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A group of walkers going up a mountain in Caerphilly County were amazed when they saw Jesus standing right in front of them.

What travelers actually saw was an 8ft high fiberglass statue on Twmbarlwm’s summit. The statue was carried over stiles and fences by endurance runners.

Those walking by the statue couldn’t help but stop and pose with the statue, amazed by its size and beauty.

“It looked like it was blessing the Valleys,” said Steve Bancroft, one of the men who carried the 88 pound statue up to the top.

The statue looked very similar to the “Christ the Redeemer” statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and may have even appeared to be the same statue at first glance. However, the statue was from a storage unity in Cwmbran, carried by two endurance runners and their children.

In comparison, the “Christ the Redeemer” statue measures 38m (124ft) by 28m (91.8ft), including the pedestal that weighs 1,145 tons.

It took the men carrying the statue an hour to reach the peak of the mountain. They had to take many stops as they were walking their way up to the end point.

“The thought of carrying it all the way to the top was a challenge in itself,” said Bancroft, one of the men who carried the statue who also uses props for themed events.

“We drew quite a crowd,” he said. “People were taking it in turns having their photo taken.”

Unfortunately, the statue was taken down again the same day in case he blew away.

“It was quite a blustery day, we did wonder if it was going to get blown over when we got to the top, but it was quite heavy,” Bancroft added.

Now, the friends who placed the statue on the mountain are looking for their next challenge.

Joel's Goa Pics | Flickr

Joel’s Goa Pics | Flickr

In all the worst ways, Rome has risen again for Christianity. Christian persecution is becoming commonplace across the world. In areas like the Middle East, it is a long-standing problem that has gotten worse. In other places, violent persecution has suddenly become a major issue. India falls in the latter category.

In recent years, India has seen the rise of Hindu extremism, and Christians are paying the price for it. Christians are threatened, raped, beaten and murdered simply for practicing their faith. Families have been chased out of churches, homes and villages, but many Indian Christians refuse to give in entirely. Threats of physical violence and death might keep them out of the churches, but many Christians have vowed to continue worshipping Christ in secret.

Pastor Singh leads a church in the state of Madhya Pradesh, but Hindu radicals have begun threatening his congregation and people are afraid to return to the church.

“The reason for this drop in the attendance is the threats from Hindu radicals,” Pastor Singh told the nonprofit persecution watchdog, International Christian Concern. “The radicals say they will beat and kill my church members if they continue to attend the services … Prior to May this year, around 200 people used to worship regularly in my church, but now only 50 to 60 people attend my church on Sunday. They are under tremendous pressure from Hindu radicals.”

Pastor Singh is not the only pastor whose congregation is being threatened. Shankar Damor, a 37 year old man from Kardubadi village near Jhabua, said his family stopped openly attending church after serious threats of physical violence were issued.

“In a meeting last May in the village of Kardubadi, the Christians were told that we should not attend any church and should not even pray in our homes,” Shankar explained. “When we complained to the village diktat, the entire village stopped associating with us. No one attended our weddings and we were totally cut off from the people of the village… We are on shaky ground as a family, however,” he insisted, “we might stop attending the church, but we will not leave Jesus.”

Babu Singh Damor, another Christian from the same village, had a similar story. “We Christians are closely monitored as to where we are going and whom are we meeting,” Babu explained. “It’s quite a pathetic life we are living. However, we are not going to leave Jesus, no one is going snatch Jesus from our hearts.”

India currently ranks as the 11th worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution despite religious freedom being a constitutional right. Hindu extremists, however, have taken ruthless advantage of several states’ anti-conversion laws which make it illegal for anyone to use “force or allurement” to convert others to another religion. False accusations are a weapon commonly used against Christian families, and many local and state governments turn a blind eye when the laws are used as an excuse for vigilantism.

Todd Nettleton from Voice of the Martyrs called on Indian Christians to keep their faith and their hopes up. “Doors are often closed to the Gospel,” he said, “But God has a way of working through, and around, and over closed doors, and so, we pray that that’s what will happen in India.”

That day cannot come too soon.

pixabay.com

pixabay.com

During a sermon at Azusa Pacific University, Evangelist Francis Chan called out the American Church and encouraged believers to read through the Book of Revelation.

Many Christians are misled about what Jesus’ return will be like.

“John sees Jesus, the Risen Jesus, you know and we all think, ‘Oh, if I could see Jesus right now I would just hug him. No, John, the Beloved Disciple, passes out when he sees him in his glorified state,” Chan said in the sermon.

He then addresses Revelation 2-3. Here Jesus tells John to deliver harsh words to seven different churches. Chan believes the American church is no different than the churches in Revelation and need needs to repent.

“I never noticed that five out of the seven churches he goes, ‘you better repent or else,'” Chan said. “I never saw how serious the letters were to the churches…Here’s this almighty God in chapter one and he gives these letters to John and he says ‘tell the churches this.”

“It’s a loving father grabbing us, his children, going ‘Listen, this is real. This is reality. This is going to happen. I am going to destroy the world and all the little things you think are so important and so huge right now, you’re going to see nothing compared to the end. Get serious about me. Get serious about Me.'” Chan said.

He addressed how America Christians are focused more on theatrics and nice worship music, when there are Christians around the world dying for professing their faith in Jesus Christ.

Chan’s ultimate challenge to believers is to read Revelation with new eyes.

“Read through Revelation today and do something. Figure it out. Repent like it was a serious warning…a serious warning. Read the book of Revelation. We have an opportunity right now at this time in history. I am so pumped about it but it’s time to change the church,” Chan said. “This is real. We are going to see him.”

 

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

It is not news to most people that Christianity is declining in the West, especially in Europe. It may hearten American Christians to know, however, that their determined hold on their faith has been noticed. A recent study by Pew Research examined what it is like to be a Christian in different countries around the world and found that despite pressures to become more secular, the United States still ranked as a nation that had some of the most committed Christians in the world.

The study had Christians from all over the world respond to questions about their daily prayer life and how important religion was to them. Based on the survey, Ethiopia was ranked as having the world’s most committed Christians. Nearly 98 percent of self-identified Ethiopian Christians in the poll stated that faith was very important to their daily lives. The Philippines ranked second with 91 percent of Christian respondents stating that their faith was important in their daily lives.

The percentage of American Christians who said that their faith was very important to their daily lives was much lower than Ethiopia and the Philippines, only 68 percent, but it was lightyears ahead of many of its fellow Western countries. Only 23 percent of Christians in Italy said that their faith was important to their lives, and France, Germany and the United Kingdom had less than 13 percent of respondents claim that their faith was important to their lives.

When it came to daily prayer, the statistics were similar. The report noted that “Christians in Africa and Latin America…tend to pray and attend church at higher rates than Christians in most of the rest of the world. For instance, at least four out of five Christians in Nigeria, Liberia, Senegal, Cameroon and Chad pray every day.” Once again, European countries had noticeably lower statistics. Less than 10 percent of Christians in no less than nine European countries said they attend church each week, and the results were similar when it came to daily prayer in Europe.

The survey relies largely on self-reporting, so there is greater room for error, but the study does support what seem to be common trends when it comes to religion. The West is becoming increasingly secular while faith finds fertile ground in Africa and Latin America. Unfortunately, the survey did not appear to deal with the level of commitment required of Christians in the Middle East, China and North Korea where believers may be imprisoned or killed for practicing their faith. Still, flawed though it may be, the survey does at least remind Christians surrounded by a secular culture that the religion is alive and well, even if their neighbors seem to belay that fact.

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The persecution of Christians continues to increase around the world. Claiming Christ in parts of the world can lead to violence, imprisonment and death. One of these places is Iran, where Islam is the official religion. Iran’s government just gave four Christians a very harsh prison sentence – 45 years – for their faith in Jesus Christ.

Any ethnic Persian who converts to Christianity is considered apostate. Converts to Christianity from Islam make up the largest group of Christians and experience the most persecution. Other Protestant Christian communities who evangelize Muslims are the second most persecuted group. Armenians and Assyrians living in Iran are allowed to practice Christianity, but are often treated as second-class citizens. Churches are monitored and raided by the government.

Pastor Victor Bet-Tamaraz and his wife Shamiram Issavi, who are ethnic Assyrian Christians, and Amin Afshar Naderi and Hadi Asgari, who are Christian converts from Islam, were sentenced to a combined total of 45 years in prison for allegedly conducting “illegal church activities” and spreading propaganda which reportedly “threaten national security.”

“These Christians were solely arrested for practicing their Christian faith, including attending Christmas gatherings and organizing house churches,” Mike Ansari of Heart4Iran told CBN News.

In 2017, Pastor Bet-Tamaraz was sentenced to 10 years in prison for “forming a group composed of more than two people with the purpose of disrupting national security” in relation to their church activities. That same court also sentenced Amin Afshar Naderi to five years in prison for allegedly insulting Islam.

Iran has a constitution that has restricted freedoms for non-Muslim citizens.

“Consequently, Christians in Iran have been a target of harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention, unfair trials, and imprisonment on national security-related charges solely because of their faith,” Amnesty International said in a statement. “In the past year, alone, dozens of Christians, mostly Christian converts, have been targeted.”

The four Christians who are currently free on bail are awaiting the verdict. If they are imprisoned, they will be prisoners of conscience, Ansari told CBN News.

“We ask you to continue to pray for the Iranian Christians that are highly persecuted,” Ansari said.

Let’s pray for Christians around the world that are persecuted, imprisoned or harmed for their faith. We ask that believers in these countries would be able to fix their eyes fully on Jesus as they undergo persecution for following Him. Also pray that we as believers will stand in unity with our persecuted family around the world.