Charisma News | Breaking News. Spiritual Perspective. Tue, 16 Sep 2014 15:19:49 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Motivational Speaker's Fatherlessness Offers Youth Hope

Internationally recognized, motivational youth speaker Gabe Salazar tells of the experiences that now help him change the lives of youth in the newest film from I am Second.

Salazar has been recognized as America's No. 1 Latino Youth Speaker by Popular Hispanics magazine and is a keynote speaker with organizations such as Just Say Yes and the Boys and Girls Club of America. Over the past 10 years, Salazar has addressed more than 1 million students and continues to headline more than 150 teen events each year.

Salazar's inspirational message to today's youth comes out of his own personal pain.

Salazar's biological father made it clear from the beginning of his life that he was not wanted. When Salazar's mother found out she was pregnant as a teen, he encouraged her to have an abortion. When she said no, he abandoned them both, leaving Salazar with extreme anger toward his father.

This anger and abandonment soon led to Salazar's association with the wrong crowd.

"The guys that would accept me were guys that were street thugs, street gangs—gang bangers. It's kind of the group that made me feel like I belonged—that I was good enough," Salazar said.

Different gang-related activities led to a lot of trouble for Salazar, but one day the gang asked too much, so he quit. The gang retaliated and beat Salazar up—breaking his ribs, busting his lips and causing damage to his teeth. Salazar felt the same abandonment all over again, and no one in his school wanted anything to do with him.

A man at his mom's church invited him to a youth rally. Not knowing what that was and realizing no one else was inviting him to do anything, he went.

"People were clapping and singing and praying, and I remember thinking, that's ridiculous. Why are they so happy? Nobody could be that happy," Salazar said. "But I knew the reason I was feeling that way was because I wanted what they had."

That night he gained a new heavenly Father, and his life changed from night to day.

Today, a father of four and a highly regarded motivational speaker, Salazar hopes to bring his own children and other youth the acceptance and love that took him so long to find.

Click here to see Salazar's I am Second film. For more information about Salazar, visit his website.


Charisma News Staff Featured Culture Tue, 16 Sep 2014 15:00:00 -0400
Bishop T.D. Jakes Producing 2 Television Shows

Bishop T.D. Jakes is known for producing faith-based movies such as Heaven Is for Real, but the 30,000-member megachurch pastor is now taking his talents to the small screen: TV. And not Christian television this time, but secular TV.

That's according to a story in the Hollywood Reporter. One show would be based on his latest book, Instinct: The Power to Unleash Your Inborn Drive. The other would be a talk show that would air nationwide beginning sometime in 2015 or 2016.

"We think that viewers are hungry for the opportunity to learn from his insights," says Stephanie Drachkovitch, 44 Blue Prod. co-owner and executive VP who is working with TDJ Enterprises and Enlight Entertainment on the shows. She told the Hollywood Reporter she believes "his unique voice and universal message will motivate and entertain."

There seems to be an appetite for what Jakes offers. Instinct debuted No. 1 on The New York Times Bestseller List in May. In Instinct Jakes outlines how to re-discover your natural aptitude in order to reclaim the wisdom of your past experiences.

"As a communicator, I could not be more excited about this collaboration, which allows our brand to extend its presence onto the small screen," Jakes said in a statement.

He said the shows would allow him to "tell the untold stories of empowerment and inspiration, that I'm known for, to wider, more diverse audiences."


Jennifer LeClaire Featured Culture Tue, 16 Sep 2014 14:00:00 -0400
Big Churches, Big Bucks: Southern Senior Pastors Take Top Salaries

Large churches in the South tend to pay their senior pastors the highest salaries, a new survey finds.

That's one of the conclusions on churches and finances released Sept. 9 by Leadership Network, a Dallas-based church think tank, and the Vanderbloemen Search Group, a Houston-based executive search firm for churches and ministries. A total of 727 churches in the United States and Canada with attendance ranging from 1,000 to more than 30,000 answered questions, more than double the number of congregations featured in previous studies.

The survey found that 14 percent of large churches have a financial bonus structure for their top leader. And one in five of the big congregations find ways to collect their money other than passing the proverbial offering plate.

Warren Bird, research director at Leadership Network, said pastors have long held a lofty place of authority in the South, and that may be why they are paid more in that region.

Northeastern churches are the second-highest paying, followed by the West and the Midwest. The lowest-paying region is Canada.

The higher senior-pastor salaries in the South contrast with lower-than-average wages overall for the region. The Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics reports average annual wages of workers in all the states in the Deep South—Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina—are lower than the U.S. annual wage of $49,804.

Although researchers agreed not to divulge specific salaries of particular pastors or the identity of participating churches, they were able to determine trends in these congregations that reflect about one-quarter of the nation's Protestant worshippers. For example:

  • The larger the church, the more the senior pastor is likely to be paid.
  •  The second-in-command at many churches earns about 70 percent of the salary of the top executive.
  • Three-quarters of the churches gave pay raises between 1 and 5 percent, and the most common raise was 3 percent for 2014.

"Bigger means more employees, more volunteers, more moving parts and a greater scope of leadership required," Bird said. "That reality usually leads to more compensation across a host of organizations."

In fact, the common pay raise also reflects a wider social trend. Towers Watson, a Virginia-based professional services company, released a separate survey Sept. 8 that found that U.S. employers plan to give their professional employees an average pay raise of 3 percent in 2015.

Researchers for the large-churches survey found that donations are slightly higher at those churches that pass the plate, but all churches in the study offered more than one option for giving: 81 percent provide online giving options; 37 percent had a donation box in the lobby; and 25 percent had an electronic kiosk in the lobby. Far surpassing churches of other sizes, congregations with more than 10,000 worshippers were least likely to pass offering plates.

"If your stereotype is that every church passes the plate, they don't," said Bird.

Online giving has been growing in popularity for seven years, Bird said. He recently visited a church in Australia that gets 80 percent of its donations via the Internet. One Maryland megachurch gets 40 percent of its giving through online donations.

How much do congregants know about the finances of their churches? Bird said most congregations will get some kind of a report from their leaders.

"It is extremely rare that the entire congregation will be privy to specific salaries," he said.

But even people with inside knowledge about church salaries need to know more about how to handle their finances, said Holly Tate, director of business development at Vanderbloumen.

"Churches are known to fall behind in compensation trends, and they end up losing their staff because of it," she said.

The survey also found:

  • 80 percent of the large churches were predominantly white, while 20 percent were made up mostly of another racial or ethnic group or were multiethnic.
  • The larger the church, the more likely it is to be a multisite congregation.

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

Adelle M. Banks/RNS Featured U.S. News Tue, 16 Sep 2014 13:00:00 -0400
How to Decide About Your Next Job

In 1997 I put a list of Bible texts together to help folks think through what job to pursue. Below I have taken that list and added comments to flesh out more specifically what I had in mind.

My prayer is that these thoughts will help saturate your mind with the centrality of Christ in all of life. He made you to work. And He cares about what you do with the half of your waking life called "vocation." He wants you to rejoice in it. And He wants to be glorified in it.

May the Lord position you strategically in the workplace, as only he can when his people care deeply about these kinds of questions.

12 Questions to Consider

1. Can you earnestly do all the parts of this job "to the glory of God," that is, in a way that highlights His superior value over all other things?

"Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31, ESV).

It almost goes without saying that a job that requires you to sin will not be done to the glory of God. Sin is any feeling, word or action that implies the glory of God is not supremely valuable. So you can't sin to the glory of God. But things are often not that clear. A job may involve me in questionable practices that are not clearly sin. Then the question becomes: Is my conscience clear? And the crucial text becomes Rom. 14:23, "But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin."

2. Is taking this job part of a strategy to grow in personal holiness?

"For this is the will of God, your sanctification" (1 Thess. 4:3).

When Paul says, "Pursue righteousness" (1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22), he does not mean: Do so at church and home but not at work. Our work is about half our waking life. If personal holiness in all of life is our calling, then how this happens at work matters. God will be pleased if you ask the question: How does this job fit into the overall strategy of my pursuit of Christ-like character?

3. Will this job help or hinder your progress in esteeming the value of knowing Christ Jesus your Lord?

"I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (Phil. 3:8).

Think through the demands of this job and how it may affect your pursuit of knowing and treasuring Jesus. For example, will it require you to choose between excellence in work and faithfulness in corporate worship? Will it present you with sinful images or offers, to which you are most vulnerable—that is, which lure you to treasuring this world more than Christ?

4. Will this job result in inappropriate pressures on you to think or feel or act against your King, Jesus?

"You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men" (1 Cor. 7:23).

The point here is bondage. All jobs constrain behavior. We must show up. We must produce these outcomes. We must follow these procedures. Constraints are not bondage if we joyfully affirm their wisdom. Will this job pressure you in ways that are in fact unduly oppressive and enslaving?

5. Will this job help establish an overall life pattern that will yield a significant involvement in fulfilling God's great purpose of exalting Christ among all the unreached peoples of the world?

"Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age'" (Matt. 28:18–20).

I assume every one is a goer, sender or disobedient when it comes to the Great Commission. There's no neutral zone. We don't all go. But we all care that there be goers. We are all world-Christians. We are all burdened by how many unreached peoples there are. And we are all thrilled with news of gospel spreading.

Some jobs may advance this life-goal significantly by involving travel or multi-ethnic interactions. Other jobs may seem unrelated. But are they? Workplaces are the source of income for giving to the cause of Christ. Workplaces are places of conversion and recruitment for the global mission. Workplaces are places of training for the kinds of things one could do for a living in another country with few Christians. Workplaces are places for speaking intelligently and wisely about the peoples of the world.

6. Will this job be worthy of your best energies?

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might" (Eccl. 9:10).

Nothing is to be done half-heartedly. This means that things that are not worth doing wholeheartedly should drop away from your life. Tasks don't have to be high impact to be worthy of high effort. Most of the things we do in any given day are relatively low impact. Working on an assembly line means doing hundreds of times a task that in itself seems low impact. But if the product or the service is valuable, the cumulative effect of thousands of low-impact tasks is huge. These tasks can be transposed by an act of faith into worship. That is what it means to do them with your might and for the glory of God.

7. Will the activities and environment of this job tend to shape you, or will you be able to shape it for the Christ-magnifying purposes of God?

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom. 12:2).

Know yourself. We are all more or less vulnerable to different temptations. Christians are to be shapers of the world rather than being shaped by the world. Yes, it is true that we are all shaped by our culture (language, dress, etc.). But God means for this to be reciprocal. We share the culture of this world in order to communicate that we live for a treasure beyond this world. Does this job hold out hope for that? Or, realistically, is it too resistant?

8. Will this job provide an occasion for you to be radically Christian so as to let your light shine for your Father's sake, or will your participation in the vision of the business tend by definition to snuff your wick?

"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).

There are companies—increasingly so—whose policies and procedures would muzzle your voice so seriously, you would not be able to speak with truth and love without being fired. Is the acceptance of this job the acceptance of that muzzle? If so, is that God's will for you?

9. Does the aim of this job cohere with a growing intensity in your life to be radically, publicly, fruitfully devoted to Christ at any cost?

"If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Mark 8:34).

If you are in a season of serious spiritual growth, ask how a new job will affect that. There are kinds of tasks, kinds of people, kinds of pressures, kinds of schedules, that may bring that growth to a screeching halt. Is this new level of love to Christ precious enough that you will prioritize it, if necessary, above the new job?

10. Will the job feel like a good investment of your life when these "two seconds" of preparation for eternity are over?

"You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away" (James 4:14).

God says that there is a wisdom that comes when we consider the number of our days (Psalm 90:12). Therefore, it will serve your wise choice of a new job to ask how it relates to the brevity of life. When the Lord calls for us or comes for us, we want to be found doing what pleases Him. And we want to feel good that we made a wise choice in view of how short and vulnerable life is.

11. Does this job fit with why you believe you were created and purchased by Christ?

"Everyone who is called by my name ... I have created for my glory" (Is. 43:6–7). "You have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body" (1 Cor. 6:20).

You are unique. That is amazing and true. I often marvel in a crowded airport that the thousands of people all look human, and they all look different. How can there be so many differences in this one kind of being? But there are. And none of them is an accident. God designed them all like unique prisms that refract his glory as only this prism can. The question is: Will this job conceal the uniquenesses of your prism? Or will it give you space to shine?

12. Does this job fit together with the ultimate truth that all things exist for Christ?

"For by him all ... have been created by [Christ] and for him" (Col. 1:16).

If all things exist for Christ, can there be any wrong jobs? Yes. Because humans try to use things for purposes other than the glory of Christ. Everything God made is good. It exists to communicate something of His greatness and beauty. Will this job free you to take what He has made and turn it for uses that honor Him?

I hope you can tell from this that there are few easy answers when asking about what job to pursue. The aim here is not to make it easy but to make it Christ-centered, Christ-exalting, and Christ-empowered. If your heart is right on these kinds of questions, God will guide you. Seek Him supremely in these ways, and let your heart be your guide.

John Piper is founder and teacher of and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis. He is author of more than 50 books.


John Piper Featured Marketplace Tue, 16 Sep 2014 12:00:00 -0400
4 Things Millennials Need From Their Church

It's no secret that millennials aren't exactly flocking to churches these days. There are theories and statistics, but the fact remains the same: Our churches aren't a place millennials tend to call home.

Instead of tackling the problem on a grand scale—instead of diving into theories and ideas as to the cause and the solution—I want to move in closer, to what millennials need from us in our churches today. While I'm not a millennial, and while this is not a comprehensive list, these thoughts are derived from some of the conversations I've had with millennials about this very topic.

Here are four things millennials need from their church:

1. A realism about the state of the world. I once heard someone say that churches have a tendency to put band-aids over bullet wounds, treating serious problems, hurts and issues like they can be solved with a parable and a pat on the back.

Millennials aren't so easily pacified.

Millennials, as a rule, tend to be activists—aware of the hurt in the world and passionate about solving it. One of the chief complaints I hear millennials give about churches is that they're out of touch with the realities of the world and that they're not finding realistic solutions.

Millennials want honesty about the problem so they can help find honest, helpful solutions.

2. A safe place to work through issues. Millennials don't get a social badge for going to church anymore. Even in the Bible Belt, you don't get a gold star from anyone but your mom for being a good church kid.

Millennials need more than this from their church.

They need a place to honestly work out the questions in their lives, a place to be open and honest about the issues they face, and a place to find out what God actually has to say about them. They're unlikely to invest deeply or get a lot out of a church that stays on the surface about the hard issues, and they're likely to be frustrated by people who are putting on a front of perfection.

Millennials don't need a gold star for being a good person. They need a safe place to work out their stuff.

3. The Truth. A lot of churches tiptoe around the hard truths of the Bible for fear of offending people. Millennials especially have the reputation for being church-averse, which makes seeker-friendly churches steer toward topics that are less likely to offend their fence-riding visitors.

But contrary to popular belief, this is not what millennials are looking for.

As a whole, millennials are not afraid of being passionately sold out for something. While they may be offended by some of Jesus' teachings, they wouldn't be the first ones, and they prefer a church that is passionate and authentic about what they believe.

Millennials are more likely to be zealous for something that they believe matters than drawn in by something that feels lukewarm and non-threatening.

4. Social activism. A point of contention for many millennials is the amount of good they see happening outside of the church in contrast to the bad things they see happening within the church.

Often, millennials see more good coming out of secular philanthropic organizations than they do churches.

Millennials are a passionate, socially active generation, and they want to be a part of a solution to the needs and hurts of the world. A great way to get millennials involved is to work on solving those problems. They'll be able to see the heart of God through your actions and then will want to join in.

All in all, millennials want to be part of a church. They just want to be a part of a church that helps them rather than hinders them. They want to feel that their church understands the value they bring, allows them to live out their gifts, and doesn't stop them from stepping into the empowered life in the Spirit.

With more than a dozen years of local-church ministry, Justin Lathrop has spent the last several years starting businesses and ministries that partner with pastors and churches to advance the Kingdom. He is the founder of (now Vanderbloemen Search), Oaks School of Leadership and, all while staying involved in the local church.

For the original article, visit

Justin Lathrop Featured Opinion Tue, 16 Sep 2014 11:00:00 -0400
What Not to Wear—Another Look at Modesty

Every Christian is responsible for their own decision to objectify another human or treat them with respect. If you're like me, you've probably heard both sides of the modesty debate—men versus women.

From a woman's point of view, we've heard men are very visual and it's up to us Christian women to protect the minds of men by the way we dress. We've been instructed to wear clothes in a way that covers a lot of skin and respects our body as a temple of the Holy Spirit. We've been told our curves have the power to make our brothers stumble so it's our responsibility to cover them up. Many times it's been presented as if our choice of clothing will help keep men on the path of righteousness.

It's no wonder Christian women are confused when you look at the mixed message the church has been sending them: "Look attractive ... but not too attractive! Dress modestly ... but fashionably! Look good ... but not too good!" Women (especially young, impressionable ones) can be left feeling ashamed of their bodies as they try to meet these vague, ever-changing ideals.

From a man's point of view, we've heard the burden of looking away falls to the man. In other words, temptation is everywhere, but with God's help it's not impossible to resist. It takes humble recognition of male weakness and real determination to think about the female body the way God does. But it does require vigilance, obedience and occasional confession and repentance. Meanwhile, men have also been told that they need to dress modestly too, in ways that won't make women stumble!

So which of these viewpoints is right?

Lust vs. Attraction

I think both are right. To put the responsibility heavily on one or the other gender is burdensome and incorrect.

God made men and women for each other. It's natural for them to be attracted to one another. Attraction between the sexes is a normal biological response.

But lust is an entirely different matter. It's a product of the enemy, a perversion of what God created. Lust obsesses on natural, God-given attraction until it turns into a sense of ownership or a drive to conquer.

In Matthew 5:28, when Jesus said, "Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (NKJV), He used the same word we find in the Ten Commandments that refers to a person who covets his neighbor's property. Lust takes attraction and perverts it into coveting, as though a woman's body was a piece of property. Notice Jesus didn't say, "Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart—so ladies, be sure to dress more modestly." No, Jesus placed the responsibility for lust on the person doing the lusting, and rightly so! Every Christian is responsible for their own decision to objectify another human or treat them with respect.

So this issue of modesty really boils down to a matter of the heart, and there are two crucial things that must be addressed: holiness and walking in love. These are choices Christian men and women can—and should—make every day. When we choose to live and emulate a holy lifestyle and to walk in love with each other, the issue of modesty is taken care of.

What's the Deal With Holiness?

I realize that word holiness is not very popular these days, but it's biblical. That means God has written it in His Word for a reason. And anything that God sets forth in His Word should be looked upon as good news. Because it is!

Living a holy life is good news. It's the way God has called us to live, and it has great rewards. We can't expect to walk in God's power, be a light to the lost, get our prayers answered and walk through storms victoriously if we're not living the life He's called us to live.

So, what is holiness? Does it mean wearing long sleeves, no makeup and no jewelry? Does it mean having absolutely no fun and living like a monk? No.

W.E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words describes holiness as "separation to God" and "conduct befitting those so separated." It goes on to describe "the quality of 'holiness' in personal conduct." In other words, the emphasis is on conduct.

One definition of modesty in Merriam-Webster's dictionary is "propriety in dress, speech or conduct." Again it's talking about conduct. So I think we're safe to say that modesty and holiness are focused on how we act.

Should we act like Christians? I believe we should. And what does that look like? I think we know! It doesn't mean acting like the world—acting in inappropriate ways that don't glorify God.

I've heard Christians say, "It doesn't matter how I act. God loves me unconditionally. I'm saved by grace and the completed work of Christ." It's completely true that we are completely saved by grace (Eph. 2:8) and that God loves us without condition (Eph. 2:4). But it's also true that our behavior matters!

A quick read through chapters 4-6 of Ephesians gives us an idea of how God wants us to live. Paul tells us to "walk worthy of [our] calling" (4:1), to put off our "old sinful nature ... which is corrupted by lust" (4:22, NLT), to "stop lying" (4:25, LB), to "have no fellowship with ... darkness" (5:11, NKJV), to "submit to one another" (5:21) and to be obedient (6:1, 5).

Add to that Paul's admonition in 1 Timothy 2:9 to "dress modestly, with decency and propriety" (NIV), and you see once again that all of the instructions have to do with our conduct. Yes, we are saved by grace, but here is what we're supposed to do now that grace saved us: Live a life of holiness, one in which our conduct glorifies God, attracts the lost and sets an example to those around us. It matters how we act in our daily lives!

I believe when both men and women get a firm handle on biblical conduct, living the way the Bible instructs us to live, it will set the modesty issue in a much more manageable context.

What Does It Mean to Walk in Love?

When we're talking about modesty, the real issue is how our conduct—our clothes, our conversation, our way of life—affects others. Ephesians 5 gives us a snapshot of how to do it: "Therefore be imitators of God. ... And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us" (vv. 1-2, NKJV).

How do we imitate God? We walk in love as Christ did. And how did Christ love us? He gave Himself for us. We can see here that love gives. Love lays down its own rights and its own ways for the sake of someone else. Love thinks of the other person before itself.

For example, in this context of dressing and behaving modestly, we have a choice to walk in love or to have our own way. We can say, "I'll wear whatever I want because I want to look good! Don't be prudish or put that bondage on me." Or we can say, "How will this affect someone else? I will put them first."

I like the way one Christian dad put it: "Modesty is the loving prerogative of the mature."

The real foundation for dressing and conducting ourselves modestly comes from Romans 14, which speaks of accepting those whose faith is weaker than our own and not doing anything that would cause them to stumble, even if the thing you want to do is not inherently sinful (vv. 1-4, 13-21).

Paul is talking about food in these verses, but he's emphasizing a broader principle that can be applied to conducting ourselves modestly. He's pointing out that as Christians, we do some things not because we are required, but just for the sake of others.

I realize this is hard for us independent Americans to swallow because we value personal liberty above all else. But as we renew our minds with the Word of God, we begin to see that as Christians, our choice to live holy and walk in love is how we imitate our heavenly Father and how we reach out to a lost and dying world.

The apostle Paul is telling us to do whatever we can to help our brothers and sisters from stumbling. This passage isn't really even talking about how we have to dress or act—Paul's not saying that eating the right foods (or in the case we're talking about here, the right clothes) is a compulsory action. He's saying instead that considering what you eat or drink (or wear) is something we can consciously do for others—not because we have to but because we want to.

For a woman, that means we don't have to dress modestly, but when we do, we might be helping someone. Modesty is best described not as a "have to," motivated by force or blame, but as a conscious decision based on strength and love.

As Christians we are all responsible for resisting our own temptation, for renewing our minds, for looking away from the computer or movie screen when provocative scenes pop up. And we need to realize this applies to men as much as women. Men have an equal responsibility to cover themselves modestly—again, not because they have to, but because they love their sisters enough to curtail the freedoms they have.

Karen Jensen Salisbury is the author of Why, God, Why? What to Do When Life Doesn't Make Sense. She's been a senior pastor and an instructor at Rhema Bible Training College in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Learn more at

Watch professional print and runway model Tressa Lemky explain what true godly modesty involves at

Karen Jensen Salisbury Featured Opinion Tue, 16 Sep 2014 10:00:00 -0400
How Believers Can Distort God's Word

Whenever somebody mentions Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, what do you imagine? Likely, your thoughts drift to the painting's infamous stoic expression or its mysterious legacy. What you probably don't think about is the thick bulletproof glass that sits between the Mona Lisa and art gallery patrons. Vandals have attempted to distort the portrait by throwing acid, rocks and red paint at the portrait for centuries. So the world's most famous work of art must be protected.

Our broken world constantly tries to vandalize famously cherished works, so why would we expect God's valued work of art to be any different?  Like the defensive glass in an art gallery, Scripture too must be protected from those who are twisting its contents and damaging its legacy.  

As you might have heard, there is a "millennial problem" within the church. Religion analysts, pundits and preachers alike are struggling to grasp why young adults raised in evangelical—Pentecostal, charismatic, Baptist and nondenominational—churches are departing from the Christian faith at rapid rates. Simultaneously, Christians are watching with shock and horror as the state of America's morality and foundational Judeo-Christian principles follow the trend of descent.

As a millennial myself and public-policy analyst, I can tell you first-hand that the action needed to fix both problems cannot be found digging into complex data, hazy statistics or even lobbying our representatives' offices in Washington, D.C. For too long, Christian culture warriors have been so focused on vandals' threats to our faith from secular society that we failed to notice the damage being done from within our own evangelical community.

It is painful to admit, but within many evangelical churches, campus ministries, and even Christian universities, believers let our guard down. And so, the Christian Left crept in quietly championing liberalism and feeding a damaged and distorted version of the gospel to young evangelicals.

As I explain in greater detail in my new book Distortion: How the New Christian Left is Twisting the Gospel and Damaging the Faith, the Christian Left must dismantle the authority of God's Word before it can convince young evangelicals that same-sex marriage, abortion, taxpayer-funded abortifacients, feminism, pacifism, Christian discrimination, and the expansion of a federal nanny state are biblically endorsed.

To do this, the Christian Left typically starts by excluding mentions of "sin," "hell" and "transformation" from their sermons, lectures or Sunday school lessons. This way, the need to address and turn away from immorality is intentionally avoided. Next, they incite confusion in millennials' minds regarding the clarity of Scripture. Some among the Christian Left will point to Levitical law outlined in the Old Testament and say that because we do not follow these laws in the Bible, then all Christians may cherry-pick their principles. Therefore, according to the Christian Left, followers of Christ don't have to adhere to everything outlined in the New Testament either. Finally, the Christian Left has dismantled the Word of God so much that they have concocted their own cafeteria-style Christianity; that is, taking parts of the Bible out of context so that it fits their own liberal political activism.

Stay with me here. Right about now I know that these deceptive tactics are probably making your head spin. So I'll give you a clear example. Popular blogger and member of the Christian Left Rachel Held Evans, illustrated this strategy. While writing her book Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband 'Master,' Evans essentially claimed that because it is impossible for women to follow all of the rules pertaining to women recorded in the Bible, then it should follow that Scripture is not an applicable guidebook for Christian women's daily lives.

Thankfully Kathy Keller, the wife of Pastor Tim Keller, pointed out in a book review published by the Gospel Coalition why Evans' formula was deceptive. "In making the decision to ignore the tectonic shift that occurred when Jesus came," Keller wrote, "you have led your readers not into a better understanding of biblical interpretation, but into a worse one. Christians don't arbitrarily ignore the Levitical code—they see it as wonderfully fulfilled in Jesus."

"Not my church," you might be thinking. "We believe in the authority of Scripture." So says Rachel Held Evans and many other Christian Left leaders shaping young evangelicals' faith and worldview.

I pray that distorted liberal theology is not permeating within your church. But a warning: Do not look for liberal political slogans or pro-abortion propaganda pinned to the bulletin board. The Christian Left is much more clever and deceptive than a simple Republican vs. Democrat debate.

America's Founding Father James Madison stated, "I believe there are more instances of abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." Likewise, the Christian Left's abridgement of the authority of Scripture is a gradual and silent destruction of the Word of God.

At this point you might be wondering how the Christian Left can successfully persuade the millennial generation to buy into its damaged, distorted version of the gospel.

The simple answer is: Young evangelicals simply do not know enough about their faith. Because they are not equipped with knowledge of traditional Christian teaching, history and the social science that affirms it, young evangelicals are unable to defend their faith. Therefore they are likely to fall into one of two camps: Either they buy into distorted theology, or they remain silent.

Early in my college years, I was inclined to buy into this distorted theology. Not because I wanted a more progressive ethos or because I was rebelling against my parents' "outdated" religion. My reason was that I wanted to "fit in."

Having a big heart for those in need made me and other millennials especially vulnerable. While attending a prominent Christian campus ministry, I was taught that social-justice work within the community should be priority, not traditional Christian teachings. Of course, this was appealing.

I could focus on caring for others, conveniently follow Jesus, and avoid offending anyone because topics like same-sex marriage and abortion were off limits.

I'll admit that as a new, earnest member of this campus ministry, I tried to take countercultural biblical stands. I tried to confront the excessive alcohol abuse among my fellow evangelical peers and spoke against abortion.

Realizing my Christian friends, and some among the leadership, were uncomfortable with these conversation topics, I found it easier to stick with social justice as my Christian focal point. Seemingly, it was the compassionate route because at least I kept friends that way. Wrong!

Thankfully, my parents and other mentors were committed to speaking all of God's truths in love to me. I finally recognized how I was snuffing out portions of the gospel in order to maintain popularity among my peers.

My experience is not unique. It is the growing trend among millennials raised within the evangelical community. Beyond being a millennial and analyst at the Institute on Religion and Democracy, one of my most important roles is Sunday school teacher to middle school-aged kids My students are bright, funny and bold. But I often hear them explain how many around them—in and outside of our church—bombard their heads with messages of "don't judge," "tolerance," "coexist," and "political correctness." These buzzwords intimidate them.

Seasoned conservative Christians have heard all these empty words before and remain unfazed. But for young kids who have seeds of confusion planted about Scripture's clarity coupled with the fact that they love their non-Christian friends, these words cause fear. So they shy away from mentioning their faith in God and His Word that is inherently offensive to a fallen world. So when popular Christian culture leaders tell young evangelicals that they can appease both the world and Jesus, then, of course this distorted theology captures their attention.

But the Christian Left's damage doesn't end with simply a misguided generation. Their distortions lead back to the "millennial problem" I mentioned earlier. Once young adults buy into the lie that Scripture is not authoritative, then they find themselves drifting toward questioning, doubting and abandoning the faith altogether. After all, why believe in words that hold no tangible or applicable value?

There is good news. Like the art gallery's steps to preserve and protect the Mona Lisa, Christians too can take precautions to guard God's Word. Read your Bible and commit it to memory. Next, ask questions about the theological beliefs of your church leadership, seminary instructors, and the millennials you know. Their answers may shock you. Then finally pray for wisdom and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the absolute truths contained in God's Word.

Popular culture, inside and outside of the church, will try to damage and distort Scripture's value and its authoritative role in Christians' lives. But as followers of Christ, we can stand up and protect all of its contents with good conscience.

Remember that the countercultural messages found in the Bible were not crafted by conservative evangelicals. The Bible is not our words but the divinely inspired work of art produced by the one true living God. Scripture certainly deserves to be protected.   

Chelsen Vicari serves as Director of Evangelical Action at the Institute for Religion and Democracy and is the author of Distortion: How the New Christian Left is Twisting the Gospel and Damaging the Faith.



Chelsen Vicari Featured Opinion Tue, 16 Sep 2014 09:00:00 -0400
7 Points to Help John Kerry Defend Islam

Secretary of State John Kerry announced that some of the new coalition partners will contribute to the war effort against the Islamic State by "demolishing the distortion of one of the world's great peaceful religions," referring to Islam. I want to do my part too! Here are some of the distortions of Islam:

1. Starting with Mr. Kerry's assertion that Islam is one of the world's great peaceful religions. Islam was birthed in blood and thrives on blood. Muhammad executed people. This is fact. Unlike most religions Islam grew in its early stages as a conquering imperialistic empire. It gobbled up lands all over the Middle East within its first 34 years. Since Israel became a nation 11 million Muslims have been violently killed. Israel has killed 0.3 percent of them, while 90 percent have been murdered by fellow Muslims. Islam is not a religion of peace but of blood.

2. Muhammad was an honorable, humble man. In truth, he was a murderous despot with an insatiable sexual appetite. While according to his revelations, a Muslim man could have up to four wives, Muhammad was allowed as many as he wanted, including sex slaves captured in battle (as ISIS does). In all, it is believed that the prophet had sexual relations with 66 women and girls. Yes, girls. His most infamous wife was the child prophetess Aisha, whom he wed at age 6, but mercifully waited until she was 9 to consummate the marriage.

The Nigerian Boko Haram terrorists who kidnapped nearly 300 young girls in order to convert them and force them into marriage and ISIS, which is doing the same in Iraq and Syria, are only following the example of Muhammad. Older Muslim men marrying children is common today. The five nations with the highest percentage of child brides all have a Muslim majority!

3. Islam respects other religions. Within an Islamic state, other religions like Judaism and Christianity are sometimes tolerated, provided that you pay a jizah, a special tax, and you do not offend Islam. Seeking to bring Muslims into your faith can be problematic. In Saudi Arabia it is illegal to seek to convert someone from Islam or to give out literature such as Bibles. One Filipino businessman was arrested, tortured and sentenced to death for leading several house churches. He was reluctantly set free due to international pressure.

4. Islam respects women. An imam teaches his subjects the correct way to beat your wife. The Quran allows anal sex, and the wife must be willing at all times. Women must be covered from head to toe. In paradise the man is promised 72 virgins. What is the woman promised? Young girls are often murdered in honor killings by relatives, while males are rarely murdered in such ways.

Islam is the most oppressive force on Earth regarding women. Just last week more than 3,000 women were taken captive by ISIS and have been forced into sexual slavery. There are brothels overseen by Muslim women to organize this. Fighters are allowed to abuse the women since they are not Muslim. Sadly this is not a distortion, as we already established that Muhammad had sex slaves.

"Muhammad had a multitude of slave girls and concubines with whom he had sex—sometimes on the very days in which they had watched their husbands and fathers die at the hands of his army."

5. Sharia Law is harmless. In Gaza, Iran and Saudi Arabia, religious police called mutaween are given broad powers to enforce Sharia.

"They have the power to arrest unrelated males and females caught socializing, anyone engaged in homosexual behavior or prostitution; to enforce Islamic dress codes, and store closures during the prayer time."

You might think great; they are against prostitution. Think again. A dear friend and her husband were arrested in Dubai. She was arrested for prostitution and he—for rape. They were married! They were forced to convert to Islam in jail and then released. They are both now evangelical Christians.

Dancing to western music, wearing western clothes, can invite a severe beating. In Gaza, Hamas police beat a teen to the point that he could not walk for three days, because he had gel in his hair. Converting to Christianity is a crime punishable by death. Iran has jailed more than one Christian pastor for leaving Islam.

Often just the suspicion of adultery can bring the death penalty—assuming you are a woman. Since males are permitted to have sex slaves, they are rarely executed. Those who are executed under Sharia are often killed in the most gruesome ways such as beheadings, stoning or being buried alive.

6. Islam is tolerant of gays. It is one thing to have a theological disagreement with homosexuality, however it is another to kill someone for it.

"In these countries, Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, the UAE and Yemen, homosexual activity carries the death penalty."

Even in countries where it is legal, if family members find out, honor killings are considered morally justifiable as the courts turn a blind eye. There was no shortage of Hollywood elites like Russell Brand and Penelope Cruz, defending Hamas in the recent war with Israel. Yet these same Hollywood elites would be killed if they sought to establish legal same-sex marriages in Gaza.

7. Only a small segment of Muslims are radicalized. I recently read that only 7 percent of Muslims have been radicalized. Seemed like good news until I did the math. A total of 1.5 billion Muslims times .07 equals 105,000,000 million Muslims ready to murder, rape, pillage, and ultimately die for their cause. And this number is rapidly growing.

Then, when you realize that even so-called moderates from primitive, backward cultures are willing to kill their own daughters in honor killings, you realize that the number is much higher. Just because they are not joining ISIS or strapping on a suicide belt, doesn't mean they do not embrace a murderous form of Islam. Amazingly, the populations of Iran and U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, both Islamic dictatorships, number more than 100,000,000!

I think it is just dandy that John Kerry is enlisting Muslims to join the rhetoric war. And I do get the politics. Kerry must make silly statements like the one above to get their help. But if these nations really want to combat radical Islam, they need to put boots on the ground and take out their wallets. While America and Europe may be the targets of random terror attacks, the radical threat from ISIS and al Qaida is far greater, as they seek to overthrow all of the governments of the Middle East.

Ron Cantor is the director of Messiah's Mandate International in Israel, a Messianic ministry dedicated to taking the message of Jesus from Israel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Cantor also travels internationally teaching on the Jewish roots of the New Testament. He serves on the pastoral team of Tiferet Yeshua, a Hebrew-speaking congregation in Tel Aviv. His newest book is Identity Theft. Follow him at @RonSCantor on Twitter.

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Ron Cantor/Messiah's Mandate Featured Opinion Tue, 16 Sep 2014 08:00:00 -0400
Is Speaking in Tongues From God or the Devil?

Without a doubt, speaking in tongues is the most controversial spiritual gift mentioned in the New Testament. Is it from God or the devil? Should believers ignore it, oppose it, or embrace it? There are many legitimate questions regarding the gift of tongues that deserve a thoughtful, biblical response. Let's tackle five of them.

1. Is speaking in tongues from God or the devil?

The most important thing you need to know about speaking in tongues is what Jesus said about it, and He did not mince His words in Mark 16:17: "And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues." Jesus declared that tongues is a supernatural sign that can and should accompany everyone who believes in Him. God does not give His children any bad gifts, so we shouldn't fear or ridicule the gift of tongues.

2. Are people making it up when they speak in tongues?

The gift of tongues is a known or heavenly language unknown to the speaker that enables him or her to communicate directly with God. Paul said in 1 Cor. 13:1, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels..." When you receive the gift of tongues, in a split second the Holy Spirit downloads a language into your spirit without you ever having to learn it.

In 2006, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania took brain images of five people while they spoke in tongues. Their research was published in The New York Times. The leader of the study team was Dr. Andrew Newberg, who arrived at this conclusion:

"We noticed a number of changes that occurred functionally in the brain. Our finding of decreased activity in the frontal lobes during the practice of speaking in tongues is fascinating because these subjects truly believe that the spirit of God is moving through them and controlling them to speak. ...Our brain-imaging research shows us that these subjects are not in control of the usual language centers during this activity, which is consistent with their description of a lack of intentional control while speaking in tongues."

When they prayed in tongues, their frontal lobes, the willful part of the brain we use to think and control what we do, were quiet. The language center of their brains—the part we use to speak in our native language—were quiet as well. The people were not in a trance; they were fully aware of what was happening. The researchers were unable to pinpoint which part of the brain was controlling this behavior of speaking in tongues. Dr. Newberg went on to say, "The amazing thing was how the images supported people's interpretation of what was happening. ... The way they describe it, and what they believe, is that God is talking through them."

Speaking in tongues is clearly not a fabricated language, as these scientists have confirmed. It is a spiritual language given to us by God to communicate with Him. 

3. Is speaking in tongues a fringe gift that only a few people receive?

The gift of tongues was the most common spiritual gift in the New Testament church. The Bible tells us in Acts 2:4 that all of the original 120 disciples at Pentecost spoke in tongues in the Upper Room: "All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them." We don't know if they all received the gift of faith or healing or discernment, but we know for a fact that all of them received the gift of tongues.

Today, there are more than 600 million charismatic-Pentecostal believers worldwide, the second-largest group of Christians after Catholics. Pentecostals and charismatic churches are by no means a small, fringe movement; on the contrary, they form the fastest-growing religious movement in the world. The gift of tongues is not reserved for a select few. Paul made it clear in 1 Cor. 14:5 that he wanted every believer to pray in tongues (for personal edification) and prophesy (to edify the church): "I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy."

4. Did the gift of tongues cease after the first century, or is it still active today?

The doctrine of cessationism is firmly entrenched in Reformed Christianity. This is the belief that the apostolic and charismatic gifts (including speaking in tongues) ceased after the original 12 apostles passed away. However, several notable early church fathers—such as Justin Martyr (100-165), Irenaeus (115-202), Tertullian (160-220), and Origen (185-254)—recorded that the spiritual gifts, including speaking in tongues, were still active in the church in their days, long after John had passed away around 100 AD.

Peter proclaimed in Acts 2:39 that the gift of tongues is for everyone who is called by God: "The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call." Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 13:8-9 that when that which is perfect comes, tongues will cease. That is a reference to the Second Coming of Christ. The Bible teaches that no one is perfect except Jesus. When Christ returns, we will not need to speak in tongues to communicate with God because we will be with Him. But until then, the gift of tongues is available to any believer who desires it.

5. What are people saying when they pray in tongues?

The Bible reveals five main things that happen when believers pray in tongues:

1. They are speaking directly to God. 1 Corinthians 14:2, "For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit." Tongues is an intimate and direct line of communication with God.

2. They are declaring God's wonders. Acts 2:11, "We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" Far from being nonsense, when we pray in tongues we are actually declaring the wonders and mysteries and majesty of God. How could that possibly be a bad thing?

3. They are praising God. Acts 10:46, "For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God." Even if we don't understand what we are saying when we speak in tongues, we are praising God in the Spirit (1 Cor. 14:16).

4. They are edifying themselves. 1 Cor. 14:4, "He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church." Praying in tongues is like a spiritual workout—it builds you up and makes you stronger spiritually.

5. The Holy Spirit is praying through them, declaring God's will. Romans 8:26-27, "We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express...because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will." Praying in the Spirit will bring revelation and insight into God's will for your life.

If you do not believe in the gift of tongues or have had a bad experience with the charismatic movement, I encourage you to the study the Scriptures with an open mind. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth about tongues to you.

If you desire the gift of tongues, pray for it in faith until you receive it. Jesus said in Luke 11:13, "How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" Sometimes we have to ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, and knock and keep on knocking until we receive our answer to prayer.

If you already have the gift of tongues, use it every day. In 1 Cor. 14:18, Paul boasted about how often he prayed in tongues: "I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you." Tongues is a real language, and as with any language, you have to use it in order to increase your fluency and vocabulary.

Are there excesses and abuse with the use of the gift of tongues? Yes, of course, and they need to be corrected, but don't throw out the baby with the bath water by rejecting the gift of tongues altogether. Let us take the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 14:39 to heart: "Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues" (emphasis added.)

Brian Alarid is the lead pastor of Passion Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and an area coordinator for Billy Graham Evangelistic Association/My Hope.


Brian Alarid Featured Opinion Tue, 16 Sep 2014 07:00:00 -0400
4 Wicked Ways the Enemy Puts You to Sleep

Where was the church when prayer was taken out of schools in 1962? Or when abortion was legalized in 1973? Or when same-sex marriage started to gain momentum to the point that Christian businesses are persecuted for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple?

Put another way, when did the church fall asleep? What caused the church to fall asleep? And how can we wake up the so-called sleeping giant? I don't have all the answers, but what I do know is the church didn't fall asleep overnight. I recently penned a column called "When the Enemy Lulls You to Sleep" that recounts how evil Delilah lulled mighty Samson into slumber. Of course, Samson was living in compromise, which opened the door to Delilah's seduction.

Paul clearly warned us not to be ignorant of the devil's devices (2 Cor. 2:11), which implies the Lord will reveal the enemy's devices, schemes, plots and plans if we walk in connection with His heart—and that's where many of us miss it. If we are living in compromise, we're likely to become spiritually drowsy—but we won't fall right to sleep any more than we enter deep sleep the second our head hits the pillow.

Even if the enemy does lull us to sleep through weariness, apathy, compromise or blatant sin that threatens to sear our conscience like a hot iron, the Holy Spirit is simultaneously working to convict our hearts so we'll wake up. Of course, it's easier to wake up when you are just drifting off than when you are in a dream state where reality is skewed.

4 Stages of Sleep

There are four stages of sleep, and each one is telling when paralleled to the spiritual realm. During Stage 1, your eyes are closed and, according to WebMD, there's a reduction of activity.

From a spiritual sense, this activity reduction could be caused by weariness, apathy, compromise or sin. Our eyes are closed. We don't want to see it—we may even justify it. The good news is it's easy to wake up without much difficulty during stage 1. The bad news is this stage doesn't last long, so the opportunity to shake yourself loose from weariness, apathy, compromise or sin is short.

Stage 2 is a light sleep. WebMD reports there are peaks and valleys, or positive and negative waves, as the heart rate slows and body temperature decreases. At this point, experts say, the body prepares to enter deep sleep. Catch that! Your heart rate slows and your body temperature decreases. Can you see the spiritual parallel? In Stage 2, your heart is not on fire for Jesus as it once was. Your love is growing cold. You are in a dangerous place.

Stages 3 and 4 are what WebMD calls the "deep-sleep stages." This is when you dream; this is when you are disconnected from reality. You don't see things as they really are—or you don't see anything at all. During stage 3 you may sleepwalk. It looks like you're going along with the church crowd, but you are actually sound asleep. In stage 4, voluntary muscles become paralyzed. You may not hear sounds in the waking world or respond to activity in the environment around you. If you are awakened, you may be disoriented.

Sleeping at Critical Times

The church needs to wake up, open its eyes wide, pray and take acts of courage to ignite revival, awakening, reformation and transformation for the glory of God in our nation. We cannot be like the disciples who fell asleep at critical times—even while the Son of Man was being betrayed into the hands of sinners (see Matt. 26:45).

Antichrist spirits are rising, persecuting Christ and His church while we snooze. Some may be sleeping from sorrow (see Luke 22:45). Others may be slumbering after devlish Delilahs found a way to lull them to sleep through a compromised life. Still others may be sleeping because the devil has brought weariness to their soul and they failed to respond to Christ's invitation to come to Him for rest (see Matt. 11:28).

No matter whether you are in a deep sleep or just dozing off, I offer you this admonishment: "Now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed" (Rom. 13:11). And for those of you—the remnant within the remnant—who are wide awake, sounding the alarm, and interceding for the slumbering masses, take heart in these words from revivalist Leonard Ravenhill:

"Some Christians have already hung their harps on the willows, and yet others seem to delight in speaking of the Church's present lapse as a proof of divine inspiration. But I myself believe that if the Church will only obey the conditions, she can have a revival any time she wants it. The problem of the Church is the problem in the garden of Gethsemane—sleep! For while men sleep, the enemy sows his seed through his cults. Lest men sleep the sleep of eternal death, Oh arm of the Lord, Oh Church of the living God, awake!"

Jennifer LeClaire is news editor of Charisma. She is also director of Awakening House of Prayer in Fort Lauderdale and author of several books, including The Making of a Prophet and The Spiritual Warrior's Guide to Defeating Jezebel. You can email Jennifer at 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 Tue, 16 Sep 2014 06:00:00 -0400
Valley Forge Christian College Steps up to University Status

Tuesday marks a major milestone in the 75-year-old life of one of the Assemblies of God's legacy institutions of higher learning in the Eastern United States.

In part because of the expanding roster of degree offerings at Valley Forge Christian College, the school's Board of Trustees has agreed to change its name to the University of Valley Forge. The change is effective Tuesday, following approval by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Triggering the change is both recognition of the school's recent expansion of its degree programs and a conviction that "university" better describes its status as a growing institution that is broadening its curriculum at not only the undergrad and graduate levels but also in online learning, continuing education and the role of extension campuses in Virginia, Illinois and South Carolina.

"The mission of the University of Valley Forge will not change," said President Don Meyer, Ph.D. "Though our name will change, the spirit of the institution, the dedication of our faculty and staff, the worldwide impact of our alumni, and the abiding commitment to our God-given mission will continue to be the hallmarks of the university."

The university offers 67 undergraduate majors, seven graduate programs and nine associate programs. It has a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio serving about 1,100 students.

There also are marketing considerations behind the name change. Overseas, some cultures think of "college" as being more like high school.

"Changing the name will more accurately represent our institution to individuals seeking learning opportunities or teaching positions—no matter where they reside," the school said in a prepared statement. "In many foreign cultures, the word 'college' commonly refers to pre-university academic programs, so clarifying our status strengthens our ability to attract a broader, more diverse pool of candidates for recruiting both new faculty and students.

"Being a university also better aligns us with higher-education ranking systems that are becoming increasingly important as search tools. It also enhances our fund-raising possibilities, foundation opportunities and grant awards that would further grow our campus and academic programs."

In preparation for the official name change, the school has created new branding that includes a UVF seal and logo, as well as a new athletic logo and patriot icon. Signage, marketing materials and other items will be rolled out in the coming months

In addition, school officials acknowledge, adding the word university, while dropping Christian from the name may help students who are looking for jobs or applying to graduate school.

"The new name will help students obtain entrance into graduate schools and make it easier for alumni to enter foreign countries where religious freedoms are restricted," a statement read.

What is now the University of Valley Forge is part of an international network of Assemblies of God colleges and universities—one of 17 in the United States alone. As a private university of the arts, sciences and professions, it provides undergraduate, graduate and lifelong-learning programs, whose mission is to prepare individuals for a life of service and leadership in the church and the world. The University of Valley Forge's 150-acre main campus is in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, in the rolling hills of Chester County west of Philadelphia.

The school traces its roots to 1939, when several small Bible institutes consolidated and formed Eastern Bible Institute (EBI), in Green Lane, Pennsylvania. The institution was granted a charter to train evangelists, pastors, missionaries, and Christian educators and lay workers. EBI expanded in numbers and property space becoming Northeast Bible Institute and, after a fourth year of study was added, became Northeast Bible College (NBC). In 1976-77, NBC moved to its current location in Phoenixville on the site of the former Valley Forge General Hospital and was renamed Valley Forge Christian College.

Mark Andrews Featured U.S. News Mon, 15 Sep 2014 20:00:00 -0400
After 3rd Beheading, Airstrikes on ISIS 'Not Enough'

The Islamic State's beheading of a third victim, British aid worker David Haines, is drawing worldwide condemnation of the terrorist army.

"David has been murdered in the most callous and brutal way imaginable by an organization that is the embodiment of evil," British Prime Minister David Cameron said.

Now there is a global manhunt underway for Haines's killers. His murderer appears to be the same British-accented ISIS fighter who executed American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry was in Paris Monday pushing President Obama's plan to defeat ISIS and rallying U.S. allies to step up for the fight.

"There are some that are clearly prepared to take action in the air alongside the United States. And to do air strikes," Kerry said.

Kerry has flip-flopped on whether the president's plan is a declaration of war or an aggressive counter-terrorism operation.

But no matter what you call it, many are still questioning whether the Obama administration's plan to arm Syrian rebels and increase airstrikes is enough.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., warns there's no way the United States can defeat ISIS without American boots on the ground.

"To destroy ISIL, you have to kill or capture their leaders, take the territory they hold back, cut off their financing, and destroy their capability to regenerate," Graham said.

Former Secretary of State James Baker as well as several former intelligence officers concur with Graham's assessment.

"The only way you're going to destroy this organization is to confront them on the ground and kill them," former U.S. intelligence officer Bob Ayers said. "And to use surrogates in the region - Iraq? No, Iraq is having a tough time holding onto their own territory. Syria? Syria's involved in a civil war."

"Other than the United States, the United Kingdom, and perhaps some of the other European countries putting ground forces on the ground—we'll never destroy them," he reiterated.

Meanwhile as the debate continues, ISIS is growing stronger, with an estimated 30,000 troops and reports of an increasing bank account of nearly $3 million a day from oil sales.

Some say the world is witnessing what former President George W. Bush warned about in 2007 when he talked about the dangers of pulling out of Iraq too soon.

"It would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al-Qaida," Bush said at the time. "It means we would be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It would mean we allow the terrorist to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they have lost in Afghanistan."

"It would mean American troops would have to return at a later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous," he warned.

Efrem Graham/CBN News Featured World News Mon, 15 Sep 2014 19:00:00 -0400
WATCH: Ray Comfort Raising Money for Movie on Homosexuality

Ray Comfort and the team behind the award-winning 180, Evolution vs. God and Noah—and the Last Days are making their first scripted film, using professional actors. The film will present the everlasting gospel, while addressing the controversial topic of homosexuality from a biblical perspective, in love and truth.


Charisma News Staff Featured Culture Mon, 15 Sep 2014 18:00:00 -0400
Social Justice May Not Produce Christ's Righteousness

Justice is in vogue.

Few virtues have obtained the cultural cache that justice now possesses (just ask anyone in the pro-chastity movement). Compelling books, valuable Christian ministries, and innumerable blogs proliferate in its name.

Yet the term seems overused, popping up whenever an advocate wants an ally. The indignation of standing for a cause that is substantively or reputedly "just" fills one with a gratifying sense of rectitude. That's why justice is used as a trump card to validate everything from rescuing children from human trafficking to supporting same-sex marriage.

Standing for "justice" in our time no longer means solely such things as opposing slavery, protecting the unborn, or defending the rights of conscience. It has been co-opted by everyone with a cause, however odious it might be, because to claim justice for your side, at least if it is culturally acceptable, is to gain a rhetorical advantage that's hard to fight.

Justice is an attribute of God (cf. Deut. 32:4). Understood correctly, it's an essential Judeo-Christian character quality.

What's interesting is that in Hebrew, the word for justice (tzedek) is also the same word for righteousness. When many of us think of the latter, to mind come images of stolid, unbending, "self-righteous" people who are quick to condemn and eager to find fault.

That's not the biblical vision of the term. The New Testament teaches that Christians are persons who have been declared morally perfect in God's sight, and thus worthy of a relationship with Him, because Jesus Christ has imputed to them His moral perfection—His righteousness.

In terms of behavior, to live righteously means to be a person of moral honor in character and conduct. It is the purity of the inner life demonstrated in external conduct.

Of course, many non-Christians practice righteousness/justice in their daily lives and in the causes they support. All of us bear the image of God and have His law written on our hearts. From our consciences can flow genuine outrage at evil and true delight in what is good.

Yet righteousness and justice have a synthetic relationship. One cannot be righteous or live righteously without also being just. One cannot practice justice in his dealings with people if he has an unrighteous spirit.

Too often, though, some evangelicals seem eager to make a distinction between the two, eagerly standing for real or perceived justice/fairness and only mumbling about the need for righteous character and behavior. For example, when an evangelical public figure announces her homosexuality, there is much ink spilled about treating her fairly, about being non-condemnatory in our attitudes. About treating her with, as it were, a merciful justice.

That's a good thing. But what about her compliance with biblical standards of right conduct? We sometimes seem so afraid of renouncing sin that we ignore it in order to be kind. Or "just." After all, who wants to be unfair, to be unjust?

Emphasizing justice over righteousness is theologically fraudulent: It cannot honestly be done. Canadian pastor and theologian Joe Boot warns against "[importing] cultural fads" such that "the end result is a hybrid abstraction that, in the name of being biblical, reads humanistic views of justice into Christianity."

Many Christians rather unselfconsciously do what Dr. Boot forewarns: The most radical causes, veneered with "justice," become attractive and even motivating. Failed redistributive economic policies are advanced as "just," even though they do more harm than good. Extreme environmental causes are held up as matters of justice, even though the science supporting them is dubious and their link to scriptural imperatives is at best tenuous.

In the name of justice, some believers claim that same-sex "marriage" should be legalized because, well, the gays and lesbians they know are such nice, caring people and love each other genuinely. Of course many gays and lesbians are wonderful people. But marriage is about more than affection and volition. It is about complementarity and procreation, masculinity and femininity, biology and morphology. To deny marriage to two same-sex partners is no more unjust than denying that a man can fly by flapping his arms: He wasn't made that way, and his desire does not eliminate his incapacity.

In Terence Rattigan's play The Winslow Boy, the character of Sir Robert Morton, a reserved, arrogant, but honorable man, weeps in court when his client is vindicated. Explaining his burst of emotion, the usually buttoned-up barrister has this exchange with his main antagonist:

Sir Robert Morton: "I wept today because right had been done."

Catherine Winslow: "Not justice?"

Sir Robert Morton: "No, not justice. Right. Easy to do justice. Very hard to do right."

Christians would do well to ponder this. Rattigan is saying that it is easier to right a wrong, to "do justice," that to do right in the first place. Justice can also bring social approval; doing right can earn one social enmity, as right is never fully in fashion in a fallen world.

Followers of Jesus cannot minimize the one and exalt the other without also eviscerating some essential teaching of God's Word. He calls us to stand for justice and to do right. Neither command is optional.

Justice and righteousness are also interdependent; one cannot be had without the other. Justice without righteousness is only moral self-importance; righteousness without justice is moral arrogance and ready condemnation.

Being righteous means saying yes to some things that our culture disdains and no to others it rewards. Whether discussing gay rights or religious freedom, the sanctity of personhood within the womb or the corrosive, debasing nature of all pornography, staying true to Scripture and natural law brings accusations of hatred, bigotry—and injustice.

Let such accusations come. God is unmoved by name-calling. Are we? After all, it's easy to do "justice." Very hard to do right.

Rob Schwarzwalder is senior vice president at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Christian Post on Tuesday.

Rob Schwarzwalder Featured Opinion Mon, 15 Sep 2014 17:00:00 -0400
Pope: World's Conflicts Amount to Piecemeal World War III

Pope Francis said on Saturday the spate of conflicts around the globe today were effectively a "piecemeal" Third World War, condemning the arms trade and "plotters of terrorism" sowing death and destruction.

"Humanity needs to weep, and this is the time to weep," Francis said in the homily of a Mass during a visit to Italy's largest war memorial, a large, Fascist-era monument where more than 100,000 soldiers who died in World War I are buried.

The pope began his brief visit to northern Italy by first praying in a nearby, separate cemetery for some 15,000 soldiers from five nations of the Austro-Hungarian empire, which were on the losing side of the Great War that broke out 100 years ago this summer.

"War is madness," he said in his homily before the massive, sloping granite memorial, made of 22 steps on the side of hill with three crosses at the top.

"Even today, after the second failure of another world war, perhaps one can speak of a third war, one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction," he said.

In the past few months, Francis has made repeated appeals for an end to conflicts in Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Gaza and parts of Africa.

"War is irrational; its only plan is to bring destruction: it seeks to grow by destroying," he said. "Greed, intolerance, the lust for power. These motives underlie the decision to go to war and they are too often justified by an ideology," he said.

Last month the pope, who has often condemned the concept of war in God's name, said it would be legitimate for the international community to use force to stop "unjust aggression" by Islamic State militants who have killed or displaced thousands of people in Iraq and Syria, many of them Christians.

In his homily, read at a somber service to thousands of people braving the rain and which included the hauntingly funereal sound of a solitary bugle, Francis condemned "plotters of terrorism" but did not elaborate.

Writing by Philip Pullella; editing by Mark Potter

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.


Stefano Rellandini/Reuters Featured World News Mon, 15 Sep 2014 16:00:00 -0400
How This Man Beat Cancer in 3 Months

There is increasing hope in our battle against cancer. There are now more reasons than ever to make changes in our lifestyle to prevent getting it.

Furthermore, those who have been given a diagnosis of cancer have every reason to employ alternative therapies to get rid of it.

Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Russell and Marion Pyle. 

Russell was diagnosed with a type of bladder cancer that would not respond to chemotherapy. The tumor was removed surgically. Doctors said other surgeries might be necessary, but the Pyles still needed to wait three months for another biopsy to see where things stood.

Wisely, the Pyles didn't sit around worrying. The first thing they did was give this situation to God. Then they got busy online, learning the nature of cancer and what other people were doing to combat it.

They took that information and incorporated it into their lives. At the end of three months, Russell was cancer free.

Below is a synopsis of what they did, which also can be found in their new book, Healed, Healthy and Whole, as well as in my interview with them.

No Carbs 

It didn't take long for the Pyles to learn that cancer looooooves sugar. The sugar we eat feeds cancer cells.

That is very bad news for most Americans, because the average person consumes 23 teaspoons of added sugar a day, which is insanely high, and sadly, just the tip of the iceberg.

That added sugar doesn't even include all the other foods we eat that turn into sugar as soon as we eat them, so they count as cancer fuel too. These are carbohydrates, also known as starches, such as bread, hot dog and hamburger buns, tortillas, waffles, bagels, pizza crust, pancakes, muffins, corn chips, rice and so on.

If you cut these sugar-producing foods out of your diet, you simply deprive cancer of its food source, and starve it to death. This low-carb diet, also called the Ketogenic Diet, is really gaining in popularity as more and more people are beginning to see how it kills cancer.

pH Balance

For optimum health, our body's pH should be balanced between acids and alkalines. The pH scale goes from 0, the most acidic, to 14, the most alkaline. Our blood is slightly above the middle, 7.

Just like a diet that is too full of carbohydrates can feed cancer cells, it appears that a highly acidic diet can have the same effect. Therefore, the Pyles stopped consuming acidic foods and beverages such as coffee and many processed foods, and loaded-up on the more alkaline foods, such as vegetables and nuts.

Vitamin C

Interest in using very high doses of vitamin C as a cancer treatment began when it was discovered that some properties of the vitamin may make it toxic to cancer cells.

Therefore, Russell received full bags of Vitamin C intravenously, which he says not only hindered the growth of the cancer, but strengthened his immune system so it would be better able to fight his cancer.

People who are trying to prevent cancer may want to consider ample vitamin C supplementation.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Science tells us that cancer cells hate oxygen. Therefore, an effective new treatment in killing cancer cells is to saturate them with oxygen.

This is accomplished with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. Russell rested inside a pressurized chamber and breathed 100 percent pure oxygen. People who are trying to prevent cancer can increase their oxygen intake with cardiovascular exercise.

Electromagnetic Field Therapy

Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy uses electrical energy to direct a series of magnetic pulses through injured tissue whereby each magnetic pulse induces a tiny electrical signal that stimulates cellular repair.

Mainstream Treatment

Russell's mainstream treatment included using Bacillus Calmett-Guerin (BCG), which is a type of bacterium used to stimulate the bladder's own immune system so that it fights any toxin in the bladder itself.

For the original article, visit

Lorie Johnson/CBN News Medical Reporter Featured U.S. News Mon, 15 Sep 2014 15:00:00 -0400
Intercessors Make Prayer a Focus of Patriot Day on Sept. 11 in New York

Prayers to honor God and lift up America were offered on Patriot Day in New York last week as dozens of Christians traveled to the site of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history.

As in years past, ceremonies were held at Ground Zero and across New York City last Thursday, marking the 13th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The national anthem was sung, bells tolled, and the names of the victims were read aloud one-by-one. Many stood in silence; some were in tears.

Joining the thousands of participants and observers to the ceremony was a group of about 70 Christians from many denominations and businesses across the United States to commemorate Patriot Day in New York, to remember our history and pray for the future of America.

Patriot Day, observed as the National Day of Service and Remembrance, occurs on Sept. 11 of each year in memory of the 2,977 killed in the 2001 terrorist attacks. President George W. Bush proclaimed Friday, Sept. 14, 2001, as a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for the victims of the attacks. A bill to make Sept. 11 a national day of mourning each year was introduced in the U.S. House on Oct. 25, 2001, and it passed both houses of Congress unanimously.

The flag of the United States is flown at half-staff at the White House and on all U.S. government buildings and establishments throughout the world; Americans also are encouraged to display the flag on individual homes. Additionally, a moment of silence is observed to correspond with the attacks, beginning at 8:46 a.m. EDT, the time the first plane, American Airlines Flight 11, struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Patriot Day is not a federal holiday; schools and businesses remain open in observance of the occasion, although memorial ceremonies for the victims are held in various places, including the Washington area, where one hijacked airliner crashed into the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where passengers wrested control of their airliner away from the terrorists, and it crashed into a field.

Sept. 11 also was the deadliest incident for firefighters and for law enforcement officers in the history of the United States, with 343 and 72 killed respectively. Volunteer and service opportunities are coordinated by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

The day began at 6 a.m. as I met the challenge of catching a taxi to join the others for the Patriot Day of Prayer in New York City. The streets were crowded with security, and everyone is remembering where they were the day that terror struck and lives were changed forever.

The first prayer session was held at the rotunda of the Federal Hall National Memorial, where George Washington was inaugurated as the nation's first president in 1789. The session was opened by Evie Pelle Tournquest Karlsson, who sang, "You are awesome in this place mighty God..."  The meeting continued with historian William Federed emphasizing, "As long as they sought God, they prospered." His prayer was, "We repent, oh God. Help us to stay focused. Have mercy."

Between sessions there was a Prayer Drive through Manhattan passing many significant historical sites with the attendees offering prayers to God for New York City, the United States and the world.

A concert with the West Point Band and Glee Club was held at historic Trinity Church on Wall Street. The event also commemorated the 200th anniversary of Francis Scott Key's composition of the lyrics of "The Star-Spangled Banner," which of course became the National Anthem.

Next, a Prayer Session was held at the Statue of Liberty with Rev. Mel Tari from Indonesia. He prayed, "Jesus, Alpha and Omega, who was, who is and who is to be. God will fulfill His promise... America will be saved and God will fulfill His plan and promise. As each one is praying and is willing to stand strong and do their part, God will be our God, and we will be His people. America will arise. Let's renew our covenant with God. The covenant made by our forefathers will be fulfilled!" Then he called for everyone to fall on their knees and renew their covenant with God.

The day ended with a Prayer Cruise around Manhattan. The Rev. Joseph Handley ended the long but most inspiring day by giving everyone hope for the future of America as he said, "The Future is as Bright as the Promises of God!"

When asking attendees how they felt about the day I heard, "I have never felt the presence of God so strong as today." Several said, "I know God has something else for me to do and He will enable me to do it." "This has been the best prayer gathering I have ever attended. Everyone felt like family with one purpose in mind."


Rosella Angel Ridings Featured U.S. News Mon, 15 Sep 2014 14:00:00 -0400
North Korea Sentences US Citizen to 6 Years Hard Labor

North Korea sentenced U.S. citizen Matthew Todd Miller to six years hard labor for committing "hostile acts" as a tourist to the country, a statement carried by state media said on Sunday, as the United States requested his immediate pardon and release.

Miller joins Kenneth Bae to become the second American currently serving a hard-labor sentence in North Korea. A third, Jeffrey Fowle, is awaiting trial.

"He committed acts hostile to the DPRK while entering the territory of the DPRK under the guise of a tourist last April," the short statement said. The Korean version of the statement described Miller's punishment as a "labor re-education" sentence.

Miller, from Bakersfield, California, and in his mid-20s, entered North Korea in April this year whereupon he tore up his tourist visa and demanded Pyongyang grant him asylum, according to a release from state media at the time. He was traveling without foreign guides, according to Uri Tours, the company that organized the trip.

North Korea has not publicly elaborated on Miller's charges, but the Associated Press, which was able to attend the trial, said Miller was tried under Article 64 of the North Korean criminal code which refers to espionage.

Photos of the trial released by state media showed some of Miller's personal possessions, including his passport, iPhone, iPad, notebook and North Korean visa - which appeared to be ripped. Miller was shown sitting in a witness box, flanked by North Korean soldiers.

The prosecution argued Miller's reported claims for asylum had been a "ruse", and that he had falsely claimed to have secret information on his iPad and iPhone about the U.S. military stationed in South Korea, the Associated Press said.

The court said Miller had torn up his visa in order to investigate the North Korean human rights situation from within a North Korean prison, according to the Associated Press.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Darby Holladay said the United States requests that North Korea pardon both Miller and Bae "and grant them amnesty and immediate release so they may reunite with their families."

In a statement, Holladay said the State Department "strongly recommends against all travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea."

North Korea has yet to announce a trial date for the third U.S. citizen, Jeffrey Fowle, 56, from Miamisburg, Ohio, who was arrested in May for leaving a Bible under a bin in the toilet of a sailor's club in the eastern port city of Chongjin.

Holladay added that "out of humanitarian concern for Jeffrey Fowle and his family" the United States also asks that North Korea grant him amnesty and immediate release.

The U.S. missionary Bae has been held since December 2012 and is serving a sentence of 15 years hard labor for crimes North Korea said amounted to a plot to overthrow the state.

Earlier this month, international media were granted rare access to the three detained Americans, who in separate interviews all called on the United States to secure their release.

'Citizens as Pawns'

North Korea, which is under heavy United Nations sanctions related to its nuclear and missile programs, is believed to be using the detained U.S. citizens to extract a high-profile visit from Washington, with whom it has no formal diplomatic ties.

Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel, the senior U.S. diplomat for East Asia, said on Friday that the three Americans were being used as "pawns" and their detention was "objectionable."

Pyongyang has in the past released detained U.S. citizens to delegations led by former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, but North Korea has twice canceled visits by Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, to discuss Kenneth Bae's case.

Tourism to North Korea has increased markedly in the past few years, despite the recent string of arrests, with some operators estimating a tenfold increase in Western visitors over the last ten years.

"Although we ask a series of tailored questions on our application form ... it's not always possible for us to foresee how a tourist may behave during a DPRK tour," said Andrea Lee, CEO of Uri Tours, the U.S.-based company that organized Miller's tour to the country, also known by its official 'DPRK' acronym.

"Unfortunately, there was nothing specific in Mr. Miller's tour application that would have helped us anticipate this unfortunate outcome," Lee said in an emailed statement.

North Korea on Saturday released a 50,000-word report on its human rights record in rebuttal to a United Nations report earlier this year that said the country's leadership should be tried for ordering the systematic torture, starvation and killing of its people.

Additional reporting by Will Dunham in Washington; editing by Kim Coghill and Rosalind Russell

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

James Pearson/Reuters Featured World News Mon, 15 Sep 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Federal Judge Envisions 'Rape License' for 'Right to Rape'

Judge Richard Posner, a federal judge with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, recently become a hero to the pro-gay marriage left when, by way of a "legal analysis" free from the troublesome constraints of logic, case precedent, biology, tradition and reality in general, he managed to somehow divine a long-hidden constitutional "right" for two dudes to get "married."

"How can tradition be a reason for anything?" an incredulous Posner demanded last month of attorneys defending marriage-protection amendments in Wisconsin and Indiana.

It would seem that Posner's contempt for tradition extends to all things sexual, up to and including the puritanical presupposition that it's always wrong for a man to rape a woman. This idea, according to Posner in his 2011 book Economic Analysis of the Law (8th edition), is evidently an equally archaic tradition that, like the institution of natural marriage, needs a significant overhaul.

Posner's suggestion? Perhaps it's time the government begin issuing "rape licenses" (I kid you not) since—and based upon an exclusively utilitarian and morally relative cost-benefit analysis—the "right to rape," for some men at least, "exceeds the victim's physical and emotional pain."

On page 216, Posner, a Reagan appointee considered "conservative" in "progressive" circles, writes, "Rape bypasses the market in sexual relations (marital and otherwise) in the same way that theft bypasses markets in ordinary goods and services, and it should therefore be forbidden."

OK, while this is an oddly detached and clinical start to a discussion on rape, it is, so far, not entirely unreasonable. Posner would have been well served to stop there. But, and much like those who are the subject of his rape analysis, he does not stop.

"But," continues Posner—I didn't know there were any "buts" when it comes to rape—"some rapists derive extra pleasure from the fact that the woman has not consented. For these rapists, there is no market substitute ... and it could be argued therefore that, for them, rape is not a purely coercive transfer and should not be punished if the pleasure to the rapist (as measured by what he would be willing to pay—though not to the victim—for the right to rape) exceeds the victim's physical and emotional pain. There are practical objections [No, really? Practical objections to rape?] ... [b]ut the fact that any sort of rape license is even thinkable [what kind of bigoted rape-o-phobe would suggest otherwise?] ... is a limitation on the usefulness of that theory.

"What generates the possibility of a rape license," he persists (hold off, fellas, they're not available yet), "is the fact that the rapist's utility is weighted the same as his victim's utility. If it were given a zero weight in the calculus of costs and benefits, a rape license could not be efficient. The only persuasive basis for such a weighting, however, would be a moral principle different from efficiency."

And herein lies the rub. We all know what Posner thinks about "moral principles." He's a moral relativist. There are no moral principles, most especially no "traditional" moral principles. I mean, "How can tradition be a reason for anything?"

But wait, there's more. You gals trapped in one of those "traditional" marriages needn't fret. Posner's got you covered, too. "Marital rape?" C'mon, is there really such a thing?

"In a society that prizes premarital virginity and marital chastity [I know, sheesh, right?], the cardinal harm from rape is the destruction of those goods and is not inflicted by marital rape," he writes.

"The nature of the harm to the wife raped by her husband is a little obscure," he continues. "If she is beaten or threatened, these of course are real harms inflicted by an ordinary assault and battery. Especially since the goods of virginity and of chastity are not endangered, the fact of her having intercourse one more time with a man with whom she has had intercourse many times before seems peripheral to the harm actually inflicted but is critical to making the offense rape.

"Most of the reasons for not making marital rape a crime have lost force with time," he laments.

Of late a fanciful meme has taken root among the "progressive" left. It's one that imagines ours as a patriarchal "rape culture," which fosters an environment wherein women are systematically raped with impunity (especially on our nation's college campuses).

Apparently, the solution is for chicks to pierce and tattoo themselves, declare "slut pride" and parade nude in "slut walks" across the globe. But that's an outlier.

I finally get it. Posner is the "rape culture." I wonder how these mouth-frothing "marriage equality" lefties will react to his permissive approach to rape. In much the same way, I suppose, they reacted to myriad accusations of sexual harassment and assault lodged against Bill "depends-on-what-'is'-is" Clinton. With total silence and self-serving hypocrisy.

None of this should surprise anyone. Richard Posner is a faithful disciple of Alfred Kinsey, the anti-science, anti-morality left's sexual messiah. Kinsey was a bug doctor turned "sexologist." Though married to a woman who took part in his many filmed "scientific" orgies, Kinsey was a promiscuous homosexual and sadomasochist. He managed to completely upend and twist the world's perception of human sexuality in the 1950s and '60s with his world famous "Kinsey Reports."

Even today, most are completely unaware that during his tenure at Indiana University, Kinsey facilitated, with stopwatches and ledgers, the systematic sexual abuse of hundreds, if not thousands, of children and infants—all in the name of science. His research also "found" that rape doesn't really hurt women. In his 1953 volume Sexual Behavior in the Human Female at page 122, Kinsey wrote, "Among the 4,441 females [reporting rape] on whom we have data, there was only one clear cut case of injury ... and very few instances of vaginal bleeding, which however, did not appear to do any appreciable damage."

Starting to see what makes Posner click? "His Honor" is a dyed-in-the-wool Kinseyite.

Though Kinsey's "research" has long since been completely debunked and discredited, the elitist left, to include Judge Posner, even still relies on it to push its own sexual anarchist worldview. Writing in his 1992 book, "Sex and Reason," for instance, Posner gushed, "The two Kinsey reports remain the high-water mark of descriptive sexology." He calls Kinsey the "central figure" in the "scholarly science" of sexology.

Raped? Well, suck it up, walk it off and congratulate yourself. You've reached Posner's "high-water mark."

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

Matt Barber Featured Clarion Call Opinion Mon, 15 Sep 2014 12:00:00 -0400
At Least 41 Dead in Nigerian Church Guest House Collapse

The number of people killed in the collapse of a guest house under construction at the Lagos headquarters of one of Nigeria's best-known Christian evangelical pastors rose to 41 on Sunday, rescuers said, as they worked to clear the wreckage.

The five-story building in the Ikotun neighborhood of Lagos collapsed on Friday, and Farinloye said some 130 people had been pulled out alive with varying degrees of injury.

Local media showed a mound of flattened concrete and twisted steel wires at the compound belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations, which is headed by "Prophet" T.B. Joshua, who has followers across Africa and around the world.

"We have 41 dead now," Ibrahim Farinloye, spokesman in Lagos for Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), said.

On Friday after the collapse, members of the church had at first prevented emergency officials from participating in the rescue, making it difficult to establish a toll for the dead and injured. But state rescuers were allowed in on Saturday.

"We're still working at the site," said Farinloye, adding he expected the clear-up would extend into Monday.

There was no immediate explanation for the collapse.

Emergency services officials said the lower two floors of the building located in the large church compound had already been operating as a guest house, and it appeared construction work was underway to add three more floors/

Reporting by Pascal Fletcher; editing by Ralph Boulton

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Reuters Featured World News Mon, 15 Sep 2014 11:00:00 -0400
After Ulf Ekman's Catholic Conversion, Charismatic Leader Rises to Fill Void in Sweden

When Sweden lost one of its most influential leaders in this highly secularized country's tiny charismatic movement, Christian scholar and theologian Anders Gerdmar heard the Holy Spirit telling him to step up.

Specifically, Gerdmar felt led by the Lord to open a new school of charismatic theology to help train the next generation of Spirit-filled ministry leaders. The Scandinavian School of Theology started classes in Uppsala, Sweden, on Sept. 8, with 60 students enrolled.

Gerdmar's move comes just a few months after Ulf Ekman—his colleague, pastor, friend and mentor for almost 30 years—decided to convert to Roman Catholicism. The unexpected move sent shock waves throughout Sweden's small community of charismatic Protestant believers—most of whom were raised Lutheran.

"Ulf Ekman's conversion has been a cause of much turmoil, because he did fantastic work over the course of 30 years," Gerdmar said in a telephone interview with Charisma News. "People are confused and so on. The [new] school is like a lighthouse. There are fresh energies for the gospel. We are filling a void."

Still, Gerdmar emphasized, Ekman left behind a strong church—Livets Ord, which means "word of life"—and a vigorous network of congregations, which comprise 250,000 believers. A new senior pastor has stepped up and is receiving rave reviews so far, he said. The church in Uppsala is one of the few megachurches in Europe with 3,500 members. Pastor Joakim Lundqvist, who has an international ministry, started an evangelistic association for high-school students that has 20,000 members before coming to Livets Ord.

"In a formidable way he has been able to regain steam and lead the church with hundreds of people saved during his first year. [That is] very rare in Sweden," Gerdmar said of Lundqvist's leadership.

Statistics say that Sweden is one of the most secular nations in the world, Gerdmar says, with only about 1 percent of the population attending church on a regular basis, and just half of them are born again—though some 70 percent of Swedes identify themselves as nominal Lutherans.

"The situation is really like a missionary field," Gerdmar says not only of his native Sweden but also of Europe as a whole. Not only are Europeans leaving Christian churches in droves, but Islam is a rising force across much of Europe—especially in such traditional bastions of Western culture as France and the United Kingdom. There is an aggressive gay-rights movement throughout Scandinavia, and abortion is rampant.

"We feel that we have a double calling—one to train pastors and workers for evangelism but also to be the Christian voice in society," Gerdmar said, "because the moral situation in Sweden and the rest of Europe is not very nice."

Gerdmar's new school is receiving support from some key charismatic and apostolic leaders. The late Lester Sumrall prophesied that there would be a large Christian university in Uppsala, Gerdmar recalled. Lester Sumrall Jr. expanded on that word saying that a new shoot would spring forth from the old root (see Is. 11:1-2). Mark Rutland and David Yonggi Cho have brought encouraging words and tangible support to Gerdmar.

Oral Roberts University had a close affiliation with the now-closed Livets Ord University, which Ekman led for many years while also pastoring a large charismatic church. Students from there are being allowed to finish their course work at ORU, but a spokesperson for the Oklahoma-based school said Friday that no decision has been reached on a future relationship with Gerdmar's new school.

The Scandinavian School of Theology has retained much of the faculty and many students from the former Livets Ord, where Gerdmar was president from 2012 until it closed during a financial crisis last spring. The new school, however, is enjoying a new infusion of financial support from charismatic leaders and believers.

"What we have today is a much broader base for the school. Before it was only Ekman's church, but today we have key leaders from around the world to support us," Gerdmar said. "To people in the States who care about missions in Europe, they should invest in training a new generation of leaders."

Mark Andrews Featured World News Mon, 15 Sep 2014 10:00:00 -0400
School Bans 'Offensive' Chick-fil-A Sandwiches

Feathers have been ruffled at California's Ventura High School, where the principal last week banned the football booster club from selling Chick-fil-A sandwiches over fears that people might be offended.

What, pray tell, could people find offensive about a plump juicy chicken breast tucked between two buttered buns?

Were English teachers put off by the restaurant chain's grammatically challenged bovine pitchmen?

Did the waffle fries and banana pudding milkshakes exceed the nutritional limits deemed acceptable by the federal government?

The answer, dear readers, is no. It seems principal Val Wyatt's ban has less to do with poultry and more to do with politics.

"With their political stance on gay rights and because the students of Ventura High School and their parents would be at the event, I didn't want them on campus," Wyatt told the Ventura County Star.

It was a sentiment supported by Trudy Tuttle Ariaga, superintendent of the Ventura Unified School District.

"We value inclusivity and diversity on our campus, and all our events and activities are going to adhere to our mission," Ariaga told CBS News in Los Angeles.

This is a classic example of those preaching inclusivity and diversity being the least inclusive and diverse of all.

Let's back up for a minute and explain how this unfortunate act of poultry bigotry came about.

The local Chick-fil-A franchise has a storied history of supporting the school district—to the tune of thousands of dollars—and owner Robert Shaffer had generously offered to give the booster club 200 meals for a "back-to-school" event on Wednesday at which they expected to raise $1,600 for the football team, the Ventura Star reported.

"That would have gone toward the football program, everything from uniforms to food for the boys," booster club president Dan Swim told the Star. "We don't charge money for the boys to play football."

A few days before the back-to-school event, the principal broke the news to the booster club. She said her "main reason" for banning Chick-fil-A was because she did not want an outside organization to sell or advertise during the event.

"I work really hard to keep Ventura High School from being a marketplace for all kinds of vendors to come to the campus and reap profit," she told the newspaper.

Well, dear. That's a bit disingenuous. Chick-fil-A was not making a single penny. They were giving all the proceeds to the booster club. Period.

I suspect her "main reason" had more to do with her statement about Chick-fil-A's opposition to gay rights.

There's just one teensy-weensy problem with Principal Wyatt's explanation: It's not true.

"Chick-fil-A doesn't have a stance on gay marriage," Shaffer told the Star. "We treat everyone who walks through our doors, regardless of their religion or sexual orientation, with honor, dignity and respect."

In a 2012 interview that was published by Baptist Press, Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy affirmed his support of the biblical definition of the family. The interview sparked nationwide outrage among the LGBT community and the mainstream media.

"Well, guilty as charged," he said. "We are very much supportive of the family—the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that."

That's it. That's what Dan Cathy said. Here's the link to the interview. Read it for yourself. Not once did Cathy say anything disparaging about the LGBT community or gay marriage.

Unless, of course, the principal is suggesting that people who support the biblical definition of marriage are somehow anti-gay. Is that what you are suggesting, Principal Wyatt?

At best, the principal is misinformed. At worst, she is an outright liar. But for the sake of generosity, let's just say she's slow on the uptake.

Principal Wyatt needs to retract her woefully ignorant statement and publicly apologize for her offensive accusations. And to show there are no hard feelings, I would be more than willing to allow her to make things right by posting her retraction in this column.

As they say at Chick-fil-A, it would be my pleasure, Principal Wyatt.

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

Todd Starnes Featured Opinion Mon, 15 Sep 2014 09:00:00 -0400
Rams Player-Turned-Pastor Speaks out on Ferguson

In a dark high school auditorium, hundreds gather every Sunday to listen to a former St. Louis Ram who has traded in an athletic career for a life of coaching.

Aeneas Williams is specifically interested in coaching souls.

Williams is pastor of The Spirit Church, a congregation that meets Sunday mornings in the auditorium of McCluer South-Berkeley High School.

For his sermon one recent Sunday, Williams used the biblical story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead as a way to focus on a message he says is too often lost: It's not the faithful's love of God that is important to remember, but God's love for all.

It's the kind of message some would argue Ferguson needs now more than ever.

While some have been critical of the religiosity often found in American football, Williams sees a calling from God he can't ignore.

The 46-year-old pastor began his 14-year NFL career with the Phoenix Cardinals in 1991 and was traded to the Rams in 2001. He retired after the 2004 season and settled in St. Louis. When he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last month, Williams spoke publicly about how God tugs at his heart.

"Some people say you got to be a Christian to know God talks to you," Williams told the audience gathered for his induction. "No! God is talking to us all the time. So I'm telling you pay attention to the signs God's giving you."

After announcing that he was thinking about retiring from football, Williams says he was immediately offered a defensive back coaching spot with the Rams but quickly realized the job just wasn't for him.

"Eventually, if you're honest with yourself, you'll gravitate to the things you love," Williams said. "And I've always loved being able to share the Gospel."

The Aug. 9 the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson prompted weeks of protests. Williams said he sees himself as a minister of reconciliation.

"The purpose of the church is to reconcile people to Christ, reconcile people who have different disagreements," Williams said, referring to the recent havoc in Ferguson. "We don't take sides. We come down the middle and bring sides together."

Even before the riots, Williams had big plans for The Spirit Church.

After starting out in Williams' basement seven years ago and moving to a few other sites, the congregation settled into the high school auditorium.

Although most of its 400 members are African-American, church officials say they aspire for a multicultural congregation.

Some of those who worship with Williams say his celebrity may bring folks through the door, but his preaching style is what keeps them coming.

Tiffany Jackson, 27, a grant writer who lives in Florissant, says she appreciates the way Williams is able to transform the Bible into something that is relevant to her life. There's also the fact that everyone she bumps into at the church is friendly.

"I have been in church all my life, and this is the most I've ever been part of a church," Jackson said. "This is a church family."

As for Williams' fame as a football player, Jackson says, "It may help. But it's not what made us want to stay."

Williams grew up in New Orleans, the youngest of three boys. Although his parents sent him to church, Williams said Christianity didn't immediately make sense.

"I really didn't want to be a Christian," he said. "I didn't like the word love."

Williams spoke about his former indifference to religion at his induction to the Hall of Fame.

"I didn't understand how God related to everyday life," Williams said.

"When I was growing up, I thought church was a religious deal. You go sin for six days, then on the seventh day, empty your sin bucket and go do it again."

Then during his junior year at Southern University and A&M College, a historically black college in Baton Rouge, La., he visited a new church in New Orleans, and Jesus' message suddenly clicked.

It wasn't the only aspect of Williams' life to change that year. Williams had idolized his older brother Achilles, following in his footsteps and majoring in accounting at Southern University. But then one day, Williams dared to walk on the college football field to play.

Around the same time, Williams met his wife, Tracy—a woman who he said won't stand for foolishness. The two have been married for 21 years and have three daughters, Saenea, Tirzah and Cheyenne, and a son, Lazarus.

Williams says what set him apart from the other players was his refusal to separate his faith from his work.

"My faith was expressed in my work," Williams said. "My faith meant being accountable when no one was watching."

Williams says his commitment to Jesus helped him become a disciplined player and exceed expectations. When he did fail, Williams made a point of admitting he was wrong in front of teammates, asking that they pray for him.

But Williams acknowledges that though his was a relevant faith, it was "not a perfect one, because I still don't have it down yet."

"But it was an honest and transparent one, and I use the same transparency as a pastor today."

It's a formula that seems to work for many.

Richard Dix, who describes himself as not that big of a football fan, has been attending The Spirit Church for three years.

"What impressed me more is his integrity," said Dix, a business analyst in south St. Louis.

Patricia Robinson, 57, an X-ray technician, says she knows The Spirit Church may be in for some tough times.

But she also believes "what's happening here is bigger than us." Robinson hopes the tragedy will help bring the country together.

Williams, for his part, says he's up for the challenge.

"We will continue to play a role in the healing process in the city of Ferguson," Williams said.

As congregants mingled in the school's hallways after worship service, Williams summed up his approach.

"Listen with the ear of understanding and not as one who has the answers."

Lilly Fowler is the religion reporter at the Post-Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @LillyAFowler

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

Lilly Fowler/The Post-Dispatch Featured Culture Mon, 15 Sep 2014 08:00:00 -0400
Handling With Humility the 5 Most Difficult Suicide-Related Situations

In nearly all suicide cases, there is far more than one victim. Family and close friends are left with an unrelenting pain the deceased no longer can feel.

Discussing death-related questions to give clear, compassionate and reasonable explanations usually leaves pastors groping for answers and should leave us more humble and dependent on God. If you're not currently facing these questions, get ready, because as pressures increase at the end of the age, ministry leaders will be faced with more of them.

I just returned from a ministry trip in North Carolina where an elderly pastor apparently shot his wife and then committed suicide. "They were a happy couple who loved life," said a relative.

One morning soon after I returned, the first item I saw on the news was from my former hometown in Atlanta where senior church leader David Huskins reportedly shot himself after a long series of medical problems mixed with medications and overwhelming ministry demands. The report echoed recent comments from Ben Stein warning of antidepressants and how they almost did him in.

Suicides are increasing, and we need to be equipped with biblical answers, plus recognize them as God-ordained opportunities to cultivate humility, provide comfort and connect with the lost and unchurched.

Five Suicide-Related Situations

In the aftermath of Robin Williams' suicide, I posted a commentary that I commend for your reading. Let's go deeper, as situations arise requiring the wisdom of Solomon. "Remember, it is the glory of God to conceal things, it is the glory of kings to search things out" (Prov. 25:2).

1. Intentional Suicide

In America there is a suicide every 13 minutes. Many of these tragedies involve people who deliberately and willingly take their own life.

Suicide is not the will of God and although it is not the unpardonable sin (unbelief and rejection of Jesus Christ is), it is a grave transgression against our Creator who commands us not to murder (suicide is equivalent to murder). He is the Author of life, Who ever remains "an anchor for the soul, firm and secure" (Heb. 6:19).

The eternal destiny of someone in deep depression and deception, communicating remorsefully to God in their closing minutes, repenting of sins and truly putting his trust in Jesus Christ alone as his Lord and Savior (which is what the Bible teaches is essential for salvation [Rom. 10:9]), is a matter we must entrust to a just and loving God. In these most difficult situations, we must never presume of God or communicate an image of God that is not aligned with Scripture.

"My God would never send a person to hell!"

Actually, your "God" is a product of your own imagination, inconsistent with the holy and merciful God revealed in the Bible. Hell, created for the devil and his demons, is real and is the eternal destination for all who reject the gospel (good news)—the "free gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:23).

In this situation, we do well to avoid speculation but should look to the Lord for ways to communicate genuine comfort and practical assistance to family and friends. Some people do cry out in their anguish, but only God knows what transpires in those final seconds.

2. Mentally Impaired Suicide

"I fear for the future" ... "I'm afraid what's going to happen" ... "I'm so stressed out and depressed. I'm fearful all the time. It's getting worse!"

Jesus described the end of the age with "men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth;" (Luke 21:26).

Those of us who are spiritually, emotionally and mentally healthy easily declare, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment" (1 John 4:18). We add: "God hasn't given us a spirit of fear but of love, power and a sound mind" (2 Tim. 1:7).

What if someone does not have that "sound mind"? What should we do when we encounter situations where someone committed suicide after battling tormenting fears, debilitating depression, biological disorders and forms of mental illness that clouded their judgment so they weren't thinking clearly and rationally in the throes of their crisis?

• Military with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

• Women with severe postpartum or menopausal depression

• Fragile individuals experiencing multiple surgeries and "cocktail" meds resulting in chemical imbalances, confusion and dark depression.

• Godly people such as Rick Warren's 27-year-old son, Matthew, who was rescued many times from the brink of suicide but killed himself after a lifelong battle with mental illness. Rick put it this way, "My son took his life. It was his choice. He was a young man with a tender heart and a tortured mind."

What does God mean when he instructs us to "comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men" (1 Thess. 5:14)? We must be careful not to oversimplify or spiritualize: "Just pray it away!"... "Cast that thing out!"... "Confess the Word!"... "Man up!"... "Go put your big-girl pants on!"

Don't hear what I'm not saying here. God does tell us to renew our minds, confess His Word, lay hold of His promises, and persevere amidst life's adversities. Yet sometimes people face such overwhelming and life-threatening hardships that they declare with Paul and his team, "We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death" (2 Cor. 1:8-9).

Paul did go on to state, "But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us..." (2 Cor. 9b-10).

In these perilous times, may we nurture a culture of transparency so no one has to hide their internal struggles. And as caring Christians, may we be ambassadors of hope and understanding in these sensitive areas.

3. Accidental Suicide

What about multitudes, especially young people, who are seduced by the allurements of carnal culture and before they hear the gospel (or having responded previously are drifting) spiral off into drugs, alcohol, or recklessness and deviant sexual practices that destroy lives?

With drug experimentation, did things go awry and an overdose occurred that was not really a suicide at all? Was a son, daughter or spouse attempting to get the attention of loved ones when their threat became a tragic, accidental reality?

Because of pornography and rampant perversion in our culture, some people are found in what appear to be suicidal hangings. Actually they have engaged in auto-erotic asphyxiation that backfired. You may recall David Carradine, the actor who was found hanging in a closet in an apparent suicide but later it was ruled "accidental erotic asp[hyxiation]."

In situations like these, one should be tenderhearted and careful with what is communicated. While we don't want to give false assurance, we must not alienate grieving friends and relatives. I usually state something like, "In this painful time of grieving, let's reflect on the positives in his/her life. We can trust God who is all-loving and just."

4. Avoidance Suicide

Approaching this area, let me state up front that I am NOT advocating anything but simply addressing something that happens. Consider an example: Some who have concussions and find themselves in highly stressful situations may not respond ideally. They can exhibit dramatic mood swings, confusion, sleep deprivation, and act out of character.

"Pressure reveals the person," but if the person is in a weakened state they may choose avoidance at a critical time. My appeal is that we don't heartlessly condemn people to damnation when God calls us to understand. My friend and prophetic teacher James Goll told me regarding suicide questions, "My views have adjusted some in recent years. They used to be pretty black and white, but I've adjusted some. Only God ultimately knows."

After the Bible, one of the classics that has profoundly influenced Christians for centuries is Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Reading the accounts of believers undergoing unbelievable persecution and yet shining as beacons inspires leaders in every generation.

Knowing "Dying grace does not come until the dying hour" and that "God's grace is sufficient for us and His power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9), this fourth situation requires acute sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. May we never have to face the persecution others do in the world, but it's important we be prepared even as we believe God can supernaturally rescue anyone in any circumstance at any time.

If someone faces extreme, brutal savagery leading to an inevitable, torturous death, might God in His infinite mercy make allowance for someone's bringing their life to an end? For those who believe that suicide is always murder warranting eternal damnation, please consider the following: With the Islamic State in Iraq, where people are beheaded, women and children are hacked to death, and men face unfathomable, torturous deaths if they will not convert to Islam, do you think God extends mercy to some who fall on a sword, drink poison or flee knowing they will be immediately gunned down?

If someone is overwhelmed by terror dreading a savage, inevitable death and cries out to God in repentance for ending their life, do you really believe God would sentence them to hell? Can the God who forgave Moses, David and Paul for their participation in murder extend mercy in these types of extenuating and excruciating circumstances?

I don't think it's deception to believe that persecuted and incapacitated Christians in certain circumstances can be reprieved for hastening inevitable death to be ushered into the presence of the living God.

5. Physician-Assisted Suicide

Euthanasia comes from Greek words meaning "good death." Alternative and equally misleading terms used for actively taking someone's life are "mercy killing," "death with dignity" and "physician-assisted suicide."

Scripture tells us that all life is sacred, and the command is clear, "You shall not murder" (Ex. 20:13). The seriousness of this is seen when David ordered capital punishment for the man who assisted Saul in his suicide act (2 Sam. 1:1-16).

The further Western civilization drifts from our Judeo-Christian foundations, the more countries embrace euthanasia along with abortion and infanticide. Euthanasia is legal in Belgium, Colombia, India, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico and the Netherlands. Seventy-three percent of French doctors admit using drugs to end an infant's life.

Like homosexual "marriage," euthanasia is gaining ground in America as we now see physician-assisted suicide legal in Washington, Oregon, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico. Barring revival, it is coming to a neighborhood near you!

With economic debt skyrocketing, the baby-boom population aging (78 million strong) and socialized medicine becoming a reality, we need to make preparation now for end-of-life decisions as "death panels" will slowly be introduced as they are in Canada and elsewhere.

When my wife and I worked on our Living Will, we incorporated these guidelines from the National Right to Life Committee.

The smooth and seductive reasoning presented by advocates of euthanasia needs to be exposed and resisted vigorously by people of faith. Doctors putting suffering elderly people or those with dementia, depression or severe injuries out of their misery with lethal doses of medicine is contrary to the will of God.

Now there is a clear difference between actively killing someone and passively allowing a person to yield to inevitable death as we see in the Bible with Jesus, Stephen, Jacob and others. This is not suicide. Also, our Christian faith requires us to compassionately care for all people approaching death as well as those with reasonable hope of recovery.

Sometimes an individual refuses chemotherapy when told they are in stage 4 terminal cancer. While not refusing minimal nourishment, others refuse a feeding tube and other extraordinary measures so as not to delay but hasten their home-going experience.

My sister and I flanked my 87-year-old mother as we swabbed her lips and gently encouraged her to let go. As I read the 91st Psalm, she yielded her spirit as I said these words, "For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands ..."

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints" (Ps. 116:15).

Larry Tomczak is a best-selling author and cultural commentator with 42 years of trusted ministry experience. His passion is to bring perspective, analysis and insight from a biblical worldview. He loves awakening people to today's cultural realities and responses needed for a restored, influential church. Please visit and follow him on Facebook or at @larrytomczak on Twitter.

Larry Tomczak Featured Here's the Deal Opinion Mon, 15 Sep 2014 07:00:00 -0400
Keeping the Shemitah Produces Supernatural Results

Rabbi Shmuel Bloom, Vice Chairman of the Agudath Israel World Organization, is a very busy man involved in important matters concerning the public. Why do you think he would spend many hours traveling to look at bananas in Israel, especially all the way up north near T'veriya (Tiberias)?

A secular farmer, Gibor Koach, whose produce focus is strictly bananas, decided that he would observe the Shemitah (the Sabbatical Year) this time around. He approached the organization that helps facilitate this—Keren HaShviis—for assistance, and they stipulated that he would be registered in their program if he would also undertake to be personally Sabbath observant (Shomer Shabbos) throughout Shemitah. He agreed.

The Rabbinic court (Otzar Bet Din) of Bnei Brak made the decision to cover his farming expenses and, in return, all the produce would become the property of Otzar Beis Din (court) and would be distributed in full accordance with Jewish Law (Halacha).

Israel suffered a significant cold spell for two to three weeks during the winter. Bananas don't like cold, and cold doesn't like bananas. When bananas are still growing and get hit with frost, they turn brown and become rock hard.

The hero of our story, Koach knew he was in deep trouble when the relentless cold hadn't let up for over a week. He lived a distance from his orchard and hadn't yet seen the damage with his own eyes. He began to receive calls from his neighbor farmers that have orchards bordering his, complaining bitterly that their entire banana crop had been destroyed by the frost.

He decided it was time to inspect the damage up close, no matter how painful it may be. He drove up close to Tverya to inspect his orchard, as well as those of his neighboring farmers. As he passed from one orchard to another, he was overwhelmed by the damage. Not a single fruit had survived; no tree was spared. His neighbors took quite a beating. All the bananas were brown, hard as a rock. He could only imagine how bad his trees must have gotten it.

Yet when he finally got to his orchard, he was awestruck. ALL of his bananas were yellow and green. It's as if his orchard wasn't a part of this parcel of land. His orchard bordered those of his neighbors, but not a single tree of his was struck by the frost. It's as if a protective wall kept the damage away.

At first he thought he was imagining it. As he rushed from one section of his orchard to another, the realization that the more the farmer keeps the Shemitah, the more the Shemitah keeps the farmer, hit home.

He immediately called his contacts at Keren HaShviis and yelled into the phone, "Karah Nes, Karah Nes!" (A miracle happened, a miracle happened).

It was a miraculous modern-day manifestation of "V'Tzivisi Es HaBracha" (I will ordain My blessing for you in the sixth year). There is no way to explain this other than that God keeps His promises. He says keep Shemitah, and I'll take care of you. He sure does.

Keren HaShviis reported that farmers who have until now refused to keep Shemitah have been turning to the Keren following their recent losses. They are now ready to commit to Shemitah observance.

Rabbi Bloom took the time to travel all the way to Tverya (Tiberias) and back to witness this awe-inspiring phenomenon. During the previous Shemitah, Agudath Israel of America provided over $1,000,000 to Keren HaShviis. It plans to do even more this time around.

For the original article, visit

Zo Artzeinu Featured Opinion Mon, 15 Sep 2014 06:00:00 -0400
The Soul-Stealing Danger of a Feel-Good Faith

How strong is your faith? Watch as Ron Luce challenges you to get beyond a "feel-good faith" and into a faith built on something solid, no matter the season or storm.

Jeremy Burns Featured Opinion Sun, 14 Sep 2014 17:00:00 -0400
Perry Stone: A Revelation of Your God Gear

In the New Testament-era time of Christ and the apostles, the spiritual teachers used practical, everyday persons, places, objects and real-life examples to help their listeners and readers understand and visualize spiritual truths and concepts. A few common examples used through the New Testament are:

  • Farming—illustrations of farming such as planting, protecting and harvesting grains and fruits (Matt. 13:18-32).
  • Fishing—catching men, mending nets, and dealing with storms (Matt. 4:18-20; 13:47-50).
  • Running—a foot race, winning the prize, not giving up, and laying aside weights and sins (Heb. 12:1-2).
  • Warring—a soldier who is equipped with armor to fight and defeat enemies (Eph. 6:10-20).

Perhaps you enjoy those promises of reaping and sowing and prefer to remain in the farming scriptures. For those who like athletic activities, you can relate to the run-the-race admonition in Heb. 12:1-2 because you desire to win the prize. However, if you are an active Christian, you are to be continually prepared for a surprise spiritual conflict that attacks your health, wealth or family—similar to the assault the enemy leveled against Job (see Job 1-2).

We must all understand that this conflict is the battle of the ages, and each soul that falls in battle, wounded and unable to stand, is a victory in the kingdom of darkness.

Anyone who is a Christian is also a soldier. After ministering to hundreds of thousands of believers, I have observed four basic types of soldiers in the body of Christ:

1. First there are those who know nothing about the armor of God. They live from one battle to the next, survive from one beating to the next, and anticipate one defeat to the next. They are the ones who have a desire to serve God but their conflicts bring a defeatist mentality, as they are uncertain as to how to win in a conflict.

2. The second category is those who know something about the armor but refuse to wear it. To them Eph. 6:13-18 is a beautiful poetic passage penned by the apostle in prison. However, their belief is that we must all learn how to deal with our own problems in our own wisdom and strength and not overly concern ourselves with some form of invisible spiritual warfare.

3. The third category comprises the soldiers who pick and choose their protection, wearing some but not all of the armor. They enjoy a spiritual victory occasionally, answered prayer from time to time, a healing during certain seasons, but they often leave areas of their lives exposed to the darts of the enemy. They may attend church for many years, but suddenly they drop off the radar and no one sees them in the Sunday services because the enemy hit them in an unprotected moment.

4. The fourth category of Christian warrior is those believers who wear the entire armor of God and actually know what it represents and how to use it. These Christians have battles just as everyone else, but despite battles and wars, they continue to survive and even thrive during raging conflicts.

It is interesting that Paul would write a detailed discourse on the spiritual battle of a believer against demonic rebels to the Ephesian believers. The city was known for its prostitutions (including temple prostitutes), public bathhouses and idol worship, which dominated the city. Crowds of more than 10,000 people often filled the stadium for gladiator fights.

This was the setting Paul had observed when reminding the saints that their battle was not with flesh and blood but against satanic spirits ruling in high places (Eph. 6:12). This God gear is invisible to the natural eye, yet it is activated through our knowledge of the Word and our faith and trust in God's promises.

You may not see the armor with your natural eyes, just as Job did not see a "hedge" around him with his natural eyes (Job 10:10), but the adversary knows if you are fully clothed or partially naked, and he knows if you truly believe or if you are going to "fake it till you make it."

As a soldier, you would never go to war without proper training, weapons and protective gear. The Bible is our training guide; our life experiences and spiritual walk become our boot camp; and the temptations, trials and attacks we face are all a part of the warfare. As a Christian engaged in spiritual conflicts, you must never leave home without your mind and heart covered and fully clothed with the warfare gear. Paul said, "Put on the whole armor" (Eph. 6:11). The armor of God—never leave home without it!

Crack-Armor-Stone.jpgAdapted from There's a Crack in Your Armor by Perry Stone, copyright 2014, published by Charisma House. If you are engaged in a physical, mental, or spiritual battle, this book is for you. It will show you how to protect and effectively wield your spiritual armor. To order your copy click here.

Prayer Power for the Week of 9/8/2014

This week determine to put on the whole armor of God on a daily basis. Then take your position to stand in faith against all the wiles of the devil. Your prelude to any battle is praise, so begin your prayer time with praise. Exalt God and declare Him worthy of praise and victorious in your life. As this school year begins around the country, lift up our children, youth and young adults.

Pray for godly instructors to teach and direct them in the ways of integrity. Ask God to protect all those doing His work in educational institutions, as well as our local, state and national leaders. Continue to pray for revival to break out in our churches, communities and across the nation. Pray concerning Israel, the conflicts in the Middle East, Africa and the Ukraine (Eph. 6:11-18).

Perry Stone Featured Opinion Sun, 14 Sep 2014 15:00:00 -0400
7 Ways to Make Your Dates Unforgettable

In the "dating" universe, predictable is synonymous with forgettable. But research shows that unpredictable and risky brings great rewards for the relationship—mainly memory muscles!

Any man who wants a serious win with his woman (the bragging-to-friends kind) must understand this one thing: She loves thoughtfulness and imagination. They are the two main ingredients of unforgettable memories.

New girlfriend? Wife of many years? This reality with you never goes bad, spoils, or fails to elevate her relational adrenaline and connection with you. Now, add God.

After unconditional acceptance and emotional intimacy, women rank spiritual intimacy at the top of what they want and desire from a man. That's right, they like to see and sense a man of faith for sharing what's most valuable with them interpersonally. So for your next date do the math before that nice(ish) dinner and movie.

Thoughtfulness + imagination + God's purposes = unforgettable

The "anything-but-typical date" might look something like this: 

  • Decide your next date will have a purpose, beyond the usual dinner and entertainment. Establish your intention to do good as a higher priority than doing the typical.
  • Pray together before you go. Thank God for "this night, this girl, and this opportunity to be together."
  • Then, go somewhere. Eat something. Do something. But, this time go with God as your chauffeur. Open your eyes and hearts to people, situations or issues that come up where your presence may be a pleasant surprise. Think modern-day "Good Samaritan"on a mission to do random acts of kindness.
  • Afterward, reflect on the date.

Be prepared to exercise your faith muscle. Don't be afraid. Just do good. Let God lead your time, and be available to help with one, or any combination, of these ideas: 

1. Pray for someone. You may decide to take a walk. You may come across someone struggling with a major life issue. You can see it on their faces sometimes. You may offer to pray for that person at that moment, asking "is there any way I can pray for you tonight?" Or you could just pray with your partner for that person, and let them know you did. Another idea is to do a prayer walk, and just walk through your neighborhood or downtown area in prayer. You will be amazed at what happens.

  • "...pray for each other ... The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective" (James 5:16).

2. Bless someone. God may lead you to an individual with whom you feel some sort of kinship. Say you come across a musician playing on the street, and God gives you a nudge to do something. Maybe you could throw in a few bucks, but how about something different. Ask God to bless that talent for his good. Pray to yourselves, asking God to use you somehow. Then, simply lean over to tell that person, you have prayed a prayer of blessing on their lives and talent. That's all. It's a form of encouragement that has legs. Then, see what happens. 

  • "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing" (1 Thess. 5:11).

3. Help someone. With your eyes wide open, you never know what or who may come into your path. Be on the lookout for ways to help. Maybe it's stopping to help a roadside tire change, or carrying grocery bags for someone at the store, or paying for someone's coffee behind you, give your parking spot away, let someone cut in front of you ... Let God guide you and be willing to pitch in. 

  • "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ... A man reaps what he sows... whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good...Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers" (Gal. 6: 2-10). 

4. Feed someone. Buy someone a meal, and bless it with them. Bring food to a shelter or a friend in need. Serve food at a rescue mission. Food is a blessing, and for some people, food is luxury. See someone hungry? Feed the hungry, and you will be blessed.

  • "...and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday" (Is. 58:10).

5. Tell someone God loves them. This one can take some guts, but you will be surprised that God is working in people's lives before you ever mention God's love. Many people are yearning to hear about God's love and hope. Don't be afraid to love someone enough to share God's love. It's powerful, paradigm-shifting and an awesome work. You will be blessed, and pleasantly shocked at the welcome reception.

  • "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35).

6. Invite someone. So often, all it takes to bring someone to the Lord is a simple invitation. On your Adventure Date, bring some fliers from church, or make up some business card-sized invitation cards, and just hand them to as many or as few people as you like during the date. Or invite someone to your next small group gathering. Don't be surprised if someone says, "I've been looking for a good church." 

  • "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in ..." (Matt. 25:35).

7. Meet someone. What ever happened to the tradition of going to a new neighbor's front door, bringing a plate of goodies, just to meet them? Revive that tradition on your date, and introduce yourselves to your neighbors. Or, strike up a conversation with random people on your date. You never know who it is you are meeting, or what circumstances brought them into your path. If you frequent the same establishment, soon you will know others and be known. And, opportunities will arise from there.

  • "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me" (Rev. 3:20).

We are more than pew warmers. So try an Adventure Date and see where God leads you, and who He leads to you. Then, do something different, something simple for God's sake. You may or may not feel like you've done much, but you may have also done everything for someone.

  • "In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive'" (Acts 20:35). 
  • "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets" (Matt. 7:12).

Kenny Luck, founder of Every Man Ministries, men's pastor at Saddleback Church, and ChristianMingle advisory board member, provides biblically oriented teaching and leadership for men and pastors seeking relevant, timely material that battle cultural, worldly concepts threatening men and God's men. Follow Kenny and Every Man Ministries now on FacebookTwitter (@everyMM) and YouTube.

For the original article, visit

Kenny Luck/Every Man Ministries Featured Opinion Sun, 14 Sep 2014 13:00:00 -0400
The Coming Collision Between Shaking and Glory

There are diverse views on the End Times, including at least three different historical theological views concerning eschatology. Major different voices contend for our attention today, everything from escapism to run and hide, to replacement theology concerning Israel and the church, to ultimate reconciliation, to the absurdity that there is no literal hell, and on and on it goes. In this age of false acceptance, just about anything goes. After all, God is a God of Grace and Love, right? Yes, but He is also the God of Justice and Truth.

Let's make sure we keep certain basic truths in place in the swirl of many opinions. I often find myself in the role of taking complex things and deciphering them into foundational simple and understandable truths. But for now let's push a pause button on that subject, and let me give you a partial biblical perspective I hold. Yes—the Glory AND the Shaking Come Together!That's clearly what the Word of God says.


"Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people saying, 'Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison? But now take courage, Zerubbabel,' declares the Lord, 'take courage also, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and all you people of the land take courage,' declares the Lord, 'and work; for I am with you,' declares the Lord of hosts. 'As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!' For thus says the Lord of hosts, 'Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the Lord of hosts. 'The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,' declares the Lord of hosts. 'The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,' says the Lord of hosts, 'and in this place I will give peace,' declares the Lord of hosts."


There are often layers to scriptural interpretation and application: the context of the historic setting, the prophetic perspective for both then and later on, the personal application for our own lives, and much more. Another principle in interpreting Scripture is: first in the Natural and second in the Spiritual.

Here in Haggai 2 we have the historic recordings concerning the first and the second temples. The first was grand in external splendor, an architectural wonder of all the ages. After the desolation and then a time of despair, a second temple was built—but it did not compare to the earlier grandeur. But the Word of the Lord came forth in that situation declaring that the latter glory of this house will be greater than the former. Bottom line:

  • The First Temple was Built in Grandeur
  • The First Temple was Destroyed
  • The Second Temple was Built—Appearing in the Natural as "nothing in comparison"
  • A Prophetic Declaration was released in the midst of disillusionment, "The Glory will be Greater!"

Likewise, the early church saw great glory followed by a great decline. Five hundred-plus years ago we stepped into a new era called the Great Reformation with such truths as "the just shall live by faith." Now we are stepping into the Convergence of the Ages with accelerated movements and motion of the current-day operation of the Holy Spirit.

The pattern is similar in the natural and in the spiritual. Bottom line:

  • The First Apostolic Church was Birthed in Glory
  • The Church went into a Great Decline
  • The Second Apostolic Age Appears on the scene in Infancy and Controversy
  • A Prophetic Declaration is released in the midst of uncertain times: "The Glory will be Greater!"

It is my belief that in modern church history, we have crossed the threshold from the Third to the Beginning of the Fourth Great Wave. (See my article on The Beginning of the Fourth Wave. For more on this subject, please see the new book by Julia Loren, The Future of Us, with my chapter concerning these issues—available in our EN Resource Center.

FROM JAMES 5: 7-11

"Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful."

As I have read this passage over and over for years, there are at least seven things to glean in parallel understandings from these writings of James 5.

  • Be Wise
  • Be Patient
  • Strengthen Yourself
  • Continue
  • Do Not Complain
  • Look to the Model of Job
  • Know that the Lord's Dealings ultimately result in Compassion and Mercy!


In the natural, in the Middle East, the early rain falls from mid-October to mid-December. The purpose of the early rains is to soften the ground for plowing, and it waters the freshly seeded fields so the seeds can germinate. The latter rain falls from late February to early April. The purpose of the latter rains is to cause the grain to come into full growth and maturity and thus preparing for a harvest.

Jer. 5:24 proclaims, "They do not say in their heart, 'Let us now fear the Lord our God, who gives rain in its season, both the autumn rain and the spring rain, who keeps for us the appointed weeks of the harvest.'"

So which is it? Shaking or Glory? Darkness or Light? Fear or Faith? Fatalism or Furious Love? Stagnation or Progressive Revelation? Lukewarm Churchianity or Passionate Believers with Hearts on Fire? Tribulation Generation or Hope Ambassadors Generation? Desolation or Restoration?

Oh my beloved, the Scriptures in the New Testament say that in the Last Days difficult times will come. But that is not the end of the story!

Yes, the shaking and the glory are on a collision course. But guess which force wins? Or maybe it should be stated, 'But guess WHO wins?"

Is. 60: 1-3 says it really well. "Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; But the Lord will rise upon you; and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising."

I see a glorious eschatology where light exposes darkness—and the glory of the Lord covers the Earth as the waters covers the seas. Amen and Amen!

James W. Goll Featured Opinion Sun, 14 Sep 2014 11:00:00 -0400
How to Discern Truth Amid a Sea of False Prophesies

Four years ago, my friend Fred Wright, the founding coordinator of Partners in Harvest church network, was discussing prophetic ministry with me when he lamented, "If something isn't done soon, the prophetic movement is dead in five years."

I knew what he meant.

How many of us have struggled with the failed prophecies of recent years? How about the prophetic frenzy that swirled around the Y2K computer crisis that never materialized? How many remember the Lakeland Revival and the leading prophetic voices declaring it to be "the big one" that would sweep the country and transform the culture? Significant moral failure brought that revival to an ignominious end.

Lately, prominent voices have prophesied words concerning national and world events that would seem to be at odds with one another. For instance, some prophesy an imminent and catastrophic economic crash, while others have prophesied a season of economic prosperity, especially for Christians.

What is a believer to do when well-known prophetic people speak conflicting words? How can we sort the true word from the spirit of error?

Nothing New Under the Sun

The early church had a similar problem. For this reason, the apostle Paul instituted a structure for testing prophetic words spoken in the public assembly. First Corinthians 14:29 says, "Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment" (NASB).

The word for "pass judgment" in the original Greek means "to separate or discriminate," implying that New Testament prophetic people didn't always deliver 100 percent accurate words and that their words therefore needed evaluation to separate the good from the bad.

A false prophet is one who teaches Israel to go after false gods, as established in Deuteronomy 13:1-5. In the absence of that kind of violation, and in light of 1 Corinthians 14:29, then, an inaccurate prophecy doesn't render the prophet himself false, it just makes him wrong in that instance.

It follows that prophetic words, whether spoken in the public assembly, promoted through electronic media or published in print, must be tested and that we believers therefore carry a responsibility to sort out what we hear. Obviously, we don't always have access to a 1 Corinthians 14 prophetic presbytery. Ideally, every one of us should be involved in a fellowship of discerning brothers and sisters with whom we can weigh such things, but circumstances too often leave us on our own to figure it out for ourselves. How, then, can the individual believer test what he hears with or without a group of friends to help do it?

While I know of no foolproof method for discerning the accuracy of any given prophetic word—aside from obvious violations of Scripture—I can certainly offer some helpful guidelines. Even when testing by the Scriptures, however, we often come up with differing interpretations and applications of the passages we use. As I heard John Wimber once say at the height of the controversy over the prophetic movement of the 1980s, "The only word God is obligated to fulfill is this Book!"

With so many changing variables, then, we need an unchangeable answer. We must build our lives on the person of Jesus and His Word rather than on prophecy delivered by any human agency.

At the same time, prophecy isn't a human idea, it is God's. He is the one who gifted the church at large with this instrumental operation of the Spirit. Because of that, if we are to include it as a healthy part of both the corporate church and individual believer's lives, then we also need to broaden our understanding of the primary functions of prophecy.

For starters, we must recognize that prophecy is far more than just predicting future events. In contrast to our tendency to give prediction the greatest emphasis, prediction is actually a minor function. The Greek word actually means "to speak forth," not necessarily to predict.

True prophetic ministry calls us to pure and undefiled devotion to God, sealing our hearts to Jesus while sorting the precious from the vile. It brings a revelation of His nature, tearing down what is not of God and then releasing, establishing and building up that which is from God (Jer. 1:10). Even in words of judgment, the predictive element should prepare God's people for things to come, release power for destiny, inject hope and strengthen the body of Christ (1 Cor. 14:3).

Helpful Word Tests

Just as currency can be held to the light to determine its validity, so can prophetic words be held up to biblical scrutiny in the light of Jesus. That doesn't mean every word will be clear, precise and definitively understood, but it does mean we can apply tests to see if it is God-breathed. Here are six tests I've learned to apply that have helped me and countless others navigate the waters of prophecy.

Test #1: Does this prophecy stand the test of Scripture?

Never will a true prophetic word contradict any portion of Scripture. This means that we must become biblically literate as believers lest we render ourselves vulnerable to deception packaged and presented as anointed revelation.

Unfortunately, Bible study has come on hard times these days when much of the body of Christ has become either lazy or focused on supernatural experiences at the expense of grounding in the Word. This must be remedied.

Test #2: Does this word reflect the revealed nature and character of God?

Once again we must turn to the Bible, especially 1 John 4:8: "He who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (NKJV).

For example, in sorting out words predicting God's wrathful judgment in catastrophic economic or natural disasters, we must begin with God's essential nature. Is He really a wrathful judge sitting in the heavens eagerly awaiting His chance to punish us for breaking the rules? Or does He actually reveal Himself as a loving Father who sends ample warnings over extended periods of time, again and again calling His children to turn from destructive ways?

The biblical record shows Him to have sent prophetic voices to plead with Israel over hundreds of years. As Israel failed to listen, God sent judgments—minor disasters in the wider scheme of things—intended as pressure to turn Israel from their destructive and wicked ways and to separate the precious from the vile. Actual wrath came only after long centuries of such pleading. And even then, wrath flowed from the Father's heart of love as a last resort intended to purify Israel when nothing else had worked.

Long before Israel became a people, God in His mercy would have spared Sodom, had there been even 10 righteous in it. Don't you think there are yet the equivalent of 10 righteous in America and the western nations? Judgment has come to separate the precious from the vile, but is not yet wrath. Whether judgment or wrath, a loving Father seeks to restore His children to Himself. Prophecies devoid of love and hope are at best exaggerated and, at worst, blatantly wrong.

Test #3: Does the prophetic word pass the reality check?

This one calls us to think rationally rather than be carried along by something that stirs our passions. Some of us learned long ago that becoming spiritual doesn't mean we must throw our brains on the table.

For instance, will a coming revival sweep America and restore the nation to its Christian foundations? Forget for a moment who is prophesying such a revival and do the reality check. Where is the surrounding culture headed? What elements need to be present in the culture for there to be that kind of revival, and are those elements present? Are those conditions in place today? Would it therefore be a culture-sweeping revival or something that would manifest in certain islands of glory amid a continuing sea of darkness?

At this point I'm not judging the accuracy of these prophecies of culture-changing revival. I'm saying that as we evaluate the accuracy of any prophetic word, we need to realistically assess the culture in which we live in order to wisely adjust our focus and strategy.

In another example, when prophetic voices declare the imminence of a one-world government, you might want to look at actual trends. Objectively speaking, the world currently trends toward fragmentation, with each ethnic group demanding—and often getting—its own independence and sovereignty. Whether or not in fulfillment of biblical prophecy, if the one-world government actually materializes, it probably won't be soon. Such a prophecy of imminence should be questioned.

In more personal terms, imagine for a moment that you are a musician who receives a prophetic word that you will stand before thousands to play your music. Do you have the skill? Does the quality of your voice merit star status? How do people actually respond to the songs you write? Or did the so-called prophetic person simply read the ambition in your heart and reflect it back to you as if it were a word from God?

Romans 12:3 says, "For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith" (NASB).

Does a reality check validate the word given?

Test #4: Do any concrete realities accompany the prophetic word?

Obviously this flows from the previous test. There will often be some sort of tangible confirming reality embedded in or accompanying the prophecy itself. When God called Moses to go to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let the Jewish people go, the built-in confirmation was a physical burning bush. When Saul, who became Paul, received his call to ministry, he saw a bright light, heard an audible voice and suffered blindness for a few days. These were concrete manifestations accompanying the revelations.

In 1992 I received a flood of prophetic words indicating that God wanted me to plant a church in Denver. I had just resigned from a difficult position as executive pastor of a large church, and I very much wanted to leave town. I told the Lord that if He were truly speaking through those words, He would have to provide three months' worth of income upfront.

The confirming reality came when people attending a conference in Vermont, where I was a speaker, began to give to us. No announcement had been made, but before it was over, those wonderful people had provided one-and-a-half times the amount I had asked of the Lord. A concrete reality accompanied the prophecy.

Obviously, not all true words contain an immediate confirming reality. In such cases, the prophetic word should be prayed over, not lived for, until reality does or does not validate the word.

Test #5: Have you filtered out your emotions?

Human emotions form a kind of lens that distorts the prophetic word, magnifying and adding to it, as it passes through the heart of the prophetic person. Emotions affect the hearer in the same way, shaping what and how we hear. Extreme negative words excite our fears, ignite anticipation and even inflate our sense of pride in knowing something esoterically spiritual.

On the other side, positive words can have the same impact, effectively shielding out the peace flowing from the Father's heart and distorting the word as we allow ourselves to be carried away. We must seek and live in intimacy with the Lord, not the excitement generated by any positive or negative prophetic pronouncement.

I will never forget the months leading up to the 2008 presidential election. I was actually with a group of well-known prophetic people who declared that Sam Brownback, then a senator from Kansas, would be the next president.

First, this reflected an emotional desire to see a conservative candidate in the office and it clouded their hearing. Second, their emotional state prevented a reasoned assessment—a reality check—of the condition and direction of the culture around us. Barack Obama won the election.

Test #6: Have you measured the speaker's fulfillment record?

Before receiving any prophetic word as truth, take time to examine the track record and character of the speaker. While I don't believe the New Testament requires 100 percent accuracy, it does require substantial accuracy.

In Acts 11:28, Agabus accurately prophesied a famine so that the body of Christ could prepare in advance. Later, in Acts 21:11, he told Paul that the Jews would arrest him if he went to Jerusalem.

One hundred percent accurate? Not quite. The Romans, not the Jews, arrested him, although they did it in response to Jewish pressure. Agabus' track record for accuracy fell just short of 100 percent, but he was certainly accurate in substance.

Deuteronomy 18:21-22 addresses this kind of scenario: "You may say in your heart, 'How will we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?' When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him."

Examine, therefore, the track record of the speaker.

In my opinion, we as a Christian body have done this poorly. When a prophetic speaker's words have failed to be at least substantially accurate over time, we ought to stop listening. The problem is that some prophetic ministers very skillfully stir up excitement, which leads those of us conditioned by our emotionally driven culture to keep listening, even after a demonstrable history of inaccuracy.

In any case, Jesus remains our rock, the One—the only one—in whose eternal words we can rest. In Him we place our faith, not in the prophetic pronouncements of fallible men and women. Scripture cannot be broken, but words passing through the hearts of broken men and women certainly can be.

This must not lead us to deny the prophetic gift, but rather to grow in maturity and perhaps to dismantle the pedestals on which we have so perilously placed these precious saints who move in the prophetic gift.

R. Loren Sandford is senior pastor of New Song Church and Ministries in Denver and author of several books, including Visions of the Coming Days and Purifying the Prophetic. Though recognition as a prophetic voice has never been his ambition, his passion for people and the church have led directly to a prophetic calling and the need to hear the voice of God so he could help prepare God's people for the coming days.

Listen to prophetic insight Loren Sandford shared in 2008 about the American church that still rings true today at

R. Loren Sandford Featured Opinion Sun, 14 Sep 2014 09:00:00 -0400
7 Prayer Tactics to Engage Heaven

Many people look for a rulebook for prayer. They want step one, two, three and so on so that they don't have to think or really pour that much of themselves into their prayers. They want to just check off the steps and feel that they've done their duty. But prayer doesn't work like that. Spiritual warfare doesn't work like that.

What follows isn't a list of rules for prayer but of different prayer strategies that can act as guidelines to your prayers. Consider it like having a loaded prayer arsenal of different tactics alongside you as you go into prayer, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in how to pray effectively for whatever supplication or intercession you are bringing to God.

1) Pray faithfully.

When you pray, ensure that you don't waver in your faith. Hold fast to your relationship with Christ. God can resurrect a dead life, a dead dream—anything that is dead—if you have faith: "God ... gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did" (Rom. 4:17). He can bring your marriage, business or faith back into alignment with His promises. But this takes more than a quick "Help me, God!" It takes dedicated, faithful, faith-filled prayer in which you fully present yourself to God.

f-Trimm-PrayDecisively Istockphoto-Joste dj2) Pray decisively.

You can't be wishy-washy when you pray—one day you trust God, the next day you don't. One day you pray this, the next day you want the opposite. You say one thing to God in faith, and then you go have coffee with your friends and talk about how it can never happen. As the Bible says: "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful" (Heb. 10:23). Make a deliberate and conscious decision to agree with the Word of God, and then set your heart to believe it and your mouth to speak it no matter what.

f-Trimm-PrayForcefully Istockphoto-Juanmonino3) Pray forcefully.

Don't be a wimp! Matthew 11:12 tells us that, "The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force." You aren't begging, you aren't crying and you aren't persuading; you are coming to take what is legally yours according to the Word of God. You must come boldly as a child would to a father, as a prince or princess would to a king, as a wronged plaintiff would to a court of law. Hebrews 11:6 tells us, "Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."

f-Trimm-PrayLovingly-Istockphoto-IBushuev4) Pray lovingly.

We aren't called to take vengeance on anyone. If vengeance is to be taken, it will be God taking it, not us. We are not called to be judges over the perpetrators of any crimes, disasters or diseases. We are called to be deliverers, rescuers and healers. We're called to put ourselves between the people and the harm, lifting up Jesus so that those who will look up from this world to Him might also be saved (see John 3:14-15). We must pray to see the people we are praying for or those who hurt us through the eyes of God. We must pray that God stops them in their tracks as He did Paul and turns them around. We can't have faith if we aren't walking in love, for the only thing that avails is "faith working through love" (Gal. 5:6).

f-Trimm-PrayTruthfully Istockphoto-kjekol5) Pray truthfully.

There are times when we are in denial about the truth of a situation, or we could just be mistaken about the facts or in how we are interpreting things. We don't necessarily need to be praying "the facts;" we need to be praying the truth. The facts might be that the doctor said you will die in six months, but the truth is "by His stripes we are healed" (Is. 53:5). God doesn't need us to tell Him the facts; He knows them better than we do. But He does need us to agree with His promises so that we can receive the provision He desires to provide. After all, the Bible says, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).

There are times when we are in denial about the truth of a situation, or we could just be mistaken about the facts or in how we are interpreting things. We don't necessarily need to be praying "the facts;" we need to be praying the truth. The facts might be that the doctor said you will die in six months, but the truth is "by His stripes we are healed" (Is. 53:5). God doesn't need us to tell Him the facts; He knows them better than we do. But He does need us to agree with His promises so that we can receive the provision He desires to provide. After all, the Bible says, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).

f-Trimm-PrayEarnestly Istockphoto- IB 6) Pray earnestly.

Life throws us curveballs, and though we have different backgrounds and personal histories, we all have emotions, dreams and passions. When we're emotionally involved in a struggle, we tend to pray less rather than pray more. If we are to have overcoming prayer lives, we need to turn those emotions and passions into prayer rather than let them become a hindrance to it. We are told: "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit" (James 5:17-18).

f-Trimm-PrayFaithfully-Istockphoto-kryczka7) Pray authoritatively.

Praying in Jesus' name is not just a closing we're supposed to use before we say, "Amen." Praying in the name of Jesus is coming to the throne of God just as an ambassador would come to the throne of a foreign king "in the name of" his own king. Using the name of Jesus is another "in Christ" privilege and signet of our authority as a representative of Jesus.

John 14:13-14 says: "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it."

Prayer is a journey that is unique for everyone. Just as each of us has a different calling or job to do for God, each of us will travel a slightly different road in understanding what prayer really is. God will speak to each of us in different ways, and the way God speaks to one person can be markedly different from the way He speaks to another. 

God isn't interested in getting us to learn rules and requirements and living life merely by following the dictates of a rule book, but He wants us to come to Him that we might know Him for ourselves. He wants a unique relationship with each of us just as He created each of us as unique individuals.

He wants to partner with us in our journey and live it out with us day by day. It's why He created humans, and it is His great joy when we come to Him without doubt or compromise to wholeheartedly get to know Him and let ourselves be fully known by Him. God is all about relationship, and the key to it is masterful prayer.

Cindy Trimm is the founder of Trimm International ministries. She is also a former Bermuda senator and a best-selling author. Her latest book is When Kingdoms Clash, from which this article was excerpted.

Cindy Trimm Featured Opinion Sat, 13 Sep 2014 17:00:00 -0400
Bill Johnson: You Have Authority Over Any Storm You Can Sleep In

Jesus set the standard for how we face life-threatening storms effectively—in rest. The storm mentioned in Mark 4:36-41 brought great fear to the disciples. They probably thought they were going to die. What made the moment even more confusing was that Jesus did not seem to care; instead, He chose to sleep in the stern of the boat on a cushion.

When they finally woke Him, they asked Him why He did not care that they were perishing. He got up and rebuked the wind, and released peace over the sea. He then asked them why they had no faith. This moment illustrates how the Kingdom works, how faith works: It works from rest.

I have seen countless times when believers were tormented by great fear in a horrible situation and rebuked the devil accordingly. It usually involved yelling, tears and threats. But I have honestly never seen the devil yield to such tactics. Not that raising our voices is wrong. There is just a great difference between the loud voice of faith and the loud voice of fear. And believe me, the devil knows the difference. The voice of faith repels him, while the voice of fear attracts him. The words spoken make little difference.

This place of rest can also be called abiding in Christ. Jesus taught of this in His story about the vine and the branches. In the same way that a branch is connected to the vine, so we are to be connected to Christ. Abiding in Christ must become practical again. Abiding means basically that we live with a profound connection to the heart, mind and presence of God, with His promises. Living conscious of God's heart for us keeps us in a place of peace. And peace is more than the absence of something like war, noise or conflict. Our peace is the presence of Someone. It is the actual atmosphere of heaven.

When we begin to live out of fear, we must return to wherever we left our peace. Losing our peace usually involves making a mental agreement with a lie until our emotions become captive to that lie. The fiery darts of the enemy get past our shields of faith and penetrate our souls. The agreements made in those moments work against God's purposes for our lives. Repentance is in order. Repentance is the deep sorrow for sin that provokes a change in thinking. It is not complete until our thought lives are affected. It is not complete until we see that His promises and purposes are within reach.

The easiest approach to this challenge in life is to maintain peace in the first place. Cultivate a supreme value for the presence of God upon your life. Always have God's promises for your life within reach. Memorize them, sing them, write them out on pieces of paper—do anything you need to do to keep His mind in front of yours, until His thoughts become instinctively your thoughts.


Father, please give me some kind of warning when I am about to leave the place of peace You have created for me to live in. I do not want to do that anymore. It is too hard to recover. Remind me of the truth when I am about to consider a lie. And help me to anchor my soul in Your presence, in Your peace. Thank You for giving me the actual atmosphere of heaven to dwell in now.


His peace is my portion. It is my possession forever. I choose to live aware of the Holy Spirit upon me, and will not forget that His thoughts about me are all good.

Excerpted from Experience the Impossible by Bill Johnson. © 2014 by Bill Johnson. Used with permission of Chosen Books.   

Bill Johnson Featured Opinion Sat, 13 Sep 2014 15:00:00 -0400
4 Foundational Truths Necessary for Deliverance

The Restoring the Foundations integrated approach to biblical healing ministry is based on the central truths of the Christian faith. Both the minister and the ministry receiver need to understand and apply the truths regarding the cross, God's law, hearing God's voice and God's weapons.

1. The Cross

At the heart of Christianity is the cross of Jesus Christ. At the heart of our faith is the cross. At the heart of all effective Christian ministry stands the cross.

The cross is the source of God's greatest provision for us. The cross represents the exchanged life, in which we give Jesus all that we are in exchange for Himself and all that He has done for us. Because of the substitutionary atonement in which Jesus became sin for us and on our behalf, we now have a pathway back to righteousness. Through the cross, Jesus Christ gives us the provisions for a victorious life: forgiveness of sin, victory over the power of sin, victory over Satan and his demons, power over sickness and disease, and triumph over death itself. The cross provides the basis for reconciliation with Jesus and with our Abba Father. Because of the cross, we can live an abundant, joyful life on Earth as well as experience the glorious knowledge of eternal life.

In the cross, we see God's expansive love reaching out to us. This gives us hope to reach back toward Him, to begin to seek His healing for our pain. Through the cross, where God's wrath toward our sin was satisfied and our punishment borne, we can now repent and be totally forgiven and thoroughly cleansed. Because of the cross, where Jesus became a curse for us, we can now break the power of the curses (judgment) in our lives and be free of the sins of the fathers and resulting curses. By the cross, Jesus demonstrated that He is the way, the truth and the life. He is the standard of truth, allowing us to recognize and leave behind our ungodly beliefs and move toward His godly beliefs. Because Jesus bore our grief and sorrow on the cross, we can now legitimately release all of our pain and hurt to Him, expecting His healing of our soul/spirit hurts. At the cross, where Jesus defeated Satan, we can now receive the authority He has provided for us to be victorious over Satan and all the hordes of hell. As believers, we can cast out demons and remove demonic oppression from our lives.

The cross is central to our freedom. In the Restoring the Foundations integrated approach to biblical healing ministry, we appropriate the cross in all of its fullness into our lives. We receive it, apply it to our lives, possess its reality and victory and are empowered to move forward in faith. Then we are in the position to help others by bringing the power of the cross into their lives for their healing and deliverance.

2. God's Law

As ministers, it is most important that we understand several things about God's law. We need to know that there are consequences when we, or the people to whom we are ministering, violate or are disobedient to God's law. It is precisely because God's judgment is released when His law is violated that He sent Jesus Christ to provide a way out of the judgment. Our job is to learn how to appropriate God's provision and then help others to be set free.

First, let's remember Jesus' attitude toward the law. Jesus said:

''Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle shall in any wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled.''
—Matt. 5:17–18, KJ21

Then He turns to ''us'' and says:

''Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.''
—Matt. 5:19, KJ21

So here in Matthew and in many other passages, as in Luke 24:44 and Luke 16:17, Jesus demonstrates His honor and respect for the law. He clearly expects us to do the same.

Results of Violating God's Law

When we (and our ancestors) violate the law of God, several consequences occur. First, automatic repercussions are activated. We can look at the law of gravity as a natural example. Stepping off of a building causes one to fall. Gravity is working day and night. It is working for both the saved and unsaved. It is impartial. Every one of God's laws is impartial and always active. When we sin, a chain reaction is put into motion that has negative consequences for everyone it touches.

A second consequence is that pain is almost always created. In fact, most people come for ministry because they are in pain. They are experiencing turmoil, confusion, torment, guilt, shame, anger; the list goes on and on. Pain drives us to God.

Another very important consequence is spiritual separation from God. As Is. 59:2 (NIV) states: "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear."

A fourth unfortunate consequence is that we give legal opportunity for demonic oppression. Paul expressed this clearly when he wrote in Eph. 4:26–27: ''Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down on your wrath, neither give place to the devil'' (KJ21).

God's Solution

As Christians, we have two advantages over the rest of the world regarding the violation of God's law:

  1. We have a remedy when we violate God's law, and
  2. We can ask the Holy Spirit for grace and empowerment to avoid breaking God's law in the future.

The place to receive help is at the cross. We have already discussed the awesome provision of the cross. The ability to receive God's healing and freedom is centered on God's provision at the cross. Here the consequences of all of the violations of God's law were poured out on one man, Jesus Christ. Being saved from God's judgment occurs only when we meet His conditions. We appropriate by faith the provision He made for us at the cross. The cross made it possible for us to ''enter into'' God's promises of healing and deliverance.

One important, representative passage is God's conditional promise found in 1 John: ''If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness'' (1 John 1:9, KJ21).

When and if we do our part (confess our sins), God will do His part (forgive us and cleanse us from the resulting unrighteousness) because He is faithful and just. Thus, we can receive freedom from the consequences of violating the law.

Specific Laws Relevant to RTF Ministry

As we minister, a number of God's laws are relevant. We will focus on four central ones for use in the integrated approach to biblical healing ministry:

  • Sowing and reaping
  • Multiplication
  • Time to harvest
  • Believing in your heart

The concepts and principles expressed in these laws will be used in each of the four problem areas as we bring the healing and freedom of Jesus Christ into our ministry receiver's life.

3. Hearing God's Voice

Our deep desire is to hear God's voice and to follow His leading throughout each ministry session. We want the best for each person to whom we minister. We know that significant healing only occurs when the Holy Spirit leads and the Lord Jesus Christ touches. We want to hear everything that God is saying in the areas of needed forgiveness, ancestral sins and curses (SOFCs), core beliefs that are ungodly (UGBs), hurts God wants to heal (SSHs), and demonic strongholds and their legal ground (DO).

As we minister, we want to be led very specifically in each arena. Before the ministry starts, we listen to the Holy Spirit to obtain the real roots behind the ministry receiver's presenting problem(s). During ministry, we listen as the Holy Spirit guides our questions and ministry. Afterward, we listen to prepare for the next session.

Ways we hear

Our spiritual ''hearing'' senses can be placed into three broad categories: hearing, seeing and feeling. We may ''hear'' God's voice as did Samuel the prophet when he thought Eli was calling him and as Elijah did at Mount Horeb. We may ''see'' God's voice as in a vision, similar to Peter and John on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus. The Bible records many visions received by the prophets. We may also ''feel'' God's voice with our senses. This seems to occur frequently with intercessors as they pray for others' healing.

Most of us have one primary way that we hear God's voice most of the time. We may hear it through any of the following (hearing, seeing, feeling) ways: illumination of Scripture, inward vision (word of wisdom, word of knowledge), seeing His words in our spirit, hearing His voice in our spirit, dreams or even experiencing another person's emotions or physical feelings. Ways of ''hearing'' God's voice that are less common include seeing an outward vision and/or hearing God's voice audibly.

Learning to Hear

Many of us, like the boy Samuel, do not recognize when God is speaking. Like Samuel, we have to learn to hear Him through intentional listening and hearing.

The good news is that even if you are not currently confident that you hear God's voice, you can gain confidence by practice and receiving training to hear God's voice better. As we hear God's voice and learn to flow in His gifts, we are much more ready to confront the enemy of our soul and to bring Christ's healing to others.

4. God's Weapons

As ministers, we do not want to be naive in the area of spiritual warfare. We must take our blinders off and realize there is a spiritual battle raging. If we are blind or passive, we will sooner or later become victims. Satan and his army are out to prevent salvation, arrest our spiritual maturity, keep our minds full of the world's garbage, and promote disease in our bodies. Satan does not play fair! He is willing to use every possible means and every legal access to defeat us. The good news is that we do not have to be wimpy soldiers with wimpy weapons. We have all the ''firepower'' that we need. However, we have to get the weapons out of the armory and put them to work! ''For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but  divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses'' (2 Cor. 10:4, NASB).

We have our protective, defensive weapons. They are designed to deflect and stop Satan's fiery darts. They are the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, the breastplate of righteousness, the girdle of truth, and the boots of the preparation of the gospel of peace.

In addition, we have our offensive weapons. The military teaches its leaders that ''the best defense is a good offense.'' The same is true for spiritual warfare. We want to take our ''divinely powerful'' offensive weapons and use them against the enemy for our own sake and for the sake of the ministry receiver. Our offensive weapons include prayer, the Word of God, the Name of Jesus, the cross, the Blood, praise, our spiritual prayer language, and the laying on of hands. We can also ask God to dispatch angels to minister to the ''heirs of salvation.'' What an arsenal we have at our disposal!

We expect to have many victories in the Restoring the Foundations integrated approach to biblical healing ministry sessions as we use God's offensive weapons.We expect to see lives changed in significant ways so that the captives will be set free. Our mission is to use God's offensive weapons to defuse, confuse and scatter the enemy's strongholds and remove the oppression from the ministry receiver.

A final note about weapons, particularly prayer. Prayer might be better thought of as our communication link with our Commander-in-Chief and the spiritual realm in general. In the broadest term, prayer includes ''commanding,'' ''declaring,'' ''decreeing,'' ''breaking,'' ''interceding'' and ''releasing.'' In a very real sense, all of the weapons, both defensive and offensive, are put into action through prayer.

We want to conclude this section with a portion of Psalm 18, a psalm of David. We encourage you to make verses 30–50 of this psalm your own, as if God were speaking these promises directly to you as His spiritual warrior. May you be empowered to defeat the demonic hosts (enemies, strangers, violent men) that come against you and your ministry receiver.

As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is proved; He is a buckler to all those that trust in Him.
For who is God, except the LORD? Or who is a rock, except our God?
It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.
He maketh my feet like hinds' feet, and setteth me upon my high places.
He teacheth my hands to war, so that the bow of steel is broken by mine arms.
Thou hast also given me the shield of Thy salvation; Thy right hand hath held me up, and Thy gentleness hath made me great.
Thou hast enlarged my path under me, that my feet did not slip.
I have pursued mine enemies and overtaken them; neither did I turn back until they were consumed.
I have wounded them, that they were not able to rise; they have fallen under my feet.
For Thou hast girded me with strength for the battle; Thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.
Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies, that I might destroy them that hate me.
They cried, but there was none to save them, even unto the LORD, but He answered them not.
Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind; I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.
Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and Thou hast made me the head of the heathen; a people whom I have not known shall serve me.
As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me; the strangers shall submit themselves unto me.
The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places.
The LORD liveth, and blessed be my Rock! And let the God of my salvation be exalted!
It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me;
He delivereth me from mine enemies. Yea, Thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me; Thou hast delivered me from violent men.
Therefore will I give thanks unto Thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto Thy name.
Great deliverance giveth He to His king and showeth mercy to His anointed, to David and to his seed for evermore.
—Psalm 18:30–50, KJ21, emphasis mine

Chester and Betsy Kylstra are co-authors of Biblical Healing and Deliverance, from which this article is adapted. For part one of this article series, click here.

Chester and Betsy Kylstra Featured Opinion Sat, 13 Sep 2014 11:00:00 -0400
4 Key Roadblocks to Healing and Deliverance

Many people in the world are trapped and wounded and believe they are helpless. We were once among that group. By the grace of God, we were given a revelation of significant keys of the Kingdom that enabled first us and then many others to receive God's restorative healing, deliverance and freedom. Our book reveals the keys needed to unlock the chains that bind our lives and block and hinder our Christian growth. These keys are the revelation of how to minister to four problem areas that are in all of our lives and the importance of ministering to all of these problem areas simultaneously. When we minister to (1) sins of the fathers and resulting curses, (2) ungodly beliefs, (3) soul/spirit hurts and (4) demonic oppression as a unit, we call this an integrated approach to biblical healing ministry.

God has shown us that each of these four areas is connected to and strengthened by each of the other three. If we ignore any one of these problem areas when we are ministering to someone, we leave an open door for the enemy to undermine the entire healing process.

Four Problem Areas

Let's take a brief look at these four problem areas:

1. Sins of the fathers and resulting curses (SOFCs)

This problem area is rooted in the second commandment (Ex. 20:3–6), in which the sin of idolatry results in the curse of ''visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation'' (KJ21). In order to get free of this curse, God provides a pattern of confession that we can follow, first mentioned in Lev. 26:40. We confess our ancestors' sin as well as our own sin (1 John 1:9), forgive as needed (Matt. 6:14–15), appropriate Christ's finished work on the cross to break curses (Gal. 3:13), and recover the ''legal ground'' from the enemy (Col. 2:14).

2. Ungodly beliefs (UGBs)

Our minds are full of untruths and half-truths inherited from our ancestors (i.e., our parents, grandparents) and formed from the hurtful circumstances and experiences of our own lives. These ungodly beliefs need to be changed into godly beliefs (Rom. 12:2). This is accomplished through a carefully structured procedure of repentance for believing lies, renouncing those lies, and receiving God's truth to renew our minds. This procedure also recovers ''legal ground'' as we break our agreements with demons.

3. Soul/spirit hurts (SSHs)

Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted (Luke 4:18). As we ''wait upon the Lord'' with ''listening prayer,'' He is eager to come and heal the hurts of our soul and spirit. He does this by showing us the original causes of our hurts. Then, after we take care of necessary forgiveness, releasing and renouncing, He heals what He has revealed. All ''legal ground'' given to the enemy from our sinful responses to the hurts, as well as the inherited legal ground, is recovered as a part of the ministry.

4. Demonic oppression (DO)

After ministering to the above three problem areas, it is now relatively easy to disassemble and destroy the demonic oppression structures (Mark 16:17) and eliminate them from our lives, since they have lost their ''legal ground.'' It is a delight to help others gain this freedom.

Completing the Restoring the Foundations integrated approach to biblical healing ministry in these four problem areas brings integrated healing into our lives. This can be a major life-changing occurrence. We experience the transforming power of God's grace as His purpose is accomplished, and we are conformed more and more into the image of His dear Son, Jesus the Christ. This further opens the door for intimate fellowship with God and His empowerment, making it possible for us to live the ''overcoming'' Christian life.

Chester and Betsy Kylstra are co-authors of Biblical Healing and Deliverance, from which this article is adapted.

Chester and Betsy Kylstra Featured Opinion Sat, 13 Sep 2014 09:00:00 -0400
Christian Journalist Accused of Plot Against Rwandan Government

A Rwandan singer known for his renditions of the national anthem and three others appeared in the Rwandan High Court on Friday charged with conspiring against the government.

Singer Kizito Mihigo, radio journalist Cassien Ntamuhanga, retired soldier Jean Paul Dukuzumuremyi and Agnes Niyibizi, an accountant, appeared in court clad in the pink outfits worn by detainees.

The case has drawn wide public interest because of Mihigo's popularity as a performer. It has also prompted criticism from rights group Reporters Without Borders, who have expressed concern about press freedom over the arrest of a journalist and others.

President Paul Kagame and government officials have often talked of plots against the state in the past year, sometimes blaming former top security officers linked to the South Africa-based opposition group, the Rwanda National Congress.

Mihigo and Ntamuhanga, a journalist for Rwanda's Amazing Christian Radio, were accused by the prosecution of plotting with the Congress via Skype and WhatsApp. The prosecution said conversations took place earlier this year.

Former soldier Dukuzumuremyi was allegedly given money to carry out grenade attacks in Kigali, while Niyibizi is accused of facilitating a cash transfer to him, the prosecution said.

"Our position is that he (Mihigo) is innocent," Mihigo's lawyer John Bigarama told Reuters.

The defendants, detained in April, are charged with an offense against the government, conspiracy against the government and forming a criminal gang. They did not enter pleas at Friday's hearing.

The case was adjourned by the judge until Oct. 10 after Mihigo's three co-accused said they had not seen the dossier of accusations. Two of them did not have lawyers.

The government said in April that Mihigo, Ntamuhanga and Dukuzumuremyi were under investigation for planning to overthrow the government and inciting violence. Their case was moved to the High Court from another court, and Niyibizi was eventually also detained.

Mihigo, a Tutsi survivor of Rwanda's 1994 genocide, was well-known for singing the national anthem at official ceremonies, including some attended by the president.

This year, he released a song called "Meaning of Death" that was banned by the authorities, apparently for touching on sensitive issues about the genocide, when 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderates from the Hutu majority were killed by Hutus.

The government describes the 1994 killings as the genocide of Tutsis, a title some Hutus complain ignores the many Hutus killed then or after in what they call revenge attacks.

Kagame, a Tutsi who led a guerrilla force which halted the killings, has said he wants to make a society of "Rwandese" without ethnic divisions.

Critics accuse Kagame of concentrating too much power in his own hands and stamping out dissent.

Reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana; writing by Edmund Blair; editing by Edith Honan and Andrew Roche

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Reuters Featured World News Fri, 12 Sep 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Given 72 Hours to Live, Miracle Healing Sees Man Walk Again

When doctors gave Chance McMinn 72 hours to live after he fell from the top of a four-story building, he looked to God for a miraculous healing. He got one.

The accident happened during a night of heavy drinking. McMinn took a fall that damaged his lungs, broke his pelvic bone, two lumbar vertebrae, and a femur. During the fall, he even broke through the third level of his brain, according to the Walton Sun.

Today, he's walking.

"The past three years have been really tough," Stephanie McMinn told the Sun. "But Chance keeps beating the odds. He continues to heal. We've put our trust in God and we know He will restore Chance fully. God is not a halfway God—He does full restoration."

The paper reports that Chance is almost "back to normal." Not only does he walk with a cane, he speaks full sentences and handles daily tasks on his own.

"God told Chance that he was born to do this in a process," Stephanie said. "Chance needed to heal from the inside-out, so he has been very patient with all of this."

Formerly struggling with alcohol addiction, a born-again Chance and his wife launched BeGenerous, a Christian nonprofit to help families in need and share the gospel.

"I want to help others who struggle with addiction," Chance said. "Anyone who is struggling with alcohol or any addiction, please reach out to me so I can lift you up."

Jennifer LeClaire Featured U.S. News Fri, 12 Sep 2014 18:00:00 -0400
Yes, the Bible Is Constitutional, Attorneys Assure Penn State

Penn State University has decided to remove Bibles from guest rooms after receiving a complaint from Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter Thursday to the university, encouraging it to reverse its decision. ADF recently sent a similar letter to the U.S. Navy, which later reversed its decision to remove Bibles from guest rooms after it also received a complaint from FFRF. In February, ADF sent letters to the University of Wisconsin and Iowa State University over similar FFRF complaints.

FFRF complained that allowing groups like Gideons International, a Christian organization, to place Bibles in guest rooms violates the First Amendment. The ADF letter debunks those claims, explains that the Bibles do not violate the Constitution, and encourages Penn State to reverse its decision—as the U.S. Navy did—instead of surrendering to the atheist group's unfounded legal threats and inaccurate demands.

"Public universities should understand that the First Amendment does not require them to purge a book from their guest rooms just because it happens to be religious. Rather, the Constitution requires them to accommodate religion," said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Travis Barham. "The Bibles can legitimately stay in the guest rooms because they simply represent a discreet way to accommodate the needs of traveling guests, not some sort of government effort to promote religion."

"No court in the country has ever ruled that allowing Bibles to be placed in the guest rooms of government-run guest facilities violates the First Amendment," the ADF letter states. "Rather, the Establishment Clause allows private individuals and groups, like the Gideons, to place Bibles at their expense on government property. In fact, by removing the Bibles from the guest rooms, Penn State may have demonstrated the very viewpoint discrimination and hostility toward religion that the First Amendment prohibits."

"Numerous courts across the country have affirmed the Gideons' right to distribute Bibles in schools, and even more—including judges in the Third Circuit—have affirmed private citizens' right to share religious literature at public schools on equal terms with those promoting non-religious literature," the letter explains.

"By allowing Bibles to be placed in their guest rooms, Penn State was not unconstitutionally promoting religion to guests but was merely serving its guests' needs and desires," added ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Hacker. "We hope Penn State will follow the U.S. Navy's example and restore Bibles to its guest rooms instead of allowing itself to be browbeaten by FFRF into taking unnecessary and potentially unconstitutional actions."

Charisma News Staff Featured U.S. News Fri, 12 Sep 2014 17:00:00 -0400
Christine Caine: 'No Trace of Cancer in My Body. Praise Jesus'

"Chris, you have cancer." Not quite the words I was expecting to hear when I landed in Sydney, Australia, for our annual Hillsong conference on June 27 this year.

It was 9 a.m. in Australia, and my doctor in the U.S. had called to give me the results of the thyroid biopsy I had done before boarding my flight to Australia.

The C word.

That word normally sends fear, dread and terror surging into the hearts of people.

It sounds so final. Terminal.

It seems like everyone, everywhere has known someone, somewhere who has, or has had, cancer. ...

I knew a weapon had been forged against me. I don't believe that sickness comes from God, because God is good and does good; but I know that we are in a spiritual battle and that bad things can happen to good people because we live in a fallen world. The devil came for my jugular, my voice. He wanted to silence me and sent a full-on assault to bombard and overwhelm me. I had received one negative diagnosis after another. It was relentless.

His plan was to fill me with fear so that he could deactivate my faith. Fear cripples, immobilizes and paralyzes us. It causes us to pull back from God instead of pressing in to Him and His Word, to speak doubt and unbelief instead of faith. To forget His promises, instead of remembering His faithfulness. To see the facts, obstacles and giants instead of the truth of His Word. To react rather than respond. Fear simply shuts us down, and when we are shut down we cannot fight the good fight of faith.

I had a faith battle ahead of me, and the real enemy was not cancer but fear.

I was blindsided by a surprise attack, but God was not. I felt many emotions and very vulnerable, but I could also feel God's Presence with me in a palpable way. This was going to be yet another chance for me to practice what I so often preached to others.

Click here to read the rest of Caine's testimony.

Christine Caine and her husband, Nick, founded The A21 Campaign, an anti-human-trafficking organization that fights slavery around the globe. She is also the author of five books.

Christine Caine Featured Opinion Fri, 12 Sep 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Pastors Sentenced to Prison for Raising Financial Support

Two pastors have been sentenced to several years in prison for fund raising for personal gain in Bhutan, a small kingdom governed by a Buddhist monarchy that borders China and India in the eastern Himalaya mountains.

The attorney general in the capital Thimphu sentenced pastor Tandin Wangyal, 30, to nearly four years in prison without bail for committing a felony under the charge of soliciting funds from the public for personal gain. Pastor Mon Thapa, 56, has received a shorter sentence of two years and four months. Alternatively, he could pay a fine of 98,800 Ngultrum ($1,630) instead of time in prison.

"I am already handed to the police now for detention," said Wangyal in a text message. "I may not be able to communicate after this [message]."

Wangyal has 10 days to submit his appeal.

"Chances are slim," said a local source, unnamed for security reasons. "This sad development has really shaken everyone. My mother and the other women of our church will visit Tandin's [Wangyal] family."

The men were arrested on March 5 while they were carrying a sick child to a clinic in a village. They had only arrived the previous day after an invitation to hold a three-day seminar for 30 Christians who came from neighboring towns.

They were detained under the charges of conducting a gathering for religious purpose without prior approval; showing a film without certificate of approval from media authorities and for collecting "illegal funds."

The pastors submitted their written defense to the court during their first hearing on May 5. At the next, on May 12, however, they received a second set of charges. This time, Wangyal was accused of fund raising for personal gain.

Wangyal then submitted a second written defense during the third and most recent trial on May 22, during which charges of collecting illegal funds against Thapa were dropped. However, Wangyal received new charges, which he denied, when the prosecutors found financial data on an external hard drive indicating that he had received funds from the public without official permission, which is a violation of the Civil Society Organization Act of Bhutan.

Bhutan's state religion is Buddhism, and other religions are barely tolerated, so life as a Christian is especially difficult. Church buildings are illegal, and non-Buddhists are not privy to the same benefits such as free education. Proselytism and incitement to convert are illegal. Bhutanese who convert to Christianity can lose their citizenship.

Charges of proselytism were dropped when, after intense questioning of the 30 Christians who took part in the three-day meeting, police said they found no proof that the two men had forced believers to convert to Christianity.

Bhutan's Home Minister Damcho Dorji told the Business Bhutan newspaper that religion played no part in the pastors' arrest.

"They had not obtained permission from local authorities," Dorji was quoted as saying. "This is a crime under the penal code... If you have violated this, it does not matter whether you are Buddhist, Hindu or Christian."

Bhutan is No. 31 on Open Doors' World Watch List, an annual ranking of countries where life as a Christian is most difficult. Christians endure threats and pressures from village heads and clerics to return to Buddhism. They can pray and worship privately in their homes, but they struggle to meet in congregations and to obtain official permission to do so.

World Watch Monitor Featured World News Fri, 12 Sep 2014 15:00:00 -0400
Tim Tebow Gets New Gig With ABC

Tim Tebow is joining Good Morning America. The former NFL quarterback-turned-ESPN-and-SEC-Network-analyst is joining the ranks of ABC.

Tebow was the first-ever college sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. ABC is using the Christian jock to help launch GMA's "Motivate Me Monday" series, featuring individuals and their amazing stories of triumph. 

Tebow will appear in studio and live on location in towns across America with a wide range of reports that are meant to motivate and inspire.

The series will premiere Monday. Will you watch it?

Jennifer LeClaire Featured Culture Fri, 12 Sep 2014 14:00:00 -0400
Is ISIS Truly Muslim or Not?

It was a familiar September scene for most Americans. Too familiar. Thirteen years ago Thursday, George W. Bush spoke to the nation from the same Oval Office as President Obama did Wednesday night, both determined to hunt down the terrorists who threaten our country.

While the circumstances surrounding the speeches were different, the enemy is not: Muslim militants who demand the world submit to their form of Islam or be killed. For people watching Wednesday night's speech on ISIS, just one day shy of the 9/11 anniversary, it was an eerie and solemn reminder that the evil that robbed our nation of 2,977 bright lives still lurks.

After the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children, and two American journalists, the flippant remarks of ISIS being a JV team were not uttered last night. But obviously, the administration still lacks a basic understanding of these extremists. In all 1,996 words of his address, none were more shocking than these: "ISIL is not Islamic." Exactly what part of "Islamic State" does the president not understand? If these terrorists aren't Muslim, then someone ought to tell them that.

The reality is, our military is about to put their lives on the line, and they need a strategy driven by national security—not political correctness. U.S. troops can't win a war armed with liberal "tolerance." If the president can't even identify the enemy, how can he destroy it? One of the most crucial pieces of this ISIS puzzle is acknowledging the theological motivations of radical Islam. Anything less is a death sentence.

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, thinks the administration needs a reality check.

"I believe that many of the elements [Obama] advocated are important, and I support them. However," he said, "they are not enough to achieve his own stated goal of defeating ISIS."

And he wasn't alone. Plenty of leaders are concerned the president's approach is not enough—a fear shared by the region's Iraqi Christians.

"Only Americans can fix it," said one man on the ground in the region. "They should just send their soldiers into Iraq and Syria, not just fight from the air."

Another one of the hundreds of thousands of Christians driven from his home was disappointed by the Obama strategy: "When the Americans were in Mosul, we had no problems. When they left, the troubles started."

It's not enough to manage the problem—we need to eliminate it. The president continues to tie our hands by limiting the actions he'll take to destroy the threat from ISIS by saying he will not "put boots on the ground," rather we will depend on "partners." Now is not the time to rely on unnamed partners; it's time for America to act decisively against ISIS.

"Diplomacy and coalition-building are hard work and not easy for any president. But Obama has mostly been seen fund raising, vacationing, speaking about climate change and playing golf," Richard Grenell wrote bluntly. "The only people who feel reassured thus far by Obama's analysis of ISIS is ISIS itself."

Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council.

Tony Perkins Featured Opinion Fri, 12 Sep 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Tasteless 'Burn the Cracker Jesus' Challenge Goes Viral

You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge to support Lou Gehrig's Disease research. I've told you about the sick and twisted #TacoandBeerChallenge that aims to fund abortion. Now, a tasteless new challenge is sweeping across the Internet.

It's called the "Burn the Cracker Jesus Challenge," hashtag #BurnWhiteJesus. (Some call it the Kill White Jesus or Burn White Jesus challenge). Savannah Black posted a disturbing video, complete with titling that says, "Burn Cracker Burn!!!" and plenty of blasphemy to boot. I chose not to show the video in this column, but you can find it on YouTube if you feel the need to view it.

Black takes issue with the fact that an image of Jesus as a white man has been burning in mindsets of blacks since they were, he explains, "kidnapped and brung over to the shores of America." Black is challenging African-Americans to liberate their minds by burning images of what he calls "cracker Jesus."

It Wasn't Jesus' Fault

Mockingly, Black does warm-up exercises before setting fire to the images. For African-Americans having difficulty burning an image of Jesus, he suggests thinking about their ancestors who were held in bondage as slaves, then looking at a picture of Jesus and saying "You cracker, the [stuff] you did to my people for 400-plus years, the way you have us bamboozled and hoodwinked. You know what, cracker? You dead. You dead to me now."

Black insists he's not asking anyone to give up their religion of Christianity if it helps them cope, but assures his viewers that accepting his challenge to burn an image of Jesus will liberate their minds. After saying some other disrespectful words about the Messiah, he burns an image of Christ with a string of cuss words, then burns another picture before stomping it on the ground repeatedly calling Jesus a "punk-..."

I can't begin to imagine the suffering African-Americans endure in the face of racism—or that their ancestors endured in the face of slavery. White men, sometimes in the name of Jesus, have committed atrocities against black men, women and children. Some say propagating images of Jesus as a white man is a tool to forward white supremacist thoughts in society. I can't say they are right or wrong. I don't know but I'm certain that burning images of Jesus isn't the answer.

Jesus Was Not White

Racism surely exists. I remember when I lived in Alabama. My two best friends were black. We'd ride through town together, and some people would stare and glare and display their displeasure that I was keeping company with another race. I even drove up on a house that was clearly owned by a proud member of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). It frightened and sickened me and opened my eyes to a level of racism I didn't know still existed in America. Still, I'm certain burning images of Jesus isn't the answer.

Most Christians understand that Jesus was not white. Jesus was Jewish and His skin tone did not look anything like what most modern depictions suggest. Whatever the color of His skin, Jesus does not approve of abuse, racism or persecution of black people—especially not in His holy Name. But burning images of Jesus isn't the answer.

As a church, we need to by all means continue civil discussions on eradicating racism with the love and truth of the gospel. I don't see how cussing at Jesus and burning images of Him accomplishes that goal. Persecuting Jesus is ultimately not going to set anyone free. The truth is what sets people free, and we'd all do well to allow Jesus to reveal truth to our hearts about Him and everybody else.

Jennifer LeClaire is news editor of Charisma. She is also director of Awakening House of Prayer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and author of several books, including The Making of a Prophet and The Spiritual Warrior's Guide to Defeating Jezebel. You can email Jennifer at 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, 12 Sep 2014 12:00:00 -0400
ISIS May Be 3 Times Bigger Than We Thought, CIA Says

New intelligence suggests the Islamic State may be three times the size of initial reports of 10,000 members.

The news comes as congressional leaders begin to debate President Obama's plan to target the ruthless jihadist army.

The strategy to "degrade and defeat" ISIS calls for arming and training rebels in Syria, increasing airstrikes in Iraq, and expanding those strikes to Syria.

It's a plan some presidential supporters call aggressive. But others, like House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, question whether the president's actions are enough.

"An F-16 is not a strategy, and airstrikes alone will not accomplish what we're trying to accomplish," the speaker said. "Somebody's boots have to be on the ground."

Meanwhile, intelligence officials  estimate the terror organization can muster as many 20,000 to more than  31,000 fighters across Iraq and Syria.

With an enemy that large, the head of the House Intelligence Committee says it could take more than a decade to defeat ISIS.

"This is not just bombing a mountainside or securing a dam," Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., told reporters.

In the meantime, Secretary of State John Kerry is on a whirlwind tour of the Middle East, lining up support for a coalition to take on ISIS. But Kerry says the U.S. is not at "war" with ISIS, opting instead to call the fight a "significant counter-terrorism operation."

"This is a moment for all decent countries to come together and stand up and say to the world that we've had enough of these individual groups," Kerry said.

Efrem Graham/CBN News Featured World News Fri, 12 Sep 2014 11:00:00 -0400
Why Jonathan Cahn's Prophetic 'Mystery of Shemitah' Is Flying off the Shelves

The Mystery of the Shemitah by Jonathan Cahn, a book revealing a 3,000-year-old biblical prophecy for America's future, has charted simultaneously on the New York Times Best-Sellers List at No. 6 and No. 31 on USA Today's Best-Selling Books Top 150 list.

This sophomore release for the New Jersey-based author builds on the mysterious biblical prophecy revealed in his million-selling novel, The Harbinger, which became a publishing phenomenon and remained on the NYT best-sellers list for over 110 weeks.

The Shemitah (SHMEE-tah), or Sabbath year, is the seventh year of the seven-year agricultural cycle mandated by the Torah for the land of Israel. Cahn says understanding this seven-year pattern is essential for understanding the prophecies and mysteries of the Bible that are still applicable today.

"As we commemorate a day in our nation's history that deeply tested the strength of our foundation, Cahn's message is needed more than ever," Tessie DeVore, Charisma House Book Group executive vice president, said in a reference to 9/11. "We are pleased to see The Mystery of the Shemitah garnering national attention at a time when the nation is still seeking hope for its future."

The Mystery of the Shemitah also debuted at No. 1 in the Christian Prophecy category on, and several other general-market and Christian-trade lists, including Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and, triggering a major reprint to meet market demand at retail on its first day of release.

The Mystery of the Shemitah is the 12th New York Times best-seller for Charisma House Book Group, following The Harbinger by Cahn. Fasting by Jentezen Franklin, 23 Minutes in Hell by Bill Wiese, and The Seven Pillars of Health by Don Colbert, MD, also have previously charted on the list.

Althea Thompson Featured Culture Fri, 12 Sep 2014 10:00:00 -0400
Actor Ray Liotta Talks Honestly About Faith: Behind the Scenes of 'The Identical'

New in theaters is the faith based movie The Identical, starring well-known Hollywood actors Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Seth Green and Joe Pantoliano, as well as musician-turned-actor Blake Rayne, who was interviewed separately. It's a period drama centered on a young man with incredible musical talent who has an identical rock-star brother he doesn't know.

Ray Liotta (Goodfellas and Narc) plays the passionate preacher and compassionate, though strict, father of the main character. In an exclusive interview with Movieguide, he explained how he got the role and discussed his own personal struggle with faith.

"There was a script that my agent told me they were sending to me," Liotta explained. "I had gone to bed and forgot that it was outside. I woke up in the middle of the night, I remembered the script was outside, I said, 'Let me go get the script' because I didn't want the sprinklers to get it wet. I couldn't fall back asleep, so I said, 'Why don't I just look at this and see if it grabs me.'

"Sure enough, it grabbed me and hooked [me] from the first page to the end. 4 o'clock that morning I finished the script."

Liotta also explained why the script touched him emotionally.

"I was emotional [about it]," he related, "because I was adopted. It made me understand things from my dad's point of view and not from the adopted kid point of view. I immediately started texting my agents and managers saying, 'This is it, I'm in.' It just grabbed me."

Joking that it was refreshing to finally play a character where he wasn't killing someone, Ray (who grew up in the Catholic Church) readily admitted that he "wants to believe," but isn't "hook, line and sinker" sold.

"To this day, I still pray," he admitted, however. "Some days, you'll listen to a bunch of scientists on some television show, and say, 'There's no way someone just said boom here it is.' But yet, I still believe there's gotta be something. I don't know, did we really just crawl out of the sea?"

Concerning his role as the father/preacher in The Identical, Liotta feels confident in his performance and in the story.

"I think I pulled it off," he added. "It wasn't didactic, it wasn't hitting people over the head. That was really the writing. I just submitted to what they wrote. My instincts were right. Dustin [Marcellino, the director] hadn't directed anything before. This was his first movie, other than music videos. We Skyped. I just got a sense of who he was. He's a faith-based person, and it really helped me and definitely opened something up in me that wasn't there before."

Because of Liotta's reputation for playing less than admirable characters, we asked him: If any of his past characters needed to sit through a sermon by Preacher Reece (his character in The Identical), who would that be?

Jokingly playing along, Liotta said. "I don't think I can pick one, I play such horrible people. I would say the guy that I played in Unlawful Entry. He should sit down for a sermon."

Watch the first 15 minutes of The Identical here.

This article originally appeared on Want to know what God's doing in Hollywood?

Ben Kayser/Movieguide Featured Culture Fri, 12 Sep 2014 09:00:00 -0400
Football Team Forced to Remove Christian Crosses From Helmets

Football players at Arkansas State University were ordered to either remove a Christian cross decal from their helmets or modify it into a mathematical sign after a Jonesboro attorney complained that the image violated the U.S. Constitution.

The cross decal was meant to memorialize former player Markel Owens and former equipment manager Barry Weyer, said athletic director Terry Mohajir.  Weyer was killed in a June car crash. Owens was gunned down in Tennessee in January.

Barry Weyer Sr. told me that the players and coaches voluntarily decided to memorialize his son and Owens. 

"The players knew they were both Christians so they decided to use the cross along with their initials," he said. "They wanted to carry the spirits of Markel and Barry Don onto the field for one more season."

It was a decision that had the full support of the university's athletic director.

"I support our students' expression of their faith," Mohajir said. "I am 100 percent behind our students and coaches."

However, the athletic director said he had no choice but to remove the crosses after he received a message from the university's legal counsel.

"It is my opinion that the crosses must be removed from the helmets," university counsel Lucinda McDaniel wrote to Mohajir. "While we could argue that the cross with the initials of the fallen student and trainer merely memorialize their passing, the symbol we have authorized to convey that message is a Christian cross."

According to documents provided to me by Arkansas State, McDaniel gave the football team a choice—they could either remove the cross or modify the decal. And by modify—she meant deface.

"If the bottom of the cross can be cut off so that the symbol is a plus sign (+) there should be no problem," she wrote. "It is the Christian symbol which has caused the legal objection."

The team had been wearing the decals for two weeks without any complaints. That changed after last Saturday's nationally televised game against the Tennessee Volunteers.

Jonesboro attorney Louis Nisenbaum sent McDaniel an email complaining about the cross decal.

"That is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause as a state endorsement of the Christian religion," Nisenbaum wrote. "Please advise whether you agree and whether ASU will continue this practice."

Ironically, the university's legal counsel admitted in a letter that there were no specific court cases that addressed crosses on football helmets. Nevertheless, she feared the possibility of a lawsuit.

"It is my opinion that we will not prevail on that challenge and must remove the crosses from the helmets or alter the symbols so that they are a (plus sign) instead of a cross," she wrote in an email to the athletic director.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation fired off a letter congratulating the university on cleansing the helmets of the Christian symbol.

"The crosses appeared to confer State's endorsement of religion, specifically Christianity," the FFRF wrote. "The inclusion of the Latin cross on the helmets also excludes the 19 percent of the American population that is non-religious."

FFRF co-presidents Annie Lauire Gaylor and Dan Barker went so far as to suggest alternative ways for the football players to mourn.

"Many teams around the country honor former teammates by putting that player's number on their helmets or jerseys, or by wearing a black armband," they wrote. "Either of those options, or another symbolic gesture free from religion imagery, would be appropriate."

That suggestion set off the athletic director.

"I don't even kinda-sorta care about any organization that tells our students how to grieve," Mohajir told me. "Everybody grieves differently. I don't think anybody has the right to tell our students how to memorialize their colleagues, their classmates or any loved ones they have."

While Mr. Weyer told me he supports the university "100 percent," he said he took great offense at the FFRF's attack.

"The fact is the cross was honoring two fallen teammates who just happened to be Christians," he wrote on his Facebook page. "I just have a hard time understanding why we as Christians have to be tolerant of everybody else's rights, but give up ours."

I do, too, Mr. Weyer. I do, too.

Liberty Institute attorney Hiram Sasser told me he would be more than honored to represent the football team in a lawsuit against the university.

"It is outrage that the university defacing the cross and reducing it to what the university calls a plus sign," he told me. "It is disgusting."

Sasser said the students are well within their rights to wear a cross decal on their helmets and accused the university of breaking the law.

"It is unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination to force the players to remove or alter the cross on their helmets that they chose themselves simply because the cross is religious," Sasser said.

These young men were simply trying to do a good deed. They were standing up for their fallen teammates. It's really too bad the university could not stand up for the team.

"The university and others want football players to be positive role models in the community, but as soon as the players promote a positive message honoring their former teammates—the university discriminates against them in a blatant violation of the Constitution."

Mr. Weyer said he's not a political man—but he is a Christian man. And he's tired of having to kowtow to the politically correct crowd.

"It's time that we as Christians stand up and say we're tired of being pushed around," he said. "We're tired of having to bow down to everyone else's rights. What happened to our rights? The last time I checked it said freedom of religion—not freedom from religion."

Well said, Mr. Weyer. Well said.

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

Todd Starnes Featured Opinion Fri, 12 Sep 2014 08:00:00 -0400
1 More Reason You Should Start Taking Probiotics

When we think of bacteria, we tend to think of disease-causing microbes that threaten our health, with antibacterial products all the rage and antibiotics among the most prescribed medicines doctors dole out. But in fact, many of the trillions of bacteria that live in our digestive tracts are "good bacteria"—essential to our health.

Some help us digest food, ward off infections, and can even help to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Probiotics are a class of these beneficial bacteria—mostly commonly found in yogurt, aged cheeses, and fermented soy products. And, a new analysis of nine studies has found that people who eat such foods have lower blood pressure levels, and a lower risk of heart attack, than those who don't.

Robert Newman, a certified nutritionist and wellness expert from East Northport, N.Y., tells Newsmax Health the new study found most blood pressure reductions were modest. But the new research is only the latest in a series of studies that have found probiotics can be important to maintaining good health and fighting off disease.

"I think the study showed that it took at least two months on the probiotics [to have an effect]," says Dr. Newman, in an interview on Newsmax TV's Meet the Doctors program. "They feel it may have been by lowering the cholesterol, which it does have that affect—it lowers the bad cholesterol, the LDL, and raises the HDL [the good cholesterol]—so that might have an effect on the blood vessels."

Trillions of bacteria live in each person's digestive tract. Scientists believe that some of these bacteria help digest food and stave off harmful infections. For the latest study, researchers reviewed nine randomized trials involving nearly 550 people, who ate probiotic products containing live bacteria. The studies tested various probiotics in varying amounts, mostly strains of Lactobacillus consumed in dairy products.

Eight of the nine studies found reductions in blood pressure, according to a report on the review published in the journal Hypertension. Over all, compared with people who don't eat probiotics, the use of such products reduced systolic blood pressure (the top number) by an average of 3.56 millimeters of mercury and diastolic pressure by 2.38.

"Yogurt, cheese, fermented soy products—all of these are helpful," said researcher Jing Sun, a senior lecturer at Griffith Health Institute and Griffith University School of Medicine in Gold Coast, Australia. She said the findings suggest probiotics should be a routine part of a healthy diet. "We have to go beyond just fruits and vegetables."

Other studies have suggested gut bacteria play a critical role in metabolism and immune systems functions. Some medical specialists even refer to the human digestive system as a kind of "second nervous system" that regulates metabolism and many other bodily functions.

"The gut is lined with about 70 to 80 percent of the immune system of the entire body, which is really mind-blowing when you think about it, that it has such a tremendous effect on your whole system," Dr. Newman explains. "So by keeping that proper balance of healthy bacteria to bad bacteria, you're enhancing your immune system for fighting any kind of disease, from cancer to respiratory disease."

He adds that probiotics interact with substances in the digestive tract that can cause health problems.

"[Probiotics have] effects on chemicals that are made in the gut," he notes. "[When] we look at cancers, there are carcinogenic DNA changes and many times these bacteria will help resolve that and get rid of those chemicals" that cause such changes.

Dr. Newman notes that Greek yogurt is a terrific source of probiotics, but also has other health benefits.

"The Greek yogurt definitely has a higher protein level [than other varieties] so it's going to keep your blood sugar at a steadier level," he explains.

He also notes, however, that yogurt, aged cheese, and fermented soy products aren't the only sources of health-boosting good bacteria. Others include kimchi, a traditional fermented Korean side dish made of vegetables sold in health food stores. Sauerkraut is also packed with probiotics. In addition, probiotics are available in supplement form.

Dr. Newman recommends seeking out foods or refrigerated supplements containing live cultures of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium—the more the better.

"There certainly are really high quality supplements," he notes. "What I always recommend to my patients is go into the health food store and get the powdered version of the probiotic, as many a strain as you can get, and it would be in a refrigerated section, so you find they are much more viable in terms of activity in the body."

For the original article, visit

Nick Tate/Newsmax Health Featured Opinion Fri, 12 Sep 2014 07:00:00 -0400
Why a Man Should Never Strike a Woman

I call it the Closet Principle: What you do in secret is what moves you in public.

The Baltimore Ravens terminated the contract of running back Ray Rice after TMZ released a hotel elevator surveillance video showing the horrific knockout punch that he used against his then-fiance, Janay Palmer. Although she went on to marry Ray, the incident is without excuse. The NFL has now indefinitely suspended him—stripping him of his ability to play and to receive his enormous salary.

Some men will argue that she had it coming to her—that she showed aggression first—yet, there are alternatives to striking a woman. Ray simply could have dismissed her and severed the relationship without physical violence. That would have been the honorable thing to do.

Men will pay for the evil that they perpetrate against women.

According to Safehorizon, a domestic violence assistance organization, one in four women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime. It is an epidemic to say the least. There are 4 million physical assaults and rapes by their partners.

If a man raises his hand against a woman, he forfeits authentic manhood, and has proven himself a coward and weak man. He deserves the shame of his stupidity.

A FivestarMan has the deep purpose to be gallant in relationships. His hand is designed to bless, not beat—to protect, not punish—to caress, not curse.

How to Bless Your Wife

Understand and embrace the differences of a woman.The male and female have perfectly complementary designs. When God created man He created him male and female in one body. Then God saw that it was not good for a man to be alone, so He extracted the feminine side of Man out and made woman. In this manner, the only feminine side of the male should be his wife. She is a complement to him. If a man doesn't understand and embrace the differences of a woman, they will have unresolvable conflict and strife. If he embraces her and her differences, he will experience greater joy and fulfillment in life.

Use your hand to cultivate your wife. The art of husbandry is in the very nature of man. He has the ability to draw out the great potential of his wife; therefore, his hand should never strike against her flesh but should serve to care and cultivate her. According to one study, there are 64 physiological benefits to the human touch. In other words, when you "lay hands upon" your wife, her body receives a chemical boost from your touch. There is more to the touch than the physical. It can have a spiritual healing effect upon her as well. This is why a man should never raise his hand against his wife – he not only robs her of his healing touch but also turns his hand of blessing into a hand that curses.

Position yourself as protector of your wife. Be a strong man, a protector of your wife. Never be in the position of an abuser. Our attitude should be that we will lay down our lives for the sake of our wives.

An authentic man isn't misogynistic—he doesn't have antipathy toward women. We don't fear empowering women because we're strong men. Our strength is not displayed in brutality toward women but in the willingness to stand strong and protect women.

If you are in a relationship that is filled with strife and conflict—simply remove yourself from it—severe the relationship. Never raise a hand to strike a woman.

FivestarMan was founded in 2008 by Neil KennedyKennedy has passionately promoted God's Word for 25-plus years of ministry. He is known for practically applying biblical principles that elevate people to a new level of living. As a business, church, ministry and life consultant, Kennedy has helped others strategize the necessary steps to reach their full potential.

For the original article, visit

Neil Kennedy/FivestarMan Featured Opinion Fri, 12 Sep 2014 06:00:00 -0400
Al Mohler Calls Out Hillsong for Minimizing Gospel

Fred Markert, a Colorado-based leader of Youth With a Mission, a Christian organization, called Hillsong the most influential producers of worship music in Christendom. Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, says Hillsong's productions rival any other contemporary form of entertainment.

So what's R. Albert Mohler Jr.'s issue?

"It's a prosperity movement for the millennials, in which the polyester and middle-class associations of Oral Roberts have given way to ripped jeans and sophisticated rock music," Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told the The New York Times. "What has made Hillsong distinctive is a minimization of the actual content of the gospel and a far more diffuse presentation of spirituality."

Is this just a Baptist who doesn't understand the Pentecostal flow? What's behind this trend of leaders making appeals to gospel stars such as Joel and Victoria Osteeen and Hillsong? Is it the Lord speaking or another spirit?

Jennifer LeClaire Featured World News Thu, 11 Sep 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Greg Laurie's Harvest America Draws Near, Let the Freedom You Have in Christ be Shared With Others!

I was recently visiting the upper Midwest area of our country, meeting with and encouraging Harvest Ministries partners, and as I was traveling along a stretch of road with tall green trees on either side—the skies above deep blue with white, puffy, cotton-ball clouds—I saw something I have never seen before. I witnessed an adult bald eagle flying across the sky. It was huge, majestic, and powerful all at the same time. Now, before you think, "Jeff, you should get out more," let me say that I have seen bald eagles in zoos and in captive environments, but never free in the wild.

To witness the authority and confidence this eagle seemed to carry as it patrolled the skies was, for me, a very special moment—and a patriotic moment as well, thinking of the bald eagle as a symbol of our nation. It was flying free, the way it had been created to live by its Creator.

As Harvest America is fast approaching (October 5 from Dallas Texas), seeing that eagle reminded me about our freedom as Christians—not the patriotic freedom the bald eagle symbolizes, but the freedom from bondage and captivity the eagle was enjoying as I saw it soar through the sky. It reminded me of the freedom we as Christians have in Christ; specifically, the freedom from the bondage of sin and death. Jesus Christ gives us the freedom to bring glory to God, and thus fulfill the purpose for which we were created.

But the sad reality is, there are many people in this nation and around the world who are still living under the bondage and the captivity of sin. They lack true purpose and fulfillment because they are not living the way God has intended for them to live—free in Christ. Harvest America is proclaiming the Good News of Jesus, who came "to proclaim liberty to the captives...and to set at liberty those who are oppressed" (Luke 4:18 ESV), so that all who come to Him "may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10 KJV).

Will you partner in our efforts at Harvest Ministries in making God known to those who don't yet have the true freedom from sin—the freedom that guarantees them eternal life, and an abundant purposeful life of freedom in Christ? They can then soar like the mighty, majestic bald eagle in the calling and purpose God has intended for them.

You can support the proclamation of the gospel through Harvest America, as so many others have in faithful prayer (visit our prayer cloud at You can also encourage your church to become a host venue, get a Home Host kit for your own Harvest America, help support Harvest financially, or get the word out and promote the event in your local community!

Let the freedom you have in Christ be shared with others.

Free in Christ,
Pastor Jeff Dietz

Harvest America is an annual live nationwide event, streamed to thousands of host locations across the country—including churches, theaters, and living rooms.

Featuring top Christian artists and a clear gospel message by Greg Laurie, the goal of Harvest America is to impact a nation desperately in need of hope. Visit the official website:

Sponsored by Harvest America Featured Marketplace Fri, 05 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0400
Zambia Crusade Sees Outpouring of Pentecostal Fire

We just finished on Sunday night our six-night crusade in Maramba, a township of Livingstone in Zambia. Large crowds came out to hear the gospel message nightly. Every night we saw large multitudes receive the gospel message and receive the Lord Jesus as Lord and Savior in their lives.

God gave great grace, and we saw many people healed by His power. Lame and paralyzed people walked, deaf ears heard, people were healed in their eyes, and many demon-possessed people were set free.

Many testified of the miracles that the Lord had done for them. One night the power of God came down so powerfully that when I finished preaching and began to pray, demon-possessed people in the crowd began to fall to the ground as the demons came out of them because of the power of the Name of our Lord Jesus!

On the last night the Holy Ghost fell upon the crowd with great power. Thousands were baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire, speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. All over the place one could see people falling down to the ground, weeping, shouting, praising God.

We ended the final service, but thousands stayed on to sing, dance and praise God until late.

This crusade has shaken Maramba Township. We have seen a large harvest of souls for Jesus and many wonderful miracles from the Hand of God.

We give our Lord Jesus all the glory, honor and praise for all that He has done!

Thank you for your support that God uses to make all this possible. Thank you for your prayers!

This week we began our next crusade in Choma, a rural town in southern Zambia. Please  uphold us in prayer for this crusade. We are believing God for a mighty breakthrough for the gospel in Choma!

Christopher Alam is the founder of Dynamis World Ministries. He has preached the gospel in over 60 nations, and hundreds of churches have been started as a fruit of his ministry.

Christopher Alam Featured Opinion Thu, 11 Sep 2014 18:00:00 -0400
Microsoft Founder Donates $50 Million to Battle Ebola Epidemic

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $50 million on Wednesday to support emergency efforts to contain West Africa's Ebola epidemic, which has already killed almost 2,300 people in the worst outbreak of the virus in history.

The U.S.-based philanthropic foundation said it would release funds immediately to U.N. agencies and international organizations to help them buy supplies and scale up the emergency response in affected countries.

It will also work with public and private sector partners to speed up to development of drugs, vaccines and diagnostics that could be effective in treating Ebola patients and preventing further spread of the hemorrhagic fever-causing virus.

"We are working urgently with our partners to identify the most effective ways to help them save lives now and stop transmission of this deadly disease," Sue Desmond-Hellmann, the Foundation's chief executive officer, said in a statement.

Latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO) show the Ebola outbreak, which began in March, has infected almost 4,300 people so far, killing more than half of them.

The deadly viral infection is raging in three countries—Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone—and has also spread into neighboring Nigeria and Senegal.

The WHO said on Tuesday the Ebola death toll jumped by almost 200 in a single day to at least 2,296 and is already likely to be higher than that. It has previously warned that the epidemic is growing "exponentially" and there could be up to 20,000 cases in West Africa before it is brought to a halt.

Chris Elias, the Gates Foundation's head of global development, said in a telephone interview the group would be assessing over coming days where funds could be best spent.

Some would go to the most acute and immediate needs, he said, and some would be put towards more longer-term research into treatments and ways of preventing future outbreaks.

"The spread of this disease has really happened because of the very weak health systems in these very poor countries," he said. "We need to be thinking how we can build up those health services, how we train healthcare workers, and how we make sure they have the equipment they need to do their jobs."

The Gates money comes after the British government and the Wellcome Trust medical charity last month pledged 6.5 million pounds ($10.8 mln) to speed up research on Ebola, a disease for which there is currently no licensed treatment or vaccine.

The WHO has backed the use of untested drugs, as long as conditions on consent are met, and is hoping for improved supplies of experimental medicines by the end of the year.

Britain's minister for international development, Justine Greening, welcomed the Gates support, saying the "serious health, social and economic risks posed by one of the worst outbreaks of the disease require the entire international community to do more to assist."

The Gates Foundation—set up by the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft Bill Gates to fight disease and poverty in poor countries—has already committed more than $10 million to fight the Ebola outbreak, including $5 million to the WHO for emergency operations and research and development assessments and $5 million to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF to support efforts in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

In its statement, the foundation said it would also give an extra $2 million immediately to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support incident management, treatment and health care system strengthening.

Editing by Alison Williams and Ralph Boulton

 © 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Kate Kelland/Reuters Featured World News Thu, 11 Sep 2014 17:00:00 -0400
Phil Munsey Speaks Out on the Joel Osteen Most People Don’t Know

While praying alone in the auditorium of Lakewood Church in Houston recently, I sensed God speak in my spirit. As I pondered just how and why God has used Joel Osteen to fill this massive auditorium with the masses week after week, I felt God respond to my query with a simple impression: "Joel Osteen is a friend to sinners."

As the day progressed, the impact of that statement began to overwhelm me. I couldn't think of another minister with significant public influence who could bear that title—not even a close second.

Of all the accusations Christ received, none were more controversial—especially from the religious crowd.

I began to reflect on the phenomenal ministry Joel and Victoria Osteen have had in our nation, beginning with their work as pastors. Since 1999, Joel has pastored Lakewood Church, the country's largest church—in fact, the largest in our nation's history. It's a church where some 45,000 people attend weekly at one location. Lakewood Church buzzes nightly with discipleship classes facilitating its members and the nearly 50,000 people who receive a new believers book at the altar calls each year in the Lakewood services. Training and engaging the over 6,000 volunteers in Christ-centered ministries makes the 53-year-old Lakewood Church one of the healthiest churches in the country. The 90-minute weekend service includes 60 minutes of nonstop worship mixed with exhortation, prayer for the sick, a 90-second offering (with no announcements) and then Joel's 27-minute message. Joel's messages are skillfully and prayerfully laced with an average of a dozen or so Scripture references. (Joel has observed that multiple references to verses and books in the Bible to the high percentage of unbelievers in the television audience can be intimidating).

Joel addresses addictions, bad habits, dysfunction relationship issues, shame, ungodly self images and other "sins" people face. His solution is always the same: Trust in God's free goodness. Expect His love and grace in every area of your life. 

Sure, Joel touches 40 million people monthly through television and other media. His books have impacted over 30 million people and counting, including 5 New York Times best-sellers. 

Yet his greatest attribute is his heart for the unbeliever. Joel is a friend to sinners.

Joel is not a televangelist. His dedication as a pastor is reflected in this interesting fact. In the past 14 years, Joel has missed an average of just two weekend services a year. Even though Joel speaks at 38 of those weekends services annually, you'll still find him sitting on the front row (including Wednesday nights) when not speaking, faithfully serving his flock and being a humble example (including shaking hands with the guests and new converts for one hour between services).

Joel and Victoria and Lakewood Church are ambassadors of the gospel—the hope of Christ. Since 2004, Joel and Victoria have held over 130 live "Night of Hope" events around the country and overseas. These monthly events have brought over 1 million people to a public confession of their sins and Christ as Lord!

Each month, Joel's family and the Lakewood team hit city after city with the message of hope. Joel's 16-hour nonstop Friday begins with meetings with local pastors, media interviews, then time preparing for the event. Joel and Victoria exhort and preach the majority 3-hour event, which ends with 30 to 50 percent of the mostly unbelieving and unchurched attendees standing and confessing their sins and Christ as Savior. As the thousands leave the auditorium, Joel can be found shaking hands with those who've sponsored children for World Vision. On most occasions, Joel is one of the last to leave the building, rising early the next morning and heading back home to preach three services at Lakewood Church.

Joel has his critics. They post his "gotcha" clips from his hundreds of secular media interviews.

But what some call weakness is really Joel's strength. Joel refuses with uncompromising conviction to use secular guest appearances to judge people. His kindness has kept the hearts and minds of millions receptive. Joel is a friend to sinners.

I'm not defending Joel; his fruit does that. I'm writing to those who are sincerely concerned that yet another popular "celebrity televangelist" would embarrass the Christian faith. Consider this, from someone who has been in full-time ministry for 40 years, who's seen the ego-gone-wild, naive novices and those with tainted intentions: Joel is a sincere and now-seasoned voice to the generations and nations!

My wife, Jeannie, and I have traveled the world with Joel and his family for over 10 years, volunteering with this life-changing, God-fearing, soul-winning and graced-with-humility ministry. We've witnessed not one inappropriate word or deed. Joel's behavior is consistently above reproach.

Though rarely mentioned, Joel and Victoria do not take a salary from the church or ministry. Expenses like air transportation, hotels, even food, are paid by them personally. In fact, Joel and Victoria are Lakewood Church's largest contributors. Joel is a faithful husband, loving father and loyal friend to many—and has been for many years. No one is perfect, but for 14 years Joel has proven to be an honorable man giving honor to Christ.

Even sincere people have struggles understanding what it means to be a friend to sinners.

When Jesus was in the homes of the gluttonous and wine-bibbers, Jesus appeared comfortable, and so did the sinners. I'm sure the disciples felt betrayed, confused, angry and maybe a bit envious. Why was Jesus spending time with those people?

Like the disciples, we as Christians may feel betrayed—left out. And with a culture that has seemingly rejected our faith and oftentimes mocked and misrepresented it through the media, it's easy to be disillusioned. Why would Joel and that grin of his be with "those" people? Why? Because Joel is a friend to sinners too.

Joel is an invited guest to our neighbor's home, to the person we do business with, to our families and friends—all of whom watch and are positively influenced by his ministry. My goodness, even our president watches!

I believe history will record the past 14 years of Joel's ministry and influence as one of the most effective pastor/evangelist of our time. And his compassionate passion for people indicates to me that his best efforts are yet to come!

Can I encourage us to begin to believe the best in and for each other? To especially pray and protect the gifts of Joel and Victoria? God has given them to represent and reach an increasingly number of unchurched, de-churched and unbelieving in our world. To be a friend of sinners should be a claim no one should be ashamed of! 

Phil Munsey is the former senior pastor of Life Church in Irvine, Calif. He stepped down from that position to head the Champion's Network, a national network of churches and leaders founded by Joel Osteen.

Phil Munsey Featured Opinion Thu, 11 Sep 2014 16:00:00 -0400
We've Prayed for 9/11. Now What?

Several years ago, I was invited to lead the morning prayer sessions for our denomination's international assembly. Interestingly, church leaders had chosen "Awake" for the theme to inspire delegates representing more than 130 nations around the globe. After a powerful week of prayer, worship and the Word, I experienced an encounter with the Holy Spirit unlike anything I had ever known in my life. It was as if the Father was giving me a clearer picture of what a truly awakened church would look like.

Today, as hundreds of thousands are crying out in extraordinary, united prayer for a Christ-awakening in America, we would do well to ask ourselves: "What now? What follows the plethora of 9/11 prayers resonating across our nation?"

As I have reflected on my personal, awakening moment years ago, these are some of the dreams I believe will become reality for an awakened church in any nation:

  • We will attract Father's presence by honoring the Son, seated at His right hand. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will become the center of our focus—the pre-eminent One.

  • With cleansed hands and purified hearts, we will be robed with holiness, unconditional love and power to not only move forward into God's presence but to move out into our world—forward, never backward.

  • Holy Spirit fire will be imparted to us and ignited in us. It will stir within God's people a righteous indignation for His young sons and daughters who have been overtaken in the darkness of the night.

  • God's time is not our time ... He says, "It is final harvesting time." We have heard His call in the past, but we will not hear it forever: "AWAKE to My cry, AWAKE to My harvest! I have washed you; now continually robe yourself in My purity, My power and My anointing for My work."

  • Our obedience will mean our death, yet those who die with Christ will be raised to new life with Him. We will shine with His anointing not only to stand in His pulpits but to walk into His fields. We will also drip with His perspiration as we work together in the night of this world (Song 5:1-2). We will radiate with the glory of His presence that will rise upon us.

  • If we truly CRY OUT in repentance and turn from our wicked ways (2 Chron. 7:14), our hearts will be purged of our temple prostitution, and our post-abortion syndrome from the many child sacrifices will be healed. He says to us, "I will pour in My oil for your mourning, wrap you in My restored beauty for your rags and ashes, and cover you in a garment of praise for the privilege of being My oaks of righteous planted in the harvest field for the display of My splendor—not your own."

  • We have heard His invitation for corporate prayerfulness, private communion, and deeper revelation. Now we must walk forward with great expectation and watch as He brings transformation within us and within those we harvest for Him.

  • We will find an unbelievable soul satisfaction for this fresh longing of our hearts as we expect our destination in Christ and with His Holy Spirit empowerment. While others are polishing their thrones to build their kingdoms, we will be cleaning our dirty stalls with towels that have become wet from washing the feet of His newborn babies (Prov. 14:4).

What do you see? What do you dream for America's awakened church? If today's dreams awaken tomorrow's destiny, how will we go forward from our 9/11 prayer gatherings to impact a culture in desperate need for transformation?

We must be consistent and intentional to pursue what God envisions within us. We must do so with holiness, for the One who has called us is holy. We must pursue His harvest with true, not feigned, humility because as we awake, arise and shine, our shining will be with His reflected glory and not our own. We will be awakened to an unsatiated hunger for more.

In this new day, the joy we experience will far outweigh the pain of giving birth. Our joy and strength will be exponentially multiplied not only in this day of harvest but in the day of Christ's return, for He says to us: "I AM, I AM, I AM your soon-coming king!"

Kay Horner is the executive director of the Awakening America Alliance and Coordinator for the Cry Out America 9/11 Prayer Initiative.

Kay Horner Featured Opinion Thu, 11 Sep 2014 15:00:00 -0400
Arab Christians Boo Ted Cruz for Pro-Israel Remarks

A group of Middle-Eastern Christians booed Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, off the stage after speaking in support of Israel at an event in Washington, D.C.

The event, sponsored by a group called In Defense of Christians, was billed as a gathering of Middle-Eastern Christian leaders. They were trying to raise awareness about the threat to Arab minorities by Islamic terrorists.

Cruz spoke about Christian solidarity with Israel and standing against terrorist groups such as ISIS. 

But some in the crowd were Palestinian Christian supporters of the Syrian government and even the terrorist group Hezbollah. 

"Those who hate Israel hate America," Cruz began before being interrupted by jeering from the audience.

"My heart weeps that the men and women here will not stand in solidarity with Jews and Christians alike who are persecuted by radicals," he responded.

At one point, the moderator interrupted, saying, "Please, respect for dialogue. Respect. Please, we're in America."

Undeterred, Cruz said, "If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you. Thank you and God bless you."

Click here to watch the full video.

CBN News Featured Politics Thu, 11 Sep 2014 14:00:00 -0400
How Did 9/11 Change the Church?

The horrific terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, shocked Americans from every walk of life. Laws were changed, wars were launched, and our sense of security was shattered in an instant.

But as a glimmer of hope in the darkness, many who hadn't set foot in a church in years sought answers beyond their own understanding in making sense of this catastrophe. What seemed to be a reactionary revival faded away as the freshness of the attacks dissipated.

Did the 9/11 attacks change how the church interacts with seekers? Are we more insular or more open now? What about the way we deal with disasters and other major life-impacting news events, especially in dealing with those directly affected by said events?

Share your thoughts: How did 9/11 change the church?

Jeremy Burns Featured U.S. News Thu, 11 Sep 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Historical: Billy Graham's Speech to America After 9/11

Billy Graham's remarks given at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Sept. 14, 2001, brought hope and healing to the shocked nation. His words still are still powerful, 13 years later.

We come together today to affirm our conviction that God cares for us, whatever our ethnic, religious or political background may be. The Bible says that He is "the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles."

No matter how hard we try, words simply cannot express the horror, the shock and the revulsion we all feel over what took place in this nation on Tuesday morning. Sept. 11 will go down in our history as a Day to Remember.

Today we say to those who masterminded this cruel plot, and to those who carried it out, that the spirit of this nation will not be defeated by their twisted and diabolical schemes. Some day those responsible will be brought to justice.

But today we come together in this service to confess our need of God. We've always needed God from the very beginning of this nation. But today we need Him especially. We're involved in a new kind of warfare. And we need the help of the Spirit of God.

The Bible says, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea."

But how do we understand something like this? Why does God allow evil like this to take place? Perhaps that is what you are asking. You may even be angry at God. I want to assure you that God understands these feelings that you may have.

We've seen so much that brings tears to our eyes and makes us all feel a sense of anger. But God can be trusted, even when life seems at its darkest.

What are some of the lessons we can learn?

First, we are reminded of the mystery and reality of evil. I have been asked hundreds of times why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I do not know the answer. I have to accept, by faith, that God is sovereign and that He is a God of love and mercy and compassion in the midst of suffering.

The Bible says God is not the Author of evil. In 1 Thessalonians 2:7 the Bible talks about the mystery of iniquity. The Old Testament Prophet Jeremiah said, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure."

The lesson of this event is not only about the mystery of iniquity and evil, but, second, it's a lesson about our need for each other.

What an example New York and Washington have been to the world these past few days! None of us will forget the pictures of our courageous firefighters and police, or the hundreds of people standing patiently in line to donate blood.

A tragedy like this could have torn our country apart, but instead it has united us. So those perpetrators who took this on to tear us apart, it has worked the other way—it has backlashed. We are more united than ever before. I think this was exemplified in a very moving way when the members of our Congress stood shoulder to shoulder and sang, "God Bless America."

Finally, difficult as it may be for us to see right now, this event can give a message of hope—hope for the present and hope for the future.

Yes, there is hope. There is hope for the present because the stage, I believe, has already been set for a new spirit in our nation.

We desperately need a spiritual renewal in this country, and God has told us in His Word time after time that we need to repent of our sins and return to Him, and He will bless us in a new way.

There also is hope for the future because of God's promises. As a Christian, I have hope, not just for this life, but for heaven and the life to come. And many of those people who died this past week are in heaven now. And they wouldn't want to come back. It's so glorious and so wonderful. That is the hope for all of us who put our faith in God. I pray that you will have this hope in your heart.

This event reminds us of the brevity and the uncertainty of life. We never know when we too will be called into eternity. I doubt if those people who got on those planes or who walked into the World Trade Center or the Pentagon on Tuesday thought that it would be the last day of their lives. And that's why we each must face our own spiritual need and commit ourselves to God and His will.

Here in this majestic National Cathedral we see all around us the symbol of the cross. For the Christian, the cross tells us that God understands our sin and our suffering, for He took them upon Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ. From the cross God declares, "I love you. I know the heartaches and the sorrows and the pain that you feel. But I love you."

The story does not end with the cross, for Easter points us beyond the tragedy of the cross to the empty tomb. It tells us that there is hope for eternal life, for Christ has conquered evil and death and hell. Yes, there is hope.

I've become an old man now, and I've preached all over the world. And the older I get, the more I cling to that hope that I started with many years ago.

Several years ago at the National Prayer Breakfast here in Washington, Ambassador Andrew Young closed his talk with a quotation from the old hymn "How Firm a Foundation."

This week we watched in horror as planes crashed into the steel and glass of the World Trade Center. Those majestic towers, built on solid foundations, were examples of prosperity and creativity. When damaged, those buildings plummeted to the ground, imploding in upon themselves. Yet, underneath the debris is a foundation that was not destroyed. Therein lies the truth of that hymn, "How Firm a Foundation."

Yes, our nation has been attacked, buildings destroyed, lives lost. But now we have a choice: whether to implode and disintegrate emotionally and spiritually as a people and a nation; or to choose to become stronger through all of this struggle, to rebuild on a solid foundation.

And I believe that we are starting to rebuild on that foundation. That foundation is our trust in God. And in that faith, we have the strength to endure something as difficult and as horrendous as what we have experienced this week. This has been a terrible week with many tears.

But it also has been a week of great faith. In that hymn, "How Firm a Foundation," the words say, "Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed,/For I am thy God, and will give thee aid;/I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,/Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand."

My prayer today is that we will feel the loving arms of God wrapped around us and that as we trust in Him we will know in our hearts that He will never forsake us.

We know also that God will give wisdom and courage and strength to the President and those around him. And this will be a day that we will remember as a Day of Victory.

May God bless you all.

Used with permission from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Billy Graham Featured Opinion Thu, 11 Sep 2014 12:00:00 -0400
What Obama Really Said About the Islamic State

Following is the full text of President Obama's speech to the country on Wednesday, as prepared for delivery:

"My fellow Americans—tonight, I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.

As Commander-in-Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people. Over the last several years, we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country. We took out Osama bin Laden and much of al-Qaida's leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We've targeted al-Qaida's affiliate in Yemen, and recently eliminated the top commander of its affiliate in Somalia. We've done so while bringing more than 140,000 American troops home from Iraq, and drawing down our forces in Afghanistan, where our combat mission will end later this year. Thanks to our military and counter terrorism professionals, America is safer.

Still, we continue to face a terrorist threat. We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today. That's why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge. At this moment, the greatest threats come from the Middle East and North Africa, where radical groups exploit grievances for their own gain. And one of those groups is ISIL—which calls itself the "Islamic State."

Now let's make two things clear: ISIL is not "Islamic." No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL's victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly al-Qaida's affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria's civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.

In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality. They execute captured prisoners. They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage. They threatened a religious minority with genocide. In acts of barbarism, they took the lives of two American journalists—Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff.

So ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, and the broader Middle East—including American citizens, personnel and facilities. If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region—including to the United States. While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies. Our intelligence community believes that thousands of foreigners—including Europeans and some Americans—have joined them in Syria and Iraq. Trained and battle-hardened, these fighters could try to return to their home countries and carry out deadly attacks.

I know many Americans are concerned about these threats. Tonight, I want you to know that the United States of America is meeting them with strength and resolve. Last month, I ordered our military to take targeted action against ISIL to stop its advances. Since then, we have conducted more than 150 successful air strikes in Iraq. These strikes have protected American personnel and facilities, killed ISIL fighters, destroyed weapons, and given space for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to reclaim key territory. These strikes have helped save the lives of thousands of innocent men, women and children.

But this is not our fight alone. American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region. That's why I've insisted that additional U.S. action depended upon Iraqis forming an inclusive government, which they have now done in recent days. So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.

Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.

First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of air strikes against these terrorists. Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions, so that we're hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense. Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.

Second, we will increase our support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground. In June, I deployed several hundred American service members to Iraq to assess how we can best support Iraqi Security Forces. Now that those teams have completed their work—and Iraq has formed a government—we will send an additional 475 service members to Iraq. As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission—we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq. But they are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment. We will also support Iraq's efforts to stand up National Guard Units to help Sunni communities secure their own freedom from ISIL control.

Across the border, in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition. Tonight, I again call on Congress to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these fighters. In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its people; a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost. Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria's crisis once and for all.

Third, we will continue to draw on our substantial counter terrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks. Working with our partners, we will redouble our efforts to cut off its funding; improve our intelligence; strengthen our defenses; counter its warped ideology; and stem the flow of foreign fighters into—and out of—the Middle East. And in two weeks, I will chair a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to further mobilize the international community around this effort.

Fourth, we will continue providing humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization. This includes Sunni and Shia Muslims who are at grave risk, as well as tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities. We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands. 

This is our strategy. And in each of these four parts of our strategy, America will be joined by a broad coalition of partners. Already, allies are flying planes with us over Iraq; sending arms and assistance to Iraqi Security Forces and the Syrian opposition; sharing intelligence; and providing billions of dollars in humanitarian aid. Secretary Kerry was in Iraq today meeting with the new government and supporting their efforts to promote unity, and in the coming days he will travel across the Middle East and Europe to enlist more partners in this fight, especially Arab nations who can help mobilize Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria to drive these terrorists from their lands. This is American leadership at its best: we stand with people who fight for their own freedom; and we rally other nations on behalf of our common security and common humanity.

My administration has also secured bipartisan support for this approach here at home. I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL. But I believe we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together. So I welcome congressional support for this effort in order to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger.

Now, it will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL. And any time we take military action, there are risks involved—especially to the servicemen and women who carry out these missions. But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years. And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year: to use force against anyone who threatens America's core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order.

My fellow Americans, we live in a time of great change. Tomorrow marks 13 years since our country was attacked. Next week marks six years since our economy suffered its worst setback since the Great Depression. Yet despite these shocks; through the pain we have felt and the grueling work required to bounce back—America is better positioned today to seize the future than any other nation on Earth.

Our technology companies and universities are unmatched; our manufacturing and auto industries are thriving. Energy independence is closer than it's been in decades. For all the work that remains, our businesses are in the longest uninterrupted stretch of job creation in our history. Despite all the divisions and discord within our democracy, I see the grit and determination and common goodness of the American people every single day—and that makes me more confident than ever about our country's future.

Abroad, American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world. It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists. It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression, and in support of the Ukrainian peoples' right to determine their own destiny. It is America—our scientists, our doctors, our know-how—that can help contain and cure the outbreak of Ebola. It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria's declared chemical weapons so they cannot pose a threat to the Syrian people—or the world—again. And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity, tolerance and a more hopeful future.

America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden. But as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead. From Europe to Asia—from the far reaches of Africa to war-torn capitals of the Middle East—we stand for freedom, for justice, for dignity. These are values that have guided our nation since its founding. Tonight, I ask for your support in carrying that leadership forward. I do so as a commander-in-chief who could not be prouder of our men and women in uniform—pilots who bravely fly in the face of danger above the Middle East, and service-members who support our partners on the ground.

When we helped prevent the massacre of civilians trapped on a distant mountain, here's what one of them said: "We owe our American friends our lives. Our children will always remember that there was someone who felt our struggle and made a long journey to protect innocent people."

That is the difference we make in the world. And our own safety—our own security—depends upon our willingness to do what it takes to defend this nation, and uphold the values that we stand for—timeless ideals that will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth.

May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Reuters Featured U.S. News Thu, 11 Sep 2014 11:00:00 -0400
Last 9/11 Survivor Finds Angel in the Rubble

Genelle Guzman-McMillian was the last person pulled from the rubble of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks 13 years ago. She said God has given her a miraculous second chance, which she is using to remind others that life is not promised.

Guzman-McMillian was trapped in the rubble of the first tower of the World Trade Center for nearly 27 hours with her leg crushed under debris. She remembers being able to only lift her fingers to the surface of the rubble to signal for help. A man named Paul grabbed her hand, called her name and told her he was there for her. 

But after rescue workers unearthed her, she noticed that there was no way a person could've gotten in or out of the area where she was trapped. She believes she had an angelic encounter, and to this day no one has been able to locate the man named Paul. 

"We looked all over and that person never came forward," she said. "I know I was not sleeping. I know it was real. I know it was him."

Guzman-McMillian details her miraculous testimony in her 2011 book, Angel in the Rubble.  

"I take that experience as truly a wake-up call. I know God saved me for a reason; it has to be a plan and purpose for me here," she says, recalling how she told God that she'd dedicate her life to Him if He'd rescue her.  

Guzman-McMillan kept true to her promise. She immediately joined a church and began serving God. She attends Brooklyn Tabernacle Church in New York and travels the world telling her testimony and encouraging people not to put off their salvation as she had done: "I always said I'll become a Christian and find Jesus at the age of 60 when I can't dance and dress up and party no more.

"I had set that goal for my life, and when I tell my story to people they really see with me that it's not about you. It's not about what we want, but it's about Jesus Christ and what He wants us to do in this life that we're living."

Charisma Staff Featured U.S. News Thu, 11 Sep 2014 10:30:00 -0400
Ex-Methodist Pastor Sentenced for First Wife's Murder

A former Methodist minister serving life in prison in Pennsylvania for the murder of his second wife was sentenced on Wednesday to up to 40 additional years for killing his first wife as well.

An investigation into the death of Arthur Schirmer's second wife in 2008 raised questions about the death of his first wife nine years earlier, authorities said.

Schirmer, 66, was sentenced last year to life in prison for the murder of his second wife, Betty Jean Schirmer, when he was pastor at the United Methodist Church in Reeders, Pennsylvania.

He was convicted of bludgeoning her to death with a crowbar and then staging a car crash to cover up the crime, authorities said.

Investigators then looked into the death of his first wife, Jewel Schirmer, in 1999.

Schirmer told authorities he came home to the parsonage of Bethany United Methodist Church in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, to find his wife had fallen down the basement stairs and hit her head. She died a day later.

Using a bio-mechanical crash test dummy to recreate the incident as alleged, investigators determined that the fall could not have caused the head injuries she sustained.

Schirmer pleaded no contest to third-degree murder in June.

On Wednesday, Judge John Tylwalk of the Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas sentenced him to 20 to 40 additional years for her death. The new sentence will run consecutively to the life sentence.

Schirmer's children with Jewel were in court to support their father.

Authorities have said Schirmer was a repeated philanderer. Several months after Betty Jean Schirmer's death, the cuckolded husband of his church secretary shot himself to death in Schirmer's office.

Schirmer has resigned his ministerial credentials, according to a spokesman for the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Reporting by David DeKok; editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Eric Beech

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

David DeKok/Reuters Featured U.S. News Thu, 11 Sep 2014 10:00:00 -0400