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Christianity in Africa

Bete Giyorgis (Church of St. George), Lalibela, Ethiopia, Author Bernard Gagnon (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Christianity did not come to Africa as the result of European colonialism.  Its presence on the continent dates to the time of the Apostles.

Christianity is thought to have been brought to Alexandria, Egypt by Mark around 60 AD [1].  Christian communities existed there by the year 100 AD, if not earlier [2].  The Septuagint (the earliest Greek translation of the Old Testament) was begun there.   The Church Fathers Clement, Origen, and Athanasius all resided there [3].

The so called Desert Fathers – early monks, hermits, and ascetics – are known to have lived in the Egyptian desert from the 3rd Century onward [4].  Monasticism was, in fact, developed in Africa under St. Anthony. Read more…

St. Francis of Assisi – The Praises of God

Earliest depiction of St. Francis of Assisi, Benedictine Abbey of Subiaco, Italy (Free Art License)

That most humble of men, St. Francis of Assisi — the 13th Century friar who exchanged a life of luxury for one of abject poverty — had a remarkable capacity to recognize the glory of God in all creation.   This is one of his prayers.

“You are holy, Lord, the only God,
and Your deeds are wonderful.
You are strong.  You are great.
You are the Most High.
You are Almighty.
You, Holy Father are King of heaven and earth.
You are Three and One, Lord God, all Good.
You are Good, all Good, supreme Good, Lord God, living and true.
You are love. You are wisdom.
You are humility. You are endurance.
You are rest. You are peace.
You are joy and gladness.
You are justice and moderation.
You are all our riches, and You suffice for us.
You are beauty.
You are gentleness.
You are our protector.
You are our guardian and defender.
You are our courage.  You are our haven and our hope.
You are our faith, our great consolation.
You are our eternal life, Great and Wonderful Lord,
God Almighty, Merciful Savior.”

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse  https://avoicereclaimed.com

Christmas Gifts

“The Star of Bethlehem” by Frederic Leighton (c. 1860), Dahesh Museum of Art (Accession No. 2013.8), NY, Source/Photographer Sotheby’s Auction House (PD-Art, Old-100)

With the last leaf fallen and fields bare, we are confronted by the Christmas season.  In truth, we can hardly avoid it.  Carols blare an invitation to spending orgies.  The Hallelujah Chorus trumpets sales.

There is arguably some precedent for this extended extravagance.  The Wise Men may have traveled as long as two years before reaching their destination.  Throughout, they followed the star.  All to bring birthday gifts.

As Christians, we know, of course, that Jesus was the gift.  The challenge for us, also, is to follow that star; to keep it in sight despite trials and distractions.  It burns brightly still, if we will only choose to see.  He is, after all, the Light of the world. Read more…

Not Lepers

Youth Center at Shaw Air Force Base, SC, Author Airman 1st Class Diana Cossaboom, Source Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (ID 140225-F-OG534-916), (PD as work product of federal govt.)

And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean’ ” (Matthew 8: 2).

Poor Start

Once the way out of poverty, education is no longer seen as paving the road to a viable future.

With inner city schools devastated, children are no longer provided the tools necessary to cope with an adult world.  Basic math and language skills (vocabulary, grammar, punctuation) are foreign, as is the idea of gradual, steady improvement.

This is a poor start for anyone.

Few skills

As a result, young people raised in poverty possess few marketable skills.  This includes the “soft” skills of regular attendance and punctuality, associated with job readiness.

Without the opportunity to acquire such skills, inner city youth are condemned to menial jobs offering few opportunities for advancement.  Indeed, genuine opportunities may go unrecognized, since they would require time and patience which the young feel they cannot afford.

The work ethic is, also, undermined by the fact inner city youth see few models of success around them.  It is the drug dealer on the street corner who has cash.

Some choose to limit their options to public assistance.  But children are not born with such limitations on their dreams.

Crime and Drugs

Certainly, some are drawn to crime.  The streets offer the appeal of “fast money” in contrast to the time and effort required by legitimate employment. Many more individuals fall victim to crime, beaten into senselessness by the tragedy pervading their lives.

Mothers protest against the violence that has robbed them of their children, while daily still more children are gunned down or lost to the downward spiral of drugs.

The appeal of partying and drugs lies not only in the excitement they promise, but the temporary relief from reality they provide.  Some individuals choose this bleak road.

Read more…

Dayspring

“Head of St. John the Baptist” by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov (c. 1847), Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Photographer Yorck Project (PD-Art, Old-100)

“…[T]he Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1: 78-79).

The prophet, Isaiah, spoke of the Messiah as opening the eyes of the blind, and bringing the prisoners from darkness out into the light (Is. 42: 7).  Jesus healed the blind (John 9: 6-7), intentionally referring to Himself as the light of the world (John 9: 5).  The apostle, John, pointed out that no one since the beginning of the world had restored sight to those born blind (John 9: 32).

You may remember that John the Baptist, before he was beheaded, asked of Jesus from prison:

“ ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ ” (Matt. 11: 3). Read more…

Evangelism in Today’s Vietnam

Vietnamese women, Author Bernard Gagnon (GNU Free Documentation License, CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic, and 1.0 Generic)

“Every weekend, Linh and her husband travel five hours by motorcycle to take the gospel to a village…known as a ‘Communist hero village’… [once] home to …soldiers who died fighting against the United States in the Vietnam War.  The villagers take great pride in the fallen heroes from their community and deeply treasure the communist way of life…

In country where most of the population practices ancestor worship, the veneration of those who fought and died for communism is considered a sacred duty.  The fallen heroes are viewed by some to be guardian spirits of the village, and their memory is invoked to promote nationalism and communist pride…

Linh’s family has…ties to communism.  Her father was a loyal Communist Party member and colonel in the Vietnamese military.  But when he and Linh’s mother became followers of Jesus, the military kicked him out…

On weekends, Linh goes house to house…sharing the gospel with everyone, male or female, young or old.  She works to establish and build relationships with them, understanding that she is not selling something but rather sharing Someone — Jesus Christ…

Since 2007, when Linh started visiting the village, more than 300 people …have accepted Jesus.

‘Before, nobody in that village accepted the Lord,’ Linh said.  ‘…That is why God moved me to go there.  Even though I was scared, I saw many lost people there so I knew I must sacrifice myself to preach the gospel.’

…Linh varies the times and days of her visits so authorities won’t know when to expect her.  She does her best to avoid villagers who oppose her and report her to the authorities, but she remains kind and loving when confronted.

‘Through persecution my faith in the Lord has become stronger,’ she said…”

-Excerpt from “Sharing Jesus in the Land of Fallen Heroes”, The Voice of the Martyrs Magazine, November 2018

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse https://avoicereclaimed.com

Mayflower Compact

“The First Thanksgiving” by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (c. 1913), Library of Congress/Prints and Photographs Division (digital ID cph.3g04961) (PD-Art, Old-80; copyright not renewed)

A foundation stone for democracy on this continent, the Mayflower Compact was the first document under which the Plymouth Colony was governed.  The agreement, which established an elected authority all would obey, was signed in 1620 as the Mayflower rode at anchor in Cape Cod Harbor.

For the Sake of Freedom and Equality

The Pilgrims were actually comprised of two groups:  Separatists and non-Separatists.

The Separatists sought religious liberty, specifically the right to separate from the Church of England. They had initially emigrated to the tolerant Netherlands, but found the Dutch culture at odds with their own.

The non-Separatists — like many to follow them — sought economic and social opportunity, and the chance for a better life in America.

