Category Archives: National

UT Austin professors discover copy of Jesus’ secret revelations to his brother

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AUSTIN, Texas — The first-known original Greek copy of a heretical Christian writing describing Jesus’ secret teachings to his brother James has been discovered at Oxford University by biblical scholars at The University of Texas at Austin.

To date, only a small number of texts from the Nag Hammadi library — a collection of 13 Coptic Gnostic books discovered in 1945 in Upper Egypt — ut-autin-biblical-scholars-find-jesus-teachingshave been found in Greek, their original language of composition. But earlier this year, UT Austin religious studies scholars Geoffrey Smith and Brent Landau added to the list with their discovery of several fifth- or sixth-century Greek fragments of the First Apocalypse of James, which was thought to have been preserved only in its Coptic translations until now.

“To say that we were excited once we realized what we’d found is an understatement,” said Smith, an assistant professor of religious studies. “We never suspected that Greek fragments of the First Apocalypse of James survived from antiquity. But there they were, right in front of us.”

The ancient narrative describes the secret teachings of Jesus to his brother James, in which Jesus reveals information about the heavenly realm and future events, including James’ inevitable death.

“The text supplements the biblical account of Jesus’ life and ministry by allowing us access to conversations that purportedly took place between Jesus and his brother, James — secret teachings that allowed James to be a good teacher after Jesus’ death,” Smith said.

Such apocryphal writings, Smith said, would have fallen outside the canonical boundaries set by Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, in his “Easter letter of 367” that defined the 27-book New Testament: “No one may add to them, and nothing may be taken away from them.”jesus-manuscript-smith-landau

With its neat, uniform handwriting and words separated into syllables, the original manuscript was probably a teacher’s model used to help students learn to read and write, Smith and Landau said.

“The scribe has divided most of the text into syllables by using mid-dots. Such divisions are very uncommon in ancient manuscripts, but they do show up frequently in manuscripts that were used in educational contexts,” said Landau, a lecturer in the UT Austin Department of Religious Studies.

The teacher who produced this manuscript must have “had a particular affinity for the text,” Landau said. It does not appear to be a brief excerpt from the text, as was common in school exercises, but rather a complete copy of this forbidden ancient writing.

Smith and Landau announced the discovery at the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting in Boston in November and are working to publish their preliminary findings in the Greco Roman Memoirs series of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri.

Featured photo: A piece of the Coptic translation of the First Apocalypse of James preserved in the Nag Hammadi Library. Rights to published images of the original Greek fragments are owned by the Egypt Exploration Society and currently unavailable for circulation. (Nag Hammed Library, Oxford University).

Inset: Geoffrey Smith, left, and Brent Landau take a closer look at the Greek fragment identified as the First Apocalypse of James. (Courtesy of Geoffrey Smith, UT Austin).

Christian leaders unite to heal racially troubled Charlottesville

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Local pastors and leaders, plan Prayer Walks and a Holy Convocation, to promote racial healing, and repentance, in Charlottesville, Va.

By Bill Bray
Campus Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Local Christian leaders met in Charlottesville on Nov. 29 to finalize plans for a Prayer Walk and Holy Convocation on Dec. 2 in this racially troubled campus community at the University of Virginia.

Calling for a day of “prayer and repentance” on the eve of Advent Sunday, Dec. 2, the event aims to bring healing after rioting here left three dead and 19 injured last August.  The Day of Prayer and Repentance is called “Healing4Charlottesville” and will begin with a Pastor’s Prayer Breakfast at 9:30 a.m. followed by two public events.

The Healing for Charlottesville Day of Prayer Walk will start off at the chapel on the grounds of University and 9 other points around the city’s heather-heyer-memorial-new-downtown mall. Many small groups of walkers will start at various churches and parking lots and gradually merge at the County Office Building.

From that point they will walk the length of the Downtown Mall and gather at the Pavilion for a 90-minute program.

“The Church of Jesus Christ should transcend and transform politics,” says chairman Mark Beliles of the Grace Covenant Church and president of the America Transformation Company, “but on this day, we plan to gather to ask forgiveness of God and one another.”

The Reverends Beliles and Al Edwards – along with about 15 other clergy from white, African American and Korean churches – organized the walk. Pastor Edwards, from the predominately black Mt. Zion First African Baptist Church, also organized the Charlottesville Clergy Collective. It is the leading inter-faith group that includes Jewish and Muslim groups.

Most of the pastors involved in the Day of Prayer were at the deadly riots on the weekend of August 12 that have since made the city of Charlottesville a symbol of racial hatred. At that time, Antifa and Klu Klux Klan extremists rioted over the removal of Confederate war statues in the downtown parks.

Beliles is no rabble rouser and is asking those who participate to “not speak or carry signs that in any way focus blame on anyone but ourselves.

“The majority white churches especially need to do this,” he said, as he outlined plans for inviting visiting speakers to promote reconciliation and repentance.

“We want to end this year with a holy season of peace and love, and that’s what is bringing us together in this way.”

Photo: A memorial to Charlottesville victim, Heather Heyer.

Eat like the pilgrims and Native Americans this Thanksgiving

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Authentic recipes from the Plimoth Plantation’s Thanksgiving meal

GAITHERSBURG, Md. – Sodexo, the leader in Quality of Life services, and the Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Mass., bring the firstthe-first-thanksgiving-jennie-august-brownscombe Thanksgiving feast to life as they tell the story of the Pilgrims and the native Wampanoag people.  The meal is made up of authentic recipes from the 1600s and is served to more than 3,000 people during Thanksgiving week at the Plimoth Plantation.

Items on the menu include native turkey with giblet gravy, traditional stuffing, mashed potatoes, butternut squash, steamed white turnip, Harvard beats, green beans and cranberry relish. Dessert is comprised of apple pie, pumpkin pie and Indian pudding.

According to Sodexo, the food served has been carefully researched and recreated to make it as authentic as possible. The chefs use local, seasonal ingredients just as the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people

would have in the 17th century.

The Plimoth Plantation’s Indian pudding recipe brings a sense of history to the Thanksgiving table.

INDIAN PUDDING – Serves 10-12 people

6 cups — Whole Milk

1 Cup — Molasses

6 Tbsp — Granulated Sugar

6 oz — Butter

½ tsp — Ground Ginger

¼ tsp — Salt

½ tsp — Ground Cinnamon

¼ tsp — Ground Nutmeg

1 Cup — Cornmeal

Combine all ingredients except Cornmeal in a large saucepan.

Bring to a boil and whisk cornmeal in slowly to avoid lumps.

Turn Heat to low and cook until thick – Pudding will continue to thicken as it cools.

Serve warm with a little heavy cream poured over it, or vanilla ice cream.  Or serve cold with whipped cream.

Sodexo Sports & Leisure also provides food services at the Plimoth Plantation and full array of catering services for private events.

 

Featured image: “The First Thanksgiving” by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, 1914

 

Texas AG files brief urging the Supreme Court to protect prayer at public meetings

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AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and a coalition of 22 states are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to protect the practice of lawmaker-led prayer at public meetings. The case, Lund vs. Rowan County, focuses upon a North Carolina county’s practice of opening its meeting with prayer offered by its commissioners.  The coalition’s friend-of-the-court brief supports the county.

The coalition filed a brief Nov. 16 asking the Supreme Court to hear arguments and reaffirm the constitutionality of the practice. Such a decision would clear confusion among the lower courts. The states argue that lawmaker-led prayer is woven into the fabric of American society. The practice also is fully consistent with the Constitution and our nation’s long tradition of non-coercive expressions of faith in the public sector.

“Lawmaker-led prayer has existed across the country for more than a century,” Attorney General Paxton said. “Opening legislative meetings in prayer has [sic] consistently involved lawmakers themselves exercising their own religious liberty.”

The brief further cites examples across the nation of states, counties and municipalities that open meetings with a government official’s prayer. It argues many governing bodies cannot afford to hire a full-time chaplain or recruit volunteer clergy.

West Virginia led the amicus brief in support of free expression of faith. States joining West Virginia and Texas were Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, and Wisconsin, along with the Governor of Kentucky.

 

 

Wooding: ‘Persecution has finally come to America’

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International journalist’s comments came after the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history

By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX (ANS – Nov. 6, 2017) – While ANS Founder, Dan Wooding, was speaking on Nov. 5 at a Southern California church about persecution around the world on the occasion of the 2017 International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, a rifle-wielding shooter burst into the sanctuary of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 people – including children.

Wooding, 76, had been sharing with the congregation at Hosanna Christian Fellowship in Bellflower, Calif., about persecution that has been taking place in countries like Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Nigeria, and North Korea, when the alleged gunman, who has been identified as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, according to law enforcement officials, went on a shooting spree and was later found dead in his vehicle.

“When I heard the news, I knew that persecution has finally come to America,” he said. “For so long, terrible atrocities against believers have beendan-wooding-hosanna-christian-fellowship taking place in different parts of the world, but now it is here, and I wonder if we are ready to deal with it.”

Law enforcement officials have said the alleged shooter was formerly a member of the United States Air Force who was court-martialed with a dishonorable discharge for assaulting his wife and child, according to an Air Force spokeswoman, and who had a domestic dispute with his in-laws who at times have attended the church in Sutherland Springs.

Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains are in Sutherland Springs, Texas, following the horrifying and deadly shooting rampage during a Sunday morning service at First Baptist Church.

“The evil at work in this tragedy is incomprehensible,” said Jack Munday, international director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team. “It’s impossible to understand what could drive a young man to do something so inhumanly cruel. While we don’t have all the answers, we will do everything we can to comfort the grieving and give peace to those in despair as we bring the hope of Jesus.”

Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, shared, “My heart is heavy for the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas, who have lost more than 20 of their sons, daughters, husbands, wives, parents, and friends today in this senseless act of brutality. My prayers are with this community and church.”

Even as the shooting developed in Texas on Sunday, Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains remained deployed in New York City following last week’s terror attack which killed eight people on a bike path. Both efforts follow closely on the heels of the group’s ministry in Las Vegas following the concert attack, which killed 58 people.

Among religious leaders who have spoken out in response to yesterday’s shooting, are Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship), who has been working for four decades to build bridges of understanding between Christians and Jews, and who called the deadly attack on a church near San Antonio on Sunday “terror” that seeks to undo decades of growing interfaith goodwill and return religions to past centuries of conflict.

“Terror that penetrates into a house of prayer is particularly evil and cruel, and seeks to undo decades of bridge building by and between people of faith,” Eckstein said. “Sadly, there are people who want to turn us back toward old circles of hatred.”

Eckstein added that The Fellowship was “shocked and sickened by this evil act, and our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and their loved ones.”

“Christians, Jews and moderate Muslims should join together in condemning such attacks and work together to prevent further violence,” he said.

Dr. Ronnie Floyd, president of the National Day of Prayer said: “When attacks of hate and terror happen in our places of worship, they shake us to the core. We must beg God for His mighty hand of protection on our nation and the world. May God be with the victims of this shooting. Only God is our refuge in these times of trouble.”

Dr. Floyd is the senior pastor of Cross Church and president of the National Day of Prayer, which each year mobilizes millions of Americans to unified public prayer for the United States of America. He’s the immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Dallas, said: “Today’s horrific church shooting is every pastor’s worst nightmare and is proof of the reality of evil. Although the Bible never diminishes the pain of evil, it does promise that one day when Christ returns, evil will be defeated forever. Until that time, we pray that the members of First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs, will experience the promise of Psalm 34:18: The Lord is close to the broken-hearted.’”

Feature image: Mourners participate in a candlelight vigil held for the victims of a fatal shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Texas. (Darren Abate/The Associated Press). Left photo, Dan Wooding speaking at Hosanna Christian Fellowship in Bellflower, Calif. (ASSIST News).

Michael Ireland is a volunteer internet journalist serving as Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, as well as an Ordained Minister, and an award-winning local cable-TV program host/producer who has served with ASSIST Ministries and written for ANS since its beginning in 1989. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China, and Russia. You may follow Michael on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MichaelIrelandMediaMissionary.com, and on Twitter at @Michael_ASSIST. Please consider helping Michael cover his expenses in bringing news of the Persecuted Church, by logging-on to: https://actintl.givingfuel.com/ireland-michael  

A Matter of Faith: Understanding the paradox of freedom

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By Carol Round
Special to Inside The Pew

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” – Galatians 5:1 (NIV).

To most Americans, the word freedom connotes images of the American flag. We associate July 4 with the freedoms we’ve been granted by the U.S. american-flag-and-christConstitution. We celebrate our country’s independence with fireworks and parades.

According to dictionary.com, freedom means “the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint.”

Physical freedom is denied those locked behind prison walls. But those who have discovered a relationship with Jesus while in prison will tell you they are; indeed, now free, in spite of the iron bars they peer through each day.

Found throughout the Bible, the word, “freedom,” is familiar to those who’ve read God’s Holy Word. John 8:32 says, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

In an article by Roger Olson, he writes, “Unfortunately, two very different ideas of freedom get confused in many people’s minds. The biblical idea of freedom is different from, but easily confused with, the cultural value of the same name. And neither one is the same as “free will.” It can be confusing to the average Christian who wants to know what “real freedom” is. Is it having choices? Is it lack of coercion and constraint? Is it being able to do whatever you want? In what sense does Christ set us free, and how is that different from what Madison Avenue and Hollywood promise?

“At the very heart of the Christian gospel is the strange truth,” he continues, “that real freedom is found only in giving up everything secular culture touts as freedom. The gospel, it turns out, requires a distinction between the enjoyment of true freedom and the mere possession of ‘free will.’ Not that free will or independence from tyranny is a bad thing; they’re just not true freedom. True freedom, the gospel tells us, is trusting obedience, the obedience of faith. That’s not exactly the image one finds portrayed in popular culture.”

So, what does true freedom mean for those who choose to follow Christ? According to St. Augustine, true freedom is not choice or lack of constraint, but being what you are meant to be.

For too many years of my adult life, I was a slave—a slave to other’s opinions, a slave to the false image I portrayed as someone who had her life together, a slave to the identities I slipped into because of cultural demands. I wasn’t experiencing true freedom. I wasn’t completely free until I embraced the woman God has created me to be.

“Humans were created in the image of God. True freedom, then,” writes Olson, “is not found in moving away from that image but only in living it out. The closer we conform to the true image of God, Jesus Christ, the freer we become. The farther we drift from it, the more our freedom shrinks.”

Only Christ can set us free.

Photos courtesy of Carol Round and Anglican Pastor

Need a speaker or workshop leader? Carol Round is an author, a columnist, and a speaker. To learn more about Carol and her ministry, visit  her website or connect on Facebook or Twitter.

Christian History Institute details the Catholic Reformation

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Worcester, Penn. – Christian History Institute (CHI), publisher of Christian History magazine, announces its latestcatholic-reformation-christian-history issue, titled: The Catholic Reformation – Art, piety and the fight for renewal.  The issue is the fourth and final in a series of four, commemorating the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation period, beginning in October of 1517.

This issue, #122, contains ten in-depth articles that explore responses to the Reformation within the Catholic Church and two related Protestant movements (the Arminius challenge to Calvin’s reform movement and the Puritan’s movement in America). The issue brings to a conclusion the editor’s four-issue series commemorating the 500th anniversary of the European Reformation period, generally considered to have begun with the publication of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, in protest.

The issue’s contributing authors (see content link below) examine responses by both Catholic Church insiders and evangelicals. While Catholic piety and discipline reactions spawned numerous formal orders, including the 1540 formation of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), they also encouraged underground “justification by faith” movements which have remarkably experienced revival in modern times. Both responses, in spite of papal reluctance, lead to the Council of Trent, started in 1545 and lasting until the end of 1563.

In addition to exploring Europe’s Thirty Years’ War and its stamp on the relationship between the church and state, contributing authors explore how Protestant rejection of church statuary and images resulted in an art explosion as an expression of Catholic Church doctrine. Set upon a stage of Protestant reforms, the Council of Trent did more to clarify and affirm Catholic Church doctrines rather than to be a move toward actual reform.

“As I immersed myself in the Catholic Reformation, I encountered a cast of characters and events seeking an answer to the same question that troubled Protestants: Something has gone wrong here—how can we fix it?,” said CH managing editor, Jennifer Woodruff Tait. In service of that question, [Catholic] religious leaders dialogued with Protestants, rooted out heretics, and eventually convened the Council of Trent, which forged a uniquely Catholic way of reform. If you are a Protestant, reading this issue will require you to think differently about what reform looked like in the sixteenth century, where it happened, how, and why.”

CH issue 122, contains 10 feature articles; a special bonus time-line chronology pull-out; an archive of rare and beautiful art-work & photos; a ‘letters to the editor’ section and an extensive reading list compiled by the CH editorial staff. The magazine is available on-line and can be conveniently read, on screen at: www.christianhistoryinstitute.org.

The entire CH archive collection of 122 issues can be searched, along with books and study-guides, using the website’s robust search engine feature. The website, combined with a magazine subscription is offered at no-cost as a study resource for the home & homeschoolers, church libraries, middle/high schools, as well as to colleges & universities. It is the mission of CHI donors and staff to make this resource as widely and freely available as possible (donations gratefully accepted).

The following articles can be accessed on-line at: What’s Inside?

Articles in issue #122, titled: The Catholic Reformation – Art, piety and the fight for renewal, include:

Helping Souls –  How religious orders of the sixteenth century pursued reform and holiness
author:  Katie M. Benjamin, a Th.D. candidate at Duke University working in Reformation history and theology.

The Road Not Taken – Evangelical Catholics worked for reform without leaving their mother church
author: Edwin Woodruff Tait, managing editor, Christian History

Picturing Saints – What Catholic piety in the Sixteenth century looked and felt like
Virginia C. Raguin, Distinguished Professor of Humanities at the College of the Holy Cross and author of Stained Glass: Radiant Art and Art, Piety, and Destruction in the Christian West, 1500–1700.

The Persistent Council – Catholic reform came to a head at the Council of Trent
Martin J. Lohrmann, assistant professor of Lutheran confessions and heritage at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa; author of Book of Harmony; and coeditor of a volume in the Reformation Commentary on Scripture series.

A Renewed and Global Faith – After Trent, changes were in the air
Thomas Worcester, S.J., professor of history at the College of the Holy Cross, the author of Seventeenth-Century Cultural Discourse, and the editor of the Cambridge Companion to the Jesuits.

Reasons of State – The Thirty Years’ War: Europe’s last religious war
Roger G. Robins, associate professor in the Center for Global Communication Strategies at the University of Tokyo.

Defender of God’s Justice – Arminius questioned some aspects of Reformed faith, but he never meant to launch a movement
William den Boer, postdoctoral researcher in church history at the Theological University of Kampen and the author of God’s Twofold Love: The Theology of Jacob Arminius (1559–1609).

Coming to America – The Puritans left us a profound, ambiguous legacy
Malcolm Foley, Ph.D. student in the history of Christianity at Baylor University.

Remaking the World – Five men with very different ideas on the reform of Sixteenth-century Catholicism
Edwin and Jennifer Woodruff Tait – Edwin Woodruff Tait is contributing editor at Christian History. Jennifer Woodruff Tait is managing editor at Christian History.

The Ecumenical Dilemma – Protestants and Catholics share their experiences from the Reformation until the present day – with John W. O’Malley, S.J., Paul Rorem, Ernest Freeman, John Armstrong, and Thomas A. Baima.

Prayer room at Texas high school causes concerns

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AUSTIN – In a letter sent March 17 to the superintendent of the Frisco (Texas) Independent School District, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office outlines legal concerns over Liberty High School’s prayer room, which may violate the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty.

Recent news reports have indicated that the high school’s prayer room is dedicated to students who practice Islam, while apparently excluding students of other faiths.

Muslim students at Liberty High School in Frisco have been allowed since 2009 to pray in a classroom that’s vacant for part of the afternoon.

“Liberty High School’s policy should be neutral toward religion,” reads the letter from Deputy Attorney General Andrew Leonie to Frisco ISD Superintendent Jeremy Lyon. “However, it appears that students are being treated different based on their religious beliefs. Such a practice, of course, is irreconcilable with our nation’s enduring commitment to religious liberty.”

While applauding the superintendent’s efforts to create an environment where students can freely practice their religion, the letter from Attorney General Paxton’s office reminds the Frisco ISD that, in the words of the U.S. Supreme Court, “one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another.”

However, according to the CBS affiliate in Dallas, said the room is open to all students, regardless of their religion.

The letter asks that school officials ensure that Liberty High School’s prayer room is accessible to students of all religious denominations, consistent with the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty.

In response to the Attorney General’s letter, Lyon said, “Frisco ISD is greatly concerned that this type of inflammatory rhetoric in the current climate may place the District, its students, staff, parents and community in danger of unnecessary disruption.”

© 2017 Inside The Pew

Why we need reminders of God’s faithfulness

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By Carol Round
Special to ASSIST News Service

“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us’” 1 Samuel 7:12 (NKJV).

GROVE, Okla. – In a recent column, I made a mistake. I’d forgotten the importance of double checking facts, but a reader, who pointed out my error, reminded me I had been careless. In a hurry to finish, I’d accepted what someone else had written – and I had quoted – as correct.

After I thanked him for emailing me, I had to smile. Why? Because the pointing out of my mistake was perfect timing for the topic God had already laid on my heart.

Several months ago, I received a thank you note from a group of women who had heard me speak at a conference in May 2016. While I’d forgotten the event in the midst of life-changing circumstances, the arrival of the card was perfect timing. I needed a reminder of what God had done in my life and what He was doing through me to encourage other women in their walk with the Lord.

God’s timing is always “on time.” However, we often forget His faithfulness in the midst of our struggles. So did the Israelites. In scripture, we see examples of reminders. In Joshua 4, after the Israelites had crossed the Jordan River through God’s supernatural provision, He commanded them to set up 12 stones as “a memorial to the children of Israel forever.”

In 1 Samuel 7:12, the prophet Samuel set up a commemorative stone and named it Ebenezer to serve as a reminder that “thus far the Lord has helped us.”

The particular site of Ebenezer as mentioned in 1 Samuel 4:1-11 and 5:1 is about four miles south of Gilgal, where the Israelites were twice defeated by the Philistines and the Ark of the Covenant was stolen. However, the site wasn’t named Ebenezer until after the Israelites had finally defeated the Philistines and taken back the Ark.

What does Ebenezer mean? According to “Strong’s Concordance,” the word originates from the Hebrew word for “help” put together with the Hebrew word for “stone” to create the word, Ebenezer. Thus defined by the etymological roots of the word, an Ebenezer is literally a “Stone of Help.” For the Israelites who finally defeated the Philistines, it was a reminder of God’s divine aid.

As a Christian writer and speaker, I love sharing my testimony with others, encouraging my readers and the audience with the wonderful, sometimes supernatural things God has done in and through my 63 years of life. Each time, I am also reminded of His faithfulness. When I receive a thank you card, an email or a verbal reply to the words I write or speak, I am encouraged. Those things become my Ebenezer, my “stone of help,” especially when I need them the most.

Encouraged by friends to put my stories of God’s faithfulness into a book, I have begun writing them down. Lest any of us forget, take time to create a list, an “Ebenezer” of sorts, as a reminder.

Photo cutline: Carol Round

Round is available to speak at women’s events or to lead prayer journaling workshops. Email carolaround@yahoo.com

 

Human trafficking opponent in Houston to launch initiative

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By Tonya Whitaker
Inside The Pew

For seven Super Bowls, Nita Belles has brought attention to the troubling occurrence of human trafficking that takes in-our-backyard-human-traffickingplace during major sporting events. And this year is no different.

Millions are awaiting the big game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons, scheduled to take place in Houston, Texas, the host city of Super Bowl 51, on Sunday, February 5, 2017, but as in previous years, human trafficking is a real concern to many, especially Nita Belles.

Belles is the founder of In Our Backyard (IOB) — http://inourbackyard.org/ — and Jan. 28 she officially announced the launch of the “Convenience Stores Against Trafficking” (CSAT) initiative. She did so during her appearance as keynote speaker at “Vulnerable: A Conference on the Issues of Gender, Race, Poverty & Human Trafficking,” held at South Main Baptist Church, 4100 Main St. in Houston. The free conference kicked off at 1 p.m.

“The Houston Super Bowl was the right time to launch the campaign,” Belles said. “Houston was very accepting and welcoming of the program. Greater Houston Retailers Association put CSAT materials and training out to 1,900 convenience stores.”

IOB will also work with local law enforcement and other groups responding to the anticipated increased sex trade activity in the Houston area. Days before the launch of the initiative, on Jan. 24, KTRK-TV, the ABC-affiliate in Houston, reported a 21-year-old woman — who said she was brought to Houston specifically for sex trafficking at the Super Bowl — was raped in downtown Houston by a pimp. According to the report, a Good Samaritan rescued the woman and took her to Ben Taub Hospital for treatment.

In addition, Belles said her organization have unveiled a major social media drive aiming to boost awareness of human trafficking during the events surrounding the February 5th game. The anti-human trafficking campaigner said she hopes for a quarter of a million shares of the new Thunderclap video, “Link Arms Across America,” during the first quarter. The short awareness message features former victims holding signs of things they were told by their traffickers.

“Thousands of women, children, and even some men across the country are caught up in the horrors of sex trafficking, convinced that there is no way out, and convenience stores can be a first line of help for these victims,” Belles said. “Businesses like these can be heroes in this fight; we’re so glad for their support.”

Since founding IOB in 2006, Belles has become widely recognized as a leading voice in the fight against human trafficking. A frequent speaker to law enforcement, medical, civic and community groups, she has also been an adviser on anti-trafficking legislation to legislators in several states and authored the authoritative book “In Our Backyard: Human Trafficking in America and What We Can Do to Stop It.”

“Human trafficking happens 24/7, 365 days a year, in every zip code in America,” Belles said. “But working together, we can bring an end to this atrocity.”

Belles said volunteers are being recruited for the event to help canvas convenience stores in the Houston area. Visit the IOB website (http://inourbackyard.org/) to sign up.

© 2017 Inside The Pew