Behold Two Paintings That Show A Miraculous Christmas Meeting

Two historic women, one old and one young, were the first to welcome and praise the Savior of the world. And two glorious paintings communicate the beauty of these wondrous events.

Behold Two Paintings That Show A Miraculous Christmas Meeting

Dec 23, 2019

If quizzed “Who was the first person to welcome Jesus and announce his lordship?” how would you answer? It’s an important question when we consider that this man from the nowhere town of Nazareth is the most consequential individual ever.

His teaching and followers across the globe radically transformed world culture, toppled great powers without ever firing a shot, established the world of humanitarianism and accessible medical care for commoners, inspired the scientific method, and enlivened the world movements for justice, human dignity, and individual freedom. He literally divides history and is responsible for the founding of the largest, most diverse collection of people around some basic ideals.

This all started with two women no one had ever heard of, whose life-altering experiences are now illustrated in two exquisite works of art. Mary, a humble, young virgin, by tradition about 14 years old at the time, is told by an angel she will give birth to the very Son of God. At this striking news, she “arose and went with haste” to see her cherished relative, Elizabeth, some 90 miles away.

Elizabeth was in the sixth month of her own miraculous pregnancy, for she was well past child-bearing years. Of course, her baby was Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist.

The beauty of this part of the Christmas story is the miracle that happens the moment Mary enters Elizabeth’s home. Christ is recognized, received, proclaimed, and worshiped, and Mary and Elizabeth are not the only two involved in the divine drama here. We read in Luke 1:41-44:

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.

This is a major event in Jesus’ story and thus the Christian church, but we seldom appreciate it as such. It is the first time Jesus is both proclaimed and worshiped as God! This was done, we are told, “in a loud voice.” And Christ the Lord is worshiped by two people at the same time — one very old, one super young.

The First to Proclaim Jesus’ Lordship

Elizabeth proclaims the blessedness of Jesus and his mother. The simple but world-changing confession, “Jesus is Lord,” was the first and most basic way Christians began to proclaim their faith and greet one another in the church’s early years. It was the first Christian creed, and Elizabeth was the first to proclaim it, long before Christmas morning. Think on that for a moment.

The second greeting is even more incredible and speaks to an intimate relationship in the Savior’s life. Baby John leaps for joy, literally, at the coming of the Savior. He does so as a child in the darkness of his mother’s womb. (Yes, Christianity has profoundly strong words for the humanity and dignity of the unborn child in John and Jesus’ remarkable in utero contribution to the good news.)

John did not start serving as the forerunner of Christ when preaching about his coming in the desert. It was here, in the womb. And it was two very common mothers, Elizabeth and Mary, who experienced this remarkable, history-changing event. It happened in distinctly womanly interiors of their hearts and wombs, and in the humbleness of Elizabeth’s home. Humble motherhood and the intimate bond only mothers can share is the human font of the Christian story.

To be sure, the Christian church, which is often incorrectly charged with being sexist by people who know little of its actual story, is founded upon two women being the first to welcome and praise the Savior. (Remember as well, it was a small group of women who announced the “second birth” of the Savior, if you will, at his resurrection.) What other major faith or philosophy has women playing such a significant role in its founding? I cannot think of one.

Two famous paintings communicate the beauty of these wondrous events, “The Annunciation” and “The Visitation.” The first African-American painter to achieve significant critical acclaim, Henry Ossawa Tanner, created both. He is a remarkable man and one of my favorite artists.

Christmas paintings by Henry O. Tanner

‘The Annunciation’

One of the things I like best in Tanner’s two works here is that he shows us the simple humanness of Mary and Elizabeth. They are not supernatural, other-worldly, saintly subjects in the typical sense. Tanner’s images show us the regular, everyday women they were.

Christmas Painting The Annunciation

He will not allow us to miss the youth, innocence, and commonness of our Mary. Tanner doesn’t give her a facial expression communicating anything obvious. Is she scared? Stunned? Joyful? Solemn? His Mary is more complex than many artists’ as is undoubtably true of the actual event. Tanner has her communicating all these feelings and struggles at once.

When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with this most startling news, he found a teenage girl living a typical teenage girl’s life. The greatest royal announcement in the history of the universe takes place in this teen girl’s humble bedroom, illuminated by the majesty of God’s oracle. That is precisely what Tanner gives us, and it’s just stunning. Also, his technique in presenting the folds and flow of her gown and bed coverings is nothing short of magnificent.

‘The Visitation’

As wonderful as Tanner’s “Annunciation” is, his “Visitation” is even more striking.

Just look at it and consider what’s happening here.

When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Christmas painting The Visitation

Tanner allows us personally to witness this event. Elizabeth most likely did not have any notice that Mary was coming or the grand news that prompted the visit. She sits at the table on an ordinary day, when she hears Mary possibly utter what any of us likely would as she comes to the door, “Liz, you home?”

Elizabeth’s divine surprise and wonder is dramatically communicated simply in her uplifted hands. It’s a glorious device. Are they hands of praise or surprise? Certainly both at the same time.

This simple scene of a surprise family visitation and domesticity is the first scene of Jesus being worshiped. Reflect on this a moment. The event we are witnessing right here in this kitchen is the initiation of what the rest of history and eternity will be about, the worship of the second person of the divine Trinity: Jesus, the Father’s beloved Son.

The interchange between these two women in this domestic setting is unspeakably profound. We typically move over it far too easily, wanting to get onto what we see as the center of the Christmas story, the manger.

This exchange is also vitally important because it is the first revelation of Christ beyond Mary’s heart and womb. It is the precise second and scene that commenced the worship of the Son of the God that will continue without end into eternity, the story that encapsulates a Christian’s whole reality.

P.S. Tanner Lived in Philadelphia

I knew Tanner lived in Philadelphia for some time, so on a business trip there some years ago, I wanted to see if his house was discoverable. It was, and I found it, right around the corner from John Coltrane’s home. How cool is that?

Henry O. Tanner house

Glenn T. Stanton is a Federalist senior contributor who writes and speaks about family, gender, and art, is the director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family, and is the author of the brand new “The Myth of the Dying Church” (Worthy, 2019). He blogs at glenntstanton.com.

https://thefederalist.com/2019/12/23/behold-two-paintings-that-show-a-miraculous-christmas-meeting/

Faithfulness

by Discerning Dad

“And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” John 16:8

I hate peer pressure… I mean I really do. Does anyone like it? We’ve all faced it but it seemed incredibly strong for me in grade school.

Peer pressure is like waves in an ocean trying to move you off course. A boat has to make constant adjustments in order to stay on course. Waves and wind will constantly try to disrupt the navigation flow of the vessel.

So it is with peer pressure, we have our convictions, but we become convinced by a stronger voice in our life to settle or to do something that we would not have chosen on our own. I’m only talking about negative peer pressure here; there can be positive peer pressure too.

Comparison kills contentment and it weakens our conviction. I have been a Christian all my life and in grade school and high school, there was a constant barrage of voices trying to get me to question my faith, to try a drug, watch a mature movie, be in a relationship that wasn’t good for me, and the list goes on.

Even something as relatively innocent as clothing can cause others to size you up based on the latest trends or name brands. I remember around 5th grade, I was completely happy with my socks and shoes. I had no clue about fashion or name brands that is until this one kid in particular made it known to me how much I was lacking in this department.

Every day this kid would berate me and call out, “generic socks and generic shoes.” I don’t even remember what I would wear but it wasn’t good enough for the social criticism in the late 1980’s. This kid was nonstop with the generic comments every single day. I finally pressured my Mom into buying me Nikes, but not just Nike shoes, but Nike socks which visibly had the black swoop on the top of the sock in order to be seen by all. No one would again say that I had “generic sock and shoes.” I had won.

I was perfectly contented with my situation before this peer pressure occurred. I was oblivious to the need to put on a show for others in order to not be ridiculed. Sometimes it’s just easier to give in to quiet the noise around us, to lower our convictions for a moment’s peace. How often have we compromised our walk with Christ for the easy, the popular, the pleasurable, or whatever THING that is demanding of our time and attention?

Peer pressure isn’t as in my face as it was in grade school, but then again my phone is literally in my face every day. I see on social media a non-stop list of what I “need.” what others have, what I don’t have, how others are so happy, how well behaved their kids are, how many vacations my friends are taking, what God is doing in other ministries, and the list goes on. Social media is more subtle form of peer pressure but it may be just as strong, if not stronger, of an influence in our life than a physical person.

Discernment will allow us to ask, “what is God asking of me?” I can’t worry about what anyone else is doing or what God is calling them to do. God measure success based on faithfulness not based on achievements. I am longing for the day that Jesus says, “well done good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:23).

