Poll shows in America not all systems of thought are welcomed as Christians face increasing intolerance

Matthew 5:10 ““Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Christians Face Increasing Intolerance? Poll Reveals Americans’ Stunning Take on Faith and Religious Liberty
  • According to Lifeway: nearly six-in-10 (59%) say religious tolerance for Christians in the U.S. is on the decline.
  • Notably, the majority of people in every religious group — Catholics (59%), Protestants (69%), and those of other religious beliefs (52%) — agree that Christians face ramped-up intolerance.
  • The survey results come as Christianity continues to decline, with the Pew Research Center finding that 63% of Americans identify as Christians, down from 78% in 2007.
  • At the same time, the growth of the “nones” — those individuals who are either atheist, agnostic, or unaffiliated — continues to swell, expanding from 16% in 2007 to 29% in 2021.

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Country Founders knew the Government would rule over the Church if the First Amendment wasn’t established

  • The Founders Meant to Keep Government Out of the Church, Not God Out of the Government
  • These days the phrase “wall of separation between church and state” has come to mean keeping God or His believers from having a big effect on government and public life.
  • But that’s far, far from what the Founding Fathers were thinking of when they were separating church and state.
  • They were afraid of what so many of the Old World countries had: a religion established by the state as its one true religion, that would tyrannically rule over the faith and conscience of every citizen.
  • Not only did the First Amendment say, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” but it also said, “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
  • “What they wanted was the freedom that we have in the Bible: the rights of conscience,” Barton said. “And they didn’t want the state telling us how we could or couldn’t practice our faith.”

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Pastor Andrew Brunson asks the question: “Are we more afraid of persecution than the consequences of not obeying God?”

Matthew 10:28 “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Important Takeaways:

  • I understand fear. In prison I was separated from my loved ones by force.
  • Jesus repeatedly warned His disciples that they would encounter persecution and hardship, and He repeatedly admonished them not to fear… I think Jesus’ emphasis is not so much “do not feel fear” but rather “do not act out of fear.” The danger is that the person who surrenders to fear may compromise his faith, fall away and even deny Jesus.
  • First, we need to nurture a straight-up fear of God as judge.
  • We rightly emphasize the love of God, but we don’t like to talk about hell and judgment. Yet Jesus talked about it quite a bit, and He did this because there are terrible consequences to denying Him, to compromising our faith. Jesus said it very clearly and bluntly: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
  • Second, we need to nurture a right perspective-—to develop eternal eyes… For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
  • Third, we need to nurture a desire for Heaven… “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12).

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One of the little girls killed in Uvalde, Texas is being remembered for sharing the gospel on social media

Mark 13:13 “You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Ellie Garcia, a 9-year-old victim of Tuesday’s massacre, had posted a short video to TikTok about Jesus before she died.
  • “Jesus. He died for us. So when we die, we’ll be up there with Him,” she said.
  • “Her faith is inspiring, seeing these posts makes me realize how much I have to learn from such a young soul who was wise beyond her years”

Read the original article by clicking here.

Mother who lost only son to rare COVID complication warns parents to look for early signs

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – By the time doctors realized that Lorena Navarrete’s son had a rare complication of COVID-19 that afflicts some children, it was too late to save her 16-year-old Emilio.

Lorena, a single mother who lives in the southern Chilean city of Puerto Montt, told the TVN network that her music-loving and sociable son died about a week after he first complained of feeling tired and of a pain in his legs in late January.

Within days he had developed livid blotches on his skin, a high fever, vomiting and dark urine.

Doctors at the city’s hospital, overrun with severe COVID cases, repeatedly tested him for COVID but with the results coming back negative were at a loss as to what was wrong with him.

By the time his illness was identified as Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, it was too late. Lorena could not be at her son’s bedside because of strict health protocols, but a social worker called to pass on the message that her son loved her very much. She asked the social worker to tell her son she would see him soon, and that his pets were well.

“A doctor said that if I had faith, I should pray because my son was very ill,” said Navarrete, who works as a nurse technician. “They had a diagnosis and it was PIMS.”

Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), as PIMS is more commonly known, is a rare, life-threatening syndrome linked to COVID-19.

It usually appears between two and six weeks after infection, even in asymptomatic cases of COVID-19.

