This is the International Christian Herald podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.
According to Christianity Today, James Innell Packer, better known to many as J. I. Packer, was one of the most famous and influential evangelical leaders of our time. He died Friday, July 17, at age 93. J. I. Packer was born in a village outside of Gloucester, England, on July 22, 1926. Packer committed his life to Christ on October 22, 1944, while attending an evangelistic service sponsored by the campus InterVarsity chapter. Packer helped to hold the conservative evangelical line on numerous theological issues, such as the nature of Scripture and its interpretation, women’s roles in the church, and the church’s position regarding homosexuality. Packer’s first book was a defense of the authority of the Bible, and this became both a lifelong passion and one of Packer’s most significant contributions to the evangelical church. Packer had an extraordinarily strong commitment to the view that the words of the Bible are the very words of God. He championed the out-of-vogue doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture and published books on the reliability of the Bible.
According to Church Leaders, Starting on September 1, 2020, clergy in Northern Ireland are allowed to officiate same-sex weddings, if they so choose. They can also choose not to officiate such weddings, per the recently enacted Marriage and Civil Partnership (Northern Ireland) Regulations. The move to allow church leaders to officiate same-sex weddings follows the passing of a law in January of this year allowing for same-sex civil marriages in Northern Ireland, which is a part of the United Kingdom. The new law protects religious institutions and clergy members who do not wish to perform same-sex ceremonies from legal backlash. The law states religious organizations cannot be “compelled by any means” to perform such a ceremony on their property, and that provision extends to any property a church owns, such as church halls or other buildings—not just the sanctuary.
According to Religion News Service, Vatican-owned hospital Bambino Gesú made history on Tuesday (July 7) when it announced it had successfully separated conjoined twins brought to Rome from the Central African Republic. Ervina and Prefina were not only joined at the skull and skin, but they also shared a large portion of the venous system, responsible for carrying blood across the body. The final operation took place June 5 of this year. The twins were successfully separated after 18 hours of work by more than 30 doctors and nurses. On June 29, Ervina and Prefina turned two and are perfectly healthy in separate beds close to their mother.
According to Reuters, A fire in the 15th century cathedral in the western French city of Nantes blew out stained glass windows and destroyed the grand organ on Saturday, and officials said they suspected arson. Prosecutor Pierre Sennes told reporters three fires had been started at the site and authorities were treating the incident as a criminal act. He gave no other details. Officials said an investigation had been opened. The fire began in the early morning, engulfing the inside of the Gothic structure in massive flames. More than 100 firefighters worked at the site, bringing it under control after several hours and extinguishing it completely by the afternoon. The fire came just over a year after a massive fire at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, which destroyed its roof and main spire.
According to the Christian Post, A leader of Northern Ireland’s largest Christian denomination has raised concerns that a new marriage law passed this week, which doesn’t allow businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples on grounds of conscience, is a violation of religious freedom. The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020 removes the prohibition on the religious marriage of same-sex couples starting on Sept. 1, but will not compel churches or individual clerics to conduct ceremonies for same-sex couples. However, the law doesn’t give the same protection to those in the marriage industry.
According to Assist News, A Bible translation team in Senegal and The Gambia is using social media to spread the Good News of Jesus among the Karon* people, according to Wycliffe Bible Translators. As well as translating the Scriptures into the Karon language, the team, which includes people serving with Wycliffe Bible Translators, is using Facebook and especially WhatsApp to give Karon users access to portions of the Bible. David Lowry, who serves with Wycliffe on the Karon team, says: ‘Making the Scriptures available to people from minority language groups in their own language is an important way of helping them to understand and engage with God’s word. With so many people in Africa having smartphones, making use of social media is an easy, rapid and efficient way of spreading the Good News of Jesus. Hence we could see the benefits of developing our strategy in this area.’
According to the Christian Post, Amid the coronavirus outbreak, poor Christian villagers in China have been ordered to renounce their faith and replace displays of Jesus with portraits of Chairman Mao and President Xi Jinping or risk losing their welfare benefits. Religious liberty magazine Bitter Winter reports that in April, officials with China’s Communist Party visited believers’ homes in Linfen, a prefecture-level city in the northern province of Shanxi. While there, they ordered residents who receive social welfare payments from the government to replace crosses, religious symbols, and images in their homes with portraits of China’s communist leaders. If Christians resisted the order, officials annulled their subsidies.
In closing, remember, God loves you. He always has and He always will. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you don’t know Jesus as your Saviour, today is a good day to get to know Him. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Thanks so much for listening and may God bless your day!