EASTER & The Whole Story of the Universe is Found in Three Words: “He is Risen!”

by Chris Stefanick, 3/26/16.

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“He is not here. He is risen from the dead, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay!” (Matthew 28:6)

Bilbo finds a ring.

A group of children fall through a wardrobe into another dimension.

Snow White finds the love of her life…

Every story has one truth at its foundation. Without it, there’s no story.

There are over 450,000 words stretching from Tolkien’s Silmarillion to the end of the Return of the King. If you stood them on top of each other they’d probably tower over the Empire State Building. But if you remove the words: “bilbo found a ring” from somewhere around the 5th floor, they’d all come tumbling down. Without that, there’s no story. Orcs, Elves, Hobbits, Talking Trees…who cares?

There is one claim made by one faith.

Without it, the rest of the story of that faith doesn’t really matter. All of Jesus teachings, and his dying, wouldn’t matter. Actually, the rest of the story of the universe, and of your life wouldn’t make much sense either.

That one claim was made in a quiet cemetery in an outpost of the Roman Empire. It was carried on the trembling lips of a conformed harlot to a group of terrified fishermen. It was spoken in whispers. A secret too good to be true. Yet it was true. It is true. So true, in fact, that eyewitnesses died horrible deaths attesting to it. (You’ll find people who die for belief systems. Dying for an eyewitness testimony is vastly different than that!)

Within 300 years, this one true claim transformed the Roman Empire.

These three words continue to transform everything they touch, until the story of time is done: “He is risen.”

“Cinderella finds love.” The one truth is found somewhere in the story, but really, the whole story is found in that one truth.

The whole story of the universe, of human history, of Christianity, and of our own lives are found in these three words: “He is risen!”

This one truth is the proof that God is real. Love wins. And life is good.

And if that’s not true…who cares about the rest of the story?

(National Catholic Register. Read more at … http://m.ncregister.com/blog/cstefanick/the-whole-story-of-the-universe-is-found-in-three-words-he-is-risen#.VvepKGH3aJI

RELIGION & Forecast For 2050: Atheism Is Down, Islam Is Rising #PewResearch

by Nadia Whitehead, National Public Radio, 12/25/15.

Christianity is currently the world’s largest religion, making up a third of the world’s population with 2.2 billion adherents. Pew research report shows that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. The religious group will make up 30 percent of the world’s population by 2050, compared to just 23 percent of the population in 2010. That means the number of Muslims in the world will nearly equal the number of Christians by 2050…

That’s not to say that the total number of Christians is decreasing; Christianity’s growth rate is just not as fast as Islam’s. While the number of Christians will increase from about 2.1 billion to 2.9 billion by 2050, Muslims will jump from 1.6 billion to 2.8 billion.

This growth has to do with the relatively young age of the Muslim population as well as high fertility rates. Other religious groups have aging populations. Among Buddhists, for example, half of adherents are older than 30 and the average birth rate is 1.6 children. By contrast, in 2010, a third of the Muslim population was under 15. What’s more, each Muslim woman has an average of 3.1 children, while the average for Christian women is 2.7.

The Pew research revealed two other interesting shifts in world religious perspectives, Cooperman says.

Atheists, agnostics and those who do not affiliate with religion will make up a smaller percentage of the world’s total population by 2050 — even though the group is growing in the U.S. and Europe. The decline is primarily because those who are unaffiliated religiously have low fertility rates, with women bearing an average of 1.7 children in their lifetime.

Between now and 2050, the hub of Christianity will also shift — from Europe to sub-Saharan Africa. As of 2010, the majority of the Christian population — 25.5 percent — lived in Europe, but sub-Saharan Africa will become home to nearly 40 percent of the world’s Christians by 2050. Fertility rates are also behind this change. Christians living in sub-Saharan African have the highest fertility rates among Christians worldwide: Each woman has, on average, 4.4 children…

Read more at … http://m.wamu.org/#/news/15/12/25/a_religious_forecast_for_2050_atheism_is_down_islam_is_rising

RELIGION & Click to Read Facts From the Pew Research Religious Landscape Study

by Pew Research,

The RLS surveys more than 35,000 Americans from all 50 states and analyzes the relationship between religious affiliation and various demographic factors.

Explore religious groups in the U.S. by tradition, family and denomination at … http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study

Christian 70.6%

* ►Evangelical Protestant 25.4%
* ►Mainline Protestant 14.7%
* ►Historically Black Protestant 6.5%
* ►Catholic 20.8%
* ►Mormon 1.6%
* ►Orthodox Christian 0.5%
* Jehovah’s Witness 0.8%
* ►Other Christian 0.4%

Non-Christian Faiths 5.9%

* Jewish 1.9%
* Muslim 0.9%
* Buddhist 0.7%
* Hindu 0.7% * Other World Religions 0.3%

Other Faiths 1.5%
* Unaffiliated (religious “nones”) 22.8%
* Atheist 3.1%
* Agnostic 4.0%
* ►Nothing in particular 15.8% * Don’t know 0.6%

Read more a … http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & 6 Factors In Muslims Following Jesus. #ZwemerInstitute

From the Archives: Dr. Robert Douglas, Director of the Zwemer Institute, (1984-1996) presented the following at a Muslim Awareness Conference in 1994.

What are some of the factors that are resulting in the seeds being planted in the Muslim world and signs of a harvest beginning to emerge?

  1. Number one is God’s timing. Remember the passage in Acts 18 where Paul is in Corinth and is discouraged. The Lord said, “Don’t be afraid; don’t be silent.” Literally He says, “Quit being afraid, Paul. I have many people in this city.” Well, he didn’t have many church members there at the time. So, it seems what the Lord was saying is, “Paul, I got here before you. Thanks for finally showing up, brother. And I have been at work here in social, political, cultural, economic and familial things. I have created some heart longings out there, and the folks may not know what they are longing for and how to articulate the question if you ask them, but don’t give up. Don’t be silent. Press ahead and take advantage of the responsiveness I have created.”
  1. Where Muslims are coming to faith, you typically find some sort of contextualized strategies. Obviously, contextualization gets widely debated in Christian mission circles, and it means different things to different people, but at one level we are all contextualists. If you believe the Bible ought to be in Arabic for Arabs, then that’s contextualization. Translation is contextualization. So the question is not contextualization but how much is appropriate and effective. How can we make radio and tracts more meaningful within specific cultures. And even the same materials will not necessarily work with urban populations that work in the villages. We need to remove unnecessary barriers in communicating the gospel.
  1. Quality of life is a factor in whether or not our message will be received. Just as food varies in different cultures, what is considered acceptable behavior is not necessarily the same as we would recognize it in America. Holiness, godliness and piety is to a degree culturally defined. For example, Muslims are people of prayer. Do they ever see us pray? Our form is to go into our closet, shut the door and speak to the Father in private. There are Muslims who have said of humanitarian workers in their midst that they are wonderful people who serve and help us; it is too bad they are not going to heaven since they are not praying people. But when our piety is lived out in a way that can be seen, it becomes a factor in bringing inquiry and drawing people to faith.
  1. Where Muslims are being won in large numbers, people have discovered ways to encourage national converts to stay in contact with their kin. Sometimes it is difficult for that to happen, but too often in the past our strategies have been that of extraction of a new believer from his community and remove any potential influence and impact. Yes, we are concerned for their safety, but our perception of conversion is too individualistic. In Muslim cultures the priority is family and community, and many places the gospel is taking root in a communal context.

Read more at … http://www.zwemercenter.com/6-factors-in-muslims-following-jesus/

ATTENDANCE & Church of England decline heralds calls for innovative use of church buildings #TheUKGuardianNewspaper

by Esther Addley, The Guardian Newspaper, 6/8/15.

According to the annual British Social Attitudes survey, in just two years between 2012 and 2014, the number of people describing their beliefs as being Church of England or Anglican fell from 21% to 17%, a loss of 1.7 million people – leading the former archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, to repeat warnings that the church is “a generation away from extinction”.

Britain is not necessarily becoming more godless – in the same period, the number of Muslims grew by a million, amounting to 2.4% of the population – just less the proportion of Anglicans. That has implications enough for the church in the inner city, but what are the ramifications in the countryside where, for a thousand years, the Church of England has often been the institution that holds rural communities together?..

Read more at … http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/07/church-of-england-decline-heralds-calls-for-innovative-use-of-church-buildings

RELIGIONS & Results From The Pew Research Religious Landscape Study

rls-banner.png The RLS surveys more than 35,000 Americans from all 50 states and analyzes the relationship between religious affiliation and various demographic factors. About the study | Read the full report

Religions

Explore religious groups in the U.S. by tradition, family and denomination

Geography, Explore religious affiliation data by state, region or select metro areas at the link below…

Read more at … http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/

RELIGION & Why Muslims Are Rising Fastest and the Unaffiliated Are Shrin

by Pew Research Fact Tank, 4/2/15.

Why Muslims Are Rising Fastest and the Unaffiliated Are Shrinking as a Share of the World’s Population

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The religious profile of the world is rapidly changing, driven primarily by differences in fertility rates and the size of youth populations among the world’s major religions, as well as by people switching faiths. Over the next four decades, Christians will remain the largest religious group, but Islam will grow faster than any other major religion. If current trends continue, by 2050 …