• GEELONG/USA – Gullibility Concern
• USA – Steve Martin’s ‘Atheists Don’t Have No Songs’
• CHINA – Financial Times: 224 Million Christians by 2030!
• LOS ANGELES – Epic RISEN Drama
• DONCASTER, UK – Raised From the Dead!
• ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Bible Translation Software Breakthrough
• ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT – Case Dropped Against Arrested Christians
Genuine concern over gullible Christians
Charles Schwab emails this thought-provoking note…
I found Kate Bowler’s recent well-written New York Times article, Death, the Prosperity Gospel and Me, both very interesting and very relevant. Link:
Sad reflection indeed
The author, I believe, in pointing to some of the originations of the ‘American-style Prosperity Gospel’ – and in other observations -.has written something every Pentecostal leader should seriously take to heart and consider what the Bible really does say (in a contextual way and backed by proper exegesis) about death and illness and healing and money and so on. Why? Let me openly share the following…
It is a sad reflection that any church movement – especially such as the prominent Pentecostal movement with so much to offer – has for a large part drunk deeply at the fountain of misinterpretation and hence unwittingly has become a source of aggravation to many who suffer…believing all along that they are teaching and offering the real word of the Lord.
Of course God can heal and does, even as he can bring financial increase and so on…but he also allows and uses suffering and such to happen and through it all demonstrates his love, Father-heart and caring. And often in supernatural ways.
But quite often I just tire of having to face certain people – whom I acknowledge God does genuinely use to bless others in need – who incorporate in their beliefs as absolute fact, things that can be shown to be incorrect from experience, and more importantly from scripture, and thus prove harmful.
It appears that others are also troubled by such matters.
Over the past three months in this mini-mag, theologian Dr Jim McClure mentioned 15 such dangerous concerns in his Bible Perspectives series on Confusion in the Church.
And, in his first March In the Line of Fire article, the eminent Dr Michael Brown cautions gullible Christians about misleading ‘promises’ by money-seeking so-called prophets (referencing the Didache, chapter 11 warnings to the early church) – Charisma link: http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/in-the-line-of-fire/55548-gullibility-the-great-sin-of-the-charismatic-church?utm_source=In%20the%20Line%20of%20Fire&utm_medium=email&utm_content=subscriber_id:1160414&utm_campaign=Blogger%20-%20Michael%20Brown%20-%202016-03-02 appropriately titled Gullibility, the Great Sin of the Charismatic Church.
Gullibility indeed! So heavily burdened, Dr Brown challenges Pentecostals and charismatics:
- ‘How can we be so foolish?’
- ‘When will we learn?’
- ‘Did Jesus shed his blood for this?’
He wraps up with ‘I’m totally for taking the leap of faith and diving into the deep waters of obedience, but by God’s grace, I will do so with my eyes wide open and my feet planted firmly on the word of God. There is a vast difference between faith and foolishness.’
Tongue-in-cheek, he quotes in the heart of his article: ‘In the words associated with circus showman P T Barnum (said either by him or about him), “There’s a sucker born every minute.”’
Christians who read and know their Bible, apply verses in context and use sound interpretive methods will not be gullible!
Charles Schwab lives in Geelong, Victoria. His vision is to encourage churches and leaders whenever the Lord ‘opens ministry doors’ and he is open to readers contacting him about this item: cmschwab2 AT hotmail.com
Steve Martin’s Atheists Don’t Have No Songs
Christians love to sing meaningful hymns and choruses praising God. Easter is no exception and Jesus the Saviour of the world and all he has accomplished for sinners is highlighted and celebrated.
Over the centuries precious songs such as the ever popular John Newton’s Amazing Grace (see this month’s Encouragement) have touched hearts, had Christians rejoicing and dissipated sadness. It’s sad that those who don’t believe in a great God (that’s God with a capital ‘G’ – not a lower case ‘g’) don’t have such blessed music.