It shares symptoms with toxic shock and Kawasaki disease, including fever, rashes, swollen glands, conjunctivitis and, in severe cases, heart inflammation, and can cause multiple organ failure. It is not always fatal if caught and treated early.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in January that it was investigating whether COVID variants were increasing the number or severity of cases following anecdotal reports from some states.

Dr. Loreto Twele, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Puerto Montt hospital, said catching it was like piecing together a jigsaw.

“There is no single exam. You have to put the pieces together to be able to make an early diagnosis and start treatment,” she said.

Chilean public health chief Paula Daza said in a media briefing on Monday that of the 69,563 confirmed cases of COVID in children so far in Chile, 157 cases of MIS-C have been reported.

“The rate of cases of children with these conditions is quite low, however, health professionals have to be alert,” she said.

For Emilio’s mother Lorena, the pain of losing her only son is partly helped by knowing she can raise awareness.

“I do not want Emilio’s death to be in vain and for this to be known so that the same thing does not happen to other parents,” she said.

(Writing by Aislinn Laing and Fabian Cambero; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

After surviving wars, pestilence, religions use technology to beat pandemic

By Angela Moore

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Throw a global pandemic at the world’s religions, and you get confessions via Skype, virtual seders and recitations of the Koran over Facebook.

The world’s three leading religions have survived famines, plagues, pestilence and wars. Now, in the 21st century shutdown, New York-area Jewish, Islamic and Christian clerics are turning to technology to help their followers through the coronavirus.

Worshipers have taken to online connections as the dangers of the virus and uncertainty of self-isolation deepen their spirituality and strengthen their faith, the clerics said.

“I think from a spiritual standpoint, it’s very empowering,” said Sheikh Osamah Salhia, Imam at the Islamic Center of Passaic County in Clifton, New Jersey.

The government-ordered shutdowns have been “a chance for us to recognize our real priorities in life and gain a sense of clarity on what really matters: family, community, the masjid (mosque) and its role,” he said in an interview.

While bans on mass gatherings have taken away the communal aspect of prayers, especially during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the Islamic Center is connecting online with congregants for classes and Koran readings, Salhia said.

Livestream prayers, however, are not encouraged, he said, adding families should pray together at home.

VIRTUAL HUGS AND KISSES

This year, many Jews, including Esther Greenberg of New York’s Long Island, gathered their families for Passover on Zoom.

“Unfortunately, we all can’t be together holding each other around, giving hugs and kisses, but we’re doing it virtually because this is what our family does,” Greenberg, 73, said at her April 8 seder.

At the Park East Synagogue in Manhattan, many of the sanctuary’s mostly older congregants have been connecting via the internet for the first time, Cantor Benny Rogosnitzky said.

“Technology has been amazing,” said Rogosnitzky. “It really is a lifeline.

Congregants use online platforms to link not only to morning services but to a supportive community that has grown more spiritual during the crisis, Rogosnitzky said.

After the lockdown, he said he envisions smaller, shorter gatherings, with barriers in the sanctuary and temperature-takers greeting worshipers.

“It’s going to be more about, stay separate,” he said.

Contrary to some polls showing declines in virtual religious attendance since the virus outbreak, the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in Manhattan has seen an increase in online worshipers for its Episcopal services, said the Rev. Patrick Malloy.

“One of the great things that’s happening on Sundays is we have people from all over the world, and thousands of them sharing of worship with us every Sunday,” said Malloy.

“For the first time, I heard a confession by Skype,” he added. “You know, you have to do what you have to do.”

Like other clerics, Malloy says he has seen more spirituality in the flock during the pandemic.

“When you’re locked in your house, and especially when you’re locked in a small New York apartment by yourself, day after day after day, you come to think about the bigger questions,” he said.

When the crisis ends, Malloy said he expects to see the church at least as full as it was before because “people really do miss one another.”

(Writing by Peter Szekely; editing by Bill Tarrant and Sonya Hepinstall)

In grieving Texas town, faith sustains those left behind

A member of the media walks inside the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed one week ago, as the church opens to the public as a memorial to those killed, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 12, 2017.

By Tim Reid

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (Reuters) – Joe Holcombe and his wife, Claryce, lost eight members of their family in the Texas church shooting last Sunday, including their son, grandchildren, a pregnant granddaughter-in-law and a great- granddaughter who was still a toddler. But they are serene.

Chairs and roses mark where worshipers were found dead at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed one week ago, as the church opens to the public as a memorial to those killed, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 12, 2017.

