Category Archives: International

Shields of Strength to share God’s word at Sochi Olympics

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By Tonya Whitaker
Inside The Pew

An athletic ministry and a Christian jewelry company have found the perfect way to put Christ on the minds of the athletes who arePhilippians 4:13 taking part in the Sochi Winter Olympics.

Shields of Strength, along with Athletes in Action (AIA), a ministry of Cru (formerly called Campus Crusade for Christ), will minister to coaches and competing athletes by providing spiritual, emotional, and mental support in the multi-faith center of the Olympic Village.

Team member and Olympic Chaplain Carl Dambman has been ministering to Olympic athletes in both the summer and winter games for the past 33 years. He said a dozen AIA staff and volunteers will distribute the shields to athletes who are seeking God’s word.

“The world’s eyes are on heroes of the sports fields, and we want to strengthen and encourage them as people watch them relying on God as their Creator, their Savior, and the One who gave them the talents to perform,” Dambman said.

“If the Shields of Strength can help them in their walk with the Lord, then we’re all for partnering with whoever wants to lift up Christ.”

Kenny Vaughan, founder of Shields of Strength, said that the company has donated over one million of the three million shields they produced to individuals, the U.S. military, churches, and ministries such as AIA. Both Vaughan and Dambman find that the organizations’ new partnership works well.

“Our missions align well because we can give them a tool to help them share Christ through a one-on-one relationship,” Vaughan said.

Vaughan said he understands the fear and pressure that Olympians experience during competition. While trying to win a U.S. Nationals for the water ski long jump, he described a comparable feeling that he was insufficient.

“The unique thing about an athlete, especially in the Olympics, is that they are prepared for pressure,” he said. “But until that momentJoshua 1:9 when you should be disciplined, it’s then when you find yourself saying, ‘God I need you.’ Right then is when you’re even weaker than you realized.

“Athletes in competition think if they have enough courage, they can overcome fear. But really that thought is the trap of life. And it’s not courage, but love that overcomes fear. It’s the courage to love that makes us courageous. That’s the message of God’s word, and Athletes in Action is taking advantage of this opportunity to share that truth.”

During his time of doubt and fear, Vaughan’s girlfriend (now wife), Tammie, wrote scriptures on his ski equipment, which, through God’s power, found their way into his heart and eased his fears. This led Vaughan to inscribe verses onto dog tags and wear them underneath his shirt.

From that first shield, Shields of Strength has grown to also include women’s jewelry and other accessories, like key chains and athletic tape. Seventeen years later, the company hopes that the shields can help Olympians as they face the same trials during competition.

“Love doesn’t always guarantee a win in life; it just ensures we compete with all we have and that gives us a better chance to win,” Vaughan said.

According to Vaughan, the shields have be found on the battlefield and the football field, providing encouragement as a simple reminder to new and established Christians alike.

Learn more about Shields of Strength at www.shieldsofstrength.com.

Charity sale of Pope Francis’ Harley-Davidson causes media storm

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By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

ROME, ITALY (ANS) — Since the announcement at the beginning of January that Bonhams auctioneers is to sell Pope Francis’ Pope FrancisHarley-Davidson and leather jacket, the news has reached more than 50 countries worldwide and generated more than 500 articles of international news coverage.

A news release stated that to mark the 110th anniversary of the motorcycle brand, Pope Francis was presented with the 1,585cc Harley-Davidson Dyna Super Glide and a motorcycle jacket in June 2013.

This rare and exceptional opportunity to own what was the property of the “People’s Pope” has captured the world’s imagination, generating a huge amount of interest in the items, which are to be auctioned for charity by Bonhams at the Grand Palais in Paris on Feb. 6.

The Sale, which is taking place as part of the capital’s Rétromobile Week, will see the motorcycle and the jacket raise funds for Caritas Roma, which works on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church to support those in need around the world.

They were donated to the charity by Pope Francis, who is famous for his work with the poor and his preference for modest modes of transport. Keeping charity and transport at the forefront of his mind, the Harley-Davidson, which has an estimate of $16,000-$20,000, is to be sold with no reserve in aid of Caritas Roma.

Funds raised by the sale will go towards the renovation of the charity’s Don Luigi di Liegro hostel and soup kitchen based at Rome’s Termini railway station.

