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Spirit-filled content creators test theological limits on social media.

Michael Paul Corder says he “cut his teeth” praying in public by going around to grocery stores and striking up conversations, asking folks if they wanted to pray. But even in the Bible Belt of East Tennessee, he found people were often hesitant or embarrassed.

Not so, he said, on TikTok.

Corder does a livestream open prayer every day, in which he prays for the hundreds of people who hop into the virtual chatroom without embarrassment. Many of his nearly 165,000 followers who join express feeling relief or calm when he prays for them. Their pain or healing is not something that can be verified, Corder admits, but still, he believes their presence testifies to something missing from their churches.

“At those churches, they’re not praying for the sick, or if they are, they’re not seeing results. At mainstream churches, you get more of a philosophical lecture,” Corder told Religion News Service.

Sometimes on his livestreams, Corder will pray in tongues—a practice popular among charismatic and Pentecostal Christians who say the unknown language is a gift from the Holy Spirit, as described in Acts 2.

“I think words are not the greatest at describing the sensation,” Corder said. “It’s being filled, it’s being baptized.”

“It’s a little mysterious,” he added, saying he speaks in tongues when the Holy Spirit moves him.

Pentecostal or charismatic TikTok is a thriving community of diverse Christians. It’s multilingual and multicultural and spans generations. Its hashtags have millions of views. Here, Christians who identify as charismatic, nondenominational, Assemblies of God, or Pentecostal all gather to share encouragement and witness for ...

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First anniversary of port explosion brings prayer and protests as severe need for humanitarian aid and political reform remains.

Banks, businesses, and government offices were shuttered as Lebanon on Wednesday marked one year since the horrific explosion at the port of Beirut with a national day of mourning.

The grim anniversary comes amid an unprecedented economic and financial meltdown, and a political stalemate that has kept the country without a functioning government for a full year. United in grief and anger, families of the victims and other Lebanese were planning prayers and protests later in the day.

The explosion killed at least 214 people, according to official records, and injured thousands. (In May, a Christian street artist dignified the deaths with a bold illegal installation of portraits.)

It was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history—the result of hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate igniting after a fire broke out. The explosion tore through the city with such force, it caused a tremor across the entire country that was heard and felt as far away as the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, more than 180 miles away.

CT reported the next day how 16 Beirut ministries described the damage, their relief efforts, and the need for a hope beyond politics. In the ensuing weeks, Lebanese evangelicals did their best to address the trauma with creative counseling. Last month, Lebanese evangelicals along with other Christian leaders traveled to the Vatican to ask Pope Francis to help restore their struggling nation.

After the explosion, it soon emerged in documents that the highly combustible nitrates had been haphazardly stored at a port warehouse alongside other flammable material since 2014, and that multiple high-level officials over the years knew of its presence and did nothing.

A year later, there has ...

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More Christian music programs are accommodating students who want to play sanctuaries rather than concert halls.

For college students preparing for music ministry, new and evolving programs offer more options than ever.

Christian colleges, like institutions across higher ed, feel increasing pressure to offer specialty training for lucrative fields like business and science, sometimes with humanities programs taking cuts. At the same time, several major music programs are growing—in part out of a confidence that the student demand and job market is there. The church will always need writers, performers, leaders, and creators.

“We feel obligated to develop these resources,” said Michael Wilder, dean of the Conservatory of Music and Division of Arts and Communication at Wheaton College. “I think there’s a need for it, and there’s interest for sure.”

While most institutions have preserved their bachelor of arts in music or bachelor of music degrees as traditional routes for performance-oriented students, many students enrolling in those programs are also interested in worship leadership training. They may enter college with a calling to lead but without the same skills as those aspiring to become professional musicians.

When the conservatory introduced its worship arts certificate program in 2019 (a credential that can be added to another undergraduate major), faculty saw immediate interest from the students, many of whom were already participating in worship leadership in local churches or the school’s chapel programs.

Cedarville University, within its School of Music and Worship, offers separate degree tracks for “music” and “worship” students. Similarly, Colorado Christian University (CCU) has preserved its distinct majors in performance, education, composition, and ...

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Caroline Campbell’s project aims to inspire Christians to learn Scripture and see disabilities as a gift to the church.

Kenny Campbell was doing some spring cleaning when he found a stack of papers with his daughter Caroline’s handwriting on them. He looked at the pages and realized there was something special about them. It was Scripture, copied word for word by hand.

The Campbells attend Community Bible Church in Beaufort County, South Carolina, and their teenage daughter, who has Down syndrome, was writing down the verses their pastor preached on. Carl Broggi is an expository preacher, going verse by verse; Caroline had recorded those verses in her own hand.

“This is amazing, Caroline, how much you’ve written,” Kenny told her.

