Pilgrim’s Progress: Journey to Heaven

Pilgrim’s Progress: Journey to Heaven is a 2008 Christian film loosely based on John Bunyan’s classic novel, The Pilgrim’s Progress. It was written and directed by Danny Carrales, and starred Daniel Kruse as Christian (www.gutenberg.net)

Read it online | Download a copy

Release date: 2008 (USA)
Director: Danny Carrales
Music composed by: Matt Gates
Screenplay: Danny Carrales

Available on

From $2.99 on YouTube
From $2.99 on Google Play Movies & TV


US Officials Stand With Pastor at Turkish Terrorism Trial

by Kate Shellnutt Andrew | Brunson tells the court, “I have been praying for Turkey for 25 years. I wouldn’t do anything against Turkey.”(image: Yasin Akgul / AFP)

For most of American pastor Andrew Brunson’s 18-month imprisonment in Turkey, the government failed to officially indict him or offer the opportunity for bail or his release.

Sam Brownback, the US State Department’s new ambassador-at-large for religious freedom, traveled to Turkey this week to back the American pastor in court in Aliaga, just 38 miles from Izmir, the coastal city where Brunson had led a small Presbyterian congregation.

Turkey has accused the evangelical minister—who lived in the Muslim-majority country for 23 years before his arrest following an attempted coup in 2016—of fueling unrest in the country through alleged involvement with exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an insurgent group. Both movements are seen as enemies and threats to the Turkish government.

“I have been praying for Turkey for 25 years. I wouldn’t do anything against Turkey,” the pastor told the court in Turkish during his hearing.

Though Brunson’s March indictment raised the possibility of a life sentence, the 50-year-old now faces a total of 35 years in prison if found guilty in the case, which rests on testimonies from unnamed sources and evidence procured on Brunson’s phone, according to reports.

Trump administration officials, as well as the religious freedom advocates who have come to Brunson’s defense, see the charges as a false attempt to use an innocent American for political leverage. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly offered to free Brunson if the US were to extradite Gülen, who now lives in Pennsylvania.

“The administration is deeply concerned about this case,” Brownback said. “We completely believe (that) Andrew Brunson is innocent. We are hopeful (that) the judicial system will find that.”

He observed the trial with Senator Thom Tillis, who represents Brunson’s home state of North Carolina and visited him in prison this year. Brownback pledged “very high-level US government interest in this until [Brunson] is released.”

The Turkish court postponed the remainder of the trial until May 7 and ordered that Brunson return to another prison in the meantime. The date corresponds with the sentencing for a Turkish banker on trial in the United States over his alleged involvement in helping Iran evade US oil sanctions, “drawing an apparent link between the two highly charged cases,” according to Bloomberg News.

The Trump administration has been working to improve relations in the hopes of securing a favorable outcome for Brunson, including urging Congress to postpone sanctions against Turkish officials.

President Trump asked Erdoğan about the case in a recent call. The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a Christian advocacy group led by Jay Sekulow (who happens to be one of Trump’s lawyers), has been the leading force rallying support for “Pastor Andrew.” Nearly 500,000 have signed an ACLJ petition calling for his release.

Brunson denied the criminal claims raised during the hearing and said he never preached in favor of Kurdish independence or aided suspects involved with the PKK.

“I did not engage in any illegal activity. I had no relations with anyone engaged in such activity,” he said. “I am a Christian pastor. I did not join an Islamic movement. Their aims and mine are different.”

His lawyer, İsmail Cem Halavurt, believes that his faith made him a target.

US officials have met with Brunson multiple times in prison, including a visit from former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in February.

“The United States cares deeply about our relationship with Turkey,” Brownback said at Brunson’s hearing, according to Reuters. As reports have noted, the two countries are also divided on Kurdish activity in Syria, which borders Turkey to the south.

“That relationship is going to have difficulty moving forward as long as Andrew Brunson is incarcerated.”

Kate Shellnutt is an associate editor at Christianity Today. You can reach her via Twitter

 



How Jesus Can Help You Push Past Your Fears

Becky Harling | The truth about God is that nothing can separate us from His love. Even if some of our worst fears happen, God’s love does not change (image: James Marler).

Recently, I was reading the story found in Matthew’s Gospel where the disciples leave Jesus to go ahead of Him across the Sea of Galilee (Matt. 14:22-33). The disciples head out across the dark lake while Jesus retreats for some time alone in prayer with His Father. Later that night, when the boat was a considerable distance from the shore and struggling because the waves had kicked up, Jesus headed out to meet them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw a figure coming across the water, their imaginations went wild, and they freaked out thinking Jesus was a ghost! Jesus immediately said to them, “Take courage! It is I” (Matt. 14:27b, NIV).

At this moment Peter a bit unsure said, “Lord, if it’s you… tell me to come to you on the water” (Matt. 14:28). Jesus immediately invites him, saying, “Come” (Matt. 14:29). You know the rest of the story.

As I’ve been reading this story and mulling it over in my mind, it dawned on me: At times, Jesus provokes our fears. In this particular story, it seems as though He’s baiting the disciples’ fears! Why? I believe it is because He wanted to give them the opportunity to move past their fears and come to a greater understanding that He was the Son of God!

In your life and mine, we are plagued with lots of fears. Our imaginations at times get the best of us. We fear financial setbacks, insignificance, loss of control, sickness and a host of other things. Here’s the thing: Jesus wants to heal our fears. Often the best way to do that is for Him to provoke our fears so that we have to face the truth about our fears and the truth about who Jesus is in those fearful situations.

Knowing this, here are three questions you can ask yourself the next time you feel anxious or afraid:

What is the truth about my fear in this situation? Talking to yourself is actually a great practice because it can help you manage your emotions. Next time you feel afraid, go to your fear. Don’t run from your fear—denial has never helped anyone! Instead, ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Then don’t stop there, but go on to ask, “Is my imagination getting the best of me?” The disciples in the boat let their imaginations run wild thinking, “It’s a ghost!” Don’t make the same mistake. Often our perceptions of reality are quite different from what reality actually is. For example, suppose at work you are not given the promotion you feel you deserve. As a result, you begin to imagine, “I’m just irrelevant in this company. No one needs me anymore. Blah, blah, blah.” The truth might be that God is protecting you from something you can’t see. The truth might be that God is about to open an exciting door for you that you wouldn’t be able to take if the promotion came through. So instead of imagining the worst, remind yourself that God has your best interests in mind.

What’s the truth about God in this fear? The truth about God is that nothing can separate us from His love. Even if some of our worst fears happen, God’s love does not change. He is still for us and with us. Meditate on Romans 8:35-36 (MEV) “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

Is there a step of faith I need to take? Often, fear is what holds us back from stepping into all that God is calling us to do. The way to move past fear is to accept Jesus’ invitation to come and take the step out of safety to join Him in the adventure to which He’s calling. If Peter hadn’t taken the risk to get out of the boat, he would never have walked on water.

Becky Harling, an author, certified speaker, leadership coach and trainer with the John Maxwell Team, is an energetic and motivational international speaker inspiring audiences to overcome their greatest life challenges and reach their full God-given potential. Her most recent book is How to Listen So People Will Talk. Her husband, Steve Harling, is the president of Reach Beyond, a nonprofit organization seeking to be the voice and hands of Jesus around the world.



Get Involved During ECWA USA DCC International Conference in Chicago IL from July 19 – 22, 2018

by Mrs. Elizabeth A. Garba | Press towards perfection and unity of faith in Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1: 16 & Eph. 4: 12-14). Be a Part of the Movement at ECWA USA DCC International Conference in Chicago IL from July 19 – 22, 2018. Connect with me via 240-547-8118 to get Involved.

Praise God we have passed from death to life through faith in Jesus Christ (John 3: 16 & 10: 10). Perhaps, one of our biggest challenges as Christians here in the United States is how to set our affection on things above as we struggle to separate ourselves from the pleasures of this world (Col. 3: 2 & 2 Tim. 3: 4). Therefore, we have to come together from time to time with like minded brothers and sisters to encourage one another as we press towards perfection and unity of faith in Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1: 16 & Eph. 4: 12-14) as well as remain Jesus true witnesses while still here on earth (Acts 1: 8 & 2 Corinth. 5: 18).

Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) here in the United States remains committed to this Foundation Truth of the Gospel. You are receiving this passionate appeal to be involved because there are several opportunities for you to network and profit with God-given talents during our Conferences in ECWA USA DCC. Besides, your presence and those you invite will bring added value to the Conference. Please prepare not just to join us at the Conference but INVITE OTHERS!!!

Here are some things you can do to be involved:

  • First and foremost, register for the conference (see link here and above)
  • Encourage others to register today for the conference!!!
  • Pair-up with friends to earnestly pray for the move of the Holy Spirit during this Conference
  • Sign up to participate in our prayer Group during the Conference
  • Tell, call, text, and use other means of sending messages to invite your friends to the Conference
  • Find time to remind your friends about the Conference
  • Help to distribute the Conference Brochure to be forwarded to Local Churches and Cell-groups
  • Send the Conference Brochure to friends on face-book, YouTube, emails, and websites!!!
  • Sign-up for ECWA USA Newsletter and check for latest information on our website. https://www.ecwausa.org/
  • Assist financially to sponsor interested Conference attendees

Mrs. Elizabeth A. Garba is the Secretary of ECWA USA DCC Conference National Planning Committee.



Praise & Prayer, April 2018

EMS OF ECWA
PRAISE & PRAYER, APRIL 2018

Prayer/Counseling hotline: 08033673654, 08051614880
E-mail: prayerpromotion@emsofecwa.org
Website: www.emsofecwa.org
Brethren, pray for us (1 Thess. 5:25)
WEEK ONE – FOCUS IS ON PRAISE/THANKSGIVING
FROM HOME AND CROSS-BOARDER MISSION FIELDS
“…Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” Deut 32:3b-4 (NIV)

 
SUNDAY 1ST

  • Praise God for His sustaining grace on EMS as an agency and all its mission programs through the first quarter of the year 2018.

NOTE: WE ARE FASTING TOMORROW
FIRST (1ST) MONDAY OF EVERY MONTH IS TO BE OBSERVED NATIONALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY AS EMS PRAYER AND FASTING DAY. THEREFORE, ALL EMS ARMS, MISSIONARIES, OFFICE STAFF, PRAYER PARTNERS AND SUPPORTERS SHOULD PLEASE ENDEAVOR TO JOIN THE EMS INTERNATIONAL HEAD OFFICE IN PRAYERS. WE JOIN FAITH AND TRUST GOD IN ONE ACCORD WITH BRETHREN AROUND THE WORLD FOR A STEADY AND FRUITFUL GROWTH OF THE WORK OF MISSIONS, PEACE AND THE SALVATION OF NATIONS, FOR REVIVAL AND SPIRITUAL GROWTH OF THE CHURCH. OUR COOPERATE PRAYER TIME AT THE HEAD OFFICE IS 8-9AM, 12-1PM, AND 3-4 PM RESPECTIVELY. YOU CAN JOIN US IN PRAYERS WHEREVER YOU MAY BE AT THOSE TIMES OR MAKE OUT TIME OF YOUR OWN CONVENIENCE AS YOU ARE LED BY GOD. PLEASE, JUST BE SURE TO PRAY ALONG AS YOU FAST.

MONDAY 2ND

  • Praise God for graciously delivering our missionaries in various fields from sickness in the first quarter of this year, and for many who are receiving healing from their infirmities.

TUESDAY 3RD

  • Praise God for sustaining grace and safety of teachers and children in all EMS Mission Field Schools and EMS Children Schools throughout the second term of 2017/2018 Academic Session.

WEDNESDAY 4TH

  • Praise God for the successful awareness done in Tsiga DCC on the 17-18/2/2018. The program was remarkable, turn out of people quite commendable, encouraging and successful.
  • Praise God for a successful surgery on Mrs. Saratu Ishaya Sani of Katsina DCC on 28/2/2018. God also in His mercy provided the hospital bill of N55, 000.00.

THURSDAY 5TH

  • Praise God for the progress of EMS ministry in Burkina Faso; Praise God for the salvation and deliverance of many souls during the outreach program of Pastor Dauda lIiya in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Pray that the new converts will be sustained in their new faith.

FRIDAY 6TH

  • Praise God for the progress of Porto Novo mission field, though a difficult terrain but with the help of God the work is gaining ground. The biggest problem of this field is lack of worship place. Praise God for the life of Rev. Sodji’s disciple who is taking care of the Porto Novo field for now.

SATURDAY 7TH

  • Praise God for His sustaining grace upon Pastor & Mrs. Lawrence Nuhu in Kukan Kwadi, Niger Republic; Praise God for the support of Sokoto DCC and Women Fellowship Gusau LCC for the station and pray that God will bless them to fulfil their obligation.

WEEK TWO – FOCUS IS ON EMS HOME MISSION FIELDS
I will proclaim the name of the Lord…Deut. 32:3a

SUNDAY 8TH

EMS MANAGEMENT

  • Pray that EMS management team will be flexible in their planning and be sensitive to discern what God wants to accomplish through EMS on daily basis.

MONDAY 9TH

ECWA EXECUTIVES

  • Pray for the success of the General Church council meeting that commences today through to the 13th of this month; also ask the Lord to overrule in the presidential and the ECWA assistant general secretary’s elections that will be held during this meeting.

TUESDAY 10TH

EMS BOARD MEMBERS

  • Pray that God would meet the financial obligations of each EMS board member.
  • Pray that EMS board members will be abundantly wise and discerning as well as filled with love for the works of missions.
  • Let’s not relent in asking the Lord to protect EMS board members with their families from every form of evil, grant them safety in all their travels and favor in all their endeavors to move EMS of ECWA to greatness.

WEDNESDAY 11TH

EMS SUPPORTERS

  • Pray that EMS supporters will continue to have their needs met and remain committed to their task of giving and praying for the work of mission.

THURSDAY 12TH

ECWA MINISTERS/STAKEHOLDERS

  • Pray for ECWA members, pastors, and stakeholders to have strength, growth, and success in fulfilling God’s disciple-making mission work a reality in their context.

FRIDAY 13TH

CENTRAL REGION GARKI DCC

  • Pray for provisions and success of the regional conference that is schedule to hold on the 28-30 of March 2018; ask the Lord to grant safety to all missionaries and guest speakers as they travel for the program.

SATURDAY 14TH

SOUTH NORTH EAST-TARABA DCC

  • Pray for the safety of all missionaries especially in Mambila plateau and other mission stations that are often prone to headsmen attacks in Taraba. Ask God to deliver them from every form of evil that is being planned to harm them or their members.

WEEK THREE – FOCUS IS ON EMS HOME MISSION FIELDS
As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Matt 10:7 NIV

SUNDAY 15TH

FAR NORTH REGION-KATSINA DCC

  • Pray for the supply of building and roofing materials for churches and pastorium in these mission stations: Gidan Sulhu, Kayarda, Katirje, Gidan Gizo, Gidan Marke, Maje, Sharboyi and some mission field schools in the far North.
  • Pray for the safety of Christians in the rural areas of Far North who are often threatened by thieves, headsmen and kidnappers.

MONDAY 16TH

EMS CITY MINISTRIES

  • Pray for security challenges in Gero Care Centre.
  • Pray for the Success of Our spiritual week of emphases that is scheduled to hold on 27th – 28th March 2018.
  • Pray for provisions of this fund (1,858,000.00) for the second phase wells project in Miya.

TUESDAY 17TH

NORTH CENTRAL REGION

  • Pray for open doors to meet the urgent need of four (4) motor cycles for Yelwa, Mangu, Zagun and Gwol DCCs.

WEDNESDAY 18TH

MID CENTRAL REGION

  • Ask the Lord to grant provision for the completion of the clinic project that is ongoing in Randa station of the region. Also pray for the safety of all the persons working on the site.

THURSDAY 19TH

NORTH EAST REGION

  • Let’s ask the Lord to provide twenty (20) Bicycles and five (5) motorcycles for our missionaries working in rural mission fields of this region and their Coordinators, to ease their movements especially for evangelism.

FRIDAY 20TH

FAR NORTH WEST REGION

  • Let’s not relent in asking the Lord to grant grace to the coordinators and missionaries in this region as they strategies on how to reach the following targeted areas: Yauri, Bagudo, and Magajiya.

SATURDAY 21ST

SOUTH EAST-ABA DCC

  • Praise God for the new mission station that was opened in Bayelsa state. Ask the Lord to grant more grace on missionaries working in Bayelsa and for sustenance for the new mission stations.

WEEK FOUR: FOCUS ON CROSS-BORDERS MISSION FIELDS
As you go, preach this message: ‘the kingdom of heaven is near.’ Matt 10:7 NIV

SUNDAY 22ND

ECWA BURKINA FASO CHURCH

  • ECWA Burkina Faso has the potential to grow and can become a leading church in the country by the grace of God. Pray for the involvement of the Nationals for the work of EMS of ECWA Burkina Faso.
  • Pastor Dauda Iliya Projector got damaged when it fell down during Evangelism since last year 2017, pray for God’s provision of another projector.

MONDAY 23RD

ECWA BENIN REPUBLIC

  • Pray for God’s provision for the rent of EMS Porto Novo, Benin Republic worship place.
  • Pray for God’s provision to enable Rev. & Mrs. Sodji start a new field at Houeto, near Calavi University, Benin Republic. A temporary land has been given to them to start, but they need about two hundred and fifty thousand (N250, 000) to build a batcher for the start.

TUESDAY 24TH

ECWA TOGO CHURCH

  • Praise God for the life of Aisha and her likes in the prisons of Bamako, Mali for their salvation.
  • Praise God for the partnership for the women prisons in Bamako, Mali.
  • Praise God for the joy and open doors Rev. & Mrs. Amah are experiencing in Bamako, Mali even with the challenges they sometime face.

WEDNESDAY 25TH

ECWA NIGER REPUBLIC

  • Pray for greater harvest in Kukan Kwadi, Niger Republic where Pastor & Mrs. Lawrence Nuhu are serving.
  • Pastor & Mrs. Lawrence Nuhu children’s school has been a challenge as there is no school close to their serving station in Niger Republic, pray for wisdom for them as they decide on what school their children will attend for their eduction.
  • Pray for provision of a means of mobility to ease movement and ministry work of Pastor Lawrence in Niger Republic.

THURSDAY 26TH

ECWA ZAMBIA CHURCH

  • Praise God for the life of Martha Mishibi who gave her life to Christ and also opened her house for us to start a church in Chingola, Zambia. Already Lucky Chilufiya is there and the church has begun. Ask the Lord to sustain the young church by His grace and to bless Sister Martha and her family.

FRIDAY 27TH

MALAWI

  • Praise God for answering our prayers for the church secretary to get a job. Ask the Lord to grant him wisdom to work effectively in his new place of work.
  • Pray for God’s provision for structural development of the Church plot in Blantyre, Malawi. Pray for the 14 Malawi indigenous pastors as we trust God for their upkeep trusting that they will be adopted as EMS missionaries as God raises supporters.
  • Pray for the growth, stability and unity among members of the church in Malawi.

SATURDAY 28TH

KENYA

  • Pray that God will provide a land in Utawala Kenya, where two halls are rented for place of worship and school.
  • Pray that God will enable the registration of ECWA Kenya with the Government this year; ask God to grant favor and wisdom as our missionary knocks on doors that are connected to registering ECWA with the Kenyan government.

WEEK FIVE: FOCUS ON OTHER EMS MISSION ARMS
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19 NIV

SUNDAY 29TH

EMS CHILDREN/MISSION FIELD SCHOOLS

  • Praise God for the safe resumption of pupils and student in all the 3 EMS children schools for the third term academic session.
  • Ask the Lord to Grant grace to teachers the grace and ability to teach effectively aa ell as the grace on the pupils/students to understand and also have the best of this third term.
  • Pray for the success of the tree planting project in the EMS children schools; also pray that people will be stirred to donate trees and cash towards this project.

MONDAY 30TH

EMS MEDICAL UNIT

  • Let’s not relent in praying for EMS missionaries who are currently sick especially: Mrs. Yusuf Isah, Pas. L. S. Lalle, Mrs. Mohammed Seth and Mrs. Nicholas James.

TUESDAY 31TH

  • Praise God for His sustaining grace on EMS in all its mission programs and travels throughout the month of April. Praise God for His grace on you to pray with us and pray for more grace to keep us praying for God’s will and plan for EMS of ECWA to be actualized for his glory in every aspect of the organizational operation.

THANK YOU FOR PRAYING WITH US THROUGH APRIL 2018.
MORE GRACE AND GOD’S BLESSINGS AS YOU RELENTLESSLY PRAY WITH US THROUGH 2018, SHALOM!!!

 



Exceedingly Abundantly Above All that We Ask or Think!

by Joshua and Joanna Bogunjoko | ” Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21.

Many people have asked us about the Global Assembly (GA) and the 125th anniversary celebration of SIM that took place in South Africa. The first thing that comes to mind is Ephesians 3:20-21, quoted above. Praise God with us for all the Lord has done, and thank you for praying for these events and for our trip!

This was our largest gathering of SIM people and SIM partners, with about 450 people from more than 55 nationalities serving in about 80 countries of the world. The planning team did a wonderful job coordinating every detail, choosing an excellent location with a variety of food and great service. Our time of fellowship and various meetings with SIM personnel, leaders and board members from all over the world, as brothers and sisters in Christ, was a treat and a blessing. The diversity was striking, and we praise God for the unity we saw as we had a wonderful time of fellowship together. Presentations were translated into four main languages.

Our worship time was led by a multi-ethnic worship team in diverse languages: Humberto Fernandez, Minah Koela, Jaewoo Kim, Jervis Djokoto, Julie Tai, Eric Lige, Sandra Van Opstal and her son.
Our worship time was led by a multi-ethnic worship team in diverse languages: Humberto Fernandez, Minah Koela, Jaewoo Kim, Jervis Djokoto, Julie Tai, Eric Lige, Sandra Van Opstal and her son.

Ramez and Rebecca Atallah spoke to us each morning in plenary sessions. They shared with us from the book of 2 Corinthians, taking us deep into the word of God and challenging our hearts with God’s truth. The plenary sessions, seminars and training tracks were all carefully chosen and well presented. In all, this is a gathering that we, the participants, will not forget in a hurry.
Prior to the conference, we asked you to pray for three things: that we will know God and know His way even more, that we would sense God’s presence with us, and that we would see his glory and declare his glory to the nations. We felt that all these prayers were answered beyond our expectation, as we celebrated God’s goodness and grace to SIM in 125 years of ministry around the world.

Ramez and Rebecca Attallah
Ramez and Rebecca Attallah
Former SIM International leaders were recognized and honored: Howie and Jo-Ann Brant, Jim and Carol Plueddemann, Malcolm and Liz McGregor
Former SIM International leaders were recognized and honored: Howie and Jo-Ann Brant, Jim and Carol Plueddemann, Malcolm and Liz McGregor

On the closing night, we were all in our traditional attires and the Soweto Gospel Choir treated us to a wonderful time of celebration.

Closing Ceremony Night in Our Traditional Attires
Closing Ceremony Night in Our Traditional Attires

Thank you also for praying for the Board of Governors meetings that preceded the Global Assembly. Following the Global Assembly, a Directors’ Retreat (for all country directors) and International Leadership Team meetings took place.

Before attending the GA, we were privileged to spend some time with our team members in the SIM Southern Africa Regional Office/Service Center. It was an encouraging time for us, and we believe for them also. We also attended the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) Africa Roundtable 2 conference, where Joshua presented a paper on “Africa Development and Partnership.” In addition, we enjoyed a short visit with friends from university days in the city of Mthatha.

Professors Ope and Bola Oyedeji
Professors Ope and Bola Oyedeji

Following our return from South Africa, we went to Ottawa, Canada, where Joshua spoke at the Metropolitan Bible Church (The MET). We also connected with some of Joanna’s friends from medical school days. We enjoyed the warm hospitality (in a very cold Ottawa) of SIM friends Brian and Kim Milton, Ron and Sharon Nehrin (from the MET) and Nigerian friends, the Adetolas and the Egbeyemis.

Dr. Motunrayo Adetola and the Egbeyemis
Dr. Motunrayo Adetola and the Egbeyemis
Mission pastor Rev. Brian and Kim Mitton, Benjamin and Christine Hegeman, Perspective directors, Ron and Sharon Nehring.
Mission pastor Rev. Brian and Kim Mitton, Benjamin and Christine Hegeman, Perspective directors, Ron and Sharon Nehring.

Praise and prayer:

  • Please give thanks to the Lord for the safety He granted everyone to the Global Assembly and back to their homes and ministries.
  • Give thanks for all that God has done in the past 125 years and for all that He is yet to do in the years to come!
  • Pray that God will continue to bless the ministry of SIM as He has done in the past, and that we will be faithful in taking the Gospel to those who will otherwise live and die without hearing God’s good news.
  • Joshua is currently working on reorganizing the SIM International Leadership Team. The priority of this reorganization is to position SIM for effective leadership into the future. Will you please join us in prayer that the Lord will lead and guide in this process? Pray particularly that the Lord will bring the right people into various roles, some of which are new roles in SIM.
  • Give thanks to God for keeping Jochebed and Joel safe while we were away, and for His continuing watch over them where they are.

Thank you for the special part you play in the fulfillment of SIM’s purpose and vision.

We wish you and your family Happy Easter!

For more stories from around the SIM world, please go to SIM Stories, click here.

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ECWA USA International Conference in Chicago: July 19-22, 2018

by Sunday Bwanhot | Pastor, ECWA Chicago | Our Goal for the conference is to equip and position us for effective evangelism, church planting and growth in 21st century America | connect via pastor@chicago.ecwausa.org or bwanhots@gmail.com | (image: Scott Fishman Photography)

Download ECWA USA 2018 International Conference Introductions to Topics

ECWA USA 2018 CONFERENCE
Thursday – Sunday: July 19 – 22
ECWA 2018 THEME: JOY IN SUFFERING
ECWA USA 2018 CONFERENCE THEME:
THE MANDATE, JOYS AND PAINS OF BUILDING SOLID ECWA CHURCHES IN THE US

On behalf of ECWA Chicago I write to welcome you to the great city of Chicago for the ECWA USA 2018 International Conference that is going to bring into town many saints from across the USA, Africa, Europe and even Israel. You will not want to miss this opportunity of fellowship and being a part of what God is doing in the US and globally.

Below are the Registration form, Hotel information and Plenary Sessions/Workshops

EARLY REGISTRATION DISCOUNT ENDS JUNE 30. Please take advantage of it.

Looking forward to welcoming you to Chicago.

Online Conference Registration

DOWNLOAD, FILL-OUT AND SEND YOUR CONFERENCE RESERVATION FORM BY SNAIL MAIL

CALLING FOR RESERVATION
Please call ONLY (630) 505-0550 or (800) 321-2211 for reservation. Our group name is ‘ECWA Chicago Room Block‘ at the Courtyard Naperville.
ECWA Chicago Room Block_Jul2018

INTRODUCTION TO TOPICS

Introduction
The Great Commission remains the enduring mandate Christ gave the Church and our church named Evangelical Church Winning All is our all-time response to our Lord and Master. Our obedience to the Great Commission in America comes at a great price and our 2018 Theme: Joy in Suffering is woven into the theme for the conference: The Mandate, Joys and Pains of Building Solid ECWA Churches in the US. Our Goal for the conference is to equip and position us for effective evangelism, church planting and growth in 21st century America.

Plenary Sessions
Biblical Mandate for Church Planting. Friday July 20, 9:05am – 9:25am (20 minutes)
This topic seeks to unveil the fact that Church Planting is not just a mandate but also the most effective model for fulfilling the Great Commission.

ECWA Must Live to its Name and Purpose. Friday July 20, 9:35am – 9:55am (20 minutes)
ECWA, as an Evangelical Church, signs off that the proclamation of the Gospel is what we live and breathe. Our most recent name change to Evangelical Church Winning All is a paradigm shift, a broadening of our vision and a bold step to cross barriers and cultures to take the Gospel where ever it is needed. A brief history of ECWA and how we have always ministered will help us see the new direction we are going.

Why Plant Churches in the USA? Friday July 20, 10:05am – 10:25am (20 minutes)
Although there are hundreds of thousands of churches in America today, America continues to be a growing mission field given the thousands of refugees from non-Christian backgrounds, Asylum seekers and young Americans who are turning away from the traditional religion of their parents. The American Church needs revival and new ways of doing church.

What kind of Churches are we called to Build? Friday July 20, 7:55pm – 8:15pm (20 minutes)
It is not a secret that churches today have different agendas and some are not necessarily concerned about carrying out the gospel mandate. There are those that focus more on Economic, Political, Social, Ecological, etc. issues than on the Gospel. The mandate to make disciples of all nations and teach them to obey all that Christ taught remains undone and we need to return to this task.

God has a Role for you. Friday July 20, 8:25pm – 8:45pm (20 minutes)
One great challenge ECWA has is that ministry is still largely being driven professionally by the clergy. Most ECWA members are spectators instead of being equipped for work of ministry – Eph. 4:11-12. We must break this habit and unleash Church members to do ministry.

How to Build strong and Multi-cultural churches. Saturday July 21, 9:05am – 9:25am (20 minutes)
The Good News is for all nations and as Paul said: I became all things to all people so that by all means I might win some to Christ. America is a multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-generational nation. We need to change how we do church and reposition our churches to reflect the diversity in our communities if we are going to thrive. This will take hard work.

The Cost of being part of the Building process. Saturday July 21, 9:35am – 9:55am (20 minutes)
No one is exempted from the Great Commission. This task also is costly as suffering is involved. Jesus made it clear that if anyone will be His disciple, he must take up his cross daily and follow Him. We are advised to count the cost before embarking on any project – even that of church planting in the US.

The Joys of being involved in the Building process. Saturday July 21, 10:05am – 10:25am (20 minutes)
Joy is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit which the believer enjoys as he walks in obedience with the Lord. The hardships and challenges we face as we seek to expand the Kingdom of God here on earth cannot compare with the joy God gives us through the trials. There is Joy in Suffering and there are other blessings that come to us as we obey God and carry out His mandate.

Workshops 1 Friday July 20, 10:45am – 11:45am (60 minutes)

How to Transform our Churches into Multi-Cultural Churches. Friday July 20, 10:45am – 11:45am (60 min)
This workshop will equip you and your church to move from being a mono-cultural church to a multi-cultural church that adequately reflects the demographics of your parish or neighborhood. When we are labeled a Nigerian Church, a Yoruba Church or even an African Church, we should not be contented with that.

How to start and sustain a Prayer cell where you are. Friday July 20, 10:45am – 11:45am (60 min)
Many will never consider themselves to be church planters because they did not go to seminary or do not know the Bible much. Truth of the matter is that anyone of us can be a Church planter. Learn how you and one or a few others can start and sustain a Prayer cell which will eventually evolve into a full fledge church.

How can I know God’s will for my life? Friday July 20, 10:45am – 11:45am (60 min)
Who should I marry? What career should I pursue? What college should I go to? What town should I live in? Where will God want me to serve Him? … and many similar questions. Come to this workshop and learn guiding principles of how to discern God’s will in every situation of your life.

The truth about the Holy Spirit and how I can be filled. Friday July 20, 10:45am – 11:45am (60 min)
The Holy Spirit is neither controversial nor are His activities shrouded in secrecy. He is plain and simple but many wrong teachings about Him and His work has brought about confusion to many. This workshop will guide you to the truths you need to know about the Holy spirit and how you can be filled by Him.

Finding my right partner, Dating and Marriage. Friday July 20, 10:45am – 11:45am (60 min)
Finding your right partner is second only to salvation. It is important to know where and how to find your partner for marriage. Issues of dating and marriage will also be discussed at this workshop.

Minimizing conflicts between parents and children arising from cross cultural differences. Friday July 20, 10:45am – 11:45am (60 min)
This workshop will help everyone and especially families that immigrated from other cultures into America. Cultural conflicts, generational gaps, language barriers, etc. are constant areas of conflicts between parents and children. Learn how to manage these differences and bring peace to your home.

Workshops 2 Saturday July 21, 10:45am – 11:45am (60 minutes)

Understanding what the Prosperity and Health gospel is all about. Saturday July 21, 10:45am – 11:45am (60 min)
What is Prosperity Gospel? Why is it such a popular Gospel and everyone is gravitating toward it? Can it be wrong when it is taught in the Bible and so many churches and good Christians believe in it? Find out more about it in this workshop.

Minimizing conflicts between parents and children arising from cross cultural differences. Saturday July 21, 10:45am – 11:45am (60 min)
This workshop will help everyone and especially families that immigrated from other cultures into America. Cultural conflicts, generational gaps, language barriers, etc. are constant areas of conflicts between parents and children. Learn how to manage these differences and bring peace to your home.

How to use technology and Social Media without worshiping it. Saturday July 21, 10:45–11:45am (60 min)
The revolution of cell phones, iPhones, iPads, computers and wide-open doors to social media, have good and bad outcomes. These gadgets are not evil by themselves, but we need wisdom on how best to use them as subtly they are running our lives instead of God. If you use these gadgets much, this workshop is a must for you.

Starting and maintaining a growing Devotional life or Quiet time. Saturday July 21, 10:45am – 11:45am (60 min)
The one Christian discipline that contributes most to our growing process in our faith is our personal devotional time with the Lord. It is also called Quiet Time. Many saints struggle with maintaining a consistent, joyful and spiritually enriching Quiet Time. Quiet time best practices will be shared at this workshop to help you launch into a more fruitful experience.

How to know my spiritual gifts. Saturday July 21, 10:45am – 11:45am (60 min)
The Bible makes it clear that every believer has one or more spiritual gifts and God expects you to steward your gift faithfully. But you find yourself among several others who say: but I do not know my gift. Welcome to this workshop; you will be shown how to know your spiritual gift(s).

How to Transform our Churches into Multi-Cultural Churches. Saturday July 21, 10:45 – 11:45am (60 min)
This workshop will equip you and your church to move from being a mono-cultural church to a multi-cultural church that adequately reflects the demographics of your parish or neighborhood. When we are labeled a Nigerian Church, a Yoruba Church or even an African Church, we should not be contented with that.

Panel Discussion: Saturday July 21, 7:30pm – 8:15pm (45 minutes)
Topic: The Role of Prayer, Men, Women and Youth in Building the Church

Sunday morning Worship: Sunday July 22, 8:00am – 9:15am (75 minutes)
Sermon Topic: Let us Rise and Build (Sermon length: 30 minutes)
This is to be more of an invitation to all join hands and carry on with the work that we, as ECWA, are committed to here in the US. Bearing in mind all the presentations made in the plenary sessions, it is time now to have all hands-on deck to build.



The Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus the Messiah

by Dr. Allen Ross | The hand of God was indeed against the sufferer, but the sin was not his, but theirs. It was penal–but he did not deserve it (image: YouTube).

The “Gospel” is a term that is used for a number of things in Christianity; it means “good news” essentially. The word is used for one or more of the four books of the Bible, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These are the four “gospels.” But the word is also used very precisely for the central doctrines of the Christian faith concerning Jesus, namely his death, burial and resurrection.

Paul clearly states that the Gospel that he preached is that Jesus died according to the Scriptures, was buried, and rose again according to the Scriptures. Paul says:

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he as raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:1-4).

Paul then goes on to declare that Jesus made many appearances that proved that he did rise from the dead. And so the creed says:

and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried; and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures.

The point is that the Christian Gospel is not simply the facts of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, but those facts understood in accordance with what the Scriptures say. In other words, the death of Jesus has to be understood in accordance with what Scripture teaches about it–who this Jesus was who died, why his death was so important, what kind of death it was, and what it accomplished. Likewise, the burial and the resurrection have to be understood in the way that Scripture teaches–what exactly it teaches about his resurrection, why it was important, what it proved, and how it relates to his exaltation to glory.

This would mean that we must first be clear on who Jesus is. If he is not God manifest in the flesh, if he is not the divine Son of God, then his death would be at best a martydom, a great act of love and devotion–but it would not have saved anyone, it would not have made atonement.

This would also mean that we would have to be clear on why he suffered and died. Scripture teaches that it was for our sins that he died (he did not deserve to die), the just for the unjust. His death was a vicarious substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of the world. And Scripture also teaches that his death was an atonement. In other words, it was not just a physical death. For the divine Son to die was the equivalent of the human race suffering the second death, eternal separation from God. Christ, the eternal one, was separated from the Father spiritually on our behalf when he died on the cross.

This would also mean that there was a complete death, and so he was buried. He did not swoon, or faint, or go into a coma to be revived. He died, and was buried. It was a real death.

And if it was a real death, this would also mean that it was a real resurrection, one who was dead actually coming back to life. The resurrection proved that his death was an atoning sacrifice, that it accomplished what it was accomplish, and that it authenticated all of Christ’s claims.

It would take much longer to explain all the details about the Gospel that are contained in the Scripture. This is the task of the churches in their teaching and preaching ministry in the word of God. And we have our entire lifetime to focus on these truths and discover all that God has done for us. But perhaps it would be most helpful in this brief survey to look at the cardinal Old Testament prophecy about the death, burial and resurrection of the Messiah, Isaiah 52:15–53:12. The song is written in the past tense, as if it had alrready happened; but that is normal for the prophets who saw the visions and described what they had seen (called “seers”). We know from the contents of this song that its ultimate meaning is in Jesus the Messiah, for Jesus claimed to be the servant who came into the world to give his life a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28), and the apostles knew that this song was a vivid picture of the suffering of the Lord Jesus on the cross and so quoted from it in their epistles (see 1 Peter 2:21-25).

A Biblical Exposition

Isaiah 52:15–53:12 is the fourth of the so-called Servant Songs in the book, and the most powerful of them all. The prophet Isaiah does not always identify the servant in the oracles; at times it seems it could be referring to the righteous remnant in Israel, at times to the prophet, at times to other servants that God might use. But in this passage, a song about the suffering servant, the meaning clearly breaks free from any Old Testament application and finds fulfillment in the Messiah, the Christ–Jesus. Much of the song talks about how the innocent suffer for the sins of others, but when it comes to speaking about the LORD placing the sins of others on this one’s back so that he could justify them, the passage can have no other fulfillment but in the saving death of Jesus, the Christ.2 And so this song is about the ideal suffering servant, the one whose suffering goes beyond anything that mere mortals could accomplish in their suffering.

Down through history the sufferer has been the astonishment and stumblingblock of humanity. Ancient barbarians simply removed them from society. More civilized people have dealt more kindly; but sufferers still pose a problem for philosophers and medical doctors, and a test for the faith of religious people. People have a hard time seeing any profit in suffering; rather, it is considered a tragedy, an inconvenience that hinders progress, a fate to be avoided.

But for the Christian the point of suffering should be clearer. In summary, we may say that the Scriptures teach that it is the will of God that believers suffer–not all the time, not all the same, and some very little. That is not to say that God enjoys it, or that people should seek it. But the Bible says that it is inevitable. Jesus said that if the world hated him, it would hate us as well. Paul said all who live Godly lives in this world will suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3), and that it was given to us to believe and to suffer (Phil. 1:29). And Peter explains that Christ’s death, revealed so fully in Isaiah, is both our justification and our sample to follow so that we might know how to suffer (1 Pet. 2:19-23). Moreover, our Lord himself learned obedience through the things that he suffered (Heb. 5:8)–and if that is true of the sinless Son of God, how much more is it true of us? All of these teachings simply say that suffering is inevitable in this life, especially if we seek to live a righteous life of spiritual service.

The sample for us to follow in our suffering–if it comes–is the suffering of Jesus Christ our Lord. It is displayed graphically in the prophecy of Isaiah, written centuries before the actual death of Jesus. Isaiah displays the ideal sufferer, but never names him. That identification had to await the fulness of time, when Jesus claimed, and the disciples could see, that Jesus was fulfilling Isaiahs oracles.

The song is divided into five sections or stanzas of three verses each. The first line of each stanza gives a summary of that section. And, the entire first stanza is a summary or an overview of all that the song will say.

I. “My Servant Shall Prosper”
The suffering leads to glory (52:13-15).

A. My servant shall be exalted (52:13).

The grand theme of the entire song is summed up in the first three verses: the servant who endured such suffering will eventually be exalted on high to the amazement of all the world. He will be highly exalted–and the means of this exaltation is that he will “deal wisely” or “wisely prosper.” The verb describes prudent and practical wisdom that finds success doing the will of God. He will live wisely before God and therefore prosper. Jeremiah 23:5 associates this verb with Messiah’s receiving the kingdom.

Since the song will describe his death, the exaltation here assumes a resurrection. This passage does not explain that precisely, but other passages do. There could be no exaltation of one who stayed dead.

B. The exaltation will contrast with the humiliation (14, 15).

The theme of the humiliation is now developed: earlier, many were aghast or astonished at him because his form was so marred (literally ruined, spoiled). His appearance was so changed by affliction that kings were astonished that such a one should be exalted over them (v. 15). He will startle3_ftn2 these kings, for they will see what they never thought could have happened.

The point to be made here is that the suffering servant will ultimately prosper with God because he dealt wisely–he did the will of God. He has insight, and so his suffering is practical. He endures the suffering because he knows it is leading somewhere–to glory. Pain in God’s service will lead to glory (2 Cor. 4); and the pain in the sacrifice of Christ Jesus will lead to the greatest glory, his glory for ever, for he will reign as king of kings and Lord of Lords–to the amazement of all.

II. “Who has believed?”
The suffering is offensive (53:1-3).

A. The report meets with disbelief (1).

If we may paraphrase this verse, we would say, “No one ever imagined this!” For ages, the prophet predicts, people would not believe the word that such a suffering servant could be at the heart of God’s redemptive plan and would eventually be exalted on high. Isaiah uses a series of questions to make this point: the penitent would reflect on this, and eventually realize it–who would have imagined?

B. The suffering is observed (2, 3).

The response to his sufferings is so true to life: they are at first thought to make him insignificant, and then they are considered to be offensive. First, he was considered insignificant. Who would have thought that a carpenter’s son from Nazareth would figure in the eternal plan of God this way? He was just a tender plant out of parched ground, nothing great and glorious. Certainly not kingly. He did not appeal to them in any kingly way so that they might rally to him.

But then the more they observed them his sufferings became offensive: he was despised (v. 3). His life was filled with grief and sorrows, so that people turned away their faces. In short, they did not “esteem” him–they did not think much of him, especially in this condition, so they wrote him off, as it were.

These words point out a habit we all share, the habit of letting the sight of suffering blind us to the meaning. We don’t like to look on anyone who is suffering or even disabled. We forget that such conditions have a purpose and a future and a God. We make snap judgments about sufferers and their value to life in general or to God. The point is that suffering is a part of God’s plan to remind us of the human predicament we share, to bring us out of ourselves in sympathy and patience, and to eventually fit us for glory. It was certainly so in the case of Christ, more so than imagineable.

III. “Surely our griefs”
The suffering is vicarious (53:4-6).

A. The servant’s suffering is punishment (4).

The earliest and most common moral judgment that people make about pain is that which is implied in its name–it is penal. People think that those who suffer do so because God is angry with them and punishing them. That is exactly what Job’s three friends argued relentlessly. Here, the people say in the words of the Isaiah the prophet, ‘we saw the suffering servant and thought that God was striking him severely.

But now they knew they were partially wrong. The hand of God was indeed against the sufferer, but the sin was not his, but theirs. It was penal–but he did not deserve it.

B. The punishment of the servant was vicarious and redemptive (5, 6).

As we read these two verses, we must note the contrast between the “he” expressions and the “our” expressions. In the first set we see that he endured the suffering, we had the sins that deserved the suffering, and so his sufferings were vicarious–for others.

The second set shows that the sufferings were also redemptive: “our peace” and “we are healed.” The pain was the consequence of our sin; and the peace that is ours was the consequence of his suffering. Thus, the suffering was not only vicarious, but now redemptive.

This truth is confessed by Israel in verse 6. The verse begins and ends with the word “all.” So the substitutionary suffering of this servant touches all who have sinned; it benefits all who acknowledge his suffering with these correct words: “the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

In every family, in every nation, innocent people often suffer for the guilty. So vicarious suffering is not unique to the Messiah. It is part of human life. Vicarious suffering is not a curse; it is part of the service we have to God and to mankind. People like Daniel, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah went into the captivity with the sinners and the idolaters–they did not deserve to go. But they were able to use it as an opportunity to proclaim God’s word. Even on a lesser note we know that parents who suffer for their children when they are sick or in need understand the impulse of vicarious suffering. People in a country suffer because of the mistakes of leaders or previous generations. We may suffer because we deserve it; but we may also suffer because of others, or out of love for others in service to other people. That is noble and magnificent: greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15). But it is limited–it cannot save another person.

So then, as great as vicarious suffering can be, it is not redemptive when we do it. What is pictured here is that the suffering of our Lord Jesus also removed sin. When Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he became the sin-bearer for us. No other suffering could have done this. It took the suffering of God incarnate, the holy one who knew no sin, to remove the sins.

IV. “Oppressed he humbled himself”
The suffering was accepted (53:7-9).

A. The suffering servant was silent (7).

What is remarkable is that this suffering servant accepted his affliction in silence. This is almost unheard of. In the Old Testament, especially in the Book of Psalms, the sufferers either confess their sins that brought on the sufferings, or cry out that they are suffering and do not deserve it. They either confess of complain. But not the Messiah: he did not confess sin, for he had none; and he did not even cry out in complaint, for his death was vicarious. How could he remain silent? He knew the truth; he dealt wisely. If anything will enable a person to accept suffering silently it is this–the knowledge that the suffering is a service to God and will help others who are suffering.

B. The suffering servant was innocent (4).

The prophet affirms that this sufferer has done no wrong; there was no guile in him. Yet he was taken to judgment by tyrannical powers. It was a judicial murder. And when they considered that he was lawfully put to death, they gave him a convict’s grave. On this note the stanza ends: he was an innocent man, the only innocent man ever to walk on earth; but he silently submitted to oppression, an oppression that brought him a criminal’s death. From all outward appearances an innocent man’s life ended fruitlessly. But nothing could be further from the truth.

V. “It pleased the LORD”
The suffering was efficacious (10-12).

It appeared to many that the death of this servant was an awful tragedy. Surely here passed into oblivion the fairest life that ever lived. People might see it and say that God forsakes his own–even in his own sufferings that thought crossed the Messiah’s mind. But Isaiah will now declare that the suffering was efficacious–it accomplished God’s will.

A. The suffering was God’s will (10).

“It pleased the LORD to bruise him.” This does not mean that God really enjoyed it! It means that God willed it, and that is satisfied God’s will. This is the one truth that can render any pain tolerable–God willed it. So, anyone that God calls to suffer for him must make it his or her purpose to please God with it. Therein is success with God.

B. The suffering was our justification (10b, 11).

This suffering was powerful to effect its intended results (i.e., it was efficacious)–it justified sinners. God made his innocent sufferer a guilt offering (Lev. 5) for many, so that by the knowledge of him people might be justified. Those who know him, those who come to personal faith in him and acknowledge their sin and his salvation, are justified. Paul explains that the Father made the Son to be sin for us, that we might become righteous in his sight (2 Cor. 5). We, the guilty sinners, have been declared righteous because of his vicarious sufferings.

By the way, the word “many” used throughout this passage is the word that Jesus used in the upper room to apply Isaiah 53 to his death: “This is my blood of the New Covenant which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28).

C. The suffering will lead to the servant’s exaltation (10b-12).

With this note the passage comes full circle. Isaiah says that because he bore the sins of many, that is, because he made “intercession” for sinners in his self-sacrificing love, God appointed him to honor and glory. The rest of the Bible explains that his exaltation involves his resurrection from the dead, his ascension to heaven, and his coming in glory. We shall return to this when we focus on the belief in the resurrection.

Using military figures, Isaiah says that he will divide the spoil, that is, celebrate victory. But there is a hint here to of his coming to conquer evil (see Ps. 110).

So in his suffering the servant was closest to his glory; he may have been despised and rejected by people, but he was pleasing to God, and that assured his exaltation in glory.

Conclusion

Isaiah, then, presents a picture of the ideal sufferer. He does not identify him, but his language parallels so many other prophecies about the coming Messiah that we know it had a future fulfillment in his mind. And then when the Son of God came into the world and fulfilled this passage to the letter (so far), we know that it was a prophecy of Jesus the Messiah. By his suffering we have peace with God; by them we have been justified because our sins have been paid for. Or, to put it another way, apart from his vicarious sufferings there is no remision of sins for sinners, no hope of justification with God. That is why the Church worships and serves Jesus Christ the savior. Worthy is the Lamb!

But there is a practical side to this passage too apart from its great prophetic message. We who believe in Christ are called to follow him, and that usually involves suffering in one way or another. When Peter quoted this chapter in his epistle, he explained that it also left us a sample of how we should suffer. If God calls us to suffer in some way for him, then we need to understand that it is service to God, it is part of the pilgrimage to glory, and that we must use it to glorify him and help others. Knowing that it is part of the will of God and will lead to greater glory, we will be better able to endure it and use it properly.

Allen RossDr Ross joined the faculty of Beeson Divinity School in 2002 as Beeson Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew. He is the author of Introducing Biblical Hebrew and Grammar, Holiness to the Lord: A Guide to the Exposition of the Book of Leviticus, Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis, and Recalling the Hope of Glory: Biblical Worship from the Garden to the New Creation. He has contributed numerous articles to scholarly journals. Previously, he taught at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry and Dallas Theological Seminary, and served as director of the Christian Leadership Center, Tallahassee, Florida.



We Must Demolish Division in Our Nation With These 4 Prayer Principles

Our greatest hope lies only in Jesus Christ, His gospel and the advancement of this Good News message reaching every corner of America and across this world (image: Pixabay).

Division abounds in almost every segment of America. Sadly, it exists even between Christians and in most churches. For too long, disunity has triumphed in our nation. It is time for this to come to an end.

Our greatest hope lies only in Jesus Christ, His gospel and the advancement of this Good News message reaching every corner of America and across this world.

While we call out to God for His church to be revived by the Spirit and come together in unity and simultaneously pray extraordinarily for the next great spiritual awakening in America, I want to ask you to consider these four actions for all Christians right now.

1. Rest in the Lord

Resting in the Lord is not lying down; it is trusting in the Lord. Jesus is still Lord, and God is still on the throne. One day, every leader in our nation, from the most unrecognized part of American society to the members of the highest court of our land, will stand in front of the highest court of eternity, God Himself, and give an account to Him. They will not be alone. Each of us will give an account of our lives to God.

A call to action is important, but at times we also need to pause. We need to get before God. Rest in Him. Our God has all things under control.

2. Come Together in Unity

Followers of Christ need each other more than ever before. While certain secondary doctrinal differences will exist, we need to unite around the beliefs that:

  • The Bible is God’s infallible Word; it is truth without any mixture of error.
  • Jesus is the Son of God and the hope of the world; therefore, salvation is faith alone in Christ alone.
  • We must focus our lives, churches and futures on taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in America and across the world.

We need to stop fighting over secondary issues and rise up together to become the spiritual light in this darkening America and world.

3. Prepare for the Future

What will the church become in the future of America? Will we lose our freedom or have it affirmed?

We need to prepare for the future realistically, but also with great hope. Regardless of the present cultural tide that is rising in direct opposition to the ways of God, we are a gospel people committed to Christ alone.

Our future is not in the hands of the United States government; our future is in the hands of our sovereign God.

We need to prepare future generations spiritually and vocationally for what God wants them to be and how He wants them to live for Him.

4. Pray Like Never Before for the Next Great Spiritual Awakening

Minute by minute, day by day, a stronger conviction is growing that America must have the next great spiritual awakening in our generation. Without a mighty revival in the church and an awakening in the land that will result in millions coming to Christ, we are facing days that will become darker and more difficult.

Yet, I am abounding with greater hope than ever before. I believe God wants greatly to awaken the sleeping giant called the church!

The alarm clock is going off in our nation and this is not the time to push the snooze button. I do not believe the church will sleep through this season in America.

We need a mighty, nationwide movement of prayer to take place now. Prayer precedes every great movement of God biblically and historically.

Rise together now, stand upon God’s Word unashamedly, forward the message of the gospel exponentially and pray relentlessly every day for the next great spiritual awakening in America.

I choose to believe God.

Dr. Ronnie Floyd is the senior pastor of Cross Church, president of the National Day of Prayer and founder of the Cross Church School of Ministry.



Prayer for the Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula

Pray for justice, peace and reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula (The Church Of Scotland).

The Korean War 1950-53 devastated the Korean Peninsula, reinforcing the division between the North and South that had been in place since the end of World War II. Up to 5 million people died and thousands were separated from their families. A ceasefire was signed in July 1953, which is still in place today.

The WCC has highlighted the need for an international campaign for a Peace Treaty to replace this Armistice Agreement, with the view to a peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula.

The WCC is encouraging everyone to pray for the Korean Peninsula on the Sunday before the 15th August every year.

A Prayer for the Korean Peninsula

God of all hopefulness.

Despite dreams of living together as one family, our brothers and sisters in North and South Korea remain separated.

As they thirst for peace and reconciliation in their beautiful land,

we pray that wars and rumours of wars will no more disturb their harmony; that there will be opportunities for each to accompany the other; and for all to write a new history of reconciliation and peace.

Shower them and us all, with your grace and strengthen all, to be leaders in service and offer hope, grace and justice to the world.

Amen.

Lord, you who have defeated death and risen,
In this season where we remember the joys of resurrection,
Thank you for showing the marvels of life this spring through the vitality of green life.

Yes Lord!
This world was created beautifully in God’s eyes, Who also sent his one and only Son, Jesus,
To save those who have sinned against You.
Lord, You have shown us how to live as God’s children, And Your Spirit has led us not only through life,
But also through history. But Lord,
The sorrows of the 70-years ethnic separation,
Still lingers since the time of our North/South division. We have lost the hopes of ‘becoming one with God’, And have sought after earthly goods instead of peace.

Pity us, Lord.
Clear away the pain-filled memories of separation, And also the rusty barbed-wires.
Help the North and the South fulfill a life of harmony and peace,
As the farmer readies himself to till new land and plant new life, Prepare us Lord.

Lord,
Help us first open our firmly closed hearts,
So that we can embrace each other with tenderness.
Let us sow the seeds of tolerance, love and service,
And with God’s blessings,
May that land bear much fruit,
And bless our people with a life full of joy and harmony.

God of life,
Help the churches of the North and the South,
To defeat this cold death-like reality. God of peace,
Help us work together with one united mind,
To fulfill the dreams of unification.
Help us remember the days when the North and the South once were one,
To better live into a world of harmony and peace.

God of life,
In this season of resurrection where we await the signs of spring, Help us see the hopes of new life,
Sprouting in the cold barren land.

God of justice,
In this land where Your glory awaits,
Let the rivers of justice flow,
Bringing forth Your plans for us.
In Jesus name, the one who has defeated death and risen again
Amen

National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK)
Korean Christian Federation (KCF)
Both the NCCK of the South and the KCF of the North worked together to prepare this Joint Easter Community Prayer.



Holy Week

by Dennis Bratcher, Christian Resource Institute | The entire week between Palm Sunday and Holy Saturday is included in Holy Week, and some church traditions have daily services during the week. However, usually only Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday are times of special observance in most churches (crivoice.org).

Holy Week is the last week of Lent, the week immediately preceding Easter or Resurrection Sunday.  It is observed in many Christian churches as a time to commemorate and enact the suffering (Passion) and death of Jesus through various observances and services of worship. While some church traditions focus specifically on the events of the last week of Jesus’ life, many of the liturgies symbolize larger themes that marked Jesus’ entire ministry. Observances during this week range from daily liturgical services in churches to informal meetings in homes to participate in a Christian version of the Passover Seder.

In Catholic tradition, the conclusion to the week is called the Easter Triduum (a triduum is a space of three days usually accompanying a church festival or holy days that are devoted to special prayer and observance). Some liturgical traditions, such as Lutherans, simply refer to “The Three Days.”  The Easter Triduum begins Thursday evening of Holy Week with Eucharist and concludes with evening prayers Easter Sunday.

Increasingly, evangelical churches that have tended to look with suspicion on traditional “High-Church” observances of Holy Week are now realizing the value of Holy Week services, especially on Good Friday (see Low Church and High Church). This has a solid theological basis both in Scripture and in the traditions of the Faith. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who was executed by the Nazis, wrote of the Cost of Discipleship and warned of “cheap grace” that did not take seriously either the gravity of sin or the radical call to servanthood: “When Jesus bids a man come, he bids him come and die.”

It is this dimension that is well served by Holy Week observances, as they call us to move behind the joyful celebrations of Palm Sunday and Easter, and focus on the suffering, humiliation, and death that is part of Holy Week. It is important to place the hope of the Resurrection, the promise of newness and life, against the background of death and endings. It is only in walking through the shadows and darkness of Holy Week and Good Friday, only in realizing the horror and magnitude of sin and  its consequences in the world incarnated in the dying Jesus on the cross, only in contemplating the ending and despair that the disciples felt on Holy Saturday, that we can truly understand the light and hope of Sunday morning!

In observing this truth, that new beginnings come from endings, many people are able to draw a parable of their own lives and faith journey from the observances of Holy Week. In providing people with the opportunity to experience this truth in liturgy and symbol, the services become a powerful proclamation of the transformative power of the Gospel, and God at work in the lives of people.

The entire week between Palm Sunday and Holy Saturday is included in Holy Week, and some church traditions have daily services during the week. However, usually only Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday are times of special observance in most churches.

Palm Sunday (or Passion Sunday)

Holy Week begins with the sixth Sunday in Lent.  This Sunday observes the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem that was marked by the crowds who were in Jerusalem for Passover waving palm branches and proclaiming him as the messianic king. The Gospels tell us that Jesus rode into the city on a donkey, enacting the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, and in so doing emphasized the humility that was to characterize the Kingdom he proclaimed. The irony of his acceptance as the new Davidic King (Mark 11:10) by the crowds who would only five days later cry for his execution should be a sobering reminder of the human tendency to want God on our own terms.

Traditionally, worshippers enact the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem by the waving of palm branches and singing songs of celebration. Sometimes this is accompanied by a processional into the church.  In many churches, children are an integral part of this service since they enjoy processions and activity as a part of worship. This provides a good opportunity to involve them in the worship life of the community of Faith. In many more liturgical churches, children are encouraged to craft palm leaves that were used for the Sunday processional into crosses to help make the connection between the celebration of Palm Sunday and the impending events of Holy Week.

This Sunday is also known as Passion Sunday to commemorate the beginning of Holy Week and Jesus’ final agonizing journey to the cross.  The English word passion comes from a Latin word that means “to suffer,” the same word from which we derive the English word patient.

In most Protestant traditions, the liturgical color for The Season of Lent is purple, and that color is used until Easter Sunday. In Catholic tradition (and some others), the colors are changed to Red for Palm Sunday. Red is the color of the church, used for Pentecost as well as remembering the martyrs of the church. Since it symbolizes shed blood, it is also used on Palm Sunday to symbolize the death of Jesus. While most Protestants celebrate the Sunday before Easter as Palm Sunday, in Catholic and other church traditions it is also celebrated as Passion Sunday anticipating the impending death of Jesus. In some Church traditions (Anglican), the church colors are changed to red for the fifth Sunday in Lent, with the last two Sundays in Lent observed as Passiontide.

Increasingly, many churches are incorporating an emphasis on the Passion of Jesus into services on Palm Sunday as a way to balance the celebration of Easter Sunday.  Rather than having the two Sundays both focus on triumph, Passion Sunday is presented as a time to reflect on the suffering and death of Jesus in a Sunday service of worship. This provides an opportunity for people who do not or cannot attend a Good Friday Service to experience the contrast of Jesus’ death and the Resurrection, rather than celebrating the Resurrection in isolation from Jesus’ suffering. However, since Sunday services are always celebrations of the Resurrection of Jesus during the entire year, even an emphasis on the Passion of Jesus on this Sunday should not be mournful or end on a negative note, as do most Good Friday Services (which is the reason Eucharist or Communion is not normally celebrated on Good Friday).

Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday

There are a variety of events that are clustered on this last day before Jesus was arrested that are commemorated in various ways in services of worship. These include the last meal together, which was probably a Passover meal, the institution of Eucharist or Communion, the betrayal by Judas (because of the exchange with Jesus at the meal), and Jesus praying in Gethsemane while the disciples fell asleep. Most liturgies, however, focus on the meal and communion as a way to commemorate this day.

During the last few days, Jesus and His disciples had steadily journeyed from Galilee toward Jerusalem. On the sunlight hillsides of Galilee, Jesus was popular, the crowds were friendly and the future was bright. Even his entry into Jerusalem had been marked by a joyous welcome. But in Jerusalem there was a growing darkness as the crowds began to draw back from the man who spoke of commitment and servanthood. There was an ominous tone in the murmuring of the Sadducees and Pharisees who were threatened by the new future Jesus proclaimed.

Even as Jesus and his disciples came together to share this meal, they already stood in the shadow of the cross. It was later that night, after the meal, as Jesus and His disciples were praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, that Jesus was arrested and taken to the house of Caiaphas the High Priest. On Friday He would die.

There is some difference in the chronology of these events between the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and John’s account (see Synoptic Problem). In the Synoptics, this last meal was a Passover meal, observing the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt when death “passed over” the Hebrew homes as the tenth plague fell upon the Egyptians. Yet, in John’s account the Passover would not be celebrated until the next day. And while the Synoptics recount the institution of Communion (Eucharist) during this final meal, John instead tells us about Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet as a sign of servanthood.

In any case, this Thursday of Holy Week is remembered as the time Jesus ate a final meal together with the men who had followed him for so long. We do not have to solve these historical questions to remember and celebrate in worship what Jesus did and taught and modeled for us here, what God was doing in Jesus the Christ. And the questions should not shift our attention from the real focus of the story: the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Traditionally in the Christian Church, this day is known as Maundy Thursday. The term Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum (from which we get our English word mandate), from a verb that means “to give,” “to entrust,” or “to order.” The term is usually translated “commandment,” from John’s account of this Thursday night.  According to the Fourth Gospel, as Jesus and the Disciples were eating their final meal together before Jesus’ arrest, he washed the disciples’ feet to illustrate humility and the spirit of servanthood. After they had finished the meal, as they walked into the night toward Gethsemane, Jesus taught his disciples a “new” commandment that was not really new (John 13:34-35):

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, you also ought to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

The colors for Maundy Thursday are usually the colors of Lent, royal purple or red violet. Some traditions, however, use red for Maundy Thursday, the color of the church, in order to identify with the community of disciples that followed Jesus. Along the same line, some use this day to honor the apostles who were commissioned by Jesus to proclaim the Gospel throughout the world.

The sharing of the Eucharist, or sacrament of thanksgiving, on Maundy Thursday is the means by which most Christians observe this day. There is a great variety in exactly how the service is conducted, however. In some churches, it is traditional for the pastor or priest to wash the feet of members of the congregation as part of the service (John 13:3-15). Increasingly, churches are observing some form of the Passover Seder as a setting for the Eucharist of Maundy Thursday (see Introduction to a Christian Seder and Haggadah for a Christian Seder). Some churches simply have a “pot-luck” dinner together concluded with a short time of singing and communion.

In some church traditions all of the altar coverings and decorations are removed after the Eucharist is celebrated on Maundy Thursday. Psalm 22 is sometimes either read or sung while the altar paraments are being removed. Since the altar in these traditions symbolize the Christ, the “stripping of the altar” symbolizes the abandonment of Jesus by his disciples and the stripping of Jesus by the soldiers prior to his crucifixion.  This, like the darkness often incorporated into a Good Friday service, represents the humiliation of Jesus and the consequences of sin as a preparation for the celebration of new life and hope that is to come on Resurrection Day.  Some churches only leave the altar bare until the Good Friday Service, when the normal coverings are replaced with black.

However it is celebrated, the Eucharist of Maundy Thursday is especially tied to the theme of remembering. As Jesus and his disciples followed the instructions in the Torah to remember God’s acts of deliverance in their history as they shared the Passover meal together, so Jesus calls us to remember the new act of deliverance in our history that unfolds on these last days of Holy week.

Good Friday, or Holy Friday

Friday of Holy Week has been traditionally been called Good Friday or Holy Friday. On this day, the church commemorates Jesus’ arrest (since by Jewish customs of counting days from sundown to sundown it was already Friday), his trial, crucifixion and suffering, death, and burial. Since services on this day are to observe Jesus’ death, and since Eucharist is a celebration, there is traditionally no Communion observed on Good Friday. Also, depending on how the services are conducted on this day, all pictures, statutes, and the cross are covered in mourning black, the chancel and altar coverings are replaced with black, and altar candles are extinguished.  They are left this way through Saturday, but are always replaced with white before sunrise on Sunday.

There are a variety of services of worship for Good Friday, all aimed at allowing worshippers to experience some sense of the pain, humiliation, and ending in the journey to the cross. The traditional Catholic service for Good Friday was held in mid-afternoon to correspond to the final words of Jesus from the cross (around 3 PM, Matt 27:46-50). However, modern schedules have led many churches to move the service to the evening to allow more people to participate. Usually, a Good Friday service is a series of Scripture readings, a short homily, and a time of meditation and prayer.  One traditional use of Scripture is to base the homily or devotional on the Seven Last Words of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel traditions.

Father, forgive them . . . (Luke 23:34)
This day you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43)
Woman, behold your son . . .(John 19:26-27)
My God, my God . . . (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34)
I thirst.  (John 19:28)
It is finished! (John 19:30)
Father into your hands . . . (Luke 23:46)

Some churches use the Stations of the Cross as part of the Good Friday Service. This service uses paintings or banners to represent various scenes from Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, trial, and death, and the worshipers move to the various stations to sing hymns or pray as the story is told . There is a great variety in how this service is conducted, and various traditions use different numbers of stations to tell the story.

Another common service for Good Friday is Tenebrae (Latin for “shadows” or “darkness”). Sometimes this term is applied generally to all church services on the last three days of Holy week. More specifically, however, it is used of the Service of Darkness or Service of Shadows, usually held in the evening of Good Friday. Again, there are varieties of this service, but it is usually characterized by a series of Scripture readings and meditation done in stages while lights and/or candles are gradually extinguished to symbolize the growing darkness not only of Jesus’ death but of hopelessness in the world without God. The service ends in darkness, sometimes with a final candle, the Christ candle, carried out of the sanctuary, symbolizing the death of Jesus. Often the service concludes with a loud noise symbolizing the closing of Jesus’ tomb (see The Empty Tomb). The worshipers then leave in silence to wait.

Some churches do observe communion on Good Friday. However, traditionally Eucharist is not served on Good Friday since it is a celebration of thanksgiving.  Good Friday is not a day of celebration but of mourning, both for the death of Jesus and for the sins of the world that his death represents. Yet, although Friday is a solemn time, it is not without its own joy. For while it is important to place the Resurrection against the darkness of Good Friday, likewise the somberness of Good Friday should always be seen with the hope of Resurrection Sunday. Still, Good Friday observances should not yet move into celebration. (For an example of a homily that focuses on the dimension of mourning and loss.)

Holy Saturday

This is the seventh day of the week, the day Jesus rested in the tomb. In the first three Gospel accounts this was the Jewish Sabbath, which provided appropriate symbolism of the seventh day rest. While some church traditions continue daily services on Saturday, there is no communion served on this day.

Some traditions suspend services and Scripture readings during the day on Saturday, to be resumed at the Easter Vigil after sundown Saturday. It is traditionally a day of quiet meditation as Christians contemplate the darkness of a world without a future and without hope apart from God and his grace.

It is also a time to remember family and the faithful who have died as we await the resurrection, or to honor the martyrs who have given their lives for the cause of Christ in the world.  While Good Friday is a traditional day of fasting, some also fast on Saturday as the climax of the season of Lent.  An ancient tradition dating to the first centuries of the church calls for no food of any kind to be eaten on Holy Saturday, or for 40 hours before sunrise on Sunday.  However it is observed, Holy Saturday has traditionally been a time of reflection and waiting, the time of weeping that lasts for the night while awaiting the joy that comes in the morning (Psa 30:5).



Living the Christian Life

by All About Following Jesus | What does the Bible say about how to live the Christian life? AllAboutGOD.com | Contact us here.

How to live the Christian life is a topic that is discussed in many Bible passages. One of the most notable discourses was between Jesus and Nicodemus. Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish council, went to Jesus during the night to discover how to live the Christian life. Jesus explains to Nicodemus that he must be born again: “…I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3). Salvation is the beginning step in living a Christian life. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus encourages all believers to grow in relationship, commitment, and obedience to Him. This is the essence of how to live a Christian life. Our relationship, commitment, and obedience are done out of love, not constraint. John 14:21 says, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”

Living the Christian life is not abiding by an agenda or following a set of strict rules. Instead, the Christian life is characterized by:

  • Understanding that you are a new creation! 2 Corinthians 5:17 declares: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
  • Transforming and renewing your mind. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
  • Treating others with love. Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
  • Living out the teachings of Christ. Jesus taught: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3-10).
  • Sharing your faith. Matthew 5:14-16 says, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

Living the Christian life does not mean enjoying a life of ease and never experiencing problems. 1 Peter 5:8 says that there is an enemy who wishes to destroy us: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” But we also read that Jesus has overcome the world!

No matter what opposition you face, living the Christian life is worth it! Enjoying a relationship with God and His Son Jesus, being confident of where you will spend eternity, and living in day-to-day fellowship with Him is far greater than any opposition you may face.

