Category Archives: Witnesses

Egypt’s Coptic Christians, and the Unity of the Body of Christ

Palm Sunday terror in a blood-stained Coptic Christian church in Egypt, 2017 (credit: Agency France-Presse)

Tragedy gripped the world when Islamic State militants killed 44 Coptic Christians in Egypt, while worshippers gathered to celebrate Palm Sunday (New York Times). But a few of my Christian friends were probably wondering, what is a “Coptic Christian,” and are they really Christian?

Joe Carter, a blogger at The Gospel Coalition, has a great FAQ summary, explaining what happened, and who the Coptic Christians are. But I want to focus on answering some of the specific concerns of my friends. More importantly, I want to have you think about what it might teach us, for evangelical Christians. Continue reading


Botticelli and the Search for the Divine

Sandro Botticelli, Sant’ Agostino nello studio (Saint Augustine in the studio), Fresco, Chiesa di San Salvatore in Ognissanti, Florence.

It is worth your time, if you are in the Williamsburg, Virginia area, to consider viewing the Sandro Botticelli exhibit at the Muscarelle Museum and the College of William and Mary, on tour in the United States, but only at the Muscarelle until April 5.

As an Italian renaissance painter, who counted Michangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci as contemporaries, my favorite painting is that of Saint Augustine, in his study. Augustine is in the process of writing to St. Jerome, who had recently died, though Augustine was not aware of this, when he began his letter. As the story goes, the scene anticipates Augustine’s reaction to a vision of hearing St. Jerome’s voice, rebuking him for trying to understand the mysteries of Heaven, with Augustine’s earthbound reason.

Many of Botticelli’s works were lost when an exuberant 15th century Dominican priest, Girolamo Savonarola, sought to rid Florence, Italy of objects that might tempt one to sin, on the Mardi Gras festival. Thankfully, not all of Botticelli’s works were destroyed during the Bonfire of the Vanities, so be sure to catch a glimpse of them at this, the first traveling exhibit of Botticelli’s work, to the United States.

Enjoy.


The Real St. Patrick (In Less Than 3 Minutes)


Ambassador: Doug Coe

Doug Coe (credit: A. Larry Ross)

Doug Coe (credit: A. Larry Ross)

I want to tell you a little bit about one of the most influential, Spirit-led men, that most people will never know. Doug Coe, a leader behind the annual National Prayer Breakfast, and mentor to countless national and world leaders, for the sake of Jesus Christ, died on February 21, 2017.

Doug Coe’s ministry was simple: to help point people towards Jesus. His strategy was simple: to meet with people one-on-one and in small groups, to point people towards Jesus. What made Doug Coe unique was that he did this very quietly, with politicians and other leaders-and-shakers, for over 50 years, in the halls of Congress and the White House, in Washington, D.C. In 2005, TIME magazine labeled Doug Coe as one of the 25 most influential evangelical leaders in America, as the “Stealth Persuader.”

The TIME article needlessly overreaches in describing Doug Coe. But there have been a number of Christians who have had their suspicions, too. The cynicism is to be expected, but in the high-pressure, high-stakes, high-visibility political world of Washington, D.C., Doug Coe was a man that Congressmen and Presidents could simply trust, a man who gently pointed some of the most powerful people on the planet to take small, yet ultimately significant, steps towards Jesus.

No political boundary was too wide to prevent Doug Coe from sharing his message. Hilary Clinton often attended a weekly prayer meeting on Capital Hill, led by Doug Coe, when she was a Senator. Doug Coe brought together the warring leaders of Congo and Rwanda, after building years of friendships with other African leaders. Two years later, Congo and Rwanda, signed a peace treaty. To this day, the National Prayer Breakfast, that Coe helped to run through a movement called the “Fellowship Foundation,” brings together leaders from all over the world to consider the teachings and person of Jesus, connecting these leaders with the inner-city poor and disenfranchised, through service activities.

I had the privilege of meeting Doug Coe in the late 1980s, not too long after I became friends with one of his sons, Jonathan, who helped some of my friends at my college build an off-campus Christian community. Doug Coe avoided public attention, keeping a very low profile, with the Fellowship Foundation, networking people together in quiet ways.

Running a ministry like this, beneath the radar, creates a safe environment for leaders under the scrutiny of the press, and it has led to extraordinary, wonderful spiritual transformations, for which the public is mostly unaware.

However, on a few isolated occasions, the low profile of the ministry that Doug Coe gently facilitated, has had its disadvantages, too. Sadly, when a relative handful of participants  in these small, quiet networks have veered off the “straight and and narrow,” either morally or doctrinally, the Fellowship Foundation really has had no effective means to discipline their “black sheep,”to get them back on the right path. But that probably is the price you pay when working with people with names like Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Obama. While I am confident that Doug Coe stayed above the fray, the lure of corruption and hubris for those who intermingle with the rich and powerful is a difficult drug to lay aside.

Aside from those who have met him, very few will soon remember the soft-spoken Doug Coe, but he would rather it be that way. In his obituary, Doug Coe was quoted as saying, “I am called simply to be an inclusive ambassador of Jesus Christ’s love. Early on I thought the work of God was evangelism, but I soon realized the only person I could evangelize or disciple was myself. I learned from Billy Graham that the Gospel isn’t three or five points; it’s a Person – Jesus. God is love, and since Jesus is God, then the Gospel is also love.”

A quiet, inclusive ambassador, indeed. Thank you, Lord, for Doug Coe’s quiet legacy.


Celebrating Frederick Douglass’s 199th Birthday

Frederick Douglass, born February, 1818, into slavery. Photo colorization by Marina Amarai.

Frederick Douglass, born February, 1818, into slavery. Photo colorization by Marina Amarai.

Frederick Douglass was surely the most famous African-American of the 19th century. After escaping from slavery from Maryland, Douglass went onto become an outspoken leader of the abolitionist movement. Not only was he a great American, he was a follower of Jesus Christ. His commitment to Jesus played a major role in his efforts to end slavery. From his 1845 Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass:

I was not more than thirteen years old, when I felt the need of God, as a father and protector. My religious nature was awakened by the preaching of a white Methodist minister, named Hanson. He thought that all men, great and small, bond and free, were sinners in the sight of God; that they were, by nature, rebels against His government; and that they must repent of their sins, and be reconciled to God, through Christ. … I was, for weeks, a poor, broken-hearted mourner, traveling through the darkness and misery of doubts and fears. I finally found that change of heart which comes by “casting all one’s care” upon God, and by having faith in Jesus Christ, as the Redeemer, Friend, and Savior of those who diligently seek him. After this, I saw the world in a new light. … I loved all mankind—slaveholders not excepted; though I abhorred slavery more than ever.

He never knew the exact date of his birthday, but later in life, he chose February 14 to celebrate. Before his mother died when Douglass was about eight years-old, she called him her “little valentine.” Born in February, 1818, he would have been 199 years old today.

Just in case anyone is confused, Frederick Douglass is no longer living, as he died in 1895.

HT: ChristianityToday and colorization expert, Marina Amarai.

 


%d bloggers like this: