Charisma News | Breaking News. Spiritual Perspective. Thu, 23 Oct 2014 03:20:42 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Who Will Speak for Brittany Maynard's Life?

The hype is everywhere. A multitude of news stories, a segment on 60 Minutes and a multi-page spread in People magazine are all celebrating Brittany Maynard's decision to kill herself on Nov. 1. But who is telling her the truth?

Yes, Brittany has a very touching, yet tragic, tale to tell about her terminal brain cancer, but she has an opportunity to witness to a faith in God and a submission to His will for her life. This acceptance could be a shining example to her generation that life is precious and we all need to use every moment we have to give love and encouragement to others in similar situations. Instead, she is delivering one message: When the going gets tough, give up.

Brittany has now been victimized twice—first by the cancer, and now by those in society who will have facilitated her death and even pressed for it by various methods and self-interests, those who mistakenly proclaim that a human being is in complete control of his own life when it is well known that the Bible confirms that man is created in the image of God. Therefore, an attack on an innocent human being with the intention of ending that person's life—even by the person herself—is a direct attack on God Himself.

This is the truth that Brittany needs to hear. We pray that, in these final days, Brittany finds Christ, reaches out for His caring hand and learns the joy that comes from giving one's life completely to the Creator and accepting whatever happens with a true resignation to His will. And from that new knowledge may Brittany proclaim: I will not go quietly into the night! I will not vanish without a fight! I'm going to live on! I'm going to survive! I will live every minute of every day until God calls me home!

Judie Brown is president of American Life League.

Judie Brown Featured The Pulse Opinion Wed, 22 Oct 2014 15:46:03 -0400
'God's Not Dead 2' Getting Ready to Rock Atheists' World

After the breakout success of God's Not Dead, faith-based film studio Pure Flix Entertainment is gearing up to produce a sequel. Pure Flix CEO and managing partner Michael Scott said his studio has a number of projects in the works for next year, including God's Not Dead 2.

"We've got a full slate next year. You'll see Do You Believe?, which is coming in the spring ... we're looking at late March for the release [and] next year possibly either fall or the following year you'll see God's Not Dead 2," Scott said.

God's Not Dead took the world by surprise following its March release. Despite the film's small $2 million budget, Scott said it earned $9.2 million in its first week in theaters, finishing fifth in the U.S. box office. The film earned another $8.5 to $9 million the following week, holding on to its fifth place spot and eventually jumping to fourth in U.S. box offices.

The cast for new film has not been announced.

Scott said making God's Not Dead was an "incredible journey." Even before the movie came out in theaters, he said the trailer "exploded onto the web" with millions of views. "We became the Number 1 page (on) Facebook in the world during the week of the trailer's release," said Scott. The movie's popularity also was bolstered by the hit song with the same name as the film by Christian contemporary-music group the Newsboys.

The story revolves around a college freshman by the name of Josh Wheaton (played by Shane Harper) who enrolls in a philosophy class taught by an infamous dictatorial Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo). In order for each student to pass the class, they have to sign the declaration that "God's Dead." Josh refuses, and he goes all the way to defend his faith. With his grades, his reputation and his relation to other students at stake, Josh engages in a series of debates with the professor. 

The reasons this movie is must-viewing for every Christian are twofold: First, this movie will give affirmation to many of our young adults that it is not uncool to take a stand for Jesus. Just because Christians are in the minority, doesn't mean it's plebeian, something to be sneered at. Second, Christianity is not a crutch for the unthinking. The Christian faith in fact invites scrutiny; it can be examined, questioned and tried. And it will still come out strong, reliable and trustworthy. These are two themes running right through the movie.

Prior to God's Not Dead, the Arizona-based film studio had produced 25 to 30 movies and distributed 75 films worldwide. Many of those were direct-to-DVD or TV movies. God's Not Dead was Pure Flix's second theatrical movie following the 2010 film What If.

The studio is currently filming Do You Believe? in Michigan, according to a report on The film follows a group of characters: a pastor who is re-examining his faith, a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and a gangbanger who is fighting against belief, among others, who all struggle with various problems.

The characters' stories intersect in a way that reveals the "redemptive power of the cross." The cast includes Cybill Shepherd, Lee Majors, Ted McGinley and UFC Champion Mavrick von Haug. Pure Flix hopes to finish filming Do You Believe? by the end of this month.

Charisma News Staff Featured Culture Wed, 22 Oct 2014 18:00:00 -0400
Are the AFA and FRC Really Hate Groups?

"You're a 'Hate Group!' ... Na-nana-naa-nah!"

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) calls the American Family Association (AFA) a "hate group" because AFA promotes traditional biblical views on homosexuality and marriage. SPLC does not have a standard for who they label as a "hate group." They apply the label to whomever they want to dehumanize and attack. Surprisingly, President Obama stated the same position on homosexual marriage that AFA holds when he first ran for President, but SPLC did not call him a hater.

I am writing this blog so that you can evaluate for yourself whether AFA is a hate group, here are:

  1. A background sketch of the SPLC;
  2. A list of AFA's views regarding homosexuality that SPLC disagrees with, and therefore defines as hateful lies;
  3. Some of the consequences of SPLC's name calling; and
  4. Information about SPLC's leader Morris Dees that you can use to evaluate his hostility toward AFA.

(1) Multi-millionaire lawyer Morris Dees co-founded the SPLC in 1971 and developed a successful litigation strategy to financially destroy the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups which had perpetrated racial violence. During this period the SPLC developed a data base of information on white supremacist groups that the FBI and other federal agencies sometimes consulted. As racial violence ebbed in national focus, Dees moved on to contesting the death penalty. Later, to keep the SPLC relevant, Dees added homosexual rights to its agenda.

(2) AFA promotes the following views that SPLC calls lies:
     (a) Homosexual behavior is sinful, and a perversion of human sexuality.
     (b) Christ offers forgiveness and freedom from bondage to homosexuality or any other sin (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
     (c) Feeling homosexual urges does not require a person to act on them. 
     (d) God ordained marriage as a union of one man and one woman in a pattern that has the potential for producing children. 
     (e) No relationship between same-sex couples is really marriage, no matter what the law may say.
     (f) An intact family, with a father and a mother, is the best environment for raising a child. 
     (g) Although a same-sex couple may love a child, they inevitably give the child a perverted view of sex.
     (h) Youthful partners are highly prized by homosexuals, posing a potential threat to vulnerable minors.
     (i) Homosexuals target Christians who refuse to affirm them in their sin, such as the Methodist campmeeting reception facility, the baker, the photographer, the florist and the wedding chapel operator who have been sued for not wanting to participate in homosexual wedding celebrations.

(3) By calling AFA and the Family Research Council "hate groups" the SPLC has confused the public, making them think that those conservative family organizations advocate either violence or harassment of homosexuals. We do not.

By including AFA and FRC on its list of hate groups, SPLC has aroused suspicion of conservative Christians among law enforcement and military personnel when SPLC materials are used for training purposes.

Floyd Corkins told the FBI he felt that the hate map on the SPLC website gave him license to kill anti-gay targets when he entered FRC headquarters and shot four FRC employees in 2012. FRC and AFA remain listed on the SPLC hate map.

(4) Morris Dees personal life puts him at odds with the values of AFA. After four divorces, Dees is on his fifth marriage. Dees' second divorce left ugly allegations of sexual misbehavior, including serial adultery, forcing his wife to participate in group sex and engaging in incest, pedophilia and homosexuality. The biblical Christian values championed by AFA and FRC undoubtedly pose a stinging rebuke to Dees' personal lifestyle.

Please respond to this ugly blog by praying that AFA will be gracious and winsome as it defends biblical teachings on sexuality and marriage. Pray that God will defend His Name. Pray that Morris Dees and the other folks at SPLC will come to repentance and find grace and healing.

(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)

Patrick Vaughn Featured U.S. News Wed, 22 Oct 2014 15:17:36 -0400
Pastors Flood Houston Mayor's Office With Sermons

You've no doubt heard of the classic Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back. Well, it's time for a new movie and it's just starting. It's called, The Pastors Strike Back.

Fresh off the stunning attack on religious liberty down in Houston where pastors were told by Houston's Mayor to hand over their sermons, there is now an effort underway by pastors across America to VOLUNTARILY send Bibles and their sermons to the mayor of Houston.

Mike Huckabee called for it and so has influential Christian author Eric Metaxas. Metaxas tells The Brody File, "Never in our history has religious freedom been so brazenly defied. A bold red line has been crossed. The Houston mayor's inexcusable demand to see the sermons of pastors is an outrageous and shocking affront to all Americans and to liberty itself. If the American church does not rise up and stand against this, there is no American church."

The Brody File obtained a home video of Pastor Brad Atkins of Powdersville First Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina sending his sermon off to the Houston mayor. You can watch it here.

Sources tell The Brody File that pastors from Canada, Australia and Germany are also sending the Houston mayor Bibles and sermons. There are also big events planned around what happened in Houston. On Nov. 2, The Family Research council is hosting a huge simulcast event in Houston at a big church.  Guests will include Mike Huckabee, Phil Robertson, the Benham brothers, Dr. Ronnie Floyd and others. In South Carolina, the South Carolina Pastors Alliance is staging an event called, "The Stand" to be held on the statehouse grounds.

Folks, we are beginning to see pastors rise up. Will it last? In the evangelical community, this is at critical mass. Will the flock respond?

David Brody is the chief political correspondent for CBN News.


David Brody Featured U.S. News Wed, 22 Oct 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Facing Execution, Asia Bibi Stands Firm in Her Faith

 She's a committed Christian.  A mother of five.  A loving wife.  A servant of all.

But will she also be a martyr?

That's Asia Bibi. She has been sentenced to death by hanging under Pakistan's Shariah blasphemy law.  She was targeted as a member of the sole Christian family in her small Pakistani village.  She was falsely accused of "blasphemy" – for supposedly speaking against the prophet Muhammad.

Last week an appeals court in Lahore, Pakistan upheld her execution sentence.

Here's how this valiant Christian woman describes her plight, in her own words:

I'm the victim of a cruel, collective injustice.

I've been locked up, handcuffed and chained, banished from the world and waiting to die. I don't know how long I've got left to live. Every time my cell door opens my heart beats faster. My life is in God's hands and I don't know what's going to happen to me. It's a brutal, cruel existence. But I am innocent. I'm guilty only of being presumed guilty. I'm starting to wonder whether being a Christian in Pakistan today is not just a failing, or a mark against you, but actually a crime.

But though I'm kept in a tiny, windowless cell, I want my voice and my anger to be heard. I want the whole world to know that I'm going to be hanged for helping my neighbor. I'm guilty of having shown someone sympathy. What did I do wrong? I drank water from a well belonging to Muslim women, using "their" cup, in the burning heat of the midday sun.

I, Asia Bibi, have been sentenced to death because I was thirsty. I'm a prisoner because I used the same cup as those Muslim women, because water served by a Christian woman was regarded as unclean by my stupid fellow fruit-pickers.

That day, June 14, 2009, is imprinted on my memory.

It's as simple and devastating as that.  For five years, she's been imprisoned on death row over a cup of water.  But what's really at issue here is her Christian faith.

To her radical Islamic community and under Shariah law in Pakistan, her Christian faith is her "crime."  It's her death sentence.

Her family is in hiding, fearing for their lives.  In addition to the death sentence, Asia Bibi has a price on her head.  A radical cleric has implored the Taliban to carry out her execution sentence before the Pakistani government does.  Two Pakistani government officials who have spoken out on her behalf are now dead, murdered in cold blood for standing up for her human rights.

This atrocity cannot stand.  No one – anywhere – should ever be put to death because of their religious beliefs.

All of us who have the freedom to speak out have the responsibility to speak out.  It's incumbent upon all of us to demand her freedom.

Though she has one final appeal at Pakistan's Supreme Court, it is often public pressure and not a legal argument that wins freedom in these cases.

We've seen it in the case of Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani who is now free from a death sentence in Iran for his Christian faith, and we saw it just a couple of months ago with another Christian mom freed from death row in Sudan.  Meriam Ibrahim had been convicted and sentenced to death for her Christian faith, much like what Asia Bibi is now facing.  Meriam is now free because of the international outcry of hundreds of thousands around the world.

It's time to raise our voices once again and #FreeBibi.  In just 24 hours, over 100,000 people have signed that ACLJ's petition for Asia Bibi's freedom at

Were mobilizing through our international offices, in Pakistan itself, here in Washington, and at the United Nations demanding her release.  We must pray, but we must also act.  Asia Bibi must not be allowed to die for being a Christian.

This article originally was posted here on the ACLJ website. It also is crossposted on Red State.

Matthew Clark Featured World News Wed, 22 Oct 2014 15:30:00 -0400
Remove Painting of Kid's Praying Or Else, Atheists Threaten

A middle school in Oklahoma is being threatened with legal action unless it removes a painting that depicts two children praying, which has hung at the school for more than 18 years.

To its credit, the Putnam County School District has flatly refused to remove the artwork. District officials said no one had ever complained about until a letter was received from the secularist Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), which is based in Wisconsin.

Even though school officials insist that no specific religion or message is promoted through the print that hangs in Kenneth Cooper Middle School, the FFRF claims the painting discriminates against children who choose not to pray, according to a report Wednesday on

"It is our information and understanding that in the Kenneth Cooper Middle School office hangs a religious poster with an image entitled, 'Faith in America' by Donald Zolan," stated FFRF staff attorney Andrew Seidel to begin his plea for the print's removal. "The image features two children with their hands clasped in prayer, with an American flag background."

Justifying the removal?

Seidel contended that even if the young boy and girl portrayed in the painting are not actuality praying—but merely clasping their hands together—the existence of the painting at the school would still violate the First Amendment, calling for it to be purged from campus.

In response, a lawyer for the school district pointed out to the FFRF attorney that his atheistic organization, which is generally opposed to religious freedom, stands alone in its contention that the painting poses a problem on campus.

"The poster complained of has hung in the school office for 18 years without a complaint, prior to your letter," declared Putnam County School District Attorney Anthony Childers on behalf of the entire district. "To date, the district has not received any complaint from any resident, student or patron of the district who believes that the image conveys an improper religious message."

Not giving in to the threat

This order for removal was utterly refused by the Putnam County School District, which had no intention of getting rid of the painting that has been enjoyed by faculty, staff and students alike for nearly two decades.

"We cannot agree that the poster displayed in the office is a per se violation of the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution," Childers was quoted as saying in the report. "Though, as you've pointed out, the title given to the artwork by the original artist is labeled 'Faith in America,' there is no text displayed with the poster which imputes the artist's intent, theme or title."

The print in question shows a young boy and girl reverently praying with the Stars and Stripes as a patriotic backdrop. The district's attorney argues that in no way does this artist's rendition constitute the endorsement of any type of religion, as he made clear in his response to the FFRF's demand letter.

Childers attempted to put everything into perspective from both a logical and legal standpoint, implying that FFRF's argument is based on intimidation and misinformation to get the school district to acquiesce to its demands out of fear of an impending costly lawsuit.

"We believe that a neutral viewer of the poster would not find that the image attempts to proselytize or promote any particular faith, and does not create coercive pressure on students who may see the image," Childers concluded. "At this time, we do not believe that the image violates the Establishment Clause and the District will not agree to remove the image from its office."


Charisma News Staff Featured U.S. News Wed, 22 Oct 2014 14:00:00 -0400
Secularist Mocks Holy Ghost While Defending Halloween

It always intrigues me how far beyond mainstream Christianity—or Christianity at all—is The Huffington Post's Christianity section. I consistently see articles that mock, contradict and otherwise distort the Christian faith—all in the name of Christianity.

The latest is a piece called "The Evangelical War on Halloween" by Phil Zuckerman, a professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif. I have no idea if Zuckerman is a professing Christian or not—and I won't judge his salvation—but at least some of his views are way off the Christian mark.

As Zuckerman tells the story, when he was 5 years old he was a wizard for Halloween. Ever since then, Halloween has been his favorite "holiday" and his "spirit is tingled" by the scary lawn decorations. He loves the haunted houses, spooky stories, witches and the laughter of Vincent Price.

A Mocking Spirit Rises

"To be sure, most Christians in America enjoy Halloween. But a significant minority of them—primarily evangelical Christians—have been waging a war against Halloween for some time now," Zuckerman bemoans. "They urge their fellow citizens to abandon trick-or-treating, to eschew spooky costumes, to resist the lure of jack-o-lanterns and instead attend 'Harvest Festivals' on church grounds. To these pious souls, bobbing for apples is kosher, but not wearing a skeleton getup. They even lobby public schools—sometimes successfully—to ban the wearing of costumes on October 31. And of course, Pat Robertson routinely rants about the Druidic/Satanic evils of the holiday."

From there, Zuckerman tries to draw parallels between Christianity and Halloween. Yes, really. He points to zombies—humans that died and came back to life—and compares that to the resurrection of Christ. Yes, really. Then he essentially mocks Christians who are filled with the Holy Ghost, saying, "For Pentecostals, the Holy Ghost literally enters their bodies and causes them to shimmy and shake and speak in tongues." Yes, really. Next, he touches on the topic of demons and says Christianity is rife with them. Yes, really. He goes on and on and lands on Satan.

And that's where Halloween ultimately lands. For all of Zuckerman's mocking—even shamelessly mocking the Holy Spirit in a section of HuffPo that's supposed to cater to Christian readers—I'm at least grateful that he brought the conversation to where it belongs. Halloween is a demonic holiday.

Christians Should Not Practice Demonic Rituals

Here's the rub: Bible-believing Christians would no more dress their kids up like a witch or zombie than they would encourage their kids to smoke weed. 2 Cor. 6:15 (AMP) asks this question: "What harmony can there be between Christ and Belial [the devil]?" So make fun of Pat Robertson all you want. He's right about Halloween.

"Halloween is a festival for demonic spirits. The whole idea of trick o' treating ... the Druids would go to somebody's [house] and ask for money and if they didn't get any money they would kill their sheep. That was the trick ... and it was serious stuff," Robertson says.

"All this business about goblins and jack-o'-lanterns all comes out of demonic rituals of the Druids and the people who lived in England at that particular time. I think churches can have Halloween parties. You can bob for apples ... and turn it into a Christian festival, and that's what we ought to do. We need to redeem these days, but that day was given over to Satanic things." Amen.

Click here to download a free chapter of Jennifer's new book, Satan's Deadly Trio: Defeating the Deceptions of Jezebel, Religion and Witchcraft.

Jennifer LeClaire is news editor of Charisma. She is also director of Awakening House of Prayer in Fort Lauderdale and author of several books, including Satan's Deadly Trio: Defeating the Deceptions of Jezebel, Religion and Witchcraftand The Spiritual Warrior's Guide to Defeating Jezebel. You can visit her website here. You can also join Jennifer on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Jennifer LeClaire Featured Watchman on the Wall Opinion Wed, 22 Oct 2014 11:00:00 -0400
After Resigning Mars Hill Pastorate, Mark Driscoll Speaks Out

Days after stepping down as head of Seattle's Mars Hill megachurch, Driscoll spoke briefly Monday (Oct. 20) at the Gateway Conference in suburban Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. Initially, he and conference organizers agreed that he would not give a formal address at the conference.

But Robert Morris, pastor of Gateway Church near Dallas, said Driscoll requested to come to the conference as an attendee. "That was big of him to just come and be ministered to," Morris said.

"We could crucify him, but since someone's already been crucified for him ... " Morris said, his voice trailing off. "It's very sad that in the church, we're the only army that shoots at our wounded. And I'd like you to stop it."

Driscoll's resignation came in the wake of accusations of plagiarism, bullying and an oversized ego that alienated some of his most devoted followers. Conference attendees gave Driscoll a standing ovation as Morris handed him the microphone.

"What do you want me to do?" Driscoll asked, teasing about the dangers of giving "a microphone to a preacher who's been gone for a while."

Driscoll spoke for three minutes, telling the crowd that he's praying for Jesus to show him "blind spots" where he could grow.

"There are a lot of things I could say that would make me feel better. I don't know if it would make me look better, but I don't think it would make Jesus look better," he said.

Driscoll asked the crowd for prayer for his family of five children, ages 8 to 17. "I've cried a lot lately," he said. "It's been a rough season for the family."

Driscoll said his family has moved three times, people have been arrested at his home and he has received death threats. Recently, he said, he found rusty nails on his driveway.

When his children wanted to camp in the backyard, the family "woke up in the morning about 6:30 or so, and huge rocks about the size of baseballs come flying at my kids," he said.

Days later, Driscoll said, media flew over his house in a helicopter. He said his 8-year-old son came down wearing a military jacket, loading up his Airsoft rifle, asking if his jacket was bulletproof. "He didn't have any concept of media coverage," Driscoll said. "He thought it was bad guys coming to kill his family."

Addressing a conference of pastors and church staff, he said: "Every pastor needs a pastor. You pastors, your family needs you to be their pastor."

Morris said that Driscoll had been preaching 50 times a year, sometimes six times a week, which was not healthy. "I'm glad he's saying, 'Help me learn to do it differently and do it better.'"

Morris joked about how he invited both Driscoll and North Carolina megachurch pastor Steven Furtick to the conference, both of whom "got bad media this year." Furtick, who was already under fire for buying a $1.6 million house, came under the spotlight for "spontaneous baptisms" that turned out to be not nearly so spontaneous. Driscoll and Furtick smiled and shook hands.

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Sarah Pulliam Bailey Featured U.S. News Wed, 22 Oct 2014 10:00:00 -0400
15 'Signs of the Times' Indicating Judgment

 The Bible warns us about saying "everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation" (1 Pet. 3:4) when judgment is at hand. We know that God is "patient not wanting anyone to perish" (v.9), but there comes a time when the gavel falls!

After Hurricane Katrina, I spoke with a former resident of Louisiana. He told me he grew up hearing warnings of levies breaking but folks simply tuned it out when nothing happened. This describes America today.

If you fell asleep like a Rip Van Winkle for 30 years and awoke today, imagine how shocked you would be at what happened to America.

1. Divorce: Increased from 4% to 51% in one generation.

2. Cohabitation: 65% of "altar-bound" singles live together, a euphemism for lifestyle fornication.

3. Abortion: 57 million unborn babies aborted, some with taxpayer funding and now part of socialized medicine.

4. Marijuana: Being legalized in several states.

5. Euthanasia and Infanticide: Being legalized under camouflage names.

6. Pornography: Rampant, graphic, just a "click away" on hand-held devices.

7. Homosexuality, lesbian and transgender lifestyles: Promoted even by our president along with gay marriage and homosexual ordinations.

8. Movies and music: Standards almost nonexistent with graphic nudity, profanity and blasphemy commonplace.

9. Out-of-wedlock births: 1st time in U.S history – more than 50%.

10. Sexually transmitted diseases: Over 110 million in our population infected.

11. Economic insanity: $18 trillion national debt; millions unemployed deriving benefits; $60 billion in annual Medicare fraud and waste.

12. Illegal immigration: Over 11 million and politicians pushing open borders and amnesty.

13. Political leaders: Corruption, incompetence and deception at all levels.

14. Radical Islam and terrorism: Exploding in regions of the world with an increasingly vulnerable America dismantling militarily and docile politicians calling it a "peaceful religion."

15. Should we add illiteracy... crime... catastrophic fatherlessness... human trafficking... adultery... profane ignorant and low information populace? How about the ongoing erosion of our religious freedoms and secularism taking over society? And last but not least, how about a Laodicean, apostate church compromising and lacking the courage to address the defining issues of our day with clarity and conviction while defining success in terms of happy sermons, attendance, offerings, number of staff, programs and square footage?

Do we see the "handwriting on the wall" that we are at an unprecedented tipping point? Are we aware that America is rapidly spiraling into a lawless culture similar to Germany of a generation ago?

My wife and her parents are German and they will tell you an educated and civilized nation moved from democracy to dictatorship and then demise in less than six years! A once-thriving nation can have its heritage and faith so decimated that history records it as a tragic collapse.

Our Only  Hope for Turnaround is a Heaven-sent Awakening That May Require A Calamity to Jumpstart

As long as things continue to run somewhat smoothly on the surface, we have an amazing ability to cope and carry-on, all the while making flimsy excuses for compromise and a comfortable "Christianity."

• "I don't like what's happening in America on so many issues, but it's not      really affecting me or my family."

• "I prefer they not schedule soccer games on Sunday morning but I guess we can live with it. As a family we try to make it to church at least twice a month unless we need to catch up on our rest."

• "I wish our pastor would address these critical issues but his role model is Joel Osteen so he avoids controversy."

• "I grew up with Sunday school, Sunday evening and Wednesday evening services but times have changed and I guess we can get by with a brief Sunday service."

• "Our worship leader is gay, I think, and the primary singer is living with her boyfriend but it's probably best not to stir up problems."

• "I wish our church gave out voter guides so we knew where candidates stand but since we're in a building program, leadership said they don't want to jeopardize fundraising."

  • "Our pastors tell us they don't put out any lawn signs for candidates or  speak about anything political because of separation of church and state."
  •          "We got the evite for the citywide gathering to pray for transformation in our city but it's the same night of Dancing With the Stars finale and we just can't miss it."

"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked" (Rev. 3:15-17).

           8 Potential Disasters to Awaken Us?

Will it take another stock market crash, severe financial recession or, God forbid, global economic collapse to get our attention?

Might it take a series of beheadings and coordinated Islamic terrorist attacks in malls and cities by ISIS supporters slipping through unprotected borders to wake us up?

Would a massive power outage shutting down computers and canceling NFL games nationwide strike fear into the hearts of citizens and sober us to the urgency of the hour?

How about an airborne Ebola virus outbreak and the "pestilences and diseases" (Matt. 24:7) Jesus predicted at the end of the age? Maybe a mass migration of infected Central Americans streaming through our porous Southern border?

Perhaps the beginning of war in the Middle East as Jerusalem is surrounded by enemies (Luke 21:20) and Iran launches the "bomb" on Israel causing catastrophic disruption in the Straits of Hormuz (where 20% of the total world's gas supply passes)? Recall the long gas lines of 1973?

Friends and family "handed over to be persecuted and put to death...hated by all nations because of Me" (Matt. 24:9)? Imagine us saying what a Chinese pastor, Huang Yizi, said this week upon being arrested in a government crackdown: "I am grateful to God for the opportunity to go to jail."

Perhaps the very real, dreaded, catastrophic EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) attack causing unimaginable devastation by paralyzing America as all power lines burn out and all goes dark instantly? USA Today stated: "Cities darken, food spoils and homes fall silent. Civilization collapses." Cause: One terrorist A-bomb or a severe solar storm.

Massive earthquake(s) as Jesus foretold (Matt. 24:7). Scientist Dr. Lucy Jones issued a dire warning on Oct. 15 to the L.A. City Council of the effects: "Infrastructure crippled; power grid and communications knocked out; water supply disrupted; 1,800 fatalities, 53,000 injured and ½ the buildings unusable." [Note: This is not the inevitable "Big One" set for San Francisco.]

                                 Awakening From Spiritual Coma

After the disaster of 9/11, people flocked to church buildings, prayer meetings mushroomed and streets were lined with marquees calling for God's blessing on America. We got our wake up call and people were motivated to seek the living God as atheists and the ACLU were silenced.

Unfortunately, we hit the snooze button and fell back asleep. African pastors gathering in D.C. stated it this way just a week ago: "America is in a spiritual coma!"

Providentially, the same week over 100 churches gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in our Nation's Capital to cry out to God for one thing - spiritual awakening in the United States of America.

In the time of Esther, things looked bleak and God's people were very discouraged at the prospect of a national disaster. But through prayer, fasting, seeking God and Spirit-led action, God intervened to save the day. "Who knows if you've come into the Kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14) was spoken over one believer. As the clock is ticking, can you hear God issuing you and me the same challenge?

This is the second installment of a two-part series. Part one was posted yesterday.

Larry Tomczak Featured Here's the Deal Opinion Wed, 22 Oct 2014 10:30:00 -0400
Teenager Dies After Collapsing at Haunted House Attraction

A teenage girl who died after collapsing at a haunted house attraction in Ohio had a pre-existing heart condition, an official said on Tuesday.

Christian Faith Benge, 16, collapsed over the weekend when she visited the Land of Illusion complex with friends and family in Middletown, Ohio, 20 miles south of Dayton. She was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead.
"It's a natural death," said Doyle Burke, chief investigator for the Warren County Coroner's office. He said Benge had a heart condition and went willingly to the haunted-house complex.
Unlike amusement park rides or portable inflatable devices, haunted houses are not subject to state regulations, said Brett Gates, a spokesman with the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
Land of Illusion said in a statement on Tuesday that Benge had gone to the complex to listen to her father's band play a concert. It said she then went into one of the attractions and that first responders on site attended to her when she collapsed.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for information about whether it posts warning signs at the haunted houses.
Reporting by Steve Bittenbender in Louisville, Ky.; editing by Fiona Ortiz, Mohammad Zargham and Peter Cooney.
Steve Bittenbender Featured U.S. News Wed, 22 Oct 2014 09:30:00 -0400
Bishop's Book Plays 'Fast and Loose' With Scripture

A review of Alan Wilson's 'More Perfect Union? Understanding Same Sex Marriage'

In his book on "Understanding Same Sex Marriage," Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham, begins "This book describes a stage in an ongoing journey towards equality" continuing, "All over the world marriage is being opened to people." And it is this idea that the Church of England must urgently embrace and indeed celebrate same-sex "marriage" as part of the world's "ongoing journey to equality" that drives More Perfect Union.

It's arguable that this idea might have had some merit were it not for one thing, and that thing is the Bible. Despite having three chapters called variously "Scripture 101," "Things Gays are Liable to Read in the Bible" and "Biblical Marriage," one of the things that stands out most clearly and sadly in the book is a lack of regard for the clarity, authority or weight of Scripture.

Bishop Alan's categorical statement "that very few theological problems ... can be solved definitely directly from the Bible ..." helps the reader grasp how he can repeatedly disregard and misread it, despite speaking of the importance of reading it "seriously and literally." At different points Bishop Alan describes both the Lord Jesus and the Apostle Paul as "playing fast and loose" with the Old Testament whilst repeatedly doing just that himself and confirming that "people who are for or against homosexuality develop self-consistent readings which are wither pro or anti-gay...."

In his curious, though by no means original, reading of the Bible's teaching on marriage as being somehow "beyond considerations of sex, gender or children," Bishop Alan omits the foundational texts in Genesis 1 and 2 on God's creation of humankind in his image as male and female, texts to which the Lord Jesus and Paul refer to as they clarify God's teaching on marriage. This might seem odd until we grasp how central to Bishop Alan's argument for same sex "marriage" is the idea that, despite all biblical, empirical and scientific data to the contrary, "gender identity is largely a matter of the mind." The book repeatedly and contemptuously dismisses "simplistic Janet and John" (male/ female) binarism when it comes to gender identity, using specious arguments based around, for instance, the tiny proportion of babies born each year of indeterminate sex.

Here as in other parts of the book, Bishop Alan makes assertions and draws conclusions according to "science" which when footnotes are followed up reference research no more robust than, in one case, a "Facebook conversation" with someone. Perhaps realising that he is on shaky ground here Bishop Alan asserts, "Of course contemporary science is not definitive."

Accompanying Bishop Alan's lack of regard for the Bible's clear teaching, is a lack of regard for those who take it seriously as God's clear, definitive loving word. Whilst claiming that "it is wrong to label people with terms they do not own," Bishop Alan proceeds to do just that with anyone within the Church who does not agree with him, often misrepresenting their viewpoints in the process. Those who disagree with him are variously labeled as "enraged new model conservatives," those on a "1950s high horse" and "a tiny minority of conservative zealots."

At one point Bishop Alan cheerfully belittles his fellow Bishops, the Anglican Primates of the Majority World, by speaking of how at the 1998 Lambeth Conference "a tiny clique of reactionary activists played on the largely ignorant fears and fantasies of third world bishops like violins." As an assertion, it manages to be patronising, offensive and borderline racist in its unsubstantiated and imperialistic suggestion that these "third world bishops" with their "largely ignorant" concerns are unable to think for themselves.

"How can the church find true unity?" Bishop Alan asks, concluding that it can do so only as it embraces same sex "marriage." Any other kind of unity—for instance around the truth of Scripture—would be "narrow and stunted" because, according to Bishop Alan, "Equality"—not God's goodness or love or holiness or justice or plan of salvation in Christ—is the most fundamental concept in the Bible's story from the Garden of Eden to the New Jerusalem. And it is Bishop Alan's obsession with his idea of equality rather than the wonderful God of the Bible and Creation who made men and women in His image to reflect something of His character as they come together in marriage, that lies at the heart of the sad confusion and muddled thinking that runs throughout this polemical and poorly argued book.  

Christian Concern Featured Culture Wed, 22 Oct 2014 09:00:00 -0400
White House Confirms US Citizen Released From North Korea

The White House said on Tuesday that detained American tourist Jeffrey Fowle had been released from North Korea and was on his way home to be with his family.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the United States welcomed the move but pressed North Korea to release two other U.S. citizens as well.
"While this is a positive decision ... we remain focused on the continued detention of Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller and again call on the DPRK to immediately release them," Earnest said, referring to North Korea. The United States will continue to work actively on those cases, he said.
North Korea made it a condition of Fowle's release that the U.S. government transport him out of the country. The Department of Defense provided that transportation within the time frame that was set, officials said.
Fowle, 56, a street repair worker from Miamisburg, Ohio, was arrested in May for leaving a Bible at a club for foreign sailors in the North Korean city of Chongjin.
Miller was arrested in April for a separate incident.
Bae, a missionary who was arrested in November 2012, was convicted and sentenced to 15 years hard labor.
The United States expressed thanks to the government of Sweden, which has an embassy in Pyongyang, for its efforts on Fowle's case. Sweden acts as a "protecting power" for the United States there.
Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Jeff Mason; editing by Bill Trott.
Reuters Featured World News Tue, 21 Oct 2014 17:30:00 -0400
Barna and Barton: America is Doomed If We Don't Do This

The United States became a unique, prosperous and admired nation because of its faith in God and the willingness of the people to abide by God's standards and principles. Over time, however, the urge to glorify oneself rather than God has seriously eroded the strength and potential of the nation.

Based on shocking new research and compelling interviews, FrontLine's newly released book, U-Turn, combines George Barna's and David Barton's unique insights and cultural analysis to demonstrate the moral and spiritual underpinnings that made the United States great, its decline over the past forty years and a detailed road map for the future.

U-Turn examines current cultural trends and historical patterns to reveal that America cannot sustain its strength if it remains on its current path.

"Unless we invite God to be at the center of our process and operate in strict accordance with His principles, we are doomed to continue our downward slide," Barna and Barton write. "Because He has proven Himself to be a merciful ruler, though, if we will humble ourselves before Him, there is hope. U-Turn will describe the radical action Americans must take in partnership with God to restore the nation."

Barna is the executive director of the American Culture & Faith Institute. He is also the founder of The Barna Group and the best-selling author of 49 books. He has filled executive roles in politics, marketing, advertising, media development, research and ministry. Hailed as "the most quoted person in the Christian church today," he has sold more research-based books related to matters of faith than any author in American history.

Barton is the founder and president of WallBuilders, a national pro-family organization that presents America's forgotten history and heroes. Named as one of America's twenty-five most influential evangelicals by TIME, he is the author of numerous best-selling books.

The authors provide a unique view of the moral and spiritual condition of Americans and provide specific insights into how Americans can turn the nation around by focusing on the restoration of the family, the restoration of the Christian church and the future activity of our government

Althea Thompson Featured U.S. News Wed, 22 Oct 2014 08:00:00 -0400
How Should the Church Respond in Perilous Times?

The times in which we live are unprecedented in the history of America. Every generation thinks the cultural decline is worse than in prior times. These times are clearly unprecedented—at least in American history. But the threats we face today are not unprecedented in Judeo-Christian history, a point I will address later.

Let me give just two examples. For the first time in world history, the citizens of a country are being forced to participate in genocide. No government has ever forced its citizens to participate in genocide until now. Yet, that is what is happening in America with the ObamaCare law, which forces employers to provide and/or pay for abortion-inducing drugs or devices. And many individuals are now being required to make a monthly payment separate from their insurance premiums to fund abortion.

The second example is the deconstruction of marriage. Until 2000, no government in world history had every officially sanctioned same-sex unions. Norway, Denmark and Sweden were the first to do so. In 2004, Massachusetts was the first state in America to put the government's sanction on same-sex "marriage." Throughout all of world history, we are only 14 years down this road and only 10 years in America.

When the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear five cases involving same-sex marriage, the immediate result was that same-sex marriage became "legal" in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. But the impact was much broader than just five states. Since June of 2013, multiple federal and state courts have struck down statewide constitutional marriage amendments passed by overwhelming margins of the voters.

Prior to June 2013, over 60 lawsuits were filed across the country seeking to have the courts force same-sex marriage on the people. Liberty Counsel was involved in more than 50 such cases. We won every case except one in California by a 4-3 vote, but that decision was quickly overturned by Proposition 8, a statewide marriage amendment.

In June 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 opinion stated that the federal Defense of Marriage Act that affirmed marriage as the union of one man and one woman for federal purposes was "unconstitutional." This was the match thrown on gasoline that spread fire across the country. Then in 2014, the Court stood by to watch marriage burn.

The implications of same-sex marriage on the church and the culture are staggering. As a policy matter, same-sex marriage is bad for children. The policy sends the message that moms and dads are irrelevant to the well being of boys and girls. Same-sex unions forever deprive children from having a mom or a dad. Children do best when raised by a mother and a father. The complimentary genders are important to the well being of children.

I cannot in this limited space go list all the reasons why and how same-sex marriage will have a negative impact on marriage, personal health and children. But I do want to focus on one area of concern—religious liberty and freedom of conscience. The agenda behind same-sex marriage is aggressive and intolerant. We are witnessing a clash of worldviews and this is a zero sum game, meaning that co-existence is not possible. This is not because Christians are intolerant, but because the agenda will not tolerate an opposing worldview.

When same-sex marriage came to Massachusetts in 2004, Catholic Charities' adoption ministry was forced to shut down after decades of placing orphans in homes with moms and dads. The government required the adoption ministry to cease operation because the ministry refused to place children in same-sex households. This same tragic story is repeated in other states where same-sex marriage has been sanctioned by the government.

In New Jersey, same-sex unions caused a Christian denomination to lose property tax exemption on a facility when it refused to allow it to be used for a same-sex ceremony. In New York, a farm owned by Christians was fined $10,000 for refusing to allow a same-sex ceremony on the property. In New Mexico, a Christian wedding photographer was fined and forced to cease photographing weddings unless and until she agreed to photograph same-sex weddings. And in Oregon, a baker was forced to stop baking wedding cakes because she refused to bake a wedding cake celebrating a same-sex union.

HGTV breached a legally binding contract with Jason and David Benham for a reality TV show called "Flip it Forward" when a homosexual publication pressured the cable channel to drop them because they publically supported natural marriage. And of course, you have heard about Chick-fil-A and Duck Dynasty.

The list of similar conflicts is endless. Same-sex marriage will affect everyone. From what is taught to your children and grandchildren (and I am not just talking about "alternative" families), to your profession, business, business license and more—everyone will experience the intolerance of the agenda.

The church is about to enter rough waters. We are not witnessing a bump in the road that will soon pass. The threat to the family and religious liberty will exponentially increase. The church cannot compromise on this critical issue. Marriage predates religion and government. It is part of God's natural created order. God made male and female and ordained marriage. From this union, and only from this union of male and female, another human is created in the image of God. You can no more change the natural created order of marriage than you can change gravity. It is what it is no matter what anyone thinks about it.

The church needs to rise up and pastors need to be bold. Christians may soon face the same choice that Martin Luther King Jr. faced—whether to obey an unjust law. When confronted with that question, King relied upon thousands of years of Judeo-Christian doctrine. He said some laws are just and these you must obey. But there are times when the government passes unjust laws. These are laws that are contrary to God's natural created order and natural law. When a law of man directly collides with a law of God, believers have the duty to disobey the earthly law. And for this, King found himself in jail. He had no other choice.

Same-sex marriage is contrary to God's natural created order and natural law. Until recently, sodomy was called a "crime against nature." When you are forced to affirm same-sex unions or sexual relations outside of natural marriage, then you must decide to obey God or man. That time has come. It is not in the distant future. It is now.

As I said, these times are unprecedented in American history. But in Judeo-Christian history these times are not unprecedented. The children of Israel faced far worse times in Egypt. While being crushed by the most powerful nation in the world, God liberated the Israelites, and today we celebrate Passover. Esther and Mordecai faced even greater threats. The King of Persia issued an irrevocable decree to kill every Jew on March 7. It cannot get any worse than to face total annihilation on a day certain. Yet, when the people prayed and then acted, God intervened. Instead of the end of the Jewish people, today we celebrate the Feast of Purim.

God will do the same in our generation if His people pray, repent and seek His face. He will hear our prayers, forgive our sin, and heal our land. Make no mistake—troubled waters are ahead. The question is, what will the righteous do? The answer to that question will determine our destiny.

Mat Staver is the founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel,

Mat Staver Featured Culture Wed, 22 Oct 2014 07:00:00 -0400
Is Islam Really a Religion of Peace?

Exactly one year after he stood before the United Nations General Assembly and asked for the removal of Syrian President Bashar Assad, President Obama again in September addressed the violent conflict in the Middle East—this time calling for a combined global effort against Islamic terrorism in that region.

In his speech, the president made this baffling comment about Islam: "Islam teaches peace. Muslims all over the world aspire to live with dignity and a sense of justice. And when it comes to America and Islam, there is no us and them—there is only us, because millions of Muslim Americans are part of the fabric of our country."

While I commend President Obama for deploying U.S. military forces to fight this vile and wicked threat, I also believe our president is completely and fundamentally mistaken about the intolerant and violent nature of hardened Islamic followers.

The day after the president's speech, I stood at Lafayette Square—just across from the White House—and spoke at a prayer vigil for Saeed Abedini, the Iranian American who has been imprisoned in Iran for two years.

Saeed is incarcerated simply because of his Christian faith, beaten and tortured for the sake of Christ by the hostile Islamic regime.

Islamic terrorists are indiscriminately and brutally killing all who stand in their way, as evidenced by the gruesome, demonic images of recent beheadings of American and British journalists. For Muslims, peace comes only through submission to Islam. When they speak of peace, they mean submission to their religion. Worldwide, tens of thousands of men, women and children have been slaughtered in the name of Allah, under the bloody flag of Islam.

This is why, as we prayed for the release of Saeed and persecuted Christians, I spoke to the president via the media and loudspeakers in Lafayette Park:

"Mr. President—followers of a peaceful religion do not cut off the heads of innocent people in the barbaric fashion the world has watched recently.

"Mr. President—believers in a peaceful religion do not kidnap 300 young schoolgirls as Boko Haram did in northeastern Nigeria in April and reportedly [sell] them to men to be sex slaves.

"Mr. President—men who practice a peaceful religion do not detonate bombs on an American street during a marathon race to kill and maim innocent people.

"Mr. President—no one who belongs to a peaceful religion would even consider hijacking jet airliners and flying them into buildings occupied by thousands of innocent people beginning their workday, as happened in this country and in this city on 9/11.

"Mr. President—no peaceful religion would tolerate, let alone practice, female circumcision, require a woman to have her husband's permission to leave her home and take up employment and restrict her ability to receive justice in the case of sex crimes.

"Mr. President—a peaceful religion would not condone and allow a father to drown a daughter in a swimming pool in front of the family in the name of family honor because she might have stayed out late in the evening with her boyfriend.

"Mr. President—why haven't the 3.5 million Muslims in North America rejected this gross, barbaric and despicable behavior by their fellow Muslims on American soil?"

Even President Bush in the previous administration called Islam a peaceful religion. Both men have done a great disservice to the American public by not understanding Islam and its teaching in the Quran.

Now, I realize that these terrible acts have been carried out not by peaceful Muslims, but by radicalized extremists. Certainly there are many Muslims who peacefully coexist with adherents of other faiths.

However, my question is why haven't many, if not most, of the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world condemned these violent crimes against innocent humanity as they have occurred? Why would 23 percent of the world's population stand by and allow their fellow Muslims to define them by violent behavior if this is truly a religion of peace?

If someone who claims to be a Christian commits a violent act, mainstream Christians quickly and unanimously rise together to condemn it. I cannot recall a single instance of violent behavior supposedly done in the name of Christianity that was not immediately repudiated by the Christian community.

President Obama said that groups such as al Qaida and Boko Haram are guided by an ideology that "will simply wilt and die if it is consistently exposed, confronted and refuted in the light of day."

That simply is not the case. Islam is not a simple ideology or philosophy. It is a false religion. While it may contain some elements of human moralism, it is nonetheless guided and characterized by treacherous deceit.

Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). Any faith—Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism—that denies the deity of Jesus Christ and seeks salvation by any means other than saving faith in Him is a false religion.

The blinding lies of Satan himself are the dark and sinister force ultimately behind any false religion. When the Pharisees of Judaism questioned Christ's claim as the Eternal Truth, Jesus answered them with this startling rebuke: "You are of your father the devil ... He was a murderer from the beginning ... he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44-45).

It is impossible for a false religion to be a true religion of peace, since it can never reconcile a holy God and sinful man, and it can never bring lasting peace between men or nations.

Obviously not every false religion is marked by the barbaric behavior we see today. Some may seem serene and harmless on the surface, but none can deliver from the damning power of sin. Christ alone, the Son of God, saves from sin, Satan and death. He died on the cross for our sins, was buried and rose again from the dead.

My earnest prayer is that the Lord will use the chaotic and frightening events we see happening on the world stage to drive people, including followers of Islam, to the only solution—personal, transforming faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.

Scripture quotations from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.

© 2014 BGEA. Reprinted with permission from BGEA. Click here for the original post.

Franklin Graham Featured World News Wed, 22 Oct 2014 06:00:00 -0400
'Houston Five’ Pastor Steve Riggle Makes a Bold Call

Mayor Annise Parker may have thought she could subpoena the sermons of Houston pastors without much of a battle but the lesbian politician has opened the flood gates of resistance freedom-loving Americans from sea to shining sea.

Some are calling it extremism. Others are calling it tyranny. Others are refusing to let Parker "put us in the closet."

But Steve Riggle, senior pastor of Grace Community Church and one of the so-called "Houston Five," isn't leaving it there.

"Those we elect to lead our government are charged with stewarding the public trust. When elected officials abuse the power of their office by denying the people the basic right to vote, we must stand against that action whatever the cost," Riggle told Charisma News.

As he and other Bible-believing Christians see it, Parker and her city attorney have denied citizens of the fourth-largest city in America a right to vote yes or no.

"All citizens—on both sides of the issue—should be outraged," Riggle says. "Her blatant actions to subvert the referendum process of the Houston City Charter must not be tolerated with impunity."

Riggle is making a bold statement and a bold call:

"If her actions are allowed to continue without being investigated for violations of our voting rights, we will have failed ourselves, each other, our children, and devalued the price many have paid for our 'process' of freedom," he says. "As one of the 'Houston Five' whose sermons and any comment ever made about Mayor Parker have been subpoenaed, I call for her actions and those of the city attorney to be thoroughly investigated."

Jennifer LeClaire Featured U.S. News Tue, 21 Oct 2014 15:21:58 -0400
'Infidel' Keyword to Understanding Risks of Islamic Radicalization

In recent history, genocides have often been accompanied by the preparatory dehumanization of victims.

In 1994 in Rwanda, for example, the Hutu interhamwe labelled the Tutsis as "termites" or "cockroaches" before they killed more than one million (mainly) Tutsis. Similarly, before World War II, the Nazi regime in Germany often featured illustrations of Jews in cartoons and other propaganda materials looking decrepit or sub-human and forced Jews to wear yellow stars saying "Achtung Juden (Warning: a Jew)." In other cases, such as in the predominantly Ibo region of Biafra in 1961, the northern Nigerian military used terms such as "gwadai gwadai" (mosquitos) to refer to the Ibo, who suffered up to one million deaths as a result of the military's putting down of the rebellion.

Each generation, each region and each group of victims has seen different terms and methods used against them, but the one common factor behind all genocides or mass killings is that the victims are dehumanized before the violence can take place. One of the more recent challenges in preventing a possible next genocide or mass killing is that, for the first time in recent memory, the perpetrators of such attacks are using and citing religion to justify their violence. From Boko Haram in north-eastern Nigeria and northern Cameroon, to the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, to the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, to al-Qaeda in its global operations, the religious ideology to justify the kidnapping, killing and rape of tens of thousands of people is takfirism.

Etymology and Background of 'Takfirism'

The word kafir in Arabic—incorporated into almost all languages that Muslims speak—translates most closely to "infidel" in English. Takfir is based on the root word kafir and most closely means the "act of labeling another person an infidel." Takfirism therefore refers to the doctrine in Islam of labeling other people as infidels, usually non-Sunni Muslims who comprise more than 80% of Muslims around the world and maintain that their religious belief and practice is truer than other sects, such as the Shi'a. However, also assumed under the concept of kafir in Islam are "apostates," or those who have disassociated from their Muslim background and no longer consider themselves Muslims (in many cases, they have adopted Christianity or another religion). The doctrine of takfirism is broad enough to include the labeling of all non-Sunni Muslims as kafirs, therefore including those Muslim background believers who left their religion.

Since the U.S. and Allied war in Iraq in 2003, the doctrine of takfirism has been increasingly used to target Muslims who are perceived to collaborate with the U.S. and other "infidel" powers by, for example, enlisting in Iraqi security services, participating in democratic elections or migrating to Iraq to work for companies involved with the U.S. forces. Abdul Basit, the pseudonym of a scholar for a Taliban media wing called "Neda ul‐Jihad" ("call of jihad" in Arabic) even advocated that ordinary Muslims (who are not linked to the government or indeed to foreigners) are also kafir, simply on the basis that they did not actively participate in jihad.

View of Scholars (Ulema)

The Qur'an's 
original Arabic 
text is 
considered by 
Muslims to be
the final 
of God
The Qur'an's original Arabic text is considered by Muslims to be the final revelation of God

(Flickr/ Creative Commons / Özgür Mülazımoğlu)

The overwhelming majority of Islamic scholars (ulema) hold that the punishment for those who are kafir is, for individuals, the death penalty. But there is not consensus as to whether it is applicable to entire groups. In other words, one individual who leaves Islam for another religion, or becomes an atheist, would be subject to the death penalty, but if an entire group in a previous generation left Islam for another religious belief, such as the Bahais or the Ahmediyas, they as an entire group are no longer subject to be killed en masse.

This is nonetheless contradicted by the fact that whether or not their predecessors left Islam, in this life they are still seen as kafir for being non-Sunni Muslims and are, therefore, according to the harshest of takfirists, subject to the death penalty.

An alternative to killing people labelled kafir is nonetheless available; namely if the kafir pays jizyah, or tax, to the Muslim rulers, then this will afford them "protection." In recent years, takfirist organizations such as Boko Haram, the Islamic State and the Taliban have employed jizyah to pressure minorities, such as Christians, Shias or Sikhs, to pay them money for "protection," or to justify rape and enslavement or expulsion—as justification or compensation in cases where such jizyah is not paid.

An issue of debate is whether takfirism is a spin-off of Salafism or a separate doctrine altogether. Salafism is an interpretation of Islam rooted in Saudi Arabia (there known as wahabbism) that calls for Islamic practice based on the ways of the salafs, or devout followers of the Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century. It is hostile toward mystical Sufism and syncretic brands of Islam that combine elements of local tradition—and it allows followers to practice takfir.

The Syrian-born Spanish national and Al-Qaeda ideologue (with a focus on "jihad") Abu Mus'ab al‐Suri, for example, argued that "some prominent men from the SalafiJihadi wave, or at least those scholars ... who followed them, offered interpretations which were either extremist, or were articulated in such a general manner that some ignorant jihadis took them a step further and widen[ened] the concept of takfirism".

As a result of this, according to al-Suri, the difference between mainstream jihadism and takfirism has become so narrow that the two are nearly inseparable today.

(al-Suri is believed to have been captured by Pakistan and sent to Syria in 2011 and then either freed by President Bashar al-Assad at the start of the Syrian uprising in 2012, or is still in a Syrian prison).

Others have argued that "the concept of global jihad and takfir" was developed on the basis of Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood founder Sayyid Qutb's ideology, whose main notion was that the Muslim community (umma) was dead so long as it was not fighting to extend Sharia everywhere in the world.

Yet others argue that takfir is a "stepping stone" to engaging in violence against secular Muslim rulers and those who are perceived to be supportive of those rulers, such as Christians, foreigners or those who participate in elections. Still others suggest that takfirism is merely a product of strictly textual interpretations from Islam itself, such as Qur'an (4:89), which says: "[Infidels] wish that you should disbelieve as they disbelieve, and then you would be equal; therefore take not to yourselves friends of them, until they emigrate in the way of God; then, if they turn their backs, take them, and slay them wherever you find them; take not to yourselves any one of them as friend or helper."


by Boko 
near Mokolo 
on October 
Christian refugees displaced by Boko Haram violence in Cameroon near Mokolo on October 4

(Courtesy of Open Doors)

Whatever the outcome of these debates, it is clear that almost all of the most violent actors in the global jihad, such as al-Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and IS in Iraq employ takfiri ideology. We need to understand this concept of "infidel" to understand militant Islam.

Al Shabaab's leaders, for example, state that Western citizens and their allies are kuffar (plural of kafir) and that it is halal (lawful) to kill and rob non-Muslims. Boko Haram similarly states "that we shall make the country ungovernable, kill and eliminate irresponsible political leaders of all leanings, hunt and gun down those who oppose the rule of Sharia in Nigeria and ensure that the kafir does not go unpunished."

The Islamic State has forced Christians to leave their homes, burned their churches and raped or "forcibly married" Christian women, all in the name of takfirism.

As a result, it can be said that following takfirism is the means by which these jihadist groups justify their attacks on their enemies, who include anyone who is not a Sunni Muslim and possibly even Sunni Muslims who do not side with them. With Christians and other non-Sunni Muslims increasingly becoming the targets of murders en masse by takfirist groups, it raises the concern that the next mass genocide—or, more likely, religicide will be—or is already—being carried out by takfiris. It would appear that this doctrine and ideology must be confronted before the world experiences another "never again" moment. We need to understand this concept of kafir or "infidel" to understand violent extremist tendencies infiltrating Muslim populations today.

One method of confronting the threat from takfirism is to prohibit speech and advocacy in support of this ideology because it infringes on the rights of others. This is especially imperative in countries where it is not yet so prevalent that the takfiris could launch their jihad in response, such as Central Asia or Europe. Some countries are likely already late in confronting the threat, while others are on the cusp of being too late, such as Cameroon, where Salafist-sponsored mosques and madrassahs emerged in the late 1980s and 1990s, which is about 10 years later than its neighbor, Nigeria, which is now struggling greatly with takfirism. It is important for governments and civil society to de-legitimize takfirist ideology.

Another key way to stop takfirism is through protecting freedom of religion. Since takfirism calls for the punishment of death to non-Sunni Muslims, it is inherently a violation of the freedom of religion. Any preacher that espouses such ideas would be subject to prohibition or bans. Thus far, it seems that only in countries like Uzbekistan, Chad and Kazakhstan is the threat of takfirism being taken seriously, but these are the same countries that human rights groups often criticize most vehemently for violating religious rights, although they are trying to protect their own religious identities and freedoms. This is an issue that requires further understanding, discussion and resolution.

The world must take notice of the doctrine of takfirism before it is too late. If any continent should recognize these signs, it should be Europe, given its history and understanding of how a small and seemingly marginal group of people can within a decade's time manage to become extremely powerful. While history will not repeat itself the same way as in World War II, history does, in the words of Mark Twain, "rhyme," and this is what we are seeing across the European, African, Middle Eastern and Central Asian landscapes today.

(The author writes in a personal capacity; his report was originally commissioned by the World Watch Research Unit, Open Doors International, which works to support Christians under pressure for their faith worldwide.)

Jacob Zenn Featured World News Tue, 21 Oct 2014 17:00:00 -0400
Derick and Jill Duggar Dillard Reveal Sex of First Baby

In August, Charisma News reported Jill Duggar, now officially known as Jill Dillard, is expecting her first baby. Dillard, of course, is best known for her role on the TLC reality TV show 19 Kids and Counting.

Now, Dillard has revealed she's having a baby boy.

"I was really excited," Derick Dillard told People magazine. "As a new dad, to have a firstborn son to be our first child and be the leader of his siblings, it is very special."

Jill is 23, and her husband, Derick, is 25. They got married on June 21, People reports, sharing their first kiss in front of more than 1,000 family and friends.

"Oh yes, there was some screaming in the room," says, Jill. "I thought all along we were having a girl. Everyone made their guesses."

Also in August, Charisma News reported that Jill's sister, Jessa, is getting married. She is engaged to marry Ben Seewald. Seewald and Duggar have been courting for 11 months.

Jennifer LeClaire Featured Culture Tue, 21 Oct 2014 14:30:22 -0400
8 Potential Disasters That Could Jolt Us Into an Awakening

The stillness of the morning calm was about to be shattered by a series of explosions that would alter the course of human history. The time: 7:50 a.m. The date: Sunday, December 7, 1941. The place: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

More than 300 Japanese airplanes were swarming toward the harbor. Within a short time, the bombers damaged eight battleships, destroying three – including the USS Arizona, which sank with 1,102 sailors on board. The Hickam and Wheeler air bases lost 177 planes. More than 2,400 servicemen and women lost their lives. The infamous, surprise attack would launch an entire nation into World War II.

But was this disaster really a surprise?

While the Japanese warplanes were still almost an hour away, two American soldiers on a small island in the Pacific scanned their radar and saw dots begin to fill their screen, representing the first wave of more than 180 bomber planes. The men notified their supervisor who unfortunately was an inexperienced novice. He shrugged off the situation with a ho-hum, "Don't worry about it."

Twenty-nine years earlier, a gargantuan "unsinkable" ocean liner left her British port on her maiden voyage to New York. Just before midnight on April 14, 1912, the Titanic struck an iceberg. Two-and-a-half hours later, the "unsinkable" vessel slipped beneath the icy waters with most of her passengers.

Such a large loss of life also didn't have to be. At the time of the disaster, less than 20 miles away and in sight of each other, another ship, the Californian, sat stationary in the Atlantic Ocean. With the time and capacity to save multiple hundreds of the Titanic's victims, what happened?

Someone on the Californian, who should have known better, ignored the potential for danger and simply decided to turn off the radio that night contributing to the loss of 1,513 lives.

Here's the deal: Scripture exhorts us to "make the most of every opportunity" (Col. 4:5).  As strange as it may sound, I believe disaster is coming to our shores to help bring us back to God. Yet in the face of America's imminent judgment (although probably not the final one), multitudes go on with business as usual instead of readjusting priorities and better investing time to prepare for what's ahead.

Is it ultimately going to take a nightmarish calamity to jolt multitudes out of complacency and passivity in Christendom today? Remember what Jonathan Edwards in America's first Great Awakening said: The primary hindrance to revival is spiritual pride, and nothing obliterates this vice like being humbled and brought to new dependence on God alone amidst a disaster.

Remember Psalm 107:39, "Then their numbers decreased, and they were humbled by oppression, calamity and sorrow."

This is the first installment of a two-part series. Part Two will appear on this website on Wednesday.

Larry Tomczak Featured Here's the Deal Opinion Tue, 21 Oct 2014 18:00:00 -0400
Brian Houston, the Golden Rule and the Golden Calf

It was wise old Solomon who said, "There is nothing new under the sun."

Megachurch leader Brian Houston's response to the LGBT issue talks about "the world we live in, there's the weight we live with, and there's the Word we live by." The present world we live in is no different than the world of the past. Jesus made it abundantly clear that the world of Noah's day was no different than the world of today or that of the future. "As it was during the days of Noah so shall it be at the coming of the Son of Man." That being the case, then the weight we live with has not changed either. The issue of sin and depravity is as old as the fall of man. Likewise the Word we live by is just as relevant today as it ever was. God is not in catch up mode when it comes to being abreast of current trends, trials, and temptations.

What every spiritual leader needs to remember is that God chose His first priesthood on the basis of their willingness to separate themselves from the idolatry and immorality that the rest of His people were condoning and practicing. Allow me to jog your memory for a moment. God had originally planned for the head of every household to function in a priestly calling. We see this in operation at the first Passover when the children of Israel did not have to wait for a delegated priest to preside over the sacrificing of the Passover lamb. The responsibility was given to the head of each house. This today we refer to as the priesthood of all believers.

What brought about the change in leadership happened at the time of the golden calf. Israel, you recall, became anxious about Moses who had left the camp to meet with God. Following his departure the people pressured Aaron into giving them a god that would go before them and lead them. Aaron bowed to the pressure and created the golden calf. What followed was nothing less than a sexual orgy. Israel gave themselves over to every base and degrading sexual passion imaginable. During the height of this sex feast God issued a challenge through Moses who had now returned to the camp for anyone and everyone to separate themself and stand with God against all the carnality, immorality and idolatry. Out of the twelve tribes, only the tribe of Levi responded and answered God's call.

God told Moses on this occasion that because the Levites had sided with God, and in the case of some, resisting the pressure of their fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, He was going to bestow upon them the blessing of the Priesthood.

While there is so much more that could be said concerning this, it is vital here that we don't miss the essential foundation for all spiritual leadership. That of separation from sin! God will not align Himself with sin or compromise in any form or fashion. You recall that later in Israel's history Balaam deceived them into another sexual orgy, this time with the Moabites. During the height of their brazen sexual rebellion, Phinehas rose up, spear in hand, and thrust it through an Israelite man and Moabite woman who were unashamedly having sex before the whole congregation. Because Phinehas had displayed such zeal for God, not to mention his hatred of sin, God promised him and his descendants the covenant of a perpetual priesthood. (Num. 25)

Let's fast forward now to the present. I believe God is once again looking for spiritual leaders who will not waver or compromise in anyway with the present LGBT agenda. Modern day Moabites and Balaamites are pressurizing the Church to partnership with the gay movement. God on the other hand is looking for leaders who will rise up and in no uncertain terms make clear to the world their hatred of such practices. Anything less than this will ultimately disqualify them from the ministry, not to mention God's pleasure and purpose.

Some no doubt will takes issue with me on this point, stating that I lack God's love, compassion and mercy. Try telling that to God who destroyed 24,000 of His own people who refused to separate themselves from the Moabites during the time of Phinehas. ( Incidentally you recall that the Moabites sprang from one of Lot's daughters who gave birth to a son after having sex with her drunken father. (Gen.19) There is nothing more the LGBT movement would love, than to win the sympathy and support of God's people, while at the same time continuing to practice their sinful, selfish and degenerate sensual lifestyle.

One final note to all mega church leaders; If in taking this stand you lose some of your public persona, not to mention members and their money, know for certain that you will gain God's approval, blessing and anointing.

Jesus still asks, Do you love Me more than these?

David Ravenhill has served the Lord for more than 40 years as a missionary, pastor, teacher and itinerant minister, having worked with the late evangelist
David Wilkerson, Youth With A Mission, pastor Mike Bickle and the late
evangelist Steve Hill. He is the author of several books, including 
For God's Sake, Grow Up! and Welcome Home.

David Ravenhill Featured World News Tue, 21 Oct 2014 11:30:00 -0400
Obama Finally Admits His Same-Sex Marriage Agenda
President Obama said the U.S. Supreme Court's recent move to uphold lower-court rulings allowing gay marriage in several states may be its most significant decision during his time in office, he told the New Yorker magazine in comments published on Monday.
In declining to decide whether states can prohibit gay marriage, the court last week rejected seven different appeals of court rulings striking down gay marriage bans, effectively giving the go-ahead to same-sex marriage in 11 states that previously outlawed it.
"In some ways, the decision that was just handed down to not do anything about what states are doing on same-sex marriage may end up being as consequential — from my perspective, a positive sense — as anything that's been done," Obama was quoted as saying in an article about his legal legacy.
Among major Supreme Court decisions during his six years in office was a 2012 ruling upholding the constitutionality of Obama's healthcare reform law, known as Obamacare.
Obama, who in 2012 became the first U.S. president to publicly express support for gay marriage, told the magazine he now believed the Constitution required all states to allow same-sex marriage.
"But, as you know, courts have always been strategic. There have been times where the stars were aligned and the court, like a thunderbolt, issues a ruling like Brown v. Board of Education, but that's pretty rare," Obama said, citing the landmark 1954 decision banning racial segregation in schools.
"Given the direction of society, for the court to have allowed the process to play out the way it has may make the shift less controversial and more lasting," he added.
Obama said he had no retirement advice "whatsoever" to offer senior court liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who some liberal activists say should step down while Obama has a chance to name her successor.
"Justice Ginsburg is doing a wonderful job. She is one of my favorite people," he said. "Life tenure means she gets to decide, not anybody else, when she chooses to go."
Asked if he would ever consider following William Howard Taft's example and eventually join the Supreme Court after leaving the White House, Obama said that while he loved the law intellectually, "being a justice is a little bit too monastic for me. Particularly after having spent six years and what will be eight years in this bubble, I think I need to get outside a little bit more."
(Writing by Peter Cooney; editing by Diane Craft)
Peter Cooney/Reuters Featured U.S. News Tue, 21 Oct 2014 11:20:00 -0400
Fearing Jail, Two Pastors Sue City Over Gay Marriage Law

Two pastors in Idaho, who fear they could be penalized for refusing to perform newly legal gay marriages at their private wedding chapel, have filed a lawsuit, saying an Idaho anti-discrimination law violates their right to free speech and religious liberty.

Donald and Evelyn Knapp, who run the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel in Coeur d'Alene, are asking a federal judge to temporarily bar the city from enforcing a local ordinance that bans discrimination tied to sexual orientation in businesses that are used by the public, their attorney said on Monday.
The couple, both ordained Christian ministers, say that under the ordinance, they could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine each time they decline to wed same-sex couples in line with their religious beliefs.
"The government has no business compelling ministers to violate their beliefs and break their ordination vows or risk escalating jail time and fines," said the Knapps' attorney, Jeremy Tedesco.
The U.S. Supreme Court surprised observers this month by leaving intact lower court rulings that struck down gay marriage in five states. A day later, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found gay marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada were unconstitutional, and same-sex marriages are now proceeding there.
The Coeur d'Alene city attorney's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but City Attorney Warren Wilson has told the Spokane Spokesman-Review newspaper that the Hitching Post would likely be bound by the ordinance.
The lawsuit said the city contends that because the chapel is not a church, it is not exempt from the ordinance and must afford gays the same rights as other couples seeking to wed.
The Knapps on Friday "respectfully declined such a ceremony," Tedesco said. By Monday, they had not been charged with violating the non-discrimination ordinance, he said.
The Knapps said in the lawsuit filed on Friday in U.S. District Court that their business was formed as an avenue to exercise their religious beliefs, which include helping people "create, celebrate and build lifetime, monogamous one-man one-woman marriages as defined by the Holy Bible."
Their chapel, technically a for-profit corporation, has hosted roughly 35,000 weddings since opening in 1989.
Tedesco, senior attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom which focuses on religious freedom issues, said ceremonies performed there for a fee include prayer, traditional wedding vows and biblical sermons.
Laura Zuckerman Featured U.S. News Tue, 21 Oct 2014 10:45:00 -0400
Details Emerge on Death of Steve Hill's Son

Ryan Michael Hill, son of the late evangelist Steve Hill, died Saturday in Orlando, Fla., at the age of 27.  Ryan had attended Full Sail University in Winter Park, Fla., where he was pursuing his dreams in the field of TV and Media Production.

Born in Argentina on October 8, 1987, Ryan was given little chance of living more than just a few days. He was seven weeks premature, weighing just 3 lbs., 15 oz. at 16" long. His parents, Steve and Jeri Hill, adopted this precious child as their own, believing even a baby with a few days to live deserved a loving mom and dad. Miraculously, Ryan survived and grew up to be a strong and healthy young man who would later enjoy strenuous sports such as hockey and football.

Ryan was with his family as they pioneered works around the world in Argentina, Spain and Russia. When Ryan was seven, his family moved to Pensacola because of the Brownsville Revival. It was there he developed a fascination with media. He loved working behind the camera. Ryan went on to work with Daystar, GodTV and Fusion Production Company where he worked on programs for the Food Network, NASA and other major companies. But his favorite thing to do was to film his dad as he preached. Together they dreamed of creative ways to touch the world with the gospel through media.

Ryan graduated from the Teen Challenge Men's Program in the spring of 2012. He then served as an intern with the Muskegon Teen Challenge, the Boston Teen Challenge and Vero Beach Boys Ranch. During this time Ryan was able to use his media skills to produce several videos that capture some of the testimonies of those who've gone through Teen Challenge and a promotional video for the Vero Beach Boys Ranch. He also filmed the footage for, a website that his father, the late Steve Hill, developed to help prodigal sons and daughters find their way back home to Christ.

Ryan is survived by his mother, Jeri Hill, and sisters, Shelby Hill Levy and Kelsey Hill. He is preceded in death by his father, Steve Hill.

Your thoughts and prayers are greatly appreciated as the entire family mourns their tragic loss.  Those wishing to leave their thoughts and comments with the family can visit Jeri's Facebook page

Jeri Hill recently posted a picture of Steve and Ryan together stating "My heart is broken to lay him to rest this week near his daddy. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. I2 Cor. 5:8."

Many have asked how they can help. A Memorial Fund has been set up with Go Fund Me to help Jeri and the family cover the unexpected expenses of the funeral and arrangements. 

More details will be posted soon regarding dates and times of funeral services.

Daniel Norris Featured U.S. News Tue, 21 Oct 2014 10:20:30 -0400
5 Drug-Free Ways to Overcome Chronic Exhaustion

A "human energy crisis." That's how Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., describes the devastating symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome and its close physiological cousin fibromyalgia—two commonly misdiagnosed conditions that can leave sufferers feeling exhausted, in pain, or worse.

Dr. Teitelbaum, author of a new book, The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution, notes that we all feel exhausted sometimes—from job stress and the day-to-day challenges of family life and making ends meet. But for many people, those feelings are symptoms of something more serious, he tells Newsmax TV's Meet the Doctors program.

"The research shows that 31 percent of adults suffer chronically with fatigue," he notes. "So this is a big, big problem. And we have the makings of a perfect storm ... for a [human] energy crisis with poor nutrition poor sleep and a host of other problems. And then it gets to the point where it gets so severe that it triggers chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, in about 2 to 4 percent of the population."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a million Americans have CFS and millions more suffer from fibromyalgia—making these conditions more common than multiple sclerosis, lupus, and many forms of cancer.

Hallmarks of both conditions are feeling exhausted, being unable to sleep, "brain fog," and pain, Dr. Teitelbaum explains. The pain comes from having too little energy, which causes muscles to lock in a shortened position, he says. For most sufferers, the conditions are the same illness, but some people have fatigue but not pain, while others have pain but not fatigue. 

The illness is devastating," he notes. "It will often be very crippling to the point where people can't even function. Some people are bedridden with the disease. Other people are what I call the walking wounded—they can straggle to work, kind of make it through the day, but when they get home they have nothing else [in terms of energy]."

Health problems and deficiencies can trigger fibromyalgia and CFS by putting stress on the hypothalamus, the region of the brain that produces hormones and regulates bodily systems. Complicating the issue is the fact that many mainstream doctors do not take the two conditions seriously—skeptics once derided CFS as "yuppie flu." Consequently, many physicians don't know how to treat them.

The good news is that fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are highly treatable conditions, he says. Following a protocol known as SHINE—sleep, hormones, immunity, nutrition, and exercise—helps people improve their quality of life and feel better, he says. The treatment calls for optimal sleep, addressing hormonal deficiencies, detecting and treating underlying infections, achieving proper nutritional balance, and exercising as much as you're able.

The good news is that some relatively simple strategies have been found to be effective in treating both CFS and fibromyalgia. Dr.  Teitelbaum has developed a 5-point, drug-free protocol known as the SHINE program — short for sleep, hormones, immunity, nutrition, and exercise — that has been shown to help the majority of sufferers improve their quality of life and feel better.

SHINE stands for the five strategies that are central to the program.

Sleep: Making sure to get a solid 8-9 hours of sleep each night.

Hormones: Getting tested for deficiencies and seeking treatment, if necessary.

Immunity: Seeking treatment for any underlying inflections that can be contributors to CFS and fibromyalgia.

