Thoughts which Israel Should Consider before it Continues down this path

I would like to say that before I start this discourse that I believe the Jewish people, the descendants of Jacob, are the Scriptural heirs to the promised land, the nation of Israel and the land it now exists in are its cultural, historical, and Biblically promised home.
My prayer is that peace will come to Israel as per the Scriptural references found in the Prophets and Torah.
I understand that the religious Jewish community is still looking for their Biblical Messiah while myself, being a Christian, believe I have already found Him in the personhood of Jesus the Christ.
My desire is that the Jewish people would come to a more spiritual relationship to the Almighty and HIS Holy Spirit which is said to convict the world, including the Jewish people, of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.
As with Paul I would prefer that they come to a knowledge and understanding of the man Jesus and His teachings, of His love and His sacrifice. Although I have discussed Scripture with some Jewish friends in the States I do not judge them for their choice to believe as they do, it is their human right to do so as free men and women, nor do I try to impress upon them that if they do not believe as I do that they will burn in hell. I have told them where the Scriptures mention the ideas and concept of faith in the New Testament and I allow them to decide for themselves, and with that same respect they allow me the same respect.

With that said some of our discussions have led to prophecy throughout the Old Testament, including the Prophets and the Torah and when I present some beliefs I have about what Israel is currently experiencing in their timeline in nationhood they just remain silent and shake their head in agreement.
Not because they necessarily agree but out of respect for my opinions.
They have occasionally corrected me on certain interpretations and word usage but in general I am trying to apply the Scriptural verses in a more spiritual application than what they generally have considered as their view is primarily historical in nature, I understand there are various other branches within the Jewish Community that do apply a more spiritual meaning to Scripture but I’ve been told most of those groups also make use of traditions and various cultural applications as well such as the writings which were delivered by the Rabbi’s during their Babylonian captivity, and other writings contained in the Talmud and various writings of historical Rabbi’s.

Reading the Scripture and from secular historical evidence it can be discerned that ancient Israel, at various times in its existence as a nation under the judges and the kings, fell away in their faith and their nation and people were judged accordingly for their faithlessness.

Jeremiah 1:16  And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands.
Jeremiah 2:19  Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord GOD of hosts.
Jeremiah 3:2  Lift up thine eyes unto the high places, and see where thou hast not been lien with. In the ways hast thou sat for them, as the Arabian in the wilderness; and thou hast polluted the land with thy whoredoms and with thy wickedness.
Jeremiah 4:14  O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?
Jeremiah 4:18  Thy way and thy doings have procured these things unto thee; this is thy wickedness, because it is bitter, because it reacheth unto thine heart.
Jeremiah 6:7  As a fountain casteth out her waters, so she casteth out her wickedness: violence and spoil is heard in her; before me continually is grief and wounds.

 

 

Also I would recommend that the people of Israel remember the curses that come from disobedience to the Scriptures, here are some of those curses as listed in the Torah in the book of Deuteronomy Chapter 28.

15 But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:
16 Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field.
17 Cursed shall be thy basket and thy store.
18 Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep.
19 Cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and cursed shalt thou be when thou goest out.
20 The LORD shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that thou settest thine hand unto for to do, until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly; because of the wickedness of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me.
21 The LORD shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest to possess it.
22 The LORD shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish.
23 And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron.
24 The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed.
25 The LORD shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies: thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.
26 And thy carcase shall be meat unto all fowls of the air, and unto the beasts of the earth, and no man shall fray them away.
27 The LORD will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed.
28 The LORD shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart:
29 And thou shalt grope at noonday, as the blind gropeth in darkness, and thou shalt not prosper in thy ways: and thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no man shall save thee.
30 Thou shalt betroth a wife, and another man shall lie with her: thou shalt build an house, and thou shalt not dwell therein: thou shalt plant a vineyard, and shalt not gather the grapes thereof.
31 Thine ox shall be slain before thine eyes, and thou shalt not eat thereof: thine ass shall be violently taken away from before thy face, and shall not be restored to thee: thy sheep shall be given unto thine enemies, and thou shalt have none to rescue them.
32 Thy sons and thy daughters shall be given unto another people, and thine eyes shall look, and fail with longing for them all the day long: and there shall be no might in thine hand.
33 The fruit of thy land, and all thy labours, shall a nation which thou knowest not eat up; and thou shalt be only oppressed and crushed alway:
34 So that thou shalt be mad for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see.

These reasons and actions by the Creator in judging a people whom HE has chosen as HIS own special family are abundantly clear, because of their perpetual backsliding and falling away from their faith in HIM alone.

Jeremiah 3:6 The LORD said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot.
Jeremiah 3:8 And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.
Jeremiah 3:11 And the LORD said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah.
Jeremiah 3:12 Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever.
Jeremiah 3:14 Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:
Jeremiah 3:22 Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the LORD our God.
Jeremiah 8:5 Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return.
Jeremiah 31:22 How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man.
Jeremiah 49:4 Wherefore gloriest thou in the valleys, thy flowing valley, O backsliding daughter? that trusted in her treasures, saying, Who shall come unto me?
Hosea 4:16 For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer: now the LORD will feed them as a lamb in a large place.
Hosea 11:7 And my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt him.

Also in the Book of Numbers we read about how personal sins can affect the entire nation as in Chapter 32.

13 And the LORD’S anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation, that had done evil in the sight of the LORD, was consumed.
14 And, behold, ye are risen up in your fathers’ stead, an increase of sinful men, to augment yet the fierce anger of the LORD toward Israel.
15 For if ye turn away from after him, he will yet again leave them in the wilderness; and ye shall destroy all this people.

I believe most are aware of the sins of the fathers after they came out of Egypt, how their unbelief and stubbornness caused them to wander for forty years in the desert, how Moses got frustrated and struck the stone three times instead of just once as directed by the Almighty and thereby sinning it cost him his right to enter the promised land, yet he was forgiven and continued on as leader and prophet of Israel.
Nor do I need to say anything about the sins of David which caused judgment to fall upon Israel nor of Solomon and his herd of wives and lovers who led his heart astray and the end result of the splitting of the nation.
Scripture is resplendent with examples and stories of where the chosen families of GOD fell away, in Amos chapter 2:4 Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have despised the law of the LORD, and have not kept his commandments, and their lies caused them to err, after the which their fathers have walked: we can read the causes, they kept not his commandments and despised HIS laws.

Now this is not to critique the Jewish nation as a whole, it is only in reference to the national sins as recorded in the Holy Scriptures and which clarify that combined personal sins do directly affect the national morality of a nation.
In our day we are seeing story after story of how the nation of Israel is becoming or has become a secular nation, how the sodomites are parading through the streets and are being glorified for their so-called lifestyle, which is nothing more than sin and wickedness.
The combined sins of the people who reside in Israel is building again toward the direction of judgment, their sins are becoming manifest and they are proudly showing off their evil without being ashamed. Jeremiah 6:15 Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the LORD.

The promises of the Divine cannot be broken, HIS word to the fathers of Israel hold true today as they will always remain true for all eternity.
Isaiah 41:8 But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.
Isaiah 41:9 Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.
Isaiah 43:10 Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.
We can find throughout Scripture where the LORD has chosen Israel as HIS people, HE has promised that if they fall away judgment would come, HE also promised to forgive them if they return to HIM. HE also promised to protect them from the nations who desire to destroy them, Zecheriah 2:8 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.

If Israel continues down this road of so-called secularism, denying the Laws of GOD, showing their sins before the world to see then it is evident in Scripture that judgment will follow.
I would ask and I do pray that the nation and people of Israel return to the faith of their fathers, to relearn the Sacred Scriptures which guided their relationship with the Divine in their beginnings because if they refuse then judgement will surely follow just as it has throughout their history as a people and nation.

In the following Scripture we read what some refer to as the Oracle of Damascus. Many Christians pray that this Oracle would come to pass because it leads to the imminent return of Jesus the Christ. Here is Isaiah Chapter 17.

1 The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.
2 The cities of Aroer are forsaken: they shall be for flocks, which shall lie down, and none shall make them afraid.
3 The fortress also shall cease from Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus, and the remnant of Syria: they shall be as the glory of the children of Israel, saith the LORD of hosts.
4 And in that day it shall come to pass, that the glory of Jacob shall be made thin, and the fatness of his flesh shall wax lean.
5 And it shall be as when the harvestman gathereth the corn, and reapeth the ears with his arm; and it shall be as he that gathereth ears in the valley of Rephaim.
6 ¶ Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it, as the shaking of an olive tree, two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof, saith the LORD God of Israel.
7 At that day shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel.
8 And he shall not look to the altars, the work of his hands, neither shall respect that which his fingers have made, either the groves, or the images.
9 ¶ In that day shall his strong cities be as a forsaken bough, and an uppermost branch, which they left because of the children of Israel: and there shall be desolation.
10 Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants, and shalt set it with strange slips:
11 In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish: but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow.
12 ¶ Woe to the multitude of many people, which make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters!
13 The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind.
14 And behold at eveningtide trouble; and before the morning he is not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us.

Here we see that Damascus has become a ruinous heap, nothing but dust and ash so to speak.
Many Christians believe in the pre-tribulational rapture theory, myself I do not subscribe to that opinion and often refer to myself as a pre-wrather. That being said, those who hold the pre-trib view of interpreting scripture believe that the Oracle of Damascus leads to the Gog-Magog conflict, which I think it does as well, but they tend to believe they will be raptured or taken away before all or most of this occurs.
I do not concur with that opinion and after reading the above chapter I would say it is not something I am wanting to see happen. Primarily because of the suffering and death that follows with any conflict, but with an apprehension that most forget to read the remaining verses.
In verse four we read this, “4 And in that day it shall come to pass, that the glory of Jacob shall be made thin, and the fatness of his flesh shall wax lean.” also in verse nine, “…. and there shall be desolation.”.
It would appear that after this Damascus Oracle is completed that there will be hunger in the land of Israel, that there will be desolation around and in Israel although there will be those who do repent and come back to the faith of their fathers.
The actions of war have happened throughout human history and will not stop until the Almighty says the times are at an end and the new earth is created. Yet war is never a glorious thing to behold let alone to participate in, the human suffering, damages, and costs on all levels associated with conflicts leave damage to people for decades and can have unforeseen consequences that do not appear for generations, both on a personal, national, and international scale.
Those who glory in hating their neighbor and who desire the death of other human beings to me are some of the worse kinds of people, forgetting that every person is created in the image of the Divine.
In Hosea 6:6 we read this, For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. Also here we read about the mercy and forgiveness of the Almighty, Ezekiel 33:11 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?
Mercy is a virtue which the old world does not know unless it is pushed at them by the Divine. The world says to kill your enemies yet our Creator finds no pleasure in the death of the wicked, whether Jew or Gentile. When it is all said and done and the Divine is ruling this old world then we read this, Malachi 1:11 For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.
Damascus is going to fall in its appointed time and by those to whom it is appointed to do it. Just as the Gog-Magog conflict is going to be for its appointed time but myself, I do not think we as a people or a world should be rushing into any of these conflicts because of the damage done to humanity and the world as a whole.

Judgment will come, in GOD’s time, not on our timing.

Israel and the Christian communities need to understand that judgment is coming, at what time I do not know, only the Creator knows for sure.
HE finds no pleasure in the death of the wicked but that they should repent and be saved.

Now with that said I do not even want to imply that Israel does not have the right of self defense, they do as any other nation on earth does, they do show an intense amount of restraint when dealing with the terrorists surrounding them, they do show mercy to their enemies in conflicts, their military has shown itself to be an excellent model which other nations should emulate. I commend the IDF for their abilities and their fortitude in battling their enemies in the past, present, and in the future conflicts that are surely going to arise. May the Almighty bless and keep everyone of your men and women in arms and safe. I do also commend the national government of Israel in most things they do in regards to their restraint and understanding concerning the nations surrounding them, they do show compassion to other nations, at times being the first to offer assistance to poverty stricken nations, the first to volunteer to help those peoples struck with natural disasters or war. With these outward expressions of goodness it cannot be denied that Israel is both faithful in most regards to their Creator, showing the same compassion for others as HE showed to them.
The condemnation comes when there is open and public rebellion against the Laws of the Almighty and outright public wickedness being flaunted in the face of your GOD, family, and nation. These actions alone as well as the secularization of your nation is going to draw your people away from their faith and lead to judgement.

Judgment will come if you continue in your sins, just as it did with your fathers, the only thing the Lord is impressing upon my heart here are these verses in Isaiah chapter 48 , 9 ¶ For my name’s sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off.
10 Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.
11 For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another.

For HIS names sake HE may defer HIS anger for a time, but you are treading on very shallow ground here with allowing sin and wickedness to flaunt itself through your nation.

Israel bombs Syrian posts over Golan attack on its troops

(Reuters) – Israel launched air strikes on Wednesday against Syrian military sites in response to a roadside bombing that wounded four of its soldiers, but both sides signaled they were not seeking further escalation.

The Syrian army, embroiled in a civil war, said one soldier was killed and seven were wounded in the air raids on three targets. Although Damascus condemned the Israeli attacks, it stopped short of any direct threat of retaliation and affirmed its focus on defeating insurgents.

Israel, by announcing the air raids, as opposed to its official silence about past strikes on arms from Syria believed destined for Lebanon’s Hezbollah guerrillas, appeared intent on delivering a message of deterrence to President Bashar al-Assad.

“Our policy is clear. We hurt those who hurt us,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet in public remarks.

“Syrian elements not only allowed but also cooperated in the attacks on our forces,” he said, and by taking military action now the Jewish state wanted to ensure calm was re-established along its northern frontier.

The attack came less than a month after Hezbollah accused Israel of carrying out an air strike on one of its bases on the Lebanon-Syria border. It vowed at the time to respond.

In Tuesday’s violence, a bomb was detonated near an Israeli patrol along a fence between the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and the part of the strategic plateau under Syrian control. One of the four wounded soldiers was in critical condition.

Although suspicion in Israel fell on Hezbollah, Israeli leaders did not point a finger directly at the Shi’ite Muslim group, which is allied with Assad in battling a three-year-old rebellion against his rule led by Sunni Islamist insurgents.

While the Syrian army has a presence in the Golan, some areas are controlled by the rebels fighting to topple Assad, including al Qaeda-inspired militants hostile to the Jewish state. Israel has voiced concern that it will increasingly become a target during and after the Syrian conflict.

ISRAEL WARNS OF “HEAVY PRICE”

“We hold the Assad regime responsible for what happens in its territory and if it continues to collaborate with terrorists striving to hurt Israel, then we will keep on exacting a heavy price from it and make it regret its actions,” Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said.

Netanyahu, in his remarks to the cabinet, also alluded to Israeli air strikes against weapons shipments, saying Israel had taken action during the Syrian conflict to “thwart, as much as we can, the transfer of arms by sea, air and land”.

But Amos Yadlin, a former chief of Israeli military intelligence, said there was “no desire for escalation” on Israel’s part, noting the air force was capable of carrying out attacks far more dramatic than Wednesday’s pre-dawn strikes.

The Israeli military said targets of the latest air strikes had included a Syrian military headquarters, a training facility and artillery batteries on the Syrian-held side of the Golan.

Occasional spillover violence on the Golan from the Syrian civil war has often drawn Israeli return fire against Syrian positions, ending what had previously been a stable ceasefire between the foes since the 1973 Middle East war.

“There is no spillover here,” Yadlin told Army Radio, referring to the roadside bombing.

“When the other side changes the rules of the game, Israel has to make clear it carries a very high price. I think Assad understands the price,” said Yadlin, who heads Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies.

Israel captured the Golan from Syria in 1967 and annexed it in a move not recognized abroad. The wounding of the soldiers on the strategic plateau marked Israel’s worst casualties there since the start of Syria’s conflict in 2011.

(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell; and Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Dominic Evans in Beirut)

FALLS CHURCH, VA: U.S. Supreme Court Declines To Hear Religious Freedom Case

FALLS CHURCH, VA: U.S. Supreme Court Declines To Hear Religious Freedom Case
Historic Congregation Sought Review of State Decision Taking Away Church Property

FALLS CHURCH, VA (Tuesday, March 11, 2014) – The Falls Church Anglican-whose congregation voted nearly unanimously in 2006 to leave the Episcopal denomination over issues of who Jesus Christ is and the authority of the Bible-received word yesterday that the United States Supreme Court denied its Petition for Certiorari. The key issue was the Court’s interpretation of the First Amendment. In question was whether courts must enforce denominational rules that strip congregations of their property when they leave their denomination, even when those rules conflict with state laws governing secular property disputes.

The Rev. Dr. John Yates II, Rector of The Falls Church Anglican, offered the following thoughts on the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear his congregation’s case: “We have pursued this legal process out of the conviction that it is one of the ministries that God has entrusted to our church. We continued in our desire to be faithful to God’s calling to see it through to the end. We are grateful that our nation’s civil justice system allows us this recourse, and we thank the Supreme Court for its consideration of our petition. Although we hoped and prayed for a different outcome, we know that God is good, loving, and faithful. We have seen this on vibrant display in so many ways in our church life during these years, and we will continue to trust that he has even better things for us.”

After being forced by court order in May of 2012 to leave the property they held for over 275 years, The Falls Church Anglican has been meeting in a variety of locations including a Catholic high school, Baptist and Presbyterian churches, and a county middle school. The congregation remains one of the largest in the DC metropolitan area with nearly 2,000 people participating in Sunday services. Despite the litigation brought against The Falls Church Anglican, and the loss of the church’s property, vibrant ministries including a 500-member youth group, English classes for immigrants, and international outreach missions continue to spread the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ. (A sampling of life in the church following loss of her property immediately after departure and one year after leaving.)

Yates continued, “The legal process may be finished, but in the end only God’s judgment is final and only God’s judgment matters. Our prayer has always been that God would be pleased with us for fighting the good fight, finishing the race, and keeping the faith. (2 Tim. 4:7)”

END

Sex and Created Bodies: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; Genesis 1:26-28

Sex and Created Bodies: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; Genesis 1:26-28
A Sermon Preached at Falls Church Anglican, March 2, 2014 by the Rev. Sam Ferguson

By Sam Ferguson
Special to Virtueonline
http://www.virtueonline.org

March 15, 2014

No issue is more talked about today than sex. From newspapers to news broadcasts, from cafeteria conversations to Facebook, from sitcoms to SportsCenter, opinions about sexuality meet us every hour. Moreover, no issue finds the church more at odds with the prevailing mood of culture. Traditional sexual ethics, which were the architecture of civilization for most of history, are being dismissed as outdated, uncivil, and anti-human. Treasures of Christian morality – monogamy, virginity and chastity – are dissolving. As issues related to sex move from Facebook posts to courts of law, we can become not only confused, but even scared. At a moment such as this, what is the church to do? At least two things:

First, the church must be brutally honest about our failure to live up to our own standards. The statistics are sobering: divorce rates inside the church mirror those outside. Pornography use is at epidemic levels. Sex outside of marriage is commonplace. And clergy abuse scandals frontline papers worldwide. We have lost so much credibility. Whatever we say or do, we must do so with ashes on our heads and tears in our eyes. We are not those who have earned the moral high ground; we are those who have needed the grace and forgiveness at the heart of our message.

Having said that, the church does have a word to speak regarding sexuality, today. Our story – the story of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation – includes sex and sexuality. Our Lord, Jesus Christ, cares immensely about this topic.

Therefore, the second thing we do is re-root sex in its original story, the story of Creation. As the culture understands sex as an end in and of itself, we understand it as part of a larger story. Like an organ severed from a body, outside of its natural context, the meaning and purpose of sex are lost. Placed within the larger organism of human life, sex takes on deeper meaning and greater purpose.

