Charisma News | Breaking News. Spiritual Perspective. http://www.charismanews.com/component/content/?view=featured Thu, 31 Jul 2014 15:12:47 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Schizoid Court Orders Every State to Have an Abortion Clinic http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44856-schizoid-court-orders-every-state-to-have-an-abortion-clinic http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44856-schizoid-court-orders-every-state-to-have-an-abortion-clinic

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which just finished ruling that abortion-clinic regulations are perfectly constitutional in Texas, has just ruled that the same regulations are flagrantly unconstitutional in Mississippi.

You can get whiplash trying to following the tortuous paths of logic these guys follow.

The regulation under discussion requires every abortion doctor to have admitting privileges at an area hospital. This is a common-sense requirement for anyone who cares about women's health, since life-threatening complications happen to mothers all the time during the invasive surgical procedure that destroys the life of the babies they carry.

The 5th Circuit upheld these restrictions in Texas, which have been quite effective in reducing the number of baby abattoirs in the Lone Star State. Texas is down from 42 clinics not long ago to just 20 today.

But the same court, in a burst of illogical irrationality, ruled that the same restriction in Mississippi is flatly unconstitutional. Why? Because it would close the last remaining abortion clinic in the state, which would make Mississippi the first abortion-free state in the country.

In a fevered blast of judicial activism and rabid pro-abortion extremism, these judges invented an entirely new constitutional category of rights based exclusively on geography. Every state must have at least one functional abortion clinic, said these black-robed tyrants, because, "A state cannot lean on its sovereign neighbors to provide protection of its citizens' federal constitutional rights. Pre-viability, a woman has the constitutional right to end her pregnancy by abortion," the court ruled. This law "effectively extinguishes that right within Mississippi's borders."

The court lamented the fact that a woman living in Iuka already has to drive almost two hundred miles to get an abortion in Jackson, blindly ignoring the fact that the same woman can get an abortion less than 100 miles away in Memphis, Tennessee.

In other words, this court has now issued an edict that every single state in the union must have at least one operational baby butcher shop as a matter of constitutional obligation.

This raises some honest questions. What if the two doctors who fly into Mississippi to perform abortions in Mississippi get tired of the weekly treks, or decide to retire? Will the court order the state of Mississippi to own and operate a new abortion clinic at taxpayer expense to make sure that babies can be destroyed in the womb in the Magnolia State? That would seem to be a necessary corollary.

Imagine that new building codes in a given state would require the closing of its last gun store. Does anyone think that the 5th Circuit would order state government to keep that last remaining gun shop open at all costs because, "A state cannot lean on its sovereign neighbors to provide protection of its citizens' federal constitutional rights" to keep and bear arms?

The issue does come down to the nature of abortion, whether it is morally benign or morally monstrous. Let's not forget that the extermination of Jews in Nazi Germany was perfectly legal. Now imagine that toward the end of the war, Germany decided to close every concentration camp, and a court popped up and said, no, you have to leave at least one operating furnace just in case somebody in Germany decides to gas a Jew. We can't make good Germans go all the way to Poland to kill a Jew, they have to be able to do it right here at home.

The parallel is exact. The right the 5th Circuit should be protecting is the right to life, not the right to kill.

Bryan Fischer is the director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy at the American Family Association and host of the talk radio program Focal Point.

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Bryan Fischer Featured Opinion Thu, 31 Jul 2014 15:00:00 -0400
Civic Center OKs Satanic Black Mass Despite Mass Protest http://www.charismanews.com/us/44853-civic-center-oks-satanic-black-mass-despite-mass-protest http://www.charismanews.com/us/44853-civic-center-oks-satanic-black-mass-despite-mass-protest

The longstanding notion that America is "one nation under God" is under attack in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, after city officials gave the OK for a satanic black mass at the Civic Center on Sept. 21.

Thousands are responding. In fact, more than 37,000 concerned Americans already have called on the Civic Center to cancel the sacrilegious black mass, voicing their opposition through an online petition sponsored by the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP).

"The black mass is an attempt to rip God out of the fabric of our nation. That's why more and more people are joining the protest," says TFP Student Action Director John Ritchie. "The sole purpose of the black mass is to attack God, the Catholic Mass and the Holy Eucharist in a most obscene, indecent and hateful manner. Satanists typically steal a consecrated Host from a Church to desecrate in unspeakable ways.

"Why is the Civic Center facilitating and advertising this sacrilege, using its tax-funded facility as a platform to attack God and demean all God-loving Americans?" asked Ritchie. "This event harms the common good on many levels. It forces Civic Center employees and government workers to assist, or work in close proximity to, an event that targets the Catholic Faith."

Although Civic Center manager Jim Brown claims the "Black Mass" is part of free speech, Ritchie disagrees: "Don't fall for it—sacrilege is not free speech. And I find it so strange how children in America can't pray to God in school, but satanists are apparently free to attack God in this government-run venue.

"It's also highly unlikely that the Civic Center would rent space for events that might feature, for example, the burning of a Koran," he continued. "You think the Civic Center would welcome the likes of Hitler, or host a production that extols Nazi gas chambers? I really don't think so."

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City expressed his concern: "I ask those who are allowing this event to reconsider whether this is an appropriate use of public space. We trust that community leaders—and, in particular, the board members of the Oklahoma City Civic Center—do not actually wish to enable or encourage such a flagrantly inflammatory event and can surely remedy this situation."

A similar "Black Mass" scheduled at Harvard University in May was canceled due to widespread protest.

"We're praying this one gets canceled too," Ritchie concluded.

Click here to view and sign the petition.

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Charisma News Staff Featured U.S. News Thu, 31 Jul 2014 14:00:00 -0400
You Won't Believe Why This National Guardsman Was Banned From Church http://www.charismanews.com/us/44852-you-won-t-believe-why-this-national-guardsman-was-banned-from-church http://www.charismanews.com/us/44852-you-won-t-believe-why-this-national-guardsman-was-banned-from-church

National Guard troops in Missouri have been banned from attending a church service in their honor.

Bible Baptist Church in Carthage wanted to honor members of the community as part of their annual Vacation Bible School using the theme "God's Rescue Squad."

Local firefighters and sheriffs attended the patriotic services. The church also invited members of the National Guard to attend, but they didn't show up.

The reason? The National Guard said it received the invitation too late.

But it another factor also played a possible role: Federal policy actually forbids the military from taking part in events sponsored by religious organizations.

Pastor Kent Hogan spoke with CBN News reporter Charlene Aaron about the controversy. Click play for his comments.

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CBN News Featured U.S. News Thu, 31 Jul 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Assemblies of God Launches Next 'Jesus Movement' http://www.charismanews.com/us/44851-assemblies-of-god-launches-next-jesus-movement http://www.charismanews.com/us/44851-assemblies-of-god-launches-next-jesus-movement

Believing every person has the right to experience a clear and adequate presentation of the gospel of Jesus, Assemblies of God on Wednesday launched The Human Right, a movement to encourage students to live the message of Jesus, read and understand the Bible, and have the boldness to share the message.

The Human Right complements the Assemblies of God's extensive involvement in providing human rights through ministries such as:

  • Convoy of Hope, which has served 65 million people, providing disaster relief with global teams working from six international warehouses and feeding 145,000 children in 11 countries;
  • Project Rescue, which in 2013 gave freedom to over 35,000 women and children from sex trafficking;
  • Cry Africa, which has a network of practitioners throughout sub-Saharan Africa assisting in education and care for those affected by AIDS/HIV;
  • Latin America Child Care, which has had more than 1 million students pass through its network of 21 schools throughout Latin America.

"This generation is very culturally sensitive to human rights," said Dr. George O. Wood, general superintendent for the Assemblies of God. "We're actively involved in child advocacy, child sponsorships, water wells, feeding programs and any number of issues that deal with human rights. But there is a right that is even more basic and that is the right of every single person to have a clear and adequate presentation of the gospel of Jesus. We want to ensure this human right is being met worldwide."

The Human Right movement seeks to unite students in rising from apathy to action, entitlement to responsibility, and silence to advocacy.

"There are 2 billion people that don't have this basic human right, and in fact many of them are not only living across the ocean but in our own backyard," said Dr. Wood.

Speed the Light (STL), the student-led, church-facilitated initiative of the Assemblies of God that provides students the opportunity to engage in missions, is the global expression of The Human Right movement, and Youth Alive, which works cross-denominationally to connect youth ministry to the schools, is the local expression.

The Human Right website, TheHumanRight.org, launched Wednesday, allowing individuals to join the movement. Assemblies of God churches will be encouraged to partner with the movement during the closing of the Assemblies of God Centennial Celebration in Springfield, Missouri, on Aug. 10.

In October, The Human Right Tour, a multi-day experience created to help students press pause on the busyness of life and seek to know Jesus more and make Him known, will begin. The themes woven throughout the experience center on the three core values of The Human Right: Abide, Abandon and Advocate.

Each core value is connected to a key experience of the tour, with each one offering practical application: a prayer room with teaching and prayer times; a main service experience; and a community outreach. Churches may sign up now to host an experience on TheHumanRight.org.

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Charisma News Staff Featured U.S. News Thu, 31 Jul 2014 12:00:00 -0400
Free Smartphone App Promises the Power to Silence Satan http://www.charismanews.com/culture/44850-free-smartphone-app-promises-the-power-to-silence-satan http://www.charismanews.com/culture/44850-free-smartphone-app-promises-the-power-to-silence-satan

The Shut Up, Devil! app is an innovative resource that puts the power of the Word of God in your pocket. And because it's on your smartphone, which is almost always with you, you're ready to resist the devil whenever and wherever he attacks. Additionally the app features reminders that will help you keep the enemy at bay and silenced in your life.

The app conception stemmed from Charisma House's upcoming book, Silence Satan by Kyle Winkler, which releases in September. Winkler is founder of Kyle Winkler Ministries, a media and teaching ministry broadcasting on the Christian Television Network.

Watch below to find out how the app works.

Common Issue Categories

Common issue categories and an app-wide search make it easy to find the scriptures you need, when you need them. There's a category for just about any issue you face—anxiety, depression, fear and so much more.

Scripture Cards

Select a category, and you're presented with related cards. Each card features a relevant scripture and a personalized version designed for you to read aloud. Share a card on your social networks or add it to your Favorites collection for quick access later.

Reminders

Set the app to alert you as often as once per hour or as little as once per day. Based upon your settings, friendly alerts will remind you to speak scripture aloud.

Download for Free Today

The Shut Up, Devil! app is available free for iOS and Android phones.

Thousands already use the app and report transformed thinking and great victory in spiritual warfare. I know that you'll experience the same, and in just a short time you'll realize that you're no longer under attack—you are on the attack!

Download the app today and begin to say, "Shut up, devil!"

A Message From Kyle

Satan knows that the greatest hindrance to being used by God is the belief that God can't use us. And so the devil launches his lies and accusations aimed to make us slaves to fear. I'm convinced this is the enemy's most potent strategy against us.

For too many years, Satan's lies dominated my life. Insecurities and regrets from the past often overwhelmed me with fear or made me feel disqualified for use in God's service. These threats all reached their peak in me one winter day when I awoke to a series of condemning whispers and accusations. For the next week, my mind was the battlefield in a severe demonic war intended to shut me up. My upcoming book, Silence Satan: Shutting Down the Enemy's Attacks, Threats, Lies, and Accusations, is framed around this experience. In it I give an extremely transparent account of this warfare, followed with the journey the Lord led me on to vividly witness Satan's defeat at the Cross.

The Model of Jesus

Certainly our victory was won at the Cross. But it must be lived out every day so that we may quickly shut down the enemy when he returns again to challenge our faith.

To help us, God offers spiritual weapons and armor. According to the apostle Paul, one of the greatest of these weapons is Scripture. It's a sword, Paul revealed, which is active and alive, and useful for standing (or identifying) in the victory of Christ (Eph. 6:11–17; 4:12).

We activate Scripture as a weapon in our lives when we speak it. In fact, this is the model Jesus used during His temptation in the wilderness. Three times He countered Satan's temptations with scripture, responding, "It is written..." In other words, "Shut up, devil!" Scripture silenced Satan and forced him to flee (Matt. 4:1–11).

I found speaking scripture crucial to keeping Satan silenced in my life too. My strategy began with note cards on which I penned personalized versions of scriptures relevant to whatever issue I faced. I kept these cards on me throughout the day, intending to speak them aloud as often as I needed. Still, despite my best intentions, I frequently forgot or became too lazy.

With this, I implored God for something more convenient—something always with me that could help me remember. That's when I received a download from heaven. Over the next day, God revealed to me the blueprints of what is now known as the Shut Up, Devil! app.

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Kyle Winkler Featured Culture Thu, 31 Jul 2014 11:00:00 -0400
Troops Told to Refrain From Eating, Drinking in Front of Muslims http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44849-troops-told-to-refrain-from-eating-drinking-in-front-of-muslims http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44849-troops-told-to-refrain-from-eating-drinking-in-front-of-muslims

Do not eat or drink in front of Muslims, and learn more about their religion.

That's the directive that has gone out to active-duty military personnel at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, a Department of Defense medical and graduate school in Bethesda, Maryland.

The brigade commander sent an email to military personnel at the facility last month—just before the start of Ramadan—advising them to show respect to Muslim colleagues.

"This is a period of great personal restraint and commitment in addition to renewed focus on worship," Brigade Commander Col. Kevin Glasz wrote. "I'd like to encourage you to learn just a little more about this religion, but more importantly, I'm asking you to be considerate and do not consume food or drink in front of our Muslim colleagues; it is a simple, yet respectful action."

During the month-long period known as Ramadan, Muslims refrain from eating or drinking during daylight hours.

The brigade commander also provided a link to a website about Islam, and specifically Ramadan.

Now that raised the ire of some of the officers and doctors training at the USU, and several of them reached out to me with their concerns—provided I not disclose their names.

"I respect the intention behind this email, but note that there is no similar call honoring other faiths," one Marine told me. "There is no similar invitation for non-Jewish colleagues to refrain from eating leavened products during Passover, or non-Christian colleagues to refrain from eating meat during Lent."

The entire incident smells of political correctness, the Marine told me.

"Our veterans have sacrificed too much blood, sweat and tears to have their own rights and freedoms be sacrificed on the altar of progressive political correctness," the Marine said.

I contacted USU about the email. I wanted to understand the brigade commander's intent. I gave them 20 days to respond, but no one returned my calls or emails.

Another individual who studies at USU was concerned about the wording of the email.

"It could be construed as an order and one that violates the First Amendment freedom of everyone who received it," my source said. "This is an appalling violation, especially coming on the heels of so many instances where those of conservative Christian faith in the military are vilified."

Meanwhile, Navy officials have ordered personnel serving in Bahrain to dress more conservatively off base, according to a report in Stars and Stripes. Men were ordered to wear long-sleeved shirts and women were told to wear blouses that cover their elbows and skirts or pants that cover the knees.

Stars and Stripes reported that base cultural advisers had spent several weeks conducting Ramadan briefings to "educate Americans about the holy month." Personnel were given briefings on Islam, the lunar calendar and Ramadan customs.

"It's customary to say 'Ramadan Kareem' during Ramadan," read a to-do list compiled by NSA Bahrain Public Affairs.

The military's quest to be culturally sensitive to celebrants of the Islamic faith stands in stark contrast to its recent crackdown on public expressions of the Christian faith.

Last Christmas, soldiers at Camp Shelby in Mississippi were told during a diversity briefing that they could not use the word Christmas. A VA hospital in Texas refused to accept holiday cards from boys and girls because the cards mentioned "Christmas" or "God bless you." And a Nativity scene near a lake on Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina was removed after someone complained.

So you might understand why Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, is a bit surprised by the Pentagon's recent behavior.

"There is a good biblical word for this: hypocrisy," Crews told me.

"Our troops are being told to respect the Muslim Ramadan and encouraged to say 'Ramadan Kareem,' while at the same time they cannot have a cross on chapels, display a manger scene or say 'Merry Christmas' for fear of offending," Crews said. "There is something wrong with this picture."

He has a good point.

Crews said he completely understands the need for cultural advisers to inform military personnel about Islam. He said similar briefings were held prior to Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

"We wanted our folks to know about customs and culture so as not to offend unnecessarily," he told me. "Of course we want to respect the faith of others, but should we be encouraging our folks to participate in the Muslim faith in this way?"

Why not just treat all religions fairly?

"I think that if there were emails about other faith traditions, this email wouldn't have been so offensive," my source at USU said. "Islam appears to have a protected status, while Christians are increasingly vilified."

Religious liberty. Now there's an interesting concept—one enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

The military might want to consider that the next time it tells an officer to remove a Bible from his desk or tells a cadet to remove a Bible verse from his whiteboard or hide a cross inside a VA hospital chapel, or tells chaplains they can't pray in the Name of Jesus.

Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. Sign up for his American Dispatch newsletter, be sure to join his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter. His latest book is God Less America.

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Todd Starnes Featured Opinion Thu, 31 Jul 2014 10:00:00 -0400
Gay Rights Activists Publicly Display Names of Conservative Opponents http://www.charismanews.com/us/44848-gay-rights-activists-publicly-display-names-of-conservative-opponents http://www.charismanews.com/us/44848-gay-rights-activists-publicly-display-names-of-conservative-opponents

Opponents of Houston's proposed gay rights ordinance say that intimidation—not openness—is the motive behind supporters' move to publicize the names of more than 30,000 people who signed petitions asking that the measure be put on a referendum ballot.

With more than 30,000 "pre-verified" signatures collected favoring the referendum, opponents say that even if some are deemed fraudulent or to have come from people who are ineligible to vote, there will still be enough signatures to pass the threshold of 17,269 required to place the ordinance on the ballot for a public vote.

Gay rights supporters are asking citizens to pore through the paperwork and search for evidence of voter fraud.

"Was your name placed on the petition without your permission?" asks a headline on the homepage at heropetition.com, which backs the city's so-called equal rights ordinance. The measure was pushed through the city council by Mayor Annise Parker, an avowed lesbian. But church groups and others want the issue placed before the voters.

The ordinance would extend special legal protection to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people and would apply to businesses that employ as few as 15 people.

The website claims it has found evidence that the petitions bear names of some voters who didn't actually offer their signatures. It also advises people who discover their names have been falsely placed on the petition to sign an affidavit and send it to the city secretary's office, according to an online report by Houston television station KHOU.

"There is documented evidence of deliberate voter fraud that may actually put petition signers at risk of criminal prosecution," the website says.

Not so fast, opponents say.

"We submitted over 31,000 pre-verified signatures to the city secretary on July 3 and even presuming that among those are some that will be found unqualified, it is very clear that the minimum is met and the voters desire their say at the ballot box. All we have asked is for fair play and an honest, transparent process, and that is what we expect," said a statement from a church-led group of gay rights opponents called the No Unequal Rights Coalition.

The coalition also said it was the job of the city secretary, not the city attorney, to certify that only registered Houston voters had signed the petition for a referendum.

Its statement continued, "If the city reports that there are inadequate qualified signatures to meet the minimum of 17,269, we will immediately file a legal challenge and mount an aggressive investigation into every signature and every petition declared unqualified. We will scrutinize every action, depose every person involved and leave no stone unturned to give what we are confident is the majority of citizens in the city their day to have their voice heard."

Opponents of the ordinance, who found out about it during a city council committee meeting on the prospect of a referendum, suggested the people who set up the website had a more sinister motive.

"There was testimony today about, you know, 'You can find out if your neighbor is against the ordinance,'" said Jonathan Saenz of Austin-based Texas Values, which opposes the ordinance, according to the KHOU report. "So I hope we don't see homosexual advocates start targeting people and trying to name them and trying to put pressure on them and force them out of their job and somehow cause a negative effect on their livelihood. We've seen that happen in other cases across the country. And I hope that's not what we see in Houston."

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Mark Andrews Featured U.S. News Thu, 31 Jul 2014 09:00:00 -0400
10 Characteristics of Christ's True Apostles http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44847-10-characteristics-of-christ-s-true-apostles http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44847-10-characteristics-of-christ-s-true-apostles

Recently I heard a great prophetic teacher (Thamo Naidoo from South Africa) mention in his message that there is a difference between apostles of churches and apostles of Christ. He said that while there were many apostles of churches, there were only very few true apostles of Christ on the Earth today. That one statement exploded on the inside of me and gave me much illumination. I had never heard anyone make this delineation before, but it makes a lot of sense to me. The following is what I have unpacked in the scriptures since Thamo made this statement.

Essentially, the word "apostle" means a person who is sent to represent another—whether a king, kingdom or entity like a church. First Corinthians 12:28 teaches that God places first in the church apostles, since they are sent by God to represent Him in a city to pioneer a beachhead (a church or ekklesia as shown in Matthew 16:18-19) for city transformation.

Apostles are the "sent ones" who represent the essence of what the church vision or mission is all about. In John 17, Jesus constantly referred to the fact that He was sent by the Father to the world, which is one reason Hebrews 3:1 refers to Jesus as our Apostle. Jesus was God's apostle sent into the world to redeem it. In Revelation 22:14, we see the term "the 12 apostles of the Lamb."

There will never be another apostle added to that list since there were only 12. However, it seems evident (at least to me) that Paul was also an apostle of Christ, which means this general category was not limited to merely 12 in total. Paul qualified his apostleship not only by planting churches but also by seeing Jesus (1 Cor. 9:1), which means that apostles at this level must have experienced a dynamic encounter and intimate walk with the Lord.

In the New Testament there were dozens of people identified as apostles. It is my view that since Paul was an apostle of Christ his apostleship transcended the churches he founded. Although Paul did not found the church in Rome, he was respected enough by the general body of Christ that he was able to write the letter to the Romans with apostolic weight and authority as if he was the one who planted it. Hence, apostles of Christ garner a high level of respect beyond the borders of their own church networks, even though they would never attempt to supplant the authority of an apostolic leader who is the founder and/or leader of another network (unless there was heresy or a gross violation of biblical ethics).

Also, Paul warned that there were some who were masquerading as apostles of Christ (2 Cor.11:13), which probably means that this term (apostle of Christ) was used to identify some significant apostles who were not among the original 12. Furthermore, in 2 Corinthians 8:23, Paul identified some as "apostles of the churches" (not "apostles of Christ"), which I believe refers to the fact that these leaders only had limited recognized apostolic authority related to representing a particular constellation of churches.

Since apostles of Christ directly represent the Lord Jesus, they have a burden and calling for the whole body of Christ and/or a large expression of the global body of Christ. Apostles of Christ are also trans-cultural, trans-generational, and are more loyal to the kingdom of God than to a specific geopolitical affinity.

The following are 10 characteristics of apostles of Christ:

1. Apostles of Christ Build the Kingdom

Oftentimes, church apostles are just focused on their local church and/or their network or denomination. One of the reasons is because their assignment is limited to those works they personally oversee or have founded. They do not have the grace or leadership capacity to go beyond their particular church system, doctrine and/or culture. On the other hand, apostles of Christ have an ambassadorial call that transcends any one church, movement or denomination. Hence, even if they try to focus on one group or movement, God will constantly pull them into other church communities and/or nations to build apostolic foundations related to doctrine or kingdom life.


2. Apostles of Christ Are Not Hierarchical

Generally speaking, church apostles can be caught up in titles, measures of influence within their movement, and/or church politics. Apostles of Christ do not personally crave titles (they will use them when appropriate) and do not need institutional church structures to validate their ministry or calling.

3. Apostles of Christ Don't Strive For Recognition

Philippians 2 teaches us that Jesus made Himself of no reputation. Apostles of Christ are often hidden and do not seek public attention, since they are already rooted strongly in their identity as sons of God and have no innate need for public acclaim.

4. Apostles of Christ Are Not Driven by Money

Apostles of Christ have so much faith in their assignment from God, they trust God will provide all their needs as long as they are in His will. They do not go to a place to minister only because the offerings are good but will go only where the Lord is leading. Paul said he did not peddle the word of God for money (2 Cor.2:17), and the apostle Peter warns shepherds not to minister for dishonest gain (1 Peter 5:2). Although I believe those who labor in the word full-time are worthy of double honor and should make a living from the gospel (1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Cor. 9:14), the bottom line for apostles of Christ is the will of God, not material gain.


5. Apostles of Christ Lay Down Their Lives for the Gospel

All of the original 12 apostles (except John) as well as the apostle Paul were martyred for the gospel. As Jesus laid down His life for the sheep (John 10), those who represent Him are willing to die daily (Rev. 12:11; Acts 20:24; Gal. 2:19-20) whether it is to their own will or literally to lose their lives.

6. Apostles of Christ Have a Servant's Heart

Apostles of Christ are unassuming, do not have an entitlement mentality, have a servant's heart, and do not lead with a top-down autocratic approach like the rulers of the Gentiles (Mark 10:42). They mimic Jesus' words when He said that the greatest in the Kingdom is the one who serves (Mark 10:43-45).

7. Apostles of Christ Have Divine Influence and Calling Beyond Their Network of Churches

Although the apostle Paul strove not to preach where Christ was already named (Rom. 15:20), his greatest epistle was to the church at Rome, where he endeavored to go in spite of the fact he was not their founding apostle. Paul had vast influence way beyond the primary sphere of activity he was focusing on (Read 2 Cor. 10:10-14). His influence has even reached to us 2,000 years later through his inspired New Testament writings.

Since apostles of Christ represent the Lord Himself, by nature they have to be trans-national, trans-cultural, and multi-generational and have a desire for kingdom advancement, not just the enlargement of their church networks.


8. Apostles of Christ Have an Intimate Walk with God

Since apostles of Christ have to represent Jesus and not merely a church or denomination (of course all believers are called to represent Christ, but apostolic callings have a greater measure of responsibility), they are obligated to know God intimately and walk in His presence and power. All of the original 12 apostles walked with Jesus personally for more than three years before they were launched into their ministry, and Paul the apostle had a personal encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). All true apostles of Christ will have a driving passion to know God and to make Him known.

9. Apostles of Christ Endure Great Hardship

Paul validated his apostleship by the immense hardships he endured, not just by signs and wonders and church planting (2 Cor. 11:17-12:8). Paul said (1 Cor. 4:9) that apostles live like those condemned dying in the arena (or have the sentence of death upon themselves). This kind of apostolic leader must have the capacity for high-stress leadership combined with the kind of emotional maturity to deal with all kinds of difficulties that the average person could never endure.

10. Apostles of Christ Live in Simplicity

Apostles of Christ do not need or desire to live a life of extreme luxury and opulence. Their spiritual and psychological needs have already been met through their deep and abiding relationship with Christ. They have been so satisfied with living with the person and presence of God that they count all things as dung compared to knowing Him (Phil. 3:8-14)! Their greatest desire in life is to fellowship with Him, meditate on the scriptures, and serve God's people and kingdom. Consequently they do not need to drive the most expensive cars, live in the largest houses or make a huge salary in order to be satisfied in this life. Consequently, they live in simplicity, are content with little and are not driven to pursue material possessions and pleasure.

After seeing these 10 traits, we can see how there are only very few apostles of Christ in this world today. May the Lord raise more up in these days so the body of Christ can fully advance!

Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church, Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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Joseph Mattera Featured Opinion Thu, 31 Jul 2014 08:00:00 -0400
Why Team Ministry Is Better Than a One-Man Show http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44845-why-team-ministry-is-better-than-the-one-man-show http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44845-why-team-ministry-is-better-than-the-one-man-show

Last week I served alongside a team of pastors at a ministry school in Debrecen, Hungary, a city I've visited four times. Even though I don't speak Hungarian (it's one of the most difficult languages on the planet), I had a blast working with my friends Zsolt, Eugene, István, Pál and Attila. We shared meals, worshiped and prayed together and opened our hearts on a deep level—with the help of my interpreter and, on a few occasions, the Google Translate program on my phone.

Nobody tried to be the star as we shared teaching slots during the week. We preferred each other and encouraged each other. And we laughed a lot because we really enjoyed each other's company. Every leader contributed his part—and in the end the students were blessed that their teachers flowed in harmony.

Teamwork is an essential part of God's plan for ministry. In both the Old and New Testaments, we see teams of people working side-by-side to further His kingdom. Moses shared leadership with Aaron and Miriam (see Micah 4:6) and David had a group of "mighty men" who performed valiant deeds under his command. Solomon appointed a team to serve as his deputies, Nehemiah rebuilt Jerusalem with teams of workers, and Esther's maidens prayed and fasted with her before she saved Israel from genocide.

Jesus loves teams. He gathered a group of hand-picked disciples and then sent them out to minister in pairs (Luke 10:1). He involved them in feeding the multitudes and healing sick people. In the same way, the apostle Paul never traveled anywhere alone, and he always credited the people who helped him. His love for Timothy, Phoebe, Luke, Silvanus, Titus, Priscilla and other team players is an obvious backdrop in his epistles.

So if teamwork is so essential to Christianity, why do we prefer the celebrity model of ministry today? Here are five clear reasons that teamwork is a better approach:

1. Teamwork accomplishes more. Anybody who has ever chopped down a tree with an axe or painted a house knows the job gets done quicker and easier when more people are working. Ecclesiastes 4:9 says: "Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor." Ministry leaders are compared to oxen in the Bible, and Jesus said He would place a "yoke" on us when we are called to ministry (see Matt. 11:29). A yoke connects a team of oxen. Jesus never referred to his followers as renegade stallions who run off on their own. He called us to be yoked together with others. You will not achieve as much if you insist on doing everything yourself.


2. Teamwork unlocks people's potential. In a one-man show, a leader performs the up-front job, a few overworked people help in the background, and the crowd watches. Religious spectators are trained to sit—as if they have nothing useful to contribute. Yet the New Testament tells us the Holy Spirit gives every believer certain gifts, and we all are to use these gifts for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7, 11).

In today's megachurch culture, the celebrity pastor looms large on the big screen, and he may even broadcast his message to several satellite congregations. This might effectively reach some people for Jesus, and it might be a short-term solution for growth, but does it encourage every church member to discover his or her potential? The best leaders know how to involve lots of people to reach God's goal.

3. Teamwork encourages healthy relationships. It's easier to do ministry alone. But you will never grow if you do a solo act. When you are part of a team you must deal with competitive attitudes, jealousy, pride, complaints and hurt feelings. This is exactly why Jesus wants us to work together! You will never confront the flaws in your character unless you work with others. They will expose your selfishness, and you will expose theirs. Proverbs 27:17 says: "Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." God will use Brother Bothersome and Sister Sandpaper in your life to make you more loving—and more humble!


4. Teamwork prevents scandals. Years ago after televangelist Jim Bakker was released from prison, he admitted that he had surrounded himself with yes men who didn't have the courage to tell him he was making unethical business decisions. Leaders with a one-man-show mentality are in danger of doing incredibly stupid things because they lack accountability. Team ministry encourages transparency, and senior leaders recognize the value of getting honest feedback from their colleagues. You will fail as a leader if you don't have wise counselors who have access to you. Surround yourself with team players and ask them to point out your blind spots!

5. Teamwork keeps us from idolizing men. A well-known pastor in Nigeria was known to record his sermon each week and then send tapes of his message to his pastors throughout the country. The pastors were then expected to stand in their pulpits the following Sunday, play the recorded sermon ... and move their mouths to the words! They had no message of their own. They were simply clones of the "All-Important Man of God."

That may sound silly, but aren't we guilty of similar foolishness when we put leaders on pedestals and idolize their preaching style? The one-man show may have worked in the past, but the emerging generation has zero tolerance for religious phoniness. People today want healthy leaders who know how to share power instead of grabbing or abusing it.

J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. He is the author of The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale and other books.

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J. Lee Grady Featured Opinion Thu, 31 Jul 2014 07:00:00 -0400
The Subtle Attempt to Take Israel Out of the Bible http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44846-the-attempt-to-take-israel-out-of-the-bible http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44846-the-attempt-to-take-israel-out-of-the-bible

New Christians struggling to study their Bible are often taught to read the Scriptures as though they were written personally to them, even reciting the scriptures using one's own name in place of the verse's subject. While it is important to apply Scripture to one's own life, it is equally important to not ignore the original context of the scripture and the original recipient of that particular promise.

For example, a special verse that brings comfort to a person who may be experiencing difficulty is Isaiah 49:16 "See, I have inscribed you [insert name] on the palms of My hands." This verse lets the believer know that they are known by the Lord, and He holds them before Him, as it were, in the palms of His hands. It is a beautiful verse.

It may be a great surprise to many to learn that the verse is originally intended for Jerusalem, the city that personifies the people of Israel, for verse 17 goes on to say "Your walls are continually before Me." An over-personalization of the scriptures can actually result in a Christian who can recite verses from their Bible but has failed to understand what the book is about.

Another tendency in Bible study is to study by topic or book, which is understandable for such an immense volume as the Bible. The danger, however, is walking away from a Bible study understanding everything there is to know about a particular topic but not knowing the overall story of the Bible itself.

The Bible is the story of God's love for the world, His plan to redeem that world, and the battle against that plan. The object of God's love was always the world, and He chose Abraham to birth a nation through which He would carry out His plan to redeem that world. This is the overarching story that the Bible tells, and central to the story is the calling on the nation of Israel.

The Bible is, in fact, a Jewish book: written by, about, and largely for, Jews. Jesus even said that salvation is of the Jews. Christians are partakers of that salvation and are able to apply the scriptures to their own lives, because they are the heirs of Abraham by faith. Through Jesus they are adopted into the family and are part of Abraham's family tree. But, they do not replace the original family they are grafted into, nor do they annul God's promises to the Jews.

Some Christians have tried to claim that the Old Testament should no longer be read literally about the people of Israel; it now only applies spiritually to the church. This is known as Replacement Theology: the idea that the church has replaced Israel in the plans and purposes of God. This spiritualization of scripture is actually a rejection of scripture by rewriting it to mean something other than its original meaning.

While some Replacement Theologians would deny rejecting or rewriting scripture, others are quite blatant about it. One such group is Sabeel. Founded by Palestinian Anglican Canon, Naim Ateek, Sabeel propagates Palestinian Liberation Theology and disregards any portion of Scripture that disagrees with Ateek's anti-Semitic views. He calls for Scripture to be "de-Zionized" by removing all "Zionist" portions that afford any significance to the nation of Israel and any connection of the Jewish people to the Holy Land.

While that may sound ludicrous to most, Sabeel has the ear of some mainline denominations, one being the Presbyterian Church (USA). The group's influence over the years has fanned the flames of Replacement Theology in the PCUSA and finally resulted in this summer's vote to divest from companies doing business with Israel.

That denomination also published an anti-Semitic study guide earlier this year entitled "Zionism Unsettled" in which Sabeel authored a chapter as did Replacement Theologian Gary Burge.

The study guide was unbalanced and malicious, and it intentionally over-simplified the extremely complicated Arab-Israeli conflict in order to vilify Israel and Zionism. It was so biased that some Jewish groups called it "hate speech."

The study guide ended with a group exercise suggesting that liturgy and hymns be edited so as to avoid words like Israel, Zion, exile, covenant and return, as they might cause worshipers to confuse these biblical terms with modern events and people in the Holy Land.

Interestingly, all of this manipulation and conniving is with one intent in mind: rid Scripture of the role of the nation of Israel. This is in complete contradiction to the words of the Apostle Paul that Israel's calling cannot be revoked. Speaking specifically of the Jewish people, He said in Romans 11:29, "For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable."

The problem is, of course, that if you want to remove Israel from the Bible, you will have little Bible left. Christianity then loses its spiritual roots, churches lose their moral authority, and their membership numbers dwindle. The PCUSA membership has dropped 26.8 percent over the last 10 years. Let's hope they see the error of their ways before it is too late.

Susan Michael is the U.S. director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem icejusa.org and creator of IsraelAnswers.com.

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Susan Michael Featured Opinion Thu, 31 Jul 2014 06:00:00 -0400
Baptist Author Ergun Caner’s Son Reportedly Commits Suicide http://www.charismanews.com/us/44844-baptist-author-ergun-caner-s-son-reportedly-commits-suicide http://www.charismanews.com/us/44844-baptist-author-ergun-caner-s-son-reportedly-commits-suicide

Ergun Caner's 15-year-old son apparently has committed suicide. Caner is president of Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, Georgia, as well as a well-known Christian author and Baptist minister.

Brewton-Parker released a statement consoling the Caners:

"Our hearts are filled with great sorrow as the entire Brewton-Parker College family grieves with its beloved president, Dr. Ergun Caner, his wife Jill, and Drake, their youngest son over the tragic death of their oldest son and big brother, Braxton Paige Caner. Braxton was born March 8, 1999 in Denver, Colorado. He came to faith in Christ at the tender age of 6 and was baptized by his dad at the Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia," the statement reads.

"Braxton would later reaffirm his commitment to Christ at a youth camp under the preaching of evangelist Tony Nolan. Consequently, he began traveling with his dad and sharing his faith on mission trips, evangelistic meetings, Bible conferences, and youth camps in 41 states as well as foreign countries including Kenya, Israel, Wales and the Bahamas. He was a member of the Willow Park Baptist Church in Aledo, Texas.

"Braxton Caner was energetic and outgoing. In football, he held a starting guard position for the Aledo High School Bearcats and was to enter his sophomore year next month. The Caner family and Brewton-Parker College community covet your prayers as we walk through this painful time together."

In April 2013, Rick Warren's son took his own life. Matthew Warren, 27, had struggled with mental illness before his death. There is no indication that Braxton suffered with mental illness.

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Jennifer LeClaire Featured U.S. News Wed, 30 Jul 2014 20:00:00 -0400
America Must Have a Great Awakening http://www.charismanews.com/culture/44791-america-must-have-a-great-awakening http://www.charismanews.com/culture/44791-america-must-have-a-great-awakening

Present conditions in the church and nation demand united, decisive action. We need more than one positive election ... one godly, Supreme Court decision ... one good sermon series or one significant, local church revival. America is desperate for a change. Overall church attendance is declining. An entire generation is emerging with little understanding of absolute truth. The only hope for change is in the spiritual climate of our nation, and it begins at the grassroots level.

Founded following the infamous 9/11 terrorist attacks, Cry Out America is a grassroots prayer initiative signaling that hope.

September 11, 2001 was a moment that forever changed America. "It was a national event which affected us all," stated Ashley Wilson, former COA National Coordinator and current pastor of Lifegate Church in Lexington, KY.

"It was the JFK assassination moment of this generation," commented Dr. Billy Wilson, founder of the Awakening America Alliance and current Oral Roberts University President.

Collapsing structures, a culture of fear, emotional despair, increasing terrorism, and the encroachment of Islam sounded a spiritual alarm for this century. How has the church—Jesus' followers—responded?

For weeks and months following the 9/11 attacks, our sanctuaries were full. People reached out to God for meaning. We rallied together in a real spirit of unity. However, our churches emptied quickly, and spiritual apathy resettled over our country. Deeply moved by this atmosphere of recurring slumber, the Awakening America Alliance sensed God calling them to issue a resounding wake-up call to the church.

Cry Out America was initially promoted as a 9/11 noon-time prayer meeting at every county courthouse in America. People began Crying Out in repentance and asking God for mercy at the place of justice. Since 2007, COA has mobilized hundreds of thousands at 9/11 prayer gatherings in all 50 states, including 38 U.S. counties with one-million or more population. We have witnessed people join hands and hearts across major denominational lines—Mainline Evangelicals, Protestants, Catholics, and traditional Pentecostals—all coming together under the banner of Christ.

We believe America is on the verge of a sweeping move of God's Spirit that will touch every state, every county, every church, and every heart. The historical patterns of America's Great Awakenings indicate that in times of a seemingly hopeless environment, God chooses to move in response to the cries of His people. We are CRYING OUT TO GOD seeking a deep transformation and a Christ-awakening in America.

AAA Executive Director and COA National Coordinator, Kay Horner has chosen Today's Dream Awakens Tomorrow's Destiny as this year's theme. (Watch this year's video here) We must ask ourselves: "If dreams birth desires and desires determine destiny, what is the vision God has placed in our hearts for the emerging generations following in our footsteps?" Kay continued, "We need people to respond to the passion God has placed in their hearts and join us in this vital prayer movement.

Here are some ways YOU can pursue a Christ awakening and help shape the destiny of America!

  • Register your church, ministry, or county today to be a part of Cry Out America 2014. Visit www.awakeningamerica.us, scroll down the homepage, and click on the interactive U. S. map to locate your state/county. Free resources are also available online.
  • Volunteer to lead a 9/11 prayer gathering at your business, in your small group or Bible study, at your local pregnancy care center, or on your university campus. Call 1.888.9.AWAKEUS (1.888.929.2538) today to learn more.
  • Engage in living a Prayer/Care/Share lifestyle outside the church walls. Visit www.preach2engage.com for free resources, digital apps, and engaging opportunities for you, your family, and your church.

Sacred assemblies are primarily held 12:00 noon on 9/11 at county courthouses, churches, or other public venues. For 2014, COA prayer points have expanded to include Prison Fellowship Ministries, pregnancy care centers, universities, para-church ministries, and marketplace groups. Many communities are incorporating 24-7 prayer in the days leading to 9/11, and others are including cooperative evangelism and service initiatives. Along with a goal to establish an ongoing rhythm of prayer on this significant day, we want communities to develop a thriving prayer ministry throughout the year (see The National Prayer Accord).

#CryOutAmerica

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Sponsored by Awakening America Alliance Featured Culture Fri, 25 Jul 2014 10:30:00 -0400
Charles Spurgeon's Lost Sermons Surface as Intercessors Cry for Awakening http://www.charismanews.com/culture/44843-charles-spurgeon-s-lost-sermons-surface-as-intercessors-cry-for-awakening http://www.charismanews.com/culture/44843-charles-spurgeon-s-lost-sermons-surface-as-intercessors-cry-for-awakening

Nineteenth-century legendary London pastor Charles Spurgeon was a publishing and preaching juggernaut.

He preached to more than 10 million people, baptized more than 14,000 converts, and sold more than 50 million copies of his sermons. Spurgeon's fans nicknamed him "the Prince of Preachers" and flocked to hear him.

Nashville-based B&H Publishing will release The Lost Sermons of Charles Spurgeon, a multi-volume edition of early Spurgeon sermons and sermon outlines.

"I have been involved in Christian publishing for over 20 years," said Jim Baird, publisher of B&H Academic. "A project like this comes to you once in your lifetime if you are fortunate."

The collection of over 400 sermons and outlines dates from Spurgeon's days as a young pastor outside of Cambridge. The son of a minister, Spurgeon came to faith in 1850 during a service at a Primitive Methodist Church. That encounter with God set him on a path to become one of the most prolific preachers in the English language.

"It is sometimes overlooked that Charles Spurgeon published more words in the English language than any other Christian in history," said George, curator of the Spurgeon library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri.

Spurgeon began preaching not long after his conversion. At 17, he became pastor of a Baptist church in Waterbeach, not far from Cambridge. He kept his sermon outlines—which he called "skeletons"—along with some full-text sermons in a series of handwritten journals.

The first of the 13 newly discovered journals is dated October 1849, a few months before Spurgeon's conversion. The last is dated from 1854, right before he became pastor of the New Park Street Chapel in London. The journals reveal how Spurgeon developed his theology as well as his skill in preaching.

"Lord, revive my stupid soul," Spurgeon wrote after finishing one sermon. Another ended with, "Oh my God. Do help. For Jesus' sake."

After becoming a pastor in London, Spurgeon had planned to publish those early sermons. But that never came to pass. They were stored in the archives of Spurgeon's College in London and forgotten.

George discovered the journals three years ago, while doing research at the college. A librarian there brought him a stack of Spurgeon's journals to look through.

"Only when I began flipping through their pages did I realize the significance," he said. "These were the lost sermons Spurgeon tried so long ago to publish."

The multi-volume set from B&H Academic will include sermons from those journals, along with critical commentary on them from George. It will be the first critical edition of Spurgeon's work ever to be published, according to George.

Most other works about Spurgeon either reprint his sermons without analysis, or only focus on his "celebrity-like reputation, uncanny oratorical abilities, and worldwide influence," said George. That leaves many people with a one-dimensional view of the great preacher.

"But there is a growing interest in Spurgeon scholarship in recovering his humanity—his inconsistencies, his weaknesses, his doubts, struggles and sufferings," he said. "In this way, we discover a Spurgeon who does not arrive on the theological landscape of 19th-century Britain in perfect, polished form, but instead a preacher in progress whose exegesis, rhetorical tendencies, and homiletic method evolve over the first five years of his preaching ministry."

George hopes this new edition of early Spurgeon sermons will lead to more scholarly interest in the great preacher. Pastors, he said, will also benefit from these early sermons.

"He models for us an unwavering commitment to Christ-centered preaching, fervent prayer and discipleship, local and world evangelism, and incarnational urban ministries," George said.

Baird said the new books will be published next year. Digital versions will be available exclusively through WORDsearch.

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Bob Smietana/LifeWay Featured Culture Wed, 30 Jul 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Christian Radio DJ Pleads Guilty to Child-Sex Crimes http://www.charismanews.com/us/44842-christian-radio-dj-pleads-guilty-to-child-sex-crimes http://www.charismanews.com/us/44842-christian-radio-dj-pleads-guilty-to-child-sex-crimes

John Balyo pled guilty to charges of criminal sexual conduct for assaulting children following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Balyo, 35, was an on-air personality at Gaylord's Family Christian Radio station, WCSG. He was arrested at the Big Ticket Festival, a faith-based festival in Gaylord, Michigan, in June. The Big Ticket Festival is a ministry of White Stone Project, a Michigan nonprofit whose focus is sharing the eternal message of Jesus Christ through innovative evangelism.

According to the investigation, Balyo paid another defendant, who is the subject of a separate HSI child-exploitation investigation, to arrange sexual encounters with children. Further details about the investigation are being withheld pending the defendant's appearance in court to answer to the charges.

HSI special agents and officers with the Michigan State Police and Battle Creek Police Department arrested Balyo on charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. WCSG fired Balyo after the incident was revealed. His sentencing should come down in November. He will likely serve at least 15 years in prison.

"John Balyo is completely remorseful and is taking every step to reduce the trauma and misery of people having to come to court," Balyo's defense attorney, David Dodge, said in a statement. (Balyo) is proactively resolving this ... with full acceptance of responsibility."

"We sincerely grieve over these recent events, in particular the tragic impact on victims and their parents," Chris Lemke, executive director of Cornerstone University Radio, WCSG and Mission Network News said in a statement on the WCSG website. "The WCSG family is deeply aching and know you may be hurting as well. We know that no one, absolutely no one, is immune from falling into the darkness of sin. And yet, we have hope. Those who truly follow and live for Jesus Christ know He alone has the power to restore broken lives and broken trust.

This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2013, HSI special agents arrested more than 2,000 individuals under this initiative.

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Jennifer LeClaire Featured U.S. News Wed, 30 Jul 2014 18:00:00 -0400
This 1 Thing Could Shave 14 Years Off Your Life http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44841-this-1-thing-could-shave-14-years-off-your-life http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44841-this-1-thing-could-shave-14-years-off-your-life

Severe obesity can cut lives short by up to 14 years, according to a new study by the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

The report, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, found that people who were considered severely obese can die much earlier due to the increased risks of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other diseases.

The study is based on 20 studies from the United States, Sweden and Australia over the course of 30 years.

It addressed prevalence of class III obesity (body mass index of or greater than 40) and found it has increased dramatically in several countries.

Body mass index (BMI) is a calculation of body fat based on height and weight.

Currently, class III obesity affects 6 percent of adults in the U.S., and severely obese men and women are more likely to die earlier than people of normal weight (BMI of 18.5 to 24.9), according to the findings.

Extreme obesity accounts for 509 deaths per 100,000 men each year and 382 excess deaths per 100,000 women, according to Cari Kitahara of the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

Visit your doctor to find out your BMI. You can also visit WebMD, but the site is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health.

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CBN News Staff Featured Opinion Wed, 30 Jul 2014 17:00:00 -0400
Bishop Sam Clements Selected as New General Overseer of the Church of God of Prophecy http://www.charismanews.com/us/44840-bishop-sam-clements-selected-as-new-general-overseer-of-the-church-of-god-of-prophecy http://www.charismanews.com/us/44840-bishop-sam-clements-selected-as-new-general-overseer-of-the-church-of-god-of-prophecy

Bishop Sam N. Clements has been selected to serve as the new general overseer of the Church of God of Prophecy, a worldwide denomination of more than a million members.

Clements, who previously served as general presbyter of North America, is the sixth general overseer to serve the church since it was organized in 1903 by Bishop A.J. Tomlinson.

During an international presbytery meeting earlier in the week at the Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Florida, more than 100 international overseers prayerfully considered several candidates whose names had been submitted throughout the previous year. During the opening session of the church's biennial International Assembly on Wednesday morning, he was presented to the larger church body and affirmed by those in attendance.

"My heart is overwhelmed," he told the Assembly on Wednesday morning. "I am deeply honored to be chosen to lead this church in this hour."

In April 2013 the position of general overseer, which is considered to be the "leader of leaders" among the international presbytery, was vacated, and oversight of the denomination was held by seven general presbyters until the international meeting convened. The seven presbyters include Bishops David Browder (Asia and Oceania), Clements (North America), Clayton Endecott (the C.I.S., Europe and the Middle East), Benjamin Feliz (Central America, Mexico and Spanish-speaking Caribbean), Clayton Martin (Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean Isles), Stephen Masilela (Africa), and Gabriel Vidal (South America).

Clements, who resides in Cleveland, Tennessee, with his wife, Linda, will deliver his first sermon as general overseer on Sunday morning. On Wednesday morning, when he was affirmed, he offered his initial thoughts:

"It is God's year to act," he said. "We will return to the power that was given in the book of Acts. Get ready. It's going to happen in this Assembly. No one is going to be able to stop the move of God. Nothing going on in this world has caught Him by surprise. He is the beginning and the end, and He will be victorious when everything else fades away."