Nutrition: Eating a healthy diet including lots of fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains and low levels of processed, sugary foods that can increase inflammation in the body.

Exercise: Engaging in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.

"There absolutely is effective treatment available," Dr. Teitelbaum tells Newsmax TV. "Our published research ... showed that 91 percent of people improve with what we call the SHINE protocol ... The average improvement win quality of life using the shine protocol is 90 percent."

For the original article, visit

Nick Tate/Newsmax Health Featured Culture Tue, 21 Oct 2014 09:00:00 -0400
Beyond Ebola Judgments, John Hagee Said This About Israel

As Faith Bible Chapel in suburban Denver celebrated its 36th annual Israel Awareness Day Oct. 19 with a Holocaust exhibit, Jewish-style music and dance, an Israel display, Mediterranean cuisine and high-caliber speakers from the United States and Jerusalem on Sunday, the keynote address by a Texas pastor was sobering and optimistic.

In the week leading up to the event in Arvada, Colo., keynote speaker and Pastor John Hagee told an international audience that the first case of Ebola in his home state, the teetering economy and sputtering financial markets, as well as warnings from "rational voices" of an attack on the U.S. by radical, jihadi Islamists, are troubling.

Faith Bible Chapel Pastor George Morrison struck a festive tone at the culminating event, "A Night to Honor Israel," welcoming Holocaust survivors, members of local, national and international Jewish communities, state representatives and candidates for political office in November.

Morrison and his wife, Cheryl, the church's elders and members recognized in the 1970s the biblical mandate to bless Israel and the Jews and, for nearly 40 years, Faith Bible Chapel's annual observances have attracted 1000s of secular and religious Jews and Christians to the Colorado congregation.

 "The battle for Jerusalem has begun," Hagee, the founder and national chairman of Christians United For Israel (CUFI), told a worldwide audience Oct. 14.

The pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Hagee cited a Wall Street Journal report of a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barak Obama in which the two leaders "vigorously disagreed over giving east Jerusalem to the Palestinians."

"Americans need to recognize the historical fact that the Palestinians have absolutely no historical claim to the land of Israel. There has never been, historically, an autonomous group of Palestinians who ever existed," Hagee says.

Before 1948 they were Arabs living in Arab nations, and Yasser Arafat fabricated the need of the Palestinians to have a part of Jerusalem as part of their capitol, according to Hagee.

"Now why is Jerusalem so special? Because in the Bible Jerusalem is the city of God and, according to Second Chronicles, the sixth chapter, God has chosen that city for Jesus Christ to sit upon it and to rule the millennial kingdom."

On the other side is the kingdom of darkness that wants the antichrist to have part of that city so he can put his image up to have the world worship him, Hagee says.

"I want every American to hear this very clearly. The prophet Joel says in the third chapter, 'I (God) will bring all nations,'—and hear that phrase 'all nations' which includes America—'into judgment ... for they have divided up my land'—the land of Israel.

"God says when any nation divides up the land of Israel, it is subject to judgment. And dividing up Jerusalem is dividing up the land.

"Our president is dead set on dividing up Jerusalem. God is watching, and He will bring America into judgment.

"There are grounds to says judgment has already begun because the president has been fighting to divide Jerusalem for years now," Hagee says, pointing to Ebola, the economy and terrorist threats as signs of judgment.

Hagee points to a recent poll that indicates 72 percent of Americans support Israel and a mere 16 percent the U.S. Congress. Put another way, Israel is five times more popular than the Congress, according to the poll.

"I think it would be a wonderful thing if that 72 percent of Americans would go to the polls and bring us some new leadership in Washington that would stand up with Israel, speak up for Israel and not harass Israel to give up the land that God has given to them," says Hagee, who recently published Biblical Positions on Political Issues.

Morrison is a CUFI regional director who connected with Hagee after traveling to his first "A Night to Honor Israel" event in San Antonio. CUFI today has 1.8 million members and is the largest, pro-Israel organization in the U.S.

A news analyst and commentator based in Washington, D.C., Erik Stakelbeck, says he's excited by Faith Bible Chapel's support for Israel, inviting members to a July CUFI Israel Summit in the nation's capital.

"I don't want to end the night on a somber note talking about Ebola, a teetering economy, Iran and its nuclear ambitions," Stakelbeck told the audience. "So I'll say this is an exciting time to be alive; you are seeing prophecy fulfilled and headlines reflect the Bible's predictions."

Shaul Amir, who served two terms as Shaliach to Denver from Israel directing the Allied Jewish Federation's Israel Center for seven years until 2009, spoke about current events in the Middle East and in Gaza.

The International President and CEO of Bridges For Peace, Rebecca Brimmer, urged Christians to pursue relationships with Jews through education and benevolence, as well as express the love and mercy of God to Israelis.

Broadcast in the U.S., 249 nations and globally on,  Hagee urged American Christians to cast ballots in November's elections with pro-Israel candidates and issues in mind.

An offering for CUFI on Campus, a college and university arm of the pro-Israel organization, educates students from a biblical justification for supporting the Jewish state. An offering from the Colorado event is earmarked for CUFI on Campus.

Steve Rees Featured U.S. News Tue, 21 Oct 2014 08:00:00 -0400
Actor Stephen Collins Needs to Hear This Message

Stephen Collins, an actor who played an exemplary character on 7th Heaven for 243 episodes between 1996 and 2007 has reportedly confessed to inappropriate sexual behavior with three young girls.

Stephen provides a lesson for parents and for boys and men. You can be involved in all sorts of good things and still fall prey to evil.

Only ten percent of children who are molested are molested by strangers. Sixty-eight percent of molested children are molested by family members. Forty-eight percent were molested by stepfathers and uncles. Ninety-three percent of child molesters are religious. This is partly because being religious reduces suspicion and provides greater opportunity. Building trust is part of the operating procedure of those who want private access to children.

Wise churches have strict guidelines regarding the interaction of adults and children. These guidelines actually protect both the children and the adults. They include:

  • Background screening of youth workers
  • Six months minimum church involvement before assignment to youth activities
  • Two or more adults present at all youth activities
  • No physical horseplay between adults and children

Both temptation and the possibility of false accusations are reduced by avoiding situations where adults are alone with children. Child molestation is almost never a group activity. The typical pedophile has opportunity to be alone with a child and gradually introduces inappropriate behavior. It's wise to avoid allowing your child to be alone for repeated visits with an adult; even with adults you consider trustworthy.

The most important lesson from Stephen's story is for boys and men who want to avoid following in Stephen's footsteps. The behavior that can ruin your reputation and your life begins with lust, usually fed by pornography.

Lust is not your friend. It's your mortal enemy. It can become a driving force that takes you places that will hurt others, including children. The earlier you resist lust the easier it is to defeat. To recognize that all pornography is destructive, and to reject its use, is the wisest way to avoid becoming a child molester. Guard your heart in the private moments when God is the only one who knows what you're doing.

Stephen Collins and many other men who wind up exposed for inappropriate behavior toward children do many noble things. Their lives become double. Lust drives their dark side. They become enslaved. They know their dark side is evil, but they have a compulsion they can't control.

The heartbreaking news about Stephen Collins is not the beginning, or the end of his story.

Stephen apparently took a wrong path; a path taken by many young men. These stories don't begin with inappropriate behavior toward children. They begin with the most basic of sexual desire.

God actually created sexual attraction and called for it to be properly enjoyed in the bonds of marriage. Throughout Proverbs God warns again and again about the dangers of lust luring young men into sex outside of marriage. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches it's better to pluck your eyes out so you can go to heaven than to lust your way to destruction. He even advises cutting off your hand if it would cause you to stumble. The typical pornographic experience usually involves both the eyes and the hand. Between the two, you wind up with a hormonal rush that impacts the structure of your brain. Your brain literally builds patterns of desire.

Teenagers don't think, "Someday I'd like to become a child molester and go to jail. I'd just love to be on sex offender locator maps the rest of my life." They just think some magazine or website enables them to experience sexual stimulation. That stimulation leads to a desire for more stimulation and, over time, requires variation to reduce boredom. The path is treacherous and can take unexpected turns, such as attraction to children, to violence or to homosexuality. Even by today's lowered standards, there are things people get into that most people would consider perverted.

Typically, the pornographic experience can be like having a meal. One's hunger is satisfied and you can get back to daily life, perhaps even to noble deeds. Then, as the hours go by, the hunger returns. You become distracted from daily life. The brain screams for a new thrill. You wind up looking for an opportunity to get satisfaction. If your desire is for children, you can find yourself meticulously planning opportunities.

Stephen Collins would probably tell you, blessed is the young man who never gets on that path.

Here's the good news. Stephen Collins' story is not over. Neither is yours. God can use the most horrible things in our lives for good if we will totally surrender to Him. God can take away lustful desires and replace them with love and compassion. God can use disgrace as part of a testimony that will save others from disgrace.

Jesus Christ paid the price for our forgiveness. When that forgiveness is understood, and accepted, it makes healing possible. It makes freedom possible. It doesn't negate the consequences of sin. Someone can be sent to prison for their criminal behavior while experiencing a wonderful spiritual freedom.

If you're on the wrong path, you don't have to stay on it. You can turn to God now. You can take the right path. This is true for Stephen as well. Yes, he took a wrong path, but there is a right path he can take even now.

Please pray for Stephen and for all those children who were hurt by his behavior. Pray as well for the others in Hollywood who are on the wrong path but have yet to be exposed. They too can be set free. Hollywood does not have to have a reputation as the pedophilia capital of the world.

Finally, pray for the many young men who can learn from this sad story and avoid repeating it. The more young men who reject the path to which lust drives them, the more children who will grow up unmolested.

David Outten and Dr. Ted Baehr Featured Culture Tue, 21 Oct 2014 06:00:00 -0400
‘Kosher Rachael Ray’ Unveils Super Foods of the Bible

Known as the "queen of kosher" and the "Kosher Rachael Ray," Jamie Geller is the founder of the Kosher Media Network. An energetic American from Philadelphia, Geller immigrated to Israel with her husband and five children two years ago and still had time to write a book and start a cooking show.

"Well, everyone's got to eat. The kids are hungry," Geller said.

CBN's Scott Ross and his wife, Nedra, met Geller in the City of David during a recent trip to Israel. She pointed out the nearby biblical sites and taught them how to make a special kosher recipe using what she calls "the seven super foods of the Bible."

The City of David is an 11-acre area just outside the southern walls of Jerusalem's Old City.  It's believed to be the original site of King David's Jerusalem. From a lookout point there, it's possible to see Mount Moriah, the Mount of Olives and Mount Zion.

"The Old City Walls are 470 years old, but here at King David's palace we're talking about 3,000 years, so Mount Moriah is the site of the binding of Isaac, the site of the holy temple," Geller told CBN News, adding that "...the City of David, Jerusalem, Israel bring people together, much like food."

Seven Spices Salad

Standing on a porch with thousands of years of history all around, she told the Rosses about her recipe, the Seven Spices Salad.

"We're doing a recipe inspired by the seven species, the seven foods that are [the] super foods of the Bible and of the Land of Israel," Geller said. 

"Super foods? Will this make me a super person?" Scott asked.

"It will make you strong like Popeye," she responded. "It will make you healthy. Your doctor will be happy, your wife will be happy, you'll be good."

"In Hebrew, [it's] shivat haminim, which translates [into] the seven species. So this is the shivat haminim salad," she explained.

The seven species are mentioned in Deuteronomy 8:7-8: "The Lord your God is bringing you into a good land ... a land of wheat and barley, of vines [grapes] and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey [dates]."

These foods are eaten particularly at three Jewish holidays, including the seven-day Feast of Sukkot, which Jewish people around the world are celebrating through Wednesday of this week.

"The way that I cook is quick and kosher," Geller continued. "So that means it's easy, anyone can do it and all I need are people that like to eat."

Kosher explains biblical and traditional Jewish dietary laws, which prohibit some foods like pork and shell fish and don't allow mixing meat and dairy products in the same meal. But the Rosses learned it's tasty all the same.

Date Honey, Pomegranates

Geller started with bulgur, which is cooked like rice, and whisked together a sauce of olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and date honey.

"Now what we have here is one of the special foods of the Land of Israel, date honey," Geller continued. "Silan they call it. Dates are one of the sweetest fruits in the world. It's tons of high in fiber. That's what we're talking about these super foods, and date honey has been used for thousands of years to sweeten things naturally."

The chopped dates and figs, sliced grapes and pomegranate seeds and sauce are added.

"Pomegranates are the 'superist,' right," Geller said. 

"My husband just came back from the doctor. The doctor said he had cholesterol. So the doctor said one glass of 100 percent pomegranate juice a day," she said. "So that's what we're talking about, the super foods—right out of the Bible onto our beautiful salad."

Geller's book The Joy of Kosher: Fast, Fresh, Family Recipes, is full of Israeli and international recipes like hummus, falafel and lamb kebabs spiced with cinnamon and cumin. She's also included pictures of her children and family in the cookbook.

"I may end up going kosher, you never know," Nedra said after tasting the salad and seeing the book.

"Well you know what, you don't have to be kosher to love kosher," Geller said.

"I feel like food brings us together; we were saying that Israel brings us together; Jerusalem brings us together, and I thought that if people could see pictures of my family, they'll realize we're all more alike than we are different, you know," she said.

"And so don't be scared it's kosher, don't be scared it's Israel," she said.

Scott Ross and Julie Stahl/CBN News Featured Culture Mon, 20 Oct 2014 18:00:00 -0400
Beyond Ebola: 3 More Infections You Need to Protect Against

As of this writing, more than 2,600 people have been afflicted by the Ebola outbreak, and it has killed at least 1,400 people in West Africa alone. And since the first U.S. case of Ebola was recorded in Texas, Americans were once again given a reason to panic. In fact, there has been an obsession to fear that the virus will sweep across the country and apparently, this is not a healthy kind of fear.

The Ebola case in Texas is an exception. This Ebola outbreak is a threat in any place where airplanes can land, although most countries—particularly the United States—already have the means to prevent the virus from spreading. Also, the incubation period is only two to 21 days, which means it is unlikely to spread undetected and kill thousands of people instantly.

The truth is there are other types of viruses and infections you should be worried about than Ebola. Yes, it may be hard to predict which bacteria and viruses you should be alarmed about, but there are those already existing that pose an ongoing threat. And these include:

1. Influenza/flu virus. There may be a flu vaccine, but did you know that it is still a major killer in the U.S.? In fact, Dr. Robert Schooley, chief of Infectious Diseases at the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine, said that more people will die during the winter from flu than Ebola.

Unfortunately, flu poses a serious threat, which is more than fever and muscle pain. In 2009, a different strain of the virus emerged that was not covered by that year's version of the vaccine and has affected not just the young and old but mostly those who are in their prime. Dr. Liise-Anne Pirofski, chief of Infectious Diseases at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, explained that there are cases where young, healthy people's immune system may respond to the flu virus, and the resulting inflammation may worsen the illness.

2. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus or MRSA. MRSA is a strain of staph bacteria that does not respond to antibiotics, which are traditionally used in treating infections. Based on the CDC Tracking Data, there are 75,309 cases of MRSA infection in the U.S. right now as opposed to the two current Ebola cases reported. Thankfully, this virus is slowly declining. However, there is no reason to be complacent since the resistant bacteria can still cause life-threatening infections.

According to Dr. Pirofski, antibiotic resistance is a major threat since these organisms cannot be controlled using existing therapies. At the same time, you don't have to go to West Africa to contract this virus since it is already present in hospitals and health care-provider settings, including the most advanced hospitals.

3. Resistant Gonorrhea. There is a way to treat gonorrhea, of which approximately 820,000 people in the U.S. are afflicted. But did you know that there is a form of the bacteria that does not respond to treatments? Sometime in 2000, strains of gonorrhea that were resistant to cephalosporins, the antibiotics used to treat this type of STD, showed up in East Asia. By 2013, the CDC reported an estimated 246,000 cases of resistant gonorrhea every year in the U.S. alone.

Why is it alarming? Resistant gonorrhea doesn't show any symptoms, allowing it to spread easily. It may not kill people, but it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility in women. Worse, the virus can spread to your blood, which can lead to disseminated gonococcal infection—a condition characterized by arthritis, inflammation covering tendons and dermatitis.

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

For the original article, visit

Don Colbert, M.D. Featured Opinion Mon, 20 Oct 2014 17:00:00 -0400
The Houston Pastors' Subpoenas: What Can It Teach Us About How Christians Should Be Responding?

It started when Fox News broke the explosive story: "The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, or gender identity. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court." 

The Houston Chronicle reported it began with Houston's new non-discrimination ordinance driven by Annise Parker, Houston's first openly lesbian mayor, and approved by the city council in June. A group of Houston pastors opposing the ordinance launched a petition drive that generated more than 50,000 signatures—far more than the 17,269 needed to put a referendum on the ballot.

But in a controversial turn the city unexpectedly tossed out the petition in August over alleged "irregularities." The opponents of the non-discrimination bill (which originally included, among other things, that men could use women's restrooms and vice versa—but that point was pulled early over the criticism) filed a lawsuit, and the city attorney responded by issuing the subpoenas against the pastors.

The Christian response was wide-ranging as usual, and offers an interesting look at how to respond publicly during a controversial LBGT issue like this.

Among the responses, the nonprofit group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) wrote from a legal perspective and reminded its readers of the constitutional and legal issues surrounding what they called a "witch hunt" and reminded its readers (and the Houston Mayor's office) that, "Political and social commentary is not a crime; it is protected by the First Amendment."

The Interfaith Alliance wrote an open letter to the mayor and city attorney denouncing the subpoena from the perspective of the many faiths they represent.

Russell Moore from the Southern Baptist Ethics and Liberty Commission took the opportunity to give local pastors some excellent tips on responding, as well as teaching their congregations how to navigate these challenging issues.  

He also urged the novel approach to, "Give them what they want! Print out your sermon manuscript or notes from a sermon on marriage or sexuality, snap a picture and post it on social media with the hashtag #4Houston5, and mail it to the Mayor's office at: Mayor Annise D. Parker, City of Houston, P.O. Box 1562, Houston, TX 77251." 

Moore knows that sometimes, going overboard with what the opposition wants is the best way to expose their folly.

Jonathan Bock, founder of Grace Hill Media—which works closely with Hollywood studios and media companies to help them understand the Christian audience—agreed with Russell Moore: "I think it would be awfully gracious of every pastor in Houston to supply a hard copy of every sermon they have given in the last five years. That would be 250 sermons per pastor times the probably 10,000 churches in the greater Houston area. That would be 2.5 million sermons. Feel free to review, Mr. Lawyer!"

The "outrage" end of the spectrum used to be owned by the American Family Association. For years they were quick to urge petitions and boycotts against a wide variety of issues, causes and groups. But possibly because a strategy of outrage rarely changes anything, they seemed to have softened lately—which is probably why that space has been taken by a relative newcomer called "Faith Driven Consumer."

In the last year or so, Faith Driven Consumer has been quick to launch petitions against a wide range of issues—mostly centered around Hollywood. Rebecca Cusey, Entertainment editor at Patheos, responded to the campaign: "Are they ever not outraged? I picture them as interns in a basement somewhere scouring the internet every day looking for something to rile the masses and add to their mailing list."

As is typical of their approach, they go to extremes right off the bat, writing an "open letter" criticizing the mayor's actions using terms like "bullying," "un-American" and "the very height of hypocrisy." True or not, going straight to Def-Con 5 as your first volley makes it obvious that the letter isn't really for the mayor; it's to rally the group's supporters.

As in their other campaigns, they seem more concerned about self-promotion (in the opening paragraph of their email blasts they never forget to tell you how awesome they are), and for them, everything is driven by collecting names and email addresses. At best it's terribly self-serving, plus a harsh approach like this makes it difficult for the other side to save face, and we all learned in school that when you take an accusatory approach and call people names up front, they rarely ever come over to your side.

From my perspective, one of the most effective approaches was from Houston pastor Chris Seay. A lifelong resident of the city, he wrote an open letter that was gracious and yet direct, and from the perspective of working together to make a better city. It was a very thoughtful letter. He didn't criticize the mayor personally, but pointed out the significance and gravity of her actions. He knows the mayor, and in these types of situations, that personal relationship counts a great deal.

Then, in a breaking development Wednesday, the mayor appeared to back away from the initial requests. Janice Evans, a city spokeswoman, told Law Blog in a statement:

"Mayor Parker agrees with those who are concerned about the city legal department's subpoenas for pastors' sermons. The subpoenas were issued by pro bono attorneys helping the city prepare for the trial regarding the petition to repeal the new Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) in January.

"Neither the mayor nor City Attorney David Feldman were aware the subpoenas had been issued until yesterday," Evans continued. "Both agree the original documents were overly broad. The city will move to narrow the scope during an upcoming court hearing. Feldman says the focus should be only on communications related to the HERO petition process."

Whether the mayor really directed the subpoenas or they were sent by pro bono attorneys working for her, it was a serious breach of religious freedom. Who in their right mind in America thinks it's OK to force pastors and faith leaders to hand over their sermons and other content for the state to review?  

One Houston local told me that it's an example that while the left is constantly criticizing the right for supposed "intolerance," it's actually the left who most often attempts to silence the opposition when in power.

Either way, my concern is how the Christian community engages these challenging situations. We can go for the short-term hype, capture names and email addresses and throw our weight around like bullies. But that approach results more often in hardening the opposition, making the culture far more divisive, and accomplishing very little.

Or we can take a more thoughtful approach with a longer goal in mind. But that involves the hard work of developing relationships, reaching out, thinking strategically, creating dialogue with those we disagree with and doing our homework.

Chandler Epp, public relations expert at The DeMoss Group, said, "Is our goal to change hearts and minds on the issue (specifically those of the mayor and her staff/attorneys), or is our goal to stir up a media frenzy, incite anger towards the mayor's office or send a message the mayor will never forget? How we answer that question will lead us down radically different roads and will inform the tone we take in unfortunate situations like these."

Rebecca Cusey from Patheos summed it up: "We're not called to love those who mistreat us in the abstract, but in the here and in the now. This mayor. These protestors. This city. How we treat those who rise against us is more important, I think, in Jesus's book, than whether we win or lose the issue."

This issue in Houston isn't over, so it's too early to say how serious a response it will eventually take. But in the past, Christians have too often won the battle, but lost the war. That's why I believe it's not about "winning" as much as presenting Christ to the culture—because that's how lasting change happens. And for what it's worth, I've yet to meet a single person who came to Christ because they were embarrassed or humiliated into it.

In these challenging times, the stakes are too high to get it wrong.

Phil Cooke is a media consultant focused mainly on the Christian market, as well as a vocal critic of contemporary American and American-influenced Christian culture. Click here to visit his website.

Phil Cooke Featured Opinion Mon, 20 Oct 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Evangelist Steve Hill’s Son, Ryan, Passes Away

Ryan Hill, the son of the late Steve Hill and Jeri Hill, has passed away. Charisma News learned of the tragedy this morning and will report on further details as they emerge.

Please pray for Jeri, Ryan's mother. Perhaps best known as the evangelist for the Brownsville Revival in Pensacola, Fla., evangelist and pastor Steve Hill went home to be with the Lord on in March.

Hill passed on to glory after a long battle with melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer and the leading cause of death from skin disease.

Fueled by his own dramatic deliverance from drugs, alcohol and crime in 1975, Hill dedicated his life to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world. His passion to help those who are hurting and his pursuit of genuine, God-breathed revival continued to intensify after years of missionary work, church planting and evangelistic crusades.

From 1995 to 2000, Hill served as the evangelist of the Brownsville Revival. The meetings drew more than 4 million from more than 150 nations through the doors of the Brownsville Assembly of God Church.

During the five-year revival, hundreds of thousands wept at the altars, repented of sinful lifestyles and gave their lives to Jesus. Lives were dramatically changed, marriages were restored and addictions were broken as the gospel of Jesus Christ was presented with clarity. After Brownsville, Hill and his evangelistic team continued to hold arena and stadium crusades around the world.

Hill also founded and served as senior pastor, along with his wife, Jeri, of Heartland World Ministries Church in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Hill founded Heartland School of Ministry, a soul-winning, presence-driven ministry school, as well as, a website that encourages people to come back to God.

Click here for an update.

Jennifer LeClaire Featured U.S. News Mon, 20 Oct 2014 15:00:00 -0400
'Rihanna Too Raunchy for My 5-Year-Old,' Says Pop Star

Former Spice Girl Melanie Chisholm has called on female pop stars such as Rihanna to have "more dignity" and stop being so overtly sexual.

Mel C, widely known as Sporty Spice, says she has banned her 5-year-old daughter, Scarlet, from seeing images of Rihanna because of their provocative nature.

"There is little footage of Rihanna that I'm happy for her to see. It's a shame that a talented, successful woman expresses herself in such an overtly sexual way," she said.

Speaking to the Radio Times, the singer raised concerns about "society's obsession with celebrity."

"It's vulgar and narcissistic, and I worry about how it affects young girls," Chisholm commented. "There are some great artists out there, but sometimes we could just do with a bit more dignity."

The former Spice Girl urged female pop stars to be mindful of their responsibility to young fans.

The singer's comments come in the wake of the prime minister's announcement in August that online music videos will be given age ratings in order to protect children.

David Cameron unveiled a pilot scheme with the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and YouTube which will rate videos if they are deemed to have inappropriate content.

A survey in November last year revealed that most parents fear sexually provocative pop stars such as Miley Cyrus and Rihanna are having a damaging effect on their children.

In a Netmums poll of 1,500 members, more than 80 percent said their children had repeated sexually explicit lyrics and copied overtly sexual dance moves after being exposed to inappropriate pop music.

The Christian Institute Featured Culture Mon, 20 Oct 2014 14:00:00 -0400
After Boko Haram 'Truce' Breached, Nigerians Doubtful of Kidnapped Girls' Release

A wave of violence hours after Nigeria's government announced a truce with Boko Haram raised doubt on Sunday about whether more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamist militants will really be released, deflating the new hopes of their parents.

Nigeria's armed forces chief Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh announced the ceasefire on Friday to enable the release of the girls, who were abducted from the remote northeastern village of Chibok in April.

But Boko Haram has not confirmed the truce and there have been at least five attacks since—blamed by security sources on the insurgents—that have killed dozens. Talks were scheduled to continue in neighboring Chad on Monday.

"We were jubilating. We had every reason to be happy ... but since then the ceasefire has been broken in quite a number of places already," Lawan Abana, a parent of the one of the missing girls, told Reuters by telephone.

He added that there were doubts about the credentials of the reported Boko Haram negotiator Danladi Ahmadu, who was unheard of before. "Can we trust him that he can deliver on this promise of releasing the girls when he has not delivered on the promise of the ceasefire?" Abana said.

The government says the attacks may not have been Boko Haram but one of several criminal groups exploiting the chaos of its insurgency. Analysts point out that Boko Haram is anyway heavily factionalized, so what matters is whether the faction the government is talking to has control over the girls' fate.

"Boko Haram is deeply fractured. The Nigerian government has had a ... difficult time identifying a Boko Haram representative who could make compromises and guarantee the entire group will observe them," risk consultancy Stratfor said in a note.

"It is quite possible that Abuja has reached an agreement with a legitimate representative of a specific cell ... that holds the kidnapped schoolgirls captive," it said on Saturday.

Quest to Carve out Islamic State

Boko Haram, whose name translates roughly as "Western education is sinful," has massacred thousands in a battle to carve an Islamic state out of religiously mixed Nigeria.

Its only known method of conveying messages is via videotaped speeches by a man claiming to be Abubakar Shekau, its leader whom the military last year said it had killed.

Ahmed Salkida, a Nigerian journalist who was once close to Boko Haram and shared a jail cell with its founder Mohammed Yusuf in 2009, tweeted that whoever Ahmadu is, he is not a member of Boko Haram's senior "Shura council" nor does "he speak for them, as far as I know."

A swift release of the girls would bode well for the campaign of President Goodluck Jonathan for Feb. 2015 elections. Jonathan has faced relentless criticism for failing to protect civilians in the northeast or resolve the Chibok girls crisis.

Boko Haram is regarded as the worst threat to the future of Nigeria, Africa's biggest economy and oil producer.

Jonathan is expected to declare he is running for a second elected term soon, and the opposition is keen not to allow him to capitalize on efforts to free the girls.

"It's interesting the timing comes as Jonathan is about to announce he wants to run for a second term. Is it by sheer coincidence?" the spokesman for the main All Progressives Congress, Lai Mohammed, said by telephone.

But Nigeria's military has scored some successes against Boko Haram over the past two weeks, wresting back some territory near the northeast border with Cameroon.

Oby Ezekwesil, whose "Bring back our girls" campaign has highlighted daily protests in Abuja, told Reuters she was "cautiously optimistic" but "extremely anxious, not knowing what the details of this ceasefire really are.

"If it happens, it would be the best news in decades."

Editing by Mark Heinrich

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Tim Cocks/Reuters Featured World News Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Houston Pastor Subpoenas Shows Extremism Already on the Shores of America

Pastors around the country saw an unthinkable scenario play out in America last week—one many never thought they'd see in their lifetime. In a country built on freedom, five pastors in Houston were served subpoenas, and attorneys demanded the submission of sermon notes and conversations with congregation members relating to homosexuality or transgenderism.

Sam Rohrer, a longtime legislator and president of American Pastors Network, says the recent news out of Houston proves there are three distinct extreme movements happening simultaneously in America—all aimed at stripping freedom of religion and freedom of speech from Christians.

"This disturbing news about our fellow pastors in Houston has far-reaching implications," Rohrer said. "I see three sectors of the American culture which, by their own actions, are demonstrating hatred toward God, Christianity, Jesus Christ, religious freedom, morality, decency, the Rule of Law and the Constitution.

"While their intentions and goals are different, the extreme tactics and messaging of Islam, Communism/Marxism/atheism and the well-organized, well-funded homosexual agenda have frightening similarities: all demand agreement with them, or else. This is where political correctness and forsaking God has brought this nation. It's time that all those who would not subscribe to the ideologies of these three groups stand together, or we will hang separately.

"The issue in Houston began last year, when the city elected its first openly lesbian mayor. This spring, Mayor Annise Parker and two City Council members pushed an ordinance that gave special rights to homosexuals and the transgender individuals. The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) allowed men to use women's restrooms and vice versa, all in the name of 'equal rights,'" he added.

"The people of Houston protested and gathered more than 50,000 signatures on a petition opposing the ordinance—well over double the number necessary to put the issue in front of voters. But Parker and the Council threw out the petition, citing irregularities. The mayor and the city are facing a lawsuit over the ordinance, and while fighting it, attorneys subpoenaed five pastors for their sermon notes dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Parker herself. Last week, Parker admitted that the subpoenas may have been 'overly broad,' but they have yet to be recalled.

"While the issue in this case is homosexuality," Rohrer continued, "the underlying philosophy of thought policing is exactly the same as what we see with Islamic Sharia law. In each case, dissent is not permissible. This is yet another reason Sharia law is incompatible with our U.S. Constitution. Under our Constitution, religious leaders are free to teach against Christianity, but Sharia law would mean pastors would be targeted for preaching Christ. And already, this is happening, as pastors are facing pressure by groups who have their own extreme agendas."

How long will it be, Rohrer asked, before pastors will be quieted about educating their churches on the dangers of the infiltration of Islam and Sharia Law in America? One pastor was already censored in August when his videotaped sermon on ISIS was removed from YouTube and his account was frozen. YouTube has since reversed its ban on Pastor Daniel Ausbun of First Baptist Church in Moreland, Ga., and his account is live again.

Alliance Defending Freedom is helping the Houston pastors, and one of its attorneys, Christina Holcomb, said in a statement that "political and social commentary is not a crime. It is protected by the First Amendment."

Deborah Hamilton Featured U.S. News Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:00:00 -0400
Perform Gay Weddings or Face Jail, City Tells Pastors

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a federal lawsuit and a motion for a temporary restraining order Friday to stop officials in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, from forcing two ordained Christian ministers to perform wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples.

City officials told Donald Knapp that he and his wife, Evelyn—both ordained ministers who run Hitching Post Wedding Chapel—are required to perform such ceremonies or face months in jail and/or thousands of dollars in fines. The city claims its "non-discrimination" ordinance requires the Knapps to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies now that the courts have overridden Idaho's voter-approved constitutional amendment that affirmed marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

"The government should not force ordained ministers to act contrary to their faith under threat of jail time and criminal fines," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. "Many have denied that pastors would ever be forced to perform ceremonies that are completely at odds with their faith, but that's what is happening here—and it's happened this quickly. The city is on seriously flawed legal ground, and our lawsuit intends to ensure that this couple's freedom to adhere to their own faith as pastors is protected just as the First Amendment intended.

"The government exists to protect and respect our freedoms, not attack them," Tedesco added. "The city cannot erase these fundamental freedoms and replace them with government coercion and intolerance."

The Hitching Post Wedding Chapel is across the street from the Kootenai County Clerk's office, which issues marriage licenses. The Knapps, both in their 60s and who themselves have been married for 47 years, began operating the wedding chapel in 1989 as a ministry.

They perform religious wedding ceremonies, which include references to God, the invocation of God's blessing on the union, brief remarks drawn from the Bible designed to encourage the couple and help them to have a successful marriage, and more. They also provide each couple they marry with a CD that includes two sermons about marriage, and they recommend numerous Christian books on the subject. The Knapps charge a small fee for their services.

Coeur d'Alene officials told the Knapps privately and also publicly stated that the couple would violate the city's public accommodations statute once same-sex marriage became legal in Idaho if they declined to perform a same-sex ceremony at their chapel. On Friday, the Knapps respectfully declined such a ceremony and now face up to 180 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines for each day they decline to perform that ceremony.

"The city somehow expects ordained pastors to flip a switch and turn off all faithfulness to their God and their vows," explained ADF Legal Counsel Jonathan Scruggs. "The U.S. Constitution as well as federal and state law clearly stand against that. The city cannot mandate across-the-board conformity to its interpretation of a city ordinance in utter disregard for the guaranteed freedoms Americans treasure in our society."

Charisma News Staff Featured U.S. News Mon, 20 Oct 2014 11:00:00 -0400
Hillsong's Brian Houston Clarifies Stand on LGBT Issues

At a news conference for the Hillsong Conference in New York City Thursday, Michael Paulson of The New York Times asked Pastor Brian Houston to clarify his church's position on same-sex marriage, RNS reported. Houston reportedly said it was "an ongoing conversation" among church leaders, and they were "on the journey with it."

Now, Houston is clarifying those comments.

"I encourage people not to assume a media headline accurately represents what I said at a recent press conference.

"Nowhere in my answer did I diminish biblical truth or suggest that I or Hillsong Church supported gay marriage. I challenge people to read what I actually said, rather than what was reported that I said. My personal view on the subject of homosexuality would line up with most traditionally held Christian views. I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject.

"I was asked a question on how the church can stay relevant in the context of gay marriage being legal in the two states of the USA where we have campuses. My answer was simply an admission of reality—no more and no less. I explained that this struggle for relevance was vexing as we did not want to become ostracized by a world that needs Christ.

"I made the point that public statements condemning people will place a barrier between the church and the world (and I note that Jesus came to save and not to condemn), which is why at Hillsong, we don't want to reduce the real issues in people's lives to a sound bite.

"This, like many other issues, is a conversation the church needs to have, and we are all on a journey as we grapple with the question of merging biblical truth with a changing world."

Charisma News Staff Featured World News Mon, 20 Oct 2014 10:00:00 -0400
Did Jesus Call Us to Be Relevant?

Last week, Michael Paulson of The New York Times asked Pastor Brian Houston, founder of the Hillsong movement (which now has congregations in California and New York), "Can your pastors preside at same-sex marriages?"

Pastor Houston replied (in part), "It can be challenging for churches to stay relevant. Because many mainstream churches upheld what they would believe is the long established view of what the Bible says about homosexuality. But the world has changed around and about them."

He continued, "So the world's changing and we want to stay relevant as a church. So that's a vexing thing. You think, 'How do we not become a pariah?'"

These are understandable concerns, since, if we are driving people away from Jesus, we can hardly bring them to Jesus.

Unfortunately, when speaking to the Times, Pastor Houston did not make a clear statement as to what he believed the Bible did say about gay "marriage," drawing a firestorm of criticism.

Thankfully, before the week was out, Pastor Houston issued a follow-up statement, saying, "Nowhere in my answer did I diminish biblical truth or suggest that I or Hillsong Church supported gay marriage. ... My personal view on the subject of homosexuality would line up with most traditionally held Christian views. I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject."

Given the powerful influence Hillsong has today, and given the tremendous contribution to worship that their songwriters have made, I was extremely glad to see Pastor Houston make this declaration.

But what to do we make of the emphasis Pastor Houston put on being relevant? As he explained in his statement, "this struggle for relevance was vexing as we did not want to become ostracized by a world that needs Christ."

On the one hand, I totally affirm his heart to remove every possible stumbling block that could stand in the way of our witness to the lost. This was Paul's method as well, as he explained, "I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some" (1 Cor. 9:22, ESV).

This means that we use cultural sensitivity and do our best to speak a language that people understand, always being motivated by love for God and love for souls.

Obviously, Hillsong has been very successful in doing this.

At the same time, there is a tremendous danger in our pursuit of "relevance," since what the world thinks it needs is not always what it really needs, nor do God's methods mirror our methods.

As Paul wrote in the very same letter to the Corinthians, "For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:22-24).

All too often—and I say this for all of us, not specifically for Hillsong—being "relevant" can become the code word for compromise, and whenever we seek to make the gospel more palatable by watering it down and removing its offensive elements, we hurt people rather than help them.

Looking at this from another angle, if Christians through the ages had put more emphasis on relevance than obedience, they would not have been mocked, rejected, imprisoned or killed for their faith.

As Jesus said to His followers, "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household" (Matt. 10:24-25).

He also said to them (and us!), "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours" (John 15:18-20).

I do not hear Jesus saying here, "Be relevant!"

Responding to Pastor Houston's comments to The New York Times, Andrew Walker wrote that "as Christians, we don't get to define what 'relevant' means in terms that are unquestioning of what our culture means by 'relevant.'"

In fact, he feels that a wrong emphasis on relevance can put us in retreat, noting that, "A church in retreat doesn't give answers. It doesn't storm the gates of Hell. It settles and makes peace where there is no peace (Ezek. 13:10)."

Walker then calls all of us to live like the church in exile, "one that is faithful amidst the culture, regardless of whether that culture looks more like America or more like Babylon. It knows that it may lose the culture, but that it cannot lose the gospel. So be it. ...

"The good news," he writes, "is that the truth of Christianity outlasts the untruths of man's applause."

When the Lord graciously saved me in 1971 as a 16-year-old, heroin-shooting, LSD-using, Jewish hippie, rock drummer, my entire world consisted of drugs and rock music and ungodly behavior, and my friends and I lived for getting high, going to rock concerts and playing with our band.

My daily music revolved around songs like Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused" and Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze," yet the Lord saved my friends and I in a little, Italian Pentecostal church where the men wore ties and the ladies wore dresses and the pastor's wife played old hymns on the piano.

But the Lord's presence was so real and His Word so clear that we were all wonderfully born again in a totally foreign setting. Is there a lesson for us here?

I personally love contemporary worship, and I appreciate fine musicianship and gifted singers, as well as having an ethic for doing things with excellence. The Lord can certainly use this too.

But it's so easy to put our emphasis in the wrong places, as if slick presentation was more important than the Spirit and professionalism was more important than the Presence.

Let us always be careful not to put relevance before obedience and not to water down the Word in order to avoid offense.

Put another way, we must not use the shifting tides of culture and the fickle opinions of people as our guide for life and ministry. Instead, we must seek to emulate Jesus in thought, word and deed, lifting Him up without shame (which includes lifting up His life-giving standards of holiness and purity). If we do, the hungry and thirsty will come.

Pastor Kris Vallotton put it well: "We are not called to reflect our culture we are called to transform it. Becoming darkness to be relevant to a world of immorality is not the pathway to progress, but the process to the cesspool of hopelessness.

"We must lovingly reach into the cesspool of society and dirty our hands with the souls men as we pull them into the light of His extravagant grace."

Speaking of the early church, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, "The church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society."

That is what Jesus has called us to do and to be, changing the world, not becoming like it.

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

Michael Brown Featured In the Line of Fire Opinion Mon, 20 Oct 2014 09:00:00 -0400
'LGBT': The 'T' is for Tyranny

Tranny tyranny. Strike that. "LGBT" tyranny. Lesbian, gay, bisexual tyranny. That, generally speaking, is what's on display in Houston right now. But trust me: Unlike Vegas, what happens in Houston will, most definitely, not stay in Houston—not if Democrats continue to have their way.

Houstonians elected themselves, as mayor, an extremist lesbian Democrat (but I repeat myself). She quickly, and quite naturally, took to doing what extremist lesbian Democrats do. Annise Parker is her name, and spreading political Ebola is her game. That and trampling the U.S. Constitution. As you've likely heard, Parker's office has illegally subpoenaed the sermons and privileged communications of a number of Christian pastors who vocally opposed the city's ironically branded "Equal Rights Ordinance" (aka, the Houston Bathroom Bill).

More on that later. First, let's scoot north-leftward for context.

Washington state, dateline 2012: Colleen is just like the girl next door. Well, sort of. Colleen has a penis. So, I guess, unless the girl next door has a penis, Colleen really isn't much like her at all.

But that's beside the point. In Washington you must, under penalty of law, pretend—along with Colleen and Democrats—that, in the face of both reality and sanity, Colleen really is like the girl next door. This includes letting Colleen, who is actually a 47-year-old dude named Clay Scott Francis, lay naked and "sprawled out in a sauna exposing himself" to girls as young as 6 years old. This really happened in the ladies locker room at Evergreen State College.

It's only fair, you see, because, as Clay, er, "Colleen," complained—and as police agreed—this sick man was "discriminated against" when he was asked to leave on behalf of a terrorized 17-year-old girl. "This is not 1959 Alabama," cried Francis. "We don't call police for drinking from the wrong water fountain."

Get that, my African-American friends? According to this beneficiary of "white privilege," a man who, incidentally, identifies as a "transgender lesbian" (meaning he's sexually attracted to females), to be told that you cannot sprawl naked and intentionally expose your manly bits to 6-year-old girls is no different from being relegated to a "colored only" water fountain.

Mayor Annise Parker and the larger Democratic Party agree. Ian Tuttle reports for National Review:

"Earlier this year Parker, a Democrat, spearheaded the passage of an 'Equal Rights Ordinance' (ERO) that added 'sexual orientation' and 'gender identity' to the city's non-discrimination provision, which includes, among other things, 'public accommodations'—for example, restrooms. Citizens, among them church leaders, balked. They launched a referendum petition that, with the requisite 17,269 signatures, would require the city council to repeal the ERO, or to put the measure up for a vote. They obtained 55,000 signatures.

"The city secretary, who has sole responsibility for certifying such petitions, signed off.

"Enter Houston city attorney David Feldman, who, with no legal authority, disqualified 38,000 signatures. Names that were printed, rather than written in cursive, were discarded; names that were written in cursive were considered illegible—just enough names to get the petition below the 17,000-signature requirement, at which point the city council and Mayor Parker rejected it. And several citizens sued.

"But the city's shenanigans had only just begun. Unsatisfied with violating the rights of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the City of Houston has subpoenaed privileged communications of five pastors (none of them party to the lawsuit) who helped to organize the petition drive. Among other information, the city is requesting communications between the pastors and their attorneys pertaining to the ERO lawsuit, communications between the pastors and their congregants, and even the pastors' sermons. ..."

This, of course, is typical Democrat corruption, as well as a gross violation of the First Amendment's free exercise clause—one of the worst we've seen to date. It is, unequivocally, "LGBT" tyranny.

And it's rooted in madness.

Through the secular-"progressive" looking-glass, the term "sexual orientation" has, in a few short years, evolved to accommodate an ever-expanding fruit basket of carnal appetites. First it was "LGB"—liberal shorthand for "lesbian, gay and bisexual." Then was added a "T" for "transgender." That's gender identity disorder—cross-dressing. You know, perverts like Clay Francis. (Today it's "LGBTOMGBBQ" or some such.)

Anyway, because it's now illegal to "discriminate based on the basis of gender identity" in Houston, and since it's the only "tolerant" thing to do, men who sign up for the ever-persecuted "LGBT" class have secured the hard-fought "civil right" to fully expose themselves to, and otherwise ogle, your daughters in the ladies' room.

Yay "gay rights"!

But slow down there, Dad. According to the law, if you have a problem with Mr. Francis baring all to your baby girl, then you're the problem. You're a "transphobe" ("homophobia's" evil twin sister, er, brother ... whatever). Deck this sicko for terrifying your first-grader and you're off to jail while "Colleen" is off to the "Human Rights Campaign" for a commendation as the latest victim of an "anti-LGBT hate crime."

Rosa Parks in drag, I guess.

Writing of this and other similarly innovative "rights," such as gay marriage, veteran journalist Robert Stacy McCain notes, "This has legal ramifications far beyond Houston, and is by no means limited to the issue of same-sex marriage. What you see, if you look at this in a larger legal and cultural context, is that liberals have decided the 'equal protection' clause of the Fourteenth Amendment trumps everything else in the Constitution or in Anglo-American common-law tradition, and that there is no protection whatsoever to those who oppose the 'emerging awareness' doctrine proclaimed by the Supreme Court in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas case."

"Christians in Texas are not going to surrender without a fight," continued McCain, "and every Democrat in Texas ought to be held accountable for what radical Democrats led by Annise Parker are doing in Houston. Every Democrat in the state should be publicly challenged by Republicans either to endorse Mayor Parker's extremist agenda, or else to denounce it. And every Texas Democrat who claims to oppose Mayor Parker's agenda should then be called upon to condemn any Texas Democrat who supports Mayor Parker's agenda. It is high time, you see, that 'moderate Democrats' stop pretending to be moderates, because the Democrat Party is not a moderate party.

"Mayor Parker's radical agenda is the agenda of the Democrat Party, not only in Houston, not only in Texas, but everywhere. The sooner Democrats are forced to admit this, the sooner the American people can decide whether they want to follow the Democrat Party down this highway to hell that Democrats are paving at taxpayer expense."

The Alamo has returned to Texas. But this time, the bad guys are hoisting a rainbow flag.

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

Matt Barber Featured Clarion Call Opinion Mon, 20 Oct 2014 08:00:00 -0400
Would You Recognize a Modern-Day Pharisee if You Saw One?

If you're like me, you hate Pharisees. Jesus didn't have much use for them either ... and of course, I want to be like Jesus!

Also, let's be honest, few things are more fulfilling than sending out a tweet about a case of hypocrisy in a Pharisee.

These days Pharisees take to social media and gladly point out the shortcomings of others. It has never been easier for a Pharisee to gain a following. The more argumentative and harsh the tone expressed, the more appealing Pharisees are to the judgmental masses.

Pharisees are an easy target, and I don't mind drawing a bead because I see the spiritual damage that grows in the culture of legalism.

No pastor or church leader likes to see the spirit of judgmentalism in others. In fact, Pharisees seem to be the only ones who like themselves. But this is a blind spot in our own lives, too. Pharisaical attitudes are often revealed through difficult situations.

Rarely does a disciple of Jesus see a spirit of judgment and legalism in him or herself.

In other words, it is easy to spot a Pharisee, unless, of course, you are looking in the mirror.

So how do we discover and deal with the Pharisee inside us?

Revealing the Pharisee

Soon after coming to Christ, I was discipled by a guy named Steve. Steve gave me a book. As I recall, it was the first Christian book I read. The book was The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

As a teen, you can imagine that I found the book quite challenging. I didn't understand it all, but I especially didn't understand how you can be a Christian and not take it seriously.

I wondered about others who called themselves Christians, "So, you believe a man was totally dead on Friday, and then on Sunday ... He's more alive than He had been on Thursday! But that doesn't change everything about what you value and how you live?"

The reality is that the Pharisaical spirit often hides in fields of high expectations.

I noticed a significant disconnect between belief and lifestyle among many who claimed to be Christians. As I began to follow Christ, I started noticing that not all believers love the Lord with the passion and intensity I thought I had—or thought they should have.

This became a source of frustration to me.

Along the way I would start a Bible study while in high school, but it sometimes seemed that no one was as committed to it as I was. By college, I was a youth pastor, and still felt more committed to the process than everyone else. This frustration continued into pastoral ministry.

As I moved into roles where I trained other pastors, I found that I was not alone in my frustration. Many pastors feel the same way.

The reality is that the Pharisaical spirit often hides in fields of high expectations, and we pastors are often the source of those expectations.

As pastors and church leaders in general, we are often disappointed with the spiritual journey of many people in our care. We don't understand why they don't take the faith as seriously as we do. We often get to thinking that they do not truly want to grow in Christ.

"Why? Why was no one else as committed as I was?" we utter in frustration.

At this point we must stop, look in the mirror, and ask ourselves, "Wait ... Why was I putting myself above others, wondering why they weren't measuring up to my standard of passion and intensity in discipleship?"

High Expectations of Judgmentalism

So how can we know when high expectation becomes judgmentalism?

Part of the issue with pastors is that we have followed God into this crazy high-requirement thing called ministry. That proves how serious we are about our commitment, right?

High commitment is measured in our life by what we are willing to give up in pursuing Christ. We throw ourselves passionately into the task. And we see the call to discipleship not just for a select few, but we imagine a world where all believers would sacrifice everything to advance the Kingdom.

But in my situation, there was an aspect that could be traced to damage in my own heart and soul.

Pharisees Get Bitter

I found myself becoming religiously bitter and started looking down on others who didn't "measure up." It grew to the point where I would even verbalize the frustration eating away at my soul.

"Man, I don't get this. You're not walking with the Lord. Here I am walking with the Lord. Why don't you get serious about living the life?"

At least that's how I would articulate it when I was younger.

Perhaps by the time I got older I only thought it, because I was smart enough to not say it out loud.

But I still felt it.

Passion and its Problem

Passion in us often leads to our disappointment in others. Disappointment leads to frustration. Frustration leads to anger. Anger is expressed in an attitude of spiritual superiority and leaning hard on others.

And along the way, without even recognizing it, a disciple becomes a Pharisee.

The challenge is to recognize the connection and avoid the downside of the passion. The connection is clear: People of passion wonder why other people are not as passionate. It happens in every area of life. However, in the Christian life, the downside is that we can often become judgmental of those who lack our degree of passion.

Redeeming the Pharisee

I wonder how Jesus dealt with the issue—seeing the lack of commitment so evident among His disciples. Perhaps that is the answer. After all, while we are comparing ourselves to others, we need to remember that none of us measures up to Jesus.

And no one expects us to.

That's the key: Jesus gives us grace and calls us to grace, and that's the answer to the problem of phariseeism in my heart.

Along the way, without even recognizing it, a disciple becomes a Pharisee.

Passion is good; becoming pharisaical is not good.

Grace extends to those who struggle, who are not as serious as they should be, and who don't measure up. If we see who they are in Christ, rather than who we wish they were as growing Christians, it changes our view.

Furthermore, we need to recognize that growth takes time. Maturity is not the seed, it is the harvest, and it is a journey. But we tend to forget that.

Different Kind of Pharisee

I have been a vocal critic of the Pharisees in Scripture, as well as those among us today. I probably will still do that when appropriate.

But what has surprised me is how my own pharisaical attitudes are just as real and often unrecognized in my own life.

May I ... and may we ... show grace to those on the way, regardless of who people are in Christ, where they are on the path, and the progress they are making.

Let me encourage you to read Larry Osborne's book, Accidental Pharisees, which helped inspire this post and does a better and more thorough job exploring the issues.

Ed Stetzer is the president of LifeWay Research. For the original article, visit

Ed Stetzer Featured Opinion Mon, 20 Oct 2014 07:00:00 -0400
Prophetic Warning: 'Great Humbling' Coming to America

Larry Randolph shares his prophetic journey with Sid Roth, as well as offering stark new prophecies for America, Israel and the world.



Charisma News Staff Featured Opinion Mon, 20 Oct 2014 06:00:00 -0400
1 Incredible Tool to Change a Generation

With millions of Americans' bookshelves playing host to unread Bibles, there is a massive disconnect between the Word of God's physical presence and its impact on those who own it. Similarly, the 80 million-strong Millennial generation is generally very skeptical of the Bible's place in their lives, even though the questions and issues closest to their hearts are addressed by Scripture.

Aiming to address these issues and reclaim the gospel message from recent distortions from within and without the Christian community, the new Modern English Version (MEV) combines classic phraseology and true reverence for Scripture with readability and relevance for modern audiences to help reconnect America with her spiritual moorings and engage a generation with the life-giving answer to life's problems.

Watch the short video below for more on the issues and how the MEV stands to help the church address them.


Charisma Staff Featured Opinion Sun, 19 Oct 2014 17:00:00 -0400
Is Reality TV to Blame for Divorce?

Over the past eight years, Jenifer and I have had the honor of having more than 500 couples come through our Marriage Prep Workshops. Investing in these young, teachable couples is perhaps our all-time favorite thing to do in ministry. 

Several times a year, we set up a booth at a local bridal expo to promote our workshop. Amidst all the florists, photographers and cake decorators, we make our pitch: "You're here to plan your wedding, and I'm sure it's going to be beautiful. But remember, when the wedding is over, there's this thing that starts immediately after called a marriage. And it lasts longer than the wedding does."

Some brides (and the occasional groom) are open to our pitch. They want to be successful in marriage and know they need some coaching. But sadly, many brides won't talk to us. They are too busy planning their dream weddings to waste time thinking about the details and challenges of building a lasting marriage. 

I blame reality TV shows such as "Say Yes to the Dress" and "Four Weddings." These shows and the bazillion-dollar wedding industry have convinced many young women that the key to marital bliss is the perfect wedding. Their message: "You must have decor that dazzles, food that amazes, and an event that takes people's breath away. In a nutshell, you must impress your friends and family. The more awesome the wedding event, the more awesome you are. In turn, the more awesome your marriage will be."

A recent report tells us that the opposite is true. More expensive weddings result is more divorces.

Using data pulled from an Emory University Study, Taryn Hillin writes at Huffington Post that couples with pricey engagement rings and extravagant weddings divorce at a far higher rate than those who take a more economical route. Specifically, "women whose weddings cost $20,000 or more were 3.5 times more likely to end up divorced than women who spent $5,000 to $10,000." Read that again: They are three and a half times more likely to divorce! 

Before you start thinking about heading to Las Vegas to elope, the study also suggests that smaller isn't better. According to Hillin, "The researchers found that having more guests—not spending more money—led to longer marriages." I agree with that. There is incredible value in having a large group of friends and family present to witness your vows and to celebrate the event.

So what is an engaged couple to do? How in the world does a couple have the biggest wedding possible for the least amount of money? When our daughter married a few years ago, we had more than 450 guests, and it was the party of the century. But we didn't go crazy with unnecessary extravagance. We wanted to focus on the couple and the awesome God who put them together. And you can ask anyone: It was incredible.

Here are a few tips that engaged couples planning a wedding should consider:

1. Make a commitment early on to consistently remind one another that you must focus more on the marriage than on the wedding. Of course, I recommend getting pre-marital counseling. If love was all you needed, then we wouldn't see so many marriages ending in divorce. 

2. Cut corners wherever you can. You can rent a dress for a fraction of the cost of buying one. Realize that nobody will care about your $5,000 dress if you have to declare bankruptcy.

3. Schedule the wedding at a time where you won't feel obligated to feed people a lot of food. If you want to have a meal, then host the reception at the church. Those $40/person catering costs can add up.

4. Skip the alcohol. Radical, I know.

5. Forget the "extras" that the wedding industry tries to convince you that you need. Somehow, your marriage will survive if you don't have a photo booth at the reception. The people who insist that you need to send everyone home with a "favor" are the people who want to sell "favors." Don't get suckered.

6. Recruit talented acquaintances who can shoot video, help with food, decorate, etc. You probably don't want to skimp on your photographer, but someone who charges $3,000 isn't necessarily three times better than someone who charges you $1,000. 

7. Don't go into debt to pay for your own wedding. Three years into marriage, no newlywed couple needs the added stress of paying for a four-hour event that happened long ago.

George Clooney may have the cash to throw an over-the-top party for his wedding in Venice. But most of the rest of us do not. Don't let the bridal industry and the pressure to impress others cause you to spend more than you have to on your wedding. The research is in, and I agree with it wholeheartedly: An economical, heart-felt wedding attended by all the people you love is the best way to start a marriage. 

Anything more than that might just be too much icing on the cake. 

Barrett Johnson is the founder of INFO for Families and the author of The Talks: A Parent's Guide to Critical Conversations about Sex, Dating, and Other Unmentionables.

Barrett Johnson Featured Opinion Sun, 19 Oct 2014 15:00:00 -0400
Wrestling With Wicked Witchcraft—and Winning

It started a little later than usual, but spiritual witchcraft is rising—and rising rapidly—in South Florida this October. My community is home to a large population of witches, pagans, Wiccans and other heathens who practice one form of witchcraft or another. Your community may not have palm trees and beaches, but it's likely got a few witches, pagans, Wiccans and heathens practicing witchcraft.

A quick scan of the latest news reveals that reports of witchcraft-related child abuse are on the rise in London; two children were tortured and dumped on the streets over witchcraft in Akwa Ibom; a pastor who runs several churches in Kiambu and Meru was found practicing witchcraft; authorities have tied Texas drug smugglers to witchcraft, cartels and a house explosion; and seven people accused of witchcraft were burned to death in Tanzania.

When I first moved to South Florida, I battled Jezebel and her witchcrafts (see 2 Kings 9:22) with limited success for at least a year before I learned to discern the attack of this spiritual enemy at its onset, submit myself to God's Word, resist the devil and command it to flee in the name of Jesus (see James 4:7, AMP). Now, I am much quicker to sense witchcraft operating in the spirit, but sometimes witchcraft attacks in your sleep.

Witchcraft Dreams

Earlier this year, I wrote an article called "When Jezebel's Witchcraft Keeps You Up at Night." I wrote it in March, which, along with October, is a prime time for witchcraft manifestations. In March, it has more to do with the spiritual climate that stems from false Mary worship. In October, it's more about the witches, pagans, Wiccans and heathens practicing witchcraft.

As I explained in my article earlier this year, the enemy has used a different tactic in 2014. Since the spiritual forces of darkness could not slow me down by day, the attacks are coming at night. I've started having what I call witchcraft dreams. A more complete way of explaining it would be to say I've experienced dream activity inspired by witchcraft rumbling in the spiritual climate.

While we watch kids dress up as witches and knock on doors asking for candy, bona fide witches are celebrating their holy day and Witches' Sabbath. October 31 is also Samhain, a Gaelic festival that marks the finale of harvest season and the start of winter. One Paganism/Wiccan expert explained, "It's a good time to contact the spirit world with a séance, because it's the time when the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest."

Symptoms of Witchcraft

People who are especially sensitive to the spiritual realm can sense witchcraft in the atmosphere. As demonic activity increases, people report feelings of oppression, fatigue, strong spiritual warfare against the mind that makes you feel like quitting, and even physical manifestations for which doctors can't find a reason. Are you experiencing any of these things?

When witchcraft is particularly heavy in the spiritual climate, my eyes actually burn. Everything seems like a much bigger deal than it really is because witchcraft works to take your eyes off Jesus by magnifying the problem. The enemy can use people to release witchcraft against you through word curses, but this spiritual force seems to sometimes hang over your head like a dark cloud—unless you break it.

In my book, Satan's Deadly Trio: Defeating the Deceptions of Jezebel, Religion and Witchcraft, I write: "We need the gift of discernment to truly understand what we're battling. We can't effectively take authority over false authority in the name of Jesus if we can't discern what we're taking authority over. Sure, there are the generic 'I bind every spirit that is not of Christ, in the name of Jesus!' prayers but my experience tells me those will only take you so far in battle."

Combating Spiritual Witchcraft

Just because you are exhausted, feeling oppressed, are battling in your mind, or otherwise sense a struggle doesn't mean that you are necessarily battling witchcraft. You need the Holy Spirit to show you what is going on. That said, if it's October and you are consistently facing these symptoms—and specifically if you are having vivid nightmares suddenly—you should ask the Holy Spirit if witchcraft plays a role.

With nightmares and bad dreams, it could just be that you ate too much too late at night, that you are processing internal fears in your soul, that your subconscious mind is dredging up strong emotions from your past, or some other natural cause. However, it could also be spiritual witchcraft. If it is, what do you do?

I wrote more about this in a past article called "Overcoming Witchcraft Attacks Against Your Mind and Body." If you are experiencing nightmares, I'd also suggest reading that and also remembering and confessing this: "You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day (Psalm 91:5).

And this: "When you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet" (Prov. 3:24).

Pray over yourself before you go to sleep—plead the blood of Jesus and command these spirits to cease their operations in the name of Jesus. And if you wake up with one of these bad dreams, do it again. The spiritual climate is intense for these next couple of weeks, but we are overcomers by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. Amen.

Click here to download a free chapter of Jennifer's new book, Satan's Deadly Trio: Defeating the Deceptions of Jezebel, Religion and Witchcraft.

Jennifer LeClaire is news editor of Charisma. She is also director of Awakening House of Prayer in Fort Lauderdale and author of several books, including Satan's Deadly Trio: Defeating the Deceptions of Jezebel, Religion and Witchcraft, and The Spiritual Warrior's Guide to Defeating Jezebel. You can visit her website here. You can also join Jennifer on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Jennifer LeClaire Featured Opinion Sun, 19 Oct 2014 13:00:00 -0400
9 Ways to Break Generational Curses

You don't have to let sin and shame cripple you. These steps can help you discover freedom from your past.

  1. Recognize the curse. In order to get set free and stay free, you have to admit you have a problem. That sounds simple, but we live in a day and age of denial. No matter what has happened to us in our lives, each of us are responsible for the choices and decisions we make. If you really want to be free, you will accept that responsibility.
  2. Break the curse. As we apply God's Word and power to our lives, and as we choose to walk in righteousness and obedience to God, the chains of bondage will be broken. There are three steps to breaking a generational curse:
  3. (1) Give your life to Jesus; the blood of Jesus removes our sin; (2) Fight the battle with spiritual weapons (such as the Word of God and the armor of God); and (3) Regain control over the power of your will. When Jesus shed His blood, he bought back our willpower. Through the blood of Jesus, we can say no.
  4. Reverse the curse. There are three keys you can use to reverse the curse and live in victory: (1) Recognize your enemy. We battle not with flesh and blood. Our enemy is Satan, and the battle is spiritual. (2) Forgive people who have hurt you. (3) Treat causes, not symptoms (for example, insecurity, jealousy or fear).
  5. Release the power of love. To become people whose lives are transformed by the love of God, we must not only get rid of what holds us captive and keeps us in bondage, but we must also be filled up with love--for God, for self and for others. Unconditional love will release blessing. To know more of the love of God in your life, love those who have hurt you, those who have opposed you and those who have sinned against you.
  6. Develop a godly attitude. A good attitude does not make everything go perfectly all the time. Matthew 5:45 tells us that God sends the rain on the just and the unjust. But our attitude determines whether the rain will water the seeds of our harvest or wash those seeds away. Get serious about where you are going with God by getting your attitude lined up with His Word, having faith and trusting in Him.
  7. Align your words with God's words. Your words give evidence of your faith, and they should reflect God's good purposes for you. Exchange your negative words for positive words, exchange your negative thoughts for positive thoughts, and exchange your negative actions for positive actions.
  8. Accept God's acceptance. Jesus didn't come to condemn us or punish us. He came to give us hope that our lives really can be different. We don't have to live under the burdens of pain, hurt, shame or sorrow. All the power in heaven is available to you to set you free from every chain that binds you. Corrie ten Boom said, "There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still."
  9. Walk in obedience. In order to break free from the curses and walk in freedom, you must learn to walk in obedience to God's ways. We don't have to be perfect or without mistakes, but our hearts need to be surrendered and pliable toward God. We need to be moving forward in the things of God every day of our lives. Today's decisions determine our tomorrows. There is a miracle on the other side of your obedience. 

Larry Huch is founder and senior pastor of New Beginnings Christian Center in Dallas, Texas. He and his wife, Tiz, have planted six churches in the United States and Australia.

Larry Huch Featured Opinion Sun, 19 Oct 2014 11:00:00 -0400
The Biblical Answer to Broken Relationships

Marian Evans, who wrote under the pen name George Eliot, described the beauty of friendship: "Oh the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words but to pour them all out together, knowing that a faithful friend will take and sift them, keeping what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away."

David had a friend like that, but something terrible happened. The friend turned against him. Psalm 55 pours out of David's heart as he struggles with the unbearable emotional pain of abandonment, betrayal, disillusionment and disbelief.

Internal Nightmare

David begins with a plea for God to listen (v. 1). The "listen" is punctuated by urgency: "Do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me" (vv. 1,2). Did David fear God would be as insensitive as the departed friend?

Quickly, David summarizes his deep depression (vv. 3,4) and poignantly notes the horrible physiological and psychological trauma he experiences: "Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me" (v. 5).

Emotions like this never arise with the loss of a casual acquaintance. Such wounds can only be made by someone close to you. Who has left you that you loved? The excruciating present feelings far surpass the former comfort in friendship.

You now long for escape from the hurt but can't find anywhere to run. "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. ... far from the tempest and storm" (vv. 6–8).

External Danger

Some breakups in close relationships are not accompanied by the external dangers confronting David in this psalm: violence, strife, malice, abuse, threats and lies. However, such terms do describe the devil's assault: "Destructive forces are at work" (v. 11).

The enemy's deeds are never constructive. He is interested only in our defeat.

Unendurable Loss

A grieving divorcee asked for prayer: "I just can't bear the pain. My husband, my closest friend, told me he had to leave me because he was gay. I never saw it coming. We had such a caring relationship. I don't know if I have the strength to go on living."

The betrayal of a spouse, a friend, a relative, a close companion is very hard to take. David speaks for all who have been so wounded when he laments, "If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you ... my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship" (vv. 12-14).

Intensifying the pain is the remembrance that the "sweet fellowship" had included spiritual togetherness ("as we walked with the throng at the house of God" (v. 14). He never expected the companion who loved God with him to turn against him.

Anger Vented

A husband, whose wife had left him for another man, admitted, "It was all I could do to restrain myself from going to her new home in the middle of the night and torching it with her and her lover in it."

David is no stranger to those emotions. He wishes the worst to happen to the one who hurt him—sudden death or being buried alive.

The Psalms continually illustrate how to deal with anger when we are hurt by others. The Lord gives permission to express that anger to Him, but it is not acceptable for us to act on the anger. Maturity in Christ takes us along an even higher and more difficult path: forgiveness and overcoming evil with good.

One Dependable Friend

Other persons may disappoint us. God won't (vv. 16-19). His action is always consistent with His speech. We can rely upon the Lord; therefore, David closes this psalm with a word of advice—picked up by Peter in the New Testament: "Cast your cares on the Lord" (v. 22; 1 Pet. 5:7).

It's hard. I want to solve my own problems so I can get the solutions I desire. Prayer makes me desire His solutions.

Is a broken relationship with a close companion plunging you into the emotional fight of your life? God must be involved. Put the matter in His hands.

We began the psalm by demanding God's immediate attention, and after a season of struggle in prayer, quietly relinquish our situation into the Lord's care, "But as for me, I trust in you" (v. 23).

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

George O. Wood Featured Opinion Sun, 19 Oct 2014 09:00:00 -0400
How Religion Twists the Role of Women in Ministry

I'm always amazed as I travel and minister that I still have women coming to me saying they are not accepted because they are a woman! "My church won't let me preach or teach or pray for people. They only let me serve in the kitchen or clean the church." I always say, "You need to look to God, not man, for open doors for your gift.

What does God really think about women? Long before He formed the woman's physical body from the rib of man, He had her in His heart. Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth'" (Gen. 1:26-28).

In the New Testament we find the man, Paul, whom some quote as being against women, saying, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28). God is talking about creating the physical woman, and Paul is talking in the spiritual realm. Personally, I think that covers it all!

It is very important to understand the beginning of mankind. Women, you are not an afterthought. You were clearly in God's heart before He formed you according to Scripture. Women have graced this earth with insight, sensitivity and beauty, spiritually and physically. Eve entered the physical world not in a dominant or subservient role, but equal to man. "Let them" is repeated several times in Genesis.

It was God who said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him" (Gen. 2:18). God created woman and brought her to man! Adam had nothing to do with her creation other than taking a nap!

When God formed woman, He took the feminine, the nurturing and tenderness of His nature that had already been breathed into Adam, and gave woman those strengths. Man was left with the stewardship of the earth; to guide, guard and govern; the disciplinarian, the tough one.

When we begin to understand how God originally created men and women, and the uniqueness that was placed within each one, then we begin to comprehend the problems we are facing in the world today. Men and women both have a uniqueness that needs to be fulfilled.

Unfortunately, religion has twisted the scriptures to their ideal to lift up men. In the Jewish culture, women were not treated much better than their Roman and Greek sisters. We know that God used women in the Old Testament with great influence, but in general, women were considered a commodity. Women were not permitted to learn, to speak to men in public, even to her own husband.

This is the world that Jesus, our Savior, walked into! When Jesus said, "...Mary has chosen the good part..." (Luke 10:42), it got the attention of everyone. Jesus shook the house!

Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) and to restore God's original design for men and women and their purpose in this world. When Jesus saw women crushed and hidden behind closed doors, He flung the door wide open! He took these abused female image bearers and put them center stage to play leading roles in God's redemptive plan for the world.

God made the way for mankind, including women. "He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name" (John 1:11-12). You, men and women, are children of God if you have received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

No wonder women followed Jesus. He satisfied their uniqueness as women. He treated them as peers, and joint-heirs with Him. God created man and woman to be unique; and where that is impaired there is division, and division opens the doorway for deception.

Walk in your uniqueness as a Woman and Man of God. You are to honor God with the life He created in you. Men feel they have to perform and women feel they have to conform, but God says we are both to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. When we honor each other as we function in our divine purpose, God commands His blessing.

I thank God every day that my husband has given me the freedom to develop the gift that God has imparted within my spirit. He has encouraged me in every step of my ministry and supported me in everything God has called me to do. Have we had some disagreements? How can two become one without a few good disagreements, and yes, a little shouting!

Joyce Tilney is Founder of Women of God Ministries, teaching women today from women of yesterday. She is a conference speaker and author. Her latest book, Why Diets Don't Work-Food Is Not The Problem, has helped many overcome the battle of the bulge. For information visit her websites: wogministries and

Joyce Tilney Featured Opinion Sat, 18 Oct 2014 17:00:00 -0400
9 Qualities of an Effective Intercessor

Below is a list of personal and professional qualities that make good attorneys. Let's see how these qualities also help make good intercessors.

1. Dedication. An intercessor must be committed to Christ, to others and to the task of intercession. There simply is no substitute for dedication. As Phillips Brooks once said, "If man is man and God is God, to live without prayer is not merely an awful thing; it is an infinitely foolish thing."

2. Reliability. It's not our ability that God looks for, but our availability. Paul Daniel Rader once said: "If you can beat the devil in the matter of regular daily prayer, you can beat him anywhere. If he can beat you there, he can possibly beat you anywhere." Or as a country preacher once said, "If your day is hemmed with prayer, it's less likely to come unraveled."

3. Integrity. In Alice Smith's book Beyond the Veil, she writes: "If we accept an assignment from God, we can be sure that He will attempt to build integrity into our lives. I (Alice) love Psalm 26:11-12: 'But I lead a blameless life; redeem me and be merciful to me. My feet stand on level ground; in the great assembly I will praise the Lord.'

"My paraphrase would read: 'In all my public trust I will walk uprightly and pay strict attention to truth, honesty, justice and mercy. I will not plan evil schemes or use myself to promote my own cause. I will be true to the integrity of the Word. I will live a moral life in private and in public. I stand firmly on principles of proper conduct, and I will not turn aside.'"

4. Objectivity and empathy. Objectivity and empathy are tricky. Both are necessary, but they must be kept in balance.

If we are empathetic intercessors who cannot find objectivity in prayer, we will soon be consumed emotionally and ultimately overwhelmed with the prayer needs we bear. Remember the words of the old song "Leave It There" by Charles Albert Tindley: "Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there."

On the other hand, if we are objective intercessors without empathy, who cannot feel the needs of those for whom we have been commissioned to pray, our prayer life will grow stale and eventually dry up.

5. Kind. Kindness is a necessary commodity for the intercessor-advocate, as illustrated by the following story.

An old man carried a little can of oil with him everywhere he went. If he passed through a door with squeaky hinges, he put a little oil on the hinges. If the gate was hard to open, he poured a little oil upon the latch.

Every day he found a variety of ways to use his pocket oil can to others' advantage. Neighbors thought he was eccentric, but he went on his way, doing all within his power to lubricate the hard places and make life easier and more enjoyable for others.

Do we carry with us the oil of human kindness? When the traffic is backed up, the grocery clerk is rude or your boss decides to come down on you, are you exercising the oil of gladness? Go ahead and do it. It will make your day.

6. Discipline. The intercessor will not be successful without applying discipline to his or her work of intercession. As the next story illustrate, discipline is vitally important.

A visitor to a famous pottery establishment was puzzled by an operation that seemed aimless. In one room there was a mass of clay beside a workman. Every now and then he took up a large mallet and struck several smart blows on the surface of the lump. Curiosity led to the question: "Why do you do that?"

"Wait a bit, sir, and watch it," was the reply.

The visitor obeyed, and soon the top of the mass began to heave and swell. Bubbles formed upon its face.

"Now sir, you will see," said the modeler with a smile. "I could never shape the clay into a vase if these air bubbles were in it, therefore I gradually beat them out."

It sounded in the ears of the visitor like an allegory of Romans 5:3-5, "Tribulation produces perseverance ... character ... hope" (NKJV). Is not the discipline of life, so hard to bear sometimes, just a beating out of the bubbles of pride and self-will, so the Master may form a vessel of earth to hold heavenly treasures?

7. Leadership ability.In his book Wind and Fire, Bruce Larson points out some interesting facts about sandhill cranes:

"These large birds that fly great distances across continents have three remarkable qualities. First, they rotate leadership. No one bird stays out in front all the time.

Second, they choose leaders who can handle turbulence. And then, all during the time one bird leads, the rest honk their affirmation.

"That's not a bad model for the church. Certainly we need leaders who can handle turbulence and who are aware that leadership ought to be shared. But most of all, we need a church where we all honk encouragement.

It is safe to say that some of our prayer assignments are also being borne by other Christians. Let's guard our hearts against feeling that we—and our prayers—are "the only reasons" something happens.

The apostle Paul warned us that we are "not to think of [ourselves] more highly than [we] ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith" (Rom. 12:3).

8. High moral character. A Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka, who was acquainted with both Christianity and Buddhism, was once asked what he thought was the great difference between the two. He replied, "There is much that is good in each of them, and probably in all religions.

"But what seems to me to be the greatest difference is that you Christians know what is right and have the power to do it, while we Buddhists know what is right but have not any such power."

The monk was right. True freedom is not the right to do as we please. It is the power to do what is right!

A lawyer who lived in the chambers of the temple told a story about an old gray-haired man in the room next to his who knelt down every night and said his prayers aloud. The partition between their rooms was thin, and he heard what the old man said quite distinctly. He was greatly surprised to hear him always say this prayer: "Lord, make me a good boy."

This may seem rather ludicrous. But if you think of it, you will be touched by its beauty. Long years before when, as a little child, that old man had knelt at his mother's knee, she had taught him this petition, "Lord, make me a good boy."

And through the years with their trials and temptations, he still felt the need of offering that cry in the old, simple language of childhood, knowing that in the sight of the ageless God he was still a child.

Just as a good advocate should be a person of high moral character, an effective intercessor must also live a holy life of high moral character.

9. A team player. Corporate intercession is almost an unknown art. In most places it is individual intercession in a corporate setting. Thankfully, the church is beginning to understand how to gather as a group and approach God as one person!

We are also beginning to network as intercessors. We realize that the more testimonies we have in court, the stronger our case will be. We are grateful for the 61 personal intercessors who faithfully serve us and our ministry in prayer. We take seriously the hours they spend in court on our behalf.

We never cease to be amazed at the self-discipline exerted by intercessors. The abilities to work well under pressure and with minimal supervision are grace gifts that God has given most intercessors. People of prayer, we admire your faithfulness to voluntarily spend the time you do in prayer on behalf of others.

We can experience transformation of our families, cities and nations if we will be willing to labor together.

Eddie Smith is the founder and president of the U.S. Prayer Center, and his wife, Alice, is the executive director. Eddie also coordinates Pray USA!, an annual fasting and prayer initiative. Alice is an intercessor, conference speaker and author. This article is from their book Spiritual Advocates (Charisma House).

Eddie Smith Featured Opinion Sat, 18 Oct 2014 15:00:00 -0400
Will You Dare to Pray This Prayer?

"He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you." (Deuteronomy 8:16).

Moses is reviewing with the people how God's care has been evident as they wandered through the desert toward the promise. Read it for yourself.

Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in
the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you
in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you
would keep his commands.
He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding
you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had
known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone
but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell
during these forty years.
Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son,
so the Lord your God disciplines you.
Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking
in his ways and revering him.
For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good
land—a land with streams and pools of water, with springs
flowing in the valleys and hills;
a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees,
pomegranates, olive oil and honey;
a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack
nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig
copper out of the hills.
When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord
your God for the good land he has given you.
Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God,
failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees
that I am giving you this day.
Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you
build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and
flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all
you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud
and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you
out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that
thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and
scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock.
He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your
fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that
in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself,
"My power and the strength of my hands have produced
this wealth for me." But remember the Lord your God, for
it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so
confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as
it is today (Deuteronomy 8:2–18).

The people had some trying times. Desert years are no picnic. In those years, though big in population, they were small in power. No land. No home. No houses. No fields of their own. Like the patriarchs before them, they were living in tents and wandering. They wandered in circles with the Promised Land just out of reach.

Yet, when they looked back, they could see the hand of God ever present. In the moment, they found plenty to grumble about as they journeyed. They did not always feel the presence and power of God as they wandered. But in hindsight His provision was clear. Did they think they were wandering? Hindsight revealed that God was leading them.

Did they think they were deprived because they lived with a day's provision at a time? Hindsight revealed that daily provision meant they were rich and well supplied. Did they feel that they had to wear the same old clothes for years and years? Hindsight revealed that their clothes stayed new, so really they had new clothes every day.

Did they resent the long, arduous walk through "that vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land"? Yet, hindsight reveals that with all that walking, their feet never swelled. They might have been carried, as far as the condition of their feet goes.

In those years, for the most part, they repeated the same obedience day after day with no hint that it really mattered. Manna, quail, cloud, fire. Worship, offer sacrifices, pack, unpack. Set up camp, take down camp. Over and over. No change on the horizon.

No evidence of the Promised Land anywhere in sight. Obedience by obedience, they
followed the Lord. Small acts of faithfulness every day for 40 years. As Moses recounts it and refreshes their memories, he doesn't softsoap the hard edges. It was tough. It was vast and terrible.

He reminds them how it felt because they are about to enter the Promised Land and
leave the thirsty and waterless land behind. The abundant living in the Promised Land has been prefaced by the long walk in the dry desert. Why?

During their extended training in the desert, they learned by experience to trust the hand of God. For example, He fed them with manna day by day. If God had not sent the day's manna, they would have starved in the wilderness. Every morning required confidence in God's provision. See how Moses warns them to remember the desert days when they get into the Promised Land?

Moses says that all this training and desert traveling was "so that in the end it may go well with you." Have you ever known anyone who achieved all they ever dreamed of, then lost it all through their own actions and choices?

Moses tells the people that not only is God about to release the fullness of the promise into their lives, but He has prepared their hearts to live large in the abundance of His provision.

Small Change
In some areas of your life, you have moved into the Promised Land and are living large. Look around and remember on purpose that God is the provider and sustainer. In some areas of your life, you are on a desert walk. When you feel the desert's heat, step back mentally and look for how God's provision is evident. Today, find one thing that you will thank God for instead of complaining about. Pray: "Do Your work, Refiner's Fire, that in the end it may go well for me."

Jennifer Kennedy Dean is executive director of The Praying Life Foundation and a respected author and speaker. She is the author of numerous books, studies, and magazine articles specializing in prayer and spiritual formation. Visit her website for more information about her ministry.

Jennifer Kennedy Dean Featured Opinion Sat, 18 Oct 2014 13:00:00 -0400
4 Signs of an Unhealthy Marriage

In the summer of 1985, an engineer named Roger Boisjoly noticed a flaw in the solid-rocket booster that was used to help launch the space shuttle. The large rubber O-rings that seal the joints between sections of the booster were experiencing erosion—particularly in cold weather when they shrank. When the joints are compromised, the booster can leak super-heated gas from its solid fuel, acting like a cutting torch that can burn through the metal skin of the adjacent external fuel tank and ignite its explosive liquid hydrogen fuel.

Foreseeing that the problem would result in catastrophic failure, he sent a warning memo to decision makers at both his company and NASA. That warning and several more that followed were ignored.

The morning of January 28, 1986 was crisp and cold. Unwavering, NASA continued with the launch of the space shuttle, Challenger. The first 60 seconds of the launch seemed to go according to plan. A nervous Boisjoly turned to a colleague and said that they had dodged a bullet. Fourteen seconds later, his worst fears were realized. The Challenger exploded taking the lives of seven people.

In a similar way, marriages can experience eroding intimacy. These problems can seem small; however, over time, they can cause a marriage to break apart. It's important to see the warning signs and act on them. Are you and your wife experiencing these four signs of an unhealthy marriage?

1. Keeping secrets. Have you erased emails, text messages, phone logs, or website history so your wife wouldn't see it? Has there been activity on your Facebook account you can only participate in when she isn't around? When things are difficult, it is tempting to seek excitement in forbidden places. Keeping secrets creates division and deepens disconnection. If you aren't connected to your wife, you are going to connect to something or someone else. Don't deceive her. Let her in and do whatever it takes to come together.

2. Leaving things unsaid. Sometimes in marriage you have to choose your battles and let things go. Are you doing that too often or about critical issues? Have you kept your opinion on an important matter to yourself because you were afraid how your wife would react? Intimacy involves good communication and knowing one another. Leaving your honest opinion and perspective unsaid leads to her knowing you less. Gradually you will drift from her like a boat untied to a dock. Stop withdrawing and say it. If it unsettles things, then you just need to work through it.

3. Overly kid-focused. Are all of your discussions about your kids and their schedules? Kids are a huge responsibility and require a lot of discussion. They will dominate your minds, make you exhausted, and need a lot of attention. There are seasons when that's fine. However, your kids will eventually move out, and when they do it will be you and your wife again. It's easy to become strangers when all eyes are fixed on the kids. Move your eyes to her and zero in. She needs to be the first person in your life.

4. Seeking distractions or time away. Is it nice to be away on a business trip? Are you staying late at work when you don't have to or looking for other ways to delay heading home? Do you and your wife watch TV in different rooms? Do you immediately head out to the garage to work on the car after dinner? The road to separation is filled with small decisions. [Click to Tweet] You can't have intimacy in different rooms, and the problem is not going to work itself out. Go home and be with her. Remove the distractions and re-engage.

Sound off: Out of the four signs above, which do you think is the most common?

Huddle up with your wife tonight and ask, "Do you see any of these signs in our marriage?" 

© 2014 All Pro Dad. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission. Family First, All Pro Dad, iMOM, and Family Minute with Mark Merrill are registered trademarks. For the original article, visit

]]> Staff Featured Opinion Sat, 18 Oct 2014 11:00:00 -0400
How a Prophet Can Change the Course of Your Journey

One work day for my husband, Jerome, turned into a day of destiny. "I see the river of God coming to you, and you need to jump into it," the man said across the aisle. "There's a major change coming, and you will not be in the same place spiritually, physically and financially."

How many guys get a visit from a prophet at their job?

The man, John Rohrer, was a minister from Ohio. He had stopped at Jerome's job on his way to Lawrence, Kansas. Jerome had no idea that John was coming to his job. John didn't know that we were being asked to leave our church and that I was dealing with the darkest depression from my mom dying.

John had a sense of urgency to interrupt Jerome's work day to bring a word of life and hope. Today, I thanked John 20 years later in Nashville for stopping that day to burst in at an inconvenient place at an inopportune time to bring a word of life and hope to Jerome. "I remember looking into your husband's eyes and there was a vortex of hopelessness," John said today. I wept with thanksgiving in the Asian restaurant where I met John and his wife, Marretta.

I'm saying thank you to John, 20 years later, for stopping by my husband's job and bringing a word of life and hope.

That prophet's word set the course for the next 15 years of our life. We moved to Kansas City a year after he yelled across the aisle at Sears. Our younger son, Alex, was a year old, and Chris was 4. Today they are serving God at 16 and 19.

Jerome would never have considered the possibility of moving until the prophet showed up. That word opened up a new way of thinking to Jerome. Something new was born in those moments. He called me laughing, and the Jerome with the sense of adventure was back. "You wouldn't believe what happened to me, honey!" he said as he related the story of a prophet's visit.

That one visit changed our lives. You can change a life by bringing a desperately needed word of hope and life to a person at an inconvenient place at an inopportune time. Life doesn't burst in on our schedule. Life and hope arrive when we are stirred urgently by God, such as John, to drop everything and declare God's goodness to someone else.

May God stir you and me just as He moved John 20 years ago to drop by Jerome's job with a word of destiny. Someone needs to hear that God is good. Someone needs to hear that God has a plan for their life. Go tell someone!

Leilani Haywood is the editor of SpiritLed Woman. She is an award-winning writer and frequent contributor to Charisma.

Leilani Haywood Featured Opinion Sat, 18 Oct 2014 09:00:00 -0400
Houston Mayor Refiles Subpoenas With Jail Threats

The following is a response from Tony Perkins after Houston Mayor Annise Parker agreed to revise subpoenas against pastors that drop the word "sermons" but retain the demand for 17 different categories of information—including speeches by the pastors, emails, text messages and other private communications within the church.

This head-fake might fool some, but the reality is, Mayor Parker didn't need a subpoena to access those sermons in the first place. They were already public. In this "new" filing, the mayor still insists on seeing private emails, texts and other communications related to the mayor's office and the city's "bathroom bill." While two words—"or sermons"—are dropped from the "revised" subpoena, the government intrusion into private religious affairs remains. The "revised" subpoena is a difference without a distinction.

Obviously, Houston's leadership has one goal—and information gathering isn't it. This is about political intimidation. But if the Mayor was hoping to scare off these churches, she'll have to try harder. Every pastor I've spoken to would go to jail before surrendering their God-given rights to preach the Truth free from government harassment and intimidation.

Houston has become a rallying cry for freedom-loving Americans tired of seeing their laws and liberties casually tossed aside in a stampede. This is why more than 38,000 people have signed our petition in the last two days, standing with the Houston pastors and calling on Mayor Parker to immediately retract these unconstitutional and unconscionable demands.

Click here to access the petition.

Tony Perkins is president of Family Research Council.

Tony Perkins Featured Opinion Fri, 17 Oct 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Ted Cruz: Houston Has No Power to Silence the Church

Pastors in Houston are fighting back against an attempt by the mayor to silence them from the pulpit.

Some have been told to provide the government with their sermons. Now, they're getting a little help from one of the top conservative voices in the country: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

On Thursday in Houston, Cruz visited his home church to give city officials a lesson on religious liberty.

"The city of Houston has no power, no legal authority to silence the Church," he said.

The controversy began over a city ordinance that not only bans discrimination against LGBT people; it also allows them to choose which bathroom they want to use.

That's when pastors in Houston said "enough."

"There's no such thing as anti-gay in the course of this at all, but we are for God's standard of morality," Dave Welch, executive director of the Texas Pastor Council, said.

Citizens signed petitions to overturn the ordinance and gathered enough to force a vote, but the Houston City Council declared the signatures invalid.

The Christian advocates behind the petition sued. 

Then, in an attempt to fight back, the city demanded to see sermons, texts, emails or any correspondence whatsoever from pastors against the ordinance.  That would have included any preaching about homosexuality or gender identity.

Pastors stood their ground and refused to comply.

In an exclusive interview with CBN News, Cruz says he hopes Christians take notice of what's happening here.

"Is this a situation where a sleeping giant has awoke?" CBN News's David Brody asked Cruz.

"I think it may well be. I certainly hope that it is," the Texas lawmaker replied.

"I never imagined we would see this kind of hostility to faith here in Houston," he added.

Neither can Pastor Khan Huynh, who came to American from Vietnam to get away from persecution. Now his name is on the government hit list.

"This is what's going on. They sensor all the sermons. Pastors have to print out worship service programs and they have to approve it before we can conduct our service," Pastor Huynh told CBN News about treatment of pastors in Vietnam.

The city of Houston begs to differ. City officials are trying to downplay the idea their actions are an assault on religious liberty.

Houston's openly lesbian mayor, Annise Parker, is pushing the LGBT ordinance. She's also downplaying the controversy and says pastoral critics don't understand the concept of unconditional love. 

"People are rightly concerned if a government entity in any way tries to inhibit religious speech. That's not the intent," she said.

The city now says it will narrow the subpoenas and not require all the information it originally wanted.

But the pastors aren't buying it.

"The mayor and the city attorney they did this. This is not an accident. This is not some pro-bono attorney who did it and they didn't know. This was their plan all along. They just thought no one would stand up and say anything," said Steve Riggle, pastor of Grace Community Church.

Meanwhile, Cruz warns pastors across the nation that they must lead the way or the future may look even worse.

"The specter of government trying to determine if what pastors preach from the pulpit meets with the policy views or political correctness of the governing authorities—that prospect is real and happening now," he said.

In Houston, however, pastors are ready for the fight, whatever the cost.

David Brody/CBN News Featured U.S. News Fri, 17 Oct 2014 18:00:00 -0400
Mayor Parker, City Attorney Feldman: You Will Not Put Us in the Closet

Houston Mayor Annise Parker and City Attorney David Feldman, you have gone too far, and your bullying will backfire. The pastors of Houston, joined by Christian leaders across the country, will not be intimidated and they will not back down.

Earlier this week, Americans were outraged and shocked to learn that the city of Houston issued subpoenas to several local pastors, demanding to inspect their sermons, speeches, presentations and communications to their congregations having anything to do with homosexuality or gender identity.

Immediately, the Alliance Defending Freedom called this a "witch hunt" and "inquisition," and then Sen. Ted Cruz branded your actions "both shocking and shameful."

Your state's attorney general, Greg Abbott, also weighed in, demanding that you "withdraw the subpoenas without further delay."

Abbott stated clearly that, "Religious institutions and their congregants should never have to worry that a government they disagree with will attempt to interfere in their religious affairs. Instead of safeguarding that trust, you appear to have given some of the most powerful law [legal] firms in Houston free rein to harass and intimidate pastors who oppose city policy."

But you have not backed down from your position in the name of religious freedom or even simple moral sanity. To the contrary, you have entrenched yourselves further, refusing to comply today with a legal request to drop the subpoenas.

Instead, you have simply removed the word "sermons," which, as you're fully aware, changes nothing, since the demand for these pastors' "speeches" and other forms of communications (including "presentations") remains intact.

Ms. Parker and Mr. Feldman, your actions will live on in infamy, and I have even read comments from self-identified gays and lesbians who are mortified by what you have done.

When my producer contacted your office, Mayor Parker, asking someone from your staff to join me on my national radio broadcast on Wednesday, we received an email from Janice Evans, chief policy officer and director of Communications, Office of Mayor Annise Parker.

Ms. Evans politely declined our invitation, stating that, "Mayor Parker agrees with those who are concerned about the city legal department's subpoenas for pastors' sermons. ... Neither the mayor nor City Attorney David Feldman were aware the subpoenas had been issued until yesterday. Both agree the original documents were overly broad. The city will move to narrow the scope during an upcoming court hearing." (This is the same statement released by Darian Ward, the mayor's press secretary.)

How is it then, that on Tuesday, you (Mayor Parker) tweeted out, "If the 5 pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game."

This is absolutely hypocritical, if not downright deceptive.

Now, however, the rubber has met the road with your refusal to rescind these outrageous subpoenas, as announced on my radio broadcast today by Pastor Steve Riggle, senior pastor of Grace Community Church, and one of the pastors that your office targeted.

You can no longer deny complicity in this egregious and abusive act of government overreach. In reality, you are leading the charge.

We can also see that your initial press release, quoted above, along with the media conference you both gave on Wednesday, was an absolute sham.

In light of this, I am joining together with Pastor Riggle and Christian leaders throughout the nation to take this Sunday to address this issue (even in brief), to renounce the actions of Mayor Parker and City Attorney Feldman (who has also been accused of illegally dismissing a petition that Houston pastors helped circulate), and more importantly, to say to the nation: When you mess with the pulpits of Texas, you mess with all of us.

For the last decade, I have been stating that gay activists who came out of the closet one generation ago now want to put us in the closet, and I have often been mocked and vilified for this statement (which is not an indictment on all those who identify as LGBT but rather focuses on the actions of the activists).

Today, those words can no longer be mocked or rejected, and we, as followers of Jesus and leaders in the body, need to shout out to Houston and to the nation: You will not put us in the closet!

Pastors and leaders, for more background, go here.

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

Michael Brown Featured In the Line of Fire Opinion Fri, 17 Oct 2014 17:30:00 -0400
WATCH: Glenn Close Shares Life Growing up in a Cult

Glenn Close, the 67-year-old, Oscar-nominated actress, grew up in a religious cult called the Moral Re-Armament. Find out what she is saying about it.

"I haven't made a study of groups like these, but in order to have something like this coalesce, you have to have a leader," she told ABC News. "You have to have a leader who has some sort of ability to bring people together, and that's interesting to me because my memory of the man who founded it was this wizened old man with little glasses and a hooked nose, in a wheelchair."

Watch the video for more on this story.



Charisma News Staff Featured Culture Fri, 17 Oct 2014 17:00:00 -0400
Is John Hagee Right? Is Ebola God’s Judgment for Dividing Jerusalem?

A few weeks ago, I asked this question: Is the deadly Ebola outbreak the first bowl of 'Revelation' judgment?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa an international public-health emergency.

Liberia's church leaders are claiming the deadly outbreak is a plague God has sent to punish the nation for "immoral acts" such as homosexuality. Liberia's Daily Observer reported that more than 100 bishops, pastors, general overseers, prophets, evangelists and other ministers of the gospel who are part of the Liberia Council of Churches have resolved that God is angry with Liberia and that Ebola is a plague.

Now, we are seeing cases in Europe and America—and a new theory from Pastor John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel. Hagee's discernment tells him that Ebola may be part of God's judgment for President Obama's attempts to divide Jerusalem.

"I want every American to hear this very clearly," Hagee said on a Tuesday broadcast of Hagee Hotline. "The prophet Joel says in the third chapter, 'I God will bring all nations' and hear that phrase—'all nations' includes America, 'into judgment for they have divided up My land, the land of Israel.' God says when any nation divides up the land of Israel, they are subject to judgment, and dividing Jerusalem is dividing the land.

"Our president is dead set on dividing Jerusalem. God is watching, and He will bring America into judgment. There are grounds to say judgment has already begun because he, the president, has been fighting to divide Jerusalem for years now. We are now experiencing the crisis of Ebola.

"We have a crisis in our economy. We are worried on every hand that we are going to be attacked by radical Islam, and there are some very rational voices saying we are their next target. We are a nation that has a crisis of leadership. We are in chaos, in crisis. Anarchy is running our nation in Ferguson, Missouri."

What does it matter if Obama divides the land? Scripture commands us to stand with Israel. Salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22). The Jewish people have given Christianity the Scriptures, the prophets, the patriarchs, the apostles and Jesus Himself. God commands us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Ps. 122:6). Our Christian roots are in Judaism!

So, what would happen if America—if Christians—turned against Israel? In Genesis 12:3, God told Abraham, the first Hebrew, "I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you." History has shown that nations that have blessed the Jewish people have received God's blessing, while nations that have cursed the Jewish people have met with trials and tribulation.

Is Ebola God's judgment on America? I honestly don't know.

I do believe God has lifted His hedge of protection, in part, over this nation. Some call that discipline. Some call it judgment. Some don't believe God is involved in it at all. But I am praying about what Hagee said and what could happen next.

And I know this: I want to be on the right side of the Bible in the end times—and that means standing with Israel. Of course, standing with Israel does not mean sanctioning everything Israel does, but it does mean recognizing God's hand in the restoration of His people to the land and showing solidarity with them whenever we can. Whether or not Ebola is judgment on America for dividing Jerusalem, Jerusalem must not be divided.

Jennifer LeClaire is news editor of Charisma. She is also director of Awakening House of Prayer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and author of several books, including The Making of a Prophet and Satan's Deadly Trio: Defeating the Deceptions of Jezebel, Religion and Witchcraft. You can visit her website here. You can also join Jennifer on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Jennifer LeClaire Featured Watchman on the Wall Opinion Fri, 17 Oct 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Why Iran Is Really Fighting Against Islamic State

It says something about the depths of worldwide revulsion to the self-proclaimed "Islamic State" that Western powers such as the US and the UK have been sitting at the same table with Iran to discuss how to defeat the deadly Islamist movement that has taken control of a large part of Iraq and Syria.

The US has said that the rise of IS, a radical jihadist Sunni movement, is not only a threat to the region, but to the whole world. Iran, as the regional Shia Islamic power, is a sworn enemy of IS because IS regards Shia believers as heretics who should be killed.

So it's perhaps not surprising that, on this basis alone, the British Prime Minister David Cameron met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the U.N. General Assembly recently—the first such meeting since the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

Their meeting came soon after the US and its allies from 10 Arab countries, including Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and six Gulf states, began air strikes against IS in Syria in a coordinated military campaign to hamper IS after the beheadings and threats against westerners, most specifically America and Israel.

While US Secretary of State John Kerry had opposed Iran's attendance, in Paris in September, at an international conference on helping the new Iraqi government fight IS, he stressed that he was still prepared to discuss Iraq and Syria with the Iranians. Iranian officials, meanwhile, insisted they had rejected multiple invitations by the US to join the coalition.

While such "enemy of my enemy is my friend" tactics might seem unlikely to some, others do not want the West to forget that the Islamic Republic of Iran shares some of the same beliefs, if not methods, of IS, which have led to religious intolerance and ongoing human-rights abuses.

Islamic State's Caliphate

A World Watch Monitor report in September outlined the specific threats of IS and explained its desire to extend its self-proclaimed caliphate beyond the borders of Iraq and Syria, ultimately over the entire globe.

Those ambitions were reflected in the name change from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, to simply Islamic State, or IS, a name that regards no boundaries.

In its efforts to set up and maintain a pure Islamic caliphate, IS is using all means necessary, including the use of extreme violence. In cities that have fallen to IS elements, those who remain have been offered the infamous bargain: "We offer them three choices: Islam, the dhimmi contract (an ancient Islamic law involving paying a security tax called 'jizya'), and if they refuse this they have nothing but the sword."

The majority who have been affected are non-Sunni Muslims, but non-Muslims such as Yazidis and Christians have also been targeted.

Iran's Islamic Empire Aspirations?

A 'caliphate' is a Sunni concept, so Shiite Iran would not describe its aspirations with the same language, but Shia Islam has global aspirations as well.

According to Iranian Reza Kahlili, a former Iranian Revolutionary Guard member who then continued to work as a CIA agent, Shia Muslims are awaiting the coming of the twelfth imam,who is promised to establish a global Islamic empire.

"Ever since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the Islamic rulers of Iran have declared themselves representatives of God on Earth, believing their mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the last messiah, the Shiites' twelfth imam Mahdi," Kahlili said.

On his website in 2011, Kahili said a video distributed within Iran indicated the Arab Uprisings were one of the signs that the coming of the twelfth imam is near. He said it was produced by an Iranian organization called "Conductors of The Coming" in collaboration with the Iranian President's office and the Basij, the Iranian Paramilitary Force.

At the beginning of September this year, in the most recent biennial national meeting of Iran's Assembly of Experts, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the world is entering a "new order" and that the officials in the Islamic Republic need to be aware of the changes and prepare to play a role in the new context. He said the nation has had years of strategic investment in gaining more power outside Iran, for example through Hezbollah, a Shiite Islamist militant group and political party based in Lebanon.

"IS has a dream to dominate Lebanon and to announce it as a part of the Islamic State and I believe they would be in Lebanon right now if Hezbollah hadn't been helping our forces fight IS at our Northern border," said Lebanese Archbishop Elias Nassar, speaking to World Watch Monitor.

"I think Iran is doing a good job of fighting IS in this case, and maybe it is helping more than it is damaging the situation," Nassar said. "What we are seeing is Iran providing the help we anticipated from Western countries."

However, soon after IS' beheading of the American journalist James Foley, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told National Public Radio that, "Iran is a bigger problem than Islamic State" because of its ambitions to Islamic empire.

Iran's Secretary of Expediency Council Mohsen Rezaei denied the claim, saying, "Iran has no reason to create an empire."

However, Amir Basiri, an Iranian human rights activist, argues it is time for the international community to recognize that Iran is the common denominator of chaos in the Middle East.

"Iran is the main beneficiary of the Islamic State's rampage," Basiri wrote in a column for Forbes.

"As a state-sponsor of terrorism and fundamentalism, and one of the regimes with the worst human rights records across the globe...the Iranian regime has used the rise of the Islamic State as an excuse to surge thousands of troops through the porous Iran-Iraq border and notch up the violent activities of its many proxy militia groups in the country," he wrote. "But rather than fighting the Islamic State, Iran's real agenda is to expand and strengthen its hold on Iraqi soil and politics."

Shia Muslims are the minority sect of Islam, constituting only about 12 percent of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims. So far, the Shiite population in Iraq has not accepted Sunni IS.

"It is important to stress the large differences between Sunni and Shia Islam," said Henriette Kats, an analyst at Open Doors International, a global charity that supports Christians under pressure for their faith. "What I do see is that throughout the years, Iran is has been trying to unite Muslims, focusing mainly on their Shia allies such as Iraq, Syria [President Assad is Alawite, an offspring sect of Shiite Islam] and Hezbollah, while also funding Hamas, which is Sunni, in their aversion to, and battle against, America and Israel.

"Under President Rouhani this anti-Western attitude is more concealed," Kats said. "Due to its dire economic circumstances, Iran is in need of good relations with the West."

Shariah Law, Human Rights Violations and Religious Intolerance

As different as Iran—a sovereign state comprising the structures of a national society—may be from the IS incursion, they share an adherence to sharia law, the moral code and religious law of Islam, though they differ on their interpretation and practice.

Deriving from a variety of sources, including the Islamic holy book, the Quran; and the Hadith, the sayings and actions of the Prophet Mohammed, sharia legal processes are dramatically different from Western legal processes.

For example, in Iran as in many other Islamic countries, Muslim citizens who choose to convert from Islam are considered apostate, and subject to the death penalty.

Iran's Continual Failed Promises of Religious Freedom

President Rouhani, who took office in August 2013, promised religious freedom as a Presidential candidate. In April 2013 he said "All Iranian people should feel there is justice. Justice means equal opportunity. All ethnicities, all religions, even religious minorities, must feel justice."

However, Rouhani's promises have not translated into any major improvements regarding human rights and freedom of expression, according to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's annual report to the General Assembly on human rights in Iran.

Just this week, on Oct. 14, Rouhani's adviser on ethnic and religious minorities' affairs said "Everyone is free to practice his/her own faith, but no one has the right to promote his/her faith."

"We do not allow any individual or group to invite people to sects or religions other than Islam," said the adviser, Ali Younesi, in an interview with the Revolutionary Guard-backed Fars News Agency. "We consider this dangerous for people and therefore illegal. They can be busy with their own business. However, it is not acceptable, for instance, if a Christian invites a Muslim to Christianity."

Mohabat News, an Iranian news agency, reported that the former minister of intelligence from the administration of Rouhani's predecessor stressed that evangelical activities are illegal in Iran and must be stopped.

Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch also released a scathing report outlining how discrimination against women and religious minorities has continued under President Rouhani's government.

In March, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, an advisory body to Congress, condemned a global rise in the use of "Blasphemy Laws." In its report, Prisoners of Belief: Individuals Jailed under Blasphemy Laws, the commission charges the Iranian government with frequently targeting "religious minorities, particularly Bahá'ís, Christians, and Sunni and Sufi Muslims, as well as Shi'a Muslim dissidents and journalists."

In Iran, detaining Christians is common practice. According to Open Doors, persecution of certain religious minorities has intensified since 2005, and as of September, 75 Christians were in jail for faith-related reasons. Some report being harmed while in jail and said Christmas is a period of increased arrests because of a higher number of house churches being raided.

According to Amnesty International, Iran continues to persistently persecute "ethnic, religious and linguistic minority communities" and commits serious human rights violations including the execution of "more people than any country in the world, other than China."

Charges Against Christians Increasingly Severe

In September, three Iranian Christians from the Church of Iran were sentenced to death after being charged with "spreading corruption on earth," and for "enmity against God."

On Sept. 30, both charges were dropped, but now all three—Pastor Matthias Haghnejad, Pastor Behnam Irani and Deacon Silas Rabbani—have been tried for "action against national security" and "creating a network to overthrow the system," and are awaiting the verdicts.

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a human-rights watchdog and advocacy network, the dropping of the death penalty against the three Christians occurred one week after a 37 year-old Muslim man, Mohsen Amir-Aslani, was executed for "spreading corruption on Earth" and "heresy," after he had characterized the Biblical story of Jonah as an allegory.

"Some in the West are calling for renewed relations with Iran in the face of the threat posed in Iraq and Syria by ISIL. However, it is worth noting that Mr. Amir-Aslani was one of six people executed [in Iran] on the same day that the UK Prime Minister met with President Rouhani at the United Nations," said CSW's Chief Executive, Mervyn Thomas.

"It is highly debatable whether a country that severely represses its own religious and ethnic minorities and conducts an average of two executions a day can contribute meaningfully towards resolving a conflict that is itself fueled by religious sectarianism and an intolerance of indigenous minority communities," he said."

Middle East Concern, an advocate for Christians in the Middle East and North Africa, said that since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, possibly more than 8,000 people have been executed under the charge of "spreading corruption on Earth." Those caught in the snare range from former members of the Shah's government to opponents of the current regime.

The last Iranian Christian officially put to death by the government was executed 24 years ago, notes Kats, the Open Doors International analyst.

"So, (officially) there are no recent cases of Christians being executed for their faith by the government," she said. "But this does not mean that no Christians have been killed for their faith during these years—as they have been."

Lauren Gunias/World Watch Monitor Featured World News Fri, 17 Oct 2014 15:00:00 -0400
Brian Houston: Hillsong Won't Take Public Stand on LGBT Issues

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler declared from his blog in June, "There is no third way on [same-sex issues]."

But Brian Houston, pastor of Hillsong Church, a global family of congregations comprising more than 30,000 weekly attendees and millions of worship-music album sales, apparently disagrees with Mohler. At least for now.

At a news conference for the Hillsong Conference in New York City Thursday, Michael Paulson of The New York Times asked Houston to clarify his church's position on same-sex marriage. But Houston would not offer a definitive answer, instead saying that it was "an ongoing conversation" among church leaders, and they were "on the journey with it."

Houston says that he considers three things when evaluating the topic: "There's the world we live in, there's the weight we live with, and there's the Word we live by."

He notes that the Western world is shifting its thinking on this issue, and churches are struggling to stay relevant. The weight we live in, he added, refers to a context in which LGBT young people may feel rejected or shunned by churches, often leading to depression and suicide. But when Houston began speaking about the word we live by or "what the Bible says," he refused to offer a concrete position.

(Click here for the unofficial transcript of Houston's full answer.)

"It would be much easier if you could feel like all of those three just easily lined up. But they don't necessarily." Houston said. "The real issues in people's lives are too important for us to just reduce it down to a 'yes' or 'no' answer in a media outlet."

Carl Lentz, pastor of Hillsong's New York City location, made similar statements on CNN in June, saying Hillsong in New York City has "a lot of gay men and women" and he hopes it stays that way. But he declines to address the matter in public because, in part, Jesus never did.

"Jesus was in the thick of an era where homosexuality, just like it is today, was widely prevalent," Lentz told CNN. "And I'm still waiting for someone to show me the quote where Jesus addressed it on the record in front of people.  You won't find it, because He never did."

Lentz's wife, Laura, chimed in: "It's not our place to tell anyone how they should live. That's their journey."

No doubt Mohler and other conservative evangelicals will find such answers disconcerting if not downright dangerous to what they believe is the biblical position. If the leaders of Hillsong, one of the most influential evangelical ministry conglomerates in the world, refuse to draw lines on these issues, it could influence other churches and pastors to reconsider their own positions.

And that is why this issue has become a litmus test for many on the left and right. Because in a moment when so much is at stake, a non-statement statement is, well, quite a statement.

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


Jonathan Merritt/RNS Featured World News Fri, 17 Oct 2014 14:00:00 -0400
Houston's Lesbian Mayor Issues Wake-up Call to American Christians

The city of Houston has issued a wake-up call to all freedom-loving Americans by ordering pastors to turn over their sermons and any staff communications dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Mayor Annise Parker. You must hear the real message loud and clear, or you will kiss freedom in our once-great nation goodbye.

The actions of the Houston City Council demanding preachers turn in their sermons is far more than an assault on preaching and biblical morality. It is more than a gay-rights issue. It is a direct attack on moral absolutes, reliable standards of measure, value and worth, and the very concept of a Creator—a Father God who can be trusted to provide wisdom and direction for those He loves. It is redefining freedom as anyone's right to live any way they choose regardless of the will of God, or of reasonable, responsible citizens.

Frank Turek, my close friend who was transformed by the power of God, wrote these words concerning what is taking place (emphases added):

"Anyone who wants to change laws should convince their fellow citizens to do so at the ballot box, not through unelected judges. Unfortunately, activist judges won't honor the ballot box. More than 41 million people across more than half the states have voted to recognize marriage for what nature's design says it is—the union of one man and one women. Yet just 23 unelected judges have overturned [the will of] those 41 million people across about 20 states! I don't care where you stand on the marriage issue: When 23 people substitute their personal policy preferences to overrule those of 41 million Americans, we are no longer free or equal."

Houston is the city of my birth, the so-called "buckle of the Bible belt." It is the city where I was led to trust Christ, called to preach, and where I fell in love with and married Betty, my wife of over 51 years. It is a city of many churches and many who attend, but where many tragically have chosen to sit on the sidelines during the present battle against freedom. Their failure directly led to the election of the openly-lesbian mayor. She does not reflect or protect the majority of citizens. Praise God for bold pastors like Steve Riggle, Ed Young and many other Protestants and Catholics who take a righteous stand. May God increase their number!

Those who have chosen to sit the battle out must now awaken from their slumber and take a stand for liberating truth and the freedom we've been blessed to enjoy. The issue is not about gay, straight or anything in between. It is a war against freedom and the responsibility to protect and preserve what was purchased at a great cost, which we have been privileged above all people to enjoy and share. This is the call loud and clear for caring people who love life and love truth, those who are lovers of true freedom to come out from under cover and become salt and light, taking back the ground freedom's enemies have captured.

Those who love God are called to love all who may differ, rebel or struggle while at the same time refusing to move God's standard one inch to accommodate anyone's sin, weakness or failure. We all miss the mark. That is reality. The problem intensifies, however, and the demise of freedom begins when we allow the mark or the standard to be moved, ignored or discarded.

Those who love freedom must hold the standard higher than ever, in love, without compromise, and with hearts full of compassion. We must never mock, belittle or ridicule those who fail, differ or struggle in any way. We should stand in love while offering help.

People responded to the inappropriate actions of the media with regard to Duck Dynasty personality Phil Robertson's statement about Romans chapter 1, the assault on Hobby Lobby, and Chick-fil-A. In Houston, we must again stand and never stand down, demanding that truth and freedom be held high. The First Amendment is being cast aside by the Houston city leaders and by many unelected judges. The will of the people, the promises in our Constitution, and the very Law of God have been thrown aside, and people are defying not only God's truth, but God Himself.

Please understand, this is a wake-up call! We are facing issues far greater than just the challenges the homosexual agenda brings. There is no end to the good that will come to those who truly love God and their neighbors if they stand together against the forces seeking to cast aside the truth that sets all men free!

This is the common cause and common ground upon which all caring individuals and lovers of freedom, and certainly those who profess to believe the Bible and know Christ, must stand together and rebuild freedom's foundation and the necessary walls of protection. What is happening in Houston is an even greater threat to our well-being than the Ebola crisis. We must stand with those who have declared, as Russell Moore has, "The separation of church and state means that we will render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and we will. But the preaching of the church of God does not belong to Caesar, and we will not hand it over to him. Not now. Not ever."

The serious issues we presently face reveal clearly the ineptness of our government and the incompetence of many leaders to effectively deal with them. We need the guidance that comes from Divine Providence. Above all, we must recognize we are being invited by present-day serious challenges and by God to join Him at the table of reason and, together, in humility, determine how to best address the issues we face.

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

James Robison Featured Opinion Fri, 17 Oct 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Is ISIS in Tennessee? Man Jailed for Beheading Threats

A Tennessee man was in custody on Thursday and facing criminal charges after claiming to be a member of ISIS and threatening to behead his neighbors and burn down their homes, police said.

Tullahoma Police Chief Paul Blackwell said the man—Terry Wayne McCullough, 59—is a known troublemaker and added that the threats had to be treated seriously.

"We've dealt with him quite a few times over the years," Blackwell said. "Most of the issues we've had to deal with him have been minor, misdemeanor charges."

McCullough is in the Coffee County Jail on $10,000 bond and charged with criminal conspiracy. He is due in court Oct. 23.

Blackwell said that when McCullough "described ISIS, he was calling it ISSI."

Tullahoma Police Officer James Tate, who arrested McCullough on Sunday, wrote in his report that the man admitted making threats and said he would carry them out and said that his next target was Nashville, about 75 miles northwest of Tullahoma.

McCullough "stated he was a member of ISSI and they were going to clean up the world ... He was going to cut my head off, because he hated me and the uniform I wore and all police," Tate wrote.

Editing by Fiona Ortiz and Eric Walsh

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Tim Ghianni/Reuters Featured U.S. News Fri, 17 Oct 2014 12:00:00 -0400
Pakistani Christian Loses Appeal Against 'Blasphemy' Death Sentence

A Pakistani court upheld the death penalty on Thursday against a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, her lawyer said, in a case that drew global headlines after two prominent politicians who tried to help her were assassinated.

In 2010, Asia Bibi, a mother of four, became the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law.

She is alleged to have made derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbors objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim.

Bibi's lawyer, Naeem Shakir, said his client had been involved in a dispute with her neighbors and that her accusers had contradicted themselves.

Two witnesses allegedly involved in the incident did not appear in court, he said. A prayer leader did appear, saying he did not witness the original altercation, but that Bibi had confessed in front of him.

"I was expecting the opposite decision," Shakir said. "We will file an appeal to the Supreme Court of Pakistan in a few days."

But Gulam Mustafa, the lawyer for the complainant, said the court's decision was correct.

"Asia's lawyer tried to prove that the case was registered on a personal enmity but he failed to prove that," he said.

After Bibi's arrest in 2010, two top Pakistani politicians who sought to intervene on her behalf were gunned down, one by his own bodyguard.

Lawyers showered the killer with rose petals when he appeared in court, and the judge who convicted him of murder had to flee the country.

Rights groups say the blasphemy law is increasingly exploited by religious extremists as well as ordinary Pakistanis to settle personal scores. The law does not define blasphemy, and evidence might not be reproduced in court for fear of committing a fresh offense. There are no penalties for false accusations.

Those accused are sometimes lynched on the spot. If they are arrested, police and the courts often allow trials to drag on for years, afraid of being attacked if they release anyone accused of blasphemy.

The penalty for blasphemy is death, although only one person has been executed since Pakistan imposed a de facto moratorium on executions in 2008.

This year has seen a record number of blasphemy cases as well as increasing violence against the accused. Blasphemy cases have also been registered against those who have publicly discussed reforming the law.

Writing by Katharine Houreld; editing by Mike Collett-White

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Mubasher Bukhari/Reuters Featured World News Fri, 17 Oct 2014 11:00:00 -0400
America Is on Fire, and It's Not the Fire of God

"But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers" (1 Pet. 4:7).

What has happened to our nation? Clearly it is not the nation of my childhood. We are running headlong into death and destruction. Of the 22 civilizations throughout world history that reached the immoral state America is in now, 19 of them collapsed and were wiped out.

In 1987 the late Lester Sumrall, in his book I Predict, wrote about six things that would happen in our nation.

  1. America would depart from Christianity.
  2. America would endorse pagan religions.
  3. America would embrace doctrines of demons.
  4. Satan worship and human sacrifice would occur more and more (this is not talked about but is happening underground).
  5. America would be consumed with rebellion, and it would be like a tornado in our land. Anarchy would spread among our youth, schools and colleges. In the home, on the job, and throughout the entire social structure, there would be no more tenderness in the home, no love, no laughter; many marriages would fail, and children would not know whom to love and whom to hate.
  6. There would be a tremendous tearing of America's moral fiber; homosexuality would no longer be in the closet but considered normal, and even bestiality would be seen more and more in our society.

I would have to say that Brother Sumrall's predictions were amazingly accurate.

Let's turn our eyes toward the church and consider what is happening right now.

  1. More churches are jumping on the gay bandwagon, and it will soon shock you those who are yet to do so. Major denominations are now sponsoring gay pride parades, performing gay weddings, and receiving and ordaining gay clergy.
  2. More churches will also travel on the false unity trail with the Roman Catholic Church and the whole ecumenical movement.
  3. More than 1,500 pastors per month are leaving the ministry, and some are coming out as atheists; British scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins has a clergy project that is deceiving pastors into renouncing God and Christianity altogether.
  4. The greatest persecutions against the church in America are now from the gay movement and Islam.
  5. There will even be more persecution from within the church from other professing Christians who don't appreciate true believers standing up for the unadulterated truth of God's Word, making them uncomfortable in their sin. Unchecked sin in the church will continue to rise as the "love everyone—don't judge" mantra continues to gain popularity, and the "do as you please" philosophy spreads like cankerworm.
  6. The teaching of false grace has infiltrated the church where the extremes of it teach us that repentance is no longer needed, and we are already forgiven of our past, present and future sins. The watering down of the true grace of God is opening the door even wider for homosexuality and perversion to enter the church. Marriages will be further destroyed through this extreme teaching. In a time when repentance and holiness are needed the most, the church is failing to hold up the banner.

And what about the world we live in today?

The signs of the last days are increasing at the most rapid pace ever, but all you need to know is that anti-Semitism and anti-Christianity are on the rise. An antichrist spirit is permeating nearly every sector of society both here and abroad.

Watch Israel. The sign of the Lord's coming is more closely attached to the events in Israel than anything else. Consider these: In 1917 the British miraculously recovered the Holy Land from the Turks, the Jews returned and Israel became a sovereign nation again in 1948, and there was an eerily obscure prophecy centuries ago from a rabbi concerning 2017 being the jubilee of the Messiah. (From 1917, when what is now Israel was liberated from the Ottoman Turks, to 1967, when Israel miraculously won the Six-Day War and reclaimed the Jewish sector of Jerusalem, was 50 years, which is one jubilee and then to 2017, which is another 50 years, is a second jubilee). I'm not saying Jesus is coming back in 2017, but it's all very interesting, and events in America, the world, and Israel give us signposts that the coming of the Lord is so near.

So how do we stay optimistic amid such a bleak picture I just painted?

After his 1987 prediction, Lester Sumrall went on to say that all the evil he predicted would transpire just before a great awakening comes to America. In a time of harvest there is always a separation (the wheat from the chaff, the bad fish from the good fish, etc.).

The evil and persecution in the world and in America now will separate the true from the false, the nominal Christian from the serious disciple, and the Lord will once again use a remnant to fulfill his end-time purposes.

I don't know about you, but as for me and my house, we have chosen to be a part of that remnant.

How about you?

Bert M. Farias, revivalist and founder of Holy Fire Ministries, is the author of several books, including the newly released My Son, My Son, which he co-wrote with his son Daniel for the purpose of training up a holy generation. He is also co-host of the New England Holy Ghost Forum, a school of the Spirit. Follow him at Bert Farias on Facebook or at @Bertfarias1 on Twitter.

Bert M. Farias Featured The Flaming Herald Opinion Fri, 17 Oct 2014 10:00:00 -0400