People often will want the results without the work it takes to get there. You see that successful Pastor with a vibrant ministry? You don’t see the two failed churches, the multitude of sleepless nights in prayer, or the constant stress he faces by those that have a critical spirit about them. Actually the stress, the failure, the pain, and prayer have gotten him to this point, he had to learn to fail in order to succeed. He had to learn the lesson of when he did not rely on God so that he would never go down that path again. He had to learn the importance of prayer when he couldn’t do it on his own so that he would be able lift up those around him in a powerful covering so that Satan never gains a foothold in his ministry.

But you see him and you want to be him without any of those steps or God’s calling on your life to do that…

It’s like someone that idolizes a celebrity and wants to be them while never seeing the depression they face, the loss of true friendships, never feeling like they are valued apart from their talent, or the desire they have just to “be normal” again.

What is God calling you to do? Where is God calling you to go? If you can’t answer that, you need to pray. God is always looking for a willing vessel who can say, like Isaiah, “here I am God, send me!”

Read 1 Kings 13, seriously stop and read the chapter before you continue…but if you didn’t I’ll do my best to summarize.

Jeroboam was a wicked king (there seemed to be no shortage of them when you read the Old Testament). God called a prophet out of Judah to go to Bethel (Jewish historian Josephus called him Yadon and I will too for the purpose of this story).

God called Yadon for a purpose, to travel to another city and to boldly rebuke the King, facing a probable death for doing so. When he got there not only did he miraculously prophecy about King Josiah (which wouldn’t happen for about three centuries later) but he also destroyed the pagan altar through an earthquake (13:5)! When the King pointed at him to have his guards seize him, instantly his hand became paralyzed and he couldn’t pull it back (v4).

Now the evil King Jeroboam asked the man of God (Yadon) to pray for his hand to be restored and it was. The King then tempted the prophet to come and eat, drink, and stay in his palace, but Yadon was strong in his conviction since the Lord told him, “you must not eat or drink anything while you are there, and do not return to Judah by the same way you came” (v.9).

This was a powerful confrontation that Yadon had; almost as powerful as Elijah calling down fire on the prophets of Baal. I don’t know the mindset of Yadon but I would have breathed a sigh of relief, not only was I not killed by the wicked King, but God showed up in miraculous signs and the King actually wanted to treat me to a royal dinner. I can imagine he was pretty famished; the long journey with no food and water now was the time to relax… or was it? Yadon resisted the pressure and remained true to what God was asking him to do.

But that was not the end of this story. The rest of this story is about an “old prophet” who is unnamed who sends his sons to find Yadon. Once he was found, the old prophet rode out to meet Yadon. He asked “are you the man of God who came from Judah” (v.14)? No doubt word of his confrontation with the King spread like wildfire through the town. He invites him back to his house to get some food and drink, but again Yadon replies about how God told him not to eat or drink anything until he returns to his hometown. The same answer he gave the King.

Now this part is fascinating…

“But the old prophet answered, ‘I am a prophet, too, just as you are. And an angel gave me this command from the Lord: ‘Bring him home with you so he can have something to eat and drink. (v18)’” The next verse even says the old man was lying, but the peer pressure, the fatigue, and/or the camaraderie of another prophet got to Yadon and he went back with the old man to eat and drink.

Now think about this for a minute, God called Yadon out of his hometown to go to Bethel to deliver a mighty message to the king. Why didn’t he call this old man? He was a prophet, conveniently located in the same town as the king… We know this old man had no problem lying and God knew his heart as well.

So back to the story, the old man and Yadon were eating a meal back at the house and the Spirit of God speaks through the old man, aka the liar! “This is what the Lord says: ‘You have defiled the word of the Lord and have disobeyed the command the Lord your God gave you. You came back to this place and ate and drank where he told you not to eat or drink. Because of this, your body will not be buried in the grave of your ancestors” (v21-22).

I feel bad for Yadon, after this meal he saddled his donkey and rode off to an awaiting lion that killed him (v.24). A mighty victory for God turned into a crushing defeat because he did not obey the word of God; he listened to a false prophet who got him to sway off course. He fell into peer pressure from a fellow prophet. A prophet who said he heard from God nonetheless!

I find it interesting that God still spoke through the old prophet at the dinner table, you see, God can use anyone and anything for His glory, but that doesn’t mean the prophet was trustworthy or following the will of God.

God can speak through anyone, but that doesn’t mean you need to go to their church, to read their books, or follow them if they are not fully obedient to the Word of God. There’s a lot of truth out there being mixed with deception. God can reach people even among prosperity preachers and twisted denominations.

We need to have discernment to align all things against the Word of God and hold fast to what is true.

But on a personal level, if God is calling you to do something, don’t be swayed by what another preacher, teacher, pastor, or priest tells you. God wants you to hear his voice so clearly you don’t need a second opinion.

I’m not saying that we can’t ask for wisdom from others, but I’m saying if God tells you something; don’t listen to someone who hasn’t heard from God for your life, who has a conflicting message.

There are other examples in the Bible of this same thing. Micaiah faced off against 400 other prophets in 1 Kings 22. I love this story and I write about it in detail in my book on the chapter about counterfeits. All the prophets were ‘yes men’ and prophesied success for the King while Michaiah prophesied defeat. One of the prophets came and slapped him saying, “Which way did the spirit from the Lord go when he went from me to speak to you” (v.24)? What Michaiah prophesied came true despite 400 voices claiming to hear from God.

Another example is Hezekiah and the siege on Jerusalem from King Sennacherib of Assyria (Isaiah 36). An envoy of Assyria came to taunt Israel and said a number of insults outside the city including, “Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this land without the Lord? The Lord himself told me to march against this country and destroy it” (v.10). Obviously a blatant lie.

Satan can be disguised as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). We have to be very careful when even someone in ministry tells us a word from God that does not align with truth. I do believe God gives people words of knowledge today, but I also believe that Satan can plan deception in people’s minds that allow them to say something that is just a little off and get you to question what God said. Just like with Eve in the Garden, “did God really say?”

God would rather you be faithful to what He is calling you to do, than to chase after dreams and aspirations that don’t align with that calling. After all, are you building your kingdom or God’s?

Maybe being faithful to the job you dislike means that you can bring life into that environment and others can see Jesus through you.

Maybe being faithful to your family despite the frustrations means that your kids will be the first generation to know of the goodness and love of Christ without having to survive an abusive parent.

Maybe being faithful to your spouse despite your feelings means that you need to subject your feelings to the will of God and not your own; your faithfulness will be a witness to other couples with the same struggle.

Maybe enduring the pain and heartache that comes with fostering children means that the children you are pouring your heart and soul into will be able to know about Jesus simply because you are being faithful to that call despite all the garbage that sometimes comes with the foster care system.

This all comes back to discernment. Seek God for yourself; stand fast on the path He is calling you to take. Don’t be swayed by the lies of the enemy, even if it comes to you under the guise of a “friend” or someone that supposedly hears from God.

Be bold, be courageous, God can use you to accomplish His will on this earth if we are faithful and obedience for the glory of God and God alone. Amen!

Tim Ferrara
Discerning Dad

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Choosing To Forgive

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which bind them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:13-14 NIV

Most Christians will agree that forgiveness is the right thing to do, after all there are over 100 verses in the Bible that talk about forgives or forgiving others. And yet, forgiving other people can be extremely hard to do. It seems to come easily for children, I know that my children will quickly forgive each other and move on about their day. They never bring up infractions from a week, month, or year ago! Why does this get harder to do as people move into adulthood? As you become adults, the wrongs levied against you become more severe, we build up walls over time, and we can analyze a scenario to judge if someone is deserving of our forgiveness.

A recent Barna study (1) among practicing Christians said that:

76% offered unconditional forgiveness to someone else

55% received unconditional forgiveness

27% identify someone they don’t want to forgive

23% identify someone who they can’t forgive

22% struggle to receive forgiveness for something

We can learn a lot about forgiveness in the Bible. Let’s take a look at the story of Jacob and Esau.

Jacob had God’s favor but he was not a good brother to Esau in the least. He took advantage of Esau when he was weak and traded him some stew for a birthright (although Esau was not very smart to have agreed). Jacob also betrayed his brother by stealing the blessing from his father by dressing up like his brother, with his mother’s help nonetheless! This was a double betrayal for Esau from his brother and mother.

Jacob brought about division against him and his brother and he had to flee for fear of repercussion. The interesting thing is that the brothers meet up again, many years later in Genesis 37. Jacob is justifiably scared of this encounter. He does not know if Esau will attack him and steal everything. Jacob separates out his wives and children into groups so that if one group is attacked, the other can flee safely. Jacob also prepares a generous gift for Esau when he arrives.

Surprisingly to Jacob, Esau embraces his brother and even rejects the gifts that Jacob brings saying, “I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.” (Gen. 37:9) The brothers are reunited despite the past. God blesses both of them as they grow in livestock and wealth that they eventually have to split up because the land cannot support both groups.

Esau made a decision to forgive his brother. Jacob did not ask for forgiveness before it was offered. Esau had every “right” to stay bitter and even steal from Jacob his possessions. Esau chose the high ground.

Esau was betrayed by his own flesh and blood, how often does family betray their own? This hurt can be harder than others to recover from. If a stranger hurts me, it may make me sad but I can move on. When family hurts you, it sometimes makes the relationship irreparable and can cause devastating psychological damage.

The same can be said for our church family. Too often I hear and have experienced fellow Christians who hurt and betray their own, either through difference of beliefs or petty arguments. This can result in unforgiveness and someone choosing to not go to church or not let another Christian brother or sister close to them again in case of a future hurt. If an effort to control your surroundings, you end up taking extreme measures that hurt you in different ways such as the lack of fellowship and community. We are meant for relationship with fellow believers and to meet together regularly (Heb. 10:25).

Forgiveness does not forget the past. It does allow you to keep the past from controlling your future.

Forgiveness does not excuse or condone previous actions and it does not mean you have to sign up to get hurt again.

Forgiveness should be given even when it is not asked for. The person you forgive does not even need to be present in cases of death or abuse. You can still forgive them before your Heavenly Father.

Forgiveness is more an act of release for YOU than the other person. We hold on to unforgiveness because it gives us power, but it also destroys us in the process and steals our joy. They say power corrupts, I would say that unforgiveness corrupts our spirit.

There’s an old saying that says, “Harboring unforgiveness or bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

But we only forgive those who deserve it right? After all there are some actions that are reprehensible, that cannot be forgiven even if I wanted to? I don’t want to judge but I also can’t forgive because of what this person did to me…

If anyone “deserved” to hold on to unforgiveness it would have been Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom. She tells of an amazing story of one of her captors after the war, coming to a camp where she was preaching about Jesus. She chose forgiveness there on the spot when he told her who he was and what he had done.

Corrie ten Boom then told of not being able to forget this incident. She had forgiven the person, but she kept rehashing the incident and so couldn’t sleep. Finally Corrie cried out to God for help in putting the problem to rest.

“His help came in the form of a kindly Lutheran pastor,” Corrie wrote, “to whom I confessed my failure after two sleepless weeks.” “Up in the church tower,” he said, nodding out the window, “is a bell which is rung by pulling on a rope. But you know what? After the sexton lets go of the rope, the bell keeps on swinging. First ding, then dong. Slower and slower until there’s a final dong and it stops. I believe the same thing is true of forgiveness.

When we forgive, we take our hand off the rope. But if we’ve been tugging at our grievances for a long time, we mustn’t be surprised if the old angry thoughts keep coming for a while. They’re just the ding-dongs of the old bell slowing down.” “And so it proved to be. There were a few more midnight reverberations, a couple of dings when the subject came up in my conversations, but the force — which was my willingness in the matter — had gone out of them. They came less and less often and at the last stopped altogether: we can trust God not only above our emotions, but also above our thoughts.”(2)

What unforgiveness in your life do you need to let go of today, like letting go of a helium balloon? Let unforgiveness float away from your life and allow the Holy Spirit to heal broken wounds like only He can.

Discerning Reflection: What areas of my life do I have unforgiveness? Do I forgive as quickly as Jesus commands? Who do I need to pray about forgiving today that God is placing upon my heart?

Prayer: Lord, thank you for your immense gift of forgiveness that you gave us through your Son’s sacrifice on the cross. Help me to not hold on to unforgiveness which can lead to bitterness. Reveal to me today who you would like me to forgive, even if they are not asking for forgiveness.

Tim Ferrara
Discerning Dad
1- https://www.barna.com/research/forgiveness-christians/
2- http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/f/forgiveness.htm

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Stop Smearing Christians As ‘Christian Nationalists’ Just Because They Value Both Faith And Freedom

Stop Smearing Christians As ‘Christian Nationalists’ Just Because They Value Both Faith And Freedom

Don’t confuse true believers who rightly fight for both faith and freedom as Christian nationalists. They’re just Christians.

By Kylee Zempel FEBRUARY 23, 2021

Throughout the Trump presidency but with increased frequency in the days and weeks following the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, the term “Christian nationalism” has littered newsfeeds, and “Christian nationalist” has become a ubiquitous insult hurled broadly at those on the religious right.

We can’t say Christian nationalism doesn’t exist; it does. But what does it mean? Who are the Christian nationalists? Much like the irony of the racism label, when religious folks fight the Christian nationalist tag, their foes seem to take that resistance as further proof that they are indeed Christian nationalists.

Part of the problem with the label is that it is ill-defined, meaning it’s hard to know what exactly Christian nationalism is, how to identify it, and thus hard to counteract or refute it. This makes it a convenient and effective rhetorical grenade to launch at faithful Christians.

Rachel S. Mikva, writing in USA Today, seems to think Christian nationalists are “Christians who plan to take the country for Jesus,” while Amanda Tyler, writing in Religion News Service, describes the phenomenon as “Christianity wrapped in an American flag.” It’s “a fusion of God and country,” explained Jack Jenkins in the same pages.

The Rev. William E. Swing, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, defines Christian nationalism as “those who believe that God is partial to Christians, that Christians are God’s chosen people in this country. They are convinced that America has always been a Christian nation and always will be.”

While Christian nationalism predates the Trump era — critics hurled the same accusations against George W. Bush for his policies — some authors have fused this idea with the 45th president, saying “the most extreme corners of support for Mr. Trump have become inextricable from some parts of white evangelical power in America,” as Elizabeth Dias and Ruth Graham wrote in the New York Times.

In The New Republic, Matthew Avery Sutton takes it a step further, claiming that “fear, anger, and anxiety remained as central to the lives of evangelicals as any practices of forgiveness, love, understanding, or compassion,” and that Trump “stoked evangelicals’ terror of state power and brought their deep-seated racism and sexism to the surface.”

Christian Nationalism Defined

David French zooms away from Trump to help articulate a clear explanation, which he takes from Thomas Kidd quoting Matthew McCullough: Christian nationalism is “an understanding of American identity and significance held by Christians wherein the nation is a central actor in the world-historical purposes of the Christian God.” It offers an “exaggerated transcendent meaning to American history” and can “undergird American militarism.”

The first part of French’s analysis is spot-on. He notes that this problematic worldview is ahistoric and anti-biblical, and thus can lead to dangerous applications. So-called Christians who believe their identity as Americans is equal to their religious identity and that their earthly citizenship is central to God’s divine plan and promises do so at the expense of scripture. Patriotism is not the central message of the gospel.

French is also right that “the pervasiveness of Christian nationalism as an academic or theological concept is greatly exaggerated.” Even most patriotic pastors believe Christians must devote themselves to God above nation.

Also, contrary to how corporate media actors have crafted the riot narrative, the number of “religious” people who forced their way into the Capitol on Jan. 6, allegedly taking it over “in Jesus’s name,” was numerically insignificant compared to the number of Christians who rallied peacefully in the capital city that day, concerned for their country and the integrity of our institutions.

Most of French’s subsequent analysis, however —  which also wades into anti-American 1619 absurdity and white guilt — is instructive about the myriad ways opponents of Christian Trump supporters (and of Christianity generally) use this label to smear Christ-followers trying to faithfully live out their beliefs. French’s NeverTrumpism taints his analysis of patriotic white Protestants and shines through in his knee-jerk disdain for anything resembling an America-first outlook.

It’s the same sentiments you can find in The New York Times and The New Republic, but unlike most corporate writers spouting off about religion, French, as a Christian himself, has all the right language to effectively smear the faithful believers whose voting records and civic engagement he finds distasteful. In his world, Christians who love their country differently than French loves it run the risk of being tossed into the “Christian nationalist” basket.

When Love Becomes Militant

French rightly notes that an incorrect view of God and his purposes for America can lead to militarism, which he seems to believe is what’s wrong with white, Christian freedom-lovers and Trump voters now. But he fails to note that even a correct love of God and country can lead to aggression.

Of a virtuous love for country — which includes love of home, familiarity, and family — French quotes C.S. Lewis, saying: “Of course patriotism of this kind is not in the least aggressive. It asks only to be let alone. It becomes militant only to protect what it loves.”

His argument is self-defeating, however, because it ignores our present reality. What does righteous patriotism become, then, when people are not “let alone” and when their institutions begin to directly attack what they love? Lewis said it right there: It becomes militant.

The pandemic offers a fresh example. Citizens aren’t being “let alone” when they are subjected to sweeping and partisan orders that dictate how they must cover their faces and whom they are permitted to allow inside their own homes. When government authorities qualify worship as nonessential and dangerous, fracturing church bodies into rotating services or relegating them to internet “fellowship,” that surely qualifies as an attack on “what they love.” Therefore even in keeping with so-called pure patriotism, aggression becomes warranted.

This seems to be a popular sentiment among left-wing media and politicos, that Christians ought to be polite, silent, and unconcerned with the affairs of government. Any peep out of them, even when their rights are violated, amounts to extremism and a desire for theocracy.

Oh, you Christians don’t want gender propaganda forced on your kids in schools? You’re a bigot who wants religion written into law. You want Supreme Court justices who value life even in the womb? You’re a hateful theocrat. You think Big Tech and bureaucrats rigged an election that will result in your rights being infringed, so you fly to D.C. with your family and your flags? You’re a Christian nationalist.

The Gospel According To…

The fact is all people have some sort of religious belief to which they passionately cling. As the late novelist David Foster Wallace noted, “In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.”

For some people, it’s Black Lives Matter or so-called reproductive rights, and for others it’s climate activism. For some, it’s nationalism parading around as orthodoxy, and for others it’s biblical Christianity.

Each has a certain moral code, a requirement for repentance, some method of worship, and leaders that they follow. BLM disciples hosting struggle sessions and following the teachings of Ibram X. Kendi while they praise the doctrine of “equity” have the same religious fervor as true Christians. Elevating Kamala Harris, the social justice warrior and “equity” preacher, to the vice presidency is evidence that followers of that secular religion want their beliefs written into law as much as Christians want to be free to follow their own.

The laws and policies in our country aren’t neutral; they reflect someone’s “religious” beliefs. When lawless actors set fire to a courthouse or vandalize a national monument in the name of Black Lives Matter or Antifa, it doesn’t differ much from a rioter wielding a cross and a Bible as he storms the Capitol. Both could be considered religious extremists; they just worship different gods — neither one the true God. Violence and tribalism are the natural result of false religions that prize the temporal over the eternal.

It’s here we must realize that when patriotism becomes violent nationalism — when it elevates country to the same status as God and believes America, rather than Christ himself, to be central to God’s plan — there’s nothing “Christian” about it.

True Christians condemn idol worship. They hold fast to what is good. They expect to be persecuted strangers and exiles. They believe vengeance and judgment belong to God alone, not to vigilantes bearing cross necklaces and flags. Rogues who invoked Jesus’s name while smashing windows and barging into the Capitol did so in vain. That isn’t what following Jesus looks like.

Bullied into Apathy

None of this is to say Christians ought to embrace apathy or be pacifists. The anti-religious newsrooms pushing cover stories about so-called Christian nationalism would love nothing more than to shame and bully faithful disciples into sitting down and shutting up.

The Capitol riot was a convenient hook for their narrative, but they don’t just believe the people who showed up in Washington that day were religious extremists. They think all Christians are. It isn’t that they don’t want you in Statuary Hall. It’s that they don’t want you on the school board, in journalism, or on campus. They want to chase you out of churches, out of public office, and even out of political conversations.

Believers, however, know faith without works is dead and that our faith isn’t confined to Sunday morning services. What we believe about God and man and redemption ought to affect every decision we make, including our civic engagement.

If we love God, love our neighbor, and wish to steward our resources and lead our families well, sitting on the sidelines of the political and culture wars is really not an option. Contrary to French’s assessment, it isn’t about making ourselves more culturally comfortable; it’s about being consistent in our beliefs and doing what’s right.

As long we remain on this Earth, Christians will be assailed as bigots and nationalists. This evergreen dynamic of Christians being not “of the world,” but striving to be faithful while they’re “in it,” is way bigger than Jan. 6, Donald Trump, David French, or America. Don’t confuse true believers who rightly fight for both faith and freedom as Christian nationalists. They’re just Christians.

Kylee Zempel is an assistant editor at The Federalist. Follow her on Twitter @kyleezempel.Photo Pikist

https://thefederalist.com/2021/02/23/stop-smearing-christians-as-christian-nationalists-just-because-they-value-both-faith-and-freedom/


AUDIO Vaccinated Christians

By Rev Bill Woods

Medical Science has rushed to develop a Covid-19 vaccine to safeguard people against getting this dread disease that has created a world-wide pandemic.

  • Currently there are 2 varieties of vaccines in the U.S. that are authorized and recommended, but a 3rd one is being developed.

These Covid-19 vaccinations are supposed to provide immunity from the disease.

Because not enough vaccine is available for everybody yet, the Center for Disease Control is vaccinating front-line workers like Doctors, Nurses, para-medics, and, also, people 75 and older.

  • Vaccinations will be available to the rest of society as quickly as they can be developed.
  • The plan is to have all 7.5 billion people in the world inoculated with this serum.

Bill Gates and others of his caliber want to make it so everyone receives a certificate after being vaccinated.  Anyone without a certificate will not be able to buy or sell, to travel, and a bunch of other restrictions.

  • People are coming by the hoards to get this inoculation. 
  • Sounds pretty close to what is described in Revelation 13 and 14.  I don’t think this is the Mark of the Beast, but I think it’s the forerunner to the mark.
  • It’ll get people used to the idea of complying with Governmental regulations and make them less suspicious to cooperate. 
  • However, when the genuine Mark of the Beast arrives, people will know they’re making a commitment to comply to the government and the Anti-Christ.
  • IT WILL NOT BE SOMETHING THAT CAN BE TAKEN BY ACCIDENT OR TRICKERY!  

With all this push for a vaccination to combat the Covid-19 virus it brought back memories of my childhood when I was forced to get various kinds of vaccinations.

I remember as a little boy being taken to the Walla Walla Clinic to get my vaccinations.

   – I’d kick and scream all the way.

They told me this vaccination was good for me and it would help me stay well, I still didn’t appreciate the opportunity to be vaccinated.

  –  I hate getting shots!

    – As a boy, I’d often lay in my bed at night and cringe because many of my relatives had

      Diabetes and had to give themselves a shot every day.

      – How could they do that!

  •  I was afraid it might happen to me too!

My biggest fear became reality – I now have to administer my own shots twice a day—since 1984!

    – Yikes!  37 years!  I’ve shot myself over 27,010 times!

    – Not to mention the gallons of blood I’ve shed piercing my fingers to test my blood sugar.

There’s a difference between an insulin shot and a vaccination.

  .- My insulin injection is a smaller sharp needle that’s clean and sterile and is administered by someone who loves and cares for me very much –  THAT WOULD BE ME!

     – Marty threatens from time to time to file the points if I act up….. German Bloodline!…….

I seem to remember from my childhood how a vaccination required a big square long, dull needle and was administered by a big hairy, ugly nurse smelling of body odor and trained in a Nazi Prison Camp with no thought of tenderness and compassion.

Nurses would say, “Billy, be a big boy — this won’t hurt and it’ll soon be over and I’ll give you a lollipop! It’s going to pinch.”Liar! LIAR!  It didn’t pinch it stabbed and it hurt!

   – Look Lady! Keep your lollipop–stay away from my arm!  And other target areas on my body.

I suspicioned this Amazonian nurse was in cahoots with the dentist and the lollipop was designed to give me the opportunity to kick and scream all the way to the dentist’s office.

    – Poor Mom was so gullible that she bought into these wicked schemes.

      – You’d think she’d eventually come around because she was the poor soul that had to drag her sweet little boy to those horrible places.

        – Then, much to my horror, I learned she was paying these sadistic people to hurt me!  MY OWN MOTHER!!!!

I couldn’t believe after suffering the horrors of vaccinations, I’d have to put my two beautiful daughters through the exact same thing.

Seriously, in medicine a vaccination is good because it places a small dose of the disease in your body so you can build immunity against the real thing.

    – Hopefully you won’t have to contend with a full-fledged disease.

Most churches have people who seem to be vaccinated Christians.

   – They’ve gotten a small dose of religion that’s keeping them from getting the real thing.

     – In medicine that’s good – in Christianity that’s not good at all!

Jesus said – Matthew 7:21-23:
21  “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.
22  On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’
23  But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’

Just being vaccinated isn’t enough — we need to be fully exposed to genuine Christianity.

