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By admin, 2018-03-05

                     We Are Blessed        

   by Richard A. Cox, author of the book I, We, Us: A Journey of Personal Growth and Development

“A faithful man will abound with blessings.” Proverbs 28:20(KJV)       


It is so reassuring to know as a Christian that despite the condition of the economy, the war going on in Iraq or violence in the streets, we are still blessed.   We are blessed because we recognize God’s favor in our lives.   We are children of the Kings of kings and Lord of lords, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, and what was and what will be the everlasting God.  Our birthright by being adopted into the body of Christ gives us the legal right and authority to inherit good health, wealth and a purposeful destiny. 


You can read in Matthews 5:3-11 to see where Jesus preached on the mountain about blessed people.  Jesus made statements about taking an inventory of the characteristics of blessed people.  He described blessed people as the poor in spirit, they that mourn, the meek, they which do hunger and thirst after righteous, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. These statements of blessings underline the difference between our human values and God’s values. 


Jesus continued his sermon in Matthews 5:13-16(KJV) as “ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thence good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.  Ye are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”   Jesus spoke these verses to encourage believers of their importance on earth to be as salt and light that must savor and illuminate His ways.  These are true blessings of Christian dedication and promises that Jesus makes to us. 


We must understand and realize that God’s blessings are working in full power and strength even at those times when life is extremely painful.  God wants our faith to mature to understand that He uses everything that happens in our lives to move us toward fulfilling our destiny.  In Romans 8:28(KJV) it says, “ all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose.”


There are so many circumstances especially in third world nations where they do not have their basics needs met. We are blessed to have food in the refrigerator, clothes on our back, a roof over our head and a place to sleep.  Just think if you have money in the bank, in you wallets or purse and spare change you are blessed.  If your parents are still alive and still married you are blessed.  If you woke up this morning with good health you are blessed because someone did not wake up to see another day.


It is important for us to take the time to reflect daily upon the blessings of God in our lives.   Reflecting on our blessings will help us to learn to be content as Paul says in Philippians 4:11(AMP).  It says “not that I am implying that I was in any personal want, for I have learned how to be content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted) in whatever state I am.”   We have earthly blessings with food, clothing and shelter, but we also have spiritual blessings.  In Ephesians 1:3 (AMP) it says, “may blessing (praise, laudation, and eulogy) be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual (given by the Holy Spirit) blessing in the heavenly realm.”  We are blessed with so many spiritual blessings.  Here is a list of a few:


  1. Protection. We can rely upon God’s protection in our daily lives. In Isaiah 54:17(KJV) it declares” no weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.”



  1. Patience. As we mature spiritually we learn to develop patience and strength while waiting for God to answer. You will find in Isaiah 40:31(KJV) the words,

” but they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”


  1. Favor. The favor of God rests upon each believer.  In 2 Corinthians 9:8 (KJV) you find the statement, “and God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” 


  1. Power. As a believer God has given us The Comforter, The Holy Ghost to be a tool to administer God’s power on earth.  In Ephesians 3:20(KJV) it says,” now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.”



  1. Peace. God has given believers an inner peace to remain calm in the midst of the storms of life.  In Philippians 4:7 (KJV) it declares, “and the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”


  1. Provision. God continuously makes ways our no ways on behalf of the believers. In Philippians 4:19(KJV) it states, “but my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”


It is just a blessing to realize we are a blessed people.  God is on our side. As God’s children we are assured of blessings and His protection. We do not have time to compare blessings or ourselves with people.  God has a designer blessing just for you.  The blessing only fits you.  


God has raised us up as he saw fit, equipped us as he saw fit.  Then He put us in a place and time to accomplish his purpose in our generation.   We need to do what we can for the body of Christ using our blessings of talents, treasures and time to accomplish a work for the Lord. 

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In Chicago, 67 people have been shot and killed from January 1 through February 20, 2018 and climbing.

Source: Shooting victims are tracked by the Chicago Tribune Breaking News desk


This is nearly 1 person every day in Chicago is gun-downed.

Here is what the NRA Spokeswoman (Dana Loesch) recently had to say about this national tragedy on February 22, 2018:

"Many in legacy media love mass shootings – you guys love it," Loesch said Thursday after taking the stage for the annual conservative conference. "Now, I'm not saying that you love the tragedy. But I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold to you and many in the legacy media in the back (of the room)."

"And notice I said 'crying white mothers' because there are thousands of grieving black mothers in Chicago every weekend, and you don't see town halls for them, do you?" Loesch continued. 

Why are there no mass protests, marches, lie-ins, town-halls being held in Chicago? Where are the pastors? Where is the Church? How could 67 people be shot down in an American city, and this is not on the news each and every day and solutions being sought to end the blood-shed.  NRA raises an interesting point that every person in America, who has a conscience, should consider. Where is the outrage? Why is no one talking about Chicago?

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‘Just As I Am’ Was Billy Graham’s Signature Hymn

For evangelist Billy Graham, it all came down to the “invitation,” the climactic point at the end of his crusades when he invited people to leave their seats and “make a decision for Christ.”

And it wouldn’t be a Billy Graham invitation without “Just As I Am,” the slow-moving, soul-moving hymn that accompanied millions down the aisle and became Graham’s signature anthem and title of his 1997 autobiography.

“Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me,” the hymn’s familiar first verse goes. “And that thou bidd’st me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”

But “Just As I Am” was more than a favorite Graham hymn. It became — almost more than any other hymn — a sort of national anthem for evangelical Christians, a musical creed that laid out in simple terms the life-changing spiritual transaction between the sinner and the Redeemer.

“We always began with ‘Just As I Am’ because Billy felt it was the most effective invitation hymn, inviting people to make a commitment to Christ,” Cliff Barrows, Graham’s longtime musical director, said in a 2005 interview.

The hymn was written in 1835 by a British woman, Charlotte Elliott (1789-1871), who had convinced herself that her physical disabilities left her nothing to offer God at midlife.

As one version of the story goes, Elliott was struck by the words of a minister who asked whether she had truly given her heart to Christ. The question at first bothered Elliot, and after some days she told the minister that she wanted to serve God but didn’t know how. He replied, “Just come to him as you are.”


Kevin Eckstrom | Religion News Service

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By admin, 2018-02-14
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Steve Hilton: Silicon Valley’s surveillance capitalism has resulted in Big Tech killing off human privacy

By Steve Hilton | Fox News

The case against Big Tech seems to be building by the week. And interestingly, some of the most powerful evidence is being provided by those who really know what they’re talking about: tech insiders.

Full disclosure: I am a tech insider myself. I run a tech company in Silicon Valley. My wife is a senior executive at Facebook and many of our closest friends have senior roles in companies like Google.
If you suspect Bitcoin is going to crash, I just want you to know, you're right. Here is the truth about Bitcoin that no one else will tell you.
Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive responsible for growing the social network’s user base, recently argued that Silicon Valley had “created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.”
Palihapitiya lamented Big Tech’s role in our democratic debates: “No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem – this is not about Russian ads. This is a global problem.”

He cited the role of mobile messaging service WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) in the killings of seven innocent men in India after hoax messages about strangers abducting children were shared.

“That’s what we’re dealing with,” Palihapitiya said. “And imagine taking that to the extreme, where bad actors can now manipulate large swathes of people to do anything you want. It’s just a really, really bad state of affairs.” He said he tries to use Facebook as little as possible, and that his children “aren’t allowed to use that s---.”

His comments are in line with another huge figure in tech, early Facebook investor Sean Parker, who blasted the addictive properties of Silicon Valley’s technology: “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”

Parker argued that Facebook “literally changes your relationship with society” and “probably interferes with productivity in weird ways.”

Parker said that because the whole point of Facebook is to keep people using it. He said “the thought process … was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’” That’s why the inventors of tech services like Facebook give their users “a little dopamine hit every once in a while,” for example through ‘likes’ and comments: “It’s a social-validation feedback loop ... exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”

Parker went on to say that the men who designed and built these social media platforms, like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Instagram’s Kevin Systrom, “understood consciously” what they were doing. “And we did it anyway.”

Many commentators have made the comparison between these insider admission and the moment when the tobacco companies finally admitted that their products kill people. No one has suggested that technology actually kills people by design. But in other ways, the case against Big Tech is even more damning than the case against Big Tobacco, simply because Big Tech is so much more powerful and plays so much greater a role in our modern world.

The tech companies love the fact that they have risen to the apex of the business pile. Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft top the list of the world’s most valuable corporations.

The companies love to boast in high-minded terms about how their mission is not something as mundane as making money. No, they are all about “changing the world,” as Apple CEO Tim Cook recently claimed. Well, with all that wealth and power comes influence. And increasingly, despite our Silicon Valley overlords’ self-regarding and cloyingly sanctimonious smugness, it’s not for the good.

Let’s look at the charge sheet. It goes well beyond the “addiction admissions” of whistleblowing insiders like Sean Parker and Chamath Palihapitiya.

Because the business model of many of these tech firms relies on selling ads, their relentless focus is on gathering data on their users – that would be you – to enable advertisers to better target their messages.

With a phone in everyone’s pocket, these companies can now literally track your every move. And the creepiness seems to get worse by the day. Only this week we heard that clothing company L.L. Bean said it is planning to install sensors into some of its boots and coats to track how they’re used.

This intense data-gathering of your most intimate decisions – where you go, who you talk to, what you like or don’t like – is only going to get worse. With new “home assistants” like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, Big Tech is now right at the heart of family life.

Children are growing up talking to Alexa as if “she” is a member of the family. Silicon Valley is actively exploring computer chips that would be inserted into people’s brains, so that artificial intelligence software can be “merged” with human thought.
Who owns all this data and what will happen to it? Quite apart from the sheer creepiness of tech companies wanting to invade your brain, we know from recent experience that literally everything can be hacked – whether by criminals or foreign governments like China that hacked our own government and stole millions of Americans’ most personal data.

Silicon Valley’s surveillance capitalism has killed off human privacy. Did anyone ask them to do that? They say people want the convenience of data-enabled services – but for most people, there’s no alternative. If everyone else is on Facebook you have to be there too, and you can only do that if you tick the box that signs away your privacy forever.

Artificial intelligence, of course, is not just about invading your privacy: it’s assaulting our economy too. Studies predict that huge swaths of jobs will be destroyed by Big Tech as it advances into new areas of economic activity and automates jobs from truck driving to accounting.

Silicon Valley’s only response to the economic devastation it’s about to unleash on American workers is to push forward the idea of a “Universal Basic Income” – a government wage regardless of whether you work.

Translation: “We, your tech overlords will be doing all the interesting work. Sadly, there won’t be any jobs left for you serfs – but don’t worry, we’ll makes sure the government gives you some money so you can sit around all day and make the most of your newfound leisure time. Enjoy, little people!”

Big Tech’s baleful economic impact extends to another disastrous feature of our modern economy: a stifling of competition. This has contributed to the lowest level of start-ups in decades, and the wage stagnation that has hurt American workers so badly.

When sector after sector in our economy ends up being dominated by a handful of giant corporations, workers lose their bargaining power. This trend is made worse by the growing dominance of the tech companies that are not only dominating their own markets – whether that’s in media, through ad sales, or book retailing – but in fundamental aspects of business life. Just try starting a business these days without using Google, Facebook or Amazon products.

The one marketplace that Silicon Valley has not yet managed to dominate, however, is China. But it’s not for want of trying. Companies like Apple and Google are desperately sucking up to the brutal authoritarian communist regime in China in order to gain access to the vast market.

But in the process, our own leading companies are aiding and abetting China’s plan for world domination by handing over technology – like artificial intelligence – that China will use against us.

And finally let’s not forget the role of Silicon Valley in shaping our culture and the way we think. Sometimes you see it in pernicious side effects of automated systems for getting users to consume content.
We saw this this week with the Wall Street Journal’s expose of YouTube’s role in pushing its users towards extreme videos and conspiracy theories. But frankly, we can also see this in the manifestation of the liberal bias that pervades Silicon Valley and the tech industry.

We will reveal shocking new evidence of Big Tech’s anti-conservative and even anti-religious bias on “The Next Revolution” this Sunday as we put Big Tech on Trial. Hope you can join us at 9 p.m. EST on Fox News Channel!

Source: (c) --

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In China, a church-state showdown of biblical proportions

Christianity is booming in China, propelling it toward becoming the world's largest Christian nation. But as religion grows, it spurs a government crackdown. 

  • Didi Tang/AP

There’s nothing secret about Chongyi Church, one of the largest in China. Its lighted steeple and giant cross penetrate the night sky of Hangzhou, the capital of coastal Zhejiang Province. Nearly everything at the church is conspicuously open: the front gate, the front door, the sanctuary, the people, the clergy. Chinese or not, you are welcome seven days a week. No layers of security guards or police exist. Walk right in. Join up. People are nice; they give you water, chat. Do you have spiritual needs? Visit their offices, 9 to 5.

For China, it is a stunning feeling. Most of the society exists behind closed doors and is tough, driven, material, hierarchical. The country values wealth, power, and secrecy – not to mention that both government and schools officially, at least, promote atheism.

Yet Chongyi looks and feels like any evangelical megachurch in Seattle or San Jose. There are big screens, speakers blaring upbeat music, coffee bars. The choir is a huge swaying wash of white and red robes. Chongyi seats 5,000 people and holds multiple services on Sunday. 

“Some Sundays we are full,” says Zhou Lianmei, the pastor’s wife. “We also have 1,600 volunteers.”

Western visitors used to seeing empty sanctuaries in the United States or Europe can be dumbfounded by the Sunday gatherings held in convention center-size buildings where people line up for blocks to get in – one service after another. In Wenzhou, not far from Hangzhou, an estimated 1.2 million Protestants now exist in a city of 9 million people alone. (It is called “China’s Jerusalem.”) By one estimate, China will become the world’s largest Christian nation, at its current rate of growth, by 2030.

Indeed, an acute problem facing urban churches in China is a lack of space. Chongyi Church is building a million-dollar underground parking lot to replace one that worshipers under age 30 have taken over as a meeting place.

“I come because I found a love here that isn’t dependent on a person,” says Du Wang, a young businesswoman in Hangzhou. “It is like a river that doesn’t go away.”

Yet there is also trouble brewing for China’s faithful. As evangelical Christianity grows sharply, officials fear it could undermine their authority. Already, Christians may outnumber members of the Communist Party. That has far-reaching implications both for Chinese society and for a party that frowns on unofficial gatherings and other viewpoints. In China, party members cannot be Christian.

More than half of China’s Protestants attend illegal “house churches” that meet privately. The rest go to one of China’s official, registered Protestant churches, such as Chongyi. The official or legal churches, known since 1949 as the “Three-Self Patriotic Church,” operate under an arrangement that says in effect: We are patriotic, good citizens. We love China. We aren’t dissidents. We go to official theology schools. So the party will let us worship freely. 

And – until recently – it has.

Yet in the past year authorities have attacked and even destroyed official Protestant churches, as well as unofficial ones. Many Evangelicals feel they are now on the front lines of an invisible battle over faith in the world’s most populous nation, and facing a campaign by the party-state to delegitimize them. Underneath it all is a question: Will China become a new fount of Christianity in the world, or the site of a growing clash between the party and the pulpit?

“There’s an enormous struggle across China brought by the rise of worshipers that seem to really believe,” says Terence Halliday, a director of the Center for Law and Globalization in Chicago who has worked in China. “Christianity now makes up the largest single civil society grouping in China. The party sees that.”

•     •     • 

When China opened and rejoined the world in 1979, US President Jimmy Carter asked China’s Deng Xiaoping for three “favors.” Mr. Carter asked that churches shut during the brutal Cultural Revolution be reopened. He asked that the printing of Bibles resume. And he asked that missionaries be allowed back into China. Mr. Deng accepted the first two requests, for open churches and Bibles. But he rejected the one for missionaries.