The hostel opened 30 years ago to help the homeless, jobless and the poor, and the money raised by the Harley-Davidson’s sale will allow it to continue to provide food and accommodation to more than 1,000 people in need every day.

Signed on the fuel-tank by his Holiness at a special ceremony at the Vatican in November, the machine is offered with a Papal Certificate signed by his Holiness’s personal secretary and a certificate of conformity from Harley-Davidson.

James Knight, group director of the Bonhams motoring department, said: “This is an almost unheard of opportunity to those who wish to support such a worthy cause. In return for supporting the charity, the winning bidder will be the proud owner of a unique and desirable collectors’ item of memorabilia. We have customers who have expressed a desire to own both the motorcycle and jacket, but others with a preference for just one item. It will be interesting to see if both stay together.”

The Harley-Davidson and leather jacket will be sold on Feb. 6 as part of Bonhams’ Les Grandes Marques du Monde sale at the Grand Palais in Paris.

Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world’s largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale.

World leaders expected to attend memorial services for Mandela

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By Grelan Muse Sr.
Inside The Pew

World leaders and dignitaries will converge on Johannesburg beginning this week for the funeral and memorial services for NelsonMandela Graca Machel Mandela.

National and international media outlets are reporting that all living U.S. presidents – Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter – will attend services. In addition, Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will pay their condolences in person to Mandela.

Mandela, the iconic anti-apartheid campaigner and Nobel Peace Prize winner who spent 27 years in a grim island prison before he became South Africa’s unifying, first democratically elected president, died Dec. 5 at 95.

According to Fox News, a week of mourning has been declared by the South African government. Memorial services will be held throughout the week leading to the funeral for Mandela. On Dec. 10, a memorial is planned at FNB Stadium in Soweto, where Mandela made his last public appearance at the World Cup final in July 2010. Soweto was once a violent hot spot of resistance to apartheid and then host to the first Soccer World Cup to be held on African soil.

The leader’s body will lie in state from Dec. 11 to Dec. 13 at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. South African President Jacob Zuma has called for flags to be flown at half-mast until after the funeral.

President of the South African Council of Churches, Bishop Jo Seoka, who convened the funeral planning meeting Dec. 6, said: “We areMandela and F.W. de Klerk very much saddened by the news of the death of our nation’s firstpPresident: A man of vision, courage and zeal for the liberation of humankind. He has lived a selfless life so that we may all enjoy freedom and the fullness of life, just as our Lord had purposed. Today we are a respected nation because of his tireless fighting spirit to free us from oppression, exploitation and sexism, and for this we thank God.”

While Bishop Seoka’s words will resonate with most South African Christians, there are some voices who warn that people are falling into idolatrous “Mandela worship” and that films about his life are adding fuel to this fire. A few Christian critics go even further and say he was a terrorist who promoted abortion, pornography and homosexuality in the nation. Mandela himself once famously said: “I am not a saint unless you think a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying.”

He was a larger-than-life figure whose life story was like that of the hero in an epic movie. Ironically, two of his daughters heard about his death last night while they were attending the London royal premiere of “Long Road to Freedom,” a feature film about his life.

Even in the past three months, most of which he spent in a semi-coma in a private hospital in the capital city, Pretoria, his presence loomed large in the nation as citizens viewed media images of prayer vigils on the street outside the clinic. Mandela is credited by many with guiding South Africa safely through the tense period of transition from apartheid to democracy as he called on angry blacks and fearful whites to reconcile and build a new nation together.

As the nation prayed and shared in the human drama of his last protracted battle on his sickbed it was as if even in his weakened state his persona was exerting a calming, restraining, influence on a South Africa where cracks of corruption, inequality, unresolved racial tension and anger are showing.

Like any hero character in an epic movie, Mandela changed the atmosphere each time he entered the frame. His broad smile, his genuine warmth to children, his colorful shirts (he seldom wore the suits and ties associated with high office), and his trademark “Madiba shuffle” (a light-hearted dance step he would often do in public places). But without a doubt there was no more epic heroic appearance than the day he donned the green and gold jersey of South Africa’s national rugby team – once a symbol of white supremacy – at the 1995 Rugby World Cup final in Johannesburg’s Ellis Park stadium. His presence was inspirational and the nation felt united as never before when South Africa won the coveted World Cup for the first time that day.

Inevitably the question must be asked: what will South Africa look like with its epic hero figure written out of the plot? There are who fear that without his restraining presence the forces of darkness will prevail. Interestingly there is a rising, grassroots movement of black Christians like former ANC provincial leader Mkhangeli Matomela, who believe that the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party which Mandela symbolized for decades, has already been taken over by darkness, and they are appealing to the many Christian supporters of the ANC to join an alliance of parties pursuing a political future aligned to the kingdom of God.

With the impeccable timing of an epic movie hero, Mandela has disappeared into the yonder on the eve of an election year.

Editor’s note: Andre Viljoen from ASSIST News Service contributed to this report.

Acid attack on Catholic priest part of ‘a series of assaults on churches and church leaders’ in Zanzibar

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Father Anselm Mwang'amba displays his terrible injuries.

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

SURREY, ENGLAND (ANS) – A Christian human rights organization is deeply troubled by an acid attack on an elderly CatholicFather Anselm Mwang'amba displays his terrible injuries. priest in Zanzibar on Sept. 13.

Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, in East Africa.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said in a news release that the incident, the latest in a series of assaults on churches and church leaders in the semi-autonomous archipelago, highlights a worrying deterioration in freedom of religion or belief in Tanzania.

Father Anselm Mwang’amba was attacked as he left an Internet cafe in the historic Stone Town area of the Zanzibar capital, and is currently hospitalized with severe burns to the face, neck and hands.

CSW said according to a local report, while inside the cafe Father Mwang’amba received a call from an unknown number and was doused with acid as he exited to answer his telephone.

The assault on Father Mwang’amba is the fourth major attack on a Christian leader in Zanzibar since December 2012, when a Catholic priest was wounded by unknown gunmen.

Local Christians report receiving threats via text message or in leaflets naming church leaders who have been targeted for assassination, and in some instances referring to a prospective date.

In February, the murder of a Protestant pastor was followed a week later by the killing of a Catholic priest.

In addition, CSW reported, at least 20 churches have been looted and either burnt or demolished, allegedly by supporters of the separatist religious movement Uamsho (Awakening). Perpetrators of religious violence are never brought to trial even when identified or caught in the act, and police investigations are generally extended indefinitely.

In a comment to CSW on the attack on Father Mwang’amba a local Christian speaking on condition of anonymity said, “We are asking the international community to intervene in this issue. Christians do not have any protection. In this environment we live in so much fear of what will happen to whom tomorrow.”

CSW has also received reports of increasing discrimination on the Tanzanian mainland and an inadequate official response to religion-related violence.

The family of a Pentecostal pastor beheaded in March in violence that erupted in Geita after the Muslim community objected to the opening of a Christian-owned butchery are still awaiting justice.

Christians complain of the inequitable application of public order regulations designed to maintain religious harmony, including discrimination in the granting of permits for open-air meetings and new media outlets.

In May, people died and more than 60 were injured when the inauguration service for a new Catholic Cathedral in Arusha was bombed in what the Tanzanian president described as a “terrorist attack.”

Daniel Sinclair, Communications Director at CSW said in the news release, “Our thoughts and prayers are with Father Mwang’amba, who we wish a speedy recovery. These threats and attacks targeting church leaders and church buildings are in violation of the Tanzanian constitution, which provides for freedom of religion or belief. If left unchecked, religious violence will ultimately undermine national cohesion. CSW calls upon the Tanzanian authorities to take decisive action to tackle rising extremism and prevent impunity from taking hold in any part of the country.”

He added, “It is vital that the Government of Zanzibar effectively addresses attacks on the local Christian community, offers protection to all who are under threat, adequately compensates churches that have been looted or demolished, and ensures that inciters and perpetrators of religion-related violence are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Christian Solidarity Worldwide works for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

For further information, visit www.csw.org.uk.

 

New Salvation Army world leader wants spiritual focus

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By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

LONDON (ANS)Taking over a global organization best known for its social service work, the Salvation Army’s new internationalGeneral Andre Cox leader said in an interview he wants the Christian movement’s religious work to take center stage for the 1.7-million member church.

According to the Washington Times, General Andre Cox, 59, said from London in one of his first interviews since his election Aug. 3, “The reputation of the Army has been won over generations because of the hard work of the people who day in and day out get on with the ministry.”

He added, “One of the concerns I share  is to ensure we are rooted and confident in the word of God, and we want to obviously reflect on the authority of Scripture, what it means to us. I want to see an Army on prayer, and I also want to see an Army that reflects the mind of Jesus.”

The Zimbabwean-born Cox, formerly the organization’s chief of staff, assumes his command at a moment of unusual organizational uncertainty for The Salvation Army.

The Washington Times reported that two months ago his predecessor, Gen. Linda Bond, abruptly relinquished her position and retired, with the organization citing only “personal reasons” for her departure. She had held the Army’s top post only since April 2011 and had given no prior notice of her intention to step down.

While not addressing Bond’s motives for leaving, Cox said of his former boss, “I have seen a woman of great courage, great faith, and great vision,” saying her vision statements for the Army “will be a lasting legacy.”

Formally operating in the United States since 1880, 15 years after its founding in London’s East End, the Washington Times said the Salvation Army’s social services have sometimes overshadowed its evangelical Christian roots and mission.

Those services encompass disaster relief, adult rehabilitation centers serving those with substance abuse and other problems, aid to families needing food and other assistance, and ministries to those in or leaving prison as well as after-school programs.

Religious programs underlie Salvation Army services at each of its installations, but have been less visible in the public, and Cox said he wants to see that change.

“One of the things that h as challenged me, particularly in recent years, is the f ct we are a people who have received grace from God. We’re grateful for His love and His transformation in our lives, but it’s more than theory, it’s got to take root in us and it’s got to be visible,” he said.

At the same time, the Washington Times said, Cox emphasized “the focus on the poor and the marginalized. I think that is our constituency and I want to see a strong emphasis on that.”

Cox, the son of Salvation Army ministers who until his election held the number two position at the group’s international headquarters, said the movement’s operations in Britain offered an example of balancing social work and spiritual outreach.

“In the United Kingdom, with the economic crisis at the moment, local churches are more in the front line of providing support in many practical ways to the communities we serve. I think that recaptures something of the original calling,” he said.

Of the Army’s signature “red kettles,” used to collect donations during Christmas and on other occasions during the year, the Washington Times reported Cox said he’d not heard of any plans to abandon their use in the face of rising concerns about security for those manning the kettles.

The well-known red kettle that sits outside of stores during the holidays is kept locked and hangs from a five foot metal stand. The stand is meant to keep thieves from running off with it, but it doesn’t stop everyone.

On Christmas Eve 2009, Major Philip Wise, a Salvation Army pastor in Little Rock, Ark., was shot and killed by robbers after picking up kettles in his area.

“Security becomes a problem,” Cox said of the kettle effort. “It would be sad if we were forced to” curtail the program, he added, saying it was “also important from a visibility point of view to be present on the streets and to be seen.”

Losing the kettles, he said, “would be a loss in many ways. They’re great opportunities to engage with people.”

1st English-language biography of Pope Francis set for release

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By Tonya Andris
Inside The Pew

The world learned on March 13 who was elected as the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church. For those who desire to learn more about Pope Francis, the moment is just around the corner. Matthew Bunson, Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology at St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology in Steubenville, Ohio, has written the first English-language biography on Pope Francis.

The book’s publisher, Our Sunday Visitor, announced March 22 the book, titled “Pope Francis” ($16.95 USD), will arrive in bookstores on April 10. The book is available for pre-order through Our Sunday Visitor.

Considering a leading authority in the United States on the papacy and the church, Bunson also wrote the first English-language of Pope Francis’

"Pope Francis" by Matthew Bunson

“Pope Francis” by Matthew Bunson

predecessor, Benedict XVI.

