ECWA Weekly Spiritual Digest: Is Faith a Blind Leap that is Required of Christians?

by Rev. Sunday Bwanhot | You will be in good company with all the heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11 if you exercise faith in God today.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. It is not only Christians who exercise faith; every human being exercise faith on a great number of things each day. The water we drink, food we eat, cars we drive, buses we ride on, airplanes we fly, chairs we sit on, depositing money in the bank, sending children to school, etc. Almost everything we do requires faith and when we do not have faith in a given situation, we refuse to act on the right thing to do.

We have faith in people and anything that has a track record of being reliable and consistent. The object of faith for the Christian is God who has proven Himself as reliable, consistent, dependable, unchangeable, everlasting, has never and will never fail. He created and sustains the whole universe with perfect precision. No one who has put his faith in God has been disappointed. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God has given you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” Jos. 23:14. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Mk, 13:31. Jesus is the Light and when we trust in Him, we walk in the light. Anyone who does not trust in the Light is certainly taking a blind leap into eternity without hope. You will be in good company with all the heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11 if you exercise faith in God today.

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



What Does it Mean that the Righteous Shall Live by Faith (Habakkuk 2:4)?

by Got Questions | When Habakkuk wrote, “The righteous shall live by his faith,” he was echoing a timeless truth first modeled in Abraham’s life Genesis 15:6. (Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay) 

Habakkuk 2:4 includes the well-known statement “the righteous will live by faith.” What does this mean? The context helps us to understand God’s intent in this passage. The whole verse reads, “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.” “His soul” is a symbolic reference to Babylonia. This nation had become proud or “puffed up.” As a result, they were unrighteous and facing God’s judgment. In contrast, the righteous (or the “just”) would live by faith in God. By contrast, the righteous are humble in God’s eyes and will never face God’s judgment.

Habakkuk 2:4 is quoted three times in the New Testament. Paul quotes it in Romans 1:17, emphasizing the idea that righteousness by faith is for both Jews and Gentiles: “For in the gospel a righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written, ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”

Then, in Galatians 3:11, we read, “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” Here, Paul stresses that we are justified or made right before God by faith. The Law has no ability to justify anyone. As Habakkuk had recorded, people have always been saved by faith, not by works. Habakkuk 2:4 is also quoted in Hebrews 10:38.

In the third century, Rabbi Simla noted that Moses gave 365 prohibitions and 248 positive commands. David reduced them to eleven commands in Psalm 15; Isaiah made them six (33:14-15); Micah bound them into three (6:8); and Habakkuk condensed them all to one, namely—“The righteous shall live by faith” (from P. L. Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations. Garland, TX: Bible Communications, #1495).

Christians are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), and we walk in faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). Only by faith in Christ are we made righteous (Romans 5:19). Paul further expounds on this truth in Galatians 2:16, saying, “We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” It is Christ’s righteousness that saves us, and the only way to receive that gift is to trust in Him. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36).

When Habakkuk wrote, “The righteous shall live by his faith,” he was echoing a timeless truth first modeled in Abraham’s life (Genesis 15:6). The righteous man will “live” in that he will not face God’s judgment; rather, in return for his faith in God, he has been given eternal life



We Are Saved by Grace Through Faith in Jesus Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ritualism, legalism, and works are out the door!

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

Michael & Chris Bradley

Michael & Chris Bradley

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



Are We Prepared to Tell God’s Story?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 



Sowers of the Current Chaos

by Paul Kengor | Charles Murr says that Cardinal Gagnon explained to him hundreds of times that the enemies of the Church were not out to totally destroy the Church, because the membership and organization of the Church were far too precious; rather, they wanted to control the Church according to their own vision and scheme (getty images).

For keen insight into some of the malevolent forces at work in the Church right now, an unexpected source is a fascinating book by Father Charles Theodore Murr, titled, The Godmother: Madre Pascalina. Published in May 2017, for the centenary of Fatima, it is one of the most interesting yet underreported Catholic books of recent years.

The impetus was Fr. Murr’s utterly unique relationship with the figure closest to Pope Pius XII: Sister Josephine Lehnert (1894-1983). Mother Pascalina was so close to, so trusted by, and so influential to Pope Pius XII, that wise-guys around the Vatican alternately called her La Popessa and Virgo Potens (Powerful Virgin).

Charles Murr was a young American seminarian in Rome in the 1970s. He had a lifelong special devotion to Pius XII. He knew about the iconic Madre Pascalina. Over dinner one day at Il Scarpone restaurant with his colorful friend Monsignor Mario Marini—a classic boisterous Italian who held an important job at the Vatican Secretariat of State—Charlie learned that the old nun was still alive.

“She’s alive?” he asked with astonishment.

“Very much so,” said Marini, adding: “Not everyone’s as happy about that as you seem to be. No one knows better than La Madre where the bodies are buried.”

As a favor to Charlie, Marini made some moves within the Curia and secured an address and phone number. Charlie picked up a phone and took a chance. The rest is history—this history in this delightful book.

