Amy Grant: The Journey Continues…..

Amy Lee Grant is an American singer, songwriter, musician, and author in the Christian music industry who became a crossover pop success in the 1980s and 1990s.

Amy Grant was born on November 25, 1960 in Augusta, Georgia. Her first album was released in 1977 on Christian label, Word Music and Grant left college to pursue her career. Her second album won a Grammy for its blend of gospel and pop. Her crossover was complete with the 1991 album Heart in Motion which reached number one on the Billboard pop chart. Grant is married to country star Vince Gill.

Upcoming concerts

Purchase Ticket via Songclick.com

Sunday 10 February 2019
Cincinnati Music Hall, Cincinnati, OH, US

Friday 22 February 2019
Celebrity Theatre, Phoenix, AZ, US

Saturday 23 February 2019
Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino, Mescalero, NM, US

Thursday 28 February 2019
Rams Head On Stage, Annapolis, MD, US

Friday 01 March 2019
Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park Hard Rock Live, Northfield, OH, US

Tuesday 30 April 2019
Amy Grant with Jordin Sparks, MercyMe, and 27 others
Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN, US

Thursday 02 May 2019
Victory Theatre, Evansville, IN, US

Wednesday 19 June 2019
Rams Head On Stage, Annapolis, MD, US

Thursday 20 June 2019
Birchmere, Alexandria, VA, US

Background information

Birth name Amy Lee Grant
Born November 25, 1960
Augusta, Georgia, U.S.
Origin Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
Genres Contemporary Christian, pop rock, soft rock
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter, musician, author, media personality
Instruments Vocals, guitar
Years active 1976–present
Labels Myrrh, A&M, Word, Sparrow
Associated acts Vince Gill, Gary Chapman, Michael W. Smith
Website amygrant.com

Early Life

Singer, songwriter. Born on November 25, 1960, in Augusta, Georgia. Grant helped revolutionize contemporary Christian music. She grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, in a close-knit, religious family. It was in church that Grant was exposed to the hymns and Christian stories that would influence her work.

As a teenager, Grant taught herself how to play guitar and worked part-time at a recording studio. She made a tape of her music for her parents, which had been discovered by a producer with Word Records, a Christian music label. This led to a recording contract, and her first album was released in 1977. The self-titled album was a big success in the world of Christian music. With her unique style, Grant charted new territory. She fused elements of existing genres of gospel, hymns, and Jesus music—which used rock music to convey Christian teachings—to create a fresh, new sound, not heard before. Her songs are often deeply personal as well as reflecting her spiritual faith.

Grant continued recording and performing throughout high school and college. After a couple of years at Furman University, she transferred but eventually dropped out of Vanderbilt University to pursue her career full-time. Grant met songwriter Gary Chapman while making My Father’s Eyes (1979) and he joined her on tour as her opening act for the album Never Alone (1980). The couple married in 1982. That same year, she released Age to Age, which received numerous critical accolades. It won a Grammy Award for Best Gospel Performance—Grant’s first. She also earned several Dove Awards from the Gospel Music Association (GMA), including for Performer of the Year.

Crossover Stardom

With the 1985 album Unguarded, Grant’s sound began changing. Much of her music had a soft rock element to it, but this release sounded even more like a mainstream pop record. In fact, Grant had her first crossover success on the pop charts with the track “Find a Way.” She even had a music video for the song playing on MTV. But not everyone appreciated her new success. The lyrics on the album had few directly religious references, which upset some in the Christian music community.

Grant found more mainstream success with the album Heart in Motion (1991), which featured the song “Baby, Baby.” It reached number one on the Billboard’s pop chart. Grant found inspiration for the song in the birth of her first daughter, but the video for the song portrayed it as a romantic tune. The video and the album created a stir with some of Grant’s gospel fans and critics. They claimed that she was again abandoning her gospel roots for pop stardom.On her next release, House of Love (1994), Grant sang some love songs as well as songs reflecting her devotion to God. The album featured a duet with Vince Gill, a top country music performer, on the title track, which scored on the pop and adult contemporary charts. A cover of the Joni Mitchell song “Big Yellow Taxi” and her composition “Lucky One” also found chart success.

Discography

  • Amy Grant (1977)
  • My Father’s Eyes (1979)
  • Never Alone (1980)
  • Age to Age (1982)
  • A Christmas Album (1983)
  • Straight Ahead (1984)
  • Unguarded (1985)
  • The Animals’ Christmas with Art Garfunkel (1986)
  • Lead Me On (1988)
  • Heart in Motion (1991)
  • Home for Christmas (1992)
  • House of Love (1994)
  • Behind the Eyes (1997)
  • A Christmas to Remember (1999)
  • Christmas Moments with Amy Grant & Friends (1999)
  • Legacy… Hymns and Faith (2002)
  • Simple Things (2003)
  • Rock of Ages… Hymns and Faith (2005)
  • Somewhere Down the Road (2010)
  • How Mercy Looks from Here (2013)
  • Tennessee Christmas (2016)

Personal life

On June 19, 1982, Grant married fellow Christian musician Gary Chapman. Their marriage produced three children. In March 1999, she filed for divorce from Chapman, citing “irreconcilable differences”, and the divorce was finalized three months later.

On March 10, 2000, Grant married country singer-songwriter Vince Gill, who had been previously married to country singer Janis Oliver of Sweethearts of the Rodeo. Grant and Gill have one daughter together, Corrina Grant Gill, born March 12, 2001.

In the November 1999 CCM Magazine, Grant explained why she left Chapman and married Gill:

I didn’t get a divorce because ‘I had a great marriage and then along came Vince Gill.’ Gary and I had a rocky road from day one. I think what was so hard—and this is (what) one of our counselors said—sometimes an innocent party can come into a situation, and they’re like a big spotlight. What they do is reveal, by comparison, the painful dynamics that are already in existence.

Later Career

Grant went through a time of personal upheaval in the late 1990s. Her pain was apparent on 1997’s Behind the Eyes. The usually upbeat Grant seemed more maudlin this time around on such tracks as “Cry a River,” “Missing You,” and “The Feeling I Had.” Not long after this album, news of Grant’s impending divorce from her husband of 16 years broke.

Grant ended the 1990s by branching out professionally, acting in the 1999 television, A Song from the Heart, in which she played a blind music teacher. She also made other changes in her life around this time. She married Vince Gill in 2000, and a year later, the couple had a daughter together named Corrina Grant Gill. Corrina is Grant’s fourth child; she has three children from her first marriage: Matthew Garrison, Gloria Mills “Millie,” and Sarah Cannon. Since marrying, Grant and Gill have continued to work together on a number of projects. Gill acted as a producer on her 2002 Legacy . . . Hymns & Faith album and the couple sang a duet entitled “Beautiful” on 2003’s Simple Things.

During her long career, Grant has won numerous awards, including 6 Grammy Awards and more than 20 Dove Awards. Her most recent Grammy win was for Best Southern, Country, or Bluegrass Gospel Album for Rock of Ages . . . Hymns & Faith (2005). This same recording won the Dove Award for Inspirational Album of the Year in 2006.

In a February 2007 web chat on her web site, Grant discussed a book she was working on titled Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far, saying, “It’s not an autobiography, but more a collection of memories, song lyrics, poetry and a few pictures.” The book was released on October 16, 2007. In November, it debuted at No. 35 on the New York Times Best Seller list.[20] In the same web chat, Grant noted that she is “anxious to get back in the studio after the book is finished, and reinvent myself as an almost-50 performing woman”.

2007 was Grant’s 30th year in music. She left Word/Warner, and contracted with EMI CMG who re-released her regular studio albums as remastered versions on August 14, 2007. Marking the start of Grant’s new contract is a career-spanning greatest hits album, with all the songs digitally remastered. The album was released as both a single-disc CD edition, and a two-disc CD/DVD Special Edition, the DVD featuring music videos and interviews.

Grant appeared with Gill on The Oprah Winfrey Show for a holiday special in December 2007. Grant has plans to appear on CMT, a Food Network special, the Gospel Music Channel, and The Hour of Power.

In February 2008, Grant joined the writing team from Compassionart as a guest vocalist at the Abbey Road studios, London, to record a song called “Highly Favoured”, which was included on the album CompassionArt.

On June 24, 2008, Grant re-released her 1988 album, Lead Me On, in honor of its 20th anniversary. The two-disc release includes the original album and a second disc with new acoustic recordings, live performances from 1989, and interviews with Amy. Grant recreated the Lead Me On tour in the fall of 2008.

On June 27, 2008, at Creation Festival Northeast she performed “Lead Me On” and a few other songs backed by Hawk Nelson. At the end of the concert, Grant returned to the stage and sang “Thy Word”. She appeared on the 2008 album Anne Murray Duets: Friends & Legends singing “Could I Have This Dance”.

Amy Grant Transformation From 1988 To 2017 Then And Now

Awards and achievement

Grammy Award

Grammy Nominations

  • 1979: Best Gospel Performance, Contemporary or Inspirational – My Father’s Eyes
  • 1980: Best Gospel Performance, Contemporary or Inspirational – Never Alone
  • 1981: Best Gospel Performance, Contemporary or Inspirational – Amy Grant in Concert
  • 1990: Best Gospel Vocal Performance, Female – “‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus”
  • 1992: Album of the Year – Heart in Motion
  • 1992: Song of the Year – “Baby Baby”
  • 1992: Record of the Year – “Baby Baby”
  • 1992: Pop Performance Female – “Baby Baby”
  • 1994: Children Spoken Word – Lion & the Lamb
  • 2008: Album of the Year (as featured artist) – These Days
  • 2011: Best Gospel Song – “Better Than a Hallelujah”
  • 2012: Best Country Song – “Threaten Me with Heaven”

GMA Dove Awards

  • 1983: Artist of the Year
  • 1983: Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year – Age to Age
  • 1983: Recorded Music Packaging – Age to Age
  • 1984: Recorded Music Packaging – A Christmas Album
  • 1985: Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year – Straight Ahead
  • 1986: Artist of the Year
  • 1986: Recorded Music Packaging – Unguarded
  • 1988: Short Form Music Video of the Year – “Stay For a While”
  • 1989: Artist of the Year
  • 1989: Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year – Lead Me On
  • 1989: Short Form Music Video of the Year – “Lead Me On”
  • 1990: Country Song of the Year – “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus”
  • 1992: Song of the Year – “Place in This World”
  • 1992: Artist of the Year
  • 1994: Praise and Worship Album of the YearSongs from the Loft
  • 1996: Special Event Album of the Year – My Utmost for His Highest
  • 1998: Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year – Behind the Eyes
  • 2000: Special Event Album of the Year – Streams
  • 2003: Inspirational Album of the Year – Legacy…Hymns & Faith
  • 2003: Song of the Year – “The River’s Gonna Keep on Rolling”
  • 2006: Inspirational Album of the Year – Rock of Ages…Hymns & Faith
  • 2007: Long Form Music Video of the Year – Time Again… Amy Grant Live

Special awards and recognitions

  • 1992: Junior Chamber of Commerce Young Tennessean of the Year
  • 1994: St. John University Pax Christi Award
  • 1994: Nashville Symphony Harmony Award
  • 1996: Sarah Cannon Humanitarian Award – TNN Awards
  • 1996: Minnie Pearl Humanitarian Award – Columbia Hospital
  • 1996: Voice of America Award – ASCAP
  • 1996: Academy of Achievement Golden Plate Award
  • 1999: “An Evening with the Arts” Honor – The Nashville Chamber of Commerce, Nashville Symphony, and Tennessee Performing Arts Center
  • 1999: The Amy Grant Room for Music and Entertainment – The Target House at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital
  • 2001: Easter Seals Nashvillian of the Year Award
  • 2003: Inducted into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame
  • 2003: Summit Award – Seminar in the Rockies
  • 2006: Amy Grant Performance Platform – Nashville Schermerhorn Symphony Center
  • 2006: Hollywood Walk of Fame star unveiled
  • 2007: Charter member of Tiffany Circle – Red Cross
  • 2007: Inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame
  • 2008: Class of 1966 Friend of West Point award with Vince Gill
  • 2012: Honorary Doctorate Degree of Music and Performance – Grand Canyon University
  • 2015: No. 52 in The Top 100 Female Artists of the Rock Era (1955–2015

Bibliography

References

  1. Official website
  2. Amy Grant on IMDb
  3. Amy Grant at AllMusic
  4. Amy Grant Biography – Songwriter, Singer (1960–)
  5. Brounstein, Laura (November 2006). “In Perfect Harmony: Vince Gill & Amy Grant”. Ladies’ Home Journal. Archived from the original on July 29, 2013.
  6. Ruhlmann, William. “Amy Grant – Music Biography, Credits and Discography”. AllMusicMarch 7,2013
  7.  Jump up to: “Amy Grant Receives a Star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame”. Getty Images. September 19, 2006.
  8. Michael Goldberg (June 6, 1985). “Amy Grant wants to put God on the charts”(PDF). Rolling Stone. Archived from the original(PDF) on November 20, 2008.
  9. Stephen Thomas Erlewine. “Rock of Ages…Hymns & Faith – Amy Grant – Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards – AllMusic”. AllMusic.
  10. “30 Songs / 30 Days for Half the Sky”. Half the Sky Movement. August 30, 2012. Archived from the original on October 14, 2012.
  11. “Amy Grant”February 12, 2016.
  12. “Amy Grant Chart History”November 29,2017.
  13. “Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith Announce 2017 Christmas Tour Featuring Jordan Smith, Winner Of ‘The Voice,’ Full Symphony Orchestra”. August 8, 2017.
  14. “Past Winners Search”. grammy.com. The Recording Academy. Retrieved April 19, 2017.
 