Chairs and roses mark where worshipers were found dead at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed one week ago, as the church opens to the public as a memorial to those killed, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 12, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

“It’s just not a problem to us,” said Holcombe, 86, adding that he and 84-year-old Claryce believe their dead family members are now alive again in heaven.

“We know exactly where the family is, and it’s not going to be long until we’ll both be there,” he said. “And we’re really sort of looking forward to it.”

Chairs and roses show where Joann and Brooke Ward and others were found dead at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed one week ago, as the church opens to the public as a memorial to those killed, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 12, 2017.

Chairs and roses show where Joann and Brooke Ward and others were found dead at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed one week ago, as the church opens to the public as a memorial to those killed, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 12, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

The Holcombes were upbeat and full of good humor during a telephone interview, and they are not an exception in this deeply evangelical part of Texas.

What is so striking about relatives and friends of the 26 victims of the church shooting in tiny Sutherland Springs is that they all believe good will come from this act of evil and that their loved ones are now safe for eternity, and breathing again, with God.

Psychologists say such deep faith can help families deal with such a ghastly event. Even so, they warn that leaning too heavily on one’s religious beliefs can stunt the natural grieving period and result in post-traumatic stress later.

A cross with a crown of thorns and a Bible open to the book of Proverbs are seen at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed one week ago, as the church opens to the public as a memorial to those killed, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 12, 2017.

A cross with a crown of thorns and a Bible open to the book of Proverbs are seen at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed one week ago, as the church opens to the public as a memorial to those killed, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 12, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

“I can see potentially it could be some form of denial, a delayed traumatic reaction, and if you don’t have some kind of negative feelings, it can catch up with you,” said clinical psychologist and trauma expert Bethany Brand.

Gina Hassan, a psychologist in northern California, said Sutherland Spring’s faith was invaluable in the wake of the shooting, “but if it’s relied upon in a rigid way, then it’s going to be a problem down the line and come back to bite you later on.”

Local veterinarian George Hill, a relative of the Holcombes, said an evangelical belief in Christ was the only way to deal with such a tragedy.

“We haven’t lost hope,” he said. “They are not gone. They are just gone ahead. And we know we’ll see them again.”

He expressed faith that evil would not prevail. “It looks like evil won, but it didn’t,” he said. “Good is going to win.”

Pastor Mike Clements of the First Baptist Church in Floresville, a small city 14 miles from Sutherland Springs, is officiating over the funeral services for the extended Holcombe family on Wednesday.

The dead include Bryan Holcombe, Joe and Claryce Holcombe’s son, and his wife Karla. Their son Danny Holcombe was killed as well, along with his 18-month-old daughter, Noah. Crystal Holcombe, who was 18 weeks pregnant, was Bryan and Karla Holcombe’s daughter-in-law.

Also shot and killed were Emily, Megan and Greg Hill, three children from Crystal’s first marriage, which had ended with her husband’s death.

Under Texas law, Crystal’s unborn child is also being counted as a victim, making a death toll of nine for the family.

People in Sutherland Springs are truly grieving, Clements said. But evangelicals accept Christ into their lives in a very real way, and because of that, their faith is incredibly liberating, especially at a time of such great tragedy.

Most fundamentally, he said, they believe people who have accepted Christ will go to heaven.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Clements said over lunch near his church. “There is nothing better than heaven when you are a believer.”

 

(Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa Von Ahn)

 

The three wise men parade Madrid’s streets amid tightened security

Men dressed as the three wise men

MADRID (Reuters) – The three biblical wise men paraded through Madrid’s streets amid tight security on Thursday, the eve of Epiphany, which celebrates the day they are said to have visited the infant Christ with gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar, accompanied by hundreds of eclectic floats, handed out sweets to the thousands of children lining the Spanish capital’s main boulevard.

Madrid’s authorities deployed 800 police officers, some heavily armed, erected concrete barriers to block access to streets and curbed the movement of trucks after the December attack in Berlin on a Christmas market.

A Tunisian man killed 12 people in the Dec. 19 attack when he plowed a truck into a row of market stalls, leading other European capitals to ramp up security.

The Day of the Kings on Jan. 6 is a bigger day than Christmas for many in Spain. Children often wait until then to open their presents said to have been brought by the wise men and not Santa Claus, the traditional gift-giver elsewhere.

Every Spanish city and most towns hold parades featuring the kings, wearing robes, crowns and billowing beards, and Madrid’s is one of the largest.

In Catalonia controversy has been focused on the attempt by pro-independence organizations to politicize the parade in Vic, a town around 70 kilometers north of Barcelona, with the distribution of lanterns bearing the “estelada” flag, usually used by Catalan separatists.

(Reporting By Jesús Aguado; Editing by Angus Berwick and Richard Lough)

Congress remains overwhelmingly Christian as U.S. shifts

U.S. President Barack Obama (L-R), House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) bow their heads in prayer at the end of a ceremony commemorating the 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment, which formally abolished slavery in the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Congress taking office on Tuesday remains almost as overwhelmingly Christian as it was in the 1960s even while the share of American adults who call themselves Christians has dropped, according to Pew Research Center analysis.

A report from the nonpartisan group said that 91 percent of lawmakers in the Republican-dominated 115th Congress described themselves as Christians, down slightly from 95 percent in the 87th Congress in 1961 and 1962, the earliest years for comparable data.

By contrast, the portion of American adults who call themselves Christian fell to 71 percent in 2014, the Pew report said. While Pew did not have numbers for the early 1960s, a Gallup survey from that time found that 93 percent of Americans described themselves as Christian.

“The most interesting thing is how little Congress has changed over the past several decades, especially in comparison with the general public,” Aleksandra Sandstrom, the report’s lead author, said in a telephone interview.

The biggest gap between Congress and other Americans was among those who said they have no religion. Only one lawmaker, Democratic Representative Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, called herself religiously unaffiliated. The Pew survey found that 23 percent of Americans described themselves the same way.

The percentage of Americans who have no religion has grown, but the portion of voters who said in exit polls that they have no religion is lower than the share of the general public, said Greg Smith, a Pew expert on the U.S. religious landscape.

“The political power of that group might lag their growth in the overall population,” he said.

Among the 293 Republicans elected to the new Congress, all but two identify as Christians. The two Jewish Republicans – Lee Zeldin of New York and David Kustoff of Tennessee – serve in the House.

The 242 Democrats in Congress are 80 percent Christian, but that side of the aisle includes 28 Jews, three Buddhists, three Hindus, two Muslims and one Unitarian Universalist.

The share of Protestants in Congress has dropped to 56 percent today from 75 percent in 1961, while the portion of Catholics in Congress has risen to 31 percent from 19 percent.

The U.S. population in 2014 was 46.5 percent Protestant and 21 percent Catholic, the Pew survey showed.

The survey was based on data gathered by CQ Roll Call through questionnaires and phone calls to members of congress and candidates’ offices.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Scott Malone and Grant McCool)

CHRIST IS BORN!!

Christ Is BORN!

By Kami Klein

For Christians, Christmas represents the light of hope that we carry within us. The birth of Jesus and the tremendous acts of courage throughout the Christmas story, inspire us to have more faith, spread more love, forgive quickly and freely while making that extra effort to show compassion to others.    

The moment the song “Oh Holy Night” fills the air, that sweetness of faith wraps it’s arms around us and if we allow it,  no matter our differences, inspires us to show that light of Christ to the world.

The account of Jesus’ birth in the Bible shows the simple faith of shepherds in the field, willing to listen to an Angel!  They trusted what they heard from this Holy being and simply had faith.

The same is to be said for the Three Wise men who decided to blindly follow a star and listen when warned without falter.   It was Faith.

As we celebrate the birthday of our Savior, let us ask for the love of God to wash away any old resentments, fears and grudges.  Let us take that one simple act of faith and courage and live as Christ has asked us to and honor the man, the teacher, the Savior, the Son of God.

Christmas is not just a time for friends and family..Christmas is for ALL of humanity!

 

Luke 2:1-20 

The Birth of Jesus

2 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the entire inhabited earth should be taxed. 2 This taxation was first made when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And everyone went to his own city to be taxed.

4 So Joseph also departed from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to the City of David which is called Bethlehem, in Judea, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be taxed with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6 So while they were there, the day came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in strips of cloth, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

8 And in the same area there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And then an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were very afraid. 10 But the angel said to them, “Listen! Do not fear. For I bring you good news of great joy, which will be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign to you: You will find the Baby wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly there was with the angel a company of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,    and on earth peace, and good will toward men.”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

16 So they came hurrying and found Mary and Joseph, and the Baby lying in a manger. 17 When they had seen Him, they made widely known the word which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS!