There was a huge win for the Constitutional right to freedom of religion on Friday.
The Louisiana Supreme Court sided today in favor of Pastor Tony Spell who continued to hold church services in defiance of Dr. Tony Fauci and Governor John Bel Edwards during the COVID pandemic in the spring of 2020.
Dr. Fauci urged state leaders to place significant restrictions on US churches to stop the spread of the Coronavirus.
The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that the restrictions on gatherings and the stay-at-home mandate Edwards imposed were unconstitutional as they applied to Spell. The ordered charges against Pastor Spell to be dropped.
Here is the Louisiana Supreme Court ruling released today.
Louisiana Supreme Court Sides with Pastor Tony Spell – Agrees that COVID Orders Violated His Freedom of Re… by Jim Hoft on Scribd
The Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Tony Spell, the Central Pastor who continued to hold church services in defiance of restrictions Gov. John Bel Edwards imposed to stop the spread of COVID.
Overruling lower courts, the justices ruled that the restrictions on gatherings and the stay-at-home mandate Edwards imposed were unconstitutional as they applied to Spell. They ordered the charges against him quashed.
Justices John Weimer and Piper Griffin dissented on the ruling.
Statement from Gov. John Bel Edwards:
“While the Governor disagrees with the Court’s ruling and maintains that his orders were both necessary and lawful, he is accepting of it. Each and every action Gov. Edwards took throughout the COVID pandemic was done with the goal of protecting the public’s health and saving lives.
Hat Tip Pete Santilli
Federal Appeals Court Reinstates Texas Law Prohibiting Social Media Companies from Banning Users Based on Viewpoints
A federal appeals court on Wednesday reinstated a Texas law that prohibits social media companies from banning users based on their political views. The law will take effect immediately following the ruling.
Governor Abbott signed the new law last September 9, prohibiting the social media giants from banning users based on their political views and requiring them to produce regular reports of removed content, create a complaint system, and disclose their content regulation procedures, according to Texas Tribune.
U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman blocked the law in December after NetChoice and CCIA filed a lawsuit claiming that the law violated their right to free speech under the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. According to Judge Pitman, social media platforms are protected by the First Amendment and have the right to moderate content.
On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the New Orleans-based Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a motion to stay to allow Texas to implement the law while the state’s appeal continues.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel did not explain its reasoning for granting the state’s request for a stay of a December order by U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin, Texas, who had found that social media companies’ 1st Amendment rights would be harmed by allowing the law to take effect.
The order included a footnote that the three-judge panel, comprised of Circuit Judges Edith Jones, Leslie Southwick and Andrew Oldham, was not unanimous, though it did not say how it was divided. The judges were appointed by former Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Donald Trump, respectively.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs challenging the law — internet lobbying groups NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), whose members include Twitter, Facebook and Google — did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Nor did the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, which is defending the law.
NetChoice and CCIA said in their lawsuit that the law violated their right to free speech under the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by barring them from exercising editorial discretion over their private platforms.
Some people would do almost anything to ward off ‘bad luck’ and bring themselves a little good fortune. There was a time in my life that I believed when things happened in my life it was either “lucky,” or “unlucky.”
As I have become a more mature Christian I have realized that there is truly no such thing as luck, luck is just a religion of the lazy and disillusioned. Here’s why.
A psychologistRichard Wiseman surveyed a bunch of people who considered themselves lucky or unlucky, then performed a very interesting test:
“[Wiseman] gave both the “lucky” and the “unlucky” people a newspaper and asked them to look through it and tell him how many photographs were inside. He found that on average the unlucky people took two minutes to count all the photographs, whereas the lucky ones determined the number in a few seconds.”
“How did the “lucky” people do this? Because they found a message on the second page that read, “Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” So why didn’t the so called unlucky people see it? Because they were so intent on counting all the photographs that they missed the message.”
So what does this mean?
People who we often consider themselves lucky are more relaxed and open to what’s going on around them. Many people either do not see the open doors that God has provided for them or do not even believe that God will ever open a door for them. God is gracious and gives us blessings. I have learned if I can look beyond the raging storm, I can see where God is constantly blessing me and moving in my life.
This week, my primary doctor told me he was moving to another city. I will not deny that I was really sad as a unique doctor/patient relationship had formed. He has been the only doctor so far that has truly kicked open doors for me, validated me, listened to me, and truly cared for me. It is extremely hard to find a great doctor when you have chronic and rare illnesses. I can’t say enough about how much my now old primary doctor has been a blessing to me and my husband. It wasn’t by chance or luck that I got this doctor that only worked in my area for one-year. God placed him in my path. God used him to change every single one of my other doctors and now I have a great team. God used him for a short while to put some pieces together for me. God sent him to help in my journey but as life has it, God changes things up and that’s ok. I haven’t met my new doctor yet but I am very confident that God has once again moved in my best interest and is sending another person to help me get me to another point.
I had a choice this week. I could have had a meltdown and worried about the unknowns of my doctor’s replacement or I could have scurried to find someone else. Instead, I chose to find peace and solitude in my Father. I can trust that he is moving and I am not relying on luck or chance. The biggest part of trusting God is not knowing all of the answers but placing the unknowns directly in his hands and allowing him to move and bless me.
Father Gabriele Amorth, who founded the International Association of Exorcists in 1994, said he can even purge a demonic possession via a Skype session, though most exorcisms take more than a single session. “I am content if, in a mildly serious case, a person is liberated within four or five years of exorcisms,” he said. “I have had rare cases of liberations in a few months.”Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
In 1997, when a young, slim peasant man was escorted into the small room where Father Gabriele Amorth conducted his exorcisms in Rome, the priest felt immediately confronted by evil.
Amorth said he asked for the help of Jesus, and the young man began to curse and spit, using English instead of his native Italian.
Amorth said he returned fire with prayers and other ritual recitations, demanding that the demon reveal its name.
“Unclean spirit!” Amorth bellowed. “Whoever you are and all your companions who possess this servant of God … I command you: Tell me your name, the day and the hour of your damnation.”
The man fixed him with a glare and snarled: “I am Lucifer.”
Amorth was shocked.
He “did not expect to receive such a terrifying response,” Stanzione writes. “But . . . he was convinced he had to keep going as long as he had the strength.”
Amorth, the official exorcist for the diocese of Rome, claimed to have performed about 60,000 exorcisms before his death in 2016. Born in Modena, Italy, on May 1, 1925, he knew from around age 10 he was destined for the priesthood.
In 1986, he began an exorcism apprenticeship with Rev. Candido Amantini and went on to found the International Association of Exorcists in 1994, where he served as its long-term president, while breaking new ground by speaking openly about his work in the Italian media.
Stanzione, a priest and prolific author who collaborated with Amorth on various writing projects over the past three decades, spoke with him extensively over the years about his process.
Amorth claimed his exorcisms lasted about 30 minutes on average, and he would often conduct five over the course of a morning, by appointment only, with breaks in between for paperwork. He thought it just as effective to conduct his exorcisms by telephone or Skype.
Amorth said an exorcism could be anything from a simple prayer to the full-blown casting out of demons, as depicted in the 1973 Hollywood film “The Exorcist,” and noted that an exorcism is not a one-time process, but a practice that is regularly performed on a possessed person, sometimes over a period of years.
“I am content if, in a mildly serious case, a person is liberated within four or five years of exorcisms,” he said. “I have had rare cases of liberations in a few months.”
For in-person exorcisms, Amorth was usually assisted by four laymen who could escort patients to his exorcism room of about 9-feet-by-15-feet, which was situated away from the Roman streets so that “no one can hear the screams.”
He used an armchair for “less agitated patients,” a bed, and a box with “tape and belts used to tie the more robust patients.”
“Unclean spirit!” Amorth bellowed. “Tell me your name.” The man fixed him with a glare and snarled: “I am Lucifer.” – Father Amorth’s tale of how he once confronted the devil himself during one of his exorcisms
A photo of St. John Paul II adorned the walls, since “demons become very irritable before him,” and Amorth always carried “two wooden crucifixes, an aspergillum for sprinkling holy water, and a vial of consecrated oil.”
But when he supposedly met the devil in Rome, Amorth said he mostly used prayer as his weapon, reciting verses of liberation from the Roman Rite of Exorcism.
In return, “the demon resumed his shrieks, making the possessed turn his head back and his eyes roll. He remained like this with his back arched for a quarter of an hour.”
As this continued, “the room became extremely cold and ice crystals formed on the windows and the walls.”
As Amorth continually commanded the demon to leave the host, “the young man’s body stiffened so much that he became hard and began to levitate. For several minutes, he remained hovering 3 feet in the air.”
