Charisma News | Breaking News. Spiritual Perspective. Fri, 25 Jul 2014 06:00:03 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Is God’s Favor Reigning Upon Israel?

The conflict in Gaza over recent days marks the fourth time in the past eight years that we have awakened to a rocket war here in Israel.

I remember the first one started in summer 2006 with sketchy early-morning reports of a Hezbollah cross-border attack. By noon, 1 million Israelis in the Galilee and Haifa regions were scrambling for bomb shelters to avoid deadly Syrian-made Grad rockets packed with added shrapnel.

The next came on a quiet Shabbat morning in 2008 when Hamas rockets from Gaza suddenly started pounding southern Israel, triggering Operation Cast Lead and its tense standoff on the outskirts of Gaza City.

In November 2012, the second rocket war with Hamas in Gaza erupted just as quickly, prompting the IDF to launch Operation Pillar of Cloud, which ended without any ground incursion due to the successful debut of the Iron Dome system.

In this latest escalation, the Kassam rockets came raining down on Israel's southern cities for more than a week before the Israeli military finally responded with Operation Protective Edge. This time, most of the nation is scurrying for bomb shelters and once again Israel is anxiously teetering between a possible ceasefire and a risky ground invasion.

I've had my own private source of anxiety over recent days, as we sent our 14-year-old son, Yonathan, off to summer camp in the north of Israel last Wednesday, thinking he would be safe up there. But the area has now been hit by three rocket barrages aimed at the nearby coastal town of Nahariya, and one rocket landed less than a mile from his camp. The blast was so strong it knocked down a couple of the youngsters as they were running for a shelter.

Where we live in Jerusalem, residents have around 90 seconds of warning to find shelter from incoming rockets, and the Iron Dome battery guarding the capital city has eased the locals' fears somewhat. But at my son's summer camp, located just a few miles south of the Lebanese border, there's no Iron Dome and the warning time on rockets fired from Lebanon is a scant 15-to-20 seconds.

As a worried father, I was ready to go fetch my son this week. But the camp operators assured all the parents that there were sufficient shelters on site and they were in constant touch with local IDF commanders. And besides, all 80 teenagers at the camp were bonding in a special way from the experience. They were still getting in some fun beach days and mountain hikes, while the prayer times and Bible studies were taking on a lot more meaning for these young Christians.

Sadly, there were three Israeli teens that never made it to camp this summer. They were cruelly kidnapped and murdered by a Hamas cell while hitchhiking home from yeshiva classes one evening in June.

Their disappearance set off a massive prayer effort nationwide, yet an 18-day search ended tragically with the news that they were likely shot dead just moments after their abduction.

This led some voices to question why God had not answered the nation's prayers the way everyone had hoped. Whatever doubts crept in because of that tragedy, the low number of casualties in the current conflict does seem to have restored a sense to Israel that God is indeed watching over them.

In Proverbs 30:8-9, we find a unique prayer offered up to God which essentially pleads: "Lord, don't make me so rich that I forget You, nor so poor that I curse You."

In many ways, the Jewish nation is living between similar extremes of sorrow and success.

Sometimes, Israel's enemies slip through the hedge of protection and inflict pain and suffering, yet God never allows it to get so bad that they curse Him. At other times, people can truly sense the providence and blessing of God over this embattled yet thriving nation and their achievements always point back to Him.

Without a doubt, we live in a time of God's favor upon Zion. Israel has been restored against all odds and is emerging as a resilient and innovative "start-up nation," with a windfall of newly found oil and gas wealth only promising greater things ahead. Her adversaries are jealous of Israel's success and frustrated that they cannot stop it. But they will try to hinder it by bleeding Israel wherever they can. Ultimately, these efforts will be for naught and the faithful God of Israel will have the last say.

David Parsons is media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and lives in Jerusalem with his wife, Josepha, and son, Yonathan. The ICEJ has some 45 staff members living in Israel, many with spouses and families.

David Parsons Featured Opinion Fri, 25 Jul 2014 06:00:00 -0400
Open Letter to Florida Congressman: Reversal on Marriage Is 'Act of Cowardice and a Betrayal'

Dear Congressman David Jolly,

We recently learned of the complete reversal of your position on homosexual marriage from The Washington Post. Please know how profoundly disappointed we are in this decision. 

So many of us worked, walked, called, gave money and voted to help you get elected and defeat the liberal Democrat Alex Sink because you personally assured us that you were a conservative Republican who believed that marriage was between one man and one woman. 

In church after church, you publicly stated your support for the policy behind Florida's law and Florida's constitution, which clearly define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, as more than 30 other states have done. 

Just months ago, you told us that you supported a "state's right" to define marriage, which is consistent with the holding of the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court case of U.S. vs. Windsor. Yet now you are completely failing to support your own state's law and the constitutional mandate passed by 5 million Floridians.

You ran for office in Florida's Congressional District 13, which is completely contained within Pinellas County, where 54.3 percent of the voters voted in favor of marriage being between one man and one woman in 2008.

You ran for Congress as a member of the Republican Party with a platform clearly affirming that "marriage, the union of one man and one woman must be upheld as the national standard," and now you have turned your back on this standard. 

By agreeing with the judge's recent ruling in Monroe County, you promote the fiction that Florida's marriage laws have been declared unconstitutional by some legitimate authority. The federal courts have clearly not given their final word on this matter, and the ruling is being appealed by Florida's attorney general. 

Even worse, when you agree with this lower court's opinion, you also agree with his irresponsible claim that citizens in your district who passed the marriage amendment were motivated by "animus" or hatred toward gay-identified persons. Nothing could be further from the truth or more morally repugnant to us, as we all affirm the inherent dignity and value of every human being. 

We reject your illusory and false dichotomy between your "personal views" and "public views" as a legislator, as you made no such distinction during your campaign. Liberals for years have made the same arguments to deceptively triangulate on other moral issues. 

You make much of talking about the government having no place protecting the "sanctity of marriage," which misses the point and is an argument no one is making.  

Your statements in The Washington Post are not those of a serious-minded and thoughtful legislator who understands the state's compelling interest in the economic and social implications inherent within the institutions of marriage and family.

We are profoundly disappointed in this announcement and now we can only wonder what other issues you might change your views on. Please know that we consider your reversal on this critical issue to be an act of cowardice and a betrayal to the very persons who worked extremely hard to get you elected to office. 

We call upon you to publicly apologize for this mistake and hold fast to your original position that states should define marriage as it has always been, the union of one man and one woman only. We also challenge you to not cower to the pressure, demands and intimidation of homosexual activists.  

Finally, we exhort you to be governed not by polls, politics and profits but instead to be governed by principle and what is in the best interest of children, families and the common good of society.  Your future as the Congressman representing us in Florida's District 13 is counting on it.

Respectfully, your campaign volunteers, financial supporters and constituents:

Regina Brown, Florida Family Action

Rex Brown, Contractor, Largo

Mark Phillips, Florida Family Action, Dunedin

John Burgess, Retired, St. Pete

Betsy Burgess, Retired, St. Pete

Rev. Glenn Pav, Largo

Nancy Davis, Retired, Seminole

Pastor Randy Morris, Seminole

Tom Beckwith, Business Owner

Liddora Beckwith, Seminole

Pastor Anthony McDaniel

Kendra McDaniel, Clearwater

Pastor Duran Carder

Shannon Carder, Largo

Tina Neuhauser, Largo

Anthony Neuhauser, Largo

Rev. David Tristani, St. Pete

Pastor Kyle Mills, Largo

Pastor Garrett Mills, Clearwater

Pastor Anel Avila

Emily Avila, St Pete

Emily Gibson Walker

Joel Walker, Largo

Laura Works, Largo

Darl Works, Largo

Joanne Neuhauser, Largo

Bruce Bacon

Delane Bacon, Largo

Bronson Oudshoff

Misty Oudshoff, Clearwater

Gery Cuprisin

Dyan Cuprisin, Largo

Mark Kober, Largo

Paula Dorzuk, Largo

James Free

Jackie Free, Largo

Candis Flores, Largo

Joe Cortese

Pam Cortese, Largo

Mike Delana

Jen Delana, Largo

Anthony Utegaard

Leah Utegaard, Largo

Kimberly Joly, Largo

Judith Goldsberry, Clearwater

Stephanie McCaffery, Largo

Randy Carter

Donna Carter, Largo

Markas Bell, Tampa

Douglas Hill

Jennifer Hill, Dunedin

Stew Bottorf

Jean Bottorf, Dunedin

Pastor Curtis Swan, Dunedin

Ronald Curvello

Kristin Curvello, Dunedin

Alexa McDaniel, Largo

Alivia McDaniel

Ann Kennedy, Dunedin

Irene Desouza, Dunedin

Florida Family Policy Council Featured U.S. News Thu, 24 Jul 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Islamic Terrorists Assassinate Muslim Professor Who Defended Iraqi Christians

A courageous Muslim law professor who stood up for the rights of persecuted Christians in Iraq has paid with his life for defying the ruthless Islamist militants who are trying to impose Shariah law throughout the Middle East.

Christians in Iraq's second-largest city of Mosul, which has been taken over by the terrorist group called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), are being forced to choose between converting to the Muslim faith, paying the jizyah (the Islamic tax for non-Muslims), fleeing or facing death by the sword.

Professor Mahmoud Al-Asali, a law professor who lectured on pedagogy at the University of Mosul, had the courage to make a stand against this brutal duress, which he believed go against the Muslim commandments, according to a report on a Vatican news website. But he paid for this bold stand with his life: He was killed by ISIS militants in Mosul on Sunday.

Chaldean website—one of the news sources that offers timely updates on the inferno Christians are experiencing in Iraq—announced the news. Amid the brutal tragedies currently being witnessed in Iraq, the website did not want to let this act of great courage go unnoticed, the Vatican Insider reported.

Professor Al-Asali knew what he was risking: People in Mosul know that in Raqqa—a Syrian city which ISIS seized last year—there are many human-rights activists who have paid for their opposition to ISIS's acts of intolerance with their own lives. But Al-Asali was nevertheless unable to stand by in silence, according to the Vatican report. ISIS is the ruthless Sunni offshoot of al-Qaida that has taken over parts of Iraq, sometimes murdering Iraqi soldiers it captures, and is involved in the Syrian insurgency.

Many other Muslims also are standing up against the brutality and intolerance of ISIS. They have launched the "I am Iraqi, I am Christian" campaign in response to the letter N's written on the walls of Christian homes in Mosul. On Sunday, some of them turned up outside the Chaldean Church of St. George in Baghdad, with a banner displaying the slogan and posted a picture on Facebook.

But these acts of rebellion have not been successful in stopping the madness of ISIS fundamentalists. And so on Monday, the ethnic cleansing continued, with the jizyah—the Islamic "protection" tax which all non-Muslims are required to pay if they wish to stay or return to Mosul—being applied. The monthly figure to be paid is $450, which is an impossible sum for anyone living in northern Iraq to pay.

On Monday, yet another historic Christian location fell into the hands of the Islamic State: the Syro-Catholic monastery of Mar Benham, close to Qaraqosh, the Christian city in the Nineveh Plain to which the majority of Christians have fled. Monks have been present in Mar Benham since about the fourth century.

"They forced the three monks and some families residing in the monastery to go away and leave the keys behind," the Syro-catholic bishop of Mosul, Yohanna Petros Moshe told Fides news agency. The Baghdadhope blog reported that the monastery underwent restoration work in 1986 and became a pilgrimage destination for Christians and some Muslims too.

Historian Dr. Timothy Stanley recently decried the West's silence over the plight of Iraqi Christians, calling it "a war crime that, strangely, no one seems to want to talk about," according to a report on

Mark Andrews Featured World News Thu, 24 Jul 2014 18:00:00 -0400
CBS Blasphemes Christ With Radical Feminist's Performance

"I only wish the Virgin would've had an abortion," was belted out in a song by musical guest Kristeen Young on CBS's The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. "The song," according to Young, "is about the centuries of religious persecution of women."

It's ironic that a radical feminist rails against Christianity on national TV when it was Christ who elevated women in ways that have led women in the West to enjoy more freedom and opportunity than what women in non-Christian nations could ever imagine. Can you imagine a woman singing an anti-Mohammed song in Saudi Arabia?

Young last week performed her song, "Pearl of a Girl," which attacks Judaism, Christianity and Islam as if they are all the same in so far as the treatment of women. In the first verse of her song, Young sang, "But in the Bible/Torah/Quran, there are really no good roles for me except concubine and wash woman. I used to be the sad one, now I just wanna stab them."

In the second verse she explicitly rails against Christ. "They've needed to have the law so they can legally bind us/ They've needed to have the church so they can morally ground us/ They've needed most of the dough, they must be so scared of us/ So their stories are of ghosts; I only wish the Virgin would've had an abortion."

Young also designs her own stage costumes and said, "I felt like wearing and making something satanic." The skirt she wears in the video for "Pearl of a Girl" has the symbols of three major religions, but they are all defaced. There is an upside-down cross and she wears high heels shaped like upside-down crosses.  This is a symbol commonly associated with satanism.

Click here to contact the The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and tell them they owe Christians an apology for their anti-Christian bigotry.

]]> Featured Culture Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:00:00 -0400
Meriam Ibrahim, Finally Freed From Sudan, Meets With Pope Francis

Pope Francis met Meriam Ibrahim, the Christian woman spared a death sentence for "apostasy" in Sudan, at the Vatican on Thursday after she was flown to Rome by the Italian government following a vigorous international campaign to free her.

Ibrahim, 27, was accompanied by her husband, Daniel Wani, and their two young children when she met Francis for nearly half an hour at his Santa Marta residence.

The audience was arranged only hours after she disembarked at Rome's Ciampino Airport with her family on an official Italian aircraft. She was smiling as she carried baby Maya, who was born just two months ago as Ibrahim was shackled in prison.

The pope thanked her for her courage and loyalty to her Christian faith despite facing threats of execution in an ordeal that lasted nearly a year.

The Vatican's chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Francis wanted Thursday's meeting to be a "gesture of support for all those who suffer for their faith, or living in situations of difficulty or restraint."

On Wednesday, Ibrahim's case was the subject of a congressional hearing in Washington as lawmakers sought to highlight her plight and Sudan's poor record on religious freedom.

The Washington-based Family Research Council, the Christian lobby group that  led the U.S. campaign and gathered more than 53,000 signatures in support, welcomed Ibrahim's release.

"We celebrate Meriam Ibrahim and her family's escape to freedom," said FRC President Tony Perkins in a statement. "It is our hope and prayer that Meriam and her family will now enjoy the liberty to practice their Christian faith without government interference or persecution."

Lapo Pistelli, Italy's deputy foreign minister, flew to Khartoum to collect Ibrahim and accompany the family on the flight to Italy.

He said her Sudanese passport was only returned by authorities late Wednesday, and she was told she could leave the country with her husband, who has U.S. citizenship. The family is expected to leave Italy for the U.S. within days.

Ibrahim had been trapped in Sudan since her release from prison where she was awaiting execution for refusing to renounce Christianity. Even though she has been a Christian her entire life, Sudan considers her a Muslim because her father is Muslim.

She gave birth in chains in a Khartoum jail cell in May after her father claimed she had abandoned Islam and committed adultery with her Christian husband, as mixed-faith marriages are considered illegal.

The country's Supreme Court threw out the death sentence in June.

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

Josephine McKenna/RNS Featured World News Thu, 24 Jul 2014 16:00:00 -0400
New Iraq Map Drawn as Islamic State Militants Purge Minorities

A new map is being drawn across the plains of northern Iraq as Sunni militants of the Islamic State purge the rural landscape of religious and ethnic minorities that have co-existed for hundreds of years.

More than half a million people have been displaced across Iraq since June, when the north's biggest city, Mosul, fell to Sunni insurgents who have harried Shi'ite Turkmen and Shabaks, Yezidis and Christians.

Even before the fall of Mosul, Yezidis, who follow an ancient monotheistic religion with elements of nature worship and are branded as devil worshipers by the hard-line Islamists, hardly dared set foot in the city, which has been a nerve center for the Sunni insurgency since 2003.

Now the Islamic State's cleansing campaign has rid farmland and villages in the surrounding Nineveh province and beyond of longtime minority inhabitants, leaving the country's north segregated along clear sectarian and ethnic lines.

Much of the north is now divided between the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) and the Kurds, who have expanded their autonomous region by as much as 40 percent as the central government's presence has crumbled.

Minorities are being forced to choose which part of Iraq they belong to, hastening the country's de facto partition and transforming its demography, perhaps irreversibly.

For many Shi'ites—the majority in Iraq overall but outnumbered by Sunnis in the north—the obvious refuge is south, where their sect predominates.

"We want to get out of Kurdistan and Sunnistan, and go to Shi'istan," said a man from the city of Tal Afar, 70 kilometers (44 miles) west of Mosul, which was overrun by insurgents last month, driving out Shi'ite Turkmen like him en masse.

At a camp in an unused hangar of a construction company on the outskirts of Arbil, thousands of Turkmen, who have close cultural and linguistic links to Turkey, wait their turn to be bused to the airport and flown down to Baghdad and the Shi'ite cities of Najaf and Kerbala.

The flights have been chartered by Iraq's Shi'ite-led government because most of the roads leading south from Kurdistan run through territory controlled by Sunni insurgents who have proclaimed a caliphate straddling the border with Syria.

As many as 15,000 Shi'ite Turkmen have been transported south by air or escorted in convoys across the only strip of border the Kurds still share with federal government forces—just 15 kilometers along a 1,000-km frontier.

At the Arbil airport, Shi'ite Turkmen—carrying the few belongings they managed to snatch up as they fled—wait to board a plane.

One 35-year-old man said most of his community would never come back here: "The north will be emptied of Shi'ites, the south will be emptied of Sunnis, (and) it will lead to the partition of Iraq. This is the new map of the Middle East."

Ethnic Fault Line

The map is being traced through villages such as Omarkan, until recently home to both Sunnis and Shi'ites from the country's small Shabak minority, a group that dwells in a triangle bounded by the Tigris and Greater Zab rivers to the east of Mosul.

Besides Mosul, about 20 towns and villages populated by minorities in Nineveh have been seized by militants, as well as one in Kirkuk province and several more around the town of Tuz Khurmato.

When Mosul fell on June 10, Iraqi soldiers withdrew from the area around Omarkan, and Sunni insurgents took over.

Initially, the militants reassured Omarkan's Shi'ite residents they meant no harm, but one dawn early this month they awoke to find the village surrounded and sectarian slurs daubed on their walls.

Young Shi'ite men were rounded up and taken away. Sunnis were allowed to stay, while Shi'ite women, children and men who managed to escape fled to territory held by Kurdish "peshmerga" forces, which have advanced deeper into Nineveh.

Bulldozers are now carving new positions into the earth, digging a trench through fields of wheat that gives physical form to Iraq's deepest ethnic fault line between Kurds and Arabs.

Omarkan is one of 11 Shabak villages on the Arab side of the line, which are all under insurgent control. Leaders of the Shabak community, who mostly follow a form of Shia Islam, though some are Sunni, have asked the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to kick the Islamic State out and annex them.

The Kurds are planning to formalize the new facts on the ground in a referendum that will determine whether these territories join their region or remain part of Arab Iraq.

Until now, loyalties in the area have been mixed. Some of the Shabak receive salaries from Baghdad, others from the KRG. In elections, their votes are split between Shi'ite Arab and Kurdish parties, with which they have close historic ties.

"We are with the Iraqi army, but at the same time we are with the Kurds," said a man from Omarkan, 11 members of whose extended family were among those kidnapped. "We want them to unite so they can repel those criminals."

But for the time being, even Shabak and other minority voices that once opposed Kurdish expansionism now consider that infinitely preferable to the alternative: rule by the ruthless Islamic State group.

When militants threatened to invade two villages in Nineveh earlier this month, Shabak residents, both Sunni and Shi'ite, took up arms alongside the peshmerga to defend them.

A headmaster who fled the village of Shamsiyat, just south of Mosul, after his brother and four other Shi'ite Turkmen were shot dead by insurgents in an orchard, said he would rather stay in Kurdistan than go south, despite his religion.

"It's true I'm Shi'ite, but my faith is between me and God, and on the ground, it's the Kurds who protect us," he said, a poster of Shi'ite Imam Ali on the wall of the house where he is staying in a sun-baked village southeast of Mosul.

"The (Kurdistan) region has proved it is present. The central government is not present."

Convert or Die

The future of Mosul's ancient Christian community is also bleak after the Islamic State set a deadline for them to convert, leave the city, or be put to death.

All but those who were too ill to get out have headed for Kurdistan or to Christian enclaves protected by peshmerga in the Nineveh plains, following a pattern set over the past decade. Many with the means have already emigrated in recent years.

"I no longer dream of returning to Mosul," said 39-year-old math teacher Sarab Hazim al-Sabbagh, who fled to the Kurdish-controlled town of Bashiqa just before the Islamic State's ultimatum expired over the weekend.

"If I get the chance, I will go back and sell my belongings, so I can leave Iraq and go abroad--be it to Somalia, Sudan. Anywhere is better than here."

The area's minorities are now faced with impossible choices. Sitting on a thin mattress inside a tent at a refugee camp on the road from Mosul to Arbil, Munta Kheder Qasem, a Shi'ite Shabak, relives the hunt for her 18-year-old son, who went missing in the village of Gogjali several weeks ago.

Qasem tells how she pleaded for information with a bearded man who was introduced as "the commander of the faithful" in a former government office appropriated by the Islamic State in Mosul. The bureaucrat wrote down her son's name, Mahmoud, in a notepad and said he would be home within three days.

Seventy-two hours later, a relative found the body of Mahmoud, mutilated beyond recognition, in the local graveyard.

Once Qasem had buried her child, identifiable only from the color of his trousers, she fled in terror and is now staying in the north but hopes to go south.

"Our destiny is unknown," said one of her relatives, who declined to be identified. "We are people without a destiny."

Editing by Ned Parker and Will Waterman

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Isabel Coles/Reuters Featured World News Thu, 24 Jul 2014 15:00:00 -0400
Border Patrol: 'This Is the Dream of Every Terrorist in the World'

The Transportation Security Administration is strongly denying accusations that it has been allowing illegal immigrants to board American jetliners without proper identification.

The National Border Patrol Council, a union representing thousands of Border Patrol agents, accused the TSA of letting illegals board airplanes with a "Notice to Appear" document instead of a passport or official government identification.

Union leaders said illegals were allowed to board jetliners without proper identification at airports in El Paso and Laredo, Texas. The story was first reported by Breitbart News.

"This is the dream of every terrorist in the world," Shawn Moran, vice president of the union, told me. "There is no way of knowing who is onboard the jetliners."

Whenever illegal immigrants are processed, Moran said, they are released with a "Notice to Appear" document. He said that's the document they are using to fly commercially in the United States.

"This is a document that could easily be forged," Moran told me. "It is simply a computer printout with a name on it."

He said border agents in Laredo asked the TSA why it would allow illegals to board jetliners with the "Notice to Appear" document.

"They said, 'You guys issued it to them, so we're accepting it,'" Moran told me. "It doesn't make sense."

Judicial Watch, a conservative legal-watchdog group, confirmed through an unnamed high-level source within the Department of Homeland Security that illegals were allowed to board jetliners in El Paso without identification.

"TSA is letting them go around security," the source told Judicial Watch. "No picture ID, just a slip of paper."

Not true, the TSA tells me.

"These reports are false," the TSA said in a statement. "A Notice to Appear, issued by the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), is not an acceptable form of ID at the TSA checkpoint."

All travelers must have a valid form of identification, the TSA stressed.

"For Mexican nationals without a passport who are returning to Mexico, they can be issued a Certificate of Presumption of Nationality of Mexico (CPNM) by the Government of Mexico," the TSA statement read. "TSA has established a robust verification process of a CPNM, which includes a photograph. At the checkpoint, this documentation will be authenticated by TSA's Identity Verification Call Center (IVCC), the same center that processes U.S. travelers who may have lost or forgotten their government-issued ID. Once this process is complete, the passenger will undergo enhanced TSA screening."

Moran said the union decided to go public with the accusations after their concerns went unheeded by the TSA.

"The Border Patrol is not in the business of providing government IDs," he said. "These documents should not be used to establish identity or to allow people to use the transportation system."

He said border agents in Laredo tried to explain to the TSA how easily the documents could be forged, but their concerns were not addressed.

"It's unbelievable that another government agency would take a simple piece of paper that could be forged by anyone with a home computer and use that as a valid form of ID to travel," he said.

Moran warned that the TSA's alleged actions put the country at risk.

"It could easily be used by people looking to exploit our transportation system," he said. "Thirteen years ago, 19 people exploited our transportation system and killed nearly 3,000 Americans. This is a threat we have talked about for many years."

Just something to think about the next time the TSA takes personal liberties with your private parts.

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 Thu, 24 Jul 2014 14:00:00 -0400
When Modesty Is Hot: How Much Skin Before It's Sin?

How much skin can a girl show before it's a sin? Modesty can be a sticky subject, even among Christians.

But experts say being modest doesn't mean a woman can't let her beauty shine.

In fact, that's the point.

If you look around, it's easy to think modesty is dead. Everywhere we look images tell us less is more, and the pressure for young girls to look sexy has never been more potent.

"I know that the reason most girls dress like that is because they're trying to get attention from boys," Stephanie Perry, a 9th-grader from Virginia, told CBN News.

CBN News met Stephanie at an event at Oneighty DC Youth Ministry designed to show young girls that modesty is hot.

Modest Is Hottest

"It all has to do with beauty, but beauty should really come from the inside out," explained Jaime Jamgochian, a worship leader and the creator of Modest is Hottest.

"Unfortunately, the generation that we're living in says the less you wear, the more hot and beautiful you are. But there's something really beautiful to mystery," she said.

Jamgochian never dreamed she'd be preaching demureness. But she said if you look around, even in the church, you'll see it's needed.

"I didn't come to know the Lord until I was much older; I was 21," she shared. "I didn't grow up in youth groups or doing any of that so when I began growing in Christ and knowing Jesus, I realized 'Wow, why are we dressing the same way I used to dress in the clubs?" she said.

Michelle McGraw, a leader at Oneighty DC, agreed.

"Instead of kind of throwing the rule book at them, it's sort of a way of explaining—it's out of love, you know. You love the Lord; He loves you and so this is sort of how you respond—with modesty," she told CBN News.

Defining Modesty

So what is modesty? We took that question to Dannah Gresh, a mother of two girls and founder of Secret Keeper Girl, a ministry that travels the country teaching girls and their moms about modesty and why it's important.

She's also written books about modesty and knows it can be controversial, even in the church.

"You know, that's an interesting topic," she said. "If you look at the Scriptures, modesty is self-control and how you present yourself externally so that people can see your heart. The Bible teaches that our primary role, the reason we're on this planet, is to glorify God."

"Any time we dress immodestly or we dress to show off our bodies, we're bringing glory to ourselves," Gresh explained. "That's the greatest, I think, sin of immodesty, is that we're saying, 'Look at me' instead of 'Look at God.'"

The tough thing is that there aren't any exact rules.

"God didn't spell it out in black and white for us. Instead He's asked us to search with our hearts," Gresh said.

The Secret Keeper Girl and Modest is Hottest programs offer girls fashion tips to help them be modest while still showcasing their personal style.

During the Modest is Hottest event, Jamgochian told the girls they shouldn't read their Bibles and then go out looking like a "hoochie momma momma," a remark that drew roaring laughter.

Gresh said she felt compelled to focus on teaching modesty when she came across research by the Medical Institute for Sexual Health that indicates one of the top factors that puts a young person at risk for an early sexual debut is appearing or dressing to look older.

And it's increasingly harder for girls to resist the urge. Companies now market adult garments and products to extremely young girls.

"Some of the products in the last few years that have been sold to 8-, 9-, 10-, 11-year-old girls have been push-up bras, thong underwear called eye-candy, and eyeliner and mascara," Gresh said.

"In the last three years, eyeliner and mascara sales for 10-year-olds have doubled," she added. "Why is there anything to double?"

Gresh said that if girls can be reached before age 12 and taught modesty, it can change the trajectory of their lives by putting them on a pathway to purity.

What About Men?

So what about boys and men? The Bible doesn't offer any modesty instructions for them. Gresh suggests it's because men are much more vulnerable to the beauty of women than women are to the physical allure of men.

"The way that a man treats a woman is entirely his responsibility, period," Gresh said. "However, a woman is called to exemplify the fruit of the Spirit. One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control, and I think we need to be able to exemplify that in the way that we dress and the way that we present ourselves."

Does that mean men have no responsibility to be modest?

"Well, sure, men have a responsibility, and I wish we could get some dudes to start talking about that. The Abercrombie guy is so naked," she said, laughing.

"I think men have the same responsibility for us to be able to see their good works, for us to be able to see the inner qualities and strengths that God has put in them, not their bodies," he said.

If we all wake up every day focused on honoring and glorifying God, then we'll all dress appropriately, Gresh said.

Jamgochian admonished young girls: If you're not sure what to wear, just ask your parents.

"It isn't in what the billboard says you need to look like," she said. "It isn't in being a size 2 or a size 10; it's in being who God made you to be. It's in accepting that you are fearfully and truly wonderfully made by Him regardless of what society says."

Jennifer Wishon/CBN News Featured Culture Thu, 24 Jul 2014 13:00:00 -0400
What Is the Root of Anti-Semitism?

After the fall of Adam and Eve, God promised that a "seed" of the woman would be born to "crush the head of the serpent" (Gen. 3:15). That started a war between God and Satan.

The seed was to be born through the Jewish people. Therefore demonic forces have always tried to kill the Jews in order to kill the seed of Messiah within them.

Throughout the Torah, before they entered the Promised Land, the people of Israel are attacked repeatedly:

  • In Egypt, Pharoah tried to kill all the male children (Ex. 1).
  • Then the Amalakites attacked them (Ex. 17)
  • Then the Edomites (Nu. 20:14)
  • Then the Canaanites (Nu. 21:1)
  • Then Sihon and the Amorites (Nu. 21:21)
  • Then Og from Bashan (Nu. 21:31)
  • Then Balak and the Moabites (Nu. 22)

The attacks on the Jewish people continued throughout ancient history (Est. 3:6), during Herod's time in the gospels (Matt. 2:16), and then the Roman Empire. Anti-Semitism spread into the church, into Europe, the Nazis, and today in Islamic Jihad. Anti-Semitism is perplexing to Jews. Why does everyone seem to hate us?

God Reveals Himself

God reveals Himself to mankind in the form of a man ... and that Man is Jewish. The Gentiles are supposed to worship Him as Christ and receive His authority as King. Not only that, but this Jewish Messiah then appoints 12 other Jewish men to rule the world with Him (Matt 19:28). That makes the Gentile nations jealous and offended.

Some of our Arab Christian friends say that they have trouble sharing the gospel because it sounds to their neighbors and relatives as if it is a message of Jewish-Zionist superiority.

Yeshua will one day return to Jerusalem. At that time Satan will be incarcerated for 1,000 years. Yeshua's return is connected by covenant and prophecy to the Jewish people (Matt. 23:39; Zech. 14). Satan cannot attack Yeshua directly; therefore he tries to annihilate the Jewish people in order to prevent Yeshua's return.

Some ultra-orthodox Jews attack Messianic Jews. There is a similarity between the "Anti-Messianic (anti-missionary)" spirit and the spirit of Anti-Semitism. Ultimately both are aimed at stopping Yeshua from returning and ruling. Anti-Semitism tries to kill the Messianic seed from the "outside"; Anti-Messianics try to stop the Messianic seed from within.

The Anti-Messianic missionaries tell our people that they should not believe in Yeshua because this has brought anti-Semitism and disasters. There is a great paradox here: Anti-Semitism is a reaction to the New Covenant, but not because it is anti-Jewish—rather because it is too pro-Jewish.

Asher Intrater and his wife, Betty, are the co-directors of Revive Israel Ministries, an apostolic ministry team dedicated to revival in Israel. 

For the original article, visit

Asher Intrater Featured Opinion Thu, 24 Jul 2014 12:00:00 -0400
'Christian' Singer: God Would Never Condemn Gay Love

New York Times best-selling author, entertainer and singer Demi Lovato is convinced the God she knows and loves would never reject LGBT lovers.

"The LOVING God that I believe in would never condemn anyone for loving another human of the same sex. That's just what I believe, and everyone is entitled to their own beliefs," Lovato told her 23 million Twitter followers.

Lovato remembers learning about God's unconditional love as a little girl and says it made a lasting impact on her life.

"I grew up learning in Sunday school and Bible camps about a God who loves all--no matter where you came from or what you've done. A man named Jesus who forgives people of all sins, including horrible things like murder, if you simply ask for forgiveness and accept him into your heart," she said. "Now I'm no Bible thumper, but I truly believe that same Lord and savior loves ALL no matter who you are or where you've come from and especially who you love."

Lovato, who guest-starred on the television show Glee last season as a lesbian, is upset that folks are judging the LGBT--short for "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender"--community for the way they express their love to one another.

"It really breaks my heart, and I'll never be able to understand why this world can't learn to accept one another for who they are without passing judgment," she said. "You are not God, therefore leave the judging to him."

Why are more and more people who were raised in church coming to the conclusion that God is OK with same-sex romantic relationships?

Jennifer LeClaire Featured Culture Thu, 24 Jul 2014 11:00:00 -0400
Chonda Pierce’s Husband Dies Following Emergency Brain Surgery

Christian comedian Chonda Pierce's husband, David, died Tuesday night following emergency brain surgery. The couple had been married 31 years.

"David is home," Pierce wrote on her Facebook page Tuesday evening after posting several earlier updates about his condition.

Pierce reported on July 15 that her husband had suffered a stroke in two areas of his brain, and she wrote about his condition multiple times a day since then.

At 1:26 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, she wrote, "David has taken a very bad turn. He is not responding, and they've called in the neurologist... Please say an added prayer for him."

She followed that up with an update at 5 a.m. saying he had a "hemophragic stroke" and was bleeding in his brain. Pierce said he had no chance without surgery, minimal with surgery, and he was headed in for emergency brain surgery.

"This is his only hope to remove the portion of his brain and try and stop the bleeding. I have no other words," she wrote.

Later that morning, Pierce thanked her supporters and wrote another update: "David is out of surgery, and now we just wait and see. There was quite a bit of damage," she said. "Removed a large portion of damaged area, and there was a lot of bleeding. The surgeon said it is very serious and just not certain of anything... He is in God's hands completely now. I have loved him since I was 16 years old. He is one of the greatest men I've ever known... I have begged God to allow him to stay here -- whole and healthy. Thank you for praying with me and believing for me even when my faith was tired and weak."

One of Pierce's former managers set up an online fundraiser for Chonda and her family, which has raised more than $50,000.

"Chonda Pierce has brought laughter to our lives for so many years in spite of all of the tragedy in her own life," the donation site says. "Let's now return the gift by helping lighten her financial load in this heartbreaking time of the loss of her sweet husband, David W. Pierce." 

The site explains that funds will go toward funeral expenses, medical bills and lost income for this season.

Pierce has been open about her testimony of enduring abuse, depression and the death of two sisters, which she has used to heal hearts through laughter for more than 20 years. She was recently named the top certified female comedian by the Recording Industry Association of America for having sold more comedy DVDs than any other comedian—secular or Christian. 

Gina Meeks Featured U.S. News Thu, 24 Jul 2014 10:30:00 -0400
WATCH: Woman Delivered From Ailment That Drove Her to Drugs

Paula had severe migraine headaches and found relief in Vicodin. But she became addicted to the prescription painkiller, until God urged her to trust Him for freedom.


The 700 Club Featured U.S. News Thu, 24 Jul 2014 10:00:00 -0400
Honoring the Pentecostal Who Linked Azusa Revival to the Modern Day

Before he was laid to rest Saturday in Springfield, Missouri, friends and colleagues eulogized Stanley Horton as a great man and educator with roots going back to Azusa Street. He was born only 10 years after the revival broke out at Azusa Street, and his grandparents were baptized in the Holy Spirit there. In the words of Assemblies of God General Superintendent George O. Wood, he was a "bridge linking the Azusa revival to the present day."

The day he died, July 12, we ran Horton's obituary that lists his many achievements. This is my attempt to eulogize a man I greatly admired and enjoyed the privilege of working with in his capacity as the senior editorial advisor for the Modern English Version, which I am publishing, that will release in September.

I've known about Horton all my life. Before I was born, he served as a professor at Central Bible College in Springfield, when my parents attended the school. But, I met him only once when I interviewed him two years ago about this work on the MEV, which you can view here.

As we began talking to leaders about this new translation, I heard firsthand how men from Jack Hayford to George Wood conveyed that Horton's involvement gave the translation credibility because of his reputation as a scholar and a translator.

We had intended to give Horton one of the first numbered copies of the MEV when the first edition comes off the press in less than two weeks. Now he is gone. He'll never see the completed Bible. The MEV is his last big—and perhaps biggest—project of a long, productive and respected life.

Horton was well-known for his work in academic circles, writing books, Sunday School curriculum and teaching at Bible colleges and seminaries. In the 1940s, it was unusual for Pentecostals to receive advanced degrees; yet Dr. Horton received two from Gordon College and Harvard University, as well as a doctoral degree in the 1950s from Central Baptist Theological Seminary.

In 2008 Evangel University launched the Dr. Stanley M. Horton Pentecostal Heritage Lectureship Series to reinforce the importance of the Pentecostal heritage of the Assemblies of God. In 2009 the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary established The Dr. Stanley M. Horton Scholarly Resources Endowment in his honor.

Throughout his long life he was given many accolades for his work, which you can read about here. However, he was also known as a humble, loving Christian man.

"He was a man of impeccable integrity," said Darrin Rodgers, the archivist of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, to whom Dr. Horton entrusted his papers only seven weeks ago.  "He loved his wife, Evelyn, and his children. He loved his students. He took time for everyone."

At his funeral service in Springfield, friends and family celebrated his life. Here are a few highlights:

His daughter, Faith Horton Stilts: "He grew up immersed in a life filled with
faith, prayer, worship and bible reading. He could tell you so many stHorton-Daughter-stiltsories of people in his family who were healed by God, from broken arms to healing of paralysis to being saved from death's door. The miraculous happened often." Read the complete transcript of Faith's eulogy to her father here.

His biographer, Lois Olena: "His godly heritage ran deep—providing the fertile ground for a life of service characterized by Pentecostal fervor, commitment to biblical scholarship and Christ-like character. He patiently answered vital questions, relayed countless stories, shared valuable insights ... I witnessed firsthand what it meant to joyfully serve God with everything, be gracious toward everyone, trust God obediently as He leads step by step and live a life that honors the past, embraces the present and prepares hopefully for the future." Read the complete transcript of Lois' tribute to her friend here.

Archivist Rodgers also said in a recent blog: "He was one of the Pentecostal movement's most revered scholars, one of its most prolific authors and one its most respected educators. His theological writings shaped generations of Pentecostals. But Stanley, to those of us who knew him, possessed something much greater than his Harvard degree."

My longtime friend, Cameron Fisher, is a great-grandson of Elmer Fisher who received the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Azusa. He is Dr. Horton's cousin once removed: "The few times I interacted with Stanley, I felt that strong familial bond. Stanley was a family hero. His demeanor and interactions with me are priceless memories I cherish.  Stanley Horton's legacy is one I am proud to proclaim as part of my family and Pentecostal heritage."

Chaplain Jim Linzey, who worked with Horton on the MEV: "His acumen concerning Koine Greek was second to none, and his knowledge of translation principles of the Bible was always current with the times. Dr. Horton provided solid direction that helped define the MEV as a very modern rendition of the King James Version. His guidance helped shape the MEV New Testament as a very accurate translation of the Textus Receptus based on a very modern English vernacular." Linzey said, adding that Horton told him he was extremely pleased with how the Modern English Version turned out and believed "it will tremendously impact the Church in the twenty-first century."

Jason McMullen, the publishing director for the MEV: "Dr. Horton will be greatly missed. Meeting him before his passing was truly one of the highlights of my life. Honoring God through the dissemination of the Modern English Version, upon which he worked, is our opportunity to ensure that a portion of this man's great work endures until Christ returns."

I feel privileged to have known Stanley Horton. There is so much more that could be or should be written about his life which is why we have links to his official obituary and the unedited comments from the people we quoted which go more in depth.

We invite you to leave your comments about Stanley Horton, or online condolences can be posted to the AGTS link and will be forwarded to the family.

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

Steve Strang Featured Opinion Thu, 24 Jul 2014 09:00:00 -0400
Assemblies of God Caught Up in Middle East Violence

Over the last few days, Assemblies of God personnel have made several reports of AG families being caught in harm's way and tragedy resulting.

Late last week, AG workers in the Middle East reported that two young brothers from the Lighthouse School in Gaza were killed when a missile fired from an F-16 jet fighter hit their home.

In Iraq, increasing chaos surrounds believers as a militant terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (also called ISIS) tightens its grip in and around the city of Mosul. All Christians have been ordered to leave the city (leaving all of their property behind) or be executed.

Reports are that many fleeing families were stopped at checkpoints and stripped of money and personal possessions. It is believed that most Christian families have now fled Mosul.

Then, last weekend, Dutch officials released the names of passengers from the Netherlands who were aboard the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was reportedly shot down over the Ukraine with no survivors.

Among the passengers were Arnoud Huizen, his wife, and their 2-year-old daughter. Arnoud was a former student at Azusa Theological Seminary in Amsterdam. He worked with Chi Alpha at Free University in Amsterdam and had done an internship with Teen Challenge.

Tim Southerland, area director of Northwestern Europe, states, "Arnoud was a diligent student who loved the Lord. His death is a great loss to the Dutch Assemblies of God and also among the missionary family who knew and loved him."

Two women from AG churches in Indonesia also were killed.

"Our hearts go out to families and individuals who are suffering in the collateral damage of the civil conflicts taking place throughout the world," says AG General Superintendent George O. Wood. "These trying times afford a challenge to the church of Jesus Christ to offer comfort to the suffering and convey the compassion, love and message of Christ wherever we can."

To read the AG World Missions full report, click here.

Randy Hurst/AG News Featured World News Thu, 24 Jul 2014 08:00:00 -0400
Is the Word of Faith Movement Really From God?

What is the Word of Faith movement, and is it from God?

If you listen to the critics, you will think that this movement is the worst thing that could happen to Christianity. But this article is going to show how this movement is not only of God but absolutely necessary in God's end-time plan.

When you look at all the Christian denominations in the world, you begin to wonder which is the right one. Well, the truth is, most of them have a lot of good, yet I believe God is wanting to do something better than simply build a bunch of denominations.

In order to understand this controversial movement, we have to go back to the Bible and see God's plan for the Church.

Jesus spoke to Peter and said, "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (Matt. 16:18). If you listen to a few negative folks, you'll get the impression that the Church is going to be a defeated, beaten-down, rotten, sin-filled group of hypocritical people. But Jesus said that the gates of hell will not overcome it. Jesus is coming back for a glorious, victorious Church.

How is the Lord going to accomplish this task of making the Church an overcomer? By using people. Yes, by using people just like you and me.

Notice carefully that the Lord is speaking to Simon. He changes his name to Peter, which means a "little rock," and declares that He is going to build his church on this rock. Many wonder if Jesus was building His church on Peter. Yes and no.

Ephesians chapter 2 verse 20 says that the Church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Peter is definitely one of the people who are part of the foundation; however, all the apostles, including many prophets, are considered the foundation of the Church as well.

Do you remember what the New Jerusalem will look like? John saw the Holy City with 12 foundations, and on them were the names of the 12 apostles. So, Peter was a rock on which the Lord was going to build His Church; yet, Peter declares in his writings, "As you come to him [Jesus], the living also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house ..." (1 Pet. 2:4-5).

Peter testifies that Jesus is the Stone, the Corner Stone to be exact, and that we are living stones that the Lord is putting in place, such as a mason places brick upon brick, until the building is finished. The Lord has been in a building project for the last nineteen hundred-plus years. The Lord is not interested in doing a quick work but rather a quality job.

Now understand this: Each part of the building is essential for the completion of the whole. There can be no missing parts. Not only is this so, but every part adds something that is missing. This is where the Word of Faith movement comes in.

The Word of Faith movement adds to the Church what has been missing for the last several centuries, primarily the teaching that the believer can receive answers to every prayer that is based on God's Word, as long as he has enough faith and that there is nothing in his life that could be hindering his prayer. This is a revolutionary thought to most of Christendom.

Let me explain how the Word of Faith movement got here.

The early church began with a burst of power and glory. They were invincible. Every believer acted as priests of the Lord and fervently preached the truth. They did such a wonderful job that their critics accused them of turning the world upside down.

The early church fathers continued living in the same spirit of the apostles after the apostles died. But little by little, through the centuries, Christians abandoned the faith and dynamic lifestyle of their predecessors. They entangled themselves in silly controversies, which split the unity of Christians. One group built their headquarters in Constantinople; they became the eastern church. And the other group had their headquarters in Rome and called themselves Roman Catholics. These churches have never reunited.

Since most of us have our roots in the West, we have been influenced by the western branch of Christianity called the Roman Catholic Church. I want to focus on this part of the Church.

During the dark ages, the Catholic Church had a monopoly over most of Christendom, and she used her power in terrible ways. This church deserted the ways of Christ and His teachings. They put fear in the hearts of the peasants by making them seek the church for forgiveness. They promised an easy salvation to those who would purchase indulgences. They exalted Mary nearly to the same position as Christ. They offered prayers to her as well as to many of the saints. In summary, they rejected most of the clear teachings of the Bible.

This branch of Christianity needed reformation, and God intended to bring it to her. For almost the last 500 years, God has brought to western Christianity six major restorational movements: 1) the reform, 2) the evangelical, 3) the holiness, 4) the pentecostal, 5) the charismatic, 6) and the word of faith. Each movement has been used of God to restore to the Church truths and practices that were lost by the Roman church.

In 1517, a German monk named Martin Luther, who discovered from the Bible that salvation was not earned, but that it was a free gift to all those who believed proclaimed a loud and clear message: "The just shall live by faith." This doctrine that the just shall live by faith is the most basic doctrine of the New Testament. We could not preach anything else without this truth. True Christians everywhere believe that salvation is a free gift to those who truly believe.

This monk brought in the first restorational truth to the Church. This movement took on his name. His followers were called "Lutherans." His following, though, was mainly in Germany. Others followed his same doctrine and beliefs in other countries, and they were called different names. In Scotland, the reformers were called Presbyterians; in England they were called Anglicans (or Episcopalians). Basically these three denominations believe the same things.

Although the reform movement embraced the all-important way of salvation, there were still some old Catholic ways and doctrines to which they continued to cling. They still believed that the Church should use the state to persecute dissenters, and they also practiced infant baptism. These practices and beliefs were clearly not biblical.

So within these denominations, in about the 1600's, men arose to confront the reformed movement just as the reformers had confronted the Catholic church. They began by first insisting that all believers who were baptized as infants be rebaptized. They did this because many Lutherans, Presbyterians and Anglicans had never experienced the new birth; they were erroneously told that they were Christians because they had been baptized as babies. Many experienced true salvation through the efforts of evangelicals. It was the evangelicals' rebaptizing efforts that caused the critics to call them "baptists."

The baptists also demanded separation between church and state. They believed that everyone should be able to worship God according to their own consciences without the intrusion of the government. They won--although at a huge cost. Many lost their lives for standing up against the reformed churches, just as many reformers had lost their lives for standing up against the Catholic church. The baptists were correct in their beliefs concerning adult baptism and freedom of worship. Today, almost all Christians believe these things. God had restored adult baptism and freedom of worship for Christians.

In time, even the baptists began to experience a need for reformation. The shortcoming of the baptists was a lack of holiness. The baptists had so emphasized that salvation was by grace alone, not by works, that many of them refused to "work out their salvation with fear and trembling," as Paul admonished believers in Phil. 2:12. They reasoned, as many do today, "Since salvation is by grace, through faith alone, there is no real need to do good works." Many baptists were living ungodly lives because of the Calvinistic teachings about election and the perseverance of the saints. These teachings, in essence, gave people a license to practice immorality--or at least gave them freedom to live undisciplined lives. Even today, some Baptists have a terrible reputation of hypocrisy—that they teach one thing but live another way.

As you can see, there needed to be another restoration, and this one would emphasize holiness. John Wesley would be the main leader in this next restorational move. His movement was later called Methodism--termed after his disciplined, methodological approach to holy living.

Today, we need Wesley's message as never before. There is a great need for holiness in American churches. John Wesley and others taught the past restorational truths, but they also emphasized the need to live disciplined Christian lives. They rejected much of the Calvinistic ideas of the past. They laid stress upon personal works without neglecting salvation by grace. Like the other restorational leaders of the past, they too were persecuted, mocked and criticized. But today, many Christians acknowledge a real need to discipline their lives. Many Christians no longer take the grace of God in vain. They work out their salvation with fear and trembling.

Many in the holiness camp saw that there still were things lacking in their lives—primarily power. They lived separated from the world, but they lacked supernatural power.

So in 1901, some Bible students in Topeka, Kansas, began to study the subject of the Holy Spirit. They quickly discovered that they lacked the Bible experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to seek God for this experience, and God graciously met their faith. He filled them with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues.

One man who got filled, left the school and began preaching this new-found experience in Los Angeles, California, in a small cottage on 312 Azusa Street. He was the first black man to lead a restorational movement. His name: William Seymour.

Today, millions of people claim to adhere to the pentecostal experience of being filled with the Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. This truth is firmly established in the Bible.

Since the pentecostal movement came out of the holiness movement, there were some errors that permeated the pentecostal movement. The main error had to do with "who could receive the Holy Spirit?". Most pentecostal leaders believed that a candidate for the Holy Spirit had to first sanctify himself and live holy for a period of time before he could receive the Holy Spirit. This rule was of course unscriptural.

The Bible plainly shares accounts of people receiving the Holy Spirit right when they were saved. They did not have to tarry and sanctify themselves to qualify for the Spirit. They could receive this gift immediately upon praying for the experience. Hence, the charismatic movement took off.

The charismatic movement was led by many people--the most popular being Chuck Smith, who founded the Calvary Chapels. He began baptizing hippies and praying for God to fill them with the Holy Spirit. And sure enough, God did.

God was pouring out his Spirit on all people, including long-hair, pot-smoking, barefooted hippies. This made the old-time pentecostals upset. They couldn't believe that these people were receiving the Holy Spirit without first cutting their hair, throwing away their dope, and dressing modestly. But God was filling them with the Spirit despite their objections. The pentecostals criticized Chuck Smith and many of the charismatics, including the Catholic charismatics. But time showed that the charismatic movement was here to stay.

This brings us to the current move of God: the word of faith. This movement is an extension of the charismatic movement. It is bringing to Spirit-filled Christians everywhere the message of uncompromising faith--that believers can receive answers to their prayers, including healing, so long as they exercise sufficient faith.

The charismatic movement experienced dramatic healings, but most people were not taught that they could be healed on their own faith and that they didn't need to be healed at a great miracle service like those of Kathryn Kuhlman. The word of faith ministers have shown the power of faith and that God will bless the believers in every way, including materially, if they will live according to the Word. This is revolutionary to many Christians.

Because it is the current move of God, we should expect it to be criticized more than any other movement. And this is the case.

I am not surprised at all when we are criticized. We should expect it. After all, every past restorational movement was criticized by the religious establishment: the Catholics persecuted the Lutherans, the Lutherans judged the baptists, the baptists ridiculed the holiness people, the holiness community criticized the charismatics. And today, many charismatics unfairly accuse the word of faith ministers of heresy.

The heresy hunters are still here. When will they learn from the past and quit criticizing what God has begun?

Tom Brown is the founder and pastor of Word of Life Church in El Paso, Texas. He and his wife, Sonia, host a weekly television program, The Bondage Broker, available online.

Tom Brown Featured Opinion Thu, 24 Jul 2014 07:00:00 -0400
Don’t Let Super-Spiritual People Hurt Your Church

A few years ago a prominent charismatic evangelist gained a wide following when he said an angel was visiting him regularly during his televised revival meetings. The angel was supposedly dispatched to unleash the next great healing revival in the United States. One big problem: The revival didn't happen.

Yet month after month, the tales of this evangelist's wild spiritual adventures grew more and more incredible. At one point he wrote that he visited heaven and met the apostle Paul—and then said Paul admitted he was the author of the Book of Hebrews. A 2,000-year-old theological mystery was solved!

Looking back on these events now, it's hard to believe so many charismatics fell for these wild claims. Anyone with the most basic level of discernment knows God does not allow us to talk to dead people to get spiritual information. So why are we so gullible? I call this the "oooh, ahhh" factor.

In our charismatic circles, there are some super-spiritual people who know how to impress others with their revelations and experiences. They know how to get us to say, "Oooh, ahhh." In some cases these people are sincere but may have emotional problems or even mental illness. In other cases they are simply full of spiritual pride and end up being used by the devil to bring confusion and division into the church.

Time after time I have made it clear I'm unapologetically a charismatic Christian, and I believe all the gifts of the Holy Spirit are valid today. But I believe God is calling us to clean up our act and stop allowing fringe elements to discredit the power of God. Nothing is more dangerous to a genuine revival than a hyper-spiritual "charismaniac" who flaunts his gifts while displaying a lack of character.

Here are seven indicators of a hyper-spiritual person. If this describes you or someone you know, please seek spiritual counsel immediately.

1. Their feet rarely touch the earth. Super-spiritual people live in the ozone layer. They are not in touch with normal life. They may spend a lot of time in prayer (or claim to), and they may even fast or impose severe discipline on themselves, but their relationships are dysfunctional. Remember: Jesus did not live His life like a guru, floating around while dispensing ethereal wisdom. He lived in the real world and interacted in a healthy way with people. So should we.

2. They place too much emphasis on dreams, visions and spiritual manifestations. God speaks to us through His Spirit, and He can use dreams, visions or prophetic words. Yet His message always flows with love and brings peace. On the contrary, a spirit of weirdness usually follows hyper-spiritual people who claim to receive constant revelations. Paul warned the Colossians about people like this when he said: "Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen..." (Col. 2:18).

3. They find it difficult to submit to authority. Hyper-spiritual people are usually full of pride and believe they are more gifted than pastors or other spiritual leaders. Therefore they find it impossible to receive instruction or correction from anyone. They become renegades, and they separate themselves from the body of Christ, which only puts them in a spiritually vulnerable position.

4. They crave attention. A super-spiritual person often lacks affirmation and love. Their emotional deficit pushes them to seek attention from people, and they find it by impressing others. Some people who seek to serve as intercessors or counselors, or even as members of the worship team, may actually need inner healing before they can be effective in these roles. If you give these people a microphone before they are healed, you will regret it!

5. They develop a victim mentality. Most of the hyper-spiritual people I know believe they are constantly being attacked by the devil—as if they are his biggest threat. The slightest problem in life—from a traffic ticket to a hangnail—becomes evidence of a demonic conspiracy against them. We need to help people realize they are not the center of the universe, and that Satan actually has a lot more important things to do than stop Brother Bubba or Sister Lulu from singing a song in church on Sunday.

6. They become harsh and judgmental. Charismaniacs who don't find a receptive audience for their visions and prophecies sometimes become bitter and resentful—and they end up condemning everyone to hell for rejecting them. I am aware of situations in which angry Christians ended up splitting a church because they became convinced the pastor was evil or the whole congregation was in sin. People who are full of bitterness will become instruments of the devil. Deal with them before they hurt others!

7. They often end up in deception. Super-spiritual people who reject correction or spiritual covering are headed toward disaster. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, started that cult after he declared that all Christian denominations were false churches. He cut himself off from the body of Christ and started the biggest heresy of the 19th century. People who become so focused on their spiritual superiority end up denying Jesus and justifying their own sinful behavior.

Church should be a healthy place. Don't let hyper-spiritual people take your congregation down the wrong road.

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

J. Lee Grady Featured Opinion Thu, 24 Jul 2014 06:00:00 -0400
Rising Number of Brits Coming to U.S. to Choose Gender of Baby

The number of couples traveling from Britain to the United States in order to have sex-selective IVF treatment is rising by 20 percent every year, a fertility doctor reports.

Dr. Daniel Potter, who heads a large clinic in California, said that eight in 10 couples from Britain are choosing to have a girl.

The treatment, costing around £7,600 (about $12,950), involves making embryos that are screened to determine the gender before being implanted in the womb.

Under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, sex selection for social or family balancing reasons is prohibited in the U.K.

Potter is now visiting Britain to "educate" the public on sex selection, saying he is here to "explain the process and address some of the misconceptions surrounding the treatment."

He said: "I believe women should have reproductive freedom and that should include selecting the gender of their child if they wish."

An editorial in The Daily Telegraph warned that the rise in numbers of couples traveling abroad for this treatment "shows that lawmakers need to remain watchful."

It said, "tinkering with embryos can be made to sound eminently reasonable."

"In future, parents doubtless will assert a right to ensure that their child is not born with a particular chromosomal disorder, and it will be hard to deny them.

"Yet it is also easy to see how this could shade into dictating certain traits—intelligence, appearance, gender—and discriminating against others," the editorial added.

And columnist Daniel Finkelstein called the practice of using IVF--in-vitro fertilization--to choose the sex of a child "dangerous, obnoxious and unnecessary."

Writing in The Times, he commented: "Let's start with dangerous. It is obviously a threat to mankind if societies are heavily biased to one sex."

"As for obnoxious—children are not consumer goods or designer accessories. You shouldn't pick the gender of your child like you pick the color of your motor vehicle," he continued.

Finkelstein added that the practice is unnecessary, because "for most people, most of the time" having a strong preference on whether their child is a boy or a girl "does not persist" after the baby is born.

The Christian Institute Featured World News Wed, 23 Jul 2014 20:00:00 -0400
Faith in God Is a Virulent Infection, Columnist Claims

Belief in God is a "virus," and evangelical Christianity is one of the more "virulent infections," a British Conservative peer and columnist for The Times of London has claimed.

In an attack on faith schools, Matt Ridley said that "rationalists" want to "protect" children from religion.

And the peer, a supporter of the British Humanist Association, said, "secular, free thinking" should be adopted to "combat the rise of radical Islam and radical Christianity."

His comments in The Times came as a report was released on the "Trojan Horse" Islamic plot in some Birmingham schools.

Ridley claimed that the report's revelations were not surprising given that faith schools are supported by the state in the U.K. He said "religious practice" should be taken "out of school altogether."

However, he noted: "I know such a view is considered intolerant, even bigoted."

Discussing "faith communities," he said: "Anglicanism is a mild and attenuated form of the faith virus and may even act as a vaccine against more virulent infections, but Christianity is becoming more evangelical in response to its global competition with Islam."

"Mild Anglicanism should make common cause with humanists in defense of tolerance," Ridley added.

He concluded that unlike Francis Crick, the Nobel-winning co-discoverer of DNA, who in the 1960s "foresaw the end of religion and started a competition for what to do with the college chapels in Cambridge," today's atheists take a different approach.

Ridley explained, "Rationalists no longer expect to get rid of religion altogether by explaining life and matter: They aim only to tame it instead and to protect children from it."

The Christian Institute Featured World News Wed, 23 Jul 2014 19:00:00 -0400
If Marriage Is Not About Procreation, Why Is It About Sex?

In the court cases that have upheld the one-man/one-woman definition of marriage (yes, there have been many, though not in the last year), the "rational basis" that judges have found for the laws has been the state's interest in promoting "responsible procreation."

Marriage is defined as the union of a woman and a man because it brings together men and women for the natural reproduction of the human race (which is impossible without the contribution of both sexes)--that's the "procreation" part.

Marriage further gives incentive for potentially procreative activities to take place in the context of a committed, lifelong relationship, to maximize the possibility that the fruit of procreation (a child) will be raised and economically supported in a stable setting by both the woman and the man who created that child -- that's the "responsible" part.

Since only opposite-sex couples are capable of fulfilling this important public purpose through their natural union, it is rational to limit the public institution of marriage to such couples.

Advocates for the redefinition of marriage, however, have a simple answer to this argument. "Opposite-sex couples," they say, "are not required to demonstrate their intent or capacity to procreate before they may marry. Many opposite-sex couples never procreate, and the state still recognizes them as married. Therefore, marriage cannot be about procreation."

This argument sounds decisive, but in reality is extremely weak. It simply is not constitutionally required (because it is nearly impossible) for classifications under the law to draw perfectly precise lines between every single individual who fulfills the public purpose of the law and every single person who does not.

Consider this: Suppose a group of obese and otherwise physically disabled individuals were to sue the government for the "right" to serve in the military. They charge that physical-fitness standards for military recruitment "discriminate" against them because of "who they are," and are therefore unconstitutional. The government responds, "The military exists to fight and win wars. Physical-fitness standards are rational because good physical fitness is necessary to perform effectively in combat."

"Aha!" respond the plaintiffs' attorneys. "There are some people in the military who never serve in combat, but they are still considered service members and receive all the benefits of that, and of veteran status when they retire. Therefore, the military cannot be about fighting wars!"

This way of arguing is plainly silly, but it has been taken with grave seriousness by a string of otherwise intelligent judges.

However, my question for those who wish to redefine marriage to include (intrinsically, structurally) infertile same-sex couples is this: "If marriage is not about procreation, why is it about sex?"

Marriage redefiners rarely state the heart of their contention, implicit in their arguments, that sexual attraction is a fundamental and necessary condition of marriage.

I sometimes point out that strictly speaking, the marriage laws do not "discriminate" against any individuals on the basis of sexual orientation. Marriage license applications do not inquire, and have never inquired, as to the "sexual orientation" of the prospective spouses. A homosexual man is completely free to get married--as long as he marries a woman. A lesbian is completely free to marry--as long as she marries a man. There is no facial discrimination at all.

Some people may feel that such an argument borders on the absurd. After all, who would want to marry someone they're not sexually attracted to? However, the legal and political issue at the heart of the debate over redefining marriage is not, "Why does any one individual or couple choose to marry?" The key question is, "Why does the government treat marriage as a public institution in the first place, rather than as a purely private relationship?"

From a legal perspective, however, the idea of same-sex-attracted persons marrying someone of the opposite sex is absurd only if sexual attraction is bedrock essential for a "marriage" to exist. And sexual attraction is only essential to marriage if we assume that the public purpose of marriage is to promote relationships that bring the maximum sexual pleasure to the spouses.

The idea that the government should (let alone that it is constitutionally required to) promote relationships that provide sexual pleasure above other relationships that involve "love" and "commitment" is truly absurd.

The fact that marriage redefiners think marriage is only about sex is illustrated in a backhanded way by their reaction to another pro-family argument against such redefinition. We have raised a slippery slope argument--that if "love and commitment" are the only things essential for marriage, then there would be no reason why polygamous or incestuous relationships (as long as they are between consenting adults) should not also enjoy the legal designation of "marriage."

Most advocates of marriage redefinition sputter and howl at such accusations, and vehemently deny them. But why? I think the answer is simple--there remains a strong taboo against sexual relations between close blood relatives, and a stigma still attaches to simultaneous sexual relationships with multiple partners. In other words, it is not that these groupings cannot share love, commitment, living quarters, mutual caring, finances, and even raise children--it is that society still does not believe that such relationships should be sexual and therefore does not believe that they should be called "marriages."

Homosexual activists do not want the citizenry (or judiciary) to closely examine this logic, however, because they aim to convince people (and judges in particular) that moral disapproval of their sexual conduct is an illegitimate basis for denying them "marriage."

The assumption that marriage is about sexual attraction is vulnerable to the exact same challenges as the argument that marriage is about procreation:

  • Marriage-license applications do not inquire as to whether the spouses are sexually attracted to one another.
  • Couples intending marriage are not required to declare, nor to prove, that they find one another sexually attractive.
  • The government does not inquire of married couples whether they are sexually active. Couples are legally permitted to abstain from sex and still remain married.
  • Some couples may find that their sexual attraction wanes over the years, but they are still permitted to remain married.
  • Some couples (particularly elderly ones) may marry more for non-sexual love and companionship than for sex.
  • Couples that are incapable of sexual intercourse--due to, say, physical disability--are still permitted to marry.

The Supreme Court has found that there is a "fundamental right to marry" even for people who will never be able to consummate those marriages--such as prisoners who are allowed no conjugal visits.

Historically, legal marriages have occurred for all kinds of reasons other than sexual attraction--by parental arrangement, and for social, economic and political reasons.

In light of all these facts, it's perfectly clear: Marriage cannot be about sexual attraction!

Does this argument sound silly? Of course it does--just like the argument that the military does not exist to fight wars. But neither argument is any sillier than the argument that "marriage is not about procreation." Why? Because the existence of exceptions does not disprove the rule.

Most service members must be prepared to either serve in, or in support of, combat operations. Most people will choose to marry someone they find sexually attractive. And most married couples either will have, are raising, or have had children.

The difference between these examples is that there is a clear public interest in being prepared to fight our nation's enemies, and there is a clear public interest in the creation and nurture of the next generation. However, it is far less clear that there is a public interest in encouraging relationships whose primary purpose is sexual satisfaction for the partners. If there is anything that libertarians should want to keep the government out of, it's that!

To summarize: Advocates for redefining marriage say that homosexual relationships should be legally recognized because like heterosexual marriages, they involve "love" and "commitment." But this cannot be their only motive, because they do not propose to define all relationships that involve "love" and "commitment" as "marriages." Instead, homosexual activist want their sexual attractions to be recognized as equivalent to heterosexual attractions.

Yes, marriage is about sex--but the primary public interest in sex lies in the fact that it leads to procreation.

Individual exceptions do not nullify this rule, but changing the very definition of marriage would, to the harm of children and society.

Peter Sprigg is senior Fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.

Peter Sprigg Featured Opinion Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:00:00 -0400
Secretary Kerry, There's No Excuse for Your Hot-Mic Criticisms of Israel

When Secretary of State John Kerry criticized Israel's military operations in Gaza by calling them a "hell of a pinpoint operation," he not only validated Hamas's human-shield strategy, he handed Hamas a key propaganda victory.

And he had no excuse for doing so.

Unlike the vast majority of Americans—including a vast majority of Americans in "public service"—Kerry has actual combat experience. He's fully aware of the enormous destructive capability of a modern military, and he's thus fully aware of what a truly unrestrained Israeli military operation would look like.

Further, as a senior leader in the Obama administration, he's aware—or should be aware—of our own rules of engagement and conduct in urban operations in Fallujah, Tal Afar, Najaf and other recent urban fights. If he is aware, he'd know that the Israelis often take even greater precautions that our own military does to limit civilian casualties.

The fact that he made such a statement on a day when 13 Israeli soldiers (two of them American citizens) died engaged in operations rendered far more dangerous because of the care Israel takes to avoid needless death only compounds Kerry's error.

Here is a basic, undeniable fact: If Israel (or for that matter, America) showed anything approaching the same disregard for human life that its enemies do, then Gaza would be in flames from end to end. While the explosions and gunfire on television look impressive to the untrained, inexperienced observer, they represent the tiniest fraction of the full power of Israel's military.

Israeli soldiers—like American soldiers—voluntarily place themselves in harm's way again and again to kill terrorists and only terrorists. The jihadists try as hard as they can again and again to make sure that Israeli soldiers kill civilians and only civilians. 

Tonight, there are dozens of Israeli families suffering the ultimate anguish of the loss of a child. Many of those families know that if their military had exerted even a fraction more of its power, their kids would not have been directly in harm's way. I can only pray that those families take solace in their sons' courage, both physical and moral, as they gave the ultimate sacrifice in part to protect not just their own country but also to protect Palestinians from Hamas.

The anguish felt by these Israeli families has been shared by thousands of American families, as our own sons and daughters have died protecting Iraqi and Afghan civilians. 

Kerry knows these facts, yet he still focuses his anger on Israel and not on the designated terrorist organization that views each civilian death as a tactical victory. This anger betrays his own fundamental failings, not Israel's.

David French is a Senior Counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice. This article is cross-posted on National Review.

David French Featured Opinion Wed, 23 Jul 2014 17:00:00 -0400
Iraq's Christians 'Systematically Targeted for Extinction'

Congressman Frank Wolf, R-Va., told Congress Tuesday Iraqi Christians are facing a "genocide" and horrific crimes against humanity.

Wolf said the so-called Islamic State terrorist group "is systematically targeting Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq for extinction."

Hundreds of Christians have been fleeing from Mosul, Iraq's second biggest city. Last week the Islamist group gave Christians three choices: convert to Islam, pay the jizyah tax required of non-Muslims or face execution.

Meanwhile, IS insurgents stole nearly everything from the Christians they threatened to kill.

Those who fled had to to leave most of their belongings behind. Then gunmen at checkpoints set up by the IS stole most of what they managed to take along.

"Where is the Obama administration?" Wolf asked, citing a letter sent to the president by Congress in June.

"The Obama administration has to make protecting this ancient community a priority. It needs to encourage the Kurds to do what they can protect those fleeing ISIS and provide safe refuge. It needs to ensure that of the resources going to the region, a portion be guaranteed to help the Christian community," the letter stated.

"The time to act is now," Wolf said, noting this past Sunday was the first one in 1,600 years without a Christian Mass in Mosul.

On Sunday, jihadists seized the 1,800-year old Mar Behnam Monastery, about 15 miles south of Mosul. The resident clergymen fled to the nearby city of Qaraqoush.

"Even here in Qaraqoush, we do not feel safe because IS militants are only few kilometers away," said Father Sherbil Issou, a priest who fled Mosul.

Noel Ibrahim, who fled the city with his family last week, said IS gunmen stopped cars and stole cash and gold jewelry from the women.

"One of the gunmen told us, 'You can leave now, but do not ever dream of returning to Mosul again,'" Ibrahim said.

CBN News Featured World News Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:00:00 -0400
'Porn Is Not Manly,' Says 'Marriage Rebranded' Author

A writer who focuses on marriage has plenty to say about how pornography affects relationships in a new blog post titled, "Nine Reasons Men Should Stay Away From Porn" on

"Pornography has little to do with sex and everything to do with fantasy," writes Tyler Ward, a happily married man and father of two. "And if not confronted, this addiction to fantasy can become a consuming fire threatening all quality of life."

The author—who recently released the book, Marriage Rebranded: Modern Misconceptions & the Unnatural Art of Loving Another Person—argues that porn is not manly, even though conquering a woman on-screen may make men feel that way in their minds.

"Real sex involves you," Ward points out. "All of your fears. All of your insecurities. All of your capacity to give. It also involves another very real person. All her needs. All of her baggage. All of her propensity to judge you and hurt your dignity."

He continues: "Porn requires no work, no sacrifice and no maturity. Real sex in marriage requires you to risk, to be vulnerable, to give yourself fully to another person. This kind of intimacy is not for boys. It's for men only."

Ward lists eight other reasons to stay away from porn, including that it "makes you unhappy and bored."

He quotes Pornified author Pamela Paul, who says, "Pornography leaves men desensitized to both outrage and to excitement, leading to an overall diminishment of feeling and eventually to dissatisfaction with the emotional tugs of everyday life ... Eventually they are left with a confusing mix of super-sized expectations and numbed emotions ... and become imbued with indifference. The real world often gets really boring."

Ward also says porn has a neutering effect, doesn't make friends, is a professional liability, hurts your significant other, and will turn you into "that guy."

"You know 'that guy,'" he explains. "Most crowds have at least one. He's the one who cares about no one but himself. He sees you and all others as commodities to be used, not people to be cared for. No matter how much you can't stand 'that guy,' as long as you continue to dabble in porn, you run the risk of becoming him."

His last two points argue that porn "will never actually do it for you," and that it will kill your relationship.

"In the eight reasons above," Ward concludes, "we've looked to science, social studies and history to witness the effects that pornography has on those who entertain it. We've seen that it kills everything long-term love is built on: human connection, trust and self-sacrifice. It's no wonder, then, that at least 56 percent of divorce cases today involve one party who compulsively visits pornographic websites.

"Your marriage may survive your habit for a period of time. However, if you continue to choose fantasy over reality, it will inevitably destroy your ability to love your wife."

Gina Meeks Featured Culture Wed, 23 Jul 2014 15:00:00 -0400
Sudan Playing Games Over Death-Row Mom Meriam Ibrahim's Release

Conflicting reports have emerged regarding the current status of Sudan's "death-row mother" Meriam Ibrahim's lack of freedom to leave Khartoum for a new life with her husband and children at his American home.

On Thursday Reuters reported that the lawsuit brought by Ibrahim's Sudanese Muslim father was dropped. The lawyer handling the case said this move could allow her to depart for the United States—where her husband, Daniel, is a dual U.S. citizen.

Then Sudan Tribune reported on Friday that Ibrahim's family filed another lawsuit, this time seeking to annul her marriage to her Christian husband, Wani. This is a continued attempt to keep her from leaving Sudan, and an annulment of Wani and Ibrahim's marriage would also mean the children would not be legally recognized as Wani's children.

Early last week, Ibrahim's family filed a lawsuit seeking to prove the biological link between Ibrahim and her Muslim father, but the suit was dropped without explanation by the family. A lawyer acting on their behalf, Abdel Rahman Malek, told Reuters news agency: "We are no longer proceeding with the lawsuit," but declined to give any reason.

The first scheduled hearing of the case would have been Thursdayat the Khartoum Family Court.

The U.S. Department of State has told World Watch Monitor that, "the government of Sudan has assured us of the family's continued safety." It went on to say in an email, "The Department of Homeland Security has informed us that Ms. Ishag [Meriam Ibrahim] and her children have all the documents they need to enter the United States as soon as the government of Sudan allows them to exit the country."

It was relatives of Meriam who originally accused her of adultery by marrying a Christian.  

WWM has several times reported the story of her death sentence from the court in Khartoum and its world-wide condemnation; we have also highlighted the general plight of Sudan's Christians.

Ibrahim's harrowing journey began with arrest in September 2013 before being found guilty of apostasy, sentenced to hang and then giving birth to her second child while imprisoned. She was finally freed on  June 26 and is now staying at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum.

Ibrahim and her family are living in a makeshift home sleeping on four camp beds in the Embassy's library. Despite these cramped conditions, her stay has prevented the Sudanese court from serving papers, which could have contributed to the breakdown of the latest case against her.

The Sudanese government does not appear to have formally dropped its accusation of "incorrect travel documents." Ibrahim is a Sudanese citizen, but the U.S. Embassy assisted her to try to leave Khartoum using South Sudanese travel papers, as her South Sudanese husband, Daniel Wani, now lives in the U.S.). Ibrahim was allowed to leave police custody after a brief detention on June 26 over the alleged "forged" papers.

Further good news for Ibrahim's family was recently reported by the U.K.'s Daily Mail—that her baby girl was not injured, despite being born while her mother was shackled to the floor.

Ibrahim, herself a doctor, feared that being constrained during birth could cause irreparable damage to her daughter, Maya. It was feared that, like her father Daniel who has muscular dystrophy, she might not be able to walk. An ultrasound in the coming weeks is hoped to give Maya the all clear.

World Watch Monitor Featured World News Wed, 23 Jul 2014 14:00:00 -0400
Vikings Coach Suspended for 'Homophobic' Remark

The Minnesota Vikings suspended special teams coordinator Mike Priefer for three games without pay on Friday after an independent investigation revealed he used homophobic remarks during the 2012 NFL season.

Former punter Chris Kluwe made allegations against Priefer earlier this year. The investigation found Priefer made a single homophobic statement to Kluwe.

"In this instance, Coach Priefer fell short of what is expected," Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and President Mark Wilf said in a statement.

"We will continue to hold all team members accountable and take the outlined critical steps to further educate everyone within our organization both individually and collectively."

Priefer will serve the suspension during the 2014 regular season, though it could be reduced to two games if he attends individualized sensitivity training.

"I owe an apology to many people. The Wilf family, the Minnesota Vikings organization and fans, my family, the LGBT community, Chris Kluwe and anyone else that I offended with my insensitive remark," Priefer said in a statement.

"I regret what has occurred and what I said. I am extremely sorry, but I will learn from this situation and will work on educating others to create more tolerance and respect."

Kluwe had also said his activism on gay marriage had been a factor in his release from the Vikings, though the investigation said his performances and the distraction caused by his activism, rather than his actual views, were the reasons.

Reporting by Ben Everill in Los Angeles; editing by Greg Stutchbury

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Reuters Featured Culture Wed, 23 Jul 2014 13:00:00 -0400
NFL Analyst Tony Dungy's 'Gay Player' Comments Put Him in Hot Water

NFL television analyst and former coach Tony Dungy backed off on Tuesday from comments he "wouldn't want to deal with" the diversions arising from drafting the league's first openly gay player, saying he was referring to media attention surrounding such a move.

Dungy, who was head coach of the Indianapolis Colts when they won the Super Bowl in 2007 and previously coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, had aroused criticism over the remark about defensive end Michael Sam, which was published in the Tampa Bay Tribune on Sunday.

"I wouldn't have taken him," Dungy told the paper. "Not because I don't believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn't want to deal with all of it."

"It's not going to be totally smooth ... things will happen," he added.

In a statement on the NBC sports website on Tuesday seeking to clarify his remarks, Dungy said the increased media attention, not Sam's sexual orientation, would be a distraction for his teammates and team management.

"I was not asked whether I would have a problem having Michael Sam on my team. I would not," the statement said.

"I do, however, believe that the media attention that comes with it will be a distraction. Unfortunately we are all seeing this play out now, and I feel badly that my remarks played a role in the distraction," he wrote.

Sam, who was drafted in May by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round, could become the league's first openly gay player if he makes the team's 53-man regular-season roster this summer. He was the Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year and announced in February he is gay.

Reporting by Curtis Skinner in New York; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Peter Cooney

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Reuters Featured Culture Wed, 23 Jul 2014 12:00:00 -0400
Oklahoma Teen Charged With Raping Missionary Children

An Oklahoma teenager is charged with traveling to Kenya to sexually abuse children at a missionary children's home in the East African country, prosecutors said on Tuesday.

According to records released by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma, Matthew Lane Durham, 19, volunteered at the Upendo Children's Home in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, which helps care for neglected and disabled children.

It said Durham, of Edmond, visited the home first in 2012, then twice last year, and from April to June of this year. During his latest trip, it said, he stayed at the home in an "overflow bunk," rather than off-site with a sponsor family.

According to the criminal affidavit, from April to June, Durham allegedly engaged in sexual acts with multiple children, male and female, aged between 4 and 10 years old.

A live-in caretaker at the facility, which was set up by an Edmond citizen who immigrated to the United States from Kenya, said that, when asked, the children said Durham either touched them sexually or told them to touch themselves while he watched.

When confronted by the founder of Upendo and several church members, Durham allegedly confessed to several instances of rape and sexual abuse of children, the affidavit said, adding that at least one of the victims is HIV-positive.

Durham was arrested on July 17 and appeared before a judge in Oklahoma City on Friday. He is held without bond and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 1.

If convicted, Durham faces up to life in prison. 

Robert Troester of the U.S. Attorney's office said Durham will be tried in Oklahoma City. He said he could not comment on whether Kenya might try to extradite the teen to face criminal charges in that country.

Reporting by Heide Brandes; Editing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Sandra Maler

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Heide Brandes/Reuters Featured U.S. News Wed, 23 Jul 2014 11:00:00 -0400
Radical Muslims Invade Monastery, Steal 'Everything' From Iraqi Christians

After every known Christian is reported to have left Mosul, Islamic State fighters, IS, have now taken over a monastery near the largely Christian town of Qaraqosh, 32 miles southeast of Mosul.

According to Agence France Presse IS expelled its three resident monks, a cleric and a few families living there, ordering them to leave on foot with nothing but their clothes.

Members of the self-proclaimed "Islamic Caliphate" stormed the ancient 4th-century monastery Mar (Saint) Behnam, run by the Syriac Catholic church on Sunday, July 20.

"You have no place here anymore, you have to leave immediately," a member of the Syriac clergy quoted the Sunni militants as telling the monastery's residents.

According to AFP, the monks walked several miles before being picked up by armed Kurdish fighters who drove them to Qaraqosh.

The BBC reported that Syriac Catholic leaders have said priceless manuscripts, about both the history of Iraq and the church, are now at risk in the monastery.

Militants of IS are reported to have killed Dr. Mahmoud Al-Asali, a professor of law at the University of Mosul on Monday.

According to, Al-Asali, a Muslim, was killed for objecting to IS looting and destroying Iraqi Christians' possessions in Mosul, but WWM could not independently verify this.

The office and residence of the Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Yohanna Petros Moshe (in one building) has been burned down.

He is now in Qaraqosh, where World Watch Monitor spoke to him: "My concern now is how to feed and shelter all the people who have fled," he told us.

Syrian Catholic priest Nizar Semaan, who works with Archbishop Moshe, said to Agenzia Fides that the international community has a "disturbing passivity to what is happening in that area."

Semaan continued, "For example, the time has come to include these groups in the list of terrorist organizations condemned by international bodies, and above all it is necessary to make public the names of the countries and forces that finance them. Intelligence agencies and the governments of various countries certainly know where certain weapons and money, that keep these groups going, come from. It would be enough to stop the flow for a month, and these groups would not have any more force."

He also said it is necessary to involve leaders and followers of Sunni Islam in an effort to isolate the jihadist groups.

IS demands Christians convert to Islam, pay a fine or face death. On Friday, the al-Qaida splinter group IS issued an ultimatum to Iraqi Christians living in Mosul. They said by Saturday at noon (Iraqi time) they must convert to Islam, pay a fine or face "death by the sword."

According to CNN, the IS-appointed governor of Mosul, Salman al-Farisi, declared that any family choosing to stay in Mosul and refusing to convert to Islam would be required to pay 550,000 Iraqi dinars (about $470).

The people who decided to leave, out of fear or an inability to pay the fine, were prohibited from taking with them anything but the clothes they were wearing, and a total of 52 Christian families left Mosul early Saturday morning.

"They told us, 'You are to leave all of your money, gold, jewelry and go out with only the clothes on you,'" Wadie Salim told CNN. Other sources told World Watch Monitor everything had been taken from them at the checkpoints, even including medicines.

On Saturday, Chaldean patriarch Louis Sako, told AFP: "Christian families are on their way to Dohuk and Erbil" in Kurdistan. Bishop Yosip Benjamin in the neighbouring town of Tel Keif, told The Telegraph, "We're providing people with shelter, food and water ... they can't travel without the money to buy tickets." And he said Tel Keif's residents were fearful of suffering the same fate as their Mosul neighbors.

UNICEF confirmed the Christians' exodus from Mosul: Dr. Marzio Babille is its Iraq Representative. "Most of (them) are moving towards the towns of Tilkif, Batnaya and Alqosh. Forty families have moved to the east, towards Qaraqosh, and 30 have been accepted in the province of Dohuk. Twenty families have reached Erbil, the capital of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, where a small reception center in collaboration with the Chaldean Archdiocese was set up."

Global Reactions to ISIS

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has issued a statement "condemning IS attacks in the strongest terms—the systematic persecution of minority populations in Iraq by the Islamic State [of Iraq and Syria] and associated armed groups."

The U.N. chief highlighted that "any systematic attack on the civilian population or segments of the civilian population, because of their ethnic background, religious beliefs or faith may constitute a crime against humanity."

Late on Monday the 15-member Security Council also "denounced the persecution of Christians and other minority groups in northern Iraq, which used to be home to minority communities that had lived together for hundreds of years before coming under direct attack by the group known as (IS) and its allies."

The U.S. State Department also "condemns in the strongest terms the systematic persecution of ethnic and religious minorities by the terrorist group [IS], adding that the U.S. government was "outraged by ISIS's recent announcement that Christians in Mosul must either convert, pay a tax, leave or face execution in the coming days."

Human Rights Watch has published a report outlining the killing, kidnapping and threatening of religious and ethnic minorities in Mosul since IS captured Iraq's second largest city on June 10.

"ISIS should immediately halt its vicious campaign against minorities in and around Mosul," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

The actions of IS, which also is involved in the Syrian insurgency, have been strongly condemned by Muslim experts. On the ground in Baghdad this Sunday, local Muslims joined Christians at a service to show their solidarity. The New York Times reported a Muslim woman sitting next to a Christian woman who was in tears, whispering to her, "You are the true original people here, and we are sorry for what has been done to you in the name of Islam."

World Watch Monitor Featured World News Wed, 23 Jul 2014 10:00:00 -0400
Israel Should Fight to Win in the Battle Against Terror

November 2012 proved to be a humiliating spectacle for Israel.

All of Israel, not to mention the thousands of reservist soldiers amassed along the Gazan border, waited anxiously for the IDF ground offensive that would stop the Hamas rocket fire once and for all. But, an unexpected press conference was held at which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced their acceptance of an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire arrangement before the ground operation had even begun. The streets of Gaza were filled with the haters of Israel celebrating the Israeli retreat with "victory candy" being handed out in the streets.

Two years later, there are hundreds of rockets being fired daily, now with a range that is reaching all major Israeli cities. With tensions again rising along the Gazan border because of the open-ended Israeli ground offensive, and with tens of thousands of reservists being called up, the question must once again be asked of our political leadership: Will the job be done properly this time? 

By now, it should be clear to all that no Israeli offensive will be successful unless:

  • All arms-smuggling tunnels are completely destroyed.
  • Israel retakes the strategic Philadelphi Corridor, along the border with Egypt.
  • All bomb factories and warehouses are totally destroyed.
  • All Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah weapons are confiscated.

While those are the minimal requirements for any Israeli offensive to be considered a victory, there are other goals that would certainly be advisable, such as:

1. Totally eliminate the Palestinian Authority as a political force that Israel foolishly accepts as a "peace partner."

2. Confiscate all weapons in Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem—including Islamic Jihad, Hamas and its unity government partner Fatah, as well.

3. Take full control of Gaza and reestablish the formerly thriving Jewish communities in place of the rocket launchers now occupying that sacred ground.

4. Launch a major public relations offensive, unapologetically explaining our justification for this offensive, followed by Israeli resolve to ignore those who refuse to accept our absolutely legitimate explanations.

Last but not least, we must all be united in prayer for the success of this operation. If we are strong and courageous and allow our soldiers to fight in the spirit of Joshua, the battle will be won. If not, the candy will again be distributed in the streets of Gaza as the missiles fall on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

David Rubin is former mayor of Shiloh, Israel. He is founder and president of Shiloh Israel Children's Fund and the author of several books, including Peace for Peace and The Islamic Tsunami. He can be found at or at

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David Rubin Featured Opinion Wed, 23 Jul 2014 09:00:00 -0400
4 Eating Habits That Sap Your Energy Fast

Energy is essential to survive our hectic lifestyles and to enjoy them too. But, the bitter fact is that most of us have just enough energy to get through the day.

Catering to the many needs of fulfilling various duties during the day, you may be left with absolutely no energy to look after your children, have fun with your family, and devote time to your favorite hobbies.

Working women are highly affected because they are required to balance their work, home, and family. When inquired as to how they cope with their daily routine, most working women answered that they feel as they are left with only one-third of the energy to manage their duties. The lack of energy and all day fatigue has even caused them to lose the zeal to live life to the fullest.

According to them, they are doing all the things perfectly such as eating a healthy diet containing whole foods; consuming sufficient fluids and water to stay hydrated; and sleeping adequately to remain energetic, but something is still lacking. On further investigation, it was found that they are habitually choosing the wrong foods and those culprit foods were draining their overall energy.

If you also feel that you do not remain energetic the whole day in spite of paying attention to your diet, then you must be eating energy-sapping foods. Below are listed some of the common mistakes people commit regarding their food habits:

1. Binging on too many carbohydrates and avoiding proteins. The obsession with eating excessive carbs is slowly and gradually dying among healthy and sensible eaters. Though you are strictly avoiding starch carbs such as potatoes and breads, you are still missing out on something that you should not include overly in your diet. Eating fruits and vegetables is great for your health, but taking them solely for breakfast or lunch is doing you more harm than good.

You may not realize, but your body needs protein for conserving energy and preventing blood sugar crashes that often occur from consuming excessive carbohydrates. Yes, here we are talking about fruits and vegetables, and they are carbohydrates. Experts advise people to include a healthy protein shake with their breakfast for controlling blood sugar levels all day long and for keeping their energy intact.

A healthier way to start your day is by drinking a gluten, soy, and dairy free protein shake along with a high quality protein powder, which should be preferably prepared from pea protein, chia, or rice. In case you don't like protein shakes, you may consider eating two egg whites, some turkey sausages or another food rich in protein (at least 20 grams) before leaving your home in the morning.

The breakfast of a typical American involves muffins, bagels, and croissants; these usually drain their energy and cause them to snack more after a few hours. These extra snacks do the same—'sap your energy!'

2. You are not eating frequently. People who skip meals and remain without food for several hours usually put their body at stress. During your hectic day, it is not a choice but a necessity to have a hearty breakfast or healthy lunch to keep you energetic.

When individuals do not eat every three to four hours, their blood sugar level declines, which in turn is considered a crisis by your body and it slows down its working. In order to maintain your blood sugar level, your body triggers your adrenal glands to secrete more amounts of cortisol that work to increase your blood sugar.

It is natural to feel drained out, fatigued, and exhausted when your body uses cortisol reserve to manage your blood sugar level. So, don't mess up with your body. Ensure to include healthy meals at least three times and snacks two times a day to keep your energy at peak for the entire day.

3. Having no allergies does not guarantee that all foods are good for you. Even if you are not dealing with celiac disease (allergies to certain foods such as gluten) you can still have a negative response to some types of foods. This is because food allergies are different from food sensitivities. If your lips don't plump after eating certain foods or you are found to be free of allergies, this does not mean that every food you eat is safe for consumption.

You will experience gas, abdominal pain, or bloating after some time of consuming foods you are sensitive to. Other reactions that you may suffer from are joint pain, skin disorders such as acne, stubborn weight, and fatigue. All of these symptoms may not appear immediately, but slowly, which leaves you with no clue why you feel dreadful and low in energy most of the time.

Dairy and gluten are two of the most common food products that cause food sensitivities. Gluten sensitivity is very common these days and causes various symptoms such as migraine headaches, bloating, and brain fog. It may even stimulate the onset of autoimmune diseases in a few rare cases.

Dairy can also cause most of these symptoms along with the drop in your energy level. You need to remember that in spite of avoiding the consumption of milk or yogurt, you may still consume them in various other forms. For instance, dairy-based additives such as casein and whey snuck are contained in food products like canned chicken broth, chip dip, and thickened soups and sauces.

To ensure that you are not suffering from gluten and dairy sensitivities, try eliminating gluten and dairy foods for a week and notice how you feel.

4. You think sugar only makes you fat. We are all aware of the fact that sugar is deposited in the body as fat. This is why when one plans to lose weight, he avoids sugary foods. Well, statistics indicate that the average American consumes at least 25 teaspoons of sugar every day 'unknowingly.' You may be amazed to learn, but sugar is present in almost every type of food such as salad dressing, granola bars, ketchup, as well as hamburger buns. Moreover, lots of organic foods are bursting with various kinds of sugar like dates, molasses, and honey.

Sugar in any form is not healthy for your body since it causes your blood sugar to spike and crash, which in turns leads to a quick decline in your energy level. It also stimulates your probability of becoming diabetic or insulin resistant in the long run. Be sure to go through the ingredient label carefully before purchasing any food product. If the amount of sugar is more than six grams, ditch that product.

It is important to note that when you are tempted to eat anything sugary, it means that you are low in blood sugar. In such cases, it is recommended having an apple along with some almonds or almond butter.

Eating the right kinds of foods at the recommended times can drastically change the way you feel while helping you easily deal with the challenges that each day stores for you. If you are ready to change some of your old eating habits, then you can feel more concentrated and energetic than ever before.

Don Colbert, M.D. has been board certified in Family Practice for over 25 years and practices anti-aging and Integrative medicine. He is a New York Times Bestselling author of books such as The Bible Cure Series, What Would Jesus Eat, Deadly Emotions, What You Don't Know May be Killing You, and many more with over 10 million books sold. He is the Medical Director of the Divine Health Wellness Center in Orlando, Florida where he has treated over 50,000 patients. He is also a internationally known expert and prolific speaker on Integrative Medicine.

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Don Colbert, M.D. Featured Opinion Wed, 23 Jul 2014 08:00:00 -0400
Should Public Schools Spare the Rod?

The use of corporal punishment on disobedient students—commonly known as paddling—will be banned this coming school year in three counties in Florida and two in North Carolina.

That still leaves hundreds of school districts in the 19 states where the practice is still legal.

As the number of studies showing the negative effects that corporal punishment can have on children has increased, the number of students paddled in public schools nationally has decreased—going from 342,038 in 2000 to 217,814 in 2009-10, according to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.

Studies have shown that in states where paddling is allowed, it's used disproportionately on minority students and those with mental, physical and emotional disabilities.

A 2008 Human Rights Watch report found that although African-American students made up 17.1 percent of the student population nationwide, they comprised 35.6 percent of those paddled. The report also notes that children with disabilities in Texas made up 10.7 percent of the student population in the 2006-07 school year but accounted for 18.4 percent of those paddled.

Efforts to ban paddling at the state and national levels have made little progress.

"Most people don't even know that corporal punishment is still going on in this country," said Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., who has introduced a bill in Congress to ban the practice in public schools each year since 2010. "It's not just harmful physically but also psychologically. There are so many other ways of handling discipline."

Although McCarthy's legislation has repeatedly stalled, policies are changing at the district level. Superintendent Mark Garrett said McDowell County, in North Carolina's southern Appalachian Mountains region, banned corporal punishment this spring to protect students.

"As we learned more about the effect corporal punishment has on kids, we knew we had to change our policies," Garrett said. "It's always better to be on the proactive side."

Paddling still goes on in too many areas, most of them rural, said James McNulty, founder of Floridians Against Corporal Punishment in Public School.

"In the places where it goes on, it's out of control," McNulty said.

In southeast Georgia's Coffee County, Superintendent Morris Leis said his school district allows paddling because it's an effective form of punishment.

"We won't paddle a student if a parent doesn't want us to, but we don't get a lot of complaints," he said.

Tim Wyrosdick, the superintendent in Santa Rosa County, Fla., said paddling was "very popular" among the majority of parents there. But the county banned the practice in June after parents accused three teachers who had administered corporal punishment of mistreating their children.

"We made the decision to protect the teachers," Wyrosdick said. "Parents would agree to the paddling and then change their minds. It was putting the teachers in an unfair position."

Mississippi, Texas and Alabama are among the states with the most students being paddled in school—with more than 100,000 incidents reported in the three states in 2009-10, according to the Office of Civil Rights.

George Holden, a psychology professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said those numbers are mostly coming from smaller, rural districts. He said the practice is banned in Texas' largest cities: Houston, San Antonio and Dallas.

Holden described paddling as counterproductive, saying it doesn't lead to students' changing their behavior in the long term.

"It makes students angry, less likely to communicate with teachers and less motivated to succeed," he said.

Julie Worley, a parent of three in Houston County, Tennessee, west of Nashville, agrees. She said she's been fighting corporal punishment in her district since 2008, when her seventh-grade son was threatened with paddling.

"This is about our children's basic human rights," Worley said. "Study after study has shown the mental trauma that paddling causes. There needs to be federal legislation."

Deborah Sendek, program director of the Center for Effective Discipline, which seeks to abolish corporal punishment in U.S. schools, said the potential for injury shouldn't be downplayed.

"We teach educators how to manage a playground, oversee a cafeteria and teach a curriculum," Sendek said. "But there's no one teaching you the 'right' way to hit a kid."

Anti-paddling activists say that even if parents object, teachers who use corporal punishment often have immunity from legal prosecution.

The parents of Trey Clayton sought legal help when their son fainted and fell—fracturing his jaw and five teeth—after being paddled by the assistant principal of his Mississippi high school in March 2011.

"If the parents had done this, they would be behind bars and probably never see him again," said Joseph Murray, an attorney who represents Clayton's family.

But Murray said that both the district-level court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit have rejected the argument that Clayton's constitutional rights were violated.​

Rachel Chason writes for USA Today.

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

Rachel Chason/USA Today Featured U.S. News Wed, 23 Jul 2014 07:00:00 -0400
Yes, Christians Spew the Most 'Hateful Internet Speech'

When it comes to hateful Internet speech, Christians are the worst. That's the headline of an article by Washington Post columnist and OnFaith founder Sally Quinn. If the headline didn't get your attention, the teaser for the op-ed might. It reads: "Thanks to horrible Christian comments online, I realized there's a big difference between being Christian and following Jesus."

"The first hate emails I received were horrible. They did not just attack what I wrote—which was usually about spirituality more than religion—but were also vicious ad hominem attacks. I can't tell you how many people wrote in to say that I was a whore and a slut and so much worse that I can't even write it here," Quinn writes.

"And these all came from Christians. I was going to hell. I had made a pact with the devil. Jesus and God hated me. One man wrote that he hoped I would get in a car accident, that the gas tank would explode and I would be burned alive. He was a God-fearing Christian, and he ascertained that I obviously was not one."

I couldn't agree more. It seems Quinn and I share a similar experience: hatred spewing from the keyboards of commenters who claim to be Christians. I can't judge anyone's salvation from a comment board, but I can attest to the vile vitriol that plagues my inbox, my Facebook page, and many of my articles.

Although many of the comments are coming from atheists and radical gay activists who want me to shut up, a startling number of nasty emails and comments come from people who call themselves Christians. I've received the same types of feedback from Christians that Quinn has, attacking the way I look, suggesting God was going to slam the gates of heaven in my face, condemning me to hell, and the list goes on.

Just this past weekend, a man on my Facebook page went on a rant because I dared to suggest that there is hope for America. Making it known that he was trying to "rebuke me as gently as possible," this so-called "watchman" wrote:

"If you claim to be a prophet and you are telling American Christians that there is still hope for this country, you are a false prophet. The Lord has not spoken to you, or you have not been able to hear what He is saying. The true prophets of God know that for the last twenty years (at least) the only hope for anyone in this country was for their own salvation and perhaps they could even dare to have hope for their life. The nation has been under assured judgment—judgment that has already "gone out"—judgment that cannot be reversed. NOT because America's wickedness is so great—although it is, but because this is what the LORD has SAID to those who are willing and able to hear. To continue to offer hope in the name of the Lord for America's survival is to do more than just miss it, it is evil and a sure sign of a false prophet and a deceiver. Repent of your self-aggrandizing soulish 'prophecies.' Perhaps the Lord will have mercy on you."

I've decided to do what Quinn does and not read the comments. (So if you are planning to send me a nasty email, save your time. I'm not going to read it.) Sure, I accidentally stumble upon some of the nasty slime now and again, but overall I hit the "delete" button. The late Steve Hill counseled me not to allow the enemy to plant those seeds in my soul and to continue charging forward in the name of Jesus, and that's just what I'm doing.

I can only draw the same conclusion that Quinn did: "I began to see that there is a big difference between being Christian and following the teachings of Jesus. In fact, sometimes those two things can be polar opposites. Our Christian haters clearly paid little attention to Jesus." Amen.

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

Jennifer LeClaire Featured Watchman on the Wall Opinion Wed, 23 Jul 2014 06:00:00 -0400
President Obama, You Have Crossed a Dangerous, Unprecedented Line

Dear Mr. President, I write to you today as a concerned citizen of our great nation, standing as a witness against your historic actions on the morning of July 21, 2014, actions which I hope you will one day repudiate with deep remorse and regret.

I am referring, of course, to your signing an executive order Monday banning "discrimination" by federal contractors against LGBT people, allowing for no religious exemptions of any kind.

This was an outrageous act of discrimination against religion in the name of anti-discrimination—an act of bullying people of faith in the name of the prevention of bullying.

How can you, as a man who professes to be a person of faith and a follower of Jesus, throw religious Americans—in particular Christians—under the bus?

How can you attempt to force Christians, Jews, Muslims and others to violate fundamental aspects of their moral codes in order to appease a small but powerful special interest group, one that is not, in fact, suffering daily economic hardship by being fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation or expression?

Have you forgotten entirely that our nation was founded on the concept of religious freedom?

It was unfortunate that you did not reflect on the recent Supreme Court decisions that made clear that you and your administration have consistently overstepped your bounds. Instead, once again, you bypassed the will of the people, as reflected in their elected officials, and simply made a decision affecting millions of Americans.

Worse still, you ignored the appeals of trusted religious leaders, some of whom campaigned for you in the past and others of whom have been among your trusted advisors, deciding instead to side with radical LGBT activism.

These leaders made a righteous and reasonable appeal to you, writing, "Mr. President, you have spoken eloquently of your commitment to protecting religious liberty, our nation's first freedom. As you seek to promote the rights of LGBT persons, please also protect the rights of faith-based organizations that simply desire to utilize staffing practices consistent with their deep religious convictions as they partner with the federal government via contracting or subcontracting."

In response, you mocked these "deep religious convictions," and there are no words you can say to minimize the seriousness of your actions.

Mr. President, what was wrong with letting Congress make an informed decision on ENDA? Do you scorn the political process so much that you bypass it entirely?

You stated that, "I'm going to do what I can, with the authority I have, to act," but the implications of your actions are massive.

An organization like Prison Reform, which utilizes federal funds to help transform the lives of inmates, would suffer dramatic financial setbacks should they simply refuse to hire individuals who violate their time-proven, biblically based code of conduct.

Children supported by World Vision, with the help of federal funds, would be deprived of food and shelter unless World Vision leaders compromised their Christian convictions. (After much soul searching this year, they have made clear that they will not compromise).

Fine Christian universities, which provide important academic and ethical training for the next generation of leaders and which are also the recipients of federal funding, could suffer a massive blow unless they forsake the faith on which their institutions were built.

Mr. President, must you now even take the place of God and tell Christians what they can and cannot actively practice?

I concur with Peter Sprigg who wrote that, "This level of coercion is nothing less than viewpoint blackmail that bullies into silence every contractor and subcontractor who has moral objections to homosexual behavior. This order gives activists a license to challenge their employers and, expose those employers to threats of costly legal proceedings and the potential of jeopardizing future contracts."

In truth, this is not a civil rights issue, as if gay were the new black. As Catholic leader Austin Ruse observed, "the LGBTs are the most powerful aggrieved minority the world has ever known," while, in contrast, "Black Americans really were aggrieved: enslaved, not allowed to vote, discriminated against in housing, banking and much else, hunted down and lynched."

As our nation's first African-American president, you must surely see the difference. Or is it true, as your critics claim, that you really intend to declare war on religion in America?

It is one thing to treat all people fairly, be they male or female, gay or straight, young or old. It is another thing to trample religious freedoms under foot and to attempt to coerce, with the full force of the government, men and women of deep religious faith and commitment.

Mr. President, there are millions of Americans who pray for you on a regular basis, and I have often called on my radio listeners to pray that you would be the greatest president in American history.

Despite those prayers, you took it upon yourself to enact an order which declares that, in the workplace, sexual rights trump religious rights. What a terrible, tragic shame.

I do pray for you, sir, as my president, that God would grant you the humility to recognize the error of your ways. At the same time, I assure you that there are countless thousands of Christian leaders and people of faith who will neither abandon their convictions nor be silenced from articulating those convictions.

And so, perhaps, in God's providence, what you intended as a religious restriction will become the impetus for a religious awakening.

After all, you might well be the most powerful human being on the planet, but we will all bow down one day before the throne of God, and He will have the final say.

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

Michael Brown Featured In the Line of Fire Opinion Tue, 22 Jul 2014 09:00:00 -0400
Sign of the Times: US, Europe Halt All Flights to Israel as War Rages

U.S. air carriers Delta Air Lines, American Airlines Group and United Airlines on Tuesday halted flights to Israel under directions from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to ensure passenger safety, as turmoil in the region has intensified.

The U.S. moves were swiftly followed by flight stoppages from European carriers, including Germany's Lufthansa, Air-France and Dutch airline KLM. Air Berlin, Germany's second-largest carrier, said it halted its flights through Wednesday, citing the situation on the ground in Tel Aviv.

Norwegian Air, Europe's third-largest budget airline, is also suspending flights to Tel Aviv until further notice, a company spokeswoman told the Norwegian news agency NTB.

Scandinavian Airlines was suspending a flight from Copenhagen later on Tuesday, and another one from Stockholm scheduled for Wednesday. The airline will decide early on Wednesday whether to cancel more flights, a company spokeswoman told NTB.

The FAA said it told the U.S. carriers that they were prohibited from flying to or from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv for up to 24 hours. In a statement, the FAA said its notice, which applies only to U.S.-based airlines, was issued in response to a rocket strike which landed about a mile from the airport on Tuesday.

"The FAA immediately notified U.S. carriers when the agency learned of the rocket strike," the agency said in a statement. It also said updated instructions would be provided.

The text of the FAA notice cites "the potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict in Israel and Gaza" in prohibiting the flights by U.S. carriers.

Delta and United said in separate statements that they have suspended flights to and from Tel Aviv "until further notice." Casey Norton, a spokesman for American Airlines, also said both an inbound and outbound flight operated by its US Airways unit between Philadelphia and Tel Aviv were canceled. The flight stoppages came after Hamas, the militant group that dominates in the Gaza Strip, and its allies fired more rockets into Israel. One hit a town on the fringes of Ben-Gurion International Airport, lightly injuring two people, officials said.

Many of the airlines said customers affected by the halts could change their travel plans without penalty.

The non-U.S. airlines said their stoppages reflected safety concerns in the absence of specific directives.

"This decision was taken because of the precedence that the safety of passengers and crew takes at all airlines, even though there are currently no additional travel warnings from the relevant authorities," Lufthansa, which normally flies to Tel Aviv seven to 10 times weekly, said in a statement.

Yisrael Katz, Israel's Transportation Minister, called on airlines to return to their normal routes. "Ben Gurion is safe for takeoffs and landings and there are no security concerns for aircraft and passengers," he said in a statement. "There is no need for U.S. carriers to suspend flights and reward terrorism."

British Airways, which flies to Tel Aviv twice daily, said its flights continue to operate as normal.

Israel launched an offensive earlier in July to halt missile salvoes out of Gaza by Hamas, which was angered by a crackdown on its supporters in the occupied West Bank as well as economic hardship due to an Israeli-Egyptian blockade.

Reporting by Karen Jacobs in Atlanta, Steven Scheer in Tel Aviv, Victoria Bryan in Berlin, Thomas Escritt in Amsterdam, Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt and John Irish in Paris; editing by G Crosse

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Karen Jacobs/Reuters Featured World News Tue, 22 Jul 2014 20:00:00 -0400
Finally, the End of Obamacare Is in Sight

Tuesday's critical decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals in favor of the plaintiffs in Halbig vs. Burwell is the beginning of the end for Obamacare, says one health-care expert and patient advocate.

The ruling has far-reaching implications. The plaintiffs in the case argued that per the actual language of the Affordable Care Act, subsidies to help Americans pay for government health care coverage are available only through state exchanges, not through the federal exchange at This means that more than 5 million Americans who live in states that chose not to set up exchanges and who, therefore, purchased their coverage through the federal exchange using state subsidies may see vast changes in their premiums—or in their enrollment eligibility altogether.

Twila Brase, co-founder and president of Citizens' Council for Health Freedom, a Minnesota-based national organization dedicated to preserving patient-centered health care and protecting patient and privacy rights, says that because 36 states have declined to build and maintain a state exchange, today's decision for the plaintiffs confirms that Obamacare is unsustainable, and the only solution is full repeal.

"The administration's overreach has been curbed," Brase stated. "The justices read the law written by Congress and found that the plain reading of the text of the law says only states with state-based exchanges can offer subsidies. The IRS and the Obama administration cannot interpret law whatever way they want when the way they wrote it doesn't turn out the way they wanted it to. The law has had significant consequences for the American public. Once again, the administration's willful violation of the law has been made clear by the courts. Without the subsidies, 36 states will be free from the individual mandate and the penalties.

"This decision, although it will undoubtedly be appealed by HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell, will begin to unravel the already floundering federal health-care system," Brase added. "Law is not about arbitrary interpretations. Law is very black and white, and this court ruled correctly today in favor of the Halbig plaintiffs by standing on the letter of the law."

The case, formerly titled Halbig vs. Sebelius, listed 12 plaintiffs, including a hospital chain and a restaurant franchise, which argued that an IRS rule that allowed state subsidies to be used in the federal exchange should be null and void because it contradicts what Congress originally intended in the Affordable Care Act. The plaintiffs claim the IRS ventured out of the bounds of its legal authority when it issued the rule in the first place.

Brase went on to say that victory for Halbig means a crumbling of the infrastructure of Obamacare.

"The infrastructure is the heart and soul of Obama's health-care 'reform,'" Brase said. "The 5 million Americans affected by this decision will quickly find that they now cannot afford the high premiums of Obamacare without state subsidies. Halbig plaintiffs rightly claimed that the law allows subsidies only through a state exchange. And because the mandate and its penalties are hinged on the existence of Obamacare premium subsidies, actually called Advanced Premium Tax Credits (APTC), Halbig claimed harm done. Without subsidies, there's no mandate and no penalties.

"The authors of Obamacare thought they were being clever—twice," she continued. "First, they established the state health insurance exchanges with language making it appear as a mandate. Then because the U.S. Constitution prohibits the federal government from 'commandeering' a state through such a mandate, they created the federal exchange as a fallback position in a separate section (1321) of the law. They hoped states would accept the mandate, never see Section 1321 and forget the constitutional prohibition on commandeering. They never intended to build a federal exchange and gave themselves no money to do so. Thus, as they have testified, 30 to 40 percent of it isn't even built."

Brase added that Obamacare authors wrote that subsidies could be issued only by state-established exchanges.

"This was a bribe, however," Brase said. "If governors and state legislators agreed to build an exchange with federal dollars and then maintain it with hundreds of millions of state dollars and fees on users, the federal government would agree to give their constituents money to pay the higher cost of Obamacare coverage. But 36 states saw the trap and refused to build a state exchange. They didn't want to cede state control over health care. State exchanges are state exchanges in name only. HHS controls everything about them, and states didn't want to be on the hook for the tens to hundreds of millions of dollars it would take to run the online exchange."

As more and more states refused to build exchanges, the IRS declared an interpretation of the law that did not line up with the language of the law, Brase argued. Their rule, which was ultimately challenged by Halbig, made subsidies available from any exchange, including "a State Exchange, regional Exchange, subsidiary Exchange, and Federally-facilitated Exchange."

Currently, just 14 states have their own exchanges, and two—Oregon and Nevada—are taking steps to ditch their struggling exchanges and funnel their residents to the federal exchange at

Waiting in the wings is Pruitt vs. Burwell, a case filed by the Oklahoma attorney general, which also challenges the subsidies. One or both of the cases could end up before the Supreme Court.

Deborah Hamilton Featured U.S. News Tue, 22 Jul 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Atheists Strike Back: IRS Will Monitor Churches for 'Electioneering'

The Internal Revenue Service said it will monitor churches and other houses of worship for electioneering in a settlement reached with an atheist group.

The settlement was reached Friday in federal court in Madison, Wis., where the initial lawsuit was filed in 2012 by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based atheist-advocacy group that claims 20,000 members nationwide.

The suit alleged the IRS routinely ignored complaints by the FFRF and others about churches promoting political candidates, issues or proposed legislation. As part of their tax-exempt status, churches and other religious groups are prohibited from engaging in partisan political activity.

At the time the suit was filed, the IRS maintained it was not ignoring complaints of electioneering but had failed to hire an official to investigate church politicking, which it had been ordered to do in 2009 as the result of another lawsuit.

However, under the current congressional investigation of the IRS for improperly monitoring conservative groups, there is a moratorium on all IRS investigations. 

Indeed, in 2009, a federal court ordered the IRS to appoint a "high-ranking official" to investigate complaints of politicking by churches and other tax-exempt organizations. A spokesman for the IRS declined to comment on the settlement, saying the IRS does not comment on litigation.

Of particular concern to FFRF and other First Amendment-advocacy organizations is "Pulpit Freedom Sunday," a project of Alliance Defending Freedom, which focuses on freedom of religion issues. On Freedom Pulpit Sunday — which was last held in June 2013 with the participation of more than 1,100 churches — pastors are encouraged to advise their congregations on political matters, such as marriage and abortion rights, and even endorse or oppose candidates.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation is widely seen as the most litigious of the dozen or so national atheist-advocacy groups. It claims to have brought 40 First Amendment lawsuits since 1977 and currently is involved in legal challenges to a Ten Commandments monument, graduation prayers and a Catholic shrine on public land.

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

Kimberly Winston/RNS Featured U.S. News Tue, 22 Jul 2014 18:00:00 -0400
1 Painful Reason You May Want to Cut Back on Coffee

Acid reflux (heartburn) is triggered when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. It can make you feel as though someone has lit a small bonfire in your chest, and it's burning its way up to your neck.

GERD is short for gastroesophageal reflux disease, which is frequent heartburn that can lead to long-term problems. It can cause inflammation and strictures in your esophagus. It may even lead to cancer. There is a great deal you can do to heal this problem:

  • Limit or omit coffee and alcohol.  Caffeine and alcohol can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and induce occasional or recurring acid reflux. Drink no more than one cup of coffee a day; for some people even that is too much. Drink no more than three alcoholic drinks per week. These beverages can weaken the LES and induce occasional or recurring acid reflux.
  • Mix 1 to 2 teaspoons of Bragg's raw apple cider vinegar in water; drink 15 minutes before a meal. Many people mistakenly believe all acid reflux and indigestion is caused by an overproduction of acid. They take antacids, which can make them worse. The latest research shows it's actually the opposite for many people: There is too little acid produced to adequately digest the food eaten. Take one to two capsules of HCL Betaine with food (never on an empty stomach). This will especially help with protein digestion. HCL should never be taken by anyone who is also using any kind of anti-inflammatory medication such as corticosteroids (e.g. predisone), aspirin, Indocin, ibuprofen (e.g. Motrin, Advil, etc.) or other NSAIDS. These drugs can damage the gastrointestinal lining, and supplementary HCL might aggravate this, increasing the risk of stomach bleeding or ulcer.
  • Mix baking soda (bicarbonate of soda; don't use baking powder) to increase alkalinity at the time of reflux. One tablespoon in 6 ounces of water can give immediate relief from heartburn.
  • Increase enzymes. This can easily be done by drinking fresh vegetable juices everyday–drink two glasses per day. Also, eat more organic raw food. Raw foods are rich in enzymes.

Cherie Calbom, M.S., C.N., is the author of 24 books, including The Juice Lady's Remedies for Allergies and Asthma, The Juice Lady's Remedies for Stress and Adrenal Fatigue, The Juice Lady's Big Book of Juices and Green Smoothies and Juicing, Fasting and Detoxing for Life. She has devoted her life to teaching people how to care for their bodies so they might complete their destiny. For more information, visit her at

For the original article, visit

Cherie Calbom/M.S., C.N. Featured Opinion Tue, 22 Jul 2014 17:00:00 -0400
Head of Iraq's Largest Church: 'Islamic State Worse Than Genghis Khan'

The head of Iraq's largest church said on Sunday that Islamic State militants who drove Christians out of Mosul were worse than Mongol leader Genghis Khan and his grandson Hulagu who ransacked medieval Baghdad.

Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako led a wave of condemnation for the Sunni Islamists who demanded that Christians either convert, submit to their radical rule and pay a religious levy, or face death by the sword.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis decried what he said was the persecution of Christians in the birthplace of their faith, while U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the Islamic State's actions could constitute a crime against humanity.

Hundreds of Christian families left Mosul ahead of Saturday's ultimatum, many of them stripped of their possessions as they fled for safety. They formed the remnants of a community that once numbered in the tens of thousands and traced its presence in Mosul to the earliest years of Christianity.

People of other faiths in the once-diverse city, including Shi'ite Muslims, Yazidis and Shabaks, have also fled from the ultra-conservative militants, who have blown up mosques and shrines belonging to their rivals and seized property of fleeing minorities.

"The heinous crime of the Islamic State was carried out not just against Christians but against humanity," Sako told a special church service in east Baghdad where about 200 Muslims joined Christians in solidarity.

"How in the 21st century could people be forced from their houses just because they are Christian, or Shi'ite or Sunni or Yazidi?" he asked. "Christian families have been expelled from their houses, and their valuables were stolen and ... their houses and property expropriated in the name of the Islamic State."

"This has never happened in Christian or Islamic history. Even Genghis Khan or Hulagu didn't do this," he said. Hulagu Khan led a Mongol army that sacked Baghdad in 1258, killing tens of thousand of people, destroying a caliphate that had lasted nearly 600 years and leaving the city in ruins for centuries.

'World Must Act'

Muslims at the service held up leaflets declaring, "I am Iraqi, I am Christian," some writing it on their shirts.

Others marked themselves with an "N," the first letter of the Arabic word for Christian, Nasrani or Nazarene. The Islamic State has been putting an "N" on Christian property marked out for seizure.

One of Zako's deputies, Bishop Shlemon Wardooni, called for an international response. "The world must act, speak out, consider human rights," he said, adding that the Iraqi state was weak and divided, and Muslim leaders have remained silent.

"We haven't heard from clerics from all sects or from the government," he told Reuters on Sunday. "The Christians are sacrificed for Iraq."

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki condemned the treatment of the Christians and what he described as attacks on churches in Mosul, saying it showed "the extreme criminality and terrorist nature of this group."

He said he instructed a government committee set up to support displaced people across Iraq to help the Christians who had been made homeless, but he did not say when the army might try to win back control of Mosul.

Iraq's security forces, which wilted under the weight of last month's Islamic State-led offensive, have been reinforced by Shi'ite militia fighters and are trying to push back the Sunni militants farther south. So far they have failed to take back significant territory from the insurgents, who also are battling the government in Syria.

Pope Francis in his weekly public prayers on Sunday said he was troubled by the Islamic State ultimatum. The Chaldeans are Eastern Rite Catholics in communion with Rome.

"I learned with great concern the news that came from the Christian communities in Mosul and other parts of the Middle East, where they have lived since the birth of Christianity and where they have made significant contributions to the good of their societies," the pope said.

"Today they are persecuted. Our brothers are persecuted. They've been driven away. They must leave their homes without being able to take anything with them."

Refugees Robbed

U.N. Secretary General Ban condemned "in the strongest terms the systematic persecution of minority populations in Iraq by Islamic State-associated armed groups," a statement by his spokesman said.

Any systematic attack on a civilian population because of its ethnic background, religious beliefs or faith may constitute a crime against humanity, for which those responsible must be held accountable, he said.

More than 2 million people already have been displaced in Iraq, and the local U.N. mission said another 400 uprooted families arrived on Sunday morning in two cities in northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdish enclave.

Another 700 families were expected in Arbil, barely 50 miles from Mosul, it said.

One Christian who left Mosul last week described how he fled with his family when he learned of the Islamic State deadline.

"We gathered all our belongings and headed for the only exit. There was a checkpoint on the road, and they were stopping cars there," 35-year-old Salwan Noel Miskouni said.

When the militants saw they were Christians, they demanded gold and money. The family initially said they had none, but one of the fighters took their 4-year-old son by the hand and threatened to abduct him.

"My sister emptied her entire handbag with our money and gold and her ID. They let the car pass and the child go," Miskouni said.

A few Christian families had stayed on, he said, hiding with Muslim neighbors who gave them shelter. But for now, he saw no possibility of returning with his family.

"If (the Islamic State) leaves, we will probably go back. But if they stay, it's impossible—because they will slaughter us."

Additional reporting by Isabel Coles in Arbil and Steve Scherer in Rome; editing by Tom Heneghan

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Dominic Evans and Raheem Salman/Reuters Featured World News Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Obamacare Takes Devastating Blow as Appeals Court Throws Out Key Provisions

A U.S. federal judicial panel on Tuesday dealt a potentially devastating blow to President Barack Obama's health-care law, throwing out a provision that provides millions of Americans with subsidies for private health insurance.

The 2-1 decision, which could lead to a new showdown over Obamacare before the U.S. Supreme Court, would prevent the administration from offering premium tax credits to people who purchase insurance through the federal insurance marketplace that serves most of the 8 million consumers who signed up for private coverage for 2014.

The judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia stayed the ruling to allow for an appeal. The Obama administration said it would appeal to the full circuit court, a process that could take up to six months, and stressed the ruling would have no impact on consumers receiving monthly subsidies now.

Republican opponents of Obamacare said the decision would help efforts to dismantle the law, which the Democratic president signed in 2010.

"Obamacare is a bad deal. I want to see it unravel," said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, whose residents receive federal subsidies. "This is a small step in the right direction."

5 Million People

Analysts estimate that as many as 5 million people could be affected if subsidies disappear from the federal marketplace, which serves 36 states through the website The subsidies are available to people with annual incomes of up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or $94,200 for a family of four.

"Practically, we think it's very unlikely that the subsidies will actually be pulled back," said Caroline Pearson, a vice president at consultancy Avalere Health. Further litigation could take a few years even if the case moves up to the Supreme Court, and the administration could find a regulatory workaround, she said.

Plaintiffs in the case, known as Halbig vs. Burwell, claimed that Congress did not intend to provide subsidies through federally operated marketplaces because the Affordable Care Act (ACA) specifies only state-run exchanges as recipients. The plaintiffs were identified as a group of individuals and employers from states that did not establish their own marketplaces.

Most states, including Florida and Texas, which have some of the largest uninsured populations in the country, opted to leave the task of operating a marketplace to the federal government.

"The fact is that the legislative record provides little indication one way or the other of congressional intent, but the statutory text does. (It) plainly makes subsidies available only on exchanges established by states. And in the absence of any contrary indications, that text is conclusive evidence of Congress's intent," wrote the two judges in the majority, Thomas Griffith and Arthur Randolph, both appointed by Republican presidents.

"To hold otherwise would be to say that enacted legislation, on its own, does not command our respect--an utterly untenable proposition," their opinion said.

The panel's dissenting judge, Harry Edwards, appointed by Democratic president Jimmy Carter, said the majority's judgment "defies the will of Congress and the permissible interpretations of the agencies to whom Congress has delegated the authority to interpret and enforce the terms of the ACA."

Reporting by David Morgan, Lawrence Hurley and Aruna Viswanatha; additional reporting by Susan Cornwell in Washington and Caroline Humer in New York; editing by Michele Gershberg, Bill Trott and Howard Goller

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

David Morgan and Aruna Viswanatha/Reuters Featured U.S. News Tue, 22 Jul 2014 15:00:00 -0400
Joel Rosenberg: Netanyahu Needs to Call Israel Back to God

In this interview with Fox News' Shannon Bream, author Joel C. Rosenberg implores Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu to instruct his people turn toward God during the Gaza war. A New York Times best-selling author, Rosenberg has written numerous fiction and non-fiction books, including Israel At War.

Bream: Among many other things, Joel, you run a charity in Israel. You served as a consultant to the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. So you have a unique perspective into what's going on there, and I know that you've been very focused on the impact on both sides of this incursion and how people are being affected there in the area.

Rosenberg: Absolutely. I did have the privilege of working for Prime Minister Netanyahu back in 2000—don't work for him now, therefore, of course, don't speak for him now in any way. But, yes, I don't envy the job he has ahead of him right now. As an evangelical Christian, my heart is going out—grieving both for the Palestinians who have been lost and the Israelis. But there is no question that the Israelis are fighting—not the Palestinians; they are fighting Hamas, they are fighting Islamic Jihad. The terrorists have fired more than 1,700 rockets at Israeli civilians. Israel accepted a cease fire from Egypt. Hamas would not. So I think the moral justification is on the Israeli side.

SB: Secretary Kerry is heading to that region, he says, within days, trying to work on a cease fire, and a longer-term peace deal. Is that possible, in your estimation, knowing all sides here. Is there a temporary lull? Is there any hope for longer term peace?

JR: Well, I was in Israel in November 2012, working with The Joshua Fund, providing food and medical supplies and all to Israelis and Palestinians during the last conflict. Israel massed forces on the border with Gaza and then didn't go in because Hamas stood down. This is obviously not the situation this time. One thing I would encourage the prime Minister of Israel to do is actually call the nation to prayer and fasting. He is taking all the other right moves—mobilizing forces, calling the nation to patience, grieving with the families that have lost. But like King Solomon, like King Jehoshaphat, Josiah and Nehemiah, it's time to call the nation to prayer and fasting so that Israel can win this war against terror and have peace and calm in the region, at least for a season. And I think all of the great kings and leaders of Israel have done it. It would be time for the prime minister to do it, as well.

SB: How do you respond to those who say it is religion that has caused these problems, the fact that these two sides will never, potentially, resolve, because there are such deep divisions along religious lines?

JR: Well, I think that Radical Islam has certainly caused this. Again, separate this from the Palestinian people at large—who may not love Israel, who may wish they could have all of the territory—but it's Hamas and the terrorist leaders of Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades that are firing rockets and missiles. It's really the Palestinian leadership—in terms of the terrorist leadership—that is crushing the hopes and dreams and fortunes of the people in Gaza. Look, they live on the Mediterranean coast. They have natural gas. They were given their freedom from Israel in 2005. There's no reason not to be able to build a functioning, calm, prosperous society. But you can't have terrorists leading you. And I think it's going to take the Israelis turning to the Lord and asking for peace, as well as the military force.

For the original article, visit

Shannon Bream/Fox News Featured World News Tue, 22 Jul 2014 14:00:00 -0400
This Song Is a 'Gift From God' as Violence Rages, Says Reba McEntire

At a time when violence rages throughout the world—from Israel to Ukraine to Iraq—Reba McEntire has released a video for her song "Pray for Peace."

The video, which the country singer released on her Facebook page Monday, features peoples' pleas for peace and tranquility.

"The idea to write the song 'Pray For Peace' came to me last year as I was walking on our place in Gallatin," Tennessee, McEntire explained. "For days, I'd sing 'Pray for Peace' over and over. It wasn't until several months later did the other parts start to fall in place. Some, not until we got into the studio to record it."

The singer and actress called the song "a gift from God," writing that she has never worked on a track as long as she did on this one.

"It went from a bass drum, fiddle and singers to guest artists singing with me, adding more instruments and even a choir and a bagpipe," she continued.

"It's an act of perseverance, prayer, hope, fellowship and mostly love."

The video has received wide attention, with more than 200,000 shares in 24 hours. It has also been liked more than 155,000 times and has more than 22,000 comments.

"Thank you all so much for commenting on the song and video," McEntire commented Monday. "I pray it touches your heart as much as it does mine."

Click below to hear "Pray for Peace" and watch the video.


Gina Meeks Featured Culture Tue, 22 Jul 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Defending Adam and Eve Splits Trustees at Christian College

Taking an uncompromising stand for the biblical account of man's creation has roiled a small Christian college in eastern Tennessee and led to the resignation of four trustees who favored watering down the Word of God.

The trustees at Bryan College resigned because the school refused to back down from a literal interpretation of the biblical creation account, according to an account Tuesday on

Controversy erupted at Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee, earlier this year when the small evangelical school clarified its stance on the creation of man. The statement of belief clarification simply affirmed the traditional biblical position that Adam and Eve were divinely created by God and were not descendants of earlier life forms, the news service said.

"We believe that all humanity is descended from Adam and Eve," the statement said. "They are historical persons created by God in a special formative act, and not from previously existing life forms."

A solid majority of the 12-member board affirmed the statement of belief in February. Shortly thereafter, nearly 300 of the school's 800 students signed a petition a few days later asking the board to reconsider the statement, a Chattanooga newspaper reported.

The simple clarification quickly generated an uproar, as critics accused the school of unfairly disregarding any alternative interpretations of the Genesis account of creation. Several professors announced in May that they would be leaving the school as a result of the creation controversy, while two other professors went so far as to file a lawsuit against the school, reported.

Now, according to Chattanooga's Times Free Press, four members of the college board of trustees have resigned from the school. Trustees Gary Phillips, Jeff Ryan, Mark Senter and James Wolf stepped down last week, citing their discontent with Bryan College President Dr. Stephen Livesay and Board Chairman Col. John Haynes.

Ironically, the controversy erupted at a school named for American statesman William Jennings Bryan, a three-time candidate for president, who argued in favor of the biblical account of creation in the so-called "Scopes monkey trial" in Tennessee in 1925. Bryan won the jury trial, but the result was overturned on a technicality.

As a Christian school, all faculty and staff members must subscribe to Bryan College's eight-point Statement of Belief, which lays out the college's theological stance and scriptural interpretation, Christian News reported. Included in the 80-year-old Statement of Belief is a reference to the creation of man:

"[We believe] that the origin of man was by fiat of God in the act of creation as related in the Book of Genesis; that he was created in the image of God; that he sinned and thereby incurred physical and spiritual death," the statement says.

On July 11, the four disgruntled trustees met behind closed doors with the other Bryan College board members to discuss the statement of belief clarification and the ensuing controversy. However, when the rest of the board defended the school's decisions, the four trustees decided to resign.

"The board majority has made it clear who the conductors are on this train, and it's time for me to step aside and allow them to carry out their vision with those who are unified behind them," Ryan wrote in his letter of resignation, as quoted in the Chattanooga newspaper. "A line has been crossed in that I cannot continue to support Dr. Livesay or [board] Chairman Haynes."

In a Times Free Press reader poll, five of six of the nearly 1,300 respondents by Tuesday morning said that college President Dr. Stephen Livesay should resign. The newspaper reported Saturday that dwindling enrollment and staff layoffs have contributed to dissatisfaction with Livesay's leadership.

Despite the criticism, Chairman Haynes defended the school leadership's decisions, saying a majority of the board supported Bryan College's commitment to the literal creation account.

"There was a strong spirit of support by the majority of the board for the wonderful faculty, administration, and staff at Bryan College and continued support for our Statement of Faith and our historical stand on Creation," Haynes said in a statement, according to the Times Free Press. "We are grateful for the time, talents and treasures that have been contributed to Bryan College by each and every member of the board."

In the midst of the continuing controversy, many Christians have voiced support for Bryan College and the school's stand on the literal Creation account.

"Wishing all the best to the College to continue to remain true to God's Word and not be forced to give in to pressures of the media and any persons," one commenter wrote.

Mark Andrews Featured U.S. News Tue, 22 Jul 2014 12:00:00 -0400
How Obama's LGBT Executive Order Endangers Religious Liberty

President Obama signed an executive order Monday barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity—ignoring the pleas of Christian and other faith leaders to include an exemption for religious organizations.

"Thanks to your passion and advocacy and the irrefutable rightness of your cause, our government—the government of the people, by the people and for the people—will become just a little bit fairer," the president told a gathering in the White House.

The executive order would prevent Christian and other religious organizations with federal contracts from requiring workers to adhere to the tenets of their religious beliefs. Christianity Today reports the order could impact religious non-profits such as World Vision, World Relief and Catholic Charities. 

"If religious organizations cannot require that their employees conduct themselves in ways consistent with the teachings of their faith—then, essentially, those organizations are unable to operate in accordance with their faith," Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council, told me.

He said the president's order forces employers to put aside their principles in the name of political correctness. "This level of coercion is nothing less than viewpoint blackmail that bullies into silence every contractor and subcontractor who has moral objections to homosexual behavior," Sprigg said.

"The mask is coming off of the homosexual movement's agenda. They really do not believe in religious liberty. They want forced affirmation of homosexual and transgender conduct to trump every other consideration in the workplace—including religious liberty."

A group of prominent religious leaders, including Rick Warren, founder and senior pastor at Saddleback Church, wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to include a religious exemption.

"In a concrete way, religious organizations will lose financial funding that allows them to serve others in the national interest due to their organizational identity," they wrote. "When the capacity of religious organizations is limited, the common good suffers."

Not surprising, the president's executive order was warmly welcomed by left-wing organizations like Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"Religious groups have no right to accept taxpayer money and engage in rank forms of discrimination," said executive director Barry Lynn. "Faith-based groups that tap the public purse should play by the same rules as everyone else and not expect special treatment."

But that's really not the point. This is about the federal government bullying religious groups that hold viewpoints it deems inappropriate.

As I wrote in my new book, God Less America, this administration believes gay rights trump everyone else's rights—including religious rights.

Vice President Joe Biden went so far as to declare as much during a speech to international gay rights activists.

"I don't care what your culture is," he said in remarks covered by Associated Press. "Inhumanity is inhumanity. Prejudice is prejudice is prejudice."

That explains why a Christian baker in Colorado was ordered by a state commission to undergo re-education training after he declined to participate in a gay wedding celebration.

That explains why a Christian photographer in New Mexico was found guilty of discrimination for refusing to photograph a gay wedding ceremony.

That explains why Democratic lawmakers in multiple states tried to shut down Chick-fil-A because of the owner's privately held beliefs about traditional marriage.

And I as detail in God Less America, that explains why Billy Graham—"America's pastor" —was subjected to an Internal Revenue Service audit after he supported a traditional marriage amendment in North Carolina.

The Obama administration and its militant cronies want to tell Christians whom to hire, how to run their business and how to think.

And now the president has decreed that any religious group that holds viewpoints divergent from the LGBT agenda is not worthy of federal tax dollars.

Last month, National Security Adviser Susan Rice told a gathering at the White House Forum on Global LGBT Human Rights that it was their responsibility to sway theological thinking on the LGBT issue.

"For the faith community, how can we reinforce to religious groups that God loves all the children of his creation equally?" she asked the crowd.

"Change will come," she went on to say. "It's already coming."

Indeed, it has. And it appears the president has decided to "reinforce" the government's theology on Christians by using his pen and phone.

And woe be to any Christian American who refuses to comply.

Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. addressed the issues at hand in an essay titled, "Are Christian Colleges Free to be Christian?

"There are people who are willing to use whatever means necessary to force religious institutions to conform to the new sexual morality," he wrote. "Any individual or institution that refuses to comply will have to face the consequences."

So what is the next logical step in the government's systematic effort to marginalize Christianity? Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, suggests to me that churches might want to play close attention to their tax-exempt status.

"The problem with this executive order is that it paves the way for the next one—which could withhold the tax-exempt status or broadcast licenses for religious organizations holding biblical beliefs with which the administration disagrees," Jeffress told me.

The Obama administration seems hell-bent on forcing Christians to assimilate to the militant LGBT agenda. Resistance is futile.

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 Tue, 22 Jul 2014 11:00:00 -0400
Why We Must Recover America's Christian Heritage

"People without a heritage are easily persuaded." -- Karl Marx

"Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and from the hole of the pit from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and Sarah who bore you (Is. 51:1-2).

If America is to recover from its downhill slide into an abyss of socialism, anti-Christian secularism, amorality and economic collapse, we as Christians must rise up and recover our country's true national heritage. The identity of a people or nation is tied to their history—to their origins—and we have been robbed of ours. This, in turn, has opened the door for a flood of ungodly influences into our society.

It is obvious that we have been robbed of our identity as a nation birthed out of a great Spiritual awakening and founded on Judeo-Christian values and principles. This was never more obvious than when our president stood before a foreign audience and declared, "America is not a Christian nation," with hardly a peep of protest from back home.

At a critical moment in Israel's history, God instructed His people to revisit their beginnings as a nation—as a people: "Look to the rock from which you were hewn and to the hole of the pit from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who bore you" (Isaiah 51-1-2). By revisiting their past, they would recover their sense of identity. They would remember who they were as a people and be empowered to faces the challenges of their present and future.

While We Slept

This is the challenge we face in America today. Because we were lulled to sleep in a Christianity of comfort and convenience, secular historians have been able to quietly rewrite our history and re-interpret our Constitution. Our slothfulness left an opening for leftist, secularist historians and politicians to revise our history and create an America in their own image. We were cut off from our past. This, in turn, has made it "easy" for the masses to be led astray, for as Karl Marx said, "People without a heritage are easily persuaded."

Because we have been robbed of our Christian heritage, secularists have been able to convince judges, politicians and the American people that the First Amendment ("Congress shall make no law concerning the establishment of religion, nor hindering the free exercise thereof") was put in place to keep religion out of public life and maintain a secular state. Blatantly re-interpreting this clause as a "separation of church and state," secularists have used it as a weapon to ban prayer, Bible reading and Christian symbols from public schools, colleges, courtrooms, town squares and even the military. The Founders would turn over in their graves.

There Is Hope

I am convinced that God is willing to intervene, but we must be diligent in recovering our identity as a nation that was founded on Judeo-Christian values and principles. I am thankful for people like David Barton, Benjamin Hart and others who have dedicated their lives to helping us recover our history and identity as a nation. I am thankful to God for His intervention in my life in 2010 when He revealed to me that there was a direct bearing of the Great Awakening on the founding of our country. At the same time, I was convinced that we can see another great, national Spiritual awakening if we, as God's people, will meet the conditions laid out in His Word. It was out of that experience that I wrote the book America's Revival Heritage.

America's True Heritage

America's Christian heritage was assumed for the first 150 years of her existence. This is obvious by looking at historic references from this period. For example, a recent 10-year study project to discover where the Founders got their ideas for America's founding documents revealed that, by far, the single most-cited authority in their writings was the Bible.

This is why the early History of the United States, published in 1816 by David Ramsey, would point out that the Founders "wisely judged learning and religion [Christianity] to be the firmest pillars of the church and commonwealth." This is why the esteemed U.S. Senator Daniel Webster, speaking in 1820 at the 200-year anniversary celebration of the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Mass., would highlight America's overt Christian origins, saying:

"Finally, let us not forget the religious character of our origin. Our fathers were brought hither by their high veneration for the Christian religion. They journeyed by its light and labored in its hope. They sought to incorporate its principles with the elements of their society and to diffuse its influence through all their institutions—civil, political or literary. Let us cherish these sentiments and extend this influence still more widely in the full conviction that that is the happiest society which partakes in the highest degree of the mild, peaceful spirit of Christianity."

A French Sociologist Discovers America's True Heritage

In 1831 the French sociologist Alexis de Tocqueville visited America to study its institutions and see if he could discover how she had achieved her greatness in such a brief period of time. He was profoundly impressed with the spiritual vitality of America and wrote, "The religious atmosphere of the country was the first thing that struck me on arrival in the United States."

De Tocqueville also was surprised to see Christianity and the government so intricately intertwined, and he observed that the means of improving the government were the same means employed in conversion and the advancement of the Christian faith. He concluded that, in America, "From the beginning, politics and religion contracted an alliance which has never been dissolved." In other words, de Tocqueville saw no separation of church and state, as is touted today.

Although not found in his writings, a statement historically has been attributed to de Tocqueville and quoted many times. It is likely that someone heard this statement in one of his many speeches and wrote it down for posterity. According to this unknown source, de Tocqueville said:

"I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers—and it was not there ... in her fertile fields and boundless forests—and it was not there ... in her rich mines and her vast world commerce—and it was not there ... in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution—and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power."

The Supreme Court Affirms America's True Heritage

In 1892, the U.S. Supreme Court completed a 10-year investigation in which thousands of historical documents were investigated concerning the historic roots of the nation. After citing more than 60 historic precedents, the Court unanimously declared, "There is no dissonance in these declarations. There is a universal language pervading them all, having one meaning; they affirm and reaffirm that this is a religious nation ... this is a Christian nation."

Concluding Remark

May God help us to recover our true heritage and identity as a nation. I believe this is necessary if we are to successfully push back against the socialist-secularist takeover of this country. It is also a key for us as we pray for another Great Awakening in our land.

Eddie Hyatt is an author, historian, revivalist and Bible teacher. This article is derived from his book, America's Revival Heritage, available from Amazon and his website.

Eddie L. Hyatt Featured Opinion Tue, 22 Jul 2014 10:00:00 -0400
Obama: I Rely on Population Control Fanatic Who Supports Compulsory Abortion in U.S.

It's not every day that a politician boasts that he receives his expert scientific advice from a population-control fanatic who has justified compulsory abortion for American women. But then, as he likes to remind us, Obama is not like other presidents.

In a June 25 speech to the League of Conservation Voters, held in the Reagan Building, Obama mocked and ridiculed his political opponents. Again (yawn). This time, he targeted Republicans who say they do not believe in global warming.

"They say, 'Hey, I'm not a scientist,' which really translates into, 'I accept that man-made climate change is real, but if I say so out loud, I will be run out of town by a bunch of fringe elements that thinks climate science is a liberal plot, so I'm going to just pretend like I don't know, I can't read,'" Obama said.

"I mean, I'm not a scientist either, but I've got this guy, John Holdren—he's a scientist," Obama intoned.

I have a special interest in Science Czar John Holdren. I was the first journalist to expose his support for compulsory abortion for American women in February 2009. Having learned President Obama appointed him as Science Czar, I went to a research library that had several of Holdren's writings, including the book Ecoscience, which he co-authored with population-control extremists (and frequent co-authors) Paul and Anne Ehrlich. My article reviewed numerous areas of Holdren's radicalism—none more striking than his belief that a world government should determine the proper population of each region and enforce that level by any means necessary.

He offered that "a comprehensive Planetary Regime could control the development, administration, conservation, and distribution of all natural resources ... The Planetary Regime might be given responsibility for determining the optimum population for the world and for each region and for arbitrating various countries' shares within their regional limits ... The Regime would have some power to enforce the agreed limits."

Holdren, et al, believe this global body possesses "ample authority under which population growth could be regulated." Hiding behind the passive voice, they wrote, "it has been concluded"—by whom?—"that compulsory population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing constitution if the population crisis became sufficiently severe to endanger the society." (Emphasis added.) They added that if parents were guilty of "overproducing children, and if the need is compelling, they can be required by law to exercise reproductive responsibility."

To further reduce the West's population and carbon footprint, the "de-development of overdeveloped countries...should be given top priority."

Holdren further, repeatedly, proposed the United States transfer $1.43 trillion to $2.86 trillion of U.S. GNP to Third-World countries every year for several decades.

All of this flows out of a comprehensive, if repugnant, philosophy. "The neo-Malthusian view proposes...population limitation and redistribution of wealth," Holdren and the Ehrlichs wrote in Ecoscience. "On these points, we find ourselves firmly in the neo-Malthusian camp."

After my exposé, Holdren's office responded that his words were being twisted—without actually disavowing the use of compulsory abortion. He said through spokesman Rick Weiss that "the authors' own preference was to employ the noncoercive approaches before the environmental and social impacts of overpopulation led desperate societies to employ coercive ones." (Emphasis added.) That hardly differs from Paul Ehrlich's view in his 1968 book The Population Bomb, that "[w]e must have population control at home, hopefully through a system of incentives and penalties, but by compulsion if voluntary methods fail." Twenty years later, Ehrlich called China's one-child policy "vigorous and effective." Not exactly encouraging.

At his confirmation hearing, Holdren said, "I no longer think it's productive, Senator, to focus on the optimum population for the United States."

All of Ecoscience's authors went on to make startlingly inaccurate predictions. But Holdren failed upward, leaving a post at Berkeley to become the Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, then Obama's science adviser.

His batting average hasn't improved in recent years. During his Senate confirmation hearings, Holdren affirmed that "carbon dioxide-induced famines could kill as many as a billion people before the year 2020." Yes, Obama is bragging about receiving advice from a man who believes that global warming could kill the equivalent of everyone in India within the next six years.

There's no harm in being wrong—even irresponsibly, perpetually wrong—you combine that with fanaticism, power and influence, as John P. Holdren does.

"Holdren has this president's ear, perhaps more than any White House science adviser in recent memory," Henry Fountain of The New York Times reports, saying the alarmist plays a "pivotal role in the administration."

According to White House Chief of Staff Denis R. McDonough, Obama writes notes on memos he receives about scientific issues saying, "I need to know what Holdren thinks on this."

Fountain writes that "Holdren's influence can be seen in many of the administration's policies," such as its tax on carbon emission—the mechanism Holdren proposed to siphon those trillions of dollars out of Americans' pockets as recently as 2007.

His malignant influence can also be seen in the Obama administration's incessant propaganda for abortifacient "long-acting reversible contraceptives" (LARCs), such as the IUD and Norplant. In April, the Centers for Disease Control suggested that Medicaid pay for teenagers to obtain abortion-inducing contraception without parental notice and lamented the "missed opportunity" to teach girls about LARCs before the age of 15 in the public schools.

The CDC's 2012 Abortion Surveillance advised "[r]emoving cost as one barrier to the use of the most effective contraceptive methods"—that is, IUDs and LARCs—calling it "an important way to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies."

However, IUDs do not reduce pregnancies so much as abort them.

Obama concluded his latest round of mockery by saying, "I'm not a doctor, either, but if a bunch of doctors tell me tobacco can cause lung cancer, then I'll say, 'OK,' right?...I mean, it's not that hard."

OK, Mr. President, will you accept what scientists say about when life begins? Their consensus would be a dramatic improvement over the counsel of Dr. Holdren.

Ben Johnson is U.S. Bureau Chief of, the guest host of Nothing But Truth with Crane Durham on AFR Talk Radio, and the author of three books. His personal website is Connect with him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter. This article was cross-posted at

Ben Johnson Featured Opinion Tue, 22 Jul 2014 08:00:00 -0400
The Raw, Naked Truth About Homosexuality

In a moment I am going to speak very plainly and straightforward about homosexuality. As a preacher, I have a great responsibility before God to speak the truth in love—to convince, rebuke and exhort with all longsuffering and teaching (2 Tim. 4:3)—to never shun to declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).

If you are involved in a gay relationship, or have a loved one who is, please do not get upset with me. I am for you and not against you. If you will listen long enough, you will see that I am actually trying to help you.

I know a wonderful godly Christian couple who have had to die a thousand deaths when their son recently arrived home from college and admitted to them that he was practicing a homosexual lifestyle. That is a very heart-wrenching trial for any God-fearing parent to have to face. They have my deepest admiration for handling this situation with love and honor. Even though these kinds of situations should move us with great compassion, we cannot afford to lose our convictions. This couple has chosen to love their son while firmly holding to their strong biblical convictions and opposing the lifestyle he leads.

If you are a minister, a pastor, or even a priest I also would like to speak frankly and forthrightly to you today.

The government of Denmark has made it mandatory for all churches to conduct gay marriages, regardless of religious beliefs, conscience or convictions. No church or minister in Denmark is exempt from complying with this new law.

Could America be next? Could a law be passed that would order American churches to perform gay ceremonies if they want to maintain their tax-exempt status?

The writing is on the wall.

What will you do on that fateful day? Obey man or obey God?

Gay rights and gay marriage have become one of the major issues of our culture today. In such times, Christians cannot afford to lose their moral compass or compromise the scriptures.

Here is a reminder that will strengthen our moral bearings:

The devil hates it when someone brings the truth out into the open. He likes to keep all light and truth hidden in the darkness. He hates it when someone speaks plainly and clearly about sin. On the other hand, he loves to promote all that is abominable and evil. "Off with his head," has always been the cry against those who confront sin and preach repentance.

So here is the raw, naked truth on homosexuality that we must never forget:

The Bible says that homosexuality is unnatural. Men in gay relationships have given up the natural use of the woman and women the natural use of the man.

"For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due." (Rom. 1:26-27).

The Bible does not say that God changed what was natural. Neither does it say that nature, or the environment, or the culture, or his parents, nor did his birth genes change what was natural. It says that lesbians and homosexuals changed themselves. Yes, that's right! The Bible says it is people who change their natural sexual desires in exchange for unnatural ones. The Bible sweeps away every argument, excuse and destructive reasoning for unnatural sexual activity. Some things are against nature, and therefore against God, because God created nature.

Homosexuality is not ordained by God, nor is it even biologically right or natural. People are gay because they choose to be--not because they can't help it. It's a choice in the same way I could choose as a sexually normal red-blooded male to go out and commit adultery. Being gay is a choice just like a heterosexual couple chooses to have children, or a man decides to remain celibate and enter the monastery, or a woman chooses to be a nun. Men don't say, "I can't help being a monk!" Women don't say, "I couldn't help being a nun!" Just as normal couples make a choice to marry, or not to marry, have sex or not to have sex, have children or not have children, so it is with being gay.

The choice to be gay, however, has far greater risk in that it ties one to lust, illicit passions, and unclean practices that open up a person to the demonic. I will explain this further below.

We've got this whole thing muddled up because people don't speak plainly and clearly anymore. They beat around the bush and are obsessed with political correctness and being loving and tolerant. The truth is that everyone makes choices every single day. You can choose to believe in God or not. You can choose to believe the Bible or not. You can choose to surrender your life to Jesus Christ or not. You can choose to be a liar, a thief, a whore-monger, a murderer, an alcoholic or a drug addict. Quit blaming it on your genes or your addictive personality, unfortunate circumstances, or your background and upbringing. Yes, our culture and surroundings influence us, but we don't have to yield to its evil influences.

For example, I could say to my wife, "It's so natural for me to have sex with other women, so I think I will. I just can't help myself!" Just because a woman opens her blouse to me and entices me to have sex with her doesn't mean that I will. The fact is some people just want to do what comes naturally or what feels good, and the devil eats them up. He will feed you all the lies and perversion you are willing to receive.

Here's the raw, naked truth: Homosexuality is actually a demon spirit. It is such a putrid-smelling demon that other demons don't even like to hang around it. A genuine prophet of God told me that the Lord allowed him to smell this demon spirit, and he got sick to his stomach. And yet as humans, many embrace this demon. Yes, you heard me right: Being gay is demonic.

There is an account in the Bible where Jesus casts 2,000 demons out of a man. The demons came out screaming and begged Jesus to send them into the pigs. The pigs didn't want them, so they ran down a steep hill and were drowned in the sea. Pigs have more sense than some humans. Some people embrace homosexual demons, but the pigs would rather die than be possessed with demons.

"Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains. So all the demons begged Him, saying, 'Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.' And at once Jesus gave them permission. Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea." (Mark 5:11-13).

From a biblical perspective, the rise of homosexuality is a sign that a society is in the last stages of decay. And here is another terrible truth: As people continue to reject God, He gives them over to increasingly immoral and self-destructive activities. There are destructive physical, emotional and spiritual consequences of homosexual behavior.

All human beings know deep in their hearts that God exists, and they all know something of His moral standards. But people's unrighteousness leads them to suppress the truth and believe false views of God and the Bible, and they twist the scriptures to their own destruction, because they know that the truth would require them to repent.

Allow me to school you in Basic Sex 101. If being gay was natural, two men or two women could produce a baby, but they can't. Their sexual reproductive organs do not complement each other therefore making it impossible for them to procreate. It can never be natural for two men or two women to get married and live together. Our culture's acceptance and celebration of gay behavior will never make it right. Wrong is wrong no matter how many people are for it. And right is right no matter how many people are against it. Homosexuality is not new. It's been around for thousands of years. It's as old as the devil himself.

Just as a fornicator or an adulterer can stop being sexually active, any gay person who claims to be a professing Christian can stop being gay. There are still plenty of strong brothers and sisters in the Lord who will be more than willing to offer help, prayer, counsel and deliverance. There are also many godly pastors and mentors who will be glad to minister to you so you can be free. If natural feelings for the opposite sex do not return, then honor the Lord by waiting and choosing to remain celibate. In the same way I would give account to God for living in adultery, so the Bible says one day homosexuals will pay the penalty for the error of their ways. Just because something is pleasurable and feels good will never make it right if it is outside of the boundaries God has set.

No one has to preach controversial subjects and "rock the boat" type of messages. But in times like these when homosexuality is being embraced and celebrated by much of our culture, and now by many churches, preachers have a responsibility to preach sound doctrines and truths that will warn people of the consequences of sin. I charge every preacher of righteousness today to preach these truths and warn your people of the wrath to come on those who delight in unrighteousness and wickedness. The scriptures are full of warnings, and true love always warns.

If you struggle with same-sex attraction, please take your will and put it in God's hands and let Him begin to break you of the power of its addiction. The process of breaking any addiction starts with a hatred for the thing and then a turning to God in sincere repentance. He will never cast out the one who comes to Him for help (John 6:37). When you realize that all impenitent homosexuals are among the dead who have no inheritance in the kingdom of God and whose end is destruction, the sweetness and pleasure of your sin will suddenly turn sour in your belly.

"Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of hell." (Prov. 9:17-18).

Do not be deceived.

"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor. 6:9-10).

May God grant godly repentance to more homosexuals and cause them to shun the horrors of hell while gaining the glories of heaven. May many more of them be washed, sanctified and justified for the honor and glory of God.

"And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Cor. 6:11).

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

Bert M. Farias Featured The Flaming Herald Opinion Tue, 22 Jul 2014 07:00:00 -0400
George Wood: 4 Things Pentecostals Must Do for Religious Freedom

On Monday, June 30, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down its decision in the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. The Court held that "[a]s applied to closely held corporations, the [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] regulations imposing the contraceptive mandate violate [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act]." Consequently, the pro-life Christian owners of Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties—the Green and Hahn families, respectively—will not have to cover in their employee health-care plans drugs and medical devices that can cause abortion.

As a general rule, I do not comment on Supreme Court cases or public policy. Nevertheless, in my role as general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, I sometimes find it necessary to give my best advice to the Fellowship, and in this case, I think there are good reasons for supporting the court's ruling. Before explaining those reasons, let me describe the case's logic and significance.

Hobby Lobby's Logic and Significance

The Court's logic—expressed in the opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito—was straightforward. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) says, "Government shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability" unless doing so "(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest." The Dictionary Act (1 U.S. Code § 1) defines the word person to include "corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals."

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties are closely held corporations whose owners believe that the HHS contraceptive mandate substantially burdens their exercise of religion. Even assuming that the contraceptive mandate furthers a compelling governmental interest, HHS did not show that it was the least restrictive means of doing so. Therefore, the contraceptive mandate violated RFRA in the cases of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties.

I should point out that the court decided this case on the basis of RFRA rather than the First Amendment, that is, on statutory rather than constitutional grounds. This is a vital distinction. In Employment Division v. Smith, a controversial 1990 case that still governs the court's jurisprudence on First Amendment Free Exercise Clause cases, the court ruled, "The constitutional guarantee of religious freedom does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability on the grounds that the law [prohibits] conduct that his religion prescribes."

In response to this decision, which was decried by religious-freedom advocates, a nearly unanimous Congress—a unanimous House and 97 out of 100 votes in the Senate—passed RFRA in 1993 in order to provide statutory relief to persons whose religious freedom could now be burdened because of the Court's decision in Smith. In all likelihood, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties would have lost if their cases were decided solely on First Amendment grounds.

The significance of the court's decision should not be underestimated. For one thing, it was a pro-life victory. Had the court ruled the other way, the government would have had the power to force pro-life business owners to violate their consciences and cover in their employee health-care plans' drugs and medical devices that can cause abortion.

Indeed, as the court pointed out, "Under HHS's view, RFRA would permit the Government to require all employers to provide coverage for any medical procedure allowed by law in the jurisdiction in question—for instance, third-trimester abortions or assisted suicide." For another thing, the decision was a vindication of the idea that religious exercise cannot be limited to individuals, explicitly religious groups, or explicitly religious activities. Rather, a group of persons can exercise religion even in the context of commercial activity.

Considering Popular Objections

Unfortunately, the court's decision was controversial. I say unfortunately because religious freedom should unite Americans across the lines of religion and political affiliation rather than divide them. We personally might dislike this or that application of the principle of religious freedom, but the principle itself should be left untouched. It is worrisome to me that religious freedom has fallen prey to the pervasive partisanship that characterizes so much of contemporary politics.

In the aftermath of Hobby Lobby, some politicians are now proposing that RFRA be repealed or amended or that exceptions to it be carved out in various pieces of legislation. In my opinion, changing a principle because you don't like its application suggests that your support for the principle was partisan—that is, designed to give you a political advantage—rather than principled.

Nevertheless, the controversy must be engaged. So, in this section, I'll examine three popular objections to the Court's decision. In the next, I'll examine a line of argument made by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her dissent.

One popular objection—that corporations do not have rights—can be dispatched quickly. The Assemblies of God—a nonprofit corporation—has a First Amendment right to the "free exercise" of religion. This right applies to the corporation as such, not merely to its officers or employees. Similarly, our Fellowship shares with for-profit corporations a First Amendment right to "the freedom of speech" and "of the press"; a Fourth Amendment right against "unreasonable searches and seizures," i.e., those that take place without a warrant supported by "probable cause"; a Fifth Amendment right against "property" being taken "without due process of law"; and in eminent-domain cases, "without just compensation"; a Sixth Amendment and Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial in criminal and civil cases, respectively; and an Eighth Amendment protection against "excessive fines." In other words, corporations—both nonprofit and for-profit—do have at least some rights, and this is recognized by the Supreme Court.

Another popular objection—that the decision constitutes a "war on women"—is misleading. In two cases—Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) and Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972)—the Supreme Court ruled that both women and men have a constitutional right to purchase and use contraceptives, whether they are married or unmarried. Those rulings are unaffected by Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.

Moreover, neither Hobby Lobby nor Conestoga Wood Specialties had an objection to covering contraceptives per se. Indeed, their employee health-care plans covered 16 of the 20 forms of contraception approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They simply objected to covering the four forms that can cause abortion. Finally, not all women agree that employee health-care plans should pay for medical drugs and devices that can cause abortion, e.g., the women in the Green and Hahn families, among millions of others.

(By the way, the official position of the Assemblies of God, as adopted by the General Presbytery, is that contraception is permitted but abortion is prohibited. The General Council's employer health-care plans covers all FDA-approved forms of contraception except ones it considers abortifacients. In other words, both the beliefs and health-care plans of the Assemblies of God are similar to those of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties.)

A final popular objection is that granting for-profit corporations free-exercise rights will lead to a parade of horrible outcomes in which religious employers refuse to cover blood transfusions, vaccinations or other medical procedures they deem inconsistent with their religious beliefs. The problem with this objection is twofold: (1) RFRA has been the law of the land for 21 years, and there has not been a parade of horribles with regard to religious individuals seeking protection from generally applicable laws. Why should we assume that there will be one now that some corporations can claim free-exercise rights? (2) RFRA employs a balancing test between compelling governmental interests and the free exercise of religion. If the government shows that requiring coverage of transfusions, vaccinations or other medical procedures is the least restrictive means of accomplishing a compelling interest, then the government will prevail. In other words, RFRA does not guarantee that religious persons will prevail when they claim that a generally applicable law burdens their free exercise of religion. Sometimes, they will lose.

Justice Ginsburg's Objection

In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg raised a variety of objections to the court's decision. The one I believe most needs a response is this: Ginsburg begins by asserting that "the exercise of religion is characteristic of natural persons, not artificial legal entities." She grants that "[t]he First Amendment's free exercise protections ... shelter churches and other non-profit religion-based organizations." But, she goes on to point out based on case law, "No such solicitude is traditional for commercial organizations." Why? Because there is a "distinction between a community made up of believers in the same religion and one embracing persons of diverse belief." Moreover, quoting Judge Henry T. Edwards, she writes, "for-profit corporations are different from religious non-profits because they use labor to make a profit, rather than to perpetuate [the] religious value[s] [shared by a community of believers]."

Justice Ginsburg's objection has intuitive plausibility. We know that there are differences between churches and businesses. The former can require employees to profess a specific theological creed, for example, while the latter cannot.

Even with such differences in mind, however, Ginsburg's objection is problematic. If, as she argues, "the exercise of religion is characteristic of natural persons, not artificial legal entities," it is not clear why the Supreme Court should show solicitude for "churches and non-profit religion-based organizations," which, as nonprofit corporations, are also "artificial legal entities." And yet, it does.

It's also not clear why perpetuating religious values and engaging in commercial activity should be considered fundamentally opposite. The Assemblies of God does both, after all, through Gospel Publishing House and My Healthy Church.

Finally, it's not clear that the concerns of religious organizations pertain only to "the community of believers." Churches and Christian charities are concerned about the spiritual and material well-being of people outside the community of faith. That is why they evangelize and provide help to people who do not share their beliefs or attend their churches. They have an other-directed concern that Justice Ginsburg seems not to consider.

In the end, what worries me about Ginsburg's line of argument is the narrowness of her understanding of the exercise of religion. Essentially, it limits religion to religious individuals engaged in religious activities or participating in religious organizations. This simply doesn't accord with the way that Christians and other religious persons live their lives. For them, religion is the entirety of their lives, not just the religiously explicit portions, such as personal or corporate worship activities. This is because their faith defines who they are, and who they are affects both what they do and how they do it.

Christian business owners, on this understanding, do not leave their values outside when they walk through the front doors of corporate headquarters. Those values shape the way they do business. So, for example, Hobby Lobby closes its stores on Sunday because as Christians the Green family believes that the Sabbath should be a day of worship and rest. The starting wage at Hobby Lobby is nearly twice the federal minimum wage, and its health-care plan is generous, because as Christians the Green family believes it ought to treat its employees well. Notice that these business decisions, based on Christian values, affect the company's bottom line negatively. Closing one day a week and paying higher than required starting wages represent the loss of significant revenue and profit. If Hobby Lobby were simply out to make money, such a loss would make no sense. The Green family's faith puts it in perspective, however: There is more to business than profit.

It seems to me that Justice Ginsburg's dissent, precisely because of its narrow understanding of the exercise of religion, simply cannot make sense of the way that closely held corporations such as Hobby Lobby or Conestoga Wood Specialties actually operate. How they operate reflects the Green and Hahn families' Christian faith. Ginsburg's narrow understanding thus represents a political point of view that would weaken religious freedom in America, rather than strengthen it.

What Is at Stake

There are three reasons we should support the Court's robust understanding of religious freedom.

First, we live in a society that is characterized by increasing diversity, not only of race, ethnicity and cultural background, but also of religion and ideology. A robust understanding of religious freedom helps promote peacefulness and tolerance by teaching us all to make accommodations for others' differences—not only when we worship but also when we're engaged in mundane activities, not only in the private sphere but also in the public square. Needless to say, if we Christians want others to recognize our religious freedom, we need to recognize theirs—whether they are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or adherents of any other religion. In this, we are simply following the Golden Rule, which states, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12, NIV)

Second, as the government expands its legislative and regulatory reach into every nook and cranny of American citizens' lives, it unwittingly burdens their free exercise of religion. Sometimes, given the ideological cast of those laws and regulations, the burden is—or at least seems—intentional. For example, some pro-choice advocates reject the Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby precisely because they want government to enshrine their vision of human sexuality in law. Similarly, some pro-gay rights advocates reject the decision because they fear it might lead to exemptions to the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) and sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) legislation. In other words, those advocates don't mind the intentional burden their favored laws might impose on religious people. Shouldn't we be worried about this foreseeable and intended erosion of religious liberty? More importantly, shouldn't we take action to stop it? A robust understanding of religious freedom helps limit the size and reach of government on topics where ideologues want to impose their visions of society on religious people who have longstanding, substantive objections to those visions.

This doesn't mean—it needs to be emphasized—that religion is a trump card against generally applicable laws. As noted above, there may be times when the government is using the least restrictive means to accomplish a compelling interest, and this should prevail even if it burdens someone's religious freedom. Nevertheless, shouldn't the government bear the burden of proof to justify its imposition on religious freedom?

Third, promoting a robust understanding of religious freedom is in our own interest. The Supreme Court is a reliable defender of the First Amendment rights of explicitly religious organizations such as churches, synagogues, mosques and temples. But what about charities affiliated with the Assemblies of God, such as Convoy of Hope? What about schools, such as Evangel University or any of our endorsed postsecondary schools? Will the Court reliably defend their free-exercise rights? I am encouraged to think it will in the wake of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. Had the Court ruled the other way, however, I would be discouraged that its decision would narrow the scope and weaken the force of religious freedom in our land.

What is at stake in the Court's Hobby Lobby decision, then, is the kind of society we want America to be. Is it one that respects the rights of religious persons in all their diversity, fostering tolerance rather than promoting antagonism? Is it one that resists the ideological temptation to impose—through legislation and regulation—a one-size-fits-all vision on people who object to that vision, thus burdening their consciences? Does it allow religious persons to lead a faith-integrated life—not merely in their churches but also in their charities, schools and businesses? Or does it impose a false disjunction between people's faith and the rest of their lives?

What Needs to Be Done

I close with some practical suggestions about what is to be done for religious freedom after Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.

First, I want to remind us all that our Fellowship's reasons for being are evangelism, worship, discipleship and compassion—not politics. As the tide of post-Christian secularism rises throughout our nation, it is tempting for Christians on both sides of the pulpit to turn to political activism to stem the tide. This is shortsighted and therefore ineffective. Politics reflects culture, and culture reflects values, which are religious in nature. Our government ultimately reflects our gods, in other words. Long-lasting, effective change therefore requires a change of heart. This heart change—made possible by the Spirit-empowered proclamation of the gospel—is where we pastors, evangelists and missionaries should expend our best efforts.

Second, this doesn't mean that political engagement is unimportant. As American Christians, we have both the opportunity and the right to participate in the political process by informing ourselves about candidates and issues, voting, advocating specific policies, making reasonable arguments for our positions, petitioning government officials for their support, running for office, etc. We should do such things with what Richard J. Mouw calls "convicted civility." Our political engagement, in other words, should reflect our deepest moral convictions, but they should be communicated with civility, knowing that those who disagree with us also are made in God's image, loved because of Jesus Christ, and called and empowered by the Holy Spirit to live lives of greater holiness.

It is out of this sense of convicted civility that I signed a letter along with other faith leaders imploring congressional leaders not to repeal or amend RFRA. I encourage you, if you agree with the Court's ruling, similarly to write a letter to congressional leaders, including your senators and representatives. RFRA represents the best tradition of American religious liberty and aligns with the interests of the Assemblies of God. It is worth supporting and defending. Moreover, as religious-freedom issues arise in your state, I encourage you to prayerfully consider advocating religious freedom to your family, friends, representatives and governors.

Moreover, we should encourage voting because elections have consequences. One of those consequences is that the president nominates judges who serve on district and appellate courts and on the Supreme Court. The U.S. Senate must then approve those nominees. It is a sad fact that no evangelical sits on the Supreme Court—even though evangelicals constitute a very large faith community in America. I suspect that at present no evangelicals could even be nominated or confirmed to a federal bench because they hold views that are pro-life and pro-traditional marriage. People in our Fellowship need to remember that when they cast a ballot, they effectively decide who will sit as a federal judge. Indirectly, they are casting a vote for or against a robust understanding of the free exercise of religion.

Third, we ought to pray for government officials in all branches (executive, legislative, judicial) at all levels (federal, state, county, municipal) that they may govern with justice so that we and our nation, states and communities experience peace. This is a biblical command (1 Timothy 2:1–2). Notice in these verses that Paul enjoins both intercession and thanksgiving. As Christians in the United States, I'm sure we've presented our list of changes we would like God to make to our government. But have we thanked God lately for our government?

Fourth and finally, we should remember that the purpose of religious freedom is positive, not negative. "Live as free people," Peter writes, "but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God's slaves." (1 Peter 2:16, NIV) Before religious freedom is freedom from government interference, it is freedom to do God's will. As sons and daughters of God, we have the ability to do God's will regardless of what the government does. God has not guaranteed that doing the right thing will be politically popular in this lifetime, but we should do it nonetheless. "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us." (1 Peter 2:12, NIV)

I pray that God would bless you and the ministry you lead. I ask for the same from you. And I hope that you receive my advice on this topic in the spirit with which it has been given.

George O. Wood is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God (USA) and chairman of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship. He has been licensed to practice law by the California State Bar since 1991 and to practice law before 
the United States Supreme Court since 2004. This article originally appeared in the July issue of Called to Serve.

George O. Wood Featured Opinion Tue, 22 Jul 2014 06:00:00 -0400
Christian Baker: 'We Are Staying True to Our Beliefs'

The Christian bakery managers who face a court challenge because of their stance on traditional marriage have spoken out in Northern Ireland's news media, saying, "we are staying true to our beliefs."

Daniel McArthur has been at the center of a religious-liberty debate after the bakery he manages—Ashers Baking Company—declined to decorate a cake with the slogan "Support Gay Marriage."

Now he has explained how the company came to its decision and commented: "I am sorry for any distress we have caused, but we are staying true to our beliefs."

Daniel and Amy McArthur, who have a 1-year-old daughter and are expecting another child, spoke out after the bakery's decision made the news worldwide.

The bakery, which is owned by Daniel's parents, is facing court action after the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland claimed it breached equality laws.

However, The Christian Institute is supporting the McArthurs and says the case proves the need for the law to reasonably accommodate family-run businesses with firmly held beliefs.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Daniel said the family discussed the cake order—"weighing up what our conscience told us against the risk our response might get some public attention."

He added: "As we don't believe in gay marriage and did not want to be associated with a politicized campaign, mum phoned the customer to explain politely that we could not accept the order and would be returning his deposit."

"We never thought we could be prosecuted for our beliefs," he added.

Daniel commented: "We are not discriminating against gay people. Our church's definition of marriage is clear: It's a covenant between a man and a woman, a 6,000-year-old tradition, which is ordained by God. Sexual activity outside marriage is a sin."

He also questioned the Equality Commission's actions, saying: "The commission talks about discrimination on the grounds of disability, race and sexuality, but never against people's Christian beliefs. Why?"

"We pray that God will give us the strength to fight this," Daniel added.

The interview was carried out by journalist Andrew Pierce, who is gay and in a civil partnership.

He noted that while Northern Irish legislators have voted against same-sex marriage, the Equality Commission is in favor of it.

Pierce concluded, "Its website states: 'The commission supports the introduction of legislation permitting same-sex marriage ... with sufficient safeguards for religious organizations.'

"But not, it seems, for small Christian bakeries."

The Christian Institute Featured World News Mon, 21 Jul 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Persecution of Mosul Christians 'Unprecedented in Modern Times'

David Curry, president/CEO of Open Doors USA, has condemned the latest action of Islamic State militants who ordered all Christians in the Iraqi city of Mosul to leave the city over the weekend or face execution.

"The persecution and treatment of Christians in Mosul is unprecedented in modern times," he says. "This latest forced exodus of Christians further shows why Western governments and the people in the West need to cry out in support for religious freedom in the Middle East and elsewhere. If this does not move us concerning the near extinction of Christianity in the Middle East, it's likely nothing else can."

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, director of Interfaith Affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, adds: "Too many of us thought that forced conversions and expulsions of entire religious communities were part of a distant, medieval past. There was little that we could do to stop this horrible episode.

"It is not too late to realize that many others—Christians today, but certainly Jews, Baha'i, Hindus, Muslims and others—are mortally endangered by a potent religious fanaticism that threatens tens of millions, and which still can be resisted."

According to Open Doors, the Islamic State gave Christians an ultimatum over the weekend: 1) Stay and convert to Islam; 2) Pay Islamic tax (which is too much for most families to pay); 3) Leave Mosul taking nothing but their clothes. Christians who stayed would be executed.

Most Christians have left Mosul now. At the checkpoints of ISIS, Christians had to leave everything behind (cars, gold, money, mobile phones). The only possessions they could keep were their clothes. They had to walk to safer places, mostly in northern Iraq, while traveling in blistering heat.

A World Watch Monitor source in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region, said a Christian family in Mosul reported by phone that explosions were heard during the night last Thursday in Mosul. On Friday, as the family attempted to pass through a Mosul checkpoint, ISIS agents forced them out of their car and confiscated their belongings and put them in a separate vehicle. Then the militants drove them several minutes down the road, and ultimately forced them out to continue their journey on foot, according to the source.

Open Doors reports that some churches, many in partnership with Open Doors, have been helping the Mosul refugees. One Open Doors field worker said: "The exodus has stopped. There are no more Christians in Mosul anymore. We now need to pray that they might return one day."

Earlier last week, the Islamic State marked houses belonging to members of minority communities, including Christians, with the phrase "property of the Islamic State," including inhabited houses.

Iraq is ranked No. 4 on the Open Doors 2014 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians. For more information on the list, click here.

Jerry Dykstra Featured World News Mon, 21 Jul 2014 18:00:00 -0400
3 Percent of America's Population Is Overthrowing God's Will

Even though the American public thinks the figure is much higher, less than 3 percent of the U.S. population identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, according to the first large-scale government survey measuring Americans' sexual orientation, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The National Health Interview Survey," the government's main tool for annually assessing Americans' health and behaviors, found that 1.6 percent of adults self-identify as gay or lesbian, and 0.7 percent self-identify as bisexual.

The general public, due in part to the efforts of those aiming to normalize homosexual behavior in America, estimates that number to be much higher. A tenth of the population is a widely accepted figure, and in past surveys, a quarter of Americans thought that 25 percent or more of the population was homosexual.

"Today in America, we are changing millennia-old marriage laws, inundating television shows with multiple homosexual characters and pushing the public to embrace as accepted and healthy the behavior of less than 3 percent of the population," said Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association. "Our culture, through the bullying, pressure and coercion of a lobby motivated by an extremely small population in America, has become focused on advancing the homosexual lifestyle as normal and even ideal."  

So far, those aiming to mainline homosexuality have done a good job tricking Americans into thinking the homosexual population is much larger than it really is. 

According to a report in The Atlantic, Gallup polls in 2002 and 2011 found that the American public greatly overestimated the number of people who are gay or lesbian. In 2002, a quarter of those surveyed guessed a quarter or more of Americans were gay, lesbian or homosexual (the last of which was listed as a third option). By 2011, more than a third of Americans thought that 25 percent of Americans are gay or lesbian. Just 4 percent of those surveyed in 2011 and about 8 percent in 2002 correctly guessed that fewer than 5 percent of Americans are gay or lesbian.

According to the CDC survey, the overwhelming majority of adults, 96.6 percent, identified as straight, while 1.1 percent declined to answer, responded "I don't know the answer" or said they were "something else."

The survey also found that those in the gay community have higher rates of other unhealthy behaviors, with 26 percent of gays stating that they were current cigarette smokers (as opposed to 18 percent of the straight population), and one-third of the gay population reporting that they had consumed five or more alcoholic drinks in one day in the past year, compared to 22 percent of straight respondents.

The CDC, in a fact sheet on its website, also estimates that gay and bisexual men are more severely affected by HIV than any other group in the United States. According to the CDC:

  • "Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) represent approximately 2 percent of the United States population, yet are the population most severely affected by HIV."
  • "In 2010, young gay and bisexual men (aged 13-24 years) accounted for 72 percent of new HIV infections among all persons aged 13 to 24 and 30 percent of new infections among all gay and bisexual men."
  • Also in 2010, "gay and bisexual men accounted for 63 percent of estimated new HIV infections in the United States and 78 percent of infections among all newly infected men."
  • "From 2008 to 2010, new (HIV) infections increased 22 percent among young (aged 13-24) gay and bisexual men and 12 percent among gay and bisexual men overall."

"There are very significant health risks associated with homosexuality that the public isn't aware of," Wildmon added. "We care about the health of all Americans, including people who are inclined to engage in homosexual behavior. People need to be informed that the homosexual lifestyle is not a benign alternative to heterosexual behavior. There are serious health risks, which is why we at AFA oppose homosexual behavior being normalized, as well as homosexual individuals being given special preference in the law."

The annual CDC survey is highly regarded because of its sample size (33,557 adults between the ages of 18 and 64 for the most recent survey) and its methods, which include face-to-face interviews and some follow-up telephone queries.

Deborah Hamilton Featured U.S. News Mon, 21 Jul 2014 17:00:00 -0400
Bishop Tony Palmer, Champion of Unity, Dies in Motorcycle Accident

Bishop Tony Palmer, a South African Bishop with the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches, has passed away after a motorcycle accident.

Palmer gained worldwide media attention in January after Pope Francis sent a special envoy to a Charismatic Evangelical Leadership Conference Kenneth Copeland hosted.

"Tony Palmer, the charismatic young preacher who enjoyed a friendship with Pope Francis, has apparently died in a motorcycle accident," Kathy Schiffer reported on her Seasons of Grace blog. "Not a Catholic, Palmer was bishop in the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches, a group that broke away from the Anglican Church and considered itself part of the Convergence Movement."

Palmer presented a video message from the pope that went massively viral at the Copeland-hosted conference. The message centered on unity among Catholics and Protestants. Copeland prayed for the pope and sent a message of his own back to Francis.

Catholics and evangelicals alike are mourning Palmer's loss.

"I never personally met Bishop Tony Palmer. However, I look forward to spending an eternity in the full communion of God's love with him. I appreciated his Christian courage and felt that his efforts were prophetic," wrote Keith Fournier, founder and chairman of Common Good Foundation and Common Good Alliance.

"He wrote his life—and lived his ministry—with broad brushstrokes, seeking to reveal the fullness of God's loving plan for the Body of Christ, the healing of the divisions and wounds which separate those of us who share the name Christian."

Jennifer LeClaire Featured U.S. News Mon, 21 Jul 2014 16:00:00 -0400
8 States Bar This 'Religion' From Holding Public Office

Though not strictly enforced, eight U.S. states currently ban atheists from holding public office.

The states include Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas.

Though the language varies, each state has constitutional texts that make it clear nonbelievers are not welcome in their political sphere.

For instance, the Arkansas constitution—which was adopted in 1874—reads, in part, "No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any Court."

Mississippi's constitution, adopted in 1890, says, "No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this State."

Tennessee's is a bit different, not only banning atheists and those who deny "a future state of rewards and punishment," but also pastors and ministers.

"Whereas ministers of the Gospel are by their profession, dedicated to God and the care of souls, and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their functions; therefore, no minister of the Gospel, or priest of any denomination whatever, shall be eligible to a seat in either House of the Legislature," the state's constitution reads. "No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishment, shall hold any office in the civil department of this state."

Despite the existence of these bans, they stopped being enforced after the Torcaso v. Watkins Supreme Court battle in 1961, according to The Washington PostThe Washington Post. With the never-ending battle in our culture atheists bring against Christians, will the bans may soon be altogether removed.

Gina Meeks Featured U.S. News Mon, 21 Jul 2014 15:00:00 -0400
Strip This Away, and America Is Absolutely Doomed

Last week's tragic downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which resulted in the deaths of nearly 300 people, is the latest reminder that life and liberty around the world remain under intense attack.

With upheaval in Ukraine and elsewhere and with radical Islamic militants spreading terror throughout parts of Africa, Asia, and even portions of Europe and America, author and apologist Alex McFarland warns against embracing the false belief that America is safe.

Those who believe America is protected because of miles of ocean, the strength of our military, the technology of our weapons or the quality of our military intelligence are sorely mistaken and, even worse, are deluding themselves. In truth, the only thing that has preserved our nation as a free and safe country is our belief in God and our reliance on Him. Strip this away, and we strip away every protection we have.

Make no mistake, terrorists who hate America, hate our way of life and hate the God on whose Word our nation and liberties were founded would like nothing more than to choreograph targeted and massive bloodletting right here on American soil.

Now is a time to grieve for those who have lost loved ones to terror, but it's also a time to stop putting our heads in the sands of false assurances of safety and recognize that unless our nation turns back to God in humility, repentance and sincerity, we will soon suffer the same violence, the same bloodshed and the same reigns of terror that we're now seeing in other parts of the world.

America's own national anthem urges our "heav'n-rescued land" to "praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation." Yet, while the rhetoric of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" is still politically correct, any recognition that life and liberty are gifts from God and God alone have become unbearable to those who would eradicate God from American history and American life.

Political correctness is the banner of cowards. It's time for our nation to reject the fear of giving offense and for our leaders to stand up and call for national repentance and prayer. And not the politically correct homogenized prayers designed to placate special-interest groups but prayers to the God of the Bible, Whose protection and blessing are the only reason our nation still exists.

Life and liberty are at risk—grave risk—today. And it's because we as a nation have forgotten and even rejected our source, author and giver—Almighty God. Some think we can continue to enjoy our freedoms apart from God, but if we don't realize the fallacy of this belief, we will soon lose our freedoms and the protections of the God Who gave them.

Time is running out. We have been blessed by God, but it's critical that we understand that God does not owe us anything. And if we continue as a nation to reject God, we fool ourselves to think He is obligated to bless, prosper or protect us.

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

Alex McFarland Featured Opinion Mon, 21 Jul 2014 14:00:00 -0400
Tim Tebow Puts NFL Return in God’s Hands

Could Tim Tebow be vying for another quarterback spot this season? It sure looks like he's training hard enough to make the cut.

Indeed, if his workout ethic is any indication he would be in prime condition to suit up when football season starts in September.

Of course, Tebow is not forcing anyone's hand—especially not God's.

"One of my favorite quotes is, 'I don't know what my future holds, but I know Who holds my future,'" he told KSAZ-TV. "And that it gives you peace to just continue to work and go after what your heart desires, and when you do that you don't have any regrets and I think that's the best way to live life."

Would you like to see Tebow back in the NFL?

Jennifer LeClaire Featured Culture Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:00:00 -0400
False Prophetic Judgment Arises After Malaysia Airline Catastrophe

The hate-filled Westboro Baptist Church's founder may be dead, but the cultish "church" is still spewing forth hurtful statements in the wake of tragedy.

The group, best known for picketing funerals with "God Hates Fags" signs, is now proclaiming that the Malaysia Airlines plane that was shot out of the sky by militants last week—a catastrophe that left about 300 people dead—was an act of God.

Westboro is basing its false prophetic judgment on Jeremiah 6:15. The group is offering a barrage of tweets with "compelling evidence" that all 289 souls who died are "this day in hell."

"GodSmack! Malaysian Plane Down," the group tweeted, along with a blog post that supposes, "When God wants your attention, He knows how to get it. @WBCSays warned you that if you refuse to repent of your many whoredoms Dutch, Malaysians, Aussies, Indonesians, Germans, et al. YOU WILL PERISH!"

The blog posts also connects Jeremiah 6:15 to the tragedy: "Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the Lord."

Let me state emphatically: The shooting down of this airplane was not God's judgment. I see far too much cursing going on in the name of God, and it grieves the Holy Spirit.

This is sickening and Twitter should shut this down. At the same time, we need to remember that the Westboro members who are uttering these words of death are themselves in bondage.

Rather than returning evil for evil, we need to sincerely pray that members of this cult—and the many others who don't make headlines—break free from the deception and stop deceiving others. Westboro may be full of hate—and God is not pleased with their actions—but He still loves them.

Jennifer LeClaire Featured Opinion Mon, 21 Jul 2014 12:00:00 -0400
How the Church Must Respond to Immigration Reform Amid Cry for Justice

Demonstrators gathered across the nation this past weekend to voice their concern over immigration reform, but outside the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan, New York, the scene was a microcosm of where our nation stands on this vital hot-button issue.

On one side of the street, protesters held signs urging officials to "Deport Illegals" and "Protect Our Borders Now." Across the street, pro-immigration reform demonstrators urged those same government officials to rectify a system that's obviously broken but still unresolved after years of national debate.

More than 2,000 miles away the shouts were deafening as buses loaded with babies in their mothers' arms, toddlers, teens and tweens moved past long lines of yet more protesters draped in American flags, wielding "Return to Sender" signs and screaming verbal assaults. Most on the bus had traveled hundreds—if not thousands—of miles trying to escape the violence or poverty of their home areas.

On every side of this culture war comes a cry for justice. Yet while the church has for the most part remained silent, our nation seems further today from grasping the meaning of justice than any time in its history.

What is justice? And who determines what it looks like? Both questions need answering in light of so many issues today being branded as issues of justice.

By its very definition, justice is the understanding and application of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, religion, equity and fairness. It is, according to the American philosopher John Rawls, the first issue of social institutions. Yet today we profoundly struggle with understanding what justice looks like and how it is to be applied in our lives.

America was founded upon a Judeo-Christian belief system in which both justice and mercy are governing concepts that are ultimately derived from and held by God. Therefore justice is intrinsically linked to the very nature of God. In fact, the psalmist David describes God's expressed rule by saying, "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; mercy and truth go before Your face" (Ps. 89:14).

Apart from knowing God and his character, humanity is hopelessly lost in a sea of confusion when it comes to justice. In the early 1830s the French thinker Alexis Tocqueville said after touring America, "I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors; in her fertile fields and boundless forests; in her rich mines and vast world commerce; in her public school system and institutions of learning. I sought for it in her democratic Congress and in her matchless Constitution. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power."

Tocqueville's conclusion was simple yet profound: "America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great." He went on to say, "The safeguard of morality is religion, and morality is the best security of law as well as the surest pledge of freedom." In other words, there is no justice and freedom apart from morality, and there is no morality apart from a vibrant faith in the living God!

Tocqueville said of this nation at that time, "The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other. Christianity is the companion of liberty in all its conflicts—the cradle of its infancy, and the divine source of its claims."

Justice begins in the human heart. Hearts darkened by the depravity and twistedness of our own sinful, selfish nature must be enlightened by an encounter with God's truth. The Bible makes it clear that the reason God gave Israel the law was so they could understand His character and nature and put into practice His standards of justice and moral rightness. God explained this when revealed why He chose Abraham, the father of faith: "For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him" (Gen. 18:19, ESV).

At the forefront of today's social justice issue in America is the ever-increasing problem of immigration. Our borders are flooded with people, most of whom have endured the worst kind of journey to come to this country. While many may differ on the long-term solution to stemming the flow of immigrants to our nation, the Bible is crystal clear about our response after their arrival: "The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked" (Ps. 146:9, NIV).

How much does God value protecting the immigrant? In Isaiah 58 the prophet describes a people who, by all appearances, were profoundly spiritual. As a nation, they sought God daily, which is more than we can say for America today. Yet in all their spiritual zeal, God rebukes them for their sin and even calls it rebellion. What was this sin that evoked such a visceral response from God? It was their tall stack of injustices: the way they treated the needy and hungry, their stubborn refusal to clothe the naked, and their mistreatment of the immigrant. For all of their religious fervor and zeal God's people had missed the point. God was expecting action—not a cosmetic faith or a theoretical faith, but an active, applied faith. A faith so filled with the compassion of God that it feels the pain and plight of the vulnerable and satisfies the needs of the weak and broken.

Micah 6:8 puts it this way: "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (ESV).

Today the lines of partisan politics have sharply divided the body of Christ. We have allowed our theology to be hijacked by our politics rather than inform it. We're driven down a road further away from the place of compassion and true moral rightness. Yet God's word admonishes us to "learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause" (Is. 1:17). It is easy to draw the parallel between walking with God and receiving His blessings. His Word is plain: Stay close to Him and His righteous standards, and the result is that justice reigns and blessings flow; drift from Him and the consequences are dire.

We are God's people, His church. As Christ's ambassadors, we are the hope of the world. May God help us during this immigration challenge to stand up for true moral—and biblical—rightness. May we be His hands, extended to fulfill Amos 5:24: "But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."

Ron Johnson is the pastor of One Church in Longwood, Florida.

Ron Johnson Featured Opinion Mon, 21 Jul 2014 11:00:00 -0400
The Coming Christian Revolt

From behind a smoking sniper rifle high atop his ivory tower peers the secular "progressive." He surveys his many victims, strewn across the American landscape below and mockingly sneers, "War on Christianity? What war on Christianity?"

He then resumes shooting, all the while insisting that those uncooperative Christians who scatter for cover behind the Word of God and the U.S. Constitution somehow suffer from a "persecution complex" (the baker, the photographer, the florist, the innkeeper, the Christian school administrator, etc.).

Though there are many, it is plain for all to see that abortion and "sexual liberation" remain the two principal theaters in the ongoing culture war battlefront.

To fully advance the causes of radical feminism, abortion-on-demand, unfettered sexual license, gay marriage and the like, the pagan left must do away with religious free exercise altogether. Under the guise of "anti-discrimination," Christians today face discrimination at unprecedented levels.

Let's see if we can make this abundantly clear. Christians, true Christians—regenerate, Bible-believing Christians who strive their level best to maintain fidelity to the word of God and honor His commands—will not—indeed cannot—participate in, approve of, facilitate or encourage certain behaviors deemed by the Holy Scriptures to be immoral or sinful.

This is both our constitutionally affirmed human right and our Christian duty.

It is not done from hate. It is not done from bigotry. It is done neither from a position of superiority nor a desire to "impose our beliefs" upon others.

It is done from both obedience to Christ and compassion for our fellow fallen who yet wallow in folly.

Central to Christianity, and clearly delineated throughout both the Old and New Testaments, is the unambiguous and timeless proposition that any sexual practice outside the bonds of true man-woman marriage constitutes sexual immorality and results in separation from God. This, of course, includes sexual acting out between members of the same sex, whether or not such acting out is tied to the novel notion of so-called same-sex marriage.

Likewise central to Christianity is the relatively easy-to-understand concept that a Christ follower must neither take the life of a pre-born child nor aid and abet, in any way, the taking of such life.

It is not so much that Christians wish, willy-nilly, to call abortion, homosexual behavior, fornication, adultery, bestiality, incest or any other disordered sexual proclivity "sinful." It is, rather, that we must. For the true Christian, God's objective truths will always trump man's subjective desires.

Newton's Third Law states: "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."

For every law, regulation, activist court ruling or presidential edict that demands Christians violate their sincerely held religious beliefs and adopt a postmodern, moral relativist way of life, there increases, in exact proportion, the likelihood of widespread civil disobedience—disobedience of the sort we haven't seen since the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and '60s.

Indeed, if, in the spirit of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., we, his fellow Christian travelers, must again face the water hoses, then face them we shall.

As the recent Hobby Lobby decision reaffirmed, the government cannot legislate away religious free exercise. Where your desire, intense though it may be, for me to employ you despite your antagonistic values system, pay for your abortion, or host, photograph or otherwise bake a rainbow cake for your faux wedding, comes into conflict with my absolute right to religious liberty, the result is a forgone conclusion.

I win, you lose.

We have seen and will continue to see an exponential increase in Christian business owners refusing to violate God's commands by complying with unconstitutional, immoral and unjust government dictates.

For 2,000 years, whenever such conflicts have arisen, Christians have placed the laws of God above the laws of man.

What makes you think we're about to change now?

As many in the early church refused to bow a knee to Caesar in worship, so, too, will many modern Christians refuse, under any circumstances, to obey any law that presumes to make sin obligatory.

If the ancient church, through the power of the Holy Spirit, was able to face the lions in hopeful anticipation of joining Jesus, then we, too, under the same Spirit, will face anything today's pagan left can threaten.

In the ongoing culture war, it seems there are no rules of engagement. The secular left will accept nothing short of unconditional surrender. That is to say, the pagans demand that we Christians abandon the biblical worldview altogether, and adopt their own.

This will never happen.

Martin Luther King Jr. famously declared, "One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws."

In 2012, after the Obama administration unilaterally issued its now-gutted HHS contraception/abortion mandate, Catholic priests from across the nation, to their great credit, read from the pulpit a letter that contained the following declaration: "We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law."

As our secularist government increasingly imposes similar laws, so, too, increases the certitude of civil disobedience.

While there are those who will give way out of fear, weakness or a desire to conform to the world, there are many others who will not. Christians must peacefully come together, lock arms and redouble our resistance to evil.

Even when that evil is adorned with the presidential seal and signature.

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, 21 Jul 2014 10:00:00 -0400
The Danger of an Exaggerated End-Time Mentality

On a regular basis, whenever there are reports of moral collapse in our country or of wars and crises worldwide, someone will say to me, "This is it! Jesus is about to return! Everything is coming down!"

Of course, according to one system of interpretation, that could be true and the Lord could return within the next few moments or years.

The problem I have is that I've heard Jesus is coming back any moment for more than 40 years.

Could it be that we have a wrong mentality about the end of the age? Could it be that we're missing something very important?

To be clear, I am not a preterist (meaning, that I don't believe most of the prophetic promises and events have already been fulfilled and that "the coming of Jesus" took place in the year 70 A.D. when the temple was destroyed), and I do look forward to the return of the Lord and our eternal union with Him (see 1 Cor. 15:50-55; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 John 2:28-3:3).

And I am a classic premillennialist as opposed to a postmillennialist or amillennialist, although I am not a dispensational premillennialist—meaning I do not believe in a pre-trib rapture.

But the last thing I want to do is argue over these points, and I have worked with leaders around the world for decades without dividing over these issues. If you want to agree with me passionately or disagree with me passionately over eschatological details, have at it.

What I want to address here is a potentially dangerous mentality that breeds despair and hopelessness, that leads to capitulation and escapism, and that almost encourages believers to throw in the towel.

For example, in response to one of my articles about sex-change regret, someone commented, "More proof that the end is near. Right is wrong and wrong is right."

Someone else responded to my YouTube video on the apostasy of the PCUSA by saying, "The end is over the near brother...more and more churches committing apostasy, it's ridiculous," while someone else wrote on Facebook, "We are witnessing the great falling away."

My problem, to repeat, is that I've heard this since I came to faith in late 1971, a time when the most influential, best-selling Christian book was Hal Lindsey's Late Great Planet Earth.

And while I have not held to a pre-trib rapture theology for more than 35 years, I appreciate the fact that my dispensationalist, pre-trib friends take the Bible seriously, that many of them have been great evangelists, that they recognize the importance of Israel today and that they really are looking forward to the return of Jesus (whereas lots of other believers hardly give it any thought).

But to say it again, I've heard that Jesus was coming back any second for more than 40 years, and every time something bad happens people are saying, "Armageddon is next!" or, "This is the final deception!"

What we do know is that so far, the end has not yet come, the harvest is still very ripe (and vast), there have been far worse times in human history than today (in recent memory, just think of World War II and the massive losses of life), and around the world the Spirit is being poured out mightily.

It is true that America today is in great moral and spiritual decline, but revival historians will tell you that we have had some very dark times before, and it was divine visitation that turned things around.

Where is it written that there will not be another, even greater awakening? Can you demonstrate to me conclusively from the Scriptures that God is finished with our nation and that no hope for revival remains?

It's interesting to note that over the centuries, even as early as the second century, Christian leaders were proclaiming that they were living in the last generation (or close to it), and so it's understandable that believers through the ages would have this perspective.

After all, we see the great suffering and sin of the human race, and if we love the Lord, we will live with at least some sense of urgency: there are so many lost, hurting people to reach and we have only one lifetime to touch them with the good news.

And all of us should long for the Lord's appearing (see 2 Tim. 4:8). In fact, if we're so at home in this world that we don't long for His coming, we need to examine our hearts.

But to repeat once more, the problem is with our mentality, with the idea that, every time there's an example of apostasy we say, "This is the great falling away!", or every time we see further moral collapse in our society, we say, "We're out of here any minute!"

Many believers had that attitude in the '60s and '70s, and rather than recognize that a great potential harvest was here, they thought, "The whole world is going mad!" And rather than stand against the flood tide of immorality that swept through our culture, all too many believers were waiting to be taken out, leaving it to the ungodly to write their revolution into law. We have been paying the price ever since.

As I understand it, the Scriptures indicate that the last days began with the death and resurrection of Jesus and will continue until the end of this age (see, for example, Acts 2:17-20; 2 Tim. 3:1-6; 1 John 2:18).

This means that we have been living in a transition age for almost 2,000 years, a time of already but not yet, a time when the kingdom of God has broken in and is expanding but will not reach its complete manifestation until Jesus returns, a time of great outpouring and a time of great falling away, in short, a time of parallel extremes.

And I expect those extremes to get more and more extreme the closer we get to the end. (Again, I'm quite aware of the different interpretations that can be put on these passages, so I'll say it again: I'm not here to divide over theology or to debate interpretations. I'm here to make a practical point.)

So I encourage you to remember that we are in the age of the Spirit's outpouring, the age of the harvest, that all authority in heaven and earth has been given to the Lord Jesus, that we are overcomers and more than conquerors in Him, that He who lives within us is greater than he who lives in the world, that our God sits enthroned in the heavens, and that, in the end, His ways will triumph over the entire earth.

That's why, no matter how bleak things look, my eyes are fixed on the Lord, and in Him, I am full of hope, confidence and vision. And should the day come when our strategy needs to change, I trust that our heavenly Commander in Chief will make that plain.

So, forward until He comes!

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

Michael Brown Featured In the Line of Fire Opinion Mon, 21 Jul 2014 09:30:00 -0400
Fish Oil Can Dramatically Cut Your Risk for This Horrible Disease

A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids may help cut your risk for the fatal neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, a new study suggests.

These fatty acids—found most commonly in certain fish—are known to help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress on cells. Both of those processes can damage nerve tissue, according to the study authors.

Inflammation and oxidative stress have long been linked with ALS, the study authors said, so any nutrient that fights those processes might be helpful.

In the study, "individuals with higher dietary intakes of total omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids—an essential type of dietary fat found in vegetable oils and fish—had a reduced risk for ALS," said lead researcher Kathryn Fitzgerald of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

"We also found that higher dietary intake of alpha-linolenic acid, a type of fatty acid found in vegetable oils and nuts, is also associated with lower ALS risk," she said.

For the study, Fitzgerald's team looked at the association between ALS and these fatty acids among almost 1,000 ALS patients. They found that those who ate the most foods containing omega-3 fatty acids had the lowest risk of developing ALS.

People ranked in the top 20 percent in terms of their omega-3 fatty acid intake cut their odds of developing ALS by a third, compared to those in the bottom 20 percent, the study found.

Fitzgerald cautioned, however, that the study was an observational study, where the researchers look at data from published sources and not from their own randomized trial. "So we can't say there's a cause-and-effect relationship, only that there's an association," she said.

And there was another caveat: This study only looked at the risk of developing ALS. Whether high intake could help treat people who already have the disease isn't known.

"Future studies are needed to establish whether increasing omega-3 intake might be helpful for people with ALS," Fitzgerald said.

ALS is a relatively rare disease, she noted. "Currently, there are roughly 20,000 to 30,000 Americans who have ALS, and roughly 5,000 patients are diagnosed with ALS each year," Fitzgerald said.

The report was published online July 14 in JAMA Neurology.

Dr. Michael Swash is a British neurologist at the Royal London Hospital and the author of an accompanying journal editorial. He believes that the new study "is important in that it provides the possibility of an environmental factor [diet] in the complex processes triggering the onset of ALS."

Dietary factors could be such a factor, and this research opens the door a little toward addressing that idea, Swash said.

"Maybe we are headed toward two forms of therapy—one preventing the disorder, an ideal solution—the other slowing the progression of the disease, also necessary," he said.

Newsmax Health Featured Opinion Mon, 21 Jul 2014 09:00:00 -0400
Are Christians Still Misunderstanding Grace?

Grace appears exactly 170 times in The King James Version of the Bible. You'll stumble across the word more often than forgive, believe or hell. But, according to Preston Sprinkle, Christians have misunderstood grace.

Sprinkle is author of numerous books, including the New York Times best-selling Erasing Hell (co-authored with Francis Chan), and professor at Eternity Bible College. His new book, Charis: God's Scandalous Grace for Us, explores how we've misunderstood this critical Christian concept. Here, we discuss how grace is "not just a New Testament thing" and how his study of grace has led him to a somewhat scandalous understanding of hell.

RNS: Why does the world need another book about grace?

PS: There many books on grace, but I focus primarily on the Old Testament to show that grace is not just a New Testament thing. 

The Old Testament is all about grace. It forms the rich soil from which Jesus's gospel of grace blossoms. To understand Jesus, we must soak ourselves in Israel's story of grace. That's why I end the book by looking at the birth, life, and death of Jesus. Because Jesus is not just the beginning of the New Testament but also the fitting climax of the Old.

Click here to finish reading on

Jonathan Merritt/RNS Featured Culture Mon, 21 Jul 2014 08:00:00 -0400
Christianity Outlawed in Central Indian Villages

Several villages in central India have outlawed the open practice of Christianity—a move of questionable legality yet one that worries church leaders who say it already has encouraged anti-Christian violence.

"The situation is becoming worse. The anti-Christian propaganda is becoming stronger," Arun Pannalal, president of Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, told World Watch Monitor on Tuesday. Chhattisgarh is one of India's 29 states, in the heart of the country.

Pannalal said the village of Belar, in Chhattisgarh's southeast district of Bastar, convened a Gram Sabha, or village assembly, on July 6 and passed a resolution banning all non-Hindu religious activities.

The Belar assembly, Pannalal said, was an echo to Gram Sabha of representatives from about a dozen villages held May 10 in Sirsiguda village, also in Bastar district. There, the delegates passed a resolution banning the outward practice of non-Hindu faiths.

"To stop the forced conversion by some outsider religious campaigners and to prevent them from using derogatory language against Hindu deities and customs, the Sirsiguda Gram Sabha bans religious activities such as prayers, meetings and propaganda of all non-Hindu religions," said the text of the resolution. It contains no provisions for penalties.

"These meetings are held under the Chhattisgarh Panchayati Raj Act," or Village Council System Act, Pannalal said. He said the councils erroneously believe the act provides a legitimate legal foundation upon which to ban minority religious practice.

"Hindu fundamentalists are using this provision to take the people for a ride to enforce their agenda," he said. "Their strategy is to use the influential gram sabhas to adopt such controversial resolutions to mislead the locals to believe that banning non-Hindus is well within the law."

The Times of India, a national English-language daily newspaper, on July 9 quoted a claim by Suresh Yadav, the Bastar district president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or World Hindu Council, that more than 50 villages have adopted similar resolutions.

The Rev. Aneesh Andrews, Methodist district superintend for the region, told World Watch Monitor that after the resolutions are passed, poor Christian families in some villages have been denied government rations of staples such as wheat, rice and sugar, and access to village water sources such as tube wells and common ponds.

"In some places, the passing of the resolution has been followed by attacks on pastors and pulling down of village churches," Andrews said.

"It is not just passing of a resolution," he said. "This is a ploy to harass Christians."

Following the adoption of the multi-village resolution at the Sirsiguda village, 10 Christians—including three pastors—were assaulted by Hindu fundamentalists, according to a report by the Salt Foundation, an Indian religious-freedom organization.

Christians in the villages "were not given access to (rations) due to their religious practices and for not giving donations to the village's Hindu temple, as reported by our area coordinator," the foundation report said. "Without the ration cards, they were not able to receive any food from the government ration shop and if they went and bought food from (shops in) the city it would be exorbitantly expensive. This made them raise a concern."

In two villages, Gadiya and Parapur, Christians have been ordered to leave town "or suffer the consequences," according to the Rev. Vijayesh Lal, national director of the Religious Liberty Commission for the Evangelical Fellowship of India. The threats, Lal said, have been made by groups containing members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a Hindu nationalist organization.

"If timely protection and intervention is not provided, there is an apprehension of anti-minority violence," Lal said in a July 15 letter to Chhattisgarh Chief Secretary Vivek Dhand. Lal also conveyed reports of a Christian man in Kue Mari village who had been ordered to pay a fine. He did, and yet his house was burned down, Lal said.

"Today he is living under a plastic sheet with his family that includes three children and his elderly parents. I humbly request you to please intervene in his situation and provide him some relief and protection," Lal wrote to Dhand.

The resolutions popping up in Chhattisgarh are the first of their kind, according to Rolf Zeegers, an analyst for Open Doors International, a charity that provides aid to Christians who live under pressure because of their faith.

"Christian leaders fear that the ban will increase suspicion and distrust in the community, generating disharmony and hate that could have disastrous consequences for non-Hindus," Christians and Muslims alike, Zeegers wrote in a recent Open Doors report.

"Following the ban and the attack on a church being the latest in a string of violent incidents, Christian leaders affirmed that Chhattisgarh is becoming a cauldron of hate mongering against non-Hindus," he said.

Chhattisgarh law already requires residents to obtain government permission before they can change religions, placing the state among the handful in India with laws restricting conversion. The anti-conversion laws, held up as a tool to defend individuals from being forced to convert against their will, are regarded by religious-freedom advocates as a tool that instead is used to drive minorities into the corners of society. And Chhattisgarh, governed by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, is particularly fertile political ground for anti-minority abuse, church leaders fear.

"The situation could get worse. We have to be vigilant," said Purna Sagar Nag, bishop of the Chhattisgarh diocese of the Church of North India. "Right now, it is confined to [Bastar] district; it may spread to other areas."

"We are planning to take it up with the higher government officials to ensure that this stopped at the earliest," he said.

The head of Bastar's district administration, Ankit Anand, dismissed the village resolutions as "legally null and void" documents that aren't enforced by government agencies.

Legality aside, the chief concern among church leaders is the potential the resolutions have to encourage a climate of impunity toward religious minorities.

Catholic Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi has urged authorities to intervene and stop the ban on non-Hindu missionaries in Bastar district. In a statement released to the press, Couto said a ban "violates constitutional rights of freedom of faith, and the freedom of movement, expression" and will have "serious impact on the secular ethos of India, and damages its international reputation."

"Though it could be considered as just another ban on Christian missionaries at the behest of fundamentalist groups and bigoted political functionaries, who are now greatly encouraged, it is a grave assault on the fundamental rights of individuals and peoples' groups," he said.

Allowing the bans to stand, the archbishop said, would encourage extremist religious organizations to wage hate campaigns against Christians, which in turn give rise to organized violence.

World Watch Monitor Featured World News Mon, 21 Jul 2014 07:00:00 -0400