Charisma News | Breaking News. Spiritual Perspective. Wed, 16 Apr 2014 23:28:11 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Lady Gaga Resurrects ‘Jesus’ in Soft-Porn Music Video

Lady Gaga’s music is often tasteless, though admittedly catchy. But the Madonna-esque pop star’s new music video takes tasteless to new heights—and new lows—as the Christian masses prepare to celebrate Resurrection Day.

In a grotesque video for the song “G.U.Y.,” Gaga has “resurrected” Jesus, Gandhi and Michael Jackson after calling on her false gods. Listen to the demon-inspired lyrics: “Greetings Himeros/God of sexual desire, son of Aphrodite/Lay back, and feast as this audio guides you through new and exciting positions.”

At the heart of the song is a sex-change theme, suggesting it may not matter if you were “born this way” after all. Gaga sings her intentions, explaining that the girls are the “G.U.Y.s,” meaning “Girl Under You,” and the guys are the “G.I.R.L.s,” meaning “Guy, I’m Romancing Loves.” The video simulates various semipornographic group encounters, synchronized to the beat of the Billboard Top 100 song.

At one point in the video, Gaga not only resurrects Jesus from a tomb but also clones Him with the aid of horned females. Gaga also takes on the form of a fallen angel—some Internet chatter suggests she’s channeling Satan—only to be born again.

It’s sickening. It’s blasphemous. It’s sinful on multiple levels. But apparently that doesn’t bother California officials, who are more concerned that Gaga “wasted a massive pool of water” at the Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle, where the video was shot, while the state suffers a historic drought. (Gaga denies it.) And Real Housewives of Orange County star Tamara Judge is peeved that Real Housewives of Beverly Hills stars were in the video and she wasn’t.

After a flood criticism from Christians and conservatives, though, some are defending the pop star. Indeed, apparently Gaga has now officially reached martyr status. British pop singer Lily Allen rushed to Gaga’s defense in a Rolling Stone magazine article: “If she’s not succeeding commercially because she’s standing by what she does as art, then that’s a (expletive) great thing,” Allen said. “That’s to be commended. That’s what makes a martyr. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

We need to turn the world upside down. Lady Gaga a martyr? Jesus was the martyr, and He died for Gaga’s sins. I can’t imagine how grieved the Holy Spirit must be—not merely by the sexual immorality but the Jesus mockery and more—in Gaga’s video. Friends, this is what today’s youth are watching. It’s one of the most popular videos on the planet.

Where do we go from here?

We need to continue praying for our youth because they live in an age where sexual immorality is positioned as the new norm. We need to pray for Christians who won’t compromise with the spirit of this world to rise up in the entertainment industry and reach the unsaved masses with Holy Spirit-inspired music. And, yes, we need to pray for Lady Gaga, who appears to be one of the blind leading the blind into a place where she’ll no longer be able to find Christ, much less mock His resurrection.

Jennifer LeClaire is news editor at Charisma. She is also the author of several books, including The Making of a Prophet. You can email Jennifer at or visit her website here. You can also join Jennifer on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Jennifer LeClaire Featured Watchman on the Wall Opinion Wed, 16 Apr 2014 11:30:00 -0400
Exercising Religious Liberty, Christians Plan Midnight Good Friday Prayer Vigil in Public Square

At midnight on Good Friday, a nine-day prayer vigil will commence in Chicago's Daley Plaza to honor the passion, death and resurrection of Christ.

The Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based national public interest law firm, joins private citizens to sponsor “Jesus in Daley Plaza” for the eighth year. A 19-foot-tall cross and a 10-foot-tall image of the resurrected Jesus will be displayed as an expression of faith by private citizens in the Daley Plaza public forum.

An interdenominational Easter sunrise service will be held on Sunday at 6 a.m. CST, featuring prayers and music.

Thursday evening at 7 p.m., the huge cross will be raised and draped in purple linens. Easter Sunday, as the resurrection of Christ is celebrated, the drapery will be changed to the traditional white that symbolizes renewed life. At the same time, the “Divine Mercy” image of the resurrected Christ will also be unveiled.

The vigil, called “Prayer in the Public Square,” is coordinated by the Divine Mercy Project and the Christopher Leaders and runs through Sunday, April 27.

Tom Ciesielka Featured U.S. News Wed, 16 Apr 2014 16:30:00 -0400
Egyptian Writer Wants to Sue Israel Over Biblical 10 Plagues

An Egyptian writer has called on his nation to sue the state of Israel over the 10 biblical plagues.

“We want compensation for the plagues that were inflicted upon [us] as a result of the curses that the Jews’ ancient forefathers [cast] upon our ancient forefathers, who did not deserve to pay for the mistake that Egypt’s ruler at the time, Pharaoh, committed,” columnist Ahmad al-Gamal wrote.

The column was published in the Egyptian daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi on March 11 but was more recently translated into English by MERMI.

“For what is written in the Torah proves that it was Pharaoh who oppressed the Children of Israel, rather than the Egyptian people,” he added.

Al-Gamal went on to describe the plague as told in the Bible.

“They inflicted upon us the plague of locusts that didn’t leave anything behind them; the plague that transformed the Nile’s waters into blood, so nobody could drink of them for a long time; the plague of darkness that kept the world dark day and night; the plague of frogs; and the plague of the killing of the firstborn, namely every first offspring born to woman or beast, and so on,” he wrote.

“We want compensation for the gold, silver, copper, precious stones, fabrics, hides and lumber, and for [all] animal meat, hair, hides and wool, and for other materials that I will mention [below], when quoting the language of the Torah. All these are materials that the Jews used in their rituals. These are resources that cannot be found among desert wanderers unless they took them before their departure,” he continued.

The writer also encouraged suing Turkey for the Ottoman occupation, France for Napoleon’s invasion and Britain for its colonial rule, The Blaze reports.

Gina Meeks Featured World News Wed, 16 Apr 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Federal Judge Strikes Down North Dakota 'Heartbeat' Abortion Law

A federal judge on Wednesday permanently blocked North Dakota from enforcing the country's most restrictive abortion law, a ban on ending a pregnancy once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks after conception.

North Dakota's only abortion clinic had challenged the law approved by the state legislature in 2013, and U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland last July had temporarily blocked it from taking effect.

"The state of North Dakota has presented no reliable medical evidence to justify the passage of this troubling law," Hovland wrote in a 25-page opinion released on Wednesday.

Hovland said the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized the constitutional right of women to end a pregnancy before the fetus is determined to be viable for more than 40 years and the federal court is obligated to uphold that precedent.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to hear an appeal of a ruling that struck down a 20-week abortion ban in Arizona and has never held that viability occurs at the point of conception, he said.

The North Dakota attorney general's office had no immediate comment on the ruling, a spokeswoman said.

Operators of the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo had said the law would effectively ban nearly all abortions performed there, forcing it to close.

The clinic's closing would leave the closest alternate clinics about 250 miles away in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, or in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The North Dakota abortion ban approved in early 2013 was among a host of laws passed by Republican-led legislatures around the United States.

Arkansas lawmakers approved a law banning most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy, which was struck down in March by a federal judge as unconstitutional. The Arkansas attorney general has said he will appeal the ruling.

Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Gunna Dickson

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Reuters Featured U.S. News Wed, 16 Apr 2014 15:30:00 -0400
Hobby Lobby’s Steve Green Launches Public School Bible Curriculum

The Mustang, Okla., school board voted Monday (April 14) to adopt a Bible course developed by Steve Green, clearing the way for the Hobby Lobby president, whose suit against the Affordable Care Act is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, to enter another charged arena at the borderline of church and state.

The board, whose district is practically in Hobby Lobby’s Oklahoma City backyard, agreed to beta-test the first year of the Museum of the Bible Curriculum, an ambitious four-year public school elective on the narrative, history and impact of the Good Book.

For at least the first semester of the 2014-15 year, Mustang alone will employ the program, said Jerry Pattengale, head of the Green Scholars Initiative, which is overseeing its development. In September 2016, he hopes to place it in at least 100 high schools; by the following year, “thousands.”

If successful, Green, whose family’s wealth is estimated at upward of $3 billion, would galvanize the movement to teach the Bible academically in public schools, a movement born after the Supreme Court banned school-sanctioned devotion in the 1960s but whose steady progress in the last decades has been somewhat hampered.

The Green curriculum ”is like nothing we’ve seen before,” said Charles Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center and editor of a booklet sent out to all schools by the U.S. Department of Education in 2000 on teaching religion in public schools. “It’s unique in its ambition and its scope and its use of the latest technologies. I think school districts far from Oklahoma will take note.”

So will civil libertarians. In an award acceptance speech last April before the National Bible Association, Green explained that his goals for a high school curriculum were to show that the Bible “is true,” that it’s “good” and that its impact, “whether (upon) our government, education, science, art, literature, family … when we apply it to our lives in all aspects of our life, that it has been good.”

If realized, these sentiments, although shared by millions of Americans, could conflict with the court’s requirement that public school treatment of the Bible be taught in a secular, academic fashion.

In the same speech, Green expressed hope that such courses would become mandatory, whereas now they are usually elective.

Green’s move into public school curricula grew out of his second-best-known project (after the lawsuit): a 430,000-square-foot museum of the Bible due to open in 2017 several blocks from the National Mall in Washington, D.C., that will feature objects from his family’s 44,000-piece collection of biblical artifacts.

A little over a year ago, said Pattengale, the realization that a high school curriculum could “help millions of students worldwide” understand the Bible’s importance came to seem even more pressing than the museum. Having created an international network of scholars to assist the museum, Pattengale led a crash initiative on the curriculum. He describes the first year, which takes the project only to its quarter-way mark, as a multimillion-dollar effort involving more than 170 people. “It will never recuperate its expenses,” he said, but “there’s no desire to make money.”

He describes the program as “robustly unique.” It divides its topic into three areas: the Bible’s narrative; the history of its composition and reception; and its impact on human civilization. The spine of the first-year program (the only text completed so far) is a 400-plus-page book, currently spiral-bound, featuring 108 chapters divided into five-day-a-week lessons.

The book links to a dizzying array of state-of-the-art digital enhancements (Pattengale counts 550), including one where illustrations “come alive” as video on the screen of a smartphone; original lectures by Green Institute scholars; clips from the Mark Burnett/Roma Downey miniseries “The Bible”; and deep digital access to the Green’s biblical collection.

Asked to describe a typical chapter, Pattengale (who also serves on the Religion News Service managing board) outlined a “narrative” segment on creation that includes a summary of the Bible account; a section on how subsequent scientific discoveries relate to what the Bible says; and a consideration of key reasons it was written. A sidebar called “Are People Created Equal?” explores the Book of Genesis’ influence on that idea through history, including the famous phrase from the Declaration of Independence.

Contrary to popular assumptions, there is nothing unconstitutional about teaching about the Bible in public schools. The same Supreme Court ruling that outlawed school-sanctioned prayer in 1963 qualified that “Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible … when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.”

The key words, of course, are “objectively” and “secular.” Haynes suggested that, constitutionally, “the bar is actually low — I think it’s hard for judges to get beyond the surface to questions of what a sound academic course looks like — but much more difficult to develop materials that actually both reflect constitutional principles and are academically solid.”

Added Southern Methodist University’s Mark Chancey: “The devil is in the details” of each plan.

Of his boss’s 2013 speech, Pattengale said: “The curriculum may or may not espouse those views. The last people (Green) wanted to hire were scholars who would embellish the facts to support his religious position.” A chapter with the provocative title “How Do We Know That the Bible’s Historical Narratives are Reliable?” will include diagrams charting the commonality of multidisciplinary scholarly findings with the biblical account — or the lack of such commonality, he said.

In Mustang, Green could not have asked for a more sympathetic research partner. Religious observance in the Oklahoma City bedroom community is largely Christian, and the majority of Christians are, like Green, Southern Baptist. The nearest two synagogues are not in town—and are populated with Messianic Jews who believe in Jesus. In 2005, when a previous school superintendent canceled the schools’ annual Christmas pageant because of concerns over the separation of church and state,  voters rejected a proposed school bond. 

The Greens are a local employer—Hobby Lobby corporate headquarters is just five miles east on Oklahoma Highway 152—and highly regarded citizens: ”They are for real a good Christian family, and have been for years and years,” says Don Anderson, a successful real estate agent.

Said Brady Henderson, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma: “We don’t like their Supreme Court brief, but they do give a lot to the community. They treat their employees better than a lot of service industries.”

The vote Monday night was closer than might have been expected: four yeas and one abstention. One former pastor spoke out against adopting the curriculum, citing the innate difficulty of finding common language about the Bible. Abstaining board member Jeff Landrith grumbled that the community had not had enough chance to review curriculum. Board President Chad Fulton responded that it would available shortly for examination. One party promising to take a look was the Oklahoma ACLU: “to ensure no students… have their right of religious liberty compromised.”

Soon, many will have a chance to assess it.

David Van Biema/RNS Featured U.S. News Wed, 16 Apr 2014 14:30:00 -0400
How Much Did Jesus Suffer? A Medical Account of Death by Crucifixion

When you reconstruct the medical aspects of Jesus’ crucifixion, the result is a brutal, vivid picture of what Jesus endured to save people from sin.

In 1986, The Journal of the American Medical Association published a series of articles examining the practice of torture. The first piece was entitled “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ,” by William D. Edwards, M.D.; Wesley J. Gabel, M.Div.; and Floyd E. Hosmer, M.S., AMI.

“The article was an account of perhaps the most influential single event of torture in history with physiologically sound analysis showing the horrifying pain of a common ancient Roman punishment,” editor George Lundberg later wrote in defense of the controversial content.

Drawing on the biblical account of the crucifixion, archaeological evidence and historic documents, combined with modern study, the article aimed to “reconstruct the probable medical aspects of this form of slow execution” (1460). The result was a brutal, vivid explanation of what Jesus endured to save people from sin.

An Excruciating Death

This is what we did to the God of the universe, as described by the article:

  • “Although the Romans did not invent crucifixions they perfected it as a form of torture and capital punishment that was designed to produce a slow death with maximum pain and suffering” (1458).
  • “For scourging, the man was stripped of his clothing, and his hands were tied to an upright post. The back, buttocks, and legs were flogged either by two soldiers (lictors) or by one who alternated positions. The severity of the scourging depended on the disposition of the lictors and was intended to weaken the victim to a state just short of collapse or death” (1457).
  • “As the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh” (1457).
  • “When the soldiers tore the robe from Jesus’ back, they probably reopened the scourging wounds” (1458).
  • “The driven nail would crush or sever the rather large sensorimotor median nerve. The stimulated nerve would produce excruciating bolts of fiery pain in both arms” (1460).
  • “Adequate exhalation required lifting the body by pushing up on the feet and by flexing the elbows and adducting the shoulders. However, this maneuver would place the entire weight of the body on the tarsals and would produce searing pain. Furthermore, flexion of the elbows would cause rotation of the wrists about the iron nails and cause fiery pain along the damaged median nerves” (1461).
  • “Since speech occurs during exhalation, these short, terse utterances [Jesus’ words from the cross] must have been particularly difficult and painful” (1462).

In short, “Death by crucifixion was, in every sense of the word, excruciating (Latin, excruciatus, or ‘out of the cross’)” (1461). But Jesus’ violent, painful, sacrificial, courageous, humble death is not only the most horrific act of sinful man the world has ever known—it’s also the greatest act of love demonstrated by our good and righteous God.

Not a Helpless Victim

It is tempting to look upon the crucified Jesus with condescending pity and feel sorry for His brutal suffering. Yet out of respect for Jesus’ dignity, we must resist that temptation, because Jesus did not die as yet another helpless victim. Rather, with the cross on the horizon of His life, Jesus said that no one would take His life from Him in defeat, but rather He would give it and take it up again in victory (John 10:18).

One witness to these astounding events was a young man named John, who helps us understand Jesus’ death as an act of love: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10, ESV).

Happy Easter.

Mark Driscoll is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church, based in Seattle. He is the author of more than 15 books, including his latest, A Call to Resurgence: Will Christianity Have a Funeral or a Future? 

Mark Driscoll Featured Opinion Wed, 16 Apr 2014 14:00:00 -0400
How the Gay Jihad Normalized a Filthy Practice

The public career beheading of former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich at the hands of pagan sexual jihadists coupled with an escalating epidemic of Christian business owners facing harsh government persecution for merely living out their faith has startled awake an America lulled to sleep by the left’s intentionally deceptive yet oh-so-sweet-sounding serenade of “equality, tolerance and diversity.”

Average folks have finally begun to recognize that America’s “progressive” power class of cultural Marxists and left-wing statists really intends, and always has, to subjugate ideological dissenters through abject inequality and intolerance while demanding blind obedience to an anti-Christian, sexually anarchist sociopolitical agenda.

The goals of these homosexualists were clearly defined decades ago. Still, for any goal to be successfully attained, clever stratagem and sound methodology must be diligently applied.

And so they have.

In their manuscript After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90's (1989, Doubleday/Bantam), Harvard-educated marketing experts Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen meticulously laid out the homosexual lobby’s blueprint for success in what is widely regarded as the handbook for the gay agenda.

This ambitious project to demolish the America of our founding and raise, in its place, a twisted hybrid of San Francisco’s Castro District and Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union is nearing fruition.

Kirk and Madsen devised an insidious three-pronged approach the homosexual lobby has masterfully implemented in subsequent years: desensitization, jamming and conversion.

They summarized their approach this way:

  • Portray gays as victims, not as aggressive challengers.
  • Give potential protectors (“allies”) a just cause.
  • Make gays look good.
  • Make dissenters look bad.


“Desensitization,” wrote Kirk and Madsen, means subjecting the public to a “continuous flood of gay-related advertising, presented in the least offensive fashion possible. If ‘straights’ can’t shut off the shower, they may at least eventually get used to being wet.”

Glamorizing and normalizing aberrant homosexual behavior in our public schools is one approach. Under the guise of “comprehensive sex education,” this tactic has had tremendous success. But public education represents only one mechanism for indoctrination.

With the aid of a willing media and a like-minded Hollywood, societal desensitization has been largely achieved. The film, television and mainstream news industries have been effectively utilized to foster a modern-day fairy tale that creates a dishonest and sympathetic portrayal of a lifestyle that, in truth, is emotionally, spiritually and physically sterile.

Reality is replaced with fantasy. Gone are references to, or images of, the millions of homosexual men wasting away in hospice due to behaviorally related diseases such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and syphilis. (Unnatural behaviors beget natural consequences. As Romans 6:23 warns, “The wages of sin is death.”)

The homosexual pressure group GLAAD even offers awards to the television networks that most effectively carry the homosexual lobby’s water. The more distorted and positive the portrayal of homosexual conduct and the more frequently the networks shows such portrayals, the more likely networks are to win GLAAD’s coveted prize.

As Kirk and Madsen put it, homosexuals should be portrayed as the “Everyman.” “In no time,” they said, “a skillful and clever media campaign could have the gay community looking like the veritable fairy godmother to Western Civilization.”

Prophetic words from two very smart men.


Jamming refers to the public smearing of Christians, traditionalists or anyone else who opposes the gay agenda. “Jam homo-hatred (i.e., recognition of objective sexual morality) by linking it to Nazi horror,” wrote Kirk and Madsen. “Associate all who oppose homosexuality with images of ‘Klansmen demanding that gays be slaughtered,’ ‘hysterical backwoods preachers,’ ‘menacing punks,’ and a ‘tour of Nazi concentration camps.’”

“In any campaign to win over the public, gays must be portrayed as victims in need of protection so that straights will be inclined by reflex to adopt the role of protector. … The purpose of victim imagery is to make straights feel very uncomfortable,” they suggested.

The goal of jamming? To make people feel guilty for criticizing the homosexual agenda, as if they were further oppressing the “victims.” Jamming is psychological manipulation on a mass scale.

And so, words like homophobia and heterosexism were manufactured from thin air, not because they have substance, but, rather, because they were effective jamming tools. Anyone who holds traditional values relative to human sexuality suddenly became a “homophobe,” a “hatemonger” and a “bigot.” And it’s all a mirage. Kirk and Madsen’s most revealing admission came when they wrote, “Our effect is achieved without reference to facts, logic, or proof.”

Not even churches are safe.

“Gays can undermine the moral authority of homo-hating churches over less fervent adherents by portraying [them] as antiquated backwaters, badly out of step … with the latest findings of psychology," they wrote. "Against the atavistic tug of ‘Old Time Religion’ one must set the mightier pull of science and public opinion. … Such an ‘unholy’ alliance has already worked well in America against the churches, on such topics as divorce and abortion. … That alliance can work for gays.”

And how it has.


Kirk and Madsen called for “conversion of the average American’s emotions, mind, and will, through a planned psychological attack, in the form of propaganda fed to the nation via the media.”

“In the early stages of any campaign to reach straight America, the masses should not be shocked and repelled by premature exposure to homosexual behavior itself," they wrote. "Instead, the imagery of sex should be downplayed and gay rights should be reduced to an abstract social question as much as possible. First let the camel get his nose inside the tent—and only later his unsightly derriere!”

What is it with these guys and derrieres?

Anyway, as Kirk and Madsen both astutely understood and surprisingly admitted, homosexual activism is really a big game of hide the ball. In order to achieve widespread acceptance of “gayness,” they had to remove the focus from what homosexuality actually is (deviant and disordered sexual conduct) and, instead, shift it to the cleverly manufactured specter of gay rights.

To cut through much of their propagandist sugarcoating, one need only consider what two men must actually do in order to consummate a so-called gay marriage. Kirk and Madsen understood this. Most people are naturally repulsed by the mechanics of homosexual conduct, but everyone is for civil rights.

So, America, here’s a refresher. Homosexuality 101: The central, defining feature of homosexuality is same-sex sodomy, a filthy practice—both from a moral and biological standpoint—that spreads disease, ruins lives and mocks both God and nature.

That’s so gay.

In short, these sexually confused and spiritually lost souls, particularly males caught up in this lifestyle, can only consummate a counterfeit gay marriage through the squalid, unnatural and feculent abuse of both the reproductive and digestive systems.


Is it any wonder why these gay jihadists want us to focus on the subjective specter of gay rights and ignore the objective reality of gay wrongs?

This is why they terrorize anyone who fails to conform.

Matt Barber (@jmattbarber on Twitter) 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.

Matt Barber Featured Clarion Call Opinion Wed, 16 Apr 2014 13:30:00 -0400
Leaked Memo Reveals Truth About Salvation Army’s Stance on Gays, Straights, Blacks and Whites

Charisma News obtained a leaked memo from James M. Knaggs, a territorial commander of the Western territory for the Salvation Army—one of the top leaders of the entire organization globally—which demonstrated the nonprofit’s commitment to offer services to anyone regardless of race, sexual orientation or anything else.

Could pastors—and believers more broadly—learn something from Knaggs’ memo? Read it for yourself and sound off in the comment box below the story.


Dear Loved Ones:

Today I write to encourage you to continue the good work of showing Christian love to everyone who comes to us with need, as described in our international mission statement.

The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.

This statement comes to us directly from the passage in Scriptures where Jesus was asked, “Which is the most important of all the commandments?”  And Jesus answered, ‘…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul…with all your mind and with all your strength…Love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment more important than these.”  Mark 12:28-31

Without a doubt, there have been times when—as individuals—we may have missed the mark and neglected to show Christ's love to all.  Though people of sincere faith may disagree on how they believe God calls us to respond in every situation, we certainly agree that Christ's love is for everybody.