Finally, the man dropped into a chair, Stanzione writes. Amorth said he left for the day but continued to regularly visit the man and pray over him until he was met with no resistance. When he at last sensed the man was at peace, Amorth asked how Lucifer had left his body.
The man said he “began to howl like never before. Then, at the end of this, he felt new and light,” Stanzione writes.
In his line of work, Amorth said he has seen all manner of surprises, and claimed that spitting has long been a tool used by demons of possession.
“There are very many who spit, and they try to guess the exact moment to get you,” Amorth said.
“An exorcist with a little experience learns to defend himself from the spitting, so he tries to put a handkerchief or tissue in front of his face. I recall one who always spit, and I would see it coming in time, so I would put a hand in front of my mouth.”
Once a possessed person spit at Amorth and “three nails materialized in his mouth. I still have those nails,” he told Stanzione.
Amorth also claimed that people become possessed in a variety of ways.
“The most frequent case — I put it at 90 percent — is that of the evil spell,” Amorth once told an Italian journalist named Marco Tosatti.
“It happens when someone sustains an evil caused by the demon that has been provoked by some person who has turned to Satan or someone who has acted with Satanic perfidy,” he said. “The remaining 10 to 15 percent regard persons who have participated in occult practices, such as seances or satanic sects, or have contacted wizards and fortune-tellers.”
Early in his career, Amorth heard from Rev. Faustino Negrini, a priest near Brescia, Italy, about a 14-year-old girl named Agnese Salomon, who had been “struck by demonic possession.”
Amorth accompanied Negrini to one of his sessions with the girl. When Negrini asked the demon, “Why have you taken this girl?” it responded, “Because she is the best of the parish.”
Negrini said he was unable to liberate the girl until she was 26 years old.
Today, exorcisms are on the rise worldwide, including in the United States, with the Catholic Church reportedly sending their exorcists to a new institute that trains spiritual warriors. Though no statistics are available, Catholic leaders say there are more exorcists in the US now than in any time in recent memory. And, in his lifetime, Amorth laid part of the blame on pop culture.
“Forms of Satanism are . . . spread by stars and celebrities who have a huge following, such as Marilyn Manson and other satanic rock musical groups,” he said. “I have nothing against rock music; it is very respectable music. I am against satanic rock.”
Amorth also believed that wizards shouldered blame for satanic influence, including everyone’s favorite: Harry Potter, who he worried could push kids “toward a morbid interest in the occult,” Stanzione writes.
“If we truly wish to help children and young people turn away from books poisoned by occultism, it is necessary that parents and teachers have them read good books … where the presence of magic is solely an instrument for the moral of the story and not the substance on which the story is centered.”
By the end of his life, Amorth, who died at age 91 of pulmonary-related illness, had helped discussions of exorcism become more widespread in his home country. Stanzione’s book is intended as a memorial tribute, and a way to keep his memory and teachings alive.
“I always say to whoever questions my way of doing things that I wish to bring Jesus everywhere, even to the doors of hell,” Amorth once said. “Only in this way does one build the Kingdom of God bringing Him everywhere, without fear.”
Read the blogs of child abuse victims and those concerned for them. Somewhere along the line, you will find mention of what the abuse damaged or destroyed outright.
Our innocence. Our childhood. Our peace of mind. Our self-confidence. Our self-esteem. Our ability to trust. Our capacity to select loving partners, and sustain healthy relationships. Our faith. Our voice.
And from far too many, the abuse took their very lives.
For many of us, what the abuse left behind was isolation, grief, anxiety, depression, rage, and a permanent sense of violation.
Unfortunately, that we will never be the women (or men) we might have been is not helpful information. We are who we are…marked by these scars.
In some sense, the scars are our badges – if not of honor exactly, then certainly not of shame. We were the ones sinned against, not the ones sinning, no matter how we were made to feel about the torture inflicted upon us.
As with the veteran who has lost a limb to war or the woman who has lost a breast to cancer, this is simply our reality now.
No single statement can characterize us all, except that we were blameless.
Some of us were victimized by priests; others, by family members or strangers. Some of us pressed criminal charges against our abusers; some chose to remain (or were forced to remain) silent, sometimes for decades.
Some of us lived in denial, maintaining a painful status quo in our attempt to protect loved ones. Some of us fled to the streets, from one kind of horror to another. Some changed sexes or became sex addicts. A few fled from sex, itself.
Some of us forgave; some never will.
The abuse did not make us bad citizens, bad neighbors, bad employees, or bad friends. Many of us became high achievers, first at school and later at work.
A surprising number of us have found a strength we did not realize we had. We have found a way to use our anger to fuel the struggle against abuse and injustice; use our pain as a subject for art and literature.
A surprising number of us have reclaimed our joy. We remember the past, but choose to focus on the present.
Somehow we managed to survive the onslaught against our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies. Whether by luck or fate, intestinal fortitude or grace, we survived the fire. We are here and entitled to live our lives.
Originally posted 10/19/14
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All of us on this road of life are searching for and needing love. Unfortunately what we find is, love is not easy. A more familiar expression we experience is rejection and it comes from the ones we love the most.
There are so many forms of rejection we experience. I am learning that looking for love in and through people is a road of hurt, disappointment, insecurity, self doubt, low self esteem, depression, and a loss of true identity.
I believe love was and has always been meant to be found in and through our Savior Jesus Christ.
Philippians 2:2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
You see Gods love is perfect! When we seek Gods love and learn His patients, grace and commitment to us, we will be forever changed in the way we view love, especially the way we view it in this broken world full of broken people who only know how to give broken love!!!
As we begin to understand God and His love for us and how His love deals with our broken love. We will begin to know how to love others with a Godly love and learn how to receive broken love as He does.
Simon Peter, Do You Love Me? John 21 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” (21:15–17)
Anyway, using the Greek words (in their anglicized forms), here is a summary of the passage.
Jesus asked Peter if he agape’d Him
Peter responded that he phileo’d Him
Jesus asked Peter if he agape’d Him
Peter responded that he phileo’d Him
Jesus asked Peter if he phileo’d Him
Peter responded that he phileo’d Him
The argument made by the scholars is that Jesus asked Peter if he had the highest form of love for Him. However, Peter could only say that he had the lower form of love for His Saviour. Finally, the third time He asked the question using the word for the lower form of love. This showed that Jesus was satisfied if Peter could only love Him with phileo love.
The reason we reject and are rejected is that we only know the lower kind of love phileo.
Our call from God is to first recieve His love, (agape love) which is a higher form of love that is perfected in Christ! Then in return practice giving this kind of love to God and others that our desire to be loved and to love others will be fulfilling!
God bless you today, I hope this was a word of encouragement and healing!
Coming out of the recent pandemic that saw a near complete shutdown of our society along with critical shortages of many essential items, I am struck by the things we now seem to have an abundance of.
Anger comes to mind as something we have in abundance. And hatred, let’s not forget the overflow of hatred in America. Oh, and I don’t want to forget one other thing we have in great abundance today; finger pointing. Can’t forget that now, can I?
Almost beyond belief, it would seem that the cataclysmic virus that had doomed us all to certain death really wasn’t the apocalyptic event prophesied by the media after all. How could it be, when hundreds of thousands are marching side by side not wearing a mask? Imagine that would you?
Things were so bad that we were strictly forbidden to go to church for fear of spreading this death defying virus, yet somehow or another congregating in crowds of tens of thousands doesn’t pose any health risks at all.
I mean, who knew?
Honestly, I’m thinking the wrong crowds are filling the streets of America. I’m thinking we awful, disease spreading, unenlightened Christians ought to be the ones pouring out into the streets of America to protest the theft of our Constitutionally guaranteed freedom of worship. 
Speaking of pouring out into the streets, I have lived on this earth for just over 65 years, and in that time I have seen many instances where people took to the streets out of frustration and anger over issues beyond their control.
I was just a boy of eight years of age when Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963.
I was thirteen when the infamous “Chicago Seven” were arrested for their anti war activities during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.
Just two years later when I was a 15 year old, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on a crowd of Vietnam War protestors, killing four and wounding nine. Living just a couple of hours from Kent State University, it seemed like it was in my backyard.
Since those tumultuous times of decades past, there have been several other noteworthy examples of citizens taking to the streets to protest for one reason or another. Abortion, LBGTQ, Environment, Guns, Women’s rights, Anti-war, and the Million man and Million woman marches have all made their mark on the fabric of American society.
Today, as our nation once again seethes with anger in the wake of the brutal, heinous murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, millions are again taking to the streets in a show of indignation and defiance of the status quo.
Of course, the violence that has erupted during the peaceful marches is the result of a well planned and well funded attempt to destroy the fabric of American society from within. There is only one word that most aptly describes what is being played out before our eyes: EVIL.
