Where the Wrath and Love of God Meet – In Touch – April 1/2

Where the Wrath and Love of God Meet – In Touch – April 1/2

Where the Wrath and Love of God Meet

Romans 3:23-26

In our culture, sin is no longer considered an issue. Although some people might admit to making mistakes or being wrong, few will actually say, “I have sinned.” The Lord, however, takes sin very seriously. Until we learn to see transgression as He does, we will never understand what happened at Christ’s crucifixion.

The cross was God’s perfect answer to a terrible dilemma. Because the Lord is holy and just, He hates sin and must respond to it with punishment and wrath. Yet He also loves sinners and wants to be reconciled with them. The cross of Christ was the place where God’s wrath and love collided.

The only way to rescue fallen mankind from eternal punishment was to devise a plan whereby the Lord could forgive sins without compromising His holiness. There was no way to overlook transgressions; His wrath had to be poured out–either on us or a substitute. But there was only one possible substitute: the perfect Son of God.

So Jesus came to earth as a man and suffered the Lord’s wrath for us as He hung on the cross. Sin was punished, divine justice was satisfied, and now God could forgive mankind without compromising His character. His wrath was poured out on His Son so that His love and forgiveness could be lavished upon us.

Because of human limitations, we’ll never grasp all that happened while Jesus hung on the cross. We can begin to comprehend only the physical suffering He endured, but in the spiritual realm, Christ bore so much more–the very wrath of God. This costly redemption plan proves God’s great love.

For more biblical teaching and resources from Dr. Charles Stanley, please visit www.intouch.org.

And Listen to Dr. Charles Stanley at OnePlace.com!

Used with permission from In Touch Ministries, Inc. © 2019 All Rights Reserved.

Source link

A Prayer for When Grief Affects Our Friendships – Your Daily Prayer – April 1

A Prayer for When Grief Affects Our Friendships – Your Daily Prayer – April 1

your daily prayer devotional art

subscribe to ibelieve youtube

A Prayer for When Grief Affects Our Friendships
By Alicia Searl

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

Grief changed me. It changed everything if I am being honest, including my relationships. But it especially put a strain on some of my friendships. After the loss of my mom, I felt so lost and alone. In time, depression wrapped around me like a smothering blanket, coddling and carelessly “comforting” me. Unfortunately, I sunk into the quick relief it provided, believing it recognized my pain. When we are in our deepest moments of sorrow, we desperately need friends to come alongside us. They offer support and clarity to situations that could lead us down dark paths. However, even the closest of friends may not recognize or understand the depth of our pain, causing more confusion and heartbreak.

The truth is, friends will naturally come in and out of our lives, and while some will be able to withstand and see us through the most difficult seasons in our lives, others will drift away. The death of a loved one has a way of rearranging our lives and oftentimes upsetting some of our friendships. While this can truly be disheartening, we must know when we are in a state of grief, and friends appear distant or silent, God is always drawing near. When we feel alone, disappointed, or even avoided, there are promises and Truths we need to remember and etch in our hearts. 

God’s Promises to Remember:

God’s Truth to Etch in Your Heart:

Thankfully, our God is Healer and can bring peace and restore wounds acquired in our relationships during a time of grief. Will you hand over the hurt and pain to the Father, and allow Him to cover you in His mercy and grace today? 

Let’s pray:
Dear God,
You are a loving Father, and I am ever so grateful for Your kindness and compassion. I come to You today with my heavy heart, in need of Your grace and tender loving care. Grief has taken on a shape that honestly concerns me and is now affecting relationships, especially my friendships. I’m emotionally exhausted and want to connect with my friends, but many days I am striving to put one foot in front of the other. I feel like I am disappointing them with my lack of response, and they are hurting me with their silence and distance. 

Deep down, I know friends aren’t necessarily avoiding me because they don’t care, but rather because they possibly believe I need space. They may not even recognize I am hurting or unsure of how to help. I haven’t been the best about telling them how I feel and that I need their support, so in a sense, I am grieving them too. So, Lord, I seek Your guidance, wisdom, and direction. Please help me let go of the expectations I am placing on myself and others, as they are only causing disappointment and mixed-up emotions. Will You please come alongside me and help me see the blind spots I have acquired, so I can extend grace and forgiveness to the friendships that are bringing about confusion? If needed, show me where I need to create space and healthy boundaries in order to heal. 

Lord, I am learning grief is a process and comes in waves. I ask You to provide a community around me during this difficult time so I can be reminded of Your promises and Truth when the lies are loud. Provide safe friendships that will be present, offer love and support, and lead me back to You. Help me to also be that friend in return. Thank You for the gift of friendship and connection, as I know You designed us to do life together. Most importantly, thank You, Lord, for being my best friend and loving me through this painful grief. I am so thankful that I can come to You in my mess, hurt, and selfish nature. I hand over all my wounds, knowing I am fully accepted, known, and loved.

I am forever grateful to be Your daughter. Amen.

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/fizkes

Alicia SearlAlicia Searl is a devotional author, blogger, and speaker that is passionate about pouring out her heart and pointing ladies of all ages back to Jesus. She has an education background and master’s in literacy.  Her favorite people call her Mom, which is why much of her time is spent cheering them on at a softball game or dance class. She is married to her heartthrob (a tall, spiky-haired blond) who can whip up a mean latte. She sips that goodness while writing her heart on a page while her puppy licks her feet. Visit her website at aliciasearl.com and connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.

Want more Your Daily Prayer? We also have a podcast! This podcast is different than the written devotional you just read, but carries the same commitment to a closer look at Scripture each day. You can find out more by clicking the link below!

your daily prayer

Now that you’ve prayed, are you in need of someone to pray for YOU? Click the button below!

Visit iBelieve.com for more inspiring prayer content.

Source link

Is it Okay for Children to Believe in the Easter Bunny?

Is it Okay for Children to Believe in the Easter Bunny?

The concept of whether or not it is okay for children to believe in the Easter bunny is a hotly debated topic among Christians in the present day. Many individuals feel there is nothing wrong with children believing in the Easter bunny, while others think it is not helpful.

Since there is such a large debate surrounding this topic, as Christians, should we allow children to believe in the Easter bunny, or should children be spared from the lies of culture? If Christians allow children to believe in the Easter bunny, will it downplay Jesus and His resurrection?

The Easter Bunny

Growing up, my sisters and I were taught to believe in the Easter bunny. We were told that the Easter bunny came every year and would leave gifts. He was almost the equivalent of Santa Claus for the springtime.

Since we were children, we believed the Easter bunny was real and we thought the entire holiday of Easter was for the Easter bunny. We didn’t know the holiday was remembering the anniversary of Jesus’ resurrection.

As children, it was easy for us to believe in the Easter bunny, but as we got older, we quickly found out the Easter bunny wasn’t real. While each of us felt silly for ever believing the Easter bunny existed, we never felt we were betrayed by our parents.

I say this because there are many children who feel betrayed by their parents that they were taught lies about the existence of the Easter bunny or Santa Claus.

This can cause horrible friction and pain for children, which can ultimately cause them to lose trust in their parents. Parents need to be supportive of their children and tell them the truth. They don’t need to tell them lies and lose their children’s trust in the process.

Since the Easter bunny is tied to Easter, many kids, teens, and even adults may think the holiday centers around the Easter bunny, such as my sisters and I thought when we were children. This is incorrect teaching because Easter isn’t about the Easter bunny.

Easter is about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Jesus died for the sins of the world, was buried, and rose again in order to give salvation to all who would place faith in Him (John 3:16-17).

As adults, we need to make sure we are teaching kids the true meaning of Easter and refrain from talking about a made-up Easter bunny.

On the opposite side of the camp, there are others who think allowing children to believe in the Easter bunny is not a big deal. Since they are kids, they reason, who are we to take away their fantasy and fun?

While this can be thought of and supported by many parents, one has to also realize there is a lot of falsehood in telling children the Easter bunny exists when he doesn’t.

Children turn to their parents as trustworthy individuals, yet in time, if the child finds out the parent lied about the Easter bunny, then they may start believing their parents lied about other things.

It is also worthwhile to mention here that many things are taught to children that are not true. Some of these things are people. Children are taught that Santa Claus and the Easter bunny are real people, but then later find out that they were made up.

The Reason for Easter

In the same way, many children who grow up in the church are taught about Jesus Christ. Since Jesus is normally taught to children around the same age as Santa Claus or the Easter bunny, then many children may believe He isn’t real either since both of the former holiday characters were proven to not exist.

Maybe this happened in your own life? You saw that Santa Claus and the Easter bunny weren’t real, which caused you to believe Jesus wasn’t real either.

After all, you never saw Jesus, just as you never saw Santa Claus or the Easter bunny. As one can see, this can be an extremely dangerous practice for children because it can lead one away from Jesus.

Rather than believing that Jesus is our Lord and Savior, these children may believe He was made up, just like Santa Claus and the Easter bunny.

While all Christians have freedom in Christ, it is important for us to exercise that freedom with caution. Simply because a person can tell their child about the Easter bunny does not mean a person should.

Even though some might see it as harmless fun, it can hurt the child immensely and cause them to have a hard time believing in anything anymore. For some children, the Easter bunny can even scare children, as was the case for my sister as a child.

Therefore, it is within your Christian freedom to choose if you are going to tell your kids about the Easter bunny or not, but it is vitally important that you understand the risks that come with it.

It can cause your children to lose trust in you as well as it can cause them to categorize Christ alongside the other made-up figures of their childhood.

If you are a Christian parent, your top priority should be helping your child come to know Jesus. If anything gets in the way of you helping them to know Jesus, you need to seriously consider if this thing is worth it.

Is telling your children about the Easter bunny going to cause them to lose any sort of faith in Jesus as a real person? Many might reason not, but it is important to know that it can happen, and it is more likely to happen than not to happen.

The truth of Easter is celebrating the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The holiday isn’t meant to celebrate a made-up bunny. Rather, the holiday is a day for us to remember Jesus’ great work on the cross and His mighty resurrection.

It is only through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ that we have salvation now. Our relationship with Him is the most important thing in our life and we need to make sure we are faithfully following Him. Faithfully following Him means we live in obedience to Him and teach others about Him.

Why Does This Matter?

Maybe this Easter, you can dedicate your heart and be intentional about teaching your children about Jesus and what He did for us instead of teaching your children about the Easter bunny. It will do much more good and will help pave the foundation of the saving grace of Jesus.

If you are a parent, your child means the world to you, and you want them to come to know Jesus. You are instrumental in this as you are one of the most important people in your child’s life. They look up to you, and they have faith that you are telling them the truth when you speak with them.

Never underestimate the difference you can make in your child’s life. You can help encourage them, support them, and teach them more about Jesus.

Thus, you can decide whether or not you want to tell your children about the Easter bunny, but it would be better to tell them about the true meaning of Easter, which is Jesus and His resurrection.

For further reading:

5 Activities to Do with Your Kids to Better Understand the Easter Story

What Version of the Easter Story Should We Tell Our Children?

How Is the Easter Bunny Connected to Christianity?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/ArtMarie

Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master’s degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.

Source link

Minaret Foundation improves the lives of Texas Muslims by looking outward

Minaret Foundation improves the lives of Texas Muslims by looking outward

Houston (RNS) — More than a dozen years ago, Shariq Abdul Ghani, a local Muslim leader, and Rabbi Steven Gross, of the Houston Congregation for Reform Judaism, decided to make the best of one of the most uneventful days of the whole year for their respective communities. Their goal was simple — to bring together their communities for what became known as “Muslim-Jewish Christmas.”

“I realized they have nothing to do on Christmas,” Ghani told Religion News Service in a recent interview. “We realized we have nothing to do on Christmas, so why don’t we just get our communities together and see what happens,” he said.

The event has grown into an annual ritual, as each Christmas, Muslims and Jews share meals and have difficult conversations about religiously motivated hate, interfaith solidarity, mercy and forgiveness in the Holy Scriptures and contentious topics in interfaith work, including the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

“Every year we switch between a mosque and synagogue, and one year we rented out the Museum of Natural Science. Everyone is off, so you have no excuse, so it’s easy to pack the house.”

That same year, 2010, Ghani, who was born in Pakistan and raised in Houston, founded the Minaret Foundation to raise awareness of Islam in one of the most religiously diverse cities in America — Houston, Texas. Naming his organization for the towers attached to traditional mosques from which Muslims are called to prayer, he wanted to change mistrust facing the Muslim community at the height of the “War on Terror.”

His approach was to collaborate with leaders of other faiths and find partners in both political parties to find common ground. And he would work on issues confronting citizens across all backgrounds: child-welfare, food security and religious freedom.

Shariq Abdul Ghani. Photo courtesy of Minaret Foundation

Shariq Abdul Ghani. Photo courtesy of Minaret Foundation

“When we started, the goal was to bring people together by building relationships, breaking bread, by having dialogue and discussions, breaking down barriers through frank discussion,” said Ghani. Instead of talking about “the Muslims,” he said, he wanted the conversation to be about “Muslims — our neighbors, our fellow Americans.”

The Minaret Foundation began holding speaking engagements, community service projects and fellowship events at other houses of worship and schools around the Houston metro area. “We would always start our programs off by saying, ‘You can never offend us, you can never hurt us, we want you to be able to ask the questions you want to ask, because that’s the only way we get to know each other,’” Ghani said.

Minaret’s signature became its interfaith community events that promoted understanding through dialogue — and friendly competition. “Competing in Goodness” challenges local mosques, churches and synagogues to outdo each other for fundraising and food bank collections. Last year the program gathered seven tons of canned goods. (Congregation Beth Yeshurun won.)

Kait Ewoldt, Minaret’s social media coordinator, is a Christian married to a minister. “You have these world religions that always seem to be at odds with each other, and we bring them together,” she said.

But the organization’s interfaith work doesn’t attempt to dissolve all distinction among different faiths. A recently launched effort sponsored by Minaret and its partners known as “Angels and Messengers” brings people together to probe the differences rather than similarities among the three so-called Abrahamic religions. Coming from a place of good will, Ghani believes, education promotes better understanding.

Minaret Foundation has also built relationships across lines of political difference. “In order to resolve conflicts and bring people together, all stakeholders have to be present,” said Ghani. “That means Republicans, Libertarians, Independents, Democrats. Everyone’s perspectives should not just be heard, but respected and honored as well.”

Texas State Rep. Ann Johnson, left, and Dorothy Gibbons of The Rose, center, attend the Minaret Foundation's Muslim Women's Forum as guest speakers on Oct. 23, 2022, in Houston. Photo courtesy of the Minaret Foundation

Texas State Rep. Ann Johnson, left, and Dorothy Gibbons of The Rose, center, attend the Minaret Foundation’s Muslim Women’s Forum as guest speakers on Oct. 23, 2022, in Houston. Photo courtesy of the Minaret Foundation

For some, this might sound like a tall order in a state whose government is often viewed as a Republican bastion, but Ghani said their work is inherently bipartisan. “There’s this misconception that Texas is a one-party, ultra-partisan state, and that’s just not true. Nothing in the state happens without Democrats and Republicans working together,” he said.

Because of this commitment, the foundation has spent the last few years building relationships, circulating policy proposals and forming coalitions involving elected officials across the political and religious spectrum in Texas in the pursuit of civic engagement.

Noor Saleh, government relations coordinator for Minaret Foundation, said the group’s political activity is as dependent on dialogue — and acknowledgment of difference — as their community-building programs are. “I have had really strong relationships with folks I never thought I’d have strong relationships with simply because they lay on an opposite political party than I do,” she said. “I have begun to realize that we need to have these difficult conversations about common-ground issues so we are able to move forward.”

Rep. Jacey Jetton, a Republican from nearby Fort Bend County, one of the most diverse districts in the state of Texas, began working with Minaret Foundation as a freshman legislator and has helped pass bills recognizing religious and cultural diversity in Texas.

Texas State Rep. Jacey Jetton. Photo via JaceyJetton.com

Texas State Rep. Jacey Jetton. Photo via JaceyJetton.com

“I’ve traveled around the country and around the world,” said Jetton. “In some places they still think of Texas as the Wild West, riding around on horses. But in Houston and more specifically in Fort Bend County, you can go to any community and see people from all over the world coming together. We have very diverse schools, neighborhoods and workforces here in Texas.” 

Jetton regards religious freedom as a key to preserving the social contract in as diverse a community as Texas has become. “As a Christian, I recognize that those of the Muslim faith and the Hindu faith and different backgrounds all want the best for their families, for their children and for themselves, and in turn that makes a better society for us all to prosper,” he said. 

In the 2023 Texas state legislative session, the Minaret team worked with clergy and its legislative allies to support a policy push known as MOSH — Multifaith Optional School Holidays.

Jetton, supported by state Reps. Salman Bhojani, a Democrat from Tarrant County near Dallas and one of the first Muslims elected to the Texas Legislature, and Steve Allison, a Republican of San Antonio, sponsored a bill that would allow a student to be excused for a religious holiday with a simple letter from a parent.

This would replace a patchwork of practices across Texas, including school districts where a note from clergy might be required and where students are asked to choose between unexcused absences and their faith commitments. 

A second bill sponsored by Bhojani would eliminate standardized testing on a religious holiday or the day following one. The holidays named in the bill are Eid al Adha, Eid al Fitr, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Vaisakhi, Vesak, Diwali, All Saints Day and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. 

A graphic from "No Kids in Cuffs" campaign, one of the Minaret Foundation's policies that advocates for child welfare in public schools. Image courtesy of the Minaret Foundation

A graphic from the “No Kids in Cuffs” campaign, one of the Minaret Foundation’s efforts to advocate for child welfare in public schools. Image courtesy of the Minaret Foundation

Minaret is also backing an effort by state Rep. Tom Oliverson, a Republican, to create a religious freedom commission that would identify systemic barriers to the free practice of faith and advise the executive branch on solutions.

While much of their focus is on religious freedom and Islamic community interests — Minaret is promoting the creation of a Texas Muslim Heritage Month — the organization is also involved in efforts such as “No Kids in Cuffs,” which addresses the use of excessive restraint by law enforcement in schools, and “Handle with Care,” which seeks to give schools tools to better support children affected by trauma outside of school.

Ewoldt, the social media coordinator, said, “The Bible tells us to care for widows and orphans, to feed the hungry, and everything we do at Minaret, whether it’s child welfare, food insecurity or religious freedom, it goes back to those beliefs.” 

The organization still faces mistrust. “We have a lot of doors that get closed to us, we are continually asked, ‘Why are the Muslims working on this?’” Ghani said. The answer, said Ghani, is his faith. 

“There is a verse in the Qur’an: ‘and do good, for God surely loves the doers of good,’” he said. “I keep reminding myself about this, because there are a lot of hurdles. As long as our intentions are good, to help children, to help people have freedom of worship, I believe we are walking in the path of God. That’s something we have to keep reminding ourselves in this line of work, where it is so easy to get lost in the politics.”

Source link

From Senate subcommittee to Easter sermon: Raphael Warnock on life as a pastor-politician

From Senate subcommittee to Easter sermon: Raphael Warnock on life as a pastor-politician

WASHINGTON (RNS) — Raphael Warnock, U.S. senator and Baptist pastor, was wrapping up his time on Capitol Hill before heading back to his native Georgia in time for what is perhaps the busiest week of the year for Christian clergy.  

The Democratic senator spoke at a hearing Thursday (March 30) of the Senate Subcommittee on Conservation, Climate, Forestry and Natural Resources about the plight of forest landowners and how much they can deduct from their taxes if their timber harvests are destroyed by a natural disaster.

“The answer is zero,” Warnock, Georgia’s first Black senator said at the hearing.

From testifying to members of Congress about farming, to preaching Holy Week sermons from the pulpit of Atlanta’s famed Ebenezer Baptist Church, such is the back and forth life of the pastor-politician who won reelection to the Senate in 2022.

The heir of that pulpit from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated nearly 55 years ago on April 4, Warnock spoke to Religion News Service of how that day will always be a solemn one for him.

“I was born a year after his death and yet his commitment to service recruited me to Morehouse College,” said Warnock, little knowing at the time that he’d come to serve the same Atlanta church that King did. “I wanted to be at the school that inspired him.”

“I would not be serving in the Senate and doing what I’m doing were it not for the sacrifice of Dr. King and those who worked alongside him. And the best way I can express my gratitude for that is to continue the work of building what he called the ‘beloved community’ and for me, that means ensuring people have access to affordable health care and affordable housing, that their children can be educated without finding themselves so beleaguered with debt, and to promote peace and justice both here and abroad.”

President Joe Biden, center, stands with Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., as he speaks at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023, during a service honoring Martin Luther King Jr. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

President Joe Biden, center, stands with Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., as he speaks at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023, during a service honoring Martin Luther King Jr. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

RELATED: Raphael Warnock says his Senate colleagues sometimes ask, ‘Rev, pray for me’

Just after leaving the subcommittee hearing, Warnock spoke to RNS in his Senate office about preparations for Holy Week, juggling his pastoral, familial and political duties, and sharing his church’s 137th anniversary with the rabbi and congregants of a local historic synagogue.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

With Holy Week almost upon us and your recent announcement of extra services on Palm Sunday and Easter, what’s it like to prepare for that key time of the liturgical calendar, when you are also pushing for passage of legislation?

It’s a busy time. But I am deeply honored to represent the people of Georgia in the United States Senate, and to serve the people of Ebenezer Church. And my work in the Senate is an extension of that lifelong commitment to service. I feel like, in a real sense, that my life is a sermon, that I get to preach on Sunday and embody and make come alive in my work in the Senate the rest of the week.

We talked about your juggling act as pastor, politician and dad last year. So I’m wondering how you’re managing those three dimensions of your life and if they changed in any way, as you now have a six-year term commitment as a senator.

Vice President Kamala Harris, right, administers Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock's oath of office on Jan. 3, 2023, in Washington. Photo courtesy of Warnock Senate office

Vice President Kamala Harris, right, administers Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock’s oath of office on Jan. 3, 2023, in Washington. Photo courtesy of Warnock Senate office

It means some of the most important people in my life are probably the three people who handle my schedule (laughs). My life is very scheduled. But, look, as dad, as senator, as pastor, all of those roles are important to me, none more important than dad. And so while they compete for my time, there is a continuity between those three things. For me, they’re much more complementary than conflictual. I mean that.

I think being a pastor first has made me a better senator. I’m used to walking with people, even as I work for people. When I can’t solve their problem immediately, I understand the importance of what I call the ministry of presence, which is why I spend a lot of time with the people of Georgia, whether we’re talking about people who are trying to pay for their insulin, or farmers who are trying to save their farm or make sure they’re profitable or someone who wants to start a small business. My work in the parish has informed my work in the Senate. My work in the Senate has deepened my perspective for preaching. And (my children) Chloé and Caleb keep me grounded. They don’t allow me to take myself too seriously.

The other day, I was on my way to do an interview on MSNBC to talk about my insulin bill. I had gotten Chloé and Caleb ready for bed. And on my way out the door, Caleb, who is 4 — let’s just say he had a little accident. So cleaning that up on my way out the door keeps things in perspective (laughs).

When you spoke at Union Theological Seminary’s celebration of your second Senate win you talked about how your role as a pastor informed your work on reducing costs for insulin for people with diabetes. Why is that particular policy a point of passion?

I have over the course of my career as a pastor stood at countless bedsides. I’ve been there when people have gotten the news that they have to get an amputation or they’re going to have to go on dialysis. I had a member of my congregation years ago give a kidney to another member. They were both a part of the culinary committee that provided my breakfast on Sunday. I remember standing in a waiting room as these two women were each in a hospital bed, offering prayer as they went into surgery. I’ve seen the ravaging impact of diabetes up close. It’s the reason why I’m proud to partner with my Republican colleague, Senator (John) Kennedy (of Louisiana). Now that I’ve capped the cost of insulin for folks on Medicare, I’m focused now on capping it for folks who have private insurance and people who have no insurance at all.

How do you divide your work? Do you do weddings and funerals, and how do you bifurcate the two aspects of your life, such as if you’re sitting in a hearing and get a text about a crisis at your church, like a longtime member passing away or a broken pipe.

No, I don’t handle broken pipes. I wouldn’t be able to do that. I have amazing staff, here and at the church. That’s how I’m able to do it. I got really good people. And I enjoy my work. I preach at Ebenezer every Sunday, virtually every Sunday (usually in person for one service). And usually if I’m not preaching there, I’m probably preaching somewhere else on Sunday morning. I do funerals but not many these days, and even fewer weddings.

The Rev. Raphael Warnock preaches at Ebenezer Baptist Church on Jan. 24, 2021, in Atlanta. Video screengrab

The Rev. Raphael Warnock preaches at Ebenezer Baptist Church on Jan. 24, 2021, in Atlanta. Video screengrab

White evangelical churches, as well as Black churches, are sometimes criticized for their role in politics. And Black churches are known as a place people show up who are running for office the Sunday before election. What are your thoughts about that kind of tradition in Black churches, probably including your own? Do you think it should stay that way or change?

We got elected officials who are members of my church. So they’re there every Sunday. And now you got an elected official in the pulpit. Look, I believe firmly in the separation of church and state. For me, that’s bedrock for how our democracy works, I have no interest in living in a theocracy of any kind. In my view, we live in our faith and under the law. The values of my faith writ large, that informs my work in the Senate, not the doctrine about particular religious tradition. And those values I think, are resonant in all of the great faith traditions: justice making, truth telling, compassion, love of neighbor. And it is my belief that we are all created in the image of God and for those who don’t have or are not given to a religious worldview, that we all have value. That’s why I fight for voting rights, and also because I think the best check against tyranny and abuse of power is democracy.

Can you talk about the interfaith aspect of the 137th anniversary service of Ebenezer a couple of weeks ago?

Rabbi Peter Berg and I work together all the time, mainly on the issue of mass incarceration. And our congregations have a long, storied history of peace and justice work together. So both are historic. The Temple (where Berg is senior rabbi) was bombed in 1958 during the movement because of their stand around civil rights, both for African Americans and Jews.

So for our church anniversary, one of the questions you have to ask yourself each year is who’s going to be the guest pastor? And the more I thought about it, I realized the guest pastor would actually be the rabbi.

I thought you had a different call at the end. Was it more interfaith, where you said people need community as opposed to saying people need Jesus?

Yeah, people know I’m a Christian. And I always tease the rabbi when he comes to preach because it happened again. People came and joined our congregation. And so I jokingly said to Peter, “You brought a lot of people to Jesus today.” But Jesus was a Jew, so that’s appropriate. (laughs)

RELATED: Rev. Raphael Warnock considers vote sacred as pastor and Senate candidate

Source link

‘A spirit of devoted worship’: 1,300 youth gather for discipleship event at Georgia church

‘A spirit of devoted worship’: 1,300 youth gather for discipleship event at Georgia church

Disciple Now
Attendees participate in a worship service at the Disciple Now gathering at New Hope Baptist Church of Fayetteville, Georgia on March 24-26, 2023. |

Approximately 1,300 youth from 17 congregations gathered at a Georgia megachurch last weekend for a multiday worship and praise event, with many making commitments to Jesus Christ.

New Hope Baptist Church of Fayetteville’s north campus hosted the annual “Disciple Now” gathering from March 24-26, centered on students in grades seven through 12.

The gathering, billed as the largest youth ministry gathering in Fayette County, included small group Bible studies led by college students and large group events led by nationally acclaimed speakers and worship bands. 

New Hope Senior Pastor Rhys Stenner told The Christian Post that attendees had “an anticipation and a preparedness for what God was going to do.”

“He softened and prepared hearts,” said Stenner, describing the gathering as an “incredible time of worship from the first service to the last,” with there being “unity among the churches.”

According to Stenner, there has been a yearly increase in participation in Disciple Now since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pastor said that for Sunday morning worship, there were approximately 300 students and 12 “unexpected baptisms.”

“The tremendous spirit of praise that morning was above the usual despite a terrible deluge of weather that morning,” he recounted. “There was no dampening the enthusiasm, and probably the most joyous we had had on the Sunday morning of a DNOW.”

Disciple NOW
Attendees participate in a worship service at the Disciple Now gathering at New Hope Baptist Church of Fayetteville, Georgia, on March 24-26, 2023. |

Stenner hopes the gathering will foster long-term “unity amongst the students” and that they will be “a witness to others about what God has done in their lives.”

The continued growth of Disciple Now comes as there has been an eruption of evangelistic outreaches among younger generations in recent months.

In February, students at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky, began an impromptu worship service after their regularly scheduled chapel time, eventually transforming into a 16-day revival service in which thousands of people traveled from across the country to attend.

The constant worship service inspired spontaneous services at other college campuses, including some public academic institutions, as well as at churches and at least one middle school. Some Christian college students were even inspired to travel for hours to bring the spirit of revival to major universities like Ohio State University and Michigan State University. 

When asked if he felt that the revival movement influenced this year’s Disciple Now turnout, Stenner replied, “we don’t think so, directly.”

“There was a spirit of devoted worship and praise that was striking and noteworthy. It’s always a good event, but there was a notable sense of reverence,” said Stenner.

“On the last night, nobody seemed to want to leave. He is the same God.”

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

Free Religious Freedom Updates

Join thousands of others to get the FREEDOM POST newsletter for free, sent twice a week from The Christian Post.

Source link