Epstein, Abuse, & the Log in Our Own Eye: It’s Not Just Out There

Jeffrey Epstein’s case is disturbing—and in some ways it mirrors the abuse crisis in the church.
July 15, 2019 by ED STETZER

Epstein, Abuse, & the Log in Our Own Eye: It's Not Just Out There

ust last week, news surfaced of the arrest of financier Jeffrey Epstein for running a child trafficking enterprise that allowed him to sexually abuse girls as young as 14. When federal agents searched his New York City mansion, they confiscated a “vast trove” of pictures of young girls­­.

After seeing some media reports, I tweeted this:

So, “underaged women” is not a thing. They are called children. And anyone who had sex with “underaged women” as an adult is a criminal. And, anyone who covered it up, regardless of their influence then and now, is a criminal.

As the weekend began, Labor Secretary R. Alexander Acosta announced his resignationamid continuing questions as to how he handled the sex crimes case against Epstein when Acosta was a federal prosecutor in Florida.

Every day we learn more.

The writer of Ecclesiastes says there is nothing new under the sun. For millennia, children have been victims of horrific crime. Today, children continue to be treated as objects of desire and power rather than what they are—invaluable creations of the Lord God. “What you did to the least of these, you did to me…”

It’s an admonition spoken to God’s people, but it is true for all.

When one is harmed, all suffer.

A Reminder, Again and Again

In 2012, I wrote about child abuse in a church context. In 2014 I wrote again. And in 2015 I wrote again. And we published many articles since then, many around our GC2 Summit on Sexual Harassment, Abuse, and Violence at the Billy Graham Center last November.

But, we could write on this every single day. (I sometimes get complaints that I write too much on the subject, but I think that abuse in the church is one of the defining issues of our day— and, even if it were not, every child matters.)

This systemic problem of men (and sometimes women) viewing our children as objects seems to be no nearer to an end. Perhaps this is true, but the latest indictment of Epstein reminds us that there are people fighting tirelessly on behalf of the most vulnerable and voiceless among us. They are reminding us that criminals won’t go free forever and that justice will be enacted at some point.

According to The United States Department of Justice, “Child sex trafficking refers to the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a minor for the purpose of a commercial sex act.” For reminder: a minor is anyone younger than 18 years old.

A minor is a child.

It’s easy to look at someone like Epstein, identify that he used power and influence to hide the abuse of dozens of girls, and then look for the enabler—especially when it might be someone you already have disdain for. If you hate the Clintons, you might be sure they were in on this. If you hate the Trumps, you might be sure they were in on this. All of these ideas are out there.

And, this approach makes abusers into “others out there,” when they are really in here.

First of all, if either the Clintons or the Trumps participated in or enabled Epstein’s crimes, they should face the full consequences of the law.

But, it is worth noting that the church’s impulse is to shout outrage at the American systems of wealth, politics, and justice without looking at our own issues. The sad reality is that church, too, can be a place where predators work and where the system covers up for them.

Yes, it is good to post our horror on social media. But is better to be sure our churches know how to prepare for the inevitable predator who seeks access.

It is better to be sure our churches know how to respond when accusations come forward.

It is better to know that churches stand with the victims.

After (and in addition to) this, we must fight for the justice and healing of so many who have been sexually exploited among us. We must fight against the powers and systems that have created spaces for our children to become objects for the use of others rather than persons of honor and dignity.

What More?

It is interesting that even the Confessing Church, which arose in opposition to government-sponsored efforts to unify Protestant churches into a single pro-Nazi church, later admitted their complicity in the Nazi regime:

We did fight for long years in the name of Jesus Christ against the mentality that found its awful expression in the National Sociality regime of violence; but we accuse ourselves for not standing for our beliefs more courageously, for not praying more faithfully, for not believing more joyously, and for not loving more ardently.

They did this only after a fierce admonition from Deaconness Marga Meusel and pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer condemned the failure of the Confessing Church to care for the suffering Jews. Meusel’s words to the Confessing Church ring in our ears even today:

Why does the church do nothing? Why does it allow unspeakable injustice to occur? … What shall we one day answer to the question, where is thy brother Abel? The only answer that will be left to us, as well as to the Confessing Church, is the answer of Cain.

Lessons can be learned from this as well as from the Book of Esther, where we are confronted with the challenging and tireless question:

For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?

What more can we do, church, when it comes to fighting for the vulnerable among us?

Four things come to mind:

First, pray without ceasing.

We must follow our King, who “always lives to make intercession for us.” Pray for those who have been victimized at the hands of others. Pray for those whose view of themselves and the world has been forever changed by the horrific acts of those they trusted. Pray for justice to be made evident, redemption to come, and for healing to overwhelm like a river of gladness.

Second, fight fearlessly.

We are called to speak on behalf of those with no voice (Prov. 31:8). Imagine a world where no wrongs are ever sought to be righted; now imagine a world where every wrong is fought to be righted. This is our purpose in life—to love God and others to the extent that we step into suffering sacrificially for the sake of another. Use your voice and your life to fight for those who have been abused.

How many of Epstein’s targets went home to tell a parent or authority figure, only to not be believed. Or, even the reporter who first wrote the story, but was not heard.

Fight for those who have been abused so they know the church is the safe place when, as in Epstein’s case, the legal system is not.

Third, prepare wisely.

Epstein targeted vulnerable children. That’s what predators do.

They target children in vulnerability. Given that churches are places of vulnerability, it is common sense that predators are targeting your church. Prepare yourself by training your church. Yes, background checks help and are a start, but we need much more. We need to educate ourselves on how to spot grooming patterns, how to set up systems where children are safe at all times, and much more.

Prepare your church as if Epstein was targeting your church’s kids—because predators are.

Fourth, love endlessly.

The great abolitionist William Wilberforce once said, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.” Friends, it’s too late to turn the other way if we are to truly follow Christ into the hard places.

My own denomination faced some of these realities this summer, though there is more to do.

We are the hands and feet he uses to love and care for the marginalized, the bruised, the beaten. We are the ears he uses to listen to the stories and lament for the wrongs. We are the voices he uses to speak words of hope and expectation where little dwells.

Child abuse has, once again, made the news. In a sense, it has been placed at our feet. The natural inclination is to shout our anger at Epstein and to be sure to name the people we don’t like who we hope are complicit.

Yet, it is more than Epstein and his enablers. It is also about abuse in the church and its enablers as well.

The enormity of this problem, which continues to confront us, calls for a better response—one that begins on the knees in prayer and continues until justice streams down like a river and all our girls (and boys) are safe, and those who have been hurt see justice and experience healing.

Ed Stetzerholds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, serves as Dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/july/epstein-and-log-in-our-own-eye.html

Advertisements

7 Christian families forced from home as Hindu mob demands they renounce Christ

By Samuel Smith, CP Reporter

At least seven Christian families were forced to flee from their homes in the Jharkhand state of India this month after receiving threats and facing harassment from a Hindu mob, a global human rights advocacy group reports.

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, which advocates for religious freedom in over 20 countries, the seven families were forced from Masiya Mahuwatoli village on June 12 after a mob of about 200 villagers was riled up by the activist group Hindu Jagran Manch.

HJM is a group affiliated with the Vishva Hindu Parishad, a right-wing Hindu nationalist organization.

Sources told CSW that the displaced families include one pregnant woman and the families are reportedly seeking shelter in neighboring villages.

Three other families that were targeted reportedly forcefully converted to Hinduism, according to CSW.

The sources explained that the representatives of the HJM made a list of Christian families in the village who would be instructed to recant their faith or face potential consequences.

When the families refused the demands to convert, the villagers became violent.

The villagers reportedly threatened the Christian families with excommunication, a ban from using the village road, a ban from accessing community water as well as exclusion from all government rations. Additionally, about 12 kids were said to have been banned from going to the local school.

The sources added that the woman who was nine months pregnant, Anima Munda, was forced to walk about four miles to seek refuge in the neighboring village.

Two days later, sources told CSW that 22 HJM members entered a Christian home and dragged a Christian man and his mother out to the street. The two were later taken to a temple to renounce their faith.

“When they refused, their Bibles were burnt and the perpetrators carried out a conversion ceremony,” CSW explained in a press release. “On the same evening, members of HJM attacked the home of a man named Mangra Munda. His home was damaged as a result of attempts by the perpetrators to get in. Mangra told local sources they were going to kill him, but he was able to escape as it was dark.”

According to CSW, about 37 of the villages’ 47 Christians have escaped and now live in fear as some of their elderly parents are still in the village and in need of care.

On June 17, the Christian families reportedly filed a complaint with the local police department.

“CSW is deeply concerned for the wellbeing of the Christian families who have been forced to either convert or run for their lives,” CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said in a statement. “The freedom to choose a religion is a fundamental right afforded to every Indian citizen. We urge the local authorities to prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes, to give full protection to these families, and to take the necessary steps to ensure that Christian families in Masiya Mahuwatoli village are able to live without fear and intimidation.”

The alleged assault on the Christian community in Masiya Mahuwatoli village is not the first time Christians have been forced out of their villages in Jharkhand state.

In 2018, International Christian Concern reported that 10 Christian families in the Pahli village of Latehar district of the state were forced to flee from their homes after local radicals demanded they renounce their faith.

India ranks as the 10th-worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Door USA’s 2019 World Watch List.

“Since the current ruling party took power in 2014, attacks have increased, and Hindu radicals believe they can attack Christians with no consequences,” Open Doors USA, a leading Christian persecution watchdog active in dozens of countries, reported in a factsheet.

“As a result, Christians have been targeted by Hindu nationalist extremists more and more each year. The view of the nationalists is that to be Indian is to be Hindu, so any other faith — including Christianity — is considered non-Indian.”

On June 10th, a Christian evangelist was reportedly arrested in the Kerala state and accused of forcing conversions when he went to visit patients in a hospital. According to International Christian Concern, evangelist Boban Koshy was arrested for distributing religious pamphlets.