In his narration of a funny but pointed GodTube, featuring himself and the Steep Canyon Rangers, Steve Martin comments, ‘You know, religious people have such beautiful music and art; and atheists really have nothing… A little tune called Atheists Don’t Have No Songs.’ (Look out for the small ‘g’!).
The first verse begins ‘Christians have their hymns and pages…’ and the rest is a classic not to be missed. Link: http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=1JFE9JNU&utm_source=GodTube%20Must-See%20Video&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=03/03/2016
Epic biblical drama Risen seeks to answer ‘Can a Roman soldier prove the resurrection a hoax?’
Michael Ireland, Senior Reporter, ASSIST, encourages seeing Risen…
In a fresh take on history’s biggest event, Risen is an epic biblical story of Jesus’ crucifixion and the weeks following, through the eyes of the unbelieving Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), a high-ranking Roman military officer. Clavius and his aide Lucius (Tom Felton) are assigned by Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth) to ensure that Jesus’ radical followers can’t steal his body and claim a resurrection.
Within days, however, the body is missing, putting Clavius on a mission to find it, to disprove the rumours of a risen Messiah and to prevent an uprising in Jerusalem. Clavius is an ambitious Roman soldier who first tries to keep Christ’s body from being stolen after his crucifixion. He then sets out on an angry journey to find the body after it disappears from the sealed and guarded tomb. He’s a bit of a detective.
Risen picks up where The Passion of the Christ left off. Here is why a ragtag group of disciples fanned out across the Roman Empire and changed the course of history. Politically, historically, spiritually … and seeks to answer the question: ‘Why is this story still so important?’
The greatest manhunt in history
Clavius is on the detective assignment of all time: to disprove news of Jesus’ resurrection. Risen filmmakers cast the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection from a sceptic’s point of view, and the result is an exciting and fresh take on one of the world’s most-known stories.
Joseph Fiennes with Tom Felton: Columbia Pictures
AFFIRM Films is known for faith-and family-friendly classics such as War Room, Soul Surfer, Courageous and When the Game Stands Tall. Senior Vice President Rich Peluso leads the creative team behind films that satisfy the faith audience and go beyond to widely inspire, entertain and engage.
Joseph Fiennes (Luther, 2003) shared with CBN News: ‘I think a big component in the movie for me and what I connect to with Clavius is the sense of the second chance, even if it is in the subconscious, which hasn’t quite bubbled to the surface or he has worked out, so I love that component.’
That second chance is exactly why Christ suffered, died and was Risen. Links: www.RisenMovieResources.com
Michael Ireland, a Senior Correspondent for ASSIST, as well as a volunteer Internet Journalist and an Ordained Minister, has served with ASSIST since its beginning in 1989. Michael has reported from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China, and Russia. Link: http://paper.li/Michael_ASSIST/1410485204
FinancialTimes: 224 million Christians within 15 years!
Mark Ellis (left) and Chad Dou, Special to ASSIST, bring this amazing report:
Within 15 years, China should become the country with the most Christians in the world, according to a study. Fenggang Yang, of Purdue University, predicts that China will reach 224 million Christians by the year 2030, as quoted in the UK Financial Times.
‘By my calculations China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon,’ said Yang, an expert in sociology and author of Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule, in the UK Telegraph. ‘It is going to be less than a generation. Not many people are prepared for this dramatic change.
Fervent worship in China
The explosion of Christianity in China will upend the traditional Christian powerhouses of the world. In 2010, the U.S. had around 159 million Protestants, and many observers say congregations are in decline.
‘The number of Christians is extremely underestimated (in China) intentionally because the increase of religion would reflect negatively on government officials,’ said Yang. Currently, there are about 100 million Christians in the world’s most populous nation, which eclipses the 86.7 million-strong membership of the ruling Communist party. As part of a possible passing of the baton, China is now sending missionaries – especially to North Korea.
Jin Hongxin (40) is not interested in the political or missiological implications of Chinese growth. She’s just proud to attend the mega church Liushi, Wenzhou, the city many outside observers call China’s Jerusalem due to its flourishing Christian churches.
‘It is a wonderful thing to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It gives us great confidence,’ she said at an Easter service, as reported by the Telegraph. “If everyone in China believed in Jesus then we would have no more need for police stations. There would be no more bad people and therefore no more crime.”
Megachurch in China
China’s churches started experiencing astronomical growth after the conclusion of the Cultural Revolution in 1976. A successor to Chairman Mao, Deng Xiaoping, reformed politics, liberalised the economy, and opened China to foreign countries.
Then in 1985, a clause was included in the new constitution that promised freedom of belief to Chinese. But the ‘neutrality’ of the party did not cover public meetings. In that light, a printing company was set up in Nanjing, financed by charity, and has become the largest Bible publisher in the whole.
In 2014, a government campaign was launched that demolished Protestant churches in Whenzhou. Before the demolition, the water, electricity, transportation and even phone coverage were cut off in the entire area by government officials, according to Financial Times.
Christianity brings great positive changes
Yang thinks some in the Communist party overestimated the political threat from the church. Christianity has brought positive changes to China, he said. ‘Christianity has been overestimated as a way too severe threat,’ Yang said.
Others see China like the United States in the 1980s when materialism and a booming market economy brought prosperity and contributed to a sense of angst as people drifted from God.
So far, Christianity has brought a sense of belonging and hope to China. In a published Chinese report based on a survey of religious affairs, 69 percent of the Christians started believing because they or a family member suffered illness.
Christianity – once thought of as a byproduct of colonial invasion and the ‘opiate of the masses’ – is now gradually accepted by not only the uneducated and destitute ones but also by those who are more prosperous. According to Financial Times, a survey shows that half of the most affluent people in China publicly believe in religion, and 18% are followers of Jesus Christ.
Mark Ellis is senior correspondent for ASSIST (www.assistnews.net), and also founder of www.GodReports.com, sharing stories and testimonies from the church around the world. Chad Dou is a student at the Lighthouse Christian Academy, Santa Monica, California.
Heart attack victim raised from the dead!
Charles Gardner, Special to ASSIST, brings a good news testimony…
Joe Stevenson from the Yorkshire town of Doncaster, was restored to life after being clinically dead for nearly an hour during hospital treatment has been speaking about his experience at Christian meetings around the country.
The ‘miracle’ happened six years ago, and has been verified by the surgeon involved. In an exclusive interview with this journalist, Joe has shared his amazing story for the purposes of newspaper coverage.
Massive heart attack
Joe was admitted to Doncaster Royal Infirmary for a total knee replacement but, at the initiation of physiotherapy the day after surgery, he suffered a massive heart attack.
For the next 55 minutes he had ‘no cardiac output and no respiratory effort other than what was maintained by the resuscitation team,’ according to Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, Mr A Bruce.
When informed by the patient’s son-in-law that Joe had died, his church friends began to pray – not for the Lord to raise him up, but for his family to be comforted.
Then, amazingly, his heart started beating again – ‘spontaneous cardiac output and respiratory effort were returned,’ said Mr Bruce – and he was in a coma for the next 72 hours. But there was no brain damage and, although initially suffering acute renal failure, this completely settled in time. ‘Having seen him in clinic, he has made an uneventful recovery,’ Mr Bruce added in a letter, January 25, 2011.
Now 75 and in continuing good health, Joe and Wilsie live in Askern.
Joe Stevenson at home with his wife Wilsie (Photo: Charles Gardner)
Resurrection power of Jesus
Dr David Garrard, a senior lecturer at the Assemblies of God Bible College, Mattersey, Doncaster, and a fellow member at the time of the Reachout Christian Fellowship at Doncaster’s Christ Church, said: ‘The miracle of the resurrection power of Christ is evidenced in what happened to Joe.’
Joe was admitted for his operation [surgery] on December 9, 2009. The op itself went smoothly, but it was the following morning, as he lay recovering, that he suffered a cardiac arrest.
Wilsie called their five children, who immediately dropped everything and raced down from all over the country. Then the doctor announced: ‘We have a pulse, but don’t build your hopes.’
‘The medical team had fully expected Joe to be a vegetable due to no oxygen supply to his brain for all that time,’ Wilsie recalled. ‘And though his kidneys were not initially functioning, with regular dialysis on the cards, they eventually returned to normal, to the delight of the medics.’
Joe has since revealed that he had a series of extraordinary visions during his hour of ‘death.’ This included a scene of ‘total chaos on the earth’ with everyone struggling for power and some arguing over clothing and possessions which had become worthless as money no longer had any value.
‘The Lord showed me armies fighting one another, even beginning to kill their own people; young men and women taking people into alleyways, killing them at random and running away, laughing. I saw pillaging and rapes.
‘Then I saw millions of dead bodies inside a massive lean-to, all in different uniforms. And giant earth-moving machines pushing the bodies into a quarry – something like a picture of Armageddon described in the Bible (See Revelation 14.20).’
Dr Garrard explained: ‘I have no difficulty at all accepting what Joe communicates [of his visions] because… they can be backed up by many portions of scripture.’
Joe and Wilsie are currently members of the Millennium Christian Fellowship, Hemsworth, a former mining town in West Yorkshire.
Joe says that in the weeks leading up to his surgery, he had sought a much closer relationship with God as a result of which he experienced ‘a deep cleansing and a strengthening of spirit.’ He now realises that we all need to get back to basic Bible principles of loving one another as one body, with Jesus as head.
Charles Gardner, veteran Cape Town-born British journalist, is working on plans to launch a new UK national newspaper reporting and interpreting the news from a biblical perspective. Link: email@example.com
Recommended revival reading: Charles Gardner’s book Tongues of Fire – The phenomenon that set the world alight, available from Amazon and Sable Publishing.
Render: New software represents a breakthrough in Bible translation
Dan Wooding, ASSIST’s founder, reports good news on Bible translating…
Render, a new kind of software that streamlines the process of translating the Bible for oral cultures, is a triumph of imagination and persistence.
Over one billion people need scripture!
In a news release from Larry Ross Communications (http://alarryross.com ), experts say there are more than 1,800 oral cultures – representing perhaps one billion people – that don’t have the Bible in their own language. Historically, translators have had to create a written language for these groups before creating an audio Bible that people could use, lengthening the translation process by years.
Render, which eliminates the need to create a written language for an oral culture, represents a new way of thinking. With Render, a written translation is no longer required, and non-literate people can join a process that previously excluded them.
A team in Africa working on a Render translation
A partnership of three ministries – Faith Comes By Hearing, Pioneer Bible Translators and Seed Company – developed Render and plans to use it on translation projects beginning this year.
A great new empowering tool
‘Oral communicators are capable of translating scripture into their mother tongue,’ Robin Green, the project manager, said. ‘They just need a translation approach that accommodates their skills and talents.’
Render – one of the meanings of the word is ‘translate’ – facilitates the various aspects of Bible translation, including drafting, peer review, revision, community testing, back translation and consultant checking, and also manages workflow, with the unique aspect of everything being done orally.
It has an elaborate system of checks and balances to ensure accuracy, but just the concept of oral translation historically has encountered scepticism in the academic community. Despite opposition, Robin Green outlined a strategy for oral Bible translation in her master’s thesis in 2007.
Render is an example of translation and recording coming together like never before to create a new tool that will empower oral peoples to participate in creating access to the Bible in their own language.
Recommended: Dan Wooding’s Mary: My Story From Bethlehem to Calvary. ASSIST’s director tells the story of Jesus’ mother through her own eyes and from her point of view, giving insight into her life with her beloved son from birth to death and resurrection. A faithful adaptation of the story of Jesus’ life told from the perspective of Mary. – Link: marythebook.com.
Plus other books by this awarding journalist
Case dropped against Christians arrested for evangelising
Jeremy Reynalds, Senior Correspondent, ASSIST, reports…
A regional prosecuting attorney in Egypt has dismissed a case against three Christians arrested last summer and accused of blasphemy during an evangelistic outreach, their attorney said.
According to a story by Jeff M Sellers, Morning Star News editor, the three Christians, one of them a minor, were being investigated pending possible charges of ‘showing disdain’ to a ‘heavenly religion’ under a statute that in every way but its official title constitutes a blasphemy law.
Attorney general of Alexandria, Chancellor Saeed Abd Al-Mohseen, dismissed the case on February 2, but the ruling was not officially issued until February 24.The prosecutor dismissed the case after an appeal by Hamdi Al-Assuity, attorney for the three Christians arrested on July 11, 2015.
Lack of evidence
‘After the appeal, the case was sent to the general prosecutor in Cairo, who sent it back to the attorney general in Alexandria, who closed the case for the lack of evidence,’ Al-Assuity told MSN.
During the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Fawzy Osama Ibrahim, 16, a first-year high school student, was arrested for handing out small bags of dates to passers-by on the streets of Alexandria. In addition to the dates, a snack Muslims commonly eat when breaking Ramadan’s daytime fast, the bags contained a statement about God’s love and his omniscient nature.
‘The Lord knows all that occurs, for he is the mighty “knower”,’ the message read. ‘He can carry on his shoulders all that is oppressive and exhausting and bring comfort and joy, for he loves you very much.’ The bags also carried the name of an Arabic-language website about Jesus and the Christian faith.
According to MSN, the outreach offended a Salafi Muslim who forcibly detained the teenager and took him to a police station. Later in the evening, Ibrahim called a friend, Stephen Boutros Fayed (21). Fayed and another friend, Shady Saeed (20), went to the police station where Ibrahim was being held, and they were promptly arrested. Despite there being no evidence that the three were handing out dates together, MSN reported police held all three in gaol.
Coptic Christians in Egypt
Two days later, on July 13, the three Christians were released on a 10,000 Egyptian pound (US$1,280) bond, awaiting further investigation by the attorney general’s office.
Immediately after his release, Fayed said on his Facebook page the arrest was unjust. ‘If someone had been caught with hashish or was drinking alcohol on the street,’ he wrote, ‘it would have been easier for them than everything we’ve gone through.’
Blasphemy accusations rising
Article 98F of Egypt’s Penal Code, while not strictly a blasphemy statute, prohibits acts that show disdain or contempt for ‘any of the heavenly religions or the sects belonging thereto.’ A violation is punishable by detention for a period of not less than six months and not exceeding five years, or paying a fine of not less than 500 Egyptian pounds and not exceeding 1,000 Egyptian pounds.
Blasphemy cases have been on the rise since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was sworn into office in 2014, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).
MSN said the blasphemy cases disproportionately target Christians, but other religious minorities, such as Shia Muslims and Baha’i, have also been charged with actions against a ‘heavenly religion.’ It also reported that ‘The same restrictions on freedom of religion and belief exist, including the right to build churches, and impunity for sectarian violence perpetrators is still going on.’
The constitution protects freedom of speech, which should include religious expression, but Al-Assuity said this right more often than not is trumped by politics.
Jeremy Reynalds (firstname.lastname@example.org) is also a freelance writer and the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico’s largest emergency homeless shelter (www.joyjunction.org). Recommended: A Sheltered Life – http://www.ashelteredlife.net and his newest book From Destitute to Ph.D – www.myhomelessjourney.com
Disclaimer: Articles and links, as well as the source articles linked to, do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ConnectingwithYou! Our thanks mainly to Dan Wooding and ASSIST (link: www.assistnews.net ) and to other news sources for timely gleanings.