Sacrifice and the Death of Christ

by John Goldingay | When Christians think about sacrifice, they commonly make two assumptions. One is that sacrifice is essentially a way of dealing with the problem of sin. The other is that it deals with sin by causing God to stop being angry with us. Neither Old Testament nor New Testament supports these two assumptions. Sacrifice does sometimes have something to do with sin, but dealing with sin is not its main object. God does get angry, but sacrifice does not relate to God’s anger (image, Falco – Church Painted Glass – Pixabay).

The Meaning of Sacrifice

The New Testament speaks of sacrifice in a number of connections apart from seeing Jesus’ death as a sacrifice that deals with sin. For instance, when we give ourselves to God in response to God’s giving himself to us, it is an act of sacrifice (Romans 12). Paul talks about being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of the Philippians’ faith and of the Philippians’ gifts to him as an offering to God (Phil 2:17; 4:18). When we testify to what God has done, it is a sacrifice of praise (Heb 13:15).

The New Testament’s way of thinking coheres with the Old Testament’s way of thinking in this respect. In the Old Testament there are a number of reasons for offering a sacrifice; the most systematic account of them comes in Leviticus 1–7. First, there is the whole burnt offering, when people sacrifice a whole animal to God. They give up the entire animal. It really is a sacrifice. Second, there is the grain offering, which accompanies other sacrifices. Third, there is a sacrifice that the New International Version (NIV) calls a “fellowship offering,” the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) calls a “sacrifice of well-being” and the Common English Bible (CEB) calls a “communal sacrifice of well-being.” While it is hard to find the right title in English, in general terms the sacrifice’s significance is clear. Its distinctive feature is that God and the offerers share the sacrifice. Some is burnt and given directly to God; some is eaten by the family that makes the offering. There are three slightly different reasons why people might offer this sacrifice. One is that God has done something for them and they want to express their gratitude—maybe (for instance) they have a new baby in the family. Another is that they had promised to bring an offering in connection with asking God to do something, and God has done it—again, maybe they had prayed for a baby and they now have one. Another is simply that they want to be able to give something to God—a freewill offering (that expression comes from the name of this sacrifice).

These first three sacrifices are expressions of worship and fellowship between people and God and one another. After these, Leviticus comes to two other forms of sacrifice that do have to do with solving problems (as one might put it). The CEB uses the terms “purification offering” and “compensation offering,” which bring out their significance. The purification offering deals with situations when people have become “unclean” or “taboo.” They may have had to bury a family member and thus have been in contact with death, or they may have made a promise that they accidentally failed to keep. The purification offering puts one aspect of that problem right. The compensation offering puts the other aspect right, in making some restitution for what they did wrong. In addition, once a year on the Day of Atonement there were special purification offerings to deal with the various ways in which the people might have been affected by uncleanness of which they might be unaware. These special purification offerings made it possible for the community to clean its slate for the new year.

So none of these sacrifices dealt with real sin. Sacrifice was not designed to deal with real sin. If you had worshiped another God or set fire to someone’s grain, you could not solve the problem by offering a sacrifice. You simply had to repent and cast yourself on God’s mercy. You knew that God was a God of love and compassion and you just had to plead for God’s forgiveness. You would offer the appropriate purification offering and compensation offering as well, but the more basic resolution of the problem lay in repentance and forgiveness. As the Old Testament sometimes puts it, you would ask God to make expiation for your wrongdoing. That idea is paradoxical—expiation is, by nature, something an offender is responsible for. But the only person who can put the situation right when you have done wrong is God. It is God who pays the price for keeping the relationship going by being willing to forgive. And this is what God does in Jesus.

The New Testament uses the practice of sacrifice as a metaphor to help people understand what Christ was doing in being willing to sacrifice himself for us, but that is what it is doing—using a metaphor, using the imagery of sacrifice in a way that does not correspond to its original meaning. As is often the case with the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament, it is adapting as well as adopting its way of speaking.

Anger and Sacrifice

Christians often assume there is a link between sacrifice and the assuaging of God’s anger. It is certainly the case that the Old Testament and New Testament talk a lot about God’s anger as well as about sacrifice. But they never bring these two together. Leviticus, the book that tells us most about sacrifice, never mentions God’s anger in this connection. Insofar as sacrifice deals with problems, the problems are the need to be made clean and the need to make compensation for wrongdoing. No doubt God might be annoyed if people fail to make these sacrifices (though Leviticus does not say so), but the mere fact of needing to find purification or to make up for wrongdoing does not mean there is any anger around.

In the Old Testament God does get really angry from time to time, and that anger relates to actions such as the ones we have noted—worshiping other gods or stealing someone’s land. But what you have to do when you are guilty of such actions is stop what you are doing, put right what needs putting right, and plead with God for mercy. The story of the making of the gold bullock at Sinai is a classic illustration of these dynamics. When the people make this image and make offerings before it, God gets very angry and threatens to annihilate the people. Moses’ reaction is not to offer a sacrifice but to urge God to have a change of mind, and God does so. It fits with this reaction that God later describes himself to Moses as one who is characterized by compassion and forgiveness even while also being one who will punish people.

It fits with the Old Testament data that while the New Testament describes Jesus’ death as a sacrifice dealing with sin, passages such as Romans 3:25; Ephesians 5:2; Hebrews 2:17; 9:26; 10:12; and 1 John 2:2; 4:10 do not see this sacrifice as operating by assuaging God’s anger, but rather a means of cleansing that makes it possible for us to be in the presence of the holy God. Conversely, while the New Testament emphatically declares that God is angry at human sin and that Jesus’ death saves us from God’s wrath, in passages such as John 3:36; Romans 1:18; 2:5–6; 5:9; and Revelation 6:16–17, it does not link this with the idea of Jesus’ death as a sacrifice.

Jesus and His Compensation Offering

There is one other Old Testament passage about sacrifice that has been especially influential on Christian thinking about Christ’s death. Isaiah 53 speaks of God’s servant offering his life as a compensation offering to God, and also of his bearing our punishment. Oddly enough, neither of these two lines is quoted in the New Testament, unlike much of the rest of Isaiah 53. Karl Barth comments that the New Testament does not speak of Christ’s death as his taking on the punishment for our sin, but that Isaiah 53 does do so (Church Dogmatics IV/1, p. 253). Actually Isaiah 53 does not do so, in the sense usually understood. In Isaiah 53 the word for punishment is one that usually means “discipline” or “instruction”; most of the occurrences come in Proverbs to describe teaching or correction by a parent or teacher. Thus in Isaiah 53 the King James Version (KJV) translates it “chastisement.” When Christians think of Christ bearing the punishment for our sin, they are thinking of the punishment meted out by a law court for wrongdoing, but this is not the regular connotation of this word, nor the connotation suggested by the context in Isaiah 53. The servant of God in Isaiah 53 is going through chastisement all right, going through ill-treatment at the hands of his own people and/or at the hands of the imperial authorities, but he is not going through a judicial punishment that other people thereby escape.

If you go through persecution at the hands of your own people and at the hands of others, what do you do with that experience? The possibility raised by Isaiah 53 is that you can turn it into a compensation offering. The people among whom this servant ministers have failed in their relationship with God; they have deliberately gone their own way. At the moment they have no inclination to throw themselves on God’s mercy in the way I have described above. The servant himself is someone who has not gone their way. He is someone committed to walking God’s way. So the vision raises a daring theological possibility. Supposing he asks God to take his life and commitment and ministry, which look likely to end in death, as a kind of sacrifice, one that could compensate for the rebelliousness of his people? (Of course by normal reckoning there is no way in which one person’s obedience to death could balance the rebellion of thousands, but sacrifice never works by that kind of weighing and mathematics.)

It is that possibility that is picked up in applying this vision to Jesus. He offers his life and death as a kind of counterweight to the sin of the world; obviously the person he was opens up bigger possibilities than might apply in the case of anyone else. So Jesus’ death is a sacrifice, but not in a sense that has anything to do with God’s anger or with his being punished in our place.

The Chasm

According to a common understanding, human beings are on one side of a chasm and God is on the other side. The chasm is caused by human sin. Alongside that understanding is the implication that God relates to humanity chiefly as a judge, with judges and justice understood in a Western sense: the key point about justice is treating everyone the same, and a judge’s key role is to safeguard standards of justice. God therefore cannot relate to us because of our legal guilt, which makes it necessary for us to be punished. In terms of the picture, human beings cannot cross the chasm except by means of Christ as bridge. This works within the legal image because he bears the legal punishment for sin, thereby making it possible for God the judge to relate to us.

From an Old Testament perspective this looks unscriptural, as well as being unlikely to aid the proper preaching of the gospel. It emphasizes the image of God as lawgiver and judge, and God is both of those, but the Old Testament does not draw the same inferences. As lawgiver, God is entirely free to pardon people if they repent. As judge, God is committed to taking the side of people in the context of relationship, even when they are in the wrong. This understanding emphasizes a more relational understanding of God than the Christian one. Thus Jewish theologians contrast faith within Judaism, which is a matter of a relationship of trust, and faith within Christianity, which is a matter of believing correct doctrine.

Although Christians link sacrifice and atonement with law and punishment, as if an animal (or a person) that is sacrificed is being punished in someone else’s place, the Old Testament does not link sacrifice with legal categories. And although a price has to be paid before someone is forgiven, this need not be understood in a legal way. A more relational understanding of God fits Scripture better.

The Old Testament has a number of relational pictures of God, as friend of Abraham, as husband of Jerusalem, as restorer of a needy relative, or as mother or father in relation to son or daughter. Those images may help us understand what Christ achieved on the cross.

  1. In 1969, Eric Clapton fell in love with the wife of his best friend, George Harrison, wrote the song “Layla” about her, and eventually stole her from Harrison. Whereas one would have expected Harrison at the very least never to want to talk to Clapton again, they actually stayed friends. That implies that Harrison absorbed within himself the pain of what Clapton did and the anger it surely aroused. Their friendship could therefore survive the wrong. (I do not know whether this is actually what Harrison did, but the story nevertheless illustrates the point.)
  2. Imagine a professor coming home after a faculty meeting. It has reinforced her feelings of being powerless, underpaid, undervalued, and put down. She thus acts “crabby” in relation to her husband, who has been cooking dinner and looking forward to enjoying a glass of wine with her. She complains that the curry is too hot and the wine isn’t properly chilled. He has two choices. He can respond in kind, “I’ve been here slaving over your dinner and all you do is complain.” Or he can lean into the wind and absorb the bitterness that he did not earn. He can wait untill it is used up, and thus look for the moment when they can relate to each other because it is gone.
  3. The year I went to university, my sister married a man who my parents thought was no good. He abandoned her just after their first baby was born. Our parents had enjoyed the opportunity to begin a new life after their children had left home, but they welcomed her and her baby back into their home. Without a murmur they reshaped their life again so my sister could go to work while my mother looked after the baby, and they helped her gradually to get back to independence as a single parent. They acted as parents and next-of-kin to her, paying the price to redeem or restore her.
  4. The ordinary meaning of the Hebrew word most commonly translated “forgive” is “carry.” It is what parents do for their children’s wrongdoing and what God was doing with Israel through Old Testament times. It was a process that came to its climax with the cross, which is the logical end to the Old Testament story. Seeing the way the relationship between God and Israel worked helps us see why the cross was necessary. Through God’s life with Israel God was paying the price for that relationship, making the sacrifices to keep it going. God’s people keep doing their worst to God, so eventually God paid the ultimate price for them. God showed that even killing God cannot put God off from relating to them. God will just come back from the dead.

That is the nature of sacrifice and the nature of what Christ did for us in making atonement.

This article was published in Theology, News & Notes, Fall 2012, “No Cross, No Christianity: The Biblical Shape of Atonement Theology.”

John Goldingay is the David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament in the School of Theology. His most recent publications include the 17-volume “Old Testament For Everyone” series (WJK/SPCK, 2010–15), which provides clear, concise comment on all the Old Testament Scriptures, and “The Theology of the Book of Isaiah” (InterVarsity Press, 2014).



EMS Urgent Prayer Needs and Financial Appeal

by Rev. Simon Yako | For more than three decades, the education of EMS Missionaries Children became a major issue to the Ministry. In the early sixties, an EMS Children School was built in Wushishi, Niger State and later in Miango Plateau State, but could not survive due to poor funding.

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EMS URGENT PRAYER NEEDS AND FINANCIAL APPEAL

REAL SITUATION OF OUR MISSIONARIES THAT ARE SERVING IN THESE VERSATILE AREAS

EMS of ECWA which is one of the largest indigenous mission agencies in Africa started when the then Sudan Interior Mission (SIM) now Serving in Missions (SIM) saw the need of involving Nigerian indigenes in planting churches across the country and beyond. Therefore, in 1948 a movement began by the name African Missionary Society (AMS) and after ECWA was registered, the name AMS was changed to EMS in 1964.

EMS of ECWA is a faith-based agency as well as a non-profit organization. Presently, EMS has about 1800 missionary couples that are serving in different location in Nigeria and beyond.

SECURITY CHALLENGE

Though many of our EMS missionaries are facing enormous security challenges of attacks from Fulani herdsmen, Boko Haram, Bandits and Abductors, yet, they are willing to serve until Jesus takes them home to be with Him; this is at the detriment of their lives.

HEALTH CHALLENGES

Many of our EMS missionaries are facing health challenges of different types because of the nature of the areas they are Many are serving where there is no good drinking water. Recently, many of our missionaries were examined and it was discovered that many have Hepatitis and from 2018, the Head Office spent over 9.1 million Naira on medical treatment alone. We have also lost 5 missionaries in the last 2 years as a result of that.

BRIEF HISTORY OF MISSION/FIELD SCHOOLS

For more than three decades, the education of EMS Missionaries Children became a major issue to the Ministry. In the early sixties, an EMS Children School was built in Wushishi, Niger State and later in Miango Plateau State, but could not survive due to poor funding.

As years passed by, missionaries became more concerned about the plight of their children’s education, and this resulted to the attrition of many missionaries. In 1996, EMS took the challenge to open the EMS Children School in Jos, EMS Children School Lakwame, EMS Children School Kufana, trusting God to help expand the scope, and to reduce the risk of travelling long distances with the insecurity challenge from Boko Haram, Fulani Herdsmen etc. For there would be no better successors of the missionaries in future than their own children. Praise God that despite the field challenges the missionaries are still in their duty post.

Currently, EMS Children School Jos has about 398 pupils with 40 orphans. It was started to meet the educational need of children of missionaries who are working in Central Region of Nigeria where we have had a lot of insurgency attacks in areas where our missionaries are serving.

EMS Children School Lakwame has about 156 children with 16 orphans. This was started to meet educational need of children of missionaries who are working in the Eastern part of Nigeria where we have the activities of the Boko Haram going on.

EMS Children School Kufana has about 90 pupils with 8 orphans. The school was also started to meet the educational needs of our missionary children whose parents are serving in the core-north of Nigeria where we have a lot of persecution.

EMS Urgent Prayer Needs and Financial AppealThe ongoing Jos campus EMS children school dining hall building project
Therefore, as you pray, we are also appealing for financial support towards the following projects:

  1. For God to provide funds to complete the dining hall building project costing N5, 000,000(N5M) Naira or $14,000 before the rains
  2. To help pay outstanding medical bills of our missionaries costing N 5m to 6m or $14,000 yearly
  3. To help in buying more grains to feed the EMS missionary children in the three schools costing N9m or $25,000
  4. To dig more wells in our mission fields costing N50 to 100 thousand naira per well or $ 300 to 400

Rev. Simon Yako is the Director of EMS of ECWA. He was the Foreign Missions Coordinator
for EMS OF ECWA for almost 31 years beginning in July 1988 in Jos, Plateau Sate Nigeria. Rev. Yako received his Bachelor’s degree in Missions in 1992 and M.A in Missions and Evangelism in 1995 from ECWA Seminary Jos.



Christianity Thrives Under The Carolingian Empire (732-814)

Jesus Christ Savior | The Carolingian Empire was among the most significant early medieval empires in Europe. It came into being on the turn of the 9th century and came to end by the first quarter of the 10th century. The Empire was very significant for the later history of Europe, being the precursor to the later Holy Roman Empire and to the different monarchies which later ruled different regions of Europe. (image, The Age of Charlemagne – Refers to an important period in the History of the powerful Carolingian empire who’s expansion into other territories had a lasting impact on medieval Europe.)

The Carolingian Empire effectively began with Charles Martel, the Mayor of the Palace under the Merovingian Franks. He stopped the Muslim invasion of Europe at the Battle of Tours near Poitiers in 732, and supported St. Boniface in his conversion of Germany.

His son Pepin and the Papacy formed an historic alliance. Pepin needed the blessing of the Pope in his seizure of leadership of Gaul from the Merovingians. Pope Stephen II, besieged by the Lombards in Italy, was the first Pope to leave Italy and cross the Alps in 754. He named King Pepin Patrician of the Romans,and in turn Pepin swept into Italy and conquered the Lombards, securing the Papal states. Pepin died in 768 and divided his realm between his two sons, Carloman and Charles.

Charles, known as Charlemagne (742-814), took over all of Gaul upon the death of his brother in 771, and soon conquered most of mainland Europe. He was a vigorous leader and ruled until 814. Charlemagne was a strong supporter of Christianity. During his reign, Christianity became the guiding principle of the Carolingian Empire, as the Church established a powerful presence throughout Europe. He instituted a school of learning in his palace at Aachen. In the Middle Ages there was in theory a division between temporal power and spiritual authority, but in practice one saw a strong Emperor take control of some spiritual affairs and a strong Pope take control of some affairs of state. Charlemagne, as Constantine, considered himself the leader of Christendom as political head of state and protector of the Church. Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Emperor of the Romans on Christmas Day 800, and this marked the formal alliance of the Carolingian Empire and the Papacy. The historian Christopher Dawson called this the beginning of medieval Christendom.

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.



We Are Saved by Grace Through Faith in Jesus Christ

by Michael Bradley | Eternal salvation is received direct from the Lord as a free gift and it can only be received by grace through our personal faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on the cross. Salvation is simply just a matter of believing – and then accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior once you are ready to admit that you are truly a sinner in need of a personal Savior to save you from your sins. (image, Pinterest)

These first 16 verses all have to do with our own personal salvation in the Lord. Each one of these are major power verses and they all have to do with the first definition of grace – which is that grace is the unmerited favor and mercy of God towards mankind.
In these verses are complete and full revelation on exactly what our eternal salvation in the Lord is really all about. If you can grasp what the Lord is trying to tell you in these specific verses, you will then be able to walk away with a much better and clearer understanding as to who you really are in your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and exactly how you were saved in the first place.
I will go ahead and run all of these verses together, and then point out key words and phrases in these verses so you can see exactly what God is trying to show you.

  • For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone boast.” (Ephesians 2:8)
  • “… who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.” (2 Timothy 1:9)
  • And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.” (Romans 11:6)
  • “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2)
  • For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men …” (Titus 2:11)
  • But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” (Acts 15:11)
  • “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7)
  • “… that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:7)
  • “… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus …” (Romans 3:23-24)
  • “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)
  • “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace …” (2 Thessalonians 2:16)
  • In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence …” (Ephesians 1:7-8)
  • “For if by the one man’s offense, many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.” (Romans 5:15)
  • “… having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6)
  • But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:20)
  • I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” (Galatians 2:21)

The first thing to pick up from these verses is that our personal salvation in the Lord is not earned by any type of good works that we can do in this life – no matter how many good works we may end up doing, and no matter how good and holy those works may end up being. The quantity and quality of our works for the Lord do not matter to Him.

The very first verse listed above is the absolute number one power verse on exactly how we are to receive eternal salvation from the Lord. This verse specifically tells us, without any other possible spin or interpretation you can possibly put on it, that our individual personal salvation in the Lord can only be received by “grace” through our personal faith in Jesus Christ.

This first verse, and the two that follow right after it, specifically state that our eternal salvation is simply received by grace through faith – not by any type of works. The first verse tells us that our eternal salvation is a direct, free gift from God and “not of works.” The second verse once again says that God has saved us through His grace and not “according to our works.”

The third verse then really hammers this point home when it literally shouts out that we cannot be saved by both grace and works. It says if we are saved by grace, then works has no part in our salvation whatsoever. You cannot have this revelation both ways. If we are saved by grace, which we are, then works has absolute no part in our personal salvation with the Lord. It’s all Him and none of us. The first verse says that being saved by grace through our faith in Jesus all comes direct from God and that it is “not from ourselves.”

As simple as this revelation is to fully grasp and understand, there are still some Christians who are walking around thinking that they still have to try and earn their way into heaven by doing as many good and holy works as they possibly can.

As a result, they spend most of their life in misery and torment as they never know for sure if they will make it into heaven after they die and cross over. These first set of verses are absolute top priority for any newborn who has just been saved or any unbeliever you may be witnessing to.

Bottom line – eternal salvation is received direct from the Lord as a free gift and it can only be received by grace through our personal faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on the cross. Salvation is simply just a matter of believing – and then accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior once you are ready to admit that you are truly a sinner in need of a personal Savior to save you from your sins.

I am going to highlight some of the key phrases in the above verses so you can see how the Lord is really trying to drive home the point that we can only be saved by and through His grace.

  • For by grace you have been saved through faith
  • Who has saved us … according to His own purpose and grace
  • We have access by faith into this grace
  • For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men
  • Through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved
  • By grace you have been saved
  • Having been justified by His grace
  • Being justified freely by His grace
  • Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ
  • Given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace
  • In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace

Notice in every single one of these key phrases the word “grace” is specifically being used in reference to our own personal salvation in the Lord.

With the basic definition of the word “grace” being “unmerited favor,” there can be no question that our own personal salvation in the Lord can only be received by God’s grace through our faith in His Son Jesus.

No amount of works, no matter how good and holy we think those works may be, will ever be good enough to get us back in the good graces of our Lord and Savior.

Ritualism, legalism, and works are out the door!

They have no place in our personal salvation with the Lord – and they have absolutely no place when working with an unsaved person in an effort to try and get them saved. God has made accepting His free gift of eternal salvation through His Son Jesus Christ as easy as He possibly could.

Michael & Chris Bradley

Michael & Chris Bradley

Michael Bradley was very intelligent and gifted with an ability to break down topics and easily explain and lead by a step by step as to really help people grow with their walk with the Lord. My brother Chris and I decided to start an online ministry in the summer of 2004 and officially went live in Jan of 2005. It started with us answering peoples questions via email and they became excellent teaching articles and with the feedback and fruit we were receiving, we felt led by the Lord to take these teachings to the world.



How to Share Your Faith This Week

by Chris Russell | Research indicates that the majority of unchurched people would attend a church if they were simply invited. Don’t be bashful. Send a few text messages out to some friends right now to invite them to church!

Jesus said in the John 4:35, “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” If you are a follower of Christ, I hope you realize how important it is for us to actively be a part of the harvest of souls in our generation. It is absolutely essential that we put our finest efforts into rescuing lives from destruction.

But as I mention this subject, I realize many readers begin to tremble with fear. We worry about rejection or not being able to give an answer for those tough questions. Some do not even know where to begin with this mission.

Let me suggest five simple ways you can begin to share your faith this week:

1. Begin by living your life consistently with what God has said in His Word.

Many people get tripped up in sharing their faith because they know their lifestyle is not what it needs to be. The solution to this is very simple: turn your entire life over to God completely. Do it now.

2. Begin to publicly identify yourself with Christ through social media.

Social media can provide a subtle approach to sharing your faith. Change your “religious views” on your profile to “Christian.” Once or twice a week consider posting a Bible verse on your timeline. Link to your church’s website or to other Christian websites on your timeline. Let friends know you are praying for them when they express a need.

3. Volunteer to serve in a ministry at your church on Sunday mornings.

God’s strategic plan for evangelizing this generation is through His Church. When you serve in any of the weekend church ministries, you are becoming a part of the evangelistic machine that changes lives forever. Don’t underestimate the value of changing diapers in the nursery at your church. By serving you are opening up opportunities for people to hear the Word and surrender to Christ. That is a big deal!

4. Keep something on your desk or counter at work that identifies you as a Christian.

I had a dear friend (who has now gone on to be with the Lord in Heaven) who kept his Bible on his desk even though he never read it during business hours. And he told me often of how that symbol brought many people to his office asking questions about his faith and asking for prayer for needs in their lives. I would suggest you do something like this to identify yourself in your office as a follower of Christ. This could mean putting a Bible on your desk or something as simple as setting a coffee mug with your church’s logo in some visible part of your office. Better yet, put candy in the mug for coworkers to swipe when they stop in to talk to you!

5. Invite someone to church this Sunday.

Research indicates that the majority of unchurched people would attend a church if they were simply invited. Don’t be bashful. Send a few text messages out to some friends right now to invite them to church! Then you can allow the entire church body to be a part of bringing them to Christ! I would suggest that you invite them to church and lunch right afterward. This will turn it into more of a relational event, and you can have a chance to see how they felt about the church service.

Some of Jesus’s last words are found in Matthew 28:19-20. In this passage we are commanded to go out and make disciples. And in Acts 1:8, Jesus promises us the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit to help us in that mission.

So then, in the power of the Holy Spirit, let’s tell the world of the joy we have in knowing Christ!

Chris Russell has spent the past 25 years actively involved in ministry through pastoring, church planting, writing, Christian radio, and special speaking around the country and in seven different countries. He is passionate about communicating the truths of God’s Word in a creative, highly-relevant way.

Chris has three kids and happens to be married to his best friend, Leigh. He currently pastors a church on the north side of Cincinnati. For more, visit Sensible Faith



Pope Leo the Great (440-461)

Jesus Christ Savior | The Council of Chalcedon in 451 was the Fourth Ecumenical Council, which supported Leo’s stance that Christ had two natures, Divine and human in perfect harmony, in one Person or hypostasis.

Pope Leo entered the Papacy at a difficult time. Alaric had sacked Rome in 410, and the Huns and the Visigoths were gaining strength. However the Pope proved to be a master statesman and history has deservedly accorded him the title of Pope Leo the Great.

One of his first actions in 441 was to bless the missionary efforts of St. Patrick and to ordain him as Bishop of Ireland.

A tension in Church authority between papal leadership and collegiality of the bishops was developing over theological questions. Rome was the place of martyrdom for Saints Peter and Paul. Rome’s position as the capital of the Roman Empire was also supportive of a leadership role for the Bishop of Rome. The Bishop of Rome as successor to St. Peter was the Pastor and Shepherd of the whole Church, as seen with St. Clement of Rome in his First Letter to the Corinthians in 96 AD, and with Pope Leo the Great.

The Council of Ephesus, the Third Ecumenical Council, in 431 recognized Mary as the Mother of God, which was intrinsic to the human nature (ϕύσις – physis = nature) of Christ. The independent Church of the East in Persia believed in two distinct natures (dyophysite) in Christ and did not accept the wording. Pope Leo synthesized the thought of the differing Schools of Antioch and Alexandria in a letter known as the Tome. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 was the Fourth Ecumenical Council, which supported Leo’s stance that Christ had two natures, Divine and human in perfect harmony, in one Person or hypostasis. This set the theology for Roman and Byzantine theology and was important for European unity. However, Eastern Christians in Armenia, Syria, Egypt, Ethiopia, and India who still believed that Christ was one incarnate nature (monophysite) of the Word of God objected to Chalcedon and formed the Oriental Orthodox Churches.

Just one year later (452), Attila and the Huns were threatening outside the walls of Rome. Pope Leo met Attila, who decided to call off the invasion!

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.



The Writings of St. Augustine (354-430 AD)

Jesus Christ Savior | St. Augustine was a living example of God’s grace that transformed nature. He died August 28, 430, during the sack of Hippo by the Vandals.

St. Augustine (354-430 AD) was the greatest of the Latin Fathers of the Church and a foundational figure to Western Christian civilization. He was born in Tagaste, near Hippo, in north Africa. His mother, St. Monica, was a devout Christian and taught him the faith. However, when he studied rhetoric in Carthage, he began living a worldly life.

He obtained a post as master of rhetoric in Milan, accompanied by an unnamed woman and child Adeodatus, born out of wedlock in 372. The woman soon left him and their son, and Monica joined them in Milan. Under the incessant prayers of his mother, and the influence of St. Ambrose of Milan, he eventually converted at age 32 in 386 AD. Perhaps the most eloquent examination of conscience is found in The Confessions of St. Augustine, where he describes his moment of conversion in the garden reading St. Paul to the Romans 13:14, But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the desires of the flesh.

Both his mother and son died soon afterwards and he returned in 388 to his home in Tagaste. He was ordained a priest in 391, and became Bishop of Hippo in 395. Augustine was people-oriented and preached every day. Many of his followers lived an ascetic life. He had a great love for Christ, and believed that our goal on earth was God through Christ himself, “to see his face evermore.” Our goal in life should be to please God, not man.

Augustine was one of the most prolific writers in history, and his writings show an evolution of thought and at times a reversal of ideas, as seen in his Retractations. His Scriptural essays on Genesis and Psalms remain starting points for modern Biblical scholars. His commentary on the Sermon on the Mount is still read today. Perhaps most debated are his views on predestination.

St. Augustine is the doctor of grace. In his book Grace and Free Will, he explained simply why he believed in free will. If there was no free will, then why did God give us the Ten Commandments, and why did he tell us to love our neighbor? Augustine’s arguments against the Pelagian heresy set the doctrine of grace for the Catholic Church to the present day. Pelagius thought that man could achieve virtue and salvation on his own without the gift of grace, that Jesus was simply a model of virtue. This of course attacks the Redemption of man by Christ! If man could make it on his own, then the Cross of Christ becomes meaningless! But Augustine saw man’s utter sinfulness and the blessing and efficacy of grace, disposing man to accept his moment of grace, and hopefully ultimate salvation. Grace raises us to a life of virtue, and is the ground of human freedom. “When I choose rightly I am free.” The Council of Orange enshrined Augustine’s teaching on grace and free will in 529 AD.

Perhaps one of his greatest works was The City of God, which took 13 years to complete, from 413 to 426. History can only be understood as a continued struggle between two cities, the City of God, comprised of those men who pursue God, and the City of Man, composed of those who pursue earthly goods and pleasures. He refers to Cain and Abel as the earliest examples of the two types of man. The Roman Empire was an example of the city of man (which had just been sacked by Alaric in 410 and was the occasion of the book).

St. Augustine was a living example of God’s grace that transformed nature. He died August 28, 430, during the sack of Hippo by the Vandals. August 28 is celebrated as his Feast Day in the liturgical calendar.