Although he was released, Koshy claims he is still being harassed and monitored by police. Koshy is among the many religious leaders in India that have been arrested on accusations of forcible conversion, which is a crime in certain Indian states.

In the Odisha state, a Christian school that educated over 250 tribal children was demolished in May after a Hindu radical group put pressure on local authorities to do so.

Last week, the U.S. State Department released its annual report on international religious freedom. The report, which analyzes the state of religious freedom in all countries, highlighted extremist Hindu mob attacks on religious minority communities that include Christians and Muslims.

The State Department report cited NGOs that have voiced concern that the Indian government “often protected perpetrators from prosecution.”

“As of November, there were 18 such attacks, and eight people killed during the year,” the State Department report explains.

Follow Samuel Smith on Twitter: @IamSamSmith

https://www.christianpost.com/news/7-christian-families-forced-from-home-as-hindu-mob-demands-they-renounce-christ.html

Our Father Defends (#OurFatherDevotional)

July 17, 2019 by Ronne Rock
This year, we’re sharing ways in which our God is truly Father to the fatherless in our special #OurFather devotional series. This month, former Orphan Outreach staffer and global missions advocate Sarah Herbek challenges us to consider what it means to uphold the cause of the orphaned and vulnerable with “Our Father Defends.”

 Psalm 82:3-4 – Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

At first reading, Psalm 82 might be a little confusing. Who is this Psalm talking about? Who is coming before God? The individuals being rebuked in Psalm 82 were Israel’s rulers or judges, leaders responsible to promote justice, to punish evildoers, and to defend the weak and the oppressed. But this was not happening. The vulnerable and fatherless were being taken advantage of. So, God is accusing these leaders and making it clear what a judge is supposed to do.

Psalm 82:2-4 says, “Enough! You’ve corrupted justice long enough, you’ve let the wicked get away with murder. You’re here to defend the defenseless, to make sure that underdogs get a fair break; Your job is to stand up for the powerless, and prosecute all those who exploit them.” (MSG)

Judges are to be a haven of justice for the weak and oppressed, the unprotected, the orphan and widow. God puts certain people in leadership for this purpose but He desires that all His people would do what is right. He created us to rule over His creation (Genesis 1:26, 28) and part of having that authority from God is to defend the orphan just like He would and does. Anyone with authority or influence of any kind (which, according to Jeremiah 22:3, is all of us) must care for the orphan and the widow, the oppressed and afflicted. We act on behalf of God as we carry out the mission of God that He promised will be fulfilled in every nation (Genesis 12:3). It is our privilege to be a part of that mission. We are to live in a way that aligns with the character of God, including His justice. As Paul put it, an earthly ruler is “… a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil” (Romans 13:4). We are God’s agents who are to bring light to the darkness, and carry out mercy and justice in His name!

10517250_10152801084142541_887632028788847637_o

OUR VISION AT ORPHAN OUTREACH IS “TO SHINE BRIGHTEST WHERE THE WORLD IS DARKEST.”

So what is God the Father as a judge like? In the context of Psalm 82, He is the ultimate judge! The righteous judge! He is a defender. He stands between those who would harm and take advantage of the weak. He perfectly applies mercy and justice (Micah 6:8) — mercy that preserves dignity and justice that creates lasting change.

Robert Lupton put it this way, “Twinned together these commands lead us to holistic involvement. Divorced they become deformed. Mercy without justice degenerates into dependency and entitlement, preserving the power of the giver over the recipient. Justice without mercy grows cold and impersonal, more concerned about rights than relationships. The addict needs both food and treatment. The young woman needs both a safe place to sleep and a way out of her entrapping lifestyle. Street kids need both friendship and jobs.”

This might seem like an overwhelming task, but we must remember that not only has God promised that one day He will remove all injustice (Revelation 21), but He has commissioned this task to His Church all over the world. We are not in this alone, and that is why we can partner with each other to pursue mercy and justice together, one person (or child) at a time.

Memorize Micah 6:8 today. Then, write down and thank the Lord for ways you see His people advocating for the weak and vulnerable!

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8 NLT)

Questions for you to ponder:

  1. What is the difference between justice and mercy? How are they similar?
  2. Where might God be asking you to make changes in your life in order to grow your knowledge of Him?
  3. What ways can you engage in promoting mercy and justice in your sphere of influence?

http://www.orphanoutreach.co/media-resources/newstory.asp?pageid=6532


Narrow Path Ministries is in the process of opening an orphanage. An Endowment fund has been established  to fund the orphanage.


 

Praying on the moon? It’s been done

Bill Federer recounts little-known religious observation during lunar landing

 

moon_astronaut

“One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” stated Astronaut Neil Armstrong, July 20, 1969, as he became the first man to walk on the moon, almost 238,900 miles away from the Earth.

The second man on the moon was Colonel Buzz Aldrin. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin spent a total of 21 hours and 37 minutes on the moon’s surface before redocking their lunar module Eagle with the command ship Columbia, which was orbiting 57 miles above the moon’s surface.

Buzz Aldrin earned a Ph.D. from M.I.T. and helped develop the technology necessary for the mission, especially the complicated lunar module rendezvous with the command module.

Buzz Aldrin shared a story, “An Astronaut Tells of a little-known but Significant Event on the Moon,” printed in Guideposts Magazine, October 1970), and in his book, “Return to Earth,” published by Random House, 1973.

Before the two astronauts stepped out of the Lunar Module onto the moon’s surface, there was a planned time of rest. Buzz Aldrin asked for radio silence because NASA was fighting a lawsuit brought by an intolerant atheist, Madalyn Murray O’Hair. She objected to the previous Apollo 8 crew reading the first chapter of the Book of Genesis in their Christmas radio transmission in 1968.

During the radio silence, Buzz Aldrin then privately partook of communion, stating:

For several weeks prior to the scheduled lift-off of Apollo 11 back in July, 1969, the pastor of our church, Dean Woodruff, and I had been struggling to find the right symbol for the first lunar landing. We wanted to express our feeling that what man was doing in this mission transcended electronics and computers and rockets. … Dean often speaks at our church, Webster Presbyterian, just outside of Houston, about the many meanings of the communion service.

“One of the principal symbols,” Dean says, “is that God reveals Himself in the common elements of everyday life.” Traditionally, these elements are bread and wine-common foods in Bible days and typical products of man’s labor.

One day while I was at Cape Kennedy working with the sophisticated tools of the space effort, it occurred to me that these tools were the typical elements of life today. I wondered if it might be possible to take communion on the moon, symbolizing the thought that God was revealing Himself there too, as man reached out into the universe.

For there are many of us in the NASA program who do trust that what we are doing is part of God’s eternal plan for man.

Webster Presbyterian Church is located at 201 W. NASA Road 1, Webster, Texas, and is known nationally as the Church of the Astronauts as John Glenn, Buzz Aldrin, Jerry Carr, Charlie Bassett and Roger Chaffee were active members during their time at NASA. The flag Buzz Aldrin left on the Moon was designed and built by a member of Webster Presbyterian Church, Jack Kinzler.

Buzz Aldrin continued:

I spoke with Dean about the idea as soon as I returned home, and he was enthusiastic. “I could carry the bread in a plastic packet, the way regular inflight food is wrapped. And the wine also-there will be just enough gravity on the moon for liquid to pour. I’ll be able to drink normally from a cup. Dean, I wonder if you could look around for a little chalice that I could take with me as coming from the church?”

The next week Dean showed me a graceful silver cup. I hefted it and was pleased to find that it was light enough to take along. Each astronaut is allowed a few personal items on a flight; the wine chalice would be in my personal-preference kit.

Dean made special plans for two special communion services at Webster Presbyterian Church. One would be held just prior to my leaving Houston for Cape Kennedy, when I would join the other members in a dedication service.

The second would take place two weeks later, Sunday, July 20, when Neil Armstrong and I were scheduled to be on the surface of the moon. On that Sunday the church back home would gather for communion, while I joined them as close as possible to the same hour, taking communion inside the lunar module, all of us meaning to represent in this small way not only our local church but the Church as a whole.

The Houston Chronicle and the Huffington Post have published articles about Buzz Aldrin’s communion on the moon.

Aldrin continued:

Right away question came up. Was it theologically correct for a layman to serve himself communion under these circumstances? Dean thought so, but to make sure he decided to write the stated clerk of the Presbyterian church’s General Assembly and got back a quick reply that this was permissible.

And how much should we talk about our plans? I am naturally rather reticent, but on the other hand I was becoming increasingly convinced that having religious convictions carried with it the responsibility of witnessing to them. Finally we decided we would say nothing about the communion service until after the moonshot. …

I had a question about which scriptural passage to use. Which reading would best capture what this enterprise meant to us? I thought long about this and came up at last with John 15:5.

It seemed to fit perfectly. I wrote the passage on a slip of paper to be carried aboard Eagle along with the communion elements. Dean would read the same passage at the full congregation service held back home that same day.

So at last we were set. And then trouble appeared. It was Saturday, just prior to the first of the two communion services. The next day, Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins and I were to depart Houston for Cape Kennedy. We were scheduled for a pre-mission press conference when the flight physician arrived and set up elaborate precautions against crew contamination. … We had to wear sterile masks and to talk to the reporters from within a special partition. The doctor was taking no chances. A cold germ, a flu virus, and the whole shot might have to be aborted.

I felt I had to tell him about the big church service scheduled for the next morning. When I did, he wasn’t at all happy. I called Dean with the news late Saturday night. “It doesn’t look real good, Dean.”

“What about a private service? Without the whole congregation?”

It was a possibility. I called the doctor about the smaller service and he agreed, provided there were only a handful of people present.

So the next day, Sunday, shortly after the end of the 11 o’clock service my wife, Joan and our oldest boy Mike (the only one of our three children who is as yet a communicant), went to the church. There we met Dean, his wife, Floy, and our close family friend Tom Manison, elder of the church and his wife.

The seven of us went in to the now-empty sanctuary. On the communion table were two loaves of bread, one for now, the other for two weeks from now. Beside the two loaves were two chalices, one of them the small cup the church was giving me for the service on the moon.