Thus began a slow restoration process harking back more than a century. The first Protestant church in China was built in 1848 in Xiamen, known then as the Port of Amoy. By the 20th century, American and British missionaries saw China as a rich field. Every city of importance had a church. Missionaries founded China’s first 16 colleges, and they spurred the first reforms for female emancipation.

But after Mao Zedong’s victory in 1949, authorities chased out the missionaries. During the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1972, officials closed and trashed churches as China turned violently inward. Mao partly justified the violence as necessary to bring China into the 20th century. But much of it was used to kill off his enemies, real or imagined, including the faithful.

The era produced “the most thorough destruction” of religion possibly in “human history,” write scholars David Palmer and Vincent Goossaert. Authorities threw Christians in prison. They burned Bibles and executed believers to make an example.

Philip Wickeri, a leading Anglican in Hong Kong, shows visitors two Bibles that illustrate how far things went in the 1960s, and how much they have changed since. One is a small plain New Testament made of mimeographed sheets embossed with hand-written Chinese characters. It is a Cultural Revolution-era “samizdat” Bible, painstakingly produced. Different church cells memorized parts of the Gospels, copied them, and then combined them to form a single New Testament. The shadowy venture lasted several years, during which 150 Bibles were made.

Mr. Wickeri’s second Bible is gilt-edged and nestled in a rich box of bamboo. It is dated 2012 and was produced by the Amity Printing Company in Nanjing. It was part of a run that included the 100 millionth Bible published in China since the opening in the early 1980s.

•     •     • 

For decades, Christianity here was considered something for older female peasants. But the demographics of religion are changing dramatically. China’s new faithful are younger, more educated, more urban, and more affluent.

One surprising change is that a majority of believers no longer view Christianity as something foreign. They increasingly view faith as transcending its Western missionary-derived system. Many Chinese no longer accept the idea that being Christian means forfeiting a Chinese identity.

Last summer, China’s religious affairs chief said that 500,000 Christians are baptized each year in the country. A joint study between Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and Peking University in Beijing estimated that there are now 70 million Christians over age 16 in China. Communist Party membership is about 83 million.

Even so, no precise numbers exist for the total number of worshipers. Chinese government statistics put the rise in Protestants in the official churches at 800,000 in 1979, 3 million in 1982, 10 million in 1995, and 15 million in 1999. There the accounting stops.

Carsten Vala, an expert on religion in China at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore, says 40 million to 60 million is “the low end of a conservative” estimate of the number of Evangelicals. Fenggang Yang, director of the Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University in Indiana, says he thinks there are more than 80 million Christians and that China will have 245 million by 2030 if growth is steady – making it the world’s most populous Protestant nation.

In some ways this surge seems counterintuitive. Being a Christian in a country that sees worship as odd or superstitious does nothing to boost one’s status. “There is absolutely no social advantage to being a Christian in China,” says Bob Fu, a pastor who escaped a Chinese police crackdown in the 1990s and now runs Texas-based ChinaAid, which monitors Christian rights in the country. “There are no cookies, no status, no outward rewards, no privileges in choosing Christianity.”

Yet as Chinese achieve material wealth and success, many feel lost. The success of economic reforms under Chinese leader Deng, launched in the early 1990s, has not helped rebuild China’s spiritual infrastructure, decimated during war and the Cultural Revolution. China’s rise has come with a cost: a loss of traditional values and the rise of cheating, corruption, and fierce competition. As Orville Schell, the Arthur Ross Director of the Center on US-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York, points out, there are 150 billionaires in China but little certainty.

“Everyone is groping and grasping,” he says. “People are turning to Buddhism, Christianity, self-help, and Taoism. CEOs and billionaires run around with their spiritual masters and visit meditation rooms.”

In dozens of interviews with believers in official and house churches, the word they use most for why they turn to church is “love.” “Chinese have a yearning heart, that is really the reason,” says one woman who goes to the Zion house church in Beijing, which has more than 10,000 attendees and whose pastor is Korean. “We need love, and in some ways it is that simple.”

One Chinese intellectual and former newspaper editor agrees that China has become sated and corrupt. But he doesn’t agree there is a significant turn toward spiritual matters.

“We are too comfortable and willing ... to say ‘yes’ to anything,” says Li Datong. “I wish there was more spiritual hunger.” 

Yet Chinese parents complain of a society that teaches math and science in schools but does little to address conduct or character. The case of Little Yueyue is a symbol of the moral void. The 2-year-old girl was hit by a van in Guangdong a few years ago. The driver didn’t stop. The girl was thrown to the side of the road, and 17 people walked past before an itinerant migrant stopped to help. The event was captured on a video that went viral and spurred some national soul-searching.

Experts say the Chinese have a practical nature, and if they adopt the evangelical message, especially after years of required wrestling with Marxist thinking, they usually don’t take it lightly. Many work hard at it.

“Chinese Christians know the Bible better than some Southern Baptists,” says Wickeri in Hong Kong. “That’s not a small thing.”

Typical is the pastor Han Yufang at Chongwenmen Church in Beijing. Ms. Han is one of many women now being ordained in official churches. But for years her father forbade her to look into Christianity. She did anyway, studying it for seven years, the final two praying for most of each night. One evening she was on her knees by the bed and prayed to God, “Father, not my will but thine be done.” She says she felt a clear urge to study at a divinity school.

Another woman, a mother in her 40s, first went to church with friends. She says she felt nothing but kept going to be part of the group. She dabbled. She tried Buddhism, but, “for all the quiet, I never really found peace.” During one service the concept of “forgiveness came from nowhere and washed and melted me in a way I can’t describe,” she says. At the time she was “always fighting” with her husband. After the experience, the tension stopped. He also started attending church services with her, as did their son, who finds Bible stories “compelling.” 

For the most part, Protestants try to keep the altruistic activities they do in society quiet and low-key. China officially recognizes five faiths – Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, and Taoism. But only Buddhism and Protestantism are experiencing lively growth. Evangelicals do not want to draw attention to themselves and perform most of their good works without publicity. 

Yet in cases such as the Sichuan earthquake in 2008, which killed 70,000 people, churches sent groups to help on the ground. By some estimates, as many as half the volunteers were evangelical.

Some Christians are trying to improve business practices and fight corruption as well. One business group asks members to pledge a “Ten Commandments” of good behavior that includes no bribing, no taking mistresses, no avoiding taxes, and no mistreating employees. Zhao Xiao, a researcher at the University of Science and Technology in Beijing, tells of a Christian in Harbin who lost $8 million his first year applying the principles but is now a leader in his industry. 

•     •     •

One January morning last year in Hangzhou, Chinese officials showed up unexpectedly at the Gulou Church. It is a massive gray-stone edifice across the famed West Lake from the Chongyi Church. The Gulou clergy was informed that the cross on their edifice was scheduled to come down.

Church leaders were stunned. It was the first they’d heard of any plan to remove the cross. Then for much of the spring, they and other Christians in China heard of little else, as both official and unofficial churches were raided, destroyed, or dismantled in a campaign that has lasted more than a year. 

Gulou itself was established by Presbyterian missionaries in the 1880s. The cross atop the steeple was enormous, a fixture next to a well-known highway overpass. It is dear to members as a symbol of their faith, says a pastor who declined to be named. For months, Gulou’s leaders delayed the removal of the cross. Meanwhile, authorities attacked churches and, as of this writing, have stripped or desecrated more than 426 of them, including knocking one down while President Obama was visiting Beijing last fall. In many cases, tearful worshipers surrounded the churches and scuffled with police. Zhejiang itself has become ground zero in China’s growing clash between church and state.

On Aug. 7 at 5 p.m., authorities returned to Gulou. They summoned the head pastor and said that at 10 p.m. the cross would be removed by crane. Word got out (the pastor only told one person since he could otherwise be jailed for calling an unofficial gathering). The church was surrounded by worshipers praying and chanting “cross, cross, cross.”

“We felt helpless,” a junior pastor says. “We told them how important this cross is, but they didn’t listen.”

“They can take the cross from our church,” he adds, “but they can’t take it from our hearts.”

Crackdowns on Christians are nothing new in China. What is different is how broad and systematic the suppression has been and how the state, for the first time, is attacking official churches. To be sure, it was clear by summer that Chinese President Xi Jinping was conducting a harsh roll-up of civil society in general – artists, lawyers, scholars, as well as Christians – as part of a new emphasis on orthodox party thinking and rules. 

“The party isn’t satisfied with just keeping people behind a great firewall,” says one lawyer. “They actually want to indoctrinate.”

So far, the cross on Chongyi Church remains intact. But Evangelicals here who thought they were adhering to the proper political decorum are not happy. “People are angry and feeling betrayed,” says a local volunteer who did not want to be named for fear of retribution. “If I were the government I would not do this.” 

Why authorities would alienate believers who think of themselves as loyal Chinese is unclear. Many local Christians first thought it was a mistake or something engineered by local authorities in Zhejiang Province. Officials said large crosses near highways were a driving hazard.

But as more churches lost their crosses, many far from highways, and other official churches were bulldozed, feelings changed. One church quietly offered to pay a series of fines, thinking the attacks were about money. “We were fooled at first,” says one local pastor. “Then we discovered they didn’t care about fines. They went after our crosses and gave the impression they enjoyed it.” The aim was to humiliate and shame, he says. 

In recent years, Evangelicals in east China were “doing well,” the pastor continues. “But that is now changing. We are going backwards now. Everything is changing with the new leadership in Beijing. We know what is happening. We are not visitors here.”

Zan Aizong, a local journalist who became an Evangelical, says the government is trying to clamp down on churches and faith without causing a global outcry. Officials “use the legal system,” he says. “They go after crosses and building codes because it will not cause an uproar abroad. They want to turn Christianity into Chinese Christianity, controlled by the party.”

In August, amid the suppression in Zhejiang, the party issued a statement that it would soon unveil an official Christian theology. Wang Zuoan, head of China’s religious affairs ministry, told the state-run Xinhua news agency that Christianity was spreading so rapidly that a new theology was needed to avoid problems. “The construction of Chinese Christian theology should adapt to China’s national condition and integrate with Chinese culture,” he said.

As the attacks continue, church leaders are debating how to respond – whether to publicly challenge the crackdown or try to ride it out, the argument being that authorities could do much worse things if provoked.

“Many Christians are scared of the government,” says Ling Cangzhou, a Christian blogger in Beijing. “In China you rely on the government for jobs, position, for money. Families and relatives are affected. Dissidents don’t get promotion or advancement.”

•     •     • 

One effect of the new religious persecution in China is that it is bringing the official and unofficial wings of the Protestant Church closer. For years, the two sides have often been clashing siblings: In essence, private house churchgoers saw the Three-Self churches as compromised by the party. Official churches often saw house churches as misbehaving cults. 

Yet now, as they share a common threat and as more young people take up Christianity who have little knowledge of the historical divide, the two wings are starting to converge, reinforcing a grass-roots movement that has already been under way for some time. 

Worshipers are being introduced to Christianity in official churches and then moving to house churches for a deeper experience of Bible study and preaching. In turn, house churches are becoming less secretive and are reaching out to influence the official churches. “There is a growing but quiet cooperation among Three-Self pastors who aren’t as invested in the institution – who care more about church and the basic evangelical mission,” Mr. Vala says.  

To be sure, real differences remain between the two sides. Three-Self pastors are trained at theology schools watched by the party. Mr. Zan, for example, attended one and says that former President Hu Jintao’s concept of a “harmonious society” was taught as something to emphasize in preaching, which Zan calls “propaganda.” “Official churches are not allowed to touch subjects like the Apocalypse or eschatology,” he says. “A lot of the preaching is about how to be good and loving and ethical, which is fine. But they are often antiseptic and less radical.”

Many house meetings last all day, whereas official churches have 60- to 90-minute services. “The [Three-Selfs] are too big,” says a musician from Anhui who started at an official church but moved on. “You can get lost in them. Smaller is more like home, more like the love you feel at home.”

In Beijing, the official Chongwenmen Church is near the train station, found by walking through a rabbit warren of streets and noodle shops. It is old and slightly creaky. Services are packed and believers are devout. Across town, the official Haidian Church is a huge white modernist structure in a high-tech zone. Outside there is a band and chorus and kids with “I [heart] Jesus” caps. People wait in line for services by the hundreds.

One private Calvary church feels much different. Set in a seminar room in an office tower, it seems far less institutional but more intimate. The pastor is from Taiwan and won’t talk with reporters. Yet in all three churches the focus is on Christianity as a life practice and not a philosophy, and of the Bible as a revelation whose meaning brings change and redemption. 

During services at these churches in August, as the cross removal campaign intensified, pastors spoke openly of the “meaning of the cross.” Hymns sung included “ ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’ ... with the cross of Jesus, going on before.” 

Source: CSMonitor

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TRE GOINS-PHILLIPS | JAN 13, 2018 | 3:04 PM

Golden Lampstand Church

TRE GOINS-PHILLIPS | JAN 13, 2018 | 3:04 PM

Chinese authorities used dynamite this week to destroy a well-known Christian megachurch in the northern part of the communist country.

The decision to demolish the Golden Lampstand Church in the Shanxi Province came amid the Communist Party's long-established fear that Christianity, seen by authorities as a Western way of life, is a threat to the government’s power, The New York Times reported.

Why Was the Church Destroyed?

The state-run newspaper Global Times described the church's destruction as part of “a city-wide campaign to remove illegal buildings,” quoting an anonymous government official who said the house of worship was “secretly built” and disguised as a “warehouse.”

But clearly, the church wasn’t much of a secret, because in 2009, members of the congregation said police confiscated Bibles and imprisoned several of the church's leaders. Nevertheless, the church was leveled Tuesday, according to ChinaAid, an American watchdog group that monitors religious freedom in China.

The group's founder and president, Bob Fu, said China's “repeated persecution” toward the megachurch shows the government has “no respect for religious freedom or human rights”:

“ChinaAid calls on the international community to openly condemn the bombing of this church building and urge the Chinese government to fairly compensate the Christians who paid for it and immediately cease these alarming demolitions of churches.”

Is Christianity Illegal in China?

While Christians are severely persecuted in China, it's important to note that — on paper — Christianity is not illegal in the Asian nation. While China's official stance is atheistic, Christianity is one of five approved religions in the country.

The other approved faiths are Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, and Catholicism, though the Catholic Church in China is forced to operate independent of the Vatican. The Chinese government, however, maintains its tight grip on Christianity via a nonreligious, nationalistic body — the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) — established to regulate the church.
And that very much restricts the freedom Christians have in China. A central tenet of the Christian faith is spreading the gospel, or evangelism, but the “Three-Self” aspect of the TSPM totally restricts that.

Each congregation in China is to be self-governed, self-funded, and self-propagated, according to The Gospel Coalition. Furthermore, since the government is paranoid of established groups, due to the power they could wield, movements and denominations are also forbidden.

So in order to spread the Christian message effectively, believers have been forced to establish so-called “underground churches,” which are created outside the purview of the TSPM, because those within the government database are subject to constant censorship and supervision.

Is This an Isolated Incident?

According to the Times, under Chinese President Xi Jinping's leadership, the government has frequently destroyed churches or removed their crosses and steeples. Xi has indicated he prefers a tight control over Chinese society.

In April 2016, the Chinese president gave a speech on religious policy. During the address, he urged the Communist Party to “resolutely guard against overseas infiltrations via religious means,” warning any religion in the country must “Sinicize,” or become Chinese, The Associated Press reported.

Xi also made clear any faith-based group must submit to the leadership and whims of the Communist Party, adding, “in no way should religions interfere with government administration, judiciary and education.”


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By admin, 2017-12-30

         HAPPY NEW YEAR 2018


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