Author: Mildred Rhodes

When God Makes Sunbeams Collide with Waterfall Spray

Rainbows signify something more than a post-Flood peace offering.

There is more to a rainbow than meets the eye. In one sense, I mean that literally: The human eye cannot see the colors at either end of the spectrum, despite the pictures you see in children’s Bibles. But in another sense, I mean it symbolically. The rainbow carries a number of meanings in Christian thought to which many of us are blind. I count at least five.

Rainbows mean beauty. This is true for everyone, whether or not they have ever heard of Noah. Few things in creation compare to the beauty of sunbeams colliding with waterfall spray, as refracted shards of color scatter in all directions. When Ezekiel is trying to describe the indescribable—“the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord” (1:28)—he draws on the most splendid images in creation, like an expanse of glittering crystal (1:22) or a sapphire throne (1:26). But his portrait culminates in the dazzling brightness of “a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day” (1:28). Rainbows testify to the abundant beauty of the God who makes them.

Their gorgeous appearance results from the fact that they display unity in diversity. In a rainbow, one color (white) is shown to be many (red, indigo, yellow, and the rest), and many come together into one. That fusion of color is one way of looking at the ecclesiology of Revelation: The people of God are pictured as warriors, witnesses, worshipers, and wedding guests wearing white, yet also as a multicolored, multiethnic multitude, a city adorned by precious stones of all colors, from jasper to sapphire, emerald to amethyst. (This point is obscured today, because we use the word white to refer to people who patently aren’t. Nobody called themselves white until the 17th century, …

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Sparing Nineveh: US Pledges $300 Million So Iraq’s Christians Can Return Home

A new round of funding, plus improved processes, will help minority faiths rebuild four years after ISIS pushed them out.

The problems facing persecuted faiths in the Middle East are too complex to be fixed by money alone. But experts are hopeful that doubling US assistance to Iraq’s Nineveh Plains, along with improved understanding of the region’s minority groups, will make a major difference for Christians returning there.

A year ago, Vice President Mike Pence pledged direct support to Christians, Yazidis, and other minorities forced out of their homelands in Iraq by ISIS. Religious freedom advocates and groups in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq cheered the news from a US administration that had long promised to prioritize persecuted believers, only to disappoint such groups when—due to bureaucratic hang-ups—the money didn’t come.

Now, the Trump administration has engaged leaders on the ground and doubled down on its promise to help. The government’s latest multimillion-dollar assistance plan, announced Tuesday, brings the total funding over the past year for religious minorities in Iraq to nearly $300 million, with allocations to rebuild communities, preserve heritage sites, secure left-behind explosives, and empower survivors to seek justice.

The announcement came just as Cardinal Louis Raphael I Sako, the head of Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic Church, complained that “there’s been nothing up to now” from the US.

But American efforts in the beleaguered region already show signs of improving.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) “has been very slow in getting aid out the door, and it’s just starting to make a difference, with reconstructing schools, electricity switched on, etc., since mid-September,” said Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious …

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Traffic triple threat: 2 games, 1 president, 3 potential tie-ups

Phoenix-area residents should expect heavy traffic on Thursday as three big events are taking place.

      

 

 

Scottsdale says group opposing desert education center violated campaign laws

NoDDC violated campaign finance laws and must pay a penalty, according to Scottsdale officials.

      

 

 

Christian, What Do You Believe? Probably a Heresy About Jesus, Says Survey

Third study of the state of American theology, examining 34 beliefs, released by Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research.

American evangelicals are “deeply confused” about some core doctrines of the Christian faith—and the fourth-century heretic Arius would be pleased, according to a new survey.

For the third time, Ligonier Ministries has examined the State of Theology in the United States, conducted by LifeWay Research and based on interviews with 3,000 Americans. The survey, also conducted in 2014 and 2016, offers a detailed look at the favorite heresies of evangelicals and of Americans at large.

Ligonier wanted to know what Americans “believe about God, salvation, ethics, and the Bible.”

“Overall, US adults appear to have a superficial attachment to well-known Christian beliefs,” stated the ministry. “For example, a majority agreed that Jesus died on the cross for sin and that he rose from the dead.

“However, they rejected the Bible’s teaching on (1) the gravity of man’s sin, (2) the importance of the church’s gathering together for worship, and (3) the Holy Spirit,” stated Ligonier. For example:

  • More than two-thirds (69%) of Americans disagree that the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation—and 58 percent strongly disagree. Ligonier finds this “alarming.”
  • A majority of US adults (58%) said that worshiping alone or with one’s family is a valid replacement for regularly attending church. Only 30 percent disagree.
  • A majority of US adults (59%) say that the Holy Spirit is a force, not a personal being.

Ligonier cites relativism for such a “casual outlook.” In the survey, 6 in 10 Americans agree that “religious belief is a matter of personal opinion [and] not about objective truth”—and 1 in 3 evangelicals (32%) say the …

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I Found Hope in My Husband’s Chronic Illness

Disability changed our family. It also brought us closer to these three Christian truths.

My husband Andrew’s foot ailments have given me a curious window into the Christian life.

Before he and I were dating, his first swelling incident was misdiagnosed by a college nurse, and we only discovered the mistake when it happened again five years later. Both seemed like freak incidents. Then in 2012, on a summer mission trip in the Middle East, his left foot swelled up and left him on the couch for the remainder of the trip. Much of his life since has been progressively couch-bound.

Every contradictory explanation added to the pain. How do you treat something that you can’t pin down? In 2013—around the same time that we found out we were pregnant—we discovered that one of the bones in Andrew’s feet had broken so many times that it had died. I didn’t even know bones could die. It would have to be removed, lest his body begin to eat it away, clearing itself of the decay.

Andrew doesn’t have an interesting injury story—he didn’t kick down a door to save a child or get into a fantastic sports accident. His feet are simply shaped all wrong for bearing weight, and it took two decades for that harvest to reap its fruit. Looking at him, one would never guess his body is so structurally unsound or that he’s had four foot surgeries in five years.

Even though his disability is often invisible to others, his vulnerability has dramatically changed our family life. Our daughter has always known her dad with some kind of “boo boo.” Sometimes she knows what’s going on because he has a giant pink cast on his foot that is highly visible. Other times his pain is hidden. He can’t play with her outside, even though he can walk around the house without crutches. …

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Clean-energy ballot measure Prop. 127 now the most expensive in Arizona history

The spending easily tops the 2002 tribal gaming issue that drew three competing ballot measures, according to one longtime political consultant.

      

 

 

Dennis Hof, Nevada brothel owner and political hopeful, dies hours after Joe Arpaio speaks at rally

Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio spoke at a rally/ birthday party for a Nevada brothel owner and political hopeful who died Tuesday

      

 

 

What Trees Teach Us about Life, Death, and Resurrection

Other than God and people, they’re the most mentioned living thing in the Bible.

I’ve always loved trees. I love their look, their shade, the sound of wind in their leaves, and the taste of every fruit they produce. As a grade-schooler, I first planted trees with my father and grandfather. I’ve been planting them ever since. Once, as I was training to become a doctor, my wife and I tree-lined the whole street where we lived. But a dozen years ago, when I offered to plant trees at our church, one of the pastors told me I had the theology of a tree-hugger. This was not meant as a compliment.

The church was a conservative one. It believed that Scripture is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. That’s why we went there. As one member explained to me, “Once you get onto that slippery slope of liberalism, who knows where you’ll end up.”

My first reaction to the pastor’s comment was, “Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe God doesn’t care about trees.”

Back then, our whole family was new to Christianity. My daughter hadn’t yet married a pastor. My son wasn’t a missionary pediatrician in Africa, and I’d yet to write books on applied theology or preach at more than a thousand colleges and churches around the world. What did I know about the theology of trees?

But ever since I encountered the gospel for the first time in my 40s, the Bible has been my compass. So when I was called a tree-hugger, I turned to Scripture to get my bearings.

God Loves Trees

Other than people and God, trees are the most mentioned living thing in the Bible. There are trees in the first chapter of Genesis (v. 11–12), in the first psalm (Ps. 1:3), and on the last page of Revelation (22:2). As if to underscore all these trees, the Bible refers to wisdom as a tree (Prov. 3:18). …

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Leah Sharibu Inspires Nigeria’s Christians, Faces Execution by Boko Haram

Beleaguered believers rally behind Dapchi schoolgirl’s example of keeping the faith under pressure.

Christians in Nigeria are desperately praying for 15-year-old Leah Sharibu as the one-month deadline to save the only Dapchi schoolgirl left in Boko Haram captivity draws to an end this week.

The terrorist group’s ISIS-affiliated faction threatened last month to kill the teenager, who was held back for refusing to renounce her Christian beliefs. The other hostages, 104 of her schoolmates, were released following negotiations with the Nigerian government in March.

Her resolute faith in the face of death has inspired evangelists, pastors, and everyday Christians across Africa’s most populous nation.

Boko Haram started in 2002 as a nonviolent sect meant to purify Islamic practices, but in recent years rose to the second deadliest group in the Global Terrorism Index, responsible for tens of thousands of deaths and more than 2 million people displaced.

In February, its ISIS wing abducted 112 female students preparing for final exams at Government Girls’ Science and Technical College Dapchi in the northeastern state of Yobe. Six of the girls from the all-female boarding school died during captivity while one escaped, leaving Sharibu the only Dapchi student still with her abductors.

“The other nurse and midwife will be executed in a similar manner in one month, including Leah Sharibu,” the sect threatened on September 18 in a video of the execution of Saifura Khosa, a midwife with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Days before the execution video emerged, Sharibu pleaded for rescue in a 35-second audio clip.

“I am calling on the government and people of goodwill to intervene to get me out of my current situation,” she said.

“I am begging you to treat me with compassion. …

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