While filming has just begun for the eighth and final season of “Game of Thrones,” there are now new updates about the planned prequels, which will start airing after the current storyline wraps up in 2019.
According to Variety, when HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler received a Variety Vanguard Award at the Mipcom event in Cannes, he teased what fans can expect to see in the highly anticipated spinoffs.
Although he did not delve into deeper details when asked regarding the plots, he did confirm that there are currently five different teams working on the prequels.
“Other than to say it’s a fantastic group of writers and talent, most of whom have lived inside the Thrones eco-system so are very, very familiar with its intricacies,” Plepler revealed.
“I think we will find with this embarrassment of [writing] riches an exciting property for us to moves forward with,” he added. “We are looking some things, I have read a couple of early bibles and I’m excited about what I’ve seen,” Plepler continued.
In other news, British film and television actor Roy Dotrice, who had a short, but memorable, stint as Wisdom Hallyne on “Game of Thrones,” has passed away at the age of 94.
Before entering the world of performing arts, he served in the Royal Air Force during World War II and spent three years as a German prisoner of war. He lent his voice to different characters in British radio shows like “The Men From The Ministry” and “Know Your Place.”
Later on, he got into theater. Dotrice starred in Patrick Garland’s “Brief Lives,” where he was recognized in the Guinness World Records for having the greatest number of solo performances, due to the play’s extensive touring. He was also nominated for a Tony Award twice and won back in 2000 for the revival of “A Moon For The Misbegotten” by Eugene O’Neil.
“PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” has developed an anti-cheat system which bans players trying to trick their way into the game. So far, it has reportedly sanctioned 322,000 of them.
“PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” which is also referred to as “PUBG,” is an upcoming multiplayer online battle royale video game. It is slated to be released later this year but is currently accessible via Steam’s Early Access program.
The game’s developer, PUBG Corp. of Bluehole, has yet to confirm the news. However, the numbers were provided by the anti-cheat tool and platform known as the BattlEye, which watches over the game servers and keep cheaters at bay.
According to BattlEye’s recent Twitter updates: “Over 322,000 cheaters have been banned from PUBG so far, more than twice as many as posted by @PLAYERUNKNOWN just a month ago.”
In another social media post, BattlEye added: “We are currently banning at a rate of 6K-13K per day, nearly 20K within the last 24 hours alone. The vast majority is from China.”
Meanwhile, back in September, the developers previously confirmed that “over 150,000 cheaters” have already been banned by BattlEye at the time. This means that the number of unfair gamers was maintained within a month despite BattlEye’s active work to remove them from the game.
In other news, “PUBG” is continuously breaking records, especially in the number of concurrent players on Steam. It has solidified its top 1 spot at Steam’s all-time highest number of concurrents when it peaked at 2,279,084 players last week.
“PUBG’s” new record established a commanding lead against all-time favorite Steam games such as “DOTA 2″ and “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” in terms of having the most number of concurrent players in Steam’s history.
Meanwhile, on Steam alone, “PUBG” has been purchased (for $29.99) by over 16 million users. The numbers are expected to rise once the game launches during the holidays for Xbox One players.
It seems Sony has opened its doors to working with its competitors, at least on the publishing side of things.
According to a report from IGN, the company has formed a new label aimed at publishing games within and outside the Sony gaming platforms. The publishing label called Unties will run under Sony Music Entertainment and will feature the video game “Tiny Metal” as its very first title. The game, which is developed by Area35, will now appear on the PlayStation 4, as well as on the Nintendo Switch and PC.
According to Sony’s official statement posted by PlayStationLifestyle.net, Unties was created to tap “the ever-expanding video game market with indie games, which are continuing to draw attention even within Japan.” Sony lauded the progress of game development that has enabled “small-scale production teams to create high-quality games.”
Likewise, they also noted the evolution of digital publishing that has allowed creators “to deliver their own titles to consumers all around the world, which spawned an indie game movement centered around North America.”
“Conversely, this has created an unfortunate side effect where certain creative, unique titles end up getting buried in the market without getting the proper exposure they deserve,” Sony added. Through Unties, Sony is looking to “unearth high-quality titles” and “utilize SME’s vast entertainment business wisdom” to give the games the public exposure that they badly need. In addition, Unties will also handle the sales and PR for the gaming titles across different platforms.
Meanwhile, a new game has opened cross-play features between some of the leading gaming platforms. In a tweet, game developer Black Riddles announced that “Crazy Justice” will offer cross-play for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PC. Xbox head Phil Spencer also expressed his support for the move by re-posting the announcement on his Twitter account.
Spencer had been vocal on his support for cross-play, and the idea of seeing Xbox One owners playing with other gamers using the PlayStation 4. Sony, however, is not too keen on the idea, at least for now.
Gospel singer Natalie Grant, who is now home recovering from surgery, said her doctors confirmed that her thyroid nodules were cancerous.
“I wanted to let you know that we received the pathology report from the surgery that I had this past Tuesday … The pathology results have revealed that it was, in fact, papillary thyroid cancer,” Grant said in a Facebook Live video on Monday.
“I had two cancerous nodules inside that right lobe, but pathology has also revealed that the cancer was completely contained within those nodules, so in other words, they got it all. The doctor’s office actually said, ‘Congratulations you have no more cancer inside of your body.’”
The “Clean” singer said the news immediately brought her to tears at the thought that she actually had cancer in her body.
“It’s literally like the cancer was stopped dead in its tracks, fully encapsulated inside of those nodules, not a branch out, no growth. They tested the surrounding tissue and neighboring lymph-node, all of which showed no sign of cancer or cancerous cells,” Grant explained. “All of the tissue was completely clean. So when they took out that right lobe they took out the cancer, Hallelujah! This is absolutely the best possible outcome.”
The award-winning singer also thanked her supporters. “Your faith has strengthened my faith, and I am eternally grateful.”
Grant first announced her surgery last month on Facebook, stating that she would have a thyroid operation on Oct. 10. She noted that because of the procedure, she’ll be canceling her shows and special appearances from mid-October through the end of November to focus on her recovery.
Although she was afraid that the procedure might affect her singing voice she also happily reported that nothing in her vocal chords was affected.
“After several weeks of therapy and vocal rest I should make a full recovery and be back at it,” she concluded in the new video update.
Grant first found out she had tumors on her thyroid three years ago, but up until recently, the doctors told her it was nothing to be concerned about.
Her “Celebrate Christmas” tour with Danny Gokey is still planned to launch on Nov. 30 and the Nashville native said she’s looking forward to performing on the 12-city tour.
Natalie Grant Asks for Faith Like 6-Y-O Daughter Leading Up to Surgery to Remove Cancer Risk
Natalie Grant: I Stopped Pretending to Be a ‘Good Christian’ and Found Freedom in Honesty (Interview)
Natalie Grant: Losing My Voice as a Singer Led to Finding My True Voice (Interview)
Jessica Sanchez is revealing that her reason for kneeling after singing the national anthem at the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders game Sunday had something to do with a Bible verse.
The “American Idol” alumna joined in on the “take a knee” protest when she decided to kneel before the NFL game Sunday in an act received with mixed reactions. However, the 22-year-old singer took to Facebook to explain herself.
“Some people stand for what they believe in and some people kneel. Some people are proud to be an American, others are humbled to be an American,” she wrote. “We live in times where taking a knee is not opposing the strong voices of the nation but speaking for those in the nation who have no voice.”
She went on to cite Proverbs 31:8-9, which states “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” (NIV)
Last year, NFL free agent Colin Kaepernick started the “take a knee” protest when he decided to sit and then kneel during the national anthem to shed light on racial injustices. Sanchez said she supports the message and multitude of NFL players who have kneeled since then.
“I’m 100 percent for the message, as far as what the message has been behind everybody kneeling,” Sanchez said Sunday. “I still show my respect to the veterans, but I do disagree with what’s going on in the office.”
Less than one month before Sanchez’ demonstration, fellow “American Idol” alumna Jordin Sparks performed the national anthem ahead of the Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys game. While Sparks stood during her entire performance, she bore the markings of Proverbs 31:8-9 on her hand.
The singer received public support from her model boyfriend Dana Isaiah.
“Way to use your platform babe,” he wrote on Instagram before quoting Proverbs 31:8-9 and using the hashtags, “#purpose #standwithkaepernick #useyourplatform.”
Megachurch Pastor Frederick D Haynes III Slams Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones for ‘Plantation Politics’
Pastor Jamal Bryant Leads ‘an Army’ to Take a Knee Outside NFL Game
TD Jakes Says First Amendment Guarantees NFL Players’ Right to Protest and It Must Be Defended
Do the NFL Protests Disrespect the Flag?
NHL National Anthem Protester JT Brown Says He Asked God, Military Members Before Raising Fist
Pastor Donnie McClurkin is revealing why he is so excited to be a part of rap mogul Jay-Z’s Tidal X: Brooklyn concert where he will serve as the only Christian music artist amid some of the biggest names in mainstream music.
“I am excited to be able to participate in helping those who have recently suffered such devastating catastrophes: 5 major hurricanes, 3 deadly earthquakes, floods, loss of homes and the heartbreaking loss of lives! 2017 has been a year like we have never experienced before,” McClurkin said in a statement obtained by The Christian Post. “And while politics cloud the issues and government does all that it can…we, together, can be ‘our brother’s keeper!’”
The benefit concert takes place at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, New York, on Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. Those unable to attend in person will get an opportunity to both stream the show and donate to national disaster relief efforts on Tidal’s website. After a multitude of hurricanes and earthquakes have led to devastation for people around the world, McClurkin admitted that he has never experienced a year like 2017.
Aside from rap mogul Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, music veteran Stevie Wonder will also serve as a headliner for the event, which also features a long list of mainstream entertainers like Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B, Chris Brown, Fifth Harmony and DJ Khaled. While McClurkin, the senior pastor of Perfecting Faith Church in Freeport, New York, is known for his gospel music, he explained the importance of coming together with people from different backgrounds to make a difference.
“..Let’s step up and be counted!! No division, no partisanship or politics, no religious or racial divides..let’s come together as family of HUMANITY,” he said. “I encourage everyone to give to this great cause!”
As a pastor, McClurkin acknowledged the importance of prayer during difficult times. However, he also encouraged people to give any little amount that could help rebuild the lives of those affected by recent natural disasters.
“Many times in troubled situations people will say ‘lets pray’… Yes ! We should always pray and keep praying; but let’s not stop there,” he said. “It’s time to add our work into the mix! Christianity teaches us that ‘faith without works is dead!’”
The Tidal concert comes days after singer and actress Jennifer Lopez, her ex-husband Marc Anthony and former MLB player boyfriend Alex Rodriguez recruited a multitude of celebrities to take part in a benefit concert for disaster relief called ‘One Voice: Somos Live!’ The concert and telecast, which aired Saturday, raised over $35 million.
“Thank you for everyone who tuned in and donated…30 million and counting,” Lopez wrote on social media. ”We are so grateful!! We are One Voice.”
Lakewood Church Hosting Kari Jobe, Tasha Cobbs, Hillsong Worship and More for Hurricane Relief Benefit
Hurricane Nate Path, Track Hits US Golf Coast as Cat 1 Storm, 85 MPH
A Divided America Cannot Stand: Now Is Not the Time to Blame Others
Catholics, Jews Join Evangelicals in Fight Against FEMA Policy Banning Churches From Disaster Relief
More technology companies and manufacturers have recently confirmed they have ongoing projects that will put them in the race for the best smart speakers in the market. However, two companies have already made significant advancements in this area – Amazon and Google.
Amazon has pioneered the development and release of a smart speaker with the launch of the Echo speaker in 2015 and powered with its own smart assistant named Alexa. Google followed through and introduced the Google Home in 2016 with their own AI platform simply called the Google Assistant.
Luckily, Amazon and Google offer the Echo Dot and Google Home Mini, respectively, with smaller builds and cheaper prices without sacrificing much in terms of functionality. So the pressing question now is which of these two products are worth trying.
Since smart speakers will become a central part of a buyer’s home, design is one key point of comparison. And from the time Google challenged Amazon’s smart speaker lineup, the former is obviously winning in the design department.
Both smart speakers come in very compact builds, but the Google Home Mini sports the signature fabric-draped design which makes it look more homey than the Echo Dot’s plain look.
Smart Assistant: Alexa vs. Google Assistant
When comparing smart assistant platforms, what matters most is the wide array of third-party support and compatibility. And since Amazon has been in this game a year earlier than Google, there is no wonder that the company was able to establish more third-party support than its competition.
On the other hand, both Alexa and Google Assistant have been recently updated to support free phone calls and voice recognition — two key features for a smart speaker and its platform. Alexa can call phone numbers in the United States, Canada and Mexico, while Google Assistant can do this as well but excludes Mexico.
Both can also send text messages and support various music streaming platforms.
Functionality: Home Connectivity
According to the Amazon Alexa’s page, the smart assistant can support and be linked to hundreds of home appliances. This means Echo Dot users have more options in remotely controlling their home locks, thermostat, lights, security cameras, electric outlets and more.
Meanwhile, Tom’s Guide reported that Google Assistant’s third-party support is currently limited to around 50 companies and developers only.
Hardware Specs: Audio and Microphone
Another important aspect to consider is if a smart speaker can hear the owner well from a considerable distance and if they can be heard clearly too. And obviously, these aspects have something to do with the audio and microphone features.
In Tom’s Guide hands-on comparison, they placed the Google Home Mini and Amazon Echo Dot about 15 feet away from the user and proved that the devices were able to hear them even when they spoke in a “library-quiet voice.”
However, when it comes to audio quality, the same report gave more props to Google Home Mini. Tom’s Guide said the Google Home Mini produced a “louder, richer and fuller sound” compared to Echo Dot’s audio with “thin, reedy vocals with almost no bass.”
Both the Echo Dot and and Google Home Mini are priced $50 which is a good starting point for someone just wanting to get a feel of having a smart speaker around.
However, the price similarity becomes a plus point for the Echo Dot if one will consider the wider options and greater functionality it entails, thanks to the commanding lead Alexa has had in terms of third-party support and compatibility.
While many have seen a remarkable togetherness occurring among evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics ahead of Protestantism’s 500th anniversary, important institutional and theological issues still separate us, according to two Wesleyan scholars. Such significant ground cannot be glossed over, they explain, and the debates that arise are worth having.
Both in a recent phone interview with The Christian Post and throughout the book’s 410 pages, the co-authors repeatedly stress that they consider Roman Catholics their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and that their aim is not to widen the existing theological chasm. They maintain, however, that conversations where difficult questions are raised about these centuries-old, often painful divides are deeply needed.
Walls and Collins contend that it’s not the “Catholic” part that stands in the way of real unity, but the “Roman” part, as evidenced by the book’s title. Roman Catholics often criticize Protestants over “sola scriptura” (scripture alone), which they think is unworkable and has led to endless schisms. But the authors reply that Rome’s “sola Roma” approach comes with serious problems of its own and does not make them immune from division.
Other than the Roman Catholic distinctives about Jesus’ mother Mary and her role in the life of the Church, the office of the pope is perhaps the most profound source of division between Catholics and Protestants, a subject explored extensively in Chapter 11, “The Papacy: Shaking the Foundations.” Collins, who was raised Roman Catholic but became a Protestant in college and is now a professor of historical theology at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, believes this is an area where the Roman Church is committing the error of anachronism.
“[Rome] takes later historical products and reads them back into the first century where they don’t belong,” Collins told CP, regarding the office of the pope. Roman Catholics assert that Peter was the first pontiff to lead the Church. But the papacy is actually “an office based on a constellation of claims that developed over time,” Collins says, and it took centuries for it to come into place.
Several elements of the Roman church hierarchy were not even on the scene for there to have even been anything remotely close to a pope and the powers he exercises, Collins continued. The Asbury professor considers it “debatable” as to who the first actual pope was.
“It’s like saying, for example, that the United States of America, during the 13th century, didn’t have many people,” Collins explained. “Well, that’s a nonsense sort of statement because America didn’t exist in the 13th century.”
What is more, Walls interjected, is that the Roman Catholic Church maintains that the papacy is the unifying center of the Christian world today, when not only is that not the case for Protestant believers but also Eastern Orthodox Christians. The rumblings over Pope Francis and the recent controversy over “Amoris Laetitia” — a 2016 papal exhortation that addresses the Church’s stance on access to communion, divorce, sexual mores, and pastoral practice — demonstrate that such division exists even within the Roman Catholic faith.
And aside from current disputes, the Roman Church may purport to be united but is for all practical purposes divided, Walls noted.
“Most [Roman Catholic] laity believe things that are quite out of sync with official Church teaching,” Walls said.
“Functionally, the Roman Catholic Church is the world’s largest pluralist Christian denomination comparable to many liberal Protestant denominations.”
Collins agreed to join Walls in co-writing Roman but Not Catholic to contribute his historical knowledge to the project. He told CP that he initially resisted the invitation from Walls but decided to take part when he considered how the Roman Church stands in negative judgement of his evangelical and Pentecostal peers in Latin America. Rome’s ill feelings toward them there and elsewhere are born out of an understanding of their ecclesiology, their doctrine of the Church — that they are the “one true Church.” At that point, being a co-author of the book became a “sacred calling for me,” he added.
Walls, who is a professor of philosophy at Houston Baptist University and was one of the originators of the Reforming Catholic Confession — a Protestant affirmation of the essentials of the Christian faith published on Sept. 12 — noted that, like the Confession, their book intends to recover and reclaim the word “Catholic,” a term Rome has appropriated for itself but in fact belongs to faithful Christians of every stripe.
“Certainly, our book is pointedly critical in one sense of the word but it’s ultimately one that aims for unity, and to attack and critique the barriers that divide Christians that should not divide Christians,” like the Lord’s Supper and who can be anointed with oil on the deathbed, Walls said.
“And ultimately we want to promote a vision of the Holy Catholic Church that is more expansive and larger than the Roman Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, or the Protestant Church. It’s bigger than all of those.”
Christian unity is going to come about when Christ is at the center, Walls continued, when “all traditions recognize and respect each other fully as brothers in Christ, welcoming each other at the communion table, not because of your views of ecclesiology or sacramental theology but because of your commitment to Christ and your recognition that as followers of Christ he has called us to celebrate this together as a sign of unity.”
But until both Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy stop fighting over who is the “one true Church” and recognize that the Church of Jesus Christ is much bigger than any of them, Walls added, no real chance of unity is possible.
For Roman Catholics, ecclesiology seems to trump everything, Collins noted, even agreement on theological matters important to Protestant evangelicals like the doctrine of justification.
Collins emphasized: “It almost seems that in terms of Rome there is not only sacred Scripture, revelation that has been given to us by the Holy Spirit, but that the Holy Spirit has also given a particular polity and its that second move that this really does come from God.”
Unlike the official Roman Catholic governing body, the Magisterium, which Roman Catholics regard as supremely authoritative, Protestants do not believe that a specific, divinely-ordained Church structure carries the same weight and status as Scripture.
In Chapter 14, “Protestants in the Crosshairs,” Walls and Collins address in detail the phenomena of ardent Catholic apologists whose works have become popular, such as Protestant-turned-Catholic Devin Rose’s The Protestant’s Dilemma. Another book they mention, Surprised by Truth, boasts of selling over 250,000 copies on its cover and contains 11 testimonials of former Protestants who became Roman Catholic. The foreword for this book was penned by Calvinist-turned-Roman Catholic apologist Scott Hahn, who refers to the former Protestant writers describing their spiritual journey to Rome as “theological step-children who have finally come home.” Walls and Collins unpack how these popular Catholic apologetics also contain a considerable amount of imprecise and uncharitable language toward evangelicals and heavy, all-or-nothing, Rome-centric reasoning.
Protestants who read these works are likely exploring “conversion” to Rome already, they write, and they caution those who are exploring to avoid what they call “Roman fever,” a symptom of which is the tendency to compare the best of Roman Catholicism with the worst of Protestantism. Snarky lines like “We have Dante’s Divine Comedy, and you all have the Left Behind series,” are but one example of this, Walls recalled once hearing a Roman Catholic friend quip.
Despite all of this and other areas of conflict, Walls and Collins conclude Roman But Not Catholic by reiterating their affirmation of the genuine faith of Roman Catholic believers around the world, and prayerfully appeal to John 17:20–21, Jesus’ prayer that all those who would follow Him would be one, as He and the Father are one. They praise Pope Francis’ recent comments toward more inclusive practices in celebrating the sacrament of Holy Communion in hopes that Protestants currently barred from receiving can one day partake, even if his words were said in the midst of lingering doubt and ambiguity.
“Perhaps the pope will take further steps in this same direction, during the pivotal 2017 year, to allow us to celebrate the fundamental reality that we are all characterized by one Lord, one faith, one baptism. We surely hope so. The advance of world Christianity on occasion and its witness to the world would be epic,” the authors write.
Until such a time or some other breakthrough moment occurs, the disagreement will no doubt continue as it relates to how the disunity in this life will transition to unity in the next, they explain.
“Indeed, we are all getting closer to that glorious reality by God’s grace as we live out our Christian lives from decade to decade, walking in the obedience of faith, encouraged by hope and empowered by love.”
Martin Luther: What You Might Not Know About the Man Who Sparked the Reformation
Over 250 Protestant Leaders Sign ‘Reforming Catholic Confession’ on Essentials of Christian Faith
Half of Protestants Agree With Catholics That Good Deeds and Faith Are Needed for Salvation: Pew
God Is Moving to Unite Catholics and Protestants as Culture Crumbles, Says Peter Kreeft (Interview)
Going to church is an important habit in the life of any and every Christian. The Bible encourages all believers to intentionally meet together for fellowship and to remind each other of the Lord’s return. That said, can a person be a Christian and not go to church?
Let’s talk about that.
Church and Being a Christian
Before we answer that question, let’s define terms so that we can better understand why church is very important.
A “Christian” is simply a person who has committed himself to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. Many mistake this term to be a reference to a church-goer, or perhaps somebody born into a family of Christians. That is so wrong.
To be a Christian, one has to decide for himself that he will renounce his own ways, put his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and follow hard after him for the rest of his life. Real Christians know that without denying themselves and taking up their crosses, their version of “Christianity” is mere religious affiliation or church membership (see Matthew 16:24).
The word “Church,” on the other hand, comes from the Greek word “Ekklesia” which means “the called out ones,” Bible Study Tools tells us. The Greek word is usually used for gatherings or meetings. As such, we understand that the Christian church is simply a gathering of Christians – not necessarily a building, but a meeting of like-minded people believing in the same Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Now that we’ve all got that cleared up, we can now proceed to the question: Can I be Christian and not go to church?
The Christian and the church
Friends, we can all become Christians without coming to church, but surely we as Christians cannot help but go to church. For those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, fellowshipping with each other and reminding each other of what He has taught as well as His imminent return is very, very important.
Here are three reasons why we as Christians must continue to meet together.
1) Jesus said we should love one another
In John 13:34-35, the Lord Jesus said we should love one another, as this is proof that we are His disciples. Common sense tells us we who love each other will never abandon one another.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
2) It’s the Christian practice
No, church cannot save us. If we are saved, however, we would choose to fellowship and grow together with others who are saved as well. Acts 2:42 tells us that the early church did this so well:
“They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers.”
3) We should spur one another to love and steadfastly wait for the Lord’s return
Lastly, Christians should go to church for the purpose of motivating one another to love and remind each other to eagerly wait for the Lord’s return. Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us,
“And let us consider how to spur one another to love and to good works. Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but let us exhort one another, especially as you see the Day approaching.”
An Iranian Christian pastor who was born in Houston is urging U.S. Christians to put aside their fear of Muslims and to be emboldened to love and share the truth of Christ with them.
Afshin Ziafat leads Providence Church in Frisco, Texas, and he recently spoke at a forum that The Village Church Institute hosts twice a year. His aim was to help Christians understand the basics of Islam and learn how to engage Muslims with the Gospel.
He made it clear during the forum that he’s not an Islamic scholar, but he grew up in an Islamic household and spent four years of his childhood in Iran, where his parents are from. After his conversion to Christianity during his senior year in high school in Houston, his father disowned him.
Ziafat, who travels to the Middle East to train Iranian pastors, laid out four basic beliefs that Muslims have about God, man, Jesus and salvation.
To Muslims, God is “holy transcendent” and “independent of creation,” he explained.
“The relationship with God I experienced personally in Islam is not like the personal relationship with Jesus that we have in Christianity,” he said.
The Muslim view of God is that God is a taskmaster and his followers are slaves. “Islam is about submission to Allah. He’s given us his rules and we’ve got to submit,” Ziafat said.
On the other hand, in Christianity, God is our father and we are his children, the Texas pastor noted.
While Christians believe that man is born sinful, Muslims do not believe in an inherent sin nature. “Man sins but they believe you’re born sinless,” Ziafat explained.
“Christianity teaches us we were actually born in sin. That is a whole different starting point,” he noted.
“You’ve got to know that in the mind of a Muslim, there’s not this inherent need of a savior. That’s a foreign idea for them.”
Muslims believe that Jesus was born of a virgin. They also believe he was sinless.
These are two of the greatest defenses of the deity of Christ, Ziafat noted, but Muslims do not believe Jesus was God. In Islam, Jesus was one of six major prophets, with Muhammad being the completer of the faith.
Regarding Jesus’ death, the Quran states that Jesus was not crucified but only appeared to them as so.
There have been many interpretations of what that means but in the end, “they don’t have a really good answer for the death and resurrection of Christ,” the Texas pastor said.
There is no assurance of salvation in Islam. On Judgment Day, a person’s good deeds and bad deeds are weighed on a scale and if the good outweighs the bad, then that person can go to heaven.
Essentially, salvation in Islam is works-based while in Christianity, it is grace-based.
The Texas pastor noted that Muslims are given five pillars of faith to live by. These include: creed (belief in one god, Allah, and that Muhammad is his prophet), praying five times a day, fasting during Ramadan, giving 2 percent of one’s income to the poor, and making a one-time pilgrimage to Mecca (if they have the means to).
“If I did those five pillars of faith to the best of my ability then maybe I’d get to heaven,” he said of his Islamic upbringing. “I never had an assurance of my salvation.”
Grace is something that Muslims have a hard time wrapping their minds around, he noted. When he tried to share the Gospel with his father, his father responded, “Christianity makes no sense. You just say a prayer and Jesus brushes all the sin under the carpet.”
But that is not what Christianity teaches, Ziafat stressed. “In fact, I believe that’s what the scale system teaches — just do a little bit more good and all the bad gets swept under the carpet.
“When you put your faith in Christ, every one of your sins is accounted for and paid for on the cross by Jesus … Every sin is paid for.”
In the end, Ziafat believes that in Islam, the motive to live for God is fear, whereas in Christianity, the motive is love.
“What is lacking in Islam and most other religions is the unconditional love of God,” he stressed. “That is what transforms lives.”
So how can Christians share their faith with Muslims?
First, they can pray for their Muslim neighbors. That’s exactly what his high school friends did for a year before he converted to Christianity and he has heard many other testimonies of Muslims turning to Christ through the power of prayer.
Second, Christians ought to serve and love Muslims.
“I don’t have to tell you how much our culture is changing. The world is coming to us. This is a time for us to act,” Ziafat urged. “Has the church forgotten what we’re here for?”
“There are Muslims who are coming to our communities and they, just like me, feel like they’re on another planet and they want somebody to help them, … to help them get assimilated, teach them English, serve them,” he added. “They want to know that you care before they care about anything you know.”
Weighing in on the refugee crisis and the travel restrictions the Trump administration has been enforcing, Ziafat said that while he understands the angst amid terrorist attacks and the need for protective measures, ultimately, safety is not his priority.
“Safety is important but as a Christian, safety cannot be the overriding, the primary motive of my life. There’s something greater to me than saving my own life as a Christian,” he said. “I’ve got to think about opportunity too. Have we forgotten why we’re here?”
While many have asked whether Islam naturally leads to terrorism or whether it espouses violence, Ziafat emphasized that “Islam and terrorism is not synonymous.”
The concept of jihad, he explained, is “primarily a spiritual struggle in the life of Muslims to do good versus bad. That’s the way it’s presented first.”
While there are verses in the Quran that say to fight those who don’t believe in Allah, those verses are used by radicals for mainly political purposes, the pastor noted.
Ziafat, however, said he wouldn’t go as far as calling Islam a religion of peace. “I don’t think there’s peace in Islam, there’s not peace with God ever because there’s no forgiveness,” he stated.
Dispelling fears, he went on to note that most Muslims you will see across the street are nominal and that those who are devout will be “more fanatical about the five pillars.”
He encouraged Christians to build friendships with Muslims and to not be afraid of inviting them over. Also, Muslims do not expect others to know all their customs and culture.
“Muslims are the most hospitable, kind people you will ever meet,” he assured. “Sometimes, we’re so afraid of engaging their culture that we never end up doing it.”
“I have a limited amount of time on this earth and more than ever, Muslims are coming across the street and we have the greatest news ever,” he said.
“There is a unique opportunity to live out the Gospel. When they’re expecting you to treat them like an enemy and you love them, you are probably doing the most Christian thing you could possibly do.”
7 Dead as ISIS Radicals Attack Church, Bank in Egypt With Grenades and Rifles
Ex-Muslim Reveals Lies She Was Taught in Turkish School About Christians and Muhammad
Persecuted Christian Says Most Muslims Come to Faith Through Visions and Dreams, Not by Evangelists
Ex-Muslim Christian Writers: Calling Islamic Terror ‘New Normal’ Is What Radical Muslims Want