In a meeting with the United Nations’ Human Rights Council on Tuesday, a member of the China Tribunal testified that the Chinese government is actively harvesting organs from persecuted persons in the country.
According to Business Insider, the China Tribunal – an independent non-profit human rights charity that is investigating the mass harvesting – claimed that the government is collecting hearts, kidneys, lungs and skin from members of banned and persecuted religious groups including Uighur Muslims and members of the Falun Gong religious group.
“Forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience, including the religious minorities of Falun Gong and Uighurs, has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale,” Hamid Sabi, a lawyer with the China Tribunal, said before the UN.
Sabi implored the Human Rights Council to bring an end to the forced harvesting of the marginalized people calling it “one of the worst mass atrocities of this century.”
While presenting the findings in the Tribunal’s final report from June, Sabi also testified that the group has “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” of the harvesting.
According to the final report, the group was able to collect evidence that thousands were “cut open while still alive for their kidneys, livers, hearts, lungs, cornea and skin to be removed and turned into commodities for sale.”
“Doctors,” the report reads, “killed those innocent people simply because they pursued truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance and lived lives of healthy exercise and meditation that was seen as dangerous to the interests and objectives of the totalitarian state of the People’s Republic of China.”
In his testimony, Sabi did not say how many organs were harvested or an exact number of people that fell victim to the mass harvesting. He did, however, emphasize the gravity of the crimes.
“Victim for victim and death for death, cutting out the hearts and other organs from living, blameless, harmless, peaceable people constitutes one of the worst mass atrocities of this century,” Sabi asserted.
“Organ transplantation to save life is a scientific and social triumph, but killing the donor is criminal,” he said.
The lawyer concluded by imploring the UN to investigate the tribunal’s findings “not only in regard to the possible charge of genocide, but also in regard to crimes against humanity.”
The Chinese government has denied any and all participation in organ trafficking.
Pastors, we are not just cheerleaders, we are game-changers. We are called to stir and to convict so that change takes place. Granted, there are many wonderful pastors and churches—I appreciate their ministry, but, as a whole, the church has drifted off course. They have lost the compass of truth – many are more concerned about wine tasting and craft beers than truly seeking the heart of God.
The pulpit regulates the spiritual condition of God’s people which affects the nation. A lukewarm, sex-saturated culture (and church) simply reflects the lack of conviction in the pulpit as well as the pew.
Pastors and Christian leaders alike must take responsibility for the spiritual health of today’s church, and the nation. We don’t need more marketing plans, demographic studies, or giving campaigns; we need men filled with the Spirit of God.
This is not a letter of rebuke (I’m in no position to do that) – it’s a tear-stained plea that we once again seek the heart of God. Here are five issues we need to overcome:
1. Stop watering down the gospel. The truth is often watered-down in the hope of not offending members and building a large audience. Judgment is never mentioned and repentance is rarely sought. We want to build a church rather than break a heart; be politically correct rather than biblically correct; coddle and comfort rather than stir and convict. The power of the gospel is found in the truth about the gospel – the edited version does not change lives.
2. Stop focusing only on encouragement. We all need encouragement, that’s a given, but most people feel beaten down because they’re not hearing more about repentance – “repent and experience times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord” (cf. Acts 3:19). To truly help people, we must preach the difficult truths as well as the joyful ones; preach the cross and the new life; preach hell and preach heaven; preach damnation and preach salvation; preach sin and preach grace; preach wrath and preach love; preach judgment and preach mercy; preach obedience and preach forgiveness; preach that God “is love,” but don’t forget that God is just. It is the love of God that compels us to share all of His truth.
3. Stop getting your message from pop-psychology or the latest fad. All of us must return to the prayer closet where brokenness, humility, and full surrender take place. God prepares the messenger before we prepare the message. Without prayer, “the church becomes a graveyard, not an embattled army. Praise and prayer are stifled; worship is dead. The preacher and the preaching encourage sin, not holiness…preaching which kills is prayerless preaching. Without prayer, the preacher creates death, and not life” (E.M. Bounds). “Without the heartbeat of prayer, the body of Christ will resemble a corpse. The church is dying on her feet because she is not living on her knees” (Al Whittinghill).
4. Stop trying to be like the world. If a pastor fills his mind with the world all week and expects the Spirit of God to speak boldly through him from the pulpit, he will be gravely mistaken. “The sermon cannot rise in its life-giving forces above the man. Dead men give out dead sermons, and dead sermons kill. Everything depends on the spiritual character of the preacher” (E.M. Bounds). Who he is all week is who he will be when he steps to the pulpit. We are called to the separated life guided by the Holy Spirit not Hollywood.
When God brings change, separation and prayer have been the catalyst. The dry, dead lethargic condition of the church simply reflects our lack of being filled with the Spirit. While 5-minute devotionals and prayers are good, they aren’t going to cut it in these dire times. We need powerful times of prayer, devotion, and worship. Again, God prepares the messenger before we prepare the message. It takes broken men to break men. Unplug the tv, turn off Facebook, and get back into the Word, prayer, and worship.
5. Stop asking, “Will this topic offend my audience?” and start asking, “Will my silence offend God?”A paraphrase that is often attributed to Alexis De Tocqueville—a Frenchman who authored Democracy in America in the early 1800s, helps to better understand this point: “I looked throughout America to find where her greatness originated. I looked for it in her harbors and on her shorelines, in her fertile fields and boundless prairies, and in her gold mines and vast world commerce, but it was not there…It was not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her success. America is great because she is good, and if America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
Is your pulpit aflame with righteousness – it all begins here.
Shane Idleman | Contributor to ChristianHeadlines.com | Tuesday, September 10, 2019
“The Laugh and Learn Bible for Kids” contains 52 five-minute stories from Genesis to Revelation. Each story captures a “big-picture view of the entire Bible” and includes a summary page at the end encouraging discussion between adults and their kids.
Vischer shared that the Bible also helps parents, who might not be as familiar with biblical stories, learn right along with the kids and “not feel embarrassed.”
“The Bible has such a reputation for being daunting and boring, but it actually surprises people to say you’re going to have fun reading this with your kids,” he said.
In a post announcing the launch, Vischer shared that so many kids are trying to find themselves in fiction, such as Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. This interactive Bible will help kids find their place in the important story of the Bible.
“[Kids] want to be a part of a big story and the way that we tell the Bible often, we cut it up into little pieces and they can never find themselves in the macro story, the big story, of the Bible,” he said.
The Bible came after Vischer sold his business, Big Idea Productions, in 2003. According to World Magazine, he “spent time praying, studying the Bible, and evaluating his goals. That led him to a greater desire to help children and their parents grow in biblical literacy.” Nine years later, in 2012, he released ‘What’s In the Bible?’, a video series for children.
“It’s going to show up more and more as the world has decided that LGBT issues are in the same categories as race and civil rights issues. So to say you shouldn’t have a same-sex couple on Sesame Street is the equivalent of saying you shouldn’t have a black couple on Sesame Street,” he said. Vischer, however, has stated he has no plans to introduce the topic in his programming.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (RNS) — Poor people have often told pastor Brian Combs that the hardest thing about standing at highway intersections holding up a cardboard sign and begging for money is not watching the windows roll up or hearing the click of automatic doors locking.
It’s seeing people avert their eyes.
So when Combs, pastor of Asheville’s Haywood Street, and his friend artist Christopher Holt began talking about collaborating on a project, they envisioned a fresco on an entire wall of the sanctuary featuring images of the poor and downtrodden.
When completed later this month, the 27-foot-by-10-foot composition will illuminate in bright colors the faces and gestures of the people who visit Haywood Street Church’s principal ministry — The Welcome Table, a dining room with a reputation as one of the best places to eat in this mountain town known for its creative spirit.
To Combs and to the hundreds of poor who stop in for a meal each week, the fresco is intended to make the invisible visible.
“The primary intent of church, in my opinion, is to communicate something about sacred worth,” said Combs. “In God’s sight, you are anything but a throwaway. You’re priceless. You’re royalty. That’s one task of urban ministry we take seriously.”
The fresco’s composition is loosely based on the Beatitudes, the nine blessings recounted by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, beginning with “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
But unlike traditional frescoes that have often offered visual representations of God, Jesus, Mary or the saints — think of Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Fra Angelico’s “The Annunciation” in Florence or Giotto’s “Adoration of the Magi” in Padua — this one puts the poor front and center in a style known as Classical Realism.
There’s Robert Stafford, a gardener at Haywood Street. A 58-year-old recovering drug addict, Stafford first came for meals and stayed on to work the grounds. In the mural, he’s depicted clutching three sunflowers.
And then there’s David Holland. A decade ago, Holland quit his job at Buffalo Wild Wings, threw his belongings into a dumpster and walked into the woods. In 2011, he came to Haywood Street for a meal. He’s now the “banquet steward,” or executive chef. He’s portrayed in the fresco wearing his trademark apron.
Both men were meticulously drawn by Holt, the 41-year-old principal artist.
A student of Ben Long, an Asheville-based master fresco artist who has created a dozen fresco paintings in churches and municipal centers across the state, Holt said the Haywood Street project was unique because of its subjects.
“The most enriching part of it was getting to know different folks from the community and maintaining a friendship with them,” he said.
An average of 1,000 people tromp to Haywood Street each week for its Sunday breakfast and Wednesday lunch — many with backpacks larger than their weathered bodies.
They take their seats at tables set with fresh cut flowers, a white tablecloth and white dinner napkins. Wait staff in white aprons take their orders. Entrees are plated on ceramic dinnerware made by East Fork, the hip pottery outfit just a few miles away.
Over the past 10 years, the Welcome Table has partnered with some of the top chefs from North Carolina, many of whom now vie for dates to plan menus and serve meals.
It’s all part of Combs’ core conviction: that the poor should not only be treated generously, but extravagantly.
“Spend a little time in a typical soup kitchen and what you’ll find most times is that the food is left over,” said Combs. “It’s out of date. It’s something someone else didn’t want. It’s discarded. It’s served in a styrofoam board on a tattered tray. And you’re told, this is all we have.”
Combs, on the other hand, thinks that when it comes to the poor, the church ought to be indulgent to the point of being wasteful.
It’s an idea he’s extended to the fresco project, which is costing the church nearly $300,000.
Work on the fresco began last October when four artists applied lime and sand — the elements of plaster — to a sanctuary wall and allowed it to cure for eight months.
As it did, Holt and his crew sat down with a dozen Welcome Table visitors and volunteers to draw their portraits and assemble a large “cartoon,” or sketch of the entire artwork.
The church has also partnered with a company to create a kiosk where visitors will be able to see a computer image of the completed fresco. By tapping on different images on the screen, they will be able to listen to recordings of the people in the fresco speaking about their lives.
The emphasis on living out Jesus’ upside-down kingdom, where the first are the last and the last are the first, has been part of Combs’ thinking since starting the church 10 years ago.
Combs had been searching for an urban ministry after graduating from Emory’s Candler School of Theology, where he said reading civil rights’ leader Howard Thurman’s “Jesus and the Disinherited”’ changed his life.
He found the perfect space in an 1891 brick Italianate church building that had been vacant after its previous congregation merged with the larger Central United Methodist Church.
Haywood is a mission church, a special designation in United Methodist nomenclature that means a congregation focused on outreach to marginalized groups and supported through donations from other churches and from individual donors.
Haywood Street has no formal membership. Sometimes only 50 people arrive for Sunday services. But Combs believes the heart of the worship experience is not the sermon but the shared meal.
“We believe you’re only doing church if you’re eating together,” Combs said. “We would say unapologetically, that’s church.”
In addition to the Welcome Table, the church has added a number of supporting ministries. There’s a clothing closet and a clean needle exchange that distributes Naloxone, the overdose reversal drug. There’s also an eight-bed respite, where homeless people recuperating from a hospital stay can regain their strength before returning to the streets or the woods.
The fresco is the latest of these efforts and the church hopes it will help the larger Asheville community focus more intently on confronting the poor.
The church has begun hosting live lunches on Tuesdays and Thursdays where people can drop in on their lunch break to watch work on the fresco and ask questions of the artists (Holt and three of his assistants).
The fresco steering committee has worked hard to generate buzz about the impending completion of the artwork.
“I’m already getting calls from hotel managers,” said Pam Siekman, the committee’s chairperson. “They’re like, ‘Pam, when will it be done? We want to put together a fresco visitor package.’”
For the people who frequent Haywood Street there’s no need to burnish the message of the fresco. They get it.
“I’m here to restore dignity to the undignified,” said David Holland, the banquet steward who was once homeless. “That’s what I do and that’s how I look at it. That’s my motivation.”
source: Yonat Shimron | Religion News Service | Friday, September 20, 2019