We took communion. At the end of the service Dean tore off a corner of the second loaf of bread and handed it to me along with the tiny chalice. Within a few hours I was on my way to Cape Kennedy. What happened there, of course, the whole world knows.

The Saturn 5 rocket gave us a rough ride at first, but the rest of the trip was smooth. On the day of the moon landing, we awoke at 5:30 a.m., Houston time. Neil and I separated from Mike Collins in the command module. Our powered descent was right on schedule, and perfect except for one unforeseeable difficulty. The automatic guidance system would have taken Eagle to an area with huge boulders. Neil had to steer Eagle to a more suitable terrain. With only seconds worth of fuel left, we touched down at 3:30 p.m.

Mission Control was nervous, as they were descending faster than anticipated and the guidance system computer was sending off an alarm.

It was later discovered that a switch was on causing the radar to also look up to locate the Columbia in case the landing had to be quickly aborted, and the computer was dithering between the upward and downward signals. Neil switched to manually land the craft, with Buzz relaying instrument readings, while the rockets were kicking up a cloud of blinding moon dust, obscuring vision of the boulders below.

At Mission Control in Houston, Charles Duke, who was later on Apollo 16, was NASA’s CAPCOM (Capsule Communicator). Acknowledging the successful landing, Duke replied: “Roger, Twank. … Tranquility, we copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot!”

Buzz Aldrin continued: “Now Neil and I were sitting inside Eagle, while Mike circled in lunar orbit unseen in the black sky above us.”

Mike Collins snapped the photo of the Eagle separating from the command module Columbia and drifting down toward the Moon. Collins was alone in the Columbia, circling the dark side of the Moon. He wrote that “not since Adam has any human known such solitude,” and that he was “sweating like a nervous as a bride” till the Eagle returned (The Guardian, July 18, 2009): “Collins’ deepest fear: that he would be the only survivor of an Apollo 11 disaster. … Despite their apparent calm … no one was more stressed than Collins. … (He) was obsessed with the reliability of the ascent engine of Armstrong and Aldrin’s lander, Eagle. It had never been fired on the Moon’s surface before. … Should the engine fail to ignite, Armstrong and Aldrin would be stranded on the Moon – where they would die when their oxygen ran out. Or if it failed to burn for at least seven minutes, then the two astronauts would either crash back on to the Moon or be stranded in low orbit around it, beyond the reach of Collins in his mothership, Columbia.”

On the moon’s surface, Buzz Aldrin recounted:

In a little while after our scheduled meal period, Neil would give the signal to step down the ladder onto the powdery surface of the moon. Now was the moment for communion. So I unstowed the elements in their flight packets. I put them and the scripture reading on the little table in front of the abort guidance system computer. … Then I called back to Houston. “Houston, this is Eagle. This is the LM Pilot speaking. I would like to request a few moments of silence. I would like to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours and to invite each person listening, wherever and whomever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his own individual way.” …

 

Chalice used in lunar communion

Chalice used in lunar communion

On World Communion Sunday … many Christians through the world will unite in spirit as they – each in his own church, according to his own tradition – participate in celebrating the Lord’s Supper. … For me this meant taking communion. In the radio blackout I opened the little plastic packages which contained bread and wine.

I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup. It was interesting to think that the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the first food eaten there, were communion elements. And so, just before I partook of the elements, I read the words, which I had chosen to indicate our trust that as man probes into space we are in fact acting in Christ. … I sensed especially strongly my unity with our church back home, and with the Church everywhere.

I read: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me.”

Webster Presbyterian Church on NASA Parkway near Houston, Texas, keeps the chalice used on the moon and commemorates the event each year on the Sunday closest to July 20.

While Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were on the moon, Mike Collins orbited behind the moon, becoming the most distant solo human traveler, completely out of radio contact from Earth, nearly a quarter of a million miles away.

Isolated in space in the command module Columbia, Mike Collins wrote: “This venture has been structured for three men, and I consider my third to be as necessary as either of the other two. I don’t mean to deny a feeling of solitude. It is there, reinforced by the fact that radio contact with the Earth abruptly cuts off at the instant I disappear behind the moon, I am alone now, truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life. I am it. If a count were taken, the score would be three billion plus two over on the other side of the moon, and one plus God knows what on this side.”

A little known event in the USA-USSR Space Race was that two hours before Armstrong and Aldrin blasted off from the moon, an unmanned Russian lunar spacecraft, Luna 15, crashed-landed in the nearby Mare Crisium.

After their moon walk, Armstrong and Aldrin climbed back into the Eagle. Their large spacesuits, which included life support backpacks, made maneuvering difficult and the circuit breaker was broken which controlled ignition for the life-off rockets. This potentially serious accident was fixed with the tip of a felt pen. To reduce weight, they threw out unnecessary moon walk equipment, then re-compressed the Eagle. They lifted off, successfully re-docked with the Columbia, and headed back to earth.