In addition to issues of church leadership and polity, the International Assembly includes nightly worship services as well as workshops and special activities targeted to children, teenagers, mission workers, pastors and members.

Special guests for the event include Dr. Mark Williams, general overseer of the Church of God; Dr. David Ferguson, executive director of the Great Commandment network; Dr. Alvin Padilla, dean of Hispanic studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; recording artists Seth and Nirva Ready; Tony Sutherland, worship leader at Free Chapel in Gainesville, Georgia; and leaders from the Multiplication Network.

The Assembly is being broadcast to viewers through a high-definition webcast at cogop.org/assembly. A mobile app for smartphones and tablets is also available for more information.

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DeWayne Hamby Featured U.S. News Wed, 30 Jul 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Atheist Richard Dawkins Outrages Abuse Activists With Date Rape Downplay http://www.charismanews.com/culture/44839-atheist-richard-dawkins-outrages-abuse-activists-with-date-rape-downplay http://www.charismanews.com/culture/44839-atheist-richard-dawkins-outrages-abuse-activists-with-date-rape-downplay

Atheist Richard Dawkins is once again stirring the decency pot with Twitter comments about rape and pedophilia.

"Offensive" and "damaging" are the words spokespeople for victims of abuse are using to describe the 73-year-old's words about what he deems logical thinking.

"Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse. If you think that's an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think," he tweeted.

"Mild pedophilia is bad. Violent pedophilia is worse. If you think that's an endorsement of pedophilia, go away and learn how to think," he continued in another tweet.

"Stealing £1 is bad. Stealing an old lady's life savings is worse. How DARE you rank them? Stealing is stealing. You're vile, appalling," he said in another tweet.

After a barrage of backlash from other Twitter uses to his exercise in logical thinking, the professor bowed out of the social-media debate with a final tweet:

"What I have learned today is that there are people on Twitter who think in absolutist terms, to an extent I wouldn't have believed possible."

"What staggers me is that for such a self-proclaimed intelligent man to even talk in these terms is to completely miss the point," Peter Saunders, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, told the Daily Mail."There is no such thing as mild or serious pedophilia. There is child abuse, and the consequence for the victim is that they can be scarred for life."

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Jennifer LeClaire Featured Culture Wed, 30 Jul 2014 15:00:00 -0400
Apocalyptic Solar Superstorm Barely Misses Earth, but Could Hit Soon http://www.charismanews.com/world/44838-apocalyptic-solar-superstorm-barely-misses-earth-but-could-hit-soon http://www.charismanews.com/world/44838-apocalyptic-solar-superstorm-barely-misses-earth-but-could-hit-soon

The probability of a solar storm striking Earth in the next decade with enough force to do serious damage to electricity networks could be as high as 12 percent, according to solar scientists.

One such storm erupted from the surface of the sun two years ago, on July 23, 2012. If it had been directed at this planet, it would have produced the worst geomagnetic storm in more than four centuries and caused extensive power problems.

Fortunately, on this occasion, the eruption pointed away from Earth and the storm blasted safely out into space.

But if it had occurred just a week earlier, when the site was pointed directly at our planet, billions of tonnes of highly charged particles would have raced towards Earth's magnetic field at a speed of 2,500 km (1,500 miles) per second.

The result would have been a spectacular display of the northern lights (aurora borealis) and southern lights (aurora australis) visible as far as the equator, turning the night sky as bright as daytime.

But it could also have fried the world's electricity grids and left hundreds of millions of customers without power for months or even years.

In the event of an eruption directed at Earth, politicians and power grid operators would have just a few hours from the first signs until the full fury of the storm hit to protect the electrical systems on which modern life depends.

"The July 2012 solar storm was a shot across the bows for policymakers and space weather professionals," U.S. solar researchers warned in the journal Space Weather.

"Our advanced technological society was very fortunate, indeed, that the solar storm did not occur just a week or so earlier. Had the storm occurred in mid-July the Earth would have been directly targeted ... and an unprecedentedly large space weather event would have resulted.

"There is a legitimate question of whether our society would still be picking up the pieces," they concluded.

The Next Big One

Scientists and power grid operators remain divided over how much damage the power grid would suffer in a severe solar storm aimed directly at Earth.

A moderately severe geomagnetic storm aimed at the United States could cut power to 130 million people and damage more than 350 high-voltage transformers, which would take months to replace, according to a report published by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2008.

A really severe storm could inflict damage and disruption estimated at between $1 trillion and $2 trillion, 20 times the cost of Hurricane Katrina, with a full recovery time between four and 10 years, the academy wrote in 2008.

"The loss of electricity would ripple across the social infrastructure with water distribution affected within several hours; perishable foods and medications lost in 12-24 hours; loss of heating/air conditioning, sewage disposal, phone service, fuel re-supply and so on," according to a study funded by the U.S. government.

Older electrical transformers would be at particular risk of being damaged by the enormous electrical currents induced in the power grid by a severe storm.

Transformers cannot just be ordered from a store. Spare units are in limited supply. Ordinarily, it takes up to 15 months to order, manufacture, install and test a high-voltage transformer—even longer for some specialized equipment.

"The need to suddenly replace a large number of them has not been previously contemplated," the U.S. government's Oak Ridge National Laboratory warned in 2010.

The problem is not just manufacturing. High-voltage transformers are exceptionally large and heavy, so they have to move slowly by ship, road and rail, and cannot be air freighted. Moving one even a few kilometers requires weeks of planning.

"It may take one week to move a 250,000-volt transformer a short distance in major metropolitan areas," Oak Ridge explained. "Even the distance of a few miles may take an entire weekend, as a number of traffic lights have to be removed and reinstated as the load is moved at snail's pace in special trailers and the route taken has to be fully surveyed for load-bearing capability by civil engineers."

Grid operators are more sanguine about the risks. Severe geomagnetic storms are more likely to cause blackouts and short-term power loss, rather than permanent damage, according to a February 2012 report prepared by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) on behalf of the industry.

NERC thinks a severe storm would heat up a fully loaded transformer to around 120 degrees Celsius for roughly four minutes, well below the 200-degree design threshold used for modern equipment. A really severe storm could push temperatures over 200 degrees for 14 minutes, potentially causing failures, but is unprecedented in modern times, according to NERC.

Nonetheless, the industry has established a special working group on mitigating the effects. And in May 2013, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission formally directed NERC to develop reliability standards to help protect the U.S. grid from solar storms.

Carrington Events

NERC characterizes severe geomagnetic storms as "high impact, low frequency" (HILF) risks. High impact, low frequency risks are particularly hard to manage because policymakers must decide how much money to spend on reducing a risk that would be catastrophic but seems remote.

However, recent research suggests the probability of a severe storm hitting Earth may be much higher than NERC assumed.

The worst solar storm on record occurred on Sept. 1, 1859, and was observed by an amateur astronomer in England called Richard Carrington, after whom the Carrington Event is named.

A large solar flare erupted from the surface of the sun lasting for around five minutes. At the same time, a huge mass of highly charged particles, known as a coronal mass ejection (CME), was flung toward Earth at speeds up to 2,000 km per second, according to reconstructions by modern solar scientists.

The first particles reached Earth within an hour and the storm peaked around 17 hours and 40 minutes after the flare was observed.

The Carrington Event occurred in a largely pre-electrical age, so the impact was limited. But it was strong enough to damage severely the new telegraph systems installed in North America and Europe.

The next big solar storm, reported in May 1921, brought the U.S. telegraph service to a halt between the East Coast and the Mississippi River, blowing fuses and burning some operators.

In March 1989, a severe geomagnetic storm blacked out Quebec's power grid in less than two minutes—the worst impact to date.

In October and November 2003, the so-called Halloween storms caused isolated transformer failures in North America and Europe.

Measuring the severity of a storm is tricky because it depends on so many factors, including the size of the flare, the scale of coronal mass ejection, the speed at which it travels from the Sun to Earth, magnetic flux, time of day, and location of the direct hit.

But one common summary statistic used by solar researchers is called "disturbance-storm time," or Dst for short.

The Dst index measures how hard Earth's magnetic field shakes when a storm hits, according to NASA.

Dst is measured in nano-Teslas (nT). The more negative Dst becomes, the worse the storm.

The Carrington Event in 1859 is estimated to have had a Dst index of around -850 nT. The Quebec storm in 1989 clocked in at -589 nT and the 1921 storm was probably on a similar scale.

What frightened the solar scientists was that the July 2012 storm would have had a Dst index of up to -1,200 nT if it had struck Earth, making it much worse than the Carrington Event.

Scientists are able to analyze the July 2012 storm in detail because although it was angled away from Earth it made a direct hit on a solar observation satellite, STEREO-A, which is specially hardened to withstand extreme magnetic disturbances.

But had it hit Earth, it would have done severe damage to power grids and satellite communications.

Risk Management

Severe solar storms occur much more often than previously thought.

Like many natural phenomena, the frequency with which solar storms take place scales as an inverse power of the severity of the event. But the sheer number of large storms over the last 150 years suggests the Carrington Event is unlikely to be an isolated occurrence.

Calculations by solar scientist Pete Riley, at Predictive Science Inc, suggest the probability of a solar storm of at least the power of the Carrington Event hitting Earth in the next 10 years is around 12 percent ("On the probability of occurrence of extreme space weather events", February 2012).

While not high, a 12 percent probability hardly qualifies as a "low-frequency" or remote-probability event.

So it is essential that the power industry and policymakers better understand how it would impact vulnerable systems (including the grid, global positioning system, radio and television communications, satellites and aircraft), harden them where possible, and plan how to cope with the aftermath of a big storm.

Once a large flare is detected, the industry and policymakers would have just an hour or so to put the grid and other systems into the safest possible operating mode before the storm arrives.

Prior Preparation

Before the next major storm arrives, it is essential to understand which transformers and other equipment are most at risk.

Policymakers must consider whether to replace, redesign or otherwise harden the most at-risk equipment to withstand the impact.

It is also essential to identify how the grid (and other systems) could be rendered as safe as possible before the storm strikes.

Readying the grid could involve turning the power to customers down or off to reduce the loading on critical transformers and make them less vulnerable to overheating.

If power and communications systems are likely to be disrupted, businesses, households and government agencies will need to be informed quickly.

And once the storm has passed, grid operators and policymakers must have a plan for damage repairs.

Grid managers already plan how to re-energize the grid after large-scale blackouts such as the one that hit the northeast United States and neighboring parts of Canada in August 2003.

The process is known as a "black start" and involves a careful sequence of steps to restart power plants, re-energize power lines and transformers, and gradually restore supplies.

But a severe solar storm might also cause more permanent damage, so the industry needs to supplement its black start procedure with a plan for handling multiple transformer outages.

Between 1996 and 2010, the SOHO satellite recorded almost 15,000 coronal mass ejections. It is only a matter of time before one of them is aimed at Earth and is of the same magnitude as Carrington, or worse.

Given the frequency of large solar storms, most people reading this article will witness at least one.

And given society's increasing dependence on electricity and electromagnetic communications, storms could do much more damage in future, just one way in which new vulnerabilities are emerging in high-tech economies.

The biggest threat is probably in emerging markets, especially middle-income countries, where the combination of widespread electrification and electronic communications coupled with outdated and overloaded equipment makes them especially vulnerable.

But even in the most advanced economies, a severe solar storm could leave homes and businesses without power for months. Proper risk management and preparation are therefore essential.

We cannot stop a big solar storm arriving, but we can prepare and try to avoid its worst effects.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author, a columnist for Reuters.


Editing by Dale Hudson

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

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John Kemp/Reuters Featured World News Wed, 30 Jul 2014 14:00:00 -0400
Has God Left the Church? New Film Claims 'American Church Is Dying' http://www.charismanews.com/culture/44837-has-god-left-the-church-new-film-claims-american-church-is-dying http://www.charismanews.com/culture/44837-has-god-left-the-church-new-film-claims-american-church-is-dying

A new documentary film that spotlights the decline of the American church focuses on the spiritual climate in the United States.

The film, titled When God Left the Building, will be screened August 4 at the Acme Theater in Hollywood, California. The film's director, Thom Schultz, will be on hand to lead a live talk-back session following the screening.

"The American church as we know it is dying," Schultz said. "What was once the heart and soul of the community is going away."

"The majority of churches across the country are either stuck or in a state of decline," Schultz said. "Weekly church attendance has dropped to 20 percent of the population, and this trend has resulted in the closing of 4,000 churches per year."

Filmmakers spent three years documenting a church that saw its attendance plunge by 90 percent.

"It was a heart-wrenching mash-up of societal upheaval, spiritual confusion and human conflict," Schultz said.

The film also looks at America's megachurch phenomenon, including a visit to Saddleback Church, which is based in Irvine, California, but has multiple campuses in the Los Angeles area.

"We will either have a breakthrough or a breakdown," said Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren. "We'll either have a third spiritual awakening, or America will continue in the slow decline of spirituality."

The film also features Red Eye, an unconventional Hollywood-based outreach. Red Eye is known for its humanitarian work in Los Angeles' low-income neighborhoods.

A preview of the film is available at WhenGodLeftTheBuilding.com. Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. film screening on Monday are available on the movie's website and at the Acme Theater the day of the film.

The film was produced by Group Productions, a Colorado-based media company.

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Becky Hodges Featured Culture Wed, 30 Jul 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Prayer Urged for American Missionaries Who Contracted Ebola Virus http://www.charismanews.com/world/44836-prayer-urged-for-american-missionaries-who-contracted-ebola-virus http://www.charismanews.com/world/44836-prayer-urged-for-american-missionaries-who-contracted-ebola-virus

Two Americans, including a female missionary from SIM and a young doctor with Samaritan's Purse, continue their battle to fight off the deadly Ebola virus in Monrovia, Liberia. 

Dr. Kent Brantly, 33, and Nancy Writebol are serving on a joint team of people with Samaritan's Purse and SIM.  Both faith-based organizations are calling for an international response to the outbreak of Ebola in Liberia and neighboring countries in west Africa. The situation in Liberia is critical, as the spread of the Ebola virus continues. 

At present both Brantly and Writebol are stable yet suffering from some of the symptoms of the virus. Each is receiving around-the-clock medical care. 

"The next few days are critical in assessing the recovery of these Ebola crisis responders," said Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA. "SIM and Samaritan's Purse invite people to pray for the full restoration of our two workers and for the stemming of the spread of this virus across Liberia and other nations of West Africa."

Due to the upsurge in cases of Ebola in the region, SIM and Samaritan's Purse have taken the precautionary step of mandating the evacuation of all nonessential personnel from Liberia. Timing, means and place of evacuation are being decided upon. 

No symptoms of Ebola are present in any of the evacuees, who are being monitored continually. SIM and Samaritan's Purse work under the strictest of safety protocols as established by the U.S. Centers for Disease  and other world health organizations.

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Palmer Holt Featured World News Wed, 30 Jul 2014 12:00:00 -0400
Dictionary Publisher Officially Redefines Marriage as 'Gender Neutral' http://www.charismanews.com/world/44835-dictionary-publisher-officially-redefines-marriage-as-gender-neutral http://www.charismanews.com/world/44835-dictionary-publisher-officially-redefines-marriage-as-gender-neutral

Marriage has been redefined to be gender-neutral in the 13th edition of Chambers Dictionary.

The dictionary now describes the institution as, "the ceremony, act or contract by which two people become married to each other."

The dictionary, first published in 1872, has also changed its definitions of husband and wife in order to reflect the change in the law in some jurisdictions.

Husband is now defined as "a man to whom someone is married," and wife is "a woman to whom someone is married."

Further words and phrases were added to Chambers Dictionary's latest edition, including sexting—sending explicit text messages—and YOLO, short for "you only live once."

According to Chambers, a word must demonstrate a "lasting influence on a language in order to avoid short-lived or faddy expressions being admitted."

Last August, the Macmillan Dictionary redefined the word "marriage" to include same-sex couples.

The dictionary's definition of the institution is now "the relationship between two people who are husband and wife, or a similar relationship between people of the same sex."

Macmillan's editor-in-chief said the organization was monitoring changes to the use of "husband" and "wife" to see if it would change those words as well.

Editor Michael Rundell said: "In a same-sex relationship, two men are probably not going to refer to themselves as 'wife', but if it's two women, they might, so we need to keep an eye on that."

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The Christian Institute Featured World News Wed, 30 Jul 2014 11:00:00 -0400
Prince of the Power of the Air Uses Classic Christian Hymn to Sell Beer http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/watchman-on-the-wall/44834-prince-of-the-power-of-the-air-uses-classic-christian-hymn-to-sell-beer http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/watchman-on-the-wall/44834-prince-of-the-power-of-the-air-uses-classic-christian-hymn-to-sell-beer

While the debate rages on about whether Christians should drink alcohol, one beer brand may be subliminally wooing Bible-carrying believers to drink its brew using a popular gospel hymn as background music in a commercial.

One Million Moms called out Guinness & Co. for using "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" as the underscore of its latest marketing campaign. Although the words are missing from the 1887 hymn, which was written by Anthony Showalter and Elisha Hoffman to comfort those who had lost loved ones, many Christians who recognized the classic hymn are crying foul.

Inspired by Deuteronomy 33:27 (KJV), "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are everlasting arms," the hymn has found its way into popular culture over the last 70 years. The music has appeared in movies like Wild Bill and True Grit. Musical artists such as Mahalia Jackson and George Jones have recorded the hymn in their works. And it's not the first time Guinness has used the song. The company also drew from the famous hymn for a commercial called "Empty Chair."

Maybe you've heard it. The refrain goes like this: "Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms/ Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms/ O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way/ Leaning on the everlasting arms/ O how bright the path grows from day to day/ Leaning on the everlasting arms."

What's the Big Deal?

"The cherished 'Everlasting Arms' hymn has no place in a beer commercial," One Million Moms charges. "Christian music should not be associated with an advertisement promoting drinking. The choice of including this hymn in the ad disrespects the Christian faith."

What's the big deal, you ask?

There's a high pile of alcohol-abuse statistics that sound the danger alarm. About 17 million adults 18 and older had an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in 2012, according to the National Institutes of Heath (NIH). Only about 1.4 million sought treatment, which means about 16 million remain in bondage to the spirits that wreak havoc on their lives—and the lives of those who love them. Nearly 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, NIH reports, making it the third-leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

The problem in today's society is that too many people are leaning on the arm of alcohol instead of leaning on the safe and secure everlasting arms of the Lord. More and more, pastors are encouraging the practice as an evangelism tool. Pastor Jim Burgen of Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette, Colorado, and his buddies limit themselves to two hand-crafted beers before 8:15 p.m. Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth greeted Pope Francis with eggs, whiskey and beer in the national spotlight.

Although the Bible does not forbid drinking—it speaks against intoxication (see Eph. 5:18)—it's clear that alcohol is associated with many sins, including incest (Gen. 19:32-35); madness (Jer. 51:7); violence (Prov. 4:17); adultery (Rev. 17:2); murder (2 Sam. 11:13); mocking and brawling (Prov. 20:1); poverty (Prov. 21:17) and depression (Luke 21:34).

Sneaky, Subtle, Stealthy

Duck Dynasty, whose cast members are among the most upright Christian families in the public eye today, has its own wine brand. So I'm not suggesting that a Christian is living in sin if they drink a glass of wine or even a beer. The issue is subtle: The enemy is roaming about like a roaring lion seeking somebody to devour—which is why Peter warns us to be sober and vigilant (see 1 Peter 5:8). The Amplified translation says to be "well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times."

Too often, the drinking doesn't stop at two hand-crafted beers before 8:15 p.m. Too often, it opens the door to excess. I wrote about one worship leader who serves as a prime example: "My name is Darin," the Methodist congregation's 37-year-old music director said, grinning, according to the Journal. "And I like me a 30-pack of Busch Light!"

Really? A 30-pack of Busch Light? I hope he was kidding, but even still, I find it shocking that a worship leader would quip about drinking enough to intoxicate an elephant, or at least a large horse.

Anyway, the point is that the enemy is roaming about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour—and he's sneaky. He's subtle. He's stealthy. What starts as two hand-crafted beers before 8:15 p.m. can soon enough turn into a 30-pack of Busch Light that leads to debauchery. And the prince of the power of the air knows exactly what he's doing by using a beloved Christian hymn in not one—but two—beer commercials.

It's sneaky. It's subtle. It's stealthy—but the strategy is clear. The enemy wants us to, more and more, put our guards down when it comes to this mind-altering substance so he can entice saints to violence, adultery, poverty, depression and other sins. Again, I am not forbidding you to drink a glass of wine. I don't have that right. But don't be deceived. "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise" (Prov. 20:1).

Kenny Luck of Every Man Ministries rightly says that drinking is intertwined in our culture with almost every event in life, whether it's a wedding or a funeral—but it's hardly new. His take: "Rather than pour out your problems to the next bartender, take a drink of God's love and Spirit and see what happens. It's better than a hangover, and it will quench your thirst forever."

Jennifer LeClaire is news editor at Charisma. She is also director of IHOP Fort Lauderdale and author of several books, including The Making of a Prophet and The Spiritual Warrior's Guide to Defeating Jezebel. You can email Jennifer at jennifer.leclaire@charismamedia.com or visit her website here. You can also join Jennifer on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

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Jennifer LeClaire Featured Watchman on the Wall Opinion Wed, 30 Jul 2014 10:00:00 -0400
Congress Gives Digital Shout-Out: 'In God We Trust' http://www.charismanews.com/politics/44833-congress-gives-digital-shout-out-in-god-we-trust http://www.charismanews.com/politics/44833-congress-gives-digital-shout-out-in-god-we-trust

Through the First Amendment, America's Founding Fathers granted every citizen the constitutional right to religious freedom.

The ratification of that amendment served as a bold proclamation that God is the foundation of our nation's trust.

Lea Carawan is the current president and executive director of the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation. She has helped implement campaigns aimed at keeping God in America by working with government officials and organizations.

In its latest campaign, the foundation is launching a social media shout-out on Wednesday to encourage and equip individuals, schools, businesses, local, state and federal government officials to prominently display the national motto "In God We Trust" digitally. 

So far, more than 1 million people have committed to the social-media pledge through online registration. This includes the 100 members of the current Congressional Prayer Caucus.

Some notable supporting lawmakers involved with the social media shout-out include Reps. Randy Forbes, R-Va., Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., and Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.

Visit the website In God We Trust to sign up for the movement and tweet or post #InGodWeTrust to your social-media accounts.

Lea Carawan talked more with CBN News's Angela Zapotek about the In God We Trust digital shout-out campaign. Click play for her comments.

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CBN News Featured Politics Wed, 30 Jul 2014 09:30:00 -0400
Ex-Lesbian Shares How She Discovered Freedom in Christ http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44831-ex-lesbian-shares-how-she-discovered-freedom-in-christ http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44831-ex-lesbian-shares-how-she-discovered-freedom-in-christ

Sometimes the hurt in our hearts cuts so deeply that even hope seems impossible. I am writing this because I have been at that place in my life, where I felt I was without love and without hope, and I want my story to be an example for all who feel that they are in a similar place.

I know that love can be found and hope can be renewed, but only if we turn to the One who truly loves us. I want you to know God loves you! There are no ifs, ands or buts. He loves you no matter who you are, no matter what you've done, no matter where you've been. Nothing will ever ever change His love for you.

Do you know He sees your tears and cries with you? He feels every hurt you endure as if the pain were His own. The shortest verse in the English Bible is one of the most powerful: "Jesus wept." (John 11:35) Standing outside the tomb of his friend Lazarus, the emotions spilled over, and Jesus audibly cried. Jesus weeps with us. The tears prove He cares. And in moments of personal or national pain, knowing God cares is far more important than knowing why He cares. He doesn't say buck up; be a big boy; don't cry; or come now, it doesn't hurt. Tears do not make Jesus uncomfortable. He is, after all, a "man of sorrows and familiar with suffering."

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces, he was despised, and many people held him in low esteem (see Is. 53:3).

I've been hurt. I know what it's like to experience the roughness of life, getting up only to get knocked down again. You know from my story that I lived in an abusive home with a stern mother and her drunken boyfriend. I was sexually abused twice. My real father abandoned me. Everyone told me that I looked like a boy. I was never able to get attention from my mother unless I did something wrong. That is the love that I grew up with, and that "love" hurt.

I know what it's like to cry myself to sleep, crying because there is no one to talk with, no one to encourage me, no one who understands my heart. Every time something else happened in my young life, another wound opened up on the inside. Every wound changed me. I didn't want anyone to ever hurt me again, so I tried to hurt everyone else before they could hurt me.

I felt so empty inside. Nothing I tried filled the void in my heart that was driving my desperate search. I wanted to make something of myself, finding a way to somehow make people love me. The type of love I had experienced in my life wasn't enough, and I knew it. I needed something more. I tried to fill the emptiness inside of me by having relationships with women for 14 years.

During that time, I jumped from relationship to relationship, desperately hoping that the next relationship would be the last, that I would finally find what I was looking for to fill my aching heart. The relationships weren't enough. I tried to mix in smoking or drugs to help meet my needs, but they only tore my life further apart. Nothing helped, and I hurt more than ever.

Finally, finally, I turned to God. God had been standing by my side my entire life, seeing my hurt and pain, longing to heal me, and calling me to Him all along.

My life was a living example of Revelation 3:20, in which Christ says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me."

Little by little, with the help of God and with the prayer and support of my friends, I began to leave my old lifestyle behind. It was far from easy. My life was a constant struggle that became a war on the bad days. I still hurt from all the wounds that had been inflicted throughout my life and I still had my problems, but when I turned to God, I knew that I could bring all my troubles to Him. He became my strength. He began filling the emptiness in my heart, binding up the hurts and healing them. For the first time in my life, I began to feel at peace.

Life itself is a struggle and a search for identity, no matter if you are heterosexual or homosexual. But for those of us who have considered or pursued homosexuality, the search becomes even more difficult. We don't seem to fit in with the rest of the world. Somehow, things just never seem to work out right. No one seems to understand what it is like to struggle so much about who you are. Our confusion and our loneliness cause us to begin searching, looking for ways to define who we are, looking for someone who even comes close to understanding. And nothing, no one, ever seems to satisfy.

If my words are touching your heart in any way, please let my life be a living testimony. I speak from experience: Only God's love can truly satisfy; only He can give meaning and identity, and God's love can only be found in Jesus Christ.

Will you join us in Lake Mary, Florida, on Aug. 15-16, 2014 for our Called-Out Conference! We are partnering with Charisma Media, and we're reaching out not only to people from central Florida but those around the nation. You can go to my website, janetboynesministries.com, for more information. At this conference you can hear people talk about how they came out of homosexuality as well as helpful information on how to minister to people who are hurting in this area. Together, we are raising a voice of hope and freedom.

Janet Boynes is the founder of Janet Boynes Ministries, a nondenominational outreach that ministers to individuals questioning their sexuality and those who wish to leave homosexuality. As the author of Called Out, Boynes chronicles her story of living as a lesbian for 14 years until God called her out of that lifestyle.

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Janet Boynes Featured Opinion Wed, 30 Jul 2014 08:00:00 -0400
A Thank You Letter From Hamas to the Media http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44830-a-thank-you-letter-from-hamas-to-the-media-beck http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44830-a-thank-you-letter-from-hamas-to-the-media-beck

Dear Members of the Mainstream Media,

You've been awesome! Everyone knows that we start unwinnable wars with Israel because the real victory happens when you predictably side with us each time. And you've been so supportive of our strategy that we really want to acknowledge your helpfulness. In particular, we thank you for:

  • Focusing so much more on our suffering than anyone else's. Nigerians must die in far greater numbers before you take notice, so we're glad that you value our lives so much more.
  • Minimizing your coverage, if any, of our attacks that led up to Israel's military response and generally providing so little context that outsiders think that Israelis kill Palestinians just for fun. We're especially grateful to the French media for this. Their distortions of the conflict are so one-sided that they incite Muslims across France to attack Jews and synagogues, and that is welcomed by our anti-Semitic worldview (although, unfortunately, such attacks remind everyone why Jews need a state).
  • Emphasizing our civilian death toll without explaining that (1) our casualty reports are hasty and inflated, and (2) we maximize that total by using Palestinians to shield our weapons and by urging them to stay in the very areas that the IDF -- in its annoying effort to minimize our civilian deaths -- warns Gazans to evacuate.
  • Never mentioning the fact that if we could kill millions of Israelis, we would (after all, our charter calls for Israel's destruction). Just as the 9/11 hijackers made the most of what they had but would have liked to kill far more Americans (for example, with the help of WMD), we too would love to kill far more Israelis. Indeed, we have purposely targeted Israel's nuclear reactor on several occasions, with that very goal in mind. Fortunately, you never highlight the genocidal intent behind our attacks when mentioning Israel's "disproportionate" response.
  • Never calling us jihadists even though we persecute Christians (like ISIS, which just compelled Mosul's Christians to convert to Islam). The forced conversion, expulsion or murder of Christians and other religious minorities by Islamists has been happening for millennia, as assiduously documented in Crucified Again, but such historical context is thankfully absent from your reporting on our conflict with Israel.
  • Downplaying how bad we are for Gazans by not reporting on, for example, our attack on the very Israeli power station that provides electricity to 70,000 Gazans. Thankfully, you also ignored how the Israelis -- in their stupid display of goodwill -- exposed their workers to the perils of our rockets so that they could restore power to Gaza.
  • Minimally reporting on our corruptionunfair wealth, or vast expenditures on tunnels to attack Israel while ordinary Palestinians grew poorer.
  • Overlooking how -- to maximize Palestinian deaths -- we store our missiles in an UNWRA-run school and how, when UNWRA finds out, they just hand us back our missiles.
  • Disregarding Arabs who have the courage to critique us -- like Dr. Tawfik Hamid, an Islamist-turned-reformer who blames Palestinian suffering entirely on us.
  • Ignoring Israelis' humanitarian folly in providing medical aid to the very terrorists trying to kill them.
  • Failing to acknowledge Israel's immense restraint. Had we been fighting Syria's Assad regime, by now Gaza would have been flattened—devastated by barrel bombs, poison gas and other attacks that are far more indiscriminate than Israel's intelligence-directed strikes. And of course, if Syria were killing us, you'd hardly care. But luckily, we're dealing with Israel—that country that everyone loves to hate—so we can count on your helpful coverage here.
  • Omitting how Israel chose to sacrifice dozens of IDF soldiers when destroying our tunnels and weapons in densely populated areas like Shejaiya because doing so with airstrikes (which risks no soldiers) would have killed many thousands of Palestinians. Your friendly omission of such crucial facts reminds us of how wonderfully you covered Jenin in 2002, when (again) -- rather than praise Israel's humane but costly decision to use ground troops rather than airstrikes -- you very helpfully and falsely accused Israel of a massacre during another IDF operation to stop Palestinian terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians.
  • Not sharing with your English readers what we openly say in Arabic: that we view any truce as just an opportunity to rearm for our next war against Israel (as our spokesman, Musheer Al Masri, recently declared on TV).
  • Not underscoring that Israel can do nothing to make peace with us (after all, Israelis ended their occupation of Gaza in 2005 and we've been rocketing them ever since). It's a bit nervy of Israel to use its border controls to limit our ability to rearm and rebuild cross-border attack tunnels, but—with your help—maybe the next cease-fire will remove Israel's blockade so that we can more easily replenish our weapons and restore our tunnels for our next attack. And yes, we're embarrassed that our fellow Arab Muslims in Egypt also choose to blockade us because of the problems that we've caused them.
  • Not reminding readers, when you mention potential truce arrangements, that world powers are no more capable of ensuring a demilitarized Gaza than they were capable of disarming Hezbollah in south Lebanon.

Seriously, you've been AMAZING. Please keep it up!

Love,

Hamas

P.S. Many thanks also to the countless protesters around the world who follow your lead, embolden us, and make us look legit!

Editor's Note: The preceding is an opinion article by Noah Beck, author of The Last Israelis, an apocalyptic novel about Iranian nukes and other geopolitical issues in the Middle East.

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Noah Beck Featured Opinion Wed, 30 Jul 2014 07:00:00 -0400
A Call for Humility and Repentance in the Gay Community http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/the-flaming-herald/44832-a-call-for-humility-and-repentance-in-the-gay-community http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/the-flaming-herald/44832-a-call-for-humility-and-repentance-in-the-gay-community

My recent Charisma News article on homosexuality sure caused a stir in the world of gay. I didn't know so many of them read Charisma, a conservative Christian magazine.

Although in part I addressed gay people, my primary purpose in writing the article was to strengthen Christians with a no-nonsense biblical perspective of homosexuality, so that fewer of them would go the way of many churches in this hour, abandoning the faith by embracing unbiblical views of homosexuality and gay marriage.

The LGBT community, however, got wind of it and was up in arms about my article and made sure to let me know it through hundreds of comments on this site, a host of other public rants on various LGBT sites, and through many vile and venom-filled private messages.

Attached to a few comments were death threats and statements like, "I hope you die of pancreatic cancer." And then these same people have the audacity to accuse me of being filled with hate, filled with Satan, calling me a delusional piece of trash, an absolute monster, and other grossly offensive obscenities not appropriate for public space. One could easily have mistaken them for terrorists who delight in killing those who refuse to convert to their ideology.

But it should come as no surprise when people become infuriated at the calling out of their sins. Even the Pharisees shamelessly called Jesus a demon (John 8:48) when He told them that they were of their father, the devil (John 8:44). They called John the Baptist a demon too (Luke 7:33), of whom Jesus said there wasn't a greater prophet (Luke 7:28). Isn't it rather ironic that people under demonic influence accuse others of having demons? But wisdom is justified of her children (Luke 7:35).

Phil Robertson said, "The truth always sounds like hate to those who hate the truth."

Why All the Fuss Over the Putrid-Smelling Demon?

I understand that the greatest point of offense from my article happened when I exposed homosexuality as a putrid-smelling demon that many have embraced. Apparently that was the arrow that afflicted the comfort of the hornet's nest, creating cyberspace madness. I did not say, as so many claimed, that gay people were demons. However, any serious student of the Bible clearly understands that we live in a fallen world that demons rule. "The whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one" (1 John 5:19). But those of Christ's kingdom learn to resist those demons, while those blinded by the wicked one ignorantly yield to them.

A putrid-smelling demon would be considered an unclean spirit. Jesus taught on the operation of unclean spirits (demons) and their desire to inhabit human beings.

"When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation" (Matt. 12:43-45).

Why all the rage and madness over a putrid-smelling demon? Is it not because I associated it with homosexuality? The scriptures condemn every form of sexual immorality, calling it a sin against your own body (1 Cor. 6:18). I singled out homosexuality in my article because it is widely accepted and celebrated in today's culture. As our courts continue to issue rulings that normalize this sinful behavior and legalize same-sex marriage, people seem intent on rushing headlong into this lifestyle without considering its earthly, and more importantly, its eternal consequences.

Hell is real, and it is eternal, with no exits, and Scripture frighteningly and so graphically paints a picture of hell in many places of the Bible. In one  striking reference, the Word conveys an image of hell's excitement in meeting departed spirits of wicked rulers (which would include all sinners) at their coming (Isa 14:9). I know this is not a popular doctrine, and to many it is offensive, and some preachers today have even totally excluded it from their theology. Nevertheless, the inspired Word of God says much about it.

To all those whose faith is truly based on Holy Scripture, it is impossible to deny that every form of sexual immorality, including homosexuality, is sin, period. End of discussion. It is also impossible to deny scriptures that warn us that those who practice sin, including homosexuality, have no inheritance in the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10, Eph. 5:5). Instead, they have only an eternal hell to look forward to, of which Jesus stated emphatically was a place where, "their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched" (Mk 9: 44, 46, 48). This is based on the authority of Scripture. I did not say that; God did.

In fact, it pains me to write these words, knowing there are multitudes who have blindly chosen this broad way, which leads only to death and destruction (Matt. 7:13). If you do not believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, then we do not share a common place of agreement for even an honest dialogue, so please direct your venomous and hate-filled messages toward God. All I am doing is repeating His Word that has already been established and settled in heaven (Ps. 119:89).

The Scriptures also tell us that some human beings are past feeling and have given themselves over to lewdness and uncleanness. There's that word "unclean" again. "Who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness" (Eph. 4:19).

Lewdness is associated with words such as licentiousness, filthiness, lasciviousness, etc. An unclean spirit or demon emanates these characteristics through human beings who yield to them.

But the word lewdness has much stronger implications. It means total debauchery, unashamed indecency, unbridled lust, and unrestrained depravity. The person with this characteristic has an insolent defiance of public opinion, sinning in broad daylight with arrogance and contempt.

Ever been to a gay pride parade? Lewdness is rampant. I have a minister friend who attends them with the aim of finding and ministering the gospel to the broken ones who will listen to the voice of reason and compassion.

It's one thing to acknowledge your sin and be guilt-ridden, humbled and contrite over it, as in the beautiful redemptive account of the adulterous woman (John 8:1-11). But it is quite another to display your uncleanness with pride and pomp, and call God's true servants who tell you the truth out of love for your soul such blasphemous names. Even God can't help the proud (Jam. 4:6). His mercy always waits for humility and repentance. So my plea to the gay community would be for them to truly humble themselves.

The Scriptures also associate the devil with sin: "He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning" (1 John 3:8).

Why is it so difficult for people to believe the simplicity of what Scripture says about demons and how they work through man's flesh and entice us to sin and work evil? Is it not because they hate the truth of what God plainly says and refuse to conform themselves to it? Is it not because they hate the light?

"For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed" (John 3:20).

Was it not because of their hatred of the truth that they also sought to kill Jesus, and of course, eventually succeeded in doing so? "But now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God" (John 8:40).

Do not George Orwell's words ring so true in modern American society today? "The more a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it."

Is this not what is at the crux of the matter of all who were filled with rage and displayed madness at my recent article on homosexuality? So if you are part of the gay community, or you call yourself a gay "Christian," what should you do?

Don't be afraid of looking truth right in the face. Acknowledge the Holy Scriptures as God's Word. With genuine godly sorrow, humble yourself and repent of your sin of homosexuality. Leave your partners and all gay associations, as if you were Lot in the days of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, escaping for your life. Your sinful associations will only keep you in a weakened position. Begin to call on the Name of the Lord from a sincere heart. He will give you grace to empower you toward change. Seek help and prayer from God-loving, Bible-believing Christians.

I just spent nearly an hour writing an email to a young man who is having homosexual thoughts and wants to be free. He recognizes this temptation as a demonic force attempting to get him to act on those thoughts. God will honor him and many others who humble themselves and who truly desire freedom.

Will you follow his lead?

Remember that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).

Bert M. Farias, founder of Holy Fire Ministries, is the author of The Real Gospel and co-host of the New England Holy Ghost Forum. He is a missionary evangelist carrying a spirit of revival to the church and the nations. Follow him at Bert Farias on Facebook or @Bertfarias1 on Twitter.

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Bert M. Farias Featured The Flaming Herald Opinion Wed, 30 Jul 2014 06:00:00 -0400
Which Weight-Loss Plan Delivers Best in Battle of the Bulge? http://www.charismanews.com/us/44829-which-weight-loss-plan-delivers-best-in-battle-of-the-bulge http://www.charismanews.com/us/44829-which-weight-loss-plan-delivers-best-in-battle-of-the-bulge

Weight Watchers is the most cost-effective diet program, according to a new assessment of commercial diet regimens.

The findings by researchers at Duke-National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School also found that the diet drug Qsymia offered the best value for the money in a comparison of weight-loss medications.

The Jenny Craig program generated the greatest weight loss but was  the most costly option tested, according to study, published in the June issue of the journal Obesity.

"The obesity epidemic has serious health and cost consequences, so employers and third-party payers are beginning to consider how to provide some coverage for commercial weight-loss programs," said researcher Eric Finkelstein, a professor at Duke-NUS and the Duke University Global Health Institute. "These results will help them make better purchasing decisions to maximize the health gains using available resources."

Finkelstein and research assistant Eliza Kruger based their findings on an assessment of high-quality clinical trials of commercially available diet/lifestyle plans and medications with proven weight loss at one year or more.

Three diet/lifestyle programs and three drugs met the criteria for the cost-effectiveness analysis: Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and VTrim along with the diet pills Qsymia, Lorcaserin and Orlistat.

Several meal-replacement products were excluded despite showing some success—including Medifast, Optifast and Slimfast—because they did not meet one or more inclusion criteria. Weight-loss surgery also was excluded.

In terms of price, Weight Watchers was found to have an average annual cost of $377. The expected annual cost for Vtrim users was $682. Because of the relatively high cost of Jenny Craig food, it was the most expensive option, with an annual cost of more than $2,500.

Expected annual costs for the diet pills was $1,743 for Lorcaserin; $1,518 for Orlistat; and $1,336 for Qsymia.

Average weight loss at one year ranged from about five pounds for Weight Watchers to 16 pounds for Jenny Craig. Those on Orlistat lost a little more than six pounds. Those on Vtrim and Lorcaserin both lost an average of about seven pounds. Weight loss for those on Qsymia averaged a little less than 15 pounds.

For the original article, visit newsmaxhealth.com.

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Nick Tate/Newsmax Health Featured U.S. News Tue, 29 Jul 2014 20:00:00 -0400
Customs and Border Agent Holds Boy Scout at Gunpoint, Troop Leader Demands Answers http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44828-customs-and-border-agent-holds-boy-scout-at-gunpoint-troop-leader-demands-answers http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44828-customs-and-border-agent-holds-boy-scout-at-gunpoint-troop-leader-demands-answers

A Boy Scout troop from the nation's heartland is demanding answers, and a U.S. senator is expressing outrage after a group of scouts was detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, with one youth allegedly held at gunpoint.

Jim Fox, leader of the Mid-Iowa Boy Scout Troop 111, said the incident occurred earlier this month at a checkpoint along the Alaska-Canada border. The scouts and their leaders were on a 21-day trek from Iowa to Alaska—a trip that had been in the planning stages for three years.

As their vans were moving through a checkpoint into the United States, one of the scouts snapped a photograph. Agents stopped the van and ordered all the passengers to get out. They told the underage photographer that he had committed a federal crime. It was unclear which agency with the Department of Homeland Security's CBP agency was involved in the incident.

"The agent immediately confiscated his camera, informed him he would be arrested, fined possibly $10,000 and 10 years in prison," Fox told Des Moines television station KCCI.

During the search, one of the scouts tried to retrieve a bag from the roof carrier. When he turned around, Fox said an agent had a loaded pistol pointed at the boy.

"He heard a snap of the holster, turns around, and here's this agent, both hands on a loaded pistol, pointing at the young man's head," Fox told the television station.

The scoutmaster wrote a detailed account of the incident on his Facebook page. He said he tried to watch the agents search the van but was ordered to return to his vehicle. An agent followed him and told the youngsters "that the next one to leave the van would be handcuffed and detained."

"The agent in charge informed me of the potential charges against (the) scout and informed me it is a violation of federal law for any American to take a picture of a federal agent or any federal building," Fox wrote.

Fox said he and another member of the troop were interrogated by agents-–forced to answer questions about their background.

They also wanted to know why the Boy Scouts were hauling "excessive amounts of lighters, matches and knives," Fox said. After a lengthy delay, the Scouts were released without any charges being filed.

"The boys were unnecessarily frightened and intimidated," Fox wrote. "When do we Americans decide enough is enough? The TSA and border guards are a valuable asset to the safety of this country, but to have such Gestapo tactics against a teenage scout is uncalled for."

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, agrees.

"It's outrageous that a border patrol agent would point a gun at a boy scout just for taking a picture," he told the television station. "It just doesn't make sense."

The senator's office said they are looking into the matter.

Robert Hooper, the scout executive for the Mid-Iowa  Council of the BSA, told me they, too, are upset and disturbed by the allegations.

"The guys were in scout uniforms," he said. "I would like to know what caused this to happen. It does sound pretty extreme."

Indeed it does. It's not like they were attempting to cross into the United States illegally.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said they've had a chance to investigate, and they can't find anything out of the ordinary.

"CBP takes any allegations of wrongdoing very seriously," read their official statement. "CBP's review of this group's inspection, including video footage review indicates that our officer did not un-holster or handle his weapon as stated in the allegation. The review revealed nothing out of the ordinary.  We have reached out to the Boy Scout troop for additional information in reference to the allegation.  The video footage has been referred to CBP Internal Affairs for further review."

So, what we have here is an old-fashioned case of he said, he said—or to be more accurate—the Boy Scouts said, the feds said.

In cases like this, the quickest way to determine who is being truthful is to look at the video. So I emailed U.S. Customs and Border Protection and officially requested a copy of the video.

My request was denied.

I also asked for a copy of the statute that criminalizes Photography 101. I've yet to receive a reply.

Fox is still fired up over how his scouts were treated, and I can't say I blame him.

"This was an illegal search and intimidation of Americans returning to their home country," he said.

So let's review, good readers.

While hordes of illegal immigrants are stampeding across our southern border unimpeded, federal agents along our northern border detained and harassed a group of law-abiding American Boy Scouts.

I wonder what kind of merit badge they'll get for that?

Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. Sign up for his American Dispatch newsletter, be sure to join his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter. His latest book is God Less America.

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Todd Starnes Featured Opinion Tue, 29 Jul 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Christian Cake Artist Sent to 'Re-Education' After Gay Marriage Flap http://www.charismanews.com/us/44826-christian-cake-artist-sent-to-re-education-after-gay-marriage-flap http://www.charismanews.com/us/44826-christian-cake-artist-sent-to-re-education-after-gay-marriage-flap

Imagine being ordered to go against your religious beliefs, and if you refuse, you could be arrested, fined or sued.

That happened to the Christian owner of a Colorado bakery who now must make wedding cakes for gay couples.

However, the owner is standing his ground, and his action is inspiring people around the world.

Discriminating Accusation

The sign on the door reads "Celebrating 20 Years of Great Cakes!" For two decades, Masterpiece Cakeshop has created art in the form of baked goods that keeps customers coming back.

From cookies and cupcakes to signature cakes, Jack Phillips and his daughter Lisa have transformed their bakery into a studio. Phillips said it's all inspired and motivated by his faith in Jesus Christ.

"It's the most important thing that I think about throughout the day. When I wake up, when I go to work, I want to know that what I'm doing is pleasing to Him, that I honor Him and His Word, because that's the most important thing," Phillips said.

But Phillips' Christian faith landed him in trouble with the law. His crime: adhering to his biblical belief that marriage is only between one man and one woman.

In 2012, a homosexual couple sued the baker after he declined to make a cake to celebrate their marriage. An administrative law judge ruled against him, and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission agreed. 

The commission stated Phillips' refusal went against the state's public accommodation law. It requires businesses to serve customers regardless of their sexual orientation.

In a public statement, one member of the Civil Rights Commission said, "I can believe anything I want, but if I'm going to do business here, I'd ought to not discriminate against people."

"I didn't discriminate against anybody," Phillips countered. "Like Nicolle (Martin, his attorney) said, I've chosen not to make cakes for same-sex weddings. I told David and Charlie when they came in that I would sell them cookies and brownies and birthday cakes and shower cakes. I just don't do the same-sex wedding cake. So I did not discriminate against them, just that event I've chosen not to participate in."

His attorney, Nicolle Martin, said the Commission violated PHillips' First Amendment rights. She's taken the case to the Colorado Court of Appeals.

Conform to Comply

The Civil Rights Commission's order requires Phillips and his staff to make cakes for same-sex celebrations if asked.

He must also re-educate his staff about Colorado's Anti-Discrimination Act. Under that law, artists must endorse all views.

The order also requires him to put in place new policies to comply with the Commission's order.

In addition, he will submit quarterly "compliance" reports to the government for two years.

According to Alliance Defending Freedom, the reports must include the number of customers declined a wedding cake or any other product. They must also include why it was declined "so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from his business."

"The government has chosen which message it favors in this case; I think the state has made it very clear," Martin said.

"Jack's First Amendment rights, Jack's freedom to express himself or more importantly, not express himself, must bow to the complainants' message," she said. "And all I can say is what that looks like to me is something very frightening, and that's nothing more than diversity through conformity, and that's not diversity at all," she added.

First Amendment Disappearing?

Phillips' case is one of a handful in which complainants sued private businesses for refusing to accommodate gay couples getting married.

It also helped lead to controversial proposals in several states allowing businesses to decline service based on the religious beliefs of owners.

"This case is not about and it has never been about the young men that came in here almost two years ago asking Jack to design and create their cake," Martin said. "This case has always been about the message that that cake expresses, what that cake communicates."

"It's surprising," Phillips said. "This is not what they taught us in civics class ... they could do this to you. They do this in other countries, not here."

"So Jack stands on the First Amendment. In this case, we're going to learn whether the First Amendment has a future in America," Martin said.

In a country founded on freedom of religion and speech, that's a future important to all Americans.

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Mark Martin/CBN News Featured U.S. News Tue, 29 Jul 2014 18:00:00 -0400
Hillsong NYC's Carl Lentz: We Don't Use the Word 'Religion' http://www.charismanews.com/us/44827-hillsong-nyc-s-carl-lentz-we-don-t-use-the-word-religion http://www.charismanews.com/us/44827-hillsong-nyc-s-carl-lentz-we-don-t-use-the-word-religion

The trendy Hillsong NYC is continuing to gain followers, attracting more than 6,000 people every Sunday. The church's success can partially be attributed to its 35-year-old tattoo-covered pastor who preaches a simple message: Ask not what you can do for God—ask what God can do for you.

"We don't use the word religion, because it's hard to get people excited about religion," Carl Lentz, the megachurch's pastor, told NYDailyNews.com. "Religion is dead. I don't know anything about religion; I couldn't help you. Religion has no power. But a relationship with God is a superpower."

The church is an extension of Hillsong, founded in Australia by Brian and Bobbie Houston 31 years ago. There are currently 12 campuses, with two U.S. locations—one in New York and one in Los Angeles. Lentz says his approach is simple.

"In church, people treat you like you have to change or else," he explains. "Our approach is, 'We love you, nothing else.' "

Hillsong NYC has attracted the likes of pop star Justin Bieber, actress and singer Vanessa Hudgens and NBA superstar Kevin Durant. Actress Cassidy Gifford, daughter of Kathie Lee Gifford, is also a fan.

"Young people are far more open and excited to share fellowship with one another when they don't feel as if there is a Bible being smacked upon their heads," she says. "Hillsong fosters a completely opposite environment, one of love, openness that is borderline infectious."

The inclusive environment has encouraged a diverse audience, which Lentz says is the goal.

"What you see around you can be a little unorthodox. You don't have to believe to belong here. We just talk about regular life. Regular marriage, what it means to be a Christian in New York."

And unorthodox it is. Services take place in the Manhattan Center in Midtown, making the environment feel more like a club than a church. Strobe lights flash the space, filled by large-screen TVs, as volunteers in ripped leather pants belt out music on stage.

"A pastor who likes chess and orchestra, that's great," Lentz says. "But we're from this generation."

But don't let the atmosphere fool you. The pastor is still after people's hearts and insists that what they do at Hillsong NYC is meaningful.

"New York City is hollow, an absolutely hollow place," he says. "So what we have is deep, and it matters."

Do you agree with Lentz's brand of Christianity? Sound off.

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Gina Meeks Featured U.S. News Tue, 29 Jul 2014 17:00:00 -0400
Newspaper Editor Fired for Bashing Pro-Gay View of the Bible http://www.charismanews.com/us/44824-newspaper-editor-fired-for-bashing-pro-gay-view-of-the-bible http://www.charismanews.com/us/44824-newspaper-editor-fired-for-bashing-pro-gay-view-of-the-bible

A former Iowa newspaper editor is accusing the "Gaystapo" of rewriting the Bible to make it appear that God's Word did not condemn homosexual acts until 1946.

Bob Eschliman's comments appeared in his personal blog last Monday, July 21. But he was fired as editor of the Newton Daily News in Iowa after national media critic Jim Romenesko sent Eschliman an email the next day asking if his paper could fairly cover the gay community in light of the personal views he expressed that homosexuals were "the enemy," the Des Moines Register reported.

Eschliman's post was taken down, and he was fired. But Eschliman filed a federal complaint against his former employer last Wednesday, accusing the newspaper's owners, Shaw Media, of religious discrimination and retaliation.

Eschliman described his religious beliefs regarding the definition of marriage in his post and argues that he was fired and discriminated against for being an evangelical Christian.

"Bob believes, as we do, that no one should be fired from their job because of their religious beliefs," Jeremiah G. Dys, Eschliman's attorney, told a Christian journalist. "We hope the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will send a strong signal to other companies that this type of intolerance has no place in today's welcoming workforce."

Eschliman penned his blog post in April criticizing the "Queen James Bible," a website that sells rewritten, gay-friendly copies of the Bible because they claim that homosexuality as a sin was not added in the Scriptures until 1946.

"It's pretty easy to brush off a nonsensical contrived version of the Bible, but that's not the deceivers' end goal," wrote Eschliman, according to the Des Moines Register. "No, they want all Christendom to abandon their faith. They do that by 'proselytizing' to church leaders to change their view on homosexuality."

His blog has been taken down since then but in his complaint with the EEOC, Eschliman noted that the Newton Daily News was aware of his personal blog and never asked him to stop writing on it.

"He expressed an opinion on his personal blog that in no way reflects the opinion of the Newton Daily News or Shaw Media. While he is entitled to his opinion, his public airing of it compromised the reputation of this newspaper and his ability to lead it," a company spokesman was quoted as saying.

If the dispute is resolved in Eschliman's favor, the EEOC could possibly order the company to compensate him with back pay, future pay and exemplary damages.

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Mark Andrews Featured U.S. News Tue, 29 Jul 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Jennifer Hudson Shares How God Got Her Through Death of Family http://www.charismanews.com/culture/44825-jennifer-hudson-shares-how-god-got-her-through-death-of-family http://www.charismanews.com/culture/44825-jennifer-hudson-shares-how-god-got-her-through-death-of-family

Oscar-winning actress and Grammy-winning singer Jennifer Hudson has been through, in her own words, "the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows." But from her struggles with weight issues growing up in a crime-riddled Chicago neighborhood to Hollywood stardom to the murders of her mother, brother and nephew, one constant has remained: her faith in Jesus Christ.

In an interview with The Observer Magazine, Hudson revealed how her faith helped keep her strong after the 2008 murder of her mother, Darnell Donerson, her 29-year-old brother Jason, and her 7-year-old nephew Julian King—the son of Hudson's older sister, Julia. William Balfour, Julia's estranged husband, was charged with the murders and, in 2012 was convicted and sentenced to three life sentences.

"You don't know how strong you are until you are placed in that kind of moment," Hudson said.

Her tumultuous life has long been grounded in the church, where she sang as a teenager long before her voice graced the airwaves or the silver screen. Looking back, through all the success and all the heartache, Hudson reflects on just how much she's been through.

"It feels like another Jennifer life," she says. "I don't look the same ... So many things have changed. I sometimes think the only constant is my voice."

Despite the pain the murders and their subsequent trial caused, Hudson stood strong in the faith in which her mother had raised her.

"There would be no point in faith if it wasn't tested," she says. "My mother always told me no matter how negative your life seems to be, you must always look for a positive."

Now a mother herself, Hudson credits her mother with levels of wisdom the depths of which she's only now realizing.

"Now she has gone, I realize she had a lot to say," Hudson says. "My brother, I hear him, too. When we were kids, any time my brother saw me crying he would be like 'Jenny, knock it off.' And that is what I hear him say when I cry now."

Hudson's upcoming album, JHUD, features a song ("Moan") written in her mother's memory. Though Donerson was a quiet woman, her faith and teachings powerfully impacted her children's lives.

Hudson's mother was the one who encouraged the Grammy winner to chase her dream of becoming a professional singer, even suggesting the American Idol competition that drew her a national following.

After years of success as a singer and  actress, the 2008 murders brought her down to the "lowest of the lows." But even in the midst of unthinkable adversity, Hudson chose to rise above.

Together with her sister Julia, Hudson established a foundation in honor of her murdered nephew.

"We both wanted to find a way that we would not dread every birthday and holiday and family occasion again," Hudson says.

The two sisters also started Hatch Day, an annual event when they visit schools to distribute teaching supplies.

"My nephew was super into education," she says. "He used to call himself Dr. King. [My sister] can pour his blessings onto these kids and keep his memory alive."

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Jeremy Burns Featured Culture Tue, 29 Jul 2014 15:00:00 -0400
Real-Life Giant Playing Goliath in 'David and Goliath' Movie http://www.charismanews.com/culture/44823-real-life-giant-playing-goliath-in-david-and-goliath-movie http://www.charismanews.com/culture/44823-real-life-giant-playing-goliath-in-david-and-goliath-movie

The tallest man in Canada will play Goliath in the upcoming high-profile movie David and Goliath.

Jerry Sokoloski, 31, is also one of the tallest men in the world. Christian NewsWire reports he is 7 feet 8 inches, but other sources put him between 7 feet 4 inches and 7 feet 7 inches.

"Jerry was a tremendous blessing," says director Tim Chey. "We didn't want to create a CGI imitation like The Incredible Hulk, and so our casting directors set out to find the biggest guy, and he's very big."

The casting team scoured the planet until they discovered the Canadian actor in Toronto.

"They flew Jerry to North Africa just to meet with the director and producers," says Michelle Albright, the U.S. casting associate. "While there, they decided to cast Jerry, and the rest is history."

"Goliath stood at 9 feet," adds Chey. "So Jerry was about a foot and 4 inches shorter than the real thing. He adds an incredible, realistic dimension."

Sokoloski declared himself eligible for the NBA in 2004 but did not get drafted. He then became a professional wrestler and started acting full time after he finished his wrestling career. To get ready for the grueling role, Sokoloski worked with fight coordinators and acting coaches.

The film wrapped principal photography in North Africa and at studios in London. The film is currently in post-production in Los Angeles.

David and Goliath looks at one of the most powerful and beloved Bible stories of all time. The film will focus on the early life of David, who fought against the Philistine giant, Goliath, against all odds.

The epic film comes at a perfect time. Hollywood is embracing faith-based films as of late, and the audiences are growing at a record pace according to reports.

David and Goliath is set for an early 2015 nationwide  release in theaters.

Chey also produced Freedom, starring Cuba Gooding, Jr., Sharon Leal and William Sadler, which opens in theaters across Australia next month and in cinemas in the U.S. in January. He also directed Epic Journey, which took him to 29 countries. A record of his journey was submitted to the Guinness Book of Records for most countries traveled to for a feature film.

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Charisma News Staff Featured Culture Tue, 29 Jul 2014 14:00:00 -0400
WATCH: Ron Carpenter Shares Miraculous Marriage Restoration Despite All Odds http://www.charismanews.com/us/44822-watch-ron-carpenter-shares-miraculous-marriage-restoration-despite-all-odds http://www.charismanews.com/us/44822-watch-ron-carpenter-shares-miraculous-marriage-restoration-despite-all-odds

After an announcement that rocked the International Pentecostal Holiness Church congregation last year, Ron Carpenter offered hope for reconciliation with his wife in January.

In fact, Carpenter, the pastor of Redemption World Outreach Center (RWOC) in Greenville, S.C., told his church he is working with Bishop T.D. Jakes to bring restoration to his marriage. The news came less than four months after he stood before RWOC and shared his painful journey that led his wife to check herself into a psychiatric-treatment facility.

"To all you...our friends, and most of all...our 'God'... You have been most gracious and merciful," Carpenter wrote on his Facebook page. "Thank you."

Watch the testimony of how God put this broken marriage back together.

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Jennifer LeClaire Featured U.S. News Tue, 29 Jul 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Priest Claims Demon Spirit Is Texting Him After Failed Exorcism http://www.charismanews.com/world/44821-priest-claims-demon-spirit-is-texting-him-after-failed-exorcism http://www.charismanews.com/world/44821-priest-claims-demon-spirit-is-texting-him-after-failed-exorcism

If you've ever cast out a devil, then you know there sometimes is backlash from demon forces. But a Polish priest is putting a whole new spin on retaliation.

Father Marian Rajchel, a parish priest in southeastern Poland, is claiming he started receiving texts after an exorcism on a teenage girl—from demons. That gives a whole new meaning to the "prince of the power of the air" (see Eph. 2:2).

Does he literally mean a demon is texting him? Well, no, not exactly. He claims a demon is influencing the girl to text him after a failed deliverance.

"She will not come out of this hell. She's mine. Anyone who prays for her will die," read one message from the girl, according to UPI. Another message read: "Shut up, preacher. You cannot save yourself. Idiot. You pathetic old preacher."

"The author of these texts is an evil spirit who has possessed her soul," the Austria Times reports Rajchel as saying. "Often the owners of mobile phones are not even aware that they are being used like this, however, in this case it is clear. Clearly this young girl has been possessed and needs further help."

Do you believe in deliverance ministry? Have you ever experienced retaliation from the enemy after healing the sick or casting out devils (see Matt. 10:8)?

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Jennifer LeClaire Featured World News Tue, 29 Jul 2014 12:00:00 -0400
University Fires Christian Scientist for Discovery Proving Creationism http://www.charismanews.com/us/44820-university-fires-christian-scientist-for-discovery-proving-creationism http://www.charismanews.com/us/44820-university-fires-christian-scientist-for-discovery-proving-creationism

A scientist was terminated from his job at a California State University campus after discovering soft tissue on a triceratops fossil and then publishing his findings. Pacific Justice Institute filed suit last week with the Los Angeles County Superior Court against the board of trustees of CSU, Northridge, citing discrimination for perceived religious views.

"Terminating an employee because of their religious views is completely inappropriate and illegal," commented Brad Dacus, president of PJI. "But doing so in an attempt to silence scientific speech at a public university is even more alarming. This should be a wake-up call and warning to the entire world of academia," he continued.

While at a dig at the Hell Creek formation in Montana, the scientist, Mark Armitage, came upon the largest triceratops horn ever unearthed at the site. When examining the horn under a high-powered microscope back at CSUN, Armitage was fascinated to see the soft tissue. The discovery stunned members of the scientific community because it indicates that dinosaurs roamed the earth only thousands of years in the past rather than going extinct 65 million years ago, as the scientific consensus believes.

According to court documents, shortly after the original soft tissue discovery, a university official challenged the motives of Armitage, by shouting at him, "We are not going to tolerate your religion in this department!"

Armitage, a published scientist of more than 30 years, was subsequently let go after CSUN abruptly claimed his appointment at the university of 38 months had been temporary and claimed a lack of funding for his position. This was news to him and contradicted prior statements and documents from the university.

"It has become apparent that 'diversity' and 'intellectual curiosity,' so often touted as hallmarks of a university education, do not apply to those with a religious point of view," said Michael Peffer, staff attorney with PJI's southern California office. "This suit was filed, in part, to vindicate those ideals."

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Charisma News Staff Featured U.S. News Tue, 29 Jul 2014 11:00:00 -0400
In Israel's Desperate Hour, Obama Leads From Behind http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44819-in-israel-s-desperate-hour-obama-leads-from-behind http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44819-in-israel-s-desperate-hour-obama-leads-from-behind

"We have your back," President Obama told Israelis when he visited the embattled country recently. Way back, apparently. Obama's administration had famously claimed to "lead from behind" in overthrowing Libya's strongman, Moammar Gadhafi.

Young Sgt. Benjamin Anthony spoke to the Christians United for Israel (CUFI) Washington Summit last week, and he described a different vision of leadership. He introduced us to the Hebrew word for "after me," ahalai. Officers in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), he said, should lead from the front. That used to be America's idea of leadership too.

You cannot say Secretary John Kerry isn't alert to his opportunities. He sees another chance to be a peacemaker. He is rushing to the Mideast to broker a ceasefire. Anthony says Israel needs a victory over Hamas terrorists who have been hiding rockets in schools and hospitals.

Kerry wants Israelis to stop trying to root out those who have sent more than 9,000 rockets into Israel. Canada's National Post recently reported that the UNWRA—the U.N.'s refugee agency—closed down a school it was operating in Gaza after a cache of Hamas rockets was discovered next door.

The U.N. bureaucrats did what they usually do: They turned the rockets over to "local authorities." In Gaza, that means they gave the rockets back to Hamas. The cartoonist wasn't kidding when he said Hamas means "hiding among mosques and schools."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also addressed the CUFI gathering via satellite. He has said the moral difference between Israel and its enemies is simple: "We use missiles to defend our civilians; they use civilians to defend their missiles."

An earlier Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir, was a young Jewish girl raised in Milwaukee. She spoke to her Arab enemies in these poignant words: "We can forgive you for killing our children; we cannot forgive you for making us kill your children."

Hamas is banking on CNN and the rest of the gullible Western media to carry pictures of Mideast violence into American  and European homes. The late PLO chief Yasser Arafat saw the possibilities of CNN for his terrorist plans. He learned that airline hijacking could be a successful way to murder your way onto the front pages and into viewers' living rooms.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) addressed an appreciative crowd at CUFI. He described his 2011 visit to Israel as part of a congressional delegation. Senator Scott's bus was northbound when he saw a southbound Israeli bus get hit by one of Hamas's rockets. Blood and body parts were scattered all over the street. Still, Scott was amazed to see Israeli police actually training Palestinian Arabs as police officers. The Jews' view was that if law and justice prevailed anywhere, people might just get a thirst for law and justice. "I saw Jewish policemen acting out the Gospel of Matthew (5:38-43)," Scott said.

Scott will be an increasingly important voice in the U.S. Senate but also in the black community, serving as a counterweight to anti-Semites such as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Jeremiah Wright.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) made a point of saying she did not speak for CUFI. She repeated that message three times. But she was speaking to CUFI. And her powerful message was that as bad as Hamas rockets are, an Iranian nuclear weapon is vastly worse. "Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing," she quoted from Psalm 2. Never have those words been more prophetic.

Jerusalem is described in Hebrew as "the navel of the world." Bachmann related how in Berlin, police allowed a Muslim demonstrator to use their police car loudspeaker. He was supposed to quiet the angry mob of protesters against Israel. Instead, he used his microphone to harangue the mob with shouts of "Allahu Akbar!" "Death to the Jews!" cried this representative of the "religion of peace." And the German police? They thought he was going to calm, not incite the crowd. They quickly learned the meaning of Takiya. That Persian word means it is permissible for Muslims to deceive unbelievers.

Bachmann, a key member of the House Intelligence Committee, pointed to the state of the world with President Obama leading from behind and noted White House spokesman Josh Earnest's jaw-dropping claim: "The Obama administration has substantially improved the tranquility of the global community." Did he really say that earnestly? There may be a Sea of Tranquility on the Moon, but it's nowhere on Earth.

Despite crises erupting around the world, Obama seems blissfully distracted. He has just announced another four-month extension for Iran. The red line he drew in Syria has been turned into a real red line as oceans of blood are spilled there by the government and the Islamic State terrorist organization. And the deadline for talks about Iran's lunge for nuclear weapons has been extended and extended. Obama is again kicking the can down the road—until three weeks after the mid-term elections. Be careful, Mr. President, that's a nuclear can you are kicking!

Ken Blackwell is senior fellow, Family Empowerment, and Robert Morrison is senior fellow for Policy Studies at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Daily Caller on Thursday.

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Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison Featured Opinion Tue, 29 Jul 2014 10:00:00 -0400
Why More Millennials Are Saying 'I Don't' to Marriage http://www.charismanews.com/us/44818-why-more-millennials-are-saying-i-don-t-to-marriage http://www.charismanews.com/us/44818-why-more-millennials-are-saying-i-don-t-to-marriage

A new report shows that more young adults from the millennial generation are saying "I don't" to marriage, disillusioned with their parents' marriages and settling for the single life or living with a significant other.

Millennials, or those born between about 1980 and 2000 (the birth years for the generation vary among experts), are on track to have the lowest marriage rates by age 40 than any previous generation of Americans, according to a story last week on CNNMoney.com. And if the trend continues, more than 30 percent of millennial women will remain unmarried by age 40, nearly twice as many as their Generation X counterparts, the Urban Institute reported.

What does that mean for society in general? Just more single ladies and men? No, experts say. It goes much deeper than that and could have a far-reaching impact for the entire nation.

For example, as CNNMoney.com reports, married couples often fare better financially, which means they can spend more and boost the economy. Meanwhile, those who remain unmarried may be less likely to purchase homes or move into larger, more expensive homes to accommodate growing families. Likewise, single parents may be more likely to qualify for certain government social-welfare programs.

But Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, says that the implications of the report go far beyond finances.

"The saddest thing about these statistics concerning the decline in the marriage rate of millennials is not merely economic," Land said. "It's personal and cultural. Millennials have  the lowest marriage rate in any generation in history. This portends social, emotional and economic catastrophe for millions of millennials and their children. God told human beings that it's not good for man to be alone. Biblical revelation makes it clear that God's intention for men and women is long-term marriage as the normal and ideal relationship state.

"This is the environment in which He planned and desired for children to be raised—with a mother and a father who are married to each other," Land continued. "These marriage statistics tell us that millennials will have fewer children than any previous generation, with the social, emotional and economic consequences that accompany that fact. Additionally, children who are born to these unmarried millennials will be disproportionately reared in single-parent homes, compared to previous generations."

The Urban Institute report went on to say that the importance of marriage is on the decline for younger Americans, with more and more co-habitating and raising families without getting married. Many millennials are also waiting for an established career or financial security before saying "I do."

Land added that many millennials are avoiding marriage because of the trauma of their parents' broken marriages—an illustration of the sins of the parents being visited upon the children.

"When I look at these statistics, I can't help but think about President Obama's campaign ad that featured 'Julia,' who goes through every stage of life being assisted by the government—including having a baby—with no mention of a husband," Land said. "This is a prime example of the government taking the place of a spouse. No matter how generous it might be, the cold, sterile government is a poor substitute for a loving spouse and partner in raising children.

"We know from an avalanche of statistics that children who are reared in a two-parent home have far more beneficial outcomes as adults in virtually every arena," he continued. "For example, children who are raised in two-parent homes have a 5 percent chance of living in poverty, but children in single-parent homes have a 35 poverty rate.

"This precipitous decline in marriage among millennials will greatly exacerbate turning America into a nation of married 'haves' and unmarried 'have-nots.' What we've done and are doing to our children through broken marriages and single parenthood is collective societal child abuse."

Marriage rates among young Americans fell drastically during the economic downturn, when young adults found it difficult to secure a job. If the post-recession rate continues, just over 69 percent of women and 65 percent of men will marry before turning 40. Before the downturn, the rates were almost 77 percent and over 72 percent, respectively.

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Deborah Hamilton Featured U.S. News Tue, 29 Jul 2014 09:00:00 -0400
Pope Francis Apologizes for Persecution of Pentecostals http://www.charismanews.com/world/44817-pope-francis-apologizes-for-persecution-of-pentecostals http://www.charismanews.com/world/44817-pope-francis-apologizes-for-persecution-of-pentecostals

Pope Francis sought forgiveness for decades of persecution of Italian Pentecostals when he met with about 300 evangelicals from the U.S., Argentina and Italy in the southern town of Caserta on Monday.

The pope made his second visit in as many days to the mafia stronghold near Naples, this time to meet evangelical pastor Giovanni Traettino, whom he befriended while he was archbishop of Buenos Aires.

During the visit, Francis apologized for the persecution suffered by Pentecostals under Italy's fascist regime in the 1920s and '30s and urged Christians to celebrate their diversity and unity.

"Catholics were among those who persecuted and denounced the Pentecostals, almost as if they were crazy," Francis said.

"I am the shepherd of the Catholics and I ask you to forgive my Catholic brothers and sisters who did not understand and were tempted by the devil."

Since his election last year, the pope has been reaching out to other faiths and has held talks with Protestant, Jewish and Muslim leaders. On Monday, he went even further by apologizing for what Catholics had done.

Luca Baratto, a pastor from the Italian Federation of Evangelical Churches, said the pope's apology was unexpected and greatly appreciated.

"It is very important to remember the racial laws through which the Pentecostals were victims under fascism," he told the Italian news agency, AdnKronos. "We really appreciate the opening of dialogue by this pope."

Calling the pope "my beloved brother," Traettino said the evangelical community was deeply grateful for the visit, which would have been unthinkable until recently.

One participant said it was a very emotional moment when the pope asked forgiveness, and "everyone was in tears."

The pope arrived in Caserta by helicopter and after a private conversation at Traettino's home, he met with the community of the Evangelical  Church of Reconciliation at the site of their church, which is under construction.

A notable absentee was Bishop Tony Palmer, the charismatic preacher who used a cellphone camera to record Francis' appeal for unity between Catholics and evangelicals. He was killed just over a week ago in a motorcycle crash in the United Kingdom.

On Saturday, around 200,000 faithful gathered for the pope's first stop in Caserta, a stronghold of the notorious Naples Mafia known as Camorra.

The pontiff did not mention the Camorra, which runs a vast organized crime empire including drug trafficking, money laundering and extortion, but spoke out against "corruption and lawlessness" during his address.


Copyright 2014 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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Josephine McKenna/RNS Featured World News Tue, 29 Jul 2014 08:00:00 -0400
Military: Gay Pride Parades Are OK, Vacation Bible School Is Not http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44816-military-gay-pride-parades-are-ok-vacation-bible-school-is-not http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44816-military-gay-pride-parades-are-ok-vacation-bible-school-is-not

Bible Baptist Church in Carthage, Missouri, is a small country church bursting with American pride. Old Glory stands proudly in the sanctuary. And every morning at summer youth camp, the teenagers pledge allegiance and sing the National Anthem.

Patriotic holidays are big doings at Bible Baptist. On Memorial Day, the church ladies put out quite a spread—fried chicken, potato salad. Veterans  wear their uniforms, and the preacher would salute them during the morning worship service.

"We are a very patriotic church," Pastor Kent Hogan told a reporter. "We love America. We love this country."

So it was not that big of a surprise when the church decided to honor the military during its annual Vacation Bible School. The theme was "God's Rescue Squad." And each day of the week, the church invited local "rescue squads" to visit with the boys and girls.

The paramedics came on Monday, and the fire department showed up Tuesday. The boys and girls were taught how to stop, drop and roll. On Wednesday, the Jasper County Sheriff's Dept. brought its K-9 unit.

But our story picks up with what happened on Thursday. That was the day  the church was supposed to honor the National Guard. They had invited troops from the nearby armory to drop by with one of their Humvees.

"We were going to thank them for protecting our religious liberty," said Pastor Hogan. "It was more of a promotion for the military—to show the kids what the military does."

But the National Guard did not visit Bible Baptist Church on Thursday night, and the reason  has caused great anger and frustration among church members.

"We were told it was against military policy for National Guard troops to participate in Vacation Bible School," Pastor Hogan said. "They said if the National Guard had assets on church property, it would look like the National Guard is sponsoring the Baptist religion."

Pastor Hogan said he was dumbfounded.

"We are right in the middle of the United States of America," the pastor said. "We are part of the Bible Belt. You read about this stuff going on in big cities. But in Carthage?"

The pastor said the military was concerned about people getting offended by the sight of National Guard troops visiting a church.

"They said they didn't want to offend anybody. Well, it's offended our whole church."

So Pastor Hogan reached out to his state representative, a Republican named Mike Kelley. Kelley then called the adjunct general of the Missouri National Guard.

"They told me that federal policy prohibits them from doing anything with any specific church," Kelley said. "The guys on the state level did everything they could. I have great respect for our local Missouri National Guard. But we are dealing with an over-burdensome federal regulation."

The Missouri National Guard did not return a reporter's calls for comment—but it doesn't matter. Kelley sent me a copy of the Army regulation.

It states: "Army participation must not selectively benefit (or appear to benefit) any person, group, or corporation (whether profit or nonprofit); religion, sect, religious or sectarian group, or quasi-religious or ideological movement."

The policy also states that troops are to avoid any activities that might involve or appear to involve the promotion, endorsement or sponsorship of any religious or sectarian movement.

Kelley said he is incredibly disappointed with the federal policy and feels especially bad for the church.

"He (Pastor Hogan) basically got blown off by the federal government," Kelley said.

Several members of the Missouri National Guard told me they were disgusted by what happened. They only agreed to be quoted provided their identities were not disclosed.

"I can tell you I'm ashamed and embarrassed right now," one Guardsman said. "This isn't the military I signed up for."

Other soldiers said it was extremely disappointing and embarrassing.

"We had a lot of disappointed kiddos because of the National Guard being unwilling to allow a Humvee and a few soldiers to spend an hour at a Baptist Church," another Guardsman said. "It makes we wonder what I'm actually fighting for."

But I believe this soldier's observations and analysis truly sum up our nation's current state of affairs.

"I will never understand why it's OK for the military to march in a gay-pride parade but not be allowed to spend an hour talking to children who look up to them (soldiers)," the Guardsman said. "I honestly never thought I'd see the day that this would happen in my hometown."

In June, the Department of Defense gave permission for a military color guard to march in Washington, D.C.'s gay pride parade. It marked the first time in history that the U.S. Army Military District of Washington participated in the parade.

Pastor Hogan said the entire incident is both appalling and ludicrous.

"I don't think most Americans realize how much their religious liberty is in jeopardy," he said. "If they did this to us, how bad is it somewhere else? This is not just a big-city issue. This is a small-town-America issue. Americans need to wake up."

Welcome to the age of enlightenment, Pastor Hogan--where the military can march in a gay pride parade but cannot hang out with 6-year-olds at Vacation Bible School.

Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. Sign up for his American Dispatch newsletter, be sure to join his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter. His latest book is God Less America.

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Todd Starnes Featured Opinion Tue, 29 Jul 2014 07:00:00 -0400
While Preaching, Billy Graham Once Wrestled Over What Bible Teaches, Son Admits http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44815-while-preaching-billy-graham-once-wrestled-over-what-bible-teaches-son-admits http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44815-while-preaching-billy-graham-once-wrestled-over-what-bible-teaches-son-admits

Many people have asked how my father is doing. He is a little bit stronger, and his vitals continue to be good. It seems the heat of the summer has been good for him.

Sixty-five years ago this August was a pivotal time in my father's life. In fact, my son Will Graham recently traveled to San Bernardino, California, to help commemorate, on behalf of my father and me, a decisive step of faith that occurred at Forest Home Conference Center that summer of 1949. My father was 30 years old and preaching around the country. Another young preacher he knew had been questioning whether the Bible was truly and entirely the authoritative Word of God.

The issues this preacher raised began to trouble my father. Although he never doubted the truth of the Gospel, he wrestled over whether he could fully believe everything the Bible teaches. He even started wondering if his questions might cause him to give up preaching. He took his struggle with him when he traveled to California, where he was scheduled to speak at Forest Home in August and then begin a citywide tent crusade in Los Angeles a few weeks later.

Late one night at Forest Home, discouraged and unable to sleep because of the burden that filled his mind, he got up and went out into the moonlight for a walk. In the nearby woods he came upon a tree stump, and he opened his Bible and laid it on the stump. Then he poured out the agony of his heart to God. He knew the matter had to be resolved one way or the other. Finally he knelt in the shadows by the stump with the Bible open before him and prayed, "Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word—by faith! I will believe this to be Your inspired Word." At that moment, he later said, he felt the burden lift and sensed the freedom and power of the Holy Spirit in and around him.

This same struggle stirs within many people today. There are voices across our land that emphasize parts of the Word of God while minimizing scriptures that make them uncomfortable. As I contemplate the havoc this creates within the church, I am reminded of an old Bible teacher, now in heaven, who once told me that the best way to interpret Scripture is with other passages of Scripture. The Bible is true from cover to cover. "This Book ... shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success" (Joshua 1:8, NKJV).

I am convinced that my father's commitment by faith to the Word of God was the key to what happened next in his ministry. At the time, he was a young, relatively little-known evangelist. A few weeks later, when the Los Angeles tent crusade got under way, God began to pour out blessings in ways no one could have imagined. The response to the gospel exceeded anything my father and his small team had ever seen up to that point, and God used that crusade to open a flood of opportunities to preach the glorious Good News of Jesus Christ in cities all over the nation and around the world.

Sometimes I think about that stump where my father laid his Bible. Many people feel that their lives have become a lot like a stump—cut down—and there's nothing they can do. But God can renew and use anyone who, in faith, holds fast to His Word. The Bible says, "There is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its tender shoots will not cease" (Job 14:7). When you give yourself 100 percent to following God's direction, there is no end to what He can do through you.

This summer I hope you can arrange an opportunity to get away from the distractions of daily life, spend some in-depth time in the Bible, and pour your heart out to the Lord in prayer—whether in repentance for sin, recommitment to obey His Word, or seeking renewal and fresh direction for your life. Remember also to thank Him for His faithfulness and to pray by name for the salvation of loved ones and friends who need Jesus Christ in their lives.

My father can no longer take walks or kneel in the woods to pray. His eyesight has dimmed, and his conversations are brief. But I can tell you that he kneels in spirit to the Lord as he prays for lost souls and looks forward to eternal fellowship with His Savior in heaven someday. Because he will be 96 on November 7, his thoughts are constantly on heaven, and we have captured these in a video that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is excited about airing this November through the nationwide My Hope 2014 outreach. It's a powerful evangelistic film that weaves this new message from my father on heaven around several real-life stories of how the gospel changes hearts.

There are people you know and people all over America who do not yet understand that the only way to heaven is through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. They need to hear this message, and we ask for your help to make that happen. Be sure your pastor and others in your church know about My Hope 2014 with Billy Graham.

This article originally appeared on BillyGraham.org.

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Franklin Graham Featured Opinion Tue, 29 Jul 2014 06:00:00 -0400
Doctor From Samaritan’s Purse Catches Lethal Ebola Virus http://www.charismanews.com/world/44814-doctor-from-samaritan-s-purse-catches-lethal-ebola-virus http://www.charismanews.com/world/44814-doctor-from-samaritan-s-purse-catches-lethal-ebola-virus

An Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 670 people in Africa is now taking a toll on doctors and health-care workers battling the deadly disease, including two Americans.

Kent Brantly, 33, an American doctor who has been working in Liberia since October for the North Carolina-based aid organization Samaritan's Purse, is receiving intensive medical treatment after he was infected with Ebola, according to a spokeswoman for the group.

Melissa Strickland said Brantly, who is married and has two children, was talking with his doctors and working on his computer while being treated.

A second U.S. citizen, Nancy Writebol, also  tested positive for Ebola, Samaritan's Purse said. Writebol is employed by mission group SIM in Liberia and was helping a joint SIM/Samaritan's Purse team treating Ebola patients in Monrovia. Writebol is married with two children, the organization said.

"Both of them tonight are in stable condition," Ken Isaacs, Samaritan Purse's vice president of programs and government relations, said Sunday. "But they are not out of the woods yet."

A Liberian government official said Sunday that one of that country's highest-profile doctors has died in what the World Health Organization calls the largest recorded outbreak of the disease.

The Ebola epidemic in the West African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea has caused more than 670 deaths and more than 1,000 infections, according to the WHO. Ebola is a severe illness with a fatality rate of up to 90 percent, is one of the world's most virulent diseases, according to the WHO. It is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected animals or people.

Over the weekend, health officials in Nigeria raced to stop the spread of Ebola after a man sick with the disease arrived on a flight in Lagos, Africa's largest city with 21 million people. He later died. The man's ability to board an international flight raised new fears that other passengers could carry the disease beyond Africa because of weak passenger inspection and the disease's long incubation period and the fact that Ebola's initial symptoms can resemble those of other illnesses.

Isaacs said in an interview that "where it gets really scary" is that the disease, which was previously seen only "in very remote, small villages in Africa" is now being contracted by people in the capital cities of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. "Now the disease has been introduced into the big urban areas with millions of people," he said. "In the big cities, people can get on an airplane and fly out."

Isaacs does not believe this outbreak his peaked. "I think the worst is yet to come," he said. "I hope I'm wrong."

The first Liberian doctor to die of the disease was identified as Samuel Brisbane. He was working as a consultant with the internal medicine unit at the country's largest hospital, the John F. Kennedy Memorial Medical Center in Monrovia.

Brisbane, who once was a medical adviser to former Liberian President Charles Taylor, was taken to a treatment center on the outskirts of the capital after falling ill with Ebola and died there, said Tolbert Nyenswah, an assistant health minister.

He said another doctor who had been working in Liberia's central Bong County also was being treated for Ebola at the same center where Brisbane died.

The situation "is getting more and more scary," Nyenswah said.

Isaacs said doctors and health care workers in West Africa often lack information about the disease, how it's spread and what to do if infected. Those medical professionals are often the first infected and spread the disease to their other patients. On Friday, he said, Samaritan's Purse staff saw 12 new Ebola cases; of those, eight were medical providers.

He is urging the U.S., Canada and the European Union to pour resources into those countries to help them educate health care workers. "If Ebola is not fought and contained in West Africa, it will be fought somewhere else," he said.

A Ugandan doctor working in Liberia, where an Ebola outbreak has killed 129 people, died earlier this month. The current outbreak has claimed the lives of 319 in Guinea and 224 in Sierra Leone.

Last week, the medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders announced that the chief doctor leading the fight against the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Sheik Umar Khan, had contracted the disease. Three nurses who worked in the same Ebola treatment Center as Khan, 39, are believed to have died from the disease.

Doctors Without Borders says it implements "strict infection control measures" to protect its staff in West Africa against the disease. "As well as the personal protective equipment that our staff wears, we have a series of strict procedures and protocols," says the group's Emergency Coordinator, Marie-Christine Ferir. "Our treatment centers are designed to ensure the safest possible working environment for our staff. There is sufficient space in between patients, clear separation between high-risk and low-risk areas, sufficient lighting, secure waste management and disinfection of the wards."

Contributing: Associated Press


Larry Copeland writes for USA Today.

Copyright 2014 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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Larry Copeland/USA Today Featured World News Mon, 28 Jul 2014 20:00:00 -0400
'Blasphemous' Facebook Post Drives Muslim Mob to Murder Girls http://www.charismanews.com/world/44813-blasphemous-facebook-post-drives-muslim-mob-to-murder-girls http://www.charismanews.com/world/44813-blasphemous-facebook-post-drives-muslim-mob-to-murder-girls

A Pakistani mob killed a female member of a religious sect and two of her granddaughters after a sect member was accused of posting blasphemous material on Facebook, police said Monday. This was the latest instance of growing violence against minorities.

The dead, including a 7-year-old girl and her baby sister, were Ahmadis, who consider themselves Muslim but believe in a prophet after Mohammed. A 1984 Pakistani law declared them non-Muslims and many Pakistanis consider them heretics.

Police said the late Sunday that violence in the town of Gujranwala, 220 km (140 miles) southeast of the capital, Islamabad, started with an altercation between young men, one of whom was an Ahmadi accused of posting "objectionable material."

"Later, a crowd of 150 people came to the police station demanding the registration of a blasphemy case against the accused," said one police officer who refused to be identified.

"As police were negotiating with the crowd, another mob attacked and started burning the houses of Ahmadis."

The youth accused of making the Facebook post had not been injured, he said.

Under Pakistani law, Ahmadis are banned from using Muslim greetings, saying Muslim prayers or referring to his place of worship as a mosque.

Salim ud Din, a spokesman for the Ahmadi community, said it was the worst attack on the community since simultaneous attacks on Ahmadi places of worship killed 86 Ahmadis four years ago.

"Police were there but just watching the burning. They didn't do anything to stop the mob," he said. "First they looted their homes and shops and then they burnt the homes."

The police officer said they had tried to stop the mob.

Accusations of blasphemy are rocketing in Pakistan, from one in 2011 to at least 68 last year, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. About 100 people have been accused of blasphemy this year.

Human rights workers say the accusations are increasingly used to settle personal vendettas or to grab the property of the accused.


Additional reporting, writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Robert Birsel

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

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Syed Raza Hassan/Reuters Featured World News Mon, 28 Jul 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Atheists Fail to Rewrite History With Attack on Ground Zero Cross http://www.charismanews.com/us/44812-atheists-fail-to-rewrite-history-with-attack-on-ground-zero-cross http://www.charismanews.com/us/44812-atheists-fail-to-rewrite-history-with-attack-on-ground-zero-cross

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) said Monday's decision by a federal appeals court upholding the display of a cross at New York's 9/11 memorial represents a "significant constitutional victory." The Christian-led organization had filed an amicus brief on behalf of more than 230,000 Americans who were urging the court to protect the cross at the Memorial at The National September 11 Memorial & Museum in lower Manhattan.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Monday ruled that a challenge by the American Atheists "fails on the merits" and upheld the display of the Ground Zero Cross.

"We argued from the beginning that this was a flawed legal challenge designed to re-write history and eliminate a powerful historical artifact," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ. "This bizarre legal challenge from an atheist group was exposed for what it was—a skewed legal challenge that had no merit. We're extremely pleased that the appeals court rejected this bogus argument and upheld the September 11 Memorial Museum's desire to acknowledge the cross's actual, historic role in the aftermath of the tragic attack in New York. This decision is a significant constitutional victory that protects the freedom to display religiously themed artifacts of historical or artistic significance without running afoul of the Constitution."

The cross at the museum is fashioned by two intersecting steel beams that survived the Twin Towers' collapse following a terrorist attack using airliners on Sept. 11, 2001.

American Atheists filed a federal suit in 2012 claiming the cross is unconstitutional. They assert they are suffering from both physical and emotional damages from the mere existence of the cross, resulting in headaches, indigestion, even mental pain. A federal district court dismissed the lawsuit, and then the atheist group filed an appeal in the case.

In the amicus brief submitted in November in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the ACLJ noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that such exhibits like the cross are constitutionally permissible and do not violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution's First Amendment.

The ACLJ brief argued the cross is a "historical artifact of the September 11 attacks" and "historical artifacts—even religious artifacts—have long been placed in America's public museums without doing violence to the Constitution. Any ruling to the contrary would lead to absurd results."

In its brief, posted here, the ACLJ represented itself and more than 230,000 Americans who signed on to the Committee to Protect the Ground Zero Cross.

In a unanimous decision issued Monday by a three-judge panel of the appellate court, the judges rejected the legal challenge by the atheists group ruling that, "We conclude that American Atheists' challenge fails on the merits. Accordingly, we hereby affirm the judgment in favor of appellees."

The case is American Atheists v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

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Charisma News Staff Featured U.S. News Mon, 28 Jul 2014 18:00:00 -0400
Man Exonerated for Rape: ‘My Father God Got Me Through This’ http://www.charismanews.com/us/44811-man-exonerated-for-rape-my-father-god-got-me-through-this http://www.charismanews.com/us/44811-man-exonerated-for-rape-my-father-god-got-me-through-this

A Texas man who was exonerated for rape—a crime for which he spent 12 years in prison—gave credit to God for getting him through the ordeal.

"It was only my Father God that got me through this. That's all I got to say," Michael Phillips, 57, said Friday during a court appearance. "That speaks for itself. Pick up His book, it's truthful ... [the Bible will] see you through anything."

"Phillips was released from prison in 2002, and prosecutors said his innocence was proven through a new program by the Dallas County district attorney's office to analyze untested rape kits, even if the defendant does not make a request," Reuters reported.

Legal experts say this is the first time someone has been cleared of a crime by DNA testing that was not requested by the convicted person.

Phillips, 57, was initially convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl in 1990. Reuters reports: "The actual culprit ... was identified through the DNA testing but cannot be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has expired," officials said.

The assailant, Lee Marvin Banks, lived at the same motel as Phillips and the victim, which is where the crime took place. The teen identified Phillips in a lineup, and his attorney advised him to accept a plea deal because there was only a small chance that a black man accused of raping a white girl would receive a fair trial.

Phillips has been living in a nursing home and is wheelchair-bound from sickle-cell anemia.

"I never imagined I would live to see my name cleared," he said. "Six of my siblings died from the same disease, so I thank God for sustaining me in prison. I always told everyone I was innocent, and now people will finally believe me."

"Under Texas law, Phillips is entitled to $80,000 compensation for each year of wrongful conviction plus an additional $80,000 each year for life," Reuters said.

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Gina Meeks Featured U.S. News Mon, 28 Jul 2014 17:30:00 -0400
'Thought Police' Target NFL Super Bowl-Winning Coach for 'Intolerance' http://www.charismanews.com/culture/44810-thought-police-target-nfl-super-bowl-winning-coach-for-intolerance http://www.charismanews.com/culture/44810-thought-police-target-nfl-super-bowl-winning-coach-for-intolerance

Former Super Bowl-winning coach and current NBC football analyst Tony Dungy became the latest target for the "Thought Police" last week, when he said he wouldn't have drafted openly gay player Michael Sam because of the distractions it would cause for the team.

Said Dungy, "I wouldn't have [drafted] him. Not because I don't believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn't want to deal with all of it. It's not going to be totally smooth ... things will happen."

And for his innocuous comments, Dungy was dubbed the "World's Worst Person in Sports" by ESPN's Keith Olbermann, and other swift attacks on Dungy came from all over.

American Family Association President Tim Wildmon said the Christian coach is the latest in a long line of those who have been targeted because their views don't match the politically correct agenda.

"This is where the 'progressive' movement has taken us," Wildmon said. "If you hold a view that is not in agreement with the opposition, you are demonized. 'Progressives' consider themselves morally superior to those who hold traditional values even though, ironically, progressives don't believe in moral values unless they define them. They moralize against those who promote morality.

"The progressive movement is out to destroy our country," Wildmon continued. "It is against patriotism and religion in general and is, in particular, hostile to evangelical Christianity and traditional Catholicism. It is against any belief in absolute moral standards. And it most certainly is for promoting the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender movement and punishing those who dare speak against it."

Since the dust-up, Dungy has elaborated on his original comments, stating that he spoke shortly after learning that Sam was planning to be the focus of a reality TV series that chronicled his experiences and the distractions the show would cause.

Dungy also made a comparison on Dan Patrick's syndicated sports talk show between the Sam situation and that of San Francisco's Jonathan Martin, the former Miami Dolphins tackle who walked away from that team after being bullied by fellow linemen.

Dungy said he talked to some NFL general managers, who said that, despite Martin's talent, the distraction of always following the story and checking on the status of the treatment of certain players would have been an issue and would have taken focus away from the team and the coaching staff.

"When someone like Tony Dungy, an upstanding Christian man who has helped many, makes a comment that can in any way be seen as challenging the narrative that homosexuality is normal, healthy and even ideal behavior, he is immediately discredited and publicly shamed—no matter the truth of his words. Tony Dungy will survive being labeled the 'worst person in sports.' But the fact that he is in the cross-hairs over his beliefs is chilling to free speech and free thinking. How ironic that the people who now scream the loudest about tolerance have become the least tolerant among us."

AFA sent an Action Alert to its friends and supporters late last week, encouraging them to support Dungy, as well as other athletes who have been targeted for their beliefs about the homosexual agenda, including the New York Giants' David Tyree, as well as Miami Dolphins' safety Don Jones and San Francisco 49ers' cornerback Chris Culliver, who were both sent to "re-education camps" for their comments about homosexuality.

"Tony Dungy is a man of character, integrity and faith--one who is committed to strengthening marriages," Wildmon said. "But all that matters is whether someone is for or against homosexuality. That one opinion is the breaking point for success or failure—peace or upheaval—is the epitome of intolerance. And because those targeting Dungy claim they believe in tolerance, it's also the epitome of hypocrisy for them. Unless this cycle is stopped, increasing numbers of professions will be closed off to people of sincere faith, including careers in the NFL."

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Deborah Hamilton Featured Culture Mon, 28 Jul 2014 16:30:00 -0400
NBA Star Jeremy Lin Eager to Walk Out His Christian Faith in Los Angeles http://www.charismanews.com/culture/44809-nba-star-jeremy-lin-eager-to-walk-out-his-christian-faith-in-los-angeles http://www.charismanews.com/culture/44809-nba-star-jeremy-lin-eager-to-walk-out-his-christian-faith-in-los-angeles

Pro basketball star Jeremy Lin first captured the nation's attention with sensational play in early 2012 that earned the undrafted player out of Harvard a spot in the starting lineup of the New York Knicks.

Recently traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, Lin, 26, wasted no time putting his Christian faith into action with an appearance last Friday morning at a skid-row mission to hand out gift bags to the needy.

But not everyone at skid row's Midnight Mission recognized the Lakers' newest star.

"Which one's the basketball player?" one woman asked, gesturing to Lin and the two shorter, older men standing beside him. A dozen more skid-row residents filed by without so much as a backward glance, according to a report in the LA Times.

Lin officially joined the Lakers last Thursday after a trade with the Houston Rockets. Sports pundits say Lin, who was born in nearby Torrance, California, will help the Lakers tap the city's huge Asian demographic—the largest in the nation, the Times reported. Lin also brings his well-known willingness to live out his Christian faith to his new city and team.

The Lakers organization partnered with the Midnight Mission to hand out 1,000 gift bags containing soap, razors, toothpaste, deodorant and hand wipes as part of their charitable-giving efforts. The Midnight Mission often enlists athletes, celebrities and companies to help hand out food at lunchtime on skid row, but Thursday marked the first time that the Lakers had gotten involved, according to the Times report.

Lakers guard Nick Young and shooting guard Xavier Henry also appeared at the event Friday, though they left before lunch—a tray of baked beans, salad, meat stew over rice and a Greek yogurt that everyone kept trying to trade. Leftovers were put in plastic bags to eat on the go.

Lin had just returned from a trip to Taiwan, where his movements are heralded by front-page headlines, and he is mobbed most places he goes.

"Nah, this is how it always is in America," Lin said when asked if he was bothered by the lack of attention he received at the event.

Lin said he had never been to skid row before. He was "keeping his eyes open" for new directions for his Christian-based charity, the Jeremy Lin Foundation, Lin told the newspaper. 

Another version of this story appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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Mark Andrews Featured Culture Mon, 28 Jul 2014 15:00:00 -0400
Islamic Radicals Destroy Prophet Jonah’s Tomb http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44808-islamic-radicals-destroy-prophet-jonah-s-tomb http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44808-islamic-radicals-destroy-prophet-jonah-s-tomb

The Islamic State's explosive destruction of the historic grave site of Jonah highlights the irony of Islam. And that irony is that this religion, which makes much of "holiness"—even to the point of killing people and violently destroying things it sees as an affront to holiness—is actually itself very unholy and a force for unholiness.

First, Islam's teachings distort the truth about God, which is misleading at best and blasphemous at worst.

Second, Islamic culture abuses and exploits people, kills innocent bystanders and even sends children into marketplaces with knapsack bombs attached to them—children who are made in God's image. Indeed, Islam's past and present record of genocide is unholy.

Third, Islam obstructs justice around the world. Islam and its leaders thwart the progress of countries, businesses and international initiatives that would better the human condition.

Fourth, Islam reneges on treaties and agreements. According to the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, to lie, betray people and violate your word is unholy.

Fifth, Islam does not recognize sacred space or areas that are universally recognized as holy ground. In Jerusalem, for example, Muslims have defaced centuries-old places and buildings that are integral parts of Jewish and Christian traditions. Much of old Jerusalem has—at one time or another—been buried under dirt and rubble by Muslims attempting to revise history in favor of Islam and eradicate evidence of Jewish or Christian history, which, of course, predates Islam by centuries

Recently, I was in Jerusalem for two weeks. A group of young Muslim girls in burqas on the Temple Mount were proselytizing for Islam, and they told our group that "the Jews have no claim here ... Jerusalem is the city of Islam." They claimed that the supposedly historical and archaeological references to Judaism in the city were "planted here by the Jews, who are lying rats."

