Christian Persecution: It is Time for Christians to Stand Together

Do you read the stories?

Christians burnt alive, beheaded, stabbed, crucified, shot, gunned down. Christians tortured, imprisoned, raped, sold into slavery. Christians unable to work, forbidden to worship, forbidden to train new priests. Bibles, crucifixes, religious medals banned.

Have you lived the discrimination?

Christians mocked, ridiculed, belittled, slandered. Christians constantly forced to defend their faith in the face of aggressive jerks who feel an entitlement to force their way into private conversations, push themselves onto web sites and chat rooms to denounce the faith and belittle anyone who has the temerity to refer to Christ in public.

Have you seen the bigotry?

Christianity and Christ Himself, belittled, slandered, mocked, reviled and constantly lied about in a repetitive way by people who evidently feel an entitlement to leapfrog into any discussion or situation and unburden themselves of their verbal offal.

Have you seen this? Are you aware of it? Do you understand what it means?

We are at a fulcrum. If we do not stand for Christ now, here, in America, there is a tsunami of persecution out there under the water, waiting for all Christians, everywhere, including here.

It is time, it is past time, for us to stop sniping at one another over our narcissistic God ownership issues.

I am a Public Catholic. People who hate Jesus, or people who hate the Catholic Church, often seem to view me as the receptacle for their hatred and spleen. I think I may have heard every repetitive, factually inaccurate bit of pamphleteering claptrap anybody ever used to attack Christianity, Jesus, or the Catholic Church. I’ve heard it all. Several times a week. For years.

I do not reply in kind. I try to answer what are unreasonable attacks with reason. I use facts against lies. I do my best to answer gently and to keep on answering, even if it means I have to say the same things over and over again.

I never, ever, ever try to poke holes in other Christian’s beliefs. I do not feel called to deliver long-winded analyses as to why their particular denomination is wrong. I don’t do it because I think this kind of behavior is both nonsensical and destructive.

I am going to say this as clearly as I can:

There is only one Jesus.

We are all brothers and sisters in Christ.

I’ve said before on this blog that I think that if we had the power to judge, no one would ever go to heaven. We’d all condemn one another to hell. I believe that’s the truth of it.

We are fallen people, living in a fallen world. These attacks on one another at a time when we need to unite and stand together are a symptom of the burden of original sin that we all carry. They are, to be blunt, the devil’s work, his weapon against us that we use on one another. If we are arguing over these silly things with one another, we are also wasting time, energy and intellect that we could be using to speak for Christ.

Almost all the attacks on the Catholic Church which I have to deal with are based on claims that are factually untrue. The same goes for the many attacks that I hear against Christianity as a whole and Jesus in particular.

I believe that in both instances — the attacks on the Church, and the attacks on Christianity — the people who do it are really acting out their own narcissism. If they were even slightly interested in the truth they would have checked these things out themselves.

Christianity is aggressively attacked all over the world, including here in America. It is ignoble that we are arguing over whose church is the best while Christians are dying for Jesus in Africa, the Middle East, Indonesia, and parts of Asia.

Millions of Christians will go to sleep tonight under the blood moon of Persecution. Christians in America allow Jesus to be mocked reviled and slandered and duck their heads in shameful silence. The courts push every mention of Christianity to the corners of life. The HHS Mandate puts the government itself in the business of forcing the church to abandon its teachings or face crippling government fines.

What does it take to get our attention?

If we don’t stop bickering among ourselves and stand for Christ as one redeemed Christian people, we may well be the generation that lets freedom of religion pass from the face of the earth.

It is time, it is past time, for us to grow beyond our narcissistic claims of God ownership on behalf of our various denominations. It is time for Christians to stand together.

The New Morality: I am so important to me. Nobody else matters.

Mark Shea wrote about it earlier this week. I’m going to write about it in the future.

“It” is the galloping sense of entitlement of the “I Am So Important To Me” class. You know: The ones who feel free to re-write any book, from history to literature to the Bible to suit their passing fancy of what pleases them today.

Evidently, one of the many books the I Am So Important to Me class wants to re-write is the biology text books we’ve all had to study. They’ve created a whole new label to support their demand for this: Biological Injustice.

You read that right. According to an October 2 article in the Huffington Post, Lesbian Baby-Making for the Entitled Generation, at least some people feel that biology itself should be put on trial for the “injustice” of not being able to make babies with another person of the same sex. They are counting on our burgeoning scientific industry to provide them with the means to overwrite the trifling objections of mother nature and allow them to produce babies from same-sex couples at will.

Mark Shea’s article Children are Not Fashion Accessories for Narcissists, discusses the cultural and social impact of “a culture in which consent is the sole criterion of the good.”

As I said, I’ll be writing about this in more detail later. I think it’s enough for today to just let you read these two articles and ponder, like Lincoln, whither we are tending.

