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REPOST: Which Are The Most, And Least, ‘Bible-Minded’ Cities In The U.S.?

Chattanooga, Tenn., was named America’s most Bible-minded city, followed by Birmingham, Ala., and Roanoke/Lynchburg, Va.  Find out in this NPR report how other cities ranked in a new study by the American Bible Society.

A new study ranks 100 American cities according to how "Bible-minded" they are. The top spot went to Chattanooga, Tenn. Several cities in the Northeast and West were ranked "least Bible-minded." | Image source: npr.org

A new study ranks 100 American cities according to how “Bible-minded” they are. The top spot went to Chattanooga, Tenn. Several cities in the Northeast and West were ranked “least Bible-minded.” | Image source: npr.org

In an era of shifting populations and values, the notion of America’s Bible Belt can be a slippery concept. But a new study gives us an idea of which cities can be considered to be part of that tradition — and which cities aren’t.

Chattanooga, Tenn., was named America’s most Bible-minded city, followed by Birmingham, Ala., and Roanoke/Lynchburg, Va.

And despite its name, Providence, R.I., was named the least Bible-minded city. It tied New Bedford, Mass., in that slot, followed by Albany, N.Y., and Boston.

Las Vegas, the town often called Sin City, ranked 90th. Another city known for debauchery, New Orleans, came in at No. 35.

That’s according to the American Bible Society, which ranked the cities after conducting interviews by phone and online over a period of seven years.

The group says it asked a random sample of more than 46,000 people nationwide if they had read the Bible in the past seven days. If they had, and if they “agree strongly in the accuracy of the Bible,” they were deemed “Bible Minded,” according to the study’s authors.

You can see the complete list at the American Bible Society website. We’ll note that the society is based in New York City — 89th on the list.

‘Most Bible-Minded’

  1. Chattanooga, Tenn.
  2. Birmingham, Ala.
  3. Roanoke/Lynchburg, Va.
  4. Springfield, Mo.
  5. Shreveport, La.
  6. Charlotte, N.C.
  7. Greenville/Spartanburg, S.C./Asheville, N.C.
  8. Little Rock, Ark.
  9. Jackson, Miss.
  10. Knoxville, Tenn.

‘Least Bible-Minded’

  1. Providence, R.I./New Bedford, Mass.
  2. Albany, N.Y.
  3. Boston
  4. San Francisco
  5. Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  6. Buffalo, N.Y.
  7. Hartford/New Haven, Conn.
  8. Phoenix
  9. Burlington, Vt.
  10. Portland, Maine

Several trends emerged from the study, the American Bible Society says. For instance, it “found that an inverse relationship exists between population size and Bible friendliness.”

In the 25 most Bible-minded areas, the group says, only three cities had populations of more than 1 million households: Charlotte, N.C.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Dallas. (The study uses cities’ metropolitan markets as the basis for its comparisons.)

And in terms of geography, while cities in the South and Midwest claimed many of the most Bible-minded spots, several in the Northeast and New England were in the opposite category, along with two outliers: the San Francisco Bay Area and Phoenix.

Pastor John Wagner is the head pastor of Turning Point Community Church. Learn more about the ministry by visiting this website.

Providing Small Scale Charitable Work

Part of our society is based upon the belief that as a culture, we have a certain obligation to work towards the betterment of our people and those around us. Charities and goodwill organizations work tirelessly to bring any type of aid, whether it is monetary, medicinal, or emotional to millions of people around the country and the world. Unfortunately, not all of us have the power to extend our reach that far, but there are other ways to help local communities.

Image Source: www.edweek.org

Volunteers of local shelters, food shelves, and outreach programs have learned the benefit of local charities and the effort that workers put in every day. Any large town or urban population will have some amount of homeless citizens or those without enough income to buy food and groceries. By donating time to organizations that help by providing beds or food to any number of those who need it, volunteers have a direct and immediate impact on the community.

Other ways to help improve the lives of others may seem small but can have a dramatic impact on the lives of many. Examples include Pastor John Wagner of Texas, who leads the Turning Point Community Church in Lubbock. Pastor John Wagner and his group travel around the state and country to donate time and supplies in any they can. They have brought bottled water to the thirsty in extreme heat and quarters to Laundromats in poor neighborhoods. While the gestures may be smaller than that of large charitable organizations, the effects are felt immediately by anyone who needs assistance.

Image Source: www.choosework.net

Of course, many people want to help others but may not have the time or money to contribute. If financial concerns are preventing charitable work, donate time by working with existing groups that aim to improve lives. If time is a commodity, any monetary donation, regardless of the size, will help any charity. For more information, contact local charitable groups and ask what can be done to improve local communities.

REPOST: Ancient burial box claimed to have earliest reference to Jesus

A limestone burial box that is typical of first century Jerusalem and has chiseled on the side “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” is about to go on public display in Israel. Is this oldest evidence that mentions the name of Jesus Christ? Find out more from The Guardian article below.

Tel Aviv antiquities collector Oded Golan with the stone burial box bearing the inscription "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." | Image source: theguardian.com

Tel Aviv antiquities collector Oded Golan with the stone burial box bearing the inscription “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” | Image source: theguardian.com

For 2,000 years, pilgrims and archaeologists have hunted for physical evidence of Jesus and his family, without success.

But now an ancient burial box claiming to contain the earliest reference to the Christian saviour is about to go on public display in Israel after its owner was cleared of forgery. It has not been seen in public since a single, brief exhibition in Toronto in 2002.

The modest limestone burial box, known as an ossuary, is typical of first-century Jerusalem, and is owned by Oded Golan, an Israeli antiquities collector. Chiselled on the side are the words “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.”

James the Just was the first leader of the Christians in Jerusalem after the Crucifixion. He was executed for apostasy by the local rabbinical court.

At that time, Jews were not buried but laid in a cave. The bones were collected after a year and placed in an ossuary. Thousands have been discovered, some of them inscribed with names to identify whose bones they contain. One other ossuary mentions a brother.

“This is the oldest evidence that mentions the name of Jesus Christ,” said Golan, who bought the box in the 1970s but did not realise its significance until Sorbonne professor Andre Lemaire noticed it in Golan’s collection. Lemaire published his findings in 2002 and the ossuary was briefly displayed at a Toronto museum, causing a worldwide sensation.

But sceptics questioned its authenticity. In 2003, the Israel Antiquities Authority seized the ossuary and appointed an expert committee who dubbed it a fake. Golan was arrested and charged with forging the mention of Jesus.

After a 10-year investigation and criminal trial, Golan was found innocent of forgery in 2012. Despite the verdict, doubts remain.

“Because of the differences in the depth and the clarity and the kerning [spacing] between the first half of the inscription that mentions James son of Joseph, and the second half, I’d be willing to wager that the second half was added in modern times,” said Prof Christopher Rollston of the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem.

But other experts disagree.

“The inscription is written in the Jewish script, it was done with a sharp instrument and I think it was done by the same hand. It is an authentic inscription,” Prof Gabriel Barkay of Bar-Ilan University explained.

Golan cites expert evidence from the trial showing the patina – a biological crust formed on ancient objects – inside the grooves of the inscription.

“There is no doubt that it’s ancient, and the probability is that it belonged to the brother of Jesus Christ,” said Golan.

Although Golan’s trial ended last year, the ossuary was returned only a few weeks ago by the Israel authorities.

Golan plans to put it on public display, together with the expert opinions from the trial, so that scholars and the public can decide for themselves whether this box did truly contain the bones of the brother of Christ – a unique piece of concrete evidence of the family of Jesus.

Led by their head minister, Pastor John Wagner, members of Turning Point Community Church believe that Jesus Christ is God’s only begotten Son who came to earth, lived among men, and preached about God’s love. Visit this website to know more about the ministry’s statement of faith.

REPOST: Prison Gardens Grow New Lives for Inmates

One of the most practical ways to give prisoners a more “disciplined” life is to help them engage in productive activities. In New York and the San Francisco Bay area, inmates are taught to convert prison yards into orchards.

From Enfield, Conn., to New York City and the San Francisco Bay, lush gardens filled with ripe fruits, vegetables and flowers are growing in unexpected places — prison yards.

Prisons use them to rehabilitate inmates and to teach them basic landscaping skills that they can use to get jobs. All of the prisoners involved in each garden’s program are eligible for release.

Bernard, 46, who’s been in trouble with the law about 10 times in the last 30 years, now helps in the gardening efforts at the Willard Cybulski Correctional Institution in Enfield, Conn.

“I get a sense of peace and a sense of serenity being that I’m in a hostile environment at times and then coming out here to pick these vegetables. It brings calmness to me,” Bernard said.

For the last three years, all 18 state prisons in Connecticut have had garden programs. None cost taxpayers money.
Last year, Connecticut prisons produced more than 35,000 pounds of produce – saving taxpayers $20,000 a year by putting produce back into the prison system. Additional food is donated to charities.

“We give 25 percent of what we pick back to the community and that’s the most fulfilling thing, that I’m helping someone, because in my life I have taken in trouble so, to me, it’s almost like paying back a debt to be able to pick something and be able to give back to others,” Bernard said.

“We believe that everybody has a heart and everybody has a chance for transformation,” said Beth Waitkus, the director of the Insight Garden Program that started 10 years ago at San Quentin prison. “What happens with gardening is … they reconnect to themselves. They reconnect to their feelings. They reconnect to each other as a community, a small community in the prison, and they really reconnect to nature. And, I think that offers a huge opportunity for transformation when we reconnect to ourselves and to the natural world.”

“I’ve been in and out since I’ve been 15 and this is the first time I’ve done something like this. I can connect spiritually with something as simple as garden. … To me that was different,” said Rasheed, who has already served two years and has six years left on his term.

While Waitkus spends her time in San Quentin teaching inmates how to plant flowers, take care of soil and prune plants, she also keeps the connection strong once they leave prison. Nationally, the recidivism rate is more than 60 percent, according to the 2011 Annual Recidivism Report.

For garden prisoners at San Quentin, Waitkus said the return rate is less than 10 percent, and most other prison gardens report return rates in the single digits. In Connecticut, officials say not one of the garden graduates has returned.

Prison
Image source: abcnews.com

“The garden program to me in San Quentin was really therapeutic because it breaks up the monotony of everyday life in prison and I also used to watch my mom garden, so it kind of brought me back to when I was a child, and it’s just a real calming effect in a real, not normal place,” said Kevin Williams who has been out of prison since 2012.

He now works for a group called Planting Justice, which gets jobs for released prisoners who have gone through the garden project at San Quentin.

“It feels great. And even when I was inside, people would ask me, ‘Kev, why do you seem so happy all the time?’ [It was] because you know, we’re blessed. We’ve got another chance to go home and get it right,” he said.

“What we’re trying to do here is to bring people together, find their inner gardener. If they’re successful and not committing crimes, we are indeed creating a safer, more humane society,” Waitkus said.

Pastor John Wagner is the head pastor of Turning Point Community Church. Updates about him and the church can be read on this website.

Pastor John Wagner

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Image source: thronos.org

Pastor John Wagner attended Golden State University in Los Angeles, California, where he earned his undergraduate degree in general education. From there, Pastor Wagner went to Honolulu University in Hawaii, where he obtained a Master of Arts in Theology and Religion.

He went on to complete his pastoral ministry studies in Essex Fells, New Jersey, at Northeastern Bible College, and in 1987, he became the Youth Pastor in Sayreville, New Jersey, at Faith Fellowship Ministries World Outreach Center.

Pastor Wagner has ministered to congregations all over the world – Italy, Germany, the Caribbean, Austria, and South Africa. This is in addition to the thousands of worshipers he has ministered to in the United States. He is now the minister at Turning Point Community Church in Lubbock, Texas.

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Image source: mercopress.com

Recently, Pastor John Wagner has been commended for his community service projects. He has been doing little things to help out around Lubbock, such as handing out free bottles of water on a hot day, and even giving people quarters at a local Laundromat so people can do their laundry for free.

These local projects have helped almost 10,000 in the Lubbock community. The Pastor’s goal is to put a smile on people’s faces.

Although such projects help to make Lubbock a better place, Pastor John Wagner‘s help isn’t just local. He and his congregation have also reached out to help victims of Hurricane Sandy.

The Turning Point Community Church is also working to help developing countries get clean drinking water, through their nonprofit organization, Charity Water. One project of this organization takes place in a small, remote village in India, where they are building a well that will enable the village of 250 to have clean water for the first time.

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Image source: ucg.org

Charity Water also works to provide clean water to schools and medical clinics in poor areas around the world.

Pastor John Wagner Shows Love toward People in Need in Lubbock and Beyond

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Image source: lubbockeda.org

When you reflect on your life, the people you remember and value the most are likely those who sacrificed to give you something. These may include a mother who gave you her time, money and energy to meet your daily needs. They may include a teacher who took time out of his busy schedule to go over those tricky math problems, or maybe the person you recall is a friend who loaned you some money – or at least loaned you his couch for a while – when you were going through hard times. Pastor John Wagner in Texas is that kind of person – the type who makes sacrifices to add value to the lives of people in the Lone Star State and in other areas of the country.

The individuals whom he has helped indeed may consider him a star, as his bright idea to help the community has impacted thousands of people right in Lubbock, Texas, where his church is located. The church is Turning Point Community Church, and Pastor John Wagner and his congregation there are no stranger to helping strangers. For them, the Lubbock community is an area ripe for experiencing acts of kindness that show how much God loves the people there.

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Image source: trailreflections.com

For instance, from handing out bottles of water to giving out coins to Laundromat customers or even handing out snow cones on a hot July day, Pastor John Wagner and his team have demonstrated that small favors can make a big difference in people’s lives. One of his most recent events actually impacted a whopping 500 people in less than half an hour – an event that he calls “an outreach burst.”

This burst of energy is going beyond the limits of Lubbock to other areas of the United States, too. For instance, Pastor John Wagner and his church helped people in New York and in New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy struck the region in October 2012. Pastor John Wagner and his church members essentially are “Good Samaritans” to those who may be experiencing tough roads in life, whether those tough roads include a hot day in Texas or a stormy day in New York.

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Image source: truthmattersblog.com