Will Artificial Intelligence Produce a Dystopian Future?

by K. V. Turley | But what if Wells was wrong about the accuracy of Metropolis—in some ways at least? Looking at how all-pervasive AI is becoming and the plans for the Way of the Future church, it would seem that the vision of Metropolis is closer than many imagined in sketching out where we may be headed (image, AMPP Group).

In 2017 the following quotation was reported:

What is going to be created will effectively be a god. It’s not a god in the sense that it makes lightning or causes hurricanes. But if there is something a billion times smarter than the smartest human, what else are you going to call it?

These are the words of Silicon Valley wunderkind, Anthony Levandowski. He is moving Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the next level: godhead. Perhaps one should not be surprised that another church should be started in California. This time the difference is that this latest denomination’s god is not a supernatural being but AI: the church of AI is a religion known formally henceforth as the Way of the Future, with a gospel called The Manual.

Ninety years earlier, in 1927, there emerged from the Weimar Republic’s increasingly weird movie milieu, the dystopian fantasy Metropolis directed by Fritz Lang. Watched today, this Silent film masterpiece remains disturbing. Its unsettling prophecy of what 2026 would look like is heighten by the creeping suspicion on the part of the contemporary viewer that we may have already entered into this nightmare reality.

At the heart of the plot is a man-made robot—an artificial intelligence. It is shaped into a human likeness and then used to subvert social change, or provoke lust, depending upon the audience upon which it is unleashed. The manner in which this occurs is quasi-religious, accompanied by a faux mystical sense of a savior come at last.

The plot of Metropolis concerns a bitterly divided society. There are the haves and the have-nots, the workers who toil endlessly and the wealthy whose leisure time is just as endless; these two co-exist in a world with the trappings of 1920s modernity: telephones, cars, planes and—drawing from a future modernity—close circuit television, to name but a few of the features on show. But there is no pity in this world. The workers are little more than caged animals or automated pieces of machinery.

Into this mix steps Maria. She is a woman who rallies the downbeat workers and inspires them with a vision of a future they could not have dreamed of, one where their chains will be shaken off.  This is the hope until, that is, a robot doppelgänger usurps her role and distorts her message. Needless to say, the robot is part of the elite’s master plan to control the masses.

The creation of the robot takes place in the laboratory of a Modernist scientist. There is an air of the magician about this man as he goes about his Frankenstein-like generation of this robotic being. Tellingly, a Pentagram is fixed upon his door and upon his laboratory wall throughout these activities. Tech pioneer, and subsequent billionaire, Elon Musk, once famously remarked, “With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon.” Watching what takes place on screen in Metropolis and the symbolism swirling around it, it would appear that Fitz Lang might have agreed.

Today, Levandowski, the “John the Baptist” of the coming AI savior, is at pains to stress that his plans for creating a deity are neither gimmicky nor a publicity stunt. He makes no reference to occult powers issuing from this proposed being—not yet anyway. No, he wants humanity to be able to “talk to god” and “know” that this god “is listening.” For the majority of us living outside Silicon Valley what Levandowski speaks of is known as prayer and has been around for a few years longer than the Internet. Nevertheless, Levandowski envisages this form of religion as eventually having its own lands where the new deity can be worshipped and where its social teachings may be implemented fully. At this point, on hearing such pronouncements, you might be forgiven for wondering if, inadvertently, you had slipped into the realm of Sci-Fi.

Talking of which, the Sci-Fi author, H.G. Wells, was asked to review the film, Metropolis, on its release, for The New York Times. He was underwhelmed: ‘Six million marks! The waste of it!’ In particular, he was unimpressed by the vision of the future as seen on screen. Wells suggested that the mechanical apparatus of how people live and how society is ordered one hundred years hence would be much more advanced than what was then on display. Given his own bleak vision of the future in The Time Machine (1895), one wonders how he could have thought of the future as so upbeat. As for today’s nascent church of AI, doubtless Wells would have found the whole idea too far-fetched and, for such a confirmed atheist, far too irrational and unscientific for credence.

But what if Wells was wrong about the accuracy of Metropolis—in some ways at least? Looking at how all-pervasive AI is becoming and the plans for the Way of the Future church, it would seem that the vision of Metropolis is closer than many imagined in sketching out where we may be headed.

The workers of 2017 do not trudge along, downcast as the industrial workers of Metropolis do but many of our contemporaries are just as enslaved—if invisibly so. What is predicted in the film is not a return to nineteenth century working conditions but rather an existence where the nature and purpose of work are annihilated. It would be fair to say that for many in the West today the challenge posed in the workplace is not one of inhuman working conditions but rather an existential crisis about the purpose of work, and a sense of its futility. That mirrors exactly the world of the masses in Metropolis.

Throughout the film, the wealthy are prone both to carnal lust and to the lust for power. This breeds contempt for their underlings and, presumably, for themselves and each other. There appears no philosophy of redemption worth noting in Lang’s imagined universe. The Maria character mouths platitudes but then her demonic doppelganger twists these words to enslave her audience further. The technological and the occult appear to be the only two realities available to the citizens of this metropolis.

In Metropolis, the sexual lust excited by the demonic Maria, now resembling an incarnation of the Whore of Babylon, is all the more empty because ‘she’ is unreal—a man-made manipulated entity. In a series of jump-cut scenes we are shown how lust for this phantasm has provoked madness and badness in equal measure ending in suicide for some. In our own day, it is all too easy to see how the Satanic union of AI and pornography has shattered many lives, and will destroy many more. On this point, and in a society awash with pornographic unreality—be it digital or robotic—Lang’s vision of our contemporary reality is eerily accurate.

Given the latest announcement from California of the marriage of religious worship and AI, it is fitting then that the final scenes of Metropolis should take place in a church. Although sin is represented by a tableau of the Seven Deadly Sins, there is no Christian aspect referenced throughout the ecclesiastical building featured. In Lang’s vision of 2026, the church is a place of worship where the workers and the ruling class make their peace but the film is clear that the church is not a Christian one. Of course, as Silicon Valley did not then exist, Lang could not have foreseen that a century later the god worshipped would not be in a building but online: every day and every hour, with every digital footprint, in every page turn and view, by every click. Forsaking virtue for the viral, we have all taken steps, to some degree, along the Way to the Future.

In the 1927 film, surprisingly, there is reference by the good Maria to the Tower of Babel. The story is explained as a parable to the workers of Metropolis about what happens when man’s pride is given free rein. Today Levandowski and his friends are promising that the future they are building by the Way to the Future will take us to new heavens. Watching its construction from afar, one can’t help thinking that, with a virus or two, this whole digital divinity will come crashing down from a great height like that earlier tower dedicated to history’s first world-wide communication network.

K. V. Turley is a London-based freelance writer and filmmaker.



True Diversity Found in the Unity of Christ

by Anthony Esolen | We are too used to the habits of everyone around us. We conform ourselves to the time, and save no one, because we can hardly tell in what regard we have anything to give them.

At the school where I used to teach, diversity has become the word of faith, an intellectual idol to conjure by. It does not mean that you study a variety of cultures. It couldn’t mean that. Otherwise we would have been in very Diversity Heaven, as we introduced our students to ancient Babylon, Homeric Greece, the Greece of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, ancient Israel, republican and imperial Rome, the early Christians spread from Asia Minor across North Africa all the way to Spain and Britain, the Germanic tribes—and that was just in one semester. No, it couldn’t mean that. By the testimony of the haters of the program I have described, that was the great offender against diversity. But now you can fulfill your “diversity proficiency” by taking one of any number of courses in modern feminism, a western phenomenon so familiar to graduates of American schools, they might well repeat the catechism in their sleep:

“Why did God make you?”

“She made me to battle against the patriarchy now and forevermore.”

“What caused humanity’s fall from grace?”

“Humanity fell when society adopted hierarchical structures that oppressed women and minorities.”

“What does the body mean?”

“The body means what I want it to mean. I own my body. My body is mine to do with as I please.”

“What is the first commandment of sexual liberation?”

“The first commandment is that I own my body, and no one shall have any say over what I choose to do with it, not parent, not spouse, not priest.”

We came to a parting of the ways, that school and I. And it occurs to me that that must happen in all Christian churches, schools, and homes, if we really wish to show man a way of life that diverges from the world’s gloomy stumbling on to unhappiness in this life and Lord only knows what futility and loss in the next. We must not be like our neighbors anymore.
    

I’m reading, for one of my classes at Thomas More College, Henryk Sienkiewicz’s novel set in the last days of Saints Peter and Paul, Quo Vadis? The Rome of that imperial matricide, mass murderer, poetaster, and buffoon, Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus Nero, was “a nest of evil,” “a seat of power, madness but also order, the capital of the world and also mankind’s most terrible oppressor, bringer of laws and peace, all-powerful, invulnerable, eternal,” so wicked, that Peter cannot fathom why God should lead him to build the Church upon such a foundation. Even the libertine Petronius understands that such a Rome cannot endure. “A society based on brute force and violence,” thinks that arbiter of taste, “on cruelty beyond anything possible among the barbarians, and on such universal viciousness and debauchery, could not survive forever. Rome ruled mankind, but it was also its cesspool and its seeping ulcer. It reeked of death and corpses. Death’s shadow lay over its decomposing life.”

Rome, pagan Rome, was exhausted. She would, in the next few centuries, produce a few fine public buildings, some aqueducts and roads, one near-great poet (Juvenal), a sad philosopher king (Marcus Aurelius), and a brief efflorescence of Platonic mysticism not uninfluenced by Christianity. That was it.

The west, the post-Christian west, is exhausted. She exceeds ancient Rome in population by twenty to one, she enjoys plentiful food and drink, and labor-saving (and labor-eliminating) machines, and the moral heritage of its Christian past, mainly spent down and in many places mortgaged. But she is exhausted.

I call to witness our opponents. I do not say that there is a “rape culture” on our college campuses. They do. I do not say that men and women share no fundamental interests. They do. I do not say that it is impossible for people to remain innocent and sexually pure before marriage. They do. I do not say that the murder of a child in the womb is a fair price to pay for—a fair price, a job, economic autonomy. They do. I do not say that sex is meaningless. They do. I do not say that historical developments are inevitable and must carry us along with them willy-nilly, as dead things on a swollen river. They do. I do not say that freedom of speech is an outmoded notion. They do. I do not say that the pursuit of truth, outside of the quantifiable sciences, is a chimera. They do. I do not say that human existence itself must be transcended, or rather cast away. They do. I do not say that a man who is suffering from a terminal illness, or who knows that he is going to suffer it, has no more to live for, and nothing to give to God or his fellow man. They do. I do not say that churches ought to be turned into antique stores. They do.

They are exhausted. What wisdom does Hollywood have to impart? Or our rulers by the million in Washington and its fungal environs? Or professors, who write so poorly and read so little? Or artists, who strain their nerves and drain our wallets to produce what is ugly, garish, and stupid? Exhausted.

Quo Vadis? is a story of the irruption of the Christian faith into that exhausted world. Its protagonist, a young patrician named Marcus Vinicius, learns of a God who makes the Roman pantheon look ridiculous and shabby, and a force, a new thing in the world, Christian love, that the world dreads and yet desperately needs. Greece brought the world beauty, and Rome brought the world power, says his uncle Petronius, but what do these Christians bring? From what Petronius can see, all they bring is gloom; they spoil what few and fleeting pleasures are available to man in this life. But by the end of the novel Petronius admits that it is not so, though he cannot share in this new thing, this adoration of the God of love.

Vinicius will become a baptized follower of Christ. His passionate and violent desire for a young Christian woman—whom he would kidnap and rape rather than not enjoy—will be transformed, through his own defeat and humiliation, and a veritable miracle of Christ that saves her from the bloodthirsty Nero, into a love that he had never known, and that requires him to change his life forever. So he writes to Petronius, pleading with him to become Christian also. “Compare your fear-lined delights,” he says, “your concern for material objects when none of you is sure of tomorrow, your orgies that seem like funeral suppers, and you’ll find the answer. Come to our thyme-smelling mountains, to the shade of our olive groves, and to our ivy-covered coast. Peace waits for you here, the kind of peace you haven’t known in years. And love waits for you here, in hearts that truly love you. You have a good and noble soul, Petronius. You deserve to be happy. Your brilliant mind can recognize the truth, and when you’ve seen it, you will come to love it.”

What Vinicius holds forth to his uncle is to all appearances an ordinary human life, but it is not ordinary at all, because it is permeated with the only really new thing in this old dead world, the love of Christ. The Christians do not divorce their spouses. They do not expose unwanted children. They do not go on sprees of sad debauchery. They are grateful when God blesses them with peace, and grateful when he blesses them with the suffering that unites them with the Son. They possess all things as if they possessed none. They think first of the kingdom of God.

If we are not then conspicuous by our divergence from the world, we have not been faithful enough. I am as much to blame as anybody. We are too used to the habits of everyone around us. We conform ourselves to the time, and save no one, because we can hardly tell in what regard we have anything to give them.

Here I can say at last that I have found a place of true diversity. Yet I note that this divergence of Thomas More College, a place of cheerfulness and youth and wisdom and health, from the way of the world depends upon our being at one. We come to a fork in the road. It will not be possible to be half for Christ and half for the world. The choice must be made. Nor can it be made as individuals here and there. If the world is ever to see a truly divergent way of life, the people who take that way must take it in earnest and not pretend.

The very existence of Thomas More College depends upon unity in that regard. We are all aiming for the same good things. You could not have, among the Christians of old, some people who still sacrificed to Bacchus and men who still went after boys and women who still procured abortions; that would have been the same old world, with a little perfume. So now we cannot have a diversity that means no more than conformity to the world. Things are clearer than ever. Unity in Christ alone can give the world the diversity it needs.

Professor Anthony Esolen is a teaching fellow and writer in residence at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts, in Merrimack, New Hampshire. Dr. Esolen is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine and the author of many books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008); Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Books, 2010) and Reflections on the Christian Life (Sophia Institute Press, 2013). His most recent books are Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching (Sophia Institute Press, 2014); Defending Marriage (Tan Books, 2014); Life Under Compulsion (ISI Books, 2015); and Out of the Ashes (Regnery, 2017).



Intimacy With Jesus: It’s More Than a Trip to Israel

by Christy Fitzwater | Many times during our Israel trip, I thought of Jesus’ words for those of us who would come to him long after his appearance on earth (images of Ramon Crater, YouTube)

We were slouched on the couch, in a jet-lag stupor, when he leaned over to me and said, “You know what?”

I let my weary head swing his direction. “What?”

“Israel was great and everything, but I feel like I didn’t get to spend any time with the Lord while I was there.”

“Seriously?” I answered. “I’ve been feeling the same way, but it just seemed so weird to say it after spending 10 days in the Holy Land.”

We talked about the eight-hour days of touring and learning, combined with not-the-best sleep coming off of jet lag and getting used to new beds. It didn’t leave much energy for getting up to have a quiet time with the Lord, and we were both missing that.

Made me think of the lady I saw in the old city of Jerusalem, down on her knees in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. In front of her was a stone, where it’s thought Jesus was laid when they took him down from the cross. Next to her was a stack of white cloths, with a T-shirt store stamp of Jesus’ face on each one. She was grabbing cloths from the stack and rubbing them on the stone, while fervently praying something we couldn’t understand.

We speculated that the lady would be selling those cloths back home to people who desperately wanted a special connection to Jesus.

Is that what it takes?

I remember years ago when our good friends went to Israel and came back to tell about it. Somebody asked me then if I didn’t wish I could take the same trip. My answer was no, I didn’t care to. Didn’t feel like I needed to go to Israel to have some special experience with God.

Well, a week ago found me standing in the special places of the Bible stories—looking out on the same valley where David killed Goliath (note the picture of us at this site on this blog post), standing on Mount Carmel where Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal, looking at a first-century synagogue, by the Sea of Galilee, where it is highly likely Jesus would have spoken to the Jews on Shabbat.

And do you know what I thought each time?

Ah, so this is what it looks like.

And do you know what I felt?

Ah, so I was right. Seeing these things does not give me some increased feeling of intimacy with God but only gives me visual confirmation of what I have believed all along.

Because back in Wyoming, when I was a kid in a little Baptist church, I was watching my Sunday School teacher use a flannelgraph to tell us the story of David and Goliath.

And I was believing. With all of my heart I was believing that God used that little shepherd to kill a mighty giant with a stone.

I looked out the tour bus window as the guide said, “Look to your right, and there you can see the little stream where David would have picked up the stone.”

“Cool,” I said. “So cool to see.” But it didn’t change anything in my heart, because for so long—for decades—I had been opening up my Bible in the morning and reading all of these stories and leaning hard on the God who wrote them.

When our tour team sat in the beautiful garden, located outside of what is thought to be Jesus’ tomb, we celebrated the Lord’s Supper together. But back in the States I had remembered what Jesus had done on my behalf before I ever touched the rock wall or stepped my foot into the place where His body might have lain for three days.

So the preacher and I agreed that Israel was an indescribably rich experience, but our hearts longed for a quiet room in our own home and time spent intimately with Jesus.

Many times during our Israel trip, I thought of Jesus’ words for those of us who would come to him long after his appearance on earth:

“Blessed are those who have not seen, and have yet believed” (John 20:29b).

I highly recommend a trip to Israel, if you ever have the opportunity to go. But if it’s a deep connection with God you’re looking for, you can find that right where you are. Open your Bible and believe what you read. All of the locations and the stories and the truth are real. You don’t need to see Jerusalem or rub a stone or see some special place to know God.

Only your heart needs to travel.

See original article at christyfitzwater.com.

Christy Fitzwater is an author and pastor’s wife living in Kalispell, Montana. She is the author of Blameless: Living A Life Free from Guilt And Shame and My Father’s Hands: 52 Reasons to Trust God with Your Heart. Find her devotional writing at christyfitzwater.com.



After Hurricane Harvey, a Visible Sign of God’s Protection

by Diana Aydin | How floodwaters delivered unexpected protection to a widow’s evacuated home.

The other day a friend of mine, Jim Debes, showed me a remarkable photo that he took during Hurricane Harvey.

Aydin - Has God ever given you a visible sign of his love and protection

Jim had been looking out for one of his friends, a widow who had to evacuate because of the flooding. He knew how nervous she was about leaving her house. She prayed and prayed for God’s protection.

Jim promised her he’d look after her home. He even went there after she evacuated to store some of her things in the attic so they wouldn’t get damaged in the flooding. When he left, the power had gone out in her house and both sides of her electronic gate were wide open.

A week later, Jim returned to her house to check on things. To his surprise, the gates were firmly closed, held in place by a 30-foot telephone pole (minus wires). The area had gotten over six feet of water and, evidently, the pole just floated over and closed the gates!

The waters from Harvey weren’t kept out, but that telephone pole kept her property safe from debris, critters and looters.

And reminded both Jim and his friend of God’s unwavering love and protection.



ECWA USA DCC Youth Conference 2017

by Rev. Innocent Nwaobasi | I am writing to ask for your prayers and supports again as the youths meet in Maryland
When: July 13-16th 2017
Where: ECWA Maryland
 
The youth Conference is around the corner from July 13-16th 2017 at Maryland. We appreciate your prayers and supports for our faithful sons and daughters who love the Lord and are involved in our church programs in our various churches in ECWA USA DCC.

 I am writing to ask for your prayers and supports again as the youths meet in Maryland to discuss issues of great importance to them, that will help them grow in the Lord. Any amount the Lord has deposited in your heart to give as a support, I appeal to you to do so. Remember God love a cheerful giver and reward cheerful giving (1 Corinthians 9:7 & Luke 6: 380). As you give God bless you. Please pass this information to all your friends, sons and daughters.
Please support our youth. Send your check to ECWA USA, for Youth Conference Maryland:
Bukky Olaoye
% ECWA Atlanta
2004 Oak Terrace Drive
Atlanta GA 30316.
 