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.



What is the Biblical Way to Lead A Child to Christ?

by Got Questions | Whenever our children feel safe and secure in our love, we have the opportunity to relate to them how much greater the love of their heavenly Father is.

There are three basic elements involved in leading a child to a saving relationship with Christ: prayer, example, and age-appropriate instruction. We lead a child to Christ through the diligent application of all three elements from the time before the child is born.

The importance of prayer in the process of evangelizing children cannot be overstated. From the time of conception, parents should be seeking God’s wisdom for themselves and grace for their unborn child. God has promised to give wisdom liberally to all who ask Him (James 1:5), and His wisdom in all aspects of parenting is essential, but nowhere is it more important than in spiritual matters. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that salvation is by grace through the gift of faith, so our prayers for our children’s salvation should be centered upon seeking that gift of faith for them. We should pray for the Holy Spirit to draw our children to God from their earliest days and to sustain them through a life of faith and service to God until they are safely secure in heaven for all eternity (Ephesians 1:13-14). We should pray that God will draw us to Himself and become a reality in our lives so that we can be good role models for our children.

Our example as children of God provides the best visual model of the relationship with Christ we wish our children to have. When our children see us on our knees daily, they perceive that prayer is a regular part of life. When they see us continually in the Scriptures, studying, feeding and meditating on God’s Word, they realize the importance of the Bible without our having to say a word. When they perceive that we not only know God’s Word, but endeavor to live it out in practical ways every day, they come to understand the power of the Word in a life lived in its light. Conversely, if a child sees that mom or dad has a Sunday “persona” which differs drastically from the person they see every day, they will be quick to spot the hypocrisy. Many children have been ‘turned off’ to church and to Christ by two-faced role models. This is not to say that God can’t overrule our faults and failures, but we must be ready to confess them to God, admit our failures to our children, and make every effort to “walk the talk.”

Furthermore, providing age-appropriate instruction in spiritual matters is crucial to leading a child to Christ. There are myriads of children’s books and resources such as children’s Bibles, children’s Bible story books and music for all age levels to read, sing and memorize. Relating every aspect of a child’s life to spiritual truth is also an important part of spiritual training. Every time a child sees a flower or a sunset or a bird, there is ample opportunity for parents to relate the beauty and wonder of God’s creative power (Psalm 19:1-6). Whenever our children feel safe and secure in our love, we have the opportunity to relate to them how much greater the love of their heavenly Father is. When they are hurt by others, we can explain the reality of sin and the only cure for it—the Lord Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross for us.

Finally, sometimes an inordinate amount of importance is placed on getting a child to “say the prayer” or “walk the aisle” as evidence of his/her decision to trust Christ as Savior. While these moments can be valuable in cementing in a child’s mind when and how he/she came to Christ, salvation is the Spirit’s work in a heart. True salvation results in a life of progressive sanctification and discipleship, and this must be communicated as well.

Recommended Resource: The Faith of a Child: A Guide to Salvation for Your Child by Art Murphy
More insights from your Bible study – Get Started with Logos Bible Software for Free!



Weekly Spiritual Digest: Does Life Have A Purpose?

by Rev. Sunday Bwanhot | “God said to Jeremiah that even before He formed him in his mother’s womb, he set him apart and had plans for him. Jer. 1:5, 29:11.

At age 16, I reasoned that religion was man-made ideology so people could live in peace with one another. I thought I could find the purpose for my life elsewhere and not in Christ. But I was wrong. My guess is that you have been there as well. This question is still troubling today and some of us have not honestly confronted it for several reasons. Ignorance is not an option. As writing by E. Hemingway, “Life is just a dirty trick, a short journey from nothingness to nothingness.” Is it vanity as king Solomon wrote? Are we products of random chance as some scientists want us to believe? Then where did we get order and morality and why should any person restrain himself from doing whatever he feels like doing?

Apostle Paul wrote if life has no purpose beyond this earthly existence then “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” – meaning: live as wild as you can with no consideration of any consequences. But the fact is this: God created us, and for a purpose. He said to Jeremiah that even before He formed him in his mother’s womb, he set him apart and had plans for him. Jer. 1:5, 29:11. God created us for His own pleasure – to be in fellowship with Him (Rev. 4:11 & Col. 1:16). When God is satisfied with you, your purpose for existence will be fulfilled. Nothing you attain in life will fulfill you, only God can. The implication of knowing this fact is that we must stop living as practical atheists. People who believe in God but live as if He does not exist. “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not do what I say?” Lk 6:46

Rev. Sunday BwanhotRev. Sunday Bwanhot is EMS/SIM Missionary. He serves as Team leader of SIM Culture Connexions; Pastors of ECWA Chicago.



Weekly Spiritual Digest: Who is the God of this World?

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” Rev. 11:15b

Gen. 1:1, John 1:3 and Col. 1:16 confirm that God, through Jesus Christ created the world and everything in it – the angels, Satan, demons, human beings, etc. Every creature does God’s will – yes, even Satan. At creation, God gave Adam and Eve the responsibility to rule over the earth and everything in it. Satan mischievously deceived Eve and brought Adam and Eve under his control thereby assuming the rulership of this world.

In Luke 4:6 Satan asked Jesus to worship him and he will give him the whole world since it has been given to him. Jesus did not call him out as a liar. Three times in John 12:31, 14:30 and 16:11 Jesus affirmed that Satan is the ruler of this world. Paul declared same in 2 Corinthian. 4:4. God owns the world, but Satan is the ruler currently as evidenced by the prevalence of sin. One encouraging note is that Satan cannot do anything outside what God allows him to do. God has boundaries for him as Job’s story confirms. We do not need to lose faith due to Satan’s misrule. The world is waiting for the day when it will be finally declared: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” Rev. 11:15b. Why not start the celebration now?

Rev. Sunday BwanhotRev. Sunday Bwanhot is EMS/SIM Missionary. He serves as Team leader of SIM Culture Connexions; Pastors of ECWA Chicago.



The Eastern Christian Churches

Jesus Christ Savior | Eastern Christians share many cultural traditions but not the same religious traditions, Christianity divided itself in the East during its early centuries both within and outside of the Roman Empire in disputes about Christology and fundamental theology, as well as national divisions (Roman, Persian, etc.). (Images of the Holy Sepulchre, detail of the dome over the Katholikon, Jerusalem by Berthold Werner).

Christianity spread throughout Asia, Europe, and Africa. The Eastern Christian Churches are characterized by a rich heritage with Apostolic origin, and are treasured by the universal Church, for the East was the home of Jesus Christ our Redeemer!

Jerusalem is the birthplace to all of Christianity throughout the world. The Levant, the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, served as the cradle of Christianity. Antioch, Syria became an early center for Christianity, especially following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Indeed, followers of Christ were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26). They also became known as Nazarenes (Acts 24:5), particularly in the East. St. Mark the Evangelist founded the Church of Alexandria, Egypt. Philip the Deacon introduced Christianity to a minister of Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians, on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza in Acts 8:27.

Detailed Jerusalem Holy Sepulchre

Detailed Jerusalem Holy Sepulchre

One of the earliest centers of Christianity was Edessa in the Kingdom of Osroene, located in Northern Syria and Mesopotamia across the Euphrates River. Eusebius of Caesarea in his Ecclesiastical History reported that King Abgar of Edessa was afflicted with illness and contacted Jesus in the hope of a cure. Upon his healing by St. Jude Thaddeus, King Abgar converted to Christianity.

Edessa became home to such writers as St. Ephrem of Syria (306-373 AD), a Father and Doctor of the Church. St. Ephrem wrote his beautiful hymns and religious poetry in Syriac, a dialect of the Semitic language of Aramaic, the language of Jesus. Syriac became the biblical and liturgical language of early Christian Churches in the East. The theology of Eastern Churches often developed independently, outside the sway of Roman and Byzantine thought. Syriac Christianity would expand throughout Asia, extending to Chaldea and Persia along the Silk Road all the way to India and the Far East, reaching China, Tibet, and Mongolia. The first nation to adopt Christianity as its state religion was Armenia under King Tiridates III in 301.

Eastern Christian Churches allow clerical marriage, for they accept the gift of human sexuality given by God, who said, “It is not good for the man to be alone”(Genesis 2:18). Those Eastern Churches that are in communion with Rome are known as the Eastern Catholic Churches. 8-16

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.



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.



How St. John the Evangelist and Apostle Speaks To Us Today

Jonathan B. Coe | Both John the Baptist and our Lord spent long periods of time in the desert fasting and praying before commencing their ministries. Jesus was known to regularly retreat to the deserted places during his earthly ministry to pray to the Father and replenish his inner resources.

While today’s orthodox Catholic in the West complains about a virulent secular culture outside of the Church and scandal and crisis within the pillar and ground of the truth, the apostle whom Jesus loved had his own formidable challenges. While we legitimately complain about the erosion of religious liberties in the U.S., he dealt with persecution, especially during the reigns of Nero and Domitian.

While we have grave concerns about the present scandal and crisis in the Church worldwide, John confronted his share of enemies of the gospel. Though the enemies that surface in his First Epistle are difficult to specifically identify, the apostle called them antichrists, liars, deceivers, and false prophets who denied that Jesus was “the Christ” (2:22; 5:1) and “the Son of God” (2:23; 5:5) who had truly “come in the flesh” (4:2).

In the biblical narrative, there is definitely a rhythm and relationship between the servant of God’s private and public ministry. Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights on Mt. Sinai (in private ministry), then came down off the mountain to, among other things, administer punishment (in public ministry) to the Israelites whom he found dancing around the golden calf.

Both John the Baptist and our Lord spent long periods of time in the desert fasting and praying before commencing their ministries. Jesus was known to regularly retreat to the deserted places during his earthly ministry to pray to the Father and replenish his inner resources.

Our own public ministry, which often involves marriage, family, friendships, work, local church involvement, etc., is like the house that is framed on a concrete foundation (which is our private ministry to God). Christians of all persuasions may find themselves cranky when the house they are building on the concrete foundation is twice as big as the foundation itself.

A common mistake in our day is to spend an inordinate amount of time in a prophetic mode criticizing the Church and not nearly enough time being refreshed internally by her immense resources. Some practicing Catholics do have a unique call and vocation to be in a prophetic mode much of the time, but unless this is counter-balanced by a devotional mode, they will eventually burn out.

Most of us cannot be in the prophetic mode 24/7. We put the prophetic mantle on when we are having coffee with friends and discussing the most recent revelation of corruption and depravity in a particular diocese, but then take it off when we go to Confession to confess our sins and get right with God.

This assertion is coming from someone who has recently written four articles in this magazine excoriating prelates and priests, especially in the U.S., who have wandered far from the sacred deposit of the faith, in both their teaching and behavior. There’s undoubtedly more where that came from, but, without a life of retreat and renewal, I am a man most miserable.

With today’s practicing Catholic facing opposition and turbulence from both without and within the Church, the life and writings of John the Evangelist can be a good place to retreat to, along with other devotional practices, as we finish one year and look with vigilance to the next. For example, in times of affliction, when there is a confusing cacophony of voices, I’ve never failed to be instructed and edified by reading the First Letter of St. John in one sitting—a time investment of about 30 minutes.

The theological left and other sophisticates, who are in love with moral ambiguity and shades of grey, would undoubtedly find the epistle “simplistic” and “binary,” but, for the earnest and faithful Catholic, it is instead profoundly simple and renders one with a new clarity of vision and purpose. Such reading can be like hearing the still, small voice, the wisdom of God that is almost completely absent in our institutions of higher learning and in some of our local parishes where heterodox priests reach into their groovy grab bag of social justice bromides and feel-good theology for their latest homily.

Immersion into the life and writings of St. John is a journey into the mind and heart of the apostle that Jesus loved (21:20, 24). Such a distinction leads one to ask, “Does God play favorites?” The well-taught Catholic might smile in response and answer, “Why, of course he does; we call them saints.”

Cain was the first radical egalitarian and proto-social justice warrior. He and Abel made decidedly different offerings to God and yet he demanded an equal outcome from the Almighty (Gen. 4:1-13).

Yahweh played favorites under the old covenant. Corruption and depravity were so rampant in Israel during the time of the Babylonian exile that he told Ezekiel that even if Noah, Daniel, and Job lived in the land, he would still judge the nation severely though these three luminaries would save their own lives by their righteousness (Ezek. 14:20).

