Category Archives: Quotes and Positivity

Why did God Make Childbirth Hurt?

According to the UN, there are approximately 385,000 babies born every day into this world. If you do some math that’s about 140 million babies born every year, or more simply about 267 every minute. This means that every minute there are potentially 267 women cursing Eve and wondering why God caused Eve and all women to experience pain in childbirth?

I must admit as a man, I have experienced the joy of childbirth because I have two children, but I cannot say I have experienced the pain of childbirth, because I didn’t give birth to them. For this reason, neither I nor any other male for that matter can write this from a place of empathy, because I have not felt what any woman has experienced in childbirth. I will simply do my best to answer this question why did God cause Eve and all women to experience pain in childbirth?

Why Did God Cause Eve, and All Women, to Experience Pain in Childbirth?

“To the woman he said,

‘I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children…’” (Genesis 3:16a).

Let me begin with an answer to this question that you may not find all that satisfying. This verse in Genesis does not give us a complete answer as to why God increased pain in childbirth. Here is what we do know: The increase in pain was a response for sin. However, we must look closer at these words in Genesis 3, to gain better understanding.

When you look at this word in the original Hebrew language, some may argue the connotation is not of childbirth going from no pain to severe pain. The language suggests the experience of childbirth going from some pain to increased pain. While God caused Eve and all women to experience pain at childbirth because of Eve’s sin, it could also suggest there was always some level of sensation attached to the birthing process. However, because of Eve’s sin, the pain was intensified.

Whether that provides more comfort or provides a better answer I am not sure.

A Different Look at the Pain in Childbirth

Let’s consider another angle to look at this question of why did God cause Eve and all women to experience pain in childbirth? The website Answers in Genesis gives an interesting perspective on this verse. Here is what they say:

“There is physical pain in the actual birthing process (most mothers can attest to this) and mental anguish (e.g., sorrows) associated with having children in a sin-cursed world.

Consider that Eve not only went through the pain of childbearing during delivery, but she also had to endure the loss of Abel, her own son, slain by his own brother. Consider also Mary, who saw her son Jesus die on the cross. So, there are two prongs to this, and, of course, seeing one of your children die is an extreme example. But it would be rare, if not impossible task, to find a mother who has not seen her children suffer in some manner, from starvation to sickness, cuts, scrapes, and so on.”

What Answers In Genesis is pointing out is the emotional suffering attached to giving birth. I believe this is a valid point highlighting that the pain in childbirth does not just reflect on the process of birthing your child, but can be included in the process of raising your child.

I will speak as a parent here and from personal experience. One of the most painful experiences as a parent is seeing your child suffer and not being able to do anything to stop it. I cannot say for certain this is what this verse means or what God meant when he said this, but I think it is worth considering.

The Pain Is Not a Curse

One thing that is important to note is that while God cursed the serpent and he cursed the ground that Adam would have to toil, he did not curse Eve. This suggests while God caused Eve to experience pain in childbirth, he was not pronouncing a curse on Eve.

There is no curse in giving birth to children. While the pain in childbirth is a reminder of the sinful decision made by Adam and Eve, it is not a curse (even though some women may want to curse in the middle of giving birth). We see from the Scriptures that even through the pain in childbirth, it is soon replaced by great joy when that child enters the world.

Could the Pain Remind Us of Our Redemption?

In researching for this article, I did not see this thought anywhere, so I want to pose the question. Is it possible the pain in childbirth could in some ways be a reminder of our redemption? It is interesting to note that the salvation experience is equated to the birthing process. Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3 that no one could see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. While the outcome of being born again produces great joy, like natural childbirth does, the process to being born again caused Jesus great pain. Again, like natural childbirth does for the woman. Consider this verse in Hebrews for a moment:

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Jesus carried in his body the pain of sin to the cross. He did this so he could provide a way for you and me to be born again. As he was enduring the pain of the cross, he was at the same time thinking about the joy of the result. While a mother experiences pain in the birthing process, the joy of the newborn overshadows the pain. I know this is not an exact equivalent, neither am I trying to make one. However, is it possible that instead of thinking of the experience of childbirth in terms of judgment, that we look at that experience as a reminder of the sacrifice Christ made to give us life?

The pain a woman carries in her body producing the ultimate joy of bringing life into the world is a small parallel to the pain Jesus carried in his body to bring a new life into the kingdom. Just wondering if that is good food for thought.

Final Thoughts 

As you can see this is a question that has one simple answer – the increased pain is a judgment of sin, but beyond that there are many complex ones. Ultimately the answer to this question, beyond it being the result of sin, falls into the category of things we just won’t know for certain on this side of eternity. We can know and see what God did, but it does not seem we have the ability in this instance to know all the reasons why.

Finally, for every mother who has endured the pain of childbirth to bring life into the world, I know it was not easy. All I can say is thank you. I will include my wife, who is mother to our two kids, and my mother in this thank you. The pain was great but if you are like most mothers, when you see your children you would say it was worth it all.

We Must Care for the Sick in Body and Soul

Caring for the sick means not only healing the wounds of the body but also those that afflict the soul, Pope Francis said.

“Care cannot be divided because the human being cannot be divided. We could — paradoxically — save the body and lose humanity,” the pope said in a video message on the eve of the 30th World Day of the Sick, which is celebrated Feb. 11 each year.

“The saints who cared for the sick always followed the Master’s teaching: heal the wounds of body and soul; pray and act for physical and spiritual healing together,” he said.

The pope’s message, which was released by the Vatican Feb. 10, was sent to participants of a webinar hosted by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

In his message, the pope said that the current pandemic “is teaching us to view illness as a global and not a merely individual phenomenon” and should motivate reflection on other types of “pathologies” that threaten humanity, including individualism and indifference.

These and other forms of selfishness, he said, generate inequalities, especially in the field of health care “where some enjoy so-called ‘excellence'” while many others “struggle to access basic health care.”

“To cure this ‘social’ virus, the antidote is the culture of fraternity, based on the awareness that we are all equal as human persons, all equal as children of one God,” he said. “On this basis, it will be possible to have effective treatments for everyone. But if we are not convinced that we are all equal, this will not work.”

Cardinal Peter Turkson, former prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, echoed Pope Francis’ sentiments during his homily Feb. 11 at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica with people who are sick and with their caregivers.

Reflecting on the divine consolation that God gives to his children, Cardinal Turkson said Christians are also called to pass on that consolation to those who suffer in body and soul.

“Consolation means to encourage, to exhort, to comfort or to give joy to a person or community that finds themselves in a situation of sadness, anguish and desolation,” he said.

Those who dedicate their lives to consoling others, the cardinal said, draw inspiration from God who throughout history “has been close to a wounded humanity in order to comfort, strengthen and heal it.”

The commemoration of the World Day of the Sick, he added, is a “celebration of God’s works of mercy,” especially through those who work tirelessly in the health care field.

“May your hands, which touch the suffering flesh of Christ, be a sign of the merciful hands of the Father,” Cardinal Turkson said before he and the concelebrating bishops administered the sacramental anointing of the sick to many people in the congregation.

Original Article:

Challenging the Notion Religions Hate Queer and Trans People

In an effort to counter the assumption that religions hate queer and trans people, a pair of religion professors is launching a new academic journal exploring the connections between religion, gender and sexuality.

“When we say a particular religion hates queer people, we’re erasing the queer people in that religion,” said Melissa M. Wilcox, a religious studies professor at the University of California at Riverside, who launching the journal. “We’re reducing it to one particular take or one particular branch and to a certain set of elites who have claimed the right to say what they want by silencing everyone else.”

“QTR: A Journal of Queer and Transgender Studies in Religion,” is set to publish in 2023 and will explore Christianity, Buddhism, Jewish communities and other faith groups through a queer and trans studies lens. It will feature queer and trans approaches to sacred texts as well as ways trans and queer people have created their own religious spaces.

A website is planned in conjunction with the journal and will include audio interviews, podcasts, poetry and fiction. Initial articles for the journal will be workshopped at UC Riverside in May. The university on Feb. 18-20 is also hosting the fourth annual UCR Conference on Queer and Transgender Studies in Religion.

Joseph Marchal, a religious studies professor at Ball State University in Indiana, said that while some people have used religious arguments to target queer and trans people, “many queer and trans people are religious and find community and affirmation in religions.”

“There’s an assumption that to be religious is to be hostile to thinking about gender and sexuality and specifically thinking about queer and trans people,” said Marchal, who is launching the journal.

“It’s just so clear that when we think about gender and sexuality and religion, the world needs better, more informed knowledge about those things,” he added.

While a 2017 Pew Research Center report showed most white evangelical Protestants (61%) say society has “gone too far” when it comes to accepting transgender people, 2015 data from the Public Religion Research Institute showed majorities of all major religious groups favored passing nondiscrimination laws for LGBTQ people, although the degree of support varied.

Claire Markham, associate director for the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress, and the initiative’s research assistant Tracy Wolf, wrote in 2017 that “it would be a mistake to ascribe discriminatory opinions to all people of faith” when thinking about religion and transgender people. 

With this journal, the professors aim to make the scholarly work widely available to both academics and the public. 

“This is one of the areas in religious studies that is directly relevant to people’s lives,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox noted how early gay, lesbian and feminist activists had ties to religious organizations. “That tells us something really important about the really common things that people say about queer and trans people not being religious.”

“This work saves lives,” Wilcox said. “Anybody just Googling to find out who is out there like me or is there space for me in this religion will be able to find the work collected in this journal.”

TobyMac says son’s death taught him to think about eternity: ‘I met grief in the fiercest way’

Christian artist TobyMac opened up about the depth of his grief following the death of his son, Truett Foster McKeehan, and revealed that he’d never thought extensively about eternity before the young man’s death in 2019.

“To me, grief comes in waves. Some days it hits you really hard. I can’t say it’s ever stayed off of me but I can’t say that it hasn’t beat me up some days. Let’s put it like that,” the Grammy Award-winning artist said in a recent video clip released by Joy FM.

The artist said that it wasn’t until the untimely death of his 21-year-old son that he fully realized what it meant to grieve. The entertainer’s eldest son died of an accidental overdose at his home on Oct. 23, 2019. 

“I just felt like everything was beautiful and perfect until the last few years. Then, when we lost Truett, everything changed, and I met grief in the fiercest way,” he reflected.

The “I Just Need You” singer said a chance encounter with a stranger gave him the tools he needed to cope with his loss.

“I met a guy in Austin, Texas, and he lost his son. It was before I lost Truett,” TobyMac revealed. “I actually was playing Austin, and he was a guy I’d never met that said I could come play his golf course with him.”

“When I went and played with him, he told me he lost his son, and he told me all about it, a car accident,” he added. “It was really interesting. He told me a few things that were like preparing me kind of.”

The man instructed TobyMac to hold on to something God promised in His Word while going through his grief. 

“God didn’t promise us we wouldn’t face loss. He goes, ‘God promised us that He would never leave us or forsake us. That’s what He promised us,’” the musician shared. “God doesn’t always take away the cold. He promises that He’ll be right there in it with us. That’s what I held on to and I found Him there, or He found me there.” 

The former DC Talk member said he’s tried to learn how to laugh again despite the tragedy. 

“I started to learn to laugh even in the first week a little bit, but not laugh as deeply. I don’t know if I’ll ever laugh as deeply. I don’t know if we’ll ever smile as big, but I can smile and I can laugh,” TobyMac added. 

Though he’s talked about eternity throughout his music career, which spans almost four decades, the artist said his perception of eternity was surface-level before the death of his son.

“I spoke about eternity before, but I never really thought about it deeply because I didn’t need to,” he commented. “I always trusted God. I always walked with God. It’s not a question of that, but it was like to deeply think about it.”

TobyMac revealed that now, he thinks about eternity deeply because he imagines his son there. He became emotional before sharing the picture in his mind that he has of Truett in eternity.

“‘Dad, if you could only see what I see right now. And it’s not necessarily what Heaven looks like. It’s how this thing all works, how leaving this earth early isn’t necessarily a rip-off,’” he illustrated. “‘Like, ‘You don’t understand yet, dad. You don’t get it at all.’ That’s what I see.” 

The father of four said he and his family have done many things to process their grief, including counseling. He applauded the Church for standing by him in his time of need.

“The most important thing … to have loved ones surround you in your darkest moment and just love you, be with you. Even the people that are a little more distant, the people that have listened to my music, the way I was prayed for … we felt surrounded by love through the deepest, darkest, hardest thing we’ve ever experienced. And to me that’s, that’s what the body of Christ should look like.”

“So through what I’ve experienced in the grief, I’ve experienced what I’ve walked through — the raging storm, the deepest valley. I just feel like I didn’t know God stayed close in those times, but I’ve learned that He does. I really have,” TobyMac concluded.

This month, the singer released a song with Sheryl Crow, which speaks to hoping for the “Promised Land” amid the pain.

“I think if we’re honest, every one of us has wondered at one time or another, ‘Where’s my promised land? Where’s the blessing for me and my family that I thought would come my way on this earth if I chose to follow the King of Kings,’” TobyMac said in a video about the vision behind the song.

Kurt Warner: God Is Not a ‘Spare Tire’

Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner says in a new video that his Christian faith soared after he met his wife Brenda, who he says challenged him “early and often” about what he believed about God.

As a child, Warner studied at a Catholic school and went to church every Sunday. Yet, his faith “was never really personal for me until after I met my wife,” he says in the new video released by I Am Second, an organization that interviews well-known individuals about their faith.

Warner’s story is the subject of the new movie American Underdog (PG).

When they were dating, he said, Brenda was always “talking about Jesus.”

“She challenged me early and often in our relationship about what I believed – and why I believed it. I think before that I always felt faith was kind of, well, God was out there, and whenever I needed Him, He was like my spare tire – that when I get a flat, I’ll go and pop the trunk and pull out the spare and God, You know, I need this.”

When he read the Bible closely and in “context,” he said, he realized he had his view of God backward.

“I had this mixed up. … God’s not just here for me …. [T]he goal is that I’m here for Him. I’m here to give my life for Him as Jesus did for me,” Warner said. “And it started to become real. I started to understand and take a different perspective on what life was all about. And it took some crazy moments to really understand that.”

One moment that impacted him, he said, was the tragic death of Brenda’s parents in a tornado – a subject that’s confronted in American Underdog.

“I remember how she didn’t have all the answers,” Warner said. “She was angry. And she was willing to call out to God and ask God why and yell and scream – but never lose her faith. It was never one of those things where, ‘Oh, God, you allowed this to happen to us. So now I’m going to walk away from You.’ That’s what a relationship is to me. It’s about being able to disagree in moments, to be angry in moments, but not allow that to stop the relationship. And, to me, that was when I kind of stepped back and [thought], everything that she’s been talking to me about, ‘This is what it looks like, this is what it’s supposed to be.’ And it was in those moments where I came to realize, ‘Okay, I’ve never had that. And that’s exactly what I want.’ And it was at that time where I really committed my life to Jesus.”

Warner won a Super Bowl and played in two others. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017.

Jesuits working to help Afghan refugees build new life in Portugal

After welcoming almost 300 Afghan refugees, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Portugal has been working to integrate them to the Portuguese society.

Since the end of August, after the Taliban took over Kabul, Portugal has taken in more than 750 Afghan refugees, most of them people who collaborated with NATO forces – including the Portuguese military – as translators, but also other vulnerable members of Afghan society.

The JRS was responsible for welcoming 279 of those refugees, according to Director André Costa Jorge. The organization worked in partnership with the U.S.-based Romulus T. Weatherman Foundation, which funded rescue operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and with the Portuguese authorities.

“Lisbon’s city council has a refugee program, and we work along with it. The council created a new shelter in a hostel and asked us to operate there,” Jorge told Crux.

A first group of refugees arrived at the end of August. A few weeks later, a plane with Afghan women soccer players landed in Lisbon.

“They are young ladies with some degree of involvement with the sport, which had been promoted by the Americans in Afghanistan. Some of them are athletes, but others had a smaller connection with soccer and used it as a way of leaving the country,” Jorge explained.

Afghan refugee children paint pictures at a facility in Portugal. (Credit: JRS Portugal.)

“For us, that did not matter at all. We know that women can suffer a lot of restrictions under the Taliban, and we welcomed them with the same joy,” he added.

After some time, the JRS team realized that there was a somber atmosphere among the refugees.

“Most young women did not come with their families. Rumor among them had it that they would have to choose only one relative to be rescued from Afghanistan,” Jorge said.

The JRS decided to call a meeting with the Portuguese authorities and a plan to bring the refugees’ families was developed. The organization had a list of people who should be taken out of Afghanistan and once again asked for the support of the Romulus T. Weatherman Foundation. On November 16, that last group of refugees arrived in Portugal and were reunited with their relatives.

Jorge said that now the refugees are more at peace and beginning to make plans again.

“They are learning Portuguese and their professional skills are being mapped, so they will be able to rebuild their careers or start new ones here,” Jorge said.

Catarina Lima, a Projects Coordinator at JRS, explained that many refugees faced traumatic situations during their escape from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Some of them were sheltered with little food for weeks, and fear was omnipresent.

“A psychologist has been giving support to the group, developing coping strategies with them. Some cases require individual attention. But Afghans are pretty resilient,” Lima said.

She said that a member of her team lived in Afghanistan and speaks Dari, something that has been very helpful in their work.

“She taught us about their history and culture. While working with them, we realized that they are able to face terrible difficulties with much strength and even with humor,” she said.

Some families have relatives that have been living for years in European countries like Belgium and Germany. Lima said that some of these relatives traveled to Portugal in order to visit the new arrivals.

There is not a large Afghan community in Portugal, but Syrian refugees and immigrants from other predominantly Muslim countries have been in touch with the refugees. The JRS is part of a refugee’s network which also includes Lisbon’s Islamic community. According to Lima, the Afghan refugees have been mostly discreet regarding their own spirituality.

“I feel that they are looking for a comfortable place in order to freely experience their faith. It is a process that involves a kind of reconciliation with their own religiosity, which they know that is not connected in any level to what the Taliban represents,” she said.

There are still several things that need to be done to help the refugees integrate into Portuguese society, including finding houses or apartments to rent.

“Most landlords do not want to rent a house to refugees or immigrants. They fear they will not pay. We are now running a campaign to raise awareness on that problem,” Jorge said.

The drive is part of a larger effort to establish hospitality communities formed by parishioners, members of ecclesial organizations, and civic activists who can help the Afghans to adapt to their new life in Portugal.

“That is Pope Francis’s call to Europe: Opening new doors, transforming intentions into reality, and practicing hospitality,” Jorge explained.

Last week, the Portuguese Bishops’ Conference issued a statement saying it is engaged in increasing all Church organizations’ “capacity of welcoming” immigrants and refugees and in promoting “more inclusive communities.”

According to Jorge, most bishops are not involved with the immigrant and refugee issues on a daily basis. “We have never seen a bishop come visit the refugees, for instance,” he said. “It is important that they come to meet with them.”

When a parish is actively engaged in helping refugees, the work of JRS and similar organizations gains strength, he said.

“In Ericeira, a coastal city near Lisbon, the local parish is very involved in the work with the welcome center for refugees,” he said.

“That is good for everybody: For the refugees and for the parishioners too. Evangelization begins with ourselves.”

Original Article: Jesuits working to help Afghan refugees build new life in Portugal | Crux (

Pope Francis pleads for humility in pre-Christmas speech to Vatican officials

Pope Francis on Dec. 23 told members of the Vatican bureaucracy that their work should be guided by humility and service, not a “spiritual worldliness” masked by liturgy, doctrine and religious devotion.

In his annual pre-Christmas address to a room full of men often dubbed as “princes of the church,” the pope told the cardinals and bishops who work in the Vatican that it was time to “discard the trappings of our roles, our social recognition and the glitter of this world” and to adopt humility. 

In past years, Francis has not hesitated to use his annual speech to lash out at Vatican officials for blocking his reform efforts and to criticize the spiritual “diseases” that he believes hamper their work. In this year’s address, however, the pope took on a more pastoral tone, offering a reflection on the Old Testament figure of Naaman, an accomplished military commander who had leprosy. 

“His armor that had won him renown, in reality covered a frail, wounded and diseased humanity,” said Francis. “Sometimes great gifts are the armor that covers great frailties. Naaman came to understand a fundamental truth: we cannot spend our lives hiding behind armor, a role we play, or social recognition.” 

Christmas, Francis said during the 45-minute address, is a time to “find the courage to take off our armor.” 

“Once we strip ourselves of our robes, prerogatives, positions and titles, all of us are lepers in need of healing,” he said. 

The pope went on to criticize those who rely on their titles to hold on to a “modicum of power,” rather than engaging in sacrifice and service for the “real lives and difficulties of our people.” 

Instead, Francis used his annual address to highlight the recently launched global synod process, a major undertaking meant to critically examine and potentially radically re-shape the church’s power structures. 

The two-year process will include an unprecedented consultation phase with local churches, with an ambitious goal of providing every single Catholic — and even those outside the church — an opportunity to participate.

The synod, Francis told Vatican officials, “is the experience of feeling ourselves all members of a larger people.” Listening to everyone in the church, he said, provides the opportunity to “understand God’s will, which is always revealed in unpredictable ways.” 

In addressing the high-ranking prelates, Francis said that the “temptation” of clericalism must be avoided, as it “makes us keep thinking of a God who speaks only to some, while the others must only listen and obey.” Instead, he pleaded for a conversion to synodality, which he described as a “style” oriented toward service of the entire church. 

“Authority becomes service when it shares, involves and helps people to grow,” Francis said. “The curia is not merely a logistical and bureaucratic instrument for meeting the needs of the universal church, but the first body called to bear witness.” 

The pope also used his year-end address to double-down on his call for poverty in order to offer a more credible witness to the Gospel. 

In March, due to budget shortfalls stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, Francis approved pay cuts for a number of curial officials, including a ten-percent pay reduction for curial cardinals. 

“If the word of God reminds the whole world of the value of poverty, we, the members of the Curia, must be the first to commit ourselves to being converted to a style of sobriety,” he told curial officials on Thursday.  

In concluding his address, the pope encouraged the church’s prelates to embrace the “humility of the child Jesus.” 

“Only by serving, and by seeing our work as service, can we be truly helpful to everyone,” he said. “We are here — I myself before anyone else — to learn how to kneel and adore the Lord in his humility, not other lords in their empty trappings.”

At the end of his address, Francis greeted the cardinals and bishops present one-by-one and gave each three different books: Converting Peter Pan: The Fate of Faith in the Society of Eternal Youth by Italian priest Fr. Armando Matteo; The Discarded Stone: When the Forgotten are Saved by Italian priest Fr. Luigi Maria Epicoco; and The Abused Word by Nigerian Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu.

Francis said the books, which discuss faith in the modern world and the dangers of gossip, are to be read — and not to be left on the shelf.

This Christmas, How to Share the Reason for the Season

I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior primarily based on a personal experience of hearing Him call my name. I was in desperate need of a direct relationship with God, and I asked Him to reveal himself to me. Jesus answered my call. It was that clear and convincing.

However, in these tumultuous times when our faith is under attack, every believer should be able to objectively articulate why salvation comes only through faith in Christ and why the Bible is God’s infallible, living Word. Many religions claim to be true, but only one answer can be right.

Therefore if we define and communicate why the Bible is authentic, our faith is defensible beyond the experiential. We can build our confidence in the Bible and provide objective evidence to draw people to Him.

So how can we independently defend that the Bible is the Word of God?  The apostles Luke and Peter both claim they wrote as eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life and miracles, and what they wrote was based on inspiration by God through the Holy Spirit. 

Just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word delivered them to us,it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus,that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed. Luke 1:2-4

For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.  2 Peter 1:16

Though they claimed the authenticity of their narrations, how can it be verified?  Impact Video Ministries did an excellent job outlining how to evaluate the assertions of the Apostles and the integrity of the Bible. First is the Honesty Test. 

This hypothesis centers around the principle that when a historical account includes disparaging details about the author, it is significant because it indicates that they are more concerned about telling the truth than telling an amazing story about themselves. Otherwise, they would have changed the facts to make themselves look better if they were making up a lie. 

In Peter’s gospel, he said Jesus called him Satan and was upset that the disciples fell asleep in Gethsemane, despite repeated requests to stay awake in prayer. Both Luke and Peter explain how all the disciples abandoned Jesus when he was arrested. They all denied knowing Jesus and even hid after he died. Furthermore, all the authors of the Gospel except John died gruesome deaths.

Why would they be willing to die for a lie? All they would have to do was renounce their faith, but they didn’t. They were so committed to relaying the truth; they were willing to die for it. 

Second is the historical accuracy of the Bible. One way to test that is the time gap — when was the first copy written after the actual events? Handwritten documents of historical or spiritual significance are referred to as manuscripts before they are made into copies and reproduced.

The manuscripts about Caesar were written 1,000 years after his life, and for Plato, it is about 1200 years. The first biography of Alexander the Great is still 400 years after he lived, but no one doubts his existence. The time gap of the New Testament is only 50 years after the life of Jesus. Jesus’ time gap is far less than all of these figures and far less than any other major event in ancient history.

When you compare how many original manuscripts there are about Jesus’ life, the others do not come close. Everything about Caesar was contained in only ten manuscripts, Plato had seven, but the New Testament has over 24,633 original manuscripts! The closest is the Iliad by Homer, which has only 643. Yet, no one contests the existence of those historical figures even though the record for Christ far exceeds them.