Lesbian Baby-Making for the Entitled Generation reads in part:

I want to have babies the way straight people do.

I don’t mean that in a ’70s euphemism “makin’-babies” kind of way. What I mean is that I want the ease, the convenience, the — dare I say it — naturalness that straight people have when starting a family. I want both the simple beauty of two people loving each other so much that they’d like to see more of the other in the world, and I want that simple beauty to be translated into scientific terms of fairness: chromosomes and DNA given in equal amounts from two parents.

The attitude I have always taken to having a baby with another woman has been this: “It’s not fair! It’s so hard! Why me?”

I am a total brat about what I consider a biological injustice. Did you just hear me say that? Biological injustice? That doesn’t even make sense!

If I were a logical, realistic person I would likely be happy with flipping through sperm donor catalogs, or picking a foreign country to adopt from, or begging my gay male friends to consider jizzing into a warm bowl for me. But I am not logical, and I am not ready to accept the realities of my sexuality compounded by my body’s abilities with a female partner.

Why can’t my girlfriend and I have a baby that shares our DNA? Why can’t an egg from each of us be scrambled up and sprinkled with sperm? It seems so easy! Try harder scientists! Make this a priority. (Read more here.)

President Obama and Religious Freedom, the Lighter Side

St Peter’s List, has a series of political cartoons concerning President Obama, the Church and the HHS Mandate which they have generously offered to share. I’m printing some of them here. Enjoy

For the whole article or to visit St Peter’s List, go here.

 

 

 

Who Won the First Debate? We Did.

The thing that surprised me the most about the first presidential debate was that everyone seemed to think that Governor Romney “won.”

I was somewhat confused by this at first until I realized that the methods of judging the relative performance of the two men were entirely superficial. FWIW, I thought the governor was more aggressive than the President, but no less or more clear in his presentation of his position.

Maybe the reason everyone is so sure that Governor Romney “won” is that they were surprised he could stand up there and hold his own against President Obama. If that’s it, I don’t know why. He was the governor of a large state and he’s been running for president for most of the past six years. He ran in 2008 and I think he’s basically been running for this election ever since the polls closed in November of that year. So he should have some chops to bring to the fight. Doesn’t surprise me that he was able to put his viewpoint out there.

What did surprise me is that most people seemed to think the President was lackluster in his performance. I thought he presented his viewpoints very well.

There were no “There you go again,” “You’re no Jack Kennedy” moments to put it over the top for either candidate.

However, the question of who was the most aggressive or who managed to say their piece without tripping over their own tongue is just the usual superficiality we the people get fed about every question before us as a nation. The analysis I’ve seen is not worthy of the debate it’s analyzing. These guys really mixed it up on the issues. It’s the first time I’ve seen that in a long while.

I think the debate itself was an excellent discussion of their relative positions concerning key programs like Social Security and Medicare. It didn’t go into enough depth about the Affordable Health Care Act. I’m hopeful that will happen in the future.

They did engage in some back and forth as to who was lying about whom, and I plan to check those claims out for myself later. But I think that anyone who watched this first debate would walk away with a better understanding of how these two men differ in what they would do with the power of the office, at least in terms of taxes, medicare, and such.

It’s quite clear that there’s a real difference in philosophy between them concerning these issues. Things like Social Security, Medicare and other working-people issues are where I align with the Democrats. That may be why I didn’t see it as a Romney win the way most other people seem to. I simply disagreed with some of the things he was saying. Maybe that prejudiced me.

In the end, most people who watched the debate will probably line up with whichever candidate most closely reflected their own beliefs. If that’s what happens, it’s an excellent result, since what I’m talking about is informed voting. The vast majority of the people who did NOT watch the debate will be forced to get their opinion from the superficial criteria the “analysts” use for deciding these things.

As for who “won” tonight’s debate, I honestly think it was the American people. For once, we got to see these two men who want to be our next president talk in depth about the issues.

Women Organize Against HHS Mandate

What can we do?

That is the question faith-filled women ask me whenever we discuss the HHS Mandate. What can we, out here in the far-flung reaches of this great country, do to stop this attack against our faith?

Vote. I tell them.

Pray. I say.

Talk to your friends. Write your congresspeople. Send a letter to the editor.

All good things, to be sure. All very American things.

But what can we, as women do about this? After all, it’s our lives and our bodies that are being used as an excuse for destroying our own religious freedom. Yet no one anywhere has asked us if we’d rather have a government-run Church or a free one. Not one person has inquired if we feel that free birth control for employees of Church institutions is worth having the government either take control of or shut down so many hospitals, universities and social welfare agencies.

Has anyone — any one at all — stopped to think how many women might die from cancer, car wrecks, and heart attacks if these hospitals are no longer there to save them?

What will happen to the woman who is choking to death and needs help now when the nearest hospital is closed down? Where will immigrant women go for help with learning English? How many battered women will have to stay with their batterer because the shelter has been closed?

How much are we willing to throw away, how many lives will we sacrifice, in order to allow the government to force the Church to kiss Caesar’s ring?

A new group, Women Speak for Themselves, has formed. It gives women a voice in their own lives that the so-called “women’s health” folks have taken away from them. Instead of speaking for women, this group lets women … Speak for Themselves.

A September 23 CNA article about Women Speak for Themselves reads in part:

Washington D.C., Sep 23, 2012 / 05:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Thousands of women across the country are leading grassroots efforts to make their voices heard in opposition to the federal contraception and sterilization mandate.

The Women Speak for Themselves movement is driven by “things that women are deciding to do on their own,” said Meg McDonnell, who has been assisting the group from early in its existence.

McDonnell told CNA on Sept. 20 that the movement has received “hundreds of e-mails” about women’s efforts to defend religious freedom, including prayer campaigns, local rallies, blog posts, discussions with elected representatives, voter registration drives, billboards and letters to the editor. (Read more here.)

I encourage my sisters in Christ, both Catholic and non-Catholic to visit the Women Speak for Themselves website and sign the on-line letter to President Obama against the HHS Mandate.

While you’re there, take a look at the other resources the site offers and consider “liking” it for your Facebook page. I’m going to.

Tyndale House Files Suit Against the HHS Mandate

Tyndale House, one of the largest Christian book publishers in the world, filed suit yesterday against the HHS Mandate.

Tyndale House specializes in religious books, particularly Bibles. Despite this, they fell outside the narrowly-drawn exemptions to the HHS Mandate requiring employers to pay for, among other things, abortifacients.

According to an October 2 LifeNews.com article, “The (HHS) mandate forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterlization and contraception under threat of heavy penalties.”

This ” … demands that Americans choose between two poison pills: either desert your faith by complying, or resist and be punished,” Matt Bowman, Senior Legal Counsel for Tyndale said.

Tyndale House Publishers V Sebelius was filed in the U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Tuesday October 2, 2012.

The LifeNew.com article reads in part:

Tyndale House Publishers, which publishes Bibles and other Christian books and multimedia, filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the Obama administration’s abortion pill mandate.

Tyndale House is one of the world’s largest privately held Christian publishers of books, Bibles, and digital media, but it is apparently not religious enough to meet the narrowly-drawn pot-out the Obama administration placed in the HHS mandate.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing Tyndale House filed a lawsuit and said it is subject to the mandate because Obama administration rules say for-profit corporations are categorically non-religious, even though Tyndale House is strictly a publisher of Bibles and other Christian materials. Tyndale is owned by the non-profit Tyndale House Foundation, a Christian group which provides grants to help meet the physical and spiritual needs of people around the world. (Read more here.)

Miracle Story: Selfless Prayers are Also the Best

It’s become fashionable to demand that God perform a miracle, “prove” Himself to you, as a condition of your belief. 

I have to be honest, I find this offensive.

I’m not talking about Bob Seidensticker and his request. I am referring to those “show me or else” lugs who seem to regard being offensive to Christians as their reason for living.

I can not lose the idea that no matter how ignorant these people undoubtedly are, they are still arrogant beyond comprehension.

I love Jesus. The idea that anyone would treat Him as a sort a divine trained seal appalls me.

Of course, I have to confess that did I try this kind of thing once, myself.

If I remember correctly, I was in the third grade. I sat at my desk in school and stared down at a sheet of math problems that I did not want to answer. Did I want to go play? Or did I just hate math? I don’t remember that part. But I do remember closing my eyes and praying; asking/telling God that when I opened my eyes, I wanted the math problems answered and ready to turn in.

I opened my eyes. The spaces for the answers would were still blank.

This wasn’t a faith-shattering experience for me. Even in the third grade, I knew that what I was demanding was a cheat. But it did teach me a small lesson about God.

Based on the thinking of some professional atheists, my unanswered math questions prayer would be a “proof” of a sort that there is no god. What they want is to put God in a test tube of their devising and then demand that He turn straw to gold or water to wine or some such while they time Him with a stop watch and tape it for future reference. They probably would also like for God to repeat this trick a few times just to be sure.

I have a feeling that if God actually did come through with a few tricks for them, they wouldn’t even so much as toss Him a fish. If your whole social structure is built on not believing in something, it’s going to take more than a few flaps of the celestial flippers to change your mind. Of course, I think I can make that assumption without testing it since I doubt that the Almighty is going to treat their demands for “proof” any differently than he did my demands for answers to math questions.

You see, while the comparison between the two events may seem a trifle extreme, they really are of a type. There isn’t much difference between an 8-year-old praying to be exempted from doing her math and a 40-year-old demanding a miracle or else he’ll keep on disbelieving.

Based on my walk with Christ, I am fairly certain that God doesn’t do parlor tricks for the enrichment and amusement of the jeering section. I doubt very much that you will ever be able to stand on a stage and perform answered prayers for a paying audience. I know that some people have pretended to do this down through the years, but deliberate frauds are … well … deliberate frauds.

What God does do, and rather consistently, is answer the humble prayers of true believers who are asking for things that contribute to the greater good rather than their own benefit. As a for-instance, I offer my friend Linda Cavanah.

I’ve written about Linda a couple of times before, and I expect I will write about her again in the future. God rescued her from the pit and she has followed through by rescuing others from the same pit where she was trapped. Her ministry, All Things New, rescues women and children from sex trafficking and prostitution.

The part of her story I find relevant to the discussion of prayer and miracles is the way she has raised money and put this ministry together. To be honest, she confounds me. I thought I had faith until I started working with her.

Here’s one example. Her car broke down. Linda drives many thousands of miles each month starting shelters for women and managing them. You have no idea how much work goes into this. She runs the wheels off her cars. This time, her car was irrevocably broken.

I asked her what she was going to do. She said, “I’m going to pray for another car.” A couple of days later, she called me and said that a family (who she did not previously know) had called her and said that while they were praying, it came into their heads to call her and offer to donate their car to her ministry.

Another time, she was trying to help a woman who had just been rescued and who needed a lot of medical care. There was no money for this kind of extensive care. I didn’t even ask her where she was going to get the money. I knew if I did, she’d tell me she was going to pray.

I can’t remember exactly how long it was; just a few days later, that we were talking and she said that she going to have lunch with a woman the next day. Just a networking meeting, the kind of thing she does all the time. No big deal. She called me after the lunch and said the woman just wrote out a check (without knowing how much was needed) that would exactly cover the medical expenses. Linda told her, “You just saved someone’s life.”

I could go on. I mean I could go on and on and on and on with these stories. Each one of these answered prayers might easily be a coincidence. But taken together (and I’m talking about years of examples like these) you start getting into a preponderance of the evidence type situation. One coincidence is a coincidence. Repeated, reliable coincidences begin to seem like they are most likely something else, especially when they seem so absolutely intentional.

God answers prayers when He wants to do so. He doesn’t appear to give a care about answering prayer as a performance art. I think this is because God isn’t a blind, unthinking and unfeeling force. He is a personality. He doesn’t just react. He chooses.

Notice, God didn’t set up a printing press and print off the money Linda needed. He didn’t erect a factory and build the car. He didn’t even go abracadabra poof! and conjure these things up. He sent another person. His gift of love was, to paraphrase Shakespeare, twice blessed in that it blessed both the women who are struggling to escape prostitution, and it blessed the person who wrote the check or donated the car. Like any loving and wise parent, God lets us do our part.

God loves us from death to life. Then He inspires us to do the same for one another. I think that is the most important miracle of all.

Miracle Story: Baby Prayers are the Best

Bob Seidensticker, an occasional atheist commenter here at Public Catholic,  has called for miracle stories in a post on his blog, Cross Examined.

I’ll be posting a few miracle stories in the next week. All from real life as I know it. This one involves my youngest son.

My son went to mother’s day out at a Methodist church near our house when he was a toddler. It was just a few hours, a couple of days a week, but it gave me a breather, and he loved playing with the kids.

His best friend was a little boy named Shane. One morning I took John in, and Shane came running out of the playroom.

“John!” he said. “Do you know what’s happened? We’ve got to pray!” 

He put his arm around my son’s shoulder and they walked into the playroom, golden-haired baby heads close together as they talked.

I went on my way and didn’t think anything about it. When I picked John up that afternoon, Shane’s mother told me that her father had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. She said the docs had told her father that he only had a couple of months to live. I told her how sorry I was and she nodded, her eyes shining with unshed tears.

A couple of weeks went by and I happened to see her again as I was leaving John at mother’s day out for the day. I asked how her father was. She looked almost confused then told me that when they’d taken him in to begin radiation treatments, the doctors had taken new x-rays. Long story short: The cancer was gone. There wasn’t any sign it had ever been there. She and I didn’t say much at the time. There isn’t a lot to say about something like that. But later, I remembered Shane running out of the playroom and yelling “John! … We’ve got to pray!” 

I told Shane’s mom about it the next time I saw her. We both just sort of stared at one another. I think the magnitude of this made us feel shy about talking about it.

It might have been a coincidence of some sort. I have no problem with people who say they think that’s what it was. I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. I’m telling you this is what happened. I can also say that I never thought this was anything but a gift from God to two little children who prayed to Him. I will never forget those innocent little boys, walking off together, talking, and probably getting ready to pray.

The end of the story is that the cancer did come back in a few years. This time it was in Shane’s Grandpa’s brain. It took him fast, with little suffering. I always thought that this confirmed the original diagnosis. There had been cancer there. The x-rays had shown it; the biopsy had diagnosed it, and the recurrence seemed to confirm it again. The cancer, which was there, went away. Then, in a few years, came back to stay.

Those few years meant a lot of a little boy who loved his grandpa. Shane and his grandfather spent important time together during Shane’s most impressionable years. Who knows the impact the positive influence this loving, deeply Christian man had on that sweet little boy.

There are miracles. They aren’t even rare. But they don’t come with instructions on the lid. God doesn’t send a telegram saying, “Miracle coming now;” not unless it suits His purpose to do so. Most miracles are private gifts. Because He loves us.

I’ll post another miracle story tomorrow. I’ve got lots of them.

That’s Some Mighty Fine Praying

Youcef Nadarkhani

Prayer has been on our minds here at Patheos. One of our atheist colleagues has committed himself to the 40 Day Prayer Experiment. This caused quite a bit of comment and even derision among the faithful, including, at first, me. I saw it as mocking God. When my atheist blogger friend added a request that someone tell him about any miracles they’d seen, I was even more put out. “Putting God to the test.” I huffed.

What changed my attitude was … drumroll … prayer.

I prayed and got one of those thumps on the head that I so often get. It’s not my job to strip the hide off people who make fun of faith. Even more so, it’s not my job to just automatically assume that every effort to pray and see if God is really there is, in fact, mocking Him. It’s just possible that it’s honest inquiry by someone who’s open to admitting it when God answers them.

My job  … itty, bitty ahem … is to be faithful and stand for Jesus. Oh, I can shut them down if they get abusive. Nobody has to take abuse for no good reason. But I can’t turn around and attack back. As for going out and starting the fight in the first place … nu-uh.

The interesting part of all this isn’t that I am, once again, proven to be a sinner who needs God’s help to get even the smallest things right. The interesting part is that this was a small-time miracle of grace. God thumped me on the head. Because of that unsolicited head thump, I deleted an atheist-bashing post I had already written and was feeling pretty proud of.

God thumped me on the head. Think about it.

While you’re thinking, consider the witness of Youcef Nadarkhani. Pastor Nadarkhani spent 1,000 days in an Iranian prison. He faced execution. All for the crime of mistakenly being identified as a convert to Christianity from Islam when he was, in fact, born into a Christian family.

If he was faking his faith, I imagine he would have recanted and given it up at some point in this ordeal. If he was, as some of our unbelieving friends try to claim, having delusions of religious experience, these delusions must have been consistently benign and durable.

They also must have been among the most positive, life-saving, emotionally healthy delusions on record. I say that because Pastor Nadarkhani came out of prison rejoicing in the power of prayer, grace and the real presence of Christ in our darkest corners.

“I have been put to the test, the test of faith, which is, according to Scriptures ‘more precious than perishable gold.’” he said. “But I have never felt loneliness …  The Lord has wonderfully provided through the trial, allowing me to face the challenges that were in front of me. As the Scriptures say, ‘He will not allow us to be tested beyond our strength. …”

All I can say is that must have been some mighty fine praying Pastor Nadarkhani and his supporters engaged in. It’s must also have been some mighty fine self-deluding.

I know that some people will disagree with me when I say this, and that is fine. But God is real, my friends. His miracles are all around us.

Read an article about Pastor Nadarkhani below.

TEHRAN (BP) — The Iranian pastor who spent more than 1,000 days in prison simply for being a Christian has written an open letter saying Christ provided for his needs while behind bars and thanking those around the world for praying for him. 

“I have been put to the test, the test of faith which is, according to the Scriptures ‘more precious than perishable gold,’” the pastor, Youcef Nadarkhani, wrote Sept. 8 in a letter that was translated into English. It was posted on the website of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ.org).

“But I have never felt loneliness, I was all the time aware of the fact that it wasn’t a solitary battle, for I have felt all the energy and support of those who obeyed their conscience and fought for the promotion of the justice and the rights of all human beings. … The Lord has wonderfully provided through the trial, allowing me to face the challenges that were in front of me. As the Scriptures say, ‘He will not allow us to be tested beyond our strength. …”

Nadarkhani was arrested in October 2009 while registering his church in Rasht, Iran, although he initially was arrested for protesting his children being taught Islam in school, according to ACLJ. He was charged with apostasy for supposedly abandoning Islam and later was given a death sentence. (Read more here.) 

The Debates, BOTH Candidates

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I never though I would put Eminem on this blog. He and I part company in so many places. But this cleaned-up version of Lose Yourself is too apt. Sometimes the most spot-on “analysis” comes from the most awkward places.

Warning Letter to 60,000 Pastors: We’re Watching What You Preach

Americans United for Separation of Church and State evidently sent copies of this letter to 60,000 pastors recently. It’s important to remember that Americans United is not an official agency of any governmental entity. This letter has no force of law and is just their opinion. Our local AU affiliate here in Oklahoma has sent similar letters to pastors in my House district in the past. The pastors I talked to about it tell me they threw it in the trash.

 

Less of Me: The Diet, Week One

 

Well, I did it. 

I drug the scale from under the counter, stood on the thing and looked down. It was bad. I weigh more than I ever have. No wonder I feel so lousy.

After reading all the helpful (And I do mean helpful. Thank you!) comments on my first post about this, Picking My Prison: Which Diet Program for Me?  I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a health habits problem as much as it is an over-eating problem.

Not, mind you, that I don’t over eat. Nobody sees what I saw on the scale this morning without over-eating a lot and overeating often. However, there’s a lot more to this than over-eating. I am also exhausted. And totally out of shape. Not to mention stressed.

There are a lot of reasons for this, some of which I can change and others which I can not. I’ll talk about them in more detail in later posts. For now, I want to focus on what I’ve decided to try to do about this in the next seven days. The changes I want to try to make this week are:

1. Start getting eight hours sleep every night. This is my number one priority. I decided on this because I think it is the one thing that will give me the most immediate help in lowering my blood pressure and just generally feeling better. I go to bed at 3 or 4 (or later) in the morning then get back up at 7 or 8. I do that every day. Changing my sleep habits isn’t as simple as just crawling between the sheets at a more reasonable hour. I’ve become so habituated to my hamster-in-a-cage lifestyle that I can’t sleep, even if I do go to bed. I’m just too jazzed. So, my second goal for this week is

2. Exercise every day. I’m not talking marathon here. Fifteen minutes on the recumbent bike is a good start. I’m hoping it will help me sleep. I’m not sure what time of the day I should do it to get the most relaxation/sleep inducing benefits. I’m just hoping it works.

3. Don’t do so much. I can’t get everything done if I sleep 8 hours. I just can’t. So, I’m going to have to clean out my life the way I would an over-stuffed closet. This one may take a while, and it will almost certainly involve saying “no” to some things. But it’s gotta be done.

4. Drink more water. I’m going to fill a 26 oz thermos I have with ice and water and drink it every day. This one’s easy.

5. Weigh. Every Saturday.

6. Blog about it here every Saturday. I’m hoping you can be my support group with this. You’ve been so much help so far it’s unbelievable.

7. Pray about it. For some reason, I have a reluctance to pray about my own health. It’s as if I think it’s something I should handle without God. So, I’ll add this my my daily prayers.

That’s my plan for this week. How does it sound to you?

Honest Prayer and Saying Yes to God

Bob Seidensticker, one of our friendly atheists here at Patheos, writes at Cross Examined.

Bob has been posting about his participation in a 40 Day Prayer Experiment.

I often tell people who doubt God’s existence to do something very similar.

What I tell them is to pray honestly for five minutes each day for 30 days. I don’t think it will take 30 days. I choose that number because it sounds good — serious — to them.

The key is honesty. It’s fine, in fact it’s good, to pray “I’m doing this because Rebecca and I have a bet and I don’t believe in you at all.” If that’s the truth, pray it.

Then, at the end of the 30 days, you come back and tell me that God is not real.

The reason I do this is because I know from personal experience that if you open yourself up to God with honesty, He will reach out to you. If Bob Seidensticker prays honestly for 40 days, he’ll know.

The question for each of us is not whether or not God is there, or if He’ll answer an honest prayer. The question is, do we have the courage to admit it and to follow through with it when God answers us? When we meet God, it’s not just a cocktail party introduction that means nothing. An encounter with the living God means everything, and I mean everything. 

Once you know, not only that God is real, but that He loves you with an ecstatic and all encompassing love, nothing that you thought or believed or have done is off limits to the transforming power of His presence in your heart. That’s the scary part. It’s also where most Christians set limits on their faith, or even where they turn back altogether.

If you really reach out and let Jesus take hold of your hand, you have to let go of all the worldly ideas and relationships you were holding in that hand. You will be, in Jesus’ words, “born again” into a new and fuller self than you ever were before. But like all births, this one can be painful. The life you’ve lived will not longer fit you. The people you’ve known will often no longer like you. It’s a big step from what you’ve made of yourself to what God wants you to be. It would be impossible if you had to do it alone.

However, once you open your heart to the living God, you will never face any challenge alone and unaided again. As the old hymn says, “He will go with you until the end.”

