Tuesday 6 March 2018

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman invited Egypt’s Coptic Christians to visit Saudi Arabia

Copts welcome in Saudi Arabia: Egypt’s Tawadros II praises Crown Prince’s reforms

Pope Tawadros II, pope of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Cathedral of Abbasiya in Cairo on Monday. (AFP)

CAIRO: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman invited Egypt’s Coptic Christians to visit Saudi Arabia after a rare meeting in Cairo’s main cathedral.
Chatting with Egyptian press following the visit the head with the Egyptian church, Pope Tawadros II said: “In the name of the Coptic Orthodox church we welcome Prince Mohammed’s visit to his second country Egypt.

“Prince Mohammed spoke a lot of his affection for the Copts,” the Pope said, adding that the kingdom’s heir to the throne invited him and all Copts to visit Saudi Arabia. 
Both men stepped together through St Mark's Cathedral, in regards to what Egypt’s state news agency termed the very first tour of this type.

The visit came on the following day of the Saudi Crown Prince’s trip to Egypt - his first international visit since he has become heir to the throne.
Having a lively day, Prince Mohammed also went to Al-Azhar University, visited an area of the Suez Canal and observed a performance at the Cairo Opera House.

The beginning of the visit was marked by a combination of deals and agreements associated with investment funds and projects.

However, in addition to the vital economic agreements, the Crown Prince held significant and symbolic meetings with Egypt’s spiritual leaders.
Additionally, he met Egypt's top Islamic official, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb at Al-Azhar, the top seat of learning in Sunni Islam.

Earlier, the prince toured some of the infrastructure projects that Egypt has pushed through since El-Sisi came to power after the tumultuous years aftermath of the Arab Spring.
In Ismailia, both of them leaders went through one of several brand-new tunnels being built beneath the Suez canal. Then they boarded a boat with a red-carpeted dock as an army band played marching music, to watch the newest portion of the Suez Canal, AP reported.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Pope Tawadros II, pope of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, at the Cathedral of Abbasiya in Cairo. (AFP)
He afterwards cut the ribbon in a ceremony to inaugurate a nearby army-built resort.
The two countries agreed late on Sunday to set up a joint $10 billion fund to develop areas of Egypt linked to the Neom project, a planned $500 billion megacity, unveiled by Prince Mohammed last year.

The Saudi Press Agency said there was “wide potential … through cooperation opportunities between the Suez Canal economic zone and Saudi Arabia's Neom future-project on the Red Sea coast.”
In the evening, El-Sisi and Prince Mohammed attended a performance of "Salem nafsak" (Surrender Yourself) at the Cairo Opera House.

The play, which was created by students, sheds light on social problems of the modern era including the impact of social media, incitement to terrorism and violence against women.
Ismail Mokhtar, head of the government’s Artistic Theatre House, said the attendance of El-Sisi and the Crown Prince was an important gesture of support for the young actors and Egyptian theatre in general.

To be a symbol of the significance afforded to the visit, images of the Egyptian president, Prince Mohammed and Saudi King Salman appear to have been posted throughout the city.
"Welcome to your second country," said one; another read "Saudi and Egypt are one hand, one nation."


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Monday 5 March 2018

Ministry of the Average Christian

Can We Recognize the Ministry of the Average Christian? (and help them accomplish it?)

The church, is always in the midst of a storm... but safe in Him

11  And to some, his ‘gift' was that they should be apostles; to some prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; 12  to knit God's holy people together for the work of service to build up the Body of Christ, 13  until we all reach unity in faith and knowledge of the Son of God and form the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself. Ephesians 4:11-13 (NJB)

Hence the highest office is that of the ministry of the Word, with which all other offices are also conferred at the same time. Every other public office in the church is part of the ministry of the Word or an auxiliary office that supports the ministry, whether it be the elders who do not labor in the Word and doctrine (1 Tim. 5:17) or the rulers (Rom. 12:8) or the deacons (the office of service in a narrow sense) or whatever other offices the church may entrust to particular persons for special administration. Therefore, the offices of Christian day school teachers, almoners, sextons, precentors at public worship, and others are all to be regarded as ecclesiastical and sacred, for they take over a part of the one ministry of the Word and support the pastoral office.[1]  (Italics mine)

Everything that has been said above concerning the People of God is intended for the laity, religious and clergy alike. But there are certain things which pertain in a special way to the laity, both men and women, by reason of their condition and mission. Due to the special circumstances of our time the foundations of this doctrine must be more thoroughly examined. For their pastors know how much the laity contribute to the welfare of the entire Church. They also know that they were not ordained by Christ to take upon themselves alone the entire salvific mission of the Church toward the world. On the contrary they understand that it is their noble duty to shepherd the faithful and to recognize their ministries and charisms, so that all according to their proper roles may cooperate in this common undertaking with one mind.  (Italics mine)

Thirteen years ago, I was installed as the pastor of a Lutheran Church for the first time.  I had served those people for well over a year as a vicar, (basically a student pastor) while going through a time of transition.  I was glad for the 30 months or so of transition, it gave me a chance to work through the differences in theology and the difference in practical ministry.

There were two sermons were given that day, one directed toward me, another directed to me and the people of Shepherd of the Valley.  The latter, given by Greg Seltz was basically about the unity of pastor in people.  A unity that is found in our baptism, a unity that is seen in our mission, our apostolate.  It is not pastor over people or people over the pastor, but pastor and people.  It was a great sermon, and something we need to understand in every congregation, in every parish!

We don't always get this correct.  Many people think the pastor is the evangelist, the only one that works in what the quote from Vatican II calls the salvific mission of the Church.  Pastors don't save anyone, neither does the average person, but they are saved by Christ, through the work of the Church.

We both have roles, even as Walther writes in Church and Ministry ( an incredible nook from the early days of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod).  He says they are to be recognized as ecclesiastical and sacred, as part of the ministry of the Word, supporting the pastoral office.

Yet there are clergy and laity in both the Roman Catholic Church and in Lutheran churches that don't understand this.  They don't get that the ministry is God's, entrusted to the entire church together.  It is our mutual responsibility, to reveal to the world the Love of God, and God's desire to reconcile all to Him.   Each has their own role, each has their own God-given place in this ministry.

Such a responsibility isn't to be hoarded like Gollum's precious ring or relegated to the pastor/priest alone, to provide a convenient scapegoat when the church shrinks.  Nor is this responsibility a duty, with checklists and deadlines.  It is best done, when all, so in awe of God's love, work naturally, sharing it with those around them, and then bring them into the family of God.    Serving together, ministering together, we see the world turned upside down, amazed not just at our love for each other, but the love of God that pours through us, to them.

We, the church, pastor, and people, are here for the world. To reveal to them the greatest treasure, the greatest of blessings, which brings the news of the greatest love, and the greatest of peace.

It is time again, to work as the church, the people of God.

Lord, have mercy on us and help us be your body, reaching out to the world.  AMEN!


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[1]Walther, C. Church and Ministry : Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Question of the Church and the Ministry. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1987.

Sunday 4 March 2018

Billy Graham Is in Heaven. His Funeral Guests Got a Glimpse of It.

A first-hand report from the evangelist’s “last crusade,” which he planned years before his death last week at 99.

Billy Graham, the famed evangelist remembered for his straightforward Bible preaching and his spirit of Christian unity, once again brought Christians together-literally under one big tent.

After spending his life traveling the world to rally millions for Christ, Graham returned Friday to his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, where he was laid to rest following a celebratory and gospel-infused ceremony deemed his final crusade.

More than 2,000 guests-including 200 members of Graham’s family, Christian leaders from 50 countries, and dignitaries such as President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence-gathered at the funeral. Graham himself planned it out more than a decade ago, hoping that even his death could continue to point people to Christ.

Facing the Billy Graham Library’s giant glass cross fa├žade, the crowd packed into a 28,000-square-foot white tent meant to evoke the “canvas cathedral” where the evangelist held one of his first crusades in 1949 in Los Angeles.

The roof of the tent rippled in the midday wind as thousands listened to tributes and sung together. The bittersweet feeling that typically comes at a Christian funeral skewed toward a spirit of commemoration and inspiration: These guests were people whose lives, careers, and spiritual journeys were shaped by Graham’s message of hope in Christ-one that Graham himself gets to experience in heaven and they celebrate here on earth.

It took less than 15 seconds into the ceremony before Jesus was mentioned; the Savior’s name came up about a hundred times before the 90-minute event concluded.

“Everyone who spoke was clear in their message. They honored his wishes by making this less about Billy and more about Jesus,” Southern Baptist pastor Jonathan Falwell, who watched Graham and his father, the late Jerry Falwell Sr., discuss ministry over the years, told CT.

The ceremony comes over a week after Graham’s death at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, last Wednesday at age 99, and follows multiple days of public memorials in both Charlotte and Washington, where the evangelist became the fourth American in history to lay in honor in the US Capitol.

The funeral participants, both family members and ministry partners, reflect Graham’s booming legacy.

Graham’s children-Gigi, Anne, Ruth, and Ned, who have all gone on to lead ministries of their own-shared their favorite memories of their father. Anne Graham Lotz recalled reading the Bible to her father in his final years, just as he taught her growing up, and Ruth Graham teared up as she described his comforting welcome following her divorce.

Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and Samaritan’s Purse, gave the eulogy message from the podium his father used for crusades during the 1990s.

He quoted John 3:16, saying, “This message was probably in every message my father preached because it demonstrates the love of God. It gives hope to the world.” The eldest Graham son also emphasized his father’s belief in Christianity as the only way and truth, and in the existence of both heaven and hell.

“When I think of him, I think of John 3:16,” Nick Hall, an evangelist mentored by Graham, told CT. “The times I spent with Reverend Graham, it was always about more time with Jesus. When I asked questions about my marriage, how to be a better leader, how to be a better friend, how to prepare a message, it was always about more time with Jesus.”

True to the style of his father’s crusades, and the festivals he continues to hold, Franklin Graham invited anyone listening to pray to accept Christ. “What better time” to invite the Savior into your heart, he said, than Billy Graham’s funeral?

“Billy Graham never did anything without the gospel being preached,” Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church, told CT. “He will preach that message one more time, through his son.”

By Friday evening, already 1.1 million people had watched the funeral on the BGEA website, in addition to the millions who saw news coverage from the 400-plus media in attendance.

“When I pulled up to the parking lot, I thought that it was so fitting that all the satellites and trucks were here. It would have been exactly what he wanted: that the Word would go out and people would hear the name of Jesus today,” Bible teacher Beth Moore, one of dozens of influential Christian leaders gathered under the funeral tent, told CT.

The breadth of the crowd reflected the scope and span of Graham’s 60-plus years in ministry and continued influence.

“As I walked around the room and saw Brian Houston, Max Lucado, Joel Osteen, Jack Graham, Robert Jeffress, I thought, ‘Who else would have such a broad connection to people like these?,’” evangelist Greg Laurie, who was mentored by Graham and models his Harvest America events after his crusades, told CT. “It made me think of heaven. It was like a great family reunion.”

Leaders from Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches joined evangelicals of all stripes under the funeral tent.

“Up until Billy Graham, people mostly identified as Protestant, Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian; and what happened across America was millions of people said, ‘I believe what Billy Graham believes,’” Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, told CT. “He was an ecumenical movement of his own.”

Several attendees described the tone like a family reunion: bringing people together who might not all be gathered in one place until they are together in heaven.

“Even in the time before the service, there’s a tremendous sense of celebration. It’s partly the love the people in this room have for one another, their connections in various forms of ministry,” Wheaton College president Philip Ryken told CT.

The funeral also drew political leaders: seats were reserved for public figures including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Cabinet member Ben Carson, former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, and commentator Greta Van Susteren, according to the Charlotte Observer, in addition to the White House guests.

Franklin Graham is an adviser to President Trump, whom his father met once at his 95th birthday party in 2013. Trump, along with congressional leaders, also celebrated the elder Graham’s legacy at a ceremony in DC on Wednesday.

“Billy himself realized the dangers of getting too close to political people. My hope is that there are enough leaders here across the board that President Trump won’t suck the oxygen out of the room. This is Billy’s day, not his day,” John Huffman, the former board chairman for Christianity Today who once served as pastor to President Richard Nixon, told CT before the ceremony began.

“My prayer is that there not be a hijacking of this event by a political agenda. Franklin and Billy are very different people, but this is not the day for politics.”

Billy Graham advised a dozen presidents, and both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush came to Charlotte earlier in the week to pay their respects. The late evangelist heard Clinton, along with George H. W. Bush and Jimmy Carter, praise his ministry career when they attended the dedication ceremony for the Billy Graham Library back in 2007. “I feel like I’m at my own funeral,” Graham said at the time.

At his actual funeral today, speakers Billy Kim, a South Korean pastor who served as Graham’s interpreter at a 1973 crusade in Seoul; Sami Dagher, a Lebanese church planter who spoke at several BGEA conferences; and Robert Cunville, an Indian-born evangelist, represented Graham’s reach across the globe.

Musicians who accompanied Graham at countless crusades filled the memorial tent with his favorite hymns, including pianist John Innes, who served as BGEA staff musician since 1965, and choir director Tom Bledsoe, who has a 30-year history with the ministry. Other performers included Michael W. Smith and Linda McCrary-Fisher, both of whom visited Graham in his home to play for him in his final years.

The only things missing from the ceremony Graham envisioned for himself were the beloved ministry partners who preceded him in death. When he initially planned the ceremony with his best friend and longtime music director Cliff Barrows, Graham had indicated that Barrows would lead the music and George Beverley (“Bev”) Shea would sing, according to family spokesman Mark DeMoss. However, Barrows died in 2016 at 93, and Shea in 2013 at 104.

Following the ceremony, Graham was buried beside his late wife Ruth in a prayer garden fully in bloom, alongside the rustic, barn-style library erected in the evangelist’s honor.

As Ruth approached her death just weeks after the library opened more than a decade ago, the Grahams debated where they would be buried and ultimately decided on Charlotte over their longtime home outside Asheville, North Carolina.

Franklin Graham this week quoted his father as saying, “For the Christian, death can be faced realistically and with victory because he knows that ‘neither death nor life … will be able to separate us from the love of God’ (Rom. 8:38-39). But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57).

As he reminded the crowd at the funeral, “My father preached on heaven, told millions how to find heaven, wrote a book on heaven, and now he’s in heaven. His journey is complete.”


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Make Me Yours

Prayers answered in Christ’s Wounds

Key Scripture Isaiah 53:7-11

The Mark you bear….the passion it represents

A moment ago, you had some palm tree ash put on your forehead.   Ash, the dirt that comes from burning something that was once alive, but now is dead and is burnt because the option is to let it take up room while it rots and smells up the place.

Fire leaves behind what’s left, what can’t decay, what can’t be broken down anymore.

As we go through Lent, we are going to look at some of the deepest prayers of our souls, the prayers that we should be aware were answered completely, even if that answer remains partly hidden.  We can learn that it is answered, we can begin to see that revelation, and know that in time, we will see it completely answered.

Those prayers are seen, in part, in the hymn, O Sacred Head Now Wounded, and each week we will add a verse, as we see the prayer that is answered in Jesus wounds….

The prayer tonight?  It is found in the last line of the first verse, “I joy to call Thee mine.” 
An appropriate prayer, considering it is Valentine’s day… a prayer to God, “be mine”, a prayer to God as well, “make me yours!”

An answer that we see in the mark, the brand you are wearing tonight.  A mark that symbolizes not only our grief and brokenness but a mark that shows us that God has made us His.

The Mark of Brokenness, of grief and shame of the cross

Ashes, all that is left after all that can rot and stink has been taken away…  Little better than carbon-based dust…something that can be blown away, even by a gentle breeze.

Ashes have been used as a sigh of grief for a long time, and though we also see them as a sign of repentance, they are first a sign of grief, a recognition that without Christ, our lives, so dominated by sin, are but the ashes and dust we come from, and the ashes and dust we will return to someday.

We often see them as a sign of repentance, but repentance comes as a gift from God and develops out of a sorrow for our sin, a realization of our brokenness.  To realize the effect and impact of our individual sin, of the havoc that sin wracks in our lives.

And so we wear the ash, in sorrow and grief and shame.

The grief and shame that wears down the head of Jesus, wounded for us, to answer our prayers, Be mine, make me yours!

The Mark of Bliss 

As we journey through this life with Jesus, as we journey with Him from the cross, we begin to see that the ashes leave the same mark as our baptism.

The sign of the cross, the place where Jesus was bruised and battered, the place Isaiah described so clearly in our reading tonight,

10  But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s good plan will prosper in his hands. 11  When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. Isaiah 53:10-11 (NLT)

 It is tempting to see in this God the Father crushing Jesus, the accomplishment of anguish.  The idea that all this required anguish, the anguish of the weight of our sin which He bears.  All that is necessary for a time.  But it is not where it ends. What we need to see, what will rescue us from the appropriate grief is this,

The Good plan,
The having many descendants,
The accomplishment ( in Greek this would be the same as “it is finished!”
the fact that many, including us, will be counted righteous.

In lent we need a both and, a time to grieve our sin, and a time to dance over the fact we are forgiven, hence the ashes in the sign of the cross…

Make Me thine

And in that cross, we hear those words, that we are found righteous, that it has been accomplished, that we have become His, for He has given us life.

He has made us His own.

We can rejoice, for we know the joy of calling Him ours, and we can say with the bluntest honest the words of the psalm, “I joy to call the mine!”


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Saturday 3 March 2018

Prayer Requests

Today's Prayer Requests

Zara Baby |  Praise the lord father... U plz pray for me and my family

Vera Bankston-Jones | FATHER GOD, May guidance from you sustain me!.......SELAH

Oliver Chigorom Ngwuli  | I want God to give me more grace to win more Souls to Jesus Christ . I want God to help me to complete my doctorate degree at Oral Roberts University successfully

Doug Stanzione | Good Morning, I hope you are having a blessed day. Please pray for our family. I recently lost my job and I am urgently looking for work to provide for my family. Please also pray for my son to stop smoking marijuana and vaping and focus on school and come to Jesus for help. Thanks again, Doug

david kunipogu | plz pray for me my gospel work in andhra pradesh in india and some finance problams and court problams thank you my address; david kunipogu indhira nagar kavali -524201 nellore dt andhra pradesh india

angel | please pray that our family is strengthened and that I may as a wife find a job in an effort to be able to support my family with extra income instead of putting ll of the weight on my husbands shoulders

Caitano Fernandes |  Prayer For Finances

Kyla McCusker | y pup got and ran off I hope she comes home

Brent |  just found out that my brother may have lung cancer. has puemonia too. Ihave health issues going on in my legs and feet.Please pray that God will heal us!

Bukola oshobu | God should intervene in my life. Provide for me

Anthonyamaefule | Pls pray with me,I have been having a sleepless nights due to joblessness and lack of favor, I graduated since six years ago and still jobless.Put me in your prayers for open doors and favor. Thanks.

Blessings soko | God to revive my spirit, my soul. I need reviva

Andrew Mortsi | Please help me pray for me for GOD to over anoint me to see hidden and mistery and to have power over the demonic world Thank you

vijay aggarwal | Plz pray for money in abundance for a comfortable life

Mercy Kalaga  | Plz pray for my job and my family

Grace | God should guide me regarding my marriage decision


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