Book Review: Face to Face with Jesus

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To join the discussion about Face to Face with Jesus, A Former Muslim’s Extraordinary Journey to Heaven and Encounter with the God of Love, or to buy a copy, go here

Face to Face with Jesus is a book for our time. Not because it deals with a Muslim girl’s conversion to Christ, but because it teaches every Christian about our own call to faithfulness.

Samaa Habib met Jesus in a powerful conversion experience. I know from my own conversion experience that, once you meet the living Christ in this way, you will never be the same again.

Every convert who has walked a path outside Christ will be forced to choose Jesus again and again as the tentacles that link them to their other life are amputated one by one. My advice to all Christians is to read this book and do it like Samaa did it. Don’t do it in the step-by-step, trying-to-cling-to-the-people-of-your-other-life way that I did it.

Samaa never stopped loving her Muslim family, even when they beat her for her faith in Christ and tried to force her to renounce Him. Instead, she prayed and fasted for them. It took much tragedy and suffering, but in the end, her entire family came to know Jesus.

Instead of hiding her light under a bushel as most of us do, she spoke of her faith to everyone she met. This resulted in threats to her life, shunning and persecution. But she never stopped speaking of Jesus.

As I said, this is a book for our time. We are under attack here in America. This attack is relentless and it is gathering steam. Samaa’s witness is for us, as well as all the rest of the world.

I don’t have the native courage that Samaa has. From what I’ve seen, most other American Christians do not have it, either. But in Christ, we can do all things.

The keys to Samaa’s walk with faith are worship, prayer, study and fasting. She went to worship services, even when it meant risking her life. She prayed deeply and often. She studied Scripture. And she employed fasting as a means of intercession for the conversion of others.

Her route to God was through a charismatic congregation. She was introduced to Jesus by charismatic missionaries who had left the safety and comfort of America to go to her country and evangelize for Him.

Even when jihadists bombed their church and many people were wounded and killed, they did not stop. Samaa was terribly injured in this bomb attack. She experienced a near-death experience in which she made a choice to give up her martyr’s crown and come back to bring more people, her family in particular, to Christ.

Reading this book inspired me to pray more. The ever-growing evil in our society saddens me deeply. I need to talk about this sadness with Jesus.

I recommend Face to Face to Jesus to all Christians. It is an inspirational story that teaches courage in Christ for our times.

Meriam Ibrahim: My Baby is Physically Disabled Because I Gave Birth in Chains

 

Maya Ibrahim

Meriam Ibrahim was sentenced to death when she was eight months pregnant for refusing to recant her Christian faith.

She is still unable to leave Sudan, due to what I consider to be trumped up charges by local officials.

She gave birth to her baby girl, who she named Maya, while she was in prison. Her captors forced her to give birth in chains.

Hopefully, Mrs Ibrahim and her family will be allowed to come to the United States soon and we can provide Maya — and Mrs Ibrahim as well — with the medical care needed to repair the injuries that were inflicted on them by this barbaric government.

From The Telegraph:

“I gave birth chained,” she said, in her first description of the May 27 birth.

“Not cuffs – but chains on my legs. I couldn’t open my legs so the women had to lift me off the table. I wasn’t lying on the table.”

When asked whether she was frightened that giving birth in such conditions could harm her baby, she said: “Something has happened to the baby.”

She explained that her daughter had been left physically disabled – but the extent of the disability would not be clear until she was older.

“I don’t know in the future whether she’ll need support to walk or not,” she said.

 

Rush Limbaugh is a Cigar-Chomping Idiot

 

I know. I tell everyone not to call people names.

But there comes a time when “idiot” isn’t a pejorative; it’s an excuse.

Mr Limbaugh is doing his the-pope-is-a-marxist-communist-not-a-corporatist-like-me thing again. After reading this latest rather bizarre attack against the Holy Father, I am faced with three possibilities.

1. Mr Limbaugh has relapsed into his drug problem.

2. He’s an idiot.

or

3. He is deliberately baiting the Vicar of Christ for ratings, despite the fact that a grade-school child could read the interview he’s referencing and know that he’s misquoting and miscasting what the Holy Father said.

Given the choices, I’ve decided that, in charity, I will give Mr Limbaugh the benefit of the doubt and assume that he’s an idiot. I don’t, for instance, think that the fact that he makes at least $70 million per year in salary, or that his net worth is approximately $400 million, has in any way messed with his mind.

What set Mr Limbaugh off on another of his attack-the-Holy-Father spiels is an interview Pope Francis gave to Il Messaggero on Sunday. Rather than try to untangle the web of misquotes and confabulation that Mr Limbaugh has spun, I’m going to quote a couple of highlights, then put Pope Francis’ entire interview below and let you read it for yourself.

Here are what I think of as the lowlights from Mr Limbaugh’s latest attack piece on my spiritual leader, Pope Francis. 

“The 77-year-old pontiff gave an interview to Il Messaggero, Rome’s local newspaper, to mark the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, a Roman holiday. He was asked about a blog post in the Economist magazine that said he sounded like a Leninist when he criticized capitalism and called for radical economic reform.”

Oh, yeah, some obscure blog post in the Economist said he sounded like a Leninist, that got everybody riled up.  We remember that.  Don’t you?  I don’t remember.  Anyway, he said, “I can only say that the communists have stolen our flag. The flag of the poor is Christian. Poverty is at the center of the Gospel.  Communists say that all this is communism. Sure, twenty centuries later. So when they speak, one can say to them: ‘but then you are Christian’,” he said, laughing.

I don’t know if the pope is saying that Jesus was a communist.  I mean some people could read it that way.  He says the communists stole our flag, and if our flag is rooted in solving poverty, and the communists want to claim that’s what they did, I mean, you connect the dots if you wish.

What Mr Limbaugh is doing here is quoting a misquote from an article headlined “Pope Says Communists are Closet Christians,” and then responding to it with the assessment,  I don’t now if the pope is saying that Jesus was a Communist. I mean some people could read it that way.”

Ok, so he doesn’t know if Pope Francis is saying that Christ the Lord is a Communist? Are we supposed to believe that he’s serious?

Maybe he’s an idiot.

Or maybe this was an attempt to be sly and clever by  attacking with innuendo.

You decide.

Me, I’m going with idiot, because, as I said, it’s the kindest interpretation I can come up with.

Here, for those of you who would like to see it, is what the Holy Father actually said. It’s the whole interview, without cuts or edits.

I highlighted the part about Communism so you can want go straight to it if you want. If you can find the place where the Pope Francis said or implied that Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is a Communist, let me know. Frankly, I think that all you have to do to understand what Pope Francis is talking about is to remember that he’s from a country where children live in garbage dumps and scavenge for survival; a country where Communists have tried to take over by appealing to these poorest of the poor and offering them help.

That, and read the interview yourself instead of miscasting misquotes in order to make a coarse point.

From Vatican Radio:

(Vatican Radio) The Rome daily “Il Messaggero” on Sunday published an interview with Pope Francis made by journalist Franca Giansoldati. In his responses to questions on a wide range of issues, the Holy Father focused, among other things, on the challenges of change in the current “era” and “culture,” which has consequences for political, financial, and social life. The Church, along with various civil and social institutions,  must respond to these challenges by protecting the common good and defending human life and dignity.

“Always protecting the common good, which includes “defending human life and dignity” is “the vocation of every politician,” the Holy Father said. Today, the problem of politics – which Pope Francis called a “worldwide problem” – is that it “has been devalued, ruined by corruption, by the phenomenon of bribery.” This “moral decay, not only in politics but also in the financial or social” sector, is driven by “change of epoch” that we are experiencing today, which is also “a change of culture.” In this context, our anxieties about poverty are not concerned solely with material poverty.

“I can help someone who is hungry, so that they are no longer hungry,” the Pope said. “But if someone has lost his job,” he is involved in another kind poverty. He no longer has his dignity.” Helping families in need, then, requires a “joint effort.” Pope Francis recognized that this is an “uphill” journey, but insisted it must be undertaken, working above all for the good of children. “Starting a family is an effort,” he said, because of economic difficulties that “social policy does not help.” Commenting on the very low birth rates in Europe – which makes it seem “as if she were tired of being a mother, preferring to be grandmother,” the Holy Father noted that the causes of this phenomenon lie not only in a “cultural drift marked by selfishness and hedonism,” but also in the current economic crisis.

Pope Francis was asked how he would respond to being called “a communist.” “I would only say that the Communists have stolen the banner… The banner of the poor is Christian; poverty is at the heart of the Gospel.” The cause of the poor is pre-eminently a Christian cause.  The Gospel cannot be understood “without understanding real poverty.” At the same time, the Pope said there is also a “very beautiful ‘poverty of the spirit’,” being poor in the sight of God because God fills you up. The Gospel, in fact, is addressed indiscriminately to the poor and to the rich and “does not at all condemn those who are rich,” but rather condemns their riches when they become the objects of idolatry.

To the question “Where is the Church of Bergoglio headed?” Pope Francis replied, “Thanks be to God, I don’t have any church – I follow Christ. I didn’t found anything.” He went on to say “my decisions are the fruit of the meetings before the conclave. I have done nothing on my own.”

The Church in Asia “is a promise,” he said, turning to his upcoming trips to Korea, in August, and to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, in January. He also spoke about China, saying it represents “a great, a very great pastoral challenge.”

During the interview, Pope Francis also took up a number of other themes already addressed during his pontificate, such as the place of women in the Church. Without an understanding of femininity, the Pope said, one “cannot understand the Church herself.” Women “are the most beautiful thing God has made. The Church is a woman.” He said that in doing theology, one must take account of this “femininity,” and that the Church must continue to work on and develop a “theology of the woman.”

Pope Francis spoke also about the corruption and the economic and sexual exploitation of children. The Pope speaks of incidents of child prostitution that were reported to him when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, involving even elderly men. “For me,” the Pope said, “people who do this to young girls are paedophiles.”

Finally, on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the patron saints of Rome, Pope Francis spoke about the everyday life and traditions of the City of which the Pope is the bishop. This role, the Holy Father said, is “the first service of Francis.” Pope Francis said Rome shares many of the problems of other cities “such as Buenos Aires.” He said a conference dedicated to the theme of “the pastoral care of the great cities” will take place in Barcelona in November. Pope Francis expressed his hope that the citizens of Rome, the inhabitants of a city “that should be a beacon in the world,” would not lose “joy, hope, confidence, despite difficulties.”

(From archive of Vatican Radio)

The Greens of Hobby Lobby: One Family with Courage is a Majority

 

There is no getting around the fact that Jesus offends some people. Nevertheless, He is too important in my life for me to cower in fear of mentioning His name. David Green, owner, founder Hobby Lobby

The Green Family (who are Okies, by the way) risked everything they had worked for all their lives.

They put everything but their lives on the line by refusing to accede to the HHS Mandate’s requirement that they pay for insurance coverage for abortifacient drugs. The Greens, who are Southern Baptists, already provided insurance coverage for contraceptives for their employees.

But they would not be participants in the evil of abortion. It conflicted with their faith in Jesus Christ.

So, they took a stand that was, in terms of business, totally stupid. They refused to abide by the HHS Mandate. What’s more, they put the name of their company, which they had built themselves from a $600 dollar investment, on a lawsuit.

This wasn’t a roll of the dice. It was an act of faith. The lawsuit was turned back, then resurrected in other rulings. When it was first turned down, the Greens said they would not abide by the Mandate, even if it meant paying millions of dollars a day in fines to the government.

This was not grandstanding. It was a reality of their lives at that time. They were facing ruinous fines for following Christ. It would most likely have put them out of business.

Another court overturned the earlier ruling and they were granted a stay.

Their lawsuit made it’s way to the Supreme Court, and today, the Court ruled that the Green family, as well as other owners of privately-held corporations, are exempt from the contraceptive portion of the HHS Mandate.

I’ve been watching and reading a bit of the reaction to the news. It’s totally predictable claptrap about how this ruling allows corporations not to follow “the law” and how it “endangers women’s health.”

My reaction to this is give me a break. First, the Supreme Court’s ruling is the law, which is something the HHS Mandate has never been.

The HHS Mandate is an agency rule which has the force of law. It was never passed by elected officials. It was created by an appointed committee. To call this thing a law violates the underlying principles of government by representation on which this nation was founded.

Second, women’s health is not endangered by not being able to get insurance coverage for abortifacients. What endangers women’s health is allowing things like the morning after pill to be put on counters where everyone can buy and use them as many times a month as they want. The health consequences of using the morning after pill for birth control could be terrible for women’s health.

Also, as I just said, the stuff is available over the counter. If a woman uses it the way it’s intended, it would be a once in a lifetime deal. If they are using it repeatedly, they are endangering their health. Period.

I’ve read all sorts of comments attacking this ruling, but I think the ruling is wonderful.

It puts a couple of teeth back into what has rapidly been becoming a toothless concept of religious liberty in this country. The government — the government — does not have any business requiring people to violate their faith under threat of government penalties. The government also does not have any business passing draconian agency regulations that infringe on American liberties by the fiat of a hand-selected back-room committee and calling it “law.”

The Green family saved our First Amendment freedoms today.

They did it as an act of faith in which they put their entire life’s work on the line based entirely on their faith in Jesus Christ.

May their tribe increase.

Our family is overjoyed by the Supreme Court’s decision. Today the nation’s highest court has re-affirmed the vital importance of religious liberty as one of our country’s founding principles. The Court’s decision is a victory, not just for our family business, but for all who seek to live out their faith. We are grateful to God and to those who have supported us on this difficult journey. Barbara Green, co-founder/owner of Hobby Lobby

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From the Guardian: Meriam Ibrahim Is at United States Embassy

 

The Guardian reports that Meriam Ibrahim is safe at the United States Embassy in Sudan.

Her husband, Daniel Wani, spoke with Agence France-Presse by phone.

The Guardian story does not make it clear whether the charges against Mrs Ibrahim have been dismissed. It says that she was released from police custody on the condition that she remain in Sudan. That sounds to me like she is still not in the clear.

She was charged with forgery because she attempted to leave Sudan using a passport that was issued by South Sudan. I am guessing that this passport was obtained based on the fact that her husband has dual South Sudan/American citizenship. Sudan does not recognize her marriage because her husband is a Christian and she was, at least legally, a Muslim.

Mrs Ibrahim was originally charged with apostasy and sentenced to be flogged and then executed by hanging because she refused to recant her Christian faith. She was 8 months pregnant at the time. She gave birth to her baby while she was in prison.

The Sudanese court overturned her apostasy conviction and she and her family were trying to leave Sudan when she was re-arrested.

According to the Guardian article, the envoy for the United States state department met with Sudanese foreign ministry officials to obtain Mrs Ibrahim’s release from jail. Hopefully, this means that the family will be able to leave Sudan soon.

Mrs Ibrahim’s husband said that the motive behind the initial attack on his wife was a desire to steal her business interests. He said that Mrs Ibrahim owns a hair salon, a mini mart and agricultural land.

All in all, it sounds as if this family would make a wonderful contribution to the United States. I hope they can begin their new lives of freedom here soon.

Meriam Ibrahim Freed Again

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Public Catholic reader Hannah alerted me that this report was premature. Mrs Ibrahim has not been freed, and is charged with a new crime. Go here for details.

 

Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman who was sentenced to hang for refusing to renounce her Christian faith, has been freed once again.

Mrs Ibrahim, who was 8 months pregnant when she was sentenced and who was forced to give birth in prison while awaiting execution, was freed by the court in Sudan on Monday. Then, she and her family were detained on Tuesday while they were at the airport. Now, they have been freed once again.

According to reports, Mrs Ibrahim, her husband and their two children, one-month-old Maya and Martin, 21 months, were surrounded by 40 security agents at and taken in to detention.

“It is very disappointing,” their attorney said, “… they took the family to a NSS detention center. They have not been given access to lawyers.”

The official story, now that Mrs Ibrahim and her family have been freed, is that they were “temporarily detained … over questions related to their documents.”

From LifeNews.com:

Meriam Ibrahim, the Christian woman who was jailed and forced to give birth in prison in the Muslim nation of Sudan and who was released yesterday after a court overturned a verdict of apostasy, was freed again after she was re-arrested trying to leave the country.

The BBC has more details on the re-release after the several hour detention:

A Sudanese woman freed from death row on Monday has been released again after being briefly detained with her family at Khartoum airport.

Meriam Ibrahim was sentenced in May to hang for renouncing Islam, sparking widespread outrage at home and abroad.

“They were temporarily detained for several hours over questions related to their documents,” Marie Harf, a spokeswoman for the US state department, told journalists.

CNN has more details on what initially happened to Ibrahim Tuesday morning and she and her husband and newborn daughter Mara attempted to leave the country:

sudan5A Sudanese woman whose death sentence for refusing to renounce her Christian faith was revoked has been rearrested, her legal team told CNN Tuesday.

Meriam Ibrahim, 27, and her husband, Daniel Wani, were arrested Tuesday at an airport in Sudan’s capital as they were trying to leave the African country, Ibrahim’s legal team said.

Details about why the couple were arrested weren’t immediately available.

Ibrahim, 27, was convicted in May by a Sudanese court on charges of apostasy, or the renunciation of faith, and adultery — charges that led to international controversy. Ibrahim was eight months pregnant when she was sentenced to suffer 100 lashes and then be hanged.

Sudanese Court Orders Release of Meriam Ibrahim, Who was Sentenced to Death for Her Christian Faith

 

SUNA, Sudan’s official news agency, says that the Court of Cassation in Khartoum has canceled the death sentence against Meriam Ibrahim. The court has also ordered her release.

Miss Ibrahim, who has a Muslim father, was raised by her Christian mother. She was convicted of apostasy for marrying a Christian and given a death sentence. She was 8 months pregnant at the time.

For more details, go to Fox News.

Salutorian Puts Jesus in His Graduation Speech, In Spite of School Censorship

Brooks Hamby’s high school graduation speech got kicked back three times. The reason? He persisted in talking about his faith.

Evidently, Mr Hamby eventually submitted a draft that was approved. But it turned out the censorship was all for naught. When I watched the video below, it sounded to me like Mr Hamby gave the first couple of lines from his approved speech, then shifted to remarks the administration knew nothing about.

“I presented three drafts of my speech,” he said, “all of them denied on account of my desire to share with you my personal thoughts and inspiration to you: My faith in Jesus Christ.”

You can hear a murmur from the crowd and sense consternation on the dais behind him as he continued.

Rumors have evidently circulated that the school denied Mr Hamby his diploma, but according to an interview he gave the Desert News, this is not true. But he did say that the school and their attorney’s told him they would shut off the microphone if he gave a speech mentioning Jesus.

Here is the text of the letter the school district sent him before he gave his speech. This letter is a lot of force to bring down on a graduating high school senior. I think Mr Hamby showed remarkable courage. How many of us would have the guts to do the same?

Based on District legal counsel opinion referencing two 9th Circuit Appellate Court cases, any aspect of a graduation speech that makes reference to Jesus and prayer is inappropriate and violates prevailing legal standards. The first and second draft speeches proposed oppose government case law and are a violation of the constitution. The District is advising you that reference to religious content is inappropriate and that the two drafts provided will not be allowed. If you choose to move forward with a differentiated speech that interjects religious content, the sound will be cut off, and a disclaimer to the entire audience must be made explaining the District’s position.

For more details, check out the Desert News.

Here is the video:

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God Bless Father Terra

My heart goes out to Father Joseph Terra.

He has to heal from grievous injuries, but that’s the least of it, really.

He also has to heal in his wounded heart. He will live with the trauma he has suffered personally, and also from the additional trauma of seeing his brother priest die in front of him, for a long time to come.

Survivors of violent crime are often saddled with guilt of all types.

Why didn’t I fight harder? Why didn’t I call the police? Why didn’t I do this or that or the other? They ask themselves these questions over and over until the questions themselves become a wound, a source of shame and grief.

There are other questions, as well. Why me? Why did this happen to me? Why would anyone do this? And the companion questions: Why did I survive? Why am I alive when others are dead?

Father Terra did all he could. In fact, he was heroic. But, good man that he is, he is also bound to be attacked by the questions that keep coming in the middle of the night, the first moments after waking, when he sees a television show that reminds him.

He will wake up at the hour it happened for a long time to come. He will be struck with panic and sudden memories that feel like he’s reliving it. He will face, over and over and over again the endless repeating memory of Father Walker, coming to help him, the sound of the gunfire, the death of his friend.

It doesn’t stop because the victim wants it to stop. It doesn’t stop because people tell them they were heroes and to let it go and get over it. It simply doesn’t stop.

These thoughts punch holes in a person. They drain away self-worth, peace of mind and trust. Everything depends on how people treat the victim of a violent crime in the first days, weeks and months after the event. In that, I think Father Terra is blessed. He is surrounded by loving people who want to help and honor him.

Father Walker is in heaven. I don’t doubt that. He is probably praying for the man who killed him. I have little doubt that he is also praying for Father Terra as he makes his way through the pain and grief of what has happened.

Father Terra will never be able to rewind this tragedy. He will always be the man that this happened to. But he can, with time and God’s grace, make it into something good. He is a priest, which means he is a conduit of God’s grace. He is now also the victim of a senseless violent crime. The Holy Spirit can combine those two things in wonderful ways.

I pray for Father Terra. My heart goes out to him. I hope that God uses him and this tragedy to give new hope and healing to many lost souls who need it.

 From ABC15:

PHOENIX – On Monday morning, Father Joseph Terra, a victim from last week’s attack at a Phoenix church, made his first public appearance.
Terra didn’t speak at Monday’s Requiem Mass service.
Father was in a wheelchair and hands were bandaged up. Severe lacerations were evident on his head.Father Terra was beaten so severely, he was brought to the hospital in critical condition.
Around a thousand people packed into Saint Catherine of Siena Monday for a requiem mass service in honor of murder victim Father Kenneth Walker.

Knights of Columbus 2013 Donations to Charity and Hours of Service Hit Record High

 

2013 was a record high for the Knights of Columbus.

The Catholic men’s organization gave record amounts of money and performed record amounts of service. They gave more than $170 million in donations. At the same time, the Knights themselves worked more than 70.5 million volunteer hours.

This money and work went to aid the shattered people of the Philippines after one-two punches of the Bohol earthquake in October 2013 and Typhoon Haiyan in November. The Knights were also here in Oklahoma, helping after the May 20 tornado, at the factory explosion in Texas and providing aid after the Boston Marathon bombing.

In the last 10 years, the Knights of Columbus has donated almost $1.5 billion to the needy while the Knights themselves worked 683 million volunteer hours.

From Catholic News Agency:

.- Catholic fraternal organization the Knights of Columbus set new records in donations and volunteer hours in 2013, continuing its long-standing service programs and responding to several natural disasters.

“Whether with funds or service, and whether quietly helping someone overcome a personal tragedy or assisting in the aftermath of a widely known humanitarian disaster, the outpouring of charity by our members produces meaningful results, especially by helping to bring peace of mind to those who find themselves in incredibly difficult situations,” Knights of Columbus head Carl Anderson said June 12.

The order gave more than $170 million in donations and its members worked more than 70.5 million volunteer hours last year, the Knights of Columbus said, citing its annual survey.

“Charity has been at the heart of the Knights’ mission for the past 132 years,” Anderson said.


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