The 224-page book is split into three parts to allow readers to get an idea of how and why Pope Francis of Buenos Aires, Argentina, selected and what his selection means for the Catholic Church. First, Bunson puts forth a comprehensive analysis of the unprecedented final days of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. Second, Bunson provides an enlightening perspective on the interregnum and the biggest issues facing the Cardinals as they headed into the conclave. Third, Bunson dedicates more than 150 pages to Pope Francis including:

  • His family history as son of an immigrant railway worker;
  • His active, social youth where he experienced firsthand the challenges of a society ravaged by war, economic despair and cultural unrest;
  • A Jesuit priest, trained as a chemist, who even as a cardinal was referred to as Father Jorge;
  • His work as a priest, bishop and Cardinal in the very unique setting of Buenos Aires where he navigated politics, extreme poverty and high culture;
  • His reputation as a man of the people who lived simply, cooked his own meals, and rode the bus.

With its research conducted in five different languages into the lives and ministries of the world’s leading Cardinals, their backgrounds, writings and homilies, “Pope Francis” shows why Cardinal Bergoglio was ultimately elected as the Catholic Church’s pope.

Bunson is the author of more than 45 books, including “The Pope Encyclopedia,” “The Encyclopedia of Catholic History,” and the soon-to-be-released “Encyclopedia of U.S. Catholic History.”

UK graphic designer refused job because of his Christian faith

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By Peter Wooding
Europe Bureau Chief for ASSIST News Service

COLCHESTER, ENGLAND (ANS)A graphic designer is suing a hotel in Colchester, England after claiming he was turned down for a job there because he is a Christian.

Jamie Haxby

Jamie Haxby

According to an article in the Daily Mail newspaper, 24-year-old Jamie Haxby was invited for an interview with Prested Hall Hotel after applying for a job to design the venue’s advertising and promotional material.

But after discovering that he was a Christian, manager Celie Parker said that he could not be considered for the role because his beliefs would upset atheist employees.

Haxby is now taking his case for religious discrimination to the East London Employment Tribunal, and will be supported by the Christian Institute.

Spokesman Mike Judge said: “Jamie’s case is shocking, and shows that discrimination against Christians is getting more brazen.

“There’s no place for this anti-Christian intolerance at the hands of aggressive atheists. It’s high time the government took the issue more seriously.”

The Daily Mail went on to report Haxby said the interview was going well until Parker saw his portfolio which contained samples of work that he had done for his local church and a Christian charity.

She subsequently apologized for wasting Haxby’s time, and commented that both she and other employees were atheists who could not work with a committed Christian.

“Everything was going well, and I felt happy with how the interview was progressing. Parker made several comments about the high standard of my work and how talented I was,” he said.

“However, just over halfway through looking over my portfolio, Celie stopped me and said she did not think we needed to go any further. “My heart slightly sank as I could tell there was something she did not like. She then explained that she thought my work was brilliant, but that she and others on her team were atheists.

“She said that judging from my work I was clearly a committed Christian, and I understood from what she was saying that it would be very difficult for me to work there.

“I could hardly believe what I was hearing. I felt upset and angry.”

Haxby explained that his faith should not influence the hotel’s decision as to whether or not to offer him the post.

“She just said not to take it personally, but that it wouldn’t be sensible and that it wouldn’t work, or words to that effect,” he added.

“She also expressed regret over ever asking me to the interview and apologized for wasting my time. But I was feeling increasingly distressed and upset.

“I then said there was no way that this was right in equal opportunities Britain and that everyone should have an equal chance at getting a job.

The hotel has denied discriminating against Haxby on the basis of his religious beliefs, and has said that the job was given to another more experienced candidate.

“The current climate of intolerance towards Christianity has led to a number of Christian individuals being barred from different areas of public life and employment. The European Court of Human Rights recently ruled against three Christians, Lillian Ladele, Gary McFarlane and Shirley Chaplin, who were all penalized for expressing their beliefs in the workplace, said Andrea Williams, CEO of Christian Concern.

“The law needs to be re-visited urgently to ensure that it provides a basis for the full and active involvement of Christians in community life, whilst upholding the freedom of Christians to practice their beliefs in the public sphere without facing detriment.”

For the children: Titles encourage, inspire, and connect

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By Tonya Andris
Inside The Pew

One of my favorite groups growing up was New Kids On The Block. Remember them?

During the brainstorming of my book review column, NKOTB’s song, “This One’s For The Children” came to mind. Then, I thought about all the Christian titles I havegirlsbooks received from authors over the past three months which reiterate God’s love for children. Remember, God said in Isaiah 54:13, “All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.”

Parents, if you are looking for books that will nurture your child’s understand of the Almighty’s grace and love (and there are many), these titles are an ideal start.

“Perfectly Unique” by Annie F. Downs
(Zondervan; $9.99 USD)

In her debut release, Downs takes personal stories and uses them as a catalyst to teach young girls to embrace the way God made them. She affirms to young readers that God made us each as individuals and we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). I found the book to be very encouraging to young women because there are so many messages that girls and women have to change who they are to be accepted. God made you; love yourself. Downs, who is a former elementary school teacher, made the best choice to life stories to make an impact on the reader. Exercises and relevant scriptures guide readers along. Among the many endorsers of the book is Hillary Scott, lead singer of Grammy-winning country trio Lady Antebellum. “This book will touch your heart, encourage you, and challenge you to let your Heavenly Father pursue you as his daughter.”

As a side note, Downs is currently embarked on the Girls of Grace Tour where she will make stops at churches and various venues to spread the Christian message to sixth- to 12th-grade girls. Her next stop is slated for Feb. 23 at Christ Church, 15354 Old Hickory Blvd. in Nashville, Tenn. Downs also has dates set in March for Birmingham, Ala., and Augusta, Ga., and Allen, Texas, in April. Visit http://www.girlsofgrace.com/ for more information.

“Helping Man … The Beginning” by Jalen Butler (author and illustrator); co-written by Katina Butler
(Joseph’s Coat Productions, $12.95 USD)

It is wonderful to see a child writing a book to minister to children. This is exactly the purpose of 7-year-old Jalen Butler. The Denton, Texas, elementary student wroteHelping Man Book “Helping Man …” to “help people and please God.” With the Bible as his guide, Butler takes readers into the world of Helping Man, who is always on a quest to save the day. On his quest for peace, Helping Man also has to battle his nemesis, Mogular. As a parent, I appreciate the “kiddie feel” of the book, from the illustrations to the message. Butler’s book has gained attention in the Dallas area through appearances on local NBC affiliate (NBC-5) and Christian radio (KWRD 100.7 FM). He’s also gained a legion of fans at his elementary school. As for all the attention, at the end of the day, Butler can only thank God. “I’m just doing what God has blessed me to do.” Learn more at www.facebook.com/HelpingManBook.

“The Sweetest Story Bible” by Diane Stortz and Sheila Bailey; narrated by Roma Downey
(Zonderkidz, $22.99 USD)

One of the greatest way to show our children God’s love for them is to tell them the stories of the Bible. My daughters love to hear the story of their namesakes, Rebekah (Genesis 24) and Lydia (Acts 16). Authored by Diana Stortz and illustrated Sheila Bailey, the story Bible brings the characters of the Bible to life for your children. At the end of each story, Stortz lists Sweet Words and Sweet Thoughts for girls to remember. At the end of God’s Ten Rules (Exodus 19-20, 24, 31), children are reminded “God knows what is good for us.” The deluxe edition also includes an audio CD read by “Touch By An Angel” actress Roma Downey.

Tonya Andris is book editor for Inside The Pew. To suggest titles or comment on this review, email her at pewnews@aol.com.

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Lee: One must first be whole before connecting with another person

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By Donald Lee
Special to Inside The Pew

To anyone anxious about getting into a relationship without first being a complete person: Understand that you cannot be good to anybody else until you can allow God to

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto" (Matthew 6:33).

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto” (Matthew 6:33).

do a work on the inside of you.

When you allow God to smooth out your rough edges, you won’t subject yourself or your children to domestic abuse. When you allow Him to work on you, your tolerance level for foolishness drops to zero. You begin to understand that it’s not about you running a household in your own understanding, but instead about you allowing Christ’s headship to be the final authority in your family. It’s about kingdom principles being applied in the home.

Singles, if your desire is to be married or in a relationship that potentially leads to marriage, the best thing for you to do is to get into the presence of God — to strive to do what is pleasing to Him. Once you get hooked up with Him, then He knows how to connect you with the one who best complements you.

If you’re praying to God for a mate after having submitted yourself totally to His will for your life, the person He has for you will have a spirit that’s the right fit for who you are, and it has nothing to do with sex. It’s just an overwhelmingly special, holy feeling that grips the both of you, a result of having consulted with God sincerely before proceeding.

And when you seek God first before seeking a relationship with someone else, the Lord defines you (see Matthew 6:33). He lets you know who you are. That saves you the heartache that comes with permitting someone else to damage your self-esteem through the definition of you that he wants you

Donald Lee

Donald Lee

to have rather than the one God has given you.

When you allow God to prepare you for someone else, you’ll have a greater appreciation for that person and vice versa. And you can “see” one another. In other words, the two of you can see into one another’s hearts and discern agape love, an authentic, heavenly love — the kind of love that is best expressed through people who are committed whole-heartedly to the Lord.

So, the best way to significantly increase the likelihood of your entering into a truly loving relationship is to simply put God first. He will make you complete.

Donald Lee, co-author of the relationships book “Married to Commitment,” is founder-pastor of Kingdom Living Christian Center in Dallas. He can be contacted at

pastordonjlee@yahoo.com or (225) 773-2248. Visit him online at http://www.christiancouplesconference.com. Follow him on Twitter at @donaldj_lee. You can also write him at P.O. Box 211186, Dallas, TX. 75211. 

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Daily: Some thoughts on surprise resignation of the Pope Benedict XVI

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By Dennis Daily
Special to ASSIST News Service

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. (ANS) — As a journalist who was raised in a Catholic home and went through 12 years in Catholic schools — and, like many Catholic boys,

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI

thought he wanted to be a priest at one time – I am watching closely the events that are happening in the wake of the resignation of the Pope.

I awakened to the headline, “Pope Benedict XVI to resign, citing age and waning energy.” For there it was in black-and-white in the Washington Post, “Citing failing strength of ‘mind and body,’ Pope Benedict XVI stunned his closest aides and more than 1 billion Catholics by resigning on Monday, becoming the first pope to do so in nearly 600 years and ending the tenure of a formidable theologian who preached a gospel of conservative faith to a fast-changing world.

“Keeping with his reputation as a traditionalist, Pope Benedict delivered his resignation – effective Feb. 28 – in Latin, to a private church body in Vatican City. ‘I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me,’ he said. ‘For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of bishop of Rome, successor of Saint Peter.'”

On hearing this news, I was startled for several reasons:

First of all, since this is only the second time in 2,000 years that a Pope has called it quits, I realized instantly that this was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. Actually, it’s a once-in-many-lifetimes kind of thing.

From a pure journalistic standpoint, this was QUITE a story.

Secondly, I began to realize all the things that must be going on in the Vatican to prepare for the election of a new Pope.

I’m fortunate, when I was in high school, a nearly ordained priest came to the parish and he taught religion to us. You have to remember that most Catholic kids, and others who go to religion-sponsored schools, have to attend a religion class every day. No Sunday school for us Catholic kids.

The young priest assigned to my high school would eventually, in later years, go on to teach at Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.

It didn’t take long for us to realize that this youthful priest was a real rebel — a fire-brand.

He had spent his seminary time at Collegium Canisianum, located in beautiful Innsbruck, Austria.

It’s funny, after all these years, I can still remember his mailing address there, when he went back for a while as part of a project: Tschurtschenthalerstrasse 7. I guess had his school been on White Street of Alps Boulevard I would have never remembered its address.

Actually, Kress was more than a fire-brand. Some in the parish thought he was a radical. His sermons were full of questions and doubt that troubled many of the older members of the parish.

One week, after wondering aloud from the pulpit if there really HAD been a “Great Flood” and if the “Noah Story” were just a great parable, my own grandmother went to the pastor, Kress’s boss, asking that he be sent to some other parish.

Part of his reasoning about the existence of a Great Flood was based on similar stories in myriad other cultures. He seemed to be more excited about relaying the liberal Catholic thought in which he was immersed during his time in Innsbruck, than delivering a traditional sermon that would warm the hearts of the congregation.

But, that was Father Kress.

The reason he enters the story here, is that during those years in Austria, Kress had worked among many members of the Catholic Church there who were helping to prepare for the Second Vatican Council … that great assembling of religious leaders of all stripes, from around the world. It had been called lovable Pope John XXIII.

Kress’s seminary years were spent during an intense period of debate within the church. The conflict, of course, centered on whether the liberalization of the Church was indeed necessary.

John Paul XXIII had used an Italian word to describe what he wanted to do at the council; that word was “aggiornamento,” or “updating.” But the then roly-poly Pope who, while a bishop, had saved the lives of countless Jews who would have been swept up in the Holocaust, wanted more than an updating. He told media that he wanted to “open the windows and let some fresh air into the church.”

Liberals in the church in Europe were thrilled at the Pope’s announced intentions. They were even happier when John XXIII invited observers to the council from every known religion in the world.

Conservatives were worried that the Church would make a decidedly leftward shift. The church had already begun to look more catholic (with a small “c”) and more universal in John XXIII’s time; he had increased the number of bishops and cardinals from Third World countries and worked for the canonization of saints from lesser-known areas of the world.

So, we students in the 1960s, during the Vatican Council, were given a running play-by-play of what was going on in the halls of the Vatican by someone who had been in the thick of planning for the multi-year re-examination of the status of Catholicism.

We would watch news reports and Father Kress would point to the TV screen and say: “Oh, look, there’s Cardinal Konig,” or, “There’s Cardinal Frings.”

Kress had worked with these men, especially with Frings. The cardinal, who was from the archdiocese of Cologne, Germany, had graduated from the Canisianum and maintained close ties with the school.

Frings, at the time, was one of the closest of confidants of another priest from the region, a teacher and writer who, at the time, was perceived to be on the liberal bandwagon.

That priest was Fr. Joseph Ratzinger, today’s Pope.

Frings and Ratzinger and two other liberal thinkers, Hans Küng and Edward Schillebeeckx, were Fr. Kress’s heroes.

Shortly before the first session of the council opened, Frings had given a speech in Genoa, about the First Vatican Council. It called in 1868 by Pope Pius IX, ostensibly to deal with a quickly changing world in the height of the Industrial Revolution.

Frings looked at the impact of that first council and wondered if Pope John XXIII was simply re-opening an old concept, putting a modern-day “aggiornamento” spin on it.

When the Pope was informed about Frings’ speech, he summoned the clergyman to the Vatican. The session was not negative, as Frings had feared. John XXIII actually liked the speech. Frings thanked him. He didn’t tell the Pope that the speech had been written by his friend, Fr. Joseph Ratzinger.

After leaving high school, and those five-day-a-week sessions with Fr. Kress, and the daily play-by-play of what was happening in Rome, my thoughts of the Second Vatican Council faded.

Occasionally, I would have dinner with Fr. Kress, during the time that both he and I lived in Washington, DC.

I remember one evening when he wondered what had happened to all the fire-brand liberals of the European church over the years. He told me that many of them had “converted” to the conservative cause. One of them was the man who would one day become the first German-born Pope in a long time … and who would startle the world by resigning.

There will be a lot of “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” over why Ratzinger is leaving his post. As a close adviser to the late Pope John-Paul II, the current Pope saw his predecessor grow weaker and weaker and shakier and shakier, while still trying to minister to his flock.

I am sure that Pope Benedict didn’t want to be that kind of Pope.

It will be interesting for all of us, though, to see what kind of role a former Pope will play in society. The last time anyone had a chance to witness that was 77 years before Columbus first sailed to the New World.

 

Dennis Daily is a lifelong journalist and radio news anchor and programmer. He spent 20-years with UPI (United Press International). During most of his tenure there he worked for the now-defunct UPI Radio Network. During several of those years he served as the network’s Religion Editor. He previously worked as a national spokesman for the USDA in Washington, was a Congressional Press Secretary, all-news anchor and producer for “The Larry King Show.” Long associated with religious programming, Daily returned to his hometown in southern Indiana for 26 consecutive years to anchor and produce five hours from four churches on Christmas Eve. For several of those years the broadcast was relayed around the world via Armed Forces Radio. After his two decades with UPI he went back into local radio in California’s San Joaquin Valley. He now lives in Palm Springs, Calif., where he is semi-retired. He continues to do freelance radio work, voicing daily reports on various topics. Dennis also produces the Religion & Ethic s Minute based on the stories of the ASSIST News Service. He can be contacted by e-mail at: newscaster@earthlinknet.