We’ve all heard the story of Eric Liddell, who turned down an opportunity for Olympic gold at the Paris Games in 1924 in order to honour His Saviour. It was Liddell who famously said, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” Well, this summer in Rio de Janeiro, there’s been a whole lot of running, jumping, swimming, and competing by athletes seeking to honour Jesus Christ. Not that you’ve heard much about it from the “mainstream” media. I spoke about this media blackout with my friend Terry Mattingly, who’s one of today’s foremost religion journalists. Terry told me, “If these athletes make faith a part of their story, how do you leave out faith when telling their story?”
Now, you may have heard the story of super-swimmer Michael Phelps, who reached the pinnacle of sports and found it hollow-and then contemplated suicide. But Phelps found a reason to live when Ray Lewis gave him a copy of “The Purpose-Driven Life,” by Rick Warren. Michael’s story reminds us of the role that God’s people have as bringers of hope and agents of restoration. There have been many such reminders in Rio. Fiji dominated Great Britain, 43-7 in rugby, earning the island country’s first-ever gold medal. Then the winning players huddled and sang, both in English and Fijian: “We have overcome / We have overcome / By the blood of the Lamb / And the Word of the Lord / We have overcome.” Then they received their medals humbly-on their knees!
In the women’s 10,000 metres race, Almaz Ayana, from Ethiopia, obliterated the previous world record by 14 seconds. Responding to unfounded rumours about cheating, Almaz retorted, “My doping is my training and my doping is Jesus. Nothing otherwise -I am crystal clear.” American swimmer Simone Manuel set an Olympic record in the 100-meter freestyle, becoming the first African-American woman to win gold as a swimmer, the first African-American woman to win a medal in an individual swimming event, and the first American to win the 100-meter since 1984. After the race she said, with tears rolling down her cheeks, “All I can say is all glory to God.”
Then there’s another inspiring Olympian named Simone Biles, acknowledged to be the world’s greatest female gymnast. But what’s truly inspiring is her story. Adopted at age 6 by her grandparents because of her mother’s battle with addiction Simone is now reconciled with her mum, and draws strength from her relationship with God. Katie Ledecky, who may become the greatest woman swimmer of all time, and who won the 800-meter freestyle by an amazing 11 seconds, says her faith in Christ “is part of who I am.” I could go on and on in this Olympic hall of faith, but I’ll leave you with just one more. Champion diver David Boudia says he’s well aware of the need to represent Christ with integrity, saying, “If I represent a good God, I need to be that visual representation of him all the time, not just when I feel like it.”
David tells his amazing and inspiring story from despair to discipleship in his book, “Greater Than Gold: From Olympic Heartbreak to Ultimate Redemption.” It’s great to see these “bringers of hope and agents of restoration” compete for the glory of God. But we’d miss the point if all we do is applaud them and then turn off our TVs. We are called to compete for Christ, too. As Eric Liddell also said, “It has been a wonderful experience to compete in the Olympic Games and to bring home a gold medal. But, I have had my eyes on a different prize. Each one of us is in a greater race than any I have run in Paris, and this race ends when God gives out the medals.” Amen. Now that is a story worth repeating!
Source: by Eric Metaxas – co-host of radio program BreakPoint
CHRISTIAN SCHOOL CANNOT BE DENIED ACCREDITATION FOR OPPOSING HOMOSEXUALITY
A Christian university in Canada that requires its staff and students to abstain from sex outside of marriage and homosexual behaviour cannot be banned from having its law school accredited, a Canadian court has ruled. The Nova Scotia Court rejected an appeal from the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society in its ongoing legal battle with Trinity Western University (TWU) over the law society’s refusal to give the school accreditation. In April 2014, the Barristers’ Society became one of three provincial law societies to deny Trinity Western Law School’s request for accreditation, the other two being the law societies of Ontario and British Columbia. At issue was the university’s “covenant,” which requires students and staff to “abstain” from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”
In its decision, the Court of Appeal dismissed the Barristers’ Society’s appeal of an earlier decision by a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge. “The society acknowledges that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not apply to Trinity Western. It is a private university. The Supreme Court has held that the charter does not apply even to an autonomous public university,”reads the Court of Appeal’s opinion. “Nothing in the Legal Profession Act authorizes the society to issue an independent ruling that someone has violated Nova Scotia’s Human Rights Act.” Trinity Western filed suit against the three provincial law societies that attempted to ban its accreditation, arguing that their decision violated the university’s religious liberty.