We can dress it up any way we like to, but it’s still EVIL. We can call it racism or bigotry or any number of other names, but it’s still EVIL. And this is what those marching and protesting in the streets do not understand. This is NOT an issue of race. It is an issue of EVIL. Even those violent criminals that have been unleashed upon our society are completely misguided. The issue here is not one group hating another. It goes much, much deeper than that.
What we’re dealing with here is of the spiritual nature. Don’t believe that? Read what the Apostle Paul had to say about the subject of EVIL.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (emphasis mine)
Did you understand what Paul meant? Our battle, your battle, is not with mankind. It is NOT with your neighbor who is of a different skin color than yours. It is NOT with those whose belief system differs from your own. No, the battle is against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
In other words, the battle is against the spiritual forces of darkness that exist in high places. Who is leading the charge of these forces of darkness at play in our society? Why, it’s none other than Satan himself. That’s right, and every person storming the streets today is being played by the devil. Not a popular sentiment, is it?
Why do you suppose racism still exists at the level it does today? Why haven’t supposedly educated, enlightened individuals been able to come up with a permanent cure for racism? The answer is so simple that its almost too simple. The reason racism still exists at its current level is because the cure for racism is the love of God, and the world has largely rejected the Source of this love.
It’s like the old adage about taking a knife into a gunfight. You can be the very best at using a knife, but against a gun you have virtually zero chance of success against your adversary. Fighting systemic racism by protests, even violent protests does nothing to address the root of the problem! To be sure, these marches have gotten the attention of the entire world. They have no doubt spawned new discussions (or soon will) on how best to deal with the problem.
But not one thing is being done to address the root of the problem: we have forsaken God.
And that, dear readers, is not something that can be corrected by marching down Main Street USA. It can only be corrected at an altar.
Have a blessed day,
Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? Psalm 2:1
Although the priest argued for forgiveness, the message was lost on students
The Archdiocese of Boston forced Daniel Moloney to resign from his chaplain role at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after students and alumni complained that Moloney brought up George Floyd’s past criminal history in an email to students.
Although Moloney, a Catholic priest, was making an argument that Floyd’s past should not justify his death, the fact that he brought up Floyd’s rap sheet at all prompted some to protest the chaplain’s message to campus officials and file bias complaints over it.
“George Floyd was killed by a police officer, and shouldn’t have been,” Moloney wrote in his June 7 email to the Tech Catholic Community, a group of Catholic students on campus.
“He had not lived a virtuous life. He was convicted of several crimes, including armed robbery, which he seems to have committed to feed his drug habit. And he was high on drugs at the time of his arrest. But we do not kill such people. He committed sins, but we root for sinners to change their lives and convert to the Gospel,” the priest wrote.
“ … In the wake of George Floyd’s death, most people in the country have framed this as an act of racism. I don’t think we know that. Many people have claimed that racism is major problem in police forces. I don’t think we know that.”
The e-mail was republished in its entirety by New Boston Post.
Although Moloney’s argument aimed to promote justice and forgiveness, that message seemed lost on many of its readers.
An article in The Tech campus newspaper reports that MIT’s dean for student life, Suzy Nelson, said administrators and the bias response team received reports about Moloney’s email.
In an email to student and faculty leaders June 12, Nelson wrote Moloney’s message “contradicted the Institute’s values” and “was deeply disturbing” and that “by devaluing and disparaging George Floyd’s character,” Moloney did not “acknowledge the dignity of each human being and the devastating impact of systemic racism” on “African Americans, people of African descent, and communities of color,” The Tech reports.
The Archdiocese of Boston told Moloney to resign from his role as chaplain at the school on June 9, according to the Boston Globe. The move came after more than 60 people attended a forum hosted by Tech Catholic Community on June 9, according to the school newspaper.
Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the archdiocese, told WBZ-TV “While Fr. Moloney’s comments should not reflect on the entirety of his priestly ministry, they nonetheless were wrong and by his resignation he accepts the hurt they have caused.”
Moloney told the Boston Globe on June 16, “I regret what happened, I regret it was misunderstood, I regret that [it] became difficult for me to be a voice for Christ on campus.”
Moloney is a published author at First Things, The Wall Street Journal and National Review. He used to work at the Heritage Foundation as a senior policy analyst for the DeVos Center for Religion and Society. His doctoral dissertation focused on justice and mercy, the subject of a recent book he published as well. He also maintains an active Tumblr page but has not explicitly addressed the controversy on it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
“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!
“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.