Thursday, January 2, 2014

All Around the Web - January 2, 2014

HT: 22 Words

Josh Harris - "The Files" from the Dug Down Deep DVD Series

The Australian - A grim outlook for Christianity
RESEARCH showing Christianity is now the most widely persecuted religious group in the world should be an urgent wake-up call to all who value the principles of religious freedom and tolerance enshrined in the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted 65 years ago this month. Indeed, Christianity could, after 2000 years, be facing the threat of extinction in its birthplace in the Middle East.

The outlook is unremittingly grim for Christians in many parts of the world. In some of the darker corners, there are Christians for whom attending a church service is no longer an act of faithful witness but, as British Labour MP Douglas Alexander has succinctly put it, "an act of life-risking bravery".

At last count, according to the Pew Research Centre, religious groups faced harassment in 160 countries. Christians were the targets in by far the largest number of them.

In Egypt, home to what was once a stable Coptic Christian community, but now besieged by Islamic extremism, 207 churches have been attacked this year and 43 destroyed.

Previously thriving Christian communities are under siege everywhere -- from Syria, where 450,000 Christians have fled the civil war, to Iraq, where a Christian community of one million has been decimated and now numbers barely 200,000, and on to Iran, where hundreds of Christians have been incarcerated and churches open at their peril. Christians now constitute barely 4 per cent of the Middle East's population. The Arab Spring, as the writer William Dalrymple has pointed out, is "rapidly turning into a Christian winter".

Gospel Coalition - How the Church Makes the Trial of Infertility Better (or Worse)
I'm painting a bleak picture of infertility here, I know. There is no way to ignore how painful it is. It's certainly the biggest trial my wife and I have ever faced, individually or together. But God has used this trial to grow us spiritually and demonstrate his love for us in ways we couldn't have anticipated. And the church—that network of loving, supportive, prayerful relationships we have in Christ's body—has been used by God to comfort and sustain us and others like us.

That's not to say relationships in the church are easy when you're struggling with infertility. Those aforementioned feelings of isolation and alienation are real. Friends in the church have seemed thoughtless at times, not considering how things they say might be hurtful; at other times they've been awkward, aware of our struggles but at a loss for what to say. Often the strain has been entirely our own fault—we've promised in our church covenant to "rejoice at each other's happiness and endeavor with tenderness and sympathy to bear each other's burdens and sorrows," but sometimes jealousy and bitterness sap our motivation to do any rejoicing or accept any comfort.
Nonetheless, our church family has been a major pillar of support and source of comfort to us through this journey of infertility. Sometimes that comfort has come through friends asking us how we're doing with it, and telling us they've been praying for us. Sometimes the comfort comes through talking with others who have experienced infertility, too, reminding us that others know what we're going through. But far more often, God has simply used the regular preaching of the Word and ordinary fellowship with the saints to keep us connected to himself and remind us that he's with us and loves us.

If you know people in your church who are dealing with infertility, be prepared to sympathize when the topic comes up, but you can do so much to encourage them simply by being a friend. Make a point of getting to know them, spending time with them, and encouraging them spiritually in the ordinary course of life. Sometimes when infertile couples are in the throes of feeling isolated and desperate to be normal, they just need you to be a friend, to remind them that they are normal, that you like them, and that you want to live the Christian life side-by-side with them.

Telegraph - Biblical films' Hollywood comeback
The saint-like image of a hooded woman looms out from the movie poster, her arms outstretched as a divine light bursts from the sky. A message written above is simple and unambiguous: “You Will Believe.”

So goes the promotional campaign for the forthcoming Hollywood blockbuster Mary Mother of Christ. “It is a part of Mary, Joseph and Jesus’s life that has not been shown on the big screen before,” reads a synopsis. “Under the reign of terror of Herod the Great and, against all odds, they survive as young parents in one of the most treacherous times in history.” It promises “faith-based high action drama” − and there is no room in the audience for doubting Thomases.

Mary Mother of Christ, whose title character will be played by Odeya Rush, a 16-year-old Israeli-born actress, is one of a series of unashamedly Christian biblical epics due to appear next year, marking an unprecedented overture by Hollywood to America’s evangelical heartland.
Studio executives who have spent the past few years releasing superhero and zombie films have, it seems, had an epiphany. Now their new best friends are evangelical pastors whose endorsements they actively seek, even inviting them on to sets during production. Pastors in turn play clips from films of which they approve to 10,000-strong congregations on 40ft wide movie screens.

AP - AP poll: Obama health care overhaul top 2013 story 
The glitch-plagued rollout of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul was the top news story of 2013, followed by the Boston Marathon bombing and the dramatic papal changeover at the Vatican, according to The Associated Press' annual poll of U.S. editors and news directors.

The saga of "Obamacare" - as the Affordable Care Act is widely known - received 45 first-place votes out of the 144 ballots cast for the top 10 stories. The marathon bombing received 29 first-place votes and the papal transition 21.

Other strong contenders were the bitter partisan conflict in Congress and the leaks about National Security Agency surveillance by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden.

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