming forward.  There’s been a huge rise in Anglicans studying for the Anglican ministry.”  Paul Bickley, like Spencer also of Theos, points me to research that shows that religious communities of “experiential difference” are flourishing.

This term “experiential difference” means two things: the idea that there is “something different” about being a Christian, and combined with this some kind of transcendental experience of God.  Gumbel’s movement of Anglicans has been involved in “church planting” in Britain and around the world.  Where a church is about to close or there is a need on a housing estate or some other part of the community, the HTB network, as it is sometimes called, tries to step in with volunteers and energy and passionate commitment and see what they can do.  A decade ago HTB founded a seminary, a college to train new ministers.

In many churches, certainly Anglicanism and Catholicism, for hundreds of years now the typical way to train to become a priest was to go away to a residential college and study theology and philosophy and the like for years.  This college offered a new model.  For a few days a week students for the priesthood studied, but for a couple of days a week they worked in a parish and on Sundays they took part in parish life.  All the while, they lived at their homes.  This has now become one of the biggest and most successful Anglican training colleges in Britain.

I ask Gumbel just why Alpha has become such a worldwide success.  “One thing is the genuine community.  There’s food, people are welcomed, it’s non-confrontational, everyone’s loved for who they are.”  Alpha is organised around a series of talks, each followed by group discussions in which the Alpha leaders facilitate discussion of the talk just held.  At a certain point there is a weekend away.  Gumbel outlines some of the Alpha themes: “The talks are organised around peoples search for meaning and purpose in life.  The first asks: what is the purpose of life?  The second is: who is Jesus, why did he die?  It’s all around forgiveness. The next is about faith, who do you trust?”

The average age of Alpha course participants is 27: “The weekend away is about the Holy Spirit, it’s an opportunity to experience God.  This generation is much more interested in experiencing God than learning facts about God.  There is an evening on healing, healing and mindfulness are very in now.”  The success of Alpha crosses Christian denominations: “Alpha is running in all parts of the church, the Reformed Church, the Pentecostals, the Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Salvation Army.  We’re Church of England.  That’s very good because we’re less of a threat than anybody because no one really knows what the Church of England believes.”

Finally, I ask Gumbel what a person loses if they lose the knowledge of God.  In a long, animated, fluent conversation, it is the first time he pauses.  “I was not brought up as a Christian,” he says slowly.  “I know the difference between belief and not having belief.  Ultimately, you can lose everything.  “A person obviously can find purpose outside of the faith, but I don’t think you can find ultimate purpose and meaning outside of a relationship with God.”  Another pause: “And if Jesus did rise from the dead, there’s hope, and meaning. And love.”

Source: Article written by Australian journalist Greg Sheridan for the weekend Australian

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6 WAYS ATHEISTS ACCIDENTALLY PROVE GOD EXISTS

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Frank Turek is a Christian speaker and apologist who is passionate about the truth. Determined to make a strong, well-reasoned case for God, he tackles the big questions of life and combats atheists head-on. In his book, “Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case,” Turek argues that much of the reasoning put forth by those attempting to disprove God is fundamentally contradictory.  In a new video posted to his Facebook page, Frank addresses the logical framework commonly used by atheists by taking us through a simple acronym: CRIMES. Causality, Reason, Information and Intentionality, Morality, Evil and Science.

In a short and snappy exposition of each element, Turek highlights the major flaws in atheist reasoning.

1. Causality

“Why is the universe so orderly, if there is no God, no mind out there ordering all this?” Turek asks. “Why are the natural laws and forces so consistent? Because there is a mind behind them. When atheists use this to try and disprove God, they are actually stealing from God to argue against him.”

2. Reason

“If we are just molecules in motion, and there is no immaterial realm, how does reason exist? We’re just reacting. We’re nothing but moist robots,” he explains. “So, ironically, atheists who claim to be beacons of reason have made reason impossible by their worldview of materialism.”

3. Information and Intentionality

Turek says information is the “idea that there is a message, and where there is a message it always comes from a mind.”

But, he notes, the “greatest message that’s ever been discovered is in the human genome — and atheists are saying that message doesn’t come from a mind!” “They write books filled with information, claiming information doesn’t come from a mind,” he says.

“Intentionality has to do with the idea that the world is goal-directed,” Turek explains. “Why doesn’t an acorn become a starfish? Because it’s goal-directed to become an oak tree. Why do the planets go around the sun? Because of gravity? Yeah, but why is gravity doing what it does? If you go back far enough, you are ultimately going to arrive at a sustaining creator who holds all this together.”

4. Morality

“There can’t be any objective right or wrong unless God exists,” Turek declares. “When atheists say they have certain moral rights, they are actually stealing from God to say he doesn’t exist.”

5. Evil

“They’re saying there is too much evil in the world,” he says. “Well, there can’t be evil unless there’s good, but there can’t be good unless God exists. So, when atheists are complaining about evil, they are actually proving God exists. God, by definition, is the “ultimate standard of good.” “They are stealing from God in order to argue against him,” he claims.

6. Science

“The atheists are saying ‘we are the champions of science.’ Science is impossible if atheism is true,” Turek says. “If materialistic atheism is true, and we are just moist robots, then we can’t really know anything about the real world. We can’t depend on the cause and effect nature of reality because there is no mind behind it.” Turek notes that if atheism is true, we have “no warrant to believe anything we learn from science.” “You know what makes science possible? God. So, when they are doing science, they are actually stealing from God in order to argue against him,” he says.

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CHILDREN NEED THEIR MUMS THROUGH THE MOST FORMATIVE YOUNGEST YEARS

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Editor’s note: Happy Mother’s Day to all our Mums.  We love you, appreciate you, and as the following article points out, we cannot live without you.

Jan emailed me a while ago saying “I hope you don’t mind my writing to you like this, but it seems that my generation is never given the chance of telling our side of our story.  We are not trying to criticise life now, just saying there is another side, and it was good.”  She wrote that she never felt a lesser person because she stayed at home with her three young children.  “In my mind, being able to stay with your children (at least when they are young) shows them that you think they are important and this gives them stability and roots.  Then you give them wings.  We all had our children when we were young, so by the time they were at high school we were still young enough to stretch our own wings, either by refreshing our own skills or taking up something new.”

Then Jan wrote something that I often think about when I look at my own three children.  She recalled that after her kids had grown into three remarkable young adults, a man asked whether she had spent a lot of time with them at home.  When she said, yes, he said: “Well, it shows.”  We, the current crop of women, have a lot to show for ourselves.  A stellar education, great jobs, careers that take us interesting places, enlightened men in our lives who parent more than their fathers did.  Increasingly, we have policies and workplaces that are, let’s face it, female-centric, checking in on women’s advancement.  We have bureaucracies and lobby groups that do our bidding, and senior businessmen who join the women’s bandwagon too.

Lots of people looking out for us.  And it shows.  While there are gripes at the edges over gender pay gaps and not enough women in parliament (maybe we have more sense than men), women have assumed centre stage, and why shouldn’t we?  There’s a lame joke about feminism being a great idea until something goes wrong with the car.  Maybe feminism was a great idea until something went wrong with the kids.  Women don’t need a man to fix a car.  Not as a matter of strict biology, anyway, though I’m grateful to the blokes in greasy overalls at my local garage.  But children, especially babies, do need their mothers.

Before feminists have conniptions and demand equality between the sexes and equal parenting, is it too much to check in on how children are going?  To check the science and to be reminded of our biology?  Not as a female guilt trip or an attempt to turn back time but simply to remind ourselves that motherhood is important and, for that reason, is one heck of a privilege, in all its messy, demanding, beautiful, frustrating ways.  I remembered Jan’s email when reading the reaction to a new book.  Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters, by American psychoanalyst and clinical social worker Erica Komisar.

This book made a splash for all the wrong reasons.  As reported in The Wall Street Journal, one agent told her: “No, we couldn’t touch that.  That would make women feel guilty.” A conference organiser who rejected her as a speaker said: “You are going to make women feel badly.  How dare you?” One woman at a charity gathering told her: “You are going to set women back 50 years.”  Komisar’s book is controversial only if overlaid with a weird and unnatural women-only filter that blocks out the welfare of children.

The 53-year-old Jewish clinician developed a passionate interest in the role of mothers in early childhood development when she started noticing more absent mothers and motherhood being undervalued, along with boys being diagnosed with ADHD and an increase in depression diagnoses in young girls.

Komisar also noticed more young children being diagnosed with “social disorders”, having trouble relating to others and lacking empathy.  Lots of studies tell us about babies suffering separation anxiety when their mother leaves them and babies reacting to strangers by producing increased levels of cortisol, the hormone associated with stress.

But the science that literally strikes at the heart is Komisar’s discussion about oxytocin.  This is a neurotransmitter known as the “love” or “trust” hormone.  Komisar explains that mothers produce oxytocin when they give birth, breastfeed and are emotionally present with their babies.  The more a mother engages with her baby through touching, gazing into newborn eyes and using sweet gaga talk, the more oxytocin she produces, and “the more oxytocin she produces, the more she bonds with her child”.  As adults, we know what it’s like to be loved and to love.  The physical and emotional power of intimacy, from spending time together, is palpable.

Oxytocin is rushing around us when we look at each other, even think of one another, when we hug or touch or have sex.  Oxytocin is the hormone that helps us bond with one another, it helps build trust and is described as an antidote to depressive feelings.  If oxytocin produces all this between two adults, why is it hard for us to agree that it bonds and benefits a mother and baby?  The release of oxytocin in the baby’s brain from being nurtured becomes a buffer against the negative effects of stressful events.

Elaborating to The Wall Street Journal, Komisar explains that “every time a mother comforts a baby in distress, she’s actually regulating that baby’s emotions from the outside in.  After three years, the baby internalises that ability to regulate their emotions, but not until then.”  It’s not the same with fathers because our magnificent biology means women produce more oxytocin than men.  Women love to talk about differences between men and women in the workplace, how women bring female attributes to the workplace because they are more collegiate, better listeners, more empathetic and so on.

Yet when we look inside the family, women, especially those who control the debate, only ever talk about shared parenting, shared parental leave and so on.  Biological difference is often ignored, along with the science that supports it.  That’s no surprise in women’s studies departments that routinely deny women’s biology in a blind rage to expunge difference.  But the rest of us could be more curious as to why it matters for a mother to be there more for a baby.  After all, we agonise over so much else about our kids.  Should we enrol our four-year-old in Kumon lessons to get ahead in maths?  What about piano lessons and taekwondo?  Should we stop our teenager playing video games because it normalises violence?

We are endlessly curious, too, about new and existing social disorders, to the point where the diagnostic bible of mental and social disorders keeps expanding in width.  Consider the current diagnoses for children, from neurodevelopmental disorders identified in early infancy to others such as disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit, hyperactivity disorders, reactive attachment disorder and disinhibited social engagement disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder.

Curiosity has its limits, though, at least among the political class, where it has become virtually verboten to discuss how mothers promote wellbeing in a baby.  As The Wall Street Journal reported, while Christian radio stations and Fox & Friends interviewed Komisar about her book, she wasn’t welcome on NPR, American public radio, and was rejected by the liberal press in her home city, New York.  She told the Journal that seconds before she appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America, the interviewer said: “I don’t believe in the premise of your book at all.  I don’t like your book.”

Plenty of women won’t like Komisar’s book because it unsettles the new normal where highly educated women work full time, long hours, carving out brilliant careers from a young age, and babies and young children are placed in daycare or have two nannies, the weekday one and one for the weekend.  Her call for a more child-centric society means demanding a government-mandated paid maternity leave and flexible work in a country that still denies that to the women who need it most, those who lack the financial power to stay home.

Komisar’s book is important in Australia too, even with our generous paid parental leave schemes.  A 2013 analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics figures by the University of NSW revealed that parents spent four hours less a week with their children than they did a generation ago.  And research by UNSW associate professor Lyn Craig suggests that parenting is now more intensive, with parents squeezing in activities to smarten their children.  Think Kumon for four-year-olds.  But as Komisar says, concentrating on your child’s cognitive development before their social emotional development is like putting on their shoes before their socks.

And parenting experts point to stay-at-home mums as often the most intensive parents.  Their vision is constantly directed outwards, to tightly timetabled activities, making sure Billy is in the best footy team and Lucinda is in the highest English class, and complaining when their young genius doesn’t get the mark that mum thinks they deserved.  New words catch this new generation of parents, helicopter parents who hover and lawnmower parents who clear the way for their kids, and they all mean well.

But if children aren’t doing so well, more boys on ADHD medications, more anxiety among young girls, a generation of young adults asking for safe spaces and trigger warnings at university, then perhaps it’s time to check in and ask whether we’ve moved too far from Jan’s generation, because maybe little children need to hang out more with mums who understand that motherhood is more than directing the daily traffic of activities.  Just asking.

Source: Article written by Sydney Columnist Janet Albrechtsen

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UNDERSTANDING THE SHIFT IN OUR CULTURE AND ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR OUR FUTURE

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Editors comments:  This article, covering political issues, is usually outside the gammet of the Prayer Network but as it seeks to help us understand the enormous shift that is taking place in our culture, and therefore the implications for our future, we decided it was worth putting out to our readers for prayer as we move towards one of the most crucial Federal Elections in our history.  Any political comments or inferences the writer makes are his and not necessarily those of the Prayer Network.  We are more focused on assisting our readers to understand the why and how of the cultural changes we are experiencing as a Nation and how they could shape the way people vote in the upcoming Federal Election.  Could it be that this election, more than any other in recent memory, will be fought in the spiritual realm (a battle for the hearts and minds of the Australian people and the soul of our Nation) rather than over political policies.  If it is to be that way, this is where the Prayer Network comes in, and underlies the reason for our re-producing this article. 

Australia is about to chart a new direction but the intriguing question is whether the public is making this choice by default or conviction.  Scott Morrison seems unable to cut through with a message that registers while Bill Shorten seems able to say anything and get away with it.  These are flip sides of the same story, an electorate that has clocked off politics yet is angry about its plight.  It is tempting to say the Coalition government has lost the battle of ideas.  But this misleads since beyond a minority of “insiders” there is no engagement with ideas anymore.  There is, however, the zeitgeist, the German view that each historical era is defined by its own spirit and values.

It is the zeitgeist that is bringing down the Morrison government and propelling the nation towards a Shorten government.  The zeitgeist, of course, is not separate from events.  Indeed, it is partly formed by events such as the chronic disunity of the Coalition, its lack of cultural power, its inability to sustain a message that resonates with the public and its failure to offer a persuasive explanation for the times.  The zeitgeist, however, is conceived in culture.  Its meaning transcends and can defy mere rationality, it is about the spirit, the mood of the times.  It can refer to an invisible force, part in the world, part defying the world because of its cultural power.

In Australia today the zeitgeist is tied to the age of disruption and confusion.  In particular, received wisdoms that have offered stability and predictability are in demise, some because they have failed, others because they are ideologically unfashionable.  Labor has far exceeded the Coalition in capturing the zeitgeist.  Its unifying theme is the turn of Australia towards a progressive mindset in economic, social and cultural terms.  This was not predicted six years ago.  Time will tell whether it is enduring or deceiving.

But the norms the Abbott government subscribed to after it won in 2013 are in eclipse.  These were rejection of radical action on climate change in order to safeguard the economy, using constraints on education and health funding to recover the budget surplus, new laws to curb trade union power, implicit faith in financial system integrity, free speech before an individual’s capacity to be offended, traditional marriage, honouring Western civilisation, American alliance fidelity in what became the Trumpian age and putting shared national values before the quest for race, gender or sexual identity.  Only border protection has survived and it is now under fierce assault.

As the ideas championed by the Coalition government came under assault, so did the government’s authority.  The country shifted while the Coalition held power.  Yet the Coalition missed the trend, its cultural antenna in dysfunction and its ability to persuade badly lacking.

Having a House of Representatives majority did not guarantee control of the nation’s mood.  When old ideas no longer work or are no longer tolerated, it is time for new ideas.  Established understandings have now broken down in a range of areas, consider wages, living standards, climate change, finance, industrial relations and education among others.

As economists, including our Reserve Bank governor, admit the past connection between unemployment levels and wage levels has shifted, much to the consternation of workers and unions.  As the past decade shows the record low interest rates have failed to reboot many Western economies, with monetary policy unable to restore previous levels of economic growth.  The local energy story is diabolical when Australia, a so-called energy superpower, relied on coal as its source of competitiveness only to find that coal was cast as a climate change demon to be put on the exit escalator.

The finance sector, the life blood of household prosperity, was exposed by the royal commission as an agent of greed treating customers as objects of exploitation in pursuit of self-interested financial rewards.  Having spent a generation achieving a more flexible labour market that worked brilliantly in the globalised age contributing to low unemployment, the nation is now lurching into reverse to embrace re-regulation and intervention in the cause of equity.  And in education, having proven that more school funding without a classroom revolution is tied to falling relative standards the political system seems ready to repeat the blunder on a truly massive scale with astonishing proposed increases in school funding devoid of core classroom reforms.

The breakdown of established norms has three consequences, new opportunities (think renewables), new challenges (how on earth to rekindle productivity to salvage living standards) and the revival of truly bad ideas (think the living wage, something we tried more than 110 years ago).  Perhaps there is no failure that does not deserve another try.  Anyone for socialism?  The political impact of the zeitgeist cannot be missed.  There is nothing as vulnerable as an idea targeted by the progressive forces; witness traditional marriage, coal and tax cuts for corporates.  And there is nothing so resilient as a failed idea to which the progressive class is attached; witness open borders, wage rises divorced from productivity and government intervention as a superior allocation mechanism to markets.

Shorten’s skill has been conspicuous.  Acting with audacity, he has picked much of the spirit of the times.  His populist slogans cut through from the “left behind society” to declaring the election to be a referendum on wages and embracing the notion of the “living wage”.  Who could disagree with such an attractive idea?  Shorten has endlessly stirred hostility towards banks and big business, mined the cult of grievance, backed a major redistribution of income through tax, mined community anxiety at inequality and injustice, given identity politics plenty of currency, ditched border protection in the cause of humanitarian rescue of people on Manus and Nauru, helped to demonise coal, worked to sink Adani and cast renewables as the universal saviours.

The zeitgeist is Shorten’s friend and Morrison’s enemy.  The evidence has turned into an avalanche since the August 2018 Liberal leadership crisis.  The latest norm to be violated occurs within the Liberal heartland, the middle-class revolt and disloyalty in the once blue-ribbon seats of its leaders, former leaders and future hopes.  Turnbull’s seat of Wentworth has been lost to progressive independent Kerryn Phelps, with no guarantee it can be regained at the election.  Tony Abbott’s seat of Warringah is under serious threat from progressive independent Zali Steggall.  Greg Hunt’s seat of Flinders is under assault from progressive independent Julia Banks and Josh Frydenberg’s seat of Kooyong is threatened by Julian Burnside, a well-known progressive, now running as a Green.

Each of these seats is vulnerable to progressive attack.  This is an unprecedented situation in the history of the Liberal Party.  The loss of support, however, seems to transcend the actual policy story.  It is not as though the Liberals under Malcolm Turnbull ignored climate change.  Turnbull’s removal, rather, has become the symbolic trigger for the release of progressive hostility towards the party.  The mood and the message is that the Liberals are violating the spirit of the age and need to pay the price.  Once this brand is applied it is extremely difficult to purge, a classic example being the Liberal Party’s women problem.

This, however, is not exactly what it seems.  In Julie Bishop’s safe seat of Curtin the Liberals have preselected an impressive woman, the former vice-chancellor of Notre Dame, Celia Hammond, who won convincingly.  Yet Hammond is now under challenge from a progressive independent, a lifelong Liberal voter, wealthy businesswoman Louise Stewart. Stewart says Hammond cannot represent the views of the Curtin electorate and her selection shows the party is “stuck in the past”.  It seems a conservative woman is no better than a man!  The point is that the real priority is progressivism.  A woman will be opposed unless she is progressive, displaying the “correct” stance on climate, feminism and asylum-seekers.

The government still has its April 2 tax-cut budget to rekindle its prospects but cynicism and indifference lie in its path.  The Coalition parties will seek to unite around the budget and take a strong economic message to the election.  But what should be the pivotal election issue is largely overlooked, the productivity and participation agenda to drive living standards.  On wages, Shorten continues with his quasi reckless “dual identity” tactics, prompted no doubt by the fact that emotion and populism largely run these debates.  On the one hand Shorten feeds the public truckloads of populism that “supply and demand” in the labour market no longer functions, that “everything is going up except people’s wages” (a falsehood), that the minimum wage should be a living wage and that the “fat cat” bosses who claim a connection between wages and jobs are wrong because “I don’t accept that a living wage causes unemployment”.

There is no reason to think Shorten, given the zeitgeist, will suffer any penalty from his pitch.  Meanwhile the ACTU, the chief advocate of the “living wage”, proposes an increase in the minimum wage of 11.5 per cent over the next two years or more than $70 a week at a time when the economy is weakening.  The idea this would not hurt jobs is absurd.  “I won’t turn my back on the workers of Australia,” Shorten declared as he asserted the government would fix the wages problem, a throwback to several decades ago.

On the other hand Shorten said he would rely on the Fair Work Commission to adjust the minimum wage (sticking by the orthodoxy), declared the Fair Work Commission (FWC) had a “great track record” (if so, then what’s the problem?), refused to nominate any percentage increase (being sensible and not backing the ACTU numbers), raised the prospect Labor would change the legislation governing the FWC minimum wage deliberations (but wouldn’t give details) and made clear the guidelines would be altered.

In summary, Shorten raises expectations sky high with his rhetoric but then brings them back to earth because he doesn’t want to wreck the joint.  This is his standard tactic.  He plays to the zeitgeist and then plays to reality.  He feeds the union and Labor interest groups loads of red meat but then stops short of table commitments that would ruin his government in office.

It is a risky contradiction that runs across almost everything Shorten touches.  If he wins, how Shorten will pacify the progressive interest groups, wind down their expectations yet implement the litany of specific tax, spending, regulatory, climate change and constitutional reforms he pledges, is anybody’s guess.

This week the Business Council of Australia chief Jennifer Westacott played the reality card on Labor’s 45-50% targets for emissions and renewables: “We don’t have a plan to do this.  How are we going to do this?  If it’s economy wide, what is the mechanism by which we are going to do it?  Is it a cap and trade system?  Is it the national energy guarantee?  Is it a base-loading credit system?  Are we going to exempt the trade-exposed sector?  Are we going to allow the ‘carry over’ for Kyoto?  I think the Australian people are entitled to understand how these things will be achieved.

This is the history of this problem, people say stuff, then they try to implement it and everyone goes ‘oh, hang on, we didn’t actually mean for those jobs to be gone’,  now we’ll have to have a compensation scheme.  Then we stop and then we go backwards and then we make no progress.  This is the history. ” Yet nothing Westacott said, policy realities that must be faced by any Shorten government, impinge on the current climate change mantras that dominate our public debate.  Just listen to the independent progressives crusading on climate change in leafy Liberal seats to grasp how much this debate has regressed over the past 15 years.

They talk endlessly about saving the planet and the urgency for Australia to do more, as though the policy and political obstacles of the past 15 years never happened.  Such climate change invocations are firmly within the zeitgeist but there comes a time when the spirit of the age and the reality of the age come to their inevitable day of reckoning.  This raises the question: is the country choosing its change of direction or merely getting ready to vote out a government that misread the culture?

Source:  Paul Kelly, Editor at large for the Australian Newspaper

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FASTING: MANY CHRISTIANS HAVE NEVER BEEN TAUGHT HOW OR WHY TO FAST

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Many Christians practice fasting during Lent.  As Lent is now upon us, some theologians are drawing attention to the fact that the practice of fasting might be waning because many Christians have never been taught why it’s necessary or even how to do it.  But it’s undoubtedly biblical and its importance has not disappeared just because fewer Christians now practice it, they say.  Fasting is completely out of step with the way the West approaches Christianity (and religion as a whole), and, because the world has so penetrated the church, this may well be the primary reason why fasting is so unfamiliar to Western Christians in the 21st century.

Guy M Richard, assistant professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta, in a piece published in the November 2018 edition of Tabletalk magazine said “We need to remember that Jesus is not interested in Christians’ simply going through the motions.  He is not looking for mere rote performance of fasting, any more than He would be looking for mere rote performance of giving or praying or anything else,” Richard added. Fasting is a “game-changer,” and that is because it’s a form of unbroken intercession, says author Jennifer Eivaz, in her book Glory Carriers: How to Host His Presence Every Day, which was recently released.

“When Jesus spoke to His disciples and He asked them some questions in connection to the Lord’s prayer, He didn’t just ask them questions, He made some very clear statements.  And He said ‘when’ you pray, and then He said, ‘when’ you fast,” Eivaz explained.  That language is clear, she noted, as it’s understood that prayer and fasting are essential disciplines for followers of Christ. “When you are fasting, and that is in connection with prayer, too many people don’t realize that you are making your own physical body a sacrifice and when you do that you are literally in a continuous prayer.

“Just because you may not be verbalizing something in the moment, that act alone is a continuous prayer,” Eivaz, who pastors at Harvest Christian Centre in California, explained.  Imagine the power of fasting for an entire day, she continued.  That is 24 hours of straight prayer.  Such discipline yields breakthroughs and answered prayer on much higher levels than when people pray ordinarily.  Eivaz believes that many Christians, especially those who do not fast, have simply never had solid teaching on it and leaders have not called people to fast.  Meanwhile, Scripture is replete with examples of prophets, speaking for God, both calling people to and teaching them how to do it.

Pastors and lay leaders should revisit this whole concept and its accompanying spirituality, the author urged, particularly given what Jesus says in Mark 9:29, speaking of a demonically tormented boy.  Mark 9:29 reads: “He told them, ‘This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.'” “So if there’s someone with a spiritual oppression and you can’t break it, well, fast and pray and then you will break it,” she said.  “We’ve lost contact with some of the spiritual dimensions of fasting.  We’ve become more flesh-oriented, entertainment-oriented, and we’ve neglected the spiritual realm.”

When dealing with distinctly spiritual forces, both good and evil, how can people not practice it if they care about the advance of God’s Kingdom, Eivaz asked, “because you will deal with things that require fasting.” God honours a Christian who fasts to seek His will and pray for breakthrough and will also do so in communities who fast together.  When people mix their prayers with fasting it brings speed to answered prayer, she said, citing Isaiah 58:8.  When fasting is done as God prescribes, “Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.”

While the Bible shows there are different kinds of fasts, the prophet Daniel fasted choice meat and wine, for example, they all centre around going without food, Eivaz said. “In a lot of Christian circles they are having negativity fasts or maybe they’ll turn off their phones for a season.  I think all of that is helpful, but it’s not a biblical fast,” she said. “Me, having the body type that I have where my blood sugar just goes nuts [if I don’t eat], I train my body to fast one hour at a time.  I just added an hour just to stretch myself.  You have to work with what you have and the Lord honours that.”

Donald Whitney, a professor of biblical spirituality and associate dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, concurs.  “Fasting appears in the Bible more often than something as important as baptism,” he said, “by my count, fasting is mentioned about 77 times versus 75 times for baptism.”  People are not going to do what they have not been taught to do, he said, echoing Eivaz.  “It’s hard to be an advocate for something from the pulpit you’re not doing,”

Whitney said. “It’s hard to get up to urge people to fast if you’re not fasting.  The same is true for family worship or any other practice.”

He explained there are many purposes to fasting, but the most common one is to strengthen prayer.  For fasting to be done right, there must be a biblical purpose, he emphasized.  If not done with such a purpose, it will only be something to endure.  “It’s not the church’s idea, it’s God’s idea,” he stressed, adding that “we don’t manipulate God by doing it and we don’t gain anything necessarily by doing it.” “If, when you get hungry and your stomach growls and your head aches and you say, ‘Man, I’m hungry,’ and your next thought is ‘Oh, that’s right, I’m fasting today,’ and then your next thought is ‘How long until this is over?’ you’re doing it wrong.”

For it to be done right the thought that should follow the hunger pangs and remembrance that one is fasting is, for example, remembering to pray for one’s spouse or for someone’s conversion. “Your hunger serves your larger purpose,” Whitney reiterated, “and without that it is just something to be endured and we think that we are impressing God by making ourselves suffer and somehow that earns us points.  That’s just a works-based, not Gospel-based view of fasting.  And that’s probably the most common mistake by those who do fast.” He regards the practice as so important that he requires his students to fast twice per semester.

He doesn’t rigidly enforce as he always has pregnant or diabetic students who will endanger their health if they do not eat. “We want to make sure that we always cover our bases in saying that we never want to ask people to do anything that would cause them or an unborn child any kind of harm.” “But I have found that where there is a will there is way,” he said, noting there are ways to give up food in order to still feel the hunger and a sense of lack that inclines them to pray while simultaneously maintaining a nutritional intake that will enable them to function.  Whitney is the author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, which explores the purpose of fasting.

Source: Christian Post

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ONLY A UNITED NATION CAN MEET THE CHALLENGES OF A CHANGING WORLD

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As we approach another election and the debate heats up, many Australians despair of our future, with good reason.  Research shows that we are distressingly distrustful of one another, of our once-revered institutions, and of governments and politicians in particular.  Furthermore, we are polarised as perhaps never before as social activists, infused across our society, dominate much of today’s divisive public discourse.  The advent of social media has provided a rudimentary global public square, which Australians have taken to using with enthusiasm.  However, the level of abuse, emotion, hatred and splintering that it is producing has led economic historian Niall Ferguson to observe that it is so destabilising it may yet render our societies ungovernable.

Yet there is little narrative around the major and very threatening challenges confronting us.  Economic and geopolitical, these are largely external to our country, but the threats are real and blind to our tribalism.  They demand a recognition of our shared interests, and national unity, if our complacency in confronting them is not to destroy our cherished freedom, harmony and prosperity.  Only when we identify the serious need for a national response to the challenges will we be able to leave behind the attacks we seem to be conducting on one another.

The first challenge is the inevitable global economic downturn, next time Australia will not be immune.  The debt crisis that went within an ace of collapsing the global economy a decade ago has not been resolved.  It has been kicked down the road by vast new levels of public debt, running at unprecedented levels in the West.  We sailed through the past event because of extraordinarily sound public finances, care of the Coalition government, and because China, relatively unaffected at that time, continued buying many of its raw materials from us.

Although significant progress has been made by this government in winding back our annual deficits, we have a debt-to-GDP ratio of about 30 per cent in net terms, not comparable to the horrific debt problems of the US and Europe but fast approaching the point at which they lost control of their economies a decade ago.  Therefore, economic management is an absolute priority.  We want the strongest and most resilient economy we can manage, securing jobs and opportunities, and able to pay for the services and infrastructure that we expect.

Another challenge, and increasing the likelihood of economic trauma, is our move to a completely new global power setting.  We complacently believe the dominance of the West, and in particular its leadership, both economic and military, by the US, will secure our stability and safety.  For the first time we no longer can take for granted that the most powerful nation will necessarily be able to come to our aid, or maintain global order in the event of adventurism by one or more of the new troublesome power centres such as Russia, Iran or North Korea.  Nor can we take lightly the possibility of miscalculation between the reigning superpower and the rising superpower.

It is high time we found a deep sense of national unity and common purpose for the sake of peaceful harmony and co-operation as a people.  Although it has been hardly reported or analysed in Australia, the Americans have effectively signalled a new cold war with China.  Their trade war with China is under way but this is about a great deal more than the belief, both by Republicans and Democrats, that the Chinese are not trading fairly.

Vice-President Mike Pence has charged China with stealing US commercial secrets on an industrial scale, meddling in US politics, seeking influence in US institutions such as universities and engaging in debt-trap diplomacy with the Third World to gain global influence and displace America, particularly from the western Pacific.

We simply are not prepared to cope with these extraordinary new dynamics.

Every major country in the region, including Australia, does more trade with China than it does with the US, and that trade is critically important to global prosperity, including our own.  Yet, strategically, China is boldly flexing its muscle, including in the South China Sea, where it has built military bases in contested waters aimed at controlling the world’s most important sea lanes, and key western approaches to Taiwan, Japan and Korea.  It is plainly seeking to displace the US, with which we are so aligned, as our region’s major power.

This is not just a change in the “software” of international trade and relations in our area, it is a change in the “operating system”.  It poses enormous challenges, the likes of which we have not seen since the 1940s.  If we get this wrong, we will end up poorer, weaker, fragile and more vulnerable.  In the face of this, we need to have a sober, mature and foresighted debate about what is truly important to us, about what makes us different and sets us apart.  In any contest, you need to know what you mean to keep; what’s not negotiable.  But we’re not having that debate; instead, we’re pretending that everything will go on as usual.

This complacency is evident in the decade spent struggling to sign contracts for 12 submarines that we are told are such a vital deterrent.  At the earliest, the first may reach us by the middle of the 2030s, the last perhaps in the 2050s.  It was seen as a priority in 2009, making it all the more staggering that there has not been greater urgency recently, given the dramatic change in our strategic environment.  Perhaps an even more frightening reflection of our complacency is that we have not built the strategic fuel reserves that we committed to having in place under the terms of the International Energy Agency.

We have little liquid fuel self-sufficiency any more, and 40 to 45 ships are heading towards Australia at any given time carrying the vital fuel supplies that are absolutely critical to the functioning of our economy.  Many of those ships pass near the southern end of the South China Sea, where the potential for miscalculation, or worse, cannot be discounted, with an interruption to shipping leaving Australia almost crippled within a matter of days.  It is high time we found a deep sense of national unity and common purpose for the sake of peaceful harmony and co-operation as a people.

It also happens to be the case that these great issues before us must be, and can be, the clarion call for the redevelopment of a commitment to the common good, and the restoration of our trust in and regard for our freedoms, and the institutions that underpin them.  I believe thinking Australians would agree that these are the most pressing issues to address at the next federal election.

Source: John Anderson former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and Leader of the Nationals from 1999 to 2005.  His Conversations series, made up of video discussions about pressing issues, with opinion leaders from Australia and abroad, can be found at www.johnanderson.net.au

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