Here's a Christian response to the Millennium Development Goals.
In 2000, global leaders met for a United Nations summit and
agreed to "spare no effort" to rid the world of the scourge of extreme poverty,
which has kept more than 1 billion people in degrading and inhuman
Ten years later, 190 world leaders returned to the U.N.
building in New York to assess our progress on those promises to the world's
poor, and it was hard to escape a sense of significance, but outright
expectations were muted by the "outcomes" document that had already been agreed
upon by governments before they even met.
By common agreement it was little more than diplomatic
speech for, "We're doing OK, but we still have a long way to go." read more
Worldwide, more than 5 million Christian missionaries are connecting with people to share Christ's love with their neighbors. Of these, according to Todd M. Johnson, director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, roughly 30,000 are in the parts of the world where little is known about Christ. Each day these people put their lives on the line to share the gospel with those who may otherwise never know Him.
Evangelism is built on relationships, which take years to establish. With the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, sometimes it's hard to imagine that in some parts of the globe people are beaten, jailed and killed for their faith. The danger of Christians taking an extreme approach to other belief systems is that it could bring about a tsunami of disaster for the missionaries and other humanitarian groups around the world. read more
last few weeks have provided a fascinating insight into U.S.-Israel relations
and how the leaders of both countries see the Iran nuclear threat. Monday’s Oval Office meeting was important,
but it needs to be put in context with recent statements by CIA Director Leon
Panetta and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Let me
this was the first meeting between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu,
it would have been great. The President was warm and friendly. He reaffirmed the
“special relationship” and “unbreakable bond” between the U.S. and Israel. He
said he trusted the Prime Minister and appreciated the steps Mr. Netanyahu is
taking towards peace and security. Netanyahu publicly invited Obama to come to
Israel and meet there, and Obama smiled and said, “I’m ready.” read more
It is a decision that is both disappointing and
troubling. By a vote of 5-4, the
Supreme Court dealt a damaging blow to First Amendment law for religious
organizations in the case of Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.
The Supreme Court was presented with the
following question: "May a public law school condition its official
recognition of a student group-and the attendant use of school funds and
facilities-on the organization's agreement to open eligibility for membership
and leadership to all students?" read more
Christianity has always had its controversies and robust debates. The charismatic movement alone has been riddled with arguments over flamboyant ministers, the so-called prosperity gospel and modern-day apostles and prophets.
The same types of debates also have rattled atheism. The most recent major controversy was the defection of the late Anthony Flew—once called the most famous atheist in the world—who in 2004 said evidence and science led him to conclude there was a God. read more
Israeli prime minister
Benjamin Netanyahu's strategy is now clear.
the worst week in U.S.-Israel relations in 35 years, Israeli prime minister
Benjamin Netanyahu came to Washington Monday and gave a powerful
and effective speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee
(AIPAC) gala dinner at the Washington Convention Center, warning the world to
stop Iran - or Israel will - and respectfully but directly challenging the
Obama administration on Jerusalem and the peace process.
Netanyahu received scores of standing ovations from the 7,800 guests in
attendance, the biggest event in the history of AIPAC. More than half of the
members of the U.S. House and Senate were there, as were ambassadors from more
than 50 countries and many top Israeli officials, including defense
minister Ehud Barak and opposition leader Tzipi Livni. The longest and most
sustained came when the prime minister firmly resisted the policy of President
Obama, who seeks to divide Jerusalem and stop Israel from building
"settlements" in East Jerusalem. read more
Two people have been overlooked in the
middle of the Tiger Woods scandal. The consequences of his actions upon their
lives will only be seen years down the road. Of course, I am referring to his
Family breakdown is not limited to
celebrities or the rich and famous. I know this all too well. read more
you ever wondered why pornography seems to hypnotize the male brain, or
why it can override all logic, sometimes to the point of ruining a
guy's life? William Struthers has the answers. A neuroscientist and
professor at Wheaton College, Struthers has researched what goes on in
the mind of a man when he looks at pornography. His findings are
enlightening. Our conversation with him hit on a variety of topics,
such as why porn seems to be worse for Christians than non-Christians
and how single men can find hope. Don't miss this interview from New Man E-magazine.
New Man: What goes on in a man's brain when he's looking at pornography?
think even before you answer that question you have to know a little
bit about how a man's brain is built. Obviously it starts developing in
the womb. The critical part in making a masculine brain is
testosterone. It causes the brain to develop along a certain pathway.
That's what makes little boys different from little girls. You'll
notice that a baby boy likes to look at things, but a baby girl likes
to look at faces more.
The next big chemical changes
take place during puberty, when the brain becomes cued in to sexual
maturity. Every brain has certain parts that are more masculine or
feminine. What you find during this time is that the masculine parts of
the brain are really triggered by visual stimuli. This goes back even
to the example of babies—the boys are more interested in looking at
things. This visual preference shows up very clearly with pornography.
tests, when men are placed in brain scanning devices and look at stills
of naked women or video of couples engaged in intercourse, the visual
parts of a man's brain light up more than a woman's. The example I use
in the book is that, to a man, pornography is like a high definition
television. For whatever reason, it tends to draw in men reflexively
and maintain hold over them. Just like when you're looking at TVs in
Best Buy, the HDTV is going to grab your attention more than the
standard definition. To a woman's brain, it's all standard definition.
So pornography lends itself to a man's brain.
critical thing for a man's brain when looking at pornography is that
many men will use pornography to masturbate. Once again, when you look
at what goes on in the brain around an orgasm, it is the parts of the
brain that are involved in reinforcement. They are the same parts that
activate when a person eats or drinks or takes addictive drugs.
when you start pairing the visual image of pornography, which men see
incredibly well and are almost hypnotized by, and if you combine that
with the reinforcement of masturbating or acting out sexually, you're
laying down a powerful neurological habit where the orgasm reinforces
the response to pornography.
Within our larger
Christian worldview, the purpose of the brain reinforcing the response
to an orgasm is to bind a man to his wife. This response ties you to
whatever is sanctioned with it. In the context of marriage between a
husband and a wife, this binding is a good thing. If, however, this
sexual response is bound to something else, like a pornographic image,
you are bound to it and you develop an attachment to it. This is a
neurological process as much as a spiritual one.
New Man: Does
this process only happen when looking at extreme pornographic
images—such as naked pictures or video—or does it apply to anything we
are sexually drawn to?
lot of that is culturally defined. All men are drawn to look for nudity
and the female form, but how much depends on the culture you grow up
in. If you are in a conservative culture where the female form is
taboo, a little female skin may get you sexually aroused. If you are in
a culture where there is a lot of sexual imagery, you may need even
more than a naked body in order to elicit a sexual response. To
continue the metaphor, if you've been watching HDTV for a while, you
want a bigger screen. You've gotten used to it.
our culture, which is hypersexual, many men will need to escalate their
pornography usage. Some men will develop fetishes and go to specific
Web sites or look at particular types of women. They are training their
brains to only respond to that one thing. Other men will view multiple
Web sites with multiple different models and types of pornography,
training themselves to only be aroused by lots of women doing lots of
different things. Then, when they go to their one wife whose appearance
doesn't change and generally keeps to the same sexual script, it
doesn't arouse the man anymore.
New Man: That's
fascinating. Why does it seem sometimes like Christian men can have a
greater struggle with pornography than non-Christians?
you don't see sexually acting out as a spiritual matter, then you don't
have the same issues as a Christian, who sees it as sin or a moral
failing. Christians will have emotions like guilt and shame related to
their pornographic use, and that can make it worse. They feel a
self-loathing because of their issue, and they try to soothe that
loathing by acting out sexually. That momentary orgasm response of
relief and pleasure gets rid of the shame for a moment. It's a cycle
that gets worse over time, even more so for men of faith.
important thing to understand is that viewing pornography and sexually
acting out is not just done because it causes pleasure. It can be done
as a way of relieving stress, dealing with depression, or done just out
of a compulsion. Some men see it as a reward. They've been good all
week and they deserve it.
Some men are narcissists.
Actually, that's a personality type that attracts a lot of pastors. We
have to be careful when dealing with pastors in recovery because
sometimes they'll talk too openly about it so that they can be admired,
but they will draw others unnecessarily into the issue.
point is that you wouldn't treat a heroin addict the same way you would
someone who is depressed or someone who has a compulsive disorder. So
when we rightly understand the particular reason why men are viewing
pornography, we have a better chance of helping them. Rather than just
saying, "It's an addiction," we have to find the reason why men are
acting out and develop behavioral patterns to deal with the issue.
New Man: Is there hope for men who are stuck in this habit to rewire their brains?
as you are creating neurological habits out of your sexual immorality,
so too can you also create neurological habits out of sexual purity.
The same rules that govern how you got to this point can also be used
to get you out.
Imagine that you were addicted to
purity and compassion. You would feel the same lack of freedom to
control yourself, but you wouldn't be able to stop yourself from doing
good things. That process of being neurologically unable to fall prey
to temptation is called sanctification. As I make small decisions, they
have long-lasting neurological consequences for me. That can be good or
The other important part is having a right
understanding of what our sexuality is for. It is not primarily about
reproducing. If that were the case, every man should get married, no
man should have sex with his wife after menopause, and there would be
no place for single men and women.
Also, you hear all
kinds of crazy things about men being wired to spread our seed [or our]
being biologically promiscuous and women being more selective. That's
just rubbish. When you look at the statistics, women are just as
promiscuous as men. It's just that men tend to over-report their
experiences and women tend to under-report them.
other thing is, it's not just about pleasure. If that were the case,
men should just sit around masturbating all day. Neither reproducing
nor pleasure is the primary purpose for sexuality.
primary nature of our sexuality is tied to the fact that we are made in
the relational nature of the image of God and that sex is about knowing
and being known. It is about speaking goodness into someone else and
having them speak goodness to you. That takes place in a unique way in
the context of marriage between a man and a woman, and it models God's
exclusive love for His people or Jesus' exclusive love for His church.
we also need to move away from understanding sexuality as solely
between mates. Sexuality affects every relationship we have. I can be a
father figure to many young men on my college campus, but I'm a father
to my son in a different way. I'm a son to my parents, but I can be a
spiritual son to older men and women. I can be a spiritual brother to
women who aren't my wife, but I have a unique relationship with my wife
that is exclusive. All these relationships are affected by our
sexuality. It's about intimacy that is being made into a relational
image of God.
New Man: Single guys have a unique situation. Any advice for them?
our culture, and this is exacerbated in the church, single men feel
trapped because they don't have an outlet for their sexuality. This is
because they only see their sexuality as genital. When they can see
their sexuality in a relational context, like I was talking about a
minute ago, then they can be freed up of feeling the weight of having a
sexual outlet. They need to understand that sexuality isn't just about
pleasure and that they can channel that energy into their relationships
and service. Combine that with the fact that the sexual drive will die
down with age, and there's hope for them.
important for the rest of the church. When we understand they can be
ministers for good in a way that a married man can't be, then we give
them greater esteem and a higher place in the church. Just because
married is the norm, it doesn't mean it is the ideal. The church
doesn't value chastity as a lifelong decision anymore, it only sees it
as a holding pattern until marriage. That's not biblical. The church
desperately needs the service that single men can give. Without it, the
church cannot become what it is supposed to be.
Concerned Americans have been shaken by sobering images from ubiquitous news footage of rubble and rescue in Haiti after a magnitude 7 earthquake rocked the tiny poor Caribbean nation earlier this month, prompting many to ask, "Where is God and why would He allow such extensive suffering?"
Whether it is an earthquake or some other adversity that turns our lives upside down, Christians grapple with trying to reconcile God's sovereignty and His role in human suffering, including our own personal afflictions. I believe there are important truths about God and suffering that we need to keep in mind. read more
In the aftermath of what the Red Cross, United Nations and other agencies now consider the greatest tragedy in the history of our Western Hemisphere—the massive 7.0 earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti—the reaction by leaders and the common man were predictable.
The immediate response to this incomparable human tragedy by governments, world relief agencies and religious organizations is the only bright spot in this dark episode of human drama. An event like this “natural” disaster could happen anywhere at anytime and reduces us all to simply being human. Tragedies like this graphically remind us of the fragility of our existence on this unstable planet we call Earth. read more
Thanksgiving approaches once again, I am reminded of so many people who are
learning to be thankful despite their suffering. However I want to encourage them to go one better — I believe we
can even learn to be thankful for suffering.
is a common response to question God's goodness when we endure hardships — whether physical limitations, illness, job loss, the death of a loved one, you
name it. read more
You can't turn on the TV, listen to radio or read a newspaper without confronting some information about the raging debate on health care. Surveys continue to show that Americans are not well-informed on the issue and are struggling to figure out who is telling the truth about existing needs, the financial implications of the policies under consideration, and how they will personally be affected.
Because so much of the debate relates to the needs of the poor and disadvantaged, Americans are playing this one a bit more cautiously than usual. Most adults define themselves as living a middle-class life, and believe their levels of comfort are a direct result of their own hard work and diligence. As politicians plead their case regarding health care provisions, citizens are conflicted, vacillating between a hard-line stance that expects others to work as hard as they have to get good health care and showing some compassion toward those who are less fortunate.
Views of Poverty Our surveys underscore the fact that about three-quarters of all adults believe poverty is one of the most serious issues facing the nation. Even more significantly, most Americans also contend that when it comes to alleviating poverty, that's mainly the government's responsibility. Two-thirds of adults look to the government to solve issues related to poverty - including health care deficiencies. Just one out of every five adults believes that solving poverty is an individual duty, and a mere one out of 25 people assigns that task to non-profit organizations, and another one in 25 assigns it to churches.
As we assess how individuals deal with poverty on a personal level, we find that Americans do get involved, but in a kind of arms-length manner. For instance, the most common responses are for people to give money, food, and clothing to someone else to get the job done. In contrast, the most personal responses are the least common. Relatively few Americans talk directly with the needy, tutor them, build homes for them, visit them, befriend them, or engage in other types of personal activities to address the issue.
One might say, then, that we mean well but we're too busy, too disinterested, or feel too inadequate to actually address poverty personally, head-on. Given that mind set, it's no wonder that the current health care debate centers not on what every American can personally do to help alleviate human suffering, but on how we can get the government to provide a more efficient alternative that will neither break the bank nor hinder our lifestyle.
In essence, what Americans seem to want is increased government services, more efficient delivery of services, no increase in taxes, and no personal involvement in the process. In a nutshell, our argument is: it's not my fault and it's not my job, so let the paid professionals deal with it.
Jesus the Healer Given the fact that devout Christians mirror these attitudes, it raises the question of what a Christian's obligation to the poor is in the matter of health care. Should Christians feel comfortable accepting the "let the government handle it" philosophy?
If a Christian were to turn to the Bible for guidance in these matters, a simple read through the gospel according to Luke would provide some answers. Luke, the author of the third gospel account in the New Testament, was a physician and would have been especially sensitive to how Jesus dealt with people's medical needs.
In fact, Luke's narrative contains 26 different passages describing how Jesus responded to people's physical and medical needs. The book shows that Jesus healed hundreds of people. But it also gives us some consistent patterns from Jesus' ministry to the poor and suffering people He encountered that we might use as principles to guide our personal responses to today's health care challenges.
There were at least seven noteworthy perspectives that underlie Jesus' health care strategy.
Jesus healed people because He believed that good health matters. People with serious medical challenges lack hope - and people without hope have no reason to keep living. Since life is a precious gift from God, and He wants people to enjoy and celebrate life, as well as the God who gave it to them, restoring health was a viable means to an end. Whenever He had the opportunity to do so, He healed people and sent them on their way.
Jesus invested Himself in their healing because He loved and cared for people. In Luke 7:13 we read that "His heart overflowed with compassion" for those people. He did not heal them because it showed His power or grabbed attention as much as He healed them because He felt their pain and knew their desolation. Healing was a practical demonstration that God was not wrathful but graceful.
Jesus healed everyone who presented a medical need because He saw no reason to screen some out as unqualified. Whether He knew them or not, He helped them. Whether they supported Him or not, He helped them. Whether they were adherents of His faith or not, He helped them. He did not set up conditions and hoops in order for people to qualify. He just healed them because He could.
Jesus healed every kind of illness He encountered. No malady was too simple (such as a fever) or too complex (including paralysis, leprosy, and demonization). He even took on the impossible - death - and raised people from the dead on three separate occasions!
Jesus pursued them because He saw Himself as a servant. A servant does what he can to address the needs of those being served, whether the needy one comes to the servant or the servant must go to the needy. Jesus did not get caught up in the ego games of who should pursue who; when He saw a need He went out of His way to address it.
Jesus allowed them to disrupt His schedule because He realized that people's pain and suffering was their top focus in life. Because the main value in His life was giving love, things like remaining on schedule, following His pre-determined agenda, maintaining orderliness and predictability all took a back seat to the chance to affect other people's lives with genuine love.
Jesus expected His closest followers to heal others. The needs of the people were substantial and providing a healing touch grabbed people's attention so they could see Him for who He was and what His message to them was. Consequently, Jesus included healing in the marching orders He gave to not only the 12 apostles, but to another group of 72 disciples that He had been mentoring in the ways of grace. (Luke 9:1; 10: 1, 9, 17)
Jesus Health Care Strategy In short, Jesus Christ showed us that anyone who follows Him is expected to address the most pressing needs of others. You can describe Jesus' health care strategy in four words: whoever, whatever, whenever, wherever. Whoever needed to be healed received His healing touch. Whatever affliction they suffered from, He addressed it. Whenever the opportunity to heal arose, He seized it. Wherever they happened to be, He took care of it.
Contrast the Jesus model with the preferred American model. The latter might be described as deciding to throw some money at the problem - but not too much - so that somebody else can do what needs to be done, for those who qualify, in a manner that does not inconvenience us. The former approach was the whoever, whatever, whenever, wherever strategy.
It's quite a contrast, isn't it?
The Underlying Foundation Don't overlook the fact that Jesus called on His followers to personally attend to the health care needs of the poor and disenfranchised. Not only did Jesus model healing for His followers, but He supported such outreach with ample philosophical underpinnings. You see Him teaching His followers before, during and after instances of healing. We are familiar with the principles, but perhaps not their application to health needs.
Do to others what you would like them to do to you (Luke 7:31). Jesus asked His followers to see themselves in the people who yearned for a healing touch and to respond accordingly. Although He was mocked and opposed for His efforts to heal, such opposition never stopped Him from treating others as we would want to be treated.
Produce results (or, in biblical language, bear fruit) (Luke 6:43-45). These days, we might think of His teaching as admonishing His followers to not pass the buck. He reminded them they had been given gifts and resources so that they could affect reality. He warned them against simply discussing solutions and instructed them to conceive and implement solutions.
Do whatever it takes to love God and all people with your heart, mind, strength and soul (Luke 4:8, 6:27-36). Jesus used love as a verb, not an adjective. He exhorted His followers to prove their love by doing compassionate things for those in need. Jesus showed them what was important by focusing on the act of giving, rather than receiving. Often, those whom He healed did not thank Him, and He was never paid for his medical care - but He healed them regardless, because it enabled Him to love those who lacked hope.
Always try to do the will of God (Luke 12:29-31). Your life is not about what you want; to be a follower of Jesus your desires should match God's. The way we demonstrate that we understand this principle is by allowing God to change your heart, and by following His plan.
A Personal Challenge So, if Jesus went to such lengths to put feet on His health care strategy, what is yours? He did not seem inclined to wait for the government to provide for the poor. His strategy called for people to help people, through the power and ability that He entrusted to His followers. One must wonder if the American preference for government programs is the best solution to the existing needs - and if a nation where 83 percent of adults label themselves "Christian" can blend that religious connection with a desire for state-based solutions.
Government clearly has a role in people's lives; the Bible supports its existence and circumscribed functions. It is unfortunate that when God's people, collectively known as the Church, fail to exhibit the compassion and service that He has called us to provide, we are comfortable with the government acting as a national safety net. In a society that has become increasingly self-centered and self-indulgent, we simply expand our reliance upon the government to provide solutions and services that are the responsibility of Christ followers. Some Christians have heeded the call, as evidenced by the medical clinics, pregnancy centers and even hospitals across the nation that were initiated and funded by small numbers of dedicated believers who grasped this responsibility. Imagine what an impact the Church would have on society if it truly reflected the model Jesus gave us of how to care for one another!
As we think about the elements embedded in the national debate, perhaps each of us should be asking ourselves a few simple questions. What kinds of people within your realm of influence need health care assistance - and how do you respond? How do you figure out who to help - and who to serve them in partnership with? How do you decide when and how often to invest yourself in helping poor people who have health needs? What limitations do you place on the kind of health care assistance you offer to the needy? What gifts, talents, and resources can you be more aggressive at applying to the health care needs of the poor?
I don't know what God is asking or preparing you to do in relation to the needs of the poor and disadvantaged. All I know is that we have been told to imitate Christ, and His health care strategy is whoever, whatever, whenever, wherever. read more
It is critical that the church in America understands the times and what needs to be done now. The natural things speak of the invisible. Natural happenings on the earth are revealing something that is going on in the spiritual realm. There is a great spiritual conflict with a rising tide of Islamic boldness being manifested. Several happenings are converging this week. First of all, our President has recently proclaimed, honored, encouraged the Muslim holy days of prayer and fasting called Ramadan. He was very silent on the National Day of Prayer but very vocal on the support of Ramadan. Interestingly at the same time a major Christian leader of the Emergent Church called for forty days of fasting and prayer in the same Ramadan period with the goal that the church will better understand our Muslim friends. We are all for understanding but we must have spiritual discernment as to the spiritual dark powers that are being invoked into our nation.
Cause for Concern
At the same time, on the 25th of September, Muslims are calling for a Muslim Day of Prayer in Washington D.C. They are calling for 50,000 Muslims to gather and pray on the D.C. Mall. This is the exact word of one of the Sheikhs who is leading this historic gathering, “Muslims should march on the White House. We are going to the White House so that Islam will be victorious, Allah willing, and the White House will become into a Muslim house.” These are not empty words. They speak of a dark spiritual intent and a coming day of great trouble to America.
A Divine Moment
Now one of these events is enough to awaken us to this significant throbbing moment, but when they all converge it becomes a massive spiritual alarm that must be responded to by the praying Church. However, I believe in this moment of divine providence God has raised up on the stage of history a little “Esther” that if we pray and fast for her she could be a major voice to expose the dark under-belly of Islam and radiate a bright hope for a day of salvation for Muslims in America.
On Monday, Rifqa Bary, a young 17-year-old woman, will be in the headlines of U.S. news. Four years ago, while living in a very devout and radical Muslim home, Rifqa met Jesus in a powerful way as her savior. She hid her conversion, began praying secretly, and began hiding her bible from her parents. Then, on Facebook, her love for Jesus was exposed to the radical Muslim community in Ohio. Rifqa’s father demanded that she renounce Jesus or he would kill her as is commanded by the Koran. As a radiant believer in Jesus she refused to renounce her Lord and fled to Orlando where she was taken in and cared for by a Christian Church and family. Now, the father is appealing to the courts to bring her back under his custody. Major television networks have already covered her story. How must the Church of America respond in this moment for our sister who is a part of the Body of Christ?
A Major Sign
This convergence, I believe, is urgently summoning us in the midst of the rising tide of Islamic influence in America to recognize that our God is above every god and that if we return to Him with all of our hearts and call upon Him with fasting and prayer then God could use what the enemy meant for evil to bring about a great day of salvation for Muslims in America, of which Rifqa is but a major sign.
Here is The Call
First of all, we cannot be passive as a Church to let these kinds of developments go on without being challenged in the spirit. Our fight is not against Muslims, it is against principalities, powers, and forces of darkness. We are calling the Church of America at the end of Ramadan, from September 21st through 25th, to five days of concerted prayer. On Monday, we must pray that God would grant supernatural wisdom to the courts so that the testimony of Jesus would be proclaimed and that the best situation for Rifqa and her family would take place. We must pray for Rifqa to be bold in proclaiming Jesus that even thousands of Muslims would hear and be awakened to the love of Christ. She has already said that this is not about her but about many Muslims coming to Jesus. We must pray for her lawyers who are being bullied, threatened, and challenged on every side. On Friday, Sept. 25, the Muslim Day of Prayer, we are calling the Church of America to fast and pray that Muslims would be moved by the Holy Spirit, convicted by the testimony of Christ, and even be visited by Jesus in dreams. We must pray that God would restrain the spiritual powers behind Islam and grant us the great awakening that we desperately need for America.
Let us hear the call to prayer and not miss this moment,
In the last several years I have witnessed at least two astounding miracles where Christian ministries have experienced a literal rebirth.
The first is a doctrinal miracle. The Worldwide Church of God, founded by Herbert W. Armstrong in 1934, reexamined its doctrines and practices after Armstrong's death in 1986. This led to a complete theological reformation to Christian orthodoxy in the 1990s. Today, no longer viewed as a cult, the denomination has changed its name to Grace Communion International and is a member of the National Association of Evangelicals. read more
Today U.S. journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling returned home to their friends and family in an emotional reunion after North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il issued a special pardon. Their return came after former U.S. President Bill Clinton made an unannounced visit to Pyongyang to help secure their release.
Ling and Lee had been found guilty of allegedly entering North Korea illegally across the Chinese border in March and later sentenced to 12 years of hard labor. They reportedly were being held at a “guest house” during their confinement.
The North Korean News Agency said the two reporters’ pardon and release was a sign of North Korea’s “humanitarian and peace-loving policy.”
That might be the case in this instance, but let’s look at the facts:
· North Korea is suspected of detaining more political and religious prisoners than any other country in the world. Open Doors, an international Christian organization which supports persecuted believers (www.OpenDoorsUSA.org), puts the number of prisoners at least 200,000, including 40,000 to 60,000 Christians.
· North Koreans can be imprisoned for virtually any state-defined crime such as owning a Bible, making a negative comment about the regime, failing to have a picture of Kim Il-Sung in their house and traveling to China to look for food and freedom.
· KimJong-Il’s government keeps its citizens in its grip through systematic use of torture, public and private executions, brutal imprisonment, lack of due process of law, starvation and even forced abortions.
· North Korea has been known to arrest not only the suspected dissident but also three generations of his/her family to “root out” the bad influence.
· This year North Korea was re-designated by the U.S. State Department as one of eight “Countries of Particular Concern” for its severe religious freedom violations. The Open Doors World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians has ranked the hermit country as the worst offender of religious freedom for seven years in a row.
The Associated Press reported last month that North Korea publicly executed a Christian woman for distributing Bibles, based on information it received from South Korean activists. Ri Hyon Ok, 33, was also accused of spying for South Korea and the United States and organizing dissidents, according to the Associated Press. She was executed in the northwestern city of Ryongchon near the border with China on June 16, according to a report from an alliance of several dozen anti-North Korean groups.
Ri's parents, husband and three children were sent to a political prison camp in the northeastern city of Hoeryong the following day, according to the report, citing unidentified documents it said were obtained from North Korea.
This is the shocking reality of what takes place inside this communist country where there is no basic human rights. One colleague of mine who has traveled to North Korea described North Korea “as an on-going nightmare.”
It surely was a nightmare for Kim Young Soon, a special witness during North Korea Freedom Week in April before a group of Congressmen in Washington, D.C. The North Korean refugee is one of the few survivors of the infamous Yodok political prison camp. She was thrown into prison for nine years on a trumped up charge of divulging a secret about Kim Jong-Il’s marriage. Her parents and four children were also imprisoned. In the Yodok prison camp, her parents died of malnutrition, an eldest son drowned. Her husband was shot to death in 1970 while attempting to cross the border to escape from North Korea. Mrs. Kim’s youngest son was arrested in 1988 while attempting to cross the border and was put in prison for four years. He was executed in 1993 by a firing squad because he tried to escape from North Korea again. Mrs. Kim escaped from North Korea and resettled in South Korea. She has made it her life’s mission to expose the cruelty and truth about the prison camps in North Korea.
She testified: “I entered prison camp No. 15 at Yodok. I spent nine years there; treated like an animal. What made me feel most mortified was the fact that my father, mother, daughter and three sons, who were innocent of any crime, were also sent to Yodok, all because of me.
“We were forced to engage in heavy labor day and night. On August 5, 1971, I lost my father. I had to wrap his body in a straw mat since there were no coffins in Yodok. Before long, my mother also died of malnutrition. Unbearable sadness cut my heart to pieces.
“Still with tears in my eyes, I was struck by another painful accident when my eldest son drowned. I was nearly mad with grief. Yodok was really a hell to me. I cried to God asking that He might burn them all to death in Yodok with lightning.
“Every mountain and field in Yodok was covered with dead bodies because of malnutrition and hunger. In 1973, two detainees were killed by public execution at a place between Sector 3 and 4 on charges of trying to escape from prison. Countless numbers of detainees were killed by public execution and torture. Due to malnutrition and hunger, little children withered to death with their stomachs swollen. Adult people were looking everywhere for young rats which they believed to be a kind of medicine to save their children. And they literally ate up all the snakes in Yodok to avoid painful death from malnutrition.”
Yes, we should rejoice for Ling and Lee. They now have complete freedom in the United States.
But please join me in praying and advocating for those who have not received pardons; for those languishing in the “hell” that is North Korea.
I recently attended Sunday services at an impressive 19th-century church in London. In a building with seating for 3,000 in ornate pews, a handful of elderly people sat there … in chairs set up in the foyer.
