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Easter Sunday  Admin Pastor Joe Taylor  Adult Sunday School  442021  Christ Above All  Colossians 1 Colossians 1:4-14 "Christ Above All" (Paul's Prayer for Troubled Christians)
Sun. School Study of Forgiveness-Part 1-11.01.20 Forgiveness is a vital ability for the Christian. As Christ forgave, we are to forgive. It's hard, I know. But, Christ chooses to forgive-we are to choose to forgive.
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On Friday, April 16, the Washington Post reported that tens of thousands of Nigerians have fled deadly attacks by armed groups, making the shocking statement that "the latest rebel attack on Wednesday drove out as many as 80% of the population of Damasak, according to the U.N. refugee agency, who said up to 65,000 people were on the move. . . . Assailants looted and burned down private homes, warehouses of humanitarian agencies, a police station, a clinic, and also a UNHCR facility. . . ."Trying to verify this almost unbelievable story, I wrote to my Nigerian Christian friend Hassan John – who actively reports about the ongoing tragedy in his country. He replied, "Yes, the attack on Damasak and surrounding villages has been intense in the last two weeks. Most Christians have fled in the last four weeks as the intensity of the fight increased. Boko Haram has now taken over control of most of the region around Lake Chad up to the Cameroonian boarders. They are now moving in towards Mauduguri."Family Research Council continues to actively document the deteriorating security situation here, as explained in our full report on Nigeria updated earlier this year. The report explains, "1,202 Nigerian Christians were killed in the first six months of 2020. This is in addition to 11,000 Christians who have been killed since June 2015. Such violence has reached a point at which expert observers and analysts are warning of a progressive genocide—a 'slow-motion war' specifically targeting Christians across Africa's largest and most economically powerful nation."The stories that emerge from Nigeria are always terrifying and similar: heavily armed jihadis suddenly appear in the dead of night. They attack house after house, breaking down doors, shouting "Allahu Akbar." They shoot the elderly and able-bodied men. They rape, mutilate, and murder women. They kidnap young boys and girls, often using them as slaves and concubines. They torch houses, schools, and churches.Some villagers manage to flee into the bush. Too many of them are never seen again, while in following days it's difficult to say for sure who is still alive, who has fled, and who has been kidnapped. Photos of survivors' faces reflect the agony of trying to remember just what happened, exactly when the screaming and shooting began, and how they managed to escape with their lives after seeing friends and loved ones murdered or mutilated.Beyond a doubt, there is a surging bloodbath in Nigeria. Murderous incidents are acted out with accelerating frequency and have long been attributed to two terror groups—Boko Haram and Fulani jihadis. Unfortunately, that picture is changing and worsening. The terrorist groups in Africa that enjoy major funding and notoriety are successfully reaching further into the continent, unifying their forces, absorbing other groups, and gaining greater power.Olivier Guitta, Managing Director of GlobalStrat, ominously predicts the dawning of a new Caliphate. He writes:Islamic State's historical strong franchises have included the spinoff of Boko Haram in Nigeria that is part of Islamic State in West Africa Province. More recently the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara has made huge progress almost supplanting al-Qaeda as the top dog in the region . . . the future looks unfortunately bright for Islamic State in a continent with lots of fragile, corrupt quasi-failed states that could allow the birth of a Caliphate in mini territories in Mozambique, the Sahel and possibly Nigeria.Nigeria is Africa's largest state and its most prosperous. The population is 53 percent Christian. And the Christian community is often intentionally targeted because of its religious faith. In many rural areas, residents report that they never go to sleep at night assured that they will not be attacked and murdered before sunrise. Those who have survived attacks report that the perpetrators shouted "Allahu Akbar" as they killed and destroyed.Meanwhile, while nearly daily reports of kidnappings, murders and massacres continue to appear, WSJ explains that Islamic State is transforming itself into a different kind of enemy by "embracing an array of militant groups as if they were local franchises. After its dreams of imposing draconian Islamist law in a self-declared state in Syria were crushed, Islamic State successfully injected itself into localized conflicts in Nigeria, Libya and across the Sahel, the semiarid belt running east-west along the southern edge of the Sahara."As American Christians, we often focus our attention solely on our own country and its increasingly anti-Christian leadership and legislation. However, as we watch, pray and respond to opportunities to push back against ungodly forces in our homeland, let's also keep in mind that there never has been a more dangerous and deadly time for Christians all across the world.Britain's Guardian reports that "more than 340 million Christians—one in eight—face high levels of persecution and discrimination because of their faith, according to the 2021 World Watch List compiled by the Christian advocacy group Open Doors. It says there was a 60% increase over the previous year in the number of Christians killed for their faith. More than nine out of 10 of the global total of 4,761 deaths were in Africa."As we pray and lift up America's present concerns, we ought also to remember to lift our eyes beyond our borders. Let's pray for those who are endangered in faraway places—like long-suffering Nigeria—as if we were suffering with them.
Tracing the terrain of Scripture's stories shows us how God works in our physical world.How can we read Scripture as embodied people who will live with an embodied Savior for all eternity? One unexpected answer to this question is to study biblical geography. If the word geography causes you to doze off, I can relate. I failed the map reading section in social studies in second grade, which spurred my dislike of Bible maps for the next 15 years. Only when I began teaching at a Christian school that included maps in its Bible curriculum did I realize how illuminating geography can be.I now know that it’s not only possible to learn the geography of Scripture; it’s spiritually and missionally formative. Tracing God’s work in the physical world prepares us to participate in his work of resurrection in our lives and communities. Here are five reasons why.1. Geography reminds us that God has always been at work in the physical world.When we read Genesis 25–33 with a map beside our Bibles, we notice that God shows up at crucial thresholds in Jacob’s life: at Bethel before he flees the promised land and at Peniel before he reenters it, as David W. Cotter has noted. Jacob names these locations “house of God” and “face of God” to commemorate his encounters with God’s gracious presence and power during these moments of vulnerability. God’s revelation isn’t abstract or purely spiritual. It is rooted in significant geographical locations.Since Genesis, God has been weaving himself into the terrain of history, seeking us out and calling us home. The study of biblical geography shatters the false dichotomy between the physical and the spiritual by highlighting specific places where God stepped into our world. Tracing God’s mission on a map reminds ...Continue reading...
President of the Assyrian Aid Society–Iraq (AASI) passes away from COVID-19 complications.Ashur Sargon Eskrya, president of the Assyrian Aid Society–Iraq (AASI), passed away today from COVID-19 complications.A champion of the Assyrian Christian minority, he was also a central figure in US efforts to shelter refugees from ISIS and later rebuild the Nineveh Plains.AASI was honored for its work with a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2016.“Ashur has played a prominent role in being a voice for our people in international forums, speaking on behalf of us all especially on the subject of indigenous rights,” stated the official account of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM), of which Eskrya was a senior member.“He will always be remembered for his leadership.”Fellow ADM member Jessi Arabou called him one of the Assyrian nation’s “biggest assets.”Born in 1974, Eskrya was a civil engineer and graduate of Baghdad University. He became a member in AASI in 2003, and assumed the presidency in 2010. Founded in 1991 to respond to the humanitarian crisis following the first Gulf War, the nonprofit is funded through branches of the Assyrian diaspora in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Sweden.“Ashur did much to make [AAS] what it is today. His energy and passion fueled and propelled the work on a daily basis,” stated the Assyrian Aid Society of America.“[His] tireless efforts in bringing international attention to the plight and struggle of Assyrians is commendable and will be remembered and honored for generations to come.”Under Eskrya’s leadership, AASI administered projects for refugee relief, reconstruction, irrigation, and medical clinics. Over 2,600 students in 27 schools were provided with K-12 education, including ...Continue reading...
With his Florida training program and international construction projects, he empowered young people who didn't want to wait to do something for God.Bob Bland, an evangelical pastor who trained and sent tens of thousands of teenagers on short-term mission trips, has died at the age of 92.Bland founded Teen Missions International in 1970 after a 14-year-old girl at a Youth for Christ event in Southern Ohio broke down in tears because she had been rejected by a missionary organization. She said she didn’t want to wait. She “wanted to do something for the Lord now.” Bland, moved by her passion for Jesus and lost souls, conceived of a program expanding the then-new concept of short-term missions to high school students.Today, Teen Missions is a $3.7 million ministry that has sent more than 42,000 American teenagers to 19 countries. In 2021, the organization is planning trips to build classrooms in Zambia, a missionary house in Uganda, a security wall in Malawi, and a training center in Ecuador.“Get dirty for God,” one Teen Missions slogan challenged young Christians. “Lay a brick!”According to Bland, however, construction work was never the main goal of the group’s short-term missions.“We tell the people who are leading our teams that we’re building kids, not buildings,” Bland said. “These kids go overseas and with their own hands build a place to worship or an orphanage or a school for young people, and they come back different.”Bland was born on December 8, 1928 in Chillicothe, Ohio, the youngest of four boys. His father, Jay, was a farmer and contractor. His mother, Blanche, worked at a laundry.After graduating from high school in nearby Waverly, Bland went to work as a carpenter and trained to be a union plumber. But the day he was set to take his plumbing test he read Matthew 22:29 and it ...Continue reading...
UPDATE: University's nondiscrimination policy unconstitutionally discriminated against the campus ministry.Update (April 7, 2021):The fight for campus access for faith-based student groups scored another legal victory this week.A district court judge ruled on Monday that Wayne State University violated the First Amendment with a 2017 decision that temporarily denied InterVarsity Christian Fellowship its status as a student group over the chapter’s requirement that its leaders be Christian.Wayne State’s nondiscrimination policy, according the 83-page opinion by Robert Cleland, “violated plaintiffs’ rights to internal management, free speech, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, and free exercise as a matter of law.”The judge ruled that the First Amendment protects religious organizations’ rights to select their own ministers, and that the InterVarsity chapter’s student leaders qualified as ministers. While InterVarsity is open to all students, it asks leaders to sign a statement of faith.Cleland also agreed with InterVarsity’s argument that the school selectively applied its nondiscrimination policy, since other organizations also had specific requirements for their leaders.The decision comes three years after Wayne State allowed InterVarsity to regain its recognition as a campus group and only resulted in a $1 in symbolic damages. In a statement to Detroit News, the university challenged the decision to pursue litigation when InterVarsity had already been “granted everything it requested in a timely manner.”The ruling, though, stands to benefit other student groups or chapters at other schools by underscoring the importance of fair treatment and religious freedom. Lori Windham, who represented InterVarsity as senior counsel at Becket, said, “The law is ...Continue reading...
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