In the broadest terms, all risked their lives for the sake of freedom and equality. Read more…

A Time That Men Went Mad

Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial (detail), Boise, Idaho, Author Kencf0618 (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

David Joseph Lenio, the son of a wealthy Michigan banker, was acquitted of felony charges related to Twitter threats.  Lenio, a white nationalist and Holocaust denier who describes his ideal job as operating a gas chamber, had expressed the desire to kill school children and Jewish leaders [1][2].  Lenio received probation for the single misdemeanor of which he was convicted.

This is the world in which we live.

“Hear, O Israel:  the Lord our God, the Lord is One!” (Deut. 6: 4).

The witnesses to the Holocaust are passing away.  Lies are already being circulated that the Holocaust was a fiction.

Witness to History

In an effort to combat these falsehoods, the testimony of Holocaust survivors is being recorded to preserve the evidence of history.  The testimony of one such survivor, Abraham Secemski, can be found on You Tube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=echUqImqB9c.  It is riveting. Read more…

“What Bach Teaches Us” by Hugh Whelchel

“Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” is derived from the Cantata “Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben” (“Heart and Mind and Deed and Life”) by JS Bach.

“[The famous composer Johann Sebastian] Bach lived in Germany in the first half of the eighteenth century…[Bach] was an accomplished organist, yet the genius of his work as a composer would not be discovered until 80 years after his death.  This humble man, who [was later admired by Mozart and Beethoven and] would become the Baroque Era’s greatest organist and composer, wrote most of his music never knowing if it would ever be played by anyone other than himself.

Bach was not only a musician but also a theologian whose medium was music.  [Influenced by his Lutheran upbringing, Bach] clearly understood that one of his callings was to write music to the glory of God.  In fact, at the end of every one of his musical scores, he would write Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone).

An article in Christianity Today about Bach ends with the following quote:

‘But music was never just music to Bach.  Nearly three-fourths of his 1,000 compositions were written for use in worship.  Between his musical genius, his devotion to Christ, and the effect of his music, he has come to be known in many circles as “the Fifth Evangelist.” ‘

The Link Between Work, Worship, and Service

Bach understood the essential connection between work, worship, and service that many in the church today have forgotten. The Hebrew word avodah used in the Old Testament can be translated three ways―as work, worship, or service.

  • The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work (avodah) it and take care of it’ (Gen 2.15).
  • Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, This is what the Lord says:  Let my people go, so that they may worship (avodah) me” ‘(Ex. 8:1).
  • ‘…But as for me and my household, we will serve (avodah) the Lord’  (Josh 24:15).

Read more…

The Founding Fathers

“Signing of the Constitution of the United States” by Howard Chandler Christy (1940), US Capitol (PD-Art, Old-100)

It has become popular to blame religion for the ills of the world, and deny that this nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles.

But the concept of “separation of church and state” was devised to protect religion from subservience to the state – not eliminate all reference to religion and morality from public discourse.

With this in mind, we would be wise to recall what our Founding Fathers had to say about morality and government.  Here are just a few examples.

“[I]t is impossible that any people of government should ever prosper, where men render not unto God, that which is God’s, as well as to Caesar, that which is Caesar’s.”

-William Penn, Founder of the Colony of Pennsylvania (1682)

“To grant that there is a Supreme Intelligence who rules the world and has established laws to regulate the actions of His creatures, and still to assert that man, in a state of nature, may be considered as perfectly free from all restraints of law and government, appears, to a common understanding, altogether irreconcilable.

Good and wise men, in all ages, have embraced a very dissimilar theory.  They have supposed that the Deity, from the relations we stand in to Himself and to each other, has constituted an eternal and immutable law, which is indispensably obligatory upon all mankind, prior to any human institution whatever.”

-Alexander Hamilton, principal author of the Federalist Papers advocating ratification of the Constitution, and first Secretary of the Treasury (1775)

“[I]t is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand.  The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue.”

-John Adams, Signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Second President of the United States (1776)

“I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men.  And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? …I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business…”

-Benjamin Franklin, Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution (1787)

Read more…