 


Join Us for ECWA Goodnews 20th Year Anniversary on June 4, 2017 at 2:00PM

by Pastor Sunday Bwanhot | 20 Years of Goodnews! Contact via ecwachicago@yahoo.com | (773) 431-4997
Read/Download the Invitation Letter                                 Read/Download the Invitation Card
ECWA Goodnews Church Chicago
invites you to Celebrate our
20th Year Anniversary
on June 4, 2017, 2:00PM
at
Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) Chicago
5644 S. Oakley Ave.
Chicago IL 60636
You have been a part of this journey through your prayers and support of God's work. It is time to come together in one place to celebrate God's faithfulness and for us to say: "Thank You" for teaming up with God and ECWA Goodnews to impact lives spiritually and transform our Chicago neighborhoods. We have chosen 20 top things God has done that we want to testify about.
Church Property with Sanctuary in the middle and two wings with 4 class rooms each for Sunday School etc.
                 Church Property with Sanctuary in the middle and two wings with 4 class rooms each for Sunday School etc.
 
The basement floor that was flooded Stairs to the Basement                                Stairs to the Basement                                                                  The basement floor that was flooded
 
We love the number "20" and will want you to  prayerfully consider supporting our renovation project with gifts in the multiples of "$20". We are debt free with regard to our property and we have done some renovation work on the main floor. We are at a point that we need your help to raise a minimum of $50,000.00 to fix the basement which will serve the church and community as fellowship hall for events. The basement was flooded at the time we bought the building. We will love for you to come and see the  property and its potentials. If you are not  able to  come, we understand. You can still send your support to: ECWA Goodnews, 5644 S. Oakley Ave. Chicago IL 60636.
 


Rev. Stephen Panya Baba: My Faith in Jesus Christ

Before we were called into full time ministry, my wife and me were active lay people on the area of missions and evangelism
My Faith in Jesus Christ
I came to know Jesus as my personal savior and Lord when I was six years old. It was during the evening preaching session by the first convert in Gbagyi Land, an itinerant evangelist called Rev Iepwi Idako. I grew in faith and this was helped in a great deal by the Christian upbringing that my parents who were missionaries, gave me. Also, I was scripturally discipled during my primary and secondary school days because there were mission schools (Serving In Mission, or SIM is the founder of EMS and ECWA).
 
I recommitted my life to Christ when I was in ECWA/SIM secondary school when a very powerful revival broke out during one of our Sunday services. My faith continued to grow and once more I recommitted my life to the Lord when I was about to complete my accountancy studies in London, England. Finally, it reached a point that I felt called to missions/evangelistic work on a full time basis and I answered the call.
 
Call to Ministry
In 1987, I qualified as a member of the chartered association of accountants in London, England. Having just recommitted my life to Christ felt I would be most impactful in my cultural context as a witness for the Lord.

  Although, I was not thinking of full time ministry then, I had a strong urge to strongly be a witness for the Lord back at home and so eagerly returned home. I informally witnessed to others and, also, in more formal church missions and evangelistic outreaches, the urge for full time evangelistic ministry increased. Yet, I resisted for several reasons, but my chief objection was that I did not feel “holy enough”, and not committed enough and so was not too sure it was really God calling me.

As Nigerians would say, to cut the long story short, at the very peak of my contemplation and serious battle as to whether or not to go full time or not, my own father came to the rescue, when I went to him for advise. He said, “If you are not sure if God is calling go full time because if you are to make a mistake, make it on the side of God and He will know how to correct it”.

That actually settled it and I left to enroll in the seminary.

Before we were called into full time ministry, my wife and me were active lay people on the area of missions and evangelism. When we answered the call, I went to the seminary and did a Masters in Biblical Studies at the ECWA Theological Seminary in Igbaja, Nigeria. Our aim after graduation was to go into Southern Sudan as missionaries, but that option eventually did not work out. So, we were seconded by EMS to go to Abuja (Nigeria’s Federal Capital city) where we planted several churches both within the city center and also in rural areas.

After about twelve years in Abuja we were posted back to Jos. I was the director of EMS until 2016, with over 1,200 missionary couples working cross culturally mainly in Nigeria, but also in other parts of the world.

Rev. Stephen Panya Baba is the former Director of Evangelical Missionary Society.



Military Appreciation Month: 5 Ways to Honor Military Families

by Edie Melson | During National Military Appreciation Month, 5 ways you can honor and support the families of those who serve.

I’ve written in the past about May being National Military Appreciation Month. But it continues to be a month that highlights ways we can help and support military families. Just a few weeks ago, I was approached by someone who wanted to reach out to a military family. 

Her friend’s son had just finished basic training and had received the dates for his first deployment. As any close friend would, this young woman wanted to support this family during a challenging time. Her words touched me. “I want to help them, not add to their burden. But I don’t know what things would help and what things might hurt.” 

She came to me because my son served in the Marines and was deployed several times. I’ve been in that family’s shoes. And she knows that I still serve military families any way possible—from the books I write to helping others stay informed on legislation that affects military and veteran benefits.

When we waved goodbye to our son on his first deployment to the Middle East, it was the beginning of a new family dynamic. The shock waves that shook our family as his bus pulled away reverberated for months. If it hadn’t been for our faith and our faith community, I don’t know how we’d have made it through. 

So here are 5 ways you can help a military family:

1.  Express heartfelt comfort and love.
This means stating how we feel—along with the admission that we may not always get it right while trying to help.

2.  Pray for the military member and the family.
Prayer changes things. It brings us comfort because it helps reorient our perspective of God. Most important, God honors the prayers of His people.

3.  Help the family focus on other things.
As a mom with a son at war, the hardest thing I had to do was not spend all my time and energy worrying about him. My friends helped a lot by spending time with me and keeping me active, getting me out of the house.

4.  Bring comfort through meals, cards, candy, etc.
I’ve written before how the gift of a giant chocolate bar brought me comfort while our son was deployed. But there were other things that helped as well. One friend brought me several freezer meals for those days when I just didn’t have the energy to cook and didn’t feel like going out. Many friends wrote letters and sent cards, a visible reminder that our son wasn’t forgotten. Several friends got together and planned a fun weekend for my husband and me. All those efforts, big and small, meant the world to my family.

5.  Send letters and packages to those who are deployed.
When our son was deployed, friends showered him with letters, care packages and, most important, prayer. Knowing that others loved him and were looking out for him too was the best thing our friends did.

I challenge you to follow the examples of our community and look for families nearby with ties to the military. This month, honor those who serve by reaching out in a special way.

 

 

 



8 Warning Signs Your Child Is Headed for Trouble

by All Pro Dad | As parents, it is an important duty to monitor our child and their activities (image, allprodad.com).

When I look back at childhood, I think about my decisions when I came into my adolescence. The early years were perfectly happy and normal, but the later years led me to places that make me cringe when I think back on it. I can pinpoint the triggers that caused the good and bad choices. But a 10-year-old boy has no ability to understand what is happening in the moment.

As parents, it is an important duty to monitor our child and their activities. This allows us to decipher what paths they are headed down. When you just focus on punishment and not the root of the issue, there is a good chance he or she could become a problem child. Here are some of the common signs of a child heading the wrong direction. It is important to recognize these and take the appropriate steps to guide your child back down a positive path.

1. Mood Swings
Everyone experiences the occasional change in moods. Teenagers with exploding hormones, in particular, are prone to ups and downs. The key here is to determine if the lows and highs are too excessive, or if your child quickly shifts from euphoria to depression seemingly without cause. Be empathetic and a source of stability. Be calm. Adding to the drama will only make things worse. Finally, try to get your child to communicate what he is truly feeling in the moment.

2. Withdrawal
Not every child is a social butterfly, but that doesn't mean there is a problem. However, if you see signs of withdrawal, it could be cause for concern. Watch for signs of depression, lack of confidence and if he feels rejected by other children.

3. Hiding Things
When you find out they have been hiding something, even if it's trivial, it should tell you that they have entered into suspect behavior. At the very least they are creating habits of secrecy. It either says they are fine with bad behavior or they don't trust you. Each of those is dangerous.

4. Dropping Grades
If a child is getting lower-than-normal grades, something is wrong somewhere. It could be a learning disability, laziness, need for more instruction or any number of social or domestic issues. It could also be a sign of depression or discontentment. Get to the core of the matter instead of just punishing.
 
5. Sudden Change of Friends
Making new friends is a good thing. A red flag is when your child stops spending time with one friend group and start hanging out with a totally new group of people. It's important to find out what they are drawn to with the new group and what the breakdown was with their former friends. Relationships have a complexity, and kids need their parents' help in navigating them. Breakdowns in friendships hurt. Wounded hearts often gravitate to unhealthy coping mechanisms to numb or distract from the pain.

6. Fluctuating Weight
Sudden weight loss and gain are normally associated with an unhealthy desire to control. Being a child can feel turbulent and unstable. As a way to deal with the stress, eating disorders or mass consumption can emerge. With these dysfunctional coping strategies, food can easily be replaced by drugs and alcohol or cutting as a way to control feelings of fear, anxiety and insecurity.

7. Personality Changes
Puberty is bound to bring some personality changes, but keep an eye on it. When a generally upbeat kid becomes more pessimistic or an outgoing kid becomes quieter, there is something driving the negative change. Perhaps they are doing things they know you wouldn't approve of or they are being bullied at school. Maybe they are desperate for approval they aren't getting. Ask them questions such as, "Do you feel like your world is changing a bit? How do you feel about that?" You may also try, "You know when I was your age I had a hard time. How are you coping with the changes going on around you?"

8. Changing the Way They Dress
It's fine to experiment with new looks. After all, kids don't develop a full sense of identity until their mid-twenties. However, a sudden change in dress and image could be more than experimenting. It may be a deep sign of insecurity. Starting to wear more revealing clothing tends to be a step towards sexual activity, while baggy/over-covering can be a sign they are hiding something. For example, when a kid always wears long sleeves, even when it is warm, they are usually hiding scars from self-cutting. As it has been said before, get to the heart of the issues. Ask questions and be a safe place for your kids as they try to navigate life.

What other trouble signs are there?

Read original article at allprodad.com.

 



How To “Church Shop” When You Move To A New City

Decide what you’re looking for; attend a service at each location and when you find that perfect Church, make your church your church home (image: St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, Rome).

Ahh, “Church Shopping.” It sounds so unholy.

But when you move to a new city, and go from church to church trying to find the right one, it’s does start to feel like you’re shopping…sometimes for something that doesn’t seem to exist. One of the best ways to get “plugged in” (I hate the phrase “plugged in,” I think it’s tacky and cliché and overused, but I don’t know a better alternative) to a new place is by finding a church family. But, believe me, I know that it can also be one of the hardest!

When I moved from my hometown in Maryland to North Carolina for college, I nearly spent my entire four years between different churches. I would go to one place consistently for a while, and then something would change and I would hop to the next. I got my Sunday dosage of praise music and teaching, but I never felt like I was a true part of a church community.

So when I moved from North Carolina to Austin, it was hugely important for me to find the right church. I was willing to shop-till-I-dropped (Jesus would’ve revived me–after all, I was shopping with a cause  ), but I was totally unwilling to settle. Because really, I don’t know how long I’ll be here in Austin. A few more years, maybe, or another decade, or more. I’m just not sure yet. And I desperately wanted a church community for the long haul.

And while my method isn’t perfect, I think it’s a pretty fair way to narrow down options and find the right church match for you.

(Side note: What if ChristianMingle.com wasn’t for Christians to meet one another, but for Christians to find the right church? WOW. This needs to happen, fast. #brilliant)

Here’s how to church shop when you move to a new city (at least this is what I did):

1. Decide what you’re looking for.

It’s really hard to go shopping when you don’t know what you’re shopping for. Ever ventured into the mall to buy a gift for someone and spent hours and hours (and hours and hours) wandering and browsing, attempting to find something to spark an idea? Yeah, it’s exhausting.

You don’t necessarily have to have a checklist for what you’d like to see in a church home, but it certainly helps to write out your thoughts. For me, for example, this is what I was looking for:

  • Non-denominational
  • Pastor who preaches truth boldly based on scripture; I want to leave the service thinking and questioning–no watered down sermons
  • Strong worship
  • Highly accepting of different ethnicities/socioeconomic status/religious background/etc. and vocal about this acceptance
  • Youth ministry that I could volunteer in
  • Large pool of young adults like myself
  • Multiple service times for flexibility’s sake

With those criteria in mind, I was able to start the next step…

2. Get on Google.

Luckily, the world wide web links us to virtually anything we need in a matter of seconds. It’s really easy to find information out about local churches–everything from their mission statements to online sermons to their distance from your home can be found online. Check out the churches’ websites, their online sermons or podcasts, read their mission statements, check their Facebook and Twitter pages (if you’re looking for a more modern church)…do your research.

This isn’t to cast judgement at a church’s online presence; it’s to get a genuine feel for which house of the Lord is the best fit for you. Just like when you were looking for a college, or finding jobs to apply to–it’s important that wherever you choose is the right fit.

Just by Googling, I was able to narrow down my church list to about five places. A lot more manageable than say, 20 or 30.

3. Attend a service at each location.

It’s imperative that you actually attend the church itself, even if it has an online campus (as many do). You want to get a sense of the people who attend and the general vibes put off by the place. Enjoy the service, but also take mental notes. When I attended several churches, I mentally jotted down whether the congregation was younger or older, if there seemed to be singles or if everyone was married, the way people interacted with each other, the worship music, the sermon, etc.

Even if you fall in love with one church, it’s a good idea to check out another place as well. You just never know!

4. Attend a second service at your favorite churches.

No church is the same every week, and you could have unknowingly visited on a very off-beat week or a surprisingly great one. Always give a church a second chance–just like choosing a college, it’s probably unlikely that you would visit just once before attending!