In January 2015, Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Jamie S. Campbell ruled in favour of Trinity Western, arguing that the society’s “resolution and regulation infringe on the freedom of religion of TWU and its students in a way that cannot be justified.” “For many people in a secular society religious freedom is worse than inconsequential. It actually gets in the way. It’s the dead hand of the superstitious past reaching out to restrain more important secular values like equality from becoming real equality,” wrote Campbell. “The discomforting truth is that religions with views that many Canadians find incomprehensible or offensive abound in a liberal and multicultural society. The law protects them and must carve out a place not only where they can exist but flourish.”
Bruce Clemenger, president of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, which is helping to represent Trinity Western in its legal battles, celebrated the Court of Appeals’ decision. “No one is disputing TWU’s ability to provide an excellent law school education and produce graduates who will serve Canadians well,” said Clemenger in a statement. But this decision is a good reminder that TWU’s policies and its Community Covenant are not unlawful. They are an expression of their deeply held religious beliefs.”
CHILDREN’S PRAYER MOVEMENT IN INDONESIA SPREADS ACROSS THE COUNTRY
The movement of praying children in Indonesia has been facilitated by a network of children’s prayer coordinators across the country since 2003. The network now exists in 72 regions / cities across Indonesia. The duties of the facilitator is to teach children to pray at his local church and to invite Sunday school teachers from churches in the area to gather each week in a church or other facility to pray together with specific prayer requests related to the situation of their city and the nation as a whole. Every year, during school holidays, churches or local children’s prayer network administrators hold prayer training for children. Prayer requests from the leadership of the network of children’s prayer and the reading of the Word of God are prepared and shared with the kids by the Sunday school teacher.
In addition, every year, in the month of June, all network administrators mobilize children to pray for children at risk . They pray about the condition of children in the world as well as those in Indonesia with material supplied by an international organization called VIVA Network. Through such training and prayer for specific requests, the children’s prayer movement continues to grow around the nation. To ensure that the children’s prayer movement is still being strengthened and continues, at both the annual prayer activities and the routine monthly ones, we assign a mentor for each of these activities. One of his or her tasks is to ensure the delivery of the monthly prayer requests and invocations of prayer for children at risk. This practice has also encouraged the movement of children to pray.
There are many testimonies of powerful answers to children’s prayers. Miracles of healing and the closing down of criminal activity, are just some. Also, children who engage in prayer have a character that is much more obedient along with a fondness for reading the Word of God and praising the Lord. They also have a concern for the protection of the environment. We continue to expand the network amongst those who have a love and concern for the spiritual nurture of children. Our goal is that by 2017 there will be 200 children’s prayer networks, so that more churches will get involved in the funding and there will be a greatly increased number of children praying. Please pray that we will keep working until all regions / cities in Indonesia have children that pray. Thanks be to God!
CHRISTIANITY EXPLODING IN IRAN DESPITE PERSECUTION
Christians in Iran face imprisonment, beatings, and even death. But the Church continues to grow at a rapid rate. In 1979, when the Islamic revolution swept to power there were only about 500 Muslim Background Believers (MBB), according to the reference book “Operation World.” It estimates that today there are at least 100,000 MBB’s and in some places the number is as high as 1 million. Dissatisfaction with the harsh Islamic regime and disillusionment with Islam in general are part of the shift, but the main reason is bold outreach by Christians inside the country, Mark Howard of Elam Ministries said. Elam Ministries works to strengthen the Iranian Church both inside the country and among the diaspora living in the Middle East and Europe.
“I think first and foremost we have to acknowledge that many people have been praying for Iran for a long time and that the Lord is doing something special in that region,” he said. Powerful testimonies of people from all walks of life-including hardened criminals, Muslims imams, and abused women-are finding faith in Christ are pouring out of Iran, Howard wrote in a blog on The Gospel Coalition web page. He told the story of Fatemah, a young Muslim girl who was sexually abused by her brothers from a young age. When she was 11-years-old her family sold her into marriage, but soon her husband divorced her and sent her back. Facing the prospect of more sexual abuse, Fatemah ran away and began living on the streets.
It was there that she heard about Jesus and gave her life to Him. She began attending church and married a Christian man. As she and her husband, Howard, attended a ministry training session hosted by Elam Ministries, Fatemah sensed the Lord telling her to go back and minister to her family. Her husband struggled with the decision. “He told the Lord, ‘I can’t love these people after what they’ve done to my wife, but give me Your love for them,'” Howard said. When they returned, the family listened to the Gospel message and they all turned to Christ. Today, their home is a house church and Fatemah is one of the leaders. Fatemah’s story “speaks to the tragic beauty of so many testimonies that come out of that region,” Howard said. It demonstrates not just the saving power of the Gospel, but its transforming power, as well.
On July 29th, a man from India’s Dalit community was beheaded and his wife hacked to death after a row over a 15 rupees (30 cent) debt in Uttar Pradesh state. This is the latest in a long list of atrocities that have occurred to the Dalit community. For over 3,000 years, the 250+ million Dalit people of India, those who fall below the caste system have been considered “untouchable”. Although gaining equal status legally 60 years ago, little has changed in their daily lives and they face widespread discrimination; suffering exploitation, oppression and segregation in healthcare, education, and housing. Being a Dalit determines the work they can do: cleaning the sewage that lies below the cities (thousands drown, or die from infections each year), handling dead bodies and various forms of manual labour.
They face degrading conditions and many are trapped in various forms of bonded labour or slavery. The word ‘Dalit’ means ‘crushed, oppressed or broken’. They took this name upon themselves as they feel it epitomises their reality. Dalit Freedom Network’s (DFN) helps these people achieve fundamental rights by providing education, healthcare, and economic empowerment by raising awareness, funds, prayer, advocacy and resources. With 107 schools providing 26,000+ Dalit and Backward caste students with a Christian, English, medium education, Good Shepherd schools are seeing these children equipped and dreaming of a future very different from that of their parents.
A second focus is to see the Jogini system eradicated. Little girls as young as 5 or 6 become Joginis when they are dedicated to the temple goddess in a form of a marriage ceremony. Upon reaching puberty, they are raped and thereafter are trapped in a life of ritualised systemic sexual abuse. The Jogini system has been illegal in India since 1988, but is rarely enforced. Our aim is to see dedications prevented, health care and economic empowerment initiatives for the Jogini women, and advocacy to see the system abolished. Please pray for the Dalit people of India in the face of discrimination and exploitation.
UGANDAN PASTOR MARTYRED BY ISLAMIC EXTREMISTS WITH A SWORD
Islamic extremists in Uganda tortured a pastor before brutally murdering him with a sword because he brought a number of Muslims to Christ and refused to sell land for the building of a mosque. Last month, 38-year-old pastor Robert Bakulubanywa was on his way home from a church gathering “when a band of Muslims killed him near his house”. “They grabbed him, tied him up and cut him with a very sharp sword,” local residents said. Bakulubanywa’s wife revealed that Muslims in the area had threatened the pastor a number of times due to the large amount of youth converting to Christ. She said “For over a month the Muslims have been pressuring us to sell a piece of land to them for the construction of a mosque, but my husband refused.”
Despite warnings to leave the Muslims alone, Bakulubanywa continued to minister to the local community. On the day of the pastor’s murder, his wife became very worried when he failed to return home by 9 pm. “I telephoned a neighbour who had accompanied the pastor, and he informed me that some five Muslims stopped them on the way and started questioning Robert on several issues, including taking their young boys to church. The talk got tense, and one of them grabbed him. The neighbour then took off for his life, leaving my husband struggling with the gang.” After looking for her husband for several hours, she found him lying in a pool of blood. In addition to his wife, Bakulubanywa leaves behind four children, ages 3, 6, 8 and 10. Thus far, local authorities have done little to find the killers.
SWEDISH STUDY SHOWS HIGH SUICIDE RATE AMONGST MARRIED HOMOSEXUALS
Swedish married homosexuals suicide at nearly three times the rate of other married people. “Proponents of same-sex marriage often claim it is needed to lower the depression and suicidal feelings reported in people with same-sex attractions,” FamilyVoice research officer Ros Phillips said “But a new Swedish study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology indicates that legal same-sex marriage fails to achieve this outcome.” The May 2016 study found that in Sweden – one of the world’s most “gay-tolerant” societies – married same-sex couples have nearly three times the suicide rate of their heterosexual counterparts.
Ros Phillips said it is sadly true that people with same-sex attractions suffer higher rates of mental ill-health. “These problems remain, regardless of community attitudes,” she said. “Research in the Netherlands – the first nation to legalise same-sex marriage and the most supportive of people with same-sex attractions – has found that Dutch homosexuals also have higher rates of suicide symptoms. “They need compassionate help. But changing the meaning marriage has had throughout history in almost every culture is not the way,” Ros Phillips said.