Thankfully, our ministry to people in spiritual and physical need will give us plenty of future opportunities to offer love and care without reservation.

If you have recommendations or ideas about how we can better demonstrate our commitment to caring for all in need through our programs and services, please let me know.

We pray for you and your ministry and for the work God calls The Salvation Army to do.

Thank you and God bless you.


James M. Knaggs, Commissioner


Jennifer LeClaire Featured U.S. News Wed, 16 Apr 2014 12:30:00 -0400
The Song That Prophesies What the Next Season Looks Like

The songs of one season often prophesy the realities for the next.

Consider this for just a moment. Over the past few years, songwriters have been receiving fresh, powerful downloads from heaven.

There are a handful of worship anthems from this season that have an unusual grace on them. Examples include Hillsong United’s “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” and, most notably and recently, “You Make Me Brave,” from Bethel Music’s forthcoming album of the same name.

I have no doubt that Amanda Cook’s powerful and prophetic declaration of worship was birthed in the throne room.

You can watch the official YouTube video of “You Make Me Brave” right here.

What Is a Song Birthed in the Throne Room?

So, what is significant about a song birthed in the throne room? It is a prophetic blueprint for a reality that the Holy Spirit wants to release to and through the church. There is true power released into the earth when the words of heaven rest upon the lips of the children of God. This is not positive confession ideology. Rather, it is living in a place of deep intimacy and connectedness with the Holy Spirit, where we hear what He is saying and align our words to mirror His.

It is one thing to write songs about God; it is another thing for a songwriter to have his or her ear so tuned in to the heartbeat of God that this individual actually starts to hear the sounds, decrees and statements of heaven.

Jesus said that His words were “spirit and life” (John 6:63). This reinforces the fact that something truly supernatural is released when our words align with what God is saying. Songs can be a powerful way of placing the statements of God on the lips of mankind.

I sense that “You Make Me Brave” is a statement heaven so desperately wants to grace the earth with for such a time.

It’s Time for a Courageous Church to Arise!

The time has come for the body of Christ to be brave. Bravery does not ignore circumstances or pretend away fear; instead, bravery stares fear down and still presses onward toward the impossible. This is because kingdom bravery is sustained by a fixed gaze upon a Person, the champion of heaven, who is the song’s central emphasis.

“You Make Me Brave” fuels a courageous church, as it contains line after line of God-centric worship. It begins by focusing on the greatness of God and the humility we experience in His awesome presence.

The sweeping lyrics continue on to declare God’s goodness toward us, His beloved: “You are for us/You are not against us.”

Finally, the song culminates in a bridge that arms worshippers with a powerful declaration about God, their identity and their prophetic destiny to see impossibilities bend low before Jesus: "You make me brave/You make me brave/You call me out beyond the shore into the waves."

It is certainly beyond coincidental that some of the most powerful songs of this season focus on believers rising up and stepping into the waves or walking upon the waters.

What does this all mean to me?

A Powerful Revelation Is Being Released Through Worship

Interestingly enough, worship songs are becoming a key place where the body of Christ unites rather than divides. Retailers that might not carry books about the supernatural, signs and wonders, miracles, the gifts of the Holy Spirit and other such matters, do sell worship albums that were birthed in environments and cultures that are grounded in such values.

I believe the Holy Spirit is seizing the ever-expanding avenue of worship to ignite fresh fires in the hearts of believers across the denominational spectrum. Through worship, the Spirit is ushering us all into the manifest presence of God and giving the church prophetic instruction on the new normal that is beginning to adjust the expression of modern Christianity.

What believers experience in the raw presence of the Holy Spirit in the midst of worship is ruining them for any form of mediocre or complacent Christianity. Hunger is stirring in their hearts for more. They might not be able to clarify exactly what is awakening within them, but they are starting to say a resounding yes to this summons to walk boldly beyond the shores of “normal Christianity” and step out into ocean of impossibility.

It does not matter what position a denomination or church took on the Holy Spirit’s power, gifts or presence; Jesus becomes our model for what is normal and available.

It does not matter what some book, teaching or conference says about whether or not believers today can walk in the Spirit’s power; the Bible becomes our final blueprint for what is accessible for all kingdom citizens.

It does not matter what measure of hopelessness, impossibility, circumstance and darkness seems to be encroaching upon the earth; our eyes are fixed on the champion of heaven who made a way for all to enter in and experience His eternal salvation, unconditional love and powerful presence.

I still plan to write a formal review upon the formal release of this worship recording. However, I had the privilege of previewing most of the songs while watching the worship live on and wanted to prepare you for something extremely significant.

The album is currently available for preorder on Amazon.

Larry Sparks is the author of Breakthrough Healing (Destiny Image, 2014). He is a conference speaker, blogger, columnist and host of the weekly radio program Voice of Destiny ( Featured in Charisma magazine and on CBN’s Spiritual Gifts webcast, Larry is also founder of Equip Culture—a ministry that equips believers with the tools and resources to live victoriously through the supernatural power of God. Subscribe to his blog Follow him on Twitter @LarryVSparks.

Larry Sparks Featured Culture Wed, 16 Apr 2014 12:00:00 -0400
CHARISMA'S $100,000 Easter Giveaway!

That got your attention didn't it? This Easter we want to give back in a big way. $100,000 to be exact! Our online community has exploded over the last year and a half and to celebrate we are giving away CHARISMA DIGITAL subscriptions for FREE through April 20th, 2014. No gimmicks, no tricks, just a FREE subscription that normally sells for $20.

We've been blessed and we want to bless the first 5,000 people who accept our offer for a free digital subscription to Charisma. Charisma digital is the best Christian digital magazine out there! For those who own a tablet, the digital edition is fun to swipe and easy to read. Each issue is loaded with extras to inspire, encourage, challenge and help you in your spiritual life. 

Technology is changing and we're changing. But the Word of God is unchanging and so is our commitment to serve you and serve God by bringing you the best Christian journalism in print, online and now in this new digital version. Get the full digital version free as a blessing during this season as we celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord. 

This subscription is worth $20 and it's FREE until Easter or until we reach 5,000 subscribers, whichever comes first. The only stipulation is that you have to sign up before midnight on April 20, 2014.

To claim your Free subscription follow these instructions:

  1. Click the Sign Up Now button and fill out the registration form
  2. Wait for your welcome email and follow the instructions to begin your subscription

Tablet users complete steps 1 -3

  1. Download the App. Use the login from your welcome email to view on your tablet.


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Steve Strang Featured Marketplace Thu, 10 Apr 2014 11:40:00 -0400
Time to Drop the Hyper-Grace Rhetoric

A hyper-grace pastor recently accused me of believing that “Jesus is not enough.”

How should we respond to accusations like this? And are these catchy little phrases, which attempt to make others look like subpar Christians, really helpful? Do they even tell us anything at all?

This particular pastor was critical of my book Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message (or, at least, he was critical of how another author presented my book, often in extremely misleading ways). He stated, “In Jesus you’re forgiven, sanctified, made holy and made eternally righteousness, yet, Dr. Brown says Jesus isn’t enough. Now he wouldn’t come right out and say such a thing but ... Dr. Brown still depends on human effort to complete the work Jesus began.”

Really? I say (or believe) that Jesus isn’t enough? I depend on human effort to complete the work Jesus began?

This is news to me, after leaning on Him as my only source of righteousness and life these last 42 years.

What point, then, is this pastor trying to make? Is he saying that I don’t mean it when I sing the words, “Oh, precious is the flow that makes me white as snow; no other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus”?

Is he claiming that when I joyfully shout out the lyrics to “In Christ Alone” that I’m just going through the motions? Does he honestly believe that I’m saying that "Jesus is not enough" when I sing with tears of joy those glorious words: “'Til on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied, for every sin on Him was laid, here in the death of Christ I live”?

And isn’t it ironic that hyper-grace teachers who claim that I (and others like me) say “Jesus is not enough” believe that the words of Jesus, such as those found in the Sermon on the Mount, do not apply to them today? How, then, can they say that “Jesus is enough” and then ignore most of His words? (As documented in depth in my Hyper-Grace book, these teachers commonly claim that most, or even all, of what Jesus taught before the cross was not intended for believers today.)

So, what exactly does this pastor mean when he claims, “Dr. Brown says that Jesus isn’t enough”?

Is he implying that those of us who reject hyper-grace believe that we have any source of forgiveness outside of Jesus? That we plan to stand before God one day and claim justification by our works? That we have any boast outside of our Savior?

The fact is that Jesus did everything that needed to be done to secure our eternal salvation (as He said on the cross, “It is finished”), and now He calls on us, by His Spirit, to respond to His gracious offer, to follow Him, to grow in Him and to work with Him to fulfill the Great Commission. Through His blood, He makes us holy, and then He calls us to walk that holiness out in this world. The Word is quite clear about this.

But based on the hyper-grace rhetoric, are we saying that “Jesus is not enough” when we call on sinners to put their faith in Him? Isn’t this adding something on our part?

And why should we be baptized? Isn’t this “depend[ing] on human effort to complete the work Jesus began”? And why witness and pray if “Jesus is enough”? And why, for that matter, do we need pastors and teachers if “Jesus is enough”?

Do you see how meaningless these phrases can be when used as rhetorical weapons?

When Peter wrote, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Pet 1:14-15, ESV), was he saying that Jesus wasn’t enough?

Peter also wrote, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Pet. 2:11). Was he telling his readers to “depend on human effort to complete the work Jesus began”?

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1), was he saying that Jesus wasn’t enough?

Paul also exhorted the Colossians to “put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col 3:5). Was he telling them to “depend on human effort to complete the work Jesus began”?

One hyper-grace pastor wrote, “We are driven to ‘do, do, do’, forgetting that Christianity is actually ‘done, done, done’.”

Another pastor rightly responded, “The Bible tells us to ‘do, do, do’ because though Christ’s redemptive work on the cross IS ‘done, done, done’ Christians still have a lot left to do (see the Sermon on the Mount, the Great Commission, the Book of ACTS, the book of Titus (whose theme is GOOD WORKS) and the Book of James (whose theme is being DOERS of the Word)!”


Why can’t our friends who claim to have been wonderfully touched and enlightened and helped by the hyper-grace message simply revel in their newfound liberty without bashing and insulting those who differ with them? Why must they demonstrate how “free” they are by insulting the walks of others? How is that a fruit of grace? (For my part, I am not bashing anyone when I use the term hyper-grace, since many of those who embrace that message say, “Yes, grace is hyper!” I use the term to be descriptive of their message.)

One hyper-grace author criticized me for listing a number of Scriptures that required an active response on our part, claiming that I was calling for self-effort, as if responding in obedience to the Word is a bad thing. How does rhetoric like this advance the cause of the gospel?

And so, once again, I appeal to my hyper-grace friends: Let’s openly and prayerfully discuss our differences, seeking God earnestly and giving ourselves to the gospel of grace, without resorting to cheap and unhelpful rhetoric.

Wouldn’t this please the Lord?

Michael Brown is author of Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message 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.

Michael Brown Featured In the Line of Fire Opinion Wed, 16 Apr 2014 11:00:00 -0400
REVIEW: 'Heaven Is for Real' Shows Truth of God's Love

Based on a best-selling book of the same name, Heaven Is for Real tells the story of a 4-year-old named Colton who says he went to heaven during an operation where he was near death.

Wonderfully written by Chris Parker and directed by Randall Wallace, Heaven Is for Real is one of the most engaging, most inspiring Christian movies ever made. The acting, dialogue, cinematography and editing are first-class. Best of all, the movie shows the truth of God’s love.

Colton is an adorable 4-year-old with a loving family, including his hard-working father, Todd (Greg Kinnear). Todd works as a garage door repair guy, volunteers as a fireman and is a pastor of a local church in a Nebraskan small town. His wife, Sonja (Kelly Reilly), leads the church’s music department, but the two are barely scraping by on finances.

When Todd breaks his leg playing softball and has kidney stones, the couple gets into even more financial debt. Sonja suggests they take a road trip to relieve the pressure.

When the family returns, Colton gets very sick. For days, Colton is sick, and his temperature is extremely high. Todd and Sonja take him to the emergency room. Doctors have to operate on him immediately because his appendix has burst. While they operate, Colton’s mother calls their friends, asking for immediate prayer. Meanwhile, Colton’s father goes to the hospital chapel, where he angrily rails at God.

Happily, Colton survives the operation, though at one point he was near death. Everything starts to return to normal until Colton tells Todd that during his operation, he went to heaven and met Jesus. At first Todd is amused by the little boy’s statements. Then he becomes perplexed and questions whether Colton is telling the truth.

However, some of Colton’s statements have the ring of truth. For example, he knew exactly what his mother and father were doing during his operation. Suddenly, Todd feels that he must share Colton's experience with other people, including his church congregation. This causes resentment and concern in the church, and even a rift between Todd and Sonja. What will happen next?

Heaven Is for Real is an extremely well-done faith-based movie. Though it’s not absolutely perfect, it’s one of the most captivating, inspiring movies of this or any other year. The dialogue is wonderful. Greg Kinnear does a superlative job as Todd Burpo. Also, little Connor Colum is absolutely amazing as Colton, the boy who went to heaven.

Randall Wallace (the writer of Braveheart, writer/director of We Were Soldiers and writer/director of Secretariat) does a brilliant job directing Heaven Is for Real. With this movie, he’s clearly become one of the best directors working in Hollywood today. The cinematography in Heaven Is for Real is beautiful, and the editing is sharp. Heaven Is for Real is simply terrific in almost every way.

Of course, Heaven Is for Real has a very strong, positive Christian worldview. It honors Jesus Christ while, at the same time, showing that the Christian life won’t always be perfect, that doubt often is part of faith and that each and every Christian must always grow in love.

Thus, Heaven Is for Real is an honest portrayal of Christian faith and its struggles with little or no ham-fisted preachiness. In the end, the movie shows that God is real, heaven is real, Jesus is real and God is love. As such, it challenges all of us, not just Christians, to go forth in faith and love. Bravo!

This article originally appeared on

Movieguide Featured Culture Wed, 16 Apr 2014 10:30:00 -0400
Do 4 Blood Moons Prophesy a Nuclear Threat?

The book of Genesis says God uses the sun, moon and stars for signs and seasons. Examples can be found throughout the Bible.

Think of how a star led the wise men to Jesus or how the sun stood still as Joshua led Israel to victory over its enemies.

According to Pastor John Hagee, God is getting ready to speak this way once again.

"There's a sense in the world that things are changing and God is trying to communicate with us in a supernatural way," Hagee told CBN News.

"I believe that in these next two years, we're going to see something dramatic happen in the Middle East involving Israel that will change the course of history in the Middle East and impact the whole world," he predicted.

Four Blood Moons

In his latest book, Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change, Hagee lays out what he calls celestial signals. He describes how a series of blood moons in 2014 and 2015 will have great significance for Israel. 

Although single blood moons happen fairly regularly, four appearing so closely together is extremely rare. There have only been a series of blood moons a handful of times over the past 500 years.

So what exactly is a blood moon and what is the biblical significance?

"A blood moon is when the Earth comes between the sun and the moon," Hagee explained. "And the sun is shining through the atmosphere of the Earth and casts up on the moon a red shadow. And so the moon appears to be red."

Such moons appear several times in scripture.

In the book of Joel, God says there will be "wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire … the sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord."

In Acts, the apostle Peter repeats that verse from Joel. And the book of Revelation says that during the Great Tribulation, "the moon will become like blood."

Blood moons are set to appear in April on Passover, and then again in September during the Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot.

The timing is the same for 2015—a total of four blood moons, all appearing on Jewish feast days.

"The sun and the moon and the Earth are controlled by God almighty," Hagee said. "He is the one that is getting them in a direct alignment on a certain day at a certain time—but each time, it's a Passover or Sukkot.

Historic Significance

In the past, the rare appearance of four blood moons on these feast days has coincided with major events for Israel and the Jewish people.

In 1492, Spain expelled the Jews. Columbus also discovered America, which became a safe haven for the Jewish people.

"In each of these blood moons, you have something that begins in tragedy and ends in triumph," Hagee explained.

For instance, in 1948, Israel was reborn as a nation.

"After 2,000 years, God supernaturally brought them from 66 nations and a nation was born in a day," Hagee noted. "That again was a supernatural something that happened following the tragedy of the Holocaust."

In 1967, Israel won the Six-Day War and recaptured Jerusalem.

"For the first time in 2,000 years, Jerusalem and the State of Israel were together again," Hagee said.

Nuclear Threat

The blood moons of 2014 and 2015 are poised to appear as Iran works toward nuclear weapons and Israel's neighbors, Egypt and Syria, are in chaos.

"The only reason that Iran will not acquire a nuclear bomb will be that Israel chooses a military solution to that crisis," Hagee told CBN News.

"I believe that if that happens, it will start a series of events that will change the course of world history," he said. "If Israel does not, then it will still change the course of world history."

Hagee has been warning of the Iranian nuclear threat through his work with Christians United for Israel, which he founded in 2006. It is now the largest pro-Israel organization in America, with some 1.3 million members.

He holds nights to honor Israel across the country and at San Antonio's Cornerstone Church, where he serves as senior pastor. The first event, in 1981, drew bomb threats and vandalism from anti-Semites.

Yet Hagee continues his mission.

"If there was ever a time for the Christians of America to stiffen their spine and stand up and speak up, it's now," Hagee admonished. "To see evil and not call it evil is evil. Not to speak is to speak. We cannot be silent and receive God's approval at a time like this."

He said it's still unclear what the coming blood moons will bring, but he is certain of one thing.

"When all is said and done, the flag of Israel will be flying over the walls of the city of Jerusalem when Messiah comes, and it's going to be forever," he said. "And every nation that rises up in judgment against Israel God will punish and punish severely."

Erick Stakelbeck/CBN News Featured World News Wed, 16 Apr 2014 10:00:00 -0400
Rock Star Trades Fame for Faith, Salvation

Mention Tony Greve (pronounced "Greev") in hard-rock circles, and people know the name. The lead and rhythm guitarist for the popular hard-rock band Pop Evil, Greve traveled with the likes of Judas Priest, Papa Roach and 3 Doors Down. His world was not only consumed with constant concerts and pushing the limits on his guitar, but also drugs, alcohol, sex and hard partying that few not in the profession are familiar with.

With tattoos of personal guitar heroes on his arms, profanity on his fingers and a hat on his head he believed was accompanied by a demonic presence, Greve was steeped in the hard-rock lifestyle and sin—and was looking for more.

So how did Greve, whom hard-rockers and fans know as "Guitar Slinger"—which is also tattooed across his stomach—become the class president of an Assemblies of God Bible college?

The Beginning

Growing up, Anthony "Tony" Greve found he had a talent for playing electric guitar. He admits struggling with depression and a consuming emptiness, but in playing guitar, he seemed to be able to find at least a brief relief, so he poured himself into it.

In 2007, when he was 23 years old, Greve was an accomplished guitar player, and his skills were catching people's attention. An up-and-coming hard-rock band, Pop Evil, based out of Grand Rapids, Mich., invited him to play lead guitar. Greve accepted and began touring for months at a time with the band.

Despite the band's growing success, which included four national Top 10 singles, Greve couldn't seem to pour enough of himself into the band or its hedonistic lifestyle in order to escape his growing depression and emptiness.

Greve didn't realize it at the time, but God had a plan for his life.

Encountering God

While the rest of the band went out to party after a concert, Greve decided just to go to the hotel room. Struggling with having "everything" but still feeling like he had nothing and was empty inside, he just started talking to God—and God responded.

"He told me, 'Son, I created you for a relationship with Me. It'll never work without Me,'" Greve says. "I told God that for 26 years of my life, I just did what I wanted to do—why would You forgive me?"

Even though Greve knew God was aware of all of his sins, he began to confess them out loud to God, breaking down and beginning to weep as he did so.

"God, I'm so sorry, please forgive me," Greve recalls saying.

And God did—followed by a powerful experience with the Holy Spirit. "[The Holy Spirit] fell and burst through my body like a surge of electricity," Greve says.

A few weeks later, unsure of what to do with his newfound faith, Greve sought help, but not at a church.

"We always parked the bus in a Wal-Mart parking lot when we were on tour, because it was open 24/7," Greve says. "There was this Family Christian Bookstore near where we parked, so I walked in there, just wearing my pajamas and a coat."

Having lived a life so apart from God, Greve admits it was surreal walking into the store.

Pretending to look at some books, Greve was approached by a clerk, Patrick Garrett, who offered his assistance.

"Do you believe in Jesus?" Greve recalls asking Garrett. After receiving a positive response, he said, "Would you pray for me?" Garrett, who still remains in contact with Greve, agreed, but called over to another customer in the store to join him, a man Greve later found out was an evangelist.

After praying in the middle of the store, which Greve says was a time filled with tears and the presence of God, the evangelist turned to Greve and said, "You're at a crossroads in your life. Choose the cross."

A Rough Transition

Greve was a "new creation" in Christ but had few Christian connections. When he phoned his father to tell him he was now a Christian and was going to quit the band, his father was furious.

"He called me a coward and told me I was selfish, that I was letting the guys in the band down just as we were getting ready to start making real money," Greve says. "I started to question myself—not God, as I knew He existed—but maybe I was being a self-centered jerk. I didn't know. I didn't have anyone to talk to."

Out of a sense of guilt and fear, Greve decided to stay with the band, believing he would be strong enough to resist temptation.

As a new Christian, with little biblical knowledge, no Christian counsel on the road with him, and living in Satan's stronghold, the outcome would surprise few. Within two weeks, Greve was once again fully immersed in the lifestyle. Only this time, he was upset with God because He didn't deliver him.

"I felt trapped," Greve admits. "I had record and management contracts; I fell back into sin worse than ever. I felt I was letting my family down, letting God down—I felt like there was no escape."

The Road of Discipleship

Greve continued to play in the band for a time, but one night the Lord spoke to him while he was on stage.

Greve remembers the moment clearly. "He said, 'Tony, you see all these fans? They're not fans—they're lost. I created them to worship Me, but they don't know Me, so they're worshipping you instead.'"

"I had a decision to make," Greve says. "It was stay there, which would have been serving the kingdom of darkness, or leave and pursue God."

In April 2011, Greve left the band—even left the state—and gave up everything in order to get right with God. Carrying and reading his Bible wherever he went, he "worked out his salvation" as he traveled seemingly aimlessly about the country.

Yet at every place Greve paused, God brought people into his life to help shape and direct his life, and the Holy Spirit was with him.

"I was a Pentecostal before I even knew what a Pentecostal was," Greve says, laughing. "I remember going to my first Assembly of God church [Gateway] in Williamsport, Md. I was like, 'This is it!'"

Greve also started going by the name Anthony, as he likened his experience of being knocked off the stage of fame similar to the biblical Saul-to-Paul experience.

Finally, Greve made his way back to Michigan. It was there he met up with pastor Adrien Thorne of New Beginnings (AG) in Whitehall. Greve's life was about to be put on the mentorship fast track.

Mentoring Discipleship—More Than Words

"I was cleaning out my van in the driveway when I looked up and saw this skinny dude holding a Bible, with tattoos all over him," Thorne says. "I knew who he was. I had heard a lot about Anthony already."

Within moments of meeting, a bond was formed between the two men. Thorne was uniquely positioned to not only provide biblical guidance but to understand exactly where Greve had been and what he was going through now.

Prior to becoming an AG minister 13 years ago, Thorne was a professional ballet dancer who had little room for God in his life. He performed for 17 years and was ranked in the top 3 percent in the nation. He even has a brother in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But Thorne is also a Teen Challenge graduate—an AG program for those with life-controlling addictions—who knows the value of mentors.

Thorne says he and his wife, Kristina, came to love Greve. Thorne says he would get calls from Greve three times a day, asking questions about the Bible and life.

"Some questions only took 30 seconds, others took longer, but Anthony was like a sponge," Thorne says.

But more than just pouring spiritual discipleship into Greve's life, Thorne says his church of about 200 had come to understand that to get people where God has them going, it takes more.

"God doesn't just send you people to disciple them, but also to give them the tools to fulfill His call upon their lives," Thorne says. "We got Anthony a car, helped him get work, gave him a phone and then helped him get into school [Northpoint Bible College]."

But Greve isn't the exception for Thorne or New Beginnings. In fact, Thorne says the church has done things like this for six or seven people recently as the church has taken a step back from "canvassing" areas toward more individualized discipleship and mentoring of people, with an emphasis on relationship.

"We used to do mass outreaches into the neighborhoods, but not one of those people are still here or in church, to my knowledge," Thorne says. "But when we started pairing people in need of discipleship with families or individuals who would have a connection with them, and also provided tools for these people to move forward, we have seen a dramatic difference in the number of people staying in church and beginning to fulfill God's purpose for their lives."

Late in 2012, Thorne would write the letter of endorsement for Greve to be accepted at Northpoint. Greve began his freshman year at Northpoint this past fall.

"God walked Anthony into our driveway," Thorne says simply. "Whatever things he achieves in his life, what an honor that we are part of the foundation for that!"

Moving Forward

Since beginning classes at Northpoint, Greve has continued to absorb wisdom and biblical learning. He also spends many weekends on stage, only now sharing his testimony with anyone who will listen, praying, and seeing God perform the miraculous.

The transformation from Tony the hard-rocker to Anthony the follower of Christ is nothing short of miraculous in itself. In fact, the transformation is so complete that recently Greve's classmates at Northpoint elected him president of next year's sophomore class.

"Anthony's spiritual growth and fervency for the things of God has been astounding since his arrival on the Northpoint Bible College campus," says David Arnett, president of Northpoint Bible College (AG) in Haverhill, Mass. "He has quickly become a loved friend and brother to so many of the students, faculty and staff. Anthony came with a zealous love for Jesus and does not take lightly what the Holy Spirit is doing in his life."

Arnett says that Greve is frequently invited to share his testimony, including at key school administration functions—such as board of trustee meetings and president's dinners—and Arnett is pleased to see Greve's passion for Christ continue to be "cultivated into excellence in Pentecostal ministry" at Northpoint.

"We see a man who has taken the testimony of his faith and the Word of God and has committed to reaching the world with the gospel," Arnett says.

"I'm just so proud of him and his heart to obey God and serve the Lord," Thorne says, who still speaks with Greve three or four times a week.

For Greve, the passion to reach the lost drives him like never before as he continues to study to be a pastor and fulfill the call of full-time ministry.

"I've come to realize that you don't have to be involved in anything bad to be subject to Satan's possession—all you have to do is not be saved," he says. "If someone is not saved—even those who are 'good' people and do 'good' things—they belong to the kingdom of darkness and are hell-bound. It's through Christ that all things are made new, and through Christ only."

And to that end, Greve seeks to share the life-changing gospel of Christ every chance he gets—because if God can transform his life, whose life can't He transform?

Dan Van Veen/AG News Featured Culture Wed, 16 Apr 2014 09:30:00 -0400
After Benny Hinn Flap, Liberty University Reins In Provost's Duties

Earlier this month, Charisma News reported on Liberty University's official statement regarding a controversial video that was uncovered, showing Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost Dr. Ronald Godwin appearing on televangelist Benny Hinn's television show.

Liberty University amended its statement late last week with the following update, explaining that Dr. Godwin's responsibilities have been scaled back in light of the oversight:

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell announced Friday that Dr. Ronald Godwin’s duties and responsibilities will be focused solely on academic matters going forward.

Since late 2010, Dr. Godwin has served as Liberty’s Provost and Senior VP for Academic Affairs.  In the last two years, Dr. Godwin has also assumed responsibilities associated with a varied array of initiatives designed to leverage Liberty University’s strengths with new and innovative educational projects external to the University.  These projects included new programs and strategic alliances to deliver Liberty’s educational services both domestically and internationally.

“The incident with Benny Hinn Ministries convinced me how incompatible the two roles are,” President Falwell said.  “I also realized it was not humanly possible for any one person to perform all the tasks necessary to do both jobs well. Dr. Godwin and I met early today and discussed which of his two roles he should continue to serve. After a lengthy discussion, we decided that Dr. Godwin should focus solely on Liberty’s academic programs in his role as Provost.”

Dr. Godwin, 76, explained the background context for the move.  “A dear friend of mine believed he had a contract that permitted him to use Liberty University’s name and materials in a way that I now realize he did not.  I should have verified this but instead trusted in his recollection,” said Dr. Godwin.  “I have apologized to President Falwell for this error and am grateful that I can continue to contribute to Liberty University’s health and success.”

Dr. Godwin’s refined role will help ensure the error does not repeat itself, according to President Falwell.  “The University will continue to rely on Dr. Godwin’s breadth of academic and administrative experience.  He will spend the next few years grooming his successors and guiding the team responsible for Liberty University’s pending ten year accreditation reaffirmation report.”

“Dr. Godwin has served at Liberty since 2004.  I greatly value his contributions during that time,” President Falwell said.  “Dr. Godwin was instrumental in helping my father implement a very aggressive enrollment growth plan for Liberty beginning ten years ago when Liberty had just emerged from a decade of financial struggles and while many thought it imprudent to incur the risks inherent in growth.  Three years ago, he stepped in as Provost and created efficiencies and academic quality controls to effectively manage Liberty’s robust growth.  I am confident that Ron will be even more effective now as he is deployed in this more focused role.”

Dr. Godwin added, “I welcome this opportunity to focus my efforts on the Provost duties, which, at the world’s largest Christian university, is more than enough for anyone to say grace over.”

In the controversial video, Hinn was shown discussing what appeared to be a new "partnership" with Liberty University's current provost, Dr. Godwin, and Dan Reber of Liberty Home Bible Institute.

Nathaniel Scott Featured U.S. News Wed, 16 Apr 2014 09:00:00 -0400
Chuck Pierce Explains the Significance of 'Passover Celebration 5774'

As Christians, one of the most important times of the year for us to remember and celebrate is Passover.

My friend Chuck Pierce hosts an exciting event every year at his Global Spheres Center in Corinth, Texas, north of Dallas. He has invited me to be one of this year’s speakers. I hope to see many of you there or encourage you to watch through live streaming on the Internet.

Chuck calls it “Passover Celebration 5774: Enter Into Resurrection Power!" The event runs from April 17–20, Thursday evening through Sunday at noon.

Chuck told me, “This year, 2014-5774, a year of the door, I believe this Passover is particularly important as we celebrate pressing through a narrow place of confinement to enlargement and from captivity to freedom!” 

I believe God has given me a message about crossing through that door in three areas of life. I’ll share from my own experiences, including coming through my recent battle with cancer. I may write about it later, but for now let me just pique your interest so you’ll register or watch it on the live stream.

It’s an honor to be on a speaking team with Chuck Pierce, Bobby Conner, Cindy Jacobs, Daniel and Amber Pierce, Jenny Watson, Peter Wagner, Robert Heidler, Sergio Scataglini, Tom Hess and others.  

There is no cost to attend on-site or to join the live webcast. Pre-registration is closed, but you can still register on-site beginning Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Web visitors can register when they sign on to the live webcast. For more details, you can visit

Several years ago, I attended one of Chuck’s conferences in Corinth. It was a great blessing. Chuck has been a friend to my wife, Joy, and me for many years, and we have used him as a “spiritual consultant.” I have had the privilege of publishing several of his books, most recently Interpreting the Times: How God Intersects With Our Lives to Bring Revelation and Understanding.

For those attending, we are offering a complimentary subscription to Charisma to introduce new people to the magazine. We will make the same offer to those who watch via the live stream.

For four decades, I’ve served as a journalist in the Christian community. I’m not a preacher. But I am an observer of trends and what God is doing.

Chuck asked me many months ago to speak, saying he felt he had heard from the Lord. While speaking on a national platform like this is something I do infrequently, I’m excited about this opportunity. I believe I have a message from God, and I decided today to write this to encourage you to attend.

If you plan to attend or if Chuck Pierce’s ministry has blessed you, please leave your comments below.

Steve Strang is the founder and publisher of Charisma. Follow him on Twitter at @sstrang or on Facebook (stephenestrang).

Steve Strang Featured Opinion Wed, 16 Apr 2014 08:00:00 -0400
‘Blood Moon’ Sets Off Apocalyptic Debate Among Some Christians

Could Tuesday’s “blood moon” event be connected to Jesus’ return? Some Christians think so.

Around 2 a.m. EST on Tuesday, the moon will slide into Earth’s shadow, casting a reddish hue on the moon. There are about two lunar eclipses per year, according to NASA, but what’s unusual this time around is that there will be four blood moons within 18 months—astronomers call that a tetrad—and all of them occur during Jewish holidays.

A string of books have been published surrounding the event, with authors referring to a Bible passage that refers to the moon turning into blood. “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord,” Joel 2:31 says.

In the New Testament, Acts 2:20 echoes the same doom: “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord.”

Recent books capitalizing on the event include Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs by Washington state author Mark Biltz; Blood Moons Rising: Bible Prophecy, Israel, and the Four Blood Moons by Oklahoma pastor Mark Hitchcock; and Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change by Texas megachurch pastor John Hagee.

Hagee’s book is drawing the most attention, with his book now No. 4 on The New York Times best-seller list in the advice/how to section, and No. 80 on USA Today’s best-seller list. The book by the controversial 74-year-old founder of San Antonio’s Cornerstone Church has also spent 152 days in Amazon’s top 100 books.

In his book, Hagee says something will happen to the nation of Israel due to the tetrad. The four eclipses occur on April 15 and Oct. 8, 2014, and April 4 and Sept. 28 next year. The ones in April occur during Passover, and the ones in October occur during the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles.

Jewish holy days revolve around a lunar calendar with Passover beginning on the first full moon after the beginning of spring, and the Feast of Tabernacles occurring on the first full moon after the beginning of fall. Hagee writes that every time a tetrad occurs on Jewish feast days, something traumatic and “world-changing” happens to Israel.

In 1492, the Jews were expelled from Spain and Christopher Columbus discovered America, giving the Jews a place to go. In 1948, the modern state of Israel was born, and in 1967, Israel won the Six-Day War and recaptured Jerusalem.

This time, Hagee suggests that a rapture will occur where Christians will be taken to heaven, Israel will go to war in a great battle called Armageddon, and Jesus will return to earth. Hagee has planned a special televised event on Tuesday on the Global Evangelism Television channel.

But NASA does not consider tetrads as especially rare, saying in a statement that there are eight sets of tetrads before the year 2100. The most unique thing about the upcoming tetrad is that they are visible from all or parts of the United States, NASA stated.

During the 300-year interval from 1600 to 1900, there were no tetrads at all, according to NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak.

A publicist for Hagee said the pastor was not available for an interview before Religion News Service’s deadline.

“When you see these signs, the Bible says, lift up your head and rejoice, your redemption draweth nigh,” Hagee said in a sermon, according to the San Antonio Express-News. “I believe that the heavens are God’s billboard, that He has been sending signals to Planet Earth but we just have not been picking them up.”

Greg Boyd, a pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minn., called the predictions a waste of time, maybe even bordering on astrology.

“You have an entire population buying into this stuff so no congregation is immune to this,” Boyd said. “It can strike fear into people, which is so unnecessary and wrong.”

The Jewish holy days carry less theological significance since Jesus’ resurrection for many Christians, said Sam Storms, a pastor of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City. Any connection between the two events should carry less weight, he said.

“We need to stop giving into some of these sensationalist speculations,” he said. “Maybe Christians are more gullible. One has to twist the data to make it appear as if these are the fulfillment of some biblical prophecy.”

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

Sarah Pulliam Bailey/RNS Featured U.S. News Tue, 15 Apr 2014 09:00:00 -0400
'Heaven Is for Real' Shows a Vision of the Afterlife

The real-life tale of a child's remarkable trip to heaven and back has spent years on the best-sellers' list. Millions have read the bright yellow book Heaven Is for Real, and now the film adaptation arrives in theaters in time for Easter weekend.

Sony pictures tapped screenwriter and film director Randall Wallace to bring the best-seller to the big screen.

In a recent interview with CBN News, Wallace discussed the challenges of creating a movie that explored vision of the afterlife.

Vision of the Afterlife

"I think nervous is probably a good term. It was certainly in that field between nervous and sheer terror," Wallace said.

The film is based on a story from the Burpos, an ordinary Nebraska family that faced extraordinary circumstances. Their 4-year-old son Colton nearly died and had to undergo emergency surgery. Colton then awoke with undeniable visions of a trip to heaven.

Before entering the film industry, Wallace financed a year of seminary by teaching karate.

"The seminary training was wonderful for me in this in that I studied religion. I grew up in tent revivals and you always think about heaven in those contexts. And the great thing about that is heaven is presented as something glorious," he told CBN News.

That glorious presentation of heaven comes from a 4-year-old.

Playing Pastor Dad

Connor Corum plays 4-year-old Colton in his very first acting role. Oscar-nominated actor Greg Kinnear plays Colton's dad, Todd.

Kinnear described Todd's character to CBN News.

"Well, he is passionate. He clearly has a strong faith and a strong conviction about what he believes and a great love of his children," Kinnear said. "And I think those were the things for me to really try to translate as strongly to the audience as possible."

Todd Burpo is also a firefighter, pastor and a man struggling to understand what his son experienced and what to do about it. That struggle helped him write the book that has sold more than 10 million copies.

Kinnear wasn't familiar with the book before taking on the role.

"Turning it into a screenplay would be not easy to do," he recalled thinking.

"It is a tough thing to pull off so that it doesn't feel like a two-hour sermon," Wallace said. "That is, tell you a story, an honest story. And I thought he did an amazing job at doing that."

Efrem Graham/CBN News Featured Culture Tue, 15 Apr 2014 14:30:00 -0400
Nigeria Rebels Abduct Schoolgirls, Government Says Will Protect Economic Forum Visitors

Suspected Islamist insurgents abducted more than 100 female students in a night raid on a government secondary school in Nigeria's northeast Borno state, a teacher said on Tuesday.

The gunmen, believed to be members of the Boko Haram Islamist group, which has attacked schools in the northeast before as part of their anti-government rebellion, carried off the students from the school in Chibok late on Monday.

"Over 100 female students in our government secondary school at Chibok have been abducted," said Audu Musa, who teaches in another public school in the area, around 140 km (90 miles) south of the Borno state capital Maiduguri.

The raid took place on the same day as a bomb attack on the edge of the capital Abuja.

The blast killed at least 75 people, the deadliest ever attack on Abuja, and raised questions about the government's ability to protect the capital from an insurrection that risks spreading from the Islamist group's heartland in the northeast.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has pointed the finger of suspicion for the bombing at Boko Haram, although the group, which has ties with al-Qaida-linked militants in the Sahara, has made no statement claiming responsibility.

With elections due in February, Jonathan is under intense pressure to contain the five-year insurgency, which is posing a growing security risk to Africa's top oil producer and its newly acquired status as the largest economy on the continent.

His government is due to host a World Economic Forum on Africa in Abuja next month to be attended by African heads of state and business leaders and will deploy more than 6,000 police and soldiers to protect participants.

Attacks by Boko Haram, which says it wants to carve out an Islamic state, have targeted police, military and government posts as well as schools and churches, killing more than 2,000 people in the last six months alone, and leaving the Nigerian military struggling to respond.

The teacher Musa said he saw eight bodies in the area of the Chibok attack on Tuesday morning, but did not identify the victims.

"Things are very bad here and everybody is sad," he said.

The Nigerian military did not immediately comment.

Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said security agencies were investigating Monday's bombing.

"Our security planning for the World Economic Forum on Africa is already well under way and will be the largest security operation ever mounted in this country for an international summit," she said in a statement to participants that was seen by Reuters.

Security personnel will secure an area of 250 square kms (100 square miles) around the May 7-9 event.

Nigeria's 170 million people are split between Muslims living largely in the north and Christians mostly in the south, and Boko Haram has shown before it can strike further south.

Popular Anger

Angry Abuja residents questioned why the government should give priority to ensuring no harm came to high-profile visitors while it was failing to guarantee daily security for Nigerians.

"They should protect us first and people will be attracted to come to Nigeria," Ajayi Ademola, a computer operator in a business center, told Reuters.

Local businesswoman Dorothy Ajunobi, referring to accusations that some politicians are manipulating the violence to try to serve their own narrow interests, said: "If government can protect adequately participants to a forum, they should be able to protect Nigerian citizens or otherwise it will now be clear this insecurity in Nigeria is political."

Visiting the scene of the bombing at Nyanya on Monday, Jonathan called the threat from Boko Haram "temporary."

But, despite a state of emergency declared last year in the northeast, and an offensive involving thousands of troops backed by aircraft, the army has failed to quell the revolt.

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, a northern politician who defected to Nigeria's main opposition in February from Jonathan's ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP), urged the government to accept foreign help in fighting militants.

Boko Haram militants are increasingly targeting civilians they accuse of collaborating with the army.

There had been no violence on such a scale near the capital since suicide car bombers targeted the offices of the newspaper This Day in Abuja and the northern city of Kaduna in April 2012.

A Christmas Day bombing of a church in Madalla, on the outskirts of Abuja, killed 37 people in 2011. Boko Haram also claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on the United Nations' Nigeria headquarters that killed 24 people on Aug. 26, 2011.

Boko Haram, which in the Hausa language means broadly "Western education is sinful", is loosely modeled on the Taliban movement in Afghanistan.

Additional reporting by Tim Cocks and Chijioke Ohuocha in Lagos, Camillus Eboh in Abuja and Pascal Fletcher in Johannesburg; Writing by Pascal Fletcher, Editing by Angus MacSwan

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Felix Onuah and Lanre Ola Featured World News Tue, 15 Apr 2014 14:00:00 -0400
As Easter Approaches, Report Says Academic Standards Expect Students to Learn About Jesus

While 2 billion Christians around the world prepare to celebrate Easter, millions of public school children in America won't be learning about the religious aspects of this holiday.

However, contrary to what many educators think, a new report released this week documents that state academic standards not only allow but in some cases expect public schools to teach about Jesus, the Bible and Christianity.

Gateways to Better Education has published its online report "The Bible in State Academic Standards." The 230-page report highlights state-by-state academic standards indicating ample opportunity for educators to teach about the Bible, Christian beliefs and Christians who were influential in history.

"There is a common misconception among many educators that teaching about the Bible and Christianity is not allowed in public school classrooms because of concerns over the establishment of religion," says Eric Buehrer, president of Gateways to Better Education. "The fact is public school students are expected to learn these things."

For example, California sixth-graders are expected to "note the origins of Christianity in the Jewish Messianic prophecies, the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as described in the New Testament, and the contribution of St. Paul the Apostle to the definition and spread of Christian beliefs (e.g., belief in the Trinity, resurrection, salvation)."

The report also includes the preambles of state constitutions that reference God because, as Buehrer explains, most states have an expectation that students will learn about their constitutions. It also includes state laws regarding freedom of religious expression.

Gateways is providing a free download of the report's 12-page introduction summarizing the document's findings. It gives examples of specific academic standards referencing the Bible, Jesus, the Ten Commandments, how Christianity has impacted social change, Christians in history, the religious aspects of holidays and America's Judeo-Christian heritage.

Featured U.S. News Tue, 15 Apr 2014 13:00:00 -0400
God's Divine Timing Allows Volunteers to Immediately Help Tornado Victims

Sometimes God puts His people in the right place at just the right time. That’s exactly what happened in the U.S. last week when a massive tornado swept through North Carolina.

A World Renew Disaster Response Services (DRS) team was working on long-term repairs from a 2011 disaster in Belhaven, N.C., when the EF2 tornado hit nearby Pantega. Two homes were destroyed and at least six more damaged by a twister measuring 300 yards wide, carrying winds up to 135 mph.

Volunteers who faithfully obeyed God’s call to help repair homes damaged by Hurricane Irene soon found themselves helping more families in Christ’s name.

“Our group was just finishing the day’s work in Belhaven at about 4 p.m. when the tornado warning was issued,” says one of the World Renew DRS volunteers, Peter Roukema.

After quickly regrouping, the team set off for Pantega.

While no one was killed by the April 7 tornado, multiple people were injured, and three had to be hospitalized. One was Carla Van Essendelft, eight months pregnant with her and her husband Mark’s seventh child.

“My biggest takeaway from this is that there is an almighty God that saved this family,” remarks one Pantega resident.

When Mark Van Essendelft saw the storm approaching, he moved his family from their home’s bathtub into a nearby ditch. A few minutes later, the tornado tore their house apart and scattered remnants across the landscape.

“The home was literally ripped from its foundation, and the family narrowly escaped with their lives,” Roukema says. 

“Their house and its contents had become a huge pile of rubble and ways lying 50 yards away in what was left of the trees. The entire roof was torn off and came to rest about a mile further down the road,” he says.

The World Renew team helped the Van Essendelfts cover the roof of one of the damaged buildings on their property with tarp to protect the structure from further damage. They helped other families affected by the storm in similar ways.

“From 7:30 p.m. until after midnight, DRS volunteers .. and I nailed plywood to replace blown-out windows and doors and secured tarps to damaged roofs,” Roukema says.

World Renew’s DRS volunteers were soon joined by others in the cleanup effort—friends, relatives, neighbors, local community groups and another World Renew DRS team. This one was a spring break team from the Oak Hill Evangelical Presbyterian Church youth group in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“We were all working together on a common cause,” Oak Hill leader Mark Wybenga told World Renew. “Our group sprang into action and worked late into the night to tarp damaged roofs to protect houses from the rain. We helped families and neighbors rummage through debris to find their precious belongings.

“We were so blessed to ... help minister unexpectedly to people in immediate need this way.”

This article originally appeared on

Katey Hearth/Mission Network News Featured U.S. News Tue, 15 Apr 2014 12:30:00 -0400
Boston Marks Anniversary of Bombing With Somber Ceremonies

Boston began commemorating the marathon bombing on a quiet note on Tuesday as Mayor Martin Walsh and Roman Catholic Cardinal Sean O'Malley visited wreaths lain at the spots where the two bombs went off a year ago on Tuesday, killing three people and injuring 264.

Accompanied by an honor guard of police, a group of dignitaries that also included Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and the family of the youngest victim, 8-year-old Martin Richard, the mayor and the cardinal stopped twice along Boylston Street near the race's finish line.

They embraced and spoke softly as bagpipes played but made no public remarks ahead of a memorial where Vice President Joe Biden was due to speak.

President Barack Obama praised the city's response to the attack.

"Today, we recognize the incredible courage and leadership of so many Bostonians in the wake of unspeakable tragedy," Obama said in a statement. "One year later, we also stand in awe of the men and women who continue to inspire us—learning to stand, walk, dance and run again."

After the memorial, which also will feature musical performances, Boston will observe a moment of silence at 2:49 p.m. EDT, the time the first bomb went off.

The April 15, 2013 blasts tore through the crowded finish line of the world-renowned race, injuring spectators, volunteers and athletes, in the worst mass-casualty attack on U.S. soil since the Sept. 11, 2011 attacks that killed some 3,000 people.

This year's race, set for April 21, will take place under heightened security, with the 36,000 runners and tens of thousands of expected spectators facing new restrictions, including bans on carrying backpacks into the race corridor.

Federal prosecutors say that a pair of ethnic Chechen brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, carried their homemade pressure-cooker bombs to the finish line in backpacks.

The bombs killed Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, 29, and Chinese national Lu Lingzi, 23.

Three days after the attack, the FBI released pictures of the suspected bombers and asked for the public's help in finding them. That prompted the Tsarnaev brothers to attempt a hasty flight from Boston, which began with them shooting dead Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier, prosecutors said, in an unsuccessful attempt to steal his gun.

The resulting police chase ended in a gun battle in the Boston suburb of Watertown. Tamerlan, 26, was killed; Dzhokhar, now 20, escaped before being captured on April 19.

The brother is awaiting trial on charges that carry the possibility of execution if he is convicted.

Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Grant McCool, James Dalgleish and Jonathan Oatis

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Scott Malone/Reuters Featured U.S. News Tue, 15 Apr 2014 12:00:00 -0400
Survey: Regular Bible Readers Give More Than Bible Skeptics

Last year, a study found that the United States was the world’s most charitable nation. Now, results from a recent survey may provide insight into why that is.

American Bible Society’s fourth annual "State of the Bible" survey included a new question about charitable giving. The results, when broken down by level of Bible engagement, reveal that those who are most engaged with the Bible—who read it regularly and hold a high view of Scripture—donated an average of $3,259 per year to nonprofit organizations. Those who demonstrated the most skepticism about the Bible averaged just $584 in nonprofit donations.

"While anyone who has ever taken a statistics class knows correlation does not equal causation, the results of this survey are certainly intriguing," says American Bible Society Executive Vice President for Mission Advancement R. Mark Dillon.

Lessons found in the pages of Scripture may have something to do with differences in giving between readers and nonreaders, Dillon says.

"Care for one's neighbor and support of one's faith community are themes that run throughout Scripture," he says. "It makes sense that those who spend time in God's Word will be more inclined to live out its principles."

The results are more significant when considered in light of average incomes. Engaged readers had an average reported annual income of $56,000, compared with an average of $67,000 for Bible skeptics.

Featured U.S. News Tue, 15 Apr 2014 11:30:00 -0400
White Supremacist to Be Charged With Kansas Passover Eve Hate Crimes

The suspect in the killings of three people at two Jewish facilities near Kansas City is expected to be charged under hate crime laws on Tuesday as information about his ties to white supremacy groups has emerged, law enforcement officials said.

Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, faces state and federal prosecution on hate crime charges after his arrest on Sunday for a shooting spree on Passover eve that killed a teenager and his grandfather outside a Jewish community center and a woman visiting her mother at a nearby Jewish retirement home.

Both facilities are in Overland Park, Kan., an upscale suburb outside Kansas City, Mo.

"My expectation is that there will be some sort of first appearance and charges filed today," said Overland Park Police spokesman Sean Reilly. Cross is being assigned a public defender, Reilly said.

Cross, who most recently was living in Aurora, Mo., and also goes by the name Frazier Glenn Miller, has a history of hatred of Jewish people and has made comments online about a desire for them to be exterminated, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center and other groups which have tracked his activities over the last several decades.

None of the victims killed Sunday was Jewish. The boy and his grandfather were members of an area Methodist church and the woman attended a Catholic church. But authorities said that does not matter in the filing of hate crime charges. The intent and beliefs of the suspect who committed the acts based upon his beliefs and biases is the key factor, according to law enforcement officials.

The Anti-Defamation League said Cross was one of the "more notorious white supremacists" in the United States in the early 1980s, though his involvement over the last decade has been on the periphery of the white supremacist movement.

The league issued a security bulletin to U.S. synagogues and Jewish communal institutions urging them to review security plans for the Passover holiday that started at sundown Monday.

Reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City and Carey Gillam in Overland Park; Editing by James Dalgleish

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Carey Gillam/Reuters Featured U.S. News Tue, 15 Apr 2014 10:30:00 -0400
St. Louis Man Stepping Out in Faith for ‘My Hope’ Easter Event

Joe Gallaher is a self-described introvert.

The husband, father of five and construction company project manager from St. Louis would rather quietly work in his garden or take a solitary hike than speak in front of a crowd.

“I’m not an accomplished evangelist,” Joe is quick to point out. “I’m a layperson.”

So it’s safe to say he is out of his comfort zone as he prepares to host a My Hope event at a 590-seat auditorium on Tuesday.

“It’s funny how God works,” Gallaher said. “We don’t know how many ushers we’re going to have. We don’t know how many counselors we’re going to have … and we don’t know how many people are gonna show up. But other than that, we’ve got it covered.”

By stepping out in faith, Gallaher is joining believers around the country who are sharing the gospel this Easter season with friends and neighbors who don’t have a relationship with Jesus.

The My Hope videos watched by millions last fall are now available on DVDon the Web and on dozens of television stations including TBN.

For Gallaher, My Hope has been an exercise in trust—one that began last year when he read about the evangelistic outreach coming to the U.S.

“I would always read about how it was going on in different countries,” Gallaher said. “I guess I kind of made a vow, in a sense, that when it came to America I was going to participate.”

Gallaher expected five to eight neighbors to attend the men’s My Hope event he planned last November at his home. He offered a cooler full of soft drinks, a fire pit (since “guys like fire”) and a willingness to be used by the Lord.

To Gallaher’s surprise, 16 men showed up. Each one watched “The Cross,” which presents the message of salvation through Billy Graham’s preaching and the true stories of rapper Lecrae and singer Lacey Sturm.

“I came away with the knowledge that everyone heard the gospel message,” Gallaher said. “And who can share that better than Dr. Billy Graham?”

It was also back in the fall when an unusual thought popped into Gallaher’s head while he was driving.

“I kind of had the whole idea flash in front of my mind in an instant,” he said. “I was imagining a theater of people watching the My Hope videos, having my church choir there singing hymns and someone giving the invitation. It just seemed like that was the thing I needed to do.

Fast-forward to today, and that flashbulb idea is about to be a reality.

It’s taken a lot of planning and a whole lot of prayer, but with the help of a dedicated group of believers, a large-scale My Hope Easter event will be held Tuesday in St. Louis.

Just as Gallaher pictured, there will be a choir and two My Hope videos shown—“The Cross” and “Defining Moments.”

There will also be a speaker—George McGovern, chaplain for the New York Giants and the New York Yankees. And a Billy Graham Evangelistic Assoc. staff member will give an invitation to accept Christ.

Quite the event for a guy who left his comfort zone in the dust.

“I didn’t have a road map or a plan at all,” Gallaher said. “It’s just so important to pray about it and so important to get a team of godly and righteous people.”

He can’t say enough about the friends and neighbors from various St. Louis churches that have rallied around the My Hope concept. They helped spread the word via radio ads, a newspaper insert and word of mouth. Now they’re praying together for salvation to come to that auditorium Tuesday night.

“I just keep praying that people are going be moved by the Holy Spirit,” Joe said. “And I keep thinking when people see “Defining Moments” on a big screen, it’s going to be so powerful. The way Dr. Graham preaches—it’s just laced with love.”

As far as his own role in the event, Gallaher says he has certainly been stretched—and stressed—at times. But he wouldn’t change a thing.

“I would say anybody who prays about this and feels like God wants to use them in this way should step out in faith,” Gallaher said. “And God will take them on a wonderful journey.”

It’s not too late to get involved. Click here to learn more about sharing the hope of Christ through My Hope this Easter.

This article originally appeared on

Kristy Etheridge/ Featured U.S. News Tue, 15 Apr 2014 10:00:00 -0400
Nigeria Bus Station Bombing Kills 71 on Edge of Capital

A morning rush hour bomb killed at least 71 people at a Nigerian bus station on the outskirts of the capital on Monday, raising concerns about the spread of an Islamist insurgency after the deadliest ever attack on Abuja.

President Goodluck Jonathan pointed the finger of suspicion at Boko Haram, although there was no immediate claim of responsibility from the Islamist militants who are active mainly in the northeast. As well as the dead, police said, 124 were wounded in the first attack on the federal capital in two years.

Visiting the scene, Jonathan denounced "the activities of those who are trying to move our country backwards" by staging such an attack. "We will get over it ... The issue of Boko Haram is temporary," he said, imploring Nigerians to be more vigilant in the face of suspicious characters.

Security experts suspect the explosion was inside a vehicle, said Air Commodore Charles Otegbade, director of search and rescue operations. The bus station, 8 km (5 miles) southwest of central Abuja, serves Nyanya, a poor, ethnically and religiously mixed satellite town where many residents work in the city.

"I was waiting to get on a bus when I heard a deafening explosion, then saw smoke," said Mimi Daniels, who escaped from the blast with minor injuries to her arm. "People were running around in panic."

Bloody remains lay strewn over the ground as security forces struggled to hold back a crowd of onlookers and fire crews hosed down a bus still holding the charred bodies of commuters.

"These are the remains of my friend," said a man, who gave his name as John, holding up a bloodied shirt. "His travel ticket with his name on was in the shirt pocket."

The attack underscored the vulnerability of Nigeria's federal capital, built in the 1980s in the geographic center of the country to replace coastal Lagos as the seat of government for what is now Africa's biggest economy and top oil producer.

Boko Haram militants are increasingly targeting civilians they accuse of collaborating with the government or security forces. [ID:nL6N0N50W6] Amnesty International estimates the conflict has killed 1,500 people in the past year.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki condemned the bombings and said the United States stood with Nigerians as they grapple with "violent extremism."

"We are outraged by these senseless acts of violence against innocent civilians," Psaki told a regular news briefing.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was "shocked and saddened by the many lives lost today in the bomb attack."

"The perpetrators of this attack, and those responsible for the continuing brutal attacks in the northeast of the country, must be brought to justice," he said.

'No Surprise'

The police said its agencies were on "red alert", and urged Nigerians to help with an investigation to find the killers.

"In some ways it's not a big surprise," said Kole Shettima, director of the Abuja office of the MacArthur Foundation, a U.S. charitable institution. "The situation has been escalating.

"It's a statement that they are still around and they can attack Abuja when they want, and instill fear."

In the past year, the militants, who want to carve an Islamic state out of Nigeria, have concentrated their attacks mostly in the northeast, where their insurgency started.

But an attempted jail break by Boko Haram suspects near the presidential villa in Abuja last month, which triggered a three-hour gun battle, may have used outside help, security sources say.

In a video posted on jihadist websites, the sect's purported leader Abubakar Shekau called on his "brethren" to take up arms, specifically threatening to attack Abuja and the south, which has so far never been targeted.

In a sign of how politicized violence is likely to be in the run-up to elections set for February 2015, the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) accused the main opposition All Progressives Congress of encouraging the blasts.

"Utterances by certain APC governors have been aimed at undermining our security forces and emboldening insurgents against the people," PDP spokesman Olisa Metuh said.

There had been no such violence near the capital since suicide car bombers targeted the offices of the newspaper This Day in Abuja and the northern city of Kaduna in April 2012.

Security forces at the time said that was because a Boko Haram cell in neighboring Niger state had been broken up.

A Christmas Day bombing of a church in Madalla, on the outskirts of Abuja, killed 37 people in 2011, although the main suspect in that attack is now behind bars. Boko Haram also claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on the United Nations' Nigeria headquarters that killed 24 people on Aug. 26, 2011.

Boko Haram, which in the Hausa language of largely Muslim northern Nigeria means broadly "Western education is sinful", is loosely modeled on the Taliban movement in Afghanistan, and has forged ties with al Qaeda-linked militants in the Sahara.

Control Risks analyst Thomas Hansen said the lack of attacks in Abuja in the past two years was probably thanks to a crackdown on Boko Haram, which had largely contained the group in the northeast.

He also said that if this bomb was the work of Boko Haram, the choice of target on the outskirts of Abuja, rather than the city center, may be a sign of constraints on its capabilities.

"The security provision in the center appears to be much better than on the outskirts. It's far easier to target that side of the city," he said, but he added that the attack may be a forewarning of more ambitious strikes to come.

Additional reporting by Camillus Eboh; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Alastair Macdonald, David Stamp, Jonathan Oatis and Mohammad Zargham

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Isaac Abrak and Felix Onuah/Reuters Featured World News Tue, 15 Apr 2014 09:30:00 -0400
Is There New Evidence That Jesus Had a Wife?

The Internet has been abuzz with intriguing headlines announcing that scholars have determined the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” papyrus is “authentic” and that there is “no forgery evidence” in the manuscript.

What exactly does this mean? And should Christians be concerned that a new discovery might contradict the biblical account and undermine their faith?

Actually, the report from scholars working with Harvard Divinity School found that the manuscript is much younger than previously thought. In other words, it is even further removed from the time of the New Testament than scholars originally believed—meaning that, at most, it is a very late myth without a stitch of historical support.

What the report did say was that there was no evidence that any part of this small manuscript had been forged, so what was written was “authentic” in terms of not being the work of a modern forger.

But the scholars did not determine that the apparent reference to Jesus having a wife was authentic. How could they?

As New Testament scholar Darrell Bock observed back in September 2012 when the find was first announced, “In the New Testament, the church is presented as the bride of Christ. And then in Gnostic Christianity in particular, there’s a ritual—about which we don’t know very much—that portrayed the church as the bride of Christ. So we could simply have a metaphorical reference to the church as the bride, or the wife, of Christ.”

And what if this text recorded Jesus as saying that one of His disciples would be His wife?

Bock explained, “This would be the first text—out of hundreds of texts that we have about Jesus—that would indicate that he was married, if it’s even saying that. So to suggest that one text overturns multiple texts, and multiple centuries, of what has been said about Jesus and what’s been articulated about him, I think is not a very wise place to go, just simply from a historical point of view.”

Initially, when Harvard professor Karen King learned about this papyrus fragment written in the Coptic language, which was used by the ancient, heretical gnostic Christians, she thought it might have been a forgery, as did other scholars, especially from the Vatican. But upon further study, she concluded it was not, dating it to the fourth century A.D.

Yet how seriously should we take a fourth-century report about Jesus, who was crucified around 30 A.D., especially when it contradicts every other piece of evidence we have about Jesus up to that time? As Bock said, this “is not a very wise place to go, just simply from a historical point of view.”

To give you a parallel example, how seriously would future historians take a report written 300 years after Pearl Harbor that contradicted every single report that preceded it, including all reports from all eye witnesses?

But the latest report—the one creating such a stir—claims that the tiny manuscript should not be dated to the fourth century. Instead, scholars have now dated it to approximately 741 A.D., meaning more than 700 years after the time of Jesus. What kind of “evidence” is this?

It would be similar to historians 1,000 years from now finding a letter written in the year 2510 claiming that George Washington, who died in 1799, was actually an alien from Mars. How seriously would it be taken? (Come to think of it, the Ancient Aliens series has probably made a similar claim already!)

There remains no evidence of any kind that Jesus had a wife (note to the reader: Dan Brown’s fictional Da Vinci Code is not evidence), and the only thing scholars did was determine that this small papyrus fragment was not a modern forgery, although it is hundreds of years younger than they originally thought.

Of course, it is still not totally clear that the manuscript even claims Jesus had a wife, but we know that within 150 years of the time of Jesus, there were fictional Gospels circulating with all kinds of bogus claims. Should it surprise us, then, that many centuries later, another fictitious account with yet another new claim would be written down?

Unfortunately, many casual readers and skeptics now think that some “authentic” new evidence has been discovered supporting the idea that Jesus was married, and even Christians are asking if they should be concerned about this latest find.

Rest assured that nothing has been discovered that even remotely challenges the biblical account, and if this very late text does imply that Jesus had a wife, what we have is an authentic fabrication and nothing more.

Michael Brown is author of Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message 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.

Michael Brown Featured In the Line of Fire Opinion Mon, 14 Apr 2014 09:00:00 -0400
YouVersion Upgrades Bible App to Build Community

Ever want to discuss the Bible and your faith journey but are reluctant to do so on Facebook and other social networks with hundreds of friends and followers?

In Bible App 5, the latest version of its wildly popular and free Bible app, YouVersion has added new features to help users share the Bible within a select set of relationships—not just anyone, but the people they trust most.

Think of it as the Bible with close friends included.

"Bible App 5 represents the biggest update YouVersion has ever made," says Bobby Gruenewald, innovation pastor of in Oklahoma, which created the Bible app already downloaded on more than 136 million mobile devices. 

"While it still allows everyone the same access to Scripture," he says, "we've added a robust community-sharing feature. So now not only can you experience Scripture individually, but also collectively in the context of community and relationships with other people—just as God intended. It's the best of both worlds." 

The latest version of the app creates opportunities for users to extend the conversation from church on Sunday to throughout the week with people they know and trust. A user can see what friends are highlighting and bookmarking, ask honest and sincere questions about what's being read, or simply reach out and engage in a conversation with someone who is going through a difficult time.

Bible App 5 also creates opportunities in parts of the world where people are not allowed to speak openly with others about the Bible.

"It will help people have those conversations, some for the very first time," Gruenewald says.

YouVersion users already share over 250,000 Bible passages daily via texting and social networks. While that's incredible, Gruenewald says there's still a need to create an environment for deeper conversation.

"Building community and relationships with people we know and love through Scripture is at the very foundation of the church," he says. "It's critical to how this generation will make God's Word a part of their everyday life."

Susan Arpin Featured U.S. News Mon, 14 Apr 2014 16:30:00 -0400
Deducting Some Misery From Tax Time

For many Americans, one of the most stressful days of the year is just ahead. Tax deadline is Tuesday, and if you're one of the millions still scrambling to file, the Internal Revenue Service has a few suggestions that could help.

But to take advantage of more meaningful deductions that the IRS doesn't like to publicize, a tax expert may help make the process less painful.

Most of us are familiar with federal deductions such as moving expenses or charitable giving, including deductions for items like clothes and furniture.

But the persistent filer can find some unusual ways to recoup what Uncle Sam has taken away: like deductions for shipping your pet across the country, or hot tubs for those who can get a doctor to sign off on their medical soaking needs, or the cost of mouth therapy by playing a musical instrument for some who have recently had work done by an orthodontist.

Or, if you've racked up whaling expenses in 2013, you may be able to deduct as much as $10,000.

Kathy Pickering, vice president of the Tax Institute at H&R Block, said deduction requests run the gamut.

"A body builder wanted to know if he could take posing oil as a legitimate business expense for his business, and in that set of circumstances, that was OK," Pickering said.

For others, relieving the tax burden is more serious. The IRS sends out more than 5 million of the dreaded 1099-C forms every year.

The form is to declare tax on the forgiveness of debt. That means millions are paying taxes on income that doesn't exist.

Dan Pilla, author of the book, How to Eliminate Taxes on Debt Forgiveness, recently described on The 700 Club how little-known rules allow for a way out for many people who have gone through the nightmare of financial ruin.

"The rule is, if you are insolvent as of the day the debt is forgiven, then that cancellation of debt is not taxable income," Pilla explained.

He said the government and creditors don't make insolvent taxpayers aware of a form that could help.

"So if you get one of these 1099-Cs, as millions of people will do here—already have for this filing season, there's a form you can put with your tax return that expresses what these exceptions are so you don't get taxed on it," Pilla said.

That makes it essential that those who qualify make their own case to the government.

As the tax code becomes increasingly complex and oppressive for those who pay taxes, it's more important than ever to have help in navigating the bureaucratic jungle.

John Waage/CBN News Featured Marketplace Mon, 14 Apr 2014 15:30:00 -0400
Evangelist Nick Vujicic Offers Hugs in Times Square to Support Anti-Bullying Campaign

Nick Vujicic will be launching Stand Strong with a unique event on its release date Tuesday in New York City’s Times Square. The New York Times best-selling author and motivational speaker will be giving out hugs in support of his anti-bullying campaign to promote Stand Strong.

Vujicic’s Times Square appearance is part of his 10,000 Hugs Stand Strong Tour. Until recently, he held the Guinness World Record for Most Hugs in One Hour at 1,749.

Vujicic was born with no arms and no legs and is president and founder of the nonprofit organization Life Without Limbs. As a child, he was bullied extensively and attempted suicide. His faith and determination ultimately helped him to overcome the bullying.

His previous books have been translated into 32 different languages, and he has spoken in 54 countries, sharing his message with an estimated 400 million people during his 2013 world tour outreach.

Jeremy Burns/Christian Retailing Featured U.S. News Mon, 14 Apr 2014 14:00:00 -0400
Suspect in Killings at Kansas Jewish Centers Has Hate-Filled History

The suspect in the Passover Eve killings of three people at two Jewish community facilities in a Kansas City suburb has a long history of racism and anti-Semitism, human rights groups said on Monday.

Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, is facing charges of premeditated murder and is scheduled for an initial court appearance on Monday afternoon. He was arrested Sunday after a shooting spree that killed a 14-year-old boy and his grandfather outside a popular Jewish community center, and a third victim outside a nearby Jewish retirement home.

Both facilities are in Overland Park, Kan., an upscale suburb outside Kansas City, Mo.

Police said it was too early to determine if Sunday's killings were motivated by anti-Semitism, but both the Southern Poverty Law Center, a leading anti-hate group, and the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights (IREHR) said the suspect was a former senior member of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan movement.

The groups said Cross, a Missouri man who also goes by the name Frazier Glenn Miller, was involved in creating an armed paramilitary organization in North Carolina 20 years ago.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder issued a statement Monday pledging federal help in determining whether or not the federal hate crimes statute was implicated in the "heinous" killings.

"I was horrified to learn of this weekend's tragic shootings outside Kansas City. These senseless acts of violence are all the more heartbreaking as they were perpetrated on the eve of the solemn occasion of Passover," Holder said.

The Southern Poverty Law Center said Cross is a "raging anti-Semite" who has posted online rantings that include "No Jews, Just Right." And the IREHR said he idolizes Adolf Hitler.

"His worship for Hitler and Hitlerism is real," said Leonard Zeskind, president of IREHR, in a statement issued Monday.

Overland Park Police were not commenting on the shooter's motives.

The shootings, which took place on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Passover, started around 1 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City.

High school student Reat Griffin Underwood, 14, was with his grandfather, William Corporon, outside the Jewish Community Center when attacked. The teenager, a member of an area Methodist church, was at the center to audition for a singing competition, according to family member Will Corporon.

The grandfather died at the scene and the boy died later at a hospital, police said.

The shooter then drove a little more than a mile away to the Village Shalom retirement community and fatally shot a woman there, police said.

The woman killed was Terri LeManno, an occupational therapist and married mother of two children, according to a statement issued Monday by the Children's Center for the Visually Impaired where LeManno was employed.

It appeared the gunman had used a shotgun and possibly other firearms, police said.

President Barack Obama offered condolences. "While we do not know all of the details ... the initial reports are heartbreaking," Obama said in a statement.

The Jewish Community Center, known locally as "The J" is a popular spot for many families throughout the area, Jewish or not. It is also the site of Kansas City's only Jewish community day school, the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy.

"The thought of something like that happening is terrifying," said David Wainestock, who rushed to the Jewish Community Center to retrieve his 16-year-old daughter who had been among the people temporarily locked down.

"In the Midwest we think we're safe from this type of thing. But I guess it doesn't make any difference now."

Rabbi David Glickman, of the Beth Shalom synagogue in Overland Park, was at home preparing for the Jewish Passover holiday when he heard the news of the shooting.

"Everybody is shocked that it would happen here," said Glickman. "This is a community that enjoys very strong and positive relations between the Jewish community and the rest of the community."

The Kansas City area's Jewish community numbers about 20,000.

Reporting by Kevin Murphy and Carey Gillam in Kansas City; Additional reporting by Curtis Skinner and Chris Michaud in New York; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, John Stonestreet and Tom Brown

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Carey Gillam/Reuters Featured U.S. News Mon, 14 Apr 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Catholic Church Abuse Commission: Deceased Dutch Bishop Was Child Molester

The Dutch Catholic Church, in a rare admission of guilt among senior clergy, has confirmed that a bishop who died last year had sexually abused two boys decades earlier.

The Diocese of Roermond said a Church commission had found that accusations against former Bishop Joannes Gijsen, dating back to his time as chaplain at a minor seminary from 1958 to 1961, were "well founded."

The admission came on Friday, the same day that Pope Francis made his first public plea for forgiveness for "all the evil" committed by priests who molested children, and said the Church had to do more to discipline wayward clerics.

Mea Culpa, a Dutch group supporting abuse victims, welcomed the Roermond statement. But it said the accusations had been made while Gijsen was alive, and noted critically that "complaints against living suspects are often declared unfounded."

Bishop Frans Wiertz, current head of Roermond Diocese, said he accepted the commission's findings and "regrets the abuse and suffering inflicted on the victims." He has personally met the two men and apologized to them, he said.

The Church's statement put Gijsen, who headed the diocese in southeastern Netherlands from 1972 to 1993, among the few senior Catholic clergy worldwide found guilty of abuse.

Katholiek Nieuwsblad, the weekly that broke the story, said the commission found Gijsen had groped the two boys and forced one to perform oral sex.

Gijsen had been confronted with the oral sex accusation in 2011, but denied knowing his accuser. The commission reopened his case a week after Gijsen died because it received the second complaint of improper genital touching, the weekly said. It concluded that Gijsen's denial was not credible because the victim's family had said he used to visit them.

Bishops Blamed

Gijsen was one of several strict conservative bishops whom the Vatican appointed in the Netherlands—often over the protests of priests and parishioners—to roll back the strongly reformist turn that the Church took there in the 1960s.

He officially stepped down as bishop of Roermond in 1993 on health grounds, but later served as bishop of the tiny Catholic community in Iceland from 1996 to 2007. An abuse commission there accused him of covering up molestation by another priest.

Few bishops have been accused of active abuse in the scandal, which has been rocking the Catholic Church for over two decades. Most of the prelates who have stepped down did so for covering up the misdeeds of their priests.

Two cardinals—Hans Hermann Groer of Vienna and Edinburgh's Keith O'Brien—quit in disgrace amid accusations of sexual misconduct with seminarians. A Belgian bishop, Roger Vangheluwe of Bruges, stepped down after admitting molesting his nephew.

The Vatican has been investigating sexual abuse allegations against Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, its former nuncio (ambassador) to the Dominican Republic, since last September. His whereabouts and the status of his case are not known.

Pope Francis, who has been criticized by victims' support groups for not taking a sufficiently strong stand against sexual abuse, last month named a high-level group including an Irish abuse victim to help fight sexual abuse in the Church.

That came after the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child accused the Church in February of systematically turning a blind eye to clerical sexual abuse of minors. The Vatican called its report "distorted" and "unfair."

Terry McKiernan, founder of the website, which documents abuse cases, welcomed the pope's latest comments but said victims wanted to see Church leaders taken to task for allowing abuse to continue.

"The best thing he could have done today would have been to step up to the microphone and announce that he is beginning to remove bishops who have behaved criminally in keeping priests in ministries where they don't belong," he said.

Reporting by Tom Heneghan

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Tom Heneghan/Reuters Featured World News Mon, 14 Apr 2014 12:30:00 -0400
Persecuted Christian Asia Bibi's Appeal Hearing Delayed for Third Time

Appeal proceedings have been delayed again in the case of Asia Bibi, the Christian mother of five sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Lahore high court judges Sardar Tariq Masood and Abdul Sami Khan adjourned the case shortly after the hearing began and arguments were presented.

Court sources say that a new date for the appeal is expected tomorrow in a case that has dragged on without any progress for quite some time.

For several months, extremist groups have been making threats against the judges in order to pressure them to confirm the death penalty imposed by the lower court.

However, the woman's lawyers say they remain confident and hopeful that the high court will soon overturn her conviction and let her go.

In recent days, Pakistani Christians have promoted days of fasting and prayer on behalf of Asia Bibi and Sawan Masih, both of whom are innocent but sentenced to death under the infamous "black law."

Asia Bibi, who has been on death row since November 2010 and held under solitary confinement on security grounds, has become a symbol of the fight against blasphemy.

Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer and Federal Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, were killed in 2011 for coming to her defense.

Masih, a 26-year-old Christian from Lahore, was convicted recently by a lower court on false charges as a result of a personal dispute with the person who reported him.

It is sad "to see how the situation in Pakistan is getting worse by the day, not only for minorities, but especially for women and girls," Father James Chand, from the Archdiocese of Lahore, told AsiaNews.

"Let us continue to pray for Asia Bibi and Sawan Masih," he added.

Father Arthur Nat, a priest from Central Punjab, joined Chand's appeal, calling for "a day of fasting and prayer on Wednesday."

Meanwhile, a new case of child sexual assault has been reported. On Sunday, a 12-year-old girl was raped by an Islamic cleric in a Punjab mosque.

Witnesses say the imam sent students home, asking the girl to stay. He then assaulted her ​​with the help of four boys.

The girl's family plans to report the crime, but it appears the religious leader has already fled the area without leaving a trace.

Click here to read this article on

Asia News Featured World News Mon, 14 Apr 2014 12:00:00 -0400
Arkansas to Appeal Ruling on Abortion Restriction Law

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said on Friday he would appeal a federal judge's decision striking down a state law that bans most abortions starting at 12 weeks of pregnancy, one of the most stringent such statutes in the United States.

U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright ruled last month that the Arkansas law violated the U.S. Supreme Court decision that a woman has the right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, which medical experts say is around the 23-to-24-week mark

A number of states have recently enacted restrictive bans on abortion, including North Dakota, Arizona and Texas, setting off a round of court battles.

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat, vetoed the law after it was passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature in March 2013, citing its conflict with Supreme Court doctrine, but his veto was overridden.

McDaniel, who had previously echoed Beebe's reservations about the bill, said in a statement he would appeal the ruling with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in St. Louis.

As enacted, the Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act would have banned most abortions at or after 12 weeks of pregnancy, if a fetal heartbeat could be detected by standard ultrasound.

Doctors who were found to violate the statute would have risked having their licenses revoked by the state medical board.

Exemptions would have been allowed in cases where the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, if the life of the mother was in danger, or in cases of a gross fetal abnormality that made the fetus' survival impossible.

Editing by Paul Thomasch and Leslie Adler

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Lisa Bose McDermott/Reuters Featured U.S. News Mon, 14 Apr 2014 11:30:00 -0400
Syrian Army Recaptures Ancient Christian Town Near Lebanese Border

Syrian soldiers backed by Hezbollah fighters recaptured the town of Maaloula, north of Damascus, on Monday, military sources and state television said, further squeezing rebels' supply routes through the Qalamoun mountains into Lebanon.

Islamist fighters, some from the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, had taken over part of the ancient Christian town in December and held several nuns captive until releasing them in March in a prisoner exchange deal.

Government forces have recaptured several rebel-held areas and border towns in recent months, closing off supply routes from Lebanon and securing the main highway leading north from Damascus towards central Syria, Homs and the Mediterranean.

"They are inside Maaloula now. It is under their complete control, including the monastery of Mar Thecla," a military source in contact with government fighters on the ground said.

At another ancient Christian site, Mar Sarkis—a Greek Orthodox monastery, on a hilltop above Maaloula, which dates back to the fourth century—a Reuters witness saw crosses and pictures of saints smashed and covered with dust on the floor.

"God willing, the army will be able to free all of the Qalamoun area within days," a Syrian army officer in Maaloula told Reuters. "Most of the terrorists have been killed and others fled to nearby villages.

"We can say that 80 percent of Qalamoun is under the control of the Syrian army."

Syrian state television aired pictures of bodies it said were Nusra fighters killed during the offensive.

Maaloula, 5 km (3 miles) from the main road linking Damascus to Homs, has changed hands at least four times in attacks and counter-assaults by rebels and government forces.

Control of the road would help secure President Bashar al-Assad's grip over central Syria, and would also enable safe passage for hundreds of tonnes of chemical agents which are due to be shipped out of the country this year to be destroyed.

Assad, who appeared on the verge of defeat last year, said on Sunday that the conflict was at a "turning point" in his favor.

In the last few weeks, his forces have recaptured strategic towns along the Lebanese border including Yabroud and Rankous near Maaloula.

Maaloula's churches and monasteries attracted both Christian and Muslim pilgrims before the conflict. Some of its inhabitants still speak Aramaic, the language of Christ, and the monastery of Mar Thecla has a reputation among believers for miraculous cures.

Syria's Christian community, about 10 percent of the population, is wary of the rising power of Islamist groups within the rebel movement.

Only a small percentage of Christians have taken up arms in the civil war that broadly pits minorities, in particular Assad's Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, against the Sunni Muslim majority.

Reporting by Mariam Karouny; Editing by Louise Ireland

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Firas Makdesi/Reuters Featured World News Mon, 14 Apr 2014 11:00:00 -0400
WATCH: Huckabee Warns GOP on Ditching Social Issues

Watch Mike Huckabee's interview on The Brody File show last week. When asked what would happen with evangelical voters if the GOP ditches and downplays social issues, he said, “It just leaves them at home. They just don't go vote."

And when it comes to his view on traditional marriage? "I'm not going to change my view just to win your vote."

Watch below.

David Brody/CBN News Featured Politics Mon, 14 Apr 2014 10:30:00 -0400
Easter Is Starting Point for Evangelism, Not Finish Line

Easter is one of the two biggest weekends for most churches in terms of attendance. I see this as a great opportunity for evangelism to begin and for a relationship to start between your church and all of the visitors who come that Sunday. You should do everything you can to leverage Easter weekend for growth.

At the same time, it’s important not to "put all your eggs in the Easter basket." What I mean is, Easter is a great starting point for evangelism, but it’s not the finish line, at least not for a purpose-driven church. In our culture, it usually takes multiple exposures to the gospel for someone to make a decision to follow Jesus. Let me explain.

Give People More Than One Week

Many churches offer a come-forward invitation—which, by the way, I used to do myself, Billy Graham-style, when I would preach evangelistic crusades. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with altar calls. But often the emphasis is on making a decision in the moment, and often there is a lot of pressure.

If we’re not careful, it becomes a battle of the wills, and if we unintentionally fall into the trap of emotionally coercing people into making an instant decision, it becomes a battle of wills between the pastor and the person in the congregation. This often hardens hearts rather than softening them. I say if the fruit is ripe, you don’t have to yank it.

The fact is, many people come to church for many different motives. We believe if they’ll just keep coming, it is inevitable that the Holy Spirit is going to speak to them. It’s just a matter of time. God’s Word has life-giving power and does not return void. When we share it faithfully, it brings the spiritually dead back to life. Don’t be in a hurry to force people to make a premature decision. Let Easter Sunday be the start of a longer-term relationship.

You probably didn’t receive Christ the first time you heard the Good News. I didn’t either. I had to think about it. So while we need to present the gospel clearly and always give people an opportunity to respond by receiving Christ, we don’t have to apply more pressure than the Holy Spirit does.

We believe that everyone must make a decision about what they will do with Jesus and that only those who decide to receive Him will spend eternity in heaven. But we’re interested in far more than just the initial decision. We’re interested in making disciples. People who make decisions under pressure tend to drop away quicker once the pressure's off, but decisions that are made after people have seriously considered the implications of following Christ are the decisions that last.

Give People More Than One Way

We believe that there are many, many ways to reach people for Christ. And the more hooks you use, the more fish you’re going to catch. Obviously, the primary weekend worship service will be the most common way that people are exposed to the gospel, but many people come to know Jesus through a small group, a recovery ministry, an outreach event or in a lay counseling situation. So think beyond the Easter invitation to how evangelistic all of your ministries are.

Give People Room to Grow

We believe that in sharing the Good News, you begin where people are, not where you want them to be. We don’t expect people to act like believers until they are believers. The Bible does not say, “Clean up your act and then come to Christ.” It says, “Come to Christ and He’ll help you clean up your act.”

There are people who come to church with all kinds of bad habits, but the church is not a hotel for saints. It’s a hospital for sinners. It’s not where we walk around in dress clothes and parade our piety. What we do is accept people where they are.

And by the way, there’s a difference between acceptance and approval. You can accept a person without approving of their sin. Jesus did. He accepted the woman caught in the act of adultery, but He didn’t approve of her sin. He accepted without approving. You love the person without approving of the lifestyle.

Easter is a big weekend. I’m praying for pastors and churches all over the world as we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, that God would help churches to meet and reach new people as never before. But I also pray that churches focus on being healthy for the long haul so that people find Christ week after week.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., 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, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit

Rick Warren Featured Opinion Mon, 14 Apr 2014 10:00:00 -0400
After Battling Addictions, Creed Frontman Scott Stapp Renews His Faith

Even in his darkest hours, trapped in a maelstrom of drugs, alcohol, and rock ‘n’ roll, Scott Stapp never lost faith in God. The Creed frontman said the only one he lost faith in was himself.

Beginning in the late 1990s, Stapp’s soulful voice and Creed’s guitar-powered rock brought the band to the top of the charts, selling 60 million albums and releasing 11 No. 1 hits including “Higher” and the Grammy-winning “With Arms Wide Open.”

But on the road to stardom, Stapp lost control of his life.

“It amplified all my problems,” he said of fame and fortune in a phone conversation. “It made every single problem in my life that much bigger, that much on the world stage, being under a microscope. Even your family and friends look at you different.”

Stapp began drinking heavily and became addicted to prescription drugs. He had a serious car accident in 2002, suffering vertebrae damage and a concussion. In 2006 he fell from a hotel balcony in Miami, hitting a ledge 40 feet below. He fractured his skull and suffered numerous broken bones. In his 2012 autobiography, Sinner’s Creed, Stapp said he would have died if rapper T.I. had not found him lying in a pool of blood two hours later.

Life hit rock-bottom one night when he found himself on his hands and knees in his backyard at 3 in the morning, desperate for help.

“I think that at some level I had to get broken to the point of complete surrender, where I could no longer depend on myself or anyone else and I only had one place to turn to, and I cried out to God for help,” Stapp said. “And right at that moment is when my life began to change.”

Stapp went through rehab and turned his life around.

These days, Stapp said, his only “meds” are running five miles a day and being surrounded by the love of his wife, three children and God.

The 40-year-old rocker said he has resolved the conflicts that lingered from being raised in a strict fundamentalist Christian family led by a spiritually “abusive” stepfather.

He said his stepfather thought he was doing the right thing by imposing legalistic Christian standards. What he was missing, Stapp said, was the love St. Paul writes about in his letter to the Corinthians: “Love is patient, love is kind. … It is not easily angered.”

Stapp speaks with enthusiasm about reclaiming his life and renewing his relationship with God. He is overjoyed to have escaped death and seeks to “pay my experience forward by helping others.”

The primary way he shares his story is through his music, particularly his new solo album, Proof of Life.

“In hindsight, I guess my art and my music is a form of therapy for me. It’s a way to deal with things going on in my life and in my mind,” he said.

Jeff Howe, program director at YES-FM Christian radio, said the Toledo, Ohio, station is playing Stapp’s solo music and noted that his single, “Slow Suicide,” reached No. 1 on the national Christian rock charts.

“One thing going for him is that he speaks from the heart and shares his personal experiences in his music. The current generation wants it to be real,” Howe said. “They can spot phonies. His experience connects with people.”

Stapp called Proof of Life a “transformational record” that has helped him “turn that mess into a message.”

“It’s a fitting title because I had one foot in the grave and I was living in an ‘on-the-way-to-death’ place,” he said. “I had been written off by friends, certain family members, my business, and there were even rumors that I had died. So for me, this album was literally Proof of Life. It’s not the end; it’s the beginning.”

David Yonke is the editor of Toledo Faith & Values.

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

David Yonke Featured Culture Mon, 14 Apr 2014 09:30:00 -0400
Looking Back and Looking Ahead for the Assemblies of God

One hundred years ago, 300 people gathered in Hot Springs, Ark., drawn by what must have seemed an overwhelming vision: to bring organization and structure to a growing, fiery Pentecostal revival. Church history now recognizes these godly men and women as the first general council of the Assemblies of God, which has become one of the largest Christian movements in the world.

On April 10, 2014, another group of 300 made their way to Hot Springs—this time to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the AG at the site of its origin—and I was honored to be among them. You see, the AG was where I found a home after I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. Today, as a minister, I think of the AG as a great old house, with the kind of impressive structure I’m privileged to continue building upon. To be able to gather with current leaders I admire and pay tribute to those who laid its foundation was a holy and humbling experience.

This symbolic Centennial Celebration was sponsored by the AG Trust, which provides support for church plants and special initiatives of the denomination. Though the stage is bigger and the lights are brighter than they were in 1914, I imagine our agenda probably didn’t vary too much from that of the AG’s founding fathers and mothers. There were nostalgic “camp meeting” style sessions, extended times at the altar, prayers for the sick, and lively southern gospel songs led by the Goodman Revival. Speakers like Alton Garrison, assistant general superintendent of the AG; Wilfredo De Jesús, senior pastor of New Life Covenant Church, Chicago; and Greg Mundis, executive director of AG World Missions discussed the denomination’s rich roots, and the crowning moment was the recreation of a historic photo of the original 300. I’ll never forget what it was like to stand there at the very spot where my own spiritual heritage originated.

But as Dr. George O. Wood, general superintendent of the AG, emphasized, it was more than “a feel-good look back at our past.” As he put it, “We're also looking ahead to what the Holy Spirit has for us for the next 100 years.”

As I look ahead, like I shared at the Centennial Celebration, I believe God wants His church to be large and loud. With more than 66 million members and 362,000 churches, I would say the AG has made a significant contribution to both the numbers and the noise of the Christian community already. But it’s a story that’s still being written on a global scale. I’ve seen the movement become increasingly evangelistic, increasingly diverse, increasingly multigenerational, and increasingly involved in education, church planting and missions around the world.

This theme of both remembrance and renewal is perhaps best embodied by what happened at the final evening service. As the preaching concluded, a group of teens was invited to share. Then the older generation was called forward to lay hands on and bless them. As I reflect on this image—one of honoring the past, embracing the present and empowering the future—I hope it might continue to inspire us in our lives, our homes and our ministries.

Rob Ketterling is senior pastor of River Valley Church in the Twin Cities, Minn. His book Change Before You Have To is available through Influence Resources.

Aug. 5-10, 2014, believers from every corner of the globe are invited to The Centennial, a much-anticipated weeklong conference marking the Assemblies of God’s first 100 years and the many more to come. For more information about the events of that week and how to register, visit

Rob Ketterling Featured U.S. News Fri, 11 Apr 2014 19:00:00 -0400
End-Times Disasters Abound, but Jesus' Comeback Offers Eternal Hope

In recent years, we have seen devastating environmental disasters—tornadoes, fires, floods, hurricanes and snow storms—that have destroyed homes and entire communities. We have seen random school shootings that have taken the lives of innocent students, leaving families emotionally distraught. We have seen sadistic terrorist attacks tear at the very foundation of a nation’s security and identity, ushering in waves of fear and hatred. And the list goes on.

Every day we either read or watch or hear of a new disaster, so that the one that happened yesterday is quickly forgotten with the news of one that happens today. And the one that happens today will be driven from our minds by what happens tomorrow. Even if the disaster is of record-breaking, biblical proportions, within a short time it is no longer front-page news and becomes just a statistic or an asterisk in other stories.

We soon forget that those who lived through whatever the disaster was are still struggling to cope. To take the next breath. To survive financially and physically and emotionally and in every other way. It can be overwhelming to rebuild. From scratch. From nothing into something. The comeback trail can be long and hard and flooded with tears.

Which is why Easter pulsates with hope. After the horror of the cross on Friday, after the agony of knowing that God’s Son was dead on Saturday, the beginning of His comeback story exploded into human history with an empty tomb!

Exploded With an Empty Tomb

From the following verses, list as much proof for the resurrection of Jesus Christ as you can find: John 20:1-8, 10-18, 19-20, 24-29 and 21:1-14; Matthew 28:1-10 and 11-15; Luke 24:1-3, 13-15 and 36-39; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8; and Revelation 2:8.

Give phrases that prove His resurrection was not spiritual or mystical but literal and physical, from Luke 24:36-40, 41-43; and John 20:24-29.

How serious a matter is it to reject the proof of the Resurrection? See 1 Corinthians 15:12-19.

Is Jesus still alive today? Read Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 6:8-10, 7:54-56 and 9:1-6. What does this mean to you?

What experiences in your own life or in the lives of others you know offer further proof that Jesus is not dead but is indeed alive today?

The tomb was empty. Do you truly believe that? Your own comeback begins with a positive answer.

Experienced With Power

How does the living Lord Jesus Christ impart power to you and me for our own comeback? Refer to Luke 24:45-49; Acts 1:1-8, 2:1-4, 16-18 and 3:1-16.

What astounding connection does Paul make between the resurrection of Jesus and the life of believers? See Ephesians 1:18-21.

How was this power demonstrated in Acts 3:1-4:4; John 18:10-18 and 25-27 with Acts 4:13? Acts 4:33? Acts 9:1-20?

In what way have you experienced the power of the risen Christ to enable you to boldly share the gospel with an unbeliever? To free you from guilt? To break an addiction? To overcome a habit? To extend forgiveness to your wounder? To love your enemy? Or to ________________? Fill in the blank.

What encouragement do you receive from Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21 as you struggle to come back?

Ends With Glory

How does His comeback story give you hope for tomorrow? See 1 Corinthians 15:20-22, 2 Corinthians 4:13-14 and Revelation 3:11.

In what way are you encouraged today by the promises given because Jesus lives? Read Hebrews 7:23-28, 1 Corinthians 15:51-58, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, Hebrews 12:2-3 and 
1 Peter 1:3-5.