How to Re-Strategize for Reaching a Lost and Dying World with the Holistic Gospel of Our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ

by Rev. Stephen Panya Baba | “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

Greetings to you all in the precious name of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. It is a very rare and a great privilege to be chosen by God through His servants and people, to lead ECWA at this critical time in its history.

I. ECWA History
ECWA History
ECWA has come a long way since the coming of the pioneer team of the then Sudan Interior Missions (SIM) Missionaries, our founding fathers and heroes of faith, Walter Gowans, Thomas Kent and Rowland Bingham, who arrived the shores of our land in Lagos on 4th December 1893.

1. Evangelical Missionary Society (EMS)
EMS of ECWAI remember when I was appointed Director of Evangelical Missionary Society (EMS). To find inspiration and get a ‘feel’ of what our pioneers went through, I decided to visit the grave of Walter Gowans at Girku. We had to drive, take a chance through the bush, go by foot through the water, enter a canoe and finally tread dangerously through the flowering shrubs before we could reach the lone grave of Walter Gowans in Girku. It is also worthy of mention that 125 years after the death of Walter Gowans, his grave is still not accessible except on foot. I wept bitterly that day beside his grave and asked God for the grace to re-intensify our effort, so that the vision He gave to our founding Fathers to reach the entire world with the gospel of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ would not fade away during our time.

2. Build Befitting Memorials at Bida and Girku
To make matters more worrisome, I may say at a point in time, the grave of Thomas Kent at Bida had become a rubbish dump, until the ECWA Minna DCC and some visiting Western Missionaries

The grave of Thomas Kent at Bida had become a rubbish dump

The grave of Thomas Kent at Bida had become a rubbish dump

on a historical voyage and research gave some funds for the place to be cleared. There is definitely the need to build befitting memorials at Bida and Girku, where the graves of two of our founding fathers, Thomas Kent and Walter Gowans lay, to serve as memorials to ECWA’s Ministry Philosophy, so that like me, many more of this younger generations of ‘ECWANs’ can go and have their vision and passion to take the gospel to the lost and unsaved of this world renewed.

A family meeting of the brother’s of Alhaji Isah in Bida

A family meeting of the brother’s of Alhaji Isah in Bida

Since the time of arrival of our founding fathers and the evangelism and planting of their first church at Patigi, in the present Niger state, ECWA has made progress spiritually, physically, especially the increase in the number of worshippers and more visibly, materially and financially.

However, we must be very careful never to use human or any external or worldly parameters as criteria for accessing and evaluating the progress of our church. The biggest danger when we use worldly criteria to assess and evaluate our progress and standing as a Church is that we would easily suffer the Laodecian disease. When the Laodecian Church used this approach in evaluating their performance, God told them; “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”

We must therefore use God’s criteria to assess and evaluate ourselves and using God’s criteria, the truth is that we are far below what God wants us to be in all respects and especially spirituality. Using God’s criteria, we stand fallen; terribly short.

II. Moving Forward
To move forward and scale greater heights and be the glorious Church that God wants it to be, especially spiritually, ECWA needs the kind of transformation that no one, no man can bring about, certainly, not I or the ECWA Executive, except God and God alone! Nothing short of a powerful supernatural move of God, resulting in revival, would bring about the needed transformation. The key to a glorious ECWA is Revival! For the avoidance of doubt, it is God and only God who can transform

What a Revival Generation Should Look Like

What a Revival Generation Should Look Like

ECWA into the glorious church that He wants it to be, without spots or wrinkle through a powerful supernatural move of the Holy Spirit. This must be our prayer and the prayer of all those who love ECWA and wish her well.

We have the promise of God in Psalm 110:3 to rely upon which says; “In that day of your power your people shall come to you willingly, dressed in holy altar robes. And your strength shall be renewed day by day like morning dew.” Another promise that the Holy Spirit has brought to my mind is Isaiah 43:18-19, which says; “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

1. Prayer
Every one of us has a specific role to play in this end time powerful supernatural move of God in ECWA. However, one thing that God would have all of us do is to pray! In Isaiah 62:6-7, God said, I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.” And ECWA is our Jerusalem. We must never be silent day or night. We must never give ourselves any rest and give God no rest, until He establishes ECWA and makes her the glorious Church He desires it to be. I have consequently printed a thirty one day prayer program which would be distributed for use by all of us as a guide and aid for us to pray for ECWA. We shall also circulate it through other channels including internet and social media by God’s grace. It is hoped that it would be updated from time to time God willing.

EMS of ECWA: Praise & Prayer, January 2019

EMS of ECWA: Praise & Prayer, January 2019

We must pray for God’s powerful supernatural move of the Holy Spirit, to ignite fires that would be blown into flames of revival by the wind of His Spirit, in order to destroy and consume anything that is not of God in our lives, families, church and nation. We must pray for the Holy Fire to be closely followed by a mighty outflow of the River of God from His throne of grace, into our lives and families and churches and that as God showed the Prophet Ezekiel in a vision, as the mighty River of God, the River of the Holy Spirit, the River of Living Waters flows; it would give life to the dead spiritually and if it pleases Him physically; it would set the captives free from bondage to Sin and Satan, transform lives, heal the sick spiritually and physically and generally bless His beloved people spiritually, physically and materially/financially. God has promised that; “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14-15

2. Open to Guidance & Leading of the Holy Spirit

The Truth About the Holy Spirit and How I Can be Filled

The Truth About the Holy Spirit and How I Can be Filled

We must be all open to the work, guidance and leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives, families and churches and be absolutely surrendered to be used of the Lord Holy Spirit as God pleases. Those that surrender to the Holy Spirit for Him to use would have abundant joy and would be blessed here on earth and greatly rewarded when we shall all appear before the Lord on that day to receive our reward. Those that are indifferent would miss out in the joy, blessing here on earth and reward in eternity. Those that are opposed to the mighty move of the Holy Spirit would be overruled, set aside or removed out of the way as the case may be, but I pray that this fate would not befall any one of us in Jesus name.

Every genuine revival must be followed by discipleship. As we trust the Lord for revival in ECWA, we intend to encourage and firm up the discipleship program of the Church whereby teaching and instruction on biblical truth will also be demonstrated practically in daily life, the ultimate goal being to engraft believers in Christ, the Vine, so that he can bring him to maturity in Christ and “bear much fruit” that will last (John 15: 1-16).

3. SIM Missionaries Contributions
We remain extremely grateful for the solid foundation laid by our founding Mission, the SIM Missionaries, and the subsequent building and reinforcements made over these many years by our

Twice Lily* found herself standing on the overpass, wondering what to do with her life and how to make ends meet, as busy city traffic whizzed underneath. But God was about to do something good in Lily's life through CUP (Children's Uplift Program). By the staff of Children's Uplift Programme (CUP), South Asia

Twice Lily* found herself standing on the overpass, wondering what to do with her life and how to make ends meet, as busy city traffic whizzed underneath. But God was about to do something good in Lily’s life through CUP (Children’s Uplift Program).By the staff of Children’s Uplift Program (CUP), South Asia

parents who passed on the baton to us. In the immediate period, my predecessor and the ECWA Executive under his leadership pursued a four point agenda of ‘connecting ECWA to God, ECWA to ECWA, ECWA to the World and Mobilizing Resources for the continual Propagation of the gospel’. We are grateful to God for all the progress made over all these years, but now, I believe is the time for us to re-strategize in order for ECWA to make greater impact, in empowering its members, (spiritually, physically, materially/ financially), to reach a lost and dying world, with holistic gospel of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

All hands will need to be on deck in our effort of re-strategizing, in order to make greater impact in empowering ECWA members, to reach a lost and dying world with the holistic gospel of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

4. Need Everyone’s Participation
Our re-strategizing for greater holistic impact of the gospel must encompass all and cover all the segments of ECWA including the Men, Women and especially the Youth and Children of the Church. We must intentionally plan to recapture especially our Youth back to the church and maintain our children as they grow and develop to spiritual and physical maturity.

As earlier noted, praying for the powerful supernatural move of the Holy Spirit for revival in ECWA by all, is the key to strengthening the critical fundamental spiritual bedrock needed, for the necessary structure to be further developed upon.

5. Ever Changing Culture & Persecution
Furthermore, the population of persecuted Christians, widows, orphans and vulnerable children and the poor generally in our churches and Mission fields has reached astronomical levels. Apart from natural causes and other socio – political factors like ethnic and tribal clashes, the murderous activities of radical Islamists like Boko Haram and some Fulani herdsmen who are Jihadists, have contributed very greatly to the rise in the number of widows and orphans in many of our churches today.

I must at this stage, call on the Federal Government and indeed all governing authorities at State and Local Government levels, to show greater resolve and take more concrete steps in stopping the evil carnage being perpetrated by Boko Haram and those that are Fulani Jihadist Herdsmen, otherwise, like our much respected and highly esteemed Elder Statesman Gen. T. Y. Danjuma rightly said, citizens are left with no option than to resort to self-defense. Self-defense is a constitutional and legal right to which every citizen is entitled.

Failure to rein in and prosecute these wicked men would only confirm the increasingly perceived notion that Boko Haram has rebranded themselves in form of the Fulani Jihadist herdsmen, and that they are carrying out their nefarious activities under the protection and covert support of Federal Government and its security agencies. Government must arise to the occasion and put an end to this wicked plan to annihilate Nigerians, especially Christians, in the Middle Belt Region and zones of Plateau, Benue, Taraba, Gongola, Sothern Bornu and Southern Kaduna and other parts of the North East because the corporate existence of our dear country Nigeria is being threatened.

World Watch Monitor | “It is important to put on record that the insecure situation we experience in Kafanchan and Southern Kaduna has not stopped despite the presence of Security Agents,” said Mgr. Bagobiri"

Violence in Southern Kaduna Fueled by Government Support for Fulani’s, says Bishop

We are also still calling for intensified action by the Federal Government to secure the release of the remaining Chibok girls and of recent, Leah Sharibu, who is being held captive by Boko Haram, for the singular reason that she has refused to deny her faith in our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. Leah deserves a Nobel prize for her strength of spirit and courage in the midst of pain and suffering. We call on the international community to act on behalf of Leah Sharibu like they did Malala Yousfzai. Our prayers are with the many parents of the Chibok girls and the Sharibu family not only for the comfort of the Holy Spirit, but for their release from captivity in Jesus name.

ECWA in collaboration with other sister churches and adherents of other faiths, shall continue praying, working and doing all it can through dialogue and other means, for peace to reign on the Plateau and in Nigeria as a whole. While we pray for peace in our Land in obedience to Scriptural injunction as Christians, and also partner with Government, groups and well-meaning individuals towards the attainment of this most important value in every society, let us remember that peace is merely an illusion unless anchored on the bedrock of justice. Without justice in our society peace is a mirage, a fleeting shadow beyond grasp. It is for this reason that I call on governments and authorities at all levels to ensure that justice flows like a river in our Land by giving each citizen his or her due in spite of religion, tribe, creed or social standing. That is the real way to peace and progress. When this happens, the evils and wickedness that have plagued our country will be eliminated.

6. Immediate Need for Social Security Safety Net
As the consequence of the forgone, the number of persecuted Christians, widows, orphans and vulnerable children within our churches today has reached a crisis proportion. In Nigeria and Africa generally, there is no social security safety net that our many members in such situation can fall back on, therefore, ECWA Leadership at LCB, LCC, DCC and GCC levels, would be encouraged to develop means and ways of ensuring that Brethren reach out to each other, in a more holistic way, so that the church can be strengthened in order to be more effective in reaching out to a lost and dying world. ECWA can no longer continue responding to emergency or crisis relief and other such needs on ad hoc basis through a standing Committee. There is need to strengthen existing structures or consider establishing a unit, at least at Headquarters level and to recruit, train and deploy staff for that purpose, so that cases of granting emergency reliefs, which have now become a permanent feature of the church, and the spiritual care and the economic empowerment of our persecuted Brethren, widows, orphans and vulnerable children, the poor and needy generally, would be given more adequate attention on a continual basis.James 1:27, says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. For this purpose therefore, we shall intensify effort for ECWA Rural Development (ERD) to be resuscitated.