The service, held in a vibrant city full of millions of people, reminded me of a funeral. Not the funeral of a person – the funeral of a once-great institution. In the past 40 years, 1600 churches in England, with hundreds of years of ministry behind them, have shut their doors, according to an architectural preservation group called the Victorian Society. read more
I was 13 years old and somehow convinced my dad, an avid Frank Sinatra fan, to play "Off The Wall" while driving to my uncle's house. He reluctantly agreed. For me, it was the coolest 45-minute road trip and probably the most painful for him. Little did I know that the young voice I heard on the eight-track tape player would eventually become the subject of worldwide praise.
Thirty years later, I find myself talking to people every day who look for ways to move past the things that hold them back. Michael Jackson was an expert at breaking barriers. He was extraordinarily talented and accomplished things that most only dream about. He had the best-selling album of all time. He was one of the highest paid entertainers in history, pulling in over $750 million and giving more money to charities than any other celebrity. He arguably changed the way the world dances. read more
An Internet search of the term “postmodernism” will reveal, among many things, an advertisement from an online book distributor stating, “Millions of titles, new and used!” Obviously an enormous amount has been written on the topic. Webster defines “postmodernism” as: “Of, relating to, or being of an era after a modern one, or being any of various movements in reaction to modernism typically characterized by a return to traditional materials and forms, or being a theory that involves radical reappraisal of modern assumptions about culture, identity, history, or language.” read more
If you have a dad who loves you well, celebrate him with joy this Father’s Day. But keep in mind that outside of Norman Rockwell’s America, Father’s Day can be a source of great pain.
Many children today don’t live with their biological father. According to fathersforlife.org, the figure approaches 40 percent nationally and is almost double that in the inner city. Add to that those who simply have a strained relationship with their father over some disappointed expectation, and the pain multiplies greatly. I know many people who find these Hallmark days painful for the love they lacked because a father was absent, or even abusive.
The fallout from absent fathers has been well-documented. Eight-five percent of children with behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes, as do 90 percent of homeless children, 71 percent of dropouts and 63 percent of suicides. It seems we were made for the love of a father, and the pain of not having one has dire consequences.
That was driven home to me one day when I had jury duty. A 23-year-old woman I’d never met walked down a row of empty chairs to sit in the one right next to me in the assembly room. I greeted her briefly, curious why she’d chosen to sit next to me.
Moments later, she grabbed me around the arm and her eyes filled with tears. “I think my dad hates me,” she said through her sniffles, choking back the sob that hung in her throat. Then she detailed the fight they’d had the night before. Her dad was upset about the provocative way she often dressed, and she was certain he had no respect for her choices.
I walked her back through the conversation, a surrogate dad who suggested that her father’s fears were less about judging her than they were trying to protect her from men with less than honorable intentions.
“So you think my dad doesn’t hate me?” she asked at the end.
“I have no idea. He’s your dad, but I would be surprised if he didn’t love you very much.”
She smiled and assured me she’d go by his house that evening and talk with her dad. Dads are too precious to throw away over a misunderstanding. Suddenly her name was called for jury duty and she stood to leave. On a whim I grabbed her hand. “Nicole, can I ask how things are with your heavenly dad?”
Her twisted face told me my question had confused her. A moment passed. “Do you mean God?”
I nodded. “I grew up in church,” she said. “I hate him.”
Not all are so honest who have been so disillusioned. Unfortunately, religion often teaches us about a God who is an angry judge, rather than the loving Father Jesus told us he was. In one of his most beloved stories, The Parable of the Prodigal, he told about a son lost in his own selfishness and the affection of a father that waited for him to come home. This Father was truly like no other any of us have ever known, regardless of how abusive or how great our earthly fathers might have been.
I smiled as I looked back at Nicole, and whispered to her as if sharing the most incredible of secrets: “As wrong as you might be about your earthly dad, I can tell you you’re dead wrong about your heavenly one.”
Her eyes lit up. “What do you mean?”
“Nicole, you have a father who loves you more than anyone on this planet ever has or ever will.”
The hope that we all have a father who knows us completely but loves us extravagantly is all but lost in our day. It might be time to uncover it again.
Wayne Jacobsen is the author of He Loves Me: Learning to Live in the Father’s Affection. read more
President Barack Obama just issued a proclamation declaring June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. Of course, his declaration poses a problem for most Christians, but his words raise some ideas worth pondering.
In his public statement, Obama said: "LGBT Americans have made, and continue to make, great and lasting contributions that continue to strengthen the fabric of American society. There are many well-respected LGBT leaders in all professional fields, including the arts and business communities." read more