Charisma News | Breaking News. Spiritual Perspective. Mon, 01 Sep 2014 07:03:22 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Hebrews 11:23—The Key to Deliverance

She is mentioned by name only twice in the Bible, in Exodus 6:20 and Numbers 26:59. Most Bible readers don't even know her name!

The testimony of her life tells us it is not so much who you are but what you do with your life, how you meet life's crises and responsibilities, that matter! Jochebed was a woman of God, used greatly by God because she did not allow crisis in her life to overcome her or her family. Jochebed had the unique opportunity to raise three leaders!

This remarkable woman was unknown by man, but known by God. Her life speaks loudly through her children. Although Jochebed was born into slavery, she had kept her faith in God and His faithfulness to His people! Her husband was with her in faith, yet it was Jochebed who set God's plan in motion. A plan that would not only save her son but also deliver a nation!

Hebrews 11:23 gives us the key to deliverance."By faith Moses when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king's command." What did they see? As she looked at her baby, she knew God had a plan for her son. She did not know exactly what that plan was, but she knew that God gives life. "The thief does not come except to steal, kill and to destroy. I have come that they might have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).

As a woman of God, Jochebed had set a standard for her life. When crisis hit her family, she did not fall apart but had faith in God to make the way of escape. The Scripture stated, "by faith because they saw." As they took their stand, God was able to reveal to her a very simple plan of deliverance. Much depended on her faith and trust in God to keep peace in the situation, so she could be prompted by God.

The plan was simple, based on things she already possessed.

A simple basket made into a life preserver. We know it was God's idea because of its simplicity! Her problem was not a stumbling block but a stepping stone for a greater opportunity, deliverance of a nation! Did Jochebed realize the significance of what was happening? Just as we have to take each step in faith and don't know the overall plan, I believe she was in the same position. Her utmost thoughts at this time was to preserve the life of her child.

The same river that brought death to many Hebrew children, preserved life for Moses. His parents had made a commitment to God, and this gave them the strength to say, "we will not bow to man, but we will trust in our God!" Moses was rescued, his future secure. God had provided the way for Jochebed to care for her son openly, paid for by the man who had tried to kill her child! "For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, I redeemed you from the house of bondage, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron and Miriam" (Micah 6:4).

It is unlikely in human history that three children of one mother ever had such an influence at the same time in the earth. Truly her life speaks through her children. As you read and study her testimony, you will be encouraged and your faith in God strengthened. She was listed in the "heroes of faith." A housewife and mother, not bound by natural thinking, as she prepared and led her children into the plans and purposes that God had for their lives. Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt physically, but it all started when his mother made a spiritual decision to trust her God and not bow to man and his ways!

Study the life of this woman of God and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal truths from God's Word that will set you free! I believe a key in this testimony is her commitment. She was committed to God, and the circumstances in her life did not alter that commitment. Living in slavery, under the ruler of this world, the Lord was able to lead her through the trial. Truly a woman of God who knew how to grow roses from the thorns of life!

Joyce Tilney is an author, blogger and founder of Women of God Ministries.

Joyce Tilney Featured Opinion Sun, 31 Aug 2014 17:00:00 -0400
What to Do When Your Child Is Depressed

My daughter is only 8 years old, and she has clinical depression. It was not shocking to hear the therapist say it after a long process of evaluations, but it was still hard to hear. She's so young.

What did I do wrong?

 Is it my fault?

Is she not happy with our family?

Did her first four years living in an orphanage before we adopted her cause it?

Is this a result of her having cerebral palsy?

Did her biological mother struggle with depression too?

Why her?

These thoughts, these questions, don't ever seem to have an answer. I don't know why she struggles with depression, and I will never know what caused it. All I know is that depression is as real in children as it is in adults. And not many people are talking about it.

With the recent death of Robin Williams, I have seen many great posts about depression. Like my friend Gillian Marchenko's post, where she calls depression the elephant in the room, and how we need to talk about it, it is a great post. But who is talking about the children? What about children who struggle with depression?

We adopted our daughter right before her 4th birthday; we noticed her anxiety and her post-traumatic-stress right away. It took a few years for us to accept the reactive-attachments disorder, and even longer to notice the depression.

A few months ago, we began to notice increased negative self talk as a result of minor things. She tripped, "I'm a dummy, I'm such a dummy!" She would accidentally break something, "It's all my fault, all my fault!" If she was disobedient, "Well I ruined everyone's day!" We tried to put a stop to that, reminding her that she was talking about our daughter and we did not want to hear that type of talk, nobody is a dummy, accidents happen, and we all have bad days. Then it escalated and as she screamed and kicked in her room we heard her say, "I should die! Someone should kill me now!"

How did she even know to say that?

How did she think of such dark thoughts? She was only 7 years old.

"Why did you say that? Where did you hear someone say that?" I tried to ask.

"Nobody said it. I feel it!" she said.

My husband tried to comfort her, and I could hear her cry, "Just let me be dead, just let me be!" And she would not allow us to comfort her, to hug her, to hold her.

Later that night, my husband looked straight at me, "We need to do something. If we don't get her help now, we will have a child that one day commits suicide."

His words chilled my bones, Oh God not my child!

The next morning at school, I came to the office to let them know it had been a long night. The secretary asked, "Is everything OK?"

And I started crying, right there in the school office, telling them I was terrified for my child. The secretary came around her desk and gave me a hug, she then sent me to the school psychologist, so she could help me find someone to help my daughter.

"There is a place," the psychologist said, "that works with kids that are in the foster-care system or have been adopted. It is their specialty, and these are the only kids they see. They specialize in mental-health issues and trauma."

I left with the information and called right away.

My daughter's life is complex. She has a background of abandonment, a life lived in an institution, a disability. What specifically has caused her depression? We don't know, it could be all of it, it could simply be her genetic disposition; we just don't know. But we do know that it is real, and it affects her life.

So every Thursday we make the drive to see her therapist, we have started neurofeedback, we are using essential oils, supplements, and looking at food sensitivities. Yes, she has more than depression going on. Some people looking at her from the outside may think that cerebral palsy affects her life the most, and while it does affect her, it is her mental health that she struggles with every day. It is the big challenge we face with her every single day. Some days are good, some days are hard, some days are brutal. Some weeks are bad.

But we are making progress. We hear less negative self-talk now, and her demeanor doesn't normally convey depression. If you asked her, she does not feel sad most of the time.

Children struggle with depression too, it is an elephant in the room, and we need to start talking about it to break the stigma, the shame, the isolation.

My child has clinical depression—a mental-health issue—and there is no shame in that.

Don't miss the post, When Children Have Mental Health Issues for more on this topic, statistics, and research.

Adapted from Ellen Stumbo's blog at Ellen is a pastor's wife, and she writes about finding beauty in brokenness with gritty honesty and openness. She is passionate about sharing the real—sometimes beautiful and sometimes ugly—aspects of faith, parenting, special needs, and adoption. She has been published in Focus on the Family, LifeWay, MomSense, Not Alone, and Mamapedia among others.

Ellen Stumbo Featured Opinion Sun, 31 Aug 2014 15:00:00 -0400
4 Ways Christians Can Respond to #Ferguson

A young man lost his life on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri His parents are grieving, and his community is in crisis. A law-enforcement officer is in seclusion in fear for his life. His family also hurts, and his brothers in uniform are on the defensive. 

As images of demonstrations appear on television, we grieve as well. Incidents like this remind us that we still have much ground to travel on the road to social justice and racial equality.  

As Christ followers, how can we respond to this painful reality in a way that honors our Savior? If Christ were walking the streets of Ferguson today, how would He respond to demonstrators? How would Christ advise local law enforcement? I don't have all the answers to those questions, but I do have four suggestions from Scripture on how to respond with a missional heart:

1. Listen
"...for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance" (Prov. 1:3-5, NIV).  

2. Learn
"Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause" (Is. 1:16-17, ESV).

3. Look Within
"If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?" (Luke 5:46-47, NIV)

4. Love
"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?" (Micah 6:8, ESV).  

Jesus does not physically walk the streets of Ferguson today, but we are His hands and feet sent to loose the bonds of wickedness and injustice by bringing His light and healing to our communities. In the midst of confusion and grief and misunderstanding, we are called to listen and love. May God give us greater understanding as we look within and move forward together in His Name.  

Reprinted with permission from Missional Women. Lyli Dunbar serves as Associate Director of Curriculum at Trinity International University Florida.

Lyli Dunbar Featured Opinion Sun, 31 Aug 2014 13:00:00 -0400
When The Devil Tempts You to Accuse God

Two men stood next to one another on the crowded subway platform in New York City. It was rush hour.

The train came to a stop and the doors flew open. As the men stepped forward to enter, a man who had become nauseous on the crowded, swaying train, lost it, and soiled one of the two men.

The doors slammed shut. The train sped off into the night with its red rear lights disappearing into the darkness. The two shocked men remained standing on the platform. Said the one who had been the recipient of the unexpected eruption, "Why me?"

That's the spirit reflected in Psalm 44, a troubling prayer of accusation against God himself.

Glorious Past

It begins with a remembrance of what "our fathers have told us"— namely, that the planting of Israel in the land resulted from God's efforts and not theirs (vv. 1–3). An underlying complaint within the psalm is that God's activity in our lives does not seem evenly placed. He appears to have moments of intersection with us when His activity bursts forth in plenty, followed by long periods when nothing seems to be happening.

In such a period of seeming abandonment, all that is left are the memories of God's power and love: "It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them" (v. 3).

In the second stanza (vv. 4–8), the psalmist relates the "correct" theology, which should be held to through tough times: Victory still results from God's activity and not ours; therefore, trust and praise are due Him.

Disastrous Present

But quickly, confidence and faith disintegrate before the reality of the present situation. In the third and fourth stanzas (vv. 9–12, 13–16), God seems to have rejected and forgotten His people. Despair and disgrace reign. We walk in defeat and shame whenever we feel God has abandoned us. It's the worst sting of all—God Himself gives us up to be plundered, devoured, scattered and sold for a pittance.

Despairing Question

The fifth and sixth stanzas (vv. 17–19, 20–22) forthrightly proclaim lack of cause for God's treatment: "All this happened to us, though we had not forgotten you or been false to your covenant" (v. 17).

Have you ever felt that way? "Why me? Why is God picking on me? Why has He allowed all these hateful circumstances into my life? I just don't understand it."

Ironic melancholy settles on the prayer as the psalm writer dejectedly laments that God's treatment of us is no different than sheep—we are alive only to be killed (v. 22). It is a premise to which Paul shouts an emphatic "No!" in Romans 8:36,37.

Why does Paul say no? He says no to being a victim, but says yes to being a victor: "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us."

Thus, the New Testament response to this psalm is to turn upside down its mentality. In our worst moments, we may feel God has forgotten us (v. 24).

Negative circumstances are not a sign of His rejection of us; rather, He is working for the good. (See Romans 8:28.)

Plaintive Cry

The seventh and eighth stanzas (vv. 23-26) contain the pathetic plea for God's intervention from a person who really doesn't seem to expect God to do anything.

But God is never asleep at the switch. He is not a Baal or false god who gets lost in reverie, fails to pay attention, takes long journeys, or naps. (See 1 Kings 18:27.)

This psalm gives us perspective on praying when we are in difficulty. The content of the psalm is testimony to the fact that our prayers are more filled with doubt than with faith. The Lord, in His mercy, does not strike us down for saying things about Him which are not true. He lets us vent, even when our venting is in error.

When you feel, "Why me?" you don't have to pathetically implore the Lord, "Wake up. Remember Your love and do something!"

Rather, because of who Jesus is, you can pray boldly, with faith and confidence. (See Rom. 8:38,39.)

If there are moments when you feel Psalm 44 describes where you are, acknowledge those feelings to the Lord. But then go past those feelings to the real truth: The Lord does hear, know and help.

George O. Wood is general superintendent of the General Council of the Assemblies of God in the United States. He has been chairman of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship since 2008. You can learn more about him at

George O. Wood Featured Opinion Sun, 31 Aug 2014 11:00:00 -0400
How to Defeat the Insidious Spirit of Jezebel

Jezebel was a Phoenician princess who married Ahab, king of Israel. Her father was Ethbaal, king and high priest of the Sidonians. Queen Jezebel introduced Baal worship into Israel. By acquiescing to her idolatry, King Ahab broke the first two commandments:

"You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them" (Ex. 20:3–5).

Baal worship gives us clues as to the workings of Jezebel. The name Baal means "lord" or "possessor." According to the Dake Annotated Reference Bible, Baal was the sun-god of Phoenicia, and the supreme deity among the Canaanites and various other pagan nations. His full title is Baal-Shemaim, which means "lord of heaven." In Greek mythology, Baal is the equivalent of Zeus.

The Canaanites, who were Baal worshipers, participated in sex worship, fertility rites, religious prostitution and human sacrifice—all to pacify the gods. Fast-forward 54 chapters in the Bible and you find the false prophetess Jezebel who teaches and seduces God's servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. Can you see the stage being set for idolatry and sexual immorality in Jezebel's world? Where Jezebel is pulling the strings, you will find idolatry and sexual immorality behind the curtain.

Just how sinister is the Jezebel spirit? Easton's Bible Dictionary says,"Jezebel has stamped her name on history as the representative of all that is designing, crafty, malicious, revengeful and cruel. She is the first great instigator of persecution against the saints of God. Guided by no principle, restrained by no fear of either God or man, passionate in her attachment to her heathen worship, she spared no pains to maintain idolatry around her in all its splendor."

Matthew Henry's Commentary calls Jezebel a "zealous idolater, extremely imperious and malicious in her natural temper, addicted to witchcrafts and whoredoms, and every way vicious."

Clearly, the spirit of Jezebel is interested in more than control and manipulation. We have to discern the deeper motive of this spirit if we ever hope to resist the temptations that will lead to the great falling away that Paul writes about in 2 Thess. 2:3. Jude urges us to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to us, because "certain men have crept in unnoticed ... ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 4).

The spirit of Jezebel is already running rampant in the world. Unfortunately, Jezebel is also running loose in the church and manifests in many local congregations without anyone ever seeing it—or confronting it.

If Jezebel is not a spirit of control and manipulation, what, then, does Jezebel look like? It looks just the way many books describe—on the surface. This is why so many are deceived. Jezebel is not merely a woman (or a man) with an overbearing personality or immature character. Jezebel's influence runs much deeper than a desire to make someone a mouthpiece or puppet, or control the worship song list, or intimidate people from joining the inner circle in order to guard the leadership positions of those it controls.

Let's be real. Some of those bossy, controlling people just need to read How to Win Friends and Influence People, and they would be fine. In other words, some saints just need good old-fashioned people skills.

So, think again: What does Jezebel look like in the church? Male or female, a Jezebelite—meaning a person who is influenced or dominated by this spirit—is a subtle seducer. And the key word is subtle. If Jezebel were obvious, no one would be fooled. A Jezebelite usually has a charismatic personality that draws people to other gods and away from Christ. Sometimes she succeeds in this idolatry by exalting pastors—puffing them up, putting them on a pedestal, giving them the honor God should have. She also does this by luring people to the things of the world and by introducing doctrines and principles that sound godly but come from the world's system.

Likewise, a Jezebelite is quick to encourage sin. A woman confides in her, for instance, that she is having sex out of wedlock. The Jezebelite will assure the woman that it is OK if she is in love, easing the guilt and glossing over any godly conviction the woman might feel.

Please hear me: If we look only for control and manipulation, we will wrongly accuse people of "flowing in a Jezebel spirit," while the principality wreaks havoc in the lives of people in the church.

There have been strong lines drawn between God's prophets and Jezebel. Remember, it was the wicked Queen Jezebel who is credited with killing the Lord's prophets. Obadiah risked his life by hiding a hundred prophets in two caves and feeding them bread and water, while Jezebel's own prophets sat at a table overflowing with rich food and wine (see 1 Kings 18:4, 19). From this contrast we see there are carnal rewards for cooperating with Jezebel in this lifetime, and there are eternal rewards for refusing to tolerate that spirit.

By the same token, God will not wait until eternity to pour out judgments on those who refuse to repent of flowing in a Jezebel spirit. Nor will those who refuse to tolerate that spirit go unrewarded in this lifetime. I can tell you this from experience. If you refuse to bow down to Jezebel—no matter what it costs you—God will repay you, at least in part, even now.

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

Jennifer LeClaire Featured Opinion Sun, 31 Aug 2014 09:00:00 -0400
How You Can Pray With Prophetic Power

Anyone given to the ministry of intercession knows that there are special moments in prayer that are met with a certainty of God's immediate intervention. These are breakthrough prayers—dynamic, forceful and perfectly in sync with the purposes of God.

Knowing how and when to apply a specific prayer strategy can make a difference in a situation's outcome. But why are some prayers seemingly more in tune with the will and timing of God than others?

The Right Prayer at the Right Time

At a ministry conference a woman approached me who was obviously in pain. "Please pray for my daughter," she cried. "We taught her the Word of God. Jane knows the right thing to do, and yet she has walked away from it. She is now living with her boyfriend, and we haven't heard from her in months."

Jane's mother had prayed constantly during this ordeal. Now the request for additional prayer was desperate.

"Heavenly Father," I began. "You are a father and understand the agony of this mother's heart. I ask you in the Name of Jesus to bring healing and restoration to this family. Remind this daughter of Your Word. Help her to remember Your goodness."

Immediately, I sensed the Spirit of the Lord rise up inside me, along with my faith. Knowing the authority Jesus has given us, I spoke into the atmosphere as if Jane were standing in front of me.

"Jane," I called. "Open your eyes and look. You are in a pigpen. Get up and get out of the pigpen. Come back to your father's house. Come home in Jesus' Name!"

A month later I was speaking at a conference held at a Bible school. On the way into the auditorium one morning, Jane's mother saw me and came running.

"Barbara," she called out. "You prayed for my daughter, and I have to tell you what happened. When I came home from the conference last month, I found I had received a phone call from her. The time of the call was exactly when you and I were praying.

"Jane left a message that she was coming home. She said, 'I don't know what happened to me! It was if my eyes were opened, and I could see. And I thought, This is a pigpen. I'm going home.'"

That night after the conference session, she saw me again and came over. "My daughter is here," she said, as her daughter walked up and joined her, "and she wants to talk to you."

"Thank you, thank you, Barbara, for praying," Jane said, as tears flowed down her cheeks. "Suddenly my eyes opened, and I could see the truth." Jane acknowledged her blindness in the situation.

I wondered what happened to bring about such a change. What was different about this prayer from previous times of prayer?

Through the study of God's Word, I found that He has given us the authority to speak for Him. We are His voice in the earth.

I also discovered that God has orchestrated a strategic time for prayers to break through. And by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Lord will prompt us to pray the right kind of prayer at that moment. Powerful things will happen as we participate with the Lord at these specific times.

Strategic Declarations

God established the church on the Earth to finish the work of putting Satan under His feet. Paul speaks in Ephesians of the work and power made available to the church. He says he was called to "bring to light...the mystery" hidden for ages in God "in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places" and declares that God "is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us" (Eph. 3:9-10,20, NASB).

Paul indicates that God is going to make known His wisdom through the church. According to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, the word "known" comes from the Greek verb gnoridzo. It means "to certify, to declare, make known, give to understand, to come to know, discover." To "make known" means that God is going to use the church to make declarations to the demonic rulers and authorities.

Making declarations is the same as making prophetic proclamations. The Hebrew word for proclaim, qara, means "to call out to, call forth, cry unto, invite or preach. It is usually addressed to a specific recipient and intended to elicit a specific response. Rarely does it refer to a random outcry" (Zodhiates, "Lexical Aids to the Old Testament," Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, AMG Pubs).

The Greek language has several words for "proclaim." One of them is katagello, which Zodhiates says means "to tell, to declare plainly, openly, or aloud." Katagello has the sense of an offer of information or encouragement.

We find this word used to describe one of the results of the communion table: "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes" (1 Cor. 11:26).

When we partake of the elements at the communion table, we are making an announcement or giving a report about the Lord's death.

Another Greek word for "proclaim" that Zodhiates defines is kerusso, a much stronger word. It means "to be a herald."

A herald was a public crier who was a speaker of divine truth. The message delivered by the crier was a public and authoritative announcement that demanded compliance. When you kerusso, you are like a town crier making an announcement that requires the hearers to comply. How powerful!

Town Criers

Today public heralds have been replaced by newspapers, television and other electronic information sources. Perhaps the best known town crier in all of American history is Paul Revere. However, the tradition predates his famed ride from Boston to Lexington and carries great significance for us today.

Attendants and friends. In Greek literature the public crier was the attendant of a prince—but not just an ordinary attendant. Raised above the status of other servants, the crier was given a respect and status similar to a friend.

As believers, we serve the Prince of Peace. Yet Jesus said, "'No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My father I have made known to you'" (John 15:15). In this, Prince Jesus has raised us to a status like that of the town crier—we are His friends.

He says that He will make known to us everything He has heard from the Father. The Greek word meaning "make known" is the same word used in Ephesians 3:10. What does that mean to us as intercessors?

  • It means we are not giving just a random outcry, but we are participating in a process released from heaven.
  • God the Father makes known (gnoridzo) His intentions to Jesus.
  • Jesus makes known (gnoridzo) the Father's intentions to the church.
  • The church makes known (gnoridzo) the intentions of God to the evil powers through proclamation (kerusso).
  • The result? Breakthrough!

Deputies of the prince. A town crier was given a herald's staff. The scepter in his hands made it clear that as he carried out his commission, he did so under the prince's authorization.

When Jesus rose victorious from the grave, He took back the authority man had given away in the garden. Jesus then turned and gave the authority He purchased to those who would follow Him, declaring that whatever they bound or loosed on Earth would be so also in heaven (see Matt. 16:19).

Proclamation carries with it a nature of binding, commanding and settling. Zodhiates says the word "bind" means "to fasten or to tie up with chains or a cord." Prophetic proclamations released through the mouths of intercessors have the ability to tie up the effect of evil powers like an animal tied with chains or a cord.

The verb translated "loose," according to Zodhiates, means "to loosen, break up, destroy, dissolve, unloose, melt or put off." When you loose the powers of darkness from a situation, person or city, the enemy is no longer able to do what he intended to do.

Protected heralds. The Greeks believed that a herald who came in wartime must not be touched. If he were, the one who touched him would incur the wrath of both the one who sent the crier and his gods.

The security of the intercessor is his faith in the powerful Blood of Jesus. Intercessors are on assignment in a spiritual war. They have been sent by the Captain of the Hosts to do His bidding. A scepter of authority has been given to them, and they are to rule in the earth.

Crier Characteristics

There are some general characteristics that apply to all public criers, historic and current.

Under authority. A crier was always under the authority of someone else. The crier was only the spokesman.

Intercessors should always be under the authority of the Lord. A submissive spirit is vital.

We also need to submit to others (see Eph. 5:21). No person is above the need for accountability. Each of us has blind spots. We need those who love us enough to tell us the truth.

Convey the message of the master. The crier was not to deliver his own message or compromise with the one who was receiving it. He simply delivered the message he was sent to speak.

Often, I find people who were, at one time, very powerful in prayer. As difficulties came into their lives, they retreated and stopped involving themselves with the body of Christ. But an intercessor cannot compromise with the enemy during a spiritual battle.

Announce judicial verdicts. What the public crier announced became valid by the act of proclamation. Likewise, Jesus the righteous Judge hands the verdict to the intercessor, who then delivers a prophetic proclamation to the evil powers. The verdict becomes valid through the proclamation spoken by the intercessor.

Jesus said, "'What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim [kerusso] upon the housetops'" (Matt. 10:27).

Through a practical demonstration in my own life, God enabled me to gain an even deeper understanding of how this principle works.

Declaring God's Favor

When the Lord was ready to move our family to Dallas, we put our house up for sale. Houses, however, were not selling very well where we lived at that time.

We had prayed and done everything the real estate lady told us to do. But after eight months on the market, the house had not sold.

Wanda, a "spiritual daughter," was living with us at the time. Knowing the power of proclamation, Wanda started walking the boundaries of our yard each day praying, "In the Name of Jesus, I release the favor of God on this house. I command all blinders to come off the eyes of those people needing this house. Eyes, see this house. House, you are sold in Jesus' Name."

Within a couple of weeks the house was sold. Wanda had uttered a command, a prophetic proclamation.

In 2 Timothy, Paul wrote: "The Lord stood with me, and strengthened me, in order that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was delivered out of the lion's mouth" (4:17).

When intercessors are given the right word to speak at the proper time, there will be great victory and spiritual breakthroughs. There will be deliverance for God's people, for cities and for nations. God will provide strength to intercessors so that they can do the will of the Lord.

Jesus will make known to you the intentions of His Father. Let Him strengthen you so that the prophetic proclamation of His Word can go forth from your mouth without compromise and establish His will on the Earth. 

Barbara Wentroble is president of Wentroble Christian Ministries. She is a gifted leader who has helped churches and cities find spiritual breakthrough through intercessory warfare prayer. Barbara and her husband, Dale, live in Texas.

Barbara Wentroble Featured Opinion Sat, 30 Aug 2014 17:00:00 -0400
10 Ways to Release God's Healing Power

Healing is one of the most controversial subjects we can raise in the church. Yet there is no doubt that the Bible is filled with accounts of Jesus' healing miracles. It seems clear as well from the following three Scriptures that healing is a by-product of the stripes Jesus endured before going to the cross: 

"But He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed" (Is. 53:5); 

"They brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: 'He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses'" (Matt. 8:16-17); 

"Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed" (1 Pet. 2:24).

Furthermore, the Christians in the early church experienced miracles of healing as well. In fact, health and prosperity were objects of prayer for the believers: "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers," the apostle John wrote in 3 John 1:2.

When we look at the healing ministry of Jesus, we must also recognize the vital connection we have with it: We are His body on earth today (1 Cor. 3:16). Therefore, we must exhibit the same passion for healing that we have observed in Him. 

Any examination of Jesus' healing miracles during His generation will reveal facts about how He healed and whom He healed. Note that the Bible shows us that He healed: by the Word; by the faith of the sick; to release service; to restore life; to deliver from demons; through the faith of others besides the sick; through the faith of the desperate and persistent; to reveal God (and God's heart); His enemies. Therefore, we as His body must release His healing power to our generation as well.

Releasing the Power

Knowing all this, there are still questions and controversy that swirl around ministries of healing. Questions often asked include: 1) Does God heal everyone? 2) Why are some people not healed? 3) Whose faith is necessary for healing: the sick person's, the minister's, both?

I confess I don't know all the answers. But I have searched the Scriptures so that I can know how God healed. In doing so, I've found 10 ways the church can release God's healing power:

1. Through the presence of the gifts and the anointing to heal. There are times when God releases the gifts of healing in certain places. In these instances, the anointing is so great that even clothes are used as points of contact. People are healed in a Spirit-saturated environment where gifts of healing are released.

"Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them" (Acts 19:11-12). "To another faith [is given] by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:9). Clearly healing is a gift given for the benefit of the church and for the glory of God.

2. Through the laying on of hands. It is the privilege of every true believer to lay hands on the sick and pray for their recovery. When this is done, a spiritual transference takes place in the invisible realm. "They will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover" (Mark 16:18).

3. Through elders, prayer and anointing oil. Here the believer by his own volition calls for the pastors to pray over him. Confession of sin and heart preparation is necessary. The oil symbolizes the work of the Holy Spirit.

"Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord" (James 5:14).

4. Through speaking the Word to your sickness. Note carefully in the following verse that the believer must say clearly his need. This word must be spoken confidently. Here is a tool for you to keep using until the sickness leaves! 

"For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says" (Mark 11:23).

5. Through the power of agreement and healing. The reason God gave us the church was so that we could learn the power of agreement. Psalm 133 speaks of God's commanded blessing when two or more get into agreement about the will of God. You need for a church to come into agreement with you for your healing.

"Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:19-20).

6. Through your own faith. Your own faith-saturated prayer can deliver healing to you. Faith will make plans and move on in spite of the sickness. "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them" (Mark 11:24).

7. Through the name of Jesus. The name of Jesus is a powerful force against disease and devils. It is a veritable battering ram for knocking down the disease.

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

"Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, 'Look at us.' So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. 

"Then Peter said, 'Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.' And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping and praising God" (Acts 3:1-8). 

Notice it was the name of Jesus that brought healing.

8. Through praying for others. God brought total restoration to Job when he forgot self-interest and began to intercede for his wayward friends. In the midst of his intercession God gave him what he needed. "And the Lord restored Job's losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before" (Job 42:10).

9. Through the faith of others. Jesus healed a paralytic because of the faith of the man's friends. Jesus responded to their faith. Likewise believers can pray for others.

"When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, 'Son, your sins are forgiven you.' And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 'Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?' 

"But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, 'Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, "Your sins are forgiven you," or to say, "Arise, take up your bed and walk"? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins'—He said to the paralytic, 'I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house'" (Mark 2:5-11).

10. Through medicine. God has built the human body with defense systems that respond to attacks by sickness and disease. Because He has placed healing processes in the body, God may use medicine to heal, aiding the natural defenses of the body.

Recently I had knee-replacement surgery. I was surprised that many brothers and sisters in Christ rebuked me for having this operation because I didn't rely solely on prayer and intercession for my healing. 

I was disturbed by this until my friend Charles Carrin reminded me that it was Jesus Himself who said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick" (Matt. 9:12). God uses myriad approaches to effect healing for His children, and most people can be healed unless it is time for them to go home to be with the Lord.

Ron Phillips is senior pastor of Abba's House (formerly Central Baptist Church) near Chattanooga, Tenn., where he has pastored since 1979. He is the author of more than 20 books.

Ron Phillips Featured Opinion Sat, 30 Aug 2014 15:00:00 -0400
How to Rid Yourself of Religious Spirits

How to recognize and get rid of religious spirits in your life

A family once brought a woman to our church on Steele Street and Blue Avenue in Jacksonville, Florida, who needed deliverance. We did not have deliverance teams in the church at that time; only my husband, Ardell, and I did the ministry.

This woman had come from a mental hospital in South Florida. As God is my witness, when I pulled up to the church, she was sitting in a car—and it literally was rocking. As she stepped out, the demons spoke through her. 

"Kim cannot cast me out!" they shouted. "Benny Hinn cannot even cast me out! You have never met this demon!" 

We took her downstairs to the basement of the church, where the woman paced back and forth, speaking in demonic voices and declaring that we had no power to cast the demon out. "You cannot cast me out!" she yelled. "I pray in tongues just like you! I quote scriptures like the Son of God!"

Then she uttered these words that I will never forget: "I am the religious spirit!"

"My God—religious spirit?" I thought. I had never heard of this demon.

Though her words baffled my intellect, the devil had been set up. That was the worst thing this stupid spirit could have ever done. He revealed his identity and blew his cover in the church!

At the time, my natural mind could not relate religion to a demon. As the years passed, I have reached a better understanding of this devil and how it operates. It is a major spirit that initiates attacks against the church but does not come from occult darkness or operate through incantations, voodoo or rituals. It works boldly and upfront in the church on a daily basis.

Because of the intensity of what Ardell and I were experiencing with this woman, we began by faith to call out some of the manifestations of religion. Here are just a few of them:

  • The spirit that gives offerings to be seen or looks for something in return
  • The spirit that dresses up the demonic with church clothes (long dresses, veils, head coverings)
  • The Scripture-quoting demon
  • The spirit of condemnation
  • The church-splitting demon
  • The spirit that oppresses the youth and turns them from God
  • The spirit of charismatic witchcraft that cloaks the anointing in men's gifts
  • The spirit of false revival

The good news is, the religious spirit was cast out of that woman. And since that day years ago, we have cast out more of the same spirits than we can count. The bad news is, many believers are in the same place of ignorance about this that I once was in. They cannot relate religion to a "demon" or charismatic to "witchcraft."

The key thing to remember is that there is no power in creation that did not originate through the Creator. 

Powers of darkness are merely twisted and perverted forms of the original power of our God. This is why all witches and others from the dark side use Scripture, religious books and religious symbolism when doing their dirty deeds.

A scary thing to me is that the religious spirit cloaks itself under the guise of true spirituality in Christ. Most believers cannot discern it. 

It is my prayer that this article will remove scales and veils from the eyes of God's people. The enemy is launching an inside attack against the church. He will use praise, prophecy, the gifts or even the Word of God against us. Remember this: For everything God created, the devil designed a counterfeit.

What Does the Bible Say?

f-Daniels-Spiritual-Housekeeping-2The Word of God has something to say about religion. In Acts 25-26, we see that Jewish religious leaders wanted Paul put to death and had petitioned the Roman authorities to have him executed. In Acts 26:4-11, as Paul defends himself before the Roman ruler Agrippa, he confirms that since the beginning of the church the enemy has been using believers to persecute one another. 

He states: "My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know. They knew me from the first ... that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. 

"And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. For this hope's sake ... I am accused by the Jews.

"Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities."

One of the main ways to recognize the work of religious spirits is this: Under the disguise of religion, they persecute the righteous and faithful.

Paul makes a clear distinction between his time growing up as a leader under the religious law and his born-again experience after he met Christ on the road to Damascus. The road to Damascus represents more than the dramatic conversion of Paul's life. It also reveals the plot of the enemy to persecute and trouble God's elect from within the church. Paul told the Galatians:

"For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers" (Gal. 1:13-14).

Through his own testimony, Paul reveals that the traditions of men are the strongholds of religion. Jesus highlighted this as "vain" worship in Mark 7:7-8: "In vain (fruitlessly and without profit) do they worship Me, ordering and teaching [to be obeyed] as doctrines the commandments and precepts of men. You disregard and give up and ask to depart from you the commandment of God and cling to the tradition of men [keeping it carefully and faithfully]" (AMP).

Vain worship is like a person going to the gym seven days a week and working out with no results. God says vain worship produces no results. This is why many people accept defeat in God and backslide. But the Word tells us there is no failure in Christ! This victory can be manifested in our lives if we give high regard to the commandments of the Lord and take our attention off the traditions of men.

The traditions of men flow through generational religious spirits. People literally pick up religious habits that have nothing to do with the commandments of the Lord and are more faithful to them than to the Word of God.

Colossians 2:6-23 teaches on freedom from human regulations through a new birth in Christ. It warns us of man-made traditions and speaks of the cancellation of "the written code" and its regulations. 

This code worked against the believer in Christ, not for him. It made people set unattainable goals that gave birth to the fruits of failure, defeat and misery. It literally opposed the abundant freedom in Christ that was meant to be.

Galatians 5:1 commands that we stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made us free. It adds we should not be entangled again with the yoke of bondage. The Greek meanings of words Paul used are important to understanding the verse:

» "Stand fast" (steko): To stand firm in faith and duty; to have a constant flow that causes one to persevere.

» "Liberty" (eleutheria): To be blessed with generosity and independence that is bestowed upon a person as a result of the economy of God's grace, which was not made available under the law of the Old Testament. To also have independence from religious regulation that is rooted in the legal restrictions of man. James 2:10-14 teaches on "the perfect" law of liberty in Christ: "For whosoever keeps the Law [as a] whole but stumbles and offends in one [single instance] has become guilty of [breaking] all of it. For He Who said, You shall not commit adultery, also said, You shall not kill. If you do not commit adultery but do kill, you have become guilty of transgressing the [whole] Law.

"So speak and so act as [people should] who are to be judged under the law of liberty [the moral instruction given by Christ, especially about love]. For to him who has shown no mercy the judgment [will be] merciless, but mercy [full of glad confidence] exults victoriously over judgment. What is the use (profit), my brethren, for anyone to profess to have faith if he has no [good] works [to show for it]? Can [such] faith save [his soul]? (AMP).

» "Entangled" (enecho): To be held subject to or be under the control of. To struggle over or to quarrel with.

» "Yoke" (zygos):  Something that attaches two things together. It couples things and causes them to be connected by a burden that's hard to bear.

» "Bondage" (douleia): Servitude that promotes dependence upon a person, place or thing; the state of a man that prevents him from freely possessing abundant life and enjoying it.

Based on the Greek definitions, anything that causes a believer to struggle or be double-minded about something to the point that he becomes attached to a burdensome load and cannot enjoy abundant life in Christ is devilish. It is not of God. To sum it up: The spirit of religious bondage is demonic.

Many believers are stuck in ruts whereby they are not experiencing new growth in Christ. When there is new birth, it must be confirmed with new growth. With the genuine new birth, old things are cut off and pass away. Once the old is pruned, the new can grow. 

If a believer continues to return to the old yoke of bondage, he will be bound by spiritually arrested development. He will not experience the level-to-level, glory-to-glory promised him in the Word.

He will be condemned to a form of godliness, which makes a person appear to be victorious in Jesus on the outside. But actually they shut down the power on the inside of them that is greater than what is coming against them in life. There is no victory in the life of the believer who succumbs to the regimens, rudiments and habits of religious forms.

A sought-after conference speaker, preacher and powerful prayer warrior, Kimberly Daniels pastors Spoken Word Ministries in Jacksonville, Fla., and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with her husband, Ardell. She is a recently elected city councilwoman in Jacksonville as well as the author of numerous books, including The Demon Dictionary, Delivered to Destiny and Spiritual Housekeeping (Charisma House), from which this article is adapted.

Kimberly Daniels Featured Opinion Sat, 30 Aug 2014 13:00:00 -0400
9 Secrets That Your Pastor's Wife Wishes You Knew

She's always there. Sometimes in the background, sometimes with a welcoming smile up front, sometimes noticed and appreciated, sometimes being silently judged. Your pastor's wife; the powerful force behind most church leaders often perceived as a mystery by the rest of the church.

It doesn't have to be that way.

What if we just asked our pastor's wife to candidly, honestly, even anonymously share some of their secrets? What if we invited them to share their hearts and tell us what they wished the church knew?

I posed a simple, open-ended question to a panel of pastors' wives in different states, from different denominations, with various years of service, "If you could tell the church a few things about your role as a pastor's wife, what would you say?"

The women selected are the wives of music ministers, children's leaders, senior pastors and youth pastors. Some of them serve in churches with large staff and even larger budgets, others in newer church plants, and even some from old and barely surviving congregations. Despite such different backgrounds, their responses were strangely similar and in several cases, almost identical.

I've sat for coffee, exchanged emails and had lengthy conversations with many who freely shared their secrets with me in exchange for the promise of anonymity. What follows is a condensed collection of their words.

1) "I wish people knew that we struggle to have family time." There was one common response that I received from every single pastor's wife. Every. Single. One. Over and over again, many pastors' wives shared numerous occasions where planned vacations had been cut short (wouldn't that be hard?). They told me tales of family evenings being rearranged for crises of church members, middle-of-the-night emergencies and regular interruptions. A true day off is rare; even on scheduled days off their husbands are essentially on call 24/7.

2) "Almost every day I'm afraid of screwing it all up." They don't have it all together. They battle many of the same issues every other woman battles: marriage issues, extended-family difficulties, sickness, finances, children who make poor decisions, fear and insecurities. Some seasons of life are obviously harder than others; but remember, ministry wives are not Wonder Woman with special powers. Please have a little mercy and extend grace.

3) "Being a pastor's wife is THE loneliest thing I've ever done and for so many reasons." Personally, I think this is surprising to many (it was to me). Several ladies shared the difficulties of finding friendships that are safe, being looked at (or treated) differently and even the desire to be invited for an occasional ladies night out. One woman shared, "Invite us to something just to get to know us. We like being known." People in the church often assume that the pastor's wife is always invited and popular. In reality, for whatever reason, many ladies fear befriending them. On Sunday mornings pastors' wives are often sitting solo, and those with children are essentially single parenting.

4) "It is OK and welcomed to have conversations with me about things that do not pertain to church, or even Jesus. There I said it!" They have a variety of interests. Believe it or not, many pastors' wives went to college and had full-time careers before becoming "Mrs. Pastor's wife." They have hobbies, likes and dislikes, and though they often serve beside their husband, they are individuals with their own unique gifts.  

Do not make the mistake of assuming your pastor's wife has the same personality as her husband. One wife shared that when they announced their engagement people regularly commented on how good of a singer she must be (because her husband-to-be was a music minister). When she shared that she sounded more like a dying cat than an elegant song bird, the shock on their faces was evident.

5) "Sundays are sometimes my least favorite day. Wait—am I allowed to say that?" Sundays are hard. And long. And there is no rest. To a pastor's wife, Sunday means an early morning of rushing around to have the family ready in their "Sunday best." Although you may not see your pastor's wife on the platform, rest assured, Sunday is equally tiring for most (all) of them.

6) "It's hard to not harbor resentment or to allow your flesh to lash out at members who openly criticize his ministry." They hate church criticism more then anything. It's hurtful. Offensive, and yes, it's very hard not to take it personally.  

It is one of the most damaging things they witness regularly inside the church whether it be through emails, social media or gossip. They wish people understood how serious God's Word speaks on the danger and power of our words. And how much it can injure the pastor's family.

7) "Please don't look down on me or assume I don't support my husband just because you don't see me every time the church's doors are open."

Most wives are not paid staff. They are wives, often mothers, and some are employed outside the home. They need to be allowed the freedom to pray and choose the ministries they feel called to.

8) "I wish people knew that we taught our children to make good choices, but sometimes they don't."

Jokes about pastors' kids should be avoided at all costs. The risk of rebellion in a "preacher's kid" is no secret. They aren't perfect and never will be (are yours?). They have to learn to walk in their faith just as other children and need encouragement and love to do so. Again, extend grace.

9) "What I can tell you is I have been blessed beyond measure. I have been given gifts, money, love and prayer—so much prayer—by so many."

They love their church and understand the role comes with special challenges and special blessings; it is fulfilling and brings them great joy.

One Extra Thought

Though it was not a common response, there was one that stood out. The top of the list of one seasoned pastor's wife simply read, "I deleted my number 1." Some secrets are so difficult to share, even the promise of complete confidence is not enough to bring them out.

These godly women have something they want us to know and as a body of believers working together toward the same goal, I think we might gain a better understanding of how to appreciate our leaders by listening. All of these responses point to a singular truth: Your pastor's wife is a human being who desires to be known, just as you do.

Reprinted with permission from Shattered Magazine. Christina Stolaas is a mom to four young kids, wife, a lover of the outdoors and people. Click here to view the original post.

Christine Stolaas Featured Opinion Sat, 30 Aug 2014 11:00:00 -0400
How God Reveals His Power When You Offer Praise, Thanksgiving and Joy

The only sacrifices mentioned in the New Testament are the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving and the sacrifice of joy.

I don't know about you, but this was liberating news for me. I don't have to sacrifice by begging, confessing, memorizing prayers and Scriptures, fasting, going to all the church services, keeping a serious face all the time, or abstaining from certain things. God loves us and He loves our worship and praise and our thanksgiving and joy.

To sacrifice is to offer something to God. To sacrifice means, "to give up something of value, to make an offering, to surrender, to kill, to give up, to dedicate, consecrate, devote, and to benefit." A sacrifice will cost your time, focus, killing the flesh, surrendering your will for a higher cause. The benefit we receive can never be calculated. Every sacrifice we make is compensated and backed up by all of God's promises and treasures.

When we bring our sacrifices of praise, thanksgiving and joy to God, we are telling Him that we wish to die to our own desires and knowledge, and we desire to love and trust Him completely.

It is in the holy atmosphere of praise and worship that healing, miracles and transformation of the soul begin to manifest, and God's glory starts cleansing and changing our carnal nature into the nature and character of Christ. 

We are literally praying with our heart, soul and spirit. The result is always an impartation of God's infinite blessings, wisdom, knowledge and understanding. When you truly understand this truth you will begin to regain and restore all that Satan has stolen from you. Demons cannot resist the praise of the children of God.

When you feel discouraged, and a spirit of confusion tries to invade your thinking, if you begin to offer a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving you will find that the peace of God will cover you as a shield of protection and the angel of the Lord will encamp all around you and deliver you (see Ps. 34:7).

Two years ago I was in Mexico with my husband waiting at a stoplight, when suddenly the side door of our van was abruptly opened and a gunman thrust a gun into the driver's face demanding that he give him jewels and cash. He flashed the gun at my husband and me also, demanding that we strip of jewels and cash. The light was still red and he wanted us to quickly obey his commands before the light turned green. He managed to get away with two watches, and though he demanded that I take off my jewels, I was miraculously unable to take off my diamond earrings and wedding rings. The light changed, and the assailant was gone.

We were told that many had died in the middle of traffic in similar situations, but our lives were protected by divine intervention. I immediately realized that on that same morning I had offered a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving and declared, "No weapon formed against us shall prosper."

God protects His children from all manner of situations, attacks, and accidents. We should never leave the house without offering a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. We cannot be afraid to pray with boldness, even if our knees are shaking. Our actions will determine the outcome of every situation.

Joy means, "delight, pleasure, enjoyment, bliss, ecstasy, elation, happiness, joyfulness, thrill, wonder, triumph and jubilation." The sacrifice of joy is the most difficult sacrifice to offer to God. When you're sad and afflicted, going through storms and difficulties in life, or when sickness afflicts our bodies, then it becomes a real sacrifice to lift our voices and offer a sacrifice of joy. But let me share a secret with you.

The Bible says that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Neh. 8:10). Strength is power. Strength is emotional toughness and resistance. Strength is defensive ability. Strength is effectiveness to succeed and achieve. Strength makes you progressively better. We offer this type of sacrifice singing melodies, dancing, reciting psalms, and declaring aloud those things that are not as though they are, smiling, laughing, clapping our hands, and rejoicing in what the Lord says about us.

Every morning I feel God's goodness invade my atmosphere. My home is peaceful. Healing greets every visitor. God is a merciful Father and desires to bless you with healing and wholeness. It is by His grace (kindness, blessing, mercy, generosity, divine favor) that we receive all good things. Grace is a gift. God desires our love. He wants to passionately love us. The more we draw closer to the Holy Spirit, the more we learn to love God with all our heart. Father God wants to shower us with an outpouring of His miraculous healing and blessings.

Offer Him the sacrifice of praise, thanksgiving and joy and see what He does in your life.

Adapted from Satan, You Can't Have My Miracle by Iris Delgado, copyright 2012, by Charisma House. This book will help you reach into the supernatural realm of the Spirit and bring the miraculous into your life today. It's filled with practical principles, amazing testimonies, and Scripture-based prayers that will inspire you to believe God for the impossible in your life. To order a copy click on this link:

To enrich your prayer life and learn how to strategically pray with power by using appropriate Scriptures, we recommend the following sources by Apostle John Eckhardt: Prayers that Rout DemonsPrayers that Bring HealingPrayers that Release Heaven on Earth and Prayers that Break Curses. To order any or all of these click here.

Iris Delgado Featured Opinion Sat, 30 Aug 2014 09:00:00 -0400
Fort Hood Shooter Asks to Be ‘Citizen’ of Islamic State

The man convicted in the shooting rampage at Fort Hood in 2009 that left 13 dead is asking to become a "citizen" of the Islamic State in a letter to the militant group's leader.

Nidal Hasan, 43, the army psychiatrist sentenced to death last year by a military jury, addressed his letter to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who heads the Islamic State, Fox News reported.

"I formally and humbly request to be made a citizen of the Islamic State," Hasan said in the handwritten, two-page document obtained by Fox News. "It would be an honor for any believer to be an obedient citizen soldier to a people and its leader who don't compromise the religion of All-Mighty Allah to get along with the disbelievers."

Hasan's attorney, John Galligan, confirmed the letter to CNN.

"The letter states that Nadal Hasan wants to become a citizen of the Islamic State caliphate," Galligan told CNN. "He wrote it in the last few weeks."

At his trial, the Virginia-born Muslim admitted he was responsible for the Nov. 5, 2009, attack that also wounded 31. He had previously said that he was a "soldier of Allah" and deserved martyrdom, and that his attack was designed to protect Muslim insurgents abroad.

Katharine Lackey 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.

Katharine Lackey/USA Today Featured U.S. News Fri, 29 Aug 2014 20:00:00 -0400
Women Rising to Prominence in the Pulpit

Chicago. New York. Washington, D.C. In quick succession this year, three women have been chosen to lead historic tall-steeple churches in all these cities.

In May, the Rev. Shannon Johnson Kershner became the first woman solo senior pastor at Chicago's Fourth Presbyterian Church. In June, the Rev. Amy Butler was elected senior pastor of New York City's Riverside Church. And finally, in July, the Rev. Ginger Gaines-Cirelli began leading Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C.

"For women to speak in those pulpits and speak boldly as public voices in these very public buildings is very powerful," said the Rev. Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary, who recently hosted a dinner party with some of New York's movers and shakers to welcome Butler to town.

It's been 40 years since the Episcopal Church first ordained women, and other denominations have long included women in their clergy ranks. But these new advances are occurring sooner in the lives of these three women than some of their older counterparts. The Hartford Institute for Religion Research reports that women clergy are much more likely to serve in smaller congregations.

Scholar Diana Butler Bass hailed the arrival of these women—all in their 40s and leading large, urban, neo-Gothic churches—but also wondered if they reflect the "General Motors phenomenon."

"Are women coming into leadership only as the institutions are collapsing?" asked Bass, author of Christianity After Religion.

"Now that they're in crisis, it's almost like the men are moving out and, 'Oh well, we'll just leave it to the women.' Then if the church doesn't succeed, then it's the woman's fault. It's a kind of a double-edged sword."

Gaines-Cirelli, 44, doesn't view it that way.

"I think there are challenges and I think that we face them and I think that the fact that women are being counted among those who are capable of facing those challenges at the highest level is a very positive sign," said the native Oklahoman.

Sociologist of religion Cynthia Woolever said the movement of first-career women to these significant sanctuaries is occurring in the isolated realm of mainline Protestantism, where about 20 percent of congregations are led by clergywomen.

"If you look at conservative Protestant churches you find very few; in the Catholic church: zero," said Woolever, editor of The Parish Paper, a newsletter for regional offices of mainline denominations.

"It's wonderful that women are being given those kinds of opportunities to serve in those very large churches, but it's a very small slice of the pie."

All three of the senior pastors have had to jump gender-specific hurdles.

In June, Butler used the hashtag "nevergetsold" when she tweeted about how a funeral director didn't believe she was a minister. She once had to get an emergency room security guard to log on to her former church's website to show him her photo there so she could pay a late-night visit to a sick congregant.

"Look, I know you're his girlfriend," the guard told her before she convinced him otherwise.

Kershner said that early in her ministry when she was a hospital chaplain, she often entered rooms where she was rebuffed because she wasn't a "real minister."

In every place she's served as the first woman pastor, Gaines-Cirelli has heard a variation on this theme: "I was so worried that we were getting a woman, but I think that you're going to be just fine."

Comparable pay was yet another hurdle.

But both Butler and Len Leach, chair of Riverside's church council, said the pastor's base salary of $250,000 is equivalent to that received by her predecessor, the Rev. Brad Braxton.

"It is a big job and for me it's a big, wonderful opportunity and a big risk and so I think the Riverside Church has really stepped out here to set a great example for the rest of Christendom," said Butler, a native Hawaiian who will lead a majority black congregation.

Butler described her total package, including benefits, as "fair." Leach said Butler decided to give $35,000 annually to the interdenominational church's general fund and an additional $26,000 as a scholarship to pay the annual tuition of a student at the church's day school.

Kershner and Gaines-Cirelli also said they are paid fairly.

All three women are not only leading congregations but staffs that include other female clergy. Riverside's staff has four other women clergy, Fourth Church has three female associate pastors, and Foundry has one female associate pastor as well as a woman executive pastor.

"The truth is that for years, it was all men; in some places it still is and nobody bats an eye," said Gaines-Cirelli. "So the fact that we are live-streaming to the world this other vision is kind of powerful."

Foundry member Leo Lawless agreed.

"It's about time, isn't it?" he said, noting that a recent worship service featured Gaines-Cirelli and two other women clergy, and two female acolytes as well as a laywoman who read the Scriptures.

The three senior clergywomen each say they look forward to the day when they're viewed simply as their congregation's pastor, rather than its woman pastor.

Said Kershner: "My hope is that little boys and little girls see me and the other clergy and think if that's something that they say and others think God's calling them to do, then they can do it."

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

Adelle M. Banks/RNS Featured U.S. News Fri, 29 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400
'Dancing With the Stars' Meets 'Duck Dynasty'

What do you get when you cross Dancing With the Stars with Duck Dynasty? We may soon find out.

According to US Weekly, Sadie Robertson is joining the cast of the hit ABC series for its 19th season. Sadie, 17, is the granddaughter of family patriarch Phil Robertson. Her father is Willie Robertson.

US Weekly does not name its source but notes that next season's lineup also includes Janel Parrish, Lolo Jones and Antonio Sabato Jr.

"I think that our kids are really natural in front of the camera and they have fun with it," Sadie's mom, Korie Robertson, told US Weekly in May when asked if she thinks her kids will continue working in the entertainment industry. "Sadie, I think, wants to maybe be on a talk show, and she wants to be on Dancing With the Stars!"

Good Morning America will roll out the full list of Dancing with the Stars next cast on Sept. 4.

Jennifer LeClaire Featured Culture Fri, 29 Aug 2014 18:00:00 -0400
Britain Raises Terrorism Threat Level to 'Severe'

The United Kingdom raised its terrorism alert on Friday to the second-highest level with Prime Minister David Cameron saying the Islamic State group operating in Syria and Iraq posed the country's greatest-ever security risk.

The government said there was no evidence an attack was imminent, but the assessment of the latest intelligence by security chiefs justified elevating the international threat level to "severe," meaning a strike was "highly likely."

"What we're facing in Iraq now with ISIL (one of the group's names is Islamist State of Iraq and the Levant; the latter refers to the eastern Mediterranean region) is a greater and deeper threat to our security than we have known before," said Cameron, adding he was "absolutely satisfied that ISIL ... would make specific threats to the U.K."

It is the first time since mid-2011 that Britain has been placed on this grade of alert by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Center (JTAC), the independent body responsible for setting the national threat level.

The national threat level was first published in 2006, just over a year after four British Islamists carried out suicide bombings on London's transport network killing 52 people.

Police chiefs said raising the level to severe would mean a rise in the level of visible patrols, along with other security and protection measures.

White House spokesman John Earnest said: "This is a threat that the United States has been focused on. We've been coordinating closely with our allies, both the Brits, but others in Europe, about countering this threat and mitigating it."

The British move comes less than two weeks after a video released by IS showed the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley, by a masked knifeman apparently speaking English with a London accent. An investigation to identify the suspected attacker is in train.

Foley's murder prompted demands for extra security measures to tackle Britons traveling to the Middle East to join militant groups. Officials have warned that some who had gone to Syria or Iraq might return to Britain to carry out attacks.

British and European authorities have been warning for many months the Syrian conflict posed a serious terrorism threat, but no specific reason was given why JTAC had raised its alert.

"The increase in the threat level is related to developments in Syria and Iraq where terrorist groups are planning attacks against the West," Home Secretary (interior minister) Theresa May said in a statement.

"Some of those plots are likely to involve foreign fighters who have traveled there from the U.K. and Europe to take part in those conflicts."

Britons in Iraq, Syria

Officials estimate at least 500 Britons have traveled to Syria or Iraq, where IS has seized large swathes of territory, and London's police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe said on Wednesday it was believed some 250 had since returned.

Counter-terrorism police say there have been 69 arrests linked to fighting in Syria this year, a fivefold rise in the arrest rate compared to last year.

Cameron said he would unveil new laws on Monday to make it harder for Britons to travel to Syria and Iraq to fight, and to tackle radicalization among Britain's 2.7 million Muslims.

"This will include further steps to stop people traveling, with new legislation that will make it easier to take people's passports away," he told a news conference, adding the cause of the threat was a "poisonous ideology of Islamic extremism."

The alert has twice been raised to the highest level of critical—meaning an attack is imminent—after a plot to blow up transatlantic airliners was thwarted in 2006 and the next year after attempted car bombings in London and Glasgow.

Security chiefs say they have managed to stop at least one major terrorism plot every year since the 2005 bombings, known as the 7/7 attacks, but last year an off-duty soldier was murdered on a London street by two British Muslim converts in what the government described as a terrorist killing.

However, Muslims and some experts have cautioned against Britain rushing through new laws. Muslim groups have criticized a "knee-jerk" reaction from politicians which they said could simply backfire.

Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington; editing by Stephen Addison and Ralph Boulton

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Michael Holden/Reuters Featured World News Fri, 29 Aug 2014 17:00:00 -0400
John Lennon's Assassin: My Life Is All About Jesus

The man who murdered John Lennon wants only one thing now—to tell others about Jesus.

Mark David Chapman, 59, told parole examiners he was no longer the man who sought notoriety through killing the Beatles rock star in 1980.

Now, he said, he's sorry, "forgiven by God" and eager to spend his days—in prison or out—ministering to others.

Examiners denied Chapman the possibility of parole for the eighth time on Aug. 20. According to the 25-page transcript of the hearing, Chapman expected that finding. He will continue serving 20 years to life at the Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, near Buffalo, N.Y.

In his last parole hearing in 2012, the transcript shows, he was just as interested in testifying about his religious faith.

The transcript details how he spent years plotting the shooting of Lennon, acquiring a gun and bullets, lying to his wife about his whereabouts and plans. No more, he said. Now, his wife of 35 years, who visits him at least annually, is his partner in faith.

He told the board: "We're closer to the Lord now than we were on the street so I am going to credit Him with keeping our marriage together and our sanity."

Chapman's anniversary gift to her was a gold cross with a ruby heart in the center. It was not "just to say, 'Thank you, honey.' It's to tell God thank you for His love for us, for sticking with us," Chapman said.

Parole examiners asked whether Chapman might harm others if released and whether he was concerned that he might be a target himself for someone seeking the notoriety of murdering him. Chapman pledged that his crime days were over and as for risk to himself: "I leave it in God's hands."

His main interest now lies in ministering to prisoners. "Me and my wife have a ministry. We distribute brochures that tell people about Christ. ... That is where my heart is."

Chapman apologized for the pain he caused Lennon, his family and his millions of fans: "I am sorry for being such an idiot and choosing the wrong way for glory. I found my peace in Jesus. I know Him. He loves me. He has forgiven me."

The upshot: He plans to spend his days "telling people, 'Hey, you have another option. You have Christ. ... Either crime or Christ, which way do you want to go here?'"

And he predicted correctly during the hearing ("We all know how this will turn out," he said) that those days would be in prison. The board ruled that Chapman's release would be incompatible with the welfare of society" and would "deprecate the serious nature of the crime," according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

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

Cathy Lynn Grossman/RNS Featured U.S. News Fri, 29 Aug 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Mayor's 3-Point Prayer Plea Goes Viral

A West Virginia mayor's video plea for religious leaders to pray for his city is going viral.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams sent a video out to church leaders, asking them to join together Sept. 7 at 11:05 a.m. to pray for their city.

"Join all the other churches, ministers, and congregations in the tri-state [area] for one day in one service, that we all lift our voices up for the healing in our community," he said in the video.

Williams said drug addiction is taking the city down.

"I've come to understand and experience how powerful prayer can be, personally in my life and certainly what I've observed within my administration and how we're going about doing business," the mayor said.

He asked the churches to pray for three things:

1. Healing and recovery of those fighting substance abuse;
2. The protection of law enforcement as they protect the community during the drug war;
3. The drug dealers to be delivered from a life of crime.

CBN News Featured U.S. News Fri, 29 Aug 2014 15:00:00 -0400
Is Bombing ISIS the 'Christian' Thing to Do?

Even as some prominent Christians are calling on the U.S. to take more forceful military action against Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria, more than 50 mainly Catholic and Protestant leaders are telling President Obama to halt American airstrikes and pursue solely peaceful means to resolve the conflict.

"While the dire plight of Iraqi civilians should compel the international community to respond in some way, U.S. military action is not the answer," the 53 clergy, theologians and religious sisters and brothers write in Wednesday's open letter.

"Lethal weapons and airstrikes will not remove the threat to a just peace in Iraq," they continue. "As difficult as it might be, in the face of this great challenge, we believe that the way to address the crisis is through long-term investments in supporting inclusive governance and diplomacy, nonviolent resistance, sustainable development, and community-level peace and reconciliation processes."

The signatories note that while Pope Francis recently said it was "licit [legal] to stop the unjust aggressor"—referring to the Islamic State, or IS—the pontiff underscored that he was not endorsing bombing or warfare.

Among the Catholic signers are Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network; Gerry G. Lee, director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns; Sister Patricia Chappell, executive director of Pax Christi USA;  and Sister Janet Mock, executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

Others include Susan T. Henry-Crowe, general secretary, General Board of Church and Society for the United Methodist Church, and the Rev. Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly, in addition to numerous university professors and other Protestant denominational leaders.

The signers argued that many factors contributed to the current volatile mix in the Middle East, including past U.S. political and military campaigns in the region. And they point to the American strikes that helped oust Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 as an example of how that approach has backfired.

"More bombing will ultimately mean more division, bloodshed, recruitment for extremist organizations, and a continual cycle of violent intervention," they write.

The letter writers list eight specific recommendations for their "just peace" agenda, including an arms embargo and financial sanctions on the armed groups.

This week's letter stands in stark contrast to a petition launched earlier this month by more than 50 Catholic, evangelical and Jewish activists who demanded that Obama sharply escalate military action against Islamic extremists in Iraq. They said "nothing short of the destruction" of the Islamic State can protect Christians and other religious minorities.

Also this month, Robert P. George, a prominent Catholic conservative and Republican activist at Princeton University, told televangelist Pat Robertson that the U.S. has to lead a campaign to destroy the IS, and he said he would support sending ground troops to Iraq if that's what it takes to do the job.

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

David Gibson/RNS Featured World News Fri, 29 Aug 2014 14:00:00 -0400
Jesus Is Not a Politically Correct Wimp

Christians: The "softer, kinder, gentler" approach ain't working.

One of the perpetual myths well-intentioned Christians indulge in is that if we are just nice enough, winsome enough and persuasive enough, everybody will love us and eventually agree with us.

This is a pernicious and fatuous lie. It is a deception forged by the father of lies to induce Christians to be passive, meek and timid instead of bold clarions of truth and true justice.

By believing this lie, we have neutered ourselves in the public arena. Rather than winning others to our side, we have earned only their dismissive contempt. Rather than respecting us, they now feel free to punish us by shutting us up and shutting us down, and sending us off to re-education camps if we won't cooperate.

It's been tragic to watch as one pro-family leader and organization after another has lost its nerve and gone to ground rather than going to the mat. Organizations that once stood as beacons of light for the entire nation are now largely forgotten and ignored. They no longer have a message that the world fears. They have been domesticated.

But we do not serve a domesticated king. We serve the Lion of Judah, who is not, any more than Aslan was, a tame lion.

It's time to be done with the "nicer than Jesus" mentality. It never has worked, and it never will work. It only fools us into thinking we are being Christ-like when in reality we are only being wimps.

The odd thing is that Christians who have lost their spine and have become silent and soft are often harshly critical of those Christians who do stand publicly and without apology for the time-honored truths of Scripture. This is especially the case when it comes to things such as declaring that homosexuality is not a benign alternative to heterosexuality but a form of sexually deviant behavior.

Jesus wasn't crucified for being nice. He was crucified for being bold and confrontational. Don't misunderstand: He was the kindest man who ever lived. But he wasn't a sap. He knew when kindness was called for, and he knew when it was time to get up in somebody's grill and challenge them with the truth.

Jesus had no hesitation about speaking truth to political power. The Pharisees and the Sadducees were the politicians of Jesus' day. They passed laws that controlled the details of the ordinary, daily lives of everyone who lived in Israel. They could arrest people for violating those laws, detain them, put them on trial, flog them, and even persuade the Romans to put them to death.

Thoroughly unintimidated by their police powers, Jesus rebuked them publicly and directly and even knew when to call them "a brood of vipers" (Matt. 23:33, ESV) and the spawn of Satan: "You are of your father the devil" John 8:44).

So let's not hear any more of that nonsense about how Jesus was not involved in politics. He was involved in politics, and in the end it cost Him His life.

Bottom line: God has not called us to be nice. He has called us to be good. Nice people never confront evil and error, but good people do. It is the truth that sets men free, and genuine love will drive us to declare the truth no matter the cost. It's time to put on the full armor of God, unsheathe the sword of the Spirit, and go to war.

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

Bryan Fischer Featured Opinion Fri, 29 Aug 2014 13:00:00 -0400
When Will America Finally Remove Our Modern-Day Pharaoh?

Response to my commentary a few weeks ago was gratifying. Most readers seem to grasp a very important point: America's pharaoh is not a person or a political party; it is a power source other than God upon which people erroneously and foolishly depend, even begin to worship. It replaces God, exalting an unprincipled, unbiblical worldview.

The advocates and supporters of this system consistently assault absolute principles while rejecting revealed truth. As a result, freedom is redefined as everyone doing what is right in their own eyes. When people begin to lose freedom individually, they give it up nationally. The problems we face and the resulting bondage can be changed by God's people living as the light that cannot be hidden.

Christians must recognize, "A house divided cannot stand." Church leadership must stop fighting over theological differences and become supernaturally united by love, concern for others and fulfilling God's kingdom purpose. Cease arguing about the Holy Spirit and begin living in the demonstration of His power with love, peace and kindness. Reject the godless worldview by demonstrating the power of a biblical worldview with its magnetic attraction. Jesus said, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to myself."

It's obvious to everyone here and around the whole world that American leadership lacks the wisdom that comes only from Divine Providence. These are realities we face:

  • America is divided by colliding worldviews.
  • Our choice is a big God or big government.
  • We can trust other men's promises of provision, entitlement and dependence, or return to personal responsibility, accountability, hard work and a genuine interest in the well being of our neighbor.
  • We must choose between solid biblical principles or the opinions of relativists.
  • There is an all-out assault on the Christian faith, biblical absolutes and any mention of God in the public square.
  • Moral standards are being rejected. Anything goes in sexual practices. Marriage is redefined. Protection of the innocent and innocence is diminished.
  • Ever-increasing excess in government spending will deplete not only the treasury but also the ability for anyone to get ahead through honest labor and understanding the importance of risk and reward.
  • Freedom is being exchanged for dependence and a sense of entitlement, leading to national bondage.
  • The importance of limited government under God and principled people is being replaced by an excessive, ineffective, all-powerful state. National direction is being determined by special-interest groups that demand so-called rights while refusing personal responsibility. As a result, opportunity, productivity and even the promise of meaningful employment are destroyed.

Recognizing the serious problems we face, Christians must stop arguing among themselves and stand together as an unshakable, spiritually united body of true believers. We must reject the thought that evangelism is to be separated from the importance of standing against evil.

As a lifelong evangelist, I understand that we win people to Christ and teach them to assume responsibility as Kingdom witnesses here and now. We weren't saved just to escape this world and go to heaven. We were born again to have the Kingdom of heaven revealed "on earth as it is in heaven." We are to stand against the gates of hell and its forces of destruction and deception.

Transformed people transform the culture while standing boldly against evil. Let it be said of us, we feared no man, no power and gave no ground to the enemy. We are "soldiers of the Lord Jesus" and "more than conquerors in Christ!" Take a moment to consider the effect of the Christian witness on the culture in some of the most challenging times in human history:

Christian influence on government was primarily responsible for outlawing infanticide, child abandonment, and abortion in the Roman Empire (in AD 374); outlawing the brutal battles-to-the-death in which thousands of gladiators had died (in 404); outlawing the cruel punishment of branding the faces of criminals (in 315); instituting prison reforms such as the segregating of male and female prisoners (by 361); stopping the practice of human sacrifice among the Irish, Prussians and Lithuanians; outlawing pedophilia, granting of property rights and other protections to women; banning polygamy; prohibiting the burning alive of widows in India (in 1829); outlawing the crippling practice of binding young women's feet in China (in 1912); persuading government officials to begin compulsory education of all children in Germany (16th century) and a number of other European countries.

During the history of the church, Christians have had a decisive influence in opposing and abolishing slavery in the Roman Empire, in Ireland and in most of continental Europe. In England, William Wilberforce, a devout Christian, led the successful effort to abolish slavery throughout the British Empire by 1840.

In the United States, Christians were the most ardent abolitionists, speaking, writing and agitating constantly for the abolition of slavery in the United States. The American civil-rights movement that resulted in the outlawing of racial segregation and discrimination was led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Christian pastor.

There was also strong influence from Christian ideas and influential Christians in the formulation of the Magna Carta in England (1215) and of the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the Constitution (1787) in the United States. These are three of the most significant documents in the history of governments on the Earth, and all three show the marks of significant Christian influence in the foundational ideas of how governments should function. These foundations for British and American government did not come about as a result of the "do evangelism, not politics" view.

If the Christian church had adopted the "do evangelism, not politics" view throughout its history, it would never have brought about these immeasurably valuable changes among the nations of the world. But these changes did happen, because Christians realized that if they could influence laws and governments for good, they would be obeying the command of their Lord, "let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).

The choice is clear: We can live in freedom under God or in bondage under any other source, which amounts to a modern-day pharaoh. Paul told the New Testament church, "The things that happened to Israel are an example for us" (1 Cor. 10:6). Surely you remember, God delivered the people from bondage in order to lead them into the land of blessing, freedom and fruitfulness. Our God is a God who blesses those living in His shadow. Only unbelief and disobedience to His Word can hinder the blessings He freely offers through His Son. "When the Son sets you free, you are free indeed" (John 8:36).

True believers understand that hearts and minds must be transformed by the power of God and witnessing the visible manifestation of His life through the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Now is the time to "rise and shine with the glory of the Lord upon us!" Concerned Christians must support leaders who understand the reality of spiritual warfare and the importance of a Christian worldview. This does not mean we impose our faith on others, merely that we choose representatives that reflect our values. That's both the benefit and danger of democracy.

Sadly, I believe that inept, self-serving, corrupt leaders actually do reflect the values of many people. That's why the church must rise up, courageously and compassionately demonstrating and defending the love of Christ. This we know for sure: Christ left us here as His witnesses on this Earth for His glory and kingdom purpose. The moment Christians decide to stand together as the family of God, the forces of hell will tremble, and truth will win!

James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International.

James Robison Featured Opinion Fri, 29 Aug 2014 12:00:00 -0400
WATCH: Who Is ISIS Really?

Below is a special video I want you to watch. For those of you who have seen news reports of the persecution and political turmoil taking place in Iraq, this is an explanation of who ISIS is.

Last week I joined my son Joshua, executive vice president of Leading The Way, in the studio to put together a special video addressing the many questions we were receiving about what's happening in Iraq. I hope it will help you better understand what is going on in the Middle East and what we as Christians can do. If you would like to watch the full video with more details, click here.

Michael Youssef Featured Opinion Fri, 29 Aug 2014 11:00:00 -0400
How God Is Moving With Dreams and Visions in the Muslim World

Saeed Abedini, who is serving an eight-year sentence in a brutal Iranian prison for his Christian faith, came to Christ at age 20. A devout Muslim at the time, he had found a Bible and started reading it. One night, he was awakened three times by a voice that said, "Saeed, I am coming soon. Go preach My Gospel." The third time, the voice was accompanied by a bright light shining through Saeed's bedroom window. Trembling and sweating, Saeed said, "I will do it." At that moment, the light moved away, and he saw what appeared to be the back of Jesus exiting through the window.

Saeed's wife, Naghmeh, recounts her own family's arrival in the United States when Naghmeh and her twin brother were 9. The two siblings had wondered how to find God, and one day Naghmeh's brother came to her, shaken and moved. "I've found the God we've been looking for," he said. He had seen a vision of Jesus.

More and more, Christians are hearing stories of Muslims, especially in the Middle East, coming to faith in Jesus Christ partly as a result of having a vision or a dream.

"I can't explain it," Franklin Graham said to a group of pastors meeting at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association on March 25. "I'm not even going to attempt to explain it. I just tell you: It happens. God is at work in that part of the world in a great way."

Missions expert David Garrison, a former missionary to Libya and author of A Wind in the House of Islam: How God is Drawing Muslims Around the World to Faith in Jesus Christ, sees this phenomenon as part of a larger move of God in the Muslim world.

"We'd be very hard-pressed to nail down specific numbers," Garrison told Decision, "but certainly hundreds of thousands have walked away from Islam and come to faith in Jesus Christ. We're even getting reports from the war-torn areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, that many of the Taliban and mujahedeen, who for generations have been embroiled in warfare in the name of Islam, are simply saying, 'This cannot be God's perfect will for people, for mankind.'"

As a result, Garrison said, when they encounter Christ through a dream or vision, followed by hearing the gospel explained on a radio or satellite broadcast or through Scripture translation, many come to salvation.

Naeem Fazal, pastor of Mosaic Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, says a supernatural experience played a role in his coming to faith. He grew up in a Muslim family in Kuwait, and he had come to the U.S. to attend college. While he was mainly interested in meeting girls, his older brother, who had come to the States earlier, had put his trust in Jesus Christ.

Naeem made it clear to his brother, Mahmood, that he was not about to convert to Jesus Christ, but he did agree to accompany Mahmood to meetings of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at the college. After one meeting, Mahmood challenged Naeem to pray that God would reveal Himself to him. Three nights later, as Naeem lay in bed, he was suddenly aware of the room becoming unnaturally dark, and an evil presence seemed to sit on his legs and grab his shoulders. The door creaked open and a second, even more fearsome, presence entered. Naeem felt sure these were demons who meant to kill him, and he cried out, asking Jesus to save him. The beings disappeared.

Some time later that night, he felt someone shaking his shoulders and at first feared it was the demons again. Instead, he saw Jesus and understood Him to say, "I am Jesus. Your life is not your own."

What should Christians make of such spectacular stories?

"Believe them," says Aileen Colemen, a nurse who has served for nearly 60 years at the Annoor Sanatorium, a hospital for lung diseases, in Mafraq, Jordan. "I feel very strongly that God is using supernatural experiences with people here as a revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ to them. Right from the days of the Old Testament, God spoke through visions and dreams. So it's not something new."

Experts add that if God gets someone's attention through a dream or vision, it does not in any way diminish the responsibility of believers to communicate the gospel.

"The tragic thing," Garrison said, "is that unless someone is there to tell them what the dream or vision means or to present to them a Scripture in their own language so they can read it and hear it and understand it and then find the Jesus of the Bible, they're left with this haunting sense of, who was this? What does this mean?"

Coleman tells the story of a man who came to the hospital in Mafraq some 20 years ago and said he had seen a vision of someone telling him: "If you want to know the truth, go to Mafraq, find the white-haired lady and she will tell you the way of truth." Coleman's co-worker, Dr. Eleanor Soltau, had white hair. She called a male evangelist on the hospital's staff who led the man to Christ.

"As literate, believing Christians, we don't need dreams and visions," Coleman said. "We have the written Word. But so many of these people who have a dream or a vision or a supernatural experience have never read the Word. So it's very important that we take them to the Word of God."

Nabeel Qureshi, a former Muslim who now works with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, said during his college years he diligently studied both Islam and Christianity in an attempt to discern which was true, and three dreams helped to push him toward Jesus. Still, his Christian friends played a crucial role in his conversion. Qureshi has this advice for believers:

"Love the Lord Jesus with everything you have, and love your Muslim friend as yourself. Not as an acquaintance, not as an evangelism project, but as yourself. Let them see your love for God and what He has done for you. Most Muslims who are devout do not love Allah per se, but rather are devoted to the system of Islam. Show them the difference."

©2014 BGEA. Click here to read this article on

Bob Paulson/Decision Magazine Featured World News Fri, 29 Aug 2014 10:00:00 -0400
This 'Ism' Is Forcing Christians to Hide Their Faith in Jesus

An "aggressive form of secularism" is pushing faith out of the public square, the former attorney general for England and Wales has warned.

Dominic Grieve told The Telegraph that there is a "sanitization" of religion from the workplace, which will lead to people being "excluded" from society.

"Recognizing people's right to manifest their faith and express it is very important," he said.

Grieve commented: "I worry that there are attempts to push faith out of the public space. Clearly it happens at a level of local power.

"You can watch institutions or organizations do it or watch it happen at a local-government level. In my view it's very undesirable. Some of the cases which have come to light of employees being disciplined or sacked for simply trying to talk about their faith in the workplace I find quite extraordinary.

"The sanitization will lead to people of faith excluding themselves from the public space and being excluded.

"It is in nobody's interest that groups should find themselves excluded from society."

Grieve also highlighted Christianity's "enormous role in shaping this country." He said the Christian faith is a "powerful force" that is "underrated."

Earlier this year, Grieve said that atheists who claim Britain is not a Christian country are "deluding themselves."

He made the comments in response to a letter, co-signed by 55 public figures, which said "we are a largely non-religious society" and claimed that David Cameron is fostering "alienation and division" by labeling Great Britain as Christian.

Grieve explained: "As I go around and look at the way we make laws, and indeed many of the underlying ethics of society are Christian based and the result of 1,500 years of Christian input into our national life. It is not going to disappear overnight."

In April, a survey of 2,000 people for The Telegraph suggested that Christians are afforded less protection for their beliefs by the state compared to those who practice other religions.

The Christian Institute Featured World News Fri, 29 Aug 2014 09:00:00 -0400
Are Your Dental Products Actually Destroying Your Teeth?

Today, it's not difficult to take care of your teeth and maintain a gorgeous smile. You can find numerous dental-care products on the market that promise to control tartar, kill germs, control the formation of cavities, and promise sparkling white teeth for all.

However, are you aware of the fact that there are a few ingredients included in your teeth whiteners, toothpastes and mouthwash that can be more harmful rather that advantageous to your teeth? With that said, there are some debatable ingredients included in a few of the oral-care products, and we should use them with caution. These are:

Triclosan. It is important to note that the region below the tongue, which is the floor of our mouth, is vascular. It can work as a quick path of absorption to our bloodstream. One of the popular ingredients of toothpaste, Triclosan, promises to work for up to 12 hours in order to prevent the formation of bacterial plaque. However, this ingredient has raised an alarm, since many studies have indicated that it acts as an endocrine disruptor, and in turn, causes hormonal imbalances including thyroid issues and fertility problems. It is also connected to antibiotic resistance.

Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has conveyed apprehensions regarding this ingredient; thus Johnson & Johnson is planning to remove Triclosan from its soap by 2015.

Alcohol. Alcohol is another risky ingredient, which is found in mouthwash. One of the most popular brands of mouthwash contains 20 percent concentration of alcohol. You may not be aware of it, but alcohol dries your mouth and makes your breath worse. Moreover, it makes your teeth more susceptible to cavities because alcohol reduces the natural protection of saliva. Researchers have also indicated some connection between the overuse of alcohol and mouth cancer.

You can easily find lots of good mouthwash products on the market that are free of alcohol. It is suggested buying those that contain zinc since this mineral works to fight the root cause of bad breath.

Carbamide peroxide. This ingredient is commonly found in gels, rinses and whitening toothpastes. Urea is the byproduct of carbamide peroxide, which later converts to ammonia. One should not confuse this ingredient with hydrogen peroxide, which is considered safe to use when used in moderate amounts. Hydrogen peroxide is a better alternative since it breaks down into water and oxygen and, it works faster.

It is easy to get confused with teeth-whitening products. Some people equate the word "whitening" with "bleaching," and they consider that such whitening dental products will work to remove deep stains residing inside the tooth and bring back their sparkling smile.

However, when you read the label of whitening toothpaste, you will notice that it claims to eradicate only the surface stains. This simply means that this product is only working to remove the top layer of stains on the outer enamel, and it is not effective enough to whiten the inside of the tooth. If you really want to get rid of the stains on the teeth, you will need heavy abrasives to scrape away the stains on the enamel surface.

Here, it is essential to know that enamel does not grow back. Thus, if you are looking for effective whitening toothpaste, you should get a professional strength hydrogen peroxide gel tube. You can add this gel on your regular toothpaste every time you clean your teeth. This treatment will surely whiten your teeth from the inside as well as outside.

Doctors suggest brushing your teeth at least twice a day, along with rinsing and flossing. It is also recommended that you see your dentist twice a year in order to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

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 best-selling 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 copies sold. He is the medical director of the Divine Health Wellness Center in Orlando, Florida, where he has treated more than 50,000 patients. He also is an internationally known expert and prolific speaker on integrative medicine.

For the original article, visit

Don Colbert, M.D. Featured Opinion Fri, 29 Aug 2014 08:00:00 -0400
#TacoOrBeerChallenge Emerges to Fund Abortion

While the Ice Bucket Challenge is stirring the pro-life pot with revelations about the ALS Association engaging in embryonic stem-cell research, the pro-abortion camp is working to create a nefarious viral fund-raising campaign uniquely its own.

It's called the Taco or Beer Challenge, referred to on social media as #TacoOrBeerChallenge.

Andrea Grimes of RH Reality Check and the Texas Observer wants you to eat a taco, drink a beer and fund abortion. With the Ice Bucket Challenge raising over $94 million to date for the ALS Association in a viral campaign that has seen everyday Joes and celebrities dump freezing-cold ice water on their heads (or make a $100 donation) the Taco or Beer Challenge allows you to "stay dry—ideally—and somebody gets help paying for a legal abortion."

"What do ice buckets have to do with ALS? I don't know. What do tacos and beer have to do with abortion? I don't know that either," Grimes wrote in her article.

"What I do know is that eating tacos and drinking beer is more pleasurable than getting doused with ice water, and that lawmakers around the country are passing increasingly restrictive anti-abortion access laws. Which means abortion funds are now more necessary than ever as legal abortion becomes harder than ever to access—especially for those of us who don't live in major urban centers."

What's next, individual Kickstarter campaigns for video taping your own abortion? Emily Letts, a 25-year-old abortion counselor hailing from New Jersey, not only decided she wasn't ready to parent a bundle of joy—she actually taped the procedure and posted the video on YouTube to "show women that there is such a thing as a positive abortion story."

But I digress.

"Because abortion stigma is real, I know it can be hard to make that first abortion fund donation. It's one thing to support abortion in theory, and a whole other thing to actually help pay for someone else's—a total stranger's, most likely—abortion," Grimes wrote. "There's a strong cultural narrative that tells us people who get abortions are bad, irresponsible or cruel. That they are undeserving of care and understanding. That they are confused or heartless."

Grimes went on to say "that narrative f---ing sucks." Well, it only "sucks" for the baby that's being killed in the womb of a mother who didn't want him or her.

I'm glad Grimes realizes there's still a stigma on abortion—and I'm glad there is still a stigma on abortion. It's no different than any other murder, except that it's often performed by a licensed physician rather than a psychopath or hardened criminal. It's the same as any other murder, except the victim is actually handed over to his executioner by one who is supposed to protect the child.

As for the strong cultural narrative, Grimes has it all wrong. No one in the pro-life movement is saying people who get abortions are bad. It's the act that's bad, not the person. No one is suggesting that post-abortive women are irresponsible or cruel or underserving of care and understanding, confused or heartless.

Women who get abortions are typically fearful and angst-ridden before they walk through the abortion clinic's doors, and many suffer with guilt and shame for years after they walk out. But that's not because the pro-life movement is telling them they are bad. It's because they need to receive Christ and His forgiveness so they can move on from their past and into a brighter future.

"The Taco or Beer Challenge is about doing what's right for your own taco and beverage needs, just like having an abortion—or not—is about doing what's right for yourself and your family," Grimes writes. "The only way to fail the Taco or Beer Challenge is to not donate to an abortion fund. I believe in tacos, I believe in beer, and I believe in you."

Grimes misses the point entirely. As controversial as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has become in some Christian circles, it pales in comparison to a campaign aiming to raise millions to fund abortions. And unfortunately, Grimes is off to a good start. Twitter is lit up with the #TacoOrBeerChallenge hashtag, along with photos and videos of pro-abortion activists gnoshing on Mexican food and throwing back alcoholic beverages as they essentially celebrate death.

If you are considering having an abortion, please reconsider now. Get quiet and ask God to speak to your heart about what He wants and wait for an answer. I believe He'll speak to your heart about birthing the life inside you. And if you've already had an abortion, you can be forgiven by the One who hung on a cross to pay the price for the sin of abortion—and every other sin.

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

Jennifer LeClaire Featured Watchman on the Wall Opinion Fri, 29 Aug 2014 07:00:00 -0400
Learn How to Love Gays Without Condoning Their Sin

Chances are, you or someone close to you has a loved one who is living a homosexual life. God wants you to love them unconditionally. Here are three simple ways we all can do this.

1. Show them Jesus. Please love them, welcome them and minister to them. A church and its people "loved" my brother back into a relationship with Jesus that ultimately secured his destiny into heaven!

2. Get real about sin. Let's realize that we all have a natural inclination to certain things that challenge our walk with God. On the sin scale, is homosexual fornication different than heterosexual fornication? No. Yet do we condone heterosexual fornication more readily than homosexual fornication? I would say most of us do. Sin is sin, wrong is wrong, and any sin breaks God's heart.

3. Pour on the grace. Make no mistake; we are to follow the Bible in its entirety. The instruction manual is clear, and we are to resist all temptations. But we all fall from time to time (see 1 John 2:1-2). Even though Peter denied Christ three times (and yes, he walked on water with Jesus), he was not disqualified from a wonderful purpose. It was Peter who was used to preach on the day of Pentecost. God gave him a place to fit in.

My plea to the body of Christ is before you judge or form an opinion, before you shun or disqualify one of God's own children, think about this: Where would this person fit in to Jesus' group?

I've served as a church leader at many churches and heard every reason for why "We can't let this or that happen, pastor!" But I know this as Eddie's brother: If we had created a place for him to serve, to use his gifts and talents, and to be celebrated, he might still be with us today. Just maybe part of God's plan for my brother was to open our eyes to his dilemma. 

When looking at the gay and lesbian community, there are many factors that churches and organizations should research and understand. But when it's all said and done, I hope our conclusion is one of love, compassion and an attempt to show Jesus to any and all who are outside the body of Christ, for any reason.

We must go after the Eddies of the world for Jesus. In doing so I believe we can make a difference to a community of people—and make them God's people.

Richie Hughes is an agent/manager for authors and music artists, and an in-demand speaker for churches and businesses. He is the former executive pastor of Free Chapel church, pastored by Jentezen Franklin. His latest book, Start Here, Go Anywhere, released in August. For more information, visit

Richie Hughes Featured Opinion Fri, 29 Aug 2014 06:00:00 -0400
5 Eating Habits That Will Trim You Up

We have an excuse for every poor choice we make today: "I had bad parents;" "No one told me the truth;" or "It's just the way I am."

The sad fact is we think it will justify our actions. But when it comes to our choices at mealtime, we are finding it's more about harboring bad habits than an inherited or environmentally stimulated bad behavior.

True, we can inherit poor eating behaviors from our parents or past eating patterns, but we have so many options today to eat healthy. If we want to change where we are going, it starts with the choices we make today. I know there are conflicting words of advice everywhere you turn, and knowing what to do can be complicated. So here is an offering of simple tips to help you make positive health choices.

1. Start eating at the dinner table. Our tendency today is to eat on the run, on the couch, or out of a bag. The result is we eat more. Why? Because we are eating whatever is convenient, eating larger amounts, and sometimes we eat directly out of the pots—no portion restrictions—it's a free-for-all!

If you take the time to sit at the table, you are more conscious of your portions. You can unwind with the family, not race to get done. Go over the events of the day, and if you like, you'll have the opportunity to put on some background music to make it a more relaxing enjoyable time.

2. Exchange lunch plates for dinner plates. This is one I have used many times. When you use a smaller plate, your eyes see more food—it's true! If our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, why not fool them? I was brought up with the mindset that you eat everything on your plate because someone somewhere is starving. This led me to eat past the full line, and the result was more calories than I required. So today I use smaller plates and feel full, not stuffed.

3. Slow down the pace. Do you find yourself eating just to get something in your stomach? More than likely you eat fast because eating has become a function, not an experience. I can hear it now, "Linda, my life is too hectic for me to experience my food!" Granted, we do live fast-paced lives, but it's the fast-paced eating that is driving us to an early grave.

When we choose to take 15 to 20 minutes to eat a meal, we find ourselves satisfied with less food. Setting your fork down between bites while you savor the flavor of your meal will allow your mind to catch up with your stomach, and the full sensation will be recognized earlier. Taking the time to actually chew your food instead of inhaling it will help in the process as well.

I am the worst at eating for function instead of experience. But I have found that over the years, if I actually think about what I'm eating (not in an obsessive way) and relax as I do it, the digestion process is enhanced as well. Nothing causes an upset stomach like gulping down food on the run.

I guess this means we need to make time, not just take time, to eat. What a concept! Even if you are one of those who chooses to eat smaller meals six times a day, slow down and enjoy it.

4. Palms up for portion size. If you set everything in place but choose to pile on the food, you miss the boat altogether. Portion size is the key, and the easiest way to know where to begin and end is to look at your own palm. Opened-faced minus the fingers, this is your portion. Whether we are talking meat, veggies, or bread, this concept will keep us in the ballpark of proper portion size.

Once again, make it fun! When your children are filling their plates (the younger you can get them started the better—of course, use common sense here), remind them to look at their palms and see how close they can get to measuring a portion. Keep in mind that as your children are growing, you don't want to limit their diets as you do adults.

You can use the Palms Up Method with your family and encourage them to place color variety on their plates as well—veggies, salads, lean meats, pastas, sweet potatoes, and, yes, macaroni and cheese even has a place at this setting. Look for balance.

5. Out of sight, out of mind. The final step is to remove the temptation of foods that cause you to binge. As the adult, you are in control of what is available in your home for your family to eat. Slowly start to substitute good choices for not-so-healthy ones. Keep fresh fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator. Replace your white bread with one containing whole grains. Limit the amount of salt, sugar, caffeine and alcohol you have on hand.

Encourage healthy living with your younger set by allowing them to help you purge the pantry. Go through things you eat on a regular basis and check the label. If the first ingredient is sugar—out it goes! This might be too shocking to the "family system," so take it slow; start with one or two items at first. Purge and then replace with something healthy. Let the kids choose the healthy items. If they are part of the process, they will be more likely to embrace the change.

Small steps to a healthier you are easily accomplished if you keep your eye on the source of your strength. I constantly pull on the sleeve of my Savior Jesus Christ for discernment and direction; He is one guest you should always invite to your table. Happy eating!

Linda Goldfarb is a certified physical fitness specialist, speaker and syndicated radio talk-show host. You can download her weekly "Not Just Talkin' the Talk" radio broadcasts, a one-hour variety talk show based out of San Antonio, Texas, at Linda's show encourages listeners to "walk the walk" spiritually, physically and relationally each and every day.

For the original article, visit

Linda Goldfarb/CBN News Featured Opinion Thu, 28 Aug 2014 20:00:00 -0400
Self-Promotional Churches Will Soon Be Judged

I believe that much of what the Lord is doing today is completely counter to Christian pop culture and the flow that we are seeing in the Western Church. It is typical in such times that there will be a counterfeit that runs parallel to the real.

There will be an echo arise right alongside the authentic voice. Some of these echoes are very deceptive and hidden from the casual hearer, while others are rather obvious and easy to discern. For instance, there's a false teaching out there that says the Christian doesn't need to repent—that God has forgiven all your past, present and future sins. Yet there's never been a greater need for repentance in the church world than today.

In a recent poll done by, single Christians between the ages of 18 and 59 were asked, if given the opportunity, would they have sex before marriage. A whopping 63 percent stated that they would. How does that happen? It's simple. Either they are hopelessly backslidden or they've never repented of their sins and experienced true conversion. A majority of them belong to a church culture that is perhaps trendy and popular, but has no interest in fulfilling the demands of Christ. Many of them serve an "American Jesus" who lets them live as they please, and of course, will never judge them. Amidst all of the frenetic religious activity going on today, we need the ability to recognize the real Jesus, the Lamb of God.

In John 3, John the Baptist who was filled with the spirit and power of Elijah, and who ministered with Divine authority, declared, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" Then he declared again, "He must increase, but I must decrease."

John's ministry was not one of self-exaltation or self-promotion as is so common today, but he was separated by God for the sole purpose of exalting the Lamb of God and preparing a people for Him, a bride for the bridegroom.

"He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice" (John 3:29).

Those who are true friends of the Bridegroom hear His voice, not an echo. The voice of His messengers, who are filled with the spirit and power of Elijah, will point people to the Lamb of God, not to their own ministries, personalities, and agendas. John the Baptist was a voice crying in the wilderness. The entirety of his ministry was focused on the Lamb and His bride.

If a ministry is not pointing people to the One who was, and is, and is to come it, will be judged harshly in this hour. Those who are exalting the Lamb of God have no interest in being seen or heard. They are not looking for a platform to promote themselves. The things that denote ministerial success in our day, such as large buildings, large followings and popularity, are of no interest to the true messengers of the Lamb.

Actually, the Lord is leading ministers right now to do the opposite of what it takes to build a large ministry. He is stripping away human wisdom and all we've utilized in our own efforts to build things, for He will not share His glory with another.

The Ephesians 4:11 gifts are to equip the saints for service and to prepare a bride for the Bridegroom, or a wife for the Lamb. "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John" (John 1:6). There is a present-day ministry with a mandate just as John the Baptist had, to turn hearts back to the Lord, to make a people ready for Him.

One of the great emphases of the Lord in this hour is on the preparation of His bride. There must be a distinction made between the church world and the bride of Christ. This is more than a salvation issue. It is more about the Lord possessing our vessels for His eternal purposes. This is the spirit and power of Elijah that was upon John the Baptist, and would also be a characteristic of those who would minister before His second coming (Mal. 4:5-6).

God's invitation is to everyone, but that invitation demands a dedication and a consecration. Counting the cost and paying the price are no longer terms we hear today in the marketplace of Western Christianity, but this language is found everywhere in the Scriptures.

It is time to wake up the sleeping church! She can be awakened kindly with a kiss or be shaken with the Lord's severity (Rom. 11:22). It's our choice. If we put it off to the future it will demand His shakings, which often come in the form of tests and trials, or a crisis that will expose our pride and crooked ways. Wholeheartedness is what the Lord desires.

In the times of Elijah we see this ministry in manifestation in the spirit and power of Elijah as he stood on Mount Carmel and contested with the false prophets of Baal. The fire fell and consumed the sacrifice along with the wood, stones, dust and even the water. This mighty manifestation caused the people to fall on their faces and declare the Lord as God.

"Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, 'The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!'" (1 Kings 18:39).

We also see this ministry exercised in the days of Moses as he stretched forth his rod, and the Red Sea swallowed up and drowned the Egyptian armies. The results of this anointing and authority are noted in Exodus 14:31: "Thus Israel saw the great work which the Lord had done in Egypt; so the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord and His servant Moses."

This anointing administered in the spirit and power of Elijah will be seen again. Its purpose is always redemptive—to bring forth true repentance and cause the hearts of the people to turn to the Lord.

We are in the infantile stages of the release of this authority. This will include a worldwide company of men and women who have been summoned by the Lord to be His messengers.

In the times of Moses and Elijah, great severity was necessary to turn the hearts of the people back to the Lord. Often people quote the scripture in Romans 2:4, properly stating that it is the goodness or kindness of the Lord that leads to repentance. But when the Lord's goodness does not lead to repentance, then He is forced to move us into the realm of Divine severity.

Too many people have taken the Lord's goodness to further their pleasurable, worldly and even sinful lifestyles. Therefore, for the sake of their salvation and perseverance of their souls, the Lord has to administer His severity.

And so we will see both the manifestation of the goodness and severity of God side by side in the days ahead. Bittersweet times are upon us. We will choose our own medicine. These things will come with great cost and great loss to many as well as great glory and victory to others.

I find the scriptural reference to Jesus as the Lamb of God very rare until we get to the book of Revelation. There the Lamb is referenced 27 times. That is more than the rest of the entire New Testament combined. It was the revelation of the Lamb that ushered in His first coming, and it is that same revelation that will usher in the end of the age. It is only in the Lamb's meekness that we will triumph. Let's make ourselves ready!

"Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready" (Rev. 19:7, emphasis added).

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 Thu, 28 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Polygamy Law 'Unconstitutional,' Federal Judge Rules

A federal judge on Wednesday finalized the order striking part of Utah's bigamy law and gave one more victory to the family from the TLC television show Sister Wives.

The long legal battle over polygamy in Utah now appears headed to the appeals courts. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has said he would appeal the federal court ruling that found the law against polygamy was unconstitutional.

Sister Wives chronicles the lives of Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn Brown and their children. Utah County authorities began their investigation of the polygamous family after their show debuted.

Jonathan Turley, the attorney for the Brown family,  encouraged Reyes to reconsider his plan to appeal.

Federal Judge Clark Waddoups in December struck the section of Utah's bigamy statute that can be applied when someone "cohabits with another person" to whom they are not legally married. Utah law made such a union a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Waddoups said the ban violated the First and 14th amendments to the Constitution.

Waddoups let stand the portion of the statute that prevents someone from having more than one active marriage license.

In his ruling, Waddoups found the Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman violated the Browns' constitutional rights when he oversaw a 2010 investigation into whether the Brown family was committing bigamy. At the time the Browns lived in Utah. They have since moved to Nevada.

Buhman eventually decided not to file criminal charges, but Waddoups said the investigation stifled the Browns' rights to free speech, religion and equal protection.

Waddoups ordered Utah to pay the Browns' attorney fees as a result of that finding.

In court filings and oral arguments before Waddoups, attorneys for Utah have argued polygamy is inherently harmful to woman and children and the state had an interest in deterring it.

The Browns filed their lawsuit in July 2011, arguing Utah's law violated their right to privacy. The family's argument relied primarily on the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down the Texas law banning sodomy, which was celebrated by gay rights advocates.

Nate Carlisle writes for The Salt Lake Tribune.

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

Nate Carlisle/Salt Lake Tribune Featured U.S. News Thu, 28 Aug 2014 18:00:00 -0400
American Convert to Islam Dies Fighting for Islamic State

An American who lived in Minnesota and San Diego and had recently converted to Islam was killed in Syria, where he had gone to fight alongside terrorists, officials say.

A national-security spokeswoman at the White House, Caitlin Hayden, confirmed the death of Douglas McCain, 33, and said U.S. officials had been aware of his presence in Syria.

McCain had traveled to Syria to join a militant group, believed to be the Islamic State, The Associated Press reported, citing a U.S. official who spoke only on condition of anonymity.

A relative, Kenneth McCain, said the State Department had called his family to report that Douglas McCain had been killed in Syria, the AP reported.

McCain lived in San Diego in recent years and was a 1999 graduate of Robbinsdale Cooper High School in Minnesota, the Star-Tribune reported.

Kenyata McCain, a cousin, said she was in touch with Douglas McCain as recently as Friday, and "he was telling all of us he was in Turkey."

"I know that he had strong Muslim beliefs," she said, "but I didn't know that he was in support of ISIS. I didn't think he would be."

NBC cited an activist linked to the Free Syrian Army who saw the photos and said McCain was among three foreigners fighting with Islamic State who died in Syria.

Ken McCain told CNN the family was "devastated" and "just as surprised as the country" to learn of his nephew's participation with ISIS, which is short for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Ken McCain said his nephew converted from Christianity to Islam several years ago.

Islamic State, sometimes called ISIL for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, is waging a war aimed at building a Sunni state across a swath of Syria and Iraq. The group made global news last week with a video showing the beheading of American photojournalist James Foley. (The Levant is basically a large chunk of the eastern Mediterranean region that includes Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel.)

President Obama urged Muslim nations to band together to stop the Islamic State.

McCain was born in Chicago and worked in San Diego for "Dawah—Calling to Allah," which describes itself as a nonprofit dedicated to spreading the word about Islam and inviting people to join the faith.

There are many posters on McCain's own Facebook photo page with a Muslim theme, including an "I (heart) Allah." Another is called "Soldiers of Allah" and shows what appear to be desert warriors striding toward the light under the headline "They are coming back."

There are also playful entries on his Facebook page, noting that he is a fan of both the Chicago Bulls and comedian Dave Chapelle.

Much of the information on the Facebook page was stripped away sometime Wednesday.

John Bacon and Doug Stanglin write for USA Today. Oren Dorell and William M. Welch contributed to this report.

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

John Bacon and Doug Stanglin/USA Today Featured U.S. News Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:00:00 -0400
Mars Hill 'Most Abusive, Coercive Ministry Culture I've Ever Been Involved With,' Says Paul Tripp

A letter from nine Mars Hill Church pastors to their fellow elders offers the most trenchant criticism yet of controversial megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll, who recently stepped down for at least six weeks amid a series of accusations.

The pastors did not mince words in their lengthy Aug. 22 letter concerning Driscoll, who has been caught up in allegations that include plagiarism, inappropriate use of church funds and abuse of power:

  • [W]e direct that he steps down from ministry, submitting himself under the authority of the elders of the church, who will oversee the details of his restoration plan.
  • He must step down not only from the pulpit, but from all aspects of ministry and leadership.
  • He will continue to receive his salary so long as he continues to cooperate with the restoration plan set before him by the elders of Mars Hill Church.

The letter was posted within a Mars Hill online network and provided to Warren Throckmorton, a Grove City College psychology professor who has been blogging updates about Mars Hill.

The 4,000-word letter suggests there were insufficient layers of accountability at Mars Hill, a congregation of an estimated 14,000 people at 15 locations in five states, and that power was consolidated at the top with Driscoll given free rein to do what he wanted.

The pastors included quotes from conversations with Paul Tripp, a widely respected evangelical pastor who is seen as a "pastor to pastors" and was on the Mars Hill's Board of Advisers and Accountability before he resigned in June.

"This is without a doubt, the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I've ever been involved with," Tripp is quoted saying in the letter.

One of Tripp's concerns was the way the church governance was set up.

"You can't have a church culture where you essentially have a very tight circle and everyone else is your enemy," he said.

Tripp declined to an interview request.

"This letter, as with past letters voicing accusations toward Mark Driscoll will be processed in accordance with Article 12 of the church's bylaws," a statement provided by public relations firm head Mark DeMoss said. "This means the accusations will be thoroughly examined and a report issued when the review is complete. In the meantime, it does not seem appropriate to comment on specific accusations before/while they are being formally reviewed as we don't want to circumvent the process prescribed by the governing body of Mars Hill."

The church's bylaws, which spell out how the church is governed, are not public. It's also unclear what the governing body entails, as DeMoss was unavailable to respond to more questions. The pastors in the letter suggest that the bylaws do not offer church elders much authority.

"While the current bylaws greatly restrict our authority, we believe we must act like elders none-the-less," they write. "It is time to take responsibility for our church, regardless of how much our current bylaws prevent us from exercising that authority."

The pastors suggest that there has been a lack of transparency from the leadership, especially surrounding Driscoll's ouster from the Acts 29 Network, a church-planting coalition of more than 500 congregations that he helped found.

"We have been repeatedly told that no one from the A29 board talked to Mark or to our board prior to removing Mark from the network," the pastors wrote. "The truth is that multiple members of both boards had been in direct contact with each other, and with Mark, exhorting and rebuking him over the course of months and years, and to say or imply otherwise is deeply misleading."

The pastors also cited issues of "questionable transparency and truth-telling" surrounding church finances and the Mars Hill Global Fund, along with a controversy last year involving a conference on charismatic theology called Strange Fire. In addition, there are charges Driscoll plagiarized, inflated his book sales, and transitions and resignations from its board, including Tripp and pastor James MacDonald.

The letter cited another recent letter, from Mike Wilkerson, who, along with other former Mars Hill pastors, sent a list of allegations to church elders regarding Driscoll. The pastors suggested that the statement put out from the church at the time was misleading.

"Even this Thursday we put out a statement claiming that Wilkerson's formal charges were being 'reviewed by the board and the elders,'" the letter from the current pastors stated. "This is misleading as it gives people the impression that the elders as a whole are able to take part in reviewing and adjudicating the case."

As of Thursday, Mars Hill would not provide information about who will oversee Driscoll during his time off from the pulpit; neither did it provide a copy of the church bylaws requested by Religion News Service.

The pastors' letter ends by quoting a sermon from Driscoll from 2006.

"I just shudder to say this, but if I should ever say or do anything that the elders would need to fire me, do not be loyal to me," Driscoll said. "Be loyal to Jesus; be loyal to your elders. Be loyal to the pastors in your church."

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

Sarah Pulliam Bailey/RNS Featured U.S. News Thu, 28 Aug 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Houston Pastors Battle Lesbian Mayor's 'Unequal' Gay Rights Ordinance

The coalition of pastors and citizens who submitted more than 55,000 signatures on a referendum petition to repeal Houston Mayor Annise Parker's "Equal Rights Ordinance" that grants special privileges to sexual behavior and gender confusion have taken their case to the highest court in Texas. 

The No UNequal Rights Coalition filed a mandamus appeal to the Texas Supreme Court today challenging the refusal by a panel (Justices Martha Hill Jamison, William Boyce and Tracy Christopher) of the Fourteenth Court of Appeals to grant a ruling that would require the city of Houston to follow the City Charter based on City Secretary Anna Russell's report.

Russell confirmed in writing on Aug. 1 that the petition sponsors had submitted 17,846 qualified signatures, the minimum being 17,269. Russell only reviewed 19,177 signatures, for a 93  percent validation rate. Civil Court judges John Coselli, Jeff Shadwick and Robert Schaeffer had refused to rule on the basic facts asserted by petition sponsors that they had met the minimum number required. The latter two granted temporary injunctions suspending the ordinance pending a trial now slated for January.

"We committed from day one that we would not yield, bow, bend or falter in fighting for the safety of our women and children, our basic constitutional freedoms and the fundamental right to vote," said the Rev. Dave Welch of the Houston Area Pastor Council on behalf of the coalition.  

"Neither city officials who conspire to deprive citizens of our voting rights nor judges who can't seem to make a decision based on clear facts will deter our commitment to seek truth and justice. The evidence we have presented to the courts is irrefutable, which is why our mayor and the highest paid city attorney in America have hired at least three major outside law firms and marched 15 of their attorneys into the courtroom to our one."

Welch said that the coalition decided to appeal to the Texas Supreme Court and request the court issue an order that would confirm the suspension of the ordinance pending the ballot vote and require the City Council to either repeal the ordinance or place it on the ballot as required by the City Charter.

"Our attorneys are convinced that the city will attempt continued delays of the trial even beyond January.  Their hired guns even arrogantly accused our pastors and citizen leaders of engaging in fraud. The brazen attempted theft of our voting rights by the Parker/Feldman regime is an appalling abuse of government power against its own citizens—an abuse we trust will be corrected by our state Supreme Court justices," he concluded.

Charisma News Staff Featured U.S. News Thu, 28 Aug 2014 15:00:00 -0400
Atheistic Prayer Police Outraged Over This Image

While some schools are replacing football chaplains with "life coaches," others are still battling over prayer before the game.

When a photo turned up showing Seminole High School football players on their knees in prayer in response to a teammate's in-game injury last week, it sparked a controversy in Florida's Seminole County that just won't die.

Who's behind it? Atheists, of course.

The hubbub started when the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist group based in Wisconsin, saw the picture and sent a cease-and-desist letter demanding the school do away with its volunteer team chaplain because it violates the Constitution.

"Seminole High School does not have a team chaplain," Mike Blasewitz of Seminole County Public Schools, told "There is nothing to cease and desist, because our behavior was within the guidelines in the first place. No adults in the photo, no adults participating, no adults leading it."

Jennifer LeClaire Featured U.S. News Thu, 28 Aug 2014 14:00:00 -0400
Can We Pray the Polygamy Away?

If the floodgates weren't already open, they are now.

A federal judge in Utah has struck down part of the state's ban on polygamy.

That's right, in a land founded by Mormons and populated mostly by Mormons, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, it may no longer be illegal to marry multiple wives as the early Mormons were known to do.

The phrase in the law "'or cohabits with another person' is a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and is without a rational basis under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment," U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups ruled.

The ruling is another victory for Kody Brown and the four women he lives with on the TLC reality television show Sister Wives. The family and their 17 children are members of the Apostolic United Brethren, which subscribes to plural-marriage doctrine.

We probably should have seen this coming. Last December, a U.S. federal judge struck down a portion of Utah's bigamy laws as unconstitutional. Nevertheless, polygamy remained illegal in all 50 states until today.

Will the mainstream media start pushing polygamy the way it does polyamory? On the one hand, polyamory is only illegal in 21 states, so it may be less of an uphill battle than polygamy. On the other hand, polygamy could be an easier push into the mainstream because of the marriage-like aspects. Some have called polyamory the next civil-rights movement that will vie for full marriage equality, but polygamy may be running alongside it in the race toward immorality.

To be sure, polyamory is the new darling of an amoral media, but could polygamy be next? Will it be positioned as a moral solution to adultery? Will we start to see TV shows featuring polygamy? (Oh, wait, we already have Sister Wives with the Browns...) Will we see activist judges in other states decriminalize polygamy the way they have decriminalized marijuana and sodomy? Where do we go from here? And what's worse? Legalizing marriage of multiple spouses or the mainstreaming of polyamory? I think that's like comparing fornication with adultery. It's all sin.

There's a saying in the gay community that goes something like this: "You can't pray the gay away." I once asked the question: Can we pray the polyamory away? Now I am asking a similar question: Can we pray the polygamy away?

Although we see polygamy in the Bible, I don't believe that's God's best plan for mankind. God created one male and one female and joined them in marriage: "But from the beginning of the creation, God 'made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh," (Mark 10:6-8). Notice Jesus didn't say "the three shall become one flesh" any more than the Father joined "Adam and Steve" in gay marriage in Genesis.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: If we sit by and complain or stick our heads in the sand, arguing that Christians should not be discussing these issues, then we're admitting defeat and displeasing Christ. But if you believe that God can deliver some from the grip of immorality—whether that's adultery, fornication, masturbation, pornography, homosexuality, polygamy, bestiality, polyamory or some other sexual sin—then drop to your knees and join with me in intercessory prayer. It's not only about setting the captives free—it's about protecting the next generation of young minds that the media is molding.

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

Jennifer LeClaire Featured Watchman on the Wall Opinion Thu, 28 Aug 2014 13:00:00 -0400
US Government Sues City That Refuses to Welcome Muslim Worship Center

The U.S. government sued a small Minneapolis suburb on Wednesday, accusing it of religious discrimination after local leaders denied a Muslim group the right to open a center in the municipality.

The Justice Department filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis against St. Anthony Village, where council members voted 4-1 in 2012 to deny a request by the Abu Huraira Islamic Center to create a place of worship in the basement of the St. Anthony Business Center.

"Religious freedom is one of our most cherished rights, and there are few aspects of that right more central than the ability of communities to establish places for collective worship," Molly Moran, acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, said in a statement.

The complaint argues the municipality treated the group's application for a conditional use permit on less than equal terms than other, non-religious, conditional use permits for assembly.

The denial of the permit unlawfully prohibited religious use because the zoning code for where the building is located allowed "assemblies, meeting lodges and convention halls," the Justice Department said.

St. Anthony Village, northeast of Minneapolis, said in a statement the decision to deny the permit was not based on religion, but rather on its limited supply of industrial space where jobs can be created.

Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; editing by Victoria Cavaliere and Peter Cooney

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Brendan O'Brien/Reuters Featured U.S. News Thu, 28 Aug 2014 12:00:00 -0400
Educators Once Again Surrender to Sue-Happy Atheists

Folks around Midlothian, Texas, are raising a ruckus after the school district boarded up a pair of dedication plaques at two local elementary schools.

"Because of the plaque's questionable constitutional nature, it has been covered," said Jerome Stewart, the superintendent of the Midlothian Independent School District.

My goodness! I can't imagine what was written on the plaques that would cause such a kerfuffle. Were the plaques adorned with naughty words or dancing girls?

No, my good readers, they were not.

It seems the questionable content to which the superintendent referred includes a pair of Latin crosses along with the words "God" and "Holy Christian Church."

The plaques were posted at Mountain Peak Elementary School and Longbranch Elementary School. They both read: "Dedicated in The Year Of Our Lord 1997 To The Education of God's Children And To Their Faithful Teachers In The Name Of The Holy Christian Church—Soli Deo Gloria."

Stewart said both plaques have been covered up and eventually will be replaced.

The superintendent said they had to eradicate the Christian words and symbols following a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a sue-happy bunch of atheists from Wisconsin.

"FFRF believes that the district is in violation of the U.S. Constitution in its display of this plaque," Stewart said. "Although MISD has not been threatened with a lawsuit, the school district's attorney advised that it would not prevail in court if it refused FFRF's request and a lawsuit followed."

Ironically, the FFRF did not seem to object to the Latin words "Soli Deo Gloria" meaning "Glory to God." Perhaps the atheists aren't well-versed in Latin.

Parents have been holding demonstrations and prayer rallies to protest the school district's decision to remove the plaques. They've also launched a Facebook page called "Bring Back the Plaque."

"I think that's stupid," parent Lloyd Pittman told television station KFOR about the religious cleansing of the school. "If you don't like it, just don't look at it."

Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for the Liberty Institute, tells me the atheists don't have a legal leg to stand on.

"Unless there is a parent with a student who attends the school and is offended, then there is no one with legal standing to even file a lawsuit," Sasser told me. "The censorship of these plaques sends a message of division and hostility to the community."

He said FFRF sends about 1,000 demand letters a year—but it only has the budget to back up about a dozen with lawsuits.

"No school should ever take action based on an FFRF letter," he said.

Maybe the superintendent should consider getting new legal counsel—perhaps someone who is up to speed on the U.S. Constitution and has a backbone.

Midlothian, Texas, has become the latest battleground in the war on religious liberty. But before the first shot was fired, school officials had a panic attack, turned tail and ran away waving the white flag of surrender.

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, 28 Aug 2014 11:00:00 -0400
This Is the Strangest 'Hate Crime' You've Ever Read About

A federal appeals court in Ohio on Wednesday overturned the hate-crime convictions of an Amish sect leader and 15 of his followers in beard- and hair-cutting attacks on fellow members of their religious faith.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati found that the jury in the 2012 case received incorrect instructions on how to consider the role of religion in the attacks.

Prosecutors had contended the crimes were motivated by religious disputes between Samuel Mullet Sr., a leader of a sect in Bergholz, Ohio, and other Amish religious leaders who had accepted into their communities people Mullet had excommunicated from his.

The majority of the three-judge panel found that "considerable evidence supported the defendants' theory that interpersonal and intra-family agreements, not the victims' religious beliefs, sparked the attacks."

Jurors heard testimony that Mullet's followers had restrained the victims and forcibly cut their hair and beards, using scissors, clippers, shears and battery-operated razors.

Amish women and married Amish men do not cut their hair or beards, which they consider symbols of religious life. The Amish are known for their plain dress and shunning of technology.

The district court judge told the jury that they could convict of a hate crime if the victim's religion was a "significant motivating factor" for the attack, even if the attacker also had other reasons.

But the appeals court found that in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, the jury should have been told to convict if the defendants would not have acted "but for" the victims' beliefs.

The court noted that even people of the most theocratic faith may do things for non-faith based reasons, and ostensible faith leaders, "whether Samuel Mullet or Henry VIII, may do things, including committing crimes or even creating a new religion, for irreligious reasons."

Seven of the 16 have already served prison sentences. Mullet received the longest sentence and was not scheduled to be released until 2024.

Prosecutors were not immediately available for comment.

Defense attorney Rhonda Kotnik said the government can retry the case or work out an agreement with the Amish but the ruling does not necessarily mean Mullet and others will immediately be released from prison.

Certain non-hate crime charges, including destruction of evidence and making false statements, were not part of the appeal and therefore stand.

Reporting by Kim Palmer; additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Writing by Mary Wisniewski; editing by Eric Beech and Eric Walsh

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Kim Palmer/Reuters Featured U.S. News Thu, 28 Aug 2014 10:00:00 -0400
Ice Bucket Challenge Tempts Christian Celebrities

Casting Crowns' Mark Hall, best-selling author John Maxwell, actress Candace Cameron Bure, and literary agent Chip MacGregor are just a few of the hundreds of Christian authors, agents, artists and other personalities joining the ALS "Ice Bucket Challenge" and posting their videos on Facebook, Instagram and other social-media sites.

The celebs join tens of, if not hundreds of, thousands of people who have participated to date by having buckets of ice water dumped onto their heads in order to bring awareness to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

In Hall's video, the singer asks what the challenge stands for, and when told that he either gets ice water on his head or has to give $100 toward researching a cure for ALS, he quickly states that he has $100 on him and can avoid the ice-water bucket. However, the teens in the pickup truck bed behind him quickly soak the singer anyway. Hall then proceeds to call out singers Matthew West and Jeremy Camp to take the challenge.

Teaching pastor and author Bo Stern of Bend, Oregon, has experienced the devastating effects of ALS close to home, as her husband Steve was diagnosed with the disease in 2011. She says the challenge has gotten more people talking about the horrifying disease that many knew little about.

"We humans need to associate things with people—it's easier that way," Stern wrote in a blog post Aug. 19 that has been shared over 800,000 times. "That's why the celebrity faces and personal challenges happening in the ice bucket challenge are so effective at bringing in money.  And if someone gets to look good while plunking their $50 in the ALS tip jar, I have zero problem with that." 

While the Ice Bucket videos seem like everyone is just having fun for a good cause, some pro-life Christians are calling for donations to be made to other charities than just the ALS Association, saying that the charity uses its funding for embryonic stem-cell research. In this kind of research, human embryos are destroyed.

"Adult stem cell research is important and should be done alongside embryonic stem-cell research as both will provide valuable insights," states Lucie Bruijn, Ph.D., The ALS Association's senior vice president of Research and Development, in "A Primer on Stem Cells" page featured on the ALS website. "Only through exploration of all types of stem cell research will scientists find the most efficient and effective ways to treat diseases."

Catholic leaders Rev. Michael F. Duffy and Deacon Greg Kandra blogged about the stem-cell research last week in posts that went viral, and some believers on Facebook and other social media sites are taking the challenge but noting that they are donating funds to other charitable organizations.

Former President George W. Bush took the challenge and stated in his video that he didn't think it was very presidential to get ice water dumped on his head and would just write a check. However, First Lady Laura Bush proceeded to douse the ex-president anyway, saying the check would be from her, so she did not have to ruin her hairdo. Bush then challenged former President Clinton, humorously stating that it was recently Clinton's birthday, and Bush's present to him was a bucket of cold water. Other notable celebs who participated recently include Oprah, Justin Bieber, Ben Affleck and wife Jennifer Garner, and Taylor Swift.

As of Wednesday, The ALS Association reported receiving $94.3 million in donations since the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral, compared to $2.7 million during the same three-week period last year (July 29 to Aug. 27). The donations came from both existing donors and 2.1 million new donors to the association.

Christian Retailing Featured Culture Thu, 28 Aug 2014 09:00:00 -0400
8 Ways We Can Represent God in This World

The greatest privilege believers have this side of heaven is our calling to represent God to this world.

The following are some of the criteria the Bible lays out regarding this:

1. We are called to speak the oracles of God.

The apostle Paul said that he was called to manifest the Word of God through preaching that was entrusted to him (Titus 1:3). What an amazing calling. God's will and Word came through a broken vessel of clay like Paul.

But that is not all. Every believer is called to speak the very words of God according to 1 Peter 4:11. As broken as we are, God expects us to know His written Word and how to apply it to the world in a way that is effective. Hence, we are called to diligently study His Word so we can handle and impart it without deviation (2 Tim. 2:15).

This also involves being sensitive to His Spirit and speaking prophetically as the occasion arises. All anointed preaching, sharing and conversation is in a real sense prophetic and is necessary to represent God in this world.

2. Our teaching should be based on sound doctrine.

Many people shy away from doctrine because of all the denominations and divergent interpretations of the scriptures. However, this does not mean that doctrine is unimportant and not our responsibility. All true Bible-believing Christians who study the plain sense of the Word (without the traditions of men and culture that have seeped into the church) will generally agree on all the main essentials regarding the first principles (kerygma) of the gospel and its application. The apostles had a deposit of sound doctrine that they handed down to their protégés (1 Tim. 4:6 calls it "sound doctrine") with the expectation that they would teach it to others (1 Tim. 4:13).

Biblical doctrine is necessary to train believers for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The apostle Paul was not just known for church planting but by his doctrine (2 Tim. 3:10). The apostle John says (2 John 9) that if someone does not continue in the doctrine of Christ (didache: the teaching handed down by Jesus and the apostles) then they do not have God. John said that if a traveling preacher doesn't teach this doctrine then we should not put him up in our homes (2 John 10). Thus, the original apostles put much importance upon sound doctrine, which means contemporary believers are called to dig deep and move past the elementary principles of the faith into the meat of the Word (Heb. 5:12-6:3) so we can carry the deposit of sound biblical doctrine.

3. We are called to integrate godly motivation with godly activity.

Jesus corrected the religious leaders who honored God with their lips but their hearts were far from Him (Mark 7:6).

Jesus told them to wash the inside of the cup (their hearts) and not just the outside (Matt. 23:25-26). Paul spoke about how some even preach the gospel out of envy and competition and strife (Phil. 1:15) and not sincerely. God judges our hearts not just our actions (Matt. 7:21-22). Thus, our hearts, actions and words all need to be integrated with godly purity and a motive of love for our heavenly Father, which implores us to spread His kingdom.

4. We are called to live to serve, not vice versa.

Jesus said (Matt. 28:20) that He came not to be ministered to but to minister and to give His life as a ransom for many. Often, those who are in church ministry strive for a title, position and accolades resulting in an entitlement mentality that demands everyone serve them.

For example, when I was consecrated a bishop (in 2006) many congratulated me for being "elevated" to which I replied that I believed I was being made lower, not higher. Unfortunately, the celebrity-driven secular culture in which certain popular ministers are treated as gods and rock stars has influenced the church at large. Jesus told us plainly that in the world the rulers dominate over their people (Mark 10:42), but the greatest in His kingdom are those who serve. Those who work behind the scenes to make others successful are greater in God's eyes than those who work for public applause. If we are going to represent God in this world, we have to begin by having a servant's heart.

5. We are called to be Christ-like in attitude.

In order to represent God we need to be Christ-like. This comes forth strongest when we do not merely think about the things we desire but what others need. The apostle Paul spoke about this in Philippians 2:3-12 when He wrote that Jesus did not think equality with God was a thing to be grasped (even though He was in substance God the Son) but made Himself of no reputation and humbled Himself and became obedient even to the death of the cross. Jesus was broken regarding His willingness to preserve His life (Matt. 26:39).

Often people are flocking to hear the most gifted speakers, singers, musicians and healers because we are a culture that celebrates gifts, talents and abilities rather than humility and brokenness. God told us (Is. 57:15) that even though He dwells in the high and lofty places, He dwells with those who are humble and contrite. He exalts the humble and resists the proud. God loves humility. The apostle Paul said not to think of ourselves higher than we ought to think (Rom. 12:3) and to be willing to dwell with the lowly (Rom. 12:16). To represent God we need to walk in the humility and brokenness of Christ.

6. We are called to discern the times in which we live.

Jesus criticized the religious leaders of His day for not being able to discern what God was doing among them (Matt. 16:1-4). There are always transitions and changes taking place in culture that produce megatrends. God is sovereignly involved in either allowing or orchestrating this confluence of humanity and has sent us into the world in this day and age to function as lights in this world (Phil. 2:15; Acts 17:26-28). We are called to be like the sons of Issachar who understood the times they lived in and how God wanted Israel to respond (1 Chron. 12:32).

To represent God to this world, believers are not to immerse themselves serving their communities robotically, but they are to study their surrounding culture in order to apply the truth correctly to live out their purpose.

7. We are called to be in this world but not of this world.

In order to represent God, we need to put up boundaries so that while we are serving in this world we do not become part of it. Believers are called to be like ships that are in the midst of the sea without taking water into its structure—to be in the water without sinking and drowning in it. Many believers make a huge mistake when they attempt to be relevant to the world by acting like the world because it dissipates the distinguishing boundary of separation God called us to have from the values of the world (2 Cor. 6:17; 1 John 2:15-17). When believers live in conformity to the world, they are not representing God (Rom. 12:1-2).

8. We are called to walk in the fruit of the Spirit.

It is not enough to walk in the power of God; we need to walk in the holiness, meekness, joy and peace of God. Case in point: There have been many great evangelists and pastors who moved powerfully in the supernatural but undermined the gospel by their lack of integrity and godly fruit. The apostle Paul clearly told us that the flesh is contrary to the Spirit and vice versa (Gal. 5:16-17) and that there is a huge contrast between a person living and striving for accomplishment according to the flesh and those living by the Spirit.

To represent God we need to be continually filled with His Spirit and exhibit His fruits that include love, joy, peace, patience, thankfulness, kindness, goodness, modesty and faithfulness (Gal. 5:22-23). Nothing is as contagious in this world as true joy. That is perhaps the greatest witness we have of the reality of the gospel. Unless and until the church embraces and celebrates the fruit of the Spirit over exhibitions of power, self-indulgence and flesh, we will not represent God adequately in this world.

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

Joseph Mattera Featured Opinion Thu, 28 Aug 2014 08:00:00 -0400
Franklin Graham: God Is Speaking, but Are You Listening?

A searchlight scans the globe, revealing world crises everywhere from the U.S.-Mexican border to the deadly Ebola virus that terrorizes West Africa. From Russian attacks on Ukraine to a Malaysian airplane that mysteriously disappears. Turmoil that has simmered in the Middle East since the beginning of time now escalates. Iraq and Syria are disintegrating in sectarian violence: Muslims killing Muslims, Muslims killing Christians.

While the world grapples with implications of the Israeli-Gaza conflict, a 6.1 earthquake cracks and rattles the mountainous region of Yunnan province in China, killing 400 and injuring nearly 2,000. Economic mayhem is causing governments and businesses to crumble. Family values are being assaulted, moral laws torn asunder.

What is the answer to the chaos? Before one crisis can be calmed, another rains down. From coast to coast, continent to continent, terror strikes the nations. News anchors and political personalities often shake their heads and ask, "What in the world is going on?"

Who can save us? From nation to nation, we search for someone to lead us out of the stranglehold. God's Laser Beam points to the truth: "And there will be signs ... on the earth, distress of nations, with perplexity, ... men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken" (Luke 21:25-26).

Society expects solutions from educators, politicians and cutting-edge technology. The world chases after the latest device that can pump out information faster than it can be downloaded, while ignoring the only answer to why the world is perplexed, unhinged, off course.

The Bible identifies man's trouble from beginning to end—the fall of the human race—and lays out what is to come. We do not have to ask what in the world is going on. God has already told us what is going on in the world. His Word radiates with answers. God is speaking, but few are listening.

The world is caught up in the frenzy of war, natural disaster and man-made chaos. Today's headlines are not much different from ancient times. Earthquakes and flood waters bring havoc; famine and disease kill multitudes; refugees flee homelands; continual wars ravage the nations. With the passing of time, one would think that the human race would heed the warnings of God. Instead of turning our hearts to Him to acknowledge our sinfulness and inadequacy, we turn on our televisions and mobile devices, only to see the cities of antiquity still headlining the news, from Damascus to Gaza, from Jerusalem to Mosul (ancient Nineveh).

I find myself opening the Bible to read the psalmist's question: "Why do the nations rage against God?" (Psalm 2:1). Throughout Scripture the answer is given: The heart of man is evil and wicked (Jer. 17:9). Turning to the Lord is man's only hope.

This is why the Lord permits events such as we witness to continue—to draw people to Him. He desires His creation to repent of wickedness and rebellion against Him. Out of His great love and grace He says: "Return to Me, with all your heart" (Joel 2:12). The Bible—the operating manual for life—can guide one to always do the right thing in the eyes of God. Instead, God's Word is relegated to the library of antiquity. Why? Political powers vie for dominance. Man's heart wants to triumph over God instead of bowing before Him and doing His will.

"'Behold, the days are coming,' says the Lord God, 'that I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but shall not find it'" (Amos 8:11-12).

The Bible tells us what to do when we see these events unfold: "Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near" (Luke 21:28). The return of the Lord Jesus is coming, and those who follow Christ should be in a perpetual state of expectation, obediently declaring that Jesus came to save the world from the dominance of Satan's hold on human hearts. To wring our hands in despair will not lead anyone out of this world's bondage and into the peace that God desires for His people.

While preparing to preach a series of evangelistic meetings in Pittsburgh last month, I read an article
 in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette titled, "If Rockets Rained on Pittsburgh." It reveals that people everywhere live in dread of what is to come. Man's greatest terror is the sin that rages within his own heart. Jesus Christ is the only One who can bring peace to the world, and He will do what He promises.

But we do not have to wait until that time to know God's peace even in the midst of world turmoil. The Bible says, "There is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Savior. There 
is none besides Me. Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth!" (Is. 45:21-22).

Salvation is offered to every person who will believe by faith that Jesus Christ will save them out of their
 sin and put His Spirit within them. There is hope in times of war, famine and great peril. Don't look to governments for the answers. Don't depend on technology to help you maneuver through life's uncertainties. Look to Jesus, and know that the signs of the times should lead us to Him.

"Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him ... The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. The counsel of the Lord stands forever ... blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord" (Ps. 33:8-12).

Franklin Graham, son of iconic evangelist Billy Graham, is the president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse. 

©2014 BGEA. This article originally appeared on

Franklin Graham Featured Opinion Thu, 28 Aug 2014 07:00:00 -0400
Put Yourself in Your Black Brother’s Shoes

On Aug. 9—the day Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri—I was speaking in a church in Edgewood, Maryland, near Baltimore, and spending time with three African-American friends who are pastors. One of the guys, Lewis, knew I loved Southern cooking, so he mentioned this to Lester, the pastor who was hosting the conference. Lester made a phone call—and we all ended up enjoying fried catfish and collard greens together.

I was in soul food heaven—until I heard what happened in Ferguson. Brown, an unarmed black teenager, had been shot by a white police officer at 12:01 p.m. that Saturday, just minutes before I began eating lunch with my friends in Maryland.

We all know what happened next. Two cops were injured in street disturbances in Ferguson. More police were dispatched to the scene—armed with rifles, rubber bullets and tear gas. Protesters who believe Brown was a victim of racial profiling held their hands in the air and shouted, "Hands up, don't shoot!" Those words became the official motto of the Ferguson tragedy.

It's been almost three weeks since the shooting. President Obama urged everyone to stay calm. The protests became more peaceful. Federal authorities are investigating. But at Brown's funeral on August 25, held at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, distraught mourners were still asking many questions.

Why did the policeman shoot Brown six times? Why does Ferguson only have three black police officers on its force, compared to 53 white officers, when that community is 71 percent black? Why did the police have to roll into Ferguson in armored tanks as if they were invading Afghanistan?

We are bitterly divided into camps now. Some people side with the police, while others sympathize with Brown's family and wonder if their own black sons are safe on the streets. But there are also many Americans—including many white Christians—who sit on the suburban sidelines of this bitter fight. We don't know what to say, so we say nothing.

I don't live in St. Louis, and I don't have all the facts in this complicated case. But I understand why many African-Americans are upset about what happened in Ferguson. They know racism firsthand. They have been pulled over by cops for simply being black. They don't feel safe. And they don't feel they are treated fairly in a country that claims to stand for truth and justice.

I asked my African-American pastor friends from Maryland to share their experiences with racism. Each man had his story.

Paul Carrette, pastor of Church of Living Waters in Oxon Hill, drove into a neighborhood in the city of Annapolis to visit one of his parishioners a few years ago. Two cops pulled him over. Paul's crime: He was guilty of "a DWB," otherwise known as "Driving While Black." The officers claimed Paul's windows were tinted too dark—but when he told them where he bought the car they walked away.

Lewis Lee, pastor of LS Revival Center in White Marsh, was traumatized at age 12 when he visited a sandwich shop with a black friend. A group of white men began to make racist comments, comparing blacks to monkeys. The men also made jokes about lynching. "Can you imagine the fear we felt when surrounded by a group of white men who were staring at us?" Lewis asks.

Lester Lee, pastor of Fruitful Living Christian Center in Edgewood, said he experienced racism recently, when he was looking at some property. When the seller realized Lester was black, he shiftily announced that the property was no longer on the market—even though it had been on the market earlier that day and was back on the market a day later. "I would have expected that kind of behavior in the 1960s, but not today," Lester says.

These men are Pentecostal pastors, and they don't carry grudges. They have forgiven the people who disrespected them. And they've shown the highest level of brotherly love toward me.

But the Ferguson tragedy reminds me once again that we have so much unfinished business when it comes to healing our racial wounds. Things are not going to change until we face reality and have a conversation. I asked my friends what they feel must happen in order to address this hemorrhaging wound. I will quote all three:

Paul Carrette: "Whites must be willing to step out of their often segregated neighborhoods to engage African Americans. Be our friends, visit our churches, listen to our concerns and follow our journey as we struggle through a history of oppression and negative stereotypes to pursue our dreams."

Lewis Lee: "I want my white brothers and sisters to understand what it's like to be profiled. I want them to know what it's like to be followed around in a store or stopped by police just because you are black. We need to come to the table to converse and pray together. We need to truly care for one another. We must stop the stereotypes."

Lester Lee: "I don't believe whites can fully understand unless they have walked in the shoes of those who have been mistreated. The black community must accept forgiveness from the white community, and the white community, especially Christians, must help by reaching out in love. Don't look at the color of a person's skin but the content of his character."

The Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 6:12: "Bear one another's burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ." You can't bear a friend's burden without getting close to him. Let's spend time with each other. Let's talk, listen and pray together. Let's try to feel each other's pain. Only then can we heal the ugly wound that was opened in Ferguson.

J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at @leegrady. He is the author of 10 Lies Men Believe and other books. You can learn more about his ministry, The Mordecai Project, at

J. Lee Grady Featured Opinion Thu, 28 Aug 2014 06:00:00 -0400
Death Certificates May Soon Feature Preferred Gender Identity

Death certificates in California would be changed to reflect the gender identity of people at the time of their death rather than their sex at birth under a bill passed by lawmakers on Wednesday, the latest effort by the state to further the rights of transgender residents.

The bill, which passed the state senate on Wednesday and has already passed the state assembly, must now go back to the assembly for final approval of amendments before it is sent to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown to be signed and become law.

It is one of several measures aimed at furthering the family rights of LGBT Californians passed this session, including a measure allowing same-sex couples to be listed as mother, father or parent on a child's birth certificate.

"Once we are deceased, we are often at the mercy of others to treat us with dignity," said California Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, a Democrat from San Diego. "The very least we can do is ensure individuals are given basic human dignity by honoring their authentic selves when they pass so that more pain is not inflicted upon grieving loved ones or the community."

Under the bill, an official filling out a death certificate would have to respect evidence that the deceased person had changed gender identity, including health records showing treatment for gender transition, court approval for a name change, an advanced health care directive or other documents.

Last year, the legislature passed other laws protecting transgender rights, including one that allows minors to participate in school athletics and use restrooms in accordance with their chosen gender.

Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; editing by Sandra Maler

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Reuters Featured U.S. News Wed, 27 Aug 2014 20:00:00 -0400
Will Mom's 'Prophet Muhammad' Plea Persuade ISIS to Free US Journo?

The mother of an American journalist held captive by militant group Islamic State released a video on Wednesday appealing directly to the group's leader for his release.

"I am sending this message to you, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi al-Quraishi al-Hussaini, the caliph of the Islamic State. I am Shirley Sotloff. My son Steven is in your hands," Sotloff said in the video, given to The New York Times.

"I ask you to use your authority to spare his life and to follow the example set by the Prophet Muhammad, who protected people of The Book."

Sotloff, 31, went missing in Syria last year while covering the conflict there. Islamic State released of video last week in which he can be seen kneeling following the filmed decapitation of fellow journalist James Foley.

Islamic State, which declared a caliphate in territory it has captured in Syria and Iraq, threatened to kill Sotloff if its demands are not met, including the halting of American air strikes against the group.

"I want what every mother wants: to live to see her children's children. I plead with you to grant me this," she said.

Another American writer, Peter Theo Curtis, was released on Sunday after two years held captive by another militant group operating in Syria, the Nusra Front. He said on Wednesday he was emotionally overwhelmed by his welcome home.

The terms of Curtis's release, brokered in part by Qatar, have not been disclosed.

Writing by Richard Valdmanis. Editing by Andre Grenon

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Reuters Featured World News Wed, 27 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400
'I Could No Longer Open the Bible, Talk About the Bible, Talk About God or Pray'

Troy Schmidt's jaw dropped.

A few minutes before, he had been preparing to start his seventh year as chaplain for the Olympia High School football team in Florida. But now, those plans had been changed—radically changed.

"I received a call from the coach," Schmidt told me. "He said Orange County Public Schools is no longer allowed to have chaplains as a part of the football program."

Schmidt, who is a campus pastor of the First Baptist Church of Windermere, Florida, listened as the football coach explained the district's decision to cleanse Christianity from its ranks.

"I could no longer open the Bible, talk about the Bible, talk about God or pray with the team in any capacity," he told me. "It was heart-breaking."

A spokesperson for Florida's Orange County Public Schools confirmed that the district has ended the long-standing tradition of having local ministers serve as volunteer chaplains for football teams.

"They cannot have chaplains or ministers before or after games—leading prayer," spokesperson Shari Bobinski told me. "Students are more than welcome to lead their own prayers, but our faculty and staff cannot be involved nor can we bring in an outside chaplain."

The school district is also cracking down on other displays of Christianity—effective Aug. 19, according to a memorandum prepared by the district's legal counsel.

Teachers and coaches "cannot participate in a visible way with the players during student-led prayers," the memorandum states. 

Also, Bible verses and references to the Bible are banned on school property. Bible verses are also prohibited on clothing produced by the school. And songs with religious lyrics may not be used in school-related videos.

The school district's crackdown on Christianity is a result of a threat from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. 

The Wisconsin-based organization detailed all sorts of allegations in a letter to the district. They were alarmed about religious activity at another high school, Apopka High, which is in the same district that is based in Orlando. They singled out the football team's chaplain.

"It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for the district to offer a Christian minister unique access to befriend and proselytize student athletes," FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel wrote to the district.

Instead of standing its ground and defending the volunteer chaplain at Apopka High, the school district decided to ban all chaplains.

"Having a team chaplain is not permitted as it is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion in the same manner as a school employee participating in prayer with students," the memorandum stated.

But the school district still wanted Pastor Schmidt to inspire the Olympia Titans—provided he remained strictly secular.

"They said I could still come and speak, but I wasn't going to be called a chaplain," he said. "They wanted to call me a 'Life Coach.'"

However, life coaches would still not be permitted to use any inspiration from the Bible.

Schmidt knew right away that he would not be able to accept such a position.

"That's not me," he said. "I don't get any inspiration besides what I get in the Bible. My heroes come from the Bible, and I think there is a lot of inspiration in there that can motivate a football player to get out on the field and play their best and be their best."

Schmidt, who also writes for the Game Show Network's "The American Bible Challenge," told me his role as a chaplain was not to proselytize.

"I would speak to the team before the game and give them wisdom, inspiration," he said. "I'd be available if there's any crisis."

On occasion he would join the team in a huddle for a post-game prayer.

And his church would always prepare a massive pre-game feast for the young men and their coaches.

"Roast beef, meatloaf, brownies – these were pretty extravagant meals," he said. "We wanted to make sure they got a great home-cooked meal."

And even though ministers are no longer welcome on school property, Pastor Schmidt said his church will continue to serve the meals.

"We don't want the kids to suffer," he said.

The Christian cleansing of Orange County Public Schools did not make national headlines. Their decision to banish the chaplains garnered no attention. And that's why Pastor Schmidt decided to speak up.

"We can't stay silent any longer," he told me. "We can't allow them to move into these areas that traditionally have always been a part of the football program."

But that's exactly what FFRF is attempting to do—eradicate Christianity in the public marketplace of ideas.

"Faith, family, football—have always gone together," he said. "Here's an organization like this coming in and trying to tear that out."

Pastor Schmidt said it's time to do something. "We're not going to give up," he said. "We're not going to give up on the team."

I'm glad Pastor Schmidt hasn't given up because the school district, in an incredible act of cowardice, did give up. All it took was a threatening letter from the Freedom From Religious Foundation, and the school leaders capitulated.

For the record, the chaplains were volunteers. Their prayers were voluntary. But thanks to Orange County Public Schools—the football players don't have a prayer.

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 Wed, 27 Aug 2014 18:00:00 -0400
PBS Airing Late-Term Abortion Propaganda, Pro-Life Group Charges

American Life League is demanding that the taxpayer-funded PBS cancel its Labor Day showing of After Tiller.

"After Tiller is nothing short of pure propaganda intended to demonize the entire pro-life movement and drum up support for late-term abortion," said Judie Brown, president of American Life League. "Why are pro-life tax dollars being used to paint a sympathetic picture of abortionists who stab babies in the base of their skulls just moments before they are born? Where is the sympathy for the babies, whose brains are being sucked out by vacuum machines by these abortionists?"

After Tiller was funded in large part by pro-abortion groups and lists Planned Parenthood and National Abortion Rights Action League as primary outreach partners. According to Media Impact Partners, the film's production team's goals include changing the view of Americans in favor of late-term abortion providers and against legislation that bans late-term abortions. The filmmakers also hope that medical students will request abortion training be made available in their curricula.

"Would PBS ever run a puff piece that was funded by the KKK in order to sanitize and normalize racism?" asked Brown. "Shame on PBS! This has no business airing on a publicly funded network."

Rob Gasper Featured Culture Wed, 27 Aug 2014 17:00:00 -0400
WATCH: Francis Chan Raps About Marriage in New Book Promotion

Francis and Lisa Chan's new book, You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity, released Tuesday. The couple made and performed in a rap video to promote the book. Watch the funny video, "Ride It Out Together," below.

Charisma News Staff Featured Culture Wed, 27 Aug 2014 16:30:00 -0400
Should We Boycott Target or Just Throw Salt at the Sin?

Target may be red and white on the outside, but the company is showing its gay pride colors on the inside. Earlier this month, the retailing giant joined several other national companies to sign an amicus brief in support of gay marriage.

"As our leadership team discussed signing on, we took time to consider the bigger questions at hand. This brief is important, as the issues it addresses have significant impact on businesses. But it is more than that and we agreed that now is the right time to more directly share our views on this issue," said Jodee Kozlak, executive vice president and chief Human Resources officer at Target, in a statement.

"It is our belief that everyone should be treated equally under the law, and that includes rights we believe individuals should have related to marriage ... And at Target we are proud to support the LGBT community."

Creationist Ken Ham is among the many who has engaged in the fierce culture war in America, which includes gay marriage. He points out that Target's affirmation of same-sex behavior is just another sign of our Western culture's overall decline away from a more Christian worldview that once permeated societies. He flat out says that Target's decision is not surprising as we see more and more people who have exchanged the truth of God's Word for a lie (Rom. 1:25).

"Of course, it's important to note that there is no neutrality when it comes to such issues. Either you begin with God and his Word as your absolute authority, or you begin with man and his ever-changing opinions. Those who have man's fallible opinions as their starting point and demand tolerance for their worldview are actually being intolerant of those who have God's perfect Word as their starting point," Ham said in a blog post.

"By supporting same-sex marriage, what Target doesn't realize is that, rather than being neutral, it is actually taking a stand against Christians who believe the truth of God's Word and that true marriage is only between one man and one woman."

What do we do? Where do we go from here? Ham rightly points out that it's important to be salt and light in a culture that embraces sinful behavior.

As our nation continues to openly embrace sinful behavior, he predicts this kind of acceptance of immorality as the norm will only increase. In fact, he goes on to say that the only thing that will stop this rapid decline is the regenerating power in the hearts of people of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

"Now, it's not that we are to go out and try to change the culture! God's Word says that we should preach the gospel and make disciples. It's hearts and minds that will change a culture," Ham says. "As more and more people build their thinking on the rock of God's Word, then their 'salt' will have a positive effect on the culture as a whole. But if more  people build their thinking on the shifting sands of man's word (fallible human opinion), the contamination will spread further, and the culture will be increasingly hostile to the things of God."

Some people are calling for a boycott on Target. Is that the right answer or, as Ham suggests, should be salt and light? I say throw salt at it.

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

Jennifer LeClaire Featured Opinion Wed, 27 Aug 2014 15:00:00 -0400
Why I Cannot Accept the Ice Bucket Challenge

Recently, I've received a few "ALS ice bucket challenges," which I cannot accept. I don't fault any of my friends for giving me this challenge. Thanks for thinking of me and trying to include me! Really. You guys are awesome, and it was really fun watching you shiver!

Amytrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more popularly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a horrible neurodegenerative disease affecting everything from speech and swallowing to basic mobility. I personally have friends whose parents have languished and died from this disease, and experts estimate that 30,000 Americans suffer from this disease. It's as good a place as any to focus medical-research efforts.

But I cannot accept the challenge, and I hope you'll understand why. It's not because I'm afraid of cold water. (Although that's true). My concern is where the publicity and money might go. Specifically, I'm concerned with the kind of research that might be financed by my hypothetical promotional activity. (For those who don't know what this is, you're supposed to dump a bucket of ice water on your head, and video it, and then challenge others to do it. If you don't do it, you're supposed to give $100 to the ALS Association, and if you do do it, you either don't have to give any money to the ALSA or you're supposed to give $10 to the ALSA, depending on the version).

The ALS Association funds a number of different types of research, and among these is embryonic stem-cell research. For those who don't know what this is, it is when scientists take a female egg and a male sperm and fertilize the egg in a lab, and then after the new life begins to form, they remove the building blocks of life—embryonic stem cells. This is the same process that occurs when people struggle with infertility and then get in-vitro fertilization. The important difference is that instead of implanting the fertilized embryo into a mother so that it can grow into a baby, these embryos are experimented on, and then discarded. They are created for the express purpose of destroying them for medical research.

The ALS Association website says this: "Adult stem cell research is important and should be done alongside embryonic stem cell research as both will provide valuable insights. Only through exploration of all types of stem cell research will scientists find the most efficient and effective ways to treat diseases."

Sometimes, stem cells are harvested as part of in-vitro fertilization as described above, and other times they are harvested as part of an abortion procedure. For example, one clinical trial, which was supported by the ALS Association with a $500,000 grant involved "stem cells ... from the spinal cord of a single fetus electively aborted after eight weeks of gestation."

At eight weeks, a baby has its own unique DNA, is 2 centimeters long, has tiny fingers and toes, and a heart beat of about 160 beats per minute.

Some might argue that life does not begin at conception. But the other options seem entirely subjective scientifically and unsupported biblically. Some say life begins not at conception, but implantation or even birth—as if the location of the embryo should determine when it is alive. Some say that it's when the embryo is viable, but this point is completely subjective and would mean that now life begins far sooner than it did a few years ago when we didn't have the technology to save early preterm infants.

At conception, a baby has a unique genetic code, and all of the necessary building blocks for life, and the Bible attributes the properties of personhood to us from conception (see Ps. 139:13-16, Job 10:8-12, Jer. 1:5, Ps. 51:5, Luke 1:39-44, Ex. 21:22-24).

The reason this is important is because as a Christian, I believe that no human life is intrinsically worth more than another human life. All humans are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27, 9:6), and therefore are uniquely valuable and have distinctive worth.

We're not all born "equal" in the sense that we're all able to run equally fast or complete math problems equally well, but we are all equally created in the image of God, and this is where we derive our worth and value.

The problem with embryonic stem-cell research is two-fold: First, it is morally reprehensible to anyone who believes that life begins at conception. Imagine the outrage that would happen if scientists proposed we grew infants and children for the express purpose of performing lethal experiments on them, no matter how scientifically helpful the results would be.

Secondly, if there is a breakthrough involving embryonic stem-cell research, then the resulting treatment would involve mass harvesting of embryonic stem cells, and therefore mass abortions. In short, embryonic stem-cell research involves the destruction of innocent human life. And therefore, I cannot promote donations to this particular organization when it thinks that infanticide is a legitimate way to save other human beings.

Now, I don't think our response as Christians should be to just throw up our hands, check out, and not do anything. Instead, we should lead the way in helping those who are suffering with ALS and work toward finding medical treatments that are ethically researched. So, I would ask anyone who is making a donation to consider donating to an ethically focused organization, such as the John Paul II Medical Research Institute.

Finally, as one blogger on this issue said: "This is a good time to consider the effect that social-media activism is having on our culture—and ourselves as actors in it. ... I very much believe in this medium's capacity for acting as a vehicle for good, yet I also recognize how instant connectivity is a double-edged sword, making it much easier for a 'herd mentality' to develop. Which is all fine and good when the herd is headed in the correct direction, right?

"But peer pressure blows perspective out of the water, as we race to belong without first stepping back and considering each and every dimension before clicking 'Like' or share. How many of you stopped and investigated HOW your money would be spent before emptying the ice-cube trays? Exactly. You shouldn't feel bad about it! That's not my point. You should feel a little weird and more than a little prone toward caution in the future.

"So don't look at this as a call for inaction. I'm asking you to be as active as ever and creative, too; what we're looking for is a higher level of self-awareness the next time a Facebook buddy tags you with the best of intentions."

Nathanael King is an associate pastor at Temecula Hills Christian Fellowship in Temecula, California. This article originally appeared on the author's blog, which is at

Nathanael King Featured Opinion Wed, 27 Aug 2014 14:00:00 -0400
'Back to Bible' Megachurch Pastor Under Investigation

John Munro, senior pastor of Calvary Church in Charlotte, North Carolina—one of the area's most popular churches—is on paid leave while the board investigates allegations that he violated part of the employee handbook.

A Scotland native, Munro has served as the megachurch's senior pastor since 2006. According to the Charlotte Observer, elder Billy Bailey told the 4,000-member congregation on Sunday that an "HR complaint" was filed against Munro but did not offer details.

Bailey also told the church that "Back to the Bible," a global radio ministry, terminated Munro's contract with the radio ministry for alleged misconduct.

"Because we, as elders, are charged with protecting our flock and seeking truth," Bailey said, "we retained an outside investigator to assist us in gathering facts and information from all involved to ensure impartiality and neutrality."

Munro could not immediately be reached for comment, but a letter emailed to members noted "the church takes these matters extremely seriously" and "situations such as these can bring tremendous stress and heartache to all concerned. Speculation and gossip can exacerbate these already difficult circumstances."

The Munro controversy is not the first for the church. The Observer reports Calvary's original contractor, affiliated with the then-scandalous PTL ministry, was fired after months and millions of dollars in delays.

Jennifer LeClaire Featured U.S. News Wed, 27 Aug 2014 13:00:00 -0400
NFL Pro Bowl Player-Turned-Pastor Urges 'Not to Take Sides' in Ferguson

Uncertainty and unrest linger in Ferguson, Missouri—a community inflamed and scarred by pending questions after an unarmed black teen was fatally shot by a white police officer.

"All of a sudden you're thrust into something that you wouldn't have volunteered for," says Aeneas Williams.

Williams is one of St. Louis's most beloved sports figures. The former eight-time Pro Bowl cornerback has lived in the area since his trade to the Rams in 2001. He now pastors at a vibrant, neighborhood church in Ferguson.

"As tragic as this is, it's exposed a tension that's been there for quite some time," says Williams. "Two people (stand) on separate sides of the street. There are narratives on both sides—what it's like to be a police officer. Also, what's it like to be in different parts of the community."

Just one week before the Aug. 9 shooting, Williams was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His induction speech is best remembered for this:

"I've got two statements, if you don't remember anything I say. Begin with the end in mind, and die empty. Begin with the end in mind, and die empty."

Williams explains what he meant: "Begin with the end in mind simply means live a life of intention. What you believe God has put in your heart. And then dying empty, overcoming fear. Overcoming the challenges. Having exhausted all of the gifts and potential that the Lord had given me. I truly believe the greatest amount of wealth you could find is at cemeteries. I believe most people die with their potential. Potential books, potential cures for cancer, just so many things."

Just 2 1/2 miles down the road from Williams' church, 18-year-old Michael Brown died. A makeshift memorial covers the blood-stained street.

"I looked up the name Michael; I looked up Darren, the officer's name. Michael means, 'who is like God?' The name Darren means 'agent of change.' Wouldn't it be the enemy himself to take these destiny names and bring out something just horrendous through it? So what I want to do is take the original purpose of the names and bring the focus to it. Who is like our God, but to bring reconciliation and healing in something that has been going on for years. And who is like our God except to allow anyone one of us that decides to be agents of good, to bring about good in the midst of something bad," says Williams.

It is fitting that a former defensive back like Williams is one to champion reconciliation, much like those interceptions, it's a principle that brings dramatic change."

"When the ball's in the air, I'm not looking at the ball," says Williams. "I'm looking at the point on the ball. When your vision is right; your hands automatically adjust to catch the ball. In terms of the hands and feet of Christ; the hands and feet of Christ I found in my own life, are always right when my vision is right."

A vision to see clearly and a memory that quickly forgets. Williams knows what separated him from his peers on the field.

"Without hesitation, the ability to overcome a bad play and to learn from the bad play. And why that fits in this moment. So many people I meet they talk about things that happened 15 years ago, negative in their life, as if it just happened. And as a cornerback, if Randy Moss caught a touchdown, they didn't stop the game. I had to go right back out. So the ability to immediately, intentionally forget something, but having learned from it, and to be able to move on."

For now, the fresh wounds have slowed any potential for prompt healing. Protesters line up roadside peacefully during the day. Many are residents from the immediate vicinity. But at night, the north St. Louis suburb draws confrontational agitators who trash streets and businesses, using Ferguson as the stage to aggressively vent their resentment.

"That's one of the things I learned in football," says Williams. "You have to be able to divorce yourself of emotions. Not that the emotions are not real. But be able to bring your emotions in and go after an accomplishable goal, because God has given us responsibility to solve these issues. And part of that reconciliation is getting both sides, the police officer, they mayor; getting all the parties that be a in a calm environment and share, independently, what are the practical experiences, and challenges from all sides."

The urgent incentive for reconciliation carries the hope it will gift the next generation.

"I've run track before. The person handing off the baton bears the greatest responsibility for the exchange. They're not to let go of the baton until the next runner has it firmly in place. We're not going to pass this baton off the same way we got it. Let's do what we need to do, have the difficult conversations so we can find a resolve, a reconciliation, and get this thing right and then pass it on to this next generation."

Williams continues, "That is reconciliation. The ability to look at and own it. When you look at the film, you look at the plays, there are no excuses. If you see it, it didn't go right and you are the responsible party, the great ones that I found, you owned it! When I think of what Christ did, what the ministry of reconciliation is, He's called us as believers to be ambassadors. And ambassadors go in with a mission. Not to take sides, but to reconcile different parties together."

Tom Buehring/The 700 Club Featured U.S. News Wed, 27 Aug 2014 12:00:00 -0400
Charismatic Church Network Leader Dies in Apparent Suicide

An Atlanta-area pastor who led a network of charismatic churches was found dead at his home Monday of what sources tell Charisma News was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Bishop David Huskins had acknowledged suffering from heart-related health problems and recently talked of taking time off.

Polk County Police say they found the body of Huskins inside his home in the Meadow Lakes community late Monday afternoon, according to a report on WGAA-AM radio in Atlanta. He was pronounced dead on the scene. According to Polk County Police Chief Kenny Dodd, detectives said there was no foul play involved in the incident, but they declined elaboration about the cause of death.

A Christian radio station in Atlanta,, reported Wednesday that the cause of death was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Emails and tweets among a number of pastors and charismatic leaders who knew Huskins said the same thing, but this could not be independently confirmed.

Huskins founded the Cedar Lake Christian Center in Cedartown near Atlanta and served as its senior pastor. He was also the presiding bishop of the International Communion of Charismatic Churches. He hosted a weekly radio program and made many appearances on Christian television.

Huskins also had a close association with Bishop Mark Chironna, senior pastor of an Orlando, Florida-area church, Church on the Living Edge. A representative said Chironna was not available for comment Wednesday but acknowledged that Huskins had spoken at the church in the suburban community of Longwood in the past.

According to a statement on Huskins' Facebook page: "Our hearts are deeply saddened to share with you that our Bishop, David Huskins, has joined the great cloud of witnesses this afternoon We will have more information later that will be posted here. Please pray for his boys and the rest of the family, and our church family as we grieve the passing of one of the greatest servants we have ever known."

Polk County police referred inquiries to Chief Dodd, who was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday.

Early last month, Huskins sent a long email to his congregation and friends saying he needed to take some time off to deal with health problems.

"It has been almost 20 years ago since I had open-heart surgery to repair a hole in my heart that had become critical," Huskins wrote on July 10. "That started a series of mostly ignored warnings to take care of my heart health. Then in November, I had a mild heart attack (if there is such a thing) and that put me on a path to great introspection of all the areas of my life I had not properly dealt with. ...

"While I am grateful for all the Lord has allowed me to do, I knew sometimes I had let ministry be a substitute for God. I felt Him dealing with me to let go of areas and delegate and release and spend more time with Him and with people not just always in a pulpit. I had started that process much earlier with seeking to place others in charge of the church and daily duties but still had not relinquished the active roles.

"Then over the past few weeks I experienced congestive heart failure twice, which forced the cancellation of our annual conference, and now I have been told medically I am at the point of complete exhaustion while still dealing with chronic congestive heart failure. After three nights in I C U and another two-night regular hospital stay along with several follow-up heart procedures and this past week a Transient Ischemic Attack (minor stroke) and the adaptations of all the medicines ... and the on-going recovery process and having been admitted to bed rest, I am now forced to make some significant and important changes immediately.

"Even though I have been feeling it and talking about it for a couple of years. The next 90 days minimal will be intensive times of physical therapy and monitoring both heart and neck arteries and avoiding the threat of another heart attack or stroke. ... I am submitting to the precaution.

"As most of you know I wrote over a year ago about the need for many of us to take a break, get counsel, seek a sabbatical or otherwise make changes. We even held a January conference around that concept. I put a plan in place for a sabbatical or even a succession plan. We discussed many of these subjects, but I then returned quickly to the rigors of ministry. Now it is medically required and physically necessary for me to adapt. ... The truth is however the need for a real sabbatical is long over due. The effects of this mini-stroke and the medicines along with the energy lost from the congestive heart failures keep me very confused, often times unable to articulate my thoughts clearly and then also all the physical limits and battles. I am thankful that they say all that is temporary and will be over in time."

A friend in ministry, Sheryl Brady, tweeted a statement that read in part, "I don't know how to put into words just how much the loss of my friend Bishop David Huskins has impacted my heart. It's hard to explain the emptiness of this moment. Please pray for his sons, his family, his church, his friends and all those who had the privilege of doing life with him. ... He was a man with a true COVENANT HEART."

Mark Andrews Featured U.S. News Wed, 27 Aug 2014 11:30:00 -0400
James Foley a Martyr? ISIS Beheading Sparks Faith-Based Debate

From the moment news broke that U.S. journalist James Foley had been beheaded by Islamic State extremists in the Middle East, many Christians, especially Foley's fellow Catholics, began calling him a martyr, with some even saying he should be considered a saint.

Yet that characterization has left others uneasy, and the discussion is raising larger questions about what constitutes martyrdom.

Foley's parents seemed to validate the martyrdom label when his father, John, spoke at an emotional news conference outside the family's New Hampshire home and said he and his wife "believe he was a martyr." Foley's mother, Diane, added that her son "reminds us of Jesus. Jesus was goodness, love—and Jim was becoming more and more that."

In an interview two days later with Katie Couric, Foley's younger brother, Michael, recounted how Pope Francis had called the family to console them and in their conversation "referred to Jim's act as, really, martyrdom."

Numerous commentators had already picked up on that idea, holding Foley up not only as a witness to the Christian faith but as a spur for believers in the West to take more seriously the plight of Christians in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East who are being persecuted to a degree that some say is comparable to genocide.

But in the Catholic Church, determining whether someone is a martyr is not so easy. Historically, two conditions must be met.

First, even if martyrs weren't saintly or pious Christians throughout their lives, there should be evidence that they held fast to their faith in their final moments, and that this witness can serve as an example to others.

Foley certainly seemed to take solace in his faith under duress.

In a 2011 essay he wrote for the alumni magazine of Marquette University, his Jesuit-run alma mater, Foley spoke movingly of his belief in prayer, and especially his recourse to the rosary to sustain him when he was imprisoned in Libya earlier that year while covering the downfall of Moammar Gadhafi.

That was also the heart of a message that Foley managed to send from his captivity at the hands of the IS; after the episode in Libya, Foley, a photojournalist, went to cover the civil war in Syria and was kidnapped there on Thanksgiving in 2012. He was held with as many as 17 other prisoners and had a fellow captive, who was later released, commit to memory a letter in which Foley spoke of how prayer and faith kept him close to his family.

"I feel you all especially when I pray," Foley said. "I pray for you to stay strong and to believe. I really feel I can touch you even in this darkness when I pray."

The second factor in determining whether someone is a martyr is that they must be killed explicitly because they are a Christian, or in odium fidei, out of hatred for the faith. That's where martyrdom arguments can get complicated, and messy.

For example, Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, who lived under constant threat for his advocacy on behalf of the poor and in defense of human rights, was immediately hailed as a martyr in 1980 when he was assassinated by paramilitary forces while celebrating Mass.

But under the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Romero's canonization cause was repeatedly stalled because conservatives in the Vatican argued that Romero had become an icon of liberation theology and was killed for political rather than religious reasons.

Only this month, in fact, Pope Francis—who has long revered Romero—announced that the archbishop's sainthood process had been "unblocked."

Francis also indicated that he wanted the church to consider whether those who are killed "for performing the works that Jesus commands us to do for our neighbor" are martyrs just as those who are killed for professing the creed. If that happens it could mark a significant shift in the church's understanding of martyrdom.

Yet some also worry that Foley is being promoted as a martyr in part because he can serve as a Christian rallying cry against extremist Islam, or as a way of building momentum for a more forceful Western intervention in Iraq.

So the question then comes down to parsing the rationale of Foley's killers: Did they murder him because he was a Christian or because he was an American? Did they kill him because he would not convert, or did they kill him to provoke the West? Was he a martyr for the faith or, as Foley's father added, "a martyr for freedom"?

Can we ever know? Should we try?

"It would be vulgar to indulge in speculative fiction that claims James Foley was praying during what are now his famous last moments on Earth," Alana Massey wrote in a Religion Dispatches column taking issue with the instant canonization of Foley.

Massey said she found it "off-putting" to read others describing Foley as a martyr "not only because he was killed explicitly for his nationality and not for his religion, but also because the prospect of the hellscape that is the battleground on which ISIS fights becoming a destination for competitive martyrdom can do no one any good."

Many more seem to disagree with that view and think that whatever the perils of calling Foley a martyr, he ultimately qualifies as one—and in doing so his death, and life, point to a modern-day example of martyrdom that has moved millions of people.

"We don't want to cheapen the meaning of the word martyr," the Catholic blogger Pia de Solenni wrote in a detailed meditation on Foley's death. "But this is real. It's happening everywhere. It's making extraordinary witnesses out of ordinary people. We should not cheapen their witness by ignoring the reality of their sacrifice, their martyrdom."

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

David Gibson/RNS Featured U.S. News Wed, 27 Aug 2014 11:00:00 -0400
Should Pro-Life Christians Boycott the Ice Bucket Challenge?

Many Christians have objected to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge on the moral grounds that the ALS Association conducts embryonic stem-cell research.

Here's the dilemma with that boycott rationale: Any time you buy a drink at Starbucks, use your American Express card, use a Microsoft product, eat a Kraft food, drive a Chevy, bank at Bank of America, use your AT&T cell provider, and millions of other products, some of your money is being funneled to Planned Parenthood to fund abortions. So if you are going to boycott the ALS organization because they do embryonic stem cell research, then you should also stop using all of these products and services, just to be ethically consistent.

As an evangelical, pro-life pastor, I did the Ice Bucket Challenge and nominated my whole pastoral staff and they also completed it. We had a blast doing it and we raised money to help people in need. It was a win-win. I personally chose to make my donation to John Paul II Medical Research Institute, a Catholic pro-life research institute in Iowa. They conduct adult stem cell research, not embryonic stem cell research.

However, if people want to donate directly the ALS Association, they can indicate they don't want any of their funds to go to embryonic stem cell research. There are many other things they do to help ALS patients. And remember, the whole Ice Bucket Challenge, silly as it may be, is about raising awareness for the people suffering from this debilitating and cruel disease. Those are the people who need our prayers and support.

Brian Alarid is the founder and lead pastor of Passion Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Brian Alarid Featured Opinion Wed, 27 Aug 2014 10:00:00 -0400
Seventh-Day Adventist Church Hit With Multimillion-Dollar Lawsuit

Two men who say they were molested in the 1970s by a youth group leader in Oregon sued the Seventh-day Adventist church for $13.5 million on Tuesday, saying it had appointed a known pedophile to head the program and failed to remove him despite abuse allegations.

The lawsuit said that church officials appointed Leslie Bovee in 1972 to lead a Seventh-day Adventist youth group in Veneta, Oregon, even though they knew he had previously served two years in prison for molesting three boys.

They allowed Bovee to work with children in a co-ed church program for youths called Pathfinder because he repented and was re-baptized, according to the lawsuit filed in Oregon state court against the church's national body.

Then in 1975, he was charged with sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy, but continued to lead the local Pathfinders group until he denounced his religious beliefs in 1979, the suit stated.

"This is a situation where they knew this guy had abused kids and they didn't just let him in the church, they put him in charge of the youth program," said attorney Peter Janci, one of two attorneys representing the plaintiffs.

Attorneys for the two plaintiffs, who said Bovee abused them in the Pathfinders program and who are now in their early 50s, described the lawsuit as part of a potentially growing legal battle against the church by people who say they were abused while involved in church activities.

The plaintiffs, identified only by their initials, filed their lawsuit after recently learning the church knew Bovee was a pedophile, said Steve Crew, the other attorney for the men.

They learned that in 2012, during a separate civil lawsuit filed on behalf of another victim in which they were called as witnesses, Crew said.

Richard Whittemore, an attorney for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, said the organization has previously settled three other cases involving allegations of abuse by Bovee. 

"The church is very aware of all of the issues and takes great pains to make sure this kind of behavior is not going to be repeated," he said.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has more than 18 million members worldwide, according to its website. In the past two decades, at least 525 people have lodged claims alleging child sexual abuse in the church, according to a report last year from its risk management organization.

Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis; editing by Sandra Maler

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Seventh-Day Adventist Church Hit With Multimillion-Dollar Lawsuit/Reuters Featured U.S. News Wed, 27 Aug 2014 09:00:00 -0400
Church of God Rocked in Massive Quake

A large earthquake rolled through California's northern Bay Area just before 3:30 a.m. Sunday, about 10 miles northwest of American Canyon, which is about 6 miles southwest of Napa.

It was the largest quake to shake the Bay Area since the 6.9-magnitude Loma Prieta temblor in 1989, the U.S. Geological Survey said. It damaged some buildings, ignited fires, knocked out power to tens of thousands, and sent residents running out of their homes into darkness.

Pastor Oscar Paniagua of the Iglesia de Dios Vida Eterna (Eternal Life Church of God) of Vallejo, California, said that many of the members' homes had minor damage. Moreover, he stated that there were no reports of injuries to any of the families who attend this Church of God congregation. However, the building where the congregation holds its services did experience damage.

The quake caused significant damage to the building where the Eternal Life Church of God meets. Pastor Paniagua said that in spite of the broken glass and other damage to the building, the church held its services Sunday because they had to express their gratitude to the Lord for having kept their families safe. Dr. Miguel Vega, and Berta his wife, administrative bishops for the Northwestern Spanish Region, visited the church to survey the extent of the damages. "I am glad that none of our families were hurt," said Vega.

The Iglesia de Dios Vida Eterna has boarded-up its windows to discourage looting. Pastor Paniagua has asked that we keep him, his family and the congregation in our prayers. Bishop Vega will be monitoring the progress of repairs to the building and will share reports as they become available.

Faith News Network Featured U.S. News Wed, 27 Aug 2014 07:00:00 -0400
Is Breakfast Overrated?

Breakfast, it has long been said, is the most important meal of the day. But new research suggests that may not necessarily be so.

In fact, a spate of new studies by several universities—published in multiple articles in the August issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition—are challenging how conventional health experts view the first meal of the day, The New York Times reports.

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and other institutions, for instance, have concluded breakfast plays virtually no role in weight loss. The findings are based on a study of nearly 300 volunteers who were randomly assigned subjects to skip breakfast, always eat the meal, or continue with their current dietary habits

After 16 weeks, the researchers found no one had lost much weight, regardless of whether someone ate breakfast or skipped it.

In another new study, researchers at the University of Bath tracked metabolic rates, cholesterol levels, and blood-sugar profiles of 33 people randomly assigned to eat or skip breakfast. After six weeks, their body weights, resting metabolic rates, cholesterol, and most measures of blood sugar were unchanged, regardless of whether people ate breakfast or not.

The findings suggest that in terms of weight loss, "breakfast may be just another meal," said Emily Dhurandhar, the assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who led the study there.

Nick Tate/Newsmax Health Featured U.S. News Wed, 27 Aug 2014 06:00:00 -0400
Documentary Featuring Terminally Ill Teen Raises $20,000 in 3 Days

Individuals have given more than $20,000 within 72 hours for a crowdfunding campaign to raise support for a short-form documentary on the journey of Ethan Hallmark, a 13-year-old from Midlothian, Texas, who has captured the hearts of his entire community and inspired them to live every day to the fullest.

Hallmark has been battling stage 4 neuroblastoma, a rare type of childhood cancer, since being diagnosed in 2010. The crowdfunding campaign, which began on Friday, has a goal of raising $40,000 by Oct. 6.

Four years ago, Ethan was just another kid baseball player with the dream of becoming a doctor. Since his diagnosis, he has become an involuntary hero who has demonstrated to his family, friends and community incredible courage and shares a message of hope greater than this terminal disease.

"With the current treatment options, our son's disease is not curable," said Ethan's mother, Rachel. "Its complex genes are just too smart for us at this point. Our son is slipping from our grips. We're trying to get him to 14. We're trying to give him the best quality of life possible. Each day without pain is a gift, and we're trying to give him many more of those."

The Hallmarks and their small hometown of Midlothian have forged a deep bond, sharing equal measures of despair and optimism in an extraordinary relationship of mutual encouragement.

"Obviously I want to beat this disease," said Ethan. "But I'm not going to be that sad if I don't. I mean, heaven is not a pretty good place. Heaven is a perfect place. Of course I want to live a long life—who doesn't? I want to watch my sister and brothers go to middle school with me. Go to high school. Watch them graduate. Even I want to graduate. It's not my plan though. It's His plan. And His plan is perfect. So really in the end, I will win either way."

The film, produced by I am Second and Ditore Mayo Entertainment, will share the inspiring story of Ethan's journey through interviews with Ethan, his parents and members of the Midlothian community interspersed with documentary-style footage.

"We don't want to waste this cancer," said Ethan's father, Matt. "I mean, he has it. And there's absolutely nothing this world can do to take it away. So the question is, 'What are you going to do with it?' So we choose to make the most out of every day, and making the most out of every day is enjoying what days God gives."

As explained on the IndieGoGo crowdfunding page, "Ethan's story is bigger than one boy. It's about a family and a community intertwined in something larger than life. It's about a journey that millions can relate to ... and millions deserve to see."

Kristin Cole Featured Culture Tue, 26 Aug 2014 20:00:00 -0400
#HolyGhostExperience Campaign Mobilizes Fans to Drive Audiences to Upcoming World Premiere

Wanderlust Productions—the independent film studio behind the cult hit trilogy Finger of God, Furious Love and Father of Lights—is poised to disrupt the entertainment industry's long-established business model with the debut of its dynamic new documentary film, Holy Ghost.

Featuring a concert by Jake Hamilton & The Sound, the Holy Ghost World Premiere Experience will be a one-time, live global event on Sept. 6 in which anyone anywhere can see the film—for free.

Funded by 2,500 investors who surged to support director Darren Wilson's Kickstarter campaign, Holy Ghost raised a record-breaking $360,000 in just 45 days to become the No. 1 most-funded, faith-based film in Kickstarter history. 

The film's producers, who turned to fans to fund Holy Ghost, are now asking 25,000 of their most deeply dedicated fans to crowd-market and promote it with the launch of a new #HolyGhostExperience social-media campaign.

"Our fans crowdfunded Holy Ghost, and now they're our mass-marketing and promotion team around the world. That's why #HolyGhostExperience has gained instant traction, because tens of thousands are working to bring this project across the finish line," said Braden Heckman, CEO of Wanderlust Productions.

"Every day the Holy Ghost team is working with supporters to spread the word by setting up events, signing up their friends, and engaging within their spheres of influence to give as many people as possible the opportunity to experience this movie."

#HolyGhostExperience puts the consumer in the driver's seat, empowering fans to take unlimited steps to promote the World Premiere Experience. Fans have the opportunity to participate by engaging in as many as five easy, seven moderate, and two challenging promotional tasks plus a daily, bonus challenge posed by the Holy Ghost social-media team. These include:

  1. Share the Trailer: Show the movie's trailer in local churches.
  2. Enlist Churches to Join: Recruit their church to participate in the Holy Ghost World Premiere Experience on Sept. 6. Nearly 600 churches around the world have signed up to date.
  3. Bring the Film to More Theaters: Create demand for HOLY GHOST to be shown in movie theaters using the demand-first distribution website Tugg. Almost 60 theaters have signed on purely by popular demand.
  4. Host a Screening Party: Host a Holy Ghost house party.
  5. Invite Friends: Encourage 10 people to see the World Premiere Experience.
  6. Donate Accounts: Lend their social-media accounts to Holy Ghost to automatically send tweets and Facebook posts about the movie.
  7. Fund the Marketing: Give $10 for 1,000 more people to see the trailer.
  8. Send to a Stranger: Pre-purchase the DVD and send it to a randomly selected person in the U.S.

To learn more about Holy Ghost the World Premiere Experience and view the trailer, visit

Matthew Faraci Featured Culture Tue, 26 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Georgia Schools Send out SOS to Faith Community

More than 50 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court banned public school prayer. That decision is still stirring debate, but it doesn't mean schools and churches can't work together.

In one Georgia town, this partnership is helping students succeed. Francella Perryman believes in the church's calling to meet the needs of the community. 

Perryman is especially passionate about kids and practices what she preaches as outreach director for Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church in the Atlanta suburb of Johns Creek.

"Jesus did not just sit in the pews, He was out in the community. And if we are to seriously be light to the world, you have got to get out into the community and support these children," she told CBN News.

Making the Connection

When the Fulton County public schools asked for help from the faith community, Perryman immediately reached out to Hillside Elementary School, where many minorities and students from low-income families attend.

"I just went to the principal and talked to her, found out what her needs were and our need to be a light," she explained.

It is a part of a plan put in place by Fulton County School Superintendent Robert Avossa after realizing that public schools under his helm could not meet the needs of the students in his district alone.

"With the school system of nearly 100,000 students and almost half of which live at or below the poverty level, it was clear early on that no matter how many resources we had, we weren't going to be able to reach every one of our children," Avossa said.

Faith to the Rescue

The response from the faith community was overwhelming. More than 100 houses of worship, including churches, synagogues, and others offered services to public school in Fulton County, ranging from feeding programs to after school athletic camp.

Avossa said he was impressed by the help.

"I began to talk with community members. It became very clear that there were a lot of people in the community and our faith community, in particular, that were interested in helping," he said.

But Avossa knew that going from talking about the plan to making it happen would be not be easy.

Local media questioned if he was allowing churches in the schools to change the way people believe.

It's an issue Avossa said Fulton County has been careful about before proceeding.

"We brought in an attorney to share early on with our faith community the importance of working with schools, that this is a place of volunteerism, a place for people to help," he explained.

Being a Light

Meanwhile, Perryman said the goal of Mt. Pisgah's involvement with the school is to demonstrate help for students in tangible ways.

"We're not so much focused on only having them attend our church," she said. "It's again being a partner with them and allowing them to see the light of Christ and supporting the schools."

Students at Hillside are reaping tremendous benefits from the partnership.

Volunteers from Mt. Pisgah provide tutoring and mentoring programs during the school's lunchtime and the church recently hosted a back to school event, providing backpacks and free school supplies.

Hillside Principal Dr. Maisha Ottway said partnering with churches and other groups simply makes sense.

"I think the biggest take away is our schools are supported and don't always have to be supported by us," she said. "There are community faith-based organizations that benefit from supporting us so why do we not need to tap into that resource?"

Mt. Pisgah also provides shuttle service to the school for parents interested in attending parent conferences but who have no transportation.

Dr. Ottway said attendance at school events have increased as a result.

Perryman added that parents want to be involved in school events but that if transportation is an obstacle, loaning out church vans is the least the church can do to help.

A Simple Thing

Ottway said the partnership with the church is making her job as principal easier.

"I can't do everything and I can't provide everything for my kiddos. It doesn't have to be grandiose, it just has to be sustainable and that's what Mount Pisgah has done. And for me it's just a simple, simple thing," she added.

Both the school and the church said the partnership is working well and yielding benefits for all involved, especially the students.

"The better prepared kids are to be self-sufficient and to contribute to the community, the healthier the community," Avossa said.

"And at the end of the day I think it's a great place to focus," she said. "It's a win-win for everybody."

CBN News Featured U.S. News Tue, 26 Aug 2014 18:00:00 -0400
What the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Means for Christians

Craig Gross, known to many as the Porn Pastor because of his work with, is encouraging Christians to look at the viral "ALS Ice Bucket Challenge" as an example of the Christian life.

Over the past several weeks, social media has been flooded with one of the most effective fund-raising campaigns of all time. The "Ice Bucket Challenge" encourages participants to dump buckets of freezing water on their heads to raise awareness for the debilitating condition amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. It has become a national pastime to watch friends, family and favorite celebrities get wet in support of ALS research.

Participants are encouraged to donate $10 if they complete the challenge, or $100 if they don't. In the past few weeks alone, the ALS Association has earned more than $88.5 million, a monstrous increase from their donations of about $2 million in the same period last year.

The ice-bucket challenge sets a great example to Christians of what a life of "going small" can look like. Often, Christians feel discouraged in their faith because they are told by culture they aren't doing enough. In a world that champions the "biggest and the best," many individuals feel they can't do enough to actually make a difference.

"Not everyone is called to lead a big ministry or go across the globe as a missionary. That's OK," Gross says. "In fact, most of us our called to serve God in our everyday lives. If every Christian committed to serving God wholeheartedly right where He places them, our world will be a much better place."

The Ice Bucket Challenge proves that little things can add up to a big difference, Gross explains.

"Just like one person dumping cold water on his head won't make a difference for ALS. Serving God in your everyday life—from grocery shopping to carpooling to work—can feel small. It's when we all come together and commit to the cause—or the whole nation decides to dump water on their heads—that we see a change," he notes.

Gross' latest book, Go Small, released from Thomas Nelson in August, explains that God doesn't keep score the way we do, and He desires for us to serve in our everyday lives. Each Christian has a unique calling on their lives, and in God's eyes they are equally important.

Katie Martin Featured U.S. News Tue, 26 Aug 2014 17:00:00 -0400
Lecrae, Bart Millard to Host 45th Annual GMA Dove Awards

Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae and MercyMe frontman Bart Millard have been named co-hosts of the 45th annual GMA Dove Awards, the Gospel Music Association announced. The Christian music awards will be handed out Tuesday, Oct. 7 at 6:30 p.m. CST at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, and will air on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN).

Performers and current nominees include Natalie Grant, Hezekiah Walker, Matthew West and Erica Campbell. In addition, Capital Kings, Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton, author Karen Kingsbury and Bill Gaither are confirmed as presenters.

"I can't wait to be a part of what I believe will be a historic evening," Lecrae said. "Co-hosting with a great friend and talented artist makes it even better. Be careful though, who knows what will happen when Bart and I get together."

"I'm so excited to be part of this year's Dove Awards," Millard agreed. "The Doves are unique because they bring all styles of Gospel music together. Lecrae and I are just a small example of how different and yet unified this community is in sharing a message of love and hope through music."

He joked, "To prove how unified we are, I will be freestylin' my fresh rhymes while Lecrae sings the chorus to 'I Can Only Imagine' over and over!"

Dove nominees Jonathan McReynolds and Meredith Andrews have been confirmed to co-host the GMA Dove Awards Preshow, which will stream live on on Oct. 7 at 2 p.m. CST.

Tickets are available now at For a complete list of nominees visit

Christian Retailing Featured Culture Tue, 26 Aug 2014 16:00:00 -0400