Prayer, entered into honestly, is an open doorway into the divine. My advice to anyone taking up the 40 Day Prayer Experiment or something of its type is not to over-think it. Don’t sit there analyzing every twitch and itch. Don’t worry about how to pray or what to say. God knows everything about you already. Just be honest. Talk to God honestly. My prayer for you is that when He answers — and He will — that you will have the courage to answer Him with a life-changing, soul-saving yes.

Oh, Puleeez: Pastor from My Neighborhood Opposes Hobby Lobby’s HHS Lawsuit

I was perusing the other blogs here at Patheos when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a post on Get Religion that contained a blurb about a news story concerning the pastor of a Nazarene church that’s about … ummmmm … eight blocks or so from my house.

It seems that Pastor Lance Schmitz, of the Capitol Hill Church of the Nazarene, delivered a nationally-based petition to the Hobby Lobby headquarters here in Oklahoma City. The petition protested Hobby Lobby’s lawsuit against the HHS Mandate. According to an Associated Press story I read, the petition was circulated by an on-line group called Faithful America, along with another group called Ultra Violet.

Faithful America’s website looks to be one of those hit sites that tries to co-opt the message of the gospel to support one side of the culture wars. In their case, it appears to be the side that favors same-sex marriage, abortion, etc.  According to themselves, they “speak for mainstream America.”

The AP article says that UltraViolet “promotes women’s rights.” According to their web site they are affiliated with MoveOn.org. Their director is formerly with People for the American Way.

So far as I know, the Pastor at the Capitol Hill Church of the Nazarene represents himself, and maybe the people of his flock. This is a very small church with only a few members.

So, what does a teeny-tiny, itty-bitty Nazarene Church in a neighborhood where people are more concerned with drive-by shootings, bad schools and making it to the end of the month than on-line petitions have to do with these two national groups? 

I dunno.

All I know is that I can say without much hesitation that this minister does not speak for most of the people in the neighborhood he is trying to pastor. In fact, I’ll go a step further and say that a good many of them would disagree with him and feel alienated by his actions. I can also say that I doubt if David Green, the President of Hobby Lobby, is going to cry himself to sleep tonight over this petition.

I’m not questioning this pastor’s sincerity or good intentions. I’m assuming he had a good time, delivering the petition. But if he wants to grow a church in that neighborhood with a membership beyond the size of what would fill a child’s clubhouse, he might re-think aligning himself with outsiders that most of the people there are bound to regard as their enemies.

Christian Persecution: The Solidarity Cross

I’m going to call it The Solidarity Cross.

The idea began last week with a post about a British woman who was fired for wearing a cross to work.

All these stories of Christian persecution, which range from verbal harassment to genocidal mass murder, lead us to the same questions. What would we do if it was us? What are we going to do to help them? And finally, how do Christians from all over the world, stand together?

Christianity bears the face of humanity. We are every race, almost all languages, cultures and climes. How do we stand together in the face of the growing persecution of Christians that exists at some phase of its continuum just about everywhere, including here in America and the rest of the so-called Christian West?

I think we should start small. With a symbol that can speak as clearly as words. That’s where the Solidarity Cross comes in.

The idea is simple and straight-forward: Christians should wear a cross outside their clothing in protest of the growing social hazing and economic discrimination directed toward Christians throughout most of the Western world. We should also wear it in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ who face violent persecution in much of the rest of the world.

When I first made the suggestion, I suggested just any cross. But the more I thought about it this week, the more I felt that we should try to wear a similar cross. The reason is that this makes a statement to anyone who sees it. It makes the point for us.

If we each just get a cross that suits our individual taste and put it on, those who see us will view it as nothing more than an individual gesture. They might think it is a fashion statement, or a personal statement of belief. But the message the you are standing in solidarity with your brothers and sisters in Christ in the face of Christian persecution would not show.

For this to have an impact, people have to know what statement we are making when they see our crosses. This is called “branding” in advertising and politics. It is often created with expensive advertising campaigns created by equally expensive ad agencies. God has not given us those resources.

But we can duplicate some of the things that make branding work. We can be consistent. We can be persistent. We can create a single symbolic cross that will be a symbol of our stand against Christian persecution.

The question: What should this cross look like?

I think it should be:

1. Inexpensive.

2. Easy to attach, such as a pin.

3. Distinctive.

What ideas do you have for this? I am looking for suggestions for what it should look like and how we implement this.

Ideas? Thoughts? Suggestions?

Christian Persecution: The High Price of Conversion

India: Converting from Hinduism

An Indian state’s draconian “anti-conversion” law has been partially struck down in a legal challenge brought by Christians and celebrated as “a triumph for religious freedom” in the country.

The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) took its case against the Himachal Pradesh Religion Act 2006 to the state’s high court, which ruled on 30 August that some provisions of the law were unconstitutional.

The case will now go to the Indian Supreme Court
Indian Supreme Court

 

The court removed a section that required a person intending to convert from one religion to another to give 30 days’ notice to the district magistrate. Failure to do this was punishable with a fine.

Two rules regarding the implementation of the act were also struck down. One required the district magistrate to give notice of the conversion request to any affected party before granting approval, and the other required a police case to be registered if the conversion was thought to have taken place using force or inducement or without notice.

The EFI challenged the law because of the ways in which it was being used, especially by Hindu extremists, to stop people from converting to Christianity.

Those wanting to convert were listed in a public registry, which was checked by Hindu extremists, who then tracked down, persecuted, and even murdered new Christians. People wanting to become Hindus did not, however, need to give public notice. (Read more here.)

 

Middle East: Converting from Islam

An Iranian man recently granted asylum in the U.S. after converting from Islam to Christianity told FoxNews.com he still fears the long arm of the rogue regime in Tehran.

The man, whose name is being withheld, said he fears hardline Muslims could come after him, even in the U.S. … Because apostasy – renouncing Islam – is punishable by death, the man told FoxNews.com he lives in fear.

… After moving to the U.S. in 2009 as a doctoral student, the man befriended several Christians and began attending Bible study. Two years later, he converted to Christianity, then sought the help of the American Center for Law and Justice in a bid to obtain asylum. In July, a federal court granted his request, allowing him to remain in the country.

Had he returned to his homeland, the man would have almost certainly faced imprisonment and possibly death, said Tiffany Barrans, international legal director for the ACLJ.

“Asylum cases based on religious persecution are very common in the United States, and those converts from Islam who seek asylum here are greatly increasing as persecution of converts in the Muslim world is on the rise,” Barrans said.

Iranian persecution of Christians came to the fore recently with the high-profile case of Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who was released from an Iranian prison earlier this month after an intense international campaign and diplomatic pressure. Nadarkhani, who served three years in prison, had faced a death penalty sentence on charges of apostasy.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/09/18/iranian-christian-convert-fearful-retaliation-despite-being-granted-asylum-in/print#ixzz27kV4mhV9

 

Christian Persecution: Nigerian Church Bombings Continue

More Nigerian Church Bombings

by John Campbell
September 25, 2012

 

A woman cries during a mass funeral for the victims of Christmas day bombing at St Theresa Catholic church, outside Nigeria's capital Abuja 01/02/2012. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters).A woman cries during a mass funeral for the victims of Christmas day bombing at St Theresa Catholic church, outside Nigeria’s capital Abuja 01/02/2012. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters).

 

On Sunday, September 24, immediately after an early mass, a suicide bomber attacked St. John’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Bauchi. Five were reported killed with another forty-six injured.  Doctors warn that many of the wounded are in bad condition, and may die. No part of Boko Haram, a radical Islamic movement that targets the Nigerian political economy, has claimed responsibility. It is likely, however, that most Nigerians will impute to it the responsibility. The BBC, among other media, has stated that church bombings have waned while Boko Haram shifted its focus to communications towers. The Nigerian press, on the other hand, has reported attacks nearly every Sunday since at least the beginning of August.

The northern chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the umbrella group that includes almost all of the Christian churches, appears to be working to dampen down Christian revenge against Muslims.  Its spokesmen characterize the bombings as “a test of faith.” One CAN spokesman said, “Christians should look up to God, because vengeance is of God.  We are not comfortable with the killing of Christians, but we leave everything to God.  He has not failed us, and will not fail us.” (Read more here.)

 

Supreme Court Directs Response to Challenge on Abortion Funding in Obamacare

www.LC.org

Washington, DC – Today the U.S. Supreme Court opened its new term and directed the federal government to respond to Liberty Counsel’s Petition for Rehearing within 30 days. Liberty Counsel filed the petition on behalf of Liberty University and two private individuals.

An appeals court in Richmond, VA, ruled that the Anti-Injunction Act (AIA) barred the court from addressing the merits in Liberty Univ., Inc. v. Geithner, which challenged the individual mandate (Section 1501) and the employer insurance mandate (Section 1513) of ObamaCare. In addition to the constitutional arguments that Congress lacked authority to pass the law, the suit also raised the Free Exercise of Religion claim because of the forced abortion funding.

The first day of oral argument was dedicated to the AIA, the issue that Liberty University’s case placed before the High Court. In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the AIA does not apply to ObamaCare.  Therefore, Liberty Counsel asked the Court to grant the Petition (because Liberty University prevailed on the AIA claim), vacate the ruling of the Court of Appeals, and remand (send back) the case to the Court of Appeals to consider the Free Exercise claim and the employer mandate, neither of which were decided by the High Court. (Read more here.)


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