Charisma News | Breaking News. Spiritual Perspective. Thu, 21 Aug 2014 19:00:22 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Pizza Parlor Church Discount Gives Atheists Indigestion

Steven Rose loves Jesus and pepperoni pizza.

But when the Searcy, Arkansas, restaurateur decided to mix church and cheese, it gave a group of out-of-town atheists a bad case of indigestion.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is threatening to sue Rose after he offered a discount to customers who bring in a church bulletin. They said Bailey's Pizza is violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"The law requires places of public accommodation to offer their services to customers without regard to race, color, religion or national origin," FFRF spokesperson Elizabeth Cavell told television station KTHV.

Rose, who opened the pizza parlor in July, told me there's nothing nefarious about the church-bulletin discount.

"It was a straight-up marketing tool to give a discount to people I love and care about—and have them come in and have lunch with me," he said. "I thought it was a sweet idea. I didn't say you had to go to church to get it. Go get a bulletin from your neighbor and come in and have a pizza."

The trouble started a few weeks ago when someone posted a Facebook photo of the sign promoting the discount.

"It was from a guy whose Facebook name is 'Bong Hits for Jesus,'" Steven told me. "It said, 'good luck with the discrimination lawsuit.'"

Rose said he didn't consider the post to be a credible threat—seeing how the Facebook user's name is "Bong Hits for Jesus."

Two weeks later, he received the letter from the Wisconsin-based atheist group. They said that if he did not stop offering a church discount, they would "take appropriate steps."

"I'm just selling pizzas," Steven told me. "I love my Lord, and you see it expressed all over my building—but I'm just selling pizzas."

And he's not kidding. The local television station reports that customers are allowed to write Bible verses on the walls. And in the center is a message from the owners: "God is the center of our lives, so our scripture wall is the center of Bailey's Pizza."

"To me, if making a pepperoni pizza furthers the kingdom—well I'm excited about that," he said.
But just because Rose is a Christian business owner doesn't mean he has a problem with nonbelievers.

"They're coming at us and saying we're discriminating," he said. "I don't hate anybody."

The FFRF has a history of targeting and bullying Christian business owners. Earlier this month, a North Carolina diner dropped a discount for customers who prayed before their meal.

"We are no longer issuing the 15% praying in public discount," read a sign posted at Mary's Gourmet Diner. "It is illegal and we are being threatened by lawsuit. We apologize to our community for any offense this discount has incurred."

Why must atheist groups like FFRF be so ill-tempered?

So is it really unconstitutional for restaurants to provide religious-themed discounts? Not at all, says Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for Liberty Institute.

"In fact, if what FFRF is saying were true, restaurants and other businesses would be precluded from giving veterans and military members discounts because that would technically be discriminating based on veteran status," Sasser tells me. "Is that what FFRF wants? Give me a break!"

The folks at Bailey's Pizza are still not sure why the Wisconsin atheists are targeting their restaurant.  

"They may have something against my pizza," Rose said.

Or maybe they're upset because Bailey's Pizza won't deliver to Wisconsin. Who knows?

Whatever the reason, Rose is still contemplating what to do next. He fears a legal battle would be costly—and he's quick to point out: He's no Papa John's.

"It's just me and my wife running this place," he said. "I've got window units at my house. We're not rich. We're just trying to be our own bosses and be an American success story."

Steven tells me it's really sad that the FFRF is spending its money to attack his restaurant.

"The 75 cents that somebody saves when they bring in a church bulletin—is that really what they need to be spending their money on?" he asked. "How about spending that money helping the homeless?"

For now, the church discount will remain at Bailey's Pizza.

"As for me and my house, we'll serve the Lord," he told me.  

And he will also keep serving their 32 varieties of pies—from Frito chili to baked potato pizza.

"We pride ourselves in crazy pies," he said. "But I'm old school. I eat the pepperoni—that's all I need."

You really can't go wrong with a large pepperoni. Just be sure to hold the anchovies—and the atheists.

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

Todd Starnes Featured Opinion Thu, 21 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Is Pope Francis Preparing for Early Retirement?

Addressing journalists on his return from his intense five-day visit to South Korea late Monday, Pope Francis bantered with reporters and lightheartedly said he may only have "two or three" years left to live.

The 77-year-old pontiff covered a range of topics on the flight back to the Vatican—from war-torn Iraq and his desire to visit the United States next year to his personal health, hinting he may retire early.

He was asked how he lived with the immense popularity he has generated around the world, evident when crowds chanted his name on the streets of Rio de Janeiro during his first official visit to Brazil last year.

"I try to think of my sins, my mistakes, so as not to think that I am somebody," he said. "Because I know this will last a short time, two or three years, and then (go) to the house of the Father," he said during an in-flight news conference.

Elected in March 2013, Francis has already shaken up the Catholic Church, preaching a message of humility and compassion while moving to clean up corruption and cronyism at the Vatican bank and reforming the Curia.

While he appeared to be in good health, Francis also addressed recent concerns about his well-being and his last-minute cancellation of a visit to Rome's Gemelli Hospital in June. Years ago, he had part of a lung removed, and he reportedly has been troubled by back pain.

"I should have gone to the Gemelli up to 10 minutes before I was there, but I could not do it," he said. "It is true, they were seven very demanding days then, full of engagements. Now I have to be a little more prudent."

The energetic pope, who grew up in Buenos Aires, joked about "neuroses" and revealed that his last holiday was a trip outside the Argentine capital in 1975. He said he had recently learned to slow down.

"I change rhythm," he said. "I sleep more. I read the things I like. I listen to music. That way I rest. In July and part of August I did that."

The pope reaffirmed his support for former Pope Benedict's shocking decision to retire and did not rule out a similar move himself.

"I think that the emeritus pope is already an institution because our life gets longer and at a certain age there isn't the capacity to govern well because the body gets tired, and maybe one's health is good, but there isn't the capacity to carry forward all the problems of a government like that of the church," he said.

"I would do the same," he added. "I would pray, but I would do the same."

Pope Francis' return to the Vatican was marred by news of a family tragedy. On Tuesday, a road accident in Argentina killed two of his young great-nephews as well as their mother, the wife of the pope's nephew, the Vatican said.

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

Josephine McKenna/RNS Featured World News Thu, 21 Aug 2014 18:00:00 -0400
Farm Owners Fined $13,000 for Saying 'No' to Lesbian Wedding

Christian farm owners in upstate New York who declined a lesbian couple's request to hold a wedding ceremony on their property have been fined $10,000 and ordered to pay the women $1,500 each.  

Cynthia and Robert Gifford, who own Liberty Ridge Farm near Albany, rent their facilities for birthday parties and about a dozen weddings each year.

When Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, a same-sex couple from Newark, New Jersey, requested to use the facility for their 2012 wedding, Cynthia Gifford offered the farm for a reception, but not for the wedding ceremony. Weddings typically are conducted on the first floor of the Giffords' home or in an adjacent field.

"It literally hits close to home," said the Giffords' lawyer, James Trainor. He said the farm owners attend a community church and cite their religious belief of marriage being only between a man and woman for declining to hold a same-sex wedding on their property.

Administrative Law Judge Migdalia Pares of the Bronx rejected the owners' argument that the farm, which is also their home, is not a place of public accommodation and is therefore not subject to the anti-discrimination provisions of New York's Human Rights Law.

The decision said Liberty Ridge qualifies as a public accommodation because it regularly collects fees for space, facilities, services and meals, so it cannot be considered "distinctly private."

"The fact that the Giffords also reside at Gifford Barn," the decision says, "does not render it private."

The farmer owners must pay $13,000 in fines and restitution, the agency ruled. Trainor said the Giffords are considering whether to appeal or pursue further legal action.

"Liberty Ridge Farm ... has employed gay people and has conducted events for same-sex couples," Trainor said. "The Giffords' objection was to hosting and participating in the wedding ceremony itself and not to providing service in general to lesbians."

McCarthy asked if it was legal for the farm to have a policy not to have ceremonies on the site, and Gifford responded that it was because "we are a private business," according to the case.

The women, who are now married, filed a complaint with New York's Division of Human Rights, and the administrative law judge said that Liberty Ridge "unlawfully discriminated against complainants solely on the basis of their sexual orientation."

The farm case represents the most recent legal challenge to private businesses that provide services for weddings but refuse service to same-sex couples.

Last year, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that a Christian photographer could not refuse to shoot gay-wedding ceremonies. Even though at the time the state did not officially recognize gay marriage, the court ruled that declining to photograph a gay wedding was similar to declining to work at an interracial wedding.

Most recently, a Pennsylvania bridal shop owner and a bakery owner turned away separate lesbian couples. Pennsylvania started allowing same-sex marriage in May after a federal judge struck down a ban on gay marriage in the state constitution.

Earlier this year, several states, including Kansas and Arizona, considered legislation that would allow people who object to same-sex marriage to cite their religious beliefs as a defense if faced with a discrimination lawsuit. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill in her state; the Kansas bill died in the state Senate.

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

Sarah Pulliam Bailey/RNS Featured U.S. News Thu, 21 Aug 2014 17:00:00 -0400
Faith in Christ Comforts Parents of Beheaded Journalist James Foley

The parents of murdered journalist James Foley say their faith is helping them get through.

Foley was a graduate of Marquette University, a Jesuit institution in Milwaukee. He had previously spent 44 days in a Libyan jail during that country's civil war.

In the Marquette alumni magazine, Foley wrote about the power of prayer and faith in difficult circumstances.

On Wednesday, Foley's mother gave thanks for "so many prayers" of support. His father said James is "finally free" and "in heaven."

Pope Francis is expected to reach out to the family Thursday.

Foley was apparently murdered at the hands of ISIS, which was captured in a grisly video the terrorist group released Tuesday.

Foley was a seasoned foreign correspondent on assignment for the GlobalPost when he disappeared in northern Syria in November 2012.

CBN News Featured U.S. News Thu, 21 Aug 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Samaritan's Purse Doctor Recovers From Ebola, but Graham Still Urging Prayer

Today I join all of our Samaritan's Purse team around the world in giving thanks to God as we celebrate Dr. Kent Brantly's recovery from Ebola and release from the hospital. Over the past few weeks I have marveled at Dr. Brantly's courageous spirit as he has fought this horrible virus with the help of the highly competent and caring staff at Emory University Hospital. His faithfulness to God and compassion for the people of Africa have been an example to us all.

I know that Dr. Brantly and his wonderful family would ask that you please remember and pray for those in Africa battling, treating and suffering from Ebola. Those who have given up the comforts of home to serve the suffering and the less fortunate are in many ways just beginning this battle.

We have more than 350 staff in Liberia, and others will soon be joining them, so please pray for those who have served with Dr. Brantly—along with the other doctors, aid workers and organizations that are at this very moment desperately trying to stop Ebola from taking anymore lives.

Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, is the president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse. This article originally appeared on

Franklin Graham Featured Opinion Thu, 21 Aug 2014 15:00:00 -0400
Same-Sex Parents May Land on California Birth Certificates

Birth certificates in California would be changed to more accurately reflect families in which parents are of the same gender under a bill passed by the legislature on Wednesday.

The bill, which now goes to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, would allow parents to identify themselves as father, mother or "parent" when a child is born, a nuanced change from the current birth certificate that backers say is more reflective of growing rights for and acceptance of same-sex couples.

"This bill seems subtle, but I think it's going to make a profound impact on how people view each other," said the bill's author, Democratic Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez of Los Angeles.

The measure, if signed by Brown, would be the latest in a spate of actions taken by states to recognize the rights of same-sex couples.

In March, a baby in Tennessee became the first child in that state to have two women listed on her birth certificate, although one was in the spot marked "father."

In Florida last year, a judge approved an adoption of a baby girl that listed three people as parents on her birth certificate: a lesbian couple and a gay man, who was the sperm donor for the baby but sought a bigger role in his daughter's life.

California already allows same-sex couples to put their names on a child's birth certificate, offering the choices of Mother/Parent and Father/Parent, Gomez said.

The applications for the new birth certificates, which will be available in 2016, allow both parents to choose any of the three ways to identify themselves—as mother, father or simply as a parent.

"It's a recognition that families come in different compositions now," Gomez said.

The bill, backed by the LGBT-advocacy organization Equality California, passed the state assembly on a vote of 58 to 15. Six members did not vote.

There were more than 15,000 same-sex couples with children in California in 2010, according to the U.S. Census.

Additional reporting and writing by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento; editing by Eric Walsh

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Mary Papenfuss Featured U.S. News Thu, 21 Aug 2014 14:00:00 -0400
Church Sues Satanists for Allegedly Stealing Communion Wafers for Black Mass

Oklahoma's Catholic Archbishop filed a lawsuit on Wednesday to halt the use of what he said were stolen communion wafers destined for a satanic black mass ceremony to be held next month in Oklahoma City.

The lawsuit filed in Oklahoma County District Court claims the black mass is a deliberate attack on the Catholic Mass as well as the foundational beliefs of all Christians.

"I have taken a legal step to combat this blasphemous and obscene inversion of the Catholic Mass," Archbishop Paul Coakley said in the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, the Holy Eucharist can only be distributed by an ordained minister of the Catholic Church and must be consumed immediately and never taken outside of the church.

The Angra Mainyu satanic group named in the suit as a defendant planned a countersuit claiming defamation and will go on with its black mass at the Oklahoma City Civic Center, according to Adam Daniels, the group's leader.

"I will allow the lawyers to pull that onion apart," he said, adding the communion wafers being used in the black mass were not stolen.

The Black Mass of Oklahoma has been held for several years and has faced resistance from state and local leaders as well as setting off anger in a state where many identify themselves as deeply religious Christians.

Officials for the Oklahoma Civic Center said that since the center is a city-owned facility, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution does not allow for them to turn away productions based on their content.

A Black Mass involves a sacrifice to the devil, a practice known as inversion of the Christian ritual. According to the Angra Mainyu website, it is a modern form of ritual to celebrate the perversion of the Catholic Mass.

Writing by Jon Herskovitz; editing by Eric Walsh

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Heide Brandes/Reuters Featured U.S. News Thu, 21 Aug 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Pro-Life Law Closes 5th Abortion Clinic in Ohio

A suburban Cincinnati clinic will stop performing surgical abortions as a result of a 2013 state law that bars agreements to move women needing emergency care to public hospitals, an attorney for the clinic said on Wednesday.

The Ohio Department of Health had ordered Women's Med in Sharonville, also known as Lebanon Road Surgery Center, closed after it could not procure a required transfer agreement with a non-publicly financed hospital.

Hamilton County Judge Jerome Metz stayed the order in January, but ruled last week he did not have jurisdiction to continue his stay. The clinic decided not to appeal, according to clinic attorney Dorothea Langsam.

Langsam said the clinic will still provide other women's health services, and is considering the option of medical abortions, in which drugs rather than surgery end a pregnancy.

Women's Med is the only clinic within 100 miles that provided abortions between 18 and 22 weeks of pregnancy, which often address fetal anomalies and high-risk pregnancies, clinic spokeswoman Valerie Haskell said in a statement.

Ohio abortion clinics are required to have hospital-transfer agreements so patients can be admitted in case of complications.

Last year, Ohio became the first state in the country to block taxpayer-financed public hospitals from forming transfer agreements with abortion providers. Clinics must have arrangements with private hospitals, or doctors with privileges at such hospitals.

A push by conservative Republicans to put fresh restrictions on abortion at the state level has resulted in a rash of new legislation over the past three years.

"If a facility fails to ensure that they are operating at the legally required health and safety standards to protect women then certainly they should close," said Michael Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, an anti-abortion group.

Four other Ohio abortion clinics have chosen to close since the beginning of 2013, according to Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. Three licenses for clinics in Cincinnati, Dayton and Toledo are pending with the health department.

Copeland said she believes Republican Gov. John Kasich wants to close the remaining Cincinnati clinic, which would leave the largest metropolitan area in America without an abortion provider.

Reporting by Kim Palmer; editing by Mary Wisniewski and Eric Walsh

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Kim Palmer/Reuters Featured U.S. News Thu, 21 Aug 2014 12:00:00 -0400
Why Do We Put ‘Christian Celebrities’ on a Pedestal?

Gungor. Vicky Beeching. Mark Driscoll. David Yonggi Cho. What do all these names have in common? Controversy.

Of course, a blogger like myself could not go silent on these issues.

When situations like this arise, we are challenged, confused, disillusioned. We often resort to bashing, freaking out, and being disgusted (or excited) when a Christian celebrity falls.

When I think of the aforementioned names, I think of children of God who followed the call of God, were used mightily by God, and are being honest with their struggles. Mistakes have been made; power has been abused. But that's no excuse to write people off.

An Issue of Worship

Allow me to issue a challenge—to you, to me. This is about worship. When situations like this arise, I wonder whom we are worshiping, what we're prioritizing. Our worship culture so often becomes a consumer game of digesting the latest, greatest songs and resources, idolizing the people who carry the gifts of God.

The problem with idolizing the carriers of God's anointing is that they weren't meant to hold the weight of such admiration. It wasn't made for man, but for God alone.

When they fall, our spirits fall because we've placed too much stock in a human. When they reveal a deep-seated belief you didn't expect them to have, your world can be rocked to its foundation.

Of course, this is a big deal because these leaders have massive, global influence. We wonder what effect their belief or sin will have on others.