What promise for not only your future, but also the future of the world directly rests on the fact that Jesus is alive? See John 14:1-3 and Acts 1:10-11.

How did Jesus allude to His comeback during His trial before the religious leaders in Matthew 26:63-66?

Describe the climax of His comeback story, as seen in Revelation 1:7, 12-16, 4:1, 5:6-12 and 19:6-16.

How does the end of His comeback story impact the end of your own? See Romans 8:16-17 and 1 Peter 1:6-9.

Emboldens Us to Tell Others

If Jesus never came back from the dead—if He was not raised—what difference would that make to you? To our world?

Who do you know who is living as though Jesus was dead? What difference do you think it would make to them if they could know He is alive?

How did the world in the first century, as well as the generations that have followed, know Jesus had risen from the dead? See John 15:26-27, Matthew 28:5-7, Acts 2:22-24, Acts 5:27-32 and Acts 10:39-43.

How will your family, your friends and your world know Jesus is alive and is coming back?

Would you celebrate this Easter by telling others that His comeback story can be theirs?

The wonderful, good news of the gospel is that there can be a comeback story for each of us. Not only can we rebuild our lives, but we can actually be reborn! Because Jesus lives, we can live too—not just one day in heaven, but right here and now as we struggle with our own comeback stories from alcoholism, addiction, depression, disaster, betrayal, brokenness, bankruptcy or whatever has seemed to bury us. We, too, can explode into abundant life and joy and hope and power through fully trusting in Him. As we work out the day-to-day process of coming back, we can experience His peace and power and presence and purpose. And one day, our comeback trail will end at His throne in our heavenly home and we will reign with Him in glory. Now that’s a story to tell! 

Anne Graham Lotz, founder of AnGeL ministries, has proclaimed God’s Word worldwide for more than 30 years. Her newest book, Wounded by God’s People, is available at

This story can be found at

Anne Graham Lotz Featured Opinion Sun, 13 Apr 2014 17:00:00 -0400
2 Keys to Surviving God's Refining Fire

Those of you who are familiar with the process of refining gold know that the gold is first placed in a crucible and subjected to intense heat. The heat causes the gold to melt and its impurities to separate and come to the top, where they can be skimmed off.

This process is repeated as many times as necessary in order to increase the quality and purity of the gold. For example, 10-karat gold does not have to be heated as much or as long as 14-karat gold. Twenty-four karat gold undergoes an even more intensive refining process.

In a similar manner, God is in the process of refining His church. He wants a pure, beautiful bride upon whom He can pour out His anointing and His power. God desires to manifest Himself through His church so that each of us is able to do the things Jesus did (John 14:12-14).

Christ longs for each member of His body to see what the Father is doing and to do it with Him. It is His will that we walk in victory and be overcomers. These are His highest priorities for the church.

 The Refining Process 

God has to remove the impurities from our lives that hold us back from going all the way with Him. I believe that this is His agenda for the church right now and that we have entered a season of God's refinement.

Refining can be a difficult and uncomfortable process. At times, we may feel very much as the gold does when it is being melted. We experience heat, discomfort and adversity.

This process is walked out a bit differently in each of our lives. For some of us, important relationships seem to fall apart. Others are misunderstood, misjudged and falsely accused.

Finances run out for some; others may face sickness or hardships. We may find ourselves struggling once again with emotions and issues that we thought we had long since conquered.

The purifying process can be especially confusing to those of us who have been seeking the Lord and drawn to a place of deeper intimacy with Him than ever before. We may not understand why God is allowing "bad" things to happen in our lives.

Is It God or the Enemy? 

Some believers don't understand that God is refining them, so they "resist the devil" instead of submitting to the Holy Spirit (James 4:7, NIV). But God wants us to know what He is doing in this season so that we can properly respond to it.

Sometime the enemy's attacks and the refiner's fire look a lot alike. Fortunately, God has given us a strategy for distinguishing them. In his letter to the church, the apostle James wrote: "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5).

In other words, ask God, and He will make it clear to you. It may not happen the instant you ask because sometimes His answer has to work its way into our understanding.

God may choose to speak to you through circumstances. James says that the enemy must flee when we resist him and submit to God (James 4:7). So if you apply the authority that Jesus has given you over the situation and nothing changes, that may be a hint that this is God's hand on you and not the enemy's.

Perhaps you've seen a certain weakness frequently rise up in you. The Lord may be calling your attention to a character trait He wants to refine.

He may put a conviction in your heart, speak to you through the Scriptures or use friends to let you know that He wants to deal with you in a certain area. I can't tell you precisely how, but He will make it clear to you.

You can know when it's the enemy's attack and what strategy God wants you to use to resist him. And you can know when it is God's refining fire and how to best cooperate with Him in the process.

Why God Allows the Fire 

We need to realize that God wants to purify our lives of the things that keep us from moving forward with His plan. Hosea 6:1-2 paints a picture of what God is doing:

"He has torn us to pieces but He will heal us; He has injured us but He will bind up our wounds. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will restore us, that we may live in His presence."

When I first read that passage, I had a mental image of a lion mauling someone. I could not understand why a loving Father would maul His children in that manner, so I asked God about it.

He told me: "Teresa, you have the wrong picture. Let Me show you what it really means." Then I saw a picture in my mind's eye of a surgeon skilfully cutting around a cancerous growth so it could be removed.

The cutting away of the "death" within us can be painful. But God's goal for the surgery is to remove those things that work death in us and replace them with His life.

Even if you are already walking in holiness, you will go through a season of God's refinement because He desires to radiate His glory and His presence through your life. He wants pure vessels that He can pour His anointing into.

We can't control whether or not God will take us through His refiner's fire, but we can control how long we stay in the fire. The more we resist Him, the longer the process will take. The more we cooperate with Him, the faster it will go.

Surrender to the Process 

The first step in surviving God's refining process is to cooperate with Him rather than resist Him. Once I was holding on to something dear to me that held me back in my walk with God. For about a week, God and I struggled over this. Then He said: "Teresa, we can do this the easy way or the hard way, but we will do it."

God showed me two pictures. The first was a child's hand tightly clasping a stone. An adult's hand began peeling back the child's fingers one by one until the stone fell out of her hand.

The second picture was the same child's hand holding the stone. But the child relaxed her grip and placed the stone in the adult's hand.

"Which will it be?" the Lord asked me.

Suddenly I understood that God was going to remove this thing from my life. I could willingly cooperate with Him, and He would help me gain the victory with minimal pain and effort. However, if I chose to resist Him, He would orchestrate one situation after another to "pry back my fingers" until I could not hang on to it any longer.

Tearfully, I laid this thing on the altar. It was not long before God gave me the victory in this area, and I found new fruit of the Spirit emerging in my life.

Then God showed me a little girl holding on to a very dirty and tattered teddy bear. The girl's father was trying to take the bear away, and she resisted strenuously.

Finally, she released her grip on the old teddy bear. As soon as she did, the father placed an exquisitely beautiful doll in her hands that she liked much more.

God showed me that He made me give up what I had been holding on to so that He could replace it with something better.

Acknowledge the Need 

The second step in surviving the process is to see our need for cleansing. "Impurities" will rise to the surface, and we will see behaviors, attitudes and character traits in ourselves that we do not like.

When the pressure is on, inappropriate responses from our weaknesses and woundedness will become more visible. These may include bitterness, unforgiveness, fear, anger or sinful desires that we know are displeasing to God. These have to come to the top so they can be "skimmed off."

We may be horrified at what shows up in our lives. Some of us may go into denial mode and try to push these things down.

But Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick" (Luke 5:31). We need to see our need before God will help us.

Receiving forgiveness for sins works on the same principle. We must see our guilt, confess our sins and repent before God will forgive us (1 John 1:9). If we acknowledge our need for God to help us in this area of our character, He will.

Some of us become upset and condemn ourselves when we notice impurities present in our lives. We may even pull away from God.

But God wants us to run to Him and receive His forgiveness and cleansing. His desire is not to condemn us but to purify us and transform us into the image of His son (Rom. 8:1; Titus 2:14; 2 Cor. 3:18).

We're in the Fire Together 

We can be of great help to our friends and acquaintances when they go through God's refining in their lives by 1) understanding that God is bringing impurities to the surface to remove them and 2) being quick to forgive and slow to take offense. We also need to encourage our loved ones to have hearts after God, bless their resolve for holiness, pray and speak God's strength into them.

We will survive the refiner's fire if we keep our eyes focused on God's sovereignty and what He is doing. His goal in this process is to refine us so that He might pour out His power and His glory on us.

The refiner's fire sets us free from hindering imperfections and works God's character and nature into us. And when the flames subside, what emerges from our lives will be pure, perfect, indestructible and worth more than the finest gold.

Teresa Seputis is an ordained minister and founder and head of GodSpeak International, a nonprofit missions and equipping agency dedicated to making disciples.

Teresa Seputis Featured Opinion Sun, 13 Apr 2014 15:00:00 -0400
5 Reasons Married Men Should Not Seek Marriage Advice From Other Women

Let’s get right to the facts. A little under three years into my marriage, it was anything but roses.

The days of remembering our vows were long gone and communication had all but dried up. The only thing I needed to do was the last thing I wanted to do. What was it? Man up and talk to my wife.

Days, weeks and even months were passing along and I still couldn’t bring myself to talk to my wife. Yes, of course, we could talk in general and even put on the necessary “everything is perfect” acts around friends and family members. But when it came to the life breathing, marriage saving words, well, they just couldn’t come out of me. If you could admit it, many of you would agree with me.

So I did what I think many other men are doing in their marriages today. I went looking for help in all the wrong places. Here are a couple of the wrong places I decided to seek help:

I attempted to seek answers from the above options for months. People I had never even met would sympathize with me. They would tell me stories or share about their struggles and current bad situation.

I felt like the woman understood me when we talked about my struggles, but I finally realized that she could never fix what I needed to fix. And although my family supported me in whatever I chose to do in life, I knew they were saddened and disappointed. These were all roads with dead ends and I was slowing learning that fact.

With time and my marriage ticking away, I finally decided to get humble and seek answers the right way. Here are a couple of the correct places I decided to seek help from:

  • Consulting married men I know that have a good marriage
  • Giving my marriage over to God and trusting Him
  • And finally, honestly talking to my wife

Manning up and admitting my situation to a close friend and brother in Christ was the best move I made to start things out. I was so worried about shame that I never considered the idea that he had struggled in his marriage at one point and could share in my feelings.

Talking to a good friend or even your pastor about your marriage will lift a huge weight off your shoulders and you should do it sooner than later. He offered me sound advice, books to read and ears to listen.

Not only did my buddy offer me good advice, but he also encouraged me to start talking to God about my marriage. I wasn’t praying for my wife or my marriage at the time. If you can relate, give these two things a try for at least a week. Seeking God’s counsel may not bring immediate relief, but it will allow you to express your feelings more often.

Don’t knock it until your try it, gentlemen.

And yes, I finally talked to my wife. Was it easy? NO! Was it the right thing to do? YES!

Did she take it well? Not really, but my heart was finally on the table and a path to resolution could finally be started. To be honest men, sometimes your wife has no idea your even feeling the way your feeling. She might think the issue in the marriage is something completely different than what you think it is. All the more reason to sit down and speak to her in a loving tone about your marriage and the issues that need resolved.

What is the bottom line?

As a married man, you should only be seeking counsel for your marriage issues from either a man or your wife. This isn’t to say there is anything wrong with other women or to say that they couldn’t offer sound advice. It’s to say that YOUR marriage should be between you and YOUR wife, not another woman; unless, of course, the woman is a counselor or a good friend that you and your wife are seeking mutual help from.

Still not convinced? Here are 5 reasons married men should not seek marriage advice from other women:

1. Your wife will most likely not know the woman you are talking to and you will be doing it without her knowledge.

2. You could start to use the advice in a negative way or against your wife.

3. If gone on for too long, you can easily start to build up an emotion and trust for the woman. Possibly leading to an emotional affair.

4. You are only “one flesh” with one woman, your wife!

5. Consider how your wife would feel and try to see the situation from her perspective.

Why do you think it’s important to only share your marriage issues with your wife or another trusted man? The same question applies to the ladies about your husband.

Manturity is a blog built on establishing spiritual maturity in today’s man. The goal is to assist men in building better marriages and help them in grow in maturity and explore different aspects of manhood. features new weekly blog posts, daily social media updates and a powerful resources page. Stay up to date with the Manturity blog communities on Facebook and Twitter.

For the original article, visit

Bryan Van Slyke/Manturity Featured Opinion Sun, 13 Apr 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Looking From Outside the Church Clique

I felt my face prickle with heat but this time it wasn't a hot flash. It was the humiliating realization that I was a Have-Not in this particular place and time and there was nothing I could do to change that.

We all know they exist: the Haves and the Have-Nots.

First there are the Haves. Those who are accepted in a specific environment—the peeps, the gang, the Sistahs. They're quietly respected; the natural leaders who others seem to automatically fall in line behind.

Often they're the ones with the highest skill level or who have achieved the most acclaim or accomplishments within the tribe. They aren't necessarily boastful or cocky; some are actually quite humble. But they definitely belong and everyone knows it. It's a given.

Then there are the Have-Nots. They're the ones who might hang out with the group, but somehow are not the same. They're on a different level—a slightly lower level—and although the Haves may be friendly enough, and include them as part of the whole, there's an invisible barrier that separates them, and they're never really in the group, only with the group.

You know exactly what I mean. Right?

We've all been in situations where we're the Haves, and other situations where we're the Have-Nots. Naturally, we gravitate toward the former and avoid the latter if at all possible. Nobody wants to feel like a K-Mart purse in a rack full of Pradas.

I recently came across the terrific advice: "Go where you're celebrated, not where you're tolerated."

A good idea to bolster sagging self-esteem, surely, but not something we can always do. Sometimes, the circumstances of life toss us into groups of people where we may be unknown, disrespected, unappreciated and dreadfully uncomfortable. But we must stay there for one reason or another.

I was in one of those just last week. In fact, it won't be the last time; I'll be affiliated with that same group of people superior to me for many weeks to come. After I came home feeling wretched from being repeatedly stuffed onto the bottom shelf, or worse yet, ignored completely, I realized that I was going to have to find some way to endure the situation, because it wasn't going away.

It was going to feel like being chosen last for the eighth-grade kickball team every single week for the entire school year.

So I prayed: Lord, throw me a life preserver—some sort of tool that will help me hold my head up and shoulders back when I'm with these people. I know they're better than me at this particular activity, and my best never will be good enough from their perspective. So please help me endure. No, not just endure, but enjoy myself ... if that's even possible.

And wouldn't you know? He sent me a message. A very important message that helped me glory in my smallness. A special reminder that Papa God delights in making small things great.

"His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble" (Luke 1:51-52, NLT).

So I'm going to return to that group this week with a new attitude. I will be smiling. I will be gracious. Because I have a secret. I know something they don't. It's OK if I'm on the bottom rung of the ladder, because one day we "lowlies" will be exalted. And I may even get to be the kickball captain!

Debora Coty is the author of 10 books, a newspaper columnist, orthopedic occupational therapist and tennis addict. Follow Debora on Twitter @deboracoty.

Debora M. Coty Featured Opinion Sun, 13 Apr 2014 11:00:00 -0400
3 Spirit-Powered Prayer Strategies That Bring Results

No matter what our age, our years of Christian service or our maturity in ministry, we will always need to keep growing in the exercise and discipline of prayer. As you fulfill God’s call on your life, I want to encourage you to be a person committed to powerful prayer.

The apostle Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21 comes to mind when I think of excellence in prayer. This gives several insights into the preface, posture and petitions of powerful prayer.

1. Preface

Paul starts by saying, “For this reason I kneel” (v. 14, NIV, emphasis mine). What reason? What is the reason that drives him to prayer? It is a phrase he also uses in Ephesians 3:1: “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus.”

In some way Paul connects the reason—the preface—to the entire prayer that follows. Paul joins that “reason” to the word mystery that occurs four times in Ephesians 3 (vv. 3, 4, 6, 9). The “mystery” is that the church—composed of Gentiles and Jews—would make known the many-sided, multifaceted wisdom of God to rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.

In plain speech, Paul is saying, “Before I launch into my prayer, let me tell you what stands behind it. The church has God’s name on it. We are the assembly of God. The church is His pride and joy.”

2. Posture

In Jewish prayer, standing is the normal posture (Matt. 6:5; Luke 18:11, 13). Kneeling, however, is the more intense form of prayer. Paul says, “For this reason I kneel” (Eph. 3:14, emphasis mine). This is a tip-off to the fervency of effective prayer.

One of the early church fathers put it this way: “By kneeling we demonstrate the full form of prayer. We ought not merely to incline our minds to prayer but also our bodies. We do well to lower our bodies lest we create an impression of elevation or an appearance of pride.”

What would happen in our lives, homes and churches if we fell on our knees and prayed more earnestly—going beyond the rote and routine of prayer—to the fervency of prayer?

3. Petitions

The posture and preface to Paul’s prayer leads us into the intensity of three petitions he brings that we can summarize in three words: grip, grasp and grow.

Grip. Over the years, my daily prayer list has grown to over 250 people. I laid Paul’s prayer over my list and realized how spot-on his prayer is—because so many people on my list, including myself, need our grip strengthened with power through the Spirit.

Grasp. Paul not only prays for us to get a strong grip, he prays that we will also get a great grasp. Years before Paul wrote this Ephesian letter from a prison in Rome, he had planted and pastored the church in Ephesus for 2 1/2 years. During that time he sent letters west to the Corinthian church, which was beset with all types of problems and pride. He told them in 1 Corinthians 13 what was missing in their community life: They were not rooted and grounded in love.

This is always a sobering word to the Pentecostal and charismatic church because, in our desire for the restoration and presence of the charismata, we may be tempted to build on the gifts rather than the Giver, on the sensational above the ethical or moral, on success and numbers rather than love. When we are rooted and grounded in love, then we can grasp the breadth, duration and extremity of His love.

Grow. Paul knew that being filled with the Spirit was not just a one-time “I’ve got it” experience. When you read the last 2 1/2 chapters of Ephesians, you can see that these Spirit-baptized believers were still being pushed to grow. No matter what our age, our years of Christian service or our maturity in ministry, we will always need to keep on growing, because even if we are filled now, we are not yet filled with all the fullness of God.

But that is not all. Paul ends with, “[He] is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Eph. 3:20).

Great praying leads to great power—“He is able,” Paul says.

And great power leads to great praise: “To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (v. 21).

The grip. The grasp. The grow. They all lead to immeasurably more. God is infinite and capable of giving more, and we are expansible and capable of receiving more.

Do you want to display the glory of the Father? Become a person who prays powerful prayers.

George O. Wood is an American Pentecostal minister and general superintendent of the General Council of the Assemblies of God in the United States of America (AG). He has been chairman of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship, the largest Pentecostal denomination in the world, since 2008. He previously served as general secretary of the AG from 1993 to 2007. Wood has a number of books to his credit, including Road Trip Leadership, Living in the Spirit, A Psalm in Your Heart, Living Fully and The Successful Life. If you’re ever in Springfield and stop by his office, he might give you a copy—after his office tour, of course. You can learn more about him at

George O. Wood Featured Opinion Sun, 13 Apr 2014 09:00:00 -0400
When You Feel Like Quitting the Ministry

“Why am I doing this anyway?” I muttered under my breath while moving about my day. I was irritated. Not just a little, but a lot. Some days in ministry, serving other people is not really appealing. I have days like that less often now, but every now and then, I find myself asking this question again.

On the surface, it’s a sarcastic question. But as I pondered it, I realized the power of this flippant question. In this case, other ministry people had disappointed me. Their action scraped an old wound of mistrust that I have struggled to keep cleansed and submitted to the Lord.

People hurt us in ministry, even other ministry people. I am at the place where it no longer surprises me. Yet something about people close to us being hurtful is still an irritant.

So, why am I doing this anyway? The Lord seemed to burn that question deep into my heart today. “Are you doing it for yourself? For them?” I fought back a bit. Of course I’m doing it for Him—or so I think—until my heart gets this ugly.

Paul struggled with hurt from those close to him in what was one of the darkest times in his ministry. Read his final book, 2 Timothy, and find him sitting in a dark, dank dungeon awaiting execution by the crazy emperor, Nero. He had been deserted by everyone in that part of Asia. His fellow worker, Demas, had left him. Perhaps the danger of association with Paul was more than Demas was willing to risk. Or maybe he simply got sidetracked with the things of this world. Nevertheless, Paul was left, after over 30 years of ministry, feeling abandoned. I imagine that this question raced through his mind.

But in Galatians 1:10, we see that Paul had covered this before: “Am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (ESV). Ouch. If our motives are to please people, including ourselves, it disqualifies us from being a true servant of Christ? These are tough words.

We cannot stop people from hurting us. But we can realize that our primary goal in serving is to please God. This makes the next step easier. After listing the people who had deserted him, Paul concludes his disappointment with this statement: “May it not be charged against them!” (2 Tim. 4:16). Can we do the same?

It is hard to forgive when treated unfairly. But forgiveness frees our hearts to rise and love again, no longer held captive under the power of the person who has hurt us. Forgiveness is not saying that what was done to us was right but that we want to be free. We can take them off of our hook and give them to God. We’ll find His shoulders were made to carry the burden of hurt much better than ours.

Reprinted with permission from the © Assemblies of God Her Green Room. Kimberly Waldie is a pastor's wife in Traverse City, Mich. She has served in the ministry for over 20 years.

Kimberly Waldie Featured Opinion Sat, 12 Apr 2014 17:00:00 -0400
How a Vitamin D Deficiency Could Slowly Kill You

One of the best things we can do for our health, and one of the easiest, is the very thing that most Americans are not doing: getting enough vitamin D.

Vitamin D is crucial for fighting disease. A lack of it can lead to serious health problems.

We get vitamin D from the sun, from some foods and from supplements. But despite its abundant availability, an estimated two-thirds of Americans aren’t getting enough.

That spells real trouble. 

A major new study of nearly 1 million people finds the lower your vitamin D levels, the higher your risk for certain diseases, including the following:

  • A 35 percent increased risk of death from heart disease
  • A 14 percent increased risk of death from cancer

Vitamin D is nicknamed 'the sunshine nutrient' because it's produced in our bodies when skin is exposed to sunlight.

To get enough vitamin D from the sun, doctors recommend exposing as much unprotected skin as possible—so no sunscreen, spread out over as little as one to two hours a week. 

But remember, in order to guard against skin cancer, make sure you don’t overdo your sun exposure. If your skin turns pink you’ve been out too long.
If you can’t, or don’t want to, get your vitamin D from the sun, some foods are rich in it, such as salmon, mushrooms, fortified dairy and kale. 

But even those items might not contain all the vitamin D you need, according to nutrition specialist Dr. Jana Klauer.

“Food sources are really limited, so it’s best for most people to take a supplement,” she said.
Choose vitamin D-3. It makes your heart healthy, improves your immune system, boosts your mood, and since you need it to absorb calcium, it strengthens your bones. 

But beware: even if you take vitamin D, certain things lower it from your system, such as smoking, obesity and inflammation, which comes from things like eating too much sugar and trans fats.

Lorie Johnson/CBN News Medical Reporter Featured Opinion Sat, 12 Apr 2014 15:00:00 -0400
One Surefire Way to Lose in Spiritual Warfare

God made the Israelites a promise to bring them into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites and the Jebusites—all the “-ites,” as some say—into the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey (Ex. 13:5). Fulfilling this prophetic promise, then, meant engaging in a battle to dispossess all the so-called “-ites” from the land in which they lived. It meant going to war with the enemies.

Unfortunately, some of the Israelites moved in presumption against the Amorites and felt more than the sting of defeat—they felt the sting of death in the wake of disobedience. As you read this article, remember this: Presumption can be deadly.

In fact, while the King James Version of the Bible only mentions the words presume, presumed, presumptuous and presumptuously 11 times, it almost always leads to death. So it stands to reason that wisdom cries out against entering into spiritual battle presumptuously. It’s not likely that you’ll die, but you could get smacked around by the enemy of your soul. So let’s learn this lesson from the Israelites and learn it well.

Losing the Battle Begins With Unbelief

The seeds of Israel’s defeat took root after Moses sent men to Canaan to spy out the land God promised to give them (Num. 13:1-2). When they returned, they saw that it was just as Moses prophesied—a land flowing with milk and honey. What’s more, the Israelites brought back grapes, pomegranates and figs. It must have been a welcome sight after so much manna and quail!

But even in the face of God’s prophesied provision, Israel’s leaders brought back a bad report. It all started with one negative word: nevertheless. “Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan” (vv. 28-29).

As the story goes, only Caleb and Joshua believed God and declared, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it” (v. 30). The Israelites believed the negative naysayers rather than the Spirit-inspired dynamic duo of faith. They cried. They wept. The complained against Moses and Aaron. They wished to return to Egypt. They even started talking about electing a leader to go back to bondage! Moses and Aaron went into immediate intercession, but God pronounced a death sentence on the unbelievers.

Presumption in the Face of God

The men who brought the evil report about the land died in a plague, but others would soon die in their presumption. After mourning the loss of their tribal leaders, the people decided they’d better obey the Lord and take the land. The only problem was they were moving in presumption. God did not tell them to go up against the enemies at that time. Timing is everything in a battle plan.

Moses tried to warn them: “Now why do you transgress the command of the Lord? For this will not succeed. Do not go up, lest you be defeated by your enemies, for the Lord is not among you. For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and you shall fall by the sword; because you have turned away from the Lord, the Lord will not be with you” (Num. 14:41-43).

And then: “They presumed to go up to the mountaintop. Nevertheless, neither the ark of the covenant of the Lord nor Moses departed from the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who dwelt in that mountain came down and attacked them, and drove them back as far as Hormah” (vv. 44-45).

As I’ve said before, there’s one question every believer should ask before engaging in spiritual warfare: "Shall I go up?" In other words, we need to be led by the Holy Spirit into battle if we want God to lead us into triumph. If we lose a battle, it could very well be that the Holy Spirit didn’t lead us into the spiritual skirmish in the first place.

Before you run to the battle line, ask the Holy Spirit, “Shall I go up?” Then obey what He tells you. It could be He’s assigned someone else to go up and defeat the enemy. It could be that God is taking the battle into His own hands. Or it could be that you aren’t yet skilled enough in battle to take on the enemy that’s rising up. The reason doesn’t matter. What matters is being in the will of God, even in our spiritual warfare. Amen. 

Jennifer LeClaire is news editor at Charisma. She is also the author of several books, including The Making of a ProphetYou can email Jennifer at or visit her website here. You can also join Jennifer on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Jennifer LeClaire Featured Opinion Sat, 12 Apr 2014 13:00:00 -0400
'Shields Up!' A Prophetic Warning for America

Several months ago, I began to feel a great unease again about the safety of America. As I prayed, I felt the Lord warning me that there were attacks being planned on America in attempts to strike terror in the heart of the nation. These would be planned on a systematic level and carried out by radicalized persons.

What I saw at the time were the kinds of bombings that occurred in England and Israel at public places. We know that we already dodged a major bullet when one such attempt was averted in New York's Times Square through what I believe to be God-ordained sequence of events.

This is what I am hearing today:

For the Lord says, "Shields up! This is the time for the watchman to have keen eyes and discernment. The enemy is at the door and wants to stir up havoc, but I will give My people eagle eyes to see what is being planned."

After I heard the Lord give this warning and admonition, I received the email below from the Times of Israel that gives details of the kind of attack I had seen (follow the link below to the full news article). Please read it prayerfully. If you are in one of the areas mentioned, perhaps you might want to take a prayer walk and ask the Lord for a strategy to uncover everything being hidden.

Mark 4:22 says, "For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open" (NIV).

As quoted in a recent article from The Times of Israel, "Al-Qaeda Magazine: Strike NY, DC With Car Bombs":

"New issue of 'Inspire' lists specific targets in America, Britain, France—with a bizarre emphasis on tennis matches

"America is al-Qaeda's primary target for car bombs, specifically Washington, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, according to the latest issue of Inspire, a slick online English-language magazine published by the global terrorist organization.

In the section entitled 'Car Bombs inside America,' instructing readers how and where to carry out car bombings, a writer going by the name of 'AQ Chef' writes that 'America is our first target, followed by United Kingdom, France and other Crusader countries.'" 

Thank you for reading and praying!

Cindy Jacobs is a respected prophet who travels the world ministering not only to crowds of people but to heads of nations. Her first calling is and always will be prophetic intercession. Each year, she travels and has spoken on nearly every inhabited continent to tens of thousands. Yet in her heart is the memory that Jesus left the ninety-and-nine to go to the one. Generals International is an international church movement, reforming the nations of the world back to a biblical worldview. It achieves societal transformation through intercession and the prophetic. Jacobs has authored seven books and loves to travel and speak, but one of her favorite pastimes is spending time with her husband, Mike, and their children, Daniel and Mary Madison, along with her five adorable grandchildren.

Cindy Jacobs Featured Opinion Sat, 12 Apr 2014 11:00:00 -0400
Awaken the Samuels!

In July 2013, as I was jogging, I heard the voice of the Lord say to me, “Son, we must awaken the Samuels! Awaken this generation to my voice!” 

Do you know the story of Samuel? It’s a truly marvelous one. Samuel’s mother, Hannah, made a promise to God that if she was able to have a child, she would give her child to the Lord and consecrate the child to Him (1 Sam. 1:11). So when she conceived and Samuel was born, she gave Samuel to Eli, the priest, when Samuel was still a very young age. His name in the Hebrew language means “God has heard,” because God heard the prayer of his mother, Hannah. 

The Bible says that Samuel “grew up in the presence of the Lord" (1 Sam. 2:21, NIV). This was during a time when the house of Eli was out of control. Eli’s sons were doing atrocious things that Eli ignored but God could no longer ignore (v. 17). But even in the midst of a house of sin, the Bible says Samuel continued to grow in God (v. 26).

Then one night, God interrupted young Samuel’s sleep: "Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, 'Here I am.' And he ran to Eli and said, 'Here I am; you called me.' But Eli said, 'I did not call; go back and lie down.' So he went and lay down. Again the Lord called, 'Samuel!' And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, 'Here I am; you called me.' 'My son,' Eli said, 'I did not call; go back and lie down.' Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. A third time the Lord called, 'Samuel!' And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, 'Here I am; you called me.' Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, 'Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place" (1 Sam. 3:4-9). 

Samuel lived in a place where the heavens were quiet and deception lived in the next room. Outside his bedroom door was perversion, greed and sleeping religion. But he stayed focused. God protected him, and he stayed pure. 

Eli’s house describes many of the homes in our nation—homes full of darkness but inside full of future remnants. I believe our goal must be to see this generation stand firm regardless of their surroundings, culture and upbringing. We must tell them they are never alone—that God is nearby, calling their name.

God is a God of “suddenly.” Proverbs 13:12 says, “Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, but a sudden good break can turn life around” (MSG). God can suddenly interrupt your life with His voice, just like He did with Samuel and just like He did with me. 

Three times Samuel runs into Eli’s room. And three times he was turned back. He was told by Eli three things:

  1. I didn’t call you.
  2. Go back.
  3. Lie down.

I believe those are the three things the enemy always tells the called of God: "You're not called; just go back and lie down!" I say, “Enough!" Wake up, Samuel! You’re not an oops or an accident! You are the voice God plans to use, and God has a word for you to declare. No more slumber! No more living your life in a daze!

I have learned no one ever prophesies over the quiet days, but it is in the quiet days that you must remain faithful. I have learned that the greater the anointing, the greater the isolation. If you remain faithful to your call, regardless of the monotony, the day will come when God will speak. Be sure to remain vigilant, just as Samuel wasn’t bitter about where he had grown up because he knew whom he had grown in. He didn’t hate his mother and father for leaving him at the house of God, but he chose to go to sleep every night with God as his nightlight. He was hidden from the world until it was time for God to use him. 

When he finally answered the voice of God, it was a powerful moment. We are told, "The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, 'Samuel! Samuel!' Then Samuel said, 'Speak, for your servant is listening.' And the Lord said to Samuel: 'See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle'” (1 Sam. 3:10-11, NIV). 

Wow! That is a powerful moment! Samuel would go from being the last judge to the first prophet in Israel’s history. He would be known as the prophet who restored the altars of God in a time when the “word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions” (v. 1). He would be used by God to anoint kings and share prophetic words that protected and rebuked the nation of Israel. Samuel was the remnant of his day. He would travel the land, declaring the truth. 

No matter what you have been through, God can use you. He has called you to be set apart for His purpose. What I love about the kingdom of God is that God often raises up as His remnant ones who come from or have experienced the worst situations. God really is no respecter of persons. He simply goes after the available. These are the ones with scars on earth that are testimonies in heaven. The remnant consists of those who feel like failures—the fatherless, the forgotten and the freedom fighters—whose pedigree is that of a scarred Savior. 

God is jealous for you and expects you to step up and lead. Your voice is needed to transform the world with a message from the throne of God. Like Samuel, you must accept the mantle God has for you. Will you accept it? Are you remnant?

Pat Schatzline is one of America's leading communicators, authors and evangelists. He and his wife, Karen, co-founded Mercy Seat Ministries and have ministered internationally to over 2 million people. Known for his crazy humor and unique ability to communicate God’s Word with passion, Pat desires to introduce a generation to the awesome love of the Father.

Pat Schatzline Featured Opinion Sat, 12 Apr 2014 09:00:00 -0400
Sex With Robots: Sodom and Gomorrah Never Dreamed of This Immorality

If the sexual equality wars trouble you—if you’re concerned about little boys using the little girls’ restrooms in elementary school or the bigger boys using the bigger girls’ showers in high school or even Facebook’s confusing 51 new gender options—there’s yet another disturbing futuristic reality to consider.

Tauriq Moosa penned an article for United Kingdom paper The Guardian that takes all human limits off sexual identity—and even suggests sexual intercourse with nonhumans. No, I’m not talking about bestiality, another extremely disturbing trend in the immorality scene. I’m talking about sex with robots.

The article, “Robots and Sex: Creepy or Cool?” suggests that “sex with robots may currently be restricted to fiction, but with advances in technology this could eventually change. Despite how some may react, this is something that should be accepted, maybe even embraced.”

Wait, what? It’s about 10 days too late to be an April Fool’s joke, though the notion is pure folly. Moosa suggests that books, music and other forms of media have gone digital. People work virtually and form relationships online. Refrigerators remind us to order groceries online. Considering all this, he sees no “massive leap” to sex with robots.

Apparently, he’s not the only one prophesying this immoral future. According to Victoria University research, the future of sex tourism is with robot prostitutes. Researchers explored how Amsterdam’s red-light district might operate by 2050 and decided android prostitutes will be the norm because they don’t transmit sexual disease or promote the sex-slave industry.

Moosa’s article is especially graphic, so I won’t go into details about the benefits he sees to sex with robots. What I can confirm is that sex robots already exist. In fact, these immoral androids been on the scene since January 2010. Apparently, thousands of men placed a preorder for Roxxxy, “the world’s first sex robot,” at the Las Vegas Adult Entertainment Expo more than four years ago.

“The robot boasts artificial intelligence, speech recognition technology and a bevy of recorded phrases, making it able to, on some levels, converse with her mate,” an article by Dr. Robi Ludwig on reveals. “She also has a personality-changer, an Internet connection to receive software and dialog updates, all for a price between $7,000 to $9,000.”

Even Moosa, who seems all for these sex robots, has some ethical concerns. He doesn’t like the idea of programming a sex robot to “always consent” or “never refuse.” Nevertheless, he says he’s planning on “preparing for their inevitable taking over of our species.” His overarching point: “It’s about accepting other people’s choices to do what they want with their bodies and obtain sexual satisfaction, without worry of stigma or shame. Using sex robots doesn’t harm anyone.”

I don’t even know where to begin. Apparently, this debate has been going on for at least six years, but it’s suddenly becoming a more popular topic. Questions are already springing up about whether sex with robots would qualify as cheating on a spouse. Um, yes, it would.

Sex outside of marriage—any form of sex outside of marriage, from adultery to masturbation to, yes, sex with robots—is classified in God’s eyes as immorality. God created sex for a purpose, and having sex with a robot abuses that purpose. I can’t even imagine where technology like this could take our society, and I don’t even want to. All I can say is, Sodom and Gomorrah never dreamed of sexual immorality like this.

Jennifer LeClaire is news editor at Charisma. She is also the author of several books, including The Making of a Prophet. You can email Jennifer at or visit her website here. You can also join Jennifer on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Jennifer LeClaire Featured Watchman on the Wall Opinion Fri, 11 Apr 2014 11:00:00 -0400
Saddleback Church to Launch Los Angeles Campus on Easter

Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in California will launch its newest campus in Los Angeles on Easter Sunday, April 20.

The church has eight other locations, with its main campus in Lake Forest, Calif. The Los Angeles church will meet at Hollywood High School, with Warren preaching the message on its opening Sunday.

“Discover a place where you can meet new friends and learn how to live a life that has a lasting impact,” the church’s website says.

Jeremy Haynes will be the campus pastor at Saddleback Los Angeles. He previously served as a small group area leader at Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village, Calif.

Gina Meeks Featured U.S. News Fri, 11 Apr 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Clearing the Smoke: Real Costs of Legal Pot

Colorado merchants started selling what's known as recreational marijuana Jan. 1, and already the variety of new merchandise is mind-blowing. 

There are different kinds of strains, each with its own smell and unique characteristics, including:

  • Vaporizers that look and feel like social media gadgets.
  • Marijuana drinks and foods—everything from gummy candies to so-called oatmeal sandwiches.

Colorado in many ways is still in the honeymoon phase of recreational marijuana legalization. People are caught up in the excitement of new products and growth, and many are looking forward to extra revenue.

Gov. John Hickenlooper expects more than $100 million from recreational and medical marijuana taxes and fees in the first fiscal year.

Skeptics Sound Alarm

But many health and youth advocates, like Bob Doyle, are tempering the initial enthusiasm.

Doyle has worked for years in tobacco education as executive director of the Colorado Tobacco Education and Prevention Alliance. 

Now, he is speaking out against the dangers of marijuana as a member of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an advocacy group that seeks to decrease use. 

"We know what's coming. If we don't stop it, this is the birth of the next tobacco industry," Doyle told CBN News.

"It's going to be like the birth of every other drug where the societal costs are much bigger than what any community is going to make on this," he warned.

The costs include marijuana addiction.

Treatment specialists say they're inundated with requests, and student use is quickly rising. Experts believe the legalization of medical marijuana several years ago is the reason.

Several surveys show that twice as many Denver 8th graders use pot, compared to 8th graders nationally. Almost one-third of Denver high school seniors consume the drug. 

"Legalizing it creates more promotion, creates greater access to the drug and also legitimizes the drug," Doyle said.

Vaporizers are one of the products Doyle is most concerned about.

"Rolling Stone magazine called them the 'iPod of getting baked,'" he noted. "So it's a high-tech device to get really, really high."

It's also a concealer, in many cases looking just like an e-cigarette. 

False Sense of Security

Youth advocates say marijuana edibles pose another danger: They attract young people by marketing a wholesome, healthy image.

Jo McGuire is director of Compliance and Corporate Training for Conspire, a drug-testing company in Colorado Springs. She said many kids are simply not concerned about pot.

"They say, 'It's good for us. It's medicine. It's healthy,' " she explained. 

McGuire said parents often contribute to a false sense of security, not realizing that today's marijuana is much more potent than the drug of their day.  

"One time we heard a dad say, 'Well, they're just going to sleep all the time and have munchies. What's the big deal?' " McGuire recalled.

"Well, we're seeing withdrawal signs of anger and rage and real withdrawal when they can't have their product," she said.

Chris Harms is director of Colorado's School Safety Resource Center, a state agency that provides training to schools on a variety of issues, including substance abuse.

"I think schools are very concerned about students coming to school under the influence [of marijuana]," she told CBN News. 

Educating Parents, Kids

Harms is encouraging Colorado parents to teach their children about the dangers of pot. She also has a message for other states that envy Colorado's seeming financial windfall.

"People may see the tax money that's being generated but not all the hidden costs of marijuana," she said. "We don't know, for instance, how many substance abuse centers we're going to need."

Legalization supporters say they also believe in educating kids about the dangers of pot. However, they believe that legalization is the best way to limit their access.

CBN News spoke with Mason Tvert last year before he became a national spokesperson for the Marijuana Policy Project

"We know that alcohol prohibition failed and caused more problems than it solved," he said.

"So, we're in a similar situation with marijuana where we need to do everything we can to keep it away from young people and that includes regulating it, controlling it and taxing it," he added.

Possible Ramifications

It will be years before the smoke clears and the full effects of legalization are understood.

Financial experts say taxes will fluctuate as other states join Colorado and the marketplace experiments with pricing, products, and developing efficiencies. 

Questions also remain about how much addiction rates will grow, what it will mean for education and for creating a competitive work force.

In the meantime, McGuire is beefing up her staff after a recent spike in positive tests for pot.

And Doyle will continue to educate in the hopes of preventing the downward spirals he's already seeing. 

"I can't tell you how many times I've had the mother or father come up to me and say, 'I had the good student, the good athlete—and they've been smoking marijuana and it's no longer," he said.

"Their motivation is gone," he continued. "Their academics have gone down and their athletics have gone away. And it's horrifying."

Heather Sells and Efrem Graham/CBN News Featured U.S. News Fri, 11 Apr 2014 15:00:00 -0400
Why Are Millennials Less Religious? Joel Osteen Blames Distractions

It is no secret that millennials are becoming less religious than previous generations. Joel Osteen says one reason may be the many distractions the younger generation seems to face.

The recently released “State of the Bible” survey shows that antagonism toward the Bible has risen to 19 percent, and millennials (ages 18-29) are driving the shift.

Osteen, senior pastor at Lakewood Church in Houston, says these results are “disappointing.”

“I do think there are more influences today—distractions—and it’s a different day than we grew up in,” he said in a Fox News interview Thursday.

“There’s a lot pulling people away, and it does give us a challenge to say, ‘What can we do better?’”

The survey, conducted by the Barna Group, found that while 79 percent of all adults believe the Bible is sacred literature, only 64 percent of millennials agree; 35 percent believe the Bible contains everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life, as compared with 50 percent for all adults; 39 percent of millennials never read the Bible, as compared to 26 percent of all adults.

“American adults, young and old alike, overwhelmingly recognize a moral decline is taking place in the nation,” says Roy Peterson, president and CEO of the American Bible Society which commissioned the survey. “As they seek solutions, we hope they will find the Bible as the guidebook that can reverse the decline and help its readers make sense of life.”

However, Osteen, who leads the largest church in America, says he sees “a lot of young people that do love God, and thousands that come out to events and churches as well.”

He adds, “Young people can see through any kind of phoniness, and there’s more skepticism today. I think that when they see true people of faith … that love God—it’s not about the rules or religion or joining my denomination, but it’s about loving God and doing something good for others. The young people I see want a cause. They want to help others.”

Osteen says he tells his 15- and 19-year-old to “honor God with your life. You’re not going to be perfect; you’re going to make mistakes. But God’s loving and He’s forgiving. When you honor God, your life’s going to go better.”

The pastor adds that it can be difficult for people who weren’t raised in church, saying he’s heard that “90 percent of people not raised in church won’t end up in church."

“On the flip side,” he says, “we do see thousands of young people that are hungry for God, that are doing good things. Hopefully we can spread that message.”

Watch the video of the interview below.

Gina Meeks Featured U.S. News Fri, 11 Apr 2014 14:00:00 -0400
'Heaven Is for Real' Director Faced Near-Devastating Spiritual Warfare Before Production

Award-winning producer Randall Wallace, famous for movies like Braveheart and Secretariat, saw his mother pass away in January 2013. His latest film project gave him peace about it.

“When I saw her die, I knew she was not dying,” he told the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. “I found myself surprisingly comforted that my mother had not died at all, just her body had.”

At the time, Wallace was making a movie based on the book Heaven Is for Real, in theaters April 16. The movie follows the story of Colton, a young boy who says he experienced heaven during a scary operation, then reveals the details to his awestruck parents.

On set, it was a story that gripped Wallace from the beginning. Off set, it helped him cope as he witnessed his mother’s final days on earth. He faced the reality of life after death head-on.

Growing up, it was Wallace’s mother who kept her son in church. Billy Graham books were scattered throughout their home, and Wallace remembers watching Graham preach on TV. He attended the greater Los Angeles Billy Graham crusade in 2004.

“I’ve probably heard Billy Graham speak more than any other pastor,” he says.

The filmmaker majored in religion at Duke University in North Carolina, Graham’s home state. Wallace later put himself through a year of seminary at Duke Divinity School by teaching martial arts.

“Who you are comes out in everything you do,” he says.

Wallace, 64, was born in Jackson, Tenn. In church, he and his family sang hymns “at the top of [their] lungs.” Those hymns moved him to his very core.

“I’ve always wanted a movie to be something that would give the audience the chance to have that same kind of experience,” he says.

Wallace wears many hats, including screenwriter, producer and director. He’s worked on movies like Man in the Iron Mask, We Were Soldiers and Pearl Harbor with recurring themes such as loyalty, courage, love and sacrifice.

But Heaven Is for Real is a little different. In this movie, faith, prayer and—of course—heaven play a huge role. And Jesus Christ is actually a character.

The movie isn’t intended to “preach at” people, Wallace says, but to speak to people’s hearts.

Right after Wallace agreed to work on the film, he ended up in the hospital with a serious hand infection. The doctors planned to amputate the hand, but after several surgeries, amputation was thankfully avoided.

Todd Burpo, the Nebraska pastor who wrote Heaven Is for Real about his son’s experience, says he should have warned Wallace that others working on the movie had also experienced one struggle or another.

“But here we are,” Wallace says. “I believe the movie will give Christians a real encouragement and endorsements of their longings and their hopes for heaven. I also think it will give nonbelievers or people who are really struggling with belief a chance to feel the spirit of love and hope and the reality of heaven.”

For his 2002 film We Were Soldiers, Wallace wrote a hymn called “Mansions of the Lord,” performed at President Ronald Reagan’s funeral two years later. The song is about the peace of heaven.

Wallace thought a lot about how to portray this peaceful grandeur in Heaven Is for Real. But when it comes to the faith in Christ required to get there, he says, it’s not that complicated.

He recalls a scene in the movie where Jesus offers His hand to Colton, but Colton has to reach up and take it. It struck a chord with Wallace.

“I think that’s the nature of faith,” he says. He thinks of pictures he’s seen of Jesus standing at a door, knocking, and says, “We are the ones that have to open the door.”

While working on his latest movie, Wallace also thought about what it means to have childlike faith.

“Part of what it means to be a child is to accept that you are a child, that you are not in charge,” he says. Or, to quote others, he says, “There is a God. It’s not me.”

Hymns have always had a big impact on Wallace, who recites the last two lines of a hymn called “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need.” The song ends with an observation about being in God’s presence: "No more a stranger, nor a guest, but like a child at home."

“Heaven is not some strange place we go to,” he says. “Heaven is home.”

Tiffany Jothen Featured Culture Fri, 11 Apr 2014 13:30:00 -0400
Is the Internet Bad for Religion?

A new paper draws an intriguing conclusion to a question scholars have wrestled with for several decades: Why are Americans dropping out of church?

One reason? They’re logging on to the Internet.

Allen Downey, a professor of computer science at Massachusetts’ Olin College of Engineering, found that between 1990 and 2010 the share of Americans claiming no religious affiliation grew from 8 percent to 18 percent while the number of Americans connected to the Internet rose from almost nothing to 80 percent.

Downey cautions — as do his critics — that correlation does not equal causation.

“We can’t know for sure that Internet use causes religious disaffiliation,” Downey said. “It is always possible that disaffiliation causes Internet use, or that a third factor causes both.”

But Downey, whose paper, “Religious affiliation, education and Internet use,” was published late last month at — where else? — an online site dedicated to scientific papers, is pretty sure he’s onto something.

Examining data from the General Social Survey, an ongoing and multigenerational study of Americans, Downey draws a link between higher levels of education and income and lower levels of religious identification.

His study shows that as Americans reported more Internet use, their religious identification dropped. Those who reported only a few hours of weekly Internet use were 2 percent less likely to claim a religious affiliation than those who use no Internet. And those who use the Internet more than seven hours weekly are even less likely to adhere to a religion — by an additional 3 percentage points. “That effect turns out to be stronger than a four-year college education, which reduces religious affiliation by about 2 percentage points,” he said.

Other scholars say Downey’s finding may be too pat.

Stephen O’Leary, an associate professor at the University of Southern California, who studies religion on the Internet, thinks the situation is more complex and nuanced.

“Let’s call it the influence of the religious marketplace,” O’Leary said. Since the 1960s, with the influx of non-Christian immigrants to the U.S. and the increased mobility of society, Americans’ exposure to a wide range of spiritual, religious and nonreligious ideas has burgeoned.

“Internet use is part of that, but what it really does is magnify to a dramatic level the degree of choices one has,” O’Leary said.

Other forces unrelated to the Internet are at work, too. O’Leary said younger Americans are less likely to trust religious authority in the wake of the Catholic Church child sex abuse scandals.

“That has, more than almost any other thing, alienated a whole generation,” O’Leary said. “And it is not just Catholics. It goes to all religious authority by extension.”

Still, O’Leary cautions that the decline in religious affiliation — due to the Internet or otherwise — does not mean an equal rise in atheism.

“They haven’t given up their belief in the supernatural. They just don’t feel they need organizations or institutions to bring it to them,” he said. “And you don’t have to believe in any god to light a candle or hold hands and utter a mantra or chant.”

Downey’s findings dovetail with those of the Pew Research Center’s 2012 look at the “nones,” the terminology for Americans with no religious affiliation. That study found that almost 20 percent of all Americans — and a third of those under 30 — are nones.

By examining data from the CIRP Freshman Survey, conducted among first-year college students, Downey discovered that between 1985 and 2013 — approximately the same amount of time that the GSS measured Internet usage — the percentage of freshmen who identified as nonreligious tripled, from 8 percent to 25 percent. He predicts on his blog that number will reach almost 26 percent next year — more than the share of students who identify as Catholic.

“I think this is an underreported story,” Downey said.

Still, Downey is cautious about blaming the Internet, which he figures accounts for only about 20 percent of the overall decline in religious affiliation. An additional 25 percent, he says, can be attributed to fewer people being raised with a religious affiliation, and 5 percent might be due to increases in college education.

“That leaves 50 percent of the decrease unexplained by the factors I was able to include in the study, which raises interesting questions for future research,” he said.

Kimberly Winston Featured U.S. News Fri, 11 Apr 2014 13:00:00 -0400
What If Jesus Did Have a Wife? Many Just Won't Believe It

A year and a half after unveiling a slip of papyrus that she dubbed “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” Harvard Bible scholar Karen King on Thursday released the results of long-delayed testing on the controversial fragment that appear to show it is not a modern forgery.

But a host of questions remain, with some experts still wondering whether it is a fake and others questioning the value of the tests. Still others are asking whether the “gospel” and its suggestion that Jesus could have had a flesh-and-blood wife have any bearing on Christian doctrine.

King said she feels vindicated because the tests show the fragment, which is about the size of a business card, and the writing on it are ancient and therefore authentic.

“I’m hoping now that we can turn away from the question of forgery and talk much, much more about the historical significance of the fragment and precisely how it fit into the history of Christianity and questions about family and marriage and sexuality and Jesus,” King told reporters.

Those theological questions have indeed stirred controversy since King presented the fragment at a conference in Rome in September 2012, and continued to do so in the wake of this latest announcement.

“Nearly every scholar believes that Jesus was unmarried. So do I,” the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author of a new book on Jesus, wrote on the website of America magazine, a Catholic weekly. “My faith,” Martin added, “does not rest on his being unmarried—but my reason tells me that he was.”

Martin listed some of the reasons Jesus was likely not married—one, it would be odd for the accounts of his life not to mention a wife if he had one, and the newly discovered papyrus was written centuries after the original Gospels.

The fragment consists of just eight lines and 33 words of an interrupted conversation likely snipped from a larger papyrus.

At two points Jesus speaks of his mother, his wife and a female disciple, one of whom may be identified as “Mary,” though it’s not clear if she would be Mary Magdalene, as some speculate, or another Mary. When the disciples discuss whether Mary is worthy, Jesus states that “she can be my disciple,” an intriguing statement that might challenge Catholic doctrine about women as priests.

King has stressed that the fragment does not prove that Jesus was married, and she says the text is not in fact focused on that issue.

“The main topic of the fragment is to affirm that women who are mothers and wives can be disciples of Jesus—a topic that was hotly debated in early Christianity as celibate virginity increasingly became highly valued,” King explained.

But beyond the debates over faith and history, the latest news about the papyrus continued to prompt questions about its validity. Not everyone was satisfied with the answers.

“The papyrus fragment seems ripe for a Monty Python sketch,” Leo Depuydt, an Egyptologist at Brown University, writes in a blistering rebuttal to King. His analysis is in one of a series of articles on the papyrus published in the new edition of the Harvard Theological Review.

Depuydt also continues to maintain that the Coptic language used in the papyrus contains “a couple of fatal grammatical blunders” that render it “patently fake.”

Critics also say the fragment violates the “too good to be true” rule of biblical archaeology: that if a relic emerges that seems to address exactly the concerns of a modern audience—such as sex and women in Christianity — then skepticism is warranted.

They point to other outstanding issues as well:

  • The testing indicates that the papyrus could be as recent as 859, which is 400 years later than King first thought and much later than the accounts from the New Testament;
  • Tests on the composition of the ink showed that it was of a type used between 400 B.C. and as late as A.D. 800, a very wide window;
  • While the ink appears to be of a type and pattern used by ancient writers, the ink itself could not be tested without destroying the papyrus;
  • The language Jesus uses about a wife could be metaphorical and may indicate he was referring to the church as his bride, not a real woman.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, King acknowledged those criticisms but said they did not affect the validity or import of the fragment.

She said the later dating did not matter too much because she has always believed the writing was copied from a much earlier document, probably from the second or third century. She said an analysis of the writing showed it falls in the range of the papyrus itself, and she said there are other examples of similar grammatical errors in other ancient writings.

“There’s a limited amount of takeaway you can do from something that small,” she said.

King also acknowledged that the uncertain sourcing of the document was unfortunate but could not be helped. The owner of the fragment remains anonymous; he only told her that he bought it and five other papyri in 1999 from a collector who said he acquired them in what was then communist East Germany in 1963.

King said Thursday that Harvard Divinity School has the papyrus and that over the weekend the owner—who will not reveal his identity—wrote her an email proposing that it remain there on permanent loan. Harvard is considering the idea, she said.

King originally unveiled the papyrus at a scholarly conference in Rome, the Vatican’s backyard, as it were, and by dubbing it the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” she practically guaranteed the kind of viral coverage that the discovery received.

But she said she was still surprised at the public fascination with the topic and did not account for how quickly the media “wave” would run with the story before all the testing and deliberation could take place. Her original research article on the fragment was put on hold, as was a Smithsonian Channel documentary, which will now air with updated information.

“My intent from the beginning was to do this in a responsible way,” King said. But, she continued, “I’m not sure it”—the controversy—“could have been avoided, actually.”

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

David Gibson/RNS Featured U.S. News Fri, 11 Apr 2014 11:30:00 -0400
Health Secretary Falls on Sword After Botched Obamacare Rollout

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning after overseeing the botched rollout of President Barack Obama's signature health care law, a White House official said on Thursday.

Her departure removes one lightning rod for critics as Obama and nervous Democrats try to retain control of the U.S. Senate in November midterm elections, but Republicans continue to see problems with the Affordable Care Act as a winning issue.

"If the Obama people thought this was going to calm the waters, I think they misread it. I think it's just going to embolden Republicans," said David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.

The Oct. 1 launch of new Obamacare health insurance marketplaces, which was plagued by computer problems that stymied access for millions of people, has been condemned by Republicans as a step toward socialized medicine.

Obama has chosen Sylvia Mathews Burwell, his budget director, to replace Sebelius, the White House said. Well-known inside Washington, where her appointment was praised by the likes of Republican Sen. John McCain, Burwell will have to manage the program through its next major challenges in the height of elections season.

But Burwell is relatively unknown outside the Beltway, and has a "tall order" to fix all the detailed issues with the law, and improve its standing among voters, Yepsen said.

Polls show Obamacare remains unpopular. In March, 46 percent of people said they had an unfavorable view of the law, while 38 percent said they liked it, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Obama was due to announce the change with Sebelius and Burwell at his side at a White House event at 10:45 a.m. EDT on Friday. Sebelius remains on the job until Burwell is confirmed by the Senate, an administration official said.

'Hold Me Accountable'

Sebelius, 65, became the public face for the problem-plagued start to the enrollment period for Obamacare, which was meant to reduce the number of Americans without health insurance and cut into massive U.S. health care costs.

When enrollment opened in October, the federal website used by consumers in 36 states failed to work for weeks. The White House called in a team of management and technology experts to fix the site, which began working more or less smoothly by December.

Even as she took responsibility for the failures, Obama stuck by Sebelius, brushing aside pressure to fire her.

"Hold me accountable for the debacle. I'm responsible," Sebelius said at an Oct. 30 hearing.

The enrollment period was ultimately successful, surpassing the 7 million figure the Obama administration had predicted. But Sebelius, a former governor of Kansas, told Obama in early March she wanted to leave the administration, a White House official said.

"She believed that once open enrollment ended it would be the right time to transition the department to new leadership," the official said.

Management Credentials

Burwell, 48, is no stranger to top-level administrative positions, having served as deputy White House chief of staff during the Clinton administration and in top roles at the Treasury Department and the National Economic Council.

She served at the Office of Management and Budget twice, as deputy director under Jack Lew from 1998 to 2001, and took over as director about a year ago. She helped the administration manage its response to a shutdown of the federal government brought on by a budget battle with Republicans in October.

In the intervening years, she worked at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and as head of the Wal-Mart Foundation.

Burwell "seems to have a strong background in management, and that's what we need now," said Timothy Jost, a health care expert who teaches at Washington and Lee University.

"We're over some of the biggest hurdles now, and what we need is somebody who can stay the course."

Her nomination into the contentious position will likely be eased by a Senate rule change last year known as the "nuclear option," which lowers the vote threshold needed to overcome procedural hurdles for confirmation of presidential nominees.

Instead of the previous 60 votes required to override a senator's objection to a nominee, only 51 votes are needed to advance to a final vote under the changes made by Senate Democrats, who currently control the Senate 55 votes to 45.

One of the first challenges for Burwell will be to work with health insurers in the coming months as they set prices for Obamacare plans in 2015. Industry executives have warned that many states could see double-digit increases in monthly premiums as they try to account for the higher proportion of older policyholders who often cost more to cover. Such price hikes would provide fodder for Republican opponents of the law who say it creates financial burdens for individuals and businesses.

She will also be challenged to improve the health insurance exchanges before the next enrollment period begins in November, and with the Treasury Department, implement new penalties for Americans who did not buy health insurance.

Democrats facing tough races in November are pushing for politically palatable changes to the law, while Republicans will push to get rid of it.

"Secretary Sebelius may be gone, but the problems with this law and the impact it's having on our constituents aren't," said Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate.

"Obamacare has to go, too," McConnell said in a statement.

Butt of Late-Night Jokes

Sebelius's resignation caps a series of departures by lower-profile officials responsible for implementing the law.

Sebelius testified to Congress about the law as recently as Thursday, giving no sign that she was about to step down.

In an interview with The New York Times, Sebelius said she wished she could take "all the animosity" toward Obamacare with her when she departs.

"If that could just leave with me, and we could get to a new chapter, that would be terrific," she said.

Lawmakers from both parties gave Sebelius credit on Thursday for persevering through what Republican Senator Orrin Hatch called "one of the toughest jobs in Washington."

Analysts said Sebelius's career as secretary hit a low point soon after the Oct. 1 launch, when she continued to travel the country to promote enrollment, including an embarrassing appearance on The Daily Show, a cable television comedy program, and regular skewering on Saturday Night Live.

Republicans including her fellow Kansan Sen. Pat Roberts called for her to step down for what he called "gross incompetence," and administration insiders said relations with the White House grew increasingly tense thereafter.

"You won't find a piece of paper saying she was fired. But it had to be uncomfortable, and not having a change in personnel after the disastrous rollout must have rubbed the administration's Democratic supporters the wrong way," said Joe Antos of the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Additional reporting by David Morgan, David Lawder and Tom Ferraro; Editing by Sandra Maler, David Storey and Lisa Shumaker

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Roberta Rampton/Reuters Featured Politics Fri, 11 Apr 2014 10:30:00 -0400
Who Is Responsible for the Suffering of the Palestinians?

There is no doubt that there is real suffering among the Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank (which is actually ancient Judea and Samaria). The question is who, precisely, is most responsible for their suffering?

Certainly, Israel is far from blameless in its treatment of the Palestinians, and it helps no one when we overlook or whitewash Israel’s failings, as some Christian Zionists are prone to do.

But is Israel primarily responsible for the difficult living conditions faced by the Palestinians today? Absolutely not. The blame lies squarely at the feet of the Palestinian leadership.

Consider that in 1936, Haj Amin Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, later a collaborator with Hitler and the father of many of today’s radical Islamic movements, had this to say about living in peace with the neighboring Jews: “There is no place in Palestine for two races. The Jews left Palestine 2,000 years ago. Let them go to other parts of the world, where there are wide vacant places.”

In contrast, in 1937, David Ben-Gurion, later to be Israel’s first prime minister, said, “We do not wish and do not need to expel Arabs and take their place. All our aspiration is built on the assumption—proven throughout all our activity in the land of Israel—that there is enough room in the country for ourselves and the Arabs.”

Ten years later, when the U.N. had proposed separate states for the Jews and the Arabs, Golda Meir said, “We are happy and ready for what lies ahead. Our hands are extended in peace to our neighbors. Both states can live in peace with one another and cooperate for the welfare of their inhabitants.”

And Ben-Gurion invited the Arabs living in what would be the new state of Israel to remain among them as partners (which many of them did, and they have grown from 200,000 then to 1.6 million today): “If the Arab citizen will feel at home in our state … if the state will help him in a truthful and dedicated way to reach the economic, social and cultural level of the Jewish community, then Arab distrust will accordingly subside and a bridge will be built to a Semitic, Jewish-Arab alliance.”

In stark contrast, Azzam Pasha, secretary of the Arab League, would have none of it, calling instead for an all-out war against Israel: “It will be a war of annihilation. It will be a momentous massacre in history that will be talked about like the massacres of the Mongols or the Crusades.”

And so, the five surrounding Arab nations attacked Israel and were defeated in a war that was costly and difficult for everyone, resulting in about 800,000 Jewish refugees who fled from the neighboring Muslim countries and about 600,000 Arab refugees who fled from the war on Israel.

What happened to those refugees? Most of the Jewish refugees were absorbed by the fledgling state of Israel; the Arab refugees were not absorbed by their neighboring countries.

Why? Because they were used as human pawns against Israel, to the point that in 1959, the Arab League passed Resolution 1457: “The Arab countries will not grant citizenship to applicants of Palestinian origin in order to prevent their assimilation into the host countries.”

That’s why, until this very day, there are hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in refugee camps in countries like Lebanon and Syria, never integrated into the larger population or absorbed as citizens with full rights.

How dare the anti-Zionists blame Israel for this atrocious treatment of the Palestinians. The fault lies with their own leaders, who have betrayed them in their hatred of Israel. (This is why historian Efraim Karsh entitled his very important book Palestine Betrayed, where much more relevant information can be found.)

As recently as 2004, Hisham Youssef, spokesman for the 22-nation Arab League, stated, “Palestinians live in very bad conditions. That official policy is meant to preserve their Palestinian identity. If every Palestinian who sought refuge in a certain country was integrated and accommodated into that country, there won’t be any reason for them to return to Palestine.”

Do these leaders really care about their suffering brothers and sisters, or is their opposition to Israel, fueled by the theology of radical Islam, more important to them?

In 2012, the Palestinian mufti, one of the senior Islamic leaders, repeated a well-known Muslim hadith (authoritative tradition): “The Hour [of Resurrection] will not come until you fight the Jews. The Jew will hide behind stones or trees. Then the stones or trees will call: ‘Oh Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’”

More recently, in a recent program on Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV, Hamas cleric and parliamentary member Yunis Al-Astal cited the Quran in guiding Muslims to “massacre” the Jews. (See for more details.)

With statements like this, which are seconded by many Palestinian leaders, does Israel really have a peace partner among the Palestinian leadership?

As journalist Caroline Glick wrote, “Nearly every day a Palestinian leader announces that the Palestinians will not make peace with Israel under any circumstances. These statements are part of the public record, and all are published to great approval in the Arabic media. Palestinian children regularly appear on PA-controlled television children’s programs, calling for the annihilation of Israel and demonizing Jews as subhuman. Summer camps are named after terrorists.”

And as Israel has released thousands of Palestinian prisoners as a gesture of peace, even though many of these prisoners have the blood of Israeli men, women and children on their hands, they are hailed as heroes when they return home. This is a terribly painful slap in Israel’s face and yet another stumbling block to peace.

As for the billions of dollars of support that pours into Hamas and the Palestinian Authority from America and Europe, only a small portion of it finds its way into the hands of the people, instead being used to pad the bank accounts of the leaders and to further their war on Israel.

Of course, as followers of Jesus we should care for both Palestinians and Israelis, and we should give ourselves wholeheartedly to bring justice to the victims and relief to the suffering, whoever they may be.

But let us not forget where the ultimate blame lies for the suffering of the Palestinian people: It lies at the feet of their leadership, and shifting the blame to Israel will do these suffering Palestinians no good at all.

Michael Brown is author of Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message 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.

Michael Brown Featured In the Line of Fire Opinion Fri, 11 Apr 2014 09:30:00 -0400
Atheist Mistakes Roommate for Jesus, Attacks Him and Demands Godless Lawyer

In Florida, self-proclaimed atheist Gustav Pothoff, 51, doesn't seem to be too good at recognizing people.

That's because apparently his roommate, Raymond Hernandez, looked enough like Jesus Christ for Pothoff to attack him—according to police—with a glass cup and butter knife.

Now Pothoff is claiming he has a right to a court-appointed attorney who shares his godless views, according to a local news source. But the judge isn't buying it, saying that Pothoff has to pay for his own lawyer if he insists on finding someone like-minded.

Pothoff was arrested Monday and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, according to the Huffington Post.

The police officer at the scene of the incident reported:

"Raymond continued to tell me he got up from the couch to get a drink out of the kitchen, when all of a sudden Gustav picked up a glass cup and threw it at him. Raymond told me he quickly had to move so he did not get hit with the glass cup. After Gustav threw the glass cup at Raymond, Raymond stated the glass cup hit the ground and broke. Raymond further said Gustav then picked up a silver knife and threw that at him. When Gustav threw the items at Raymond, Raymond further said Gustav was talking about he was Jesus and wanted to kill him. Raymond frantically ran outside and called 911. Raymond stated he was scared that if the glass or knife hit him he was going to be injured."

The police report goes on to describe Gustav's story changing several times, though each time the atheist neglected to mention anything having to do with Jesus.

Alex Kocman Featured U.S. News Fri, 11 Apr 2014 09:00:00 -0400
OneHope President Robert Hoskins Elected as Oral Roberts University Board Chair

The Oral Roberts University (ORU) board of trustees has unanimously elected Rob Hoskins board chair. Hoskins is stepping into this role that was filled by Mart Green since the new board was founded six years ago. Green will remain on the board as vice chair.

“I am thrilled for the opportunity to serve the board and the university as we continue to build Spirit-empowered leaders that will impact the world with the hope of Jesus Christ,” Hoskins says. “Mart Green’s leadership was instrumental in establishing a dynamic and hardworking board of trustees that changed the course of this institution. The board is deeply grateful for Mart Green and his tireless service to ORU. We are committed to carrying on this tradition of excellence in governance.”

“I commend the board for choosing Rob Hoskins as the next board chair for this world-renowned university,” says ORU President Billy Wilson. “Rob, who successfully leads a very substantial and effective global ministry, has a deep understanding of the opportunities for the globalization of ORU into the future. I look forward to working with Rob and the entire board of trustees as we dream about how we can equip students around the world in the 21st century.”

Hoskins is currently president and CEO of OneHope, a global ministry committed to engaging every child in the world with God's Word. OneHope has already reached more than a billion children and youth in more than 140 nations and in 100-plus languages.

Hoskins produced The GodMan, an animated children's film produced in 10 cultural worldview versions and translated into over 50 languages. The film is shown to millions of children every year. Due to Hoskins' strong belief in forming and sustaining unified mission collaboratives, he serves on the board of the Forum of Bible Agencies International, is founder of the Visual Story Network and served on the steering committee of the 4/14 Window Movement. He is also serving on the strategy working group for the Lausanne Movement. 

Hoskins earned his B.A. from Vanguard University and is an ordained general appointed missionary of the Assemblies of God. He is the recipient of John Maxwell's Equip Leadership Award and has been recognized by Charisma magazine as one of the emerging leaders of the church of tomorrow.

The officers for the ORU board of trustees also include Dale Wilkerson as treasurer and Glenda Payas as secretary.

Jeremy Burton Featured U.S. News Fri, 11 Apr 2014 08:00:00 -0400