Charlie and Madre Pascalina first met in 1973, quickly becoming close friends. She would become his literal godmother at his ordination, the date of which she suggested: May 13, 1977, Feast Day of Our Lady of Fatima. They met frequently until Charlie was sent to Mexico in 1979. He would see her once more in 1983, only weeks before her death. The things she told him constitute a remarkable heretofore unpublished account of the Church in the twentieth century, from the historical to the theological to the ideological—and perhaps even to the level of diabolical, in some cases. At long last, Charles Murr has shared them.

The GodMotherThe book’s accounts of Pope Pius XII, from the person who knew him best, are striking enough. So are the insights regarding nearly every twentieth-century pope and even would-be popes such as the excellent Cardinal Giuseppe Siri and Cardinal Giuseppe Benelli, who both barely missed the papacy in the late 1970s. There are compelling stories I had never heard before about Padre Pio, about China’s Cardinal Thomas Tien Ken-Sin, and about Cardinal Edouard Gagnon, a dedicated French-Canadian—and future prefect for the Pontifical Commission for the Family—who was greatly frustrated by the failures of Paul VI to react to what Gagnon had documented (at Paul VI’s request) regarding wholesale corruption of the Curia. There are also intriguing inside tales of the rivalry between Fulton Sheen and Cardinal Francis Spellman, and of the perfectly preserved corpse of Pius IX that Madre Pascalina was there to inspect first, many decades after the pontiff passed.

But getting closer to some of the seeds that were laid for the current chaos in the Church, Charles Murr takes a deep dig into the circumstances around Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli and Giovanni Battista Montini, who assumed the papacy as, respectively, John XXIII and Paul VI. The Madre wasn’t a big fan of either, particularly John XXIII, whom she dismissed as un buffone (“a clown”).

It wasn’t always the popes themselves that Pascalina held responsible for certain troubles—it was often the men they surrounded themselves with and naively listened to and were often misled by. Take Pope Paul VI, whose right-hand man in dealing with murderous communists was Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, whose counsel on handling the Soviets and Communist Bloc despots was often downright lousy and counterproductive. Of course, Casaroli and Paul VI and John XXIII were certainly not Marxists, but they thought they could deal with Marxists, that they could negotiate with them, that they could even accommodate them. Like Pope Francis, these two popes were heavily influenced by key advisers (whom they chose themselves) who were leftist-progressives and who gave them bad advice in dealing with enemies of the Church, sometimes internal enemies.

As to Paul VI, we know about the tragic case of Cardinal Mindszenty as an indicator of his embarrassments in trying to satisfy Moscow. Roncalli likewise had his share. For Vatican II, according to Madre Pascalina, the one thing that Pope Pius XII had wanted ahead of time—and yes, she says it was Pius XII who had the initial idea for a council—was an unequivocal condemnation of communism. And yet, that was “the one thing that Roncalli absolutely refused to do.” (This adds new insight to my piece last year on Vatican II’s unpublished condemnations of communism.) This refusal, revealed Madre Pascalina to Charlie, was done as a promise to the Soviet government and the Kremlin-controlled Russian Orthodox Church in the name of ecumenism, and it presaged later such moves by Paul VI.

As for Paul VI, whom many of us admire in key respects, The Godmother surely nailed it when she described him as “not a strong man” who was “always easily manipulated.” He frequently struggled to “see the obvious” and realize just how gravely “the Church had enemies,” even as he came to realize that “the smoke of Satan had entered the Church.”

I personally believe this is very fitting to our situation with our pope today, who I contend is far more naïve than nefarious, duped than duplicitous—but has nonetheless created his own terrible mess by surrounding himself with progressive Church officials who have served him dreadfully.

Indeed, there is so much in this book that is important if not profound to current realities as we watch the crises in the Church unfold, from my home dioceses in Western Pennsylvania to Cardinal McCarrick to the unacceptable happenings at the Vatican under the nose of Pope Francis.

Charles Murr calls attention to some dubious characters, if not outright evildoers, in the latter twentieth-century Church. And that’s where Murr’s eyewitness testimony, based on what he saw in Rome in the 1970s and what Madre Pascalina conveyed to him, is so rich and relevant. What we’re seeing right now are the bitter fruits of the rotten seeds sown by a network of progressives, liberals, and the very “modernist” heresy that Pope Pius X warned about in 1907.

Madre Pascalina told Charlie that Pope Pius XII was convinced, just as St. Pope Pius X was convinced and officially declared, that modernism is “the synthesis of all heresies.” The Madre herself was convinced of this, declaring: “And the disgraziati [wretches] behind modernism were the same disgraziati who, for centuries, had been behind every plot to destroy the Church.” Who were they? She looked heavenward and explained to Charlie: “the Freemasons; the liberals; i progressisti [the progressives] … atheists, Marxists, communists.” Whatever the latest masquerade that “Lucifer goes by today…. I often wonder, what name will he go by tomorrow?”

Well, tomorrow in Madre’s time is now today in ours. Fill in the blank with the latest modernist label. And whatever its manifestation, she remarked, “evil is evil.”

Pius XII, said La Madre, wanted to be briefed at all times about the activities of these groups on their various fronts, particularly i communisti in the universities. He smelled them in the 1950s. And for Pope Pius XII, she said, “the worst” of his enemies were “liberals from inside the Church.”

This brings me to maybe the most ignominious villain in Charles Murr’s book: Cardinal Sebastiano Baggio. Murr reports that it was Baggio who appointed so many of the “progressive” prelates who enabled the wreckage we’ve seen in recent decades. Baggio was Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops from 1973-84, which oversees the selection of new bishops. (Cardinal McCarrick, incidentally, was made an auxiliary bishop in New York in 1977 and then bishop in New Jersey in 1981 before becoming archbishop of Newark in 1986.)

Baggio, Charles Murr contends, was not merely a progressive/modernist but a Freemason. He died in March 1993, living the last decade of his life with (in Murr’s words) “Pope John Paul II watching his every move.” The Polish pontiff put the former “Appointer of Bishops” in charge of printing and distributing Vatican City postage stamps. It was a demotion and slap-down, but the damage was done. The seeds for the bitter harvest were in place.

I asked Murr last week whether he saw the hand of the likes of Baggio in the current crisis. “Unquestionably,” he responded. Murr stressed that Baggio dedicated “much time and very particular attention” to potential “archbishop material,” since it was from such persons that cardinals were created. Baggio spent summer vacations visiting out of the way places in the world; places where he had named the archbishops. He would be their house guest, and when they traveled to Rome on Church business, Baggio made sure they saw him in his prefect’s office in the Congregation for Bishops. Murr said flatly that Baggio deliberated and exclusively created liberal bishops, and that any orthodox bishop or archbishop who managed to be named during those years occurred only due to dramatic efforts by orthodox members of the Roman Curia to convince Pope John Paul II to override Baggio. These exceptions infuriated Baggio.

As Murr today ponders the misdirection that the Catholic Church has often mistakenly taken these past 50 years, he notes that Madre Pascalina foresaw what would go wrong. While there was plenty of blame to go around, including during the “great disintegration” that included not only the Paul VI years but carried over into many of the John Paul II years, “the principal culprit” was Sebastiano Baggio, who “highhandedly appointed the world’s bishops for those extremely crucial, post-Council years…. He made certain that the new breed of bishops was, in a word, liberal.”

Pope Paul VI failed to deal with Baggio. When Charlie’s good friend, Edouard Gagnon, fulfilled Paul VI’s request to provide an in-depth report on what that “smoke of Satan” inside the Church looked like, Gagnon was practically despondent when the old, ailing Papa Montini made clear that he would choose to punt—that is, to pass along Gagnon’s investigation to the next pope.

The next pope would be John Paul I, who attempted to discipline Sebastiano Baggio. How did that go? That night was not a good one. In one of the most dramatic sections of his book, Fr. Charles Murr writes this of John Paul I and Cardinal Baggio: “The last person to see him [John Paul I] alive,” Gagnon told Murr, “was none other than Sebastiano Baggio. He [Baggio] entered the papal apartments after eight o’clock that night; the last person to speak, to scream, at the pope.” Following Cardinal Benelli’s wise counsel, Pope John Paul I had just removed Baggio from the Congregation for Bishops. The new pope died right after that.

Make of that what you will. I can neither add to that nor confirm.

Of course, Cardinal Baggio was not the only person causing mischief and mayhem. It was a team effort by multiple players of bad faith.

Madre Pascalina called out the liberal Archbishop Jean Jadot as a “colossal mistake” to be papal nuncio to the United States. She believed he would (in Murr’s words) “ruin the body of bishops” in America. He held that position from 1973-80 (again overlapping McCarrick’s appointment as bishop). Agreeing with La Madre was Mario Marini, who called Jadot “a mediocrity” whose “right niche” would have been “dog-catcher in some remote Belgian hamlet.”

Still another Church official who seems to have caused serious problems was Cardinal Annibale Bugnini, through his appalling “liturgy reforms.” Murr likewise casts a light on Bugnini.

Madre Pascalina lamented to Charles Murr that hundreds of thousands of religious had left the Church between 1965 and 1975. But still worse, she grimaced, “you should see the liberal tyrants who remain!”

In all, such were the kind of men in the Church who appointed the kind of men in the Church who have disappointed us so often.

Alas, here’s an interesting distinction underscored by Murr: He says that Cardinal Gagnon explained to him hundreds of times that the enemies of the Church were not out to totally destroy the Church, because the membership and organization of the Church were far too precious; rather, they wanted to control the Church according to their own vision and scheme. They wanted to remold and use it. They wanted it to be their Church remade in their image.

Needless to say, this book (and this article) is not a comprehensive accounting of all that has hurt the Roman Catholic Church over recent decades. There were plenty of insidious influences from all sorts of destructive forces. Nonetheless, we should not look past these progressive modernists in the Church. Madre Pascalina saw them coming, and the chaos that would ensue, and Fr. Charles Murr offers this crucial timely reminder of who they were—and are still.

Paul KengorPaul Kengor is Professor of Political Science at Grove City College, executive director of The Center for Vision & Values, and author of many books including The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor and Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage (2015). His new books are A Pope and a President and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Communism (2017).



The American Preacher at the Royal Wedding

by Rick Hamlin | In an inspired choice, Bishop Michael Curry to speak at wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (image: YouTube)

Who to get to preach at your wedding? Probably whoever is performing the ceremony. But what if you’re Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and you’ve got the world at your feet? (Not to mention millions clamoring for any gossip about a royal wedding.)

In an inspired choice, they’ve asked an American (like Meghan), the head of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Michael Curry.

No, he won’t be doing the ceremony. He’ll be doing something even more important. Reminding the wedded couple what true love is about.

Bishop Curry hinted at his sermon topic in a statement. “The love that has brought and will bind Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle together has its source and origin in God,” he said, “and is the key to life and happiness.”

Usually the minister to speak at such a ceremony would be an English prelate. Not with this couple. Although the Episcopal Church is part of the Anglican Communion, headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, it is decidedly American, owing its origins to those post-Revolutionary days.

Michael Curry is the first African-American leader of the denomination, elected in 2015. He is a thrilling preacher and charismatic leader. “Someone with a great gift for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ” is how Justin Welby, the current Archbishop of Canterbury put it.

What I love about Michael Curry is that he’s a truth teller. He doesn’t just stand on ceremony, even when he’s decked out in the heavy brocaded robes of his position. Take this, a quote from his book Crazy Christians: A Call to Follow Jesus:

“Being a Christian is not essentially about joining a church or being a nice person, but about following in the footsteps of Jesus, taking his teaching seriously, letting his Spirit take the lead in our lives, and in so doing helping to change the world from our nightmare into God’s dream.”

I’ll be tuning in to listen to inspired preaching like that. Even if it is 5 a.m. on a Saturday.

The royal wedding:



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.



Faith & Science: A Shared Space

by Timothy W. Massaro | The New Atheists, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris, claim far too much about what science can or cannot do. Often they do not deal with the very issues that have led many scientists and philosophers to assert the belief in God. Their failure to construct “a plausible worldview that accounts for the existence of a law-abiding, life-supporting, and rationally accessible universe” ultimately puts their arguments from a supposedly scientific perspective on difficult ground (image: Dashboard).

When modern people hear talk of science and faith, they don’t know whether to stay silent or prepare for a heated debate. The story we often hear goes something like this: with the rise of science and technology, belief in God is foolish. We assume miracles cannot happen, that science and faith cannot mix. Here are five reasons why science and faith are compatible.

1. Scientists cannot escape the question of God.

The story of science and faith is much more complicated than we have been told. Some of the most outspoken atheists or skeptics have painted a simplistic picture, one that is not scientific. The truth is much more interesting. Stephen Hawking, who is often seen as supporting the atheist cause, doesn’t end up where we would expect. He ends his best-selling A Brief History of Time with this remarkable passage: “What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?” (p. 190).

In later interviews Hawking answers this question: “The overwhelming impression [of the universe] is one of order. The more we discover about the universe, the more we find that it is governed by rational laws” (Gregory Benford, Leaping the Abyss: Stephen Hawking on Black Holes, Unified Field Theory and Marilyn Monroe, Reason 4.02 [April 2002]: 29).

Hawking openly questions the scientific need for God. This leads him to a pressing question: “You still have the question: why does the universe bother to exist? If you like, you can define God to be the answer to that question.” At the end of the day, many scientists think that the belief in God is compatible with science. Still have doubts? Keep reading.

2. Nature is well-ordered.

The question of God is on the mind of scientists and philosophers. But why? Well, nature is more ordered and life-centered than they thought. The evidence has led scientists further and further into supposing something of a rational mind of God behind everything.

Wrestling with the work of Albert Einstein, Paul Davies believed there were several pressing issues. Natures order led Davies to wonder, “Where do the laws of physics come from? Why these laws rather than others?” (Paul Davies, Physics and the Mind of God: Templeton Prize Address, First Things [May 1995]). These burning questions of God open the door to science. They do not close it.

The universe is also more dynamic and ordered than we realized. Modern philosophers of science and physicists have found that living matter possesses an inherent goal or purpose-centered organization. Nature is a movement of giving life. This purpose is somehow contained within living things. To quote a line from Jurassic Park, “Life will find a way!”

3. Nature bears the marks of a designer.

Gods handiwork bears the signs of design and dignity, the world is full of wonder. Another reason for a belief in God is that the life-oriented properties of nature must have existed originally for the world to exist at all. Gerald Schroeder, the physicist, writes about this issue in his book God According to God (HarperOne, May 2010).

The first compound that would eventually lead to the earliest life must have had the ability to reproduce. If it did not, then as its molecular machinery degraded, it would have disintegrated. Any beneficial mutations that might have accumulated during its span of existence would have been lost and the trek toward cellular life would then have had to begin again… Life appeared with purpose already as part of its birthright. This simple undisputed fact is extraordinary. (p. 31)

This truth has led many to believe in an infinite creator who has ordered all things in this way from the very conception of the universe in order for life to be sustainable at all. Science can only stand in wonder at such a necessity.

4. Science is only one source of truth.

The New Atheists, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris, claim far too much about what science can or cannot do. Often they do not deal with the very issues that have led many scientists and philosophers to assert the belief in God. Their failure to construct “a plausible worldview that accounts for the existence of a law-abiding, life-supporting, and rationally accessible universe” ultimately puts their arguments from a supposedly scientific perspective on difficult ground (Antony Flew, There Is a God [HarperOne, 2008], xvii). Gerald Schroeder comments on this setback:

The most powerful challenge to atheists view of the world lies within the world itself: the simple reality of existence. Why is there existence? Forget things as complex as life. Just consider the being of anything: space, time, matter in any form. Is there some law, some axiom, that demands there be existence independent of an underlying force that brought it into being? Even if we posit that the universe and all existence are eternal, the question remains: Why is there an is? Its a question that calls for an answer. (p. 25)

Faith in what must be (i.e., God) for the world to exist as it does is actually rational. Science has not found evidence precluding the belief in God, miracles, or the resurrection of Jesus. Such fields are outside the competency of science and its methodology. Faith is not incompatible with the evidence. Everyone has to believe in a hypothesis concerning where the compelling evidence leads them. Such basic beliefs are the building blocks of understanding the laws of nature. This poses another problem for atheists.

5. The laws of nature pose a problem for atheists.

Science cannot exist without the assumptions of a stable creation, with meaning, purpose, or the laws of nature to govern it. Without the assumptions brought about by Christianity, modern science would have no footing whatsoever. If nature were inherently self-serving and motivated merely by survival rather than to the giving of life, the stability of natural laws would be unknowable. Nature itself would be a moving deception. We would not have the ability to even perceive such a reality if it existed.

“Science is based on the assumption that the universe is thoroughly rational and logical at all levels,” writes Paul Davies. “Atheists claim that the laws [of nature] exist reasonlessly and that the universe is ultimately absurd. As a scientist, I find this hard to accept. There must be an unchanging rational ground in which the logical, orderly nature of the universe is rooted” (Russell Stannard, God for the 21st Century [Templeton Foundation Press, 2000], 12).

Scientists see this rationality which many people want to discount as superstition. The evidence, therefore, points to something of an infinite creator and to a belief in him.

If you are still skeptical after reading this short introduction to the compatibility of science and faith, check out this recent interview that offers similar conclusions. People don’t need to feel as though they need to choose between belief in God and holding to scientific truths. There is a better alternative: studying the ever-increasing scientific evidence with an open mind to the very real possibility of Gods existence.

Timothy Massaro is a staff writer for Core Christianity. He is the Social Media Manager for the White Horse Inn. He has lived on both coasts of the USA and many places in between. He enjoys reading, traveling, and getting away from the busyness of modern life. He has an affinity for all things J.R.R. Tolkien (except the movies) and has interests in the intersections of philosophy and theology. He currently lives in California where he received his Master of Divinity from Westminster Seminary. His biggest prayer is that the gospel in all its beauty might re-kindle a wonder and joy of God’s goodness in our hearts. Connect with Timothy on Twitter @word_water_wine.

 



Standing for Christ

by Hanne Herland | Jesus showed a remarkable empathy and kindness for the weak, the poor and the sick. We should follow his example in our everyday lives. (image, YouTube)

We live in an age where many question Christianity. It somehow has become fashionable to be an atheist. The mainstream media constantly focus on negative news about Christians. Believers in God are told that they are old-fashioned, outdated and simply out of touch with reality. And many young people struggle, as they don’t quite know how to approach this fervent disdain.

This is why it is more important than ever to educate yourself on how to defend the faith, how to rationally and spiritually explain the Christian belief to those who, out of ignorance, think that belief in God belongs to the past. Read The Culture War: How the West Lost its Greatness and get the tools. Remember that atheism is a faith like any other, the belief in “nothing” and the assortment that “the universe is empty.” None of them ever went out there to check, so how do they know there is no God, angels or devils out there? They assume based on faith. Atheism is a religion, they strongly believe that “God is dead” and mankind is the only source of light, which is impossible to prove empirically.

The question becomes who really is out of touch with reality, as several of the most important values in our culture come from Christianity and its ethics. Professor at Yale and Harvard, historian Robert R. Palmer has pointed out that it is simply impossible to exaggerate the importance of Christianity’s influence on the development of Western values. The whole foundation of our Western civilization lay precisely on the very values that stem from Christianity. Let me name a couple.

It was the profoundly Christian thought that introduced the principle of equality in the West, the revolutionary idea that each man, regardless of class, gender and race, has a unique value. The leading French atheist, Michel Houellebecq proclaims that he is convinced we would never have human rights without the originally Jewish-Christian hypothesis, the incredibly bold idea that man is created, formed in the likeness of God and therefore also sanctified. The ideal of equality would later in history be seen as a secular idea, and one of the cornerstones of secular society, yet there is no doubt about its religious origins.

As believers, the example of Jesus stands high above any other. As we examine his life, we see, for example, how he completely revolutionized the view on women. He freely engaged with them in a way that broke with the traditions at the time. The story of the Samaritan woman at the well serves as an example. Remember, as a Samaritan, she was a complete outsider to the Jewish community. Jews did not mingle much with them, and they were considered a disrespected sect due to the way they worshipped, which differed somehow from the Jewish traditions.

On many occasions, the revolutionary Jesus broke off from the socially acceptable and freely engaged in apologetic debates with all kinds of “outsiders.” His disciples were quite shocked to see him speak to the Samaritan woman, engaging in discussion, showing her profound love that made her a believer. She felt honored to have met a prophet and went and told everyone. Jesus was arguably “the first feminist”; he deeply respected women. He was often criticized by the religious communities for allowing a “bad woman” to wash his feet, stopped the throwing of stones and told the woman at the well to “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11b). He had the habit of saving people’s lives. By his example, he opened up profound freedoms that to this day permeate the Western culture.

Jesus showed a remarkable empathy and kindness for the weak, the poor and the sick. We should follow his example in our everyday lives. This was also a highly unusual approach, not distinguishing between rich and poor. He was born in a stable in opposition to the arrogant and selfishly rich and affluent, again a dramatic statement of the value of human life—regardless of class, social standing or ethnicity. The early Christians worked to relieve suffering, help the poor and so on. They taught humility and that all men were brothers. As we see, the Christian contribution brought revolutionary elements to Western values and taught that in the eyes of God all men are equal. What a wonderful Christian ideal this is in our culture.

Hanne Nabintu Herland, historian of religions and author of The Culture War. How the West Lost Its Greatness. Visit theherlandreport.com for more information.



Tyler Perry Discusses His Book ‘Higher is Waiting’

I’d written a book, a collection of inspirational insights and lessons. Now I just needed the right title for it. Then a friend wanted to talk. He was feeling pretty down about his life, and I urged him to see all the good things God had in store for him: love, compassion, peace of mind. If only he’d step up and reach up. “Higher is waiting,” I said. That was it, both my advice and the title of the book (YouTube).



How Martin Luther Gained the Faith for Supernatural Miracles

by Eddie Hyatt | Do you feel a need for faith, courage and boldness? There is a gift of faith that God can manifest in your heart that will result in miracles or enable you to face a trying situation with unshakable faith.

Martin Luther saw miraculous answers to prayer and experienced courage in the most excruciating situations that can only be explained as a manifestation of the gift of faith, as mentioned in I Corinthians 12:9. This gift of faith is not the faith for salvation, nor the faith by which we live out our daily lives. It is, rather, a supernatural manifestation of God’s own faith in our heart for a particular situation.

Faith for Healing

An example of such faith in the life of Luther occurred when he received word that his friend and colleague, Frederick Myconius, lay dying in the last stages of tuberculosis. When Luther read this report, a supernatural and bold faith rose up in his heart. He then penned a letter to Myconius in which he said, “I command you in the Name of God to live because I still have need of you in the work of reforming the Church. The Lord will never let me hear that you are dead but will permit you to survive me. For this I am praying, this is my will, and may my will be done because I seek only to glorify the Name of God.”

Myconius said that when he read the letter it seemed as though he heard Christ say, “Lazarus, come forth!” Luther’s words were fulfilled. Myconius was healed and outlived Luther by two months.

On another occasion, Luther’s close friend and colleague, Philip Melanchthon, became extremely ill and was at death’s door. Luther is said to have fervently prayed, using all the relevant promises he could repeat from Scripture. As he prayed, a supernatural faith rose up in his heart. He then turned, and taking Melanchthon by the hand, said, “Be of good courage, Philip, you shall not die.”

Melanchthon immediately revived and soon regained his health. He later said, “I should have been a dead man had I not been recalled from death itself by the coming of Luther.”

Faith to Face a Thousand Goliaths

When Luther stood before the tribunal at his trial for heresy in the city of Worms, it was a setting that would strike fear into any heart. There sat the emperor in all his royal dress and entourage and around the room were bishops, cardinals, personal delegates of the pope, dukes, princes and counts, all in their splendid garb and titles. The historian, Philip Schaff, called it “a fair representation of the highest powers in Church and State—a numerous array of dignitaries of every rank.”

They were there to demand that this insignificant monk, Martin Luther, from the insignificant town of Wittenberg stop preaching and writing those “heretical” doctrines about faith and the priesthood of all believers.

In contrast to the tribunal he faced, Luther was dressed in his simple monk’s cowl. It was David versus Goliath multiplied a hundred times over.

A table had been placed in the room with Luther’s books on it. He was first asked if these were his books. He looked them over and replied in the affirmative. He was then ordered to recant.

Luther seemed overwhelmed by the imposing authorities assembled before him, and in a voice that could barely be heard, he asked for more time to consider their demand. The emperor gave him one day.

Backing in his lodging place, Luther poured out his heart to God. As he prayed, there came a bold, unshakable faith into his heart. Later in life, he wrote about that moment, saying, “I was fearless. I was afraid of nothing. God can make one so desperately bold.”

Luther returned the next day and was again ordered to recant. He clearly and unequivocally stated that he was willing to recant, but only if he could be shown by Scripture and reasonable arguments that he was wrong.

The medieval church was not in the habit of discussing its demands with accused heretics, and they angrily demanded that Luther recant then and there. Knowing his life was on the line, Luther did not flinch, but quietly and confidently stated:

I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus, I cannot and will not recant anything, because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound. Here I stand! I can do no other! God help me! Amen!

This was a significant turning point in church and world history. From that moment, there was no stopping the Reformation. Luther’s boldness unleashed a groundswell of support that spread across Europe and eventually around the world.

He was so bold, in fact, that some of his friends thought he was too bold. Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, in giving a report of Luther’s performance, said, “How excellently did Father Martin speak before the Emperor and Estates. He was bold enough, if not too much so.”

This Gift of Faith Is for You

Do you feel a need for faith, courage and boldness? There is a gift of faith that God can manifest in your heart that will result in miracles or enable you to face a trying situation with unshakable faith. Look to Him now and yield to His Holy Spirit. Faith from heaven will flow!

From Dr. Eddie Hyatt’s latest book, The Charismatic Luther, with the subtitle Healings, Miracles & Spiritual Gifts in the Life of the Great Reformer, now available from Amazon in Kindle, and soon to be available in paperback. Check out his website at www.eddiehyatt.com



Living Proverbs 3:6

by Tommy Zimmer | “In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight”

In Proverbs 3:6, God is telling us to submit to him and follow his words. Proverbs, itself, is a collection of biblical wisdom designed to address moral behavior, correct conduct, the purpose of one's life and values. Within this verse from Proverbs, God reminds us of his plan for us. Humans are often subject to doubts and question what their purpose is. The whole purpose of the book is to give solace to the uncertainty of what life can throw at you. Life is never simple.

 

Looking at everything many people have going including a job, a family, friends, and education, it can be a lot to take on. A person can become very tired from having to juggle all the responsibilities of life. Coming to terms with what exactly you have may not be the easiest thing for you to do. Having many responsibilities can cause a lot of anxiety. Listening to God's words and everything he is telling you might be some way for you to gain solace.

 

When God tells you everything is going to be alright, this can be the key for you to come to terms with what is going on. God is aware of everything around you and what is going on. He is not fearful of anything. He's the ultimate psychologist or therapist. For example, he will understand if you have a drug addiction and need help. He can counsel you through all these challenges and responsibilities. He may be the best person to confide in when dealing with emotional unrest.

 

God is not afraid of anything. He is an all powerful being who is confident in everything he is does. He knows human nature and how we might sin. We make mistakes but knowing that he has been through the same events as we have been can give comfort to our troubles. God, Himself, sent his only son, in order to be able to experience the pains and temptations of being human. God lived the human experience through his son.

 

God can help you to see that everything is going to be okay. If many people fall victim to drug addiction, God will forgive them for what happened. That is what trusting him is all about. Maintaining confidence in God will pay dividends for you as your life continues on.

 

About the author: Tommy Zimmer is a writer whose work has appeared online and in print. His work covers a variety of topics, including politics, economics, health and wellness, addiction and recovery and the entertainment industry.

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Visit a Church This Summer

by Rick Hamlin | I was able to worship with a head and heart free of distractions in a congregation of strangers who didn’t seem all that strange. After all, we were all brothers and sisters in Christ.

Traveling this summer? Out on the road? Taking a vacation? No need to make it a vacation from church. Try dropping in on a congregation away from home.

I’ll admit the first time I visited a church on a summer day far away from my own church, I wondered what had gotten into me. Was it a guilty conscience? Or just a healthy dose of curiosity?

The place was practically empty when I arrived–oh, the pews filled up as time went by–and I didn’t know a soul. Nor did anyone know me.

That can be a blessing. Nobody came up to me with urgent church business in mind; nobody asked me why I wasn’t at such-and-such a meeting last week, and I didn’t for a minute wonder why so-and-so was or wasn’t in church.

I was able to worship with a head and heart free of distractions in a congregation of strangers who didn’t seem all that strange. After all, we were all brothers and sisters in Christ.

We sang, we prayed, we listened to a sermon, we heard Scripture. And at the end I shook hands with my new friends. They even recommended a great restaurant to try.

Since then I have made it a practice, whenever possible, to go to church on Sunday morning wherever vacation takes me.

I have stood on sandy beaches for worship with the waves lapping at our toes. I have sat in stunning historic buildings, gazing up at dazzling stained glass windows, admiring gracious Gothic arches.

I have sung with guitars and drums and sung with pipe organs. I have been in thunderous congregations among thousands in bleacher seats. And I have been part of early morning congregations where there were only a handful of us.

Have I been welcomed? Always. Have I felt awkward? Sure. But there’s always been someone there to guide me or hand me a bulletin or give me the right psalm book or hymnal.

Rick Hamlin is the executive editor of Guideposts magazine and the author of 10 Prayers You Can't Live Without. To learn more about the book and explore your own prayer journey,  watch this video.

 



Rev. Stephen Panya Baba: My Faith in Jesus Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Rev. Dr. Panya Dabo Baba: A Man Apart

by Dr. Musa A. B. Gaiya | Panya personally founded the Nigeria Evangelical Mission Association (NEMA) that brought together all evangelical mission bodies (image courtesy of SIM/ECWA)

Rev. Dr. Panya Dabo Baba, a resident of the Overseas Ministry Study Center from 1996 to 1997, has been described as the greatest missiologist of the ECWA (formerly Evangelical Church of West Africa founded by the Sudan Interior Mission but now Evangelical Church Winning All). His tenure as director of the Evangelical Missionary Society (EMS) was outstanding and he raised the mission to an international level. The growth of the ECWA in Nigeria and abroad was mostly due to his ingenious mission strategy.

Panya was born in Karu on January 20, 1932 to Baba and Gnubwanyi, both of them Gbayi of Nasarawa State on Nigeria. Panya's parents were Christians, so he grew up in a Christian family. Baba was the chief of the Karu or the Estu Karu. At his birth Panya was named Panyadabo, which means "remember God the owner"–advice to Panya to remember God who made him. Panya did. When Panya sustained an injury that broke his skull as a toddler, his parents thought he would never survive. He survived but still carries a visible scar–a recovery which Panya considers miraculous. Later in his life, God also healed him of a very serious stomach ailment that almost killed him when he was working as a missionary.

Past and Current Involvement in Church Ministry

He began his early education by enrolling in the Karu SIM Primary School where he studied from 1942 to 1945. Panya heard the gospel from SIM missionary Mrs. H. W. Caster but did not understand it initially. In 1945, though, Panya clearly heard the gospel and received Christ as his personal Savior through Malam Sabuda, a student at the Karu Bible School who hailed from Kaltungo, in northeastern Nigeria. As Panya testified, "Kneeling to God in my small room, I told Him I was sorry for my sins and asked for His forgiveness. I told God I wanted to be one of His children. The moment I finished that prayer, I felt different…that was the day and time Jesus came into my life." Panya was baptized in 1946.

Having heard the call of God to go into full time Christian service, Panya studied at the Karu Vernacular Bible Training School from 1946 to 1947. In 1949 he accepted the challenge to become a missionary among his people, the Gbagyi, in Sarkin Pawa (Niger Province) in northern Nigeria to teach them the Bible. His desire to do mission work continued to grow. He returned to Karu in 1951 and was admitted to Karu Bible Training School for additional training in 1952. In 1954 he was called by the ECWA church in Karu to be a pastor starting in 1957 and was licensed and ordained in 1960. In 1961 Panya went to Kagoro Bible College where he earned a certificate in Bible. He returned to Karu in 1963 to continue as pastor of the Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA) church there. But Panya's heart was more in missions. While Panya was pastoring this church he was appointed director of the Evangelical Missionary Society, where he made his most significant contribution to the course of evangelization of Africa.

Panya married Tayado Dokwadayi in February of 1951. Tayado means "Never depart"–perhaps a prayer that she not die. They had six children–three girls and three boys. They adopted an orphan boy named Ishaya at the age of six. Tayado died in childbirth on April 23, 1963.

Afterwards Panya married Ruth Lami Ataku on February 22, 1964. She gave birth to seven children, two of whom died. All together Panya had fourteen children including one adopted son. One of his sons, Luka, is now (2006) the Estu Karu or paramount chief of Karu.

Panya's growing interest in missions led him to apply to All Nations Christian College in England where he was accepted and studied from 1969 to 1970. When he returned to Nigeria he was the best person to take charge of the Evangelical Missionary Society (EMS)–at that time the only indigenous mission organization in Nigeria. His training at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, U.S.A. further enriched his understanding of missions and evangelism. He brought his knowledge, experience, leadership abilities, and zeal to EMS. He encouraged young graduates from Bible colleges and seminaries to join the mission, and as a result the number of missionaries increased from 194 in 1970 when he took over to 750 in 1988 when he left office as director.

He also believed in sending missionaries abroad as he felt Nigeria had come to that stage. As a result, EMS missionaries were sent out from two West African countries to five other countries including the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Panya believed in the interdependence between the developed world and the underdeveloped world in mission. He believed the developed West had a lot to give Africa in terms of finances, specialized personnel, and technical assistance, and Africa had a lot to give the West in terms of evangelism and mission. That is why when he stepped down as ECWA president in 1994 and he started the Foreign Mission of EMS.

Panya personally founded the Nigeria Evangelical Mission Association (NEMA) that brought together all evangelical mission bodies. Out of NEMA the Nigeria Evangelical Missionary Institute was created to train young men and women for cross-cultural mission work and the NEMA Searchlight Project designed to research unreached peoples groups. Through the Searchlight Project Panya discovered a number of ethnic groups in Nigeria that had not heard the gospel. These were the Koma, the Boko, the Dakawa, the Kambari, the Undir, the Dirim, and the Bolewa.

Panya was not only a missionary administrator and a strategist; he was also a missionary advocate. Everywhere he went he spoke on missions. At all the international conferences he attended any papers he gave were on the topic of mission. Panya was a member of several international missionary organizations and associations. Ruth Cox, his secretary while he was director of EMS, said of him, "He is always looking for ways to spread the gospel, looking for areas where it has not been preached. He doesn't know the difference between work and pleasure…to him they are the same. He has put missions and the gospel first…this is his life."

When Panya was elected president of the ECWA in 1988 it meant he would have to leave EMS, the place he loved so much. He served as president of ECWA for six years but although he did his work well he did not love it as much as being a missions' administrator. Also, it was very difficult to find someone to fill the vacuum created after Panya left EMS.

As a result of Panya's immense service in the ECWA, especially as EMS director, the governing council and faculty of the ECWA Seminary, Igbaja, awarded him a doctorate of divinity honoraris causa on May 18, 1991. In addition, the West African Theological Seminary gave Panya the Akanu Ibiam Award "for excellence in cross-cultural mission".

Panya Baba retired from active service in the ECWA in 1998. He returned home to Karu and has been preoccupied with writing his thoughts about mission, giving lectures at mission conferences, preaching, offering counseling and helping in any way he can in the local ECWA church in Karu.