04/15/14

Atlanta First UMC

Charles Z Gardner shared a link.
If you are looking for some inspiration this Holy Week, take 5 minutes and watch/listen to Ted and Ariel‘s anthem from this past Sunday. It is amazing!
“Because He Lives” – Palm Sunday 4/13/14 Offertory
www.youtube.com
The offertory from our April 14, 2014 Palm Sunday worship service. “Because He Lives,” arr. Merivil/Jenifer. Performed by Ted Jenifer, Baritone, and Ariel Me…
04/14/14

Shocked by Kansas City shootings, Jews worldwide call for solidarity, vigilance

By ARIEL ZILBER

04/14/2014 10:31
European Jewish Congress says incident reflects “intolerable rise in neo-Nazi violence on a global scale.”
In the aftermath of Sunday’s horrifying shooting outside a Jewish community center and an old-age home near Kansas City which left three people dead, Jews worldwide are urging solidarity and a renewed, vigorous effort at rooting out anti-Semitism.

The Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, the site of one of the shootings by a suspected white supremacist, invited Facebook users to change their profile picture to pay homage to the three victims killed in the attack.

Meanwhile, the incident sent shockwaves throughout the Jewish community worldwide.

The Anti-Defamation League, American Jewry’s most recognizable and powerful organization, called the shooting “an unspeakable and heinous act of violence.”

“While it is too early to label these shootings as a hate crime, the fact that two Jewish institutions were targeted by the same individual just prior to the start of the Passover holiday is deeply troubling and certainly gives us pause,” the ADL’s St. Louis regional director, Karen Aroesty, said.

“We have reached out to local, state and federal law enforcement and stand willing and able to offer guidance and assistance to the community if this incident turns out to have been motivated by anti-Semitism.”

The European Jewish Congress issued a statement on Monday warning of a new wave of violence inspired by neo-Nazi sentiment.

“Unfortunately, we are witnessing an intolerable rise in neo-Nazi violence on a global scale,” Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said. “Many assume that this is just a European problem, but its affects are felt around the world and for a global problem we need a global response.”

“We cannot continue to tolerate these forms of hate and leave neo-Nazi groups unmolested because of so-called ‘freedom of expression,’ when it can turn into such violence and bloodshed,” he said.

“We stand with our brothers and sisters in the US at this difficult time and stand ready to assist in fighting this scourge together because hate knows no boundaries, especially in the age of the internet,” Kantor continued.

“We call for the creation of an international task force that will fight hate through educational, legislative and punitive platforms on a worldwide scale.”

04/11/14

China denies church ‘demolition campaign’ but says Christianity’s growth ‘excessive’

Communist Party in Zhejiang rejects claims of campaign against Protestant churches but one official describes Christianity’s growth as ‘excessive’

Thousands of Chinese Christians have mounted an extraordinary, round-the-clock defence of a church in a city known as the 'Jerusalem of the East'

One week ago thousands of Chinese Christians mounted an extraordinary defence of a church in a city known as the ‘Jerusalem of the East’

By , Shanghai

9:29AM BST 10 Apr 2014

Communist officials in China have denied waging a “demolition campaign” against churches in the country’s most Christian regions, after reportedly ordering a dozen to be destroyed.

The churches – in the eastern province of Zhejiang – are currently facing demolition or having their crosses removed, activists claim. Other churches are said to have been ordered to make themselves “less conspicuous” by turning their lights off at night.

Local preachers accuse Party officials in Zhejiang, a wealthy coastal province, of “gross interference” in Church affairs and have urged them to abandon what they believe is an orchestrated campaign.

Last week, Christians flocked to the Sanjiang church in Wenzhou – a rich port city known as the “Jerusalem of the East” because of its large Christian community – after its demolition was announced.

Officials denied launching a church demolition movement.

Feng Zhili, the chairman of Zhejiang’s ethnic and religious affairs committee, said Christianity’s growth had been “too excessive and too haphazard”.

China is an officially atheist state that only offers formal recognition to five religions: Buddhism, Catholicism, Islam, Protestantism and Taoism.

Religious beliefs are officially discouraged, particularly among the Communist Party’s more than 85 million members.

However, support is offered to many officially sanctioned churches and some within the Communist Party view religion as a useful ally in maintaining social stability.

Xi Jinping, the president, has been quoted as saying that China is “losing its moral compass” and thinks “traditional” faiths such as Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism could “help fill a void that has allowed corruption to flourish,” Reuters reported last year, citing sources close to the leadership.

04/10/14

3,300-year-old Egyptian coffin found in Jezreel Valley

By DANIEL K. EISENBUD

04/09/2014 10:53
Ancient Egyptians ruled what is now Israel in the Late Bronze Age; rare gold scarab bearing seal of Pharaoh Seti I also found among trinkets.

ancient egypt coffin

3,300 year old clay coffin found in Jezreel Valley Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority
A routine salvage excavation in the northern Jezreel Valley unearthed a rare and well-preserved coffin, as well as numerous bronze and clay artifacts, dating to the 13th century BCE, the Antiquities Authority announced on Wednesday.

The relics, from the Late Bronze Age, were discovered last month – prior to the installation of a gas pipe line – at Tel Shadud, an archeological mound near Kibbutz Sarid.

“During the excavation we discovered a unique and rare find: a cylindrical clay coffin with an anthropoidal lid [fashioned in the image of a person],” said Dr. Ron Be’eri, one of the excavation’s three directors.

Inside the coffin – the likes of which have not been discovered in more than 50 years – was the skeleton of an adult believed to be of Canaanite origin, who likely served the Egyptian government, Be’eri said.

An Egyptian signet encased in gold and affixed to a ring with the name of Pharaoh Seti I on its seal was discovered next to the remains.

Seti I, who ruled Egypt in the 13th century BCE, was the father of Ramses II, identified by some scholars as the pharaoh mentioned in the biblical story of the Israelites’ Exodus. “Seti’s name on the seal symbolizes power and protection, or the strength of the god Ra, the Sun god, one of the most important deities in the Egyptian pantheon,” Be’eri said. “The winged Uraeus [cobra], protector of the pharaoh’s name, or of the sovereign himself, is clearly visible on the seal.”

The reference to Seti I on the signet aided the archeologists in dating the time of the burial to the 13th century BCE. Similar artifacts have been found in tombs unearthed in Deir el-Balah (in the central Gaza Strip) and Beit She’an (where the Jordan River Valley and the Jezreel Valley meet), once Egyptian administrative centers.

Near the coffin, the archeological team found the graves of two men and two women who may have been members of the Canaanite man’s family, as well as buried pottery, a bronze dagger and bowl, and hammered pieces of bronze scattered about.

The pottery likely served to store food, tableware, cultic vessels and animal bones.

“As was the custom, it seems these were used as offerings for the gods, and were also meant to provide the dead with sustenance in the afterlife,” Be’eri said. “Since the vessels interred with the individual were produced locally, we assume the deceased was an official of Canaanite origin who was engaged in the service of the Egyptian government.”

An alternate theory posited by Be’eri and his co-directors, Dr. Edwin van den Brink and Dan Kirzner, is that the coffin – few of which have been uncovered in the country – may have belonged to a wealthy man who imitated Egyptian funerary customs.

“An ordinary person could not afford the purchase of such a coffin,” Be’eri said. “It’s obvious the deceased was a member of the local elite.”

According to Be’eri, the coffin at Tel Shadud serves as evidence of Egyptian control of the Jezreel Valley in the Late Bronze Age, when pharaohs governed the country and Egyptian culture strongly influenced the Canaanite upper class.

Tel Shadud preserves the biblical name “Sarid,” and the city is mentioned in the Bible in the context of the settlement of the Tribes of Israel.

Sarid was included in the territory of the tribe of Zevulun, and became a border city, as written in the Book of Joshua.

“Tel Shadud is strategically and economically significant because of its location alongside important roads from the biblical period,” said Be’eri. “Already in the first year of his reign [1294 BCE] a revolt broke out against Seti I in the Beit She’an Valley. Seti conquered that region and established Egyptian rule in Canaan.”

A cemetery dating to the reign of Seti I was previously discovered at Beit She’an, the center of the Egyptian rule in the Land of Israel, and similar clay coffins were exposed, he added.

While evidence of an Egyptian presence was detected in archeological surveys conducted in the Jezreel Valley in the past, Be’eri said last month’s discovery caught the archeologists by surprise.

The Antiquities Authority is considering sampling the DNA from inside the coffin to see if the deceased was originally a Canaanite or an Egyptian man who was buried in Canaan.

04/8/14

Life after death with a digital ‘soul’

Technology
Tuesday, April 8
Murad Ahmed Technology Reporter
Last updated at 12:01AM, April 8 2014

Whatever the technological and medical advances of recent years, a fundamental truth remains: there is no cheating death.

What if there were a way of achieving immortality, though? What if, after your passing, you could impart valuable advice to your children? What if your descendants could ask you about their heritage centuries after you had died.

Now a new start-up company wants to give humans the chance to live “for ever”. It is planning to create computerised versions of people that allows loved ones to continue to interact and speak with them. Eterni.me is attempting to create a 3-D digital avatar, a computerised presence designed to look and sound like the person.

It will attempt to copy his or her personality and pass out information to friends and family by storing information built up during their lifetime — all the data held within the e-mails, photos, social media and online accounts that allow millions to chronicle their lives. Users will also be able to “train” this avatar, giving the software information so it can better re-create the way they speak and think.

It is the brainchild of Marius Ursache, a Romanian designer, entrepreneur and former medical student, who has attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose students have helped to create the fax, voice-recognition technology and artificial skin.

“It allows people to benefit from anything that you know,” said Mr Ursache, co-founder and chief executive of Eterni.me. “It allows you to preserve a legacy. Maybe something that you do in your life will be relevant for your children, grandchildren or great grandchildren.”

Critics have described the concept as “creepy”, saying that it could cause problems for loved ones who fail to mourn properly and move on. Mr Ursache said that his team was speaking to psychologists to prevent this. “We’re trying to solve a problem, not create a new one,” he said.

Instead of it being an attempt to re-create a dead person, Mr Ursache said a better way to understand the project was that it would act like Google search — an easy way for a person to get hold of information held within a digital estate. “We’re not trying to create something that’s identical or extends your persona,” he said. “It’s a library that allows people to access information through your avatar.”

More than 30,000 people have signed up to express an interest in the project. The company says it is 18 months away from creating a version that can be tested by the public.

The concept is the latest idea from the burgeoning “e-death” industry — with a number of companies looking to capitalise on the modern issues surrounding what happens to users’ online activity and accounts after they die.

Facebook already allows loved ones to transform a dead user’s profile into an online memorial page.

Google and Apple have rules about who can access a deceased person’s accounts and devices, often requiring a copy of their death certificate.

04/7/14

Why is New York City bullying Christians?

Todd Starnes

FoxNews.com

AP

A federal appeals panel has ruled that New York City has a right to ban churches from holding worship services in school buildings. In essence, it means Christians have officially become second-class citizens in the nation’s largest city.

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second District is just the latest twist in a legal saga pitting the Bronx Household of Faith against the NYC Board of Education. The court found that New York City’s ban on renting schools to churches for weekend worship services did not violate the First Amendment right to free expression.

Circuit Judge John Walker was the lone dissenter in the 2 to 1 ruling on Thursday. He said the board of education “plainly discriminates against religious belief and cannot be justified by a compelling government interest.”

“The opinion uses the establishment clause as an excuse to treat people of faith worse than everybody else,” said the Bronx Household of Faith’s attorney, Jordan Lorence of Alliance Defending Freedom.

Circuit Judge John Walker was the lone dissenter in the 2 to 1 ruling on Thursday. He said the board of education “plainly discriminates against religious belief and cannot be justified by a compelling government interest.”

“Shutting the door to religious worship services in such a setting where every other activity is permitted strikes at the clause’s core,” he wrote in the dissent. “Of the 50 largest school districts in the United States, New York city alone entirely excludes religious worship from its facilities.”

It’s not clear how many churches rent space in public schools, but Lorence said most of the congregations are based in impoverished sections of the city.

“Many of them are meeting in some of the poorest areas of New York City, ministering to people who are the most needy, and they are being told, ‘You have to get out of the schools – we’d rather them stay empty than you be there and helping people because you are engaging in religious worship,’” he said, vowing to appeal the decision.

The New York Civil Liberties Union hailed the ruling as a victory for religious freedom.

“When a school is converted to a church in this way, it sends a powerful message to students and the community at large that the government favors that particular church,” executive director Donna Lieberman told The New York Times.

She told the newspaper that the case is really about a group of “religious congregations that were dominating public schools across New York City Sunday after Sunday, year after year.”

Somebody should explain to Ms. Lieberman that there’s a difference between freedom of religion and freedom from religion.

Groups like the National Association of Evangelicals and the Southern Baptist Convention denounced the ruling.

Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, called the ruling an “atrocity.”

“Church plants [aka new churches], operating within the rules and doing nothing to disrupt others, have been tossed about by the courts on the question simply of whether they can rent facilities in which to worship,” Moore said in a prepared statement.

Left unchallenged, this ruling could have a chilling effect on religious freedom.

What’s next? Will Christians be banned from reading their Bible in Central Park? Will congregations be forced to obtain liquor licenses for communion?

This blatant discrimination against good people of faith cannot and should not stand.

 

Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. Sign up for his American Dispatch newsletter, be sure to join hisFacebook page, and follow him on Twitter. His latest book is “God Less America”.

04/7/14

Mormon leader calls on missionaries to defend faith despite inevitable personal abuse

US

Published April 05, 2014

Associated Press
SALT LAKE CITY –  A Mormon church leader is encouraging missionaries to stay strong amid the inevitable personal abuse they will encounter.

The message from Jeffrey Holland of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Twelve came during one of the opening speeches of a two-day general conference that began Saturday in Salt Lake City.

Holland called on the record number of young missionaries to defend their beliefs with courage and courtesy.

The nearly 85,000 missionaries around the world are more than ever before.

Church president Thomas Monson opened the morning session by talking about the progress of temple construction around the world. He said a new one in Gilbert, Ariz., became the 142nd temple and that there will be 172 when construction is completed on all the current projects.

04/7/14

Stop being so intolerant, Pickles tells the atheists

Fariha Karim

Published at 12:01AM, April 7 2014

Militant atheists need to “get over it” and accept that Britain is a Christian country, according to Eric Pickles.

The Communities Secretary, who changed the law two years ago to ensure that English parish councils could not face legal challenges for including prayers in public meetings, accused non-believers of imposing politically correct intolerance.

“I’ve stopped an attempt by militant atheists to ban councils having prayers at the start of meetings if they wish,” he told delegates at the Conservative Spring Forum in London at the weekend. “We’re a Christian nation. We have an Established Church. Get over it. And don’t impose your politically correct intolerance on others”.

The Government, he added, had backed British values by stopping Whitehall from appeasing extremism whether from the English Defence League, militant Islamists or the “thuggish hard Left”. “They’re all as bad as each other,” he said.

It is not the first time that he has spoken out about religion, specifically about Christianity. In November, he insisted that Britain was still a Christian country despite a fall in regular church attendance.

Mr Pickles’ comments echo those of David Cameron. The Prime Minister has described his Christian faith as “not a bad handbook” for life and is an active member of the Church of England.

04/5/14

Vets urge halal ban after ‘being misled on slaughter’

Faith
  • Saturday, April 5
 Supporters of Jewish shechita and Muslim halal slaughtering techniques argue that secular slaughter is cruel
The Times
  • Supporters of Jewish shechita and Muslim halal slaughtering techniques argue that secular slaughter is cruel The Times
Dominic Kennedy Investigations Editor
Published at 12:01AM, April 5 2014

Vets have renewed their call for ritual slaughter to be outlawed as new figures show that conventional killing methods in abattoirs are 16,500 times safer than religious leaders claim.

Supporters of Jewish shechita and Muslim halal slaughtering techniques, which involve cutting a sentient animal’s throat, argue that secular slaughter is cruel because stunning fails in up to 6.6 per cent of cases. Based on the first official figures released to Parliament about errors in abattoir stunning, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has calculated, that the correct failure rate is 0.0004 per cent.

Religious leaders reacted furiously to the figures and blamed unobservant vets for failing to notice mis-stuns that happen in slaughterhouses they are supposed to be monitoring.

Robin Hargreaves, president of the BVA, said: “Each incident is recorded and immediate and appropriate action is taken to address any problems. These new official figures reveal that mis-stunning is extremely rare in British abattoirs and expose the myth that mis-stunning is a greater animal welfare problem than non-stun slaughter.

“As veterinary surgeons, our number one priority is animal welfare and that is why we continue to call for an end to non-stun slaughter, which unnecessarily compromises welfare at the time of slaughter. We are pleased that the new figures will help to ensure the debate takes place with all of the facts.”

The claim that mis-stunning is widespread is a key element of this highly emotive debate. When the Government last considered banning religious slaughter in 2004, the campaign group Shechita UK presented a document headed “Response of the Jewish community”. The dossier stated: “It is estimated that 2.4 million of the 26.3 million red meat animals slaughtered in the UK each year are mis-stunned.”

Figures released to Parliament by Jane Ellison, the Public Health Minister, show that routine inspections last year found only nine cattle, three sheep and three pigs were mis-stunned.

The issue flared last month after the BVA president-elect, John Blackwell, told The Times that Britain should follow Denmark by banning the killing of animals for meat without stunning. David Cameron promised in Israel that he would save traditional Jewish slaughter. The law requires animals to be stunned before slaughtering but allows exemption for religious customs.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews claimed at the time: “The number of animals hurt by mis-stunning is approximately ten times the entire number of animals killed for the kosher market.”

About 2,000 sheep and 1,000 cattle a week are slaughtered by the Jewish method. Shuja Shafi, deputy secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, and Jonathan Arkush, vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, cited figures of between 6.6 per cent and 31 per cent stunning failures that they said had been found by the European Food Safety Authority.

Shimon Cohen, of Shechita UK, said that the new statistics were “woefully misleading”.

He said: “There is a general problem that data on mis-stunning is hard to come by. That is unsurprising because by definition it requires an abattoir to admit some measure of malpractice.

“The sad fact is that we know that vets have very little real knowledge about animal welfare practices in their abattoirs. Vets take one trip per day around the abattoir with their clipboard. They have no resources, inclination or obligation to go more frequently than that.”

Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, said that religious campaigners’ figures for mis-stunning were “ridiculously inflated, part of a desperate attempt in light of their fervent desire to do anything they can to retain religious slaughter”. The newly released official statistics were “an endorsement of the effectiveness of pre-stunning, which is mandatory because it is thought to be the most humane way of slaughter”.

dkennedy@thetimes.co.uk