Now, driven by this ideology, the tomb of Jonah has been blown up—one more historical reference obliterated as non-Muslims in the region scatter for safety. The truth is that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which is leading insurgencies in both countries, along with similar Islamic groups do not recognize the liberties or religious freedom of others. And when voices of dissent are raised against Islamic theology, culture and practice, their solution is not meaningful discourse but bloodshed, acts of violence, betrayal of agreements and worldwide thuggery in the name of their god.

This is unholy. How odd, for a religion that prides itself upon its supposed holiness. Yet, we are supposed to rest easy tonight knowing that the world has been purged of the tomb of Jonah? Significantly, Jonah was the prophet who told the Ninevites to turn from paganism to the true God—Whom the Hebrews called Yahweh. The God of Jonah was the genuinely holy Savior God, Who would one day send His Son to die on behalf of the world's sin.

The holiness depicted in Christianity is about a God Who loved the world so much that He sent His Only Son to be the forgiver and to restore a fallen world to Himself. As John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

This kind of holiness depends totally on the power and love of God—no explosives needed.

Alex McFarland is a speaker, writer and advocate for Christian apologetics. He serves as director of the Center for Christian Worldview and Apologetics at North Greenville University and is the author of several books, including the best-selling 10 Most Common Objections to Christianity.

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Alex McFarland Featured Opinion Mon, 28 Jul 2014 14:00:00 -0400
Miami Judge Promotes Gay Agenda, Strikes Down Same-Sex Marriage Ban http://www.charismanews.com/us/44807-miami-judge-promotes-gay-agenda-strikes-down-same-sex-marriage-ban http://www.charismanews.com/us/44807-miami-judge-promotes-gay-agenda-strikes-down-same-sex-marriage-ban

On Friday about 5:30 p.m., Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel ruled in favor of the six homosexual couples who served as plaintiffs in the matter of Pareto v. Ruvin. Gay-rights activist groups organized the lawsuit and "forum shopped" by filing the lawsuit in the most liberal legal jurisdiction in the state with the hope of finding a left-leaning judge who would say Florida's law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman is unconstitutional.

This is the second lawsuit this month where an activist judge in Florida is attempting to advance same-sex marriage with the stroke of a pen instead of honoring and respecting the controlling authorities of the highest law of the land. In her 36-page decision, Zabel relied uniquely on Loving vs. Virgina, where the Supreme Court of the United States in 1967 ruled that the laws prohibiting interracial marriages were unconstitutional. 

John Stemberger, president and general counsel of the Florida Family Policy Council, made the following statement regarding the Zabel's ruling:

"It is fiction to think that Florida's marriage laws have somehow been declared finally unconstitutional by the local rulings of mere local trial judges. The fact is that Florida's marriage laws are still constitutional and in full force. The federal courts, and indeed the Supreme Court of the United States, have not given the final word on this matter, and we expect the Miami ruling to be immediately appealed by Florida's attorney general, Pam Bondi. 

"Instead of following Florida's law and constitution, Judge Zabel fell into line with other activist judges around the country who are completely ignoring the rule of law and substituting their own political opinions in place of clear controlling legal authority. Judge Zabel's reliance on Loving vs. Virginia is completely misplaced. Race is not an inherent property of marriage, but gender is.

"Loving affirmed the definition of natural marriage as between one man and one woman by ruling that any man can marry any woman irrespective of race. We are confident that when the final word comes from the U.S. Supreme Court that they will find that states have the right to define marriage." 

Zabel also stayed her own order, which means that in spite of her opinion that Florida's marriage laws are unconstitutional, the clerk of the court in Miami-Dade County will not be issuing marriage licenses until the matter is fully heard by the appellate and federal courts.

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Charisma News Staff Featured U.S. News Mon, 28 Jul 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Beyond Heroin: Teen's Powdered Caffeine Overdose Draws FDA Attention http://www.charismanews.com/us/44806-beyond-heroin-teen-s-powdered-caffeine-overdose-draws-fda-attention http://www.charismanews.com/us/44806-beyond-heroin-teen-s-powdered-caffeine-overdose-draws-fda-attention

The death of a teenager in Ohio is putting a renewed focus on the dangers of powdered caffeine.

Logan Stiner, 18, the prom king at an Ohio high school, died of cardiac arrhythmia and a seizure after overdosing on the substance. After his sudden death on May 27, more than 70 micrograms of caffeine per milliliter of blood were found in his system—about 23 times the amount in a typical coffee or soda. His mother found several bags of caffeine powder in the family's home after his death and had no idea he was using the substance.

Students had been warned during prom and graduation season about the dangers of heroin and prescription painkillers, but no one thought to alert the teens about a substance found every day in coffee, soda and chocolate.

Dr. Karl Benzio, founder, executive director and a psychiatrist at Lighthouse Network, an addiction and mental health counseling helpline, says the brain's circuitry is adversely affected by caffeine in general—even in small amounts—so the easy availability of these potent pure caffeine powders should be alarming to parents.

"When kids use caffeine, their brain chemistry is affected at an early age," Benzio said. "Soon, they will psychologically need that jolt to start their day. Over the past few decades, we've seen a 70 percent increase in caffeine consumption among children and adolescents. Even kids in middle school are drinking coffee on a regular basis. When the need for alertness gets out of control, teens can turn to stronger, more dangerous substances, and the results can be tragic, as in Logan Stiner's short life."

The FDA is currently investigating caffeine powders and has said it will "consider taking regulatory action." The agency is also cautioning parents that their kids could be drawn to the substance. Powdered caffeine, often sold in bulk, is nearly 100 percent pure caffeine and is easily purchased online.

Because it's sold as a dietary supplement, caffeine powder is not subject to the same federal regulations as caffeinated drinks and food. It's routinely used as a pick-me-up or to help with weight control. A tiny amount—just 1/16 of a teaspoon—can contain about 200 milligrams of caffeine, which is the equivalent of two large cups of coffee. A teaspoon, which can contain up to 3,200 milligrams of caffeine, can kill.  Symptoms of caffeine overdose can include rapid and erratic heart rates, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea and disorientation.

This isn't the first time the dangers of caffeine have made headlines. Last year, Wrigley stopped the sale of Alert caffeinated gum after talks with the FDA. And in 2010, the FDA forced manufacturers of alcoholic caffeinated beverages to stop producing the drinks.

Highly potent energy drinks are also under scrutiny, with ER visits related to energy drinks doubling from about 10,000 in 2007 to more than 20,000 in 2011. Benzio said that there are multiple lawsuits in the works, including two in Oregon and Washington, over five-hour energy drinks.

Benzio added that one energy drink, Spark, which contains 60 mg of caffeine, has been recommended for use in kids as young as 4 and older for "focused, sustained energy" and to "keep energy levels up" for those involved in physical activity. Another drink, XS, which packs 83 mg of caffeine, is sold in 8.4 ounce cans because, according to the manufacturer, "this size is very comfortable to hold, especially for children."

"About half of kids as young as 6 years old often consume more caffeine in a single day than is recommended for adults," Benzio said. "Caffeine can be hidden in sodas, drinks and candies, and it's another seemingly 'harmless' gateway drug. Our ADD-plagued society is more addicted to caffeine than to any other drug."

Benzio said there are dangers past consuming pure caffeine powders. As the body's tolerance for caffeine builds, it needs more and more to achieve the same effects—just like any other addicting drug.

"Our society uses toxic substances to meet a circumstantial need—such as staying awake or getting an energy boost," Benzio said. "But after just three days, you don't get that spurt because caffeine is an addictive substance. It's a strong drug that plagues users with a heightened sense of being on-edge."

Parents worried about kids and teens who are experimenting with seemingly harmless substances on their way to an addictive lifestyle may become overwhelmed, but help is available. And, Benzio adds, the most effective help for long-term recovery is a bio-psycho-spiritual approach to acute treatment and to longer-term preventive services that teach biblical decision-making skills to people of all ages, which will have a long-term transformational impact.

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Deborah Hamilton Featured U.S. News Mon, 28 Jul 2014 12:00:00 -0400
Israel: The Palestinian People’s Greatest Ally http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/clarion-call/44804-israel-the-palestinian-people-s-greatest-ally http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/clarion-call/44804-israel-the-palestinian-people-s-greatest-ally

Israel is not tame.

But she is good.

If a poacher shoots arrows at a pride of sleeping lions, are the lions to blame for rousing and defending themselves?

What does one say of the shooter when he intentionally cowers behind the skirts of his own women and daughters, hoping, indeed praying, that these precious souls will inadvertently perish as a result?

One calls him a coward, a fool and a monster.

Such are the men of Hamas, Hezbollah and the Palestinian Authority—terrorists all. They are purposefully slaughtering their own citizenry.

There are but two things to blame for the tragic loss of life in both Gaza and Tel Aviv: Islam in general, and Hamas in particular. There is no moral equivalency in this raging Gaza conflict.

There is only good and evil.

Israel, though not perfect, is good. Hamas is evil. Israel loves life. Hamas loves death.

But don't take my word for it. As recently as 2008, Hamas MP Fathi Hamad, addressing the Jewish people, betrayed Islam's empirically wicked stratagem when he proclaimed, "We desire death more than you desire life."

"Death for the Palestinian people," said Hamad, "has become an industry, which the women excel at along with everyone else on this earth. The elderly excel at it, the jihadist fighters excel at it, and the children excel at it.

"Therefore, they [the Palestinian Authority] created a human shield of women, children, elderly and jihadists to confront the Zionist bombardment machine, to say to the Zionist enemy: 'We desire death just as you desire life.'"

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah concurs: "We are going to win, because they love life and we love death."

And so innocent men, women and children, Israeli and Palestinian alike, become the victims of this Islamic culture of death.

These are the victims of Hamas.

Recently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu captured concisely this tragic phenomenon: "We are using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they're using their civilians to protect their missiles."

Yet all the while today's blathering, anti-Semitic axis-of-the-willfully-blind-–the liberal intelligentsia, rank-and-file "progressives" and that elusive creature: the "moderate Muslim"–inexplicably, if not unwittingly, rally behind the principal Islamic cause: Death to the infidels (Quran 9.5).

"Free occupied Palestine!" they drone, while either disregarding the long history of deadly Arab aggression in the region or laboring under thick ignorance of it.

By "occupied Palestine," of course, Arabs and Arab sympathizers reference that portion of Israel achieved as spoils of victory in her defensive Six-Day War. In June 1967, the tiny Jewish nation devastated the armies of neighboring Syria, Jordan and Egypt as the warring nations characteristically made ready to "wipe Israel from the map."

By seizing the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the Old City of Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank of the Jordan River, Israel had gained a defensive stronghold in the region crucial to her very survival. Still, many of these territories remained very much occupied, and do to this day, by thousands of Arabs who now fall under Israeli governance.

Herein lies the struggle.

So, in truth, Israel no more occupies this fictional "Palestine" than do Californians "occupy" Sacramento.

Yet imagine the Mexican government launching dozens of rockets each day, for years, into Los Angeles neighborhoods, intentionally targeting innocent American citizens.

Or visualize a Mexican suicide bomber with full government authority strolling into a crowded Chuck E. Cheese in suburban Bakersfield and ripping himself and dozens of women and children to shreds.

Picture, if you will, a quiet, unassuming woman cleverly disguised as an expectant mother boarding a San Francisco trolley and blowing it up along with scores of innocent passengers.

Do you not think the international community would forcefully condemn such horrific acts of terror? Do you not think America would respond with that level of force necessary to eliminate the threat? Would she not have an absolute right—indeed an absolute duty—to do so?

Of course she would.

For the innocent Palestinian, Israel is a friend while Hamas is a foe. Indeed, what does it say that the most liberated Arabs in the Middle East live, and thrive, in Israel?

Speaking before the Knesset in 2006, Prime Minister Netanyahu captured, in two brief sentences, that which lies at the heart of the ongoing, centuries-old Arab-Israeli conflict: "The truth is that if Israel were to put down its arms, there would be no more Israel. If the Arabs were to put down their arms, there would be no more war."

Inexplicably, many in the West—people Vladimir Lenin might have called "useful idiots" (i.e., the aforementioned "progressives," mainstream media and "moderate" Muslims)—willfully suspend disbelief. They play directly into the blood-soaked hands of these terrorist cowards.

Having time and again demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice their own innocent people (consider child suicide bombers), these monsters today both deliberately target Israeli neighborhoods with rockets and intentionally place their own military launch sites and terrorist headquarters next to mosques, shelters, playgrounds, schools  and the like.

This, as intended, has created a propagandist boon. Much of the world blames Israel when these human shields are tragically killed during pinpoint military strikes. Who needs missile defense when you have women and children to hide behind?

To both the Israeli and the Arab victims of Islam, I say this: You are in our thoughts and our prayers. Our hearts break with yours. Our hearts break for you. We pray that God will cover and protect you during these dark days and nights.

Because, as former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir once said, "Peace will come to the Middle East when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us."

But, alas, the hate burns hot.

And so peace abates.

Matt Barber is founder and editor-in chief of BarbWire.com. He is an author, columnist, cultural analyst and an attorney concentrating in constitutional law. Having retired as an undefeated heavyweight professional boxer, Matt has taken his fight from the ring to the culture war. (Follow Matt on Twitter: @jmattbarber).

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Matt Barber Featured Clarion Call Opinion Mon, 28 Jul 2014 11:00:00 -0400
Universalism Is Next for the Soft Love Crowd http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/in-the-line-of-fire/44805-universalism-is-next-for-the-soft-love-crowd http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/in-the-line-of-fire/44805-universalism-is-next-for-the-soft-love-crowd

Demi Lovato is the latest professing Christian (and celebrity) to declare that, "The LOVING God that I believe in, would never condemn anyone for loving another human of the same sex."

What's the next step on this slippery theological slope?

I predict it will be: "The LOVING God that I believe in would never condemn anyone." Just watch and see.

We know that one of the greatest strengths of the "gay Christian" movement is that there are lots of really nice people who are same-sex attracted, and some of them profess deep faith in Jesus and are active in compassionate and sacrificial service to the poor and needy.

How could a loving God condemn people like them?

I personally find that to be a very powerful question—one that I have agonized over before my heavenly Father many times. In fact, I honestly believe that if questions like this don't cause us some level of pain then we don't really have the heart of the Lord.

But here's the problem: It's not just same-sex attracted people we're talking about.

I personally know many fine individuals who are ultra-Orthodox Jews. In fact, as human beings go (meaning, we're all flawed and lacking), some of them are exceptional people, fearing God, seeking to keep His commandments, willing to give their lives for their faith, pouring into their families, studying the Scriptures and their traditional writings, and praying for hours every day.

How could a loving God send people like that to hell?

But it's not just Orthodox Jews. Some Muslims are exceptional human beings (most Muslims are not suicide bombers), as are some Hindus and Buddhists and atheists and others, including secular Jews and Mormons and people of all kinds of faiths and non-faiths.

Some are extremely kind and generous. Some are very patient and long-suffering. Some will give you the proverbial shirt off their backs.

How could a loving God send people like that to hell?

It was not that long ago that Steve Chalke, then recognized as a top evangelical leader in England, came out against the concept of substitutionary atonement (the idea that Jesus took the penalty for our sins on the cross), declaring it to be "cosmic child abuse." (Chalke also had a big problem with the idea that God actually required blood to appease His wrath, basically rejecting inspired teachings of the Torah as accommodations to pagan religion.)

Last year, he declared his support for committed, same-sex relationships within the church, calling on other believers to stand with these same-sex couples.

Is that really such a big surprise? And where will Chalke eventually land on the subject of future punishment for the lost, given his current stands? (I understand that Chalke has done a tremendous amount of good over the years in the U.K., with some even calling him the "Billy Graham of the U.K.," which makes his theological backsliding even more painful.)

A breakdown in one area of theology leads to a breakdown in another area of theology, and over time, these kinds of breakdowns—specifically, minimizing aspects of God's wrath, failing to grasp the depth of human sin, affirming committed homosexual relationships—will lead to universalism (or, at least universal reconciliation, a related but slightly different concept).

Rob Bell is another example of this, although proceeding in a little different order, first questioning concepts of future punishment in his Love Wins book and then affirming his support for same-sex couples in the church.

But this is just a variation of the same theme, one that allows us to sit in judgment of God, and, based on our standards of right and wrong, determine what His standards should be. The biblical way, of course, is the exact opposite.

According to Steve Chalke, the traditional teaching of God's wrath being poured out on His Son on the cross "stands in total contradiction to the statement 'God is love.'"

But couldn't it be just as easily argued that any type of future punishment for the lost, especially if it does not result in their ultimate salvation, "stands in total contradiction to the statement 'God is love'"?

After all, why would a loving God punish someone or judge someone when there's no hope of their redemption? Wouldn't that be utterly cruel?

And what about all the nice people who don't believe just as we do? Are they eternally lost? And let's not forget all the "gay Christians" (by which I mean those who claim to follow Jesus and practice homosexuality at the same time). Surely a loving God would not condemn nice people like them.

Do you see the pattern?

In a previous article, I pointed out that, although not an absolute rule, "with consistency, you'll see that as a church group gets more liberal, they become pro-abortion, pro-gay activism, and pro-Palestinian (at the expense of Israel)."

In the same way, as churches and church leaders become more embracing of committed, homosexual couples, they will move further and further away from the preaching of future wrath and divine judgment, ultimately embracing universalism in one form or another.

As I said, watch and see. And don't forget to pray that our loving God would deliver them from error and bring them back to the truth as it is found in Jesus.

Michael Brown is author of Can You Be Gay and Christian? Responding With Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality and host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network. He is also president of FIRE School of Ministry and director of the Coalition of Conscience. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or at @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.

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Michael Brown Featured In the Line of Fire Opinion Mon, 28 Jul 2014 10:30:00 -0400
Who Said It? Some Amazing Flip Flops on Same-Sex 'Marriage' http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/in-the-line-of-fire/44803-who-said-it-some-amazing-flip-flops-on-same-sex-marriage http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/in-the-line-of-fire/44803-who-said-it-some-amazing-flip-flops-on-same-sex-marriage

Are you ready to take a little test? I'm going to ask a series of short, informational questions followed by one philosophical question, so the test is in two parts.

Part One: Informational

Who said this and when did he or she say it?

Quote: "I remain opposed to same-sex marriage. I believe marriage is an institution for the union of a man and a woman. This has been my long-standing position, and it is not being reviewed or reconsidered."

Answer: That was former President Bill Clinton in an interview with the flagship gay publication The Advocate in 1996.

Quote:  "I think that the vast majority of Americans find [same-sex marriage] to be something they can't agree with. But I think most Americans are fair. And if they believe that people in committed relationships want to share their lives and, not only that, have the same rights that I do in my marriage, to decide who I want to inherit my property or visit me in a hospital, I think that most Americans would think that that's fair and that should be done."

Answer: That was former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a CBS News interview in 2003.

Quote: (Responding to the question, "Do you support gay marriage?") "No. Barack Obama nor I support redefining from a civil side what constitutes marriage. We do not support that. That is basically the decision to be able to be left to faiths and people who practice their faiths the determination what you call it."

Answer: That was Vice President (then Senator) Joe Biden, responding to a question in a 2008 presidential debate.

Quote: "I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage."

Answer: That was President (then Senator) Barack Obama in a 2008 interview with MTV.

In 2004 he said, "My religious faith dictates marriage is between a man and a woman; gay marriage is not a civil right." In 2008, in an interchange hosted by Rick Warren, he said, "I believe marriage is the union between a man and a woman. As a Christian, it's also a sacred union." (For the question of his earlier position from 1996, see here.)

Part Two: Philosophical

Note the dates of these positions quoted (all of them are from within the last 18 years); note some of the venues, which include gay publications (The Advocate) and gay-friendly venues (MTV); and then note how clearly these opinions were expressed in opposition to redefining marriage, especially by the three men cited.

Here's the question: What caused these politicians to change their views so radically in such a short period of time that today they strongly oppose and even vilify those who hold to the positions they themselves claimed to embrace just a few short years ago?

I'll let you answer that question.

Michael Brown is author of Can You Be Gay and Christian? Responding With Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality and host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network. He is also president of FIRE School of Ministry and director of the Coalition of Conscience. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or at @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.

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Michael Brown Featured In the Line of Fire Opinion Sun, 27 Jul 2014 09:21:56 -0400
TV Shows Featuring Nudity Highlight Culture's Crisis of Truth http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/heres-the-deal/44802-tv-shows-featuring-nudity-highlight-culture-s-crisis-of-truth http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/heres-the-deal/44802-tv-shows-featuring-nudity-highlight-culture-s-crisis-of-truth

A tawdry and titillating TV trend is under way. Seven—that's right, seven—shows are being rolled out on cable and satellite channels featuring one central theme: complete nudity.

Romans 1:21-32, written to an enlightened civilization that completely destroyed itself, lays out a pattern repeated throughout history that has become America's story:

• Reject truth

• Lose discernment

• Experience moral chaos

Here's the deal: the crisis in our culture is a crisis of truth. Unless we categorically and decisively reject the secularist, moral relativism of 21st-century America, we are doomed. This is not a scare tactic; this is sober reality. Our hope is that God in His mercy would send a spiritual awakening reversing this trend before it's too late.

Dating Naked is simply another alarming societal development that is evidence of our deep-seated decline. The scary thing is that multitudes of Christians will tune in with a ho-hum, humorous take on the show, while they munch their Doritos and Papa John's pizza perched next to their significant other.

I've not seen this show nor the other ones that I will mention. I have seen advertisements in magazines featuring attractive couples standing totally in the buff except for a minuscule X strategically placed over crotches and nipples. As a "watchman on the wall," I did some research, which is the basis for this commentary.

Dating Naked introduces six complete strangers of the opposite sex totally au natural. Frontal private parts are barely pixilated while attractive contestants hug, hold hands, swim, enjoy mud baths, surf, horseback ride, boogie board, sit around the campfire and sip Jack Daniels as they passionately kiss and make out without a stitch of clothing. At the conclusion, the six contestants (Wee Wee and Joe were two in the first episode) stand across from each other naked and choose their "soul mates."

One lust-filled guy snickered, "It usually takes me three or four dates to see my girl naked, but this is a timesaver!" Hilarious.

The female producer of the show, Susan Levison, gushes her defense, "It's a search for true love." Yeah, right.

Other shows include:

Naked and Afraid, where unclothed castaways stroll around an island.

Buying Naked, which features nude couples making real estate transactions.

Naked Vegas and Skin Wars, about nude body painting.

Born in the Wild, which shows nude pregnant women giving birth in the woods.

Sex Box, which features nude couples copulating in soundproof boxes then discussing with therapists.

Have you had enough? These shows all are on what are considered "basic cable" channels, rather than pay channels like HBO, which means that by law they must adhere to the same decency standards as the broadcast networks. But it's easy to see how those standards have slipped since the era of Leave It to Beaver.

This is not humorous; it's harmful. It's voyeurism and exhibitionism. It's also sinful and sets a horrible example for our youth. And yes, it's all about ratings and money and pushing the envelope further under the guise of "entertainment."

The music industry is doing the same thing, as unsuspecting parents and children are drawn into this web of decadence.

• The triple-platinum "Happy" song by baby-face Pharrell Williams from Despicable Me 2 has become the iconic anthem of this generation. His distinctive style lures youth to his "Blurred Lines" megahit featuring nude, from-the-waist-up, gyrating models, which promotes date rape.

American Idol Judge Nicki Minaj appeals to kids with her colorful, cutesy persona. Her just released X-rated album flaunts her "assets" on the cover in an utterly disgusting, 99 percent naked G-string squat.

• Hannah Montana, now the twerking Miley Cyrus, swings completely naked in her "Wrecking Ball" video that has more than 700 million hits worldwide.

And many Christians don't think our nation is falling off the rails and desperately in need of revival? God help us! Psalm 12:8 describes our culture: "vileness is exalted among the children of man."


Bare the Truth

1. Married couples in the privacy of their bedrooms and babies aside, public nudity is not a beautiful, natural, "back to nature," liberating experience.

Cultural offerings presenting a naturist philosophy of shedding one's clothes and parading around in the buff is contrary to God's standards just like the texting of nude photos. It dishonors the Holy One by pretending to recapture an innocence and purity gone since the Genesis account of the fall of Man.

In the Garden of Eden, before sin entered into the world, the man and his wife were both naked (The Hebrew word in Genesis 2:25 speaks of partial covering—covered by God's glory). After they sinned, they immediately and instinctively felt ashamed and covered up (Gen. 3:7). They tried fig leaves but God gave them something more adequate and modest.

Modesty is a positive principle emphasizing inner beauty and character over outward vanity and cheapness."I want women to dress with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly" (1 Tim. 2:9). This applies equally to men! Walking around naked or in skimpy bikinis, micro-minis, sexy Speedos, cleavage-baring tops, "sprayed-on" leggings (with no discreet covering) or low-rise, undergarment/coin-slot displaying pants are all part of the "undressing of America."

Ask yourself: Are you reflecting Christ-likeness or cultural conformity? If you are an authentic Christian and truly a disciple of Jesus Christ, then you voluntarily submit to God's will for every area of your life to experience "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17).

2. Scripture is not silent when it comes to the subject of nakedness.

Hollywood today is rolling out a truckload of soft-porn reality shows. The truth be known, they encourage irresponsible and dangerous conduct at a time when STDs are astronomical and co-eds on campus now have a one-in-four chance of being raped.

In the theaters at present is a raunchy "comedy" starring Cameron Diaz called Sex Tape. Reading a porn manual, she and her lover record themselves in all kinds of nude gyrations but then have to scramble as the recording goes public.

Her co-star is Jason Segel, whom your children may recall as the lovable character in the Muppet movie. He also starred in a film where he answered the door for his girlfriend displaying full frontal nudity on the screen for an extended period with no pixilation.

Does it really matter? It's no big deal. Seen one, seen 'em all, right?

Wrong, when you have a biblical worldview.

God gave specific guidelines and standards in both the Old and New Testaments regarding proper covering of our bodies.

Survey just some of what He explicitly states:

• 1 Timothy 2:9 is a directive, not an elective, to dress "modestly" (Having a regard for decency of behavior or dress; not displaying one's body) and "discreetly" (Lacking ostentation; showing good judgment).

• 1 Corinthians 12:22 states, "The parts that are not presentable are treated with special modesty." This is why we naturally feel self-conscious about body parts revealed; fold arms under breasts; clasp hands in front of our lower anatomy when standing before a group. God designed us this way, and we're most comfortable when aligned with His plan. It also explains why those involved in pornography use drugs to lower inhibitions, or contestants on these shows occasionally cover up not just to stay warm but as one female stated on Naked and Afraid, "I just feel more comfortable when covered up!"

• Luke 8:26-36 gives the account of a man possessed of multiple demons who went about naked until he experienced deliverance and then was fully clothed and in his right mind.

• Acts 19:14-16 tells the story of a demon-possessed man who overpowered seven other men and stripped them, forcing them out of the house naked.

• Isaiah 47:1-15 recounts God's judgment on Babylon consisting of "nakedness uncovered and your disgrace shall be seen."

• Exodus 20:26 cautions about ascending steps and exposing one's nakedness.

• For those who believe that there is nothing wrong with nudity among family members, Leviticus 18:6-23 gives strong prohibitions about approaching family and relatives unclothed.

• One of the towering figures of the entire Bible, King David, ruined his life and testimony after viewing a woman naked that led to adultery, murder and horrible family disruption.


3. Biblical guidance about nudity and decency:

Scripture calls us to "present our bodies to God as a living and holy sacrifice which is our reasonable worship and not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds" (Rom. 12:1-2).

As Christians we should draw attention to our countenance and eyes (which Jesus said is the "lamp of the body") versus alluring and enticing the opposite sex through minimal clothing or seductive attire. Gal. 5:13 instructs us to "use our freedom not as an opportunity for the flesh but rather to serve others in love." Let's model the motto: "Modest is Hottest!"

We have the privilege and the ability to defer to rather then defraud the opposite sex through sensuality and nudity.

Bible teacher Bill Gothard gives these definitions:

• "Defer" -- Limiting my freedom in order not to offend those God allows me to serve (Rom. 14:21).

• "Defraud" -- Arousing sexual desires in another person that cannot be righteously satisfied (1 Thess. 4:6).

• "Sensuality" -- Planned appeal to the physical senses for personal gratification (1 Pet. 2:11).

James 1:13-15 tells us that God never tempts us to sin. We are made in His image, so it is clearly sinful to be tempting the opposite sex to lustful thoughts or activities by our attire or lack thereof. We should never be dressed in such a way that draws lustful looks, causing others to "stumble" into sin (Matt.18:6) or commit adultery in their heart by fantasizing after viewing us dressed provocatively or immodestly.

Dating Naked and other such shows should not only be avoided but exposed for what they are—sexploitation. When our lovely and virtuous 33-year-old daughter shared with us recently that she believes God has brought her future mate into her life, it was not because of manipulation and lowering of standards to "hook" some hunk of a guy. It was because she yielded her life to Jesus Christ and His dating plan that never fails.

Her grandparents followed it 68 years ago and they're still going strong, as are my wife and I after 38 years!

Let's reject worldly counterfeits and dare to be different in showing our culture a better way under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and His unchanging Word.

Larry Tomczak is a best-selling author and cultural commentator with more than 41 years of trusted ministry experience. His passion is to bring perspective, analysis and insight from a biblical worldview. He loves awakening people to today's cultural realities and responses needed for a restored, influential church. Please visit LarryTomczak.com.

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Larry Tomczak Featured Here's the Deal Opinion Mon, 28 Jul 2014 07:00:00 -0400
This Cancer-Causing Ingredient Probably Sits in Your Fridge http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44785-this-cancer-causing-ingredient-probably-sits-in-your-fridge http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44785-this-cancer-causing-ingredient-probably-sits-in-your-fridge

Attention all only-organic eaters: I'd like to have your attention in particular as you might have read this title and thought, "I bet whatever ingredient it is isn't in my fridge! I'm the healthiest eater I know!"

With all due respect, you might be mistaken as the ingredient I'm about to address appears in a plethora of organic products.

A few months ago, I was scanning the ingredients label on my carton of almond milk and came across a word that I still haven't the slightest clue how to pronounce: carrageenan. I also examined the labels of my So Delicious coconut yogurt, and my husband's Horizon chocolate milk and noticed they also contained this mysterious substance.

I figured, it's probably harmless—these products are organic!

Little did I know ...

I immediately pulled out my handy-dandy smartphone to begin investigating. It turns out carrageenan—found in many dairy and non-dairy products, deli meats, infant formulas, even flavored coconut water—has been proven to be carcinogenic. The ingredient is extracted from a red seaweed (sounds healthy so far, right?) called Chondrus crispus, which is popularly known as Irish moss. Companies include the extract to improve the texture of their foods.

So, how is something derived from seaweed cancer-causing? Studies conducted by Joanne K. Tobacman, a medical doctor and associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, linked undegraded carrageenan—the type that is widely used in foods—with malignancies and other stomach problems. She also discovered that it causes inflammation, and inflammation is a well-known root cause of many serious diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and cancer.

The following is from Dr. Tobacman's testimony on carrageenan before the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB):

"Carrageenan has been used in thousands of biological experiments over several decades, because it predictably causes inflammation. Inflammation is well-known to be the basis for many human diseases and is associated with over 100 human diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis and arteriosclerosis. Inflammation also is linked to cancer" (emphasis mine).

The next question you may be asking is why does carrageenan show up in organic products? According to the Cornucopia Institute, a "populist farm policy research group" according to its website, the reason is "due to carelessness by government regulators, misinformation supplied by corporate 'independent' scientists advising the USDA, and successful lobbying by carrageenan manufacturers and food processors convincing organic consumers that it's both a safe and necessary ingredient."

Unfortunately, yet not surprisingly, it seems that the NOSB continues to approve of the ingredient, despite overwhelming evidence and strong opposition, because several of the board members and the companies they represent profit from carrageenan-containing products.

If you find out that in fact your favorite milk, yogurt or ice cream features this harmful substance, you'll want to check out replacements right away. The Cornucopia Institute provides an extensive list of both carrageenan-containing foods and those that are carcinogen-free. I encourage you to visit the link and even contact the companies that are using carrageenan to see if they might be willing to change their minds for the sake of your and your family's health.

Alternatively, the Internet has some wonderful resources to teach you how to make your own dairy and non-dairy products at home, so I encourage you to do a little research and try a recipe or two.

And one more tip before I go: If you're unfamiliar with an ingredient listed on your bottle of juice, your protein powder, your energy bar, etc., please look it up. The truth about carrageenan should serve to teach us that just because a product or company claims to be "all-natural" or "organic," that doesn't necessarily make them 100 percent healthy.

Sadly, greed, carelessness and corruption spring up everywhere—even perhaps within companies whose products bear the peaceful image of a pleasant farmstead or the benevolent face of a cow. It is up to us to make sure we're doing our absolute best to keep our whole selves—mind, body, and spirit—healthy and fit as temples of the Holy Spirit.

Diana Anderson-Tyler is the author of Creation House's Fit for Faith: A Christian Woman's Guide to Total Fitness and her latest book, Perfect Fit: Weekly Wisdom and Workouts for Women of Faith and Fitness. Her popular website can be found at dianafit.comand she is the owner and a coach at CrossFit 925. Diana can be reached on Twitter.

For the original article, visit dianaandersontyler.com.

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Diana Anderson-Tyler Featured Opinion Mon, 28 Jul 2014 06:00:00 -0400
How to Use Your God-Given Influence as a Kingdom Builder http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44780-how-to-use-your-god-given-influence-as-a-kingdom-builder http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44780-how-to-use-your-god-given-influence-as-a-kingdom-builder

Everyone has influence. We all influence someone. And God expects us to be good stewards of that influence for His kingdom's sake.

He didn't give us our influence for selfish purposes on our part, but so that we might share the good news about him—so that we could be kingdom builders. But what exactly is a "kingdom builder?" It's someone who has ...

  • A great purpose to live for. And for the Christian, we have the greatest purpose of all—to rescue people for eternity through Jesus. Kingdom builders demonstrate a great commitment to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
  • Great principles to live by. A kingdom builder is one who has a different source from which to draw wisdom—God's eternal truth revealed in the Bible.
  • Great power to live on. A kingdom builder operates in a different power that the rest of the world—the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit who offers guidance every step of the way.
  • Great people to live with. A kingdom builder gathers with God's people and joins up with a small group for encouragement and accountability.

There are at least a dozen principles we learn from Scripture about how to use our influence as a kingdom builder. I'm going to share six this week and six next week. Here are the first six:

1. Everybody has influence. What you do with the influence you currently have will determine whether or not your influence grows more. And you have far more influence than you realize. You influence people everyday through your smile, conversation, email, voting, etc. In order to understand what influence is, it's helpful to understand what influence is NOT.

  • Influence is not a position.
  • Influence is not authority.
  • Influence is not fame.
  • Influence is not wealth.

You can have any one of those and not actually have influence.

2. God expects me to use the influence he's given to me. Influence is like a muscle. The more you use it, the more it grows. It takes courage. You'll have to get out of your comfort zone, speak up when you're intimidated and serve others when you don't feel like it. Jesus challenged us to let our light shine and to be like salt that preserves and flavors the world around us. In other words, you have to decide to put your influence to use.

3. My influence is for the benefit of others. When God gives you influence, it isn't for the purpose of making you rich or famous, especially for your own pleasure. He gives you influence because He uses people to help other people. It's about others. And the blessings of your influence are not for you to consume but for you to share.

4. If I'm not influencing them, they're influencing me. This is one of those truths naive leaders miss. Not only do we all influence others, but we're all influenced by others as well. And when we're unaware of the power that others have to influence us, we'll allow our hearts to compromise. Just as Lot failed to influence the cities of the plain in Genesis, we too can become attached to the values of the culture we're hoping to change.

5. The purpose of influence is to speak up for those that have no influence. Psalm 72 is a prayer for leaders, and it says, "Please stand up for the poor, help the children of the needy, come down hard on the cruel tyrants." In other words, God, please help leaders to use their influence on behalf of those who have little voice or platform of their own—the poor, the fatherless, the diseased and isolated, the slave and the oppressed.

6. I will answer to God for how I used my influence. I am eternally accountable for how I used the influence God gave me in this life. What I do with my influence in the temporary world matters forever, and the Bible is filled with proof of this. The question God will ask every human being in His judgment is, "What did you do with my Son, Jesus?" And the question He will ask everyone who is a member of His family is, "What did you do with the time and the resources and the influence I gave you?"

I want to influence this world in light of the next. That's our calling as kingdom builders!

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times best-seller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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Rick Warren Featured Opinion Sun, 27 Jul 2014 17:00:00 -0400
4 Ways to Kill Church Worship Fast http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44779-4-ways-to-kill-church-worship-fast-kills http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44779-4-ways-to-kill-church-worship-fast-kills

Looking around the church last Sunday I noticed that the majority weren't singing. And most of those who were singing barely moved their lips. The only voices I actually heard were those on stage with microphones.

That's been the case for years now—in churches large and small. What used to be congregational singing has become congregational staring.

Even when the chipper "worship leader" in contemporary churches bounds on stage and predictably beckons everyone to "stand and worship," the people compliantly obey the stand command, but then they turn into mute mannequins.

What's behind this phenomenon? What happened to the bygone sounds of sanctuaries overflowing with fervent, harmonizing voices from the pews, singing out with a passion that could be heard down the street? I suspect it's a number of unfortunate factors.

Spectator set-up. Increasingly, the church has constructed the worship service as a spectator event. Everyone expects the people on stage to perform while the pew-sitters fulfill the expectation of any good audience–file in, be still, be quiet, don't question, don't contribute (except to the offering plate) and watch the spotlighted musicians deliver their well-rehearsed concerts.

Professionalism. It seems it's paramount for church music to be more professional than participatory. The people in the pews know they pale in comparison to the loud voices at the microphones. Quality is worshipped. So the worshipers balk at defiling the quality with their crude crooning. It's better to just fake it with a little lip syncing.

Blare. The musicians' volume is cranked up so high that congregants can't hear their own voices, or the voices of those around them, even if they would sing. So they don't sing. What would it add? The overwhelming, amplified sound blares from big speakers, obliterating any chance for the sound of robust congregational singing.

Music choice. Sometimes people refrain from singing because the songs are unfamiliar, hard to sing or just cheesy. Sometimes worship leaders choose a song that may thematically tie into the day's sermon topic, but it's unsingable. Sometimes worship leaders choose lame songs written by their favorite songwriters–themselves.

I admit. I've joined the majority. I've stopped singing. I'm not happy about it. I know I should overcome these barriers and just praise the Lord with my very unprofessional vocalizations. But I long for an environment that evokes my real heartfelt vocal participation.

Thom Schultz is an eclectic author and the founder of Group Publishing and Lifetree Café. Holy Soup offers innovative approaches to ministry, and challenges the status quo of today's church.

For the original article, visit worshipideas.com.

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Thom Schultz Featured Opinion Sun, 27 Jul 2014 15:00:00 -0400
10 Reasons Why Church Members Don’t Invite Others to Worship http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44778-10-reasons-why-church-members-don-t-invite-others-to-worship http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44778-10-reasons-why-church-members-don-t-invite-others-to-worship

Several years ago, more than one study showed large percentages of unchurched would consider attending a church if someone simply invited them. The problem is not the attitude of the unchurched; rather, it is often the failure of church members to invite others.

When my church consulting teams have asked church members about their reticence to invite others to church, here are 10 responses we have often heard (listed in no particular order):

"I just don't think about it." Many church members have contact with the unchurched every week, if not every day. They go to school with them, work with them, live beside them—and sometimes live with them. What church folks don't do, though, is see the unchurched as "sheep without a shepherd" (Matt. 9:36), as spiritual beings in need of redemption and a church family.

"I'm afraid I'll be rejected." Nobody likes to be turned down, especially after taking the risk to invite somebody to church. It's just easier to avoid that possibility by not inviting anyone at all (interestingly, church members could tell us times when others said "no," but few could tell us of times when they were rudely or unkindly rejected).

"The music isn't that good." Some may argue the worship wars are over, but the battles seem to be ongoing. Our teams continue to hear refrains like, "it's too loud," "it's too boring,"  "we sing it over and over again" and "nobody knows the songs." Church members who themselves don't enjoy the music don't readily invite others to join them.

"The preaching isn't strong." This response was seemingly the most painful one to admit. Church members who love their pastors do not want to hurt them, but they spoke honestly to our consulting teams. When the preaching is poor, invitations to the unchurched decrease.

"We've got too many church problems right now." Church members don't always know all the issues facing a congregation, but they frequently recognize when something "just isn't right." They see the attendance decreasing, or they hear of internal conflict. Simply stated, they do not invite their friends onto a battleground.

"Our church is already too crowded." This issue is particularly an American one, as Americans protect our personal space. We don't like being cramped, even in church. Moreover, we don't want to have to search for a parking space before entering that already crowded building. One way to avoid more crowding is to stop inviting anyone.

"Nobody ever challenged me to invite anyone." This reason is related to the first one on this list. Some church members never think about inviting others because no one has challenged them to do so. This response is especially tragic if many unchurched would respond affirmatively to an invitation.

"I don't know how to start the conversation." Simply inviting somebody to church would seem easy, but that's not the case for many church members. In a culture where discussing religion or politics is almost forbidden, even long-term Christians struggle with initiating an invitation to church.

"It's the Spirit's job—not mine—to bring people to church." To be fair, we have heard this response primarily from congregations seeking to avoid any "man-centered" approach to evangelism. In their zeal to keep their focus on God, they walk cautiously when considering their role in evangelism—including simply inviting others to church.

"It's too far for people to come." We live in a mobile culture that promotes church attendance sometimes quite far from where we live. Our teams have learned, however, that church members who drive a long distance are less willing to invite others to drive that same distance.

What reasons would you add to this list? What steps have you taken to address these responses?

Chuck Lawless currently serves as professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook.

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Chuck Lawless Featured Opinion Sun, 27 Jul 2014 13:00:00 -0400
How Sunday Morning Prayer Can Spark Revival in Your Church http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44776-how-sunday-morning-prayer-can-spark-revival-in-your-church http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44776-how-sunday-morning-prayer-can-spark-revival-in-your-church

On Sunday morning, Oct. 13, I led our entire Cross Church Family in a prayer meeting. I believed it was time to issue a call to the Cross Church Family for spiritual revival in the church and spiritual awakening in America.

Our Purpose

Why dedicate an entire Sunday morning service to a prayer meeting? I felt God leading me to alert our Cross Church family of the need for spiritual revival and awakening in America. I lead them through a spiritual process that was both personal and sequential, and then sent our church out with a burden for revival and a hope for the future. Revival is the manifestation of the presence of God in our lives. Revival begins with me. Revival begins with you.

A Personal Conviction

I have a personal conviction about why we pray for revival and awakening. Personally, I believe we need to pray for personal revival, revival in the church and awakening in the nation, so that we can see the Great Commission of Jesus Christ escalated and accelerated to completion in our generation. I am compelled to call the church to revival and the country to be awakened spiritually, so that we can see the completion of the Great Commission in our generation.

Word-Based, Spirit-Led and Worshipful

We focused solely on praying, and everything we did was based upon the Word of God. I took the Word of God, read it, taught it briefly and then led our people to respond to God through prayer. Throughout the worship experience of teaching and prayer, we expressed various moments through songs of worship.

Built Upon Biblical Principles

I taught through five specific principles, spending four to six minutes on each.

  • A Vision for Revival in the Church and Awakening in the Nation
  • The Exceeding Sinfulness of our Sin
  • Cleansing and Renewal
  • Fully Surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and Experiencing the Fullness of the Holy Spirit
  • Advancing the Gospel Everywhere

After each principle was taught from God's Word, we moved to prayer. We prayed silently, we prayed together, we prayed on our knees, we prayed standing and we prayed at the altar. My desire was to lead by the Spirit's direction—built upon the Word of God, responding to God through prayer, and expressed through worship.

Wonderful Experience

Without a doubt, the entire service was a wonderful experience. Lay people and pastors want to pray. Those who do not know how to pray want to learn to pray effectively. As spiritual leaders, we need to create a pathway for them. It was a highly memorable day for many, and life changing for some.

Just imagine what would happen in America if every church spent an entire Sunday morning worship service focused on prayer for revival in the church and awakening in America? Just imagine what would happen if each of those services led toward praying about advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ regionally, nationally and internationally, calling upon the church to rise up and complete the Great Commission in our generation?

I am convinced that every great movement of God is preceded by the extraordinary prayer of God's people. Now is the time we rise up as the church of Jesus Christ and elevate prayer in our churches. If we are not careful, we will reduce prayer in local church worship services to routine and less important than announcements.

Jonathan Edwards, the man God used as the catalyst for the First Great Awakening said:

"So it is God's will that the prayers of His saints shall be great and the principal means of carrying on the designs of Christ's Kingdom in the world. When God has something to accomplish for His church, it is with His will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayer of His people."

Oh friend, just imagine, if every church in America turned just one entire worship service into a prayer service, calling upon the God of Heaven to bring revival into our lives personally, in His church, and awakening in our nation, so that we can see the Great Commission escalated and accelerated to completion in our generation.

Dr. Ronnie Floyd has been a pastor for over 37 years. Since 1986, Pastor Floyd has served as the Senior Pastor of Cross Church, Northwest Arkansas, which has baptized over 17,000 people during his tenure. Cross Church was one of the first churches in America to go multi-site. In June 2014, Pastor Floyd was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He has authored over 20 books including FORWARD: 7 Distinguishing Marks For Future Leaders, releasing in 2015.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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Ronnie Floyd Featured Opinion Sun, 27 Jul 2014 09:00:00 -0400
Does the Bible Really Condone Premarital Sex? http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44775-does-the-bible-condone-premarital-sex-really http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44775-does-the-bible-condone-premarital-sex-really

Occasionally church leaders email me, asking for my opinion on various personal or church problems. This spring, I received a note from a church leader in another city. The location isn't important, because the situation he outlined is common across the nation.

He wrote of how a number of members ages 25 to 35 had reached the conclusion that premarital sex is "OK." Some even play on the praise team, teach in the children's program, or film videos for weekly announcements.

"The problem is that some of them will tell me that they cannot find anything in Scripture that says that what they are doing, having sex with someone, is wrong," he said. "I have taught on the subject, but they do not see a direct statement against premarital sex."

Dealing With Sin

He asked for other scriptures he can use, as well as about the church's stance.

Should it allow them to continue leading ministries or bring them before the congregation and—as the Bible says—have nothing to do with them in hopes it will help them see their sin and return to Christ?

"I know that Satan wants to get in and cause problems in the church, but I also know the need to accept them and love them," he concluded. "But we also have to deal with sin, or Satan wins."

In my response, I pointed out that the Bible repeatedly instructs God's people to "flee fornication." For 2,000 years, the word translated "fornication" in Scripture has been understood to include the prohibition of sex prior to marriage. Webster's dictionary definition is clear: "consensual sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other."

A Privileged Experience

God designed the physical union of a man and a woman as a privileged experience within the bounds of marriage. The Lord intended marriage as a secure environment for raising children and a uniquely meaningful union that symbolizes God's committed relationship to us (Eph. 5:32).

If there was nothing wrong with premarital sex, then why was Joseph determined to divorce Mary when he discovered she was expecting a child prior to marriage?

If there is nothing wrong with premarital sex, then one could conclude there is nothing wrong with having children out of wedlock.

Obviously, those who would suggest the liberalization of the biblical standard are ignoring the clear teaching of Scripture, conforming to the values of the world, and yielding to the desires of the flesh. As Jesus said, "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19).

The Church's Responsibility

Just as I said to this letter writer, I say to all church leaders: The church has a responsibility to practice discipline in regard to flagrant, known sin. 

This is especially true for those in leadership. We are to gently confront believers who are known to be living in sin and encourage them to repent.

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus cautioned us not to attempt to remove a speck from someone else's eye without first examining ourselves to make sure there is not a log protruding from our own. Later, He explained that if the person living in sin doesn't repent, then the believer is to take two or three others to confront again. If the backslider still refuses to change, the issue is to be taken to the church (Matthew 19:16-17).

The shepherds of the flock are then to confront in love and encourage restoration to Christ. If the offender still refuses to repent, he/she is to be treated as an unbeliever.

Removal Option

The Apostle Paul instructed the Corinthian church to remove from their fellowship a man who persisted in living in incest, warning, "With such a man do not even eat" (1 Corinthians 5:11). Now, I know such measures sound harsh in an era of super-tolerance, but I've seen them work very effectively—often in the first stages. 

God designed the church to consist of people who are "called out" from the world. We are to live separate and holy lives. Unless we practice some measure of church discipline, the church is in danger of simply reflecting its culture rather than transforming it. 

In Matthew 5:13, Jesus said if salt loses its saltiness, it is good for nothing except to be cast out and trodden under men's feet. This is the present-day danger all church leaders face.

May we have courage to point others to the truth instead of settling for the path of least resistance.  

At 22, Bob Russell became the pastor of Southeast Christian Church. That small congregation of 120 members became one of the largest churches in America, with 18,000 people attending the four worship services every weekend in 2006 when Bob retired. Now through Bob Russell Ministries, Bob continues to preach at churches & conferences throughout the United States, provide guidance for church leadership, mentor other ministers and author Bible study videos for use in small groups.

For the original article, visit bobrussell.org.

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Bob Russell Featured Opinion Sat, 26 Jul 2014 17:00:00 -0400