The Plateau State Governor on his last visit to the ECWA General Church Council, recalled the glorious days of ERD with nostalgia. Now that he is a very close neighbor to ERD in the new Government house, our prayer is that you would be a good one, who loves your neighbor as yourself and be your neighbor’s keeper! As ECWA does its very best, we seize this opportunity to call on His Excellency to join in the ongoing effort to resuscitate ERD to serve the good people of Plateau State and Nigeria at large in Jesus name. The Peoples Oriented Development (POD) of ECWA will likewise also be strengthened. Other means of encouraging holistic ministry would be explored, so that as the scriptures say; ‘brotherly love would continue’. Hebrews 13:1

Your Excellency, the Governor of Plateau State, I must give credit to whom it is due. You have done excellently in taking care of the salaries of civil servants in the state and also paying Pensioners their due, at this twilight of their lives, when they are weak and helpless and in need of their pension payment most. I even heard you have been nicknamed the ‘Alert Governor!”, because of your prompt regular payment of salaries of civil servants. Please, keep it up and God bless you. May other governors and leaders emulate you in Jesus name. We also appreciate you for appointing many ECWA sons and daughters in your cabinet.

III. Key to the Lost and Dying World: Evangelism and Missions
As regards reaching the lost and dying world, Evangelism and Missions is the key. As we believe God for a special and mighty visitation, and powerful supernatural move for revival that would make us more effective witnesses in our various places of calling, there would be need for intensified effort in reaching out to the lost beyond our vicinity through missions, and different approaches would need to be adopted for different areas, especially in the following:

Plateau Massacre: Armed Fulani Herdsmen Attacks and Killings Targeted at Christians Across Nigeria

by Rev. Dr. Soja Bewarang | Chairman Denominational Heads Plateau and Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Plateau State | Press Release By Church Denominational Heads in Plateau and Christian Association Of Nigeria (CAN) Plateau State Over The Renewed Armed Fulani Herdsmen Attacks and Killings Targeted at Christians Across Nigeria on June 28, 2018.

1. The Core North
The original vision of our SIM Founding Fathers was to reach the interior of Sudan, especially the core north, with the saving gospel of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. Incidentally, I was in Kano at the same time that the present S.I.M. Nigeria Director, Rev Tom Jessurun worshipped with us at ECWA Gospel Center Kano, where he challenged the church not to cower, in the face of opposition and persecution orchestrated by forces opposed to the gospel, but to forge ahead, because God’s promise that He would build His Church and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it, is not for a church that is complacent or stationary, but for an advancing church that is invading the kingdom of darkness to rescue the perishing. That made a great impression on me, especially as regards the core north mission field. We must push ahead with the gospel to the Core North and believe God to conquer as many with the message of love and bring them into the Kingdom of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. Much as God hates the wickedness of Boko Haram and some that are Fulani Jihadists Herdsmen, He takes no pleasure in the death of a sinner. God loves all the people on this earth because He has created us all, and this includes Boko Haram Members and the Fulani Jihadist Herdsmen, whom God desires that they should not die in their sins, but come to the saving knowledge of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. We must be ready to pay the price in taking the gospel to all the world, especially the Core North of Nigeria and other difficult areas, bearing in mind that God Himself, demonstrated His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8.

2. Remembering Our Past and Empowering the Future Generation
Again our daughter Leah Sharibu’s unflinching stand as a witness for Christ Jesus in this context is a current testimony that God’s grace would always be sufficient for us no matter the danger, even to our lives. Towards re-intensifying our focus on this vision, we shall by God’s grace, in conjunction with Call of Hope, S.I.M. and other partners, hold a special ‘Core North Gospel Summit’, an idea conceived by the late Trustee, Dr. Philip Usman, in conjunction with Elder Dele Onamusi, as soon as possible. The mention of late Trustee Dr. Philip Usman brings to mind also one of our gallant Church leaders, Rev. Dr. Musa Asake, who also recently passed on to glory. Please pray for the comfort of the Holy Spirit for their immediate families, the ECWA family and the entire Nigerian Christendom (A one minute silence in honor of late Trustee Dr. Philip Usman and Rev Dr. Musa Asake).

3. The South
As regards the Southern part of Nigeria generally and the South-South region in particular, the greatest challenge is the battle for the truth. ECWA over the years has been known for, as our learned colleagues would assert, ‘preaching the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’ of the gospel. ECWA Television which had its debut yesterday on the cable shall play a key role in complementing our outreach effort to this region.

ECWA TV: Reaching out to the world through media by preaching, teaching and inspiring, winning all for Christ Jesus and raising a godly generation.

ECWA TV: Reaching out to the world through media by preaching, teaching and inspiring, winning all for Christ Jesus and raising a godly generation.

Please, tune in always and encourage others to tune in to watch ECWA TV using any ‘free to air decoder’. You can also download ECWA TV Mobile App on your android phone. We shall re-intensify our efforts for urban church planting, in order to establish and increase platforms for preaching the true gospel as opposed to the very prevalent ‘different gospel’ being preached and which Paul in Galatians 1:6 condemned as no gospel at all. Also, these established urban churches would be used as bases to lunch out to other less reached groups, especially in the creeks. I look forward to hearing testimonies of special EMS missions work in the Niger Creeks, just as we have been doing in the mountains of the Core and Far North Regions of Nigeria.

4. Cross Borders Missions
With respect to Cross Borders Missions, there is need to mobilize resources in order to push the work to the next phase and greater height in the various world missions fields that we have opened. EMS of ECWA right now needs a minimum of N1billion towards this purpose. As at the present, all the support that is coming in for EMS including the two Missions Week Collections, barely cover the Home Missions needs. The amount left is able to meet only some critical needs on the Cross Borders fields. We thank God for ECWA Portfolio Management Ltd which has been making yearly contribution to this great need and I pray that other strategic Business Units will emulate EPML. We encourage our members, friends and supporters alike to invest generously in this Kingdom’s work. We remain opened to ideas as to how we can raise and fund this very urgent and critical Kingdom’s need, in order to greatly boost our effort to win souls for Christ all over the world.

5. ECWA Education & Future Ministry

Bingham University, Karu was established by the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA)

Ag. Vice Chancellor, Prof. William B. Qurix, OFR, FNIA | Undisputed events testify, from those who conceived, designed, developed and even those that are operating Bingham University that God Himself is solidly building Bingham University. This is even more so as movement to …

Bingham University is the new face in ECWA of the present and futuristic ministry in ECWA and World Missions. There is increasing need in the world of today and the future, of Missionary teachers, nurses, doctors, engineers, lawyers and other such tent making professionals. Many of us, including myself are products of Graduates and Professionals, including Nigerian and Western Missionaries, who sacrificed and came as Missionary Teachers. In my own case, I was taught in ECWA Secondary School Miango, which gave me a sound grounding and equipped me spiritually and intellectually to minister to my own generation. Therefore, we shall work very closely through ECWA Education Department and seek the support and collaboration of our founding Mission, SIM and relevant governing authorities, to establish a Department of Theology with great emphasis on World Missions and Urban Ministry in Bingham University, so that, our graduates, Pastors and Members alike, will not be very sound professionally, but would be best equipped spiritually and all round, to more effectively serve as Ministers of God in urban settings as well as Cross –cultural Missionaries all over the world. As we encourage lay ministry by our spiritually matured professionals in the church, Bingham University must now set the pace and make training of our Pastors who are equipped all round, spiritually, intellectually and professionally, its top and urgent priority.

EMS of ECWA shall remain our primary agent for driving the mission vision, I however call on the entire church to see Evangelism and Missions as our fundamental mandate, and to do all we can to be fully involved, by way of being powerful witnesses for the Lord Jesus in the various places of our callings, and by praying, giving and supporting Missions.

Conclusion
We thank God once again for the legacy we inherited from our SIM founding fathers of a lifestyle of godly simplicity and servant leadership, transparency and accountability. I will implore all ECWA Church Leaders and members, to do our best to imbue and perpetuate this legacy in our lives and ministry and to bequeath it to future generations. Let us remember that most of our operations are being supported by very sacrificial and generous offerings, tithes and donations by members, many of whom are persecuted Christians, widows, orphans, petty traders and the poor, whom Jesus said, we would always have among us. Some others are blind, lame, dumb or crippled. We must therefore administer these financial resources with the fear of God, to whom we are accountable, especially in view of the great judgment day, that we all shall appear before the judgment throne of God to give account of our stewardship.

Understanding What the Prosperity and Health Gospel is all About

by Dr. Mrs. Eunice Abogunrin | On one hand, Prosperity Gospel is about getting the abundance from the benevolent God, while on the other hand, it is about fighting against the antonyms of prosperity from malevolent gods, spirits, people and circumstances.

To all ECWA Staff and workers managing these resources, starting from myself, we must realize first and foremost that we are children of `God. We should remember always that it is God who has called us and given us the privilege of serving Him in our various capacities and so as a staff of ECWA, God is our direct ‘Boss’ who knows and sees everything that we are doing, including our very inner motives. This comes with great privileges as well as very serious responsibilities. As our ‘Boss’, God never owes anyone, and in fact He pays very generously. The old hymn, a favorite of my father’s, Rev. (Dr.) Panya Baba, says it very well: “It pays to serve Jesus.” However, God blesses the worker according to his or her motive and faithfulness to his or her calling. More importantly, as we serve Him, we should remember the eternal rewards kept in heaven for us. Motive and faithfulness are key in pleasing our ‘Boss’ and Master. Towards this end, staff welfare would remain our priority; however, we shall review our accounting systems and operations to enhance transparency, accountability, faithfulness and prudence, in order to aid us in more faithfully serving the Lord.

I will once more conclude with the scriptural promise of Isaiah 43:19; “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”

Finally, I ask this of you, every member of ECWA and the Church of God universal: Pray for me and the ECWA Executive that God will fulfill His divine will and purpose for ECWA. May the Good Lord spare our lives to witness and partake in the joy of celebrating His new and mighty works in and through ECWA. May He lift up His countenance upon His people and prosper His work in ECWA and beyond in Jesus’ precious Name!

Long live ECWA,
Long Live Plateau State
Long Live Nigeria

Thank you and God bless you all in Jesus name.

The ECWA Headquarter Christmas Carol (image, Romanus Ebenwokodi (Okwute)

The ECWA Headquarter Christmas Carol Celebration. image, Romanus Ebenwokodi (Okwute)

Inaugural speech delivered by Rev. Stephen Panya Baba on the occasion of his installation as president of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) on Saturday, 2nd June 2018 at ECWA Headquarters, Jos.



The Apostolic Age

“by Bible Scripture | But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts of the Apostles 1:8 (image: YouTube)

Jesus named the Apostles, often called the Twelve (John 6:67), to be with him and carry on his ministry: Simon Peter and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Nathaniel Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew, James the son of Alpheus, Jude Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot; and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him (Mark 3:14-19). Following the Resurrection, Matthias was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot. The period of these Twelve Apostles, dating from the Great Commission of 33 AD until the death of the last Apostle in Anatolia c. 100 is refereed to as the Apostolic Age.

Prior to his Ascension, Jesus commissioned his disciples to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost on about 120 Apostles, Mary the mother of Jesus, and disciples in the Upper Room (Acts 1:15, 2:1-4). This strengthened the Apostles to spread the word of Christ Jesus. The Acts of the Apostles describes the infancy period of the Church, a time following the Pentecost when Christianity spread like wildfire. The Apostles all gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 15) to discuss whether Gentiles who had been converted to Christianity had to observe all the ceremonial precepts of the Mosaic Law. This gathering of the Apostles became known as the Council of Jerusalem, and set the pattern of future Councils to resolve issues that arose within the Church.

To the question of Jesus, “Who do you say that I am?” it was Peter the fisherman that answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15-16). Whereupon Jesus responded, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19). Peter became the first Patriarch of Antioch and ultimately Bishop of Rome.

The Conversion of Paul occurred on the road to Damascus, Syria (Acts 9:1-9). Saul persecuted the Church and consented to the death of the first martyr Stephen. He had men and women who lived the Way thrown into prison. But while going to Damascus, Saul was struck from his horse by a great light and a voice asked “Why do you persecute me?” Saul asked who spoke. Christ identified himself with his Church: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Saul experienced the grace of conversion and first preached in Damascus. Paul, as Apostle to the Gentiles, became just as passionate spreading Christianity as he was in persecuting Christians before his conversion.

Saints Peter and Paul were both martyred in Rome during the persecution of Christians by Nero, Emperor of the Roman Empire. St. Peter was crucified upside down and St. Paul was beheaded, both probably in 64-68 AD. In fact, all of the Apostles were martyred for having preached the Gospel, except for St. John the Evangelist.

Heeding the message of Jesus Christ to Go therefore and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20), the Apostles traveled East and West to all parts of the known world to spread Christianity. Andrew, Peter’s brother, was the first to be called to follow Jesus, and is called by the Byzantine Church the Protoclete, meaning the first called. Andrew evangelized Byzantium, appointed Stachys (Romans 16:9) the first Bishop there, and was crucified in Patras, Greece. James, the son of Zebedee and brother of John, is believed to have preached in Spain; he is the only Apostle to have his martyrdom recorded in the Bible (Acts 12:2). John, the son of Zebedee and the brother of James, was the “one Jesus loved.” He is called the Theologian for his mystical writings – the Gospel of John and three Letters. Christ on the Cross entrusted his mother Mary to John (19:26-27), who took her with him to Ephesus; he was later exiled to the island of Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation in his elderly years (Revelation 1:9).

The other James, son of Alphaeus, is sometimes called James the Less, to distinguish him from James the Son of Zebedee. He played an important role as head of the Church of Jerusalem, and writer of the Letter of James in the Bible. According to the historian Flavius Josephus, he was stoned to death in 62 AD. Tradition has it that Matthewpreached among the Hebrews and wrote his Gospel in Hebrew or Aramaic. Philip preached the Gospel in Phrygia, Asia Minor and was martyred in Hierapolis. Nathaniel, Son of Talmay, or in Aramaic Nathaniel Bartholomew, taught the Way in Armenia. Jude Thaddeus, the author of the Letter of Jude, spread the faith to Edessa, Syria and then evangelized Armenia. Thomas Didymus, or Thomas the Twin, is known as Doubting Thomas, for questioning the Lord’s Resurrection. But when he put his hand in the Lord’s side, he reacted with a beautiful profession of faith: “My Lord and My God” (John 20:28). Thomas traveled through Chaldea and Persia all the way to India! Little is known about Simon the Zealot or Matthias. 7-12

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.



Are We Prepared to Tell God’s Story?

by Regis Nicoll | Each year Advent draws the world’s attention afresh to God’s story. It’s a story that Christians should be telling “in season and out of season,” through their words and their lives.

It seems peculiar that the gospel reading for the first Sunday of Advent centers not on Christ’s first coming, but his second. In all three liturgical years, the gospel passage is taken from the Olivet Discourse—Jesus’s lengthy response to the eschatological curiosities of the disciples. But maybe this is not as peculiar as it seems.

In arresting prose, the synoptic writers report the Creator of all things privileging the disciples with secrets about last things. Interweaving predictions about the destruction of Jerusalem and his future return to earth, Jesus tells them of wars, famines, false Christs, and more. His purpose was not to shock or frighten them, but to prepare them—and not just for the far off events that had provoked their curiosity.

Punctuating his revelations are warnings to be watchful, ready, and engaged in faithful service—imperatives for God’s people in every age. But for the disciples those warnings had immediate relevance which, as many times before, went unheeded.

For, in a matter of hours, Jesus would be prostrate in the garden praying, while his disciples slept; he would be hauled away by an angry mob, while his disciples fled in panic; he would be brought before a kangaroo court to be ridiculed, spat upon, and struck, while one of his closest intimates vehemently and repeatedly denied him; and he would be scourged, marched to Golgotha, and nailed to the cross, while men who had been his constant companions cowered in an upper room, abandoning him to his persecutors.

Incredibly, after three years at the feet of their master, the disciples were no better prepared for the unfolding of prophetic history than they were at the beginning of their tutelage. This should trigger questions in us: Are we prepared? Situated in history between the Incarnation and the Parousia, are we advancing his kingdom as we watch for his return?

More to the point, are we even expecting his return? Given the 2,000 year lapse, have his warnings slipped into the cluttered closets of our memory or, worse, has the delay eroded our confidence in his prophesy or, for that matter, in him?

If those questions cause hesitation, it signals the need to revisit God’s story—the biblical record of divine activity throughout the course of human history. The historical record of what God has done provides a rational basis for confidence in what he has said he will do.

Playing Back God’s Story
Reading the history of Israel is like listening to a CD stuck on “repeat.” Over and over again, widespread apostasy led to divine discipline, provoking national repentance followed by a brief period of revival.

Despite the withering warnings of prophets, the Israelites repeatedly succumbed to pagan influences when they should have been attending to God’s word, they adopted pagan practices when they should have been transforming pagan culture, and they became a stumbling block to their pagan neighbors when they should have been a blessing to them.

To break the cycle, Israel’s leaders continually played back God’s story, reminding the people of God’s benevolence toward the nation: the parting of the Red Sea, the pillars of cloud and fire, water from the rock, manna from heaven, deliverance from their enemies, and the conquest of the Promised Land, to name just a few.

The leaders also proclaimed prophesies, hundreds of them, among the people. Some were given as warnings about the consequences of disobedience while others were given as assurances of God’s ultimate plan for restoring all things.

Two things are extraordinary about the latter: first, they were made far in advance of the events they described; and, second, many of the fulfillments of prophecy—including dozens concerning the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus—were recorded and passed on to people contemporary to those events.

From Public to Personal
God’s story is more than a record of past and future works on behalf of mankind; it includes personal testimonies of his working in the lives of individuals in the present.

Daniel, who prophesied about events in the near and far future, gave witness to God’s faithfulness in the present—answering his prayers and delivering him and his friends from capital punishment. In the Psalms, David repeatedly praises God for guiding, protecting, and strengthening him. Jeremiah’s lamentations over the sins of Judah and the destruction of Jerusalem include praises to God for comforting him during imprisonment and rescuing him from his enemies.

Nevertheless, spiritual vacillation produced a generation that was ill-prepared for the coming Messiah. Instead of watching for the Lamb of God who would deliver them from sin, first-century Jews were expecting a conquering King who would deliver them from Gentile subjugation.

A generation later, eyewitnesses to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ detailed, in four independent narratives, how he fulfilled the promises in Scripture from Genesis 3:15 to Malachi 3:1. And for those who failed to notice, Paul explained how the fulfillments of prophecy occurred among individuals, still living, who could contest any fictions or correct any errors.

Like the Old Testament writers, Paul also shared how God’s story had played out in his own life. In his letter to the Romans, Paul gives witness to Jesus for freeing him from the law of sin and death. He told the Corinthian church how God had encouraged and strengthened him during a time of personal torment. And to the Philippians, Paul testifies to his Source of contentment and efficacy in all things.

The gospel readings for the first Sunday of Advent remind us that God’s story did not end at Golgotha, the death of the apostles, or the completion of Scripture, but continues on the cosmic stage.

They also remind us that Christians are to be an expectant people, living in the sure hope that as God “showed up” once, he will show up again. Until then, he is active in the lives of individuals who are waiting, watching, and working to establish his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

A Personal Testimony
Most Christians can point to times in their lives when God “showed up”—maybe in an answered prayer, a healing, an encouraging word, or a needed revelation. Throughout my Christian life, I have had a number of such occurrences, of which I’ll share one.

I had been diagnosed with a terminal cancer. My timeline, according to the oncologist, was three weeks. But three weeks turned into three months, then three years, and now, ten years after being declared in clinical remission, I remain cancer-free.

Prior to that declaration, however, two questions hung in the air like the scent of decaying flesh: “Why did this happen?” and “How will it turn out?” I had a strong inkling as to the “why” (as I’ll explain in a moment), but the uncertainty of “how” lingered. Then, one night, both questions were answered for me along with a room full of people.

Joanne and I had joined a group of twenty or so intercessors for an evening of prayer. As we got ready to pray, someone suggested, off the cuff, that we read Psalm 118, which in my NIV Bible has the rather inviting heading, “The loving kindness of God.” It was further suggested that each person read a verse, in succession, according to how they were seated. Since our seating was not prearranged, neither was the verse individuals would read.

As it so happened, my turn fell on verse 18: “The Lord has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.” The words left my lips and, for a moment, failed to register in my brain. When the next person seated failed to continue, I looked around. It was as if all the oxygen had been sucked from the room: mouths were agape, chests were clutched, eyes were tearing, and praises were going up. Then, I, too, was undone.

Earlier in the year, I had confessed to a church class that the greatest obstacle to my spiritual growth was overconfidence in myself. Less than one month later, I was lying in a hospital bed tethered to IVs, listening to an oncologist talk around the hopelessness of my condition, and coming to the realization that this “thorn” was beyond my ability and that of medical science to remove.

The shock of my utter helplessness was met, almost instantly, by a comforting word: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Privately, the message was clear: God was addressing my greatest need—total dependence on him—with his limitless love. Publicly, this message was confirmed to a small gathering of individuals who were watching and waiting for God to “show up.”

Each year Advent draws the world’s attention afresh to God’s story. It’s a story that Christians should be telling “in season and out of season,” through their words and their lives.

Regis NicollRegis Nicoll is a retired nuclear engineer and a fellow of the Colson Center who writes commentary on faith and culture. His new book is titled Why There Is a God: And Why It Matters.

 



Jesus Christ- Cause of My Hope

by Deacon Michael Bickerstaff | The transcendentals are really one, as God is one. They cannot be separated. If what we see as beautiful is not good, it is not truly beautiful. If what we see as good is not true, it is not goodness. If what we believe to be true is not good and beautiful, it is neither true nor of God. (images: Pixabay)

Today is the final Sunday on the Church’s annual liturgical calendar.  Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King—King of the Universe.

Not only is Jesus Christ the Messiah and our Savior, not only is he our brother and our friend, Jesus Christ is our Lord and King. To Him we owe our first allegiance and obedience.

This celebration is a recent addition to the liturgical calendar, added in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. In 1969, the celebration was elevated to the highest liturgical rank as a solemnity and moved to the last Sunday of the liturgical year.

Pope Pius XI wrote the encyclical Quas Primas as a response to the growing nationalism and secularism of the time. This was a time that witnessed the collapse of old powers and orders and the spread of a fascism, communism and socialism. This new order rejected the authority of Christ and His Church over the lives of men, women and the States.

He wrote in the opening paragraph of his enclyclical:

“We remember saying that these manifold evils in the world were due to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics: and we said further, that as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Savior, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations.”

Here, in the twenty-first century, we also live in a time when truth and the virtue of religion is questioned and challenged. In our time, as was the case in 1925, religious liberty and the freedom to exercise one’s conscience is threatened by our secular governments and the culture which we have nurtured. The zeitgeist approach to government  and the public square demands that the practice of one’s faith be left safely within the walls of one’s house of worship.

In our Gospel passage, we heard the exchange between Pilate and Jesus regarding the Lord’s kingship. Here’s the last verse again.

“So Pilate said to him, ‘Then you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’” (John 18:37)

In the very next verse, Pilate asks his famous question, “What is truth?” And it is a question that continues to be asked today. The answer was right in front of Pilate. The answer was, is and will always be the Person and nature of Jesus.

Truth is defined by Being. That Being is God. The Word of God—Truth Himself—stood before Pilate. And the word of God says that if we belong to the truth we will listen to His voice.

“God is…” that is the greatest truth. So it is God, not us, who defines truth. And because truth is of God, it is good because God is good. Goodness, being true and of God is therefore beautiful. We call this the ontological order of the Transcendentals.

However, we human creatures follow these in a reverse, psychological order. We are attracted to beauty, which leads us to goodness. In embracing the good, we are led to what is true and therefore to God Himself.

But, in our fallen condition, even while in a state of grace, it is possible for our passions and emotions to mislead us. We might incorrectly perceive something to be beautiful and therefore think of it as good and true when it is none of those things.

The transcendentals are really one, as God is one. They cannot be separated. If what we see as beautiful is not good, it is not truly beautiful. If what we see as good is not true, it is not goodness. If what we believe to be true is not good and beautiful, it is neither true nor of God.

It should be obvious to all that our world today is in great peril and not just from terrorist. Pope Francis speaks of this danger,

“There is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the tyranny of relativism, which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples.”

So, with all the sin, confusion and error in the world and the consequent violence and lack of peace, where are we to turn to find our way? Again we are to listen to the voice of our King, Jesus Christ.

Pope Pius XI teaches that:

  • Jesus is the lawgiver, to whom obedience is due.
  • His kingdom is not of this world; it is concerned with spiritual things and we enter it through faith and baptism.
  • Jesus purchased us, His Church, at a great price with His blood; He continues to offer Himself as priest on our behalf.

Jesus is not just Lord and King of only Catholics; He is the King of all creation. It would be a mistake to think that His commands do not extend to the public, civil life.

Jesus is unlike earthly kings. His Kingdom and His Kingship will never falter or end. His is a Kingdom where the King serves as well as rules. He is a King who shares His three-fold office of priest, prophet and king with those He calls His brothers and sisters.

We are not a people without hope. There is no need for us to despair or be afraid. Jesus is a King who is faithful to us and present to us.

He is present to us today in this Holy Mass in His once for all sacrifice—on Calvary, before the Father in Heaven—and in His Word and His Blessed Sacrament.

He is the first-born of the dead, whose enthronement as King on the Cross defeated death. As He rose again, so shall we who love Him and keep His commands rise to new life. He has given us the Church as our teacher and mother. He came to the Jews first, but not just them He also came to all the nations. He is King of us all.

