After over a Million Copies Sold, Boy Admits He Never Actually Went to Heaven

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There’s been a sudden eruption in purported afterlife accounts produced by major publishers, and they have been making millions. Some people wonder if all these accounts are true, and many have had their suspicions as they’ve noticed discrepancies between those stories and Scripture. It is rare to see someone, especially a young child, have the courage years later to admit that one such experience was actually something they fabricated. Yet that’s exactly what happened for the book, “The boy who came back from heaven—a true story,” published by Tyndale House. The boy in the story is named Alex, and he and his father Keven Malarkey are named as co-authors. Ironically, the word “malarkey” means “meaningless talk” or “nonsense,” which Alex admitted his fictitious account turned out to be. You can read all about it in a variety of news outlets (see further below for more info). Not only was there a book, but as is becoming more common these days, even a movie was made about this now debunked story. Here is how Alex broke the news:
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Core Christian Messages Found In the Epistle to the Romans

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I’ll be honest. When I found out I was scheduled to speak to my Sunday school class about the the first four chapters in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, I was less than thrilled, as I didn’t know if I could find a relevant, practical message that could have an impact on those listening. Four chapters, 60 minutes. How?

I just finished giving the lesson and I must say, as I went along the journey of preparing for it, I was delighted to find deep, core Orthodox Christian messages that I was able to share, and that may be easily missed. And this was just the first four chapters!  Continue reading

House Blessings: Copts & Eastern Orthodox Compared

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Just recently the priests of our church visited our new home, asking God to bless it. This is not just a Coptic custom, but an Orthodox one (and in fact, most religions include some sort of house blessing custom). As I intently listened to the prayers and read along as the service proceeded, I noticed a number of things that caught my attention. And I thought to myself, how does this compare with what the Eastern Orthodox do? Do they invoke the Holy Spirit? What do they declare as the purpose of this prayer? Do they pray over water even? Do they sprinkle water? Are the prayers themselves similar at all? I was fascinated with what I eventually found out.
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When Men Should Be Silent in Church, According to the Apostle Paul

About one year ago this was my first post on this blog. I thought to share it again.

ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN MEETS WORLD

Coptic Church in Egypt Photo courtesy of Katherine Nawar.

The apostle Paul is too often (and unfairly) criticized as being a male chauvinist (i.e., excessively displaying prejudiced loyalty for men over women).

One of the main remarks leveraged against him is what he says regarding the need for women to be silent in the church (e.g., 1 Timothy 2:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 14:33-35). While I could attempt to alleviate much of the discomfort or distaste you may have by providing you a lengthy discourse on the historical context of his statement and how it was understood by the early Christians, I would rather focus on leveling the playing field by telling you something you may not know: he told men to keep silent in church too!

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The Cycle of Sin

Sounds of Scripture

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My sin, my joy,
These worldly ways
Have caused me to veer far
Go astray
I’ve left the Captain behind
Manned my own ship
My life, my future, is within my grip
I’m on a mission to find my treasure
Captain said that’s also where my heart will be
But little did I comprehend
I needed His light to steer and see

I’ve brought myself to the valley of death
Though in my mind it’s the promised land, full of riches and wealth
My illusion
My delusion
My mirage
My facade
I lean on myself instead of You as my rod

Wandered into the darkness deep
Terrified and trembling on this mountain so steep
Trying to reach the top to feel fulfilled
But when I reach my high I feel the chill
The chill from my choices, it’s harder to breath
Beginning to suffocate, I cannot heave
Loosing my footing
I’ve lost…

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Fasting Defined: According to Pope Shenouda III

Coptic Meme by Suzy Tawfik

Coptic Meme by Suzy Tawfik; note that the word “Siyami” is an Arabic word that means fasting, for those who do not know

In a book that forever changed my perspective on fasting, the late Pope Shenouda III defined the physical aspect of fasting, which can be distilled as follows:

“Fasting is abstinence from food for a period [during which you feel a sufficient extent of hunger], followed by eating food [which you limit in three ways: kind, quality, and quantity].”

I thought of writing this post because, in speaking with an adult Coptic friend of mine he confided that he had never heard of fasting in this way ever before, which reminded me of the fact that for many of us in the Orthodox Church, fasting is simply a change in our diets, and we do everything we can to make it as enjoyable as possible, including ignoring (or making excuses for) ingredients that make a particular food we crave “non-fasting.”

If you were to break down the definition of fasting, you would see the following components: Continue reading