On a whim, he said she could do the whole Bible.

“Yeah, okay,” Caroline said.

Those two words kicked off a nine-year project. Starting in January 2012 and finishing in June 2021, Caroline, who is now 28, copied the entire Bible by hand. She started in Genesis and worked her way through Revelation, writing down all 782,815 words from her 1973 New American Standard Bible.

Caroline’s mother, Jennifer, estimates the completed manuscript is more than 10,000 pages. It is compiled in 43 binders.

Once she started, Caroline said, she just didn’t stop. She persisted out of her devotion to the Bible and her desire to encourage others.

“I want to inspire people to learn the Bible,” she told CT.

Kenny and Jennifer say this has been key to their experience of having a daughter with Down syndrome. They have had to learn not to put limits on her. When their daughter was diagnosed, they had deep concerns. But they soon decided to treat her like any other child. And then they learned that she would, on occasion, completely blow them away with the amazing ways she was different.

Bethany ...

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Despite the risks in the region, Christians are flocking to camps and targeted villages to provide resources and spiritual care.

Back in April, when armed men began attacking his village in the middle of the night, a pastor of a local church in northern Mozambique woke his family to flee. He took his two older sons and his wife took their two younger sons. In the midst of chaos and confusion, shouting and shooting, they escaped in two different directions.

The pastor and his sons hid in the surrounding bush all night before returning to the village, near the town of Palma, to look for the rest of their family. The next morning, he found their hut caved in and the remains of his four-year-old son, who had been beheaded by the attackers. All he and his sons could do was dig a hole in the ground to bury the young boy’s body and weep together. To this day, his wife and second-youngest son are still missing.

This pastor shared his story with CT through English-speaking ministry partners in Mozambique. He asked that he and his village remain unnamed for security reasons, but his story is not unique as conflict escalates in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.

Countless innocent civilians are fleeing the area where insurgents have been burning entire villages to the ground and brutalizing their inhabitants—including beheading, recruiting, capturing, enslaving, and committing sexual crimes against them. The violence has killed thousands of people and displaced upward of 800,000, a number that is growing rapidly and may soon reach one million, United Nations officials warn.

“The north of Mozambique, especially Cabo Delgado province … is being affected by Islamic insurgents, who at some stage claim to be linked with Islamic State,” said Mauricio Magunhe, faith and development coordinator for World Vision Mozambique.

“For the ...

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(UPDATED) 12 Christian IRF advocates praise Rashad Hussain, Obama’s OIC envoy, for his credentials and credibility. Two USCIRF commissioners and antisemitism envoy also named.

The White House announced Friday a slate of nominations and appointments for top religious affairs roles, including the first Muslim American nominated to be the US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom (IRF).

President Joe Biden will select Rashad Hussain as his nominee for that post, filling a State Department slot vacant since former Kansas governor and US Senator Sam Brownback—who co-chaired a bipartisan IRF summit for 1,200 attendees this month—left at the close of the Trump administration.

Hussain, who would need to be confirmed by the Senate, currently works as director for Partnerships and Global Engagement at the National Security Council. He previously served as White House counsel under President Barack Obama, as well as US special envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and US special envoy for the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, among other roles.

Knox Thames, who served as the State Department’s special advisor for religious minorities during both the Obama and Trump administrations, told CT that Hussain was “a strong pick.”

“He knows human rights and cares about religious freedom,” said Thames. “I saw firsthand how he raised these issues when he served as [OIC envoy]. I know he’ll be able to hit the ground running from day one to combat religious persecution.”

Judd Birdsall, a senior research fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University who served with Hussain at the State Department from 2009–2011, told CT that the nomination is a “fantastic choice” because Hussain has “impeccable credentials, extensive diplomatic and legal experience, ...

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The ministry leader believed declining US churches could be revitalized by hearing Wesleyans “with a different accent.”

H Eddie Fox, who hoped to renew American Methodism through evangelism and increased connections with global Christianity, died on Wednesday at age 83.

Fox led World Methodist Evangelism for 25 years, teaching, training, and empowering Methodists and Wesleyans to share their faith, and encouraging churches to make evangelism a priority. He pioneered several new initiatives that were popular in United Methodist Church (UMC) congregations, and he helped American churches connect with fellow Wesleyans outside the United States, especially in formerly communist countries after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

From 1989 to 2014, when Fox directed the world evangelism program, Methodists increased around the globe by about 1 million per year, even as the US membership of the UMC declined by about 2 million overall. Fox saw a direct link between the theology of the church and its vitality.

“Wherever the church is faithful to the doctrine, the sound teaching, the Discipline, the way of life—which is the way you order your life—and the spirit, openness to the Holy Spirit, you'll find a church that's dynamic, contagious and alive,” he said when he retired. “And where that is not true, you’ll find a church to be a dead sect, having the form but not the power thereof. That’s been a focus of my ministry. It’s been a call we’ve stood on for many, many years.”

Fox taught more Methodists how to share their faith than any one else in his lifetime, and became, for many, the evangelistic face of Methodism. He also taught at the Billy Graham School of Evangelism at Wheaton College for 15 years.

“He was dynamic and alive with his passion for the gospel, especially evangelism,” ...

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CRC congregations weigh land acknowledgements amid rising awareness of indigenous injustices on both sides of the border.

Visitors to a suburban Toronto congregation are greeted in the foyer or from the stage with the following: “The Community Christian Reformed Church of Meadowvale is located on the Treaty lands and traditional Territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.”

The statement names the indigenous community that once stewarded the land where the Canadian church stands. But a visitor to one of Meadowvale’s hundreds of fellow American congregations across the border will likely find the practice of such “land acknowledgements” to be wholly unfamiliar.

The discrepancy is part of a larger divergence within the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) as the denomination’s 1,000-plus congregations—with one quarter in Canada and three-quarters in the United States—seek to serve amid neighboring cultures and governments moving at very different paces on addressing injustices done to their indigenous peoples.

In Canada, where the native community is known as First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, the abuse that many indigenous students suffered at residential schools was the subject of a national, years-long reckoning through a federally backed Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). In contrast, though many Native Americans in the United States experienced similar trauma, the schools’ aftermath has only recently gained mainstream attention.

“Because of the [TRC] and the things that the government has done, the Canadian church has been encouraged to continue doing the work,” said Viviana Cornejo, the CRCNA’s racial curriculum and instruction specialist. “The United States as a whole is having a hard time dealing with the past. If ...

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Update: Judge rules epic of Gilgamesh fragment belongs in Iraq.

Update (July 29): Two years after federal officials seized the artifact, a judge ordered Hobby Lobby to officially forfeit a rare clay tablet containing a portion of the epic of Gilgamesh. The tablet will be returned to Iraq.

The Bible Museum, which was founded by Hobby Lobby owner and Bible collector Steve Green, has supported efforts to send the item back to its country of origin.

The ancient Mesopotamian text was purchased from Christie’s auction house in 2014 before being put on display in Washington D.C. in 2017. Hobby Lobby is now suing Christie’s, claiming the reputable auction house provided false information and provenance documents making it seem the tablet could be legally purchased, and was not looted during fighting in Iraq.

Hobby Lobby is also returning about 11,500 other antiquities to the Iraqi and Egyptian governments due to incorrect or incomplete documentation. Green has previously said he made a mistake, when he was building a collection for the Museum of the Bible, by trusting unscrupulous dealers.

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Original post (May 21, 2020): Another ancient document is causing controversy for the Museum of the Bible after a federal government prosecutor filed a claim that a six-by-five-inch clay tablet was stolen from Iraq. The US Attorney’s Office of Eastern New York says that Hobby Lobby legally purchased the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet for $1.6 million to loan to the museum, but the papers documenting the artifact’s purchase history were false.

“In this case, a major auction house failed to meet its obligations by minimizing its concerns that the provenance of an important Iraqi artifact was fabricated, and withheld from the buyer information that undermined the provenance’s reliability," ...

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A South Georgia prosecutor is considering whether two Baptists were killed because they were Black.

For 36 years, the murder of a Baptist deacon and his wife in the vestibule of their small white church off a two-lane highway in southern Georgia has been attributed to robbery, drugs, or revenge.

But now the district attorney in Glynn County, Georgia, is considering filing new charges and naming a new motive: racism. If the prosecutor decides to try to bring the 1985 homicide to trial in 2021, his office will argue that 66-year-old Harold and 63-year-old Thelma Swain were shot to death because they were Black.

According to District Attorney Keith Higgins’s office, the review is “ongoing,” as the prosecutor considers options and available evidence to make the case.

The new evidence, collected and processed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), showed that the man convicted of the double murder in 2003 was innocent. Dennis Perry was released from prison in July 2020 after two decades of incarceration. Last week, the prosecutor dismissed all further charges, exonerating Perry.

The GBI’s evidence points to another suspect: Erik Sparre. The mitochondrial DNA of two hairs found in the hinge of a distinctive pair of glasses left at the scene were matched to Sparre’s mother’s DNA, meaning they came from Sparre or someone in his matrilineal line.

Sparre also told at least two people he committed the crimes and was once recorded on tape bragging about the murders.

“I’m the motherf— who killed two n— in that church, and I’m going to kill you and the whole damn family if I have to do it in church,” he told an ex-wife while her family taped him, according to the extensive investigation of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

One of Sparre’s ex-wives said he ...

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CrossRoads International House of Worship
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