All About Following Jesus,

We live in an awesome era! We’ve peered to the edge of the massive cosmos.
We’ve delved into the intricate world of the microscopic cell.
We’ve discovered archaeological treasures that establish the veracity of biblical events.
We’ve deciphered the digital code of the human genome.
We’ve established the reliability of ancient biblical manuscripts.
We’ve developed principles of quantum physics that allow for an extra-dimensional Creator.
We’ve witnessed the actual fulfillment of biblical prophecy in Israel.
We’ve watched the rapid deployment of space-age communication technologies that can provide access and exposure to all of these realities.

 

Yes, we live in an awesome era!
We’ve witnessed phenomenal events and collected compelling evidence that all point to something outside ourselves. We’ve seen evidence of God like no other period in the last 2,000 years. What a time to wake up, pursue life, seek truth, and share our journeys with others!

This information is offered by AllAboutGOD.com, which is structured as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. If you would like to support our efforts, you can make a tax-deductible contribution here. Thanks!

 

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Death: Is It Good Night or Goodbye?

by Michael Jolayemi | What does death mean? Death is a word that no one wants to hear except those that have been pushed to the brinks of life either by unpleasant situations which they could no longer handle, or those who somehow have descended to the lowest ebb of life faculty.

It is natural and human to be filled with deep sorrow when our loved ones die. The physical separation is usually agonizing. Often, it seems unthinkable as we see one’s father, mother, sibling, or friend lying in the wooden casket, and being lowered into mother earth, knowing that in reality we cannot see them anymore in this mortal body. The emotion is often high and is expressed with mourning, weeping and heartbreak when we face the reality of never again being able to embrace our loved one as we used to do. Death is an enemy we love to avoid but it is a monster we cannot wish away. The thought of it freaks out the strong minded. No matter how careful we live our lives, either we eat healthy, exercise, and maintain all forms of discipline to live a hundred years on earth, the imminence of death remains real. Life is a paradox, our body which used to be very strong traversing from one end of the world to the other would soon cave in to weakness. Most of the organs of the body would begin to experience the usual and expected changes which come with aging. The legs would ache and no longer be able to carry the body, the eyes would become deem and the ears dull to hear clearly.

The admonitions of King Solomon are key in directing human thought process not to place too much reliance on our failing mortal body. The King said, “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them” (Eccl 12: 1). The days are coming, according to King Solomon and we see them as we advanced in age; when the organs of the body can no longer cope with the stress of this world. He said, “In the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men bow down; when the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look through the windows grow dim; when the doors are shut in the streets, and the sound of grinding is low; when one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of music are brought low. Also they are afraid of height and of terrors in the way; when the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper is a burden, and desire fails. Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the well. Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. (Eccl 12: 3-7). When the rest who are living and see the deceased one being lowered into dust, King Solomon’s saying, “Vanity of vanities, All is vanity”, will become a reality again.

I was very close to my mother, being the first of her seven children. We all adored her because she lavished love on us. She was married for about fourteen years without any sign of pregnancy. When the Lord Jesus Christ opened the door, the blessings of children were so overwhelming that at the number seven, she knew it was time to brace up to take good care of these bundles of blessings that the Lord had given her. I was particularly loved and cherished by her because she referred to me as “Adesina”, the one who came and opened the door for blessings. For the past twelve years that I was in the United States, and except when I travelled to Nigeria to visit with her, we spoke at least twice a week, thanks to telephone technology. Her common greetings to me and to any of her children were usually prayers. If anything, I miss these weekly prayers because they encouraged me in my daily journeys. But the cold hands of death finally cut off this beautiful relationship of sixty-one years. One of the days in the recent times, I recall in my discussions with my mother, she was desirous of vacating her mortal body. She said, we should let her go and I was shocked and wondered where and why Mom wanted to go. The fact was that the old woman was tired of body pains that come with old age. And much as I hated to hear that from her, it was a reality that would certainly be one day; and that was December 31, 2017, just before the dawn of the new year. When everyone was saying happy New Year 2018, my beloved mother was being welcomed to another world of no pain.

What does death mean? Death is a word that no one wants to hear except those that have been pushed to the brinks of life either by unpleasant situations which they could no longer handle, or those who somehow have descended to the lowest ebb of life faculty. The very word “death” strikes fear in the hearts of people. Humanity knows that death will come but they dread the day it would be. The interesting thing about death is that it is a leveler who cares less about the status, the achievement and the wealth of anyone. In death, the proud is humbled because all the essence of your pride is gone wth the wind and the rich is as helpless as the poor when death shows up. The modern sophistications, technological achievement, and immense progress in the field of science have not been able to conquer death. Paradoxically, death expects humanity to fear no other but him. Sickness, accident, and other life calamities bring pains but cannot kill until death comes. That is why many sick people spend years in suffering on sick bed but do not die. But another who had no sign of sickness may run into death. The signal here is that you don’t have to be sick or involved in accident before you die. The significant lesson of death is that when it comes, you cannot tell the story of how it feels, only those who are alive and left by the dead would pass through the devastating experience of explainable loss.

There are several questions we do not have answer to about life after death. This makes it the more painful when the loved one is taken away. I lived with my Mom for over sixty-one years on earth. Will she continue to be my mother when I also transition to the beyond where she is? With her love showered all around me while she was here, I wish I would have the same thing in heaven. The same questions for husbands and wives who enjoy their relationship while on earth, will such relationship continue? Going by the scripture, some of these relationships end on earth. In answer to a question about marriage after death, Jesus said: “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Mat. 22:30). Angelic beings do not have troubles or pain, including relationship issues. It is also clear that human relationship on earth will not continue in heaven because everyone will be judged individually in heaven by whatever they did in their body while on earth here. What X did on earth cannot impact the life of Y in heaven. As Paul said “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” 1 Corinth. 5:10. Ezekiel said, “The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself” (Ezek. 18:20)

An encouraging side of the possible scene in heaven is that we will recognize one another going by the parable told by our Lord Jesus Christ in Luke 16:19-31, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.” Though Lazarus recognized the rich man, he could not help him. The time to do good to those who deserve and those who do not deserve it was over at death. The manner of living and the interactions between the beings in heaven remain a mystery to us. This is why some people are concerned about understanding the mystery of life after life.

What is the lesson about the imminence of death? Death teaches us the importance of taking our relationships on earth seriously and honestly living together in love and helping one another to enjoy the brief moments we have on earth. Children should obey and honor their parents. Parents should do whatever possible to give a good legacy to their children and put them in position to live fruitful and purposeful lives. I kept telling my Mom while she was alive that she should ask for anything she wanted, and it would be done for her enjoyment while she lived. I wished I gave her more than she got from me while she was physically here. We are grateful to God that she lived a purposeful life. How is our relationship as husband and wife? Workers and co-workers? Neighbors? When death comes, these relationships are over. What we do for one another while alive will be remembered in eternity. “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psa. 90:12)

However, as professors of Christian faith we know and we believe that death is not our end. We know that death is an open door to eternity with God. By faith, we accept that, though our understanding is limited, we stand by the admonitions of John to us: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Paul talked of what should matter to us while our beloved one dies, he said, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep [dead], that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thess. 4:13-14). Resurrection is the blow that the Lord Jesus Christ dealt on death to nullify its impact on humanity. Paul highlighted the importance of resurrection to the Christian faith. “But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Cor. 15:14-22)

As Christians, we grieve but not like people without hope. Our hope is hinged on this fact that Jesus resurrected and we shall also resurrect. Resurrection makes the difference for the believers. We have the assurance that all those who die in the Lord Jesus Christ would see one another again at the resurrection. This is our hope and joy, which takes care of the grieve in our hearts. This is why I can say with all assurance to my Mom, it is good night and not good bye.

Michael JolayemiMichael Jolayemi is an writer and Bible scholar. He has written few books on social issues: “Saving America: The war we can’t ignore”; and “Sheltered through the storm: the travails and ultimate triumph of the Church.” His next book is about the Sin issue and will be out by God’s grace soon. You can connect with Michael via www.conservativevoiceofreason.com or www.michaeljolayemi.com.

 



NIGERIA: Apostolic Administrator Calls for Reconciliation in Ahiara Diocese

by Henry Onyango | MBAISE, MARCH 20, 2018(CISA) – Bishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji, Apostolic Administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Ahiara has called for forgiveness and reconciliation to bring to an end the crisis in the diocese.

Every authentic healing and renewal begins with reconciliation with God, who gives peace to our souls. We all need interior peace and renewal and to ensure that our diocese forges ahead,” Catholic News Service of Nigeria quoted Bishop Ugorji who is also the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Umuahia as saying on March 18.

In his homily while celebrating his first Mass at Mater Ecclesiae Cathedral since his appointment on February 12, Bishop Ugorji called for a new dawn of love, forgiveness, sincere reconciliation, respect for authority and sustenance of the integrity of the Church.

Bishop Ugorji while appreciating the dedication of the missionaries and early fathers of the Church in the land noted the steadfastness of the people of Mbaise land in the Catholic faith.

He however regretted that appointing a successor to the late Bishop Chikwe degenerated to a crisis of about six years which shook the foundation of the Church in Mbaise land to its very foundation.

“It is unfortunate that the process of appointing his successor snowballed into a very destructive crisis that seems to eclipse the noteworthy progress and achievements of the Church of Ahiara Diocese over the years. This horrible crisis has shaken the Church in Ahiara Diocese to its very foundation like an earthquake, inflicted deep wounds of division in the local Church and in the Igbo land and badly damaged the image of the Church in Nigeria and beyond,” said Bishop Ugorji.

“Intra-ethnic and clannish cleavages that underpinned the crisis have left their ugly marks on the face of the Church. The noble institution of the Catholic priesthood, known and respected for discipline, has been discredited and ridiculed by some unseemly behavior and utterances of the clergy,” he added.

He noted that the resignation of Bishop Peter Okpaleke as the Bishop of the diocese and his appointment as the new Apostolic Administrator does not connote a victor of vanquished but rather provides an opportunity for all stakeholders to embrace forgiveness.

Henry Onyango is a writer for both the Consolata Missionaries owned by the Seed Magazine and Catholic Information Services for Africa (CISA) since 2013. He is also the Digital Media Strategist for The Seed and CISA. View other posts by Henry Onyango