Here is our goal today: We’ve been studying Corinthians, where Paul has much to say about sexuality. Paul is at odds to re-root the Corinthian’s sexual ethic in the story of creation – in the foundational events of Genesis 1-3. Our aim is similar. We will consider the benefits of re-rooting sex in the story of creation. More specifically, we will ask: how does re-casting sex in the Christian story of creation benefit both individuals and society?

PART I: SEX AND CREATED BODIES: “Your body is not meant for sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:13)

A personal story about a friend will help us see the relevance of rooting sexuality in the story of creation. Kevin and I became friends while fellow graduated students overseas. We couldn’t have been more different. He was a rather clever agnostic; I was an aspiring minister. Our conversations were never dull. During winter term, I notice Kevin was not doing well. I asked if I could pray for him, to which he agreed. As I finished praying for him in my apartment, I looked up and found him in tears. Nobody had ever prayed for him before. Kevin proceeded to open up to me: he’d struggled for a decade with his sexuality, felt like a woman in a man’s body, was taking a hormone, and hoping to undergo a transgender surgery. With his words came waves of pain, of a sort I’ve rarely encountered. All I could was listen and cry, as my friend bore his soul. Kevin then asked me a profound question. He said, “Are you a man?” “Yes,” I answered. “How do you know; what does it feel like?” We proceeded to talk about gender and one’s sense of identity. I quickly realized that this conversation was deeper than sexual preferences. We were talking about the fundamental aspects of human identity – what it means to be male or female. We continued meeting and praying, and over the next months something incredible began to happen; Kevin became a Christian. Watching this happen was one of the most meaningful moments of my life.

Kevin did not wake up the next day with his life in perfect order. Rather, what ensued, was a relationship of discipleship between me and Kevin. In order for Kevin to make sense of his identity, we had to re-root him the Christian story of creation – so we went to the opening chapters of Genesis. As we studied the creation story, two very significant truths presented themselves to Kevin, each having to do with his created body.

First, God had created Kevin’s body as male, and this had implications (Gen. 1:27). It was not an accident, but a concrete landmark of identity. God’s creation is good; this included Kevin’s body. Moreover, Kevin’s male body was made in God’s image, which gave it dignity. As we considered the larger story of the Bible, we noticed that Kevin’s male body was eternal. Kevin would be raised from the dead as a man. However, Kevin’s sex drive was temporary, not eternal. Jesus teaches that there is no marriage in heaven, which implies no procreation, either. Therefore, sexual energies are temporary, but gender eternal. Kevin needed to root his identity on something permanent, not transitory.

A second truth related to his body, was that in its created shape it told a story. It was shaped, sexually, for the female body. In form, the male and female bodies were made to fit, sexually. In function, the male and female bodies could create new life. To use the male body, sexually, outside these natural boundaries would be to cut against the grain of creation. Kevin’s body told a story, a story about his identity, and how he ought to use his body.

As Kevin spent time soaking in these concrete truths of creation, I watched a man who’d been drifting for a decade find an anchor. No longer was his identity determined by a sea of sexualized emotions. Rather, his identity rested in the concrete reality of his maleness, and God’s eternal plan for it. To be sure, Kevin still struggled with all sorts of feelings, but, he now had a stabilizing foundation beneath them.

I share this story about Kevin because, for one, it reminds us of how personal and painful the subject of sexuality can be. We are not talking about abstract theology; we are talking about real people. We are talking about human longings and broken hearts. In these conversations we must be so careful and sensitive. Secondly, however, Kevin’s story represents the fundamental question at this cultural moment: who, or what, dictates human identity? Is identity rooted in one’s sexual feelings, or a created order? What does our body have to do with our identity?

Paul faced this dilemma in Corinth. In 1 Cor. 6:12-20 Paul uses the word body eight times. Why? Because the Corinthians had fallen into a way of thinking that rooted identity in an inner sense of self, not a created body. This was called Gnosticism and Paul railed against it. This way of thinking saw created matter as bad, but the spirit as good. This cut against the grain of the Judaism Paul was raised on, and the Christianity he was preaching. God’s creation was good. Jesus’ physical body was raised from the dead. For Paul, you are your body.

Do we face this issue today? I think we do. I think we are facing a new type of Gnosticism. Consider this scenario: Fourteen years ago a baby is born in Arlington hospital. The doctor delivers the little one and says one of two things to the parents: “It’s a boy.” Or, “It’s a girl. How does he know what to say? The baby’s body, of course. Fast-forward fourteen years to last week. The child is now a teenager and is joining Facebook. They come to the page that asks them to share their identity, and there is the drop down box for gender – should be simple, two options, male or female. They click, and what drops down is not two, but fifty-one options. As of February, Facebook expanded their gender options to fifty-one. The list includes: Agender; Bigender; Gender Fluid; Gender Questioning; Gender Variant; Gender Queer; Intersex; Pangender and Transgender.

I share this not to make light of people who struggle with gender identity – I’ve seen this pain first hand. Rather, I share this to simply ask the question, what changed between the birth-ward and Facebook? Did the child’s body morph?

This represents a shift in our society’s way of thinking about human identity. Identity is no longer rooted in created bodies, but feelings, and not just any feelings, but sexual feelings. We are our sex drive. Who chose Facebook’s list of fifty-one. How do we know it won’t be 5,100 in two years?

For a teenager, who is having a hard enough time with emotions, to cast their identity on a sea of passions seems un-thoughtful. What they need is an anchor, not more options. I know this list is meant to liberate, but I am afraid it will confuse. If a person’s primary sense of self is their sexual appetite, then they are cast upon their sexual fortunes. Sex has become their god. People are so much more than their sex drive.

This begs the question: is the language of sexual orientation, which we use so commonly in our day, helpful? Even within the Church, we speak of people as heterosexual, homosexual, or bi-sexual. When we do this, we are subtly shifting a person’s sense of self onto their sexualized emotions. I wonder if we know how novel, and controversial, these categories of sexual orientation are? Words like heterosexual and homosexual were not used in the English language until the late nineteenth century. Certain gay activist have called into question the plausibility of these terms. In his book, “The Invention of Heterosexuality,” activist Jonathan Ned Katz dismisses the notion of a biologically fixed or normative sexual orientation. He sees orientation language as a social construct, not a biological norm. For Katz, the goal is having sexuality as fluid as possible, where it can expresses itself in unlimited variety. For Christians, however, Katz’s research is helpful because it suggests that sex drives are not the place to root ultimate identity; that they are not as fixed as one’s biological body. We are created in the image of God – Male or Female. This is a category that is richer and deeper than feelings. We must re-root our identity here, and be careful about what language we use when describing a human being.

Let me draw all this to a fine point. When sex and sexuality is re-rooted in the Christian story of Creation, it gives an individual a steady anchor for self-understanding. It rescues Millennials from the tyranny of sex, whereby the culture would tell them they are, primarily, their sex drive. Also, it gives the individual great dignity and hope, for one who is created in God’s image, as Male or Female, can be sure God has a plan for you that makes sense of your body. And because of the work of Jesus Christ and hope of resurrection, this is precisely what the Gospel means.

Let us now consider one other point. Along with individual benefits, how does re-rooting sex in the story of creation benefit society at large? What does sex have to do with the public good?

PART II: SEX AND THE COMMON GOOD: “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are beneficial” (1 Cor. 6:12).

Consider with me how Paul opens this paragraph to the Corinthians. He begins, “all things are lawful for me.” This was a slogan floating around Corinth. It’s akin to our modern day, “whatever floats your boat.” This was a tag line for sexual license. It’s akin to our modern ethic whereby as long as no one is getting hurt, “all sexual behavior is permissible.” Paul allows this motto for the moment, but replies with this: “all things are lawful, but are all things beneficial?” It’s this last word, beneficial, that makes us pause. The question Paul is posing to their sexual ethic and to ours is: how does your sexual behavior benefit others – your neighbor, neighborhood, and society? What does sex have to do with the common good?

J.D. Unwin, a sociologist at Cambridge University, posed this very question in the early twentieth century. He had come across a theory of Sigmund Freud that suggested sexual restrictions might cause such suppression in individuals that they would become deleterious to civilization. In Freud’s own words:

“It is natural to suppose that under the domination of a civilized morality [one that restricts sex] the health and efficiency in life of the individuals may be impaired, and that ultimately this injury to the individual, causes by the sacrifice imposed upon him, may reach such a pitch that the civilized aim and end will itself be indirectly endangered.”

To test Freud’s theory, Unwin undertook a study of eighty-six civilizations spanning five thousand years. His question was straightforward: is there a relationship between sexual ethics and societal flourishing. Unwin expected to prove Freud’s theory right. He was astonished when he discovered the very opposite. Unwin found that there was no case of a civilization that practiced absolute monogamy that failed to display great cultural and expansive energy. Whereas, there was no case of a civilization becoming lax in its sexual restrictions that did not eventually flounder. Unwin published his findings in a book titled, “Sex and Culture.” In an address made to the Medical Section of the British Psychological Society he reported the following:

“The evidence was such as to demand a complete revision of my personal philosophy…if we know what sexual regulations a society has adopted, we can prophesy accurately the pattern of its cultural behavior… [Monogamous] marriage has been adopted by different societies, in different places, and at different times. Thousands of years and thousands of miles separate the events. In human records, there is no case of an absolutely monogamous society failing to display great [cultural] energy.”

And in a journal article, he summed up his findings with the following:

“The whole of human history does not contain a single instance of a group becoming civilized unless it has been absolutely monogamous, nor is there any example of a group retaining its culture after it has adopted less rigorous customs.”

Thinkers from Aldous Huxley to Phillip Yancey have commented on the shock of Unwin’s research, and wondered why we don’t hear more about them. Paul may be onto something: “all sex may be permissible for the sophisticated modern man, but is it beneficial?” Least we dismiss Unwin’s findings as outdated, let us consider some statistics from modern America.

With increased sexual freedom has come an increase in births out of wedlock. The number of African American children born outside of marriage today has topped 70%. Besides obvious emotional problems this causes, we would do well to consider the economics. Professor Dale Kuehne has shared that a child born out of wedlock will cost the State 4 to 8 times as much money. Where the absence of healthy parenting is felt the State steps in. We must wonder about the economic sustainability of it. Moreover, will a child who has not been cared for by their father be likely to care for their father when he becomes elderly? Statistics suggest no. Again, the State will need to step in. The economic implications of this are worrisome. The unintended consequences of the sexual liberation movement have been the collapsing of American families. Families are the most cost effective way to raise children, create healthy citizens, and cultivate stable societies. Families are the backbone of society. Sexual ethics are the backbone of families. We must do the math.

The medical industry ought to be concerned with sexual liberations as well. Last February, U.S. News and World Report published an article on the amount of Sexually Transmitted Diseases in America. More than 110 Million Americans have an STD, with nearly 20 million new infections occurring each year. This means there are more new infections of STDs amongst Americans per year than there are people living in the cities of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia, combined. The article goes on to lament that the estimated lifetime cost of treating 20 million STDs is 16 billion dollars. Just imagine what else could be done with that money.

To this list we could add the emotional and relational toll that the Hook Up culture has unleashed. The title of Donna Freitas recent book says enough, “The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy.” In her survey of thousands of college students, professor Freitas finds that many participants of the Hook Up culture are left empty. Casual sex makes for casual relationships; the enemy of lasting intimacy.

Paul knew that sexual ethics were linked to the good of society. Modern research and statistics seems to support this. What is the biblical foundation of this idea? Again, we find it in the story of Creation. When we first are introduced to sexual beings in Genesis one, we find them immediately tied to the care of society. Genesis 1:26-28 reads:

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth”(Genesis 1:27-28).

To fill and have dominion means to create culture and society. The sexual relationship between the man and the woman was the means of creating families that would then fill the earth, create societies, and build culture. The relationship between sex and the common good is built into the DNA of the world.

We need to conclude. What have we said? When we re-root sex in the story of creation, we find that it takes on incredible meaning and purpose. For the individual, they find that their sexuality must account for the created order of their body. And, that their sexuality is not the fundamental and final aspect that gives them self-worth. They are male or female, in God’s image, for eternity. Their body has been made good, and is being redeemed in Christ. For the social activist, we have found that sexual ethics are linked to societal flourishing. Research, statistics, and the Bible all support this. By re-rooting sex in God’s story of creation, it takes on new meaning and purpose, and is protected from corruption and idolatry.

Finally, in recalling how difficult a topic this is for all of us, how it represents so much hurt, and so many unmeant longings, I would close as Paul does in 1 Cor. 6:20: “You are not your own. You were bought with a price. Glorify God with your body.” Perhaps the final piece of re-rooting, for all of us, is to recall that we are not our own, but the Lord’s. It’s not so much who you are, but whose you are, that finally matters. Amen.

FOOTNOTES:

1. Brandon Griggs, “Facebook goes beyond ‘male’ and ‘female’ with new gender options” (CNN, February 13, 2014), find online at: http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/13/tech/social-media/facebook-gender-custom
2. Cf., Michael W. Hannon, “Against Heterosexuality” (First Things, March 2014)
3. Cf., Jonathan Ned Katz, “The Invention of Heterosexuality” (Chicago, Ill: University of Chicago Press, 1997)
4. As quoted in Daniel R. Heimbach, “True Sexual Morality: Recovering Biblical Standards for a Culture in Crisis” (Crossway, Wheaton, Ill: 2004) pg. 346.
5. Joseph Daniel Unwin, “Sexual Regulations and Cultural Behavior,” in an address given to the Medical Section of the British Psychological Society. Library of Congress, No. HQ12.U52.
6. Unwin, J. D. (1927). “Monogamy as a Condition of Social Energy,” The Hibbert Journal, Vol. XXV, p. 662.
7. Aldous Huxley, the English writer, summed up Unwin’s work as follows: “[Unwin’s] investigation shows that the societies exhibiting the least amount of energy are those where pre-nuptial continence is not imposed and where the opportunities for sexual indulgence after marriage are greatest. The cultural condition of a society rises in exact proportion as it imposes pre-nuptial and post-nuptial restraints upon sexual opportunity” Cf., Aldous Huxley, “Ends and Means” (Chatto & Windus, London, 1946) pp. 311-12. Cf., Phillip Yancey, “The Lost Sex Study: If we make a god of sexuality, that god will fail in ways that affect the whole person and perhaps the whole society” (Christianity Today, December 12, 1994).
8. “More than 72 percent of children in the African-American community are born out of wedlock,” Don Lemon, CNN.
9. Dale Kuehne, “Sexual Economics: Can Nations Survive Without Supporting Strong Family Ideals?” (Q Ideas Conference, April 2013, Los Angeles, CA). Access online at: http://www.qideas.org/video/sexual-economics.aspx
10. Ibid.
11. “More Than 110 Million Americans Have an STD: Report,” (U.S. News & World Report, Feb. 2, 2013).

The Rev. Sam Ferguson is assistant pastor at the Falls Church Anglican as a Timothy and provides leadership for the Young Adults ministry. His passion is to see people of all ages intimately connected to Jesus Christ and to increasingly discover, by way of both spiritual and intellectual growth, the surpassing worth and satisfaction of knowing and experiencing God.

Massive Exodus Of Street Children Into Western Europe

http://www.bosnewslife.com/27361-best-of-bosnewslife-massive-exodus-of-street-children-into-western-europe

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– Key non-governmental groups and officials have urged the European Union to urgently tackle the “growing problem” of street children moving from Eastern to Western Europe, by improving cross-border cooperation and child protection.

They made the appeal at the ‘European Forum On Street Children 2009’ in Budapest, amid concerns that the EU’s open borders mean that “unaccompanied” minors from poorer member states are increasingly roaming the streets of richer Western European cities.

There are believed to be a quarter of a million street children in Europe, although officials cautioned that figure may be higher because as many as 1.5 million young gypsies, also known as Roma, are “unregistered”.

In a final declaration, delegates attending the Forum, urged the EU to realize the European Parliament’s goal of ending “the phenomena of street children” by 2015.

“The increasing freedom of circulation of separated children within the EU following the removal of barriers as a consequence of the [EU’s cross-border] Schengen Agreement” is “an increasingly European” phenomena “with the recent access of Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union posing particular challenges,” they said.

The situation worsened since former East block countries began joining the European Union in 2004, according to the European Federation for Street Children (EFSC), one of the organizers of the two-day Forum, which ended Friday, September 25.

INCREASE COOPERATION

Delegates stressed it was crucial to increase cooperation between the “origin and destination countries” of street children and to adopt common European standards aimed at protecting minors from prosecution for crimes such as stealing.

“We should achieve a rule of non-punishment and non-detention of these children first of all, which is not guaranteed in a number of countries,” explained EFSC Director Reinhold Müller. “The Czech Republic and Finland have a progressive system where there is quite a high protection until the age of 18. So the exchange [of information] between the [EU] member states of best practises [regarding street children] is very important,” he told BosNewsLife.

Many street children have become victims of organized crime groups, while others are forced to feed their impoverished families by bagging, playing music or even providing sexual services, according to advocacy groups.

EU member states should therefore ensure that “spending levels for social projects of child protection” such as supporting troubled families, “are maintained in spite of the [global] economic downturn,” the Forum’s final declaration said.

Additionally, the delegates urged the European Commission (EC), the EU’s executive body, to make children’s rights a central part of its “social agenda” following the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion in 2010, and to increase cooperation with NGOs.

CONTROVERSIAL ISSUE

The EC’s Policy Officer for the Fundamental Rights and the Rights of the Child, Marek Stavinoha, declined to tell BosNewsLife whether the Commission would agree with, or at least study, these recommendations. “I can’t talk to the press, otherwise I lose my job,” said Stavinoha, who participated in the Forum.

Former European Parliamentarian Anthony Simpson wasn’t surprised. “The position of the European Union is somewhat difficult….Issues on children’s rights and how children are treated are the [responsibility] of the Council of Europe, which is a body based in Strasbourg,” added Simpson, who represented the British Conservative Party from 1978 to 1995 in the European Parliament.

However, he said, European legislators could focus on the Daphne program he helped to develop, a scheme aimed at combating violence against especially women and children so families can stay together.

Yet, EFSC representative and Roma activist Anna D’ambrosio made clear that tackling the issue of street children has been made difficult by under representation of Roma in the European Parliament. Many street children are of Roma origin, but have no voice, she added.

“There are wonderful examples of Roma who have become lawyers who now to help their peers to fight discrimination. But in the European parliament there are only two representatives of Roma, but in comparison there should be about 80.”

Müller.. “There have been pilot programs where they were building a kitchen for four persons. If you know that many Roma families have 20 persons, you understand that they don’t want to go to live in these homes.”

THEATER PERFORMANCE

A key element of the Budapest gathering was a bizarre theater performance of Hungarian teenagers trying to quit the habit of drugs addiction, a major problem among street children, who often turn to drugs to escape the harsh realities of their young lives.

They made cat sounds, played music, danced and sang cynical songs that included words
like ‘I just eat Mártha…But I don’t tell you where I buried her.’

Performer Eszter Jakob, an 18-year-old stunning blond who could have walked away from a Hollywood-set, didn’t appear cynical when talking to BosNewsLife about her troubled life on the streets of Budapest, and plans for the future.

Once a successful ice-skating dancer, she turned to drugs as a teenager because of depression. “I didn’t want to have a boring life,” she said. However, “Now I seek adventure, but without drugs, if possible.”

She is among dozens of youngsters attending the theater-therapy program of Budapest-based Megálló Csoport Alapítvány, or ‘Stop Group Foundation’ in English, to help her overcome her addiction. “We try to show teenagers that life does not have to be boring without drugs,” said Tímea Kiss, who runs the program.

As all helpers at the center, the 36-year old woman was once addicted to drugs. “That was now 12 years ago, and I don’t want to look back,” Kiss said. “In fact, I will marry soon…”

She is pleased that the accession of Hungary and other Eastern European countries to the EU has made it more easy to help children in need. Yet, economic difficulties have impacted her work. Authorities in Budapest are planning to take down the building of her foundation, she claimed. Officials were not immediately available for comment.

Without a building, youngsters struggling with addiction may find themselves once again on the streets, she explained, while NGOs would have another reason to hold a conference. (BosNewsLife NEWS WATCH is a regular look at general news developments especially in (former) Communist nations impacting the Church and/or compassionate professionals. BEST OF BOSNEWSLIFE features stories that made a special impact).

Turkey returns less than half of monastery land it seized

Source: http://www.worldwatchmonitor.org
Date: March 13, 2014

1,600-year-old Mor Gabriel is holy to Aramean Syriacs

By Damaris Kremida

The Turkish Ministry of EU Affairs welcomed March 2 the return of property, seized by the country’s treasury, to the world’s oldest Syriac Orthodox monastery, Mor Gabriel.

In February, the head of the Mor Gabriel Religious Foundation, Kuryakos Ergun, received the property deeds to 12 plots of land totaling 244,000 square meters, or 60 acres.

The returned property is less than half of the land the monastery has owned since 1935. The monastery, in the southeastern province of Mardin, was built in 397 and is considered a holy place to Aramean Syriacs in Turkey and the diaspora.

The property first was contested in 2008 when the Forestry Ministry, the Land Registry Cadaster Office and three surrounding villages sued the monastery for allegedly “occupying” their land, according to the Hurriyet Daily News.

The heated legal battles ended in June 2012 when the Turkish supreme court of appeals upheld a decision to give substantial parts of the monastery to the Turkish Treasury and the Ministry of Forestry.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan announced in September of last year that the government would return the land to its historic owner as part of the government’s “democratization package”, according to the statement issued by the Turkish Ministry of EU Affairs. The decision was approved by the state agency for foundations.

However, the government did not return the remaining 18 plots of land measuring 320,000 square meters, or 79 acres. Nearly 270,000 square meters, or about 67 acres, out of the property in dispute are now in the hands of the Forestry Ministry. The rest remains seized by the Turkish treasury.

Isa Dogdu, Deputy Head of the Mor Gabriel Religious foundation, told World Watch Monitor that the monastery leadership will rest when the government returns all of the land, despite the prime minister’s declaration that all the land would be returned, though he said it will be a continued battle to convince the government to do so.

“We’re happy to receive it back, but we will be much happier to restore the rest of the property which belongs to the monastery,” Dogdu said. “What was given is less than half of the property in question. The other parcels that are under the forestry are still pending. “

Two years ago, the monastery’s foundation took its case to the European Court of Human Rights, in Strassburg, France, which attracted international attention and became a topic in Turkey’s bid to join the European Union. In the European Commission’s 2013 Turkey Progress report, it noted that the government’s abeyance on the issue was a cause for concern and called on Turkey to “ensure full respect for all property rights, including those of non-Muslim religious communities.”

“The recent step taken is a significant progress in terms of promoting brotherhood in our country and consolidating democracy,” read the statement, released by Turkish Ministry of EU Affairs. “We hope that this step will have positive impact on the EU accession process as well.”

The ministry statement also said it does not regard the move as a favor, but a deserved right, that indicated the government’s sensitivity towards human and minority rights reforms.

The monastery’s property was seized under the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP.

AKP member Süleyman Çelebi said Syrian Orthodox Christians had never come under pressure, despite their claim that they were exploited, and even emigrated away from Turkey “with joy” in previous decades.

Poverty, and violence between ethnic Turks and Kurds, have caused many of the Syriacs to leave Turabdin, where the monastery is located. There are now 2,500 Syriacs in Turabdin, compared to about 50,000 in 1950, according to Reuters.

The sectarian violence in neighboring Syria has led some of Syria’s Orthodox Syriacs to flee to Turkey and many of them have found temporary refuge in Turabdin, where they can practice their religion.

Pakistan Christian Asia Bibi In High Court Over Death Sentence

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– A Pakistani court will hear the appeal of a Pakistani woman who has been “languishing in prison since 2009” after she was sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy against Islam, amid hope her conviction may be overturned, advocacy officials involved in the case told BosNewsLife Saturday, March 15.

Asia Bibi’s appeal was due to be heard Monday, March 17, “by a double bench at the Lahore High Court”, confirmed Nasir Saeed, the Britain-based director of the Center for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS).

CLAAS Pakistan Director Joseph Francis said he was “hopeful” that “if there is no pressure on the judges by the extremists and the case is handled with care, consideration, and due diligence with the judges being left free to take their decision, her conviction will be overturned.”

Bibi has always denied that she defiled the name of the prophet Mohammed during an argument with Muslim co-workers while working in the fields, according to CLAAS, which says it supports Christians “persecuted for their faith in Pakistan.”

However a court convicted the 45-year-old mother-of-five and sentenced her to death in 2010, in a case
that attracted national and international attention.

POLITICIANS KILLED

Pakistani Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, and the former governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, Salmaan Taseer, were both killed in separate incidents in 2011, after openly condemning the controversial blasphemy legislation and expressing support for Bibi.

The jailed bodyguard who publicly said he shot and killed the governor, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, is considered a hero of Islam by his supporters, Christians say.

CLAAS-UK Director Saeed acknowledged it will not easy for the judges “as it is a very high profile case and the whole world will be watching.”

However, “I pray that God will fill the hearts of the judges with boldness and courage and not allow fear to rule.”

He said he hopes the court would “follow the international norms and keep only justice in the forefront when reaching a decision.” Saeed said he requested the “worldwide Church of Jesus Christ to unite [and] remember the judges and lawyers in their prayers, asking that justice is done.”

China: Wenxi Li uses prison time to advance the Gospel

http://www.christiansincrisis.net/latest-news/2530-china-wenxi-li-uses-prison-time-to-advance-the-gospel.html

China (MNN) — A man imprisoned for his faith in China is bringing fellow inmates to Christ. According to Voice of the Martyrs USA, Chinese courts gave Wenxi Li a two-year prison term last summer for trying to set up a Christian bookstore.

His family recently shared an update with VOM, saying Li has been sharing the Gospel with fellow prisoners. As a result, several have put their faith in Christ.

Pray that these new believers will grow in their knowledge of Christ. Pray that God will use Li to disciple the new believers.

Before his arrest, Wenxi Li worked at a Christian bookstore in Beijing. In 2012, Li traveled to Shanxi province to help local Christians open a new book store in the capital city of Taiyuan. But police raided the new business, Enyu Bookstore, and confiscated $6,000 worth of books that Li had brought with him from Beijing.

When Li was asked to come retrieve the confiscated literature, they immediately arrested him upon arrival and put him in jail. Li was reportedly denied bail because of the seriousness of his “crime.”

Cai Hong Li, Wenxi Li’s wife, tells VOM that after the police arrested her husband, they told her it was became Wenxi Li was involved in an “illegal business.” However, the bookstore at which he worked has a legal license to operate, and Li wasn’t involved in managing the business.

“[Wenxi was] just sent to find a rental place for a new store,” Cai Hong Li told VOM.

Since Wenxi’s arrest, Cai Hong Li and their two children have been harassed by an

 

Global Rise in Use of Blasphemy Law: U.S. Report

http://newsweekpakistan.com/global-rise-in-use-of-blasphemy-law-u-s-report/

Asif Hassan—AFP
Pakistan jails the most citizens in the world over allegedly attacking religion.

Governments around the world are increasingly invoking blasphemy laws, with Pakistan by far the country that jails the most citizens for allegedly attacking religion, a U.S. report said Thursday.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government advisory panel, voiced fear that the rise in laws banning blasphemy was leading to punishment of people who merely express different religious views or who have been falsely accused. The report found Pakistan used its controversial law at a level “incomparable” to anywhere else, listing 14 people on death row and 19 others serving life sentences for alleged blasphemy against Islam.

Pakistan has never carried out the death penalty for blasphemy, but the report charged that the law—and the lack of procedural safeguards—has contributed to an alarming number of mob attacks and vigilante violence against minorities.

Egypt has seen a rise in use of such laws since the 2011 overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak, the report said. Citing local activists, the report found blasphemy cases involved 63 people in 2011 and 2012 and disproportionately targeted the Christian minority.

The U.S. commission opposes blasphemy laws, saying they “protect beliefs over individuals.”

“This trend of greater usage of blasphemy laws will surely lead to increased violations of the freedoms of religion and expression,” said Knox Thames, the commission’s director of policy and research. “Governments will jail people, and extremists may kill others in the defense of undefined notions of religious sentiment,” he said, calling blasphemy laws “inherently problematic.”

Blasphemy is a sensitive issue for many Muslims, whose religion forbids images of Islam’s Prophet. Violent protests erupted in the Islamic world after Danish cartoons and later a low-budget film depicted blasphemous images. Pakistan in the past has urged the United Nations to make blasphemy an internationally recognized offense, arguing that insults against Islam’s Prophet are intolerable.

The commission report also highlighted Bangladesh’s arrests of three self-professed atheists last year and said Indonesia has arrested more than 120 people since 2003 for blasphemy, although they generally have not been prosecuted.

While blasphemy cases took place mostly in the Islamic world, the commission noted that Russia last year enacted a blasphemy law after punk band Pussy Riot put on a performance critical of President Vladimir Putin inside a cathedral. The report also pointed to Greece, where a man was arrested in 2012 for blasphemy after mocking a late Orthodox monk on Facebook.

 

Pope to stop condemning same-sex civil partnerships

 

Pope Francis has suggested that the Vatican could support gay civil unions in the future, according to one of the church’s most senior cardinals.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan said that the pontiff wants the Catholic Church to study same-sex unions, ‘rather than condemn them’.

Cardinal Dolan told American television that Francis wants church leaders to ‘look into it and see the reasons that have driven them.’

‘It wasn’t as if he came out and approved them,’ Dolan told NBC on Sunday. ‘He said, “Rather than quickly condemn them, let’s just ask the questions as to why that has appealed to certain people.”’

In an interview to mark his first year in the church’s top job, Pope Francis last week reaffirmed the Vatican’s opposition to gay marriage but indicated that some types of civil unions could be acceptable to the church.

The Pope restated the church’s teaching that ‘marriage is between a man and a woman,’ but added ‘We have to look at different cases and evaluate them in their variety.

Some countries justify civil unions as a way to provide the same economic and legal rights to cohabitating couples as those who are married, the Pope said in the interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

As archbishop of Buenos Aires, the then Jorge Maria Bergoglio was one of the leaders of the Catholic Church’s public charge against legalising same-sex marriage in Argentina. He called the proposed legislation ‘a destructive attack on God’s plan’.

But behind closed doors the Argentine archbishop is said to have supported civil unions for same-sex couples.

Former theology professor and gay rights activist Marcelo Marquez said: ‘He told me “I’m in favour of gay rights and in any case, I also favour civil unions for homosexuals, but I believe that Argentina is not yet ready for a gay marriage law”.’

But Francis’ comments are the first time that a Pope has indicated even tentative acceptance of civil unions, according to Vatican watchers.

Archbishop Dolan said his own view was that gay unions could ‘water down’ the symbolic meaning of traditional marriage.

‘It’s not something that’s just a religious, sacramental concern,’ Dolan said. ‘It’s also the building block of society and culture. So it belongs to culture. And if we water down that sacred meaning of marriage in any way, I worry that not only the church would suffer, I worry that culture and society would.’

Since being elected Pope last year Francis has softened the tone coming out of Rome. He told journalists that he would not ‘judge’ gays and lesbians including gay priests saying, ‘If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?’

In recognition for the perceived change in stance Francis appeared on the cover of gay magazine The Advocate as their person of the year.

Doctors asked to help spot terrorists in new ‘inappropriate’ NHS policy (in England)

 

The new policy, issued by NHS England to all health authorities, states that GP practices must train a “lead” member of staff to recognise patients who could become or have become linked to terror groups.

Under the new rules, if a GP practice fails to send a member of staff on the “Prevent” counter terrorism course, part of their funding will be cut.

The policy, outlined in a letter from NHS England to all clinical commissioning groups, which buy health services, has outraged GP leaders.

It is effectively asking GPs to be a government intelligence agency

Dr Maureen Baker, chairwoman of the Royal College of General Practitioners

Doctors have also warned that it could threaten patient trust if doctors are being asked to report back to the authorities.

Dr Maureen Baker, chairwoman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: “This seems to be a totally inappropriate use of GP time which could be better spent looking after patients.

“It is completely disproportionate and a poor use of GP resources and time. It is effectively asking GPs to be a government intelligence agency.”

An NHS England spokesman said: “Work on the Prevent strategy is being incorporated into NHS England’s mainstream safeguarding work.

“We are assisted by people who have the specific expertise to help us do this and they lead on training, supporting and clinical practice development of existing safeguarding leads, managers and frontline staff.”

Ecclesiastes Chapter 9 Verses 1 thru 3

1 ¶ For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them.
2 All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath.
3 This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.

A Prayer

Psalm 39 7 thru 13

7 ¶ And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee.
8 Deliver me from all my transgressions: make me not the reproach of the foolish.
9 I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it.
10 Remove thy stroke away from me: I am consumed by the blow of thine hand.
11 When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth: surely every man is vanity. Selah.
12 Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.
13 O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more.