Q: Why did the UNC student eat the candle? A: He needed a light refreshment.
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Mere Christianity Jill Carattini
"I can't believe how many children there are here," I leaned and whispered to my husband. We were visitors at a church whose smallest members were helping with the service that morning. A young girl, no more than eight, stood at the front of the altar beside the minister. As she began to speak, her voice echoed the eagerness that her countenance gave away. "Join me in saying the Apostles' Creed," she said with a tone that caused me to read the words differently.
I believe God made the world, the sky, the stars, the animals, and all the people in the world. I believe that God's Son, Jesus, came into the world from heaven. That's what we remember on Christmas.
Thus began the Apostles' Creed reworded for children, and in these almost familiar lines were the tenants of the Christian faith. The little girl's voice rose above the sounds of a congregation speaking in unison. She was clearly excited by the assignment she had been given. She seemed equally excited by the words of the Creed, the statements of belief shared with the very adults she was leading. It was a creed led in such a way as to remind everyone present that the call of Christ is one a child can answer. The substance to our hope is a simple, though profound, reality.
The word creed comes from the Latin credo, meaning "I believe." When asked by Jesus, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter's response was his creed: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:15-16). The earliest creeds were used as baptismal vows, affirmations of belief in God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. For persons standing on the precipice of faith, the creed was the statement with which they prepared themselves to jump, and in so doing, found they had been given something on which to stand. As Martin Luther noted of the Apostles' Creed, the most common of ancient confessions, "Christian truth could not possibly be put into a shorter and clearer statement."
In dire contrast to the ancient attempt to develop concise affirmations of Christian belief is the call among us for a simplified Christianity that lessens the significance of Jesus's life and death, while focusing more on the responsibility his life imparts. Whether or not he was really born or buried, whether he was fully human and fully divine is thought nonessential; the call to love, the obligation to respond, the need to build relationships, is considered more important. The creeds say so much more than this.
In the letter to the Hebrews, the affirmation is given that faith gives substance to our hopes and makes certain the realities we do not see. Those who first said "credo" did so with the assurance that their lives were dramatically about to change. They were saying in these vows that their beliefs were worth the chance of persecution, suffering, and even death. In their confession of faith was the conviction that what is true is of greater substance than fear or self. They went to their baptisms knowing that the life and death of Christ was the hope on which they must live and die and believe.
The lines of the Apostles' Creed, the mere Christianity men, women, and children continue to stand on, repeat this stirring hope:
I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell, and on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and now sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
North Korea Freedom Week Exposing Deeds of Darkness
April 19, 2006
Four years ago, President Bush described the "axis of evil," nations that, through their actions within and beyond their borders, "threaten the peace of the world."
While two of the axis members—Iraq and Iran—are seldom, if ever, out of the news, the third member, North Korea, gets only a fraction of the coverage. This despite the fact that North Korea already has nuclear weapons and its leaders have already killed far more people than even Saddam Hussein.
It seems that the only way North Korea is going to get the attention it warrants is if Christians force the issue.
North Korea is often called the "Hermit Kingdom" because of its isolation from the rest of the world. This nickname, which conjures up images of monks in serene repose, ought to give way to one that more accurately captures the essence of Kim Jong-Il: charnel house. The land of morning calm has become the repository for the bones of Kim's victims.
Since Kim Jong-Il succeeded his father in 1994, more than two million North Korean men, women, and children have died from starvation. Another 400,000 have perished in political prison camps, and I've seen reports from those camps. It's horrifying.
Fleeing Kim's nightmare is hardly better. Those seeking to escape through China are "victimized by traffickers, hunted down by police, and forcibly repatriated." China will not allow humanitarian organizations or the UN to feed and shelter North Korean refugees. To complete this hellish scenario, "children whose parents have died or been separated from them wander the streets in search of food and protection."
If this reminds you of places like the Cambodian "Killing Fields," you're right. And, just as with Cambodia, the world has turned a collective blind eye. If Kim hadn't developed nuclear weapons, nobody would have cared what happened in North Korea.
No one, that is, except the people of conscience like Christians. Groups like the North Korea Freedom Coalition work to keep the suffering of North Koreans from being another case of "out of sight and out of mind."
The first North Korea Freedom Day rally in 2004 led to the North Korea Human Rights Act, which we helped pass in the Congress. The act commits the United States to "defend human rights and bring humanitarian aid to those suffering in North Korea." Yet, to date, "not a single North Korean refugee has been helped by the Act's application," a result that Representative Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) calls "shameful."
Well, it's time to make ourselves heard again because our Christian brothers are in prison in North Korea and being brutalized and murdered in those camps. April 22-30 has been designated North Korea Freedom Week. The scheduled activities include congressional hearings, the North Korea Genocide Exhibit, and an all-night prayer vigil at the Chinese Embassy. These efforts will culminate at the North Korea Freedom Day rally on April 28 at the U.S. Capitol.
We need your help if we're going to have any effect. For the Human Rights Act to be more than a piece of paper, our elected officials need to hear from their constituents. You can call us here at BreakPoint (1-877-322-5527) to get their addresses and phone numbers. And also visit our website for more information.
Our elected officials need to know that somebody is paying attention, and that is our job as Christians.
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A husband and wife are getting ready for bed. The wife is standing in front of a full-length mirror taking a hard look at herself.
"You know, love" she says, "I look in the mirror and I see an old woman. My face is all wrinkled, my chest sags to my waist, my posterior is hanging out a mile. I've got fat legs and my arms are all flabby."
She turns to her husband and says, "Tell me something positive to make me feel better about myself."
He thinks about it for a bit and then says in a soft voice, "Well...there's nothing wrong with your eyesight."