Truth is, we can't look to the conduit of God's gifts as our source, but to Christ. Then, we are free to receive the ministry of those we don't agree with. We can bless and encourage and pray for those with contrary beliefs without tearing down, because it's not our job to police the church.

I don't agree with Vicky's life choices and wouldn't make them my own. Gungor's perspective on the Bible is a little troubling. But that doesn't force me to choose between love and hate, compassion and spite.

Rather, I can respect and reach out.

Criticism and the Cross

We can still sing Vicky Beeching's worship songs. We can be strengthened and inspired by her powerful intellect.

We can still draw near to Christ through Gungor's music. We can still be influenced by Mark Driscoll's preaching. No matter how imperfect they all are, it doesn't negate their ministry.

Honestly, we all encounter struggles and face questions without easy answers. Few of us are bold enough to speak up and say "I'm struggling with my sexuality. I'm struggling with the reality of God. I struggle with the love of money."

What these people invite us into is recognizing our own humanity and bringing them into the context of conversation. Think about the thousands of Christians around the world who have questions, struggles and doubts. If we as the church won't allow their questions to be heard, where is the best place?

We all have questions. Imperfection is part of our nature on this earth. Let your criticism of others be shrouded in prayer for their well-being.

Let's look to the cross. Let's make the person of Christ our hero, our daily source. Consider the possibility that your greatest hero of faith could disappoint you with a belief they have. Stay rooted in Christ, and pray for those you look up to.

I'd love to hear from you and continue the conversation.

What has been your response to all this controversy? What do you believe? Let's have a conversation here in the comments.

David Santistevan is the worship pastor at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh. For the original article, visit

David Santistevan Featured Opinion Thu, 21 Aug 2014 11:00:00 -0400
Richard Dawkins Exposes the Immorality of His Atheism

Giving further ammunition to those who say that atheists cannot fully value all human life, Richard Dawkins has now stated that it would be "immoral" not to abort a baby with Down syndrome. Are you surprised?

It was just last week that the British scientist exposed the irrationality of his atheism when he claimed that nice, nonviolent practitioners of religion served as enablers for religious terrorism.

He first noted that, "It's very important that we should not demonise ordinary, law-abiding, very decent Muslims, which of course is the vast majority in this country" (speaking of the U.K.).

But that was only the prelude to the punchline: "[However] there is a sense in which the moderate, nice religious people—nice Christians, nice Muslims—make the world safe for extremists."

How so? He opined that, "the moderates are so nice we all are brought up with the idea that there's something good about religion faith. That there's something good about bringing children up to have a faith."

And, since faith can't be defended rationally (according to Dawkins), then, "Once you teach people that that's a legitimate reason for believing something then you, as it were, give a licence to the extremists who say 'my belief is that I'm supposed to be a suicide bomber or I'm supposed to blow up buildings—it's my faith and you can't question that."

This is complete bunk, not to mention utterly irrational.

To give one example out of millions, let me tell you the story of my Indian friend P. Yesupadam.

Raised an untouchable, he rejected his father's Christian faith and his nation's Hindu faith.

Almost dying of malnutrition as a boy, he learned to hate the caste system and, at the age of 11, he became a Naxalite, a Maoist communist. Soon he was a committed atheist (in keeping with his Naxalite philosophy), an alcoholic, and a violent man, engaging in acts of terror against the rich.

Then, in his mid-20's, he had a vision of Jesus and has since given himself to serve the poor and needy of India (and other nations) for the last 40 years–-building orphanages, schools (from nursery school to junior college and nursing schools), feeding programs, homes for the elderly, training centers to teach trades to the handicapped, also bringing the message of the gospel to the tribal regions.

Of the many orphans and needy children his ministry has fed, clothed and educated over the last 25 years, some are now doctors in America, some nurses and school teachers in India, and others pastors and Christian leaders.

The accomplishments are truly staggering to the point that, when he turned 60 a couple of years ago, government leaders came to the celebration to commend him for his humanitarian work.

Following Prof. Dawkins' "logic," we would have to say that "nice Christians" like Yesupadam encourage people to strap on a suicide belt and blow themselves up, together with their innocent victims.

To repeat: This is complete bunk and a demonstration of the irrationality of Dawkins' atheism.

Now, to add insult to injury, Dawkins has exposed the immorality of his atheism, stating that if a woman knew she was carrying a baby with Down syndrome, she should "abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice."

This is not just bunk. It is utterly rancid.

Aside from his claims that the baby would feel no pain in being aborted (he's quite sure about that?), he is doing the very thing that theists claim atheism can lead to, namely, devaluing of human life based on a survival-of-the-fittest mentality.

Really now, if you can determine that some people are not worthy to live before they are even born, surely it's not that big a jump to determine that some people are not worthy to live after they have been born.

Perhaps the very elderly and the hopelessly infirm, especially if their lives could be terminated "mercifully"? Perhaps those who are incorrigibly violent? Perhaps those who are seriously mentally handicapped?

Why not? Or, more specifically, based on what criteria do we judge who is worthy to enter this world and who is worthy to live?

Writing on, Dustin Siggins points out that, "Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey 99 percent of respondents with Down syndrome said they were 'happy.' At the same time, 99 percent percent of parents said they loved their child with Down syndrome, and 97 percent said they were proud of them." (The siblings of Down syndrome children expressed similar, overwhelmingly positive sentiments.)

It is becoming increasingly clear that Dawkins is something of an embarrassment, even to other atheists (although he is still revered by many). The only question that remains is this: Are his irrational and immoral positions unique to him, or are they the logical outcome of his Darwinian evolutionism?

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

Michael Brown Featured In the Line of Fire Opinion Thu, 21 Aug 2014 10:00:00 -0400
Should Churches Openly Discuss Marital Sex?

Bragging of sexual conquests, suggestive jokes and innuendo, and sexual one-upmanship all can be a part of demonstrating one's manhood—especially for young men eager to exert their masculinity.

But how does masculinity manifest itself among young men who have pledged sexual abstinence before marriage? How do they handle sexual temptation, and what sorts of challenges crop up once they're married?

"Sexual purity and pledging abstinence are most commonly thought of as feminine, something girls and young women promise before marriage," said Sarah Diefendorf, a sociology graduate student at the University of Washington. "But I wanted to look at this from the men's point of view."

Studying a group of 15 young evangelical Christian men, Diefendorf learned that support groups and open discussions about sex with trusted companions were key in helping the men during their pre-marital years. But once married, they faced trouble.

Instructed by the church to keep problems "in the dark" after marriage, the men reported feeling that they couldn't discuss sex with their friends and didn't know how to comfortably broach the subject with their wives. The newly wedded men also expressed surprise that sexual temptations continued to taunt them.

Diefendorf presented her findings Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in San Francisco.

At the start of her study, in 2008, the men were in their late teens and early 20s and part of a support group for young men who had pledged to remain virgins until marriage. The group was affiliated with a nondenominational evangelical megachurch in the southwestern United States that had about 14,000 attendees at Sunday services.

Over the course of a year, Diefendorf attended their meetings and conducted one-on-one interviews and focus-group meetings with the men.

The men talked about sex as both "sacred"—a gift from God meant for the marriage bed—and "beastly" if it occurs outside of marriage.

"To maintain this gift from God, they believe that they must control sex before marriage," Diefendorf said. The support group is one way for the young men to explore their sexual urges, she said. Many of them opened up to struggles with pornography and masturbation, which some considered as "destructive" and a threat to their commitment to abstinence.

"People think that evangelical support groups are just about suppressing men's natural urges, but really they are caring, supportive and safe space that allow men to have a remarkably open and frank discussion about sexual desire," Diefendorf said.

Besides the support group, the men sought out accountability partners to help control their behavior. One of them, for instance, had an accountability partner who would text-message him each night, "Are you behaving?" Some of them used software to track which websites they visited and shared the results with the partner.

A few years later, in 2011 and 2012, Diefendorf followed up with the men. Fourteen of them were married, and she wanted to find out how the men's views of sex and masculinity had changed since marriage.

During a focus-group meeting in one of their homes, it soon became clear that as taboo as sexual activity had been before marriage, it was now taboo to talk about sex, because it was seen as disrespecting their wives.

"After marriage, the church culture assumes that couples become each other's support, regardless of the issue at hand," Diefendorf said. "There's little support in figuring out sexuality in married life, and these men don't know how to talk to their wives about it."

As one of the men put it: "For me to come home from work and say, 'Hey, did you like it last time?' I mean that would be—that would be such a weird question for me to ask."

The newlyweds also revealed they continue to think of sex in terms of control, and how the so-called beastly elements of sex—temptations by pornography and of extramarital affairs—do not disappear with the transition to married life.

"Before you get married, the biggest thing you struggle with, usually, is premarital sex," one of the men told Diefendorf. "But once you are married, you can't be tempted by that anymore, so you get attacked by completely different things. ...Essentially Satan has to find a new angle to attack on."

They wished for more guidance from the church, and someone in the group said he'd cheer if his pastor decided to talk more about sex.

"While the whole point of these support groups is to honor sex in marriage, these men have gotten so used to thinking about sex as something negative that they bring those concerns with them to the marriage bed," Deifendorf said. "Once they're married, these men struggle to manage those concerns in the absence of the supportive community they once benefited from."

She hopes that her study leads to more positive discussions of sex and how it is healthy, especially within the context of abstinence-only sex education.

"There's an obsession with virginity in this country," Diefendorf said. "And we forget to have informative, successful conversations on sex."

Molly McElroy/University of Washington Featured U.S. News Thu, 21 Aug 2014 09:00:00 -0400
9 Reasons to Say No to Soy

The information I posted on soy on my Facebook page in March 2013 created a big response. Many people have posted the problems they've experienced after consuming soy products. Take a look on my Facebook page.

A small amount of fermented soy is OK as long as it's organic. Avoid conventional soy; it is the largest GMO (genetically modified) crop in the United States. Here are a few more points to consider regarding soy. It should make you think twice before ordering a soy-milk latte:

1. Soy phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function and have the potential to cause infertility and promote breast cancer in adult women. These phytoestrogens also cause hypothyroidism and possibly thyroid cancer.

2. In infants, consumption of soy formula has been linked to autoimmune thyroid disease.

3. Vitamin B12 in soy is not absorbed. Consumption of soy actually increases the body's requirement for B12.

4. Soy foods increase the body's requirement for vitamin D. Toxic synthetic vitamin D2 is added to soy milk.

5. Fragile proteins are damaged during the high temperature processing used to make soy protein isolate and textured vegetable protein–often used in packaged foods and even the so-called "healthy" protein bars.

6. Processing of soy protein results in the formation of toxic lysinoalanine and highly carcinogenic nitrosamines.

7. Free glutamic acid or MSG, a potent neurotoxin, is formed during soy-food processing, and additional amounts are sometimes added to mask soy's unpleasant taste.

8. High levels of aluminum, toxic to the nervous system and kidneys, have been found in some soy foods.

9. Soy foods such as soy cheese and ice cream, soy milk, and tofu are so processed that few pesticide residues remain; however, several very toxic pesticides are used to grow soybeans, and 90 percent of soybeans grown in the U.S. are GMO (genetically modified). In the only human-feeding study published on genetically modified foods, seven volunteers ate Roundup-ready soybeans. These soybeans have herbicide-resistant genes inserted into them in order to survive being sprayed with otherwise deadly doses of Roundup herbicide. In three of the seven volunteers, the gene inserted into the soy transferred into the DNA of their intestinal bacteria, and continued to function long after they stopped eating the GM soy.

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

For the original article, visit

Cherie Calbom/M.S., C.N. Featured Opinion Thu, 21 Aug 2014 08:00:00 -0400
Warning: #IceBucketChallenge Could Kill Babies

Everyone has seen video after video (on social media) of friends, family and colleagues taking the #IceBucketChallenge for the ALS Association research foundation. 

The goal of which has been stated to find a cure for those suffering with neurological breakdown through diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.

For any who have witnessed such struggle in those we love, the sincere and desperate hope for a cure seems like a big payoff for a bit of ice-cold water being dumped on the head!

The only problem here is that—unknowingly—this very challenge is contributing to the ongoing destruction of human life—intentionally.

The ALS association is actively funding embryonic stem-cell research and admitting that they likely will continue to do so in the future. The funding of embryonic stem-cell research means that children are created and at their earliest stages of life they are destroyed so that the stem cells (from usually the base of the brain) can be harvested to perform tests.

Embryonic stem-cell research has proven 0 percent effective in combating diseases like ALS and other neurological degenerative ailments.

Adult stem cells, which can be harvested from living humans without their being killed, have, on the other hand, proven vastly effective in making progress toward slowing down and in some cases seeing remission or reversal of degenerative defects.

ALSA states that it views the funding of both types of research as important toward finding cures. They continue to say this while recognizing the moral conflict of taking innocent human life.

This for me isn't good enough. There should be no forced taking of any innocent person's life just so that another may live longer.

That is in essence philosophical cannibalism, and moral persons should have no part in it.

Others have pointed out other criticisms of the #IceBucketChallenge. Be it that millions around the world die from a lack of clean water, while millions of Americans have now poured out tens of millions of gallons of it. Or the idea that ALS takes approximately 1.6 lives per 100,000 deaths, while hunger among orphans is taking the life of a child every 90 seconds with roughly 60 million orphans globally.

But those criticisms seem benign compared to the reality that millions of dollars raised through this specific challenge may be used to create a child only to kill it for what amounts to fruitless experimentation.

I wish to see the suffering of those with neurological degeneration ended--be it ALS, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, dementia and others less known. And I would feel fine supporting the truly effective research using adult stem cells.

But the myth that the undefined cells of the tiniest children among us are necessary for those cures seems to be a fool's folly, and I pray and believe that God would not send us a cure that damages the innocent among us!

We can do better for the least of these!

Kevin McCullough hosts AFA Today on American Family Radio.

Kevin McCullough Featured Opinion Thu, 21 Aug 2014 07:00:00 -0400
Once Gay, Always Gay? Not Necessarily

People who struggle with gay feelings are usually told they should simply accept their homosexual identity. Many psychologists believe it's wrong to suggest that homosexuality could be or should be treated as a problem. You're gay. Big deal. We accept you. Have whatever kind of sex you want.

But what about people who struggle with same-sex attraction and yet genuinely want freedom from homosexuality because they believe it violates Christian morals? These people face a triple dilemma because (1) some Christians are prejudiced against gay people and don't really care; (2) many churches just aren't equipped to offer counseling; and (3) our mainstream culture believes that once you're gay, you're always gay.

But this didn't stop my friend William Dobson from abandoning the gay lifestyle. His story needs to be considered.

William was a sensitive boy. So when kids his age started calling him "sissy" and "queer," he was emotionally scarred. He gave his heart to Jesus at age 12 and found safety and security in a world of bullying. When he was filled with the Holy Spirit as a college student, he admitted to a pastor that he struggled with gay feelings. He found a measure of freedom after being honest about his secret. He began pursuing God.

William became a successful architect in Tampa, Florida, and served as a volunteer worship leader for many years. But he suffered shipwreck in his faith at age 44 after a pastor he trusted experienced a moral failure. William quit church, and his anger grew to the point that he stopped resisting his unwanted sexual impulses. He threw himself headlong into a gay lifestyle.

He went to gay bars, dated men and became fully immersed in Tampa's gay community. He also got hooked on Internet pornography and lived with his gay boyfriend for three years. But he never found true satisfaction, and he always knew deep down in his heart that he was running from God.

"I had no peace at all during my time in the gay lifestyle," William told me last week. "My coping mechanism was alcohol. But even when I would get plastered, I could still hear the still small voice of Jesus calling me back to Himself."

William sought help and ended up at a Methodist church in Tampa. But the pastor who offered counseling told him it was OK to be gay and encouraged him to accept the lifestyle instead of offering an exit strategy.

Says William: "I never bought into that [pro-gay] teaching. First Corinthians 6:9-11 is clear that those who practice adultery, idolatry, drunkenness, stealing or homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of God. That same scripture also declares that to believe such practice is acceptable is deception."

William struggled for a while. But one day while driving to work he began to sob while listening to the song "You Are Holy" on a Hillsong recording:

Here in Your courts /

where I'm close to Your throne /

I've found where I belong.

"In that moment, I made the decision to break up with my partner," William says. "I decided I would not yield any longer to my sexual passions, and I acknowledged that God had a calling on my life. I had walked away from that calling. I had been living for myself, and that life had left me empty. I begged God to lead me away from my own derailed life of bad choices and back to Him."

William's deliverance didn't come overnight. His journey was slow, but God proved to be patient. A breakthrough came three years later when William worked up the courage to leave his network of friends in Tampa and isolate himself for a while. During that time, he asked God to help him break free from his porn addiction.

"I was addicted to internet porn for years, even for some time prior to me diving into the gay lifestyle," admits William. "Today I am completely free of that addiction. I no longer search the internet for the videos and photos of naked men that at one time gripped and fed me. I have no desire for that any longer. I have been free of that addition for more than a year now."

William did not find his freedom alone. He called a local Tampa ministry, New Hearts Outreach, and spilled his guts to a man who understood his struggle. He joined a support group, enrolled in counseling, and started spending time with God every day. Today he no longer identifies himself as gay. He traded his old life for a new one—in Christ.

"My relationship with Jesus is more intimate that it has ever been," says William. "I've connected with a ministry that has offered real tools to overcome my misplaced sexual identity. I have found leaders who love Christ. And I have found within myself the very Spirit of the Living God, who calls, leads, teaches, confirms, loves, affirms and accepts me."

William does not fit the stereotype of a narrow-minded Christian who wants to force his beliefs on gay people. He's not "homophobic," and he doesn't stand in the streets holding signs condemning gay marriage. He still loves his gay friends and even stays in contact with his former live-in boyfriend.

But this story raises an interesting question: If our culture demands that we accept homosexuality in the name of freedom, should we not also respect the rights of people like William Dobson if they want to leave the gay lifestyle? The answer to that question might prove whether or not all the talk about "tolerance" in our culture today is actually a smokescreen for intolerance.

J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. He is the author of 10 Lies Men Believe and other books. If you'd like to talk to someone about a struggle with sexual identity, you can go to or These websites list local ministries that offer counseling and small-group support.

J. Lee Grady Featured Opinion Thu, 21 Aug 2014 06:00:00 -0400
Supreme Court Puts Hold on Gay Marriage in Virginia

The U.S. Supreme Court stopped gay marriage in Virginia from going ahead on Wednesday, staying an appeals court ruling that had struck down a state ban.

The court granted a stay application filed by opponents of gay marriage. The action was not a ruling on the merits of gay marriage, but means a July 28 pro-gay marriage ruling by the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will not be implemented while litigation continues.

The high court issued its brief order less than 24 hours before gay and lesbian couples in Virginia could have begun applying to be married.

The Supreme Court issued a similar order in January blocking gay marriage from going ahead in Utah. So the court's order on the Virginia law was not wholly unexpected.

The Supreme Court is expected to take up at least one case on gay marriage in its coming term, which starts in October and ends in June. There are already three case the justices can choose from pending at the court. They involve fights over the bans in Virginia, Utah and Oklahoma.

Michele McQuigg, Prince William County clerk of court, had filed the Virginia stay application last week seeking to prevent the appeals court ruling from going into effect.

"The Supreme Court acted wisely in restraining the lower court from implementing a ruling of this magnitude before the high court has a chance to decide the issue," Byron Babione, a lawyer for McQuigg, said in a statement.

The state's Democratic attorney general, Mark Herring, who backs gay marriage, and opponents of same-sex marriage have already said they would like the Supreme Court to be have the ultimate say in the case. Herring had backed the call for the delay of the lower court ruling.

Since a June 2013 ruling in the United States v. Windsor case struck down a federal law defining marriage as between one man and one woman, nearly 30 federal and state courts have ruled against bans on same-sex marriage at the state level. Only one court in the past 14 months has ruled in favor of a state ban.

Nineteen of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage.

Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Chizu Nomiyama and Frances Kerry

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Lawrence Hurley/Reuters Featured U.S. News Wed, 20 Aug 2014 20:00:00 -0400
'Pastor Choco' Calls for Pentecostals to Stand in the Gap

Pastor Wilfredo De Jesús, named to Time magazine's 2013 list of the 100 most influential people in the world, carries a burden for the poor and disenfranchised. Now he has written a book that explains the biblical case for social activism, In the Gap: What Happens When God's People Stand Strong.

Widely known as "Pastor Choco," De Jesús is the senior pastor of New Life Covenant Church in Chicago, the largest church in the U.S. Assemblies of God Fellowship with 17,000 attendees. The church has more than 130 ministries that reach the broken-hearted, poor and homeless, including prostitutes, drug addicts and gang members.

In the Gap, which is available in English and Spanish, draws its title from Ezekiel 22:30, where God laments the lack of someone to stand "in the gap" for His people. De Jesús writes that "a gap represents a place of weakness, vulnerability and danger" and could be a social problem such as illiteracy, racism or human trafficking, or something more personal, such as a prodigal child, an unfaithful spouse or an abusive family member.

After years of standing in the gap, De Jesús has come to understand what makes a "gap person"—the champion who protects or supports someone in need, a man or woman who finds the courage to sacrifice everything to represent God and block evil from destroying those He loves.

De Jesús gives nine examples of courageous people in the Scriptures—men and women who recognized desperate needs and trusted God to use them to make a difference: Nehemiah, Esther, Noah, David, Barnabas, John the Baptist, Gideon, Deborah and Caleb.

De Jesús believes that little has changed in the more than 2,000 years since the last of these biblical characters lived.

"People are still in distress, and God is still looking for men and women to stand in the gap in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our cities and towns, in our nation, and in every corner of the world," he writes.

Charisma News Staff Featured Culture Wed, 20 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Michael Brown Shooting Tragedy Proves Proverbs 18:17 Is True

"The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him" (Prov. 18:17, ESV).

The Bible warns us to be sure we hear from both sides and collect full information before we make up our minds. This ancient wisdom of Solomon has been validated again in Ferguson, Missouri.  

The early narrative, spun by racial-grievance mongers, was that Michael Brown, a harmless teddy bear of a boy, was shot by a racist officer because he was black, that he was shot for jaywalking, and that he was shot in the back execution style.  

Riots, mayhem, violence and looting ensued, so unremitting that Gov. Jay Nixon has finally been reduced to calling in the National Guard (after complaining all week about the "militarizing of the police." (Missouri Democrats, by the way, including Nixon and Rep. Clay did not call Attorney General Eric Holder in to "investigate;" they called him in to "prosecute.")

But cracks are starting to appear in the Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton/New Black Panther narrative. A caller to a local talk-radio program in St. Louis, who claimed to be a friend of Officer Darren Wilson's significant other, gave what she said was the officer's version of events.

The account goes as follows: Wilson stopped Brown and his friend because they were walking in the street. The officer told them to get on the sidewalk. They responded belligerently. The officer tried to exit the vehicle, at which point Brown slammed the door shut to prevent him. Sometime during the stop, Wilson learned via police radio that someone matching Brown's description was a suspect in an armed robbery at a nearby convenience store, a burglary that had happened just minutes before. He observed what looked like the contraband in Wilson's hand.

Now dealing with a criminal suspect, Wilson ordered Brown to stop so he could be detained, at which point apparently Brown stuck the upper half of his body into Wilson's squad car and lunged for the officer's gun. In the tussle over the weapon, it was discharged one time inside the vehicle. Following the shot and his apparent inability to wrest control of the gun from Wilson, Brown took off. Wilson, as police protocol dictates, pursued him.

Officers, of course, cannot simply allow a criminal suspect to run away. With gun drawn, Wilson pursued Brown and ordered him to stop. At some point, Brown stopped, turned around and confronted Wilson with angry epithets. And then apparently after taunting Wilson, he charged him. Wilson then fired six rounds, each of which hit Brown, the last of which entered his skull and killed him. According to the radio caller, he fell dead practically at Wilson's feet. 

This account has been inadvertently corroborated by a conversation between an eyewitness and a bystander, caught on tape by a man using his phone's video recorder. The eyewitness twice said he saw Brown charging Wilson. He said Brown "doubled back toward him" (that is, toward the officer) and "he kept coming toward him" even though the officer was firing at him in order to get him to stop. 

The account of Wilson's friend indicates that Wilson thought Brown was hopped up on something, from the way he was charging and the fact that not even five bullets could slow him down. (This will make the toxicology report extremely important, which likely won't be released for a week or so.)  Now this woman's account is a third-party account and obviously requires confirmation. But that evidence is slowly trickling out.

The first autopsy, for instance, performed on Brown at the direction of his own family, reveals that all six shots that hit his body entered from the front. Not a single entrance wound was found on his back. This destroys the testimony of Brown's accomplice in the cigar heist who claimed that Brown was shot in the back as he was fleeing.  

The autopsy report is consistent with the accounts that Brown was shot while he was charging the officer at full speed. Even the Brown family's pathologist, Dr. Michael Baden, admitted Monday morning at a news conference that the fatal wound on the top of Brown's head is consistent with the possibility that he had his head down and was closing on Wilson in an effort to spear him.  

The surveillance video from the store, which Eric Holder did not want the public to see, reveals Brown—all 6 feet 4 inches and 292 pounds of him—to be aggressive and violent, stealing a batch of cigars and shoving the store owner against a display rack. He was not the "gentle giant" the radical left wanted us to think.

Holder has ordered a federal autopsy, likely because the family ordered autopsy does not play into the racist narrative he intends to foster. It's also possible that the grievance mongers had some awareness that the facts might challenge their meme. Not wanting "to let a good crisis go to waste," they hurried to whip as many people into a frenzy as they could before the facts could challenge their version of events.

So while at first blush this incident was painted as a racially motivated execution, fresh information reveals that this incident likely had nothing to do with race at all. It was about criminal behavior. It was about strong-armed robbery, assault, resisting arrest, assaulting a police officer,and physically coming after him with violent intent.  

Do we know everything at this point? Of course not. We do not, for instance, yet have Officer Wilson's official account. But we do have enough evidence to begin thinking that the hyperventilating we have heard from the press (which actually printed a map to Officer Wilson's home) and from race-baiters is unlikely to be true on any salient point. 

So it turns out the Bible has been right all along. "The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him." Good advice for everybody, including the press, Eric Holder, the governor of Missouri and the president of the United States.

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

Bryan Fischer Featured Opinion Wed, 20 Aug 2014 18:00:00 -0400
Teacher Omits God From Pledge of Allegiance

Jessica Andrews could not believe her eyes.

"It was like an 'Oh my gosh' type of feeling," the mother of six from Aiken, South Carolina, told me.

The item that caused her angst came from her daughter's school. It was a copy of the Pledge of Allegiance. But the school's version of the pledge was just a few words short—two to be exact.

"It didn't have 'under God,'" she said.

Jessica's daughter is a fourth-grader at Chukker Creek Elementary School. She said Aiken is a very religious community, and they are a religious family. So you can imagine her surprise when she realized the school's version of the pledge did not include a shout-out to the Almighty.

"It's outrageous, to be honest," she told me. "It seems like the government is doing everything they can to take God out of everything."

Jessica pointed out that our forefathers believed in God, so why can't the youngsters acknowledge we are a nation under God?

"We are so quick to change our religion to accommodate everyone else," she said. "It seems like Christianity is getting taken out of everything."

So how did the Almighty end up getting cut from the pledge?

I alerted the school early Tuesday morning, and by midday Principal Amy Gregory determined Jessica had a legitimate beef.

In this particular case, the omission was not the nefarious work of a godless educator. The principal said it was an honest-to-goodness mistake.

"This was a single mistake by a very embarrassed and apologetic teacher," the principal told me in written correspondence.

"In order to assist her new students with our morning announcements, a teacher made copies of the pledge and national anthem for her class," she told me. "She cut and pasted these from a website and in doing so, this line was omitted."

Ah yes—the old "cut and paste" will get you every time.

"The teacher failed to proof the paper," the principal wrote.

As we all know, the most important part of the editorial process is the proof-reading. That's why God made copy editors. Before I go off chasing another squirrel, let's get back to the issue at hand—the pledge.

The principal said as soon as the teacher learned her mistake, she sent a corrected version to parents—along with an apology.

"I do apologize," the teacher wrote. "Please forgive me. I respect our country and what it was founded on."

Principal Gregory said the boys and girls at Chukker Creek recite the pledge every day. And in case you're wondering, she said the words "under God" are included.

Jessica told me she used the incident as a life lesson for her little girl.

"I told her the government and a lot of people don't like God," she said. "Some people are offended by Christianity. I try to be as real with my kids about their faith as I can be. I don't want to sugarcoat everything."

We need more moms like Jessica Andrews. Thanks to her eagle eye she was able to facilitate change at Chukker Creek Elementary School.

We also need more educators like Principal Gregory. She acknowledged the mistake, took swift action and righted a glaring wrong.

Gold stars for everyone!

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

Todd Starnes Featured Opinion Wed, 20 Aug 2014 17:00:00 -0400
After Journalist's Beheading, Obama Vows 'Relentless' Fight Against ISIS

President Obama on Wednesday vowed that the United States will not be swayed from airstrikes against Islamic State after the group beheaded an American journalist, an act he said is proof that the militants stand for no religion.

Obama's response to the execution of James Foley marked his strongest condemnation yet of Islamic State militants, and he gave no sign of a pause in U.S. targeting of militant positions in Iraq.

"The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless. When people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what's necessary to see that justice is done," he said.

Obama's remarks, to reporters covering his vacation on the island of Martha's Vineyard, came shortly after the White House announced that a video showing the beheading of Foley had been authenticated by the U.S. intelligence community.

The beheading appeared to mark a turning point in the growing U.S. focus on Islamic State as a potential threat to American interests, but whether it will lead to an intensified bombing campaign was not yet clear.

The United States has launched dozens of airstrikes against Islamic State targets in order to protect the religious minority Yazidis in Iraq and prevent the takeover of the Mosul Dam out of concern that a breach in the structure could end up flooding Baghdad, where the U.S. embassy is situated.

Obama's remarks carried a tough message about the Islamic State's harsh penalties against anyone who does not agree to accept its brand of Islam.

He said militants have rampaged across cities and villages, abducted women and children and subjected them to torture and rape and killed Muslims, both Sunni and Shia, by the thousands.

"No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day," he said.

"Their ideology is bankrupt. They may claim, out of expediency, that they are at war with the United States or the West, but the fact is, they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision and the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior," Obama said.

Obama also said he called Foley's family to express his condolences.

Additional reporting by Bill Trott in Washington; editing by Susan Heavey

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Steve Holland and Elizabeth Barber/Reuters Featured U.S. News Wed, 20 Aug 2014 16:00:00 -0400
WATCH: Iraqi Muslim Weeps Over ISIS Driving Out Country's Christians

Nahi Mahdi covered his face as he wept over Iraqi Christians being driven out of the country. And that was before the ISIS started its most aggressive tactics.

"They are our own flesh and blood," Nahi Mahdi said on Asia TV in late July, covering his face as he wept. "Some of them have left for Sweden or Germany .... Who does [ISIS] think it is to drive out our fellow countrymen?!"

Another panelist on Asia TV went on to say: "The Christians have done nothing wrong. They haven't hurt a soul. On the contrary, they are peaceful people, who love all sects. They are honorable people, with high moral values."

Jennifer LeClaire Featured World News Wed, 20 Aug 2014 15:00:00 -0400
Jill Duggar Expecting 1st Baby (of How Many?)

Jill Duggar, now officially known as Jill Dillard, is happily married—and expecting her first baby. Dillard, of course, is best known for her role on the TLC reality TV show 19 Kids and Counting.

"We've having a baby!" she told People magazine. "We're so excited."

Jill Dillard 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.

TLC plans to feature the wedding on 19 Kids and Counting during the season debut on Sept. 2, People reports.

"About 30 days after Jill and Derick got married they gathered everyone in the living room and shared the news," Jim Bob Duggar, 49, told People. "Everyone was clapping and cheering, and we were in shock, too."

Earlier this week 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.

"We are so blessed to be engaged!" the couple said in a statement. "God has written an amazing story through our courtship, and another chapter has just begun! We are thrilled to see what the future holds—especially the wedding bells!"

Jennifer LeClaire Featured Culture Wed, 20 Aug 2014 14:00:00 -0400
Amish Have to Forgive Again as Abducted Girls Allegedly Sexually Abused

Two young Amish sisters whose abduction touched off a frantic search in northern New York were sexually abused by their captors, The New York Times reported.

The girls, aged 12 and 6, were kidnapped on Wednesday from a family farm some 10 miles from New York's border with Canada and released Thursday. Police have charged two suspects, Stephen Howells II, 39, and Nicole Vaisey, 25, with two counts each of first-degree kidnapping.

In remarks to The New York Times late on Saturday, St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary Rain said the girls had suffered sexual abuse during their captivity at Howells' home in Hermon, New York. She did not elaborate.

The victims' names are being withheld due to the sexual-assault allegations.

Earlier on Saturday, St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells said at a news conference that the couple had carefully planned the abduction and that the girls were kidnapped not because they were Amish but because they were seen as easy targets. The girls did not know their kidnappers, he said.

He said police had reason to believe that in helping to lead authorities to their captors, the girls had most likely prevented more kidnappings.

A preliminary hearing for Howells and Vaisey is set for Thursday, officials said. Federal charges could be filed at a later date, officials said.

The girls were returned home in good health on Thursday after their captors dropped them off in front of a stranger's home in the hamlet of Bigelow, then fled, Rain previously said.

The man living at the home recognized the pair as the missing girls and drove them 30 miles back to their family farm in the rural Amish community of Oswegatchie, she said.

Reporting by Karen Brooks; editing by Sonya Hepinstall

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Reuters Featured U.S. News Wed, 20 Aug 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Most Pastors May Be Committing This Sin, Study Suggests

New research shows that while 90 percent of pastors believe the Bible has much to say about today's pressing political and societal issues, fewer than 10 percent are talking about those issues from the pulpit.

Researcher George Barna spoke recently on American Family Radio's Today's Issues about his research project over the past two years, in which the Barna Group asked pastors across the country about their beliefs regarding the relevancy of Scripture to societal, moral and political issues, and the content of their sermons in light of their beliefs.

What he found was startling.

"When we ask them about all the key issues of the day, [90 percent of them are] telling us, 'Yes, the Bible speaks to every one of these issues,'" Barna told American Family Radio. "Then we ask them: 'Well, are you teaching your people what the Bible says about those issues?' and the numbers drop ... to less than 10 percent of pastors who say they will speak to it."

Sam Rohrer, president of the American Pastors Network, says that while it is clear that there is a disconnect between knowing the truth and preaching it, the real question is why. Avoiding the politically unpopular portions of Scripture is in some respects understandable from a human perspective. From God's perspective, however, it is sin.

"The reality is that most people, including pastors, wish to be comfortable and to avoid controversy," Rohrer said. "If the primary goal is to see people leave on Sunday morning feeling good about themselves and feeling comfortable rather than seeing the holiness of God and the ugly reality of sin, then a pastor will answer to God for doing his own will rather than declaring God's will. The issues of the day that confront our nation must be dealt with from the pulpit if God's Word is to make a difference in people's lives and if the culture is to be impacted. This includes the areas of marriage and divorce, life and family, but it also includes the areas of honesty, servant leadership, following the Rule of Law, etc."

Barna added that many pastors are afraid to get involved in political issues because of the controversy it might create. And, he added, "Controversy keeps people from being in the seats, controversy keeps people from giving money, from attending programs."

He also found that when asked how they measure the success of their churches, most pastors look to five factors: "attendance, giving, number of programs, number of staff and square footage."

"The fact that so many pastors are more concerned with the size of their buildings and church bank accounts than with the condition of the souls they shepherd is without excuse," Rohrer continued. "By abdicating their responsibility as ministers of God to 'preach the Word' in favor of square footage, many pastors are, in essence, saying God's Word is not really authoritative. In reality, a pastor—or any person for that matter—who feels they have the right to pick and choose what portions of Scripture they will believe or teach, rather than preach the 'whole counsel of God' have in effect made themselves god."

Deborah Hamilton Featured U.S. News Wed, 20 Aug 2014 12:00:00 -0400
Robin Williams Was Part of the Baby Boomer Suicide Epidemic

Robin Williams' suicide not only rocked the entertainment world—it rocked people in many parts of the world who loved his comic genius. In the wake of his untimely death, mental-health experts are pointing to statistics that reveal Williams' silent suffering was part of an epidemic.

Suicide is a top-10 cause of death—more people die from self-harm than from car accidents—yet we don't hear much about it until someone of notoriety ends their life. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the suicide rate has jumped nearly 20 percent over the past 10 years even as heart disease, HIV and cancer death rates are declining.

The stats look worse when we come to Robin Williams' generation: the Baby Boomers. According to the CDC, the suicide rate among Americans aged 45 to 64 has climbed over 30 percent in the past 10 years. Cut another way, the category of upper-middle-aged white men has seen a 50 percent rise in suicides.

Why Are So Many Baby Boomers Committing Suicide?

Why are so many Baby Boomers committing suicide? What is the root issue? Where does it start? I've wondered this on a personal level as my uncle committed suicide a few years ago—and he was a Baby Boomer.

"Suicidal thoughts have numerous causes," according to Mayo Clinic. "Most often, suicidal thoughts are the result of feeling like you can't cope when you're faced with what seems to be an overwhelming life situation. If you don't have hope for the future, you may mistakenly think suicide is a solution. You may experience a sort of tunnel vision, where in the middle of a crisis you believe suicide is the only way out." 

As it turns out, suicidal thoughts are not uncommon. Nearly 8.3 million adults age 18 and older in the United States—that's 3.7 percent—had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year, according to a study called "Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors Among Adults > 18 Years" released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although some suicides are impulsive, most are planned out. More than 2 million adult Americans made a suicide plan in the past year, and about half that many went through with the plan.

Suicide Starts With a Thought

As I've said before, suicide starts with a thought. Indeed, every action we take starts with a thought. As one who struggled with depression for years, I am not trying to oversimplify the solution, but rather merely point out one contributing factor. Many of the harmful actions we take originate from the seed of a thought Satan whispers to our souls. That seed grows as our minds reason out the benefits of acting on the thought. For those contemplating suicide, I believe the seed grows in their minds as they reason themselves out of living because life's circumstances are too overwhelming.

When the enemy plants a vain imagination in our minds, we have two choices: cast it down or meditate on it. When we meditate on vain imaginations, we tend to connect demonic dots that create skewed pictures of reality. Believing what we see in our thought life is real, we talk ourselves into taking action based on a wrong perception. Although there are issues of chemical imbalances, I believe this is what happens with many suicides. The enemy plants a seed in the form of a thought that an already distraught soul doesn't discern as a demonic attack on their life.

Winning the Battle Against a Silent Epidemic

If we want to win the battle against suicide among Baby Boomers—or any demographic—we need to, among many other things, take a hold of Scriptures that instruct us about the battle in our minds. Paul told us, "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled" (2 Cor. 10:4-6). No one can take your thoughts captive for you, but you can take your own thoughts captive, and it starts with girding up the loins of your mind (1 Pet. 1:13).

Paul also offered this advice: "Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you" (Phil. 4:8-9). If we do what the Word says—if we meditate on what the Word tells us to meditate on—the enemy's seeds won't take root in our souls.

If you see someone struggling with depression or hear them speak disturbing thoughts that aren't in line with the Word of God, pray and ask God what He would have you do. Then do it. Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States, and the enemy is targeting our spiritual leaders in this hour. Let's rise up and battle against this disturbing trend in the Name of Jesus.

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

Jennifer LeClaire Featured Watchman on the Wall Opinion Wed, 20 Aug 2014 11:00:00 -0400
WATCH: ISIS Claims to Behead US Journalist, Threatens to Execute Another

Islamic State militants posted a video on Tuesday that purported to show the beheading of American journalist James Foley in revenge for U.S. air strikes against the insurgents in Iraq.

The video, titled "A Message to America," also showed images of another U.S. journalist, Steven Sotloff, whose life Islamic State said depended on how the United States acts in Iraq.

The gruesome video presented President Obama with bleak options that could define America's involvement in Iraq and the public reaction to it, potentially dragging him further into a conflict he built much of his presidency on ending.

Obama held back from making a public statement about the beheading until the video could be formally authenticated.

"If genuine, we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American journalist and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends," White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.

Other political leaders were swift to react.

British Prime Minister David Cameron interrupted his holiday to return to London to lead the hunt to identify the man shown killing Foley, who spoke on the video with a British accent.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said he was not surprised to hear the British accent and that large numbers of British nationals were fighting in Iraq and Syria.

"Our intelligence services will be looking very carefully on both sides of the Atlantic at this video to establish its authenticity, to try to identify the individual concerned and then we will work together to try to locate him," Hammond told Sky news.

French President Francois Hollande called for an international conference to discuss how to tackle Islamic State.

Grisly Message

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari urged the world to back his country against Islamic State, which he described as a threat to the world, not just to the minority ethnic groups whose members it has killed in northern Iraq.

Germany and Italy said they were ready to send arms to bolster the military capabilities of Iraqi Kurds fighting the Islamic State militants.

The video's grisly message was unambiguous, warning of greater retaliation to come against Americans following nearly two weeks of U.S. air strikes that have pounded militant positions and halted the advance of Islamic State, which until this month had captured a third of Iraq with little resistance.

Foley, 40, was kidnapped by armed men on Nov. 22, 2012, in northern Syria while on his way to the Turkish border, according to GlobalPost, a Boston-based online publication where Foley had worked as a freelancer. He had reported in the Middle East for five years and had been kidnapped and released in Libya.

Sotloff, who appeared at the end of the video, went missing in northern Syria while reporting in July 2013. He has written for Time among other news organizations.

On Facebook, Foley's mother Diane Foley said: "We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.

"We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world."

The video was posted after the United States resumed air strikes in Iraq this month for the first time since the end of the U.S. occupation in 2011.

Islamic State

Islamic State, which has declared a caliphate in the parts of Iraq and Syria it controls, opened the video with a clip of Obama saying he had authorized strikes in Iraq.

The words "Obama authorizes military operations against the Islamic State effectively placing America upon a slippery slope towards a new war front against Muslims" appeared in English and Arabic on the screen.

It showed black and white aerial footage of air strikes with text saying "American aggression against the Islamic State."

A man identified as James Foley, his head shaven and dressed in an orange outfit similar to uniforms worn by prisoners at the U.S. military detention camp in Guantanamo, Cuba, is seen kneeling in the desert next to a man standing, holding a knife and clad head to toe in black.

"I call on my friends, family and loved ones to rise up against my real killers, the U.S. government, for what will happen to me is only a result of their complacency and criminality," the kneeling man says.

The man next to him, in a black mask, speaks in a British accent and says, "This is James Wright Foley, an American citizen, of your country. As a government, you have been at the forefront of the aggression towards the Islamic State."

"Today your military air force is attacking us daily in Iraq. Your strikes have caused casualties amongst Muslims. You are no longer fighting an insurgency. We are an Islamic army, and a state that has been accepted by a large number of Muslims worldwide."

Following his statement he beheads the kneeling man. At the end of the video, words on the side of the screen say, "Steven Joel Sotloff," as another prisoner in an orange jumpsuit is shown on screen. "The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision," the masked man says.

Hostage History

Hostage crises have plagued U.S. presidents over the years.

Jimmy Carter's presidency sagged under the weight of the Iran hostage crisis when Americans were held captive for 444 days. Ronald Reagan's bid to get American hostages freed from Lebanon led to an arms-for-hostages Iran-Contra scandal that plagued his second term.

University of Virginia political scholar Larry Sabato said the current situation was more like the beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl by al Qaeda leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in 2002. He said it could help bolster a growing perception among Americans that the United States will have to be more aggressive in dealing with Islamic State militants.

Syria has been the most dangerous country for journalists for more than two years. At least 69 other journalists have been killed covering the conflict there and more than 80 journalists have been kidnapped in Syria.

The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists estimates that approximately 20 journalists are currently missing in Syria. Many of them are believed to be held by Islamic State.

Islamic State also released a video on Tuesday that gave a strong indication it might try to strike American targets. The video with the theme "breaking of the American cross" boasts Islamic State will emerge victorious over "crusader" America.

It followed a video posted on Monday, warning of attacks on American targets if Washington strikes against its fighters in Iraq and Syria.

As well as taking territory, Islamic State has seized a number of oil wells in northern Iraq. The government in Baghdad said it was troubled by reports that Islamic State was smuggling oil to export markets and warned the purchase of such supplies could help the group fund its operations.

Additional reporting by Steve Holland in Edgartown, Mass., Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Oliver Holmes and Tom Perry in Beirut, Sabine Siebold in Berlin, Costas Pitas and William James in London, and John Irish in Paris; Writing by Giles Elgood

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Alexander Dziadosz and Michael Georgy Featured World News Wed, 20 Aug 2014 10:00:00 -0400
What Eating These 5 Foods Every Day Will Do for You

There are various foods that help to make your skin naturally beautiful and healthy. But did you know that experts are now saying consuming these foods raw can be more beneficial for your skin?

A few of such foods are:

1. Citrus and berries. Vitamin C, abundantly found in citrus fruits, is a powerful antioxidant that increases the formation of collagen for promoting supple and soft skin. Berries are crammed with antioxidants that slow the process of aging. Moreover, the fiber contained in berries helps to eradicate harmful toxins out of the body before they cause skin disorders such as acne and zits. So, be sure to include at least one serving of fresh citrus and berries daily to achieve gorgeous skin.

2. Pistachios and walnuts. Pistachios and walnuts are loaded with vitamins B and E, which are known to protect the skin from cell damage. Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that works by destroying the free radicals that accelerate skin aging. On the other hand, vitamin B enhances blood circulation and offers a youthful and radiant glow to the skin.

Experts suggest consuming pistachios and walnuts along with fruits in order to slow down the process of digestion and the breakdown of sugar.

3. Spinach and kale. Spinach and kale are green leafy vegetables that are rich in phytonutrients. They provide extra protection to the skin from the damaging effects of the sun's rays and keep the skin firm and smooth. Spinach is especially healthy since it is composed of nutrients such as lutein and beta-carotene, which have been found to increase the skin's elasticity. It is suggested that consuming at least three cups of kale or spinach per week can do wonders for your skin. You can also consider mixing them together and relish the goodness of this delicious salad for beautiful skin and a healthy body.

4. Apples. Apples are another good source of vitamin C that works to increase the formation of collagen. The copper present in apples assists in the formation of melanin, which is a natural pigment found in the skin and works to protect the skin from the harmful effects of sun rays. You may consider adding chopped apples to a cup of yogurt or salad.

5. Almond milk. Another effective tip for increasing the natural glow of your skin is almond milk. It is rich in minerals such as manganese and copper. Copper is popularly known to boost the formation of collagen, and manganese has properties to protect the skin from damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun. You may drink almond milk as you would regular milk. It can also be used with cereal and blended with nutritious fruits to prepare a nourishing and scrumptious smoothie.

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

For the original article, visit

Don Colbert, M.D. Featured Opinion Wed, 20 Aug 2014 09:00:00 -0400
Is This What America Will Look Like in 10 Years?

Jack, Joshua, Thomas, James and Daniel were the most popular boy baby names in the United Kingdom 10 years ago. Oh, what a difference a decade makes.

With Islam's influence in the U.K., the demographics are changing and so are baby name choices. According to the United Kingdom's Office of National Statistics, close to 3,500 boys born in 2013 were named Muhammad, with nearly 3,000 named Mohammed.

Even though Oliver was officially the most popular boy's name, 18 variations of Muhammad made it on the list—making this Muslim namesake the nation's most popular boy name for babies in 2013.

As Muslims continue making inroads into America, is this our future too?

Jennifer LeClaire Featured World News Wed, 20 Aug 2014 08:00:00 -0400
President Obama Must Believe at Least This Part of the Bible

Surely now President Obama must believe at least part of the Bible—specifically, I'm thinking about the part that says: "Pride comes before the fall."

If there is a perfect modern-day application of this biblical injunction, we have been watching it unfold during the last six years.

Oh, how Mr. Obama used to brag that he could handle foreign policy better than his predecessors. He often explained how, because of his ethnic background and upbringing, he understood the Muslim people and identified with them. Through his empathy, he would cause them to love America and the West.

He even made his first foreign trip as president to two Muslim countries—Turkey and Egypt. There, he apologized for America and its previous foreign policies. He assured them that he was their friend and that they could trust him.

President Obama even surrounded himself with Islamists and Islamist-sympathizers as advisers in the White House. He boasted that his envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference had memorized the Quran.

But nearly all of his bragging has now collapsed like a bad soufflé. Islamists do not trust him. Muslim leaders do not respect him. And around the world, leaders have no confidence in his once fawned-over rhetoric.

The resulting tragedy is that the American people are the victims of his misguided self-confidence.

But the core problem with all secular-thinking leaders on both sides of the political aisle is they create foreign policy that is divorced from the other-worldly realities of Islamists.

"Secular," by definition, means "this age," which is opposite of the invisible world where Islamist minds reside. Their religious gurus have convinced many that when they die in the act of killing "infidels," they will live in paradise, with lots of alcohol and 70 virgins for their sexual pleasures.

To be very clear, not all Muslims embrace that viewpoint—for I have many Muslim friends who reject the notion.

But when you put secular thinking up against such other-worldly fantasies, you have a formula for global explosions with catastrophic results. That is something I have written about since the early 1980s to a skeptical world across the political spectrum. Sadly, now the whole world is experiencing it firsthand.

Our foreign policy—regardless of whether it is Democrat or Republican in origin—must understand the other-worldly motivations inherent in Islamist thinking. They not only resent our secular approach to their demands, but they reject and outright ridicule them.

If politicians in the West truly want to protect their fellow citizens, they must fully understand the Islamist mind. Then those politicians will not be able to avoid facing the reality of the situation: It is either kill or be killed. That is the reality Churchill faced when dealing with Hitler. And unfortunately, that is the harsh reality that we face today. Any other thinking is delusional and, ultimately, suicidal.

I'm sure some on social media will attack my Christian bona fides after expressing such a terrible choice. As a Christian—especially as a Christian—I find such a choice very disturbing. But as a Christian, I must also face the reality of the present world and not advocate that our country lie to itself and run from its troubles.

Michael Youssef, Ph.D., is the founder and president of Leading the Way with Dr. Michael Youssef, a worldwide ministry that leads the way for people living in spiritual darkness to discover the light of Christ through the creative use of media and on-the-ground ministry teams. Youssef was born in Egypt.

Michael Youssef Featured Opinion Wed, 20 Aug 2014 07:00:00 -0400
Should Christians Follow the Hebraic Calendar?

Note: As I said last month in Dan Juster's article for Reconnecting Ministries, I am beginning a new focus with The Reconnection; to bring this issue in God's family to the forefront of the church by interviewing many of its leaders, both from Jewish and Gentile perspectives; where they will be free to express their views and beliefs.

But, what will this spiritual reconnection between Jew and Gentile actually look like in the church as it begins to take hold and develop amongst us? I truly believe that the full revelation of this new unity in the family of God will only develop as more of His love and forgiveness flows between both groups. In my mind, this will naturally broaden our tolerances of how each of us practice our faith in Jesus/Yeshua, with some overlaps I might add that will become wonderfully enriching to us all.

Papa Don Finto, as I call him, who is one of my mentors in the faith, pastored Belmont Church in Nashville, Tennessee for over 30 years. More recently over the last 10 years, God called him out to help father and mentor Messianic leadership in the church, which is so greatly needed. Papa Don overflows in the Spirit with the Father's love and runs a ministry with Tod McDowell known as Caleb Company, which is training church leadership to refocus on Israel. Don Finto has a great love for Israel and the church and has written 2 books on the Reconnection, which lay a wonderful foundation for Christians first discovering and embracing the Israel piece, a phrase he has devised and one that I use regularly in my sermons and teachings. "Your People Shall Be My People," is one of the titles. So here's what he has to share with us (Grant Berry, Reconnecting Ministries).

We have been robbed of a significant part of our godly heritage through a calendar that was intentionally removed from the biblical one. The early believers in Jesus were all Jewish. Not until Cornelius were the Gentiles received into the fellowship without converting to Judaism. But even these early Gentile followers observed the biblical feasts as a prophetic statement of their newly found faith in the Jewish Messiah who is also Redeemer of the nations. When Paul wrote to the predominantly Gentile believers of Corinth, he spoke of "Christ, our Passover lamb (who) has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival ..." (1 Cor. 5:7-8). The biblical feasts had become the feasts of the Gentile believers as well.

Paul's special assignment was to Gentiles (see Acts 9:15), yet he never lost his passion for the Jewish people and remained an observant Jew all his life, always going first to synagogues with the message of the gospel, before going to Gentiles (see Acts 13:5, 14:14:1; 17:2, 10, 17; 18:4; 19:8). Late in life, Paul told the Roman commander, "I am a Jew" (Acts 21:39), and to the Sanhedrin, "I am a Pharisee" (23:6).


As Gentile believers increased and Jewish persecution, including the destruction of Jerusalem that followed, the church began to lose touch with the Jewish roots of their faith and turn against their Jewish brothers and sisters. By the time of Emperor Constantine in the early 4th century, the estrangement had become so severe that Constantine called the bishops together in the Nicene Council in order to finalize the church's separation from these "polluted wretches" who had killed Jesus.

They needed a resurrection day other than Passover. Passover was too Jewish. At the conclusion of the Nicene Council, Constantine had his way. The Roman calendar had conquered. The annual celebration of the Lord's resurrection would now have a new name—Easter—strangely similar to Eostre, the Teutonic goddess of spring, dissimilar to Pesach or Passover. The Roman calendar, named after Roman gods and Caesars, replaced God's calendar, and for the next 16 centuries, both the church and the synagogue agreed that Jewish people who became followers of their Messiah must relinquish all their Jewishness and get on the non-biblical calendar. If they refused, they were persecuted and often killed. Can you honestly believe this? But it is sadly true of our church history.

The prophet Daniel had envisioned four great beasts and a king that would "change the set times and the laws" (Dan. 7:25). In his insistence that the church change the calendar of God, Constantine became a foreshadowing of another world ruler who is to come. And the church was further divorced from her roots and her spiritual "parentage."

Our Roman/Gregorian solar calendar has no biblical significance. God's calendar is based on lunar months with a solar year. The sun and moon are to "mark seasons and days and years" (Gen. 1:14). The first day of the new moon following the vernal equinox in the spring is the beginning of God's year (See Ex. 12:1). Months always begin with the new moon. The 14th or 15th of the month will always be a full moon. The days begin in the evening (see Gen. 1:5).

Passover (Pesach) is always on the 14th day of Nisan, also called Abib (meaning barley). God told Moses to "tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb" (Ex. 12:3). The lambs were to be "year old males without defect" (v. 5), and were to be sacrificed on the 14th day of the month (v. 6). Israel was to "take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of their houses" (v. 7). "The blood will be a sign ... when I see the blood, I will pass over you" (v. 13), was the Lord's assurance.

John's gospel indicates that Jesus' "triumphal entry" into Jerusalem took place on the 10th day of Nisan (see John 12:1 and 12), the day the lambs were selected. All the gospel writers tell of the questions and scrutiny that Jesus endured over the next four days as He was brought before Caiaphas, Annas, Herod and Pilate. On the morning of the 13th of Nisan, after being carefully examined by Pilate, Pilate declared, "I find no fault in this man" (Luke 23:4, KJV). In other words, "This lamb is flawless and ready to be sacrificed." Jesus was taken to the execution site and nailed to the cross. At 3:00 in the afternoon (See Luke 23:44-46), after three hours of darkness, and at the exact time when Passover lambs were being slaughtered for the evening feast, the soldiers pierced the side of Jesus, and redeeming Blood flowed from His side.


A relatively unnoticed "first fruits" festival (HaBikkurim) occurred three days later when the priest was to waive a barley sheaf as a celebration of the harvest that was to come (see Levi. 23:9-14). Paul calls Jesus' resurrection from the dead the first fruits of all those who are to follow (see 1 Cor. 15:20 and 24).


Fifty days after Passover was the festival of Pentecost (Shavuot). Pentecost is not just a "Christian" festival, but a biblical feast of harvest that also commemorates the giving of the law on Sinai. This is the day God chose for the initiation of the "law of the Spirit of life" (Rom. 8:2), a day when Joel's prophecy that "I will pour out my Spirit on all people" (Acts 2:17) began to be fulfilled. Pentecost is one of the "appointed feasts of the LORD" (Lev. 23:2), and always arrives on the 6th day of the 3rd month, the month of Sivan.

Yom Teruach, Yom Kippur, Sukkot

After the spring festivals, there is a long season of growing and harvesting before the autumn festivals that celebrate the final harvest. Jesus compared Himself to a master who entrusted talents to his servants, went on a journey, then "after a long time" (Matt. 25:19) returned to hold his servants accountable. There is "a long time" between the spring and the autumn feasts.

Three feasts take place in the fall: the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruach) on the 1st day of the seventh month of Tishrei, the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) on the 10th day of Tishrei, and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) from the 15th to the 22nd days of Tishrei. Jewish tradition calls the first day of Tishrei Rosh Hashana ("head of the year"), and celebrate this day as the beginning of the civic year, but the beginning of God's year is in the spring, on the first day of Nisan.

The fall festivals are important for us because they have yet to come into their full prophetic significance. If Jesus used God's calendar for the spring festivals, we can well assume that He will do the same with the fall feasts. In Paul's letters to both Corinth and Thessalonica, he refers to a trumpet call that will resound at the second coming of Jesus. The Day of Atonement is a day of introspection and judgment. Tabernacles looks forward to the time when we will "tabernacle" together with God.

But there is more! Jesus calls Himself "the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End" (Rev. 22:13). He often begins and ends at the same place. He left from the Mount of Olives and He is to return to the Mount of Olives. There seems to be biblical evidence that Jesus will not only return during the fall season, but that He was born during the Feast of Tabernacles.

Zechariah "belonged to the priestly division of Abijah" (Luke 1:15), serving in the Temple in the eighth rotation, thus the later part of the fourth biblical month (See 1 Chron. 24:10). Mary's pregnancy occurred six months later when "God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth (v. 26), thus the later part of the 10th biblical month. This would mean that Jesus was born nine months later, in the later part of the 19th month following Gabriel's announcement to Zechariah, thus in the later part of the seventh biblical month at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. No wonder John said that "the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us" (John 1:14, Amplified). It's fascinating, don't you think?

We've been robbed of our heritage and our connection to our roots, which is why Grant Berry burns the trail to help reconnect us spiritually with his ministry focus. God has a calendar; we have a calendar. He will never get on ours, but it's best we get on His!

Don Finto Featured Opinion Wed, 20 Aug 2014 06:00:00 -0400
Healing Amid the Horror: Inspiring Stories Emerge From Iraq

ISIS has been moving quickly from the beginning, and its violence is especially felt in Iraq. This morning CNN reported that Kurdish troops had regained the Mosul Dam. This was a particularly dangerous post for ISIS to control. If the dam fails or gets blown up, it could flood Mosul and Baghdad and other downstream cities with the potential to kill many civilians.

Meanwhile, Iraq struggles to get solid leadership in place. Iraq's Parliament named a new Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi. It seems everyone is holding their breath to see what is going to happen to Iraq and the surrounding countries.

No matter what happens, there will be people suffering. Many of the millions of refugees from Syria and internally displaced people in Iraq have nowhere to go. When they fled their villages, there was no time to pack necessities. And now many of their homes are destroyed.

Christian Aid Mission, your link to indigenous missions, hears disturbing reports from Iraq, but they also hear inspiring stories about something much bigger.

Tragedy and Revival

"Norya is a Syrian refugee who got saved in a camp in Iraq. She lost five children and her husband when a rocket fired by Syrian government forces toward the terrorists landed on her house causing their death. She sings hymns with us at our church group meetings."

Norya's story is one of several sent to Christian Aid Mission by a native ministry leader working in the Kurdish region of Iraq. Those working with him spend the majority of their days sharing Christ with the destitute masses crowding the refugee camps.

The workers go from tent to tent, sitting down with frightened families who have fled ISIS, the merciless Islamic terrorist group that succeeded last week in purging all non-Muslims from every town and village in the Nineveh region.

Kurdish forces had been protecting the last remaining cities in the region, including Qaraqosh, the largest Christian town in Iraq, until last week when they abandoned their posts after a conflict with ISIS.

Arguably one of the most extreme and brutal terrorist groups in history, ISIS now controls a huge portion of the country. They have kidnapped, raped and sold women. They've beheaded children. On Aug. 11, a report emerged that ISIS had sliced a 5-year-old boy in half.

More than 200,000 people have escaped to the Kurdish city of Irbil, 55 miles east of Qaraqosh, with literally nothing but the clothes on their backs.

"Their homes and churches were burned to the ground," the ministry leader reported.

What would normally be a 45-minute drive between Qaraqosh and Irbil took the fleeing masses 12 hours.

More than 2 million internally displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees, also fleeing ISIS, are currently packed in the Irbil region. These have filled every building in the city beyond capacity, leaving thousands to live and sleep on the streets.

For those people without shelter, ministry workers organize "sleeping groups," where a large number of families gather together to sleep in one area for safety.

"The Lord's hand is clearly upon us and protecting us from evil," reported the leader. "Even though some of us are going through trials, we believe strongly that the Lord is taking us to another level of faith and a higher place of blessing."


In the Kurdish town of Akra, some of the displaced are living in buildings originally built to hold Iranian prisoners during Saddam Hussein's reign. Each bathroom is being shared by approximately 10 families.

Most of the others live in a refugee camp, and the only school is without a roof. It collapsed during the winter. The teachers asked ministry workers for help to replace the windows and roof, even with just a plastic tarp. The workers prayed with the teachers and shared the gospel with many of the students.

"Most of the refugees asked for food. They told us this was their primary need," the leader reported.

As they were going from tent to tent in the Akra camp, gospel workers came upon Abu Mustafa, a 50-year-old man who has three girls with cerebral atrophy and whose wife was killed. Mustafa was blaming God for his tragic situation, but allowed the workers to read the Bible to him and pray for him.

"This is the first time, I feel relief," Mustafa told the workers. "For three years, I couldn't smile or feel safe, but now I feel differently. I have peace in my heart. Please pray for my girls. I believe Jesus can heal them and heal me from the inside." He daily calls the workers to ask when they will visit him again.

Who Are These Workers?

According to multiple ministry leaders working among the internally displaced in the Kurdish region, workers are plentiful.

In a conversation with Christian Aid Mission's Middle East Director, one ministry leader reported an "army of volunteers from local churches and house churches are ready and willing to help." These workers, he said, are all born again, evangelical believers with at least basic Bible training, most of whom he has worked with previously.

With funding wired from Christian Aid Mission, the ministries are easily able to buy supplies from local markets to distribute to the needy.

"Everything is available locally and could be purchased in a matter of hours and distributed within a few days," reported one ministry leader.

Typically, one group of workers is assigned with the task of purchasing the supplies and another group with distributing the supplies. Everything is overseen by the ministry leaders.

The greatest needs are food, clothing, mattresses, medicine, fuel for transportation, Bibles, and worker support.

"In addition to their need for prayer and spiritual strength from the Lord, the workers have personal needs. At the end of the day when they return to their homes, they have to take care of their own families," a ministry leader told the director.

Long after foreign aid agencies leave the region, these native workers will remain to continue their outreach to the many broken people, hungry for hope and truth.

"In a crisis like this, we are experiencing a time of revival and awakening everywhere," reported a ministry leader. "God is not just moving people geographically; He is moving in their hearts, as well."

The Needs

God is using native missionaries in Iraq to share the saving message of Jesus Christ with those who have been forced from their homes. But the needs are great! Gospel workers want to meet physical needs, as well as spiritual needs, and they require our help to do so.

One of the ministries Christian Aid Mission is assisting in Iraq sent the following request for funds, sufficient for two months of relief aid:

  • Food. Two meals daily for 100 people at a cost of $2 per meal: $24,000.
  • Clothing. Used clothing for women and children, especially those sleeping in the open air: $5,000.
  • Mattresses: A piece of foam covered with fabric costs about $30. The need is for 400: $12,000.
  • Medication: The ministry would like to start a fund for people in need of medicine for diabetes, asthma, heart problems, blood pressure problems, and other health concerns: $10,000.
  • Fuel: To transport basic necessities to the refugees, especially those without any type of shelter. To run five vehicles a day for two months: $15,000.
  • Bibles: The ministry has exhausted its supply of Bibles. Thousands of people are hearing the gospel. Bibles, New Testaments, and children's Bibles for two months: $30,000.
  • Worker support: The ministry currently has 12 men and women who are working full-time without support. To provide each worker with $600 per month for two months: $14,400.

This article originally appeared on

Julie Oosterhouse/Mission Network News Featured World News Tue, 19 Aug 2014 20:00:00 -0400
WATCH: Dr. Michael Brown Reaches Out to 'Gay Christian' Vicky Beeching

Christians around the world were shocked and saddened about worship leader Vicky Beeching's announcement that she is a lesbian. In an article on Charisma News earlier this week, Michael Brown asked "how should we respond?" His article offered five points to consider.

Now, Brown, author of Can You Be Gay and Christian?, is showing us how to respond in living color. Brown was a guest on television and responds to British journalist Peter Ormerod.

Watch the video for yourself:

Charisma News Staff Featured In the Line of Fire Opinion Tue, 19 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Was Robin Williams a Casualty of Hollywood’s Fading Star System?

Was Robin Williams a casualty of Hollywood's fading star system?

Robin Williams had roles in four movies yet to be released. Last year he had a television show. Yet he was still being financially crushed. He went through two divorces when his paychecks were much larger. He joked about alimony really being "all the money."

Not many years ago, being an A-list star meant you could command $20 million or more for a movie role. Williams was an A-list star.

It's been reported that he dreaded having to do Mrs. Doubtfire 2, but that he signed on to the project because he needed the money.

Williams once starred in movies like Good Morning Vietnam, Hook, Mrs. Doubtfire and Flubber, where he was the star above the title. His more recent roles, like Teddy Roosevelt, in the Night at the Museum movies, though wonderful, were small.

Williams is not the only Hollywood star to lose financial luster.

Will Smith and Johnny Depp recently have suffered flops where their name above the title didn't help. Robert Downey Jr. does spectacularly well, but only when he's Iron Man or Sherlock Holmes. Jim Carrey, a comic talent similar to Robin Williams, is not drawing at the box office as he used to do. Meanwhile, Mel Gibson has virtually been blacklisted.

Where are the movies like Forrest Gump, where an incredible actor gets an incredible role in something other than a CGI extravaganza?

The A-list stars of the 1990s are still tremendous actors, but you don't see them in many A-list movies. Today's A-list movies are about the franchise more than the star. You can substitute one Spider-Man or Batman for another and keep going.

Robin Williams had much more going on in his life than Hollywood's transformation, but that transformation did seem to have an impact on him.

This article originally appeared on Want to know what God's doing in Hollywood?

Movieguide Featured Culture Tue, 19 Aug 2014 18:00:00 -0400
'Pittsburgh Is Destined for Revival'

What does hope look like?

Describing it is not always the easiest thing. And Jeremy Puckett, a 33-year-old Pittsburgh police officer, can't always spot it, but he sure knows when it's missing.

All it takes is one look at a person's face. Hopelessness, in Puckett's experience, is nearly impossible to mask.

"You can see it in their eyes," he said.

Puckett was one of hundreds of counselors at this weekend's Three Rivers Festival of Hope in Pittsburgh, the city he grew up in. He entered the festival eagerly wondering how God might work in his hometown.

But he finished the weekend realizing God was working on his heart.

For three nights straight, he talked with three different men—ages 51, 47 and 18. All three had known Jesus personally at one time in their lives but had walked away. All three recommitted their lives to Christ at the event.

Phil, Aaron and Alan were three of more than 1,500 people who made decisions last weekend to follow Christ at the CONSOL Energy Center in downtown Pittsburgh.

"To see somebody else's life touched, it's just an incredible feeling," Puckett said. "It gives you a hunger to do more."

And that starts with the people in his everyday life. Those people whose faces lack life, eyes drooping at the corners. Like the guy he works with on the force.

"You can see he's looking for something," Puckett said. "His wife left him. He's miserable. He tries to cover it up."

But Puckett knows. And now he's more inspired and courageous to do something about it. To talk to him about the hope that can be found only in Christ.

"I hope this (festival) gives us the courage to talk to people about Jesus," Puckett said. "I hope this lights a fire in Pittsburgh."

And that fire might not be contained to the Steel City. As more than 25,000 experienced the Festival of Hope in Pittsburgh, over 29,000 watched live online at

On Sunday alone, viewers in more than 90 countries tuned in, including Kuwait, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Iceland, Slovakia and Papua New Guinea. Those watching on their computers or mobile devices heard the same timeless Gospel message from Franklin Graham that resonated in the CONSOL Energy Center, and hundreds indicated making online decisions for Christ.

"Don't hesitate—you may not have another chance to do this in your life," Franklin Graham said. "By coming tonight you're saying, 'I believe Jesus is the Son of God, and He took my sins to the cross.'"

Lacey Sturm gave a similar message in song with her performance of "Mercy Tree," featured on last fall's My Hope with Billy Graham short film, The Cross.

"The first time I heard that song, I couldn't stop crying," she said.

Sturm was on the verge of tears all weekend. This was more than just a festival—she's played many Franklin Graham events dating back to her Flyleaf days.

This Three Rivers Festival was personal. Pittsburgh is home for Sturm, her husband, Josh, and two sons since moving to the Steel City four years ago. They even prayed over it at the top of Mount Washington when the couple first moved to town. And her church, Covenant Church of Pittsburgh, has been praying for this festival—and a Pittsburgh revival—every weekday morning at 5 a.m. for over a year.

All those prayers—certainly thousands among thousands when you consider 498 Pittsburgh-area churches were involved in the Festival—came to fruition last weekend.

As Pittsburghers streamed down the aisles each night, Sturm, standing off to the side in the shadows of the stage, couldn't help but fight off the tears.

"It's pretty much the best thing you can see on Earth," she said.

The way she sees it, this is far more than just a three-day event, where things will go back to normal on Monday morning. This is the start of something bigger than anyone could imagine.

"I do believe that Pittsburgh is destined for revival," Sturm added. "God is bearing fruit to so many people who have been praying for this.

"I think the big movement of God in this world is going to happen in Pittsburgh."

The Festival of Hope heads to Toronto on Sept. 12-14. Watch live on

This article originally appeared on

Trevor Freeze/ Featured U.S. News Tue, 19 Aug 2014 17:00:00 -0400
The 1 Simple Word That Triggered ISIS Mass Killing Spree

When Islamic State militants stormed into a northern Iraqi village and ordered everyone to convert to Islam or die, only one person refused. But that did not satisfy the Sunni insurgents who are even more hardline than al-Qaida.

The militants, who have seized much of northern Iraq since arriving from Syria in June, wasted no time after the village's leader, or sheikh, stood up for his ancient Yazidi faith.

Khalof Khodede, an unemployed father of three who escaped with his life, recalled how 80 men in the village of Kocho were killed and all the women and girls were kidnapped.

His account, one of the first eyewitness reports of last Friday's killings, could not be independently verified but other Yazidis and Iraqi officials have given details of Islamic State's attack on the village.

"First they wanted us all to convert to Islam, and we said yes just to save our lives. We were all very afraid," said Khodede from a hospital bed in the town of Dohuk in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

Dohuk is now home to thousands of refugees from Iraq's minority Yazidi community, which has paid the heaviest price for Islamic State's ambition to redraw the map of the Middle East.

"Then our sheikh said, 'I won't convert to Islam.' And then they gathered us inside the village school," he said.

The men were taken to the first floor and the women to the second after the villagers' money and gold jewelry were seized, probably to fund the group made up of Iraqis and other Arabs as well as foreign fighters.

Then the Yazidis were loaded onto minibuses in groups of 10 to 20 and transported outside the village after being told they would be taken to Sinjar, the ancient homeland of the sect.

The vehicles stopped abruptly and the militants opened fire without warning. "They started shooting at us randomly. They had heavy guns like machine guns. I was hit in my leg and on my pelvis," said Khodede, showing where he had been wounded.

The Yazidis, followers of an ancient religion derived from Zoroastrianism who are part of Iraq's Kurdish community, are not strangers to oppression.

Oppression on a New Level

Many of their villages were destroyed when Saddam Hussein's troops tried to crush the Kurds. Some were taken away by the executed former dictator's intelligence agents.

But nothing could have prepared them for the wrath of the Islamic State, which has declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria it controls.

To survive, Khodede had to hide under the dead bodies of friends and neighbors, people who had practiced the mysterious Yazidi faith with for a lifetime—beliefs that Islamic State fighters condemn as "devil worship."

After trying to stay motionless for about an hour, Khodede saw Kurdish fighters in the distance, peering through gaps in the bodies.

They were not Iraqi Kurdish fighters who had held towns and villages in the north for years after the fall of Saddam in 2003.

The Kurdish fighters had come from Syria after hearing that fellow Kurds were being routed in neighboring Iraq by Islamic State militants who seized several towns, a fifth oilfield, as well as the country's dam for some time in recent weeks.

Like many Yazidis, Khodede felt abandoned by the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters who acquired a reputation for being fierce warriors mainly because they challenged Saddam's troops.

The Syrian Kurdish fighters cleaned up his wounds, took him to a hospital in Syria and then brought him back to Iraq.

Others were not so lucky.

"Islamic State kidnapped about 400 to 600 people in our village and the majority of those people are women and children. They killed most of the men," said Khodede, in the emergency room of a teaching hospital where he arrived on Monday night.

His uncle and sister are by his side as blood drips into a bag hanging from his bed.

In the chaos and panic after the latest Islamic State offensive, rumors swirled about the fate of kidnapped Yazidi women, usually referred to as "slaves" for Islamic State.

Some Yazidis believe Islamic State holds hundreds of people at a detention center near the town of Tal Afar.

Khodede wonders if his family is there. His three children, wife and mother were taken away along with hundreds of others just because the village sheikh was defiant.

Writing by Michael Georgy; editing by Giles Elgood

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Humeyra Pamuk/Reuters Featured World News Tue, 19 Aug 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Pentecostals Put Themselves in Middle of Ferguson, Missouri, Violence

The streets of Ferguson, Missouri, have fluctuated between violence, calm and renewed violence following the shooting death of Michael Brown, a black 18-year-old, by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer, in a confrontation on Saturday, Aug. 9.

After two failed attempts to restore order by police, as violence and looting erupted again over the weekend, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has set a curfew and called in the National Guard.

Destruction, violence, hatred, division, death.

"The only one sitting back and laughing at this all is Satan," says Jack Hembree, pastor of Bethel Fellowship (AG) in Florissant, Missouri—located just a few minutes from where rioting has broken out. Hembree, who expressed his grief in a note to his congregation over the violence, urged his congregation not to "take sides" but instead bring Christ into the situation.

"The differences that divide us were not created by God but designed by the enemy. It is time to battle not with a gun, bottle, or badge, but with prayer and the Word of God," Hembree wrote. "Lay down our economics, our political persuasion, our differences, or whatever is hindering the power of the words of God from working in us and pick up the cross of Jesus Christ that brings forgiveness, confession, repentance, acceptance, love, freedom and life."

And his church has joined other churches as members of the Metro North Church Alliance to do just that.

"What you don't see on the national media is the church," Hembree says. "The churches got together and marched down that same street the rioters marched on, passing out bags of supplies, food and toiletries to people. Church members stood in front of buildings through the night to make sure they were not looted. Church members parked in people's driveways to make sure they were safe all through the night. Church members went up and down the streets, cleaning up the mess. The national media doesn't show any of that.

"The people of Ferguson are very good people," Hembree says. "Yes, there needs to be some changes. We know that and it's nothing new, but it's a good community with good people."

Brian Schmidgall, executive presbyter and pastor of MiddleTree Church, located on the dividing line between North and South St. Louis and about three miles from the rioting, agrees with Hembree's evaluation of Christ being the answer.

"There will be people of profile flying in and getting their face in the spotlight because it's trendy and in vogue ... there will be social-justice programs and systemic structure changes, but there will be the same problems 10 years down the road," Schmidgall says. "The one thing the church addresses is the heart. If you don't address the heart, then healing and recovery don't happen."

Schmidgall also observed a phenomenon of the digital age that he felt actually intensified and fueled the rioting.

"Social media is instigating a lot of this [violence]," he says. "As the mainstream media [originally] couldn't get access to the scene, social media was really getting charged and drawing a line in the sand for people—and everyone knows that if it's on the 'Internet' [or a text/tweet], it must be true..."

As Schmidgall works to bring a sense of stability in the midst of chaos, he believes this tragedy can be redeemed by God. The focus of MiddleTree Church, he says, is to bridge the divide between North and South St. Louis (the haves and have-nots), and he believes the incident in Ferguson will open doors for the churches in his area to unite and be used by God to make a change in the community.

"The Lord's hand is priming this for good things," he says, adding that he'll be meeting with local ministers this week to plan united action. "What the enemy meant for harm, I think the Lord is going to use this."

Pastor Aubery Kishna and his wife, Vimla, have been pastoring Jubliee Worship Center (AG) for the past 19 years. Theirs is the AG church located closest to the demonstrations and rioting, occurring just down the road from the church. One member lives in the apartment complex directly behind a looted and burned gas station that has appeared on national news.

Kishna, a bivocational minister, says his church canceled services last Wednesday but held them on Sunday, encouraging members to pray for their community, while leading them in prayer for the families, school districts and political leaders involved. They currently plan to hold midweek services this week.

The church, which sees 40 to 50 people in attendance on Sundays, also took food from its pantry and partnered with another church that was distributing food to those in need in the area of the demonstrations.  

The Kishnas both agreed that the community seems to be fairly peaceful during the daylight hours, but at night, things "get out of control." But Vimla, who is a teacher, says her school district, along with two others, were closed on Monday, due to the demonstrations.

AG Missionary Jay Covert, who oversees Urban Outreach Church Plants in East St Louis and Washington Park, where he is no stranger to danger, hasn't seen a strong reaction in his community or neighborhoods to the riots.

Having just been caught in gang crossfire several months ago while he and a visiting pastor drove around the neighborhood, Covert is concerned that the riot in Ferguson might not be an isolated event. That unless there's a God-driven transformation in the hearts of people, riots and violence may happen and intensify as a trend throughout the country before things get any better.

"Where we're at, murder is not uncommon," Covert explains simply. "Murders rarely get solved because no one talks, they're fearful--'snitches get stitches' is the saying."

Kishna says that no matter what the outcome of the investigation, he feels deeply for the parents of Michael Brown. "We had a 26-year-old girl that we buried just a couple months ago," Kishna says. "She was at the wrong place at the wrong time and was caught in a gang shooting. ... My heart breaks for Michael Brown's family. But not just for them, but for all the 'Michael Browns' who have been shot and killed on the streets by gangs. There's no one crying foul for them."

Hembree says that the weekend's renewed violence is making things difficult and unsafe for churches, where prayer is even more of a focus.

"Some of the [ministry] efforts have been suspended for a few days," Hembree says, expressing concern about "outsiders" being the cause of the problems. "As of now, we are still proceeding with attempting to meet the needs of families in the area... [but] if it gets too dangerous, they will have to stop for the short term. Those decisions will be made daily."

Schmidgall says that it is vital for the church to be actively involved in the lives of people in the community. "If you have relationship, you have a voice," Schmidgall says. "Because if we don't have those relationships, what is going to happen if the outcome of the investigation isn't what people want to hear?"

Dan Van Veen/AG News Featured U.S. News Tue, 19 Aug 2014 15:00:00 -0400
Reunion of US Missionary With Ebola With Husband Will Warm Your Heart

The husband of an American missionary stricken with Ebola has finished a health-monitoring period without showing signs of the disease and was able to visit his wife at the Atlanta hospital where she is being treated, a missionary group said on Monday.

David Writebol was temporarily quarantined in North Carolina as a precaution after returning last week from Liberia, where he and his wife, Nancy, served as missionaries for SIM USA before she was infected with the deadly virus.

In a statement released by the Christian missionary group, David Writebol said the couple prayed together over an intercom during an emotional reunion on Sunday after he was cleared to travel to Emory University Hospital.

"I have had the great joy to be able to look through the isolation room glass and see my beautiful wife again," he said. "We both placed our hands on opposite sides of the glass, moved with tears to look at each other again."

Nancy Writebol is one of two U.S. aid workers with Ebola who are said to be improving after being flown to Atlanta earlier this month for treatment. Dr. Kent Brantly of Texas said in a statement on Friday that he hoped to be released from the hospital in the near future.

The worst Ebola outbreak on record has killed at least 1,145 people in four West African countries, prompting the World Health Organization to declare an international health emergency.

Meanwhile, citing what they said was "an abundance of caution," New Mexico health officials are carrying out tests on a female teacher who returned from Sierra Leone this month.

The state's Department of Health said the 30-year-old woman developed a sore throat, headache, muscle aches and fever, but that she was not considered a probable Ebola case.

She had no known exposure to the virus and was in stable condition after being admitted on Saturday to the University of New Mexico Hospital (UNM) in Albuquerque, officials said.

"UNM Hospital has isolated the patient and is following the appropriate protocols to ensure other patients and health care workers are safe," the head of the department, Retta Ward, said in a statement.

Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; additional reporting by Joseph Kolb in Albuquerque; editing by Eric Beech and Susan Heavey

 © 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Reuters Featured U.S. News Tue, 19 Aug 2014 14:00:00 -0400
Ebola Outbreak Delays Mercy Ship's Africa Mission

Collateral hardship from the Ebola epidemic now includes a delay for Mercy Ships, which operates the world's largest civilian hospital ship in ports on the West Coast of Africa.

Already with one canceled deployment to Guinea, where Ebola first broke out last December, the Mercy Ship now waits in the water with crew and staff, pending an end-of-August decision on field service in Benin.

The Mercy Ship was due to sail for the port of Cotonou, Benin, for its 10-month field service last week but has delayed that sail pending further assessment due to the virulence of the outbreak in neighboring Nigeria. Earlier, in April, Mercy Ships made the difficult decision to cancel the hospital ship's planned deployment to Guinea, where the Ebola outbreak began last December.

Currently docked in the Canary Islands, following the vessel's annual maintenance phase, the 16,500-ton Mercy Ship is designed to deploy specialized surgical expertise and educational support. It is unequipped to treat viral epidemics, according to the charity's president and founder, Don Stephens.

"Multi-bed wards and limited isolation facilities, close proximity to crew accommodation and dining for families and children are but a few restraints," Stephens said. "We also hire 200 day crew in each port as part of our training and capacity building for Africa."

Stephens said the organization is closely monitoring the situation on the whole of the African continent.

"Africa is and remains our priority, but crew safety drives every decision," he emphasized. "We request prayer as we consider all options to manage the risk, including deployment to other unaffected nations." This ship's crew of 400 represents 40 nations, with up to 60 children onboard at any time.

Following the U.S. Center for Disease Control recommendations, Mercy Ships has banned crew travel to Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria. Likewise, crew guests and day crew may not board the Mercy Ship for at least 21 days after they have visited one of the four affected countries.

"Mercy Ships has many, many friends in West Africa," Stephens said. "In the meantime, our prayers go out to all those affected by this terrible epidemic, especially those in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria."

Docking in an African port, the ship brings high-tech equipment, state-of-the-art facilities, highly skilled doctors, free specialized surgeries, health-care training including instrument sterilization and disease prevention, agricultural training and more.  

Mercy Ships provides many types of surgeries: maxillofacial, plastic reconstructive, orthopedic and general. The organization also offers dental care and eye care, and it works alongside local government and health-care providers to improve local health-care delivery systems.

Charisma News Staff Featured World News Tue, 19 Aug 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Vicky Beeching and the Reason So Many 'Christians' Are Coming out as Gay

I love homosexuals.

Gays or lesbians who have read my writings for the AFA Journal for 18 years probably don't believe that statement. I can't say I blame them. When it comes to homosexual activism in this country, I have firmly resisted it for almost two decades. Why? Because I believe the homosexual movement is a part of the sexual revolution that, by and large, has been extremely destructive to individuals and society.  

I was disappointed to read about yet another Christian artist who has "come out" as a homosexual and claimed that God had a hand in the process. In other words, she stated that God (1) made her a lesbian and (2) led her to declare it unashamedly to all who would listen. 

Her name is Vicky Beeching. I had never heard of her, but that's not unusual. Let's just say I'm slightly behind the curve and leave it at that. Being a Brit, she may have been better known "across the pond" than in America, but folks I spoke with here at American Family Radio had heard of her.

She joins other well-known Christian artists such as Ray Boltz, Jennifer Knapp and Clay Aiken who came out of the closet.

I think most men would think that Vicky is a pretty lady, and those sorts of appraisals are usually made without thinking. This makes the subject of sexual orientation rather difficult to understand at times.

Since I was 5 years old, I've noticed girls. I had my first crush on a neighborhood girl and actually had a dream that I married her! I can remember my second crush in the first grade when I was 6: Jill Drowns. Brown eyes, blond hair in braided pigtails. As for my wife of 33 years, well, she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen—and still is.

I don't know what it's like to feel that way toward a man. I don't know what it must have been like to feel that way toward another boy in first grade.

So I feel compassion toward homosexuals. I don't believe most of them woke up one day and decided they'd be attracted to same-sex people. Neither do I believe they're born that way. I think the answer lies somewhere in between.

What causes homosexuality? I think there's probably a web of causes—some apply to this group, some to that, etc. I believe that some homosexuals have endured sexual abuse or other trauma; others suffer from a deficit of some sort that turned them toward the same-sex side of the aisle in an attempt to heal.

At this point I realize I have offended most of the homosexuals reading this. So let me even the score and offend some Christians: I believe some percentage of homosexuals (I have no idea how large or small) simply grew up just like me—only different. Instead of having a crush on an opposite-sex person, they experienced a crush on a same-sex person. To them it appeared just that natural.

But if there's a God who designed us—and I believe there is—then we obviously aren't designed to be attracted to the same sex. With my apologies to the Vicky Beechings of the world, the human race is clearly designed as male and female, with sexually complementary equipment. We are obviously intended to grow through childhood and enter puberty attracted to the opposite sex—because that's the only thing that makes sense of the biological design inherent in humankind.

So for Vicky and Ray and Jennifer and Clay—how do we explain the fact that their attraction developed in complete disregard for design? Here's the short answer: They're broken. Why is that so hard to say? Sexual and romantic attraction was supposed to develop one way, and it developed another. Maybe it was because of something that was done to them or around them; maybe it wasn't. But it is different.

Are we not all broken in small and large ways? As a fallen race, isn't there a web of characteristics about us all that doesn't reflect the way God designed us? If a child is born blind, does that mean God approves? Isn't it a sign that something is not as intended?

Eyes were created to see. To not see is not the same as being able to see. The blind are still human, but their brokenness is still brokenness. But isn't that what we're doing with homosexuality? Aren't we denying the obvious-–that there's a disconnect between design and operation in the homosexual? Aren't many in our society applauding as courageous those who declare their brokenness to be wholeness?

The preaching of the cross can dissipate the mist covering our eyes. To turn the old saying around, we discover that you're not OK; I'm not OK. This is the problem Paul addresses in 1 Cor. 1:18-25. For some the cross is an offense, because they don't believe they are sinful and in need of rescuing. For others it is foolishness, because it addresses a spiritual world that they don't consider important to the life they lead. This is by no means a problem limited to homosexuals. Paul was talking about humanity in general. We are all broken in one way or another.

Only God can make a broken person whole. Sometimes it is done as a miracle, as when Jesus healed a blind or lame or paralyzed person. Sometimes we must wait for our entrance into the kingdom of heaven, when all brokenness is finally healed.  

I believe God can make homosexuals whole in this life. Despite the ridicule that follows such a statement, I believe that does happen. 1 Cor. 6:9-11 says so. However, for many—or even most—homosexuals, in order to be Christians they will have to accept that their "orientation" is a manifestation of brokenness, not wholeness. Like the rest of us who are broken in some other way, they will have to reject that lameness and give it to God. They will hobble through life learning to love Him more and more—and yes, learning to obey Him.

In that way, homosexuals are just like me. No better and no worse, but broken nonetheless.

Ed Vitagliano is the director of research and news editor for the AFA Journal.

Ed Vitagliano Featured Opinion Tue, 19 Aug 2014 12:00:00 -0400
Doctors Gave up on Her Son, But She Prayed in a Miracle

A Texas mother and son are giving all the glory to God for the young man's miraculous recovery.

In May, 17-year-old Cory Almanza was critically injured in a car accident that would have killed most people. His mother, Ruby Flores, remembers getting the call that every parent dreads.

"Just love your kids as much as you can, while you can, because you never know what tomorrow brings," she said.

She even recalls realizing she might be saying goodbye to her beloved son.

"When we arrived at the hospital he wasn't responding," she said. "And they took me straight back to the room to see him because they didn't know what was going to happen next."

Almanza prayed for God to spare her son's life. As it turned out, Cory did survive. But he was in a coma; he could not communicate at all.

"We were in the hospital for, like, a month and a half, and he was in a coma the whole time. He didn't respond," Flores said. "No parent wants to see their children hurt, especially in that situation."

Finally the doctors said there was nothing more they could do for Cory, so they sent him home, still in a coma. Flores never stopped praying for her son's recovery.

Then came the miracle. Cory finally came out of his coma.

"We were just sitting there talking to him. We always do. And he just kept following our voices, looking at me and his sister talking." He was just following us, and it was amazing. And I was just, 'Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus!' That's all I could say," his mother recalled.

Since that time, Cory has improved dramatically. His mother said Cory can be used by God to encourage others.

"He can talk and express himself, let everybody know what he's been through and how the Lord has blessed him," she said. "He can be an inspiration to others that are in his situation, not to give up, but just keep fighting."

Cory is still at home recovering. He's not the same young man he was before the accident, but he's getting stronger every day.

He especially wishes he could rejoin his high school football team as they prepare for the upcoming season. His mother recalled a visit from a few of his teammates.

"His friend told him two-a-days [practices] were starting," she said. "And he said, 'I want to go! I want to go!' And [the friend] said 'No you don't; it's hot!'"

Lorie Johnson/CBN News Featured U.S. News Tue, 19 Aug 2014 11:00:00 -0400
Peaceful Pope Francis Offers Strong Words About Stopping Radical Islam

Pope Francis said on Monday the international community would be justified in stopping Islamist militants in Iraq but that it should not be up to a single nation to decide how to intervene in the conflict.

The leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics made his comments in an hour-long conversation with reporters aboard a plane returning from a trip to South Korea that ranged from international diplomacy to his health and future travel plans.

During the media encounter that has become a tradition at the end of his foreign journeys, Francis, 77, also said he planned to visit the United States next year and that he was ready to go to China "tomorrow" if the communist government allowed him.

He said he realized he had to slow down and be more "prudent" with his health and that he has learned how to handle the superstar status he has gained since taking office last year by thinking of his errors and his own imminent mortality.

Francis was asked if he approved of U.S. strikes against Islamist State insurgents who have recently forced Christians and other minorities to flee their homes in Iraq.

"In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is legitimate to stop the unjust aggressor," he said.

Proclaiming a caliphate straddling Iraq and Syria, the militants have swept across northern Iraq, pushing back Kurdish regional forces and driving tens of thousands of Christians and members of the Yazidi religious minority from their homes.

The pope was careful not to give the impression that he was giving an automatic green light for military strikes, but he did not rule them out. He said the situation was grave and the international community had to respond together.

"I underscore the verb 'to stop'. I am not saying 'bomb' or 'make war', but stop him (the aggressor). The means by which he can be stopped must be evaluated. Stopping the unjust aggressor is legitimate," he said.

"One single nation cannot judge how he is to be stopped, how an unjust aggressor is to be stopped," he said. He said the United Nations was the proper forum to consider whether there was unjust aggression and how to stop it.

Willing to Go to Iraq

The pope disclosed that he had considered going to Iraq after his return from Korea, but decided against a visit for the time being. "At this moment, it would not be the best thing to do, but I am willing to do it," he said.

He has sent a senior cardinal to Iraq to visit refugees and distribute Vatican charity funds and sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about the need to stop the bloodshed.

Francis said he wanted to go Philadelphia in September 2015 for a meeting of Catholic families and hinted that the trip might well include a visit to the White House and Congress in Washington D.C. and the United Nations in New York.

That trip, which would be his first to the United States, could also be expanded to include Mexico, he said, but no decision had been taken.

During his five-day visit to South Korea, Francis sent several signals to China, which does not allow Catholics to recognize the pope's authority, saying the communist government there should not fear Christians because they did not want to "come as conquerors" but be integral parts of local cultures.

On the plane, he said the Vatican was always open to dialog with Beijing, calling the country "noble and wise", but said that the Church needed to carry out its mission in freedom.

Poking fun at himself several times, Francis said that his custom of not taking vacations outside the Vatican was one of his "neuroses." He said he had slowed down for the summer by reading more, sleeping more and listening to music.

"Now I have to be more prudent, you are right," he told a reporter, who reminded him that he had been forced to cancel several events at the last minute in the past few month because of minor ailments or illnesses.

Francis said he did not let fame go to his head by thinking of his "sins and mistakes" and remembering that "this will last a short time, two or three years, and then we go to the house of the father" (God).

The pope, who stood for the entire, hour-long conversation, then made a chopping gesture with his hand and a whistling sound as if to say death comes sooner or later for everyone.

Editing by Crispian Balmer

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Reuters Featured World News Tue, 19 Aug 2014 10:00:00 -0400
Are You Trapped by the Deadly Deception of the Half Gospel?

Deep in my heart there is a stirring—not just a stirring that resembles a late-night craving for ice cream or the feelings of boyish infatuation with a high school crush, but a true "depths of my soul" type of stirring. This stirring is for the church of the living God to rise up and take her rightful place.

This stirring is nothing new in the hearts of those focused on the bidding of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. Jeremiah felt that stirring when he said: "I never joined the people in their merry feasts. I sat alone because your hand was upon me. I was filled with indignation at their sins" (Jer. 15:17, emphasis added). The prophets of old looked at the state of Israel (picture of the modern church) and grieved over the glory that could have been if only they had embraced their God with the same passion they embraced the idolatry of their day.

I look at the state of the church and feel the same stirring in my heart for the return of God's glory to His bride, the church. When will we see our nation shaken by a fresh move of God's precious Spirit? When will the culture around us be forced to recognize a holiness that is truly "otherworldly"? When will we come to a place of desperation for God's outpouring that makes us willing to abandon our own plans and dreams to fall prostrate before an awesome God and cry out for His divine intervention?

As I meditated on these questions, the Holy Spirit quickened within my heart something so simple that it literally shocked me. He said, "If the true Gospel were preached and lived with boldness, then My power would be seen as tangibly as it was seen in the book of Acts." Wow! I was then taken to Acts 4:29–30, where the apostles and early church prayed, "And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word" (v. 29). Through this passage, the Holy Spirit revealed several important things to me that would become the basis for this book.

The first thing that is obvious from this passage is that threats against the real Gospel are inevitable. In the New Testament, Jesus clearly warned that because He was hated, His followers inevitably would be hated too. Persecution and resistance have been the hallmark of Christianity from the beginning, going all the way back to Herod's attempt to kill the newborn Jesus, to the cross of Calvary, to the terrible persecutions of the Roman Empire, and all the way forward to modern-day martyrdom that continues at unprecedented rates all over the globe. It was in response to such threats and persecution that the early church prayed for boldness. Perhaps if we began to preach the real Gospel in all its fullness, we too would be forced to cry out for boldness. Perhaps if we weren't so comfortable with our walled bastions of seclusion or "pitter-patter" messages that placate the spiritually complacent, we would be forced to cry out for a fresh outpouring of God's Spirit.

Second, boldness is a function of the unction. What I mean by that is simply that boldness is not a conjuring up of some sort of fleshly hype but a release of something within. It is an internal combustion in the spirit man that releases unusual courage and clarity. This can be seen clearly when Stephen stood before the Sanhedrin in Acts 7 and preached the Gospel with great boldness, even while sealing his imminent doom. He had such clarity of purpose that he physically saw the Lord Jesus giving him a standing ovation from the throne room.

When we lack boldness, it is because we lack intimacy with the Holy Spirit. As we go about our duties and maintain our busy lives and ministries, there is often a deep neglect in our relationship with the Holy Spirit. Peter, however, was not too busy to go on the rooftop to pray at lunchtime and thus had a vision that changed the course of the church. Thank God for that time of prayer and rest! Without it, the Gentile church would not exist. We need to get back to the place of true fellowship with the Holy Spirit and His daily revelation of the Word so that we can walk in this supernatural boldness to preach the Gospel in all its fullness.

Finally, notice that in verse 30 of Acts 4, we see the mention of healing power and miraculous signs and wonders. The convincing proof that we are not preaching the Gospel fully is the lack of healing power and miraculous signs that follow the preaching of our modern gospel. If this gospel were the real Gospel, then it would be followed by evidence of God's power by way of healings and miracles. Because of our thirst for influence and lack of hunger for true righteousness, we have handicapped the church from its greatest evangelism weapon—the supernatural.


Bear with me for a moment as I outline for you what I describe as the "halfGospel." I capitalize Gospel here because it still has remnants of the real Gospel and still produces fruit of some measure. Please do not get the idea that I am against everybody or everything. This is not an attempt to throw out all the amazing things that are taking place but to readjust our thinking to be more effective in our pursuit of saving souls and building the kingdom of God.

It is not that we are preaching a false message as much as we are holding back critical elements that give the Gospel power and punch. We have embraced the idea of motivational speaking in an attempt to always be "life-giving," but we have abandoned the convicting power of the Gospel. Inspiration without conviction will lead to carnal and unbelieving churchgoers who never turn from sin and always need affirmation of their true standing with God. This sort of gospel has produced a movement of false grace in order to soothe everyone's guilty conscience; however, if the convicting work of the Holy Spirit were allowed to go forth in full measure, people would turn from their grievous ways and feel the true liberty of Christ that comes only from walking in His holiness and staying free from the world. As 2 Cor. 3:17 reminds us, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (NKJV).

Conviction comes effortlessly as we highlight the full counsel of God as revealed in the entire Word of God and hold back no portion of the Holy Bible in order to appease people. Nonetheless, we have seen a shift in recent years from preaching the Bible and expounding its eternal virtues to presenting interesting topics to spark the curiosity of man and backing them up with a favorable scripture. This sort of topical preaching has grown our churches but has utterly failed to mature the body of Christ. In a day where churches soar to grander heights of attendance then ever imagined, our anemic message has produced giant nurseries where people are never weaned from the milk of the Word—and the leaders actually want it that way. God forbid that church members actually grow up in Christ and start doing something other than warming a pew!


The halfGospel is not only an incomplete message, but it is also a message diluted in strength and handicapped from its true life-changing power. The popular theology of our day instructs leaders who really want to grow that preaching anything controversial or confrontational is completely taboo. After all, we wouldn't want to make anyone feel uncomfortable, would we? Heaven forbid! John the Baptist's call to repentance and the message of Jesus to give all to the poor and follow Him are considered not relevant in today's world and thus are not preached or even mentioned.

Jesus said, "Blessed is the one who is not offended by me" (Matt. 11:6, ESV). Nevertheless, we continue to hear promises of blessing without any warning of offense against Christ. Prominent red-letter statements in the Bible like "Fall on the rock and be broken, or it will fall on you and crush you" (Matt. 21:44, paraphrased) are laughable when put in the context of the watered-down theology served weekly at many of our "model" churches.

We must be very wary when parts of the Word of God are deemed irrelevant or not relatable to today. Some have declared the Old Testament outdated and weird, while others have dared to declare Jesus' words as "under the law" and not really what we should be preaching today. Not only is such intellectual and theological dismissal of any portion of God's infallible Word dangerous, but it will also lead to weak and impotent sheep whose only desire is to feed on the portions of Scripture that appeal to their intellects or can be twisted to justify the workings of their flesh.

Let us go back now to the topic of conviction and put it in the light of a gospel that is half-strength. Somehow we have managed to create an atmosphere of preaching that not only assumes everyone present is a believer but also affirms all present as being right with God and having no need to do anything in order to pursue repentance and holiness. While it is true that God's grace is undeserved and no works are needed to receive it, faith is required (Eph. 2:8); and faith without action is dead (James 2:17).

There was a time when we would not serve communion in a church without first warning of the grave repercussion of eating and drinking unworthily of the Lord's Body and Blood. This was immediately followed with an altar call for salvation and recommitment. Now we see trendy times of communion that fit neatly within the context of our run sheet. Believers and unbelievers alike are given extra encouragement that they indeed are worthy to receive the Body and Blood, when in fact many are not. To affirm the righteousness (or right standing) of everyone in a room of more than 10 people you intimately know to be believers is to risk reinforcing many in a state of being unsaved, in sin or backslidden. All of this, in the name of making people feel welcome and comfortable, is why the Gospel has been stripped of its potency to radically change lives.


Unfortunately, we have become expert salesmen at presenting the Gospel. We have deemed it necessary to build in extra incentive in order to get people to accept and believe in the product we are selling. For the sake of nickels and noses, we have propagated a "halfGospel" that is no longer built on sacrifice and suffering but boasts immediate prosperity and earthly enrichment. This goes against the very core of what Jesus, the apostles, and the early church stood for in their application of the true Gospel message.

When we sell the Gospel at a discounted cost, we get people in the church who want to pay little or no price. We must be faithful to warn of the hardships, persecutions, alienation, and other forms of sacrifice and suffering that come with taking up your cross and following Jesus. In Luke 14:28, Jesus said, "Don't begin until you count the cost." But in fear that we might not gain a new member or might cause someone to reject the Lord, we have repackaged the Gospel and sold it at a discounted rate.


The final element I will highlight in diagnosing the issue of the halfGospel is the level of commitment required to pursue true holiness. In the modern church today, there is more talk of grace than ever before. Grace is an amazing thing, but it must be balanced with truth. Jesus said, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32 NIV). In John 17:17, Jesus also prayed, "Make them holy by Your truth; teach them your word, which is truth" (emphasis added).

Wow! This shows us that very simply put, righteousness comes by God's amazing grace, but holiness, the pursuit of being like God, comes only through the revelatory truth of God's Word. God's Word gives us the standards that help us get free and stay free from the snares of the enemy. If these standards are not articulated, however, then freedom does not come and people are inevitably caught up by the "snares of the fowler" and dragged back into the bondage of sin that once held them captive.

A huge misconception and popularly taught message today is that people will be changed by the grace of God if they just hang around long enough. While there is merit to being in God's presence and change happening in our lives, the real roots of pride, perversion and greed will never be uprooted without the full measure of God's truth being proclaimed and applied.

The definitive issue that illustrates this point best is that of homosexuality. This abominable sin is aggressively asserting itself into every aspect of culture and, sadly, even in the church. Because of the prevailing winds of opinion, not only have many church leaders chosen not to address this important issue, but they have also become extremely leery of anyone who would take on this topic or even mention it from the pulpit. How can we expect to defeat this horrible bondage that has wrapped its icy tentacles around so many of this generation if we refuse to address it head-on?

The halfGospel always finds ways to excuse and justify lack of conviction. It would even paint those who lovingly point out the awful deceptions of the enemy as being hateful, legalistic or out of touch. Oh, that God would raise up men and women who would once again preach the full Gospel of righteousness through repentance and holiness through consistent application of God's Word!


Now that we have clearly outlined the problem of a halfGospel, here are some action steps that we can take to ensure the full Gospel is preached:

  • Seek God, not man's approval--for any true minister of the Gospel, the priority must always be to hear the heart of God and not the applause of man.
  • Diligently study God's Word--while books and resources are helpful at times, we must get back to the original DNA of the Gospel as outlined in God's Word, not as interpreted by man.
  • Rely on God's Spirit, not personal gift or intellect--the early apostles relied completely on the Holy Spirit to speak and work through them for the saving of the lost. We must return to this pattern in order to see New Testament results!

Joel Stockstill is a well-known prophetic voice, youth pastor and author of the free e-book halfGospel, from which this article is excerpted. To download the entire e-book for free, visit

Joel Stockstill Featured Opinion Tue, 19 Aug 2014 09:00:00 -0400
Is Suicide a Ticket to Hell?

The Bible describes two believers who committed suicide: King Saul and Judas. For sure Judas went to hell. Peter said about him in Acts 1:16-18: "'Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus--he was one of our number and shared in this ministry. With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open, and all his intestines spilled out."

This Scripture implies that Judas was not saved.

The other story is about King Saul. He was mortally wounded in battle, so to avoid torture he killed himself. From David's words about Saul, it appears that Saul went to heaven. He says in 2 Sam. 1:23, "Saul and Jonathan—in life they were loved and gracious, and in death they were not parted."

We know that Jonathan was godly, so if Saul and Jonathan were not parted in death, this would mean Saul is with Jonathan in heaven. I should also note that this passage may simply mean that they died together in battle, not necessarily that they are still with each other in death. At any rate, Saul killed himself only because he was trying to avoid torture, and he was going to die soon anyway.

The way I explain suicide is this: I tell believers to fear God enough not to take the risk. You could lose your soul by committing suicide, so it's better to simply play it safe and trust God to make you happier. I lean to the idea that most cases of suicide lead to damnation. I wouldn't bet on anyone going to heaven who committed suicide. I think the odds are against the person. Besides, suicide is the ultimate statement of unbelief. People commit suicide because they don't have faith that God will help them, and we are saved by faith.

We have received many angry emails over my answer, usually because someone has lost a close friend or relative to suicide. Here is a sample email that represents many irate emails along with my response.

Reaction: I may be reacting in the flesh and you probably won't even get this, but I cannot sleep until I write this. Maybe I should write it and then click delete. I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that I am so very grateful to have and grow. I lost a dear childhood friend today to suicide. He was an awesome athlete in high school. He was an awesome Christian who did not mind showing it to his peers. He was an All-American High School Honor Roll student. His entire family are Christians.

I was disturbed today, that my little sister said he is going to hell. I do not believe this. I do not believe the sure ticket to HELL is to commit suicide. My God is more loving and merciful than that to his people.

I am disturbed at your opinion about suicide, also. I do not believe it has a place on the net for those people searching for answers and comfort at a time like this. It is an opinion not an answer. No where in the Bible does it say suicide is a sure ticket to Hell. I cannot find anything in the Bible that says you go to hell for committing suicide.

I would like to encourage you to take your opinion of something unknown off the Internet. I think it is very damaging to those who have a personal relationship with God and those who I hope come to know him.


Tom's Response: I sympathize with your grief, but it would be a mistake for me to tell people that they can make heaven and still commit suicide. God is merciful, and if people make heaven despite suicide, wonderful! But there is no Scripture to prove you can, so I believe it is best to fear God so much that you would never commit such an act. Peter says, "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and sinner" (1 Pet. 4:18).

Committing suicide is not a sure ticket to hell, because there is no ticket to hell. It is the other way around: Jesus is the ticket to heaven. However, Jesus said many will say that He is Lord, but He will reply, "Depart from me." Faith is not simply mentally agreeing to the facts of the gospel, but being changed by the gospel. And then one must continue in faith and not give in to unbelief. There is no "once saved, always saved" promise from God. Even if it were true that someone was saved, that does not mean that his or her salvation is "unconditionally secured." One still must persevere and trust God to the end, not end their lives through suicide.

You said that my answer is "very damaging to those who have a personal relationship with God." How could my answer damage someone's faith?

Maybe what you mean is that someone like yourself who lost a friend through suicide will not be comforted with this article, because I refuse to license suicide as a gateway to heaven. For sure my answer won't comfort you.

The article is meant to discourage suicide--not to comfort those who lost loved ones through suicide. I'm not thinking of you when I write this article but those who are contemplating this act.

I do understand your grief, but imagine if I told people that they could still make heaven and commit suicide. That message may be what they wanted to hear so they could be given a false sense of security that they will leave their unhappiness here and enter glory in the next life.

A similar message is given to suicide bombers in the Islamic faith. They are told that if they kill themselves and others through a Jihad they will enter a wonderful heaven full of virgin wives. This false doctrine gives people courage to go through such a diabolical act. It should go without saying, but any Muslim who murders others through suicide will not make heaven, for the Scriptures say, "No murderer has eternal life" (1 John 3:15).

I think there is a delicate correlation between that and Christian suicide. As long as people think they will enter heaven by such an act, perhaps we unwittingly give people courage to go through with it. I refuse to give anyone such false hope.

Despite what I said, my prayers are with you.

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

Tom Brown Featured Opinion Tue, 19 Aug 2014 08:00:00 -0400
Is God's Hand Still Protecting Israel?

As a young child, I often heard my mother say that we should pray for the peace of Jerusalem. She knew how important that was. She grew up in a large Moroccan Jewish family and immigrated to the United States in the early 1950s. Most of her 21 brothers and sisters immigrated to Israel. I'm proud of my heritage. I have generations of family members in Israel. I love the Jewish people. In fact, I'm making my eighth trip to Israel in September.

However, I am concerned. Does God still have His hand on Israel and the Jewish people? Will He ever let them go? Over the past several years, the Israeli people as a whole have become more and more secular, drifting away from the God of Israel. You might be thinking, wait a minute, we're talking about God's chosen people. Yes. But we all have the ability to drift away from the promises of God.

A writer for the online magazine Israel Today said, "For many decades, Israelis have been led to believe that the Israeli-Arab conflict is no more than a national struggle over territory and that it will be better for all if God remains in the background." This of course is a lie. There is a glimmer of hope that this is changing.

I interviewed an Israeli Defense Forces soldier who was wounded recently in the war with Hamas. Sgt. Major Jeremy Gimpel told me that he is seeing manifest miracles and God's providence once again over Israel. He said the protective shield over Israel right now is not so much the one that intercepts incoming rockets; rather, it is the protective shield from the prayers of people around the world.

During the war with Hamas, an Iron Dome commander explained that a missile was fired from Gaza, which could have killed hundreds of Israeli civilians.

The commander said, "We know where these missiles are going to land down to a radius of 200 meters.

"We fired two interceptor rockets. They both missed. This is very rare. I was in shock. At this point we had just four seconds until the missile lands. We had already notified emergency services to converge on the target location and had warned of a mass-casualty incident.

"Suddenly, Iron Dome (which calculates wind speeds among other things) shows a major wind coming from the east, a strong wind that ... sends the missile into the sea. We were all stunned. I stood up and shouted, 'There is a God!' I witnessed this miracle with my own eyes. I saw the hand of God send that missile into the sea. If that Hamas strike had succeeded, it would have been the worst terrorist attack in Israel's history."

Also, Col. Ofer Winter, commander of the Givati Infantry Brigade, described a mysterious fog that favorably covered him and his troops as they advanced on an enemy position in morning light after their nighttime raid was postponed. Winter labeled the covering as "clouds of glory."

I believe God is stirring in the hearts of the Israeli people.

Does God still have His hand on Israel and the Jewish people? Yes. Will He ever let them go? No. As we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, also pray that Israel remembers what Deuteronomy 20:4 says: "For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory." It's something we should remember as well.

Take a few moments to watch and listen (below) to a portion of the interview I did with the wounded IDF soldier.

John Riley hosts Afternoons with John Riley on American Family Radio.

John Riley Featured Opinion Tue, 19 Aug 2014 07:00:00 -0400
Chiropractic Care Connected With Stroke Risk, Study Suggests

Blood-vessel tears that lead to strokes may be associated with—but not necessarily caused by—treatments involving neck manipulations, researchers say.

The blood vessel tears, called 'cervical artery dissections' account for about two of every 100 strokes overall, and from eight to 25 of every 100 strokes in young and middle-aged adults.

"What happens with the dissection is that there is a tear in one of the layers of the artery wall in the neck that can result in (a) stroke if a blood clot forms," Dr. José Biller told Reuters Health in a phone call.

Biller, a neurologist with the Loyola University Chicago Strich School of Medicine, was lead author of a joint statement on neck manipulation and stroke risk from the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association. The statement was published in Stroke.

Biller said cervical artery dissections have been reported after blunt or penetrating injuries and also in association with a variety of other conditions.

They can occur after "a sudden movement that can hyperextend or rotate the neck that may happen with certain sporting activities, with whiplash or violent coughing or vomiting movements, or with neck-manipulation therapy," Biller said.

Health-care providers sometimes use neck manipulations, or "cervical manipulative therapy," to treat musculo-skeletal conditions of the neck and upper back. Most are performed by chiropractors, but osteopaths and physical therapists use these maneuvers as well.

To assess the associations between neck manipulations and stroke risk, Biller and colleagues focused on four large studies that were mainly associated with strokes involving the arteries of the neck.

They found that people who had these types of strokes were more likely to have had some type of neck manipulation.

But, the authors point out, the studies they looked at couldn't determine what caused people's strokes. It's possible, they say, that people may have sought neck manipulation therapy for symptoms that were really the early stages of stroke.

Biller said patients with these tears often have pain in the back of the neck that may be misinterpreted by both the patient and a healthcare provider.

"Patients may already have begun to have a cervical artery dissection and therefore seek treatment to relieve the neck pain."

Biller and his co-authors concluded that health practitioners should inform patients of the associations between cervical dissection and cervical manipulation therapy before performing manipulation of the cervical spine.

Keith Overland, immediate past president of the American Chiropractic Association, told Reuters Health he applauds the American Heart Association for its effort to address stroke risk.

But, he said, somewhere between 22 and 77 percent of the U.S. population has neck pain at some time, and cervical manipulation is one of the safest choices when compared to other treatments such as drugs and surgery.

Dr. Justin Sattin, a neurologist with the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, Wisconsin, told Reuters Health by phone, "As the guideline points out, the data are inconclusive—my personal opinion is that cervical manipulation is probably one of many different traumas that could provoke or exacerbate a dissection in someone who is harboring one or predisposed."

"Having said that, the absolute risk is probably low, especially with increased attention to the problem now in the chiropractic community," said Sattin, who was not involved with the study.

"And there's this causality issue of how do you know for sure the manipulation was the cause as opposed to the idea that the headache and neck pain that brought the patient to the chiropractor was actually the dissection, and the subsequently diagnosed dissection was attributed to the manipulation as opposed to something that occurred spontaneously or due to some other trauma that preceded the patient coming in for medical attention," he said.

Sattin added that it's difficult to tease these things out of the results, but he thinks it's fair to say there is some evidence that cervical manipulation may be a potential cause dissection and that patients should know that when they go to see a chiropractor, and the chiropractor should know that and disclose it to the patients.

"That doesn't mean one shouldn't pursue chiropractic therapy, it's just incumbent on everybody to know what the actual risks are. It's not like (regular) medicine is devoid of risks either. Everything we do carries potential risks and benefits," he said.

"In general, stroke symptoms happen suddenly—a sudden onset of weakness on one side of the body, numbness on one side of the body or tingling, visual loss which could be in one eye or to one side of one's visual field, sudden loss of coordination, sudden onset of a language disturbance—either difficulty speaking or difficulty understanding what's being said," Sattin said.

"And the last one that we usually see is the sudden onset of a terrible headache unlike any headache of the persons had before, which is a cardinal symptom for hemorrhage in the brain," he added.

Sattin added that symptoms for a stroke due to dissection may include pain in the head or neck, or sometimes behind the eye, along with the other neurological symptoms of stroke.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Reuters Staff Featured U.S. News Tue, 19 Aug 2014 06:00:00 -0400
Duggar Clan Adds Yet Another Member

The Duggar clan just keeps on growing—though this time it's through marriage.

Jessa Duggar, star of 19 Kids and Counting, is engaged to marry Ben Seewald. Seewald and Duggar have been courting for 11 months.

"We are so blessed to be engaged!" the couple said in a statement. "God has written an amazing story through our courtship, and another chapter has just begun! We are thrilled to see what the future holds—especially the wedding bells!"

According to US magazine, Duggar is 21 and Seewald is 19. To celebrate 11 months together, Seewald gave Duggar a pearl bracelet and handwritten note.

"What good are such beautiful pearls if not to have the grace of being worn by one so elegant and majestic as yourself?" the note reads. "These pearls were lonely...just like I am when we're apart; but not anymore! I love you, my precious princess!"

In what is becoming a Duggar family tradition, Jessa will follow in the footsteps of her sister Jill and save her first kiss for marriage, US reports.

Jennifer LeClaire Featured Culture Mon, 18 Aug 2014 20:00:00 -0400
There's Nothing Funny About This Turn of Events With Robin Williams

Westboro Baptist Church is rearing its cultish head again. The group, which is best known for toting "God Hates Fags" signs, has targeted Robin Williams' funeral for its next protest.

Westboro plans to picket the late comedian's funeral because he used his comedy, they argue, to "mock God." Westboro is also up in arms because Williams, they claim, was a "homosexual enabler."

Williams, who played a gay character in The Birdcage, was found dead last week after committing suicide.

"Westboro Baptist Church hopes to preach in lawful proximity to Robin Williams' funeral—to warn the living: Repent or likewise perish," says one of the tweets.

"God hates Robin Williams. Westboro Baptist Church hopes to preach outside his funeral," the group also tweeted.

"HEED: You spend your life mocking God and promoting sin, you get no peace," another tweet says.

Planting Peace, a nonprofit that aims to spread peace in a hurting world, is speaking out against its Kansas neighbor.

"In keeping with our philosophy of addressing acts of hate and intolerance with compassion and love, we are inviting the public to show their respect and support of a man who spent his life making others smile, who was always there for others in their time of need, and who supported the greater good through works of service and charity," the group wrote in a statement. "Please join Planting Peace in counteracting the WBC's message of hate through a fund-raising event benefiting St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, a cause Mr. Williams passionately and publicly supported."

Jennifer LeClaire Featured U.S. News Mon, 18 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400
116,000 Pack Angel Stadium for 25th Anniversary Harvest Crusade

For months drivers all over Southern California have been seeing bumper stickers that read "Harvest: Greg Laurie. August 15-17, 2014: Angel Stadium." There have been radio advertisements and newspaper articles leading up to the 25th anniversary Harvest Crusade in Orange County. Christians have been praying for the event and inviting their friends. And this past weekend, they came.

The three-night count for the 2014 SoCal Harvest Crusade: 116,000 people packed the stadium in Anaheim; 62,733 more watched via webcasts; and 12,791 made decisions for Christ.

Each night opened with video testimonies and music from various contemporary Christian artists and worship leaders, including Phil Wickham, Skillet, Chris Tomlin, Sidewalk Prophets and Crystal Lewis. On Friday night, Laurie interviewed former Mafia kingpin Michael Franzese about how Christ had transformed his life when he was in prison. On Saturday, POD point man Sonny Sandoval said the opening prayer. And each night, emcee Levi Lusko stirred up the crowd.

But it was Laurie who hit home with the audience. Through the years at the Anaheim crusades and others around the country, nearly a half-million people have made decisions for Christ.

Who is Laurie? He accepted Christ as a teenager during the Jesus Movement-era and studied the gospel under the tutelage of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa pastor and movement founder Chuck Smith. Laurie started a Bible study and eventually a church in Riverside, California. Today, Harvest Christian Fellowship is one of the largest churches in the nation and has a second campus in Orange County.

On Friday night at the crusade, Laurie opened with the message, "The God Who Loves and Forgives." He followed on Saturday and Sunday with simple yet poignant messages titled "Jesus and You" and "See You in the Morning." All three messages can be viewed at

Laurie peppers his teaching with quotes from celebrities, even referring to Robin Williams' suicide and singer Lana Del Rey this year. Yet he always comes back to the gospel. In one message this year he told the story of Jesus and the woman at the well who had many husbands, making it real with a story from his own life: His mother had more husbands than the woman at the well, and as a child Greg had a front-row seat.

"Some people water down the gospel in an attempt to be relevant," emcee Levi Lusko told Charisma. "But that backfires. Greg keeps up to date. He is curious and always asking questions about social media or some popular singer. He is cool but does it without compromising the