Another test of the historical accuracy of the Bible is the prophetic scripture about the nation of Israel and its rebirth, as well as the coming of Jesus Christ. It covers the entire span of humanity and tells us of events in the future with perfect accuracy. Critics were so shocked by its precision that they would claim parts of the Old Testament had to have been written after the fact.

The criticism of Christianity I hear most often from Muslims is that the Bible was corrupted, though no one can ever provide the factual evidence to back up this assertion. It was the discovery of The Dead Sea Scrolls, which finally put this notion to rest. Dated from around 200 B.C. to A.D. 68, the scrolls are more than 1,000 years older than any manuscripts of the Hebrew Old Testament that we had before their discovery.

Because of their age and close similarity with the text used in the Bible from the 10th century, we have “an objective basis for determining that the biblical text used in our modern copies of the Old Testament is accurate.” 

Finally, there is the Corroboration Test. What other historical materials confirm or deny the facts in the Bible? Nine non-Christian sources mention Jesus within 100 years of his death, and 33 additional sources are written by Christians, creating 42 records in total. Ceaser has only 10. Jesus’s life, his crucifixion, his reappearance, and ascension were corroborated four times as much, yet people still deny that he died and rose again. 

The Bible passes all three tests by dramatic proportions. Even the skeptic should take pause and consider that the Bible is the living Word of God. So this Christmas season, share the Good news of eternal life and forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ, not just because you feel it is right but because there is undeniable, irrefutable evidence that God sent His only Son to save us.

Religion, by its definition, is man’s attempt to reach or find God.  But God cried out to us to meet him face to face, to be in a relationship with Him that goes way beyond a set of rules of religion. The Bible is how God communicates to each and every one of us that we are loved.  Through His Word, He sends this message of love to all of humanity and for all time. 

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Merry Christmas.

Hedieh Mirahmadi was a devout Muslim for two decades working in the field of national security before she experienced the redemptive power of Jesus Christ and has a new passion for sharing the Gospel.  She dedicates herself full-time to Resurrect Ministry, an online resource that harnesses the power of the Internet to make salvation through Christ available to people of all nations, and her daily podcast

Jews need allies. Here’s how to be one.

Fred Maroun, who is of Lebanese heritage, asked on Facebook:

“A serious question to my Jewish friends. What do you expect from allies of Jews to do that would help in fighting antisemitism?”

To which I say: Wow. Thanks for asking.

Because no one ever really asks this question.

But, Fred did, and in a column in Times of Israel, he wrote about what he learned from those who took the time to respond to him.

His answers were warm and loving. To wit:

  • Learn about Jewish history.
  • Recognize that anti-Zionism is antisemitism.
  • Don’t judge Jews by a higher standard.
  • Don’t support or appease people who want to kill Jews.
  • Expose and neutralize antisemites.

Fred did a wonderful job of taking the concept of allyship — an idea that has gotten much traction lately, with regard to racial and gender-based relations — and applying it to a another challenged group — the Jews.

But, more than this: Fred did what all authentic would-be allies — of any group — should do. He  asked the Jews: “What do you need?” He did not presume to tell us; he chose to be present for us.

I would add these suggestions as well — to would-be allies of Jews.

I call it “Be Your Own ADL.”

  • When an antisemitic incident happens, write a letter to your local newspaper about it.
  • When an antisemitic incident happens, if there they are praying in person, go to your local synagogue. Before the service starts, tell the rabbi or lay leader that you are there out of solidarity with the Jewish people. The rabbi might announce that, which will mean a lot to the congregants.
  • When an incident happens, and if you are affiliated with a religious institution, ask that institution to issue a statement in sympathy and solidarity.
  • Correct misconceptions that come from your fellow gentiles. Challenge terminology, especially as they appear in church. “Old Testament.” “Pharisee.” “Vengeful god of the Jews.” “Religion of law vs. religion of love.” Be aware of the subtle and not so subtle anti-Jewish biases that might exist in your faith tradition.
  • Be aware of anti-Israel vocabulary: genocide; colonialism; apartheid. Challenge those who use those terms.
  • Call out celebrity antisemites with as much clarity as you would expose any other celebrity hater. Eric Clapton is a full-tilt racist? Then, criticize Mel Gibson’s full-tilt antisemitism (along with other ideological quirks). Actor Joshua Malina makes the case abundantly clear.

Finally, let me tell you my recent experience with an ally.

I have a dear friend who is the rector of an Episcopal church in a major American city. We recently had breakfast, and, as usual, our conversation turned to our experiences in the ministry.

He told me that someone on his vestry wanted to start a Palestine committee. He responded: ‘That is not going to happen. I support Israel.’”

I got chills, and it wasn’t the air conditioning.

“Now, mind you,” he continued, “there is much that Israel does that warrants criticism [Jeff here: of course. Why should Israelis have all the fun?] But, those people who want a Palestine Committee want a Palestine, without Israel.”

As we used to say in the 1960s: Right on.

Once upon a time — like, eighty years ago, in Europe — to be an ally to the Jews meant risking your life, and that of your family. I am talking about righteous gentiles who saved Jewish lives during the Shoah.

And even there, as Dara Horn states in her book, People Love Dead Jews:

The number of actual “righteous Gentiles” officially recognized by Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust museum and research center, for their efforts in rescuing Jews from the Holocaust is under 30,000 people, out of a European population at the time of nearly 300 million—or .001 percent.

(Dara is speaking at services tomorrow evening — December 10 — at 6:30 pm at Temple Israel, West Palm Beach. Her talk will be around 7 pm.)

Compared to the risks that those righteous few took during the Shoah, contemporary allyship really isn’t that hard. Or, it shouldn’t be.

We Jews have historically been quite adept at being allies. We never asked for a moral quid pro quo.

But, sometimes, it is nice.

Be an ally, It is the belated Hanukkah gift that keeps on giving.

‘I never knew you:’ Jesus’ most frightening words

There are some words of Jesus that usually send chills up my spine whenever I read them. The fear of being turned away by God at the end of my Christian journey is sometimes overwhelming.

Before now, I had been convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that I would make it to Heaven if Christ returned today. But as I began to contemplate His words more deeply, I have now resolved to become extremely careful in my daily activities as a Christian. I had been so engrossed in the euphoria of the loving-kindness and mercy of God that I seldom remember the terms and conditions that I am bound to keep.

When Jesus gave the instructions that self-denial and cross-carrying are prerequisites for becoming His disciple (Luke 9:23), he wanted us to deny ourselves and follow God. He wants us to collapse our will into the will of God and to get ready to suffer and die the most shameful death for the sake of the Gospel.

I struggle every day to kill my flesh in my daily activities, but it keeps on pushing itself into my major decisions. I pick my cross daily, but I still notice that fear of being killed has not allowed me to operate maximally in carrying out the mandate of the Great Commission.

My fear is that I cannot claim that I have absolutely denied myself and have carried my cross. There are still fleshy manifestation and un-readiness to surrender my life for the sake of Christ.

I have signed my death warrant along with my fellow missionaries, but we are all still afraid to venture into some areas even when we are convinced that God wants us to go to such places. At times, I do consider my actions as incomplete obedience, and that has increased my fear.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and, in your name, perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Mathew7:21-23).

Did Christ really mean these words? If He did, then a lot of us are in deep trouble.

The above statement suggests that not all that profess Christ will enter into the Kingdom of God, but only those who did the will of God while on earth. My take on this is that every Christian who desires to get into the Kingdom of God should continually do the will of God.

There are many who have done mighty works in the name of Jesus who will not enter His Kingdom, simply because they did not operate in accordance with God’s will. “He that thinks he stand should take heed lest he falls” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

The unfortunate thing is that many Christians do not know that they had to pick up their crosses as soon as they gave their lives to Christ. Many run their Christian race without the cross. Cross-carrying is non-negotiable in Christianity, and anyone who refuses to adhere strictly to this will inevitably face rejection from Christ on the last day.

The day God opened my eyes of understanding to see what Jesus told the Church in Sardis in Revelation 3:5, is the day I woke my wife up in the middle of the night.

We cried and begged God to help us finish strong. “The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life but will acknowledge that name before my Father and His angels” (Revelation 3:5).

The most dreadful part of the whole scenario is that there will be no opportunity for repentance at the point of hearing, “I never knew you,” and no second chances. This fear has helped me to be watchful and pray and contemplate God’s judgement. For the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Oscar Amaechina is the president of Afri-Mission and Evangelism Network, Abuja, Nigeria. His calling is to take the gospel to where no one has neither preached nor heard about Jesus. He is the author of the book Mystery Of The Cross Revealed.