“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty.’”

To Him be all glory and honor, amen.

Into the deep…

Deacon Michael Bickerstaff is the Editor in chief and co-founder of the The Integrated Catholic Life.™ A Catholic Deacon of the Roman Rite for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Deacon Bickerstaff is assigned to St. Peter Chanel Catholic Church where he is the Director of Adult Education and Evangelization.

He is also the Founder and President of Virtue@Work, where he provides Executive and Personal Coaching, Mentoring and Organizational Consulting. Deacon Mike has 30+ years management consulting experience in senior executive leadership positions providing organizational planning and implementation services with a focus on human resource strategy and tax qualified retirement plan design, administration and compliance.



As Thrones Before Him Fall: Christ Is Our King

by Claire Dwyer | There is no middle ground. “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). Meditating on the readings for this solemnity provides a powerful opportunity to re-examine our own allegiance to the King of Glory: “Choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15).

Crown him with many crowns,
The Lamb upon his throne.
Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns
All music but its own.
Awake, my soul, and sing,
Of him who died for thee,
And hail him as thy matchless king
Through all eternity. — Crown Him With Many Crowns hymn

This Sunday sends off Ordinary Time with a solemn celebration of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Established by Pope Pius XI in 1925, it was meant to counter secularism as a denial of Christ’s kingship.

The first two readings and the Psalm are thus rich in royal imagery: visions of the Son of Man coming on clouds and receiving everlasting dominion, glory and kingship, and the service of all the nations; robed in splendor, enthroned, the Alpha and Omega.

The Gospel, however, shows us this King in a different light, as a lamb being led to the slaughter. But then Pilate is let in on the secret: This kingship is not contained in the earthly realm. Rather, it is a powerful but hidden one, veiled in the temporal order. His angelic army of attendants holds back and watches with the rest of us the drama of salvation unfold as a kingdom is established that shall not be taken away or destroyed. Pilate cannot comprehend this, yet he unwittingly proclaims it: “Then you are a king” (John 18:37). And he will later have this inscribed above the cross, to the chagrin of the Pharisees. Jesus’ cross becomes the throne from which he rules and the banner under which we battle.

To the rest of the world, the paradox of a King who reigns from a cross is an insurmountable scandal. But to everyone who “belongs to the truth,” this reality is already established in their hearts. Growing in secret, putting down roots and laying foundations in the faith of believers, this kingdom is made manifest in the lives of those who have already found the beginnings of heaven even here, as they serve the King of Glory and enthrone him in their lives.

We wait for heaven to fully enter in the Kingdom of God, but the reality is that it is here now, and we are a part of it to the degree we allow it to rule in our hearts.

How much are we part of God’s kingdom? Is Christ our king? Which means, really, are we under his authority? Are we obedient to his commands? Have we subjected everything — everything — to him: family, home, health, finances and time, and especially our wills?

Are we willing to die the little layers of “death” each day that being in his service requires? Are we willing to have him overturn the tables in our inner temples? To smash the little idols that litter our interior lives? To submit to the destruction of every dream that is not the one he wills for us?

There is no middle ground. “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). Meditating on the readings for this solemnity provides a powerful opportunity to re-examine our own allegiance to the King of Glory: “Choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15).

Crown him the Lord of heaven,
Enthroned in worlds above;
Crown him the king, to whom is given,
The wondrous name of Love.
Crown him with many crowns,
As thrones before him fall.
Crown him, ye kings, with many crowns,
For he is King of all.

Claire Dwyer blogs about saints, motherhood, spirituality and the sacred every day at EventheSparrow.com and contributes regularly to WomenofGrace.com, CatholicMom.com and EndowGroups.org. She is editor of SpiritualDirection.com and coordinates adult faith formation at her parish in Phoenix, where she lives with her husband and their six children.



A Lost Generation: The Plight of God’s People on Domestic Display

by Rev. Thomas Maijamaa | ECWA USA DCC Church Planter | Instead of being marked by division and fragmentation, the church can and must shine forth as witness to the love and truth of God. (image: Palestinian refugees leaving the Galilee in October–November 1948)

A chain of losses resulting in the downward spiral of increasingly undesirable consequences in the midst of a military endeavor has been captured memorably in this well-known adage:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of the battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Jephthah the judge, whose life is chronicled in Judges 11:1-12:7, is primarily portrayed as a military leader for the Gileadites of Israel. The elders of Gilead specifically seek him out when the Ammonites begin to stir up trouble in their land – a likely sign that Jephthah is known for his competence in battle even before he leads the Gileadites into war. As their head warrior, Jephthah first defeats the Ammonites and then the Ephraimites.

It seems reasonable to conjecture that even in his time; Jephthah was cognizant of the principle behind that poem: the loss of a key item, though it may seem insignificant, domino to the loss of something more important. As a military strategist, Jephthah succeeded and did not lose any battles. As a judge serving Israel and supposedly under the leadership of YHWH, however, Jephthah failed miserably and suffered the loss of life itself.

The inclusion of this passage in the book of Judges and ultimately in the canon of Scripture demonstrates at a microcosmic level the horrific fragmentation of relationships and of life that ensues when God’s people distance themselves from God, and in effect lose His Word.

This particular episode also operates as the hinge for a tragic transition in Israel’s history: from warring against foreign nations to warring against one another in the land YHWH has given them. The magnitude of loss increases correspondingly to the magnitude of Israel’s failure to know and obey YHWH’s voice. Is there any hope for a people so far gone as we examine below?

1. Losing the Way

The seven verses of Judges 11:24-40 are very clearly and intentionally structured by the author to draw the readers’ attention to the scene of an Israelite home, an Israelite father-daughter relationship, and the ignorance of God’s people toward God’s laws. Because of that final point, the former two are overcome by fragmentation instead of unity and fruitfulness.

The magnitude of Israel’s apostasy is already largely in view at the beginning of the Jephthah’s account. Chapter 10:1-9 describes how the Israelites had forsaken YHWH to serve not only the Baal and the Ashtaroth (as in 2:13), but also the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. This shopping list of idol worship lies directly in the face of YHWH’s many commands to his people from the Exodus and the entrance into the Promised Land not to turn to foreign gods (e.g. Deut 12:30-31). It is not entirely surprising, then, that in response to oppressed Israel’s cry of distress, YHWH declares, for the first time in the book, “…I will save you no more. Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress” (10:13b-14). Although Israel pleads and puts away the foreign gods, YHWH still does not raise a deliverer. Finally, it is the people themselves who decided that the one who begins to fight against the Ammonites will become their leader (10:15-18). Jephthah takes on this challenge with a conditional promise (11:9) and the elders confirmed it by swearing an oath (11:10). Already, the theme of using human words to effect change emerges in this storyline. The action rises as Jephthah uses mere words to negotiate with Ammonite king by making an argument on the basis of Israel’s history, but the king does not listen (11:12-28). What do you do when the enemy seems stubborn?

2. The Spirit of the Lord and Jephthah’s rash vow (Judges 11:29-34)

Then the Spirit of YHWH is upon Jephthah vs 29. Japhthah is set for battle as the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him. At the very first act of creation in Genesis chapter one there is the mention of the movement of the Spirit of the Lord (Gen. 1:2). This demonstrates the power and the wisdom of God. God’s anointed men were marked by the outpouring of the spirit of God to make them fit for the task they were called for. God’s spirit strengthens and gives them wisdom and success. God’s Spirit is also associated with raising people for God’s service. Jephthah was thus empowered by the spirit of God but before he fights against the Ammonites, he opens his mouth once more to make a vow: “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering” (11:30-32). This vow was honored by God and the Lord does give the Ammonites into his hands, and they are subdued but his daughter falls victim. It is hard to clearly understand whether Japhthah’s daughter was really sacrificed or not. Whatever it was, Japhthah and his daughter saw a sense of sacrifice and were willing to give what was vowed.

Jephthah’s name is only used here (11:34) and at the very end (11:40) of the unite; he also has the first and last say, implying that he remains the controlling figure, while his daughter’s words stand at the heart of their brief exchange. Jephthah’s name means, God opens; ironic, given the fact that each time he opens his mouth in the wider narrative to the elders, to the king, and then to God, the results grows less and less desirable.

The structure of these verses filled out the content of the dialogue points to the fragmentation of the relationship between father and daughter in the heart of Israelite society. Not once does Jephthah’s voice concern for his daughter as he realizes the implications of his vow. He tears his garments in grief and mourning, but his words betray the orientation of his heart: “Alas, my daughter! You have heavily bowed me down. You have become my trouble.

The daughter reacts with simple reverence and obedience, demonstrating that at least she had somehow been raised in the fear of YHWH (Deut. 5:29; 31:13)—the following narrative in Judges, the story of Samson, probes more at the theme of the disobedience child who does not possess the fear of YHWH). Her sad echoing of his words (“you have opened your mouth to YHWH”) emphasizes the score of their conundrum, and she insists that her father be faithful to keep his vow as the Lord has been faithful to grant him the victory. However, she cannot be seen as “the ideal Israelite,” for her father, she is ignorant of key elements of the Torah—namely, that YHWH detests the practice of human sacrifice, and He has made explicit provision for cases where humans might be inadvertently condemned to dead at the altar (Lev 27:1-8). Jephthah’s daughter could not have been spared for the price of a few shekels! Human sacrifice, while acceptable and pleasing to false gods, is an abomination to YHWH (Deut. 12:31). The only voice that the daughter hears is that of her father, however, and it is actually his words that she obeys, not YHWH’S. Although Jephthah demonstrates a strong familiarity with Israel’s factual history (Judges 11:15-27), that does not imply an equal familiarity with YHWH’s Torah.

3. Fulfilling the vow (Judges 11:35-40)

From the earliest times of human history, animal sacrifices were designed to establish atonement between a righteous God and his sinful men. Some Bible interpreters believe that the act of God in clothing Adam and Eve in Gen 3:21 was symbolic to blood sacrifice. Animal sacrifice is very important in the Pentateuch. This is seen in the practices of Abel (Gen 4:2-4; cf. Heb 11:4), Noah (Gen 8:20) and the Patriarchs (Gen 13:18; 26:25; 33:20; 35:7).

Imagery of the sacrificial atonement is extensively developed in the Law of Moses, for example the Passover feast (Exo. 12:1-30) where the blood of the sacrificed lamb was sprinkled on the doorposts of the children of Israel.  Consequently, all three holiday ordinances in the Pentateuch made mention of the festival of atonement, which involves animal sacrifices (Ex. 23:1-17; 34;18-24; Deut. 16:1-17 cf. Exo. 29:36-30:16; Num. 8:5-22; 15:22-29; 17:9-15).

In Genesis to Deuteronomy the primary concern in the temple worship services was that priests ‘effect atonement’ for their client, regardless of whether this involved a burnt offering (Lev.1:4) or incense offering (Numb. 17:11ff)…or various purification ceremonies (Lev. 14:18ff.; 15:15, 30). In Deuteronomy chapter 4, Moses, warned Israel of the seriousness and the danger of sin and rebellion and emphatically says that, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will soon utterly perish from the land you are going over the Jordan to possess. You will not live long in it but will be utterly destroyed” (Det 4:26).

In God’s dealing with Israel, a vow is a religious act, drawing the deity into close relationship with the worshiper and may not be broken without a penalty (Exo 20:7). Though a vow could not be broken, the law allowed for the mitigation of vows, especially those involving persons (Lev. 27:2-8).

Perhaps Jephthah does not know the Levitical laws pertaining to sacrificial substitutions, or perhaps he knows them but does not understand that he can apply them, and he doesn’t know who to ask for clarification. It is highly unlikely that he knows yet chooses not to apply them, given his cry of despair in v.35. Jephthah’s ignorance of how and why to properly apply the Torah is reflected in his daughter’s silence on the matter as well.

Jephthah’s daughter then makes a rather cryptic request for her father to leave her alone that she might go and descend upon the mountains with her companions.

To descend upon mountains, however, is an activity solely relegated to YHWH, with this one exception. It is not likely that the daughter is here being compared to YHWH Himself; rather, it is possible that the author is calling to mind the image of YHWH descending upon Mount Sinai to give His commandments to His people (Exod. 19:11, 18, 20). Nehemiah 9:13-14 reflects back on this event with a clear link between God’s condescension and the giving of His Word: “You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven and gave them right rules and true laws, good statutes and commandments, and you made known to them your holy Sabbath and commanded them commandments and statutes and a law by Moses your servant.”

Since the coming down of YHWH unto the mountain and the giving of the Torah are so closely connected, the author may here be intentionally calling to mind the central place that the Torah should have in the Israelites’ lives; this terrible grief is the result of losing sight of God’s good statutes, for the standards and statutes of foreign nations have overtaken the hearts of His people. Equal ignorant are the daughter’s companions, who also portrayed passively doing what the daughter does, no more and no less. They, as a representative of “a community” (and Jephthah’s daughter as a representative of Jephthah’s “community” seem to underscore the inability for community to do what it can and should do when one of God’s people has veered to the right or the left of the book of the Law (Josh. 1:7)—tell the offender what should be done according to the Word of YHWH. Instead, these voices merely echo down the wrong path and follow the offender down it, away from true success and towards sure destruction.

The loss for Jephthah is not only his child, but also his entire lineage. In a sense, Jephthah himself dies as his vow is fulfilled. Upon her return, the text reads that Jephthah “did to her his vow which he had vowed” (11:39).

A raging debate exists over whether Jephthah actually offered his daughter as a burnt sacrifice or whether he merely consigned her to a life of perpetual virginity at a temple. It does seem odd that Jephthah would not literally fulfill his vow from Judges 11:30-31, so the former reading is likely more accurate. However, it is bad enough that this vow is carried out at all; such a thing simply ought not to be, and it would not have been if knowledge of the Torah still permeated this community of Israelites’. Scripture says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6).

The wording was ambiguous, and put all the inhabitants of Jephthah’s house at risk. To our horror, and his, it was his virgin daughter, his only child who became the victim (34-35), and the real tragedy is that such a vow was totally unnecessary (as previous episodes have shown). In context it can be seen as nothing other than a mistaken attempt to bargain with God. Jephthah the master negotiator overplayed his hand and paid a tragic price. The second half of this episode reads like a grim inversion of Gen. 22, the story of another father and another only child. But Jephthah was no Abraham, and in his case there was no voice from heaven, only a punishing silence. We can only conclude that the Lord was as angry with Jephthah’s vow as he was with Israel’s ‘repentance’ depicted by the action of king of Moab in 2 Ki. 3:26-27. It is worth considering how often modern prayers contain elements of bargaining with God. Scripture says, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30).

4. A lost generation

Judges 11:34-40 reveals the extent of the corruption that Israel has undergone by this point in redemptive history. Large cracks are starting to appear over the Abrahamic promise of land and descendants—not due to the fault of the promise itself but on Israel’s continued failure to keep the covenant. This little window into a domestic, familial setting vividly underscores the destruction caused by the intensifying cycles of chaos, which are ensnaring disobedient Israel. Disobedience leads to a loss of something much more crucial than a horseshoe nail.

The heart of the land, the home of an Israelites family and the surrounding mountains, is drenched with tears of weeping instead of abounding in fruit. YHWH’s voice is no longer clearly in their midst, and so even the blessing of deliverance from the Ammonites is a mixed blessing, leading to in-fighting amongst two groups of Israelite Brothers. No longer is Israel a blessing to all nations; instead, its people are increasingly reflecting the confused practices of the foreign nations encircling them. Instead of commemorating the mighty acts of YHWH, it is the sad loss of Jephthah’s daughter that is commemorated.

No longer are YHWH’s mighty deeds being proclaimed from one generation to the next; indeed, Jephthah not only fails to do so, but also foolishly exterminates his own next generation. Victory is turned into mourning, unity dissolves into division, and barrenness takes prominence over fruitfulness. The only begetting that occurs by the end of this chapter is the begetting of further loss. Is there any hope for the people of God? What has become of the God’s promise to Abraham? God will not change his mind nor break his promise. Through Christ he will bring his promise to fulfillment. Therefore, the hope in this passage is that the messianic kingdom will prevail and the messianic people, the perfect people of the new kingdom will be brought to certainty with the Lord where justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an overflowing stream (Amos 5:24), instead of mourning the mountains will drip sweet wine, and the people will plant gardens and eat its fruits (Amos 9:13-14).

5. Once Lost, Now Found

The literal finding of YHWH’s Book of the Law in 2 Kings 22 significantly carries forward the theme of how important the word of God must be in the life of His people. The finding and reading of the scripture lead to immediate repentance, the destruction of idols, and the re-establishment of God’s word, divinely ordained festivals. However, with Josiah’s passing, that nation once again dissolves into serving false gods and suffering loss because of it — the ultimate loss being exile from the Promised Land. Divine judgment comes in form of exile and alienation from the land. All human beings must daily confront the reality that nature is under God’s curse due to humanity’s disobedience from Adam and Eve. Thus, the divine gift of land to Abraham in Genesis (chapter 12) is significant. It is indicative of Abraham’s positive relationship with the Lord.

The Psalms are full of praise to the law of the Lord (e.g. Psalm 1, 119) and the prophetical literature both forth tells and foretells the Word of YHWH. Undoubtedly, the laws, commands, and the statutes of the one true King are to have a central place in the lives of His Subjects. To obey His voice is to choose life and blessing; to disobey means death and curse (Deut. 30:19). Every Israelite at heart, however, is as unwilling and unable to turn to YHWH and know and keep His Torah perfectly as was Jephthah. Their repeated failures led to increase divisions in the land and amongst themselves. It was their hearts that needed to be circumcised (Joel 2:13). Ultimately, the Lord said to Israel “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Eze. 36:26). This promise is been fulfilled though divine condescension in the person of Jesus Christ—“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The same will latter become the ultimate sacrifice. The imagery of animal sacrifice, especially blood sacrifice, is the dominant Old Testament image for atonement based on the principle that ‘under the Old Testament law almost everything is purified by blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin (Heb 9:22 RSV).

It is important to note that though God’s forgiveness was achievable through the atonement rites, it was not a mere observance; it involves sincere self-discipline and true repentance. In fact the practice of sacrifice apart from appropriate inward commitments stirs the judgment of God. For instance Isaiah reports God’s rebuke: ‘I have had enough of burnt offerings; … I do not delight in the blood of bulls. … Bring no more vain offerings (Is 1:11, 13 RSV). Amos and Jeremiah also warned against vain sacrifice.

It is also important to note that, through the course of the Old Testament story, it becomes clear that the system of animal sacrifice is inadequate. The Old Testament prophets not only made it clear to Israel that their rebellion will result in exile, but also prophesied their restoration not through animal sacrifice, but by human sacrifice. The clearest expression of this expectation appears in Isaiah 52:13-53:12. Isaiah speaks of God’s ‘servant’ (Is 52:13), the son of David who will be ‘wounded for our transgressions’ and ‘bruised for our iniquities’ (Is 53:5). ‘The lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all’ (Is 53:6). In fact, this servant will become ‘a guilt offering’ for the people of God (Is 53:10), and, of course, for the whole world.

Christ in his earthly life and work meets all the demands of the Torah. In the New Testament Jesus’ death fulfilled the entire intent of the Day of Atonement. In fact, because Jesus was both the perfect high priest and the offering free from blemish, his death consummated the entire Old Testament sacrificial system.

It is important to note that in the New Testament, the doctrine rests on the prophetic concept of the suffering servant of Isaiah. Thirty four times we find various New Testament writers referring to Isaiah’s proclamation as fulfilled in Jesus (e.g., Acts 8:32-35; 1 Pet 2:22-25). Jesus’ death is the substitutionary suffering of the son of David that brings appeasement of Divine wrath and sets God’s people free from guilt and sin. As symbolized in the Old Testament scapegoat (Lev. 16:20-26), Christ by his suffering bore away our sins by taking and nailing them on the cross so that we can be free from its penalty.

Christ is the substitute who takes the place of sinners, suffering the punishment that sterns from God’s justice in their place (Is 53:4-6; Rom 5:12-21). The double imagery that Christ was both ‘made sin’ for us (2Cor 5:21) and that he ‘carried our sins’ (1 Pet 2:24) matches the role of both goats on the Day of Atonement—the one sacrificed as a sin offering and the one that carried off the confessed sins of the people. Even when the Adversary attempts to attack him with twisted interpretations of God’s voice, Christ knows the truth and is able to overcome temptation to idolatry with the sword of the Word of God (Matt. 4:1-11).

Jesus is the perfect Torah-keeper, and all those united to him by faith have circumcised hearts (Col. 2:11) and partake of the new-eschatological blessings that come with having perfectly kept YHWH’s Torah. As the once-for-all sacrifice, God’s only Son satisfies every demand of the holy Creator in order that He might be present with His people both in this life, provisionally, and in the life to come, consummately.

Additionally, Christ is faithful over God’s house as the Son (He 3:6). In this household, all things broken are made new, and all things estranged are reconciled (Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:18-20; Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20, 22). John’s Gospel clearly shows the deity of Jesus and points to him as the Christ, the Messiah who was to come. He is the word that existed from eternity and became flesh and dwelt among us. Throughout John’s gospel also, Jesus shows himself as the coming Messiah who has come not only to save but also to bring true light into this dark world.

The apostle John later exhorts those who believe to model their life in terms of intimate “fellowship with one another” (1 Jn 1:7) in the light. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians says, “Therefore do not become partners with them; for at that time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to God” (Eph 5:7-10).

Those who are in Christ “are children of light” (1 Thess 5:5). To those who believe in him Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:14-16). In contrast to this are the Jews who at a point “saw themselves as the light of the world (Rom 2:19), but the true light is the Suffering Servant (Is 42:6; 49:6), fulfilled in Jesus himself (Matt 4:16; cf John 8:12; 9:5; 12:35; 1 John 1:7).

Scripture says, God “has neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings’ (these are offered according to the law), then he added, ‘Behold I have come to do your will.’ He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all” (Heb 10:8-10). So the will of the Father is the atoning sacrifice of the Son by which alone all will be saved—Amen.

Conclusion

With this fuel of truth in our recreated hearts, we are empowered to live lives of obedience and fruitfulness unto the Lord. We are called to be lights. While we undoubtedly have troubles in this world, and while sin still rages against us, we can stand strong when we look to and lean upon Christ, because He has overcome this world and therefore the powers of evil have no real grip on us. Consequently we who are in Christ are no longer a lost generation but once lost, but now found.

Wives and husbands, parents and children, employers and employees in Christ— are called to unity and service towards one another. Instead of being marked by division and fragmentation, the church can and must shine forth as witness to the love and truth of God. For the believer in this life, instead of painful loss, there is a joyful loss and an immeasurable gain (Phil. 37-9a).

In fact Jesus says “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23) and that “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt. 10:39). Even after this life, there is only more gain, since “for me to live is Christ, and to die is Gain” (Phil. 1:21). Because of Christ, no longer are we trapped in vicious cycles sliding downwards from loss to loss. Instead, we are called to live in freedom as children of the living God, growing upwards from faith to faith, glory to glory, resurrection to resurrection and gain to gain—Amen.

In John’s vision of the consummation of all things in the New Jerusalem, he saw “no temple in the city“, for its temple is the Lord God the almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamb is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk (Rev 21:23-24). But before the final consummation of things, we live in constant struggle with darkness and light, good and evil, faith and doubt. But through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, victory has been won—Amen. The lost have been found, yet the final victory will be at the second coming of Jesus and the renewal of everything.

We long to see this day—Amen, come Lord Jesus

Rev. Thomas Maijama'aRev. Thomas Maijamaa is the ECWA USA DCC Church Planter. He worked with EMS in several areas and has pastored churches over the years. He is the founder and CEO of Rishama International Ministry.



The Blessing of Animals

by Discipleship Ministries | The Blessing is best celebrated during daylight in the outdoors—in the churchyard or in a park.

The Blessing of Animals, in many congregations, witnesses to God’s and the Church’s love, care, and concern for creation. As we recognize our mutual interdependence with God’s creatures, the Church’s witness of stewardship of creation is strengthened. It is also a service with special appeal to children.

 The Blessing is best celebrated during daylight in the outdoors—in the churchyard or in a park. It may be celebrated at any time of the year, especially in early spring, or on the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, October 4. Make allowances for the arrival of larger animals such as horses and other livestock. The space may contain a table on which the Bible or musical instruments may be placed. Music is best led by instruments that work well outdoors—trumpets, accordions, drums, and guitars. Bulletins are awkward and should be used only to provide the texts of hymns to be sung.

GATHERING AND GREETING

When most animals and their friends have arrived, the leader invites all to form a large circle around the table. The leader begins:

The animals of God’s creation inhabit the skies, the earth, and the sea.
They share in the fortunes of human existence
and have a part in human life.
God, who confers gifts on all living things,
has often used the service of animals
or made them reminders of the gifts of salvation.
Animals were saved from the flood
and afterwards made a part of the covenant with Noah.         (GENESIS 9:9–10)

The paschal lamb recalls the passover sacrifice
and the deliverance from slavery in Egypt.                           (EXODUS 12:3–14)

A giant fish saved Jonah;                                         (JONAH 2:1–10)

ravens brought bread to Elijah;                                (1 KINGS 17:6)

animals were included in the repentance of Nineveh;                             (JONAH 3:7)

and animals share in Christ’s redemption of all God’s creation.
We, therefore, invoke God’s blessing on these animals.
As we do so, let us praise the Creator
and thank God for setting us as stewards
over all the creatures of the earth.

SCRIPTURES

Genesis 1 The creation
Genesis 6:17 –22 Animals on the ark
Isaiah 11:6 –9 The wolf and the lamb
Psalm 8 (UMH 743) The work of your fingers
Psalm 148 (UMH 861) Praise the Lord for creation.

PRAYER

The following, or St. Francis’ Prayer for All Created Things (507), or another prayer may be prayed.

God created us and placed us on the earth
to be stewards of all living things,
therefore let us proclaim the glory of our Creator, saying:
O God, how wonderful are the works of your hands.

Blessed are you, O Lord of the Universe; you create the animals
and give us the ability to train them to help us in our work. R

Blessed are you, O Lord of the Universe;
you give us food from animals to replenish our energies.  R

Blessed are you, O Lord of the Universe; for the sake of our comfort
you give us domestic animals as companions. R

Blessed are you, O Lord of the Universe; you care for us
even as you care for the birds of the air. R

Blessed are you, O Lord of the Universe;
you offered your Son to us as the passover lamb
and in him willed that we should be called your children. R

 



Adam’s Curse: William Butler Yeats on Original Sin

by Patrick B. Whalen | Part of the human tragedy is our capacity to imagine the perfect and to desire it. But one glimpse of the moon reminds Yeats of how incapable we are of fulfilling our imaginings and desires (Images: DN-0071801, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum)

We made a good run in Genesis… all of two and a half chapters before finding ourselves on the business end of a curse leveled at us by omnipotent God. Don’t you hate it when that happens? As a matter of fact, we have been hating it ever since. As a defining feature of our earthly existence, the curse of original sin effects a profound disintegration—that is to say, it undoes integrity of flesh and spirit and places at odds our reason, will, and appetite. We experience that disintegration most obviously when we choose to sin even though we know better, but divisions like this haunt almost every aspect of our lives.

The Irish poet William Butler Yeats considers these divisions in his early twentieth century poem “Adam’s Curse.” “We sat together at one summer’s end, / That beautiful mild woman, your close friend, / And you and I, and talked of poetry.” Their conversation wonders at the work it takes in our postlapsarian world to craft something beautiful: “it’s certain there is no fine thing / Since Adam’s fall but needs much labouring,” and is impatient with the positivism and practicality that often marginalize the contemplative work involved in making something beautiful. The tension here between what is practical and what is contemplative announces one of the divisions in the human heart that originate in the fall. It seems that though we can aspire toward the beautiful and contemplative, we are nevertheless yoked to labor and fatigue. Even conversation, like the one Yeats describes here, suffers from this tension between the ideal and the practical. Thought—so capable of transcendence—is nevertheless governed by the fan belts and alternators of grammar. The Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz summarizes: “Words, as the material for externalizing the mysterious current, are at the same time an obstacle.”

If Yeats can acknowledge the fissures between ideal and real, he is also more capable than most of approaching the ideal. Between the third and fourth stanzas of the poem he incorporates a caesura, a break in the discourse, a gulf in which silence lives. When speech begins again, it is as if in a new poem, or as if in poetry for the first time. The stanza ushers in a contemplative mode, first positing silence: “We had grown quiet at the name of love,” and proceeding only with the interior voice. The conversation continues, but not on the plane of normal vocal language: this speaking voice is strictly interior and exists only as a thought expressed in silence: “I had a thought for no one’s but your ears.” As if defying the restriction of operating through language, Yeats reaches for the safety of contemplation, toward ideal space where real love and revelation exist. His fellow modernist Wallace Stevens would call it a “true interior to which to return / A home against one’s self, a darkness.” The Carthusians might call it the cloister—this is where lovers truly speak to one another.

As always, before long the fall with its divisions intervenes. When we encounter it here, in this sacrosanct sphere, its presence is appalling. Yeats writes of time as a wave of unified being that breaks across the heavens into the piecemeal reality of our temporal experience: “time’s waters as they rose and fell / about the stars and broke in days and years.” Before it reached our experience, time was perfect unified eternity. But in our experience, bound by imperfectability, it necessarily reaches us only in pieces we can comprehend. And what of love in this decaying state?

I had a thought for no one’s but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.

Part of the human tragedy is our capacity to imagine the perfect and to desire it. But one glimpse of the moon reminds Yeats of how incapable we are of fulfilling our imaginings and desires. If time can only come to us in truncated and halting bits, if the moon as we see it is subject to constant revision, what hope is there for a perfectly achieved human love? And having once imagined a perfect love, can we settle for anything less?

The impression of a disintegrated state dominates “Adam’s Curse.” A fall, by necessity, includes two states; in this case, the ideal for which humanity was born, and the incompleteness in which we now subsist. Yeats describes our painful capacity to imagine the ideal, the “old high way of love,” while remaining too broken to achieve it. But this is not simply a poetic expression of the doctrine of original sin. Yeats’ diagnosis is more particular. The incapacity to achieve the ideal of love is not an eternal, unchanging absolute; on the contrary, he describes it as something into which “we’d grown / As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.” Apparently the fall is a work in progress, a state of consuming weariness, or to borrow Walker Percy’s name for it, a malaise which grows, like an abscess, through time.

If only Adam’s curse was the imperative to work hard through life. But Yeats reminds us that our work on earth always takes place in relation to dashed hopes and failed ideals—and that is what hurts. We are the practical creatures with a contemplative capacity; the physical-spiritual beings that are subject to a kaleidoscopic variety of suffering contained within ourselves. It’s no surprise then that our salvation comes in the form of abject failure—a king with no kingdom murdered by a gaggle of petty church politicians. Given the nature of our curse, could we tolerate salvation any other way?

Patrick B. Whalen

Patrick B. Whalen is the Headmaster of St. Martin’s Academy, a farm-based boarding high school for boys opening in fall 2018. Patrick served on Active Duty in the Marine Corps from 2007 to 2016 and has published poetry, translations, and articles in a variety of journals and books. He and his wife Kristi have four children and live in Fort Scott, Kansas.



Good Day and greetings from ECWA Headquarters International

by Rev. Stephen Panya Baba – ECWA President | “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 4:11 (NIV) (connect via president@ecwang.org)

Most of you would have heard of my new calling to the office of the President of ECWA. We very much appreciate your loving care, concern and support for us. These first few months have been a time of prayer, thinking and reflection on so many things, and we are trusting God to show us the way forward.

Right now, some proposals are at deliberation stage by the ECWA Executive and as we get to finalize them, I shall be intimating you on the implementation process so that you can prayerfully consider what role you can play.

For now, this is to connect with you and let you know that you are in our prayers and thoughts.

Remain blessed in Jesus name.



What is Sexual Immorality?

by gotquestions.org | 1 Corinthians 6:18 says, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” The bodies of believers are the “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20) (images: Christine de Pizan presenting a book of her writing to Queen Isabeau of France)

In the New Testament, the word most often translated “sexual immorality” is porneia. This word is also translated as “whoredom,” “fornication,” and “idolatry.” It means “a surrendering of sexual purity”, and it is primarily used of premarital sexual relations. From this Greek word we get the English word pornography, stemming from the concept of “selling off.” Sexual immorality is the “selling off” of sexual purity and involves any type of sexual expression outside the boundaries of a biblically defined marriage relationship (Matthew 19:4–5)

The connection between sexual immorality and idolatry is best understood in the context of 1 Corinthians 6:18, which says, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” The bodies of believers are the “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). Pagan idol worship often involved perverse and immoral sexual acts performed in the temple of a false god. When we use our physical bodies for immoral purposes, we are imitating pagan worship by profaning God’s holy temple (1 Corinthians 6:9–11).

Biblical prohibitions against sexual immorality are often coupled with warnings against “impurity” (Romans 1:24; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 4:19). This word in the Greek is akatharsia, which means “defiled, foul, ceremonially unfit.” It connotes actions that render a person unfit to enter God’s presence. Those who persist in unrepentant immorality and impurity cannot come into the presence of God. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8; Psalm 24:3–4). It is impossible to maintain a healthy intimacy with God when our bodies and souls are given over to impurities of any kind.

Sexuality is God’s design. He alone can define the parameters for its use. The Bible is clear that sex was created to be enjoyed between one man and one woman who are in a covenant marriage until one of them dies (Matthew 19:6). Sexuality is His sacred wedding gift to human beings. Any expression of it outside those parameters constitutes abuse of God’s gift. Abuse is the use of people or things in ways they were not designed to be used. The Bible calls this sin. Adultery, premarital sex, pornography, and homosexual relations are all outside God’s design, which makes them sin.

The following are some common objections to God’s commands against sexual immorality:

1. It’s not wrong if we love each other. The Bible makes no distinction between “loving” and “unloving” sexual relations. The only biblical distinction is between married and unmarried people. Sex within marriage is blessed (Genesis 1:28); sex outside of marriage is “fornication” or “sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 7:2–5).

2. Times have changed, and what was wrong in biblical times is no longer considered sin. Most of the passages condemning sexual immorality also include evils such as greed, lust, stealing, etc. (1 Corinthians 6:9–10; Galatians 5:19–21). We have no problem understanding that these other things are still sin. God’s character does not change with culture’s opinion (Malachi 3:6; Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 13:8).

3. We’re married in God’s eyes. This argument implies that God is cross-eyed. The fallacy of this idea is that the God who created marriage in the first place would retract His own command to accommodate what He has called sin. God declared marriage to be one man and one woman united for life (Mark 10:6–9). The Bible often uses the imagery of a wedding and a covenant marriage as a metaphor to teach spiritual truth (Matthew 22:2; Revelation 19:9). God takes marriage very seriously, and His “eyes” see immorality for what it is, regardless of how cleverly we have redefined it.

4. I can still have a good relationship with God because He understands. Proverbs 28:9 says, “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” We fool ourselves when we think that we can stubbornly choose sin and God does not care. First John 2:3–4 contains a serious challenge for those who persist in this line of thinking: “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.”

Hebrews 13:4 makes God’s expectation for His children crystal clear: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” Sexual immorality is wrong. The blood of Jesus can cleanse us from every type of impurity when we repent and receive His forgiveness (1 John 1:7–9). But that cleansing means our old nature, including sexual immorality, is put to death (Romans 6:12–14, 8:13). Ephesians 5:3 says, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.”



Hope in God in Hopeless Times

by Jack Wellman | There is nothing on this earth more certain than hope in God.  He will never leave us nor will He ever forsake us.  He is our anchor in the present and for the future. (image, YouTube)

The times we live in are so troubled.  People losing their jobs, the stock market falls, natural catastrophes, and uncertainty in what the future holds.  In today’s economy there is little to hope  for the future however God is never caught off guard or by surprise.  God knows the future.  You are not the only one that has felt that there is no hope.  Even Bible heroes had their times when they wanted to give up.  Job, Moses, Jonah, Jeremiah, even the powerful prophet in the Old Testament, Elijah.

Humans have definitions of hope that are different from God’s.   We might hope our team wins the Super Bowl, or we might hope we don’t lose our jobs or our house.  But the biblical definition of hope is not a hope-so but a know-so.  Our hope in God is surer than the sun rising in the morning.  Just read these verses of hope and put yourself or your own name in the place of “I” or “we”.  Where is hope found?  It is in the Bible, the Word of God.  Psalm 119:74 “I have put my hope in your word”, in Psalm 119:81 “… I have put my hope in your word”, and in Psalm 130:5  “… in his word (The Bible) I put my hope”.

Here is real hope.  When a person reads the Word of God (Bible) they can know for certain that they have a secure and certain future for God will never allow us to suffer beyond our own capabilities to handle it.  There is nothing on this earth more certain than hope in God.  He will never leave us nor will He ever forsake us.  He is our anchor in the present and for the future.

Redemptive Hope

Put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. Psalm 130:7

If you are a believer you can rest assured that God’s love is unfailing and He will deliver us in the days of calamity.  He has rescued the born-again believers from certain judgment and promised us an eternal home with Him.  Instead of using ink, God has signed this redemption with Jesus’ own blood which seals you permanently.  When our hope is in the Lord and not in us, it is a rock solid hope.

Gift of Hope

For you have given me hope. Psalm 119:49

We know that there is always hope when we trust in God for He has given us His Holy Spirit to seal us as we read in Ephesians 1:13, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.”

Future Hope

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11

God had plans for you.  You can bank on that.  His plans are not intended to harm you but to prosper you.  Now this does not mean that He plans to make you rich but He does plan for you to have a secure future.  God says that He has plans for you and He knows them even if we do not.  Your stockbroker or financial adviser might have plans for you too, but they do not know the future, they may try to plan for a secure future but they do not have the ability to bring it about.  God knows your future and is planning it better than anyone else can, ever ourselves.

Unending Hope

Put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore.  Psalm 131:3

Hope is for now, it is for today, and it is for tomorrow too.  Jesus clearly tells Christians that He will never leave us, never forsake us, and will never, ever caste us away (John 6:37).  This promise is for tomorrow morning, next week, and next year.  This hope is the believer’s hope that covers their entire life.  It is without end and will stay with us until Jesus comes for us.

Lovely Hope

The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. Psalm 147:11

I am a father and grandfather.  My children have troubles.  They come to me for advice.  I am always offering them hope that all things will work out for their best despite what today may seem like (Romans 8:28).   I delight when they come to me with their troubles.  So too does the Lord delight when we put our hope in Him and His unfailing love.  He wants us to depend upon Him for everything.  He delights to give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4).

Unashamed Hope

No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame… Psalm 25:3

If we have our hope in the right place, that is not in ourselves, our jobs, our circumstances, but in God alone, we will never be disappointed.  We will never be ashamed for placing our hope in Him because He has the power to deliver us out of all our troubles.  We do not posses that power.  Our 401K does not have such power.  God owns the whole earth, He owns every animal in the forest, and He is the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills as Psalm 50:10-11 says, “for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the insects in the fields are mine.”

Guiding Hope

Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:5

We are finite creatures and can not look beyond today but God has planned every step we take.  He guides us and protects us, even in areas where the dark shadows of death seem imminent in the lowest valleys (Psalm 23).  We might plan our own course but God Himself determines where our steps go (Proverbs 16:9).

Courageous Hope

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD. Psalm 31:24

If we are not a believer, then we have only hope in this world and among men are most miserable.  But if we are Christians, then we can take heart and be courageous because God is our hope.  When God is your hope you have a sure thing.  When it is in the world, then we are consumed with worry because we don’t know what comes next.  Those who have hope in God have hope in the only One Who can guarantee our future.

Reverent Hope

But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, Psalm 33:18

When we hear the words “fear in the Lord” or “those who fear him” this is not a fear of punishment or retribution.  Fear is simply a reverential respect and standing in awe of God.  That is what “fear of the Lord” means.  It means that those who reverence God and His name have nothing to fear at all; no evil, no pestilence, no begging for bread, and no fear of want.  His unfailing love is upon those that fear or revere Him:  His love never fails and His eyes are fixed on you in a permanent gaze that is transfixed upon your today and your tomorrow.  You are the apple of His eye (Deuteronomy 32:10, Zechariah 2:8).

Protective Hope

We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. Psalm 33:20

Our hope in God is a shied of life.  Not only a shield in eternal life but in the present life.  He is our help when we need it and our shield when we need protecting.  God alone is our help and our shield.

Sovereign Hope

But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you. Psalm 39:7

When we look to ourselves, our employer, our retirement fund, or our inheritance, we can not fully hope with 100% certainty.  But what do we look for when our Hope is in God?  We know that even our employer’s decisions are in God’s sovereign hands.  Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.”  The king thinks he might be in charge, or the boss might think he or she is making their own decision, but in God’s sovereignty, they do nothing that is not in God’s divine plan for us.  They are subject to the Lord’s will whether they know it or not.

… when hope is in God we have reason to praise our Savior and our God.

Praiseworthy Hope

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:11

(These are repeated in Psalm 42:5 and Psalm 43:5)

Here the Psalmist examines his own heart in asking, Why am I so downcast? Why am I so disturbed? When really he has no reason to be because when hope is in God we have reason to praise our Savior and our God.  If you do not know Christ, then I would agree that there is every good reason to be downcast, to be depressed, and to be so disturbed.  The world is the most uncertain place to live in today above any other day but not so for those whose hope is in God.

Restful Hope

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. Psalm 62:5

I have often times wrestled with tomorrow while I lay down to sleep.  The many “what if’s” haunt my mind and do not allow me to sleep as I rehearse the day’s events and worry about what happens tomorrow if….  But worrying about tomorrow is borrowing trouble from tomorrow and spending it on today.  When you realize that tomorrow is already taken care of by God alone and the hope you have in Him, then you can find rest.  It is easier to sleep tonight if you know tomorrow is in God’s hands.

Hope In God Bible Verses

If you are feeling hopeless and worried about tomorrow, next week, or even next year read the rest of these verses and see how far having hope in God goes:

Psalm 65:5   You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas

Psalm 69:6   May those who hope in you not be disgraced because of me, O Lord…

Psalm 71:14   But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.

Psalm 71:5   For you have been my hope, O Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth.

Psalm 9:18   But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish.

Romans 12:12   Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Psalm 9:18  But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish.

Job 11:18    You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety.

Psalm 33:18  But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love.

Psalm 33:22  May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.

Psalm 119:74  May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word.

For A Certain Future!

If you are not a born-again Christian then you have no hope in this present world.  Your future is uncertain and you have no idea what tomorrow may bring.  Decide right here and now, at this very moment, to fix your hope on the rock-solid promises of God and all of these verses can be literally claimed by you.  It is a promise from God Himself.  Today is your day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2).  Here is how you can have a living, breathing hope.  Even if you have to print this out and read this on your knees, or you have to read it out aloud right now,  I ask that you would receive Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior today.  Do it right now and you have the assurance of hope in God for today, tomorrow, and for all eternity:

  • I Admit – that I am a sinner and in need of a Savior (Romans 6:23)
  • I Abandon – self-effort and realize I can not be saved by my works or efforts (Acts 16:31)
  • I Accept freely Christ’s payment for my sins, required of the Father (John 3:16)
  • I Acknowledge  Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior (Acts 4:12)

If you have just received Jesus, you have now received God’s inheritance rights since you are now a son or daughter of His and can never be lost again & live forever (John 10:28-29).  Now, join a Bible-believing church, or call 1-888-NeedHim (633-3446) for follow up questions about salvation that is only available through Jesus Christ.

Jack WellmanJack Wellman is a father and grandfather and a Christian author, freelance writer, and pastor at the Mulvane (KS) Brethren church in Mulvane, Kansas. Graduate work at Moody Bible Institute. His books are inexpensive paperbacks that are theological in nature: “Teaching Children The Gospel/How to Raise Godly Children,“ “Do Babies Go To Heaven?/Why Does God Allow Suffering?,“ “The Great Omission; Reaching the Lost for Christ,” and “Blind Chance or Intelligent Design?, Empirical Methodologies & the Bible.”

Jack has written countless articles on What Christians Want To Know! Read them in the archive below.

If you like what you’re reading, you can get free daily updates through the RSS feed here. Thanks for stopping by!



How Christians Can Adapt to Technological Change

by Glenn Brooke | Technology advances and political systems can shape, but not fully repair, a sin-corrupted world. No amount of technology can solve our deepest problems. Technology can help people live better, more fulfilling lives that maximize their contributions. (image: ©LiuZishan/Shutterstock)

Even setting aside the hype about disruptive technological change, it’s here to stay. How can leaders think wisely about the combined impact of computing power, algorithms, new means of connectivity, virtual reality, 3D printing, sensors, robotics, nanotechnology and molecular medicine? What are positive things we should continue to embrace? How will these changes affect businesses and employment? What is the Church role in shaping these things, or will it continue to be sidelined.

Don’t Underestimate the Changes That Will Keep Coming
We’re bad at projecting exponential impact  and truly awful at projecting the impact of intersecting exponential trends. In rough terms, technological capability is doubling annually. It’s not evenly distributed, but the bleeding edge is improving 2x each year.[1]  By June 2036 we are looking at 20 doublings, which is a million-fold increase in technological capability. Can you wrap your head around technical capabilities a million times greater than what you see today? How about a billion-fold in 2046 (30 doublings)?

To put that in perspective, consider transportation speeds.
  • Walking: 4 mph
  • Horse: 24 mph
  • Car: 80 mph
  • Commercial jet: 600 mph (150x faster than walking)
  • 150x is much, much less than a million.

This rate of technological change has never been experienced before in human history. Every technological advance creates new business opportunities, but it also carries potential destructive power. We will need wise leadership to adapt well.Exponential changes in technology start very slowly, hardly noticeable to most people, and – because we’re used to thinking about linear increases – “appear” to explode onto the scene. It is a little like mushrooms “popping up” in your yard. All the component cells of the mushroom were already there as an invisibly distributed set of filaments. They come together in a few hours overnight to create the visible fruiting body. Likewise, these technology changes will appear to come from nowhere and continue to transform our business and social world rapidly.

Leadership Begins by Recognizing What Doesn’t Change
The key for leadership in the future is to begin with what won’t change. Jeff Bezos brilliantly focused Amazon on what won’t change – people will always want low cost products delivered fast.  Reading Richard Baxter or Francis Asbury on how to minister to struggling families and congregations shows us how little people have changed. Some things we can count on being the same:

  • Spiritual bedrock: God loves people, whom he crafted in his image (Gen. 1:26-27). Robots and avatars are at best made in the image of man. “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb. 13:8)  The Word of God is everlasting and speaks to our deepest needs. (Isa. 40:8)  We cannot save ourselves. (Eph. 2:1-10)  People are both body and spirit. (1 Cor. 6:19-20) Worship of any created thing or capability is idolatry. (Exod. 20:3)  We love because God loved us first. (1 John 4:19)  Dying is not the worst thing that can happen to you. (Matt. 10:28)
  • Work is valuable and good for us. People are at their best when serving and creating, rather than focused on consuming.
  • People crave purpose and meaning, certainty, family and community connections. These three main questions remain important: “Where did I come from?  Why am I here? What happens when I die?
  • Every generation must learn fundamental lessons anew.
  • Technical capabilities and living standards will not be evenly distributed. “The poor you will always have with you.” (Matt. 26:11)
  • Technology advances and political systems can shape, but not fully repair, a sin-corrupted world. No amount of technology can solve our deepest problems. Technology can help people live better, more fulfilling lives that maximize their contributions.
  • People treasure experiences in the natural, created world. People are 3D beings in the physical world and cannot live entirely as digital entities.
  • People need sleep, rest, and rejuvenation.
  • Families are a bedrock social structure ordained by God. Children need loving parents.
  • Time is inexorable and unidirectional. Jesus Christ will return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. (Rev. 19:11-16)
  • The economics of businesses is about exchange of value. “There is no free lunch.”
  • The world is made up of many interrelated systems, with many feedback loops. Changes in one part of a system affect other parts of the systems, often in ways we find difficult to predict because there are gaps between cause and effect.

All these – and you can probably think of more – are not going to change with even a billion times more technological capability. Leaders can work from our trustworthy body of revealed wisdom and our observations about how people and the world actually work.

[1] Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, Bold (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015). The single-most readable book on how these exponential technologies will transform our world and the way we live and work. These authors are associated with Singularity University and compile many articles about technological progress at singularityhub.com.

Glenn BrookeGlenn Brooke considers leadership a craft which requires dedicated pursuit. The apprentice model (instruction + practice + associating with other craftsmen) is the time-tested way to foster the next generation of leaders. Real leaders never stop working on their craft; there are only new levels of mastery ahead. Glenn is the author of Leadership Craft, Teach the Bible to Change Lives, and other books. You can read more from Glenn on his blog, leadershipcraft.com.



What did Jesus mean when He instructed us to love our enemies?

by GotQuestions.org | What is impossible for man becomes possible for those who give their lives to Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in our hearts (image: Judas Betrays the Master – Icon inside the Church of Panagia Dexia, Thessaloniki Greece).
When Jesus said we are to love our enemies, He was creating a new standard for relationships. He proclaimed to the crowds listening to His Sermon on the Mount that they knew they were to love their neighbor because the command to love our neighbor was a law of God (Leviticus 19:18). That we must therefore hate our enemy was an inference incorrectly drawn from it by the Jews. While no Bible verse explicitly says “hate your enemy,” the Pharisees may have somewhat misapplied some of the Old Testament passages about hatred for God’s enemies (Psalm 139:19-22; 140:9-11). But Jesus replaced this idea with an even higher standard: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45). Jesus goes on to explain that loving those who love us is easy and even unbelievers can do that. Then He commands us to “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).

Jesus explained to His followers that they should adhere to the real meaning of God’s law by loving their enemies as well as their neighbors. A Pharisee once asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). Jesus then told the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Here Jesus taught that His followers must demonstrate love to all kinds of people—no matter what faith, nationality, or personality—enemies included. If you love your enemies and “pray for those who persecute you,” you then truly reveal that Jesus is Lord of your life.

By using an illustration of the sun rising and the rain falling on both the good and the evil, Jesus shows God’s undiscriminating love to all people. His disciples then must reflect His character and exhibit this same undiscriminating love for both friends and enemies. Jesus is teaching us that we must live by a higher standard than what the world expects—a standard that is impossible for us to attain by our own efforts. It’s only through the power of God’s Spirit that His people can truly love and pray for those who intend to do them harm (Romans 12:14-21).

Finally, after giving us the admonition to love our enemies, Jesus then gives us this command: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). As sons of our Father (Matthew 5:45), we are to be perfect, even as He is perfect. This is utterly impossible for sinful man to achieve. This unattainable standard is exactly what the Law itself demanded (James 2:10). So how can Jesus demand the impossible? He later tells us, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). That which God demands, only He can accomplish, including the demand to love our enemies. What is impossible for man becomes possible for those who give their lives to Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in our hearts.

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