One cannot help but notice that our Lord kept some of his followers at arm’s length (e.g., those who followed him for the loaves and fishes) while others he pulled especially close to himself. Peter, James, and John were in his inner circle.

At the Last Supper, John sat in the place of honor next to Christ (Jn. 13:23, 25). Such passages lead us to ask how one becomes like the apostle that Christ loved.

The answer to this question is certainly not that we need to already be a saint or close to perfection. The Gospels make it clear that both John and his brother James struggled with selfish ambition and anger.

The sons of Zebedee asked to be seated on his left and right when Christ would come into the full glory of his kingdom (Mk. 10:35-37) and they wanted to call fire down on a village of Samaritans when it did not receive Christ (Lk. 9:51-56). This should be encouraging to practicing Catholics who are fighting various sins and question if God is interested in intimacy with them or using them to advance his kingdom.

What God is looking for most of all is what Fr. Jacques Philippe calls “good faith.” Put another way, God is not only calling those to his inner circle who are already saints but also those who want to be saints.

I recently heard a practicing Catholic say, “I’m not entirely sure I’m on the straight and narrow, in comparison with the saints throughout Church history, but I want to be.” These Catholics may have their ups and downs but they are pursuing a single-minded devotion to Christ exemplified by the apostles who left family, homes, businesses, and friends to follow Christ.

Like John, they are pursuing Christ as an end in himself and not a means to an end (e.g., the loaves and fishes). They may get distracted now and then as John did but their modus operandi is characterized by pursuing the One Thing that is crystallized in Holy Writ:

King David only wanted one thing: “…that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple” (Ps. 27: 4b). Jesus told Martha that only one thing was needful and Mary had chosen it: to sit at his feet, listen to his voice and bask in his presence (Lk. 10:38-42).

The apostle Paul counted all things as rubbish except for one thing: an intimate knowledge of Christ characterized by knowing him in the power of his resurrection, the fellowship of his suffering, and an identification with his death (Phil. 3:10). Like John, as practicing Catholics, we must not lose sight of the Forest (i.e., Christ) for the trees (i.e., the particulars of our faith).

The truth of our mission is captured in the title of a book by Søren Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing, and summarized in John’s final directive to the audience of his First Letter: “Little children keep yourselves from idols” (5:21). Idols become like adulterous lovers who defile our marriage bed with Christ our Bridegroom.

Someone might ask, “Is a utilitarian relationship with Christ really such a bad thing? Doesn’t he do things for us? Isn’t he our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, Provider, etc.?”

This is an excellent question, and, yes, we no doubt receive the benefits of availing ourselves of a full sacramental life in Christ. However, this isn’t the whole picture.

The earnest, practicing Catholic is like a woman from an economically deprived background who marries a virtuous man who is well-off. She is grateful for her newfound financial security but her favorite part of the marriage is being with him.

Another important way to imitate the apostle whom Jesus loved is in his relationship to the Mother of God: “When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home” (Jn. 19:26-27).

Recently, on December 12, we celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe where we see this same mutual affection between Juan Diego and Our Lady. She met his needs for nurturing maternal care:

Listen, and let it penetrate into your heart, my dear little son, do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your Fountain of Life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?

He, in turn, gave her the tender affection of a son and in aligning his life with her request—to build a shrine in her honor where she could “show him [Christ] … exalt him … make him manifest … give him to the people”—Juan Diego humbly participated in her work as Unifier in bringing the indigenous people and Spaniards together.

The Mother of God’s work was to help bring heaven to earth. This is what the apostle John, as an elderly man, saw in his heavenly vision in the Apocalypse: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (Rev. 7:9; emphasis mine).

Few of us are called to such a spectacular or consequential mission as Juan Diego or John, but we all are called, as St. Thérèse of Lisieux declared, to do small things with great love. This may mean, without sacrificing truth or integrity, bringing people together in small ways, whether it be at home, at work, in our local churches, or in the public square.

Jonathan B. CoeJonathan B. Coe is a graduate of Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. Before being received into the Catholic Church in 2004, he served in pastoral ministry in rural Alaska, and in campus ministry at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. He has written for Catholic Exchange and The Imaginative Conservative. He is the author of Letters from Fawn Creek, a volume of spiritual direction, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.



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.



The Early Christian Church

by Bible Scripture | Traditions in the Early Christian Church included the Memorial of the Last Supper – the celebration of the Liturgy of the Eucharist and reception of Communion, on Sunday the Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:10), and Prayer, such as the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed, a profession of faith during Baptism. (image: Coliseum – biblescripture.net)

The early Christian Church was faced with spreading the teachings of Jesus Christ throughout the world, often during a time of martyrdom and intense persecution.

Traditions in the Early Christian Church included the Memorial of the Last Supper – the celebration of the Liturgy of the Eucharist and reception of Communion, on Sunday the Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:10), and Prayer, such as the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed, a profession of faith during Baptism.

The Apostolic Fathers were a group of early Christian writers who knew one of the Apostles and lived about 75-150 AD, and sought to define, organize, and defend the faith, such as Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome, Polycarp of Smyrna, and the author(s) of the Didache. St. Ignatius of Antioch was designated Bishop of Syria by St. Peter on his trip to Antioch to meet St. Paul. St. Ignatius was the first to use the term Catholic Church in his Letter to the Smyrnaeans.

The word catholic means universal and refers to the universal Church of Jesus Christ.

Ignatius of Antioch would not worship the Emperor Trajan, and thus was placed in chains and martyred in Rome when thrown to the lions in the Coliseum. He wrote seven letters on his trip to Rome, which proved to be a unifying event for all of the early Churches. He established the Church hierarchy of bishop, priest, and deacon for the early Churches, the pattern which still exists today.

St. Justin Martyr (110-165 AD) was the first Apologist or Defender of the Faith. In his First Apology written in 155, he described the Memorial of the Last Supper on Sunday, one that would be called the Divine Liturgy in the East and the Mass in the West, an event which has remained essentially the same for nearly 2000 years. “And this food is called among us eucharistia…For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these, but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God…is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.” St. Justin was martyred in Rome for preaching Christianity to the Romans in 165 AD. 8-13

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.