Buzz Aldrin stated via television, July 23, 1969: “This has been far more than three men on a mission to the moon. … Personally, in reflecting on the events of the past several days, a verse from Psalms comes to mind. ‘When I consider the heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the Moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; What is man that Thou art mindful of him?’”

Armstrong added: “To all the other people that are listening and watching tonight, God bless you. Good night from Apollo 11.”

Buzz Aldrin’s popularity was the inspiration for the character “Buzz Lightyear” in Pixar’s animated movie Toy Story (1995).

Charles Duke later flew to the moon as an astronaut on the Apollo 16 mission. On April 21, 1972, Duke and John Young explored the moon’s rugged Descartes region. Years later, Charles Duke spoke at a prayer rally during the Texas State’s Republican Convention in San Antonio’s Lila Cockrell Theatre, June 22, 1996.

His remarks were printed in the book “Charles Duke: Moonwalker” (Rose Petal Press, 2nd edition, 2011, p. 256-261): “I have been before kings and prime ministers, junta leaders and dictators, businessmen and beggars, rich and poor, black and white. … One of the most touching times was in the office of one of the cabinet ministers in Israel. … After the introduction I was asked to share my walk on the moon with the Israeli minister. ‘Mr. Minister,’ I began, ‘I was able to look back at the earth from the moon and hold up my hand and underneath this hand was the earth. The thought occurred to me that underneath my hand were four billion people. I couldn’t see Europe, America, the Middle East. I couldn’t see blacks or whites, Jews or Orientals, just spaceship earth. I realized we needed to learn to love one another, and I believed that with that love and our technical expertise, we could solve all of mankind’s problems. …’ The promises of the Bible are true and, I believe, speak the truth in every area – whether it be in spiritual matters, nutrition, history, or even science …”

Charles Duke added: “In 1972 aboard Apollo 16, I saw with my own eyes what is written in the Scriptures. In Isaiah 40:22 it says ‘It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth.” And in Job 26:7, it is written ‘He hangeth the earth upon nothing.’ Who told Isaiah that the earth was a circle? … And how did the writer of Job know that the earth hung upon nothing? … This is the Lord I love and serve. This is the Lord who transformed by life. This is the Lord who transformed my marriage. I used to say I could live ten thousand years and never have an experience as thrilling as walking on the moon. But the excitement and satisfaction of that walk doesn’t begin to compare with my walk with Jesus, a walk that lasts forever. I thought Apollo 16 would be my crowning glory, but the crown that Jesus gives will not tarnish or fade away. His crown will last throughout all eternity. …”

Charles Duke concluded: “Not everyone has the opportunity to walk on the moon, but everybody has the opportunity to walk with the Son. It costs billions of dollars to send someone to the moon, but walking with Jesus is free, the Gift of God. ‘For by Grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.’ You don’t need to go to the moon to find God. I didn’t find God in space – I found him in the front seat of my car on Highway 46 in New Braunfels, Texas, when I opened my heart to Jesus. And my life hasn’t been the same since. Now I can truly look up at the moon and the stars and with the prophets of old exclaim, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork.’”

Brought to you by AmericanMinute.com.

 

https://www.wnd.com/2019/07/praying-on-the-moon-its-been-done/

Will Amazon Ban The Bible Next?

Michael Brown: Site crossed a very dangerous line removing psychologist’s books

 

In a very disturbing move, Amazon has removed the books of Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, the psychologist whom critics have dubbed “the father of conversion therapy.” In other words, for claiming that sexual orientation is not innate and immutable, and for claiming that change is possible, Dr. Nicolosi’s books must be banned.

This leads to the logical question: Will Amazon ban the Bible next? There is no hyperbole here.

After all, it is the Bible that condemns same-sex relationships and the Bible that speaks of those who once practiced homosexuality but do so no more (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). These people, today, would be known as “ex-gays.” And it was Dr. Nicolosi’s life work to help people with unwanted same-sex attractions.

Why, then, should Amazon ban his books but continue to sell the Bible, which provides the theological underpinnings for Dr. Nicolosi’s scientific work?

After all, gay critics of the Bible refer to the so-called “clobber passages,” referring to verses that have been used to speak against homosexual practice. If these verses, then, have brought such harm to the gay community, why shouldn’t the book containing these verses be banned?

Not only so, but there are numerous books on Amazon written by ex-gays, sharing their wonderful stories of transformation. Will their books be banned next?

And what about the books that come to different scientific conclusions than the LGBT activists and their allies? And the books that challenge the goals of LGBT activism in society? And the books that reiterate the Scriptural prohibition of same-sex relationships?

Will those books be banned next?

What makes this especially frightening is that it appears that one man, Rojo Alan, based in England, was responsible for getting the books removed.

As reported on Pink News, at first, after sharing his concerns in writing, he got no response from either Amazon or the British outlet, Wordery. But after he posted his concerns on Facebook, he got an immediate response from Wordery, which quickly pulled Nicolosi’s writings.

Amazon, however, claimed that the books did not violate their guidelines.

Alan explains that “since then, I had been working on getting these books pulled. I contacted Amazon regularly to speak to them about the books, about how unethical they are.”

He “used social-media sites to ask people to leave bad reviews of the books, and also began researching the ways in which they violated Amazon’s rules of publishing.”

And, he continues, “Once I gathered everything I went back to Amazon and I threw all the information I had at them in several conversations. Yet I was given the same ‘we will refer this to the relevant team.’”

Not long after this, the books were removed, and Alan was moved to tears.

Of course, I could produce scores of testimonies from former patients of Dr. Nicolosi who were greatly helped by his counsel. Some experienced profound changes in their attractions. Others were freed from shame and self-harm. That’s why he remained in demand until his sudden passing in 2017.

Why don’t these voices matter?

I could also produce literature from liberal psychologists like the lesbian activist Dr. Lisa Diamond, who argues strongly that sexual orientation is fluid.

But that is not the real issue here. The issue is one of banning books that violate certain guidelines, in this case, guidelines created by LGBT activists. Amazon is now playing a very dangerous game of censoring that which is not politically correct. Where will that lead next?

Amazon carries thousands of books (perhaps, several hundred thousand books) that many readers find harmful and distasteful. Amazon carries a staggering array of material that offends many buyers or that raises serious concerns among others.

There are books that encourage behaviors I believe are destructive. There are books and other materials that attack and mock ideologies that are sacred to me. Should Amazon ban these books too?

Should Amazon ban books encouraging atheism and mocking the Bible? Or, conversely, should Amazon ban books challenging Darwinian evolution?

Should Amazon ban books that encourage sexual experimentation and the casting off of conservative morals? Or, conversely, should Amazon ban books that decry the dangers of legalized marijuana?

Should Amazon ban books that lead people into religious cults? Or, conversely, should it ban books that help people get out of these cults?

Should Amazon ban books that provide unhealthy food recipes? Or, conversely, should it ban books that encourage healthy eating and potentially “fat-shame” people?

To repeat: Amazon has crossed a very dangerous, precarious line. It needs to make an immediate about-face, admit its error, and make Dr. Nicolosi’s books available again.

The readers can decide what to buy and what not to buy.

It’s one thing if a book encouraged illegal, life-threatening behavior, as in a terrorist’s manual for making a bomb.

It’s another thing when a book, written by a respected psychologist, is banned because it violates LGBT sensibilities. Is this also a fruit of Amazon working with the notoriously left-leaning SPLC?

I have been a long-term Amazon customer, purchasing tens of thousands of dollars of books from them over the years, along with everything ranging from computers to headphones to random household items. As an author, I also recognize the importance of selling books on Amazon and getting good reviews written. And for me, personally, Amazon’s customer service has been second to none.

All the more, then, do I appeal to Amazon: Please set this right.

We know Jeff Bezos supports the LGBT cause, and that’s his prerogative. But when political leanings influence censorship decisions, we move a step closer to burning books in the streets.

Amazon, please reverse your course.

(If you agree with this article, post and share it widely, sharing your concerns with Amazon as well.)

https://www.wnd.com/2019/07/will-amazon-ban-the-bible-next/

A Disappearing Missionary Impulse

We should empower all of God’s people to dream as missionaries again.
MATT ROGERS

A Disappearing Missionary Impulse

Summer presents a wide array of missionary opportunities for those attuned to how the Spirit of God might be at work in the places they live, work, and play. The pace of life changes—providing more time for interaction with neighbors, coworkers, friends, and even seemingly random strangers that we might encounter on a summer vacation. Each block party or time at the local pool is an occasion when God can bring into our paths those in need of the hope that only Jesus can bring.

These seasons, however, often expose how infrequently most of us are actually looking for missionary encounters. Imagine that you are serving in an international context that had, as a part of the culture’s annual rhythms, a time when people from all walks of life would meet and have occasion for meaningful conversation. You’d likely plan your evangelistic work to take full advantage of this season, knowing that you need use every chance you get to engage the lost because it’s difficult to manufacture such opportunities on your own.

Can the American church regain such a missionary impulse? If we are to do so, the hope rests on common people of God—missionary disciples—infusing their lives with a missionary impulse.

An Unhurried Life

There is perhaps no greater obstacle to missionary living than the breakneck pace of most of our lives. Rather than slowing down, we actually schedule a whole host of events and activities that keep our RPMs up even when we don’t have to. We’re often guilty of overloading even our vacations with so much activity that it’s hard to take a deep breath, look around, and engage in conversation without having to consider where we are going next. The church is a culprit as well. We pack a summer schedule full of events for believers to connect with one another, all the while inadvertently stealing time from meaningful missionary activity. Most of us would find far more margin for missionary practices if we simply slowed down, took a stroll through the neighborhood with no agenda, cooked out with a few neighbors, or hosted a game night and invited a few people we met at the pool. These unhurried rhythms allow us to live as normal people on mission.

Break Free

Next up, we need to find ways to break free from our incessant connection with the chatter of the world. There’s a place for critiquing the ills of social media, which is not my goal here. Rather, I’d merely like to point out how many conversations most of us squander because we are living in a fantasy world of conversations online. Even if we are unhurried, we can be perceived as preoccupied if we always bury our faces in our phones or stick buds in our ears. Simply having our eyes up, looking for people in line behind us at the coffee shop or walking past us in the neighborhood, can provide inroads into far more meaningful interactions than the world of social media will ever provide.

Creative Experimentation

Finally, we should empower all of God’s people to dream as missionaries again. The era of church growth created the illusion that it was the church, as an organization, that designed and implemented events to reach the lost. This impression rendered the majority of the church passive. But, who better to know what would best connect with someone than a neighbor or co-worker who knows and interacts daily with them? Why would we think that three or four leaders in a meeting could come up with better ideas than all of God’s people working toward the same goal?

Missionary disciples own the work and take risks to create and experiment on what would best reach those they are praying for and living around. Risk, creation, and experimentation all anticipate a high likelihood of failure. We try things hoping that along the way we stumble upon a few best practices that can be useful to engage those far from God. And, as we live in community with others in the church, we share these best practices with others so that they might replicate them in their spheres of influence as well. Church leaders, then, should create ways to empower members to such creative experimentation by fueling the fire of ideas that bubble up from the people. For example, churches can fund the well-thought-out projects that various members create rather than throwing money at the same programs they’ve run year after year. By coming alongside of the church’s members and lending strength, church leaders can create a culture where such activity is normative.

What if the church lived with such a missionary impulse this summer? Simple practices multiplied by thousands of believers in countless places around North America could saturate our geography with missionary intentionality.

Matt Rogers is a father of five living in Greenville, South Carolina. He pastors The Church at Cherrydale and serves as an assistant professor of Church Planting at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Matt writes and speaks throughout the United States on issues ranging from discipleship, church leadership, and missions.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/july/disappearing-missionary-impulse.html

The Era of the Ungrateful American

image

By Jerry Newcombe, D.Min.

 

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. I can’t fathom the ingratitude of American soccer star Meghan Rapinoe’s attitude toward America.

Writer Warner Todd Huston notes, “Rapinoe raised eyebrows in the 2018 season by taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem even though she is playing for the U.S. Women’s National soccer team. Her taking a knee only came to an end starting in the 2019 season because the team passed a rule requiring players to stand during the anthem. But she right away said that she would never sing the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ again, nor would she place her hand over her heart because she hates America.”

Sadly, she is by no means alone. There are millions of ungrateful Americans today.

I remember years ago seeing one of The Far Side cartoons by Gary Larson which showed one dog in his den showing another dog his mounted, stuffed trophies on his wall. There were a couple of stuffed cat heads and bird heads and also a human hand mounted on the wall. The host dog was saying to his guest, “And that’s the hand that fed me.”

What a fascinating contrast. Last week a man and his infant daughter tragically drowned trying to get to this country through illegal means. And yet the soccer star who was born here has nothing but contempt for the land of opportunity that has given her so many opportunities.

This reminds me of people who are ungrateful to the Lord, even though every beat of their heart is by His grace. When He says, “Enough,” it is over and then comes the judgment.

President Lincoln reminded us of our need for thankfulness to God when he called for a day of fasting and prayer during the conflict that tore this country apart.

On March 30, 1863, he wrote, “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven ….But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.” [Emphasis added]

Our own prosperity as a nation has caused us to forget the Lord, said our 16th president: “Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!”

With another Fourth of July upon us, I think it is a good time to recall why we should be grateful as Americans. This country was born through the sacrifices of those who went before us.

What is the Fourth of July? It commemorates that date in 1776 when 56 men in Philadelphia, representing three million people, agreed by voice vote to adopt the final wording of our national birth certificate, the Declaration of Independence.

They knew their lives were on the line by voting for independence from England, and a handful of them paid the ultimate price for this declaration. Several of them were specifically targeted by the British.

The document declared that the rights of man come not from the king or the state, but from the Creator. It declared that when a government interferes too much with God-given rights, the government ultimately becomes illegitimate.

This declaration came years after futile attempts to work with the king to bring about an acceptable peace. But as the “men of Boston” put it, according to the great 19th century historian, George Bancroft: “While America is still on her knees, the king aims a dagger at her heart.”

We seem to forget the sacrifices of the founding fathers who bequeathed the freedoms, and subsequently, the prosperity we enjoy in this country.

A key founding father John Adams declared: “It is the will of heaven that the two countries should be sundered forever…” America would become its own nation, separate from England.

Adams adds that if we have to endure hardship because of it, God will still help see us through: “[I]t may be the will of heaven that America shall suffer calamities still more wasting and distresses yet more dreadful. If this is to be the case, the furnace of affliction produces refinement in states as well as individuals; but I submit all my hopes and fears to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the faith may be, I firmly believe.”

The men who birthed America and declared independence laid everything on line, as they trusted in God.

Why should Meghan Rapinhoe be grateful? Because she was born in a country which gave her opportunity to “write her own script” as some might put it. It is hard for me to comprehend  ungrateful Americans.

https://www.djameskennedy.org/article-detail/the-era-of-the-ungrateful-american