At the second service, don’t pay quite as much attention to what’s going on around you; instead, fully immerse yourself in the service and worship, and evaluate how you feel once you’ve left. Are you filled up spiritually? Are you thinking about what the pastor said? Whatever you would like to get out of the service–did you get it?

After attending a second service at your favorite two or three churches, you should pretty well be able to narrow it down. Usually, you have a gut feeling about which place is right for you.

5. Talk to the church members.

 Once you’ve decided on a place, it’s important to throw yourself into it. It’s only then that you can know whether it’s a good fit or not. Try out a small group, volunteer in the nursery one Sunday, ask to get coffee with one of the hospitality team members, fill out the little perforated form in the bulletin.

There is almost always an entire team of staff and volunteers who are specifically assigned to welcoming newcomers. Talk to them! Let them know why you’re at their church, ask them questions, see how you can get involved. Don’t be afraid to ask the toughies–“It seems like the congregation is mostly families with children; are there any young adult groups?” or “Is the worship music always so traditional?” or “Where do you all serve in our community?” for example.

6. When you’re ready, get involved.

I should say that some individuals want to spend quite a bit of time at a church before they truly “jump in!” (Another saying I don’t like.) That’s totally understandable…it makes sense to really get to know a place before investing in it.

That being said, it has been my experience that throwing myself into the church (joining a small group and starting to volunteer) has been an excellent way to meet new people and start to feel like I’m a part of the community. And community is a really, really good thing.

If you’re not sure how to get involved, but you’d like to, refer to #5.

7. Make your church your church home.

After you’ve done your research, tried out several churches on multiple occasions, spoken with members of the congregation, and gotten involved, you will probably feel quite at peace and settled at whichever church you’ve decided on. (If not, don’t be afraid to start over!) If you’re interested, most churches have programs (like a six week class, for example) where you can dive deeper into the church and its beliefs and then become an official member.

It’s no rush to become a member; but over time, as your comfort grows, you’ll probably want to commit yourself to a particular church and become a member instead of a long-time visitor. I have yet to become a member at the church I’ve been attending regularly here in Austin, but it’s something I’d like to look into in the next few months. (I love my church here, by the way!)

All throughout this process, it’s a fantastic idea to pray and contemplate each option. Nothing about this process should feel rushed or stressful–it’s an important decision to find a place that you look forward to attending, so allow yourself time to find that place. That being said, what works for someone else may not work for you.

Definitely go to church with friends. Definitely. But also be honest with yourself if you can’t imagine attending that church regularly. Church is a very individual experience, and as much as it may be fun and convenient do go with your friends, you probably won’t feel as fulfilled as you could if you found your own place to call home. Remember that you’ll make friends once you get involved!

Blair Lamb lives in Texas with her handsome husband, Riley, and their precious puppy, Charley!

 



Teaching Kids to Love Reading

Randall Beach | Reading is an opening to selfhood but also to citizenship

David Denby (pictured above) could see what Jessica Zelenski was up against. Zelenski, a 10th-grade teacher at New Haven’s Hillhouse High School, stood in front of 24 students from one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods and tried to get them excited about the pleasure of reading a novel.

“Books smell like old people,” sneered one of the students.

“He bellowed it,” Zelenski says with a smile as she recalls that moment. It was one of the many challenging encounters she has dealt with during her 15 years at Hillhouse.

Denby, who had been sitting in the classroom observing that scene for a book he was researching, says he was too stunned to react. He just quietly wrote down what the kid had said.

Two years later, Denby’s book is with us — Lit Up: One Reporter. Three Schools. Twenty-Four Books that Can Change Lives.

Denby, a staff writer at The New Yorker, came to The Study at Yale to talk about his experiences at those three schools for WSHU Public Radio’s Join the Conversation series.

Denby told the large audience, a roomful of readers, that Zelenski, one of the heroes of his book, was in the crowd. “She’s a dynamo teacher,” he said. Denby dedicated the book to Zelenski and the four other teachers he observed.

The two schools he chose besides Hillhouse were on the opposite side of the spectrum: the Beacon School on Manhattan’s upper West Side and Mamaroneck High School in Westchester County, New York.

Here was the central question Denby set out to answer in his book, as he notes during an interview with me before his talk: “How do you turn teenagers on to literature?”

Denby puts it another way: “How do you forge the link to pleasure and need, which makes somebody a reader?”

Denby, who is 72 and grew up loving to read, is alarmed at the prospect teenagers will “disappear into their screens.”

“Kids are reading more words,” he notes. “But a lot of what they read online and on their smartphones is fragmentary. It’s pieces.”

Denby was a movie critic for 45 years. “I love movies. I love being engulfed by the images. But I love more the moment when you sit and read and you pull back from that constant stimulation in our over-stimulated society. With a novel you go inward as you read — inward and outward.”

The “outward” part is as important as the “inward,” Denby believes. “Reading is an opening to selfhood but also to citizenship. It’s how you become a three-dimensional person. I think it’s essential to our civilization. The absence of it would be catastrophic. But I think we’re seeing it already.”

Denby alludes to the Republican presidential battlefield. “I think we’re seeing politically right now the product of an educational system that’s in a lot of trouble, including the ability to think creatively. If more Americans had read Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, they wouldn’t take Donald Trump seriously because they would know about the Duke and the King, two con artists who make promises.”

Denby says Zelenski achieved breakthroughs in her class because she overcame students’ initial resistance to reading Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird by linking the Alabama characters of the 1930s to their own lives and struggles in New Haven.

“At the beginning of the school year the kids at Hillhouse wouldn’t read,” Denby says. “By the end of the year they were reading Vonnegut and Hemingway.”

When I met Zelenski, a 42-year-old white woman from Wallingford, it was clear how she connects with and engages her students, the large percentage of them African-American or Hispanic. She is indeed a “dynamo.”

Like Denby, Zelenski says, “I’ve been a voracious reader, always.”

In the “Afterword” section of Denby’s book, he returned to Hillhouse in the spring of 2015 to check on Zelenski and the students. She had recently won a teaching award, but he described her as tired and angry, dealing with the school’s controversial structural changes as well as the daily challenges in her classroom.

On that day, Denby asked her if she would ever consider leaving Hillhouse to take a teaching job at an upper-middle-class Connecticut town. She stared at him and replied, “No, never upper-middle-class. Working class only.” Those are the kids she loves.

Zelenski tells me when I raise the subject of moving on, “I’ve been here 15 years. I’m too invested in the community. I don’t want to go anywhere else.”

As to my question of whether she feels optimistic about the future of teenagers being engaged by literature, she says, “I always feel optimistic. That’s how I go in and do what I do. Teenagers don’t change. Once I can trick them into reading something fantastic, I know they’ll follow me anywhere.”

Randall Beach is the longtime columnist for the New Haven Register, where his column appears Fridays and Sundays. He enjoys his New Haven neighborhood, running through the city’s streets and parks and hanging out in its coffee shops. At home he plays his many 1960s and ’70s rock ‘n’ roll albums and CDs.

 



Facing Giant Problems Outside Our Comfort Zone

Many of us today may find it difficult to stand against these kinds of challenges because of fear. (Global Ministries-The United Methodist Church)

King David’s story, found in 1 Samuel (1 Samuel 17:1-54), is characterized by his victory as a youth over the giant warrior Goliath. Goliath had created terror among the Israelite soldiers of King Saul for many years. They struggled to defeat him.

Today, Goliath can be seen as a giant problem or an impossible situation that we face, which we, as young adults in mission, are called to overcome. Many problems come to mind: conflicts, discrimination, tribalism, racism, sexism, classism, and more. Many of us today may find it difficult to stand against these kinds of challenges because of fear. We fear being outside of our comfort zone—yet, in order to strike out what might be hindering our lives and the lives of others, outside may be where we are called to be.Glory Ilunga Kapya Mulimba

From Samuel, young adults can learn many things that can help us overcome Goliath problems in this world, just as David did.

1. We must clearly understand that our fear can be wiped out of our spirit and mind only when we view the giant problems affecting us and this world through God’s perspective. David’s faith in God caused him to look at Goliath in a different way.

When we look at our giant problems from God’s perspective, we realize that he will always fight for us and with us. David knew that Goliath was not as powerful as the God who had saved David from lions and bears (1Samuel 17:37).

2. God always prepares his servants to act at the right time. Sometimes people misunderstand our desire to serve the Lord. Some believe that, because we are young, we are not ready or able to take a stand against impossible situations that have affected our communities for years.

We should remember that we can’t discern God’s will by following the crowd. Once God calls us to stand for or against something, we should not fear anything, because we are more than prepared in the Lord. Only through meditation and prayer will we know how prepared we are.

3. As young adults we should know our gifts and capabilities, which allow us to face and fight effectively against our giants. God works through us in ways that are related to our backgrounds and gifts. David didn’t choose to wear the armor given to him by King Saul. He was comfortable with his simple sling, and he was skilled at using it (1Samuel 17:38-40).

God will use the unique gifts and skills he has placed in us to overcome impossible situations. We should know ourselves and use what God has given us. God will work miracles through us in order to face the social injustices that cause harm in the world today.

Implore always God’s name and be able to see even giant problems from God’s perspective so that you can effectively face them and save lives in your community and in the world.

Glory Ilunga Kapya Mulimba is a Global Mission Fellow commissioned in July 2014. Originally from Lubumbashi, DR Congo, he is currently serving with Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao (InPeace), based in Davao City, Philippines. InPeace is a grassroots, interfaith peace movement that facilitates justice and seeks a lasting peace in Mindanao. This article was originally published in the July-August 2015 issue of New World Outlook magazine. Read original article at Global Ministries.

 



Girl’s perspective: How to talk to women properly

Here is an insight for men on how to carry on conversation during a date with that special someone (Canamgirl Music photo)

Dear Men of all ages, I am sure that you all have the same question that you ask yourselves on a regular basis, “How can I pick up the ladies?” It is constantly on your mind, not only because you actually want a relationship or even just a date. It is an unwritten code among men. You hold a high place in your own manly society if you are that guy who gets all the girls. Have you ever thought that perhaps this is an issue? How do you think women respond to this knowledge? Do you think it works in your favor? Well gentlemen, I am here to answer all these questions and give you some insight. Not only for your sake, but for the sake of women who are losing faith in men.

Tip #1:Don’t try so hard.
Honestly if you make a couple attempts to get that girl onto the dance floor….to no avail…. it is most likely a wise decision to take a few steps back. Your chances of even a decent conversation will be a lost cause if you continue to push. This tactic becomes extremely annoying, not only that, eventually creepy. Instead, try asking once for that dance, (or whatever it may be) if you are “Shot Down” just wait for another opportunity to approach and strike up a conversation. You are basically still trying quite hard, although to the female species it will be seen as persistent; not pushy. You may actually instill in them a feeling of curiosity to know more.
 
Tip #2Play hard to get
Usually women are the ones who play hard to get. I can honestly tell you it is because it gives a feeling of being “hot stuff” “worth the chase.” Why not turn the tables?? Allow them to realize what a great catch you are! Pull away ever so slightly, give the woman a time to mull things over and realize how great you are Eventually she will turn up on your caller ID for a change. Trust me, we don’t give up that easily.
 
Tip #3DON’T be cocky!
There is nothing less attractive than a man who portrays himself as “Gods Gift to Women.” Be modest in conversation, try directing questions towards her, show an interest in her likes, dislikes, career etc. Be an honest gentleman. Tip #4Be truthful in your intentions. Men, please don’t get our hopes up for something more if that is never your intention. If you are just interested in a few casual dates now and again don’t be afraid to tell us. It is better to know that there is no current interest in a committed relationship right off the get go.
 
We will respect you for it.
Nothing worse than having the wrong idea and then getting hurt in the end. So, to sum things up……You all have moms, sisters, and female friends, pay more attention to the things that they talk about. I’m sure they can be heard complaining about that last date, or how they wish ( the man in question) would speak to them differently. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from those special women in your life, trust me, it will make you no less of a “man.” In fact, to a woman, you will see more of a man than ever!

is a blogger and the publisher of Susie Magazine: Find your soul mate. You may read more here.

 



Love: God’s Most Important Requirement For the Year 2016

Can love create a necessary and sufficient condition resulting into having the kingdom of God (as our inheritance)? (Photo | EMS OF ECWA Widows Seminar)

The idea of cause and effect is very important to all of us.  We want to know if the action of X has brought about what happens to Y.  In this case, we want to know if the action is a necessary cause for what happens to Y.  If it is not, could it be a contributory cause?  We may also want to know if it is a sufficient cause or not, because something can be necessary and not be sufficient to create the condition for something to happen.  For an example, if your car is not of the electric type, you must have gasoline in it before it can start.  Gasoline is very much necessary but by itself is not sufficient for your car to start.  Other things must contribute to that condition. We need something that is both necessary and sufficient to bring about something.  For a student to graduate with a bachelor degree in sociology, one necessary thing he or she has to do is to declare for a major in that discipline.  However, declaring a major does not create a sufficient condition for graduation.  Something can be necessary but may not be sufficient to get us what we want.  Just one academic core requirement not fulfilled by student can prevent that student from graduating, even if he exceeds the total number of credit hours for graduation.  Love for all people is the most powerful requirement that God wants us to fulfill in the year 2016.