1.  CHILDREN GROWING UP IN THE CHURCH OFTEN BECOME VACCINATED. 

    – They’ve been around the church and have the attitude they have special privileges.

      – They think they can get away with sin and are allowed certain leniencies others don’t have because their parents hold certain positions in the Church — the rules don’t apply to them.

Eli’s sons Hophni and Phineas fell victim to these ideas.

   – Their dad was the High Priest of Israel.

    – His boys naturally became priests, but felt the rules were for someone else.

1 Samuel 2:12-17
12  Now the sons of Eli were scoundrels who had no respect for the LORD
13  or for their duties as priests. Whenever anyone offered a sacrifice, Eli’s sons would send over a servant with a three-pronged fork. While the meat of the sacrificed animal was still boiling,
14  the servant would stick the fork into the pot and demand that whatever it brought up be given to Eli’s sons. All the Israelites who came to worship at Shiloh were treated this way.
15  Sometimes the servant would come even before the animal’s fat had been burned on the altar. He would demand raw meat before it had been boiled so that it could be used for roasting.
16  The man offering the sacrifice might reply, “Take as much as you want, but the fat must be burned first.” Then the servant would demand, “No, give it to me now, or I’ll take it by force.”
17  So the sin of these young men was very serious in the LORD’s sight, for they treated the LORD’s offerings with contempt.

To make matters worse, Eli knew what was happening and didn’t correct his boys.

    – He probably thought he loved them too much to discipline them — if he truly loved them he would’ve tried to correct them.

1 Samuel 2:22-25
22  Now Eli was very old, but he was aware of what his sons were doing to the people of Israel. He knew, for instance, that his sons were seducing the young women who assisted at the entrance of the Tabernacle.
23  Eli said to them, “I have been hearing reports from all the people about the wicked things you are doing. Why do you keep sinning?
24  You must stop, my sons! The reports I hear among the LORD’s people are not good.
25  If someone sins against another person, God can mediate for the guilty party. But if someone sins against the LORD, who can intercede?” But Eli’s sons wouldn’t listen to their father, for the LORD was already planning to put them to death.

Kristin — “My Dad’s the Sunday school Superintendent!”

Often kids don’t even hear the message because they’re “special” and the rules apply to everyone else but not to them.

   – They’ve been entertained for so long they don’t know they’re expected to listen.

   – Parents and grandparents don’t seem to be aware of the danger their children are in!

     – Parents don’t try to make the children listen because “It’s so hard to understand!”

Listen!  God’s very serious that we serve Him and we train our families to serve Him!

1 Samuel 2:27-31
27  One day a man of God came to Eli and gave him this message from the LORD: “I revealed myself to your ancestors when the people of Israel were slaves in Egypt.
28  I chose your ancestor Aaron from among all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to offer sacrifices on my altar, to burn incense, and to wear the priestly vest as he served me. And I assigned the sacrificial offerings to you priests.
29  So why do you scorn my sacrifices and offerings? Why do you give your sons more honor than you give me—for you and they have become fat from the best offerings of my people Israel!
30  “Therefore, the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I promised that your branch of the tribe of Levi would always be my priests. But I will honor those who honor me, and I will despise those who think lightly of me.
31  The time is coming when I will put an end to your family, so it will no longer serve as my priests. All the members of your family will die before their time. None will reach old age.

The interesting thing is that even with this warning, Eli did nothing to fix the problem.

    – We are warned — what will we do?

1 Samuel 3:11-14
11  Then the LORD said to Samuel, “I am about to do a shocking thing in Israel.
12  I am going to carry out all my threats against Eli and his family, from beginning to end.
13  I have warned him that judgment is coming upon his family forever, because his sons are blaspheming God and he hasn’t disciplined them.

I read about a man who worked in an acid factory.

    – He said the only reason anyone gets hurt is because they don’t want to follow the rules.

    – The new workers respect the rules, but the “seasoned” workers think they can take short cuts and ignore their safety training and still get by.

      – That’s when they get hurt!

WE’VE NONE TO LOSE!

   – Many of those children grow up taking the same attitude with them into adulthood.

     “I’m a 3rd generation Nazarene……….”

      – Being around the church isn’t the same as knowing Jesus Christ…..

        – Standing in a garage doesn’t make me a car….. Or sitting at McDonald’s doesn’t make me a

           Hamburger or French fry.

If your kids don’t know Jesus – you’re doing them no favors by sheltering and covering for them!

   – We excuse them as being “a little independent, etc.”

      – Actually they’re pagans on their way to Hell!

      – We think their antics are cute now, but in 10 or 15 years they’ll be our major headaches.

If you’re faithful to the Church, but don’t belong to Jesus, you’re not going to Heaven either!

    – Years ago a fellow got mad at me and began to tell everyone you can’t get to Heaven from his Church.

    – RIGHT!  NO CHURCH WILL GET YOU TO HEAVEN!  ONLY CHRIST DOES!

2.  PEOPLE WHO GET TOO COMFORTABLE WITH THE WORLD BECOME VACCINATED.

    – The problem is their Christian Walk has lost its vitality and has become routine, boring and dead.

    – 2 Corinthians 6:17 Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate  yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you.

We lose our sensitivity to Christ and the things God has for us and become calloused.

   – Coarse humor, filth on TV or the internet, gossip, take God’s Name in vain, and etc.

      – “Its okay, were all Christians and we understand.”

        – Does God understand how special you are and how you’re exempt from His rules?

We lose the tenderness we once had towards God and others…..

    – We get offended easily and become critical and combative.

    – We lose the resilience we once had.

Satan loves to stir up dissension in God’s Church in an effort to stop any spiritual progress that’s being made.

Psalm 119:165 (KJV) — “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.

We don’t pray or read our Bible and if we do, we approach God in a flippant, irreverent manner.

Yes! The Middle Partition is down and yes, we’re invited to approach God’s Throne, but He’s still Holy, Awesome, and Majestic!

    – HE STILL DEMANDS HOLINESS!  

1 Peter 1:13-16
13  So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.
14  So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then.
15  But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.
16  For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”  

Hebrews 12:14 — Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.”

We must learn reverence and respect.

God and our worship of God are serious matters.

   – When we won’t heed God’s Spirit we harden our hearts….

     – God has some very definite ideas about worship.

Look at what happened to Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu

Leviticus 10:1-3
1  Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu put coals of fire in their incense burners and sprinkled incense over them. In this way, they disobeyed the LORD by burning before him the wrong kind of fire, different than he had commanded.
2  So fire blazed forth from the LORD’s presence and burned them up, and they died there before the LORD.
3  Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD meant when he said, ‘I will display my holiness through those who come near me. I will display my glory before all the people.’” And Aaron was silent.

   – Aaron’s sons thought they were special and didn’t have to follow the rules…..

Someone will say, “Well that’s Old Testament –– God   isn’t like that in the New Testament.”

Oh No!  Try reading Acts 5:1–11
1  But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property.
2  He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest.
3  Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself.
4  The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!”
5  As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified.
6  Then some young men got up, wrapped him in a sheet, and took him out and buried him.
7  About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.
8  Peter asked her, “Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?” “Yes,” she replied, “that was the price.”
9  And Peter said, “How could the two of you even think of conspiring to test the Spirit of the Lord like this? The young men who buried your husband are just outside the door, and they will carry you out, too.”
10  Instantly, she fell to the floor and died. When the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
11  Great fear gripped the entire church and everyone else who heard what had happened.

I get uncomfortable when people get flippant about God, “God’s Kids,” “the Big Guy,” etc.

I’m telling you this because I love you and don’t want to see you error!

We need a revival of genuine worship to a Holy God.

Satan would dearly love to make us too casual, too familiar, too disrespectful.

   – He wants to steal this last generation – our kids and adults (you and your family) – from God.

WE HAVE NONE TO LOSE!

Vaccinated Christians are just kept from having a full walk with Christ.

    – They’re not immune from going to Hell.

Don’t settle for a religious vaccination – – GET THE REAL THING!!!


PODCAST VACCINATED CHRISTIANS

https://www.buzzsprout.com/824359/7324030


The Power of the Cross

BY LYNDELLE PETERSON |APRIL 1, 2020

Kalawin—Getty Images

It’s called “the immovable ladder”. Small, aged and wooden, perched under a church window, the kind a tradesperson might use to reach a ceiling. For more than three centuries it hasn’t moved because no-one has been able to agree on what to do with it. Why? This is no ordinary ladder outside an ordinary church. This ladder has been outside a window of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem since the 1750s.

