WEEKLY NEWS SUMMARY - JUNE 8, 2022
In this week's Intersect, read about:
'Vile, Satanic Attack': Gunmen Kill at Least 50 Worshippers and Children at Church on Pentecost Sunday in Nigeria
“At least 50 people, many of them children, are feared dead after gunmen shot at worshippers and detonated explosives at a church in southwestern Nigeria on Pentecost Sunday. Legislator Ogunmolasuyi Oluwole said the attackers descended upon St. Francis Catholic Church in Ondo state just as people started to gather for worship. Bishop Jude Arogundade of the Ondo Diocese said gunmen invaded the church while other gunmen outside also killed churchgoers who were fleeing in terror. A priest was also reportedly abducted.” read more at CBN News
Over half of Nigerians are Christians, but sadly, these massacres have become all too common, especially in the North, where much of the population is Muslim. The perpetrators are groups like Boko Haram, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), Fulani herdsmen, or gangs. According to Open Doors USA, a ministry that reports on Christian persecution and gives aid, “While all citizens of northern Nigeria are subject to threats and violence, Christians are often specifically targeted because of their faith—ISWAP and Boko Haram want to eliminate the Christian presence in Nigeria, and Muslim Fulani militants attack Christian villages specifically.” Open Doors ranks Nigeria as the 7th worst country in terms of Christian persecution. Last year, over 4,600 Christians were killed in Nigeria–nearly eighty percent of total Christian deaths worldwide. The persecuting groups appear to be forming alliances with each other, and according to Release International, violence could increase leading up to the February presidential election. Pray for the Nigerian government to restrain the lawlessness of these groups. 1 Timothy 2:1-4 is very relevant to our Nigerian brothers and sisters as it instructs us to pray “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Pray that the government of Nigeria would protect the lives and rights of our brothers and sisters in Christ to be free to live, work, and share the gospel. We should also pray for our own government leaders, who interact with Nigerian officials. Last Thursday, the U.S. State Department released its 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom. The report noted that Nigeria was removed last November from the list of countries designated by the Secretary of State as a “Country of Particular Concern for engaging in or tolerating particularly severe violations of religious freedom.” Sam Brownback, former ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom, strongly disagreed with this decision. “This rewards the Nigerian government for tolerating severe religious freedom violations and sends a message to extremists that their actions will continue to go unpunished," he stated. Regarding the continued attacks, Bishop Wilfred Chikpa Anagbe of Makurdi, Nigeria, said last month, “Sadly, we continue to draw the attention of the outside world to the plan by Islamists to Islamize Christian territories countless times with little or no attention paid to our cry and call for help. Sometimes, it appears we have been abandoned to the mercy of the jihadists.”
Sovereign Lord, You sent Your Holy Spirit on Pentecost to enable the church to speak Your Word with all boldness, no matter the opposition. Even when they were persecuted and killed, Your gospel went forth. Through Your Holy Spirit, we ask that you do the same for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria. Comfort them, provide for them, rescue them. Remind them that they are not forgotten by the worldwide church. Stir the hearts of Rotimi Akeredolu, the governor of the area where the attack occurred, and Muhammadu Buhari, the president of Nigeria. Move them to curb the lawlessness and brutal murders of their citizens. Strengthen and deliver Christians who are still in captivity, and through their witness, lead even their persecutors to Christ.
According to Open Doors USA, prayer is the number one request they receive from persecuted Christians. But sometimes it’s hard to know what to pray. Their ministry has several resources that enable you to pray for persecuted Christians around the world, including a prayer app that allows your prayers to be shared with some of the Christians. Check out those resources here.
Tampa Bay Rays Players Opt Out of Pride-Themed Jerseys for 'Faith-based Reasons'
“Players of MLB's Tampa Bay Rays are refusing to wear pride-colored jerseys on account of faith. Jason Adam, Jalen Beeks, Brooks Raley, Jeffrey Springs and Ryan Thompson are those players who have abstained from wearing the Pride logo-emblazoned uniforms. Adam said that he would not wear the jerseys for ‘faith-based reasons.’ ‘So, it’s a hard decision. Because ultimately, we all said what we want is them to know that all are welcome and loved here,’ he said, according to TMZ. He continued, ‘But when we put it on our bodies, I think a lot of guys decided that it’s just a lifestyle that maybe — not that they look down on anybody or think differently — it’s just that maybe we don’t want to encourage it if we believe in Jesus, who’s encouraged us to live a lifestyle that would abstain from that behavior, just like (Jesus) encourages me as a heterosexual male to abstain from sex outside of the confines of marriage. It’s no different.’” read more at The Post Millennial
These players were not saying that they didn't want LGBTQ fans to come to the game. They weren't opposing the team holding this Pride celebration. They simply said, "We cannot put on our bodies an advertisement for something we believe to be morally wrong, based upon our Christian convictions." Yet their stance is making national news because they are being “intolerant,”, “hateful”, and “bigots.” As The Briefing put it, “This is indeed what we are up against. It's important that we recognize it. We've got a lot of work to do, but one of the first tasks we have to apply ourselves to is thinking these issues through before we have to face them, helping other Christians to live faithfully in the midst of these challenges and also understanding that there will be loss. There is going to be loss. People are going to lose their jobs. They already are. People are going to lose educational opportunities. They already are. Most of us, as Christians, are going to be losing social standing. We already are. And for that matter, you just might lose the ability to be a pitcher for a Major League Baseball team. And it's not going to be about how good a pitcher you are; it's about whether or not you're willing to pitch the message, contrary to Christian Scripture, of the moral revolution.” Satan always takes God’s authentic and makes a counterfeit. As Answers in Genesis lays out, “Pride is a very serious sin. It lay at the heart of Satan’s fall (1 Timothy 3:6) and was likely the sin that motivated Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. It is frequently mentioned in Scripture as one of the chief sins God hates and is one of the sins that God “gives people up to” when they suppress the knowledge of him. Pride month, as it is celebrated by the anti-God, sexually humanistic culture of today, is especially abhorrent. It endorses and flaunts sinful behavior right (as it were) in God’s face. And the activities associated with pride month (parades, drag queen story hours, etc.) target children with the desire to normalize sexuality of every kind, indoctrinate them into sexual exploration, and groom children for sexual exploitation.” Pride Month can feel daunting, especially for those raising children in a culture saturated in “pride rainbows” from cartoons to clothing. Compelling and emotional stories and images are always included in deception. The heart is deceitful above all things, so we need to train the minds of children to know the truth, not make decisions based on feelings. This helpful article walks through common “pride slogans” and gives parents helpful truth and teaching moments from a biblical worldview to talk through with children. As Dr. Doug Flanders encourages, “Parents aren’t meant to child-proof the world, but world-proof the child.” Instead of just lamenting what the world is throwing at us this month, use it instead to speak the truth and shine a light in the darkness.
Lord, in this month our hearts are heavy for those who celebrate pride. Your Word is clear about both sin and salvation – and our own consciences testify to this truth – yet so many live with the hope that they will find their “true self” or even their worldly salvation in a broken identity. For each of us, we pray the hard prayer for conviction of our own sin and for freedom in repentance. We pray that our first priority – in our own hearts and in our conversations – would always be the magnification of Christ. We pray that our identities would not be rooted first in our work, our sexuality, or even our families, but that we could say as Paul that for us, to live is Christ.
One of the most powerful interviews we have had is with Becket Cook, a former gay man who worked in the world of fashion design and lived a promiscuous lifestyle until he had a transforming encounter with Jesus Christ, which led him to walk away from homosexuality and surrender his life to Christ. His perspective on “pride parades” is worth watching. Watch his testimony here.
New Biden Administration Rule Will Tie Federal Education Funding to LGBT Mandates
“An upcoming Biden administration rule change will tie billions of dollars in federal education funding to an array of LGBT policies, forcing school districts and universities to implement controversial rules on issues like transgender athletes in order to receive federal funding. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said this month it will change how it interprets Title IX prohibitions on discrimination based on sex “to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.” That change means that schools that accept any kind of funding, including students receiving FAFSA or Pell grants or students who receive federally subsidized school lunch funding, will be subject to the new Title IX LGBT interpretation.” read more at Just the News
This means that schools around the country will be forced to comply with a range of pro-transgender policies in things like sports, housing, locker rooms and bathrooms, and appropriate gender term use if they want to continue receiving federal funds. The USDA said its action is in line with President Biden's Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation and is consistent with the Supreme Court's decision in Bostock v. Clayton County which prohibits discrimination along those lines. So, a child who needs food to live may not receive it because a school misgenders someone? The National School Lunch Program feeds nearly 23 million kids every school day, in approximately 100,000 public and private schools and residential care facilities. in 2020, 76.9 percent of all NSLP meals were served free or at a reduced price. "It seems to be playing politics with feeding poor kids, which is really unfortunate," John Elcesser, executive director of the Indiana Non-Public Education Association said. "Because if a school feels like they cannot participate because it's in conflict with their mission or values if a religious exemption is not granted, you're taking away a program that's feeding low-income kids." Organizations may request a religious exemption by submitting a written declaration to the Secretary of Agriculture identifying the provisions that conflict with a specific tenet of the religious organization, but such an exemption is not a guarantee. Government schools can receive no exemption. At best, parents and taxpayers can urge school districts to not comply while inevitable lawsuits over the Biden administration’s interpretation work through courts for years. The activist group Human Rights Campaign’s blueprint for the Biden administration pushed for narrowing religious exemptions for multiple federal regulations and for the administration to “out” individuals and institutions who request such exemptions. The administration appears to be following the blueprint closely. This is on top of an already volatile meal program that faces severe food shortages over inflation and supply chain issues.
Lord, when I’m tempted to bend the knee to the false gods of the LGBTQ and transgender ideologies, help me to remember Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Babylon (Daniel 3). They refused to compromise. They refused to bow down to culture knowing that a fiery furnace was awaiting them. Help me to have the courage they demonstrated, to be fully persuaded of Your promises and obedient to You, no matter the cost.
“The issues we face are not about the depravity of the world but about the indifference of the faithful.” Allen Jackson, Pastor of World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro Tennessee, brings much needed clarity and wisdom to Christians living in the current state of our nation. Talking on a range of topics from truth vs misinformation, the role of the church in culture and voting, and the problem of apathetic and fearful Christians, Pastor Jackson brings a critical perspective to God’s call on Christians living in this time and place. You’ll be challenged and encouraged by this thoughtful conversation between Pastor Jackson and My Faith Votes, CEO, Jason Yates. Watch here.
Two-Thirds of American Christians Don't Know Any Methods for Telling Others About Jesus, Poll Finds
“Most American Christians want to share their faith but only a minority of them have encouraged others to embrace Jesus Christ in the last six months, according to new data released by Lifeway Research that suggests more than six in 10 believers don't know any methods for telling others about their faith in Christ. Released last week, the Lifeway Research survey titled “Evangelism Explosion Study of American Christians’ Openness to Talking about Faith” is based on survey responses from 1,011 American Christians who were interviewed between April 12–23.” read more at the Christian Post
Our nation is in deep moral decline. Good policies are necessary to restrain evildoers, but the gospel deals with the root of evil. If we vote for good policymakers but neglect to spread the gospel, we end up fighting the effects of our own inaction. Not all Christians are evangelists for their full-time job, yet all Christians are called to share the good news as we are given the opportunity. An evangelist is “a bringer of good tidings,” and there is no greater news to share than the fact that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) “Now, perhaps more than ever, people are open to conversations about faith, yet this study reveals few Christians actually take the opportunity to engage in personal evangelism,” said John Sorensen, president of Evangelism Explosion (EE). In answer to the multiple-choice question, “Do you know for sure you will be with God in heaven?” only 52% of Christians responded that they are very sure, while 23% responded that they hope they will be with God in Heaven. 30% believe God should let them into Heaven because they have been a good person. A percentage of these self-identified Christians who took the survey may not fully understand the gospel themselves. There also appears to be some confusion on what evangelism is. While 52% of respondents believed it is “offensive and disrespectful” to encourage someone to change their religious beliefs, 64% believe “Sharing with a nonbeliever how they can become a Christian is the most loving thing I can do for them.” Taking the gospel into the whole world has to start with our families and our sphere of influence. Learning a few methods to help respectfully communicate the gospel may boost your confidence in conversations. In addition, you might not always have the chance to share the whole gospel, but there are many opportunities to “put a stone in someone’s shoe,” as one apologist puts it. If, despite your best efforts, you are still rejected or slandered, take encouragement from 1 Peter 3:14-16, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”
A crucial aspect of sharing the gospel is prayer. After all, while we are responsible for our part, God is responsible for the result. Take this opportunity to pray for a friend or family member who is not saved. Remember how Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38)
This collection of short videos from the Colson Center for Christian Worldview helps you navigate tough conversations that may come up about your faith on the spot. You can access them here. For resources to help you present the entire gospel briefly and clearly, even with a total stranger, Dare2Share has helpful tips, including an app you can download, and a helpful G.O.S.P.E.L. acronym. You can find those resources here. Lastly, consider writing down your personal salvation testimony and saying it a few times so you can be ready to share it when the opportunity arises.
My Faith Votes—is a nonpartisan movement that motivates, equips and activates Christians in America to vote in every election, transforming our communities and influencing our nation with biblical truth. By partnering with national faith leaders, My Faith Votes provides resources to help Christians Pray, Think, and Act to create an America where God is honored in the public square.