Christianity has many requirements for its adherents, including the fulfillment of the Ten Commandments.  While these requirements are necessary, they cannot qualify us for the inheritance of God’s kingdom. Our good works cannot give us eternal life.  Faith without work is empty or nothing.  Thus our good deeds may be necessary but not sufficient.  Love satisfies both conditions (necessary and sufficient).   Logic explains a necessary cause as a condition that must be present if a particular effect is to occur.  This is different from the explanation for a sufficient condition, that is, one thing by itself bringing about an effect.  This is what love is to the kingdom of God.  Love conquers it all!  No amount of “good” works or religious activities will make us inherit the kingdom of God.  We are discussing the relationship between two things in which one is claimed to affect the other.  The issue here is about the relationship between having love and inheriting the kingdom of God. 

The question is asked, “Can love create a necessary and sufficient condition resulting into having the kingdom of God (as our inheritance)?  Most people will definitely say, “Yes.”   John 3:16, a most quoted Bible verse in evangelism, answers the question in the affirmative as Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”  Love is the answer.

A few people’s encounters with Jesus explain how important love is to the kingdom of God.  Without it, there is no Christian life.  No eternal life.  No kingdom.  He who knows no love does not know God because God is love.  In other words, to know God is to love.  At the birth of Jesus Christ angels celebrated with the world as they sang, “Glory be to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (St. Luke 2:14).  It is God’s love that we are celebrating at Christmas.  It is sad for anyone who doesn’t have it.  Human beings must make every effort to find the truth.  When they find it, they find the truth, Jesus the prince of peace.  A Bible teacher in his imaginative power told the story in a different way:

Once upon a time God said that the world must know the truth about his love.  So, from His throne He cast the Truth down into the world.  Upon landing, the Truth scattered into uncountable fragments.  God asked human beings to search for the pieces and fragments. 

Jesus came and claimed to be the Truth, the Way and the Life and that no one comes to the Father except through him.  His body was broken and his blood shed for us that we ay find the truth of God’s love. Jesus brings to us love, peace, and joy.  That love gives life and it is required that we love as Christ loves us.  The mistake, in fact, an error of reasoning that is common today is to believe that one can have joy without having love and peace.  One cannot have joy until one has love and what follows is peace.  So, to have joy, we must have God, the Giver of love and peace.  Who brings down that peace?  Jesus, who said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives” (St. John 14:27).    You must have seen some people around   you who would like to have joy but without love, and of course, without peace.  They are so screwed up as to believe that they can steal someone’s joy or peace and make it their own in order to have joy.  They believe that what they have stolen can give them joy.  The one who steals from the other has no love and peace that should have come from Jesus the prince of peace.  Jesus said, “Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (St. Luke 12:15).  God’s love gives peace and He asks us for that love.

Prophet Micah proclaimed what God wanted, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and walk humbly with your God” (6:8).  Acting justly, showing acts of mercy and walking humbly with God means nothing if one does not love God.  In fact, it is the love of God that makes one have mercy and walk humbly with God.  Today many people engage with works of mercy but in some cases self is at the center; ungodly motives are involved.  God called Moses, “my humble servant,” because all that Moses did as a leader for Israel did not arise from ulterior motives.  They were all for God and His kingdom.  God asks that we show love in the year 2016.  If we are truly God’s people, loving becomes a lifestyle.  We love not because of anything but because God loves us first and to whom much is given much is expected.

The Ten Commandments are reduced to one Law.  This is the Law of love and life that has been God’s standard for communities.  The laws were written originally on two slates.  The commandments are in two parts.  The first part deals with our relationship with God and the second deals with our relationship with one another.  It is love and not laws that make the relationship positive.  It is a covenant of love.  Covenant relationship between husband and wife cannot work if there is no love.  Man’s inhumanity to man that has been on the increase today is as a result of not having love.  Political injustice, war, terrorism, violence, torture, ethnic cleansing, women and children trafficking, rape, jealousy, armed robbery, and the likes, come upon us as a result of the absence of love in our human society.  The African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) has captured the truth of love being the binding agent for God and human beings.  The motto says, “God our Father, Christ our Redeemer, the Holy Spirit our Comforter, humankind our family.”  God created humankind as a family.  This religious motto brings the divine community to bear upon the human community and all is made possible by love.

Conclusion:  What does God ask of us in the year 2016? It is Christian Love for all people.  Jesus said, “A new commandment I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (St. John 13:34).  The greatest commandment for 2016 for all human beings is this:  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this:  Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than this” (St. Mark 12:30-31).  Show your love for God in the year 2016 and thereafter.  May God give you the spirit and the power to show your love for Him all the days of your life and you will find goodness and mercy pursuing you all the time.

Have a blessed Christmas and a happy new year!

Rev. Dr. Daniel Adebayo Iselaiye has been educator for most of his adult life. Some of his religious activities include sporadic teaching/preaching  engagements at several Colleges and Universities across the U.S.. He is now associate professor of religion and philosophy; and  the Chairman of ECWA USA DCC. You can reach him via email

 



Prophetic Dream: From Trump to Triumph

"As I looked at this word suddenly the letters began to rearrange and the word went from 'TRUMP" to "TRIUMPH.'" (Lucas Jackson/Reuters, phot/Eric Thayer for The New York Times)

Firstly, I want to preface this word by saying that I do not have a political agenda for the United States of America. I am simply one person in Australia who has a huge heart of love for this beautiful nation and to see the destiny of the United States established and the kingdom of God extended, releasing a huge wave of revelation of His goodness and love.

I also want to say that I do not base what I am about to share on any "policies" that I have heard, but simply what I believe the Lord revealed to me in a dream concerning the candidates. The intention of this word is not in any way to "sway" anyone in their political views, but simply to release a revelation from the Lord that I believe needs to be covered in prayer. 

I had a dream recently where I was in a political arena and I saw Donald Trump and he was passionately putting forward his policies. In this dream I could not "hear" what he was saying, I just remember seeing him speaking with great passion.

Suddenly, I was lifted above the United States of America and I saw the nation as if I was looking at a map. Written across the United States of America was the word "TRUMP" in big letters.

As I looked at this word suddenly the letters began to rearrange and the word went from "TRUMP" to "TRIUMPH." 

I then heard the Lord speak loudly in my dream "TRUMP SHALL LEAD THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA INTO TRIUMPH!!!" 

As I was waking up out of the dream I heard the words "TRUMP SHALL LEAD THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA INTO VICTORY!"

As I came to the end of typing this dream I heard the words "Angels of triumph have been assigned to Trump."

I believe the Lord is inviting us to seek His heart and to partner with Him in prayer to see the United States of America brought back into a place of godly victory and triumph in whichever way that manifests. 

I am simply releasing that which was released to me.

Standing with you in prayer my friends in the United States of America.

Editors Note: The opinions of this writer do not necessarily reflect those of ECWA.

Lana Vawser has a heart to encourage the body of Christ and individuals in their walks with Jesus, to have deeper intimacy with Him and to learn to hear His voice. She operates in the prophetic and loves to share the heart of God with others. Lana has written her first book, titled Desperately Deep—Developing Deep Devotion and Dialogue with Jesus, and loves to see others grow in all that God has for them.