Six of Christianity’s oldest Orthodox and Catholic sects are responsible for the management of this building, a working relationship set up under a complex agreement called the Status Quo, which dates back to the eighteenth century. Every decision relating to the church is shared among the parties, who must reach consensus agreement. Thus, the immovable ladder remains immovable, because the six custodians cannot agree on what they should do with it.

Each party to the Status Quo takes their share of responsibility for this building incredibly seriously. In 2002 a physical altercation broke out that resulted in the hospitalisation of 11 people—a Coptic Christian monk’s chair had intruded ever so slightly into the Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s space. Because of the tensions among these Christian groups, a Muslim family has historically been entrusted with keeping the keys to the church.

So, what is it about this church building that creates so much tension, renders church leaders power­less to make decisions, and requires members of an outside faith to intervene? Simply, this church is claimed to be the historical site of the death and burial of Jesus Christ, the place of the cross and tomb of Christianity’s Messiah. Each year millions of pilgrims walk through the doors of the Holy Sepulchre Church to catch a glimpse of the site. Pilgrims from all walks of life and from all over the world come to light a candle, offer a prayer, pause and reflect on the event most crucial to every form and variation of Christianity.

A potent symbol

The Christian cross is the most recognisable religious symbol in the world and for good reason. Not just visible atop churches and cathedrals, but in homes, on national flags, in workplaces, in pop culture and even on bodies as tattoos, pendants and earrings. What other symbol is so recognised, so ubiquitous as the cross? Mega corporations like Apple, McDonalds, and Coca-Cola pay millions to marketing agencies to get that kind of brand awareness. The cross is a powerful symbol because it is the central feature of the salvation story; it represents the death of Jesus for the salvation of humanity.

But there is another part to the salvation story that gives the cross its power. Like Vegemite and cheese, left and right, or the loops and hooks of velcro, the cross is meaningless without the resurrection. God’s plan to reconcile humanity to Himself climaxed with the death of Jesus, but was ultimately fulfilled when He walked out of the tomb on Sunday. This plan of salvation was not just that Jesus would die and defeat sin, but that He would also overcome death.

Always part of the plan

The resurrection was a major part of the salvation plan from the very beginning. The Old Testament prophets foretold a coming Messiah who would defeat sin and death. The prophet Isaiah declared, “He will swallow up death in victory” (Isaiah 25:8, KJV) and Jesus tried to explain to His disciples on many occasions that His death wouldn’t be the final curtain. He declared, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25,26).

First century church leader Paul went even further to say that, without the resurrection, Christian faith is meaningless and salvation is unavailable: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). Without the resurrection, the cross has no power.

To borrow a metaphor from Jesus Himself, think about a kernel of wheat. A wheat grain in your hand seems small, indifferent and of little significance. You could choose to eat the kernel or grind it down to flour, but its potential is much more than just a single grain; it holds future fields and generations of wheat. Though the kernel in itself is valuable and useful for food, if you bury it in the ground and walk away, by its own “death” it takes on a brand-new life and can literally feed millions. The kernel is an important symbol of the power and capacity of the wheat, but it is only once it is planted that its power is revealed (see John 12:24).

Furthermore, the cross only made sense to the disciples after the resurrection. When Jesus walked the earth, His followers were expecting Him to incite a rebellion against the Roman occupation. In their view, the predicted Messiah would overthrow their Roman oppressors and restore the Jewish nation’s sovereignty over Israel. As Jesus was led to the cross to die His followers were understandably confused. What was the purpose of this great Teacher’s life if the whole movement was to end in His martyrdom? It wasn’t until the miraculous resurrection on the third day that Jesus’ death made any sense.

New life, new meaning

The resurrection of Jesus gave a meaning to the cross that His disciples could not see on crucifixion Friday. But witnessing their resurrected Lord transformed these men into a mighty force who changed history. Bestselling Christian author Tim Keller wrote in King’s Cross (2011) that “there has to be some explanation for how the cowardly group of disciples was transformed into a group of leaders”. The resurrection was the unfathomable, yet undeniable, evidence that Jesus Christ, among all the pretenders before and since, was the real Messiah. Jesus had risen, and therefore everything He had been saying to His followers was true.

But the resurrection of Jesus was not a one-time thing. The apostle Paul put it this way: “Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life” (1 Corinthians 15:20–22, NLT*).

Just like the kernel of wheat buried in the ground, Jesus’ death gave birth to a new life for anyone who chooses to accept Him. Death is the reality for all of us, because sin entered the world through Adam. But now a resurrection—a new life—is available to all of us, because redemption is available to the world through Jesus. He came to this earth to live the perfect life we couldn’t and to accept the consequences of our sin: death. All we have to do is accept today and we too can experience new life, both now and beyond the grave.   

Lyndelle Peterson is an Adventist pastor and church leader in Melbourne, Australia, where she lives with her young and growing family.

* Bible verses marked NLT are taken from the New Living Translation, copyright © 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

The power of the cross

Biden would resume Obama’s war on Christianity: Dem memo declares white Christians country’s foremost “national security threat”

January 02, 2021 by: JD Heyes

Image: Biden plans to resume Obama’s war on Christianity: Dem memo declares white Christians country’s foremost “national security threat”

(Natural News) Democrat Joe Biden’s message of wanting to ‘unify our divided country’ suffered another credibility blow in the wake of a newly uncovered Democratic memo that warns two-thirds of our country is a bigger threat than China, Russia, Iran and North Korea combined.

A report prepared especially for the (potentially) incoming Biden administration from the Secular Democrats of America PAC provides guidance to “boldly restore a vision of constitutional secularism and respect in the land for religious and intellectual pluralism.”

And here we thought that after four years of President Donald Trump that his efforts to uphold the right of Christians — and Jews, and Muslims, and whomever else — to practice freely, as outlined in the First Amendment, was him restoring constitutionality. 

In any event, the PAC says it “represents secular Democratic individuals and organizations” while advocating for “secular governance” as well as the promotion of “respect and inclusion of nonreligious Americans,” while mobilizing “nonreligious voters.”

Again, that same First Amendment guaranteeing Americans the right to worship freely also lacks a provision that mandates a religious society or the practice of a certain religion. So — if there can be no forcing of religion on Americans, why does this group think it can force secularism on all of us?

We digress.

Just The News reports that the proposal was formally presented to the Biden team by Democratic Reps. Jamie Raskin and Jared Huffman, co-chairmen of the Congressional Freethought Caucus; it was also endorsed by Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney.

“We’ve offered the new administration a roadmap to restore our basic constitutional values and protect science, reason and public health in American government,” Raskin and Huffman said in a joint statement. (Related: Why rioters will eventually turn their rage on Christianity if not stopped.)

The outlet notes further: 

The proposal calls for Biden’s team to work with Congress and governors to “advance a secular agenda at all levels of government, taking into account the current makeup of the federal courts and new, unfavorable precedents that your administration will have to contend with.”

In the document, the group argues that Trump has “empowered the religious right in ways no other administration has before, making significant advances in enacting their Christian nationalist agenda.”

The proposal outlines recommendations for reversing certain policies and “proactively” implementing new rules that would “restore secularism to federal governance and disentangle entrenched religious interests from federal policy.”

Again, what is inherently wrong with Trump ‘empowering’ people of faith within his administration? Understand that this proposal would not have been given to Team Biden unless these three lawmakers had a problem with the empowerment of religious persons within the Trump White House — none of whom were pushing to mandate Christianity across the country. 

Only people who do not believe in any religion are ‘suitable’ for government, according to this PAC.

But it gets worse: These bozos liken Christians with a threat to America’s “national security.”

“The rise of white Christian nationalism is a national security threat,” read the document. “We recommend you: encourage the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice to dedicate resources to de-radicalization programs aimed at hate groups, including, but not limited to, white nationalists; increase monitoring of such groups, including the online environment, and take action to address increased hate crimes toward minority faith communities; and shift rhetoric to label violent white nationalist extremists as terrorists.”

That is outrageous. If there are any threats to America’s national security that emanate from within the country, they are coming from the insane left: Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and burgeoning anarchist organizations on both the left and right.

But you can see what this is really about.

There is no bigger impediment to authoritarian rule than a belief among the populace in something higher and more divine than ‘big government.’ And what better way to destroy the fundamental right to not only believe in a higher authority but to worship that higher authority than to declare those who do to be our most dangerous threat.

The Marxist Democratic left hates America as it was founded, period. This is just another modicum of proof.

See more reporting like this at BigGovernment.news.

Sources include:

JustTheNews.com

NaturalNews.com

https://www.naturalnews.com/2021-01-02-biden-will-resume-obamas-war-christianity.html

VIDEO ‘Clouds’ Spotlights Catholic Family’s Struggles With Teen’s Terminal Illness

Author and mother of four Laura Sobiech discusses the new film depicting her son’s life and cultural impact — and the role of faith during trying times.

‘Clouds’ Spotlights Catholic Family’s Struggles With Teen’s Terminal Illness

by Josh Shepard

In the same week America got to know the remarkable Midwestern Catholic family of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, the biggest movie release this weekend spotlights another faith-driven Midwestern family.

Premiering today on Disney Plus, “Clouds” recounts the story of Zach Sobiech, one of four siblings raised in a Catholic home in Lakeland, Minnesota. After being diagnosed with osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer, the teenager is determined to live out his dreams no matter how long he has left.

Director Justin Baldoni (“Five Feet Apart”) helms the biopic, after having produced a documentary about Zach’s journey for his “My Last Days” online series. “I can’t think of a better time than right now to release a movie like this,” said Baldoni in a recent interview. “It gives people a chance to meet Zach, hear his music, and see the choices he made when he went through it.”

Based on the memoir of Zach’s mother Laura Sobiech, “Clouds” highlights Christian faith in a way rarely seen in Disney films. “One of my prayers throughout this whole experience has been: ‘Lord, you open doors and we’ll walk through them,’” she said in a phone interview. “That is very much what has happened.”

Upon learning of his terminal diagnosis, Zach took up songwriting and quickly achieved cultural impact — including a No. 1 hit iTunes single in 2013. A-list actors and artists took notice. Bryan Cranston, The Lumineers, and Jason Mraz (among others) boosted the song and gave tribute to Zach.

As a consultant on the script, Laura worked to ensure it reflected reality rather than make their journey seem unattainable. “I want people to see that our lives are messy,” she said. “We didn’t do things perfectly. We fought. We wrestled. Despite us, God chose to use our family and Zach’s story in this amazing way.”

Finding Connection During Unyielding Stress

For Sobiech, it felt surreal to travel from her small hometown — on a major studio’s dime — to the movie shoot in Montreal, Canada. Before filming, actors assembled for the first time for a table read of the script grounded in her memoir.

Hollywood stars with significant past credits sat around the conference room table: Neve Campbell (“Scream” franchise) portrays Laura, Tom Everett Scott (“That Thing You Do”) her husband Rob, Fin Argus (“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) their son Zach, and Sabrina Carpenter (“Adventures in Babysitting”) his best friend.

Their run-through of the draft script revealed a pivotal part of the story did not resonate. “The scene where Rob and I are arguing on the deck of the house, it just didn’t ring true,” said Laura Sobiech. “It wasn’t anything near what we would have said.” After the table read, director Baldoni huddled up with Campbell, Scott, and screenplay writer Kara Holden, all discussing how that scene between husband and wife needed work.

As a mother of four, Sobiech is used to speaking up when situations require it. “I just kind of butted in and said, ‘Well, do you want to know what we were really fighting about?’ They all looked at me and said: ‘Yeah, we do!’” she recounted.

Sobiech spent the afternoon guiding Holden as she rewrote the scene, with input from the actors. From years of personal experience, the Minnesota author said it was vital to knock down the assumption that caregivers usually choose to lean on one another.

“You’ve got two very fragile people going through a really hard thing,” she said. “When you know you are both going through the same emotions, you don’t want to burden your spouse with the heaviness you’re feeling. You end up sort of closing off and carrying it all by yourself, and you have to figure out a path back to each other.”

The Spirit and the Flesh

Following Zach’s diagnosis, the film depicts how the Catholic family sought divine intervention for his healing in addition to medical treatment. Thanks to an acquaintance who paid their way, the Sobiechs traveled to the world’s most famous healing shrine in Lourdes, France.

“Even then, I thought: We don’t really need to go to France to get a miracle,” recalled Sobiech. “We wrestled with what to expect. What are we really looking for? Are we setting ourselves up? What’s the purpose of this?”

A pilgrimage to Europe provided needed respite for the close-knit family facing trauma. “Lourdes is like coming in from a freezing cold blizzard into a warm, cozy house and getting wrapped in a blanket,” she said. “For us, it was this tranquil, peace-filled place to retreat.”

Nothing evidently supernatural occurred. Yet scenes at Lourdes are presented with remarkable reverence for a mainstream film, seeming to show some bigger story unfolding. “I did ask God to physically heal Zach,” said Sobiech. “But I also asked for his grace, that his hand would carry us through whatever would happen. And I think that was the answer we received.”

While viewers see their spirits were willing, realities of the flesh are also close at hand. The film earns its PG-13 rating through an F-bomb yelled by an exasperated parent and a romantic scene between teenagers. The faith-guided mother is sensitive to how families with young kids are vigilant about content even in an inspirational movie.

“Certainly if that’s not something you want your children to see, then they shouldn’t see it,” said Sobiech. “The scene ends before it gets too steamy, and it doesn’t go where one might think. That’s part of the teenage experience. It shows that Zach, a 17-year-old boy who was dying, was real.”

The Silver Lining of ‘Clouds’

One of few original films released thus far on Disney Plus, “Clouds” fits alongside their library of true-life biopics. His mom noted Zach “loved the spirit of Disney movies” their family watched together. “‘Remember the Titans’ was one of his favorites,” said Sobiech. “Especially at a time like this, it’s important to find something that’s uplifting.”

His legacy lives on in his music and other tangible ways. As of this week, the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund has raised more than $2 million to research better treatments and even a cure for the rare bone cancer.

“This story is about hope and love,” said director Justin Baldoni. “But as much as we want to touch peoples’ lives, we want to freakin’ end and find a cure for osteosarcoma and children’s cancer. Because we don’t need to lose another bright soul.”

Active in their community while still busy raising kids and now one grandchild, Laura and Rob Sobiech consider it providential the film is releasing during this contentious season. “I hope it does the same thing as Zach’s song ‘Clouds,’” she said, “Which is to inspire people to think about the deep things in life and leave them feeling hopeful.”

Based on the memoir by Laura Sobiech, “Clouds” premieres today on Disney Plus.

Josh Shepherd covers culture, faith, and public policy for several media outlets including The Stream. His articles have appeared in The Daily Signal, The Christian Post, Boundless, Providence Magazine, and Christian Headlines. A graduate of the University of Colorado, he previously worked on staff at The Heritage Foundation and Focus on the Family. Josh and his wife live in the Washington, D.C. area.

https://thefederalist.com/2020/10/16/clouds-spotlights-catholic-familys-struggles-with-teens-terminal-illness/

If left uncontrolled, Black Lives Matter mobs may soon target churches, religious monuments

July 08, 2020 by: Michael Alexander

(Natural News) After toppling, beheading and vandalizing the statues and icons of historical figures said to be associated with colonialism and slavery, rioters affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement and other similar anti-establishment groups such as Antifa have moved on to new targets: churches, religious monuments and statues.

This development was first documented in Washington, D.C., where protesters, for the second time, vandalized and defaced St. John’s Episcopal Church – their way of scoring revenge against Episcopalian slave owners, according to a report by the Washington Examiner. Coincidentally, this was the same church where President Donald Trump held up a copy of the Holy Bible just minutes after dispersing a crowd with tear gas and rubber bullets.

This was followed by an incident in California, where several Native and Black protesters tore down a statue of Junipero Serra, a Spanish priest whom Pope Francis canonized as a saint back in 2015.

The toppling of the Serra statue, which San Francisco archbishop Salvatore Cordeleone described as “an act of sacrilege” and “an act of the Evil One,” has led people from different Christian communities to air fears that the attacks on Christian monuments and symbols will continue unabated.

“Statues of Jesus are next. It won’t end. Pray for the USA,” Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, said in a tweet.

Shaun King, an author, Leftist civil rights activist and a prominent figure in the Black Lives Matter movement, further fanned the flames of speculation and panic among Christian communities after tweeting that taking down statues of Jesus would be acceptable — especially if these statues and icons depict Jesus as white

“Yes, I think the statues of the white European they claim is Jesus should also come down,” King tweeted, adding that such depictions of Jesus are nothing more than propaganda that promotes the idea of “white supremacy.” (Related: Anti-Christian Left calls for toppling of Jesus statues.)

King failed to mention in his tweets, however, that depictions of Jesus and the saints often vary from culture to culture, with each artistic depiction taking on characteristics and visual cues from the societies it was made in.

As a response to these incidents, as well as the previous removal of Confederate statues and other historical monuments that have been deemed “racist” by radical Leftists, President Trump signed an executive order granting federal protection to public monuments and other statues of historical figures.

“They’re looking at Jesus Christ, they’re looking at George Washington, they’re looking at Abraham Lincoln, they’re looking at Thomas Jefferson,” Trump said during a meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda in the White House’s Rose Garden, vowing to stop the toppling of monuments and statues carried out by rioters.

The order, which was signed by the President on June 27, not only mandates the prosecution of people who have been proven to have rendered damages to federal monuments, but also, the potential withholding of federal funding from state and local governments in case they fail to protect any public monument and statue within their jurisdictions.

The order, Trump said, will also be retroactive.

Anglican Church to “evaluate” and “review” list of monuments

While most Christian denominations have reacted with panic and anger over the recent incidents surrounding religious monuments and statues, some, such as the Church of England, have chosen to react in a more tempered fashion.

The Church of England, for instance, which has more than 16,000 churches and 42 cathedrals, noted that following the resurgence of the global Black Lives Matter movement and the death of George Floyd, monuments celebrating people who were involved in the “discrimination or exploitation based on race” during their lifetimes could be removed.

“We acknowledge that dialogue alone is not sufficient and must have real outcomes. These may include the alteration or removal of monuments,” Becky Clark, the church’s Director of Cathedrals and Church Buildings, said.

Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, meanwhile, said that their review of the histories of the individuals depicted in the statues and monuments will be conducted “very carefully” to assess if they should be retained in their places or not.

Clark stressed, however, that the removal or alteration of “problematic” statues and monuments must be done in a safe and legal manner, a reference to the violent dismantling of statues that happened across America and in some places in Europe within the past few weeks.

“Dialogue has to be open and honest. Churches and cathedrals are considering how they can address the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement and which demonstrations and direct action have brought into such sharp relief,“ Clark noted.

“Anti-Christian violence rooted in Marxist ideas”

Nathan Stone, in a column for The Federalist, stated that the current trend of anti-Christian violence and iconoclasm exhibited by rioters is rooted in Marxist thought and ideology.

“The reason for the attacks becomes clearer when considering that Black Lives Matter and Antifa are Marxist organizations and [that] Marxism is an enemy of Christianity,” Stone said, noting that atheist ideologies such as Marxism often consider transcendent religions like Christianity as “the enemy.”

“It’s why the Soviet Union was an atheistic state, which replaced God with the Communist Party,” Stone said, referring to the violent religious purges initiated by Communist leaders Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev.

Another reason, Stone said, for the current spate of anti-Christian violence manifesting in America, is the hatred that Marxism holds for the evils that Western Civilization has committed against the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, Marxism’s reaction to the wrongs committed by the Western world is not rooted in the latter’s reform, but rather, its total obliteration.

“Marxism assumes that because the windows are dirty and cracked, the entire house must be demolished,” Stone said, adding that if the current trend of violence against Christianity and other religions is not stopped, the United States may soon bear witness to church burnings like the ones committed during the French Reign of Terror.

Authorities decry “modern-day persecution” of Christians

Despite calls for calm and temperance, several individuals have adopted a more militant stance in response to what they say is modern-day persecution of Christians.

“If they try to cancel Christianity, if they try to force me to apologize or recant my Faith, I will not bend, I will not waver, I will not break,” Jenna Ellis, a constitutional law attorney and senior legal advisor to the Trump 2020 campaign, said in a tweet, in reference to the torture of Christian martyrs during the days of the Roman Empire.

Ordained minister and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, meanwhile, believes the current spate of hate and violence toward religious iconography would only serve to strengthen the Christian faith.

According to Huckabee, while rioters and protesters can take down the images and art depicting Jesus, they can never take “the true spirit of Jesus Christ” out of the lives of His followers.

“Historically, under oppression and persecution, the true faith begins to show even more dramatically. It’s because in the midst of darkness, [the] light becomes more obvious,” Huckabee added.

Sources include:

TheFederalist.com

WashingtonExaminer.com

LATimes.com

MSN.com

CBSNews.com

Telegraph.com

HindustanTimes.com

LOC.gov

IWP.edu

PBS.org

FoxNews.com

https://www.naturalnews.com/2020-07-08-black-lives-matter-mobs-target-churches-religious-monuments.html

VIDEO Chicago Mayor Launches Police Raid to Shut Down Black Church’s Sunday Services

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a news conference in Hall A at the COVID-19 alternate site at McCormick Place in Chicago, Friday, April 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

WARNER TODD HUSTON 24 May 2020

On Sunday, Chicago’s first openly gay mayor, Lori Lightfoot, mounted a raid on a black South Side church for holding services in defiance of her coronavirus lockdown orders.

Lightfoot reportedly sent three marked squad cars and two unmarked cars full of officers to the Chicago Cornerstone Baptist Church in the South Side’s Woodlawn neighborhood. Woodlawn is just south of Hyde Park, the area in which the Obamas lived for a short time before Barack became president.

The pastor of the mostly black congregation, Courtney Lewis, reportedly shut and locked the doors and refused to allow the officers to gain entry to the building, Todd Starnes reported.

Pastor Lewis told Starnes that he felt like he was confronting “the Soviet-style KGB” as the officers pounded on his doors and demanded entry to shut the church down.

“Thankfully, our doors were locked as a normal safety precaution we take each service to protect our members from the escalating gun violence in Chicago,” Lewis said.

A sentry that is usually posted outside the sanctuary to monitor the street during service also reported seeing occupants of a dark car with tinted windows filming the incident through one opened window.

“All we are seeking is the same consideration and trust that is being tendered toward the liquor stores, abortion clinics, and Walmart,” Lewis told Starnes.

Lewis is also seeking help from U.S. Attorney John Lausch. “We are trying to follow the laws of man as much as reasonably possible, but when the laws of man conflict with the laws of God, I, as a pastor, have a duty to follow the laws of God,” Lewis wrote in a recent letter to Lausch. “We will not be intimidated by this overhanded government bully, but we are requesting the assistance of our president and our Justice Department in correcting this grave miscarriage of the law.”

Lightfoot, Chicago’s Mayor since May of last year, has been targeting the city’s churches for several weeks as houses of worship have begun balking at her draconian lockdown orders.

Late last week, Lightfoot excoriated the city’s churches, saying that their desire to re-open is “dangerous and foolish.”

Also last week, the city began fining churches that Lightfoot thinks are violating her coronavirus lockdown orders. After some churches started holding services on the second weekend of May, fines were handed out to churches, including Philadelphia Romanian Church of God, Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church, Metro Praise International, and others.

Law service Liberty Counsel reported on May 23 that Elim Pentecostal Church and other Romanian churches in the city received letters from the Chicago Department of Public Health, invoking emergency orders and deeming churches a danger to society.

The letters also invoked “summary abatement,” which gives the city the power to forcibly enter properties without a judge’s orders and impose the mayor’s will on occupants.

On Friday, President Donald Trump updated federal guidelines for re-opening the economy and added that churches are essential institutions and should be allowed to re-open without government opposition.

“Today, I am identifying houses of worship, churches, synagogues, and mosques as essential places that provide essential services,” Trump said on Friday, announcing the release of new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

A similar flurry of harsh orders has come from the state’s governor, as well. Illinois’s recently elected Gov. J.B. Pritzker, heir to the billion-dollar Hyatt Hotel chain, continues to maintain that Illinois must remain on near-total lockdown as a measure to stave off the coronavirus.

Pritzker, who has instituted the most draconian lockdown in the country, recently decreed that churches must not allow more than 50 worshippers inside at a time, “until there is a vaccine” for the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Pritzker took criticism for demanding that everyone stay at home even as he allowed his wife to fly off to their Florida estate where lockdowns are not as strict. He was also caught ordering construction crews from Illinois to travel to Wisconsin to work on his property there despite those strict stay-at-home orders he was doling out to his constituents.

But Pritzker is facing mounting pressure to roll back his authoritarian coronavirus policies. Last Wednesday, the governor succumbed to pressure to cancel his order to criminally charge businesses that opened their doors in defiance of his coronavirus orders.

Illinoisans are becoming increasingly restive under Pritzker’s rule. Multiple lawsuits have been filed against the state’s coronavirus decrees, and many county governments are shying away from the lockdowns. A growing number of county sheriffs and board members are refusing to enforce the governor’s orders.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Facebook at facebook.com/Warner.Todd.Huston.

https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2020/05/24/chicago-mayor-launches-police-raid-shut-down-black-church/



Related

https://www.breitbart.com/health/2020/05/25/minnesota-gov-tim-walz-questions-whether-worship-is-essential/

https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2020/05/24/ohio-judge-deems-states-coronavirus-lockdown-illegal/