Charisma News | Breaking News. Spiritual Perspective. Wed, 25 Nov 2015 21:41:32 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Why Maine Wants Candy Out of Food Stamp Diets
Some taxpayers consider it a sweet idea: Trim the purchase of soda and candy from the benefits provided to food stamp users.
The state of Maine wants to do just that. To ban food stamp recipients under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from purchasing specific unhealthy items, state officials have to get approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The state requested a waiver Monday from the federal agency, Maine's top human services official, Mary Mayhew, told The Daily Signal.  
"We believe that this is a commonsense reform to actually focus on nutrition and healthier choices within the food stamp program," Mayhew, commissioner of the Health and Human Services Department, said in a phone interview.   
The proposal aims to improve health and cut the costs of medical care for low-income, obese Mainers.
It also sticks in line with a key policy goal of Maine Gov. Paul R. LePage, a Republican, a press release says "that welfare benefits should be spent appropriately and only on essential items, restoring taxpayers' faith in the integrity of the system." 
How many Maine residents purchase soda and candy with their food stamp benefits? Good question. Mayhew told The Daily Signal that her department is "very frustrated" by the fact that the federal government doesn't release this data. She said:
"We need to have greater transparency in the food stamp program and what items are being purchased. How much Mountain Dew versus milk is being purchased within this program? And yet the federal government has consistently said they do not have that data. The fact remains that they have contracts with all these retailers and could absolutely demand that transactional data."
University of Maine research from 2012 found that the annual medical costs of obesity in the state is $452.7 million, Reuters reported.
"We've got to connect the dots between two federal programs: the Medicaid program and the food stamp program," Mayhew said.
Over the past year, Maine's Medicaid program spent more than $115 million on obesity-related claims.
"And yet we have this other federal program [SNAP] that is absolutely turning a blind eye to the purchases being made within food stamps for candy, sugary drinks and certainly on other unhealthy items," Mayhew said.
According to her agency, over 15 percent of Mainers are on food stamps, and 88 percent of them also are on Medicare.
The ban on certain food stamp purchases wouldn't prevent recipients from buying unhealthy items. Beneficiaries could use out-of-pocket money to fund their Pepsi craving.
Some folks, opposed to the ban on sugary drinks and candy, argue it's unfair to limit the purchase of certain food items. Others say the proposal is an inefficient way to address a poverty issue, the Portland Press Herald reports.
Michelle Lamm, director of the Maine Hunger Initiative, suggested to Portland's WCSH6 that another way to achieve a similar goal would be to create incentives for food stamps recipients to purchase healthy food.
"The SNAP benefits are dismal at best, I think they're $4 a day for all three meals, so there are a limited amount of benefits and families are doing all they can to buy the foods that they need, that are healthy," Lamm told the TV station.
The Daily Signal could not immediately verify the amount Lamm was talking about.
Mayhew said she hopes Maine's request will be "seriously considered by the federal government" and expects to hear back from the USDA within three months.
"Unfortunately, the track record for the federal government on this issue is not great," she said.
Nine states have been unsuccessful at tries to ban junk food for SNAP recipients: New York, Illinois, Minnesota, California, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Vermont and Texas.
"What may separate Maine is that this waiver is part of a comprehensive set of reforms that Governor LePage has been pursuing related to our welfare programs, to both restore an employment focus ... and to increase the integrity of these programs," Mayhew said.
"It would be far better if the Congress would act and adopt this prohibition, for the food stamp program, for all states."
The proposal comes amid welfare reform taking shape in Maine.
"Maine has been a leader in promoting self-sufficiency through work," Rachel Sheffield, a policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal:
"Able-bodied adults without dependents [who are] on food stamps are required to work, prepare for work, or participate in community service. Maine has seen a large decline in the number of [those able-bodied adults] receiving food stamps since they began this work requirement. Other states should follow Maine's example, and food stamps should be reformed at the federal level to ensure that self-sufficiency for able-bodied adults is the ultimate goal."
Leah Jessen/THE DAILY SIGNAL Featured Issues Caucus Wed, 25 Nov 2015 15:54:11 -0500
Obama Responds to 'Clear and Present' Thanksgiving Terror Threats
President Barack Obama sought to reassure Americans they are safe on Wednesday as millions of people embarked on their annual Thanksgiving travels, with security at airports, New York City's parade festivities and other venues expected to be heightened amid jitters after the Paris attacks.
"We know of no specific and credible intelligence indicating a plot on the homeland," Obama told reporters at the White House, flanked by his top counterterrorism and national security advisers.
"We are taking every possible step to keep our homeland safe," he said.
The FBI sent a bulletin earlier this week to police departments across the country warning of possible copycat incidents and sharing intelligence on how the assailants in Paris carried out attacks on Nov. 13 that killed 130 people.
The U.S. State Department also issued a world-wide travel alert on Monday warning American travelers to remain vigilant, particularly when visiting foreign countries.
However, New York City officials have stressed there is no specific threat to the city, despite a video released last week by the militant group Islamic State that included images of New York. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks.
The Department of Homeland Security also said last Friday that there was no credible threat to the United States like the attacks in Paris.
Nearly 46.9 million Americans will travel over the Thanksgiving long weekend - the busiest U.S. travel holiday of the year—with 3.6 million going by plane, according to the AAA, a motorist advocacy group.
Some travel analysts expected airport delays as a result of the heightened security. Officials at the Transportation Security Administration, which oversees airport security, declined comment.
As many as 3.5 million people were expected to line the 2.5 mile (4-km) route of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City on Thursday, according to parade organizers. Many were expected to head to Manhattan's Upper West Side on Wednesday to watch the giant parade balloons being inflated on the eve of Thursday's parade.
The New York Police Department is ramping up its usual tight parade security, adding members of a new counterterrorism unit, officials said.
City officials have made numerous public appearances in recent days seeking to reassure New Yorkers and tourists.
"There remain no credible and specific threats against New York City," Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters on Monday. "I'm very, very confident in the NYPD's preparation for the parade."
The 89th edition of the parade, which features 8,000 performers, kicks off holiday events in the city, including the lighting of the enormous Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center next week and the New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square.
More than five million visitors come to the city between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve, according to the city's tourism agency. Chris Heywood, an agency spokesman, said all events are "business as usual." {eoa}
(Additional reporting by Joseph Ax and Barbara Goldberg in New York and Jeff Mason, Doina Chiacu and Roberta Rampton in Washington; Editing by Frances Kerry)
©2015 Thomson Reuters. All Rights Reserved.
KYLIE GUMPERT/Reuters Featured Issues Caucus Wed, 25 Nov 2015 16:00:00 -0500
It's Not Just Mexico — How Canada's Border May Pave the Way for Terror

Standing two feet from Canada on windswept Montana prairie land, U.S. Border Patrol agent Andrew Herdina looks out over a line of crooked old fence posts with no wire between them -- the international border.

"If somebody is set on doing it, there are plenty of opportunities to cross this border," said Herdina, surrounded by a vast expanse of prairie grass where there were no border posts, or checkpoints, or any visible signs of security.

With U.S. security concerns heightened following the attacks in Paris claimed by Islamic State, the relatively porous state of America's northern border has attracted little attention as politicians, mostly Republicans, have attacked President Barack Obama's plans to allow in 10,000 Syrian refugees.

But in Montana, which shares a 500-mile (800-km) border with Canada, border agents and some residents say they are concerned about Ottawa's plan to bring in 25,000 Syrians by year-end, even though the government there insists its screening will be thorough and there are limited indications that militants may be seeking to use refugee status to cross borders.

The world's longest shared land border attracts a fraction of the U.S. attention and security resources taken up by the much shorter southern border with Mexico, which is patrolled by 18,000 U.S. border agents compared to 2,200 in the north.

The National Border Patrol Council, the border patrol union, says at least another 2,000 agents are needed on the Canadian border, which runs 5,500 miles from Alaska to Washington State and Maine. Herdina says the most effective tool in tracking illegal border crossers is not the border agents or surveillance airplanes; it's the roughly 100 ranchers who span Montana's border with Canada.

"They are our best asset," said Herdina, who is vice-president of the Montana branch of the union.

Last year, one rancher called the border patrol to report two strangers on his land, Herdina said. They were two Guatemalans who had crossed the border illegally.

Janas Strauser, owner of 66 Ranch on the border, said: "The people up here will report people who cross the border. The ranchers and farmers call them in."

While the border patrol union has a stake in securing more jobs and funding, its view was supported by a 2011 report by the Government Accountability Office, a non-partisan congressional watchdog, which found that only 32 miles of the border was properly secure and that the security risks were genuine.

"The terrorist threat on the northern border is higher (than on the Mexican border), given the large expanse of area with limited law enforcement coverage," the report said.

The White House referred questions about the security of the northern border to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The DHS referred Reuters to its website, which notes that the number of U.S. agents on the northern border has jumped from just 340 in 2001 and that its technological capabilities have "greatly improved." The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) says it now deploys fixed and rotary-wing aircraft equipped with sensors, thermal camera systems, remote videos and drones to help secure the border.

"There is no way you can make it totally secure," said Andrew Finn, program associate with the Canada Institute at the Wilson Center, a Washington DC-based think tank. "You always have to think about the terrorist threat, although the vetting process for refugees into Canada is quite thorough."

"Hysteria and Exaggeration"

Obama has denounced the "hysteria and exaggeration of risk" over Syrian refugees, who already face a rigorous U.S. vetting process. Most of the attackers in Paris are believed to be have been European residents rather than new immigrants, though authorities are investigating if one traveled as a refugee.

  Newly elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is standing by his pledge to allow 25,000 Syrian refugees into Canada by Jan. 1. Current and former Canadian security sources told Reuters last week that corners would have to be cut on security screening due to the accelerated process.

Canada experienced two attacks by radical Muslims in 2014, and reluctance in provinces such as Quebec to accept Syrian refugees is raising concern of a growing social rift with Muslim minorities.

In 1999, Algerian national Ahmed Ressam was apprehended crossing from Canada into the United States and convicted in 2001 for plotting to bomb Los Angeles airport.

Alan Bersin, then head of the Customs and Border Protection Commission, told a Senate committee in 2011 that more people with ties to terrorist organizations have crossed into the U.S. from Canada than from Mexico. He did not give any specific details.

Herdina says he has apprehended Mexicans, Cubans, Guatemalans and Canadians crossing remote parts of the border.

"We have no idea how these Syrians will be vetted by the Canadians. We need a lot more agents here," he said.

Jonathan Perkins, a border patrol agent who is an advisor to the national union and who used to work on the Canada border, said: "It is a very porous border. We are greatly understaffed there."

According to the CBP, 3,338 people were arrested trying to cross the Canadian border in 2014. Of those, 1,673 were from countries other than Mexico.

Last week, a bipartisan bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives requiring an analysis of terrorism threats posed by people trying to enter America through the Canadian border. A similar bipartisan Senate bill awaits a vote.

Over 3,000 of the refugees entering Canada are slated to settle in Alberta province, north of Montana.

In Havre, Montana, 40 miles south of Canada, Jenny Van Cleve, a waitress, says she is scared about the arrival of the Syrian refugees into Canada.

"The border is so easy to cross, pretty much anywhere. And there are abandoned houses all over the place to hide out in. We have farmer friends who find people in their buildings all the time. It's scary." {eoa}

(Additional reporting by Julia Edwards in Washington; editing by Jason Szep and Stuart Grudgings.)
©2015 Thomson Reuters. All Rights Reserved.

Tim Reid/Reuters Featured Issues Caucus Wed, 25 Nov 2015 14:00:00 -0500
Norvel Hayes' Daughter Zona Passes Away

Zona Hayes-Morrow, the daughter of Word of Faith pioneer Norvel Hayes, went home to be with the Lord on Wednesday after a long cancer battle. She was 63.

Hayes-Morrow was a successful business woman, mother and Bible teacher. She served as the executive director of Norvel Hayes Ministries, the founder of Action Faith Ministries, director and dean of New Life Bible College, and the senior pastor of New Life Bible Church.

Hayes-Morrow had a tremendous testimony of how the Lord delivered her from numerous diseases, including lupus and kidney failure. She carried a burden to see God's power set people free while meeting their needs. Her life is marked by faith in God and love for other people.

"Zona faced and overcame many battles. She was a fierce warrior, bold minister, compassionate leader and great friend. She was regarded by her Bible college students as a mentor and spiritual mother who saw and developed their potential," says Ryan LeStrange, a close family friend of Hayes-Morrow's, revivalist and founder of Ryan LeStrange Ministries.

"One of her favorite sayings was, 'There are no throwaway people.' She proudly carried the legacy and mantle of her father, Dr. Norvel Hayes; adored her only daughter, Lee; and enjoyed life with her husband, Terry Morrow."

Hayes-Morrow's desire drove her to build the Healing School at New Life Bible Church to help people receive their healing from God. She leaves a legacy of a ministry that refreshed many with a practical, clear, down-to-earth approach to the ways of God.

Her father, Norvel Hayes is a successful businessman, internationally renowned Bible teacher and founder of several Christian ministries in the U.S. and abroad.

Hayes founded New Life Bible College in Cleveland, Tennessee, in 1977, and New Life Bible Church eventually grew out of the Bible college's chapel services. He spends most of his time teaching and ministering God's deliverance and healing power in churches, college classrooms, convention centers and seminars all around the world.

Jennifer LeClaire Featured World News Wed, 25 Nov 2015 15:32:19 -0500
What I Am Most Thankful For

Atheism says there is no God. Islam says there is a God, but he has no Son.

Catholicism says there is a Son, but His mother must be worshipped.

But Jesus Christ said, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9).

Satan's philosophy is to take honor away from Jesus Christ, and to make sure He is not glorified. He seeks to put Jesus on the same level as all other gods. He seeks to offer the world a variety of substitutes for the true salvation, and to be tolerant of all religions.

But Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6).

Have you ever wondered why the world refers to God in general terms, but when someone mentions the name of Jesus everyone gets nervous? Have you ever wondered why men use Jesus Christ as a curse word and blaspheme His name? And yet no other founder's name or god of any other religion is used that way! Why is that?

It is because, "for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

As we said earlier, Satan tells people that God is a Catholic, or a Protestant; or that He is a Muslim, a Hindu or a Buddhist. His greatest strategy is deception. He works persistently to distort the true image of God and the gospel. Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).

God is a God of truth. His foundation is truth. The church is called the pillar and ground of truth (1 Tim. 3:15). The main responsibility of the church is to bring people into agreement with the true and living God.

One of the central truths of almost all religions is that sin separates man from God. However, that is where the commonality of all religions ends because every religion differs in the means by which man is reconciled to God.

In most religions man must do something to reach God—everything is based on a system of works. In Christianity, it is God doing something for man.

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).

No other religion can boast of this depth of love and redemption. The gospel of Jesus Christ places the highest value on humanity than any religion or philosophy this world has ever known.

God did not wait for us to clean up our lives and show an interest in Him before giving up His Son for us all. He gave us His best when we were at our worst. This is God's amazing grace. His precious blood made it all possible.

And that is why I'm thankful.

Bert Farias Featured The Flaming Herald Opinion Wed, 25 Nov 2015 16:00:00 -0500
Amanda Blackburn's Father Takes Romans 12 Attitude Toward Killers

You'd expect bitterness to overwhelm the hearts of Amanda Blackburn's family, after she was reportedly brutally sexually assaulted and murdered. 

Instead, it appears the peace of God is speaking through the family of pastors, as everyone from Blackburn's husband and father to her brother and sister is calling upon the name of the Lord to aid them in their grief.  

"'Vengeance is mine, I will repay,' says the Lord," says Pastor Phil Byars, Blackburn's father. "It's not ours to take into our hands vengeance upon anyone who does evil to us or our children. But it hurts and it's painful. So we're asking God to help us with those feelings." 

He told WTHR he knows God will vindicate Blackburn if the family leans on Him.  

"I know that God brings justice through government. God brings justice. He will bring upon these men what He wills," Byars says. "That's not for us to worry about and to think about and to fixate on. We just need to turn it over to Him and we'll take care of it." 

The elder Byars isn't the only one counting on his faith to sustain him. 

In an interview with WISHTV, Blackburn's brother James Byars spoke about how prayer is what's getting the family through the difficult time. 

"(We're) just holding on to the truth that we have a God who loves us and whose ways are above our ways, and we don't understand His plan all the time," the younger Byars says. 

Jessilyn Justice Featured U.S. News Wed, 25 Nov 2015 15:00:00 -0500
Will This Young Generation Destroy America?

What in the name of John Blutarsky is happening on our university campuses?

A new survey from the Pew Research Center reveals that a shocking number of millennials support curbing free speech.

According to their findings, 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 believe the government should be able to ban any speech that is offensive to minority groups.

We have apparently raised a generation of snowflakes so fragile that their psyches can't handle offensive words or photographs or images.

It seems the only free speech this perpetually offended generation supports is speech they agree with.

And it appears our nation's public universities have become breeding grounds for such anti-American and un-Constitutional beliefs.

Websites like Campus Reform have done a tremendous job documenting the methodical way in which our public institutions have been turned against us.

Administrators, faculty and student government leaders who do not agree with the rampaging mob of anti-free speech protesters are threatened—their voices silenced.

From the University of Missouri to U.C. Berkley—where they are creating safe spaces to protect persons of color and those who identify as gender queer.

The University of Michigan added a three-year diversity requirement to its undergraduate curriculum in the school of business. As Campus Reform reported, they will teach students "how race, gender and sexual orientation connect to larger systems of power, privilege and oppression."

At Dartmouth, Black Lives Matter protestors invaded the library—verbally assaulting white students.

"(Expletive) you, you filthy white (expletive)!"

That's what they screamed at the kids trying to study for exams.

And at the University of Vermont white students were carted off to the woods for a three-day retreat on white privilege.

Universities are now judging students on the color of their skin, instead of the content of their character.

Oh, what have liberal educators unleased on our great nation?

We are watching the coming of age for a new generation—a generation of intolerance—a generation that will one day shutdown free speech, a generation that will purge dissenting viewpoints, a generation that will shutter our churches and burn our books.

We are watching the generation that will destroy America.

Todd Starnes Featured American Dispatch Opinion Wed, 25 Nov 2015 14:00:00 -0500
The Christian Origins of Thanksgiving

The Pilgrims who landed on Cape Cod in November 1620 were devout followers of Christ who had left the comforts of home, family and friends to pursue their vision of a renewed and reformed Christianity. They were not whiners but chose to maintain an attitude of gratitude even through the most trying times, such as the winter of 1620-21 when sickness ravaged their community and half of them—about 50—were taken away in death.

The first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Pilgrims after they gathered in their harvest in the fall of 1621, about one year after their landing at Cape Cod. Although their hearts were still heavy from the losses suffered the previous winter, there were at least three areas for which they felt particularly grateful to God.

1. With the arrival of spring, the sickness that had immobilized the community and taken many of them in death had lifted. 

2. With the arrival of spring God, providentially sent to them an English-speaking Native American, Squanto, who became their interpreter and guide, helping them establish friendly relations with Massosoit, chief of the Wampanoag, the nearest and most powerful tribe in the region. In March 1621, they had signed an agreement of peace and mutual aid with Massosoit, which resulted in both peoples moving freely back and forth in friendship and trade.

3. Through hard work and Squanto's advice about farming and fishing, they experienced abundant harvests during the summer and fall of 1621.

Englishmen and Native Americans Celebrate Together

The first Thanksgiving was attended by an approximate equal number of English Pilgrims and Native Americans. After Gov. Bradford announced the Day of Thanksgiving, word of the event soon spread to their Native American friends. When the day arrived, not only were there individual natives on hand, but Massosoit arrived with 90 of his people, and five dressed deer to add to the meals the Pilgrims had prepared.

The Pilgrims did not seek to force their faith on the Indians but neither did they hide their faith. One can only imagine the emotions that filled their hearts as, in the presence of their new Native American friends, they joined Elder William Brewster in lifting up their hearts in praise and thanksgiving to God.

Not only did they enjoy meals together with thankful hearts, but they engaged in shooting matches, foot races and wrestling matches. It was such an enjoyable time that the one Day of Thanksgiving was extended for three full days.

And yes, it is almost certain that there was turkey at the first Thanksgiving, for Gov. Bradford had sent out four men to hunt for "fowl" who returned with enough "fowl" to last them an entire week.

Thanksgiving for a Remarkable Answer to Prayer

The next recorded Thanksgiving Day among the Pilgrims was celebrated in the fall of 1623 after a remarkable answer to prayer that saved their harvests. Gov. Bradford tells how the summer of 1623 was unusually hot with no rain whatsoever. As the blazing sun beat down day after day the land became parched and the corn, their primary staple, began to dry up along with other vegetables they had planted. Alone in the New England wilderness, it looked as though hunger would be their lot in the days ahead and maybe starvation. It was a very critical moment in time.

Facing such drought and bleak conditions, Bradford called the Plymouth settlement to a day of "humiliation and prayer." By "humiliation" he meant a recognition and repentance for the human tendency to trust in one's own human strength and ability rather than in God.

Their day of humiliation and prayer began like the many preceding days, very hot with not a single cloud in the sky. But before the day was over, God gave them, Bradford said, "a gracious and speedy answer, both to their own and the Indians' admiration that lived amongst them." Bradford goes on to say:

"For all the morning and the greatest part of the day, it was clear weather and very hot, and not a cloud or any sign of rain to be seen; yet toward evening it began to overcast, and shortly after to rain with such sweet and gentle showers as gave them cause of rejoicing and blessing God.

"It came without wind or thunder or any violence, and by degrees in that abundance as that the earth was thoroughly wet and soaked ... which did so apparently revive and quicken the decayed corn and other fruits as was wonderful to see, and made the Indians astonished to behold. And afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair weather as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing. For which mercy, in time convenient, they also set apart a day of thanksgiving" (emphasis added).

The Nationalizing of a Day of Thanksgiving

These days of Thanksgiving were observed by succeeding generations, but at various times in different places as deemed appropriate and necessary by the local inhabitants. As the colonists began to form themselves into a nation, these days of Thanksgiving began to be nationalized and made part of the national consciousness and calendar.

For example, the Continental Congress, which met between 1774 and 1789, issued several calls for days of humiliation, prayer and thanksgiving. The first one was to be observed on Nov. 28, 1782. The proclamation reads in part:

"It being the indispensable duty of all nations, not only to offer up their supplications to Almighty God, the giver of all good, for His gracious assistance in times of distress, but also in a solemn and public manner, to give Him praise for His goodness in general, and especially for great and signal interpositions of His Providence in their behalf."

Shortly after being sworn in as president, George Washington issued a proclamation designating Nov. 26, 1789 as a Day of Thanksgiving wherein all citizens should offer gratitude to God for His protection, care and many blessings. It was the first Thanksgiving Day designated by the new national government of the United States. The proclamation reads in part:

"Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me 'to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.'

"Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country ... And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord.

"Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789."

A Day of Thanksgiving to be observed on the last Thursday in November was proclaimed by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 in the midst of the Civil War. In spite of the fact that the nation was at war, Lincoln enumerated the many reasons the inhabitants of America had for being thankful to God. He wrote:

"No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that these blessings should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people.

"I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union."

The final Thursday in November, set by President Lincoln, continued to be the observed "Thanksgiving" until Dec. 26, 1941, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a joint resolution of Congress changing the national Thanksgiving Day from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday.

Concluding Thoughts

Examining the history and development of our "Thanksgiving" holiday makes us realize how far, as a nation, we have removed ourselves from the Christian worldview and faith of our Founders. This Thanksgiving Day our president will go through a silly formality and "pardon a turkey;" but the depth of faith seen in earlier proclamations, such as those by Washington and Lincoln, is glaringly missing. This is why we must pray for another Great Spiritual Awakening in our land. 

In spite of the fact that "Thanksgiving" has become secularized and commercialized, we as Christians must never forget that the day is rooted in the commitment of our forefathers and foremothers to maintain a thankful heart even through the most painful and challenging times. So this Thanksgiving, let's count our blessings, "name them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done."

Eddie Hyatt Featured Opinion Wed, 25 Nov 2015 13:30:00 -0500
Leading Pastor Endorses Ted Cruz

Republican presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has made a point of seeking the support of conservative Christians this election cycle.

In Iowa, the first state in the presidential primary process, he has the support of dozens of pastors who hail from each of the state's 99 counties. But, he has the same kind of support in each of the early-voting states.

"I am excited by the growing number of endorsements we are receiving from pastors," Cruz said recently.

Tuesday, his campaign announced a major endorsement that may affect his standing in the biggest primary event that follows the "first four" states: the "SEC Primary" to be held March 1. More than one-fourth — 634 of the total 2,472 — delegates will be determined that day.

Among the states voting that day are: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia (as well as Alaska, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Texas, Vermont, and Wyoming). And a name known to many in each of those states is Dr. Jeff Fugate.

"Many pastors wait until the nominees for each party have been chosen before they begin their support, but we must not wait until the final quarter of the game to play," Fugate said. "What we desire as pastors and God-fearing Christians is to have a candidate who represents our biblical, moral, and social positions. Ted Cruz has a personal testimony of salvation, and he is not a part of the Washington Cartel, which has allowed our nation to become both financially indebted and increasingly less safe. His amazing resume and his brilliance and intelligence cannot be overlooked. I am honored to stand in support of his campaign for the presidency."

The pastor of Clays Mill Road Baptist Church in Lexington, KY, leads a congregation of more than 2,000, serves as the editor of Christian Growth magazine, is a published author, and is a contributing writer for Sword of the Lord Publishing. He also leads the daily Voice of the Appalachians radio broadcast.

"Reagan coordinated strategically with Independent Baptists like Dr. Fugate, who has been leading congregants faithfully in Christian growth and personal revival for more than 20 years," Cruz said. "We are grateful for the opportunity to work with so many Independent Baptists, of which there are about 3 million, to promote our shared values and reignite the promise of America."

Fugate also has led many outreach ministries, specifically serving as founder of Commonwealth Baptist College and Clays Mill Road Baptist Christian Academy, and has been instrumental in starting 28 new churches in Kentucky and other states. He, with his wife and five children, also perform as a musical group, and are heard on radio and TV weekly throughout the South. 

Bob Eschliman Featured Caucus Wed, 25 Nov 2015 13:00:00 -0500
Adoptive Parents Six Times Over, Now This Family Remakes Adoption From the Inside Out

Randy and Kelsey Bohlender are doing more with their lives than most people would even consider. They're parents of ten children, six through adoption—including their youngest, Scout, born on February 3. Only last month, the Bohlenders opened Zoe's House Adoption Agency, named after their first adopted daughter.

It is not a cause or people's applause that drives them; rather, this Kansas City couple say they want, "To make a prophetic statement in our world, in our day, that lives have value."

With the voices of children heard in the background, we caught up with Randy Bohlender to talk about his family's adoption story, the questions he hears from adoptive parents and how they're integrating compassionate care into every step of the adoption process.

Bound4LIFE: Since the adoption of your youngest in February, how has your family adjusted to having a newborn again?

Randy Bohlender: For us, it has not been too big of a change—a little more chaos, a little less sleep. But growing from nine to 10 children is not like going from one to two. We are absolutely tickled to have our boy, Scout.

We've had a child under two years old for the last nine years. About the time somebody turns two, we've had another one or adopted another child.

The challenge sometimes is in numbers. There's just the two of us parents. How do we get everyone where they need to go? Life is a constant logistics battle.

Bound4LIFE: Could you share about the support system around your family?

Randy Bohlender: We have several friends who feel it is part of their mission in life to come around us and help. There's a young woman who is often with us in the afternoons, and it's certainly a labor of love.

She sees it as a missional job, and a few others did before her. These are precious friends who never really leave; they keep refrigerator privileges, and show up often to help.

Today, one of them phoned Kelsey and said, "Hey, I have two hours; what can I do for you?" Kelsey was going to go to Costco and asked about riding along with her. They talked more and this girl ended up going to Costco for us. When you have 10 kids and somebody is willing to take a Costco trip for you? That's gold.

In addition to these young women, there's a couple whose older children come by when things get a little hectic. It takes those kinds of people to help us do what we do. The best thing you can do for most adoptive families is give them a little time, by running an errand. It's not complex.

Bound4LIFE: As busy parents, how do you and Kelsey integrate seeking God into your kids' daily routine?

Randy Bohlender: We talk about what's on our hearts when we're together. The best captive audience we have is when we're in the car going to school.

We try to pray with our kids on the way; we debrief with them on Sunday, asking what they learned; Kelsey and I talk back and forth about what we're hearing from God.

The idea of sitting them in a big circle and having a discussion about the goodness of God? That's a little idealistic. If we got them in a circle, one of them would be coloring on the wall, one would be pulling his brother's hair... so we seek God and find teachable moments at the speed of life, usually on the fly.

Bound4LIFE: Now you've been a pastor, an author and a church planter—why invest your life in overseeing an adoption agency?

Randy Bohlender: The adoption agency is a means to an end: to make a prophetic statement in our world, in our day, that lives have value.

When we save children targeted for abortion, as many pro-life groups do, it's worth it to ensure they have a good home. The idea that children are unwanted is a farce. We can find homes for these kids.

The agency is a way to get that message out. I didn't wake up one day and say, I'd really like to run a non-profit, I can't find anything more complicated to do. It started with a question asked over years: "How can we get the most kids possible into good homes, and what's the most cost-effective way of doing that?"

For a long time, we offered small grants to families who were adopting. We raised money and gave it to each family; in that scenario, we were taking two or three grand off of a bill that might be thirty or forty thousand dollars.

Eventually, we started to experiment with the idea: what if we ran the mechanism, rather than fund the mechanism? Instead of giving a couple thousand dollars to each family, what if we pooled those funds and hired a social worker ourselves? There's an economy of streamlining there that you can't beat.

We launched Zoe's House Adoption Agency on October 1, and it's going really well.

Bound4LIFE: What are some of the most frequent questions you hear from adoptive families?

Randy Bohlender: The first one is always, How long is it going to take? And I can't tell them that. There are so many factors at work; it could take over a year, or longer.

Biologically, it takes nine months. You tell people it will take a year to adopt, and they almost have a heart attack—but really that's not a whole lot slower than the natural way, assuming you get pregnant today. But adoption doesn't necessarily have to take that long.

We started in June 2006 with our first adoption, and by October we had a beautiful little girl. Depending on one's willingness to consider children of other races, or if you will travel to another part of the U.S. to meet with the birth mother, you can abbreviate that waiting period considerably.

People want to know what it's going to cost, which depends on what agency you're talking to. At Zoe's House Adoption Agency, our expertise is private domestic adoption. People ask us, What about kids in foster care? That is a very valid ministry, it's just not what we do.

We deal with situations where expectant moms make the decision, I want to make an adoption plan for my baby. They do it willingly—not coerced by a court; they are free agents who are pursuing a course of action. So our adoption niche is private adoption, almost always with infants.

Bound4LIFE: The cost question is a big one. After one adoptive family shared their story, we received comments such as "adoption is crazy expensive."

Randy Bohlender: The national average cost of an adoption has to be close to 40 thousand dollars. Now it shouldn't cost that much, but I've heard people say, Adoption ought to be free. I don't buy that either.

Consider that for you to adopt: social workers have to do their job, you need to be vetted as an adoptive parent, lawyers are involved in a complex legal process ... The placement of a child shouldn't be as easy as Go down to the courthouse, sign a piece of paper, and we'll issue a child. That would be a recipe for trafficking.

Adoption should cost something, and it always does. The hard costs of adoption are higher than most people think. Our placement fee is under 10 thousand dollars, then parents will have costs related to the home study and medical expenses. Most of our families end up spending around 15 thousand dollars, which is actually subsidized in our case. We raise money from caring donors who help keep costs low.

People still question the cost, but the truth is: we have to maintain an office and hire qualified staff. We're also covering those times when we work with an expectant mom for six months, helping her financially, and she eventually decides: Really, the plan should be for me to parent my child.

We're pro-adoption, but we're pro-life first. Some expectant mothers considering adoption should go ahead and parent. At times, we've told a mother we've gotten to know: "You can do this." And it's beautiful.

The flip side of that is, we already spent a few thousand dollars helping her become stable—paying a couple months' rent or whatever. We don't recoup that cost, so it rolls over into other expenses.

It's expensive to do what we do. Our role is to give hope to adoptive families; just as friends and even strangers helped provide resources to make adoption possible for our family, it is absolutely doable for other families called to adopt.  

Bound4LIFE: As an adoption advocate, clearly you run in circles that are not faith-based or pro-life. How do you share your convictions when opportunities arise?

Randy Bohlender: People know we're pro-life because we talk about it. I don't shy away from it at all. People ask "Why did you get into this?" and we tell them.

Even if they are not pro-life, they understand our conviction: If we're going to be pro-life, then we have to take care of the babies. They admire that, even if they don't share our convictions. They see the answers we offer as legitimate.

Josh M. Shepherd serves in communications at Bound4LIFE International, a grassroots movement to pray for the ending of abortion, for the heart of adoption and for revival worldwide.

Reprinted with permission from Bound4LIFE.

Josh M. Shepherd/Bound4Life Featured Opinion Wed, 25 Nov 2015 12:30:00 -0500
Global Church Planter Has Master Plan to Combat Millennial Exodus

Can a mass exodus of mostly millennials from churches lead to a billion global "gatherings" that meet at coffee shops, workplaces, and homes?

Pastor and church planter Jimmie Davidson is counting on it. He is the visionary behind The Brooks Church, designed to help people who are accustomed to watching church services through the Internet or on TV "become people with a church" wherever they meet. 

Although The Brooks is a church planting movement, Davidson refers to the groups as gatherings, much like the early church in biblical times. The Brooks officially launches on December 3. 

"We are trying to bring the church where the church doesn't exist as we raise up people that are not in the game, not using their talents, they are more spectators, and help them be a part of what Christ is doing all over the world," said Davidson, 55, whose bio includes the descriptor "Great Commission Strategist." 

"One billion people mobilized, awakened, to host His church where they live, whatever space they have. It's about His movement, it's like streams of the desert, Isaiah 43:18-19. It's the ultimate seeker-sensitive movement," he said.

"Forget the former things, I'm doing something new, like streams in the desert" (Isaiah 43:18-19).

Davidson stated that the timeline for reaching the 1 billion host milestone is not up to him, it's "up to God." Even so, it appears Davidson is well-equipped to lead and launch The Brooks Church at a time when one-third of millennials say they are unaffiliated with any faith, according to a Pew study released earlier this year.

Davidson's church planting experience includes starting Highlands Fellowship Church in Virginia which grew from a small group study of family and friends to 4,000 people in attendance and multiple sites. He is the founder of the Global Glory of God PEACE House where over 300 international business leaders and pastors have been trained from over 70 nations, "touching tens of millions of lives."

He was also a contributing author of Multi-site Churches: Guidance for the Movement's Next Generation by Scott McConnell. 

He says the vision for The Brooks Church is to "launch churches all over the planet through ordinary followers of Jesus, using 21st century technology, the Internet, where 3 billion people are online, with the 1st century idea that Jesus gave us when he said, 'I will build my gathering and the gates of hell will not prevail against me.'" 

He added, "The gospel is meant to be seen up close. The online launch can be a little bit misleading because we are using that as a tool, as a platform, but the heart of what we are doing is what the Lord said, 'Do not forsake the gathering of your souls together.' Jesus said if two or three of you meet in my name, it will be done by my Father. There's something powerful about people following Jesus gathering, others gathering, God showing up and needs being met."

For more, click here.

Alex Murashko/Christian Newswire Featured Culture Wed, 25 Nov 2015 12:00:00 -0500
Newborn 'Miracle Baby' Found Abandoned in Church Nativity

A church custodian found a newborn baby—with the umbilical cord still attached—in the church's nativity, according to reports.  

Now, the community of Holy Child Jesus Church is rallying around the child, who was found wrapped in towels next to the Virgin Mary, says Jose Moran, the man who found the child.  

"I think it's beautiful," Parish Priest Christopher Heanue tells the New York Times. "A church is a home for those in need, and she felt, in this stable—a place where Jesus will find His home—a home for her child." 

The New York Daily News reports at least one parishioner has offered to adopt the child, who has been nicknamed "Baby Jesus." 

Even Moran's wife asked him why he didn't bring home the "Miracle baby." 

According to child welfare documents, churches are considered safe havens to leave infants. However, the parent must be present to hand the child over to church personnel when leaving the baby. 

Though the mother has yet to be identified, many in the community are praying for her and the child.  

"We can't imagine the desperation she must have gone through, but placing the baby in the manger where Jesus is born ... she wanted him to be close to Christ," Brooklyn-Queens Diocese spokeswoman Rocio Fidalgo tells the Daily News. "We may never meet her, but our prayers are with her."

Jessilyn Justice Featured U.S. News Wed, 25 Nov 2015 11:30:00 -0500
Have We Americanized the End-Time Prophecies?

Matthew 24 details the end of the age, something many in the American church have studied for decades, attempting to decipher what Jesus foretold.  

But others have largely ignored the prophecies, pastor Jim Bakker says, refusing to prepare, despite what the Bible commands.  

"Preachers are telling you nothing bad is coming and just give some money to our church and you'll be blessed," Bakker says. 

This act is creating a paradigm shift that is harming more churches than helping. 

Take a look.

Jessilyn Justice Featured Opinion Wed, 25 Nov 2015 11:00:00 -0500
Report: Justin Bieber Transforms Staples Center Into a Megachurch

When Justin Bieber led thousands in his Spirit-inspired prayer for the Paris attack victims, it wasn't his only outward expression of his faith.  

That same night, Bieber transformed the Staples Center into a megachurch, at least according to the Los Angeles Times. 

He credited his connection with God for helping him to get back on his feet after a string of widely publicized tabloid troubles," the LA Times Mikael Wood writes. "And when a fan in the audience — one of a dozen or so selected by the singer's team for a question-and-answer session — asked if he had any advice on how to get through a romantic breakup, he demurred, flashing a bit of the humility that every religious leader knows is crucial in establishing a bond with one's flock." 

The pop sensation appears to be embarking on a spiritual journey that has radically transformed his life.  

In 2014, Bieber tested positive for a smattering of drugs and prescription medications. Even major news outlets like ABC tracked the singer's misdeeds, identifying international locales where Bieber had run-ins with police.  

"I was in a weird place and felt it in my soul," Bieber says of his recent return to Christ. "I was so lost, and I'm like, 'Let me try to revisit my faith.'" 

But in recent months, Bieber's submitted himself to spiritual authorities and opened up about living with spiritual leaders, and working through his issues with other pastors, including his famed mentor Judah Smith

Bieber's return to the spotlight this year is tied significantly with his album "Purpose," which has been banned in some countries for being "too religious." 

"As transparent an image-rehab attempt as any in pop history, "Purpose" finds the singer apologising for his supposed misdeeds," Wood writes.

Jessilyn Justice Featured Culture Wed, 25 Nov 2015 10:30:00 -0500
The Triumph of Materialism: The Average American Will Spend $830 on Christmas in 2015

Has there ever been a major holiday more focused on materialism than the modern American Christmas?

This year, Americans are planning to spend an average of $830 on Christmas gifts, which represents a jump of $110 over the average $720 last year.

But have our incomes gone up accordingly? Of course not. In fact, real median household income in the United States has been experiencing a steady long-term decline. So in order to fund all of our Christmas spending, we have got to go into even more debt.

We love to pull out our credit cards and spend money that we do not have on lots of cheap, useless stuff made on the other side of the world by workers making slave labor wages. We do the same thing year after year, and most of us have grown accustomed to the endless cycle of growing debt. In fact, one Pew survey found that approximately 70 percent of all Americans believe that "debt is a necessity in their lives."

But then we have to work our fingers to the bone to try to make the payments on all of that debt, not realizing that debt systematically impoverishes us. It may be hard to believe, but if you have a single dollar in your pocket and no debt, you have a greater net worth than 25 percent of all Americans. I know that sounds crazy, but it is true.

Overall, when you add up all forms of debt (consumer, business, local government, state government and federal government), Americans are more than $60 trillion in debt.

Let that sink in for a bit.

40 years ago, that number was sitting at about $3 trillion.

We have been on the greatest debt binge in the history of the world. Even though we were "the wealthiest, most prosperous nation on the entire planet," we always had to have more. We just kept on borrowing and borrowing and borrowing from the future until we completely destroyed it.

And we still haven't learned anything. Instead, this Christmas season we will be partying like it's 2007:

Americans are planning on celebrating Christmas like it's 2007.

A November survey by Gallup found that U.S. adults are planning on spending about $830 on average on Christmas gifts this year.

That's a huge jump from last year's $720 average.

Notably, American consumers haven't suggested a number that high since November 2007, when they were planning on spending $866 on average.

Sadly, our incomes simply do not justify this kind of extravagance. As Zero Hedge has pointed out, household incomes "actually peaked at least 15 years ago in 81 percent of U.S. counties."

So why can't we adjust our lifestyles to match?

Why must we always have more?

Here are more details on our declining incomes from the Visual Capitalist:

  • Income peaked one year ago for many of the counties that are a part of the shale boom. This includes much of North and South Dakota, as well as parts of Texas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. Income in Washington, D.C. and neighboring Arlington County also peaked then.
  • In 1999, a total of 1,623 counties had their households reach peak income. The majority of these counties are in the Midwest and Southeast.
  • The most southern part of California and parts of New England both peaked around 25 years ago.
  • Many states along the Rocky Mountains such as Wyoming and Montana had counties that peaked roughly 35 years ago.
  • Household income peaked in upstate New York, the northern tip of California, and southern Nevada at the same time that humans were first landing on the moon in 1969.

But you won't hear this reported on the mainstream news, will you?

They want us to think that happy days are here again.

Americans should be having smaller Christmases instead of bigger ones, but that doesn't fit the image of who we still think that we are.

Recently, I published an article titled "Goodbye Middle Class: 51 Percent Of All American Workers Make Less Than $30,000 A Year" that was shared more than 44,000 times on Facebook. In that article, I included brand new figures that were just released by the Social Security Administration. As you can see, the quality of our jobs is not great:

  • 38 percent of all American workers made less than $20,000 last year.
  • 51 percent of all American workers made less than $30,000 last year.
  • 62 percent of all American workers made less than $40,000 last year.
  • 71 percent of all American workers made less than $50,000 last year.

Without a doubt, most American families should not be spending hundreds of dollars a year on Christmas gifts.

At these income levels, most American families are just barely surviving.

But once again this year, millions upon millions of Americans will flock to the malls and big box stores in a desperate attempt to make themselves happy.

Sadly, those efforts will be in vain. In fact, in a previous article I highlighted the fact that Christmas is the unhappiest season of the year. The suicide rate spikes to the highest level of the year during "the holidays," and 45 percent of all Americans report that they dread the Christmas season. The following is an excerpt from a Psychology Today article:

We are told that Christmas, for Christians, should be the happiest time of year, an opportunity to be joyful and grateful with family, friends and colleagues. Yet, according to the National Institute of Health, Christmas is the time of year that people experience the highest incidence of depression. Hospitals and police forces report the highest incidences of suicide and attempted suicide. Psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals report a significant increase in patients complaining about depression. One North American survey reported that 45 percent of respondents dreaded the festive season.

In recent years, an increasing number of Americans have given up the tradition of Christmas gifts entirely, and many of them that I know seem quite happy to have done so.

Of course most people are still quite satisfied with the status quo, and there are many that will get very angry with you if you dare to suggest that the way that Americans celebrate Christmas has gotten way out of hand.

But shouldn't it alarm us that for most Americans the biggest holiday of the year is all about the "stuff" they are going to buy, the "stuff" they are going to give and the "stuff" they are going to get?

As a society, we are obsessed with things, but those things are never going to make us happy.

Perhaps we should all take some time to reflect on the traditions that we choose to participate in and what they really mean to us during this "holiday season."

Michael Snyder Featured Opinion Wed, 25 Nov 2015 10:00:00 -0500
Pastor Charged With Murder in New York Teen Beating Death

Seven people who prosecutors say were involved in the beating death of a teenager during a counseling session at an upstate New York church were indicted on second-degree murder charges on Tuesday by a grand jury. 

Lucas Leonard, 19, was beaten to death in October over 10 hours during a counseling session at the Word of Life Church in Chadwicks, New York, about 50 miles (80 km) east of Syracuse, prosecutors said. 

His brother, Christopher, 17, received blunt force injuries when he was repeatedly struck during the same session, which was initiated because Lucas Leonard wanted to leave the congregation, prosecutors said. 

The grand jury's indictment charged the brothers' father, Bruce Leonard, 65, with 13 criminal counts including second-degree murder, kidnapping and gang assault. 

Charges of second-degree murder, kidnapping and gang assault were also brought against church pastor Tiffanie Irwin, 29; Traci Irwin, David Morey, 26, Linda Morey, 54, and Joseph Irwin, 26, who were all congregants at the church; and Sarah Ferguson, 33, the half-sister of Lucas and Christopher, the court document showed. 

At least some of the Irwins are related to each other. 

Tiffanie Irwin and Traci Irwin originally were not charged in the incident, while the other five were initially charged with first-degree manslaughter in Lucas Leonard's death. 

An eighth person, church deacon Daniel Irwin, 24, was indicted on charges of second-degree manslaughter, kidnapping and gang assault. 

The brothers' mother, Deborah Leonard, 59, was not named in the grand jury indictment but will appear in Oneida County Court on Dec. 2 to face separate charges of first-degree assault against Lucas and second-degree assault in Christopher's beating, according to her lawyer Devin Garramone. 

Deborah Leonard was initially charged with manslaughter, but Garramone said that charge was dropped.

Attorneys for the other people charged in the case could not be reached for comment. 

Christopher Leonard, during a preliminary hearing last month, testified that he and his brother were beaten with an electric extension cord fashioned into a whip. 

He said Tiffanie Irwin organized the counseling session. 

Christopher said he attempted to resuscitate his brother before the boys were loaded into two separate vans. Lucas was transported to St. Luke's hospital in Utica, New York, where he was pronounced dead, prosecutors said. 

Most of those indicted in the case remain in jail on bail of tens of thousands of dollars each, while David and Linda Morey have been released on bail of $50,000 each, according to jail records. {eoa}

© 2015 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

TG Branfalt Jr/Reuters Featured U.S. News Wed, 25 Nov 2015 09:30:00 -0500
Why House Republicans Are Serious About Refugee Security
Nearly one-third of the Republicans in the House of Representatives signed a letter calling on party leaders to ensure that a must-pass spending bill block any use of federal funding to resettle refugees from Syria and nearby countries, the bill's sponsor said on Tuesday.
Seventy-four of the 246 House Republicans signed the letter, which was circulated by Republican Representative Brian Babin.
It urges Speaker Paul Ryan and other House leaders to include a provision in an upcoming appropriations bill that would block President Barack Obama's plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year.
Passage of a bill with such language by the Republican-controlled Congress could set up a showdown with Obama, who has promised to veto a standalone bill passed by the House last week setting tighter controls on refugee resettlement.
Congressional aides are negotiating the $1 trillion-plus spending bill, facing a Dec. 11 deadline for it to pass the House and Senate and be signed into law by Obama to avoid a government shutdown.
Ryan's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.
The attacks in Paris earlier this month fueled a wave of anti-refugee sentiment in the United States that had been rising since Obama announced his plan to admit Syrians in September. Many Americans worry that the mostly Muslim newcomers would pose a national security threat, although they go through up to two years of screening before they are allowed into the country.
The Babin letter said Congress must "exercise greater authority" over the refugee resettlement program to ensure the safety of the U.S. public.
"ISIS (Islamic State) has repeatedly declared that they would infiltrate the refugee community that is leaving the Middle East and flooding into Europe. The November 13 attacks in Paris appear to have been a fulfillment of that threat," the letter said. {eoa}
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)
©2015 Thomson Reuters. All Rights Reserved.
PATRICIA ZENGERLE/REUTERS Featured Issues Caucus Wed, 25 Nov 2015 08:00:00 -0500
Give Caregivers (Tax) Credit, Clinton Says
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Sunday proposed a tax credit offsetting up to $6,000 in costs associated with caring for elderly and disabled family members, and allowing caregivers to accrue Social Security retirement benefits for such work.
The maximum value of the caregiving credit would be $1,200 for qualifying families and is the latest in a series of tax proposals Clinton plans to introduce aimed at boosting the middle class.
"That will help family budgets stretch, it will help seniors maintain independence," Clinton said Sunday at a campaign stop in Iowa, which holds the first party-nominating contest in February.
Clinton has previously announced a tax credit of $2,500 for an individual or $5,000 for a family to cover high healthcare costs and another credit that would cover some of the expense of attending college.
There are about 12 million people in the United States who need long-term care and that number is expected to grow to 27 million by 2050 as the population ages. Clinton said the economic value of the unpaid work provided by family caregivers of the aging and disabled was $470 billion in 2013.
Assisting adults caring for their aging parents – often while also raising their own children or helping with grandchildren – has become a theme at Clinton's campaign stops.
Clinton met New Hampshire resident Keith Thompson before a September appearance. Thompson told the former secretary of state and U.S. senator he sometimes takes his elderly mother with him to his part-time job because they cannot otherwise afford reliable care.
"You know your story is so incredibly moving and it's also a story for so many people, that's what I keep finding, everywhere I go," Clinton told Thompson in a video of the exchange provided by the campaign.
Clinton has cited Thompson's story frequently since.
Taxes are shaping up to be a differentiator between Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination to run in the November 2016 election, and her challengers, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley.
Clinton's campaign says she is committed to not raising but cutting taxes for the middle class and criticized some of Sanders' proposals, such as his healthcare plan, saying it would necessitate raising taxes on moderate wage earners.
In a statement on Clinton's tax proposals, Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs said, "It's too late for tentative half-steps that sound Republican-lite." {eoa}
(Reporting By Amanda Becker; Editing by Adrian Croft and Jonathan Oatis)
©2015 Thomson Reuters. All Rights Reserved.
Amanda Becker/Reuters Featured Primaries Caucus Wed, 25 Nov 2015 10:00:00 -0500
Restoring Israel: What Is The One New Man?

As we quickly approach the last days before Yeshua/Jesus returns, the mystery to awaken and restore Israel into the family in the One New Man becomes tantamount in God's glorious plan to establish His kingdom upon the earth.

In this light, the Holy Spirit is shifting His focus onto a very necessary spiritual restoration in God's family between Jew and Gentile, in order that His end-time plans may actually come about through us. I call this the Re-connection. The truth is that both groups are intricately linked together into these plans and are actually in great need of one another, yet presently the family of God is divided and separate.

As a result, I am beginning a new series called, "What is The One New Man?" In these articles we will explore and re-examine the pertinent Scriptures on the One New Man, as well as issues related to Israel and the Church. We will interview leaders from both sides of the family to gain a better understanding. However, the main goal here is to help bring the body of Messiah/Christ into a greater unity and depth of understanding of this mystery; the goal is not necessarily to see it anymore from either a Gentile or Jewish lens, but rather through the heart of the Father who longs for His family to be one. To be united into His end-time purposes and plans to mobilize us into the fray (John 17:23). 

Ephesians 2:11-22 - Written For God's Children From The Nations

This is the only text in the entire New Covenant Scripture that refers to the term, "One New Man", so it is a good place for us to start. This text is written specifically to Gentile believers to clearly communicate what has now transpired through the releasing of the New Covenant in Yeshua/Jesus.

Verse 11 begins with "Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh." However, it may help us to better comprehend this text if we have a clearer understanding of the apostle Paul's vision and purpose for his ministry here, which was to win the Gentiles to the faith and to unite the family between Jew and Gentile.

Please also understand that within this context Paul had quite a challenge on his hands to be able to convince Gentile believers of their now complete and total equality with their Jewish brethren in Messiah/Christ. After all, referring to the Jews, Paul writes, "Israelites, to whom belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises, to whom belong the patriarchs, and from whom, according to the flesh, is Christ, who is over all, God forever blessed. Amen" (Rom. 9:4-5).

So one could imagine that, in the beginning of Paul's ministry, he had to work hard to lay a strong foundation and be able to explain how this was now possible, as both Jew and Gentile needed to embrace the cross in order to pass over from sin's curse, which the law fully exposed. Messiah/Christ now made an entrance for all of His children, both Jew and Gentile alike. The fullness of the law through the Spirit indwelled each of us as we yielded to Messiah/Christ, who are now joined together and rise to become His Holy Temple (Eph. 2:21).

While the Jews actually came through the law, and Gentiles came after it through Messiah/Christ, both had to fully embrace the message of the cross in order to find the fullness of the New Covenant: "And He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father (Eph. 2:17-18). This alone should be enough to kill the concept of dual covenant theology, which somehow gives a pass to the Jews believing in God but not embracing the cross concerning their salvation.

As a result, Paul lays out to us one of the clearest explanations in the Bible of what has actually transpired through the Gospel, as it relates to both Jew and Gentile in the family of God. Look at the very first point he makes here. He reminds Gentile believers what they were excluded from before they believed in Yeshua/Jesus, obviously now inferring that through Messiah/Christ they are now fellow citizens with Israel, or as the NAS and KJV put it, a commonwealth of Israel and sharers of the covenants of the promise.

Ephesians 2:19 continues, "Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God." Please note here that Paul did not have to explain this to the Jewish believers. By this time, they were already aware of how the Holy Spirit had opened the door for Gentiles coming to faith. Rather, Paul needed to convince God's children from the nations that they were now included in the Israel of God.

Ephesians 2:20 points to an Israelite-like body built upon the apostles and prophets, of which the Messiah was its cornerstone. This was the Jewish governing authority that the Lord established the Kingdom of God to go out from, along with its five-fold focus to equip the saints for good works. We are grafted into Israel as fellow citizens with equal rights.

Ephesians 3:6 makes clear another component of Paul's argument: "The Gentiles are fellow heirs, and fellow members, and partakers of the promise in Christ by the gospel." Yet why is it today that, when we think of the Church, we see it as such a separate entity from the very commonwealth that we have been grafted into, as if the Gentile Church replaces Israel?

Am I missing something here, for is not belief in Yeshua/Jesus actually Jewish? When one believes in Him, do we not become children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and inherit the covenants that were also given to Israel? So why do we consider Christianity in such a gentile manner?

The Disconnection

While the church prospered greatly under the persecution of the then Roman Empire with great signs and wonders accompanying its efforts, something hugely significant was lost when Rome looked to adopt the faith and nationalized it. I call this the Disconnection. Not only was the governing structure and focus of the Church altered through its leadership—adapting numerous pagan beliefs in the process and moving us away from God's calendar—but all connections to its roots and heritage to Israel were cut and eventually lost.

This established Christianity as a separate and distinct religion, even teaching that the Church had now succeeded Israel with all of the promises and covenants relating to them and not to Israel. In reality, belief in Yeshua/Jesus is the only true and proper extension of Judaism fulfilled in the New Covenant itself, which was given to Israel through Yeshua/Jesus, who then took its message out to the nations through the apostles and prophets so that God's other children could be grafted into the fold (John 10:16).

There are key words for us to understand here, such as "together with Israel" and "fellow citizens with God's people" that point to the fact that, within the unity of the One New Man, there existed two distinct groups, one that was Jewish and one Gentile. Yet both now co-existed in a heavenly unity within the Spirit that will ultimately reflect God's priesthood upon the earth when Yeshua/Jesus comes back to reign.

The One New Man does not wipe out these distinctions, as the Church has taught; rather, it upholds and blesses them. God was not calling Gentiles to be Jews from within this unity, for He created the Nations and their uniqueness, but rather to express their beliefs through Israel, which was lost when the Church disconnected itself. This must be restored now if Israel is to be won back to faith.

Yet it wasn't long after the Roman world took control of the Church that the only entrance into the olive tree of Israel became fully Gentile, with absolutely no Jewish expression being permitted.

While the disconnection may have been tolerable during God's sole focus on gathering His children from the Nations (God has been equitable in time spent on His family: 2,000 years on the firstborn from Abraham to Yeshua/Jesus and 2000 years on His children from the Nations), as we enter the time of the fullness of the Gentiles, the Holy Spirit is shifting us.

As a result, this breach must be restored to reunite us and make us one. This will not only prepare us for His coming to properly reflect the commonwealth we are grafted into, which is inherently Jewish, but also for one of our greatest ever roles, which is to help breathe spiritual life back into the rest of Israel with the mercy of God we have received, who must be awakened before He returns (Rom. 11:30-32). For we will become far more effective in our evangelism and witness back towards the Jewish people when we are reconnected to our roots and heritage properly, drawing them to jealousy instead of presenting the current Gentile branch of the faith, which is completely foreign to them and which was used to persecute and kill their ancestors.

The Natural Branch Must Be Restored

My second book, The Ezekiel Generation, really focuses on this. His family is not complete until the broken branch of Israel is grafted back into the tree and our Father's covenants and promises to restore His firstborn children have come to pass.

Israel cannot be grafted back into the Gentile branch of the faith, but must be restored to their own natural branch, which calls for a great realignment in our thinking and our eschatology, which up to this point has had the Church and Israel on separate paths before the Lord's return. There are reasons why we have not been able to see this role and Reconnection up until this time, which The Ezekiel Generation fully brings to light. 

The natural branch is already re-emerging in the form of the Messianic Movement and many Jewish believers coming to faith in the Church. However, they truly need our help and support to fulfill their own callings. They need to live out their own identities as Jewish believers, so that Yeshua's light can shine back to the rest of Israel through them.

It is time for us both, as Jews and Gentiles in the faith, to begin to hang up our own individual perspectives that are keeping us apart. The fullness of the revelation of the One New Man will not come to us from either side, but only when we are dwelling together in unity.

We need to see this reunion in His family from our Father's perspective, who loves all of His children equally but longs for His firstborn to be restored. It is only with His heart and His Spirit that we will be able to fully engage and fulfill His plans for us. His purposes have us intricately linked during these days to fulfill His plans upon the earth and which includes a mutual love and respect for one another.

In next month's article, I will teach from Romans 11. {eoa}

To listen to the Bible Study at Messiah's House on Ephesians 2:11-22, please click here.

Grant Berry is a Jewish believer in Yeshua/Jesus and author of The New Covenant Prophecy and The Ezekiel Generation. He has founded Reconnecting Ministries with the specific focus to help the church reconnect spiritually to Israel and considers it vital to the kingdom of God in the last days. His website is

Grant Berry Featured Standing With Israel Opinion Wed, 25 Nov 2015 06:00:00 -0500
Opinion: Is ISIS Like the Philistine Army in 1 Samuel 5?

Radical Islam is a carcinogenic, a poison every bit as toxic as Nazism. Muslim Jihadists, like Hitler in 1938, interpret leniency as weakness, thus fueling their crusade for world domination and further aggrandizement.

Islam, the religion of peace, seeks to prevail over each and all religions, attacking non-Muslims, looting possessions and property, killing the males, enslaving the females and children, forced conversion to Islam, honor killings, forced marches, beatings, and hard labor. If that's not enough degradation, the women and older girls suffer from ritual gang rape, genital mutilation and a life of sexual servitude.

Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, addressed radical Islam last Sunday morning. Click here to watch a critical six-minute clip of the sermon.

Christians in America, individually and corporately, have reached their kairos — their defining moment in history. The first requirement for spiritual blessing is to admit that we cannot save ourselves. Until we admit our insufficiency, God does not move to save us. And, there is no safety in distance from God.

To digress, let's identify a few of the culprits for the mayhem in America.

First, consider the Supreme Court of the United States, the administration of President Obama, and the United States Congress. The secularists on the Supreme Court have joined together with the White House in refusing to admit that God is the ultimate source of standards for righteousness and governance. Tinkering with His definition of marriage, morality, and justice offends Him directly, bringing judgment on a nation.

Then, the gutlessness of the legislative branch's refusal to defy the tyrannical work of SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) and POTUS (President of the United States) is an appalling display of cowardice. But when Congress capitulates, it abdicates its legitimate Constitutional role of "checks and balances," the principle established by the Founder's to deny any of the three branches of government from amassing excessive power and threatening freedom.

Solomon gave insight into our predicament: "The Lord has made all for himself, yes, even the wicked for the day of doom" (Proverbs 16:4). In God's economy, even evil beasts have a purpose.

ISIS, like the Philistine army in 1 Samuel 5, is merely an instrument in the hands of the living God. Keith Krell explains: "...the Philistines misinterpreted their victory. The only reason that they had defeated Israel was because Yahweh was using the Philistines to discipline His people. How much better it would have been for His glory to be revealed on the battlefield, but He couldn't give victory to a disobedient people. The living God cannot be used, manipulated, or managed. God allows Himself to be humiliated and exalted. But through it all, He will not compromise His holiness or integrity. In the church God often appears to be losing because Christians refuse to submit to His lordship. The Lord longs to show up in a powerful way, but He is waiting for us to be holy as he is holy. So instead of blaming the church for being anemic, lethargic, and irrelevant, perhaps we should blame ourselves." (Keith Krell, 1 Samuel).

God deploys His messengers not for driving people or nations away from Him, but to Him. If ISIS brings disaster, against God's will, then He is helpless to deliver, as He was helpless to prevent its coming. (John N. Oswalt, Isaiah).

Proverbs 10:25, "When the whirlwind passes by, the wicked is no more, but the righteous has an everlasting foundation." Surrendering America's Judeo-Christian heritage and Biblical-based culture will have consequences, "This gale hits everyone, not just the wicked. Thus it represents whatever crisis or disaster befalls a society, not a punishment for a particular sin." (Michael V. Fox, Proverbs).

Yet the compassion and faithfulness of God to His children is everlasting. The Lord "has always made possible an escape from his wrath for those who would avail themselves to it. So Noah escaped the flood, Lot escaped Sodom, and the Hebrew people escaped the death of the firstborn. God does not want any to perish, and anyone who will may find the refuge of his grace." (John N. Oswalt).

God is the sole sovereign of the universe, and while evil and destruction seem to be winning, (i.e., ISIS threatening the principles of justice and the U.S. Supreme Court violating the moral order upon which America was founded) they will not prevail.

"God will triumph and those who have kept the faith with him through dark days will triumph with him. But the true monster which must be destroyed, the one before which God's people find themselves, is not some primordial chaos; it is the monster of moral evil. That, too, God will destroy, and his people may await that day with joy." (John N. Oswalt).

As for those who call on the name of the Lord, the spiritual resurrection of America will likely come in our helplessness, for the Lord longs to show up in a big way. He waits for His people to be holy (1 Peter 1:16).

God is simply looking for a Gideon or Rahab to stand.

David Lane/American Renewal Project Featured Opinions Caucus Wed, 25 Nov 2015 09:00:00 -0500
5 Nutritious Foods You Should Eat Every Day

We all know how important it is to eat a wide variety of foods. The more different kinds of foods we eat, the more likely it is that our bodies will get all the substances they require for good health and high energy.

But there are exceptions, world-renowned nutrition expert and Olympic athletic coach Dieter Hogen tells Newsmax Health.

"Some foods are so good for you that you can and should eat them every day," says Hogen, who created a nutrition and training regimen in the 1990s that changed the elite athletes' training programs forever. 

"Indeed, they can become important pillars of your nutritional program that keep you in good shape for many years to come."

Here are five foods Hogen recommends eating every day:

1. Nuts and seeds. They all have one thing in common: They provide high amounts of a wide variety of healthy fatty acids. The fact that they also contain lots of fiber, essential amino acids, and powerful antioxidants makes them highly nutritious, disease-fighting foods. "I include ground flax seeds in my daily smoothie and have walnuts as a snack," Hogen says.

2. Omega-3 foods or supplements. We simply can't live without omega-3 fatty acids. They are called "essential" fats for good reason—they are necessary for proper functioning of many body parts, including the brain, ears, eyes, glands, heart, skin, and joints. Good vegetarian sources of omega-3s are flax, chia, and hemp seeds and their oils. But the best sources of bioavailable omega-3 substances EPA and DHA are omega-3 eggs and small, cold-water fish like salmon, herring, trout, and sardines. 

"On days when you don't eat any of these, take the recommended dose of a contaminant-free omega-3 supplement," Hogen advises. "I eat omega-3 food every day, but also take a wild salmon and krill oil supplement each day.

3. Herbs and spices. They are extremely high in many kinds of powerful, cancer-fighting antioxidants and improve digestion. They stimulate our senses and make eating a much more rewarding experience. "I wouldn't want to live without," Hogen says. "Basil is my favorite because it goes so well with tomatoes and tomato sauces. I'm also big on pepper, turmeric, dill, cilantro, and many others."

4. Low-starch vegetables. Low- and non-starch vegetables have high water and fiber content, but are low in calories. The carbohydrates they contain are slow digesting, and therefore stabilize blood sugar. They are powerhouses of antioxidants, containing extremely high amounts of vitamins, minerals, and cancer-fighting phytochemicals.

Dark green leafy vegetables like kale and chard have been identified as the most nutrient-dense foods on earth. Because different colors represent different phytochemicals that protect against different diseases, we like the traffic light approach, combining green, yellow, and red ones as often as possible. 

"There can be just one message: Eat as much as you can!" Hogen says. "My favorite vegetable (yes, I know that technically it is a fruit) is the tomato. I love the fact that tomatoes have so many uses—fresh in salads, cooked in stews, sauces, salsa, ketchup, and more."

5. Fruit. Sweet, juicy, and refreshing, fruits provide lots of fiber, and just like veggies, are extremely healthy because of the high amounts of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals they contain. But there is one little problem — they are high in sugar. Because of that, limit the amount of fruit you eat and stay away from concentrated fruit juices.

"Each day I have three to four servings of whole fruits like an orange, an apple, or a cup of berries. Sometimes I go with mango, pineapple, melon, grapes, or something else that's in season," Hogen says.

"Choosing just one product from each of these five food groups and eating it every day will make a big contribution to your health and longevity."

For the original article, visit

Newsmax Health Staff Featured Opinion Wed, 25 Nov 2015 09:00:00 -0500
The Underground Revival in the Middle East That Might Take Down Islam

The churning, tempestuous world looks remarkably different than many imagine. This is undoubtedly true if you're an average American. 

In the darkest corners of the Middle East there's a revival beginning that's unprecedented in the history of world missions. I've previously reflected on it here and here, but I wanted to take this amazing story further than before.

I hope that you'll journey with me as I explore unbelievable developments in the expansion of Christianity in the Middle East.

Reliable reports suggest more Muslims have become followers of Jesus over the last two decades than in Islam's combined 1,500-year history. Based on the accounts of several missiologists, it has been surmised that "more Muslims have committed to follow Christ in the last 10 years than in the last 15 centuries of Islam."[1] In spite of great difficulty and turmoil, Christianity is unquestionably expanding throughout Islamic world. God is up to something amazing in a region that many have thought was unreachable.
Rosenberg's Insights Into the Middle-Eastern Revival 

Joel Rosenberg, an evangelical researcher, author and resident of Israel has documented the recent upsurge of Christianity in the Middle-East. Through first-hand reconnaissance, coupled with reports from Arabic nationals, Rosenberg demonstrates that Christianity is rising rapidly in the world of Islam. 

Admittedly some of the following statistics have shifted in the aftermath of the ISIS and other violent demonstrations against Christians. Those who follow Jesus have been slaughtered and have experienced severe persecution in this region. Nevertheless, Joel Rosenberg's observations provide a window into many amazing developments.

Some of the particulars can certainly be debated, but in many of the Mediterranean nations, Christianity is making extraordinary inroads. Though the subsequent conversion figures are impossible to confirm, even in their imprecision, they provide a snapshot of what's transpiring in the Middle East.


A number of reports suggest that increasing numbers of Christ-followers are emerging in the brutal, war-torn nation of Sudan. Here, in the Nile river valley—along the Islamic strongholds of Northern Africa—it is being noted that:

"One million Sudanese have turned to Christ since the year 2000—not in spite of persecution, war and genocide, but because of them ... the estimated total number of believers in the country is more than 5.5 million."[2]

Many are convinced that the great brutalities that this nation has encountered are becoming a catalyst for the expansion and growth of Christianity. Rather than inhibiting the church, the war is actually propelling it.


Pakistan is typically not identified as a nation experiencing a move of God, but apparently they're beginning to see one spark within their contentious borders. Christianity's Middle-Eastern expansion is particularly evident in this unexpected place. Rosenberg acknowledges that:

"Senior Pakistani Christian leaders tell me there is a 'conversion explosion' going on in their country.There are now an estimated 2.5 million to 3 million born-again Pakistani believers worshiping Jesus Christ. Whole towns and villages along the Afghan-Pakistani border are ... converting to Christianity."[3]

This Islamic country is not alone, many others in this region are having similar things take place.


Reliable reports suggest that there is also a great revival erupting in the land of Egypt. Rosenberg declares that, "Ministry leaders in Egypt estimate there are more than 2.5 million followers of Jesus Christ in their country. Many of these are Muslim converts."[4]

Undoubtedly, the severe persecutions and disruptions related to the "Arab Spring" have affected the lives of Christians throughout this nation, but the faithful have remained strong. Martyrdom invites outsiders to examine the claims of those willing to die for Jesus. It is believed that many amazing things are taking place in Egypt.


Surprisingly, the contentious nation of Iran is also beginning to encounter the rising flames of awakening. Violent Islamic Fundamentalism has not been able to impede the advancement of the gospel in this fierce Persian nation. Reflecting on this reality, Rosenberg writes,

"At the time of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, there were only about five hundred known Muslim converts to Jesus inside the country. By 2000, a survey of Christian demographic trends reported that there were two hundred twenty thousand Christians inside Iran, of which between four and twenty thousand were Muslim converts. And according to Iranian Christian leaders I interviewed, the number of Christ-followers inside their country shot dramatically higher between 2000 and 2008."[5] 

Yes, you read that right. Christianity went from 500 people to 220,000 in 21 years. Contrary to what many Americans think, Christianity is quietly advancing behind the scenes in some of the most unlikely places around the globe.

Saudi Arabia

Reports continue to come in. A strikingly similar stirring is also taking place in Saudi Arabia—unquestionably the epicenter of world Islam. One wouldn't expect the growth of Christianity in Mecca, but it is happening. Summarizing some of what he has heard, Joel Rosenberg reports that "Arab Christian leaders estimated there were more than one hundred thousand Saudi Muslim background believers in 2005, and they believe the numbers are even higher today."[6] Saudi Arabia is being quickened by the Spirit of the Lord. It seems to be positioned to experience significant growth in the decades to come.


Christianity is also quietly advancing in the turbulent nation of Iraq. Again, it needs to be noted that these numbers precede the vicious emergence of ISIS and the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Multitudes of Christians have been martyred since these figures were originally reported. Yet, even the fact that Muslims felt compelled to quell its advancement suggests that Christianity's influence has been growing.

"Before 2003, senior Iraqi Christian leaders tell me, there were only about four to six hundred known born-again followers of Jesus Christ in the entire country, despite an estimated seven hundred fifty thousand nominal Christians in historic Iraqi churches. By the end of 2008, Iraqi Christian leaders estimated that there were more than seventy thousand born-again Iraqi believers."[7]

As many are aware, the expansion of Christianity has been greatly hindered more recently in Iraq. Don't be mistaken, this martyrdom and brutality will ultimately give way to more Christians in the land once known as Babylon.


The whole Islamic world is currently shaking. We have already discussed some of the amazing advancements that are taking place in several of Arabic nations. These are where the greatest signs of revival are evident. Nevertheless, on a lesser level, other Islamic nations are also experiencing a tremendous stirring within their borders. One of these is Algeria. Rosenberg recounts the recent upsurge in Algeria, noting that: 

"More than eighty thousand Muslims have become followers of Christ in recent years. ... The surge of Christianity has become so alarming to Islamic clerics that in March of 2006, Algerian officials passed a law banning Muslims from becoming Christians or even learning about Christianity, and forbidding Christians from meeting together without a license from the government."[8]

Algeria is beginning to come alive with the gospel like much of Northern Africa.


Another ancient Middle-Eastern locale where Christianity is beginning to take root is along the borders the eastern bank of the Jordan River. The Islamic land of Jordan is also experiencing the grace and wonder of Jesus. Reflecting on what is transpiring in this nation, Rosenberg noted the following:

"God has been reviving the Jordanian Church in the last four decades, and particularly in the past few years. Conservative estimates say the number of believers in the country is now between five and ten thousand. The head of one major Jordanian ministry, however, believes there may be as many as fifty thousand believers in the country."[9]

Jordan is also experiencing the salvation of Jesus Christ.
Other Islamic Nations

Almost every Islamic nation has been experiencing a significant upsurge of Christianity over the last 20 years. Though the numbers aren't equally high, all are experiencing the impact on some level. Here are some of the other reports. 

While in the nation of Morocco it has been claimed that "between 20,000 and 40,000 Muslims have become Christ-followers."[10] Rosenberg suggests that, "The number of Afghan believers is now between 20,000 and 30,000."[11] In Kazakhstan "there are more than fifteen thousand Kazakh Christians, and more than one hundred thousand Christians of all ethnicities."[12] Reflecting on Lebanon, Rosenberg suggests that, "there are about ten thousand truly born-again followers of Jesus Christ today."[13] Reports suggest there were no Muslim background Christians in Syria fifty years ago, but today "there are between four and five thousand born-again believers in the country."[14]

Rosenberg's figures suggest that there are over 13 million Christians in Islamic countries, and a majority of them are from a Muslim background.

Other Observers 

We find that Joel Rosenberg isn't the only one observing the changing conditions within the broader Islamic world. There are other evidences of a notable transformation taking place. For example, journalist George Thomas notes that:

"A Christian revival is touching the northernmost reaches of Africa. In a region once hostile to the gospel, now tens of thousands of Muslims are following Jesus. As the sun sets over the Mediterranean Sea, Muslims across Northern Africa are converting to faith in Jesus Christ in record numbers. ... What experts say is that there is a profound move of God in the predominantly Muslim nations of Mauritania, Western Sahara, Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia."[15]

Tino Qahoush, a researcher and filmmaker, has been traveling to various parts of this region to document the Christian revival that has been taking place. Reflecting on what he observed, he noted the following, 

"What God is doing in North Africa, all the way from actually Mauritanian to Libya is unprecedented in the history of missions. I have the privilege of recording testimonies and listening to firsthand stories of men and women, of all ages."[16]

Jayson Casper, a journalist with Christianity Today, also pointed out some astounding growth that's taking place in the Arabian Peninsula. He writes:

"Today the Pew Research Center numbers Christians in the Arabian Peninsula at 2.3 million—more Christians than nearly 100 countries can claim. The Gulf Christian Fellowship, an umbrella group, estimates 3.5 million. ... United Arab Emirates Christian population ... [is] 13 percent, according to Pew. Among other Gulf states, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar each about 14 percent Christian, while Oman is about 6 percent. Even Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest cities (Mecca and Medina), is 4 percent Christian."[17]

One of the best examples of the expansion of Christianity within Muslim lands is through the work of Heidi and Roland Baker. Along with their church plants and trained workers from Iris Ministries, the Bakers have made an extraordinary impact on the brutal nation of Mozambique. The province that they currently operate in was entirely Muslim before their arrival, but a little over 10 years later those figures have changed drastically. Kelly Head from Christ for the Nations writes,

"The Bakers are now based full-time in Pemba, Mozambique, in an area where Heidi says was once called a 'graveyard to missionaries.' But recently the government announced publicly that it's no longer a Muslim providence; now it's a Christian providence."[18]

The abrupt changes to the once Muslim Africa are something even the Islamic clerics are beginning to acknowledge. In December 2001, Sheikh Ahmad al Qataani, the president of The Companions Lighthouse for the Science of Islamic Law in Libya, appeared on a live interview on Al-Jazeera satellite television. He declared the following:

"Islam used to represent, as you previously mentioned, Africa's main religion, and there were 30 African languages that used to be written in Arabic script. The number of Muslims in Africa has diminished to 316 million, half of whom are Arabs in North Africa. So in the section of Africa that we are talking about, the non Arab section, the number of Muslims does not exceed 150 million people. When we realize that the entire population of Africa is one billion people, we see that the number of Muslims has diminished greatly from what it was in the beginning of the last century. ... As to how that happened, well, there are now 1.5 million churches whose congregations account for 46 million people. In every hour, 667 Muslims convert to Christianity. Every day, 16,000 Muslims convert to Christianity. Every year, 6 million Muslims convert to Christianity. These numbers are very large indeed."[19]

It is obvious from these and other reports that Christianity is advancing. Yet, the question is: "Why?" Interestingly, it may have a lot to do with something many in the West would discount. 

Why Is Christianity Finally Growing in the Middle East?

Throughout the Mediterranean world there's a high regard for dreams. They comprehend them the same way that individuals during the early biblical period did. Islam in particular, places a great value on nocturnal visions. Ever since Muhammad retreated to a cave in A.D. 610 and began to experience what he considered to be revelatory visions, Muslims have greatly valued impressions they may receive while they're asleep. Timothy Morgan notes that dreams are a "part of the reality of their world. Mohammad listened to dreams, and he gave Muslims the impression that God could speak through them. So they do listen to them, and they do talk about them."[20]

Tom Doyle, an evangelist, pastor and the E3 Partners Ministry Director for the Middle East and Central Asia noted the following: 

"Outside of the Scriptures, Egyptian history records a significant amount of information about dreams and visions, many of which became determining factors in the overall direction of the nation. One archaeological find close to the Pyramids revealed that ancient Egyptian scribe named Kenhirkhopeshef kept a papyrus document called the Dream Book. The book is a catalog of 108 dreams and the activities and emotions that accompanied them."[21]

Interestingly, over the last two decades there have been numerous claims of Muslims having dreams about Jesus and ultimately coming to faith. Url Scaramanga, writing in conservative evangelical journal, acknowledges that "stories of Muslims coming to faith in Christ because of a vision or dream are not uncommon."[22]

It is easy to dismiss this, but I think Christians should remain open to all of the various ways that God operates. It may seem inexplicable to us, but it seems that dreams are a primary way that Middle-Eastern people are open to encountering God. Reflecting on the significance of these nocturnal visions, Nabeel Qureshi writes:

"I think the reason why dreams are an important component of people leaving Islam and accepting Christ is that most Muslims believe that God reveals himself and his will to them in dreams. In fact, it seems to be the only way that they believe God will reveal his will to them. So they have faith that God will direct them, so God uses their faith for his purposes."[23]

With all the questions and concerns about this approach, there's interest in determining to what extent dreams are driving evangelism among Muslims. Georges Houssney prepared a questionnaire and, over a period of three years, asked 100 Christian converts from Islam how they came to faith. When asked, "What was the major factor in drawing you to Christ?" 25 percent of Houssney's respondents acknowledged that dreams and visions were the primary catalyst that brought them to salvation. Furthermore, 60 percent of the respondents acknowledged that they had experienced a relevant dream or vision or both prior to their conversion.[24]

The reality of these transforming dreams are being widely acknowledged, even though they are a bit unsettling for those in the conservative evangelical community. Reflecting on his own experience, Tom Doyle says: 

"I'm not a skeptic by nature. I'm actually known as a being fairly trusting. But when I began hearing about Muslims having dreams and visions of Jesus, I must say I was quite the doubting Thomas. I think it's because I have watched a few Christian television programs. ... About a decade ago, those of us who work in Muslim outreach started to hear about something new in the world of Islam. God was opening the closed hearts of Muslims by giving them spectacular dreams and visions. At first, the stories were rare, but today these amazing accounts of God breaking through to Muslims have become a common occurrence. We find that about one out of every three Muslim-background believers has had a dream or vision prior to their salvation experience. Some more precise surveys are a bit more conservative and suggest a little over 25 percent of Muslims had a dream or a vision before becoming disciples of Jesus. Either way, the percentage is significant." [25]

Though they may be misunderstood and largely outside the norm in the West, dreams are certainly changing things throughout the Arab world.

Testimonies of Former Muslims

Many Middle-Eastern Christians publicly acknowledge the fact that dreams actively facilitated them coming into a saving knowledge of Jesus. For example, Nabeel Qureshi is a former devout Muslim. He became a believer in part through a visionary experience. When recounting his conversion he writes:

"When I contrasted the evidence for Christianity against the evidence for Islam I knew that intellectually there was no comparison. So I asked God to reveal Himself to me in truth, through dreams and visions. All those things, combined with actually reading the Bible, are what drove me forward to the point of accepting Christ."[26]

When asked about his conversion to Christianity from Islam, Pastor Naeem Fazal of Mosaic Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, mentioned several things that impacted him. He pointed out things like friendship with a knowledgeable Christian as well as reading the Bible. However, it was a particular supernatural encounter that brought him into a moment of crisis. Having a visionary experience one night, Fazal had an encounter that forever shifted the course of his life.

"It looked like a figure made up with light—solid, yet transparent. It was an experience like no other. The peace I felt from this presence was so powerful, so aggressive ... and [He] introduced Himself to me and said, 'I'm Jesus; your life is not your own.' The next morning my life changed forever." [27]

Fazal acknowledges that he is not unique in this experience. He notes that "the majority of the [Muslim] conversion stories I hear seem to involve dreams and visions inspired by the Holy Spirit in which Christ is supernaturally revealed."[28]

Dreams Seem to Fill in a Gap

Many are compelled to question this approach. As I already mentioned, this seems rather unorthodox, particularly within the American Evangelical context. However, dreams are unquestionably shifting awareness and opening the door for the gospel. In fact, it might be God's way of counteracting the relative failure of Western missions in the Middle East. 

Walid Shoebat agrees. He is a former PLO operative turned Christian and peace activist. Shoebat acknowledges that Jesus is compensating for the weaknesses of the Western Church. Reflecting on this, he noted the following:

"I had first doubted the countless stories of Muslims becoming Christian as a result of dreams until I met some of them and heard their testimonies. My conclusion to this phenomenon is that Christ succeeds where the church fails."[29] 

I believe that it's time for Christians to celebrate the advancement of the gospel in some of darkest places on the globe. In this season, Jesus is doing amazing things in the midst of every tribe and tongue. We are obliged to acknowledge the beauty and wonder of the kingdom's advancement.

Don't be mistaken; Christ succeeds where the church fails.

"Now a word was brought to me secretly, and my ear received a whisper of it. Amid disquieting thoughts from night visions, when deep sleep falls on mortals, terror and trembling came to me, which made all my bones shake. A breath of wind was passing before my face, and the hair on my body was standing up. It stood still, but I could not recognize its appearance; a form was in front of my eyes, there was stillness, then I heard a voice saying: 'Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?'" (Job 4:12-17).

J.D. King is an author, speaker and director of the World Revival Network.

[1] Audrey Lee. "Why Revival is Exploding Among Muslims." Charisma. December 2012.
[2] Joel C. Rosenberg. Inside the Revival: Good News and Changed Hearts Since 9/11. Tyndale Publishers, 2009, 6.
[3] Joel C. Rosenberg. Inside the Revival: Good News and Changed Hearts Since 9/11. Tyndale Publishers, 2009, 15-16.
[4] Joel C. Rosenberg. Inside the Revival: Good News and Changed Hearts Since 9/11. Tyndale Publishers, 2009, 5.
[5] Joel C. Rosenberg. Inside the Revival: Good News and Changed Hearts Since 9/11. Tyndale Publishers, 2009, 3.
[6] Joel C. Rosenberg. Inside the Revival: Good News and Changed Hearts Since 9/11. Tyndale Publishers, 2009, 13-14.
[7] Joel C. Rosenberg. Inside the Revival: Good News and Changed Hearts Since 9/11. Tyndale Publishers, 2009, 9.
[8] Joel C. Rosenberg. Inside the Revival: Good News and Changed Hearts Since 9/11. Tyndale Publishers, 2009, 7.
[9] Joel C. Rosenberg. Inside the Revival: Good News and Changed Hearts Since 9/11. Tyndale Publishers, 2009, 11-12.
[10] Joel C. Rosenberg. Inside the Revival: Good News and Changed Hearts Since 9/11. Tyndale Publishers, 2009, 7.
[11] Joel C. Rosenberg. Inside the Revival: Good News and Changed Hearts Since 9/11. Tyndale Publishers, 2009, 14.
[12] Joel C. Rosenberg. Inside the Revival: Good News and Changed Hearts Since 9/11. Tyndale Publishers, 2009, 15-16.
[13] Joel C. Rosenberg. Inside the Revival: Good News and Changed Hearts Since 9/11. Tyndale Publishers, 2009, 12.
[14] Joel C. Rosenberg. Inside the Revival: Good News and Changed Hearts Since 9/11. Tyndale Publishers, 2009, 11.
[15] George Thomas. "Revival Breaks Out In Land Once Hostile To Christianity." CBN News, April 22, 2014.
[16] Tino Qahoush quoted in George Thomas. "Revival Breaks Out In Land Once Hostile To Christianity." CBN News, April 22, 2014.
[17] Editor. "Al-Jazeerah: 6 Million Muslims convert to Christianity in Africa each year." Muslim Statistics, December 14, 2012. (Al-Jazeerah has since removed the interview and details).
[18] Kelly Head. "Living From His Presence." The Voice. Christ For The Nations. March 13, 2014.
[19] Jayson Casper. "Why Christianity Is Surging In The Heart Of Islam." Christianity Today 59:7 (September 2015): 19.
[20] Timothy C. Morgan; "Why Muslims Are Becoming the Best Evangelists: Missiologist Dave Garrison documents global surge in Muslims leading Muslims to Christ. He calls it, 'Unprecedented;'" Christianity Today; April 22, 2014.
[21] Tom Doyle with Greg Webster. Dreams and Visions. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012. 12-13.
[22] Url Scaramanga. "John Piper 'Suspicious' Of Muslim Dreams Of Jesus: Does the gospel only advance through human 'preachers,' or might God use other methods?" Leadership Journal. November 2, 2011.
[23] Georges Houssney; Factors leading to conversion of Muslims to Christ; Biblical Missiology; April 8, 2013.
[24] Tom Doyle with Greg Webster. Dreams and Visions. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012. 126-127.
[25] Nabeel Qureshi quoted in Daniel Darling. "Friday Five Interview: Nabeel Qureshi: A faithful Muslim finds his way to Jesus." Leadership Journal. February 14, 2014.
[26] Naeem Fazal quoted in Audrey Lee. "Why Revival is Exploding Among Muslims." Charisma. December 2012.
[27] Editor. "Muslims Next Door: What to do, and not do, when reaching out to Muslims: An interview with Naeem Fazal." Leadership Journal. September 2009.
[28] Daniel Darling. "Friday Five Interview: Nabeel Qureshi: A faithful Muslim finds his way to Jesus." Leadership Journal. February 14, 2014.
[29] Walid Shoebat quoted in Michael Carl. "Visions Of Jesus Appearing To Muslims: Middle East evangelists report nagging dreams leading to conversions." World News Daily. February 9, 2013.

J.D. King Featured Opinion Wed, 25 Nov 2015 08:00:00 -0500
The US Dollar Has Already Caused a Global Recession and Now the Fed Is Going to Make It Worse

The 7th largest economy on the entire planet, Brazil, has been gripped by a horrifying recession, as has much of the rest of South America. But it isn't just South America that is experiencing a very serious economic downturn. We have just learned that Japan (the third largest economy in the world) has lapsed into recession. So has Canada. So has Russia.

The dominoes are starting to fall, and it looks like the global economic crisis that has already started is going to accelerate as we head into the end of the year. At this point, global trade is already down about 8.4 percent for the year, and last week the Baltic Dry Shipping Index plummeted to a brand new all-time record low. Unfortunately for all of us, the Federal Reserve is about to do something that will make this global economic slowdown even worse.

Throughout 2015, the U.S. dollar has been getting stronger. That sounds like good news, but the truth is that it is not. When the last financial crisis ended, emerging markets went on a debt binge unlike anything we have ever seen before.

But much of that debt was denominated in U.S. dollars, and now this is creating a massive problem. As the U.S. dollar has risen, the prices that many of these emerging markets are getting for the commodities that they export have been declining. Meanwhile, it is taking much more of their own local currencies to pay back and service all of the debts that they have accumulated. Similar conditions contributed to the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s, the Asian currency crisis of the 1990s and the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009.

Many Americans may be wondering when "the next economic crisis" will arrive, but nobody in Brazil is asking that question. Thanks to the rising U.S. dollar, Brazil has already plunged into a very deep recession:

As Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff combats a slumping economy and corruption accusations, the country's inflation surged above 10 percent while unemployment jumped to 7.9 percent, according to the latest official data. The dour state of affairs has Barclays forecasting a 4 percent economic contraction this year, followed by 3.3 percent shrinkage next year, the investment bank said in a research note last week.

The political and economic turmoil has recently driven the real, Brazil's currency, to multiyear lows, a factor helping to stoke price pressures.

And as I mentioned above, Brazil is far from alone. This is something that is happening all over the planet, and the process appears to be accelerating. One of the places where this often first shows up is in the trade numbers. The following comes from an article that was just posted by Zero Hedge:

"This market is looking like a disaster and the rates are a reflection of that," warns one of the world's largest shipbrokers, but while The Baltic Dry Freight Index gets all the headlines – having collapsed to all-time record lows this week – it is the specifics below that headline that are truly terrifying. At a time of typical seasonal strength for freight and thus global trade around the world, Reuters reports that spot rates for transporting containers from Asia to Northern Europe have crashed a stunning 70% in the last 3 weeks alone. This almost unprecedented divergence from seasonality has only occurred at this scale once before: 2008! "It is looking scary for the market and it doesn't look like there is going to be any life in the market in the near term."

Many "experts" seem mystified by all of this, but the explanation is very simple.

For years, global economic growth was fueled by cheap U.S. dollars. But since the end of QE, the U.S. dollar has been surging, and according to Bloomberg it just hit a 12 year high:

The dollar traded near a seven-month high against the euro before the release of minutes of the Federal Reserve's October meeting, when policy makers signaled the potential for an interest-rate increase this year.

A trade-weighted gauge of the greenback is at the highest in 12 years as Fed Chair Janet Yellen and other policy makers have made numerous pronouncements in the past month that it may be appropriate to boost rates from near zero at its Dec. 15-16 gathering. The probability the central bank will act next month has risen to 66 percent from 50 percent odds at the end of October.

But even though the wonks at the Federal Reserve supposedly know the damage that a strong dollar is already doing to the global economy, they seem poised to make things even worse by raising interest rates in December:

Most Federal Reserve policymakers agreed last month that the economy "could well" be strong enough in December to withstand the Fed's first Interest rate hike in nearly a decade, according to minutes of its meeting Oct. 27-28.

The officials said global troubles had eased and a delay could increase market uncertainty and undermine confidence in the economy.

The meeting summary provides the clearest evidence yet that a majority of Fed policymakers are leaning toward raising the central bank's benchmark rate next month, assuming the economy continues to progress.

Considering the tremendous amount of damage that has already been done to the global economy, this is one of the stupidest things that they could possibly do.

But it looks like they are going to do it anyway.

It has been said that those that refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

And right now so many of the exact same patterns that we saw just before the great financial crisis of 2008 are playing out once again right in front of our eyes.

A lot of people out there seem to assume that once we got past the September/October time frame that we were officially out of "the danger zone".

But that is not true at all.

The truth is that we have already entered a new global economic downturn that is rapidly accelerating, and the financial shaking that we witnessed in August was just a foreshock of what is coming next.

Let us hope that common sense prevails and the Fed chooses not to raise interest rates at their next meeting.

Because if they do, it will just make the global crisis that is now emerging much, much worse.

Michael Snyder Featured Opinion Wed, 25 Nov 2015 07:00:00 -0500
When a Wounded Prophet Has a Platform

Having a platform and influence to speak into the body of Christ is a huge responsibility and should never be taken lightly. Leaders have been trusted to teach the Word of God from the Father's heart to His bride.

As a result, growth, transformation and salvation should come to those who hear the pure teaching of the Word of God. 

But what happens when a leader in the body of Christ has a platform and is wounded? How do leaders who are supposed to be healed in their heart, mind and soul even get to have a platform to speak into the body of Christ with such influence? This is a question I have pondered for some time and hope to give some answers in this article. 

First of all, not every leader has been given a platform by God. Saul was a wounded individual and as a result had a very difficult time walking in obedience to the Father. Because of this, God removed the anointing off of Saul. However, Saul still remained king and had positional influence. Saul's life is an example to us that God can fire you from your job but still let you work. I believe this is because God uses other people's pain and wounds to help shape us. This is exactly what He did with David. 

This isn't an excuse to write off leaders' wounds or just excuse them. I think it is very important to hold accountable those who speak to the bride of Christ as a mouthpiece, and if they are projecting their wounded hearts and tainting the Word, they should be corrected in love. That statement isn't a license to slander, as we see David never did against Saul, but I believe it is important to speak one on one about the issues to the wounded leader.

In my experience, the most common wound in leaders is an orphan heart. An orphan heart is very insecure and is easily rejected. It also manifests in control, intimidation and bullying tactics to get people to listen to them. In essence, an orphan-hearted leader is an insecure leader who feeds off of codependent people. Christians who are whole in their heart usually see this type of leadership and can easily avoid falling into the trap of following them. People who are codependent because of their own wounds usually can't and get stuck under the trap of this type of unhealthy leadership. 

Here are some signs of a wounded leader:

1. Craves the praise of man. A wounded leader constantly needs the praise of man to feel validated. They show this by always talking about how much their ministry is accomplishing not to bring glory to God but to draw attention to themselves.

2. Uses fear tactics to manipulate his or her followers. A wounded leader will usually use certain fear tactics on people to manipulate loyalty. They fear people leaving them so as a result will say things like "your stepping out of God's will by leaving" or "God's hand can't bless you now that you're leaving." It is normally very easy to join this type of ministry but very difficult to leave. 

3. Refuses to receive correction. A wounded leader usually demands submission to their leadership but refuses to yield to anyone else's counsel. They make excuses such as "Other leaders can't be trusted" or "My call is too big to submit to someone else." This is major deception and all rooted in pride. Their wound blinds them to be able to receive from other legitimate leadership.

4. Slanders other ministries. A wounded leader fears someone else's ministry being successful or what appears to be more successful than theirs. They don't have a kingdom approach that we are all on the same team and will slander other ministers and ministries to get their people to only trust them. Again this all goes back to insecurity feeding off of codependency in others.

A healthy and whole leader will always uplift and point people toward Jesus and not themselves. They will use their platform as a tool given to them by God so that they can draw in the lost and Jesus can get the glory. They will empower other believers to dream and run toward God's plan and destiny for them instead of seeing people as pawns to use for their own gain.

Healthy leaders also bless other ministries and try to work with them and not against them. They don't isolate themselves but instead see other ministries and ministers as a blessing and not a threat. My prayer is "God, give the body of Christ healthy, mature and seasoned leaders with your heart!" 

Pastor Chris Mathis is the lead pastor of the Summit Church in Crestview, Florida, and oversees several churches, ministries and serves on the leadership team of New Breed Revival Network. Chris travels extensively around the world teaching, training and equipping the church in conferences, revivals and church services and is the author of Thy Kingdom Come. He is married to Nikki Mathis, an internationally respected worship leader.
Chris Mathis Featured Opinion Wed, 25 Nov 2015 06:00:00 -0500
'Preachers of Atlanta' Casts Grammy Winner Le'Andria Johnson

Grammy winner Le'Andria Johnson has been cast on Oxygen's Preachers of Atlanta, which is set to premiere in early February.  

"Through the lens of five pastors with drastically different approaches to their ministry, the show explores many of the most hot-button and polarizing issues in America today," reads a release from Oxygen. "From passionate discussions surrounding the validity of unorthodox ministry methods to first-person accounts of the rippling and emotional effects of racial tensions with law enforcement, these unconventional preachers have no boundaries when it comes to tackling real issues that affect real people in their communities." 

Johnson will join other popular preachers including Corey Hambrick, Canton Jones, Kimberly Jones-Pothier and Judah Swilley.  

Johnson not only has a Grammy under her belt for best Christian music performance, she was also named as Billboard's No. 1 female gospel artist of the year in 2012, and took the Sunday Best title from BET home in season 3.  

She is now the pastor at I.P.C. Ministries. 

Johnson isn't the only cast member with a musical background.  

ET Online qualifies Jones as a "media triple threat." He's been nominated for Grammys, Stellar awards and Gospel Choice awards.  

His most recent album, God City USA, debuted in 2015. Canton is the pastor of Free Life Church. 

Oxgen reports fifth-generation preacher Swilley also started releasing music as a tween, and his songs have gained national attention. 

The other stars include pastor's kid and life coach Jones-Pothier and Life Church Christian Center's Hambrick

"Preachers of Atlanta features a young, vibrant group of pastors who are pushing the envelope and tackling real-world issues in their communities, creating thought-provoking dialogue," said Rod Aissa, Executive Vice President of Original Programming and Development, Oxygen Media. "The series showcases a new generation of preachers who, through their nontraditional approaches, are unapologetic in their ministry and unafraid to break down boundaries in an effort to drive positive change."


Jessilyn Justice Featured Culture Tue, 24 Nov 2015 16:45:00 -0500
Pastor Demands Fox News Apologize to Davey Blackburn After Wife's Murder

Davey Blackburn experienced unimaginable pain in recent weeks after his wife was sexually assaulted and murdered in their home during a break-in.  

Before police made an arrest, however, some Fox television personalities "dragged (Davey's) name through the mud" says NewSpring pastor Perry Noble. 

"I really do hope and pray that Megyn Kelly, Jeanine (Pirro) and FOX News will strongly consider issuing a public apology for the report that was aired on Thursday, November 12 on The Kelly File where Davey's involvement was called into question and essentially his name was dragged through the mud–which all led to a book promotion," Noble writes in a recent blog post.

"As a result of this report, Internet trolls began popping up everywhere, accusing Davey and issuing their own 'conspiracy theories' as to how he had to have somehow arranged this."

Noble continued: "I have always admired Megyn Kelly and her journalistic ability, so when I saw this report by her on FOX I was both shocked and disgusted. The Kelly File should apologize for this as journalistic integrity was tossed out the window for the purposes of a book promotion." 

Multiple suspects were arrested in the case, including a teen who was booked a preliminary murder charge. 

After the arrests of self-proclaimed "The Kill Gang," Davey Blackburn released the following statement: 

"(My hope is) that Jesus would give me and our family a heart of forgiveness," he says. "Though everything inside of me wants to hate, be angry, and slip into despair I choose the route of forgiveness, grace and hope. If there is one thing I've learned from Amanda in the 10 years we were together, it's this: Choosing to let my emotions drive my decisions is recipe for a hopeless and fruitless life. Today I am deciding to love, not hate. Today I am deciding to extend forgiveness, not bitterness. Today I am deciding to hope, not despair. By Jesus' power at work within us, the best is STILL yet to come. Even when I don't see it, I believe it to be true."

Jessilyn Justice Featured U.S. News Tue, 24 Nov 2015 15:45:00 -0500
Turkey Downs Russian Plane Near Syrian Border

Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border on Tuesday, saying the jet had violated its air space, in one of the most serious publicly acknowledged clashes between a NATO member country and Russia for half a century. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the plane had been attacked when it was 1 km (0.62 mile) inside Syria and warned of "serious consequences" for what he termed a stab in the back administered by "the accomplices of terrorists." 

"We will never tolerate such crimes like the one committed today," Putin said, as Russian and Turkish shares fell on fears of an escalation between the former Cold War enemies. 

In a letter to the U.N. Security Council, Turkey said it had shot down the jet while in Turkish air space. Along with a second plane, the aircraft had flown more than a mile into Turkey for 17 seconds, despite being warned 10 times in five minutes while approaching to change direction, the letter said. 

"Nobody should doubt that we made our best efforts to avoid this latest incident. But everyone should respect the right of Turkey to defend its borders," Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara. 

In condemnation of Russian air strikes in Syria, during which Turkish air space has been violated several times in recent weeks, Erdogan said that only Turkey's "cool-headedness" had prevented worse incidents in the past. 

Each country summoned a diplomatic representative of the other. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov canceled a visit to Turkey due on Wednesdayand the defense ministry said it was preparing measures to respond to such incidents. 

U.S. President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande, meeting in Washington, urged against an escalation, while NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the military alliance stood in solidarity with Turkey. 

Footage from private Turkish broadcaster Haberturk TV showed the warplane going down in flames, a long plume of smoke trailing behind it as it crashed in a wooded part of an area the TV said was known by Turks as "Turkmen Mountain." 

Separate footage from Turkey's Anadolu Agency showed two pilots parachuting out of the jet before it crashed. 

A deputy commander of rebel Turkmen forces in Syria said his men shot both pilots dead as they came down. The Russian military confirmed one pilot had been shot dead from the ground and another soldier died during a rescue operation. 

A senior Turkish official said at least one of the pilots could still be alive. "It's not a fact but a possibility. We're trying to verify the information and taking all necessary steps to facilitate their return," the official said. 

A video sent to Reuters earlier appeared to show one of the pilots immobile and badly wounded on the ground. 


Russia's defense ministry said one of its Su-24 fighter jets had been downed in Syria and that "for the entire duration of the flight, the aircraft was exclusively over Syrian territory", a suggestion Turkey denied. 

"The data we have is very clear. There were two planes approaching our border, we warned them as they were getting too close," another senior Turkish official told Reuters. "Our findings show clearly that Turkish air space was violated multiple times. And they violated it knowingly." 

A U.S. military spokesman said it was an issue between the Turkish and Russian governments and that U.S.-led coalition operations in Syria and Iraq were continuing "as planned." 

Moscow's decision to launch separate air strikes in Syria means Russian and NATO planes have been flying combat missions in the same air space for the first time since World War Two, targeting various insurgent groups close to Turkish borders. 

Russia's military involvement in Syria has brought losses, including the bombing by militants of a Russian passenger jet over Egypt. But there is no sign yet that public opinion is turning against the operation in Syria and the Kremlin said it would continue. 

Instead Moscow, helped by state-controlled television, has used these reverses to rally public opinion, portraying the campaign as a moral crusade that Russia must complete, despite indifference or obstruction from elsewhere. 

A U.S. official said U.S. forces were not involved in the downing of the Russian jet, which was the first time a Russian or Soviet military aircraft has been publicly acknowledged to have been shot down by a NATO member since the 1950s. 

The incident appeared to scupper hopes of a rapprochement between Russia and the West in the wake of the Islamic State attacks in Paris, which had led to calls for a united front against the jihadist group in Syria. 

Russia's main stock index fell more than two percent, while Turkish stocks fell more than four percent. Both the rouble and lira currencies were weaker. 

Lavrov advised Russians not to visit Turkey and one of Russia's largest tour operators to the country said it would temporarily suspend sales of trips. 


The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the warplane crashed in a mountainous area in the northern countryside of Latakia province, where there had been aerial bombardment earlier and where pro-government forces have been battling insurgents on the ground. 

"A Russian pilot," a voice is heard saying in the video sent to Reuters as men gather around the man on the ground. "God is great," is also heard. 

The rebel group that sent the video operates in the northwestern area of Syria, where groups including the Free Syrian Army are active but Islamic State, which has beheaded captives in the past, has no known presence. 

A deputy commander of a Turkmen brigade told reporters on a trip organized by Turkish authorities that his forces had shot both pilots dead as they descended. 

"Our comrades opened fire into the air and they died in the air," Alpaslan Celik said near the Syrian village of Yamadi, holding what he said was a piece of a pilot's parachute. 

In a further sign of a growing fallout over Syria, Syrian rebel fighters who have received U.S. arms said they fired at a Russian helicopter, forcing it to land in territory held by Moscow's Syrian government allies. 

Turkey called this week for a U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss attacks on Turkmens, who are Syrians of Turkish descent, and last week Ankara summoned the Russian ambassador to protest against the bombing of their villages. 

About 1,700 people have fled the mountainous area due to fighting in the last three days, a Turkish official said on Monday. Russian jets have bombed the area in support of ground operations by Syrian government forces. {eoa}

© 2015 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Tulay Karadeniz and Maria Kiselyova/Reuters Featured World News Tue, 24 Nov 2015 15:30:00 -0500
What France's Hollande Wants From Obama — and Putin

French President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday the United States and France have agreed to step up strikes in Syria and Iraq to target Islamic State militants after the deadly Nov. 13 attacks in Paris.

Hollande, appearing at a White House news conference with President Barack Obama, said the two leaders agreed on the importance of closing the Turkish border to limit the movement of extremists into Europe.

Obama emphasized the long friendship between France and the United States and pledged to step up efforts to combat terrorism alongside its European partners.

"As Americans, we stand by our friends in good times and in bad, no matter what," Obama said.

Hollande is trying to rally support this week for a more coordinated international campaign to destroy Islamic State. He is due to visit Moscow on Thursday.

"We are here today to declare that the United States and France stand united in total solidarity to deliver justice to these terrorists and those who sent them and to defend our nations," Obama said.

Obama called Islamic State a "barbaric terrorist group," adding that "its murderous ideology poses a serious threat to all of us. It cannot be tolerated. It must be destroyed. And we must do it together."

Hollande said the United States and France agreed to step up strikes in Syria and Iraq against Islamic State. But Hollande said France will not put troops on the ground in Syria to fight Islamic State.

"France will not intervene militarily on the ground," Hollande said.

Hollande's meeting with Obama follows the attacks in Paris that killed 130 people at the national sports stadium, a concert venue and bars and restaurants in heart of the French capital. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Obama said he and Hollande agreed that more needed to be done to combat Islamic State's efforts.

"U.S. assistance has supported recent French strikes in Syria and we're going to keep stepping up that coordination," he said. "We will continue to do everything in our power to defend our nation."

"We will win and groups like ISIL will lose," Obama said, using an acronym for Islamic State.

"It's been noted that the terrorists did not direct their attacks against the French government or military. Rather, they focused their violence on the very spirit of France and, by extension, on all liberal democracies," Obama said.

"Viva la France," Obama added.

On the Syrian crisis, Obama also said that Russian strikes against moderate opposition there only serve to bolster Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.

Hollande would not provide a date for Assad's transition from power but said it must be "as soon as possible." {eoa}

(Reporting by Roberta RamptonJeff Mason and Julia Edwards; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Tim Ahmann; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Will Dunham)

©2015 Thomson Reuters. All Rights Reserved.

Susan Heavey/Reuters Featured Issues Caucus Tue, 24 Nov 2015 16:00:00 -0500
US Issues Global Travel Alert Amid Terrorist Threats

 Citing "increased terrorist threats" from militant groups in various regions of the world, the U.S. State Department issued a global alert on Monday for Americans planning to travel following deadly militant attacks in France and Mali. 

As millions of Americans prepare to travel for the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, the agency said potential attackers could target private or government interests. 

The department did not advise people against travel but said U.S. citizens should be vigilant, especially in crowded places.

The State Department has regularly issued such worldwide travel alerts since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. A State Department official said the latest alert, which expires Feb. 24, effectively updated past warnings. 

In the statement on its website, the State Department said: "Current information suggests that (Islamic State), al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and other terrorist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks in multiple regions." 

Although it did not mention the Nov. 13 Paris attacks claimed by the Islamic State group in which 130 died, the department noted that militants had carried out attacks in France, Nigeria, Denmark, Turkey, and Mali during the past year. 

"Authorities believe the likelihood of terror attacks will continue as members of (Islamic State) return from Syria and Iraq," it said. "Additionally, there is a continuing threat from unaffiliated persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis." 

France and Belgium have launched a manhunt following the attacks in Paris, with a focus on Brussels barkeeper Salah Abdeslam, 26, who returned to the city from Paris hours after the attacks and is still at large. 

Abdeslam's mobile phone was detected after the attacks in the 18th district in the north of Paris, near an abandoned car that he had rented, and then later in Chatillon in the south, a source close to the investigation said. 

Detectives were examining what appeared to be an explosive belt found in a litter bin in the town of Montrouge, south of the capital and not far from Chatillon. 

The source said it was too soon to say whether the belt had been in contact with Abdeslam, whose elder brother blew himself during the gun and suicide bomb attacks. 

One theory was that Abdeslam had intended to blow himself up in the 18th district but had abandoned the plan, although it was not clear why. 

"Maybe he had a technical problem with his explosive belt," a police source said. 

Fearing an imminent threat of a Paris-style attack, Belgium extended a maximum security alert in Brussels for a week but said the metro system and schools could reopen on Wednesday. 

"We are still confronted with the threat we were facing yesterday," Prime Minister Charles Michel said. Potential targets remained shopping areas and public transport. 

Belgium has been at the heart of investigations into the Paris attacks since French law enforcement bodies said two of the suicide bombers had lived there. Three people have been charged in Belgium with terrorist offences, including two who traveled back with Abdeslam from Brussels. 


As authorities tried to establish Abdeslam's movements and whereabouts, a source said he traveled through Italy in August with a companion, but his presence caused no alarm because he was not a wanted man at the time. 

His companion was Ahmet Dahmani, a Belgian man of Moroccan origin who was arrested in Turkey last week on suspicion of involvement in the Paris attacks, the investigative source said. 

In Belgium, prosecutors said they had charged a fourth person with terrorist offences linked to the Paris attacks. 

They released all 15 others detained in police raids on Sunday. Two of five people detained on Monday were also released while the other three had their custody prolonged. 

Soldiers patrolled the streets of Brussels, the bustling European Union capital, which has been in lockdown since Saturday. 

On the Grand Place, a historic central square that usually draws crowds of tourists, an armored military vehicle was parked under an illuminated Christmas tree. 

NATO, which raised its alert level after the Paris attacks, said its headquarters in the city were open, but some staff had been asked to work from home. EU institutions were also open with soldiers patrolling outside. 

Interior Minister Jan Jambon told RTL radio, however, that the capital was still operating. "Apart from the closed metro and schools, life goes on in Brussels," he said. 

Workers were also setting up stalls for the city center Christmas market, which is due to open on Friday, and organizers of the Davis Cup tennis final between Belgium and Britain in the city of Ghent, 55 km (35 miles) from the capital, said it would go ahead this weekend. 


French jets from the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier struck Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria on Monday, while Britain offered France the use of an air base in Cyprus to hit the militants behind the Paris attacks. 

French President Francois Hollande met British Prime Minister David Cameron in Paris as part of efforts to rally support for the fight against Islamic State. Hollande is also due to visit Washington and Moscow this week. The French president and U.S. President Barack Obama will hold a joint news conference on Tuesday morning, the White House said. 

French jets taking off from the country's flagship in the eastern Mediterranean destroyed targets in Ramadi and Mosul in Iraq on Monday in support of Iraqi forces on the ground, the French armed forces said in a statement. 

In the evening, a raid was carried out on Islamic State's Syrian stronghold of Raqqa, where the French armed forces said planes destroyed several facilities including a command center. {eoa}

© 2015 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Arshad Mohammed and Chine Labbé/Reuters Featured World News Tue, 24 Nov 2015 14:00:00 -0500
This Union Just Gave Hillary a Big Boost
Democrat Hillary Clinton on Monday won the endorsement of the ironworkers' union, adding to her front-runner status in the race for her party's U.S. presidential nomination.
"While the council felt that several other candidates align with ironworker values, none compare to Secretary Clinton when it comes to putting those beliefs into practice," the union said in a statement.
"Clinton's record of looking out for the jobs that union members rely on was the largest factor in the council's decision."
Clinton is working to build a broad coalition within her party now in a bid to avoid a damaging primary fight and enter the general election in November 2016 with a strong base of support.
The unanimous vote on Friday among the ironworkers' general executive council, announced on Monday, brings to 14 the number of unions that have thrown their weight behind the former secretary of state.
In giving their stamp of approval to Clinton, a number of unions have alluded to their assessment that she is the best-placed Democrat to perhaps win the general election.
Her main rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, has deep ties to the labor movement, but he has struggled to gain lasting traction against Clinton. In addition, his self-imposed label as a democratic socialist can be confusing or concerning to many voters.
"Secretary Clinton's unmatched experience in government will enable her to deliver on her promises in ways the other candidates cannot," the ironworkers said on Monday.
Clinton has support from 49 percent of her party for the nomination, versus 34 percent for Sanders, according to a rolling 5-day Reuters/Ipsos poll dated Nov. 20.
(Reporting by Luciana Lopez; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
©2015 Thomson Reuters. All Rights Reserved.
Luciana Lopez/Reuters Featured Primaries Caucus Tue, 24 Nov 2015 14:00:00 -0500
'America's Rabbi' Relays Financial Wisdom

In an upbeat Convocation on Wednesday at Liberty University, author and radio show host Rabbi Daniel Lapin addressed the topic of wealth and the need for money in order to provide for God's children and the nations.

President Jerry Falwell introduced Lapin as a longtime friend of his family and someone who encouraged him after the death of his father, Liberty founder Dr. Jerry Falwell.

"Rabbi Daniel Lapin is regarded as one of America's most courageous and eloquent voices for biblical values," President Falwell said.

Lapin, known as "America's Rabbi," is a noted rabbinic scholar, best-selling author, and radio host. He is the president of the American Alliance of Jews and Christians.

In a lively speech infused with humor, Lapin shared his thoughts on America's wealth and hospitality. The U.S., he said, is "the most tranquil, prosperous, (and) durable home the Jews have had in the last 2000 years."

Lapin asserted that the world's most successful nations are those built on Christian foundations. He explained that money is not intrinsically bad but rather is a tool that is designed to facilitate generosity toward others and the building of relationships.

"When people give you money voluntarily, willingly, it must be that what you did for them exceeded the value of the dollar bill they gave to you," Lapin said.

Attempting to discredit the stereotype of the evil businessman, Lapin said that building wealth is actually a way for people to do the Lord's work, as is evidenced in Jewish and Christian customs.

"Making money is not taking money," he said. "Taking money is one thing. Making money means you are delivering value to another one of God's children. You are caring for another child of God.

"You might see money as God's way of blessing those who are obsessively preoccupied with the needs and desires of His other children. God wants to see us finding ways to bless one another."

In closing, Lapin expressed his belief in the audience, telling the students that they can help restore America's great economy by being dedicated to God's Word.

"I do believe that the economic vitality of the United States of America absolutely depends upon the restoration of a vibrant, fervent Christianity, of which you all are the most effective spokesmen," Lapin said. "I thank you profoundly for your dedication, for your God and his Word, and for your courage in taking that Word out to the country and ultimately to the world, and that is what you are all doing."

Liberty University Featured Marketplace Tue, 24 Nov 2015 13:30:00 -0500
White Church Merged With Black Megachurch Experiencing 'Miraculous' Growth

In a nearly unprecedented move last year, a black megachurch absorbed a smaller white church in a bold statement about racial relations in the church and in America. 

Now, Shiloh Church is experiencing "miraculous" growth and financial blessings, which campus pastor Dan Beckwith attributes to the merger.  

"With former Ridgewood members, local Shiloh members, and new people coming in from the community we have seen tremendous growth," Beckwith says. "Financially the Lord has also blessed this new work. We managed to meet budget and we kicked off a capital campaign to further eliminate the debt. The Lord's hands have surely been on this merger and renewed this church to a place of effective ministry in this community." 

Here's how the merger went down, according to Christianity Today:

Shiloh Church—an 8,000 member African-American church—wanted to expand its campus. At the same time, predominantly white 500-member Ridgewood Baptist Church was deeply in debt and wanted to rent from Shiloh. 

When push came to shove, the churches merged with Shiloh Senior Pastor H.B. Charles Jr. at the helm. 

"God is forcing us as a church to put our money where our mouth is," Charles said at the time. "This is a step of faith for us."

Now, Shiloh Church is a pinnacle of race relations both in the church and beyond. 

"We're learning to love beyond our culture and others learn to love beyond theirs," Charles says. "It requires humility, unity and a willingness to change and grow, but they're good challenges that we're looking forward to facing."

Jessilyn Justice Featured U.S. News Tue, 24 Nov 2015 13:00:00 -0500
Trump Aims Legal Guns at Rivals, Threatens Suit Over Attack Ads
Donald Trump's presidential campaign warned the Republican Party on Tuesday about donors pooling funds for attack ads, saying Republicans must treat him fairly if they want to keep him from launching an independent bid.
Trump lawyer Michael Cohen told CNN that if Republican donors backing different presidential candidates come together for an anti-Trump advertising campaign, it would be a "bad, bad decision."
The Super PAC planning the attack is New Day for America, which is supporting Ohio Governor John Kasich's presidential bid. Its spokesman, Matt David, said on Sunday that 10 new donors had pledged money since Thursday when Politico reported the group's plans to attack Trump in New Hampshire.
Trump signed a pledge to run as a Republican in the 2016 presidential election, but Cohen indicated the agreement would be invalid if Republicans target the billionaire real estate mogul.
"If they treat him fairly, he will honor the pledge because he's an honorable guy. If they break that agreement with him, as they say 'woe be on them,'" Cohen told CNN.
Cohen said the Republican Party may claim it has no control over Super PAC activities. But he insisted Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus has an obligation to treat Trump fairly.
"If they don't, this will be a very, very bad thing for the Republican Party," Cohen said.
RNC representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Trump is leading in polls of Republican primary voters both nationwide and in early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire. His numbers have risen despite criticism about his business record and backlash from his contentious statements about immigrants and Muslims, among other things. {eoa} 
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)
©2015 Thomson Reuters. All Rights Reserved.
Doina Chiacu/REUTERS Featured Primaries Caucus Tue, 24 Nov 2015 12:00:00 -0500
Arkansas Judge Rules for Same-Sex Partners on Birth Certificates

The state of Arkansas must record the names of both partners in a same-sex marriage on the birth certificates of their children, a judge ruled on Monday.

Three lesbian couples had challenged the refusal of the Arkansas Health Department's Vital Statistics Bureau to identify them as the adoptive or biological parents of their respective children.

Monday's order applies only to the three couples who brought suit. They claimed they were unconstitutionally denied the treatment afforded heterosexual parents, including unmarried parents. 

Circuit Judge Tim Fox of Little Rock, who ruled from the bench, said he would consider broadening his finding to include all same-sex couples with children in Arkansas, and issue a written decision later.

"He made it pretty clear where he's going," said Cheryl Maples, attorney for the plaintiffs.

"It's another step forward for gay couples," Maples said, "and I'm sure the next step is right around the corner."

The couples, all married, filed suit after the U.S. Supreme Court in June made same-sex marriage legal nationwide.

The state resisted on largely technical grounds, arguing that the issue was not same-sex marriage but long-established regulations governing the identification of biological and adoptive parents on official documents.

The state said the policy could be changed only by the Arkansas Health Board or by the legislature. 

A spokesman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she would await the judge's ruling on the broader question before deciding whether to appeal. {eoa}

© 2015 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Steve Barnes/Reuters Featured U.S. News Tue, 24 Nov 2015 12:30:00 -0500
Who's Ahead in Iowa 70 Days out From the Caucuses?

Political polls, despite their flaws, can be useful tools, which is why political operatives still refer to them frequently.

All too often, however, pundits refer to a single poll and use it to paint a narrative that may not be entirely accurate. And then there are the media outlets that manipulate their polls in an effort to alter the course of an election.

Both only further the public perception that polls aren't to be trusted.

But if one looks at more than just one poll, and from more than one angle—without spin, bias or a narrative in mind—even casual observers can get a true sense of the direction of a particular race. This even applies to the Republican presidential primary race.

This graphic provides the current 30-day averages for the first three states in the nominating process—Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina—as well as an average of all those polls, and a 30-day national polling average. These are raw averages from more than 35 polls that are trusted for their relative accuracy and scientific basis.

From the numbers contained therein, there are a few deductions that can be made. These include:

Four-Man Race—The GOP nomination race has been whittled down to four legitimate contenders: Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX). It is difficult to imagine a scenario where any of the other candidates can draw the support necessary to overcome any one of the four.

The Bush Line—In all three of the early-voting states, as well as in the national polls, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is the "cutoff candidate" whereby his support, plus the support of every candidate polling below him combined, is not enough to overcome the other candidates polling above him.

Carson's Fade—Contrary to the national media narrative, Carson was never the front-runner. He temporarily leads Trump in Iowa—that will change when a poll that has him above 30 percent ages out—by less than two-tenths of a percentage point, but trails everywhere else. His more recent polling numbers suggest he's fading, as well.

Rubio vs Cruz—As Carson fades, Rubio and Cruz are surging. This will be a trend to watch over the coming weeks, as it appears Carson supporters may be switching allegiances. While Trump may benefit a little from such a scenario, Rubio and Cruz are the most likely benefactors of a Carson fade.

Now, those trends are merely useful information, not necessarily the story that armchair politicos should be reading. Rule changes implemented after the 2012 presidential nomination process require all of the states to award delegates proportionately, meaning some candidates who are capable of continuing to campaign may do so, even if they only receive 1 or 2 percent of the vote.

While those delegates may be a small handful by the time the Republican National Convention convenes next summer in Cleveland, in a particularly close nomination battle, they could be powerful bargaining chips for their respective candidates. Delegates could equate to assistance with campaign debts, prime appointments in a future administration or other political favors down the road.

Bob Eschliman Featured Opinions Caucus Tue, 24 Nov 2015 10:00:00 -0500
Pastor Collapses, Dies Moments After Delivering Sermon

The pastor had just delivered his Sunday morning sermon when he stepped behind the stage and collapsed, later dying of a "cardiac event," according to reports

Eddie Crain was the children's pastor at NorthPointe Community Church in Fresno, California.  

"He literally had just poured his heart out in his passion to make a difference for kids," pastor Steve Williams posted on the church's Facebook page. Please pray for his family and for all who will be so deeply impacted by this loss.

Crain leaves behind his wife and five sons.  

"We don't get over our grief, we get through it. We can have confidence that God walks through this with us," Williams writes in another Facebook post. "In Hebrews 13 God promises that, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we can confidently say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'

"We can trust that God is good. Even when there are so many questions we just don't have the answers for — about why, why now, and what's the meaning in this? Everything that we know about God leads us to trust all that we don't understand about God.

"We're in uncharted waters as a church family, but we know that Jesus goes with us. And that we will do this together." 

Please keep the church and the Crain family in your prayers, especially as Thanksgiving approaches.

Jessilyn Justice Featured U.S. News Tue, 24 Nov 2015 12:00:00 -0500
Jonathan Cahn Offers Prophetic Insight to Paris Terrorist Attacks

When a nation turns away from God, says Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, its enemies begin to rise.  

This could perhaps be the case for the recent Paris attacks, which left 129 dead, hundreds more injured and thousands if not millions more terrified of the radical Islamic threat.  

"That word appointed for 9/11, Hamas, means passion for them. Well they are passionate for evil," Cahn tells Jim Bakker. "How much more should God's people be that passionate and more passionate for God for the gospel?" 

So how should we respond? Watch the video to see. 

Charisma News Staff Featured Opinion Tue, 24 Nov 2015 11:30:00 -0500
Is There a Diabolical Plot to Remove Major Sections of the Bible?

There is a "diabolical" plot to remove major sections of the Bible, Bert Farias says. 

The author and Charisma News columnist told Sid Roth on a recent episode that the move could cost us the power of God and, for some, even salvation.  

When studying the "revivals of old," Farias begs the question of "Where is the fire of God?" especially today. 

Part of removing that fire has to do with going to a seeker-sensitive church that's openly ignoring parts of the Bible.  

Click here to watch the video to see more.

Charisma News Staff Featured Opinion Tue, 24 Nov 2015 11:00:00 -0500
Terror a Prime Concern as Americans Gather for Thanksgiving

Cities across the U.S. are on high alert this Thanksgiving week amid concerns of a potential holiday terror attack.

In New York, NYPD officers swarmed a subway station during a planned simulation of an active shooter underground.

"These exercises are vitally necessary in New York City; we are, at this time, very well prepared," NYPD Police Commissioner William Bratton said.

Security is especially tight at locations considered "soft targets"—everyday places where large crowds gather, such as sporting events or shopping malls.

Over the weekend, Atlanta police received a tip from the hacker activist group Anonymous about a possible ISIS threat during a WWE event. Although nothing happened, Americans are on high alert.

Meanwhile in Europe, authorities continue their hunt for suspects from the Paris attacks.

Brussels, Belgium, is on the highest terror alert level for the third day in a row, with the threat of attack considered "imminent." The city is virtually on lockdown. Officials have closed schools and subway service has been suspended.

Meanwhile, the West is pulling together to support France and ramp up the war against the Islamic State.

British Prime Minister David Cameron says he will ask Parliament to approve allowing the British military to join in on the air strikes against ISIS in Syria.

"I firmly support the action President Hollande has taken to strike ISIL in Syria," Cameron said. "It is clear the world is coming together to tackle this terrorist threat."

This week, French President Francois Hollande will travel to both Washington, D.C., and Moscow to talk with President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin about ways to fight back against ISIS.

Caitlin Burke/CBN Featured U.S. News Tue, 24 Nov 2015 10:30:00 -0500
Archbishop Admits to 'Doubting' God After Paris Attacks—Franklin Graham Responds

While the mainstream media attribute doubt to prominent Christian leaders as they ponder the recent terrorist attacks, Franklin Graham stands secure in his faith. 

The BBC claimed Church of England's Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby doubted God in light of the violence, but Graham says that's just not true. 

"A BBC headline said that the Paris attacks caused the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to doubt the presence of God. Asking God why isn't necessarily doubting God," Graham posted on Facebook. 

Indeed, in BBC's "Paris attacks caused archbishop to 'doubt' presence of God," the author says Welby asked "Where are you?" to God.  

"Saturday morning, I was out and as I was walking, I was praying and saying, 'God, why—why is this happening? Where are you in all this?'" Welby said. 

For Graham, the question isn't so much as where God is, but what's coming next. 

"There have been many times that I've asked God why," Graham writes. "But the Bible clearly warns that as we draw to the end of this present age, things are going to get worse. There are going to be wars and rumors of wars, famines, disease, earthquakes, pestilence, and these are just the beginnings.  

"I don't doubt God for a second. And I don't doubt for a second that I'm a sinner who has been saved and forgiven by His grace. Not because of who I am, but because Jesus Christ shed His blood 2,000 years ago on a cross for my sins and God raised Him from the dead—and He is alive forevermore. When I was 22 years old, I asked Jesus Christ to come into my heart, and I haven't doubted Him for a moment since that day." 


Jessilyn Justice Featured Culture Tue, 24 Nov 2015 10:00:00 -0500
Obama's VA Christmas Tree Ban Sparks Yuletide Uprising

Folks around Salem, Virginia, were ready to jingle the government's bells after they implemented a ban on Christmas trees and religious Christmas carols in the public spaces of the local VA hospital.

The holiday hullabaloo began last week when workers received an email announcing that Christmas trees would no longer be allowed in public spaces at the Salem Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

"Trees (regardless of the types of ornaments used) have been deemed to promote the Christian religion and will not be permitted in any public areas this year," the email stated.

According to the federal government's telling of the Christmas story, not only did the three wise men delivered gold, frankincense and myrrh—they also brought along a Douglas fir adorned with sparkling lights.

The VA also warned employees that "public areas may only be decorated in a manner that is celebratory of the winter season."

In other words, candy canes are good, the baby Jesus is bad.

"Displays must not promote any religion," they noted.

The VA went so far as to tell workers what kind of "holiday" music was permissible according to government standards.

"Music travels and should be secular (non-religious) and appropriate to the work environment," the email stated.

The VA decided to go into full Grinch-mode and ban visiting entertainers from warbling any Christmas carol that included the words "Christ" or "Christmas."

"They told me I could sing 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' but I couldn't sing about Christ," Pastor John Sines, Jr. told me. "I couldn't sing about anything that had the word Christmas in it. I could sing what they referred to as 'holiday' songs."

The Rev. Sines, the pastor at Rock Pike Baptist Church in Forest, Virginia, was a bit flustered by the rules. All he wanted to do was entertain the veterans.

"My agenda wasn't so I could push Jesus on the veterans," he said. "I just wanted to honor the veterans and to say thank you."

So the good reverend politely told the VA Hospital that he was not going to abide by the rules.

"I let those folks know I wasn't going to be bullied into their way of thinking," he said. "We're rednecks. We don't have no problem standing our ground."

Pastor Sines said he wasn't trying to cause any trouble—he just wanted to do what the Constitution allowed him to do.

"I have a Constitution that protects my freedom and I have God, who said He would protect me from everything else," the pastor told me.

In addition to Pastor Sines—the VA had to contend with outraged employees and veterans and the local townsfolk. So on Friday—they reached a compromise.

Pastor Sines said he was re-invited to perform and Christmas trees will once again be allowed in the public spaces—so long as other faiths are also represented.

That includes "the Jewish Menorah, or Hanukkah Lamp, and the Kwanzaa Mkeka (decorative mat) or Kinara (candleholder)."

They cited VA Directive 0022, titled, "Religious Symbols in Holiday Displays in VA Facilities." The directive states that religious symbols may only be allowed in a public area if they display does not favor one religion over another, and conveys a primarily secular message.

So the only way folks can celebrate Christmas is if they also celebrate Kwanzaa and Hanukkah.

"This compromise allows for the Salem VAMC to be in full compliance with Federal mandates that prohibit U.S. government facilities, including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, from 'favoring one religion over another' while providing the diversity and flexibility for employees and Veterans to celebrate the holidays according to their individual faith structure," the VA stated.

Sounds to me like somebody's been smoking too much mistletoe.

The federal government may cite VA directive 0022 for its definition of Christmas—but I prefer to cite the holy Bible. And the Good Book declares that Jesus is the Reason for the Season not a decorative mat.

Todd Starnes Featured American Dispatch Opinion Tue, 24 Nov 2015 09:30:00 -0500
Weight Loss Trouble? 'Reset' Your Hormones

When it comes to losing weight, the body can have a gender bias. According to one physician, hormone imbalances put women at a disadvantage. But women can possibly hit a hormone reset button and still shed those unwanted pounds.  

Laurie Mazzone is living proof it works. After years of frustration, the New York City hair stylist found a way to reclaim her high school figure. Resetting her hormones helped her lose 11 pounds in just three weeks, followed by another seven, and she's not done.

"I lost four inches off my waist. Four inches in a month is unbelievable. I had not seen that kind of result in anything that I've done," Mazzone said.

On a Hunch

Mazzone balanced her hormones under the direction of San Francisco gynecologist Sara Gottfried. The Harvard and M.I.T. educated physician lost 25 pounds when she first tried it on herself.

But it didn't start out that way. At first, when she was 25 pounds overweight, Dr. Gottfried went to a fellow physician who told her to eat less and exercise more. 

Since she already had a pretty healthy diet and was a runner, she didn't accept his advice. Then she saw another physician who prescribed an antidepressant, a treatment she also rejected.

As a physician, Dr. Gottfried had a hunch her problem might be hormonal. She tested her hormone levels, something no other doctor thought to do, and as it turns out, her hormone levels were all off the charts: either way too high or way too low.

Using her medical expertise, she discovered a natural way to balance her hormones, and as a result, lost the weight. Now she feels great. Gottfried realized other women needed to know what she found out.

"I started to share it with women in my practice," she recalled. "And the results were amazing. Women lost on average about 15 pounds; they dropped their blood sugar by 21 points; they lost four inches off their waist. We now have had 5,000 people go through this program."

Balancing Act

If one or more of seven key hormones is out of whack, forget about losing weight. But the good news is we can balance them—with our fork.

Specific foods can disrupt hormone levels. That can be fixed by avoiding the disruptive food for at least three days.

In her book, The Hormone Reset Diet, Dr. Gottfried lays out a 21-day plan for seven weight-related hormones.

Mazzone liked the fact that she could ease into a new routine.

"It was gradual. It wasn't like a shock to my system. It wasn't like, 'Ok, now you're off all these foods at once,' and it wasn't overwhelming. It was done in small little bits and pieces," she said.

Mazzone started by giving up red meat and alcohol, which can raise estrogen.

Dr. Gottfried explained the role of the hormone.

"Estrogen is what makes us feminine. It gives us breasts and hips. But when it's out of whack, when it's too high relative to progesterone, it's going to make you have weight loss resistance. You're not going to be able to lose weight no matter what," Gottfried explained.

There are, however, substitutes that Mazzone found extremely helpful.

"When I came home at night I would get a wine glass and I would just fill it with seltzer and apple cider vinegar and I felt like I was drinking wine," she said.

While still avoiding red meat and alcohol, for the next three days Mazzone eliminated fruit from her diet in order to reset the hormone Leptin, which, according to Dr. Gottfried, has a big impact on our weight.

"It's the satiety hormone. And that means it controls your hunger," she explained.

While still avoiding red meat, now for six days, and fruit for three days, Laurie added caffeine to the "off limits" list because it can disrupt the hormone cortisol.

"Cortisol is the main stress hormone," Gottfried said. "And when it's too high, it grows this muffin-top. It just gives you belly fat that you can't get rid of."

Mazzone was afraid she wouldn't be able to handle going without coffee, but she was pleasantly surprised.

"So once I came off the caffeine I was sleeping like a baby," she said.

The thyroid is another hormone that causes women lots of problems. Dr. Gottfried said for optimal health we need to be in the "Goldilocks" range: not too high, not too low.

"Some of the common symptoms are thinning hair, weight gain - typically 10, 20 pounds - fatigue, depression. It can also give you a sense of being puffy—you know, fluid retention, which I think is really common," she said.

In order to reset your thyroid, go without grains. That was a tall order for Mazzone.

"I grew up in an Italian family and they serve you like a half a pound of pasta. So I was dying. 'How am I going to do that?'" she said. She did it by eating pasta substitutes, such as spaghetti squash, shredded zucchini or Shriataki noodles.

Next, avoid sweets to balance insulin. Mazzone said this takes discipline, but only at first.

"The sugar cravings were completely gone after four days," she recalled. "And I was really addicted to sugar!"

Abstain from milk products to reset your growth hormone.

"Dairy I thought would be hard for me because I like cheese so much," Mazzone confessed. "But I replaced it with hummus and I was fine. I didn't even miss it."

Finally, avoid environmental toxins, such as plastic and certain cosmetics to balance testosterone levels. Dr. Gottfried says most women don't realize how we are bombared with toxins in our everyday life, such as in our beauty and healthcare products.

"The average woman puts on about 515 synthetic chemicals on her skin," she said.

Blank Canvas Experiment

After avoiding those seven categories or foods, your hormones are now reset. You don't necessarily have to avoid these foods forever. The way to determine which ones are ok for you to eat, and which ones aren't, is to add one food back every three days while closely monitoring how your body responds to it. Everyone is different.

"Then you feel like a blank canvas," Mazzone said. "And you've gotten rid of all these foods and you feel so great. And then you get to bring them back and see what happens. And that's kind of interesting."

When she resumed eating red meat, there was no change in her body, so it's still on the menu.

Dairy, however, brought a different result. She gained five pounds in just three days after adding it back to her diet. That was a clear sign that she needed to stay away from dairy for good.

"I felt like I was doing a science project on myself," she said.

That was just the beginning.

"I missed my caffeine, I thought," Mazzone said. "So I had a cup of coffee. And that night I didn't sleep. And that was it. I just never had it again."

So for women, hormones often dictate whether the body will burn fat or hold on to it. By replacing disruptive foods with healthy substitutions, we gain another weapon in the battle of the bulge. 

Lorie Johnson/CBN Featured U.S. News Tue, 24 Nov 2015 09:00:00 -0500
Learning From Failed End-Time Predictions

Over the last season I've been pressing into worship and enjoying more of the presence of the Lord. I've also been having wonderful outings with my beautiful wife and children. I keep thinking, how can I bring more encouragement and assist in the expansion of the kingdom of God in this hour?

Yet, every time things begin to advance, feet start dragging and someone "slams on the brakes." Bible-believing Christians are supposed to be talking about "doing life together" and growing in the purposes of God. Yet, most are continually distracted by politics, fear and apocalyptic end-time scenarios. 

I sincerely desire to laugh, love, and leave a legacy, but it can be extremely difficult. Many so-called "prophets" are talking about societal breakdown and catastrophe. In their sensationalist best-sellers, they claim to have witnessed the "signs of the times." 

This is so prominent that a message of "good news" and hope is extremely difficult to find these days (and sometimes it's even rejected).

You probably already know this, but this isn't the only generation that has made these claims. In fact, over the last century there have been countless assertions about "harbingers" and "signs of the apocalypse." Leaders in previous eras also insisted they deciphered the book of Revelation and understood the alarming headlines. 

So, the pessimistic, cataclysmic claims aren't new. They're actually part of the lengthy tradition of anxiety and failed prognostications. In fact, speculative predictions about the end have characterized American Christianity for at least three generations. One would like to think that this madness would ultimately cease, but it never really does. I've found that people keep making these kinds of end-time assertions.

Yet, an honest analysis would show the "track record" isn't good. Thousands of "undeniable" claims in previous decades were proven to be wrong. Let me remind you of some of the things affirmed in the past. 

A Century Of Failed Predictions

At the start of the First World War, the Weekly Evangel, a wide-reaching Fundamentalist publication, boldly affirmed that, "The war preliminary to Armageddon, it seems, has commenced." Less than two years later S.D. Gordon, a popular devotional writer, insisted that the "end of the world" would  

"occur in our generation. That is to say that the man of average age now living, and all younger, barring the usual accidents of sickness and death, will witness the tremendous climax and transition." 

These mistaken beliefs weren't exclusive to the early 20th century. There were many similar claims made during World War II. In fact, it got even worse in the midst of the Cold War paranoia that erupted during the Eisenhower administration. In 1958, one of the more noted of the Salvation-Healing evangelists proclaimed, 

"Jesus is coming soon ... John the Baptist is preaching again! Have you heard John preach lately? I have. You are hearing one of them now."

Apocalyptic predictions expanded significantly during the 1970s and 1980s. For example, in 1970, Hal Lindsey, made a nuanced prediction that the rapture would take place in 1981—seven years prior to Israel's fortieth anniversary (leaving seven years for the "Great Tribulation"). Explaining his outlook Lindsey wrote:

"A generation in the Bible is something like forty years. If this is a correct deduction, then within forty years or so of 1948, all these things could take place. Many scholars who have studied Bible prophecy all their lives believe that this is so ... The most important sign in Matthew has to be the restoration of the Jews to the land in the rebirth of Israel. Even the figure of speech 'fig tree' has been a historic symbol of national Israel. When the Jewish people, after nearly 2,000 years of exile, under relentless persecution, became a nation again on 14 May 1948 the 'fig tree' put forth its first leaves. Jesus said that this would indicate that He was 'at the door,' ready to return. Then He said, 'Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place' (Matthew 24:34, NASB). What generation? Obviously, in context, the generation that would see the signs-chief among them the rebirth of Israel."

Obviously nothing of any biblical significance happened in 1981—and for that matter nothing noteworthy occurred seven years later. It was presumed that in 1988, during the fortieth anniversary of Israel's re-establishment, strategic end-time events would transpire. Countless futurists were predicting the rapture or other apocalyptic scenarios, but they were greatly mistaken. 

In his hastily written book titled, 88 Reasons Why The Rapture Will Be In 1988, Edgar C. Whisenant argued that the rapture of the Christian church would occur between September 11-13, 1988. He noted,

"Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong, and I say unequivocally. There is no way Biblically that I can be wrong; and I say that to every preacher in town ... if there were a king in this country and I could gamble with my life, I would stake my life on Rosh Hashana 1988."

After his September prediction failed to materialize, Whisenant changed his termination date to Rosh Hashanah 1989—publishing The Final Shout: Rapture Report 1989. This is a pattern that Whisenant would later repeat in 1993 and 1994. Despite his impassioned pleas, the rapture and his cataclysmic understanding of the end-times never manifested. As the year 1988 (as well as 1989, 1993, and 1994) passed without major incident, apocalyptic teachers looked ahead to 2007—the fortieth anniversary of Israel reclaiming Jerusalem (1967). With this pivotal date in the cross-hairs, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins noted the following:

"If we use the 1948 or the 1967 date, apply the span of a person's lifetime (give or take ten years for the person to 'see' and comprehend the events), then subtract seven or more years for the Tribulation and an interim period between the Rapture and the signing of the covenant with Israel, we come to the same time period for the return of the Lord that many others have suggested ... our generation."

Nevertheless, to the dismay of Dispensational Premillennialists, 2007 also passed without incident. Despite their feverish insistence, the apocalypse clearly didn't transpire within a "generation" of 1948 or 1967. Because of this, many who held a cataclysmic view were forced to rethink what a "generation" really was. Some now suggesting that it is a 70 or 100 year span. They're open to most any adaption, with the single exception of rethinking their erroneous end-time worldview.

What Do We Make Of This?

Failed end-time predictions were undoubtedly widespread over the last century. As these prognostications didn't pan out, the proponents simply made readjustments and looked for new historical developments. Ongoing catastrophes and civil unrest were exploited to distract from previous errors in calculations.

Just as soon as one termination date passed, another conveniently came into view. I believe those who have made failed end-time predictions must be accountable to the body of Christ for their mistakes. They should be held responsible for their wrong interpretations and the disruptions it has caused. Yet, this is rather difficult to do.  

In early 1977, when Hal Lindsey was asked by a journalist from Christianity Today what he would do if he was wrong about his end-time predictions, he responded with the following, 

"There is a split second's difference between a hero and a bum. I didn't ask to be a hero, but I guess I have become one in the Christian community. So I accept it. But if I am wrong about this, I guess I'll become a bum." 

Though undeniably wrong about his end-time predictions over the last 46 years, Lindsey still hasn't referred to himself as a "bum." It's not necessary for this to happen, yet a simple apology might be nice. So in light of all this, what should be the response?

Some would say the only problem was the setting of a particular day and time. After all, Jesus affirmed, "no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows" (Matthew 24:36). Yet, is it possible that Lindsey and his fellow Dispensationalists have been wrong in more than just "date-setting?"

Could the Bible actually be affirming something different than what has been promulgated through Evangelical radio and newsprint over the last 100 years? Could a fresh reading of Scripture affirm that God is up to something more than just darkness and catastrophe? I sincerely think so. I honestly don't know if North American Christians will ever change our darkened outlook. Yet, in the meantime we must be extremely careful.

Whether it be blood moons, the Shemitah, or widespread social duress, we need to be cautious about what we're proclaiming. Like many others, I'd hate to see additional failed predictions. The apostle Paul said it the following way, "Stop listening to Jewish myths and the decrees of people who have turned away from the truth" (Titus 1:14). Fear, sensationalism, and esoteric readings of Scripture aren't going to propel global missions or the expansion of the church. I hope that we can finally learn the unpleasant lesson of previous generations. A fresh understanding of the "Good News" could change everything.

Kathy Gray/World Revival Network Featured Opinion Tue, 24 Nov 2015 08:00:00 -0500
A Christian Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis

What was President Obama's immediate and instinctive response to the recent Islamic terror attacks in Paris? Did he offer prayers for the families of the slaughtered and vow to wipe out the global cancer that is Islamic jihad? Did he pledge to come alongside France and work with our wounded European ally until every last Islamic State barbarian is wiped from the face of the earth?

No, Obama preened like a petty peacock, mocking and berating the very Americans he's sworn to protect and serve. He stated—vomiting the word "Christians" with sanctimonious disgust—that there will be no "religious litmus test" on Syrian refugees, while hypocritically employing a religious litmus test of his own that favors Muslims over Christians by a rate of 97 to 3 percent.

Indeed, during his post-Paris rant, this Oval Office dhimmi promised business as usual, doubling down on his failed policy of containment and appeasement, and inexplicably swearing to aid and abet our enemies by rapidly increasing his importation of Shariah-compliant Islamic refugees. As even his top security advisers warn, these refugees are marbled through with Muslim terrorist infiltrators hell-bent on doing to you and your family what they did to the people of France.

Yet the court jester continues to juggle.

To be sure, some of the Paris terrorists posed as Syrian refugees, and ISIS has pledged to do the same thing here. The question is not "if" but "when" more Americans will die as a result of Obama's Pollyannaish response to the threat of Islam. He is either catastrophically naïve, or something far more sinister. At best, Barack Hussein Obama is weak and dangerously obtuse. At worst, he is an enemy within.

Either way, he must be stopped.

Still, the jihadist genie is, even now, out of the bottle. Nearly 70 Muslims, including refugees, have already been arrested within America's borders in the last 18 months. In just the past week, over a dozen Syrian refugees have been caught at our borders with fake passports and bad intentions. Understandably, a majority of Americans agree that we must employ a compassionate alternative to Obama's plan to import hundreds of thousands of unscreenable Syrian refuges.

But what is that "compassionate" alternative?

Well, it's certainly not the open-borders approach pushed by America's "progressive" left. While engaging in hollow #RefugeesWelcome hashtag bravado on Facebook and Twitter may provide a fleeting sugar rush of moral superiority, it is not an answer.

Neither is it tethered to reality.

It's abject foolishness.

No, the compassionate response is the Christian response. We must be "wise as serpents and innocent as doves" (see Matt. 10:16). It is possible to be at once wise and compassionate. The two are not mutually exclusive. Christ modeled for us the perfect solution to this problem with His parable of the Good Samaritan:

"A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing and wounded him and departed, leaving him half dead. By chance a priest came down that way. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to that place, looked at him and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine. Then he set him on his own donkey and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day when he departed, he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said to him, 'Take care of him. I will repay you whatever else you spend when I return'" (Luke 10:30-35).

There are many important metaphorical parallels here. Note that the Good Samaritan did not take this man into his own home to care for him. He administered first aid and then took him to a separate location, an inn, giving a charitable donation to the innkeeper and instructing him as to the man's further care.

Americans, especially Christian Americans, are the most charitable people in the world. The answer to the Syrian refugee crisis is to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Rather than taking these Shariah-compliant followers of Muhammad—many of whom, as our own intelligence has established, are either ISIS sympathizers or operatives—into our own home, we must unequivocally demand that oil-rich Islamic nations such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and others open their own sealed borders to their fellow Muslims in need. They share the same value system and religion, both of which are rooted in Islamic Shariah law—a sociopolitical worldview that is anathema, indeed hostile, to America's Judeo-Christian values and constitutional-republican form of government.

Undeniably, Saudi Arabia alone has the means to immediately house at least 3 million of these Syrian refugees in its vacant, air conditioned tent city, used only occasionally to accommodate Muslims on their pilgrimage to Mecca. America can also help subsidize, build and facilitate additional refugee camps throughout the Middle East.

Even so, and for our own national security, safety and survival, there is much we can do to help them there, without bringing them here.

And those who are here, we must move there.

The pagan left and the pagan Muslims share a common enemy. He is Christ, who is Truth. They are both anti-Christ. The spiritually blind "progressive" West is being played masterfully by the burgeoning Islamic caliphate. What we are witnessing is called "Immigration Jihad," and Obama is chief among the worldwide Muslim leadership's dhimmi patsies. They are not only sending a Trojan Horse through our gates, but Obama is helping them to both build it and physically transport it here, with your tax dollars, next door to you and your family.

Yes, we must all have compassion for the innocent women and children suffering under this Islamo-progressive-created humanitarian crisis, but we cannot allow the Islamic State, which represents the purist form of orthodox Islam, to use them as pawns in this war between the civilized world and the demonic savagery that is Muhammadism.

Wise as a serpents, innocent as doves.

Matt Barber Featured Clarion Call Opinion Tue, 24 Nov 2015 07:00:00 -0500
Jonathan Pollard: A Modern-Day Joseph

Some years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Rome and, while there, we organized a private tour of the Vatican. Little did I know that other than entering the epicenter of Catholicism and all the history (and art) that goes with it, I'd be taking a step back nearly 2,000 years in Jewish history.

While on our tour, we were taken into a room that's off the beaten path, containing an exhibit of ancient stone tablets. At first, I thought, "seen one ancient stone tablet, seen them all." 

But these stones took me back 2,000 years to when Jewish slaves were being brought to Rome from Judea (Israel), and made me witness to a biblical tradition in practice then and still relevant today. These tablets were contracts of sale of Jewish slaves to other Jewish residents/citizens of Rome. It was explained this was the proactive effort of Jews in Rome to redeem these captured slaves, to buy their freedom. 

Throughout Jewish history, going back to Genesis 14:14-16, it has been a biblical imperative to redeem captives. This doesn't refer to an average criminal held for his crime, but to one held unjustly. This makes it a religious duty to bring about the release of a fellow Jew captured by slave dealers or robbers, or imprisoned unjustly by the authorities.

Before my eyes, these ancient contracts bore witness to that obligation and our history.

I had my own personal experience redeeming captives in my day as well. In the 1980s, I was deeply involved in the struggle to free Jews in the Soviet Union, a modern enslavement of my people with historical and biblical precedent. You can see more by clicking here.

Like many things in Jewish life, there's a debate over how and when to exercise this obligation. There's the story of Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg was who was taken captive and held for ransom, but who famously instructed his community not to pay the ransom because to do so would put other Jewish lives at risk in the future.

There's a modern debate over releasing Arab terrorists in exchange for Israeli prisoners, something that happens too often and opens vast wounds of the survivors and families of victims of the terrorists being released. There's also the notion that by releasing Arab terrorists, one makes the taking of other Jewish captives in the future more profitable.

I was reminded of this recently when Jonathan Pollard, a former U.S. Navy analyst, was released on parole after 30 years in prison. He is not completely free yet, and many limitations are being placed on his life including reportedly the prevention from travel, strict curfew and prohibition to use the Internet. But this is the beginning of the righting of a huge injustice and should be celebrated.

Pollard was arrested as a spy for Israel. He admitted to this and passing along U.S. intelligence to Israeli sources particularly about the threat then of Iraq's nuclear program. He entered a plea bargain with U.S. authorities, which the government violated after then Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger provided the court a document that remains secret allegedly attesting to the damage Pollard did to U.S. security. That his lawyers with the highest security clearance have not had the right to see these secret charges submitted after the plea bargain makes the process all the more suspect and unjust.

Despite his plea agreement, Pollard was sentenced to life, an unprecedented term for any spy even from a hostile country, and all the more so from an ally. One might say allies should not spy on one another—but let's be real, this happens all the time. Nevertheless, Pollard's case was one of a man being arrested as a spy, but being held to a different standard, his rights repeatedly violated, and sentenced as a Jew.

He's been a political pawn ever since, with successive U.S. presidents holding out clemency or a pardon as a carrot on a stick to coax Israel into a peace negotiation under U.S. terms.

Many people have rallied around Pollard, fighting for his freedom for decades. Many American Jews have shunned Pollard because of the discomfort of being accused of dual loyalty. 

At the time he was arrested, I was finishing college, and the CIA and NSA somehow tapped me to consider a career at these important federal agencies. But Pollard's case weighed heavily on me at the time.

After several collective interviews I decided these were not jobs for a nice Jewish boy, that I didn't want to be put in a situation of conflict of interest, and I didn't want to be in a case of being a federal employee looked at with suspicion as a Jew and under a separate microscope.  So one day, I just didn't show up for the next interview or aptitude test, and my unborn career in a U.S. intelligence agency ended.

Though my personal activism relating to freeing Jonathan Pollard was virtually nothing compared to that of Soviet Jews, fortunately a dedicated group of others worked relentlessly and never gave up. In recent years a growing number of former U.S. military, diplomatic, and intelligence officials came to Pollard's aid by declaring that his sentence was unjust and it was long overdue that he be released.

Fortunately, this week, Jonathan Pollard was able to spend his first Shabbat and his first weekend outside prison in three decades.

When I lived in the U.S., I was with friends and sat in synagogue next to one of the people who will go down in my history book at epitomizing the imperative of redeeming captives. He is one of Pollard's attorneys who has spent years working on his behalf to make this milestone possible. Also noteworthy, he worked pro bono. He never took a dime. Over the years, we spoke about Pollard and his case often. I sympathized and admired his perseverance.

After I helped get my adopted family free from the Soviet Union, my rabbi's wife was elated and asked what blessing we make on fulfilling this biblical mandate. Jewish tradition is that we make a blessing after an action related to most such commandments and even acts of nature, to remind us that nothing happens without God's fingerprint.

So we seek to affirm this and glorify Him through such acknowledgement. Neither of us knew what blessing I should make. So she checked into it. It turns out, when it comes to redeeming captives, there is no blessing because we are not to derive personal benefit from others' tragedies.

Such is the case of my friend and the many others who worked tirelessly on behalf of Jonathan Pollard, not for personal recognition, not for profit, but just for good. Today, they can hang their hats on having helped redeem one captive, a person held in prison for decades because he is a Jew and was used as a political pawn.

God knows they did it, and that's good enough. But as I wrote my friend before Pollard's release, he should pour himself an extra full glass of wine and toast himself because he embodies a Jewish tradition going back thousands of years, literally etched in stone in a side room in the Vatican. {eoa}

Jonathan Feldstein was born and educated in the U.S. and immigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. Throughout his life and career, he has been blessed by the calling to fellowship with Christian supporters of Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He writes a regular column for's Standing With Israel. He can be reached at

Jonathan Feldstein Featured Standing With Israel Opinion Tue, 24 Nov 2015 06:00:00 -0500
Is Islam Bringing the World to the Brink of Chaos?

As Western countries have opened their doors to refugees fleeing Muslim nations, Bible prophecy expert Eric Walker says this could be the linchpin for destabilizing the West and ushering in the "Psalm 83 War" in the Middle East.

Walker, the founder of the Igniting a Nation ministry and the former founding rabbi of the Messianic Jewish congregation Beth Hallel Birmingham, believes the Paris terrorist attacks that killed 130 people are "just the beginning of the chaos."

Although the terrorist attacks in Paris, Mali and elsewhere are in the headlines today, the roots of this conflict began in Genesis 15 when God gave the biblical mandate establishing the borders of ancient Israel followed by the account in Genesis 16 when the Angel of the Lord said Ishmael would be a "wild man" whose "hand shall be against every man."

"As we watch ISIS and fundamentalist Islam, we see that the stage is being set for a battle in the Middle East," Walker says. "When we examine the world around us, we begin to see that we have refugees amassing on the border of Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, and we begin to see the formation of the confederacy described in Psalm 83.

"Never before could we really anticipate Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Syria northern Saudi Arabia, northern Egypt, Gaza and the West Bank working in concert with one another. Now, we have these terrorist organizations amassing on the borders of Israel."

In his view, the stage is being set for a significant event in the Middle East, possibly the "Psalm 83 War"—an event some prophecy experts believe will precede the war described in Ezekiel 38-39 known as the "War of Gog and Magog," involving a Russian-Iranian-led attack on Israel prior to the Tribulation period.

"There is no question that the ideology of Islam is focused squarely on the destruction of Israel," Walker says. "We are fighting two significant battles in the world. The first battle is against an Islamic ideology advancing in the West, but a more significant battlefield is the spirit of the Antichrist that they bring with them."

Walker, author of The Codist, has watched the influx of Muslims into Western countries for many years. He believes the arrival of Syrian refugees, added to the 100,000 Muslims entering America annually, will further compromise the nation's ability to prevent terrorism.

The West is unwilling to acknowledge the threat posed by Islam. Instead, it continues to pretend this is a "religion of peace" with the exception of a few radicals who give the religion a bad name. This is naïve, an approach that is making free countries increasingly vulnerable to attack, he says.

"As the world looks at the events of the Paris attacks, we are reminded that France has reached the tipping point of 8 percent Muslim," Walker says. "With the wide open borders of the EU, we have now seen how a small band of terrorists can mobilize and strike."

Eventually, America will face its own destabilization, perhaps ignited by or resulting in economic collapse, Walker says.

"America's borders are compromised, and what happened in Paris will happen here," Walker says. "The dividing lines of the world are being drawn, and persecution of those labeled as infidels is on the rise."

The "prophecy of Ishmael" has been unfolding since Genesis, but especially since the rise of Muhammad and Islam 1,400 years ago, Walker says.

"We're in the midst of the most preeminent spiritual battle the world has ever known," Walker says.

In terms of the prophetic timeline, Walker believes the next event will be the "Psalm 83 War"—the battle preceding the "War of Gog and Magog" described in Ezekiel 38 and 39. These chapters specify several conditions that must exist in Israel prior to that war, including an Israel with the borders outlined in Genesis 15, and that Israel will be at peace with its neighbors and possess immense wealth—perhaps a reference to recently discovered oil reserves in Israel.

For these conditions to be met, Walker says Israel will have to expand its borders to include all of Syria, Lebanon, most of Iraq, Jordan, northern Saudi Arabia and the Sinai.

"In my opinion, that can't happen unless there is a war," Walker says. "So I believe the war before the war that will accomplish these goals will be the 10-nation confederacy described in Psalm 83. The Bible says this 10-nation confederacy will come against Israel, and Israel will be victorious. The only way we can see Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia coming against Israel is if their terrorist organizations launch the attacks, not the governments themselves."

The "Psalm 83 War" theory has generated controversy in recent years among prophecy experts. The theory began with the publication of a book, Isralestine, by prophecy expert Bill Salus.

"Bill Salus theorized that the Israelis would win this war overwhelmingly, resulting in peace for their nation, but the peace would be short-lived because the Arab world would turn to Russia," wrote David R. Reagan, founder and director of Lamb & Lion Ministries, in an article on the topic.

"The Russians would come down against Israel with certain specified Muslim allies in what the Bible calls the War of Gog & Magog, described in detail in Ezekiel 38 and 39. Russia's Muslim allies will be made up of an outer ring of nations with no common border with Israel today. The Psalm 83 War, on the other hand, would be one between Israel and the inner ring of nations that surround it."

When this war occurs, Walker believes America won't come to Israel's aid.

"I think America falls into the Zechariah 12 prophecy that says when all the nations of the world turn against Jerusalem then God will restore her former glory," Walker says. "We fall into that category of 'all.' We are actually seeing that fulfilled with our current president."

This is why Walker is launching an initiative called Christian Lives Matter. For America to reclaim its blessings, Christians need to speak out and take a stand for what they believe in.

"In response to this, I'm launching a grass-roots movement under the banner of Christian Lives Matter to bring an army of believers together, understanding that the bigger the army, the louder the voice," he says.

Walker would like to create chapters across the nation to vet candidates for office and create report cards to allow voters to hold their representatives accountable to restore traditional values in America.

Walker believes the U.S. can return to its biblical roots and blessings if the church and the nation repent and turn back to God.

"Since the last Bush administration, America has had troubling times, but we are still the most blessed nation in the world," Walker says. "But the headship of America is turning against Israel. That's why in my mind, the most pressing issue among the presidential candidates must be on where they stand with Israel."

Troy Anderson Featured World News Tue, 24 Nov 2015 06:00:00 -0500
No More Elites, Let 'Everyday' Folks Govern

"I am obliged to confess," wrote William F. Buckley, Jr. in 1963, "that I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand people on the faculty of Harvard University."

A similar sentiment seems to now be shared by a majority of the American people. A recent survey by Pew Research finds that 55 percent of the public believes "ordinary Americans" would do a better job of solving national problems than would our elected leaders. An even greater percentage (57 percent) say they are frustrated with the federal government, while fewer than 1 in 5 (18 percent) say they are basically content.

Despite this frustration, half or more say the federal government is doing a "very good" or "somewhat good" job in 10 of the 13 governmental functions tested in the survey. The areas where the federal government receives the lowest remarks are in managing the nation's immigration system and helping people get out of poverty. Nearly seven-in-ten (68 percent) say the government does a very or somewhat bad job in managing the immigration system and 61 percent say the government is doing a bad job helping people out of poverty.

The survey also finds that only about a third of Republicans and Republican leaners see a major role for the federal government in helping people get out of poverty (36 percent) and ensuring access to health care (34 percent) while fully 72 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners say the government should have a major role in helping people out of poverty, and 83 percent say it should play a major role in ensuring access to health care.

Here are some other notable takeaways from the survey:

• The public's trust in government remains at historic lows. Today, just 19 percent say they trust the federal government to do what is right always or most of the time, which is little changed from recent years.

• Only 29 percent say that "honest" describes elected officials very or fairly well, a much smaller share than those who describe the average American as honest (69 percent).

• The perception that elected officials don't care about what people think is now held more widely than it has been in recent years. Today, 74 percent say this, compared with a narrower 55 percent majority who said the same in 2000.

• Majorities see the national news media (65 percent) and the entertainment industry (56 percent) as having a negative impact on the country. By contrast, overwhelming majorities see small businesses (82 percent) and technology companies (71 percent) as having a positive impact.

• Nearly seven-in-ten liberal Democrats (69 percent) say colleges and universities have a positive impact on the country, compared with just less than half (48 percent) of conservative Republicans. Conversely, fully three-quarters of conservative Republicans say that churches and religious organizations have a positive impact on the country, while just 41 percent of liberal Democrats agree.

Joe Carter/Acton Institute Featured Opinions Caucus Tue, 24 Nov 2015 06:00:00 -0500
After a Yearlong Battle, This Christian Group Gets Back on Campus

After over a year of being kept off campus for its Christian beliefs, the student group Chi Alpha has finally been reinstated at the California State University Stanislaus campus. Chi Alpha, a Christian organization for college students, was kicked off campus at Stanislaus and ordered to change its policies at three other California State campuses after the California State University system adopted a new policy banning students in religious clubs from requiring their leaders to share their faith. As of Thursday, all four Chi Alpha chapters are back on campus.

"For religious students, groups like Chi Alpha are a place of refuge. It's just common sense—and basic liberty—for religious groups to be led by students who share their faith," said Adèle Auxier Keim, legal counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

Chi Alpha was founded in 1953 as a place where college students could gather to worship God, study Scripture and pray together. Its members give back to the community through programs like feedONE, which provides food for over 140,000 hungry children worldwide.

Chi Alpha has been serving Cal State Stanislaus for almost 40 years. Chi Alpha's students have always asked their leaders to believe and live what Chi Alpha teaches. But in August 2014, the Chancellor of the Cal State University system banned policies like Chi Alpha's. Under California State's new policy, fraternities and sororities can require their leaders to be men or women, the environmental club can require its leaders to believe in climate change, but religious groups can't require their leaders to believe what they teach.

In September 2014, Cal State Stanislaus administrators derecognized the Chi Alpha chapter and locked Chi Alpha's students out of the meeting space they had reserved for their fall kickoff meeting.

In 2015, after months of negotiations, the Cal State Chancellor's Office agreed that while religious student groups couldn't require all leadership candidates to share their faith, students were free to select leaders whose lives and beliefs reflected their group's message. As of last Thursday all four Chi Alpha chapters—at Cal State Stanislaus, Cal State Sacramento, San Diego State and Cal State Fresno—are back on campus as recognized student groups.

Chi Alpha still has fewer rights than fraternities and faces an unfair burden on its ministry, but its students can once again take their place as a recognized part of campus.

"Cal State has adopted a halfway solution that still gives fraternities more rights than campus religious groups. But they've acknowledged that students can vote for a candidate who shares their beliefs, and that's a step in the right direction," said Keim.

Melinda Skea/The Becket Fund Featured U.S. News Mon, 23 Nov 2015 17:00:00 -0500
In a Culture of Death, Teens Succumb to Myths About Christianity

From violent video games filled with bloody action to blockbuster films that focus on teens fighting in a contest until only one "winner" survives, today's youth have been raised in a culture of death—even becoming desensitized to disturbing images and concepts.

It's impossible, says author and religion and culture expert Dr. Alex McFarland, to be embroiled in this culture of death and at the same time, embrace Christianity—the epitome of new life and hope.

McFarland speaks to and works with thousands of young people every year, and communicates to them the hope of Jesus Christ. In his newest book, The God You Thought You Knew: Exposing the 10 Biggest Myths About Christianity, McFarland dispels the myths and untruths about Christianity and replaces that with the truth of who God really is.

"Young people are leaving behind their faith at alarming rates, and it's no wonder," said McFarland said, who recently penned the column 'Valuing Life, in a Culture of Death' for "Very little shocks our youth anymore, as they are faced with violent images all their lives. We know that hope and life only comes from Jesus Christ, and His way of living is the only way. Through The God You Thought You Knew and events geared specifically toward youth, we hope to renew their faith in Christ and give them reason to embrace life in Him rather than hopelessness and death."

According to a new study released earlier this month by the Pew Research Center, young people entering adulthood are growing in the ranks of nonreligious adults. Millennials, the study found, are, in many ways, far less religious than their parents' and grandparents' generations.

"For example," according to Pew Research, "two-thirds of adults in the Silent generation say religion is 'very important' in their lives and that they pray every day, as do about six-in-ten Baby Boomers and more than half of Generation Xers. By comparison with older adults, Millennials exhibit far lower rates of involvement with religion. Fewer than half of older Millennials (adults now in their late 20s and early 30s) and roughly four-in-ten younger Millennials (adults now in their late teens and early 20s) say religion is very important to them and that they pray daily. And a majority of Millennials say they attend religious services a few times a year at most."

Oftentimes, McFarland adds, young people leave their childhood beliefs behind or shun Christianity altogether because of the myths and untruths they've heard about faith. In The God You Thought You Knew, available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats, McFarland works to dispel those myths with 10 truths:

  • Myth #1: Christianity is intolerant and judgmental toward others.

Truth: Christianity teaches to love neighbor as self and to share the love of Jesus with others.

  • Myth #2: Christianity cannot be true because of the evil and suffering in our world.

Truth: Christianity offers the best hope and power to deal with suffering.

  • Myth #3: Christianity is untrue because it is based on faith instead of facts.

Truth: The claims of Christianity are based on historical facts that can be tested.

  • Myth #4: Christianity has been disproven by modern science.

Truth: The latest scientific evidence points to an intelligent designer behind all creation.

  • Myth #5: Christianity is not a religion for the educated.

Truth: Many of the world's top past and present scholars are Christians.

  • Myth #6: Christianity is boring and would be a waste of my time.

Truth: Christianity is the most adventurous life a person can experience.

  • Myth #7: Christianity isn't real because it didn't work for me.

Truth: The Christian faith is difficult, yet also the most rewarding way of life.

  • Myth #8: Christianity is false because it is based on the Bible, which is filled with errors and contradictions.

Truth: The Bible is the most accurately preserved book in history.

  • Myth #9: Christianity can't be true because it is based on a dead man coming back to life.

Truth: If the best explanation for the empty tomb of Jesus is the resurrection, then Christianity can be true.

  • Myth #10: Christianity isn't real because a loving God wouldn't send anyone to hell.

Truth: God has made great efforts to make sure many will spend eternity with him.

Deborah Hamilton Featured Culture Mon, 23 Nov 2015 16:00:00 -0500
Planned Parenthood Tweets Ironic Pro-Life Tweet

Planned Parenthood just doesn't get it. They're so blinded by their own ideology of defending the indefensible—the murder of the most vulnerable members of our society—that they often speak in paradoxes.

Just last week on Twitter, Planned Parenthood quoted Hillary Clinton in a way that made every pro-life advocate (and probably more than a few pro-abortion advocates) wince and cringe at just how galling their advocacy could be: "Every child deserves the opportunity to live up to their God given potential. @HillaryClinton "

Every word of their tweet seethes with irony and hard-heartedness to what truly matters. Let's break it down.

"Every child"—From the start, this quote makes clear that every life and every child matters, no matter how small or what stage of development they may be in. No matter what their condition or disability. No matter what level of dependence they may have on their mother, father or caregiver. Every child matters, even the 330,000 unborn children murdered by Planned Parenthood each year.

"deserves"—America's founding charter is clear. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Throughout our nation's history, we have had to fight to ensure that the Truth of the Declaration is a reality for all people. This battle is not over. Yet, the unalienable Right to life is still being denied by Planned Parenthood to hundreds of thousands each year.

This right to life doesn't come from our laws or our government because it is more fundamental than one nation's laws and government. It is universal and it comes from our Creator, from whom all life is originated and sustained.

"the opportunity"—Pro-abortion advocates and Planned Parenthood's allies are great at talking about opportunities of all kinds, except when it comes to that one opportunity that matters most—giving vulnerable unborn children the chance to live and grow. This opportunity is key, and it's one of society's most important obligations. If we don't protect those who need protection until they can protect themselves, our society's values really are upside down.

"to live up"—This statement implies that a child is alive. The problem? Planned Parenthood denies children the ability to live up to their potential every day when they abort them. It is unimaginable to think that in its history, Planned Parenthood has denied over 7 million children the chance to live their lives and discover their unique abilities.

"to their God-given"—Imago Dei, to be made in the image of God. Every person is a reflection of our Creator God and we derive our worth and our dignity from being made in his image. In order to justify their actions, Planned Parenthood has to ignore the imago dei in each unborn child they abort. Instead, they attempt to "play God" and decide which children are deserving of life and which are not. They deny the imago dei of a child simply because of the child's current residence—inside her mother's womb.

"potential"—Every human being is bursting with potential. Inherent in each one of us is the potential to do amazing things. Yet Planned Parenthood has snuffed out generation after generation of potential. They have undoubtedly annihilated America's next great doctors, teachers, community leaders, parents, grandparents and heroes. That is potential that will never be realized, because of Planned Parenthood.

If only Planned Parenthood could grasp the profound goodness to which their tweet speaks. Truth is literally on their lips, yet they are blinded to it. Let us pray that their eyes would be open to the truth that is before them, so that millions of unborn babies will have the opportunity to live up to their God-given potential. 

Palmer Williams/ACLJ Featured Opinion Mon, 23 Nov 2015 15:30:00 -0500
Donald Trump Winning With This Frightened Voter Group

As concerns about terrorism mount in the United States, those who are the most worried about a terrorist attack say Donald Trump is their preferred presidential candidate, a new poll found.

However, the ABC/Washington Post survey also found that more Americans trust Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton than the top Republican candidates for president to fight terrorism.

"Terrorism has surged as an election issue since the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, and this ABC News/Washington Post poll finds Clinton with an 8-point lead over Trump in trust to handle it," Langer Research Associate's Chad Kiewiet de Jonge wrote in his article about the poll, "No Clear Advantage in Trust on Terrorism."

"Among those who call it the top issue in their vote, though, Trump leads—by 25 points. That's because concern about terrorism is especially high among Republicans and conservatives, and their trust in Clinton, on this and other issues, is very low. Those most concerned with the economy, by contrast, tend to be Democrats, and far prefer Clinton, including on terrorism."

The poll found that Clinton maintains a slight lead on terrorism against Trump among registered voters, a 7-point advantage in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates.

"That's not so with other top GOP contenders; Clinton leads most of them among all adults—though (Jeb) Bush and (Marco) Rubio are within the margin of error—but not among those who are registered," de Jonge wrote. "This reflects the customary GOP edge in registration—clearly damaging to the Democrats if left unaddressed."

In terms of Trump's position on terrorism moving from the GOP contest to a general election, he leads among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents by a wide margin as most trusted to deal with the issue.

"When Trump is tested against Clinton, though, 21 percent of leaned Republicans prefer her, contributing to her advantage over Trump on terrorism among all Americans," de Jonge wrote. "That said, 42 percent of leaned Republicans and 40 percent of conservatives cite terrorism as the most important issue in the election, compared, for example, with 18 percent of leaned Democrats and 15 percent of liberals.

"Leaned Republicans and conservatives also are much more likely to see an attack as likely and to doubt the government's capacity to prevent it. As a result, among Americans who view the threat of terrorism as the most important issue in the 2016 election (28 percent of adults), Trump leads Clinton by 65-35 percent in trust to handle it, with almost identical results for the other top GOP candidates. Similar patterns hold true for those who think that an imminent terrorist attack is very likely or who lack confidence the government can prevent one."

Troy Anderson Featured Elections Caucus Mon, 23 Nov 2015 15:00:00 -0500
Huckabee: Obama's Domestic Terrorism Plan 'Probably Requires Americans Memorize Quran Verses'

Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is a big underdog in the race for the GOP nomination, but you wouldn't know it the way he's gone after President Obama as of late.

In an editorial he penned for, he attacked the president's "mishandling" of ISIS and other al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists. He opened his piece with a reference to last weekend's terrorist strike on the Radisson hotel in Mali.

"These barbaric terrorists spared the lives of hostages who proved their Islamic bona fides by reciting the Koran, while 27 innocent civilians were killed," he wrote. "After this attack in West Africa, Obama's new domestic terrorism plan probably requires Americans to memorize (Quran) verses."

Huckabee went on to suggest Obama is more interested in protecting the reputation of Islam than protecting the American people, a popular stump line of late. He went on to reference the fact the perpetrators of the attacks on 9/11, the U.S.S. Cole, Benghazi, Kenya, Tanzania, Boston, Fort Hood and Paris were all radical Islamists.

"On Friday, French authorities revealed another Paris attacker was masquerading as a Syrian refugee," he continued. "Two others conspirators had visited Syria, including one who had trained with ISIS. This past week, authorities apprehended five Syrians in Honduras with fake Greek passports."

Noting that Syrians have been apprehended while attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexican border near Laredo, Texas, Huckabee said the current refugee situation must not be taken lightly. He said Americans need "real strength, moral clarity and common sense."

"Obama's politically correct, press release foreign policy is a complete disaster, and it shouldn't take another Paris or Mali for the cartoonish clowns in the administration to wake up," he concluded.

Bob Eschliman Featured Caucus Mon, 23 Nov 2015 15:00:00 -0500
Rude Protesters Briefly Disrupt Cordial Iowa GOP Debate

The discussions taking place on the stage during The FAMiLY LEADER's Presidential Family Forum held Friday evening in Des Moines could only be described as cordial. But, in the seats below, that wasn't always the case throughout the evening.

Shortly after moderator Frank Luntz asked his first question of the seven Republican presidential candidates—ironically about the lack of civility in American politics today—two separate pockets of protesters rose up, one in the front of the auditorium, another in the back. The protesters chanted and waved banners.

The group Against All Borders was responsible for the first outburst, which included the waving of banners that read "Is Deportation a Family Value?" while shouting "Deportation is anti-family!" Luntz attempted to dispel the conflict by assuring the protesters that immigration would be addressed during the forum, but threatened to "take the issue off the table" if the protests continued.

When they erupted again a couple minutes later, they were escorted from the auditorium. True to his word, immigration was not brought up during the forum.

Later in the evening, a second group of protesters shouting about "animal rights" and "animal liberation" also attempted to disrupt the proceedings. Some of those in attendance tried to shout down the protesters with their own shouts of "U.S.A.!" until Luntz stepped in to quiet things down.

"I feel like this is being conducted in Berkeley, California," Luntz quipped after the second set of outbursts.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who was asked about the protests shortly after order was restored, said he wasn't bothered by it.

"I realize that it's a reminder that we live in the greatest country on earth, and we allow people to disagree with us," he said. "Those people aren't going to spend the night in jail. They're not going to be shot out there on the sidewalk."

Bob Eschliman Featured Primaries Caucus Mon, 23 Nov 2015 16:00:00 -0500
Surprising Iowa Debate Discussed Issues Cordially

About two hours before the start of the Presidential Family Forum, The FAMiLY LEADER president Bob Vander Plaats was visibly worried.

Recent events had necessitated the presence of the U.S. Secret Service to provide security for the event. Then, the weather became a factor: the first snow storm was barreling through central Iowa just as the event began, dumping nearly a foot of snow on the Iowa Events Center in downtown Des Moines.

At the start of the event, only a couple hundred seats remained unused. A few moments later — as Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, and Carly Fiorina took the stage — nearly ever seat was filled.

And, despite interruptions — immigration protesters demonstrating against deportation of illegals attempted to shut down the event three times — the audience of nearly 1,800 Christian conservatives, as well as thousands more watching a livestream of the event online, got exactly what Vander Plaats and moderator Frank Luntz promised.

They got an in-depth look at the candidates on the stage that went beyond the standard stump speeches, sound bites, and political ads. They got to peer inside the candidates' hearts, and to see who these people really are. 

Luntz and the candidates had a cordial conversation about a wide array of issues around a very large family-style table. They also answered direct questions about their individual relationships with Christ and issues of their faiths.

There weren't any "gotcha" moments, but there were some moments that probably opened the eyes of the audience. The biggest applause lines of the night came from two of the candidates deemed by most pundits to be the least likely to win: Huckabee and Santorum.

Front-runner Donald Trump didn't participate, largely in protest of Luntz as moderator. Carson, who closely trails him in the polls, was once again largely subdued, refraining from jumping in on other candidates' questions, and answering his own questions quietly.

Cruz responded with fire and conviction, but frequently reverted to repeating elements of past stump speeches. Rubio and Fiorina seemed to struggle with the format, which was meant to force the candidates to really open up.

Bob Eschliman Featured Primaries Caucus Mon, 23 Nov 2015 16:00:00 -0500
Teen Arrested in Pastor's Wife's Slaying

Indianapolis police said on Monday they have arrested an 18-year-old man suspected of fatally shooting the pregnant wife of a pastor during an apparent home burglary.

Larry Taylor of Indianapolis was arrested on a preliminary murder charge in the death of 28-year-old Amanda Blackburn, who was shot and killed while she was at home with her 1-year-old son on Nov. 10, according to Indianapolis police.

"All victims of criminal homicides deserve closure, and as a community we must send a collective message that violence is not an option," Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Rick Hite said in a statement.

WXIN 59, the Fox TV affiliate in Indianapolis, reported that in fact three suspects had been detained in connection with the rape and murder of Blackburn. The TV network said Jalen Watson, 21, and Diano Gordan, 24, were being held on parole violations.

Police and the Marion County Prosecutor's office could not be reached for further comment.

Detectives believe the men entered Blackburn's home, which was unlocked and two left with her ATM card to retrieve money, while Taylor allegedly raped and shot her, WXIN reported. ATM receipts were in a vehicle stolen previously, and the detectives also gathered evidence linking the suspects to the use of Blackburn's credit card, WXIN said.

At least one of the suspects is cooperating with police, WXIN said. Authorities said the men referred to themselves as "The Kill Gang," according to WXIN.

Blackburn's husband, Davey, came home from the gym to discover his wife had been shot. She was rushed to the hospital and later died.

Earlier in the month, police said they suspected the killer may have also broken into a nearby house hours earlier.

Officials said the burglary of a television and computers from a home two doors away from the Blackburn house occurred at about 5:30 a.m. and Davey left for the gym shortly after 6 a.m.

Neighbors reported hearing shots fired at about 6:45 a.m., but there were no signs of forced entry.

The Blackburns moved to Indianapolis from South Carolina in 2012 to start the independent Resonate Church.

Davey Blackburn could not be reached for comment, but in a statement to local media he said, "Though it does not undo the pain we are feeling, I was extremely relieved to get the news of the arrest made last night of Amanda's killer. The investigators have assured me they have a solidly built case to ensure justice is levied and the process is expedited." {eoa}

© 2015 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Susan Guyett/Reuters Featured U.S. News Mon, 23 Nov 2015 14:00:00 -0500
Cruz Gains Another Major Iowa Endorsement

Another conservative leader in Iowa stepped forward to announce his support for Republican presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas on Friday.

Loras Shulte joined several Christian conservative leaders in the first-in-the-nation caucus state to back the freshman senator's presidential bid. The vocal champion for life and traditional marriage has been involved in Iowa Republican politics for more than three decades.

"I've [served] in nearly every capacity one can be involved in; from local committee-man to County Chairman, to serving on the State Central Committee," Shulte said. He also served as the State Director for Pat Buchanan's Presidential Campaign in 1996 and for Gary Bauer in 2000.

But to make his endorsement, he had to resign his seat on the Republican Party of Iowa's State Central Committee. Leading up to this current election cycle, each member of the State Central Committee pledged not to endorse any candidate for President.

Shulte's resignation was effective Nov. 18.

"It's not just our country that finds itself in difficult times, for the world is ablaze in a manner not seen in decades," he said of his endorsement. "I believe Ted Cruz represents the best chance we have to restore not only what is great about America, but of providing the leadership the international community is lacking."

In the press release from his campaign, Cruz was quoted as saying Shulte brings a wealth of institutional knowledge. As a member of the board of directors at Iowa Right to Life, he also brings the sort of personal political network that can make a profound difference in the closing days of a caucus campaign.

"He knows that when conservatives unite, we win," Cruz said. "I appreciate the leadership he has demonstrated during his time on the State Central Committee, and for leading again by stepping down to actively support our campaign."

Shulte's departure from the State Central Committee may be a blow to efforts to advance Christian conservative ideals within the Republican Party of Iowa. He was a solid conservative representing Iowa's First Congressional District, arguably the most liberal-leaning of Iowa's congressional districts.

In 2014, the first district convention delegates "simplified" the district platform by removing the defense of traditional marriage. They instead adopted a plank that states the district's Republicans support efforts to remove marriage from government control.

It was a move that grabbed headlines throughout the Hawkeye State.

The Republican Party of Iowa State Central Committee is comprised of 16 members — four from each of the congressional districts — as well as two national committeemen, the co-chair, and the chairman. The 16 committee members are elected by their respective district central committees.

The First District Central Committee will meet at an as-yet-unannounced date to elect Shulte's replacement.

Bob Eschliman Featured Primaries Caucus Mon, 23 Nov 2015 14:00:00 -0500
Why Pastor Saeed Abedini's Wife Kept His Abuse Secret Until Now

The wife of Saeed Abedini, the Iranian-American pastor imprisoned in Iran since September 2012, has had a difficult month.

First Naghmeh Abedini canceled all public appearances after telling supporters by email that her husband had abused her physically, emotionally and sexually. Twelve days later, she released a statement saying she regretted her previous emails. "I was under great psychological and emotional distress," she said.

Iran sentenced Saeed Abedini, a former Muslim who converted to evangelical Christianity, to eight years in prison for his alleged involvement with Iran's burgeoning house-church movement. In Shia-majority Iran, Sunni Muslims, Baha'is, Christians, and other minorities face harassment, arrest, and imprisonment, according to the U.S. State Department.

Since her husband's detention in 2012, Naghmeh Abedini has been publicly advocating for his freedom, winning the support of top evangelical leaders and meeting privately with President Obama, which is why her accusations of spousal abuse came as shock. But those accusations also raise the question: Why do evangelical women wait so long before reporting abuse?

"Many who suffer domestic abuse feel lots of shame, are blamed by others, and do not tell anyone," said Justin Holcomb, a Florida Episcopal priest and seminary professor who co-authored with his wife Lindsey "Is It My Fault? Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence."

"Christian women, in particular, stay far longer in abusive situations and in more severe abuse than their non-Christian counterparts," he added.

So far, social media posts on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere show that supporters of the Abedini family were not backing away from Naghmeh after the abuse allegations became public.

"God guide and protect you and especially Saeed at this time when he will not be having visitors that he feels God in a special way during this time. May the angels protect him with a hedge of safety," one supporter posted on Naghmeh Abedini's Facebook page.

Naghmeh Abedini shared few additional details in her initial email alleging abuse, besides saying her husband, 35, was addicted to porn and that the abuse was ongoing even though their contact is limited to Skype and phone calls.

An American citizen and the mother of two children, Naghmeh Abedini said the abuse began in 2002. The two were married in 2004.

Research shows that domestic abuse survivors in general are less likely to receive extensive public support through their local church. According to a 2014 poll from LifeWay Research, about two-thirds of Protestant pastors address domestic abuse from the pulpit once a year or less. Additional research from LifeWay found that only 25 percent of surveyed pastors consider abuse or sexual violence an issue within their congregation.

"Many churches appropriately stress the importance of marriage and family, but some churches wrongly teach that a wife's primary role in life is to protect their husband's or family's reputation," said Holcomb, the Episcopal priest. "Because of this emphasis, those experiencing abuse in their relationship may feel ashamed because they believe they failed in their relationship," Holcomb said.

He said domestic abuse is much more prevalent than many people realize: He cites research that indicates one in four women will experience abuse in an "intimate partner relationship." Holcomb advises pastors to talk more openly about domestic abuse, be accessible to abuse survivors, and collaborate with social agencies and law enforcement.

Abuse is one of the most under-reported crimes, he said. "It is extremely unusual for someone to lie about these kinds of claims."

According to Lenore Walker, a professor at Nova Southeastern University and founder of the Domestic Violence Institute, "Women with strong religious backgrounds often are less likely to believe that violence against them is wrong."

The campaign for release of Abedini continues to have a very high public profile. In January, shortly after delivering the State of the Union address, Obama met with Naghmeh and her two children briefly and pledged to make release of Saeed a top priority.

In a mid-November statement, the American Center for Law and Justice, which is representing the family, said, "What we are focused on is this: bringing home an American pastor who has been wrongly imprisoned in Iran because of his faith."

Beginning about 15 years ago, Abedini reportedly joined local efforts to start up house churches. But about 10 years ago, Iran began an aggressive crackdown on these churches. Abedini, who moved to the U.S. with his family in 2005, shifted his attention from starting house churches to care for Iranian orphans.

In the 2014 book "Too Many To Jail," author-researcher Mark Bradley documents the rapid growth of house church Christians from 1979 to the present day. He describes Iran as having "the fastest growing church in the world" and projects that there may be 1 million Christians in Iran by 2020.

Timothy C. Morgan/RNS Featured World News Mon, 23 Nov 2015 13:00:00 -0500
True Evangelical Christians Believe These 4 Truths

Numerous surveys seek to capture the opinions and practices of evangelicals in the United States. From tithing behaviors to political inclinations, evangelicals are regularly identified in research and polls. Because researchers use different tools to identify evangelicals, results vary from poll to poll. Even the estimated number of U.S. evangelicals ranges from 23-35 percent of American adults.

The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) initiated the development of an evangelical beliefs research definition for accurate and consistent use among researchers more than two years ago. In partnership with LifeWay Research, the definition was crafted, reviewed and tested for validity.

"Evangelicals have been misunderstood and categorized incorrectly so often, and much of that is due to inconsistent identification in research," said Leith Anderson, NAE president. "Now we have a way to measure evangelical belief with confidence."

The NAE/LifeWay Research definition includes four statements to which respondents must strongly agree to be categorized as evangelical:

  • The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.
  • It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
  • Jesus Christ's death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.
  • Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God's free gift of eternal salvation.

The NAE Board of Directors adopted the evangelical beliefs research definition at its Oct. 15 meeting.

Testing for Validity

Researchers typically have used two methods to identify evangelicals: self-identification and denominational affiliation. In some research polls, evangelicals are identified more by political demographics than religious characteristics. Though the African-American Protestant population is overwhelmingly evangelical in theology and orientation, it is often separated out of polls seeking to identify the political preferences of evangelicals.

"Evangelicals are people of faith and should be defined by their beliefs, not by their politics or race," Anderson said.

LifeWay Research and the NAE sought to identify people who hold evangelical beliefs, regardless of affiliation or behavior. The framework provides a valid third method to researchers who typically define evangelicals by denominational membership or self-identification.

"We're not saying these are the only evangelicals, but we are saying this will define someone as having evangelical belief," said Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research.

With input from a diverse group of sociologists, theologians and evangelical leaders, LifeWay Research designed and tested 17 questions that were eventually narrowed to a set of four. The statements closely mirror historian David Bebbington's classic four-point definition of evangelicalism, but with an emphasis on belief rather than behavior, said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research.

"Affiliation and behavior can be measured in addition to evangelical beliefs, but this is a tool for researchers measuring the beliefs that evangelicals—as determined by the NAE—believe best define the movement. And, just as Native Americans might best define who is a Native American, we think evangelicals can best define evangelicals," he said.

LifeWay Research confirmed the statements are statistically valid and reliable and form a valid scale, testing them in online and phone surveys.

People who strongly agree with one statement tend to strongly agree with others, indicating the statements measure a "theological package" of evangelical belief, Stetzer said.

Those who strongly agree with all four statements are more likely to attend church frequently and identify themselves as evangelical, indicating the survey measures the intended group.

"This simple set of four questions reliably discerns those who share evangelical beliefs from those who do not," Stetzer said.

Identity vs. Belief

LifeWay Research's phone survey of 1,000 Americans found widespread agreement with traditional evangelical beliefs.

Fifty-two percent strongly agree the Bible is their highest authority, and 58 percent strongly agree Jesus' death is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of sin. Almost as many strongly agree it is important for them to personally encourage non-Christians to trust Christ (49 percent) and only those who trust solely in Jesus will be saved (48 percent).

"The biggest challenge in defining evangelicals is that too many people want to affirm evangelical beliefs, to the point you can end up with an unrealistic percentage—no one thinks the majority of Americans are evangelicals," Stetzer said.

About 3 in 10 Americans fit the NAE/LifeWay Research statistical definition of what would count as evangelical by belief. That number will move a bit due to the format of the questionnaire and the margin of error, but it also aligns with other studies using other methods, Stetzer said. For example, 35 percent of Americans describe themselves as "born-again or evangelical Christian," according to Pew Research's 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study, and 25 percent identify with evangelical churches.

LifeWay Research found overlap but not perfect correlation among those who label themselves evangelicals, those who attend evangelical churches, and those who hold evangelical beliefs. Just 59 percent of Protestants who identify themselves as evangelicals strongly agree with all four statements.

"Identity, belief and behavior are three different things when it comes to being an evangelical," McConnell said. "Some people are living out the evangelical school of thought but may not embrace the label. And the opposite is also true."

Differences were particularly apparent among African-Americans. Only 25 percent of African-Americans who hold evangelical beliefs consider themselves evangelical Christians, compared to 62 percent of whites and 79 percent of Hispanics.

"African-American Christians historically have high levels of beliefs that align with evangelical beliefs but tend not to use that term," Stetzer said.

"And a percentage of people strongly agree with all four of these statements but don't identify as Christian, which is fascinating," he said. "Those are some profoundly Christian beliefs."

Researchers can combine the NAE/LifeWay Research statements of evangelical belief with additional questions measuring evangelical belonging and behavior to get a more complete picture of evangelicalism in America, McConnell said.

Anderson said, "Evangelicals are 'Good News' people. We appreciate research and want to learn more from researchers about our community. This new method will help get us all on the same page about who are evangelicals."

LifeWay Research Featured Culture Mon, 23 Nov 2015 12:00:00 -0500
Kasich-tied PAC to Break Reagan's "Eleventh Commandment" and Speak (Very) Ill of Trump
Nearly a dozen big Republican donors backing different presidential candidates are coming together to help fund an advertising campaign attacking front-runner Donald Trump, who faced sharp criticism from rivals this week for his inflammatory comments about Muslims.
Matt David, spokesman for the group planning the attack, a Super PAC called New Day for America, which is supporting Ohio Governor John Kasich's presidential bid, said 10 new donors had pledged money in the two days since Politico reported Thursday evening the group's plans to attack Trump in New Hampshire.
David said the majority of those donors have warned that they are supporting candidates other than Kasich, including former Florida Governor Jeb Bush or Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who are both seen as establishment choices for the November 2016 election.     
A spokeswoman for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.     
Trump is leading in polls of Republican primary voters both nationwide and in key early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire, and his numbers have risen despite negative news about his business record and backlash to his contentious statements.
Over the course of his campaign, he has sparred with popular figures like Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly and put forth controversial proposals such as a plan to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico and get the Mexican government to pay for it.
But his remarks on Muslims last week following the attacks by Islamic State militants in Paris that killed 130 people seemed to be giving his opponents new resolve.
In interviews with Yahoo and NBC News on Thursday, Trump said he supported the idea of requiring all Muslims in the United States to register in a special database. His comments drew widespread criticism and particularly sharp rebukes from Kasich and Bush.
California donor Jeff Le Sage pledged money to the group on Friday, but declined to say how much he was giving.
"I am 100 percent behind Jeb Bush and I'm supporting his effort but I'm also contributing to New Day for America because the educated people in this country, those who believe in hope, not hate, need to say enough is enough and stand up to Donald Trump," said Le Sage, the only donor who agreed to speak for this story.
On ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, Trump was asked if he was "unequivocally" ruling out a database to track all Muslims, to which he replied "No, not at all."
But then he suggested the database would focus more on Syrian refugees than all Muslim Americans.
David said his group plans to use ads on TV and radio as well as direct mailings to New Hampshire voters to show them what a Trump presidency would look like, depicting details like the complicated, expensive bureaucratic operations behind efforts to deport millions of illegal immigrants and get all Muslims in the United States to register in a database.
A California-based firm, Strategic Perception, is creating the campaign and has not yet released any of the material.
David said New Day for America's plans to spend $2.5 million on anti-Trump ads in New Hampshire meant the group's message would achieve something near "saturation" in the state.
It has already received "hundreds of thousands of dollars" from the new donors, and pledges over the past two days add up to more than $1 million, according to David.
He said in addition to the Trump attack ads, New Day for America would continue to spend money trying to promote Kasich, whose support in the polls is in the single digits.
But that doesn't seem to be bothering the new donors. Le Sage, the founder of Envisage Equity, a private equity firm in Southern California, said he did not give any specific instructions to the group on how to spend his donation.
"I have a belief that they're going to use it for the right purpose," he said. {eoa}
(Editing by Mary Milliken)
©2015 Thomson Reuters. All Rights Reserved.
EMILY FLITTER/Reuters Featured Primaries Caucus Mon, 23 Nov 2015 11:00:00 -0500
Why Louisana's New Democratic Governor Might Surprise Hillary Clinton

Democrat John Bel Edwards won election on Saturday as the next governor of Louisiana, staking a rare victory for his party in the conservative U.S. South.

Edwards, a 49-year-old state legislator, defeated Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter in a hotly contested runoff election that defied the political headwinds in a state where Republicans currently hold all statewide offices. After his defeat, Vitter announced he would not seek another Senate term next year.

With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, Edwards held a 56 percent to 44 percent lead.

Edwards thanked his cheering supporters and said the election confounded conventional wisdom that he could not win.

"I will not let you down," he said. "This election shows us that the people of Louisiana in a time of deep cynicism about our politics and also our future, have chosen hope over scorn... and over a distrust of others."

In a reference to Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has been criticized for focusing on his presidential campaign at the expense of Louisiana, Edwards said the people of a state that is "embarrassed by the vanity and unrestrained ambitions of its leadership" have chosen to pursue a better future.

Vitter, 54, was haunted during the race by his entanglement in a 2007 prostitution scandal in Washington. After a bruising primary last month left state Republicans divided, Edwards seized the opening to become the only Democratic governor south of Virginia.

In conceding the election, Vitter said he will not seek re-election to the Senate after he finishes the last year of this term.

"I decided I wanted to pursue new challenges outside the senate, no matter what," he said.

He said he called Edwards to congratulate him.

"I've lost one political campaign in my life, tonight, and ironically it's the campaign and the political effort I am most proud of - fighting shoulder to shoulder with you," Vitter said to supporters.

Edwards, an anti-abortion, pro-gun Democrat, will replace Jindal, who is unpopular in his state and barred by term limits from seeking re-election. Jindal did not endorse a candidate.

Jindal, who last week ended his presidential candidacy, issued a statement congratulating Edwards.

"Now is the time for everyone to put politics and partisanship aside and make sure our new governor is ready on day one," he said. {eoa}

(Reporting by Kathy Finn and Letitia Stein; Editing by Kevin Murphy and Richard Borsuk)
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Kathy Finn/Reuters Featured Elections Caucus Mon, 23 Nov 2015 12:00:00 -0500