Pope Francis – Islamic State Atrocities Are Like Early Church Persecution

Christians who suffer torture and murder by ISIS are like the first century Christians who were “besieged by persecution”, according to the Pope.

Describing violent atrocities carried out by Herod who put James, brother of John to the sword and seized and jailed Peter, Pope Francis said “terrible, inhuman and inexplicable persecution” is unfortunately still present in many parts of the world.

Speaking on the feast of the apostles St Peter and St Paul, he said this persecution even today takes place often “under the eyes and in the silence of all”.

He said the courage of the apostles and the first Christian community in continuing the work of evangelisation without fear of death and martyrdom in a pagan empire was “a strong call to prayer, faith and witness” for believers today.

In his homily the Pope said: “How many forces in the course of history have tried, and still do, to destroy the Church, from without as well as within, but they themselves are destroyed and the Church remains alive and fruitful.”

He said Christians were duty-bound to evangelise. “A church or a Christian who does not give witness is sterile, like a dead person who thinks they are alive, like a dried up tree that produces no fruit an empty well that offers no water.”

And the strongest weapon for the Christian was prayer. “A Christian who prays is a Christian protected, preserved and supported, but especially not alone,” he said. “Prayer is the encounter with God, with God who never lets us down, with God who is faithful to His word, with God who does not abandon His children.”

The forces of evil such as ISIS will not prevail, he predicted.

“How many forces, throughout history, have tried – and try – to destroy the Church, both from outside and from the inside, but they are all destroyed and the Church remains alive and fertile!” This was because “the Church is not of the Popes, bishops, priests and even of the faithful, it is only Christ. Only those who live in Christ’s Church promote and defend the sanctity of life, the example of Peter and Paul.”

There is no force capable of defeating those with the power of faith, he said.

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

What is the Point of Temptation?

‘Happy is the man who doesn’t give in and do wrong when he is tempted, for afterwards he will get … his reward….’ James 1:12


Temptation becomes a stepping stone rather than a stumbling block when you realise that it’s just as much an opportunity to do the right thing, as the wrong thing. Temptation just gives you the choice!


It’s helpful to remember that God develops the fruit of the Spirit in us by allowing circumstances in which we’re tempted – to express the exact opposite quality! For instance, he teaches us to love by bringing unlovely people into our lives. It takes no character to love people who are lovely and loving you. God teaches us joy in the midst of sorrow by causing us to turn to him for comfort and strength when all our other supports are gone.


He develops peace within us, not by making things go the way we planned, but by allowing times of chaos and confusion.


Peace comes when we choose to trust God in situations where we’re tempted to worry or be afraid. Likewise, patience is developed through circumstances in which we’re forced to wait and are tempted to be angry or have a short fuse. You can’t claim to be good if you’ve never been tempted to be bad; or be faithful if you’ve never had the opportunity to be unfaithful.


Integrity is built through defeating dishonesty; humility grows as you refuse to give place to pride; endurance develops as you reject the temptation to give up.


The truth is that each time you defeat a temptation, you become more like Jesus!


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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

Do You Know How The Apostles Died?

Bartholomew –

also known as Nathaniel was a missionary to Asia, He witnessed for our Lord in present day Turkey. Bartholomew was martyred for his preaching in Armenia where he was flayed to death by a whip.

Andrew –

he was crucified on an x-shaped cross in Patras Greece. After being whipped severely by seven soldiers they tied his body to the cross with cords to prolong his agony. His followers reported that, when he was led towards the cross, Andrew saluted it in these words “I have long desired and expected this happy hour, The cross has been consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it”. He continued to preach to his tormentors for two day’s until he expired.

Thomas –

was stabbed with a spear in India during one of his missionary trips to establish the church in the sub-continent.

Jude –

was killed with arrows when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.

Matthias –

the apostle chosen to replace the traitor Judas Iscariot, was stoned and then beheaded by the evil Emperor Nero at Rome in AD57.

 Paul –

endured a lengthy imprisonment which allowed him to write his many epistles to the churches he had formed throughout the Roman Empire. These letters, which taught many of the foundational doctrines of Christianity, form a large portion of the New Testament.

 James the Just –

Leader of the church in Jerusalem was thrown over a hundred feet down from the southeast pinnacle of the Temple when he refused to deny his faith in Christ. When they discovered that he survived the fall his enemies beat James to death with a fuller’s club.

(This was the same pinnacle where Satan had taken Jesus during the temptation)

James the Great –

son of Zebedee. He was a fisherman by trade when Jesus called him to a lifetime of ministry. As a strong leader of the church, James was      ultimately  beheaded  at Jerusalem. The Roman officer who guarded James watched amazed as James defended his faith at his trial.

 

Perhaps this is a reminder to us that our sufferings here in the 21st Century are indeed minor compared to the intense persecution and cold cruelty faced by the Apostles during their times for the sake of their Faith.

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

The Power of Prayer

“TO TRAVEL hopefully is a better thing than to arrive” wrote Robert Louis Stevenson.

The religious journey has something of this “feel” about it. It is not that spiritual goals are unimportant, of course, but the great blessing is really to know that you are travelling in the right direction. If this is true for individual pilgrimages, it applies to corporate situations too.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish,” it says in the book of Proverbs. Where there is no sense of direction in events, the same is true. How desperately we all try to see the right direction for the greater peace of what used to be Yugoslavia, but confusion and contumacy reign. In
Ireland over the years of the Troubles, direction has been lost in sectarian feuds and traditional but unquestioned religious hostility.

There was a sense of puzzlement throughout the nation on that Wednesday when interest rates went up and down in rapid but perplexing succession. Had we lost our economic sense of direction?

When we lose our way in both personal and corporate situations, we can experience a lostness and a meaninglessness that is devastating.

There was a time when Mary Magdalene found herself looking in the wrong direction. Her weeping eyes were focused on the tomb and her
missing Lord. Then she turned round and, looking in the other direction, she found herself face to face with the living Lord. This was a turning-point indeed for Mary.

One of the “eternal verities” is the belief that God’s grace and power can completely change the direction of lives.

“I met a man,” said the late and great Dr John White, referring to his encounter with Jesus. That was the secret of his robust conviction. The
vocabulary of faith includes words such as renewal, regeneration, redemption and reconciliation. They testify to the fact that, through grace, everything can change – aims, attitudes reactions, relationships, even indeed our whole philosophy of life.

Change is the action of God, but Jesus encouraged and indeed commanded his followers to contribute to the possibility  of change in people and in situations by importunate prayer.

“The prayer of a good man is powerfully effective,” said James, as is equally the prayer of a good woman.

No wonder St Paul says to the Thessalonians: “Pray without ceasing,” or Tennyson to us all, “More things are wrought by prayer. than this world dreams of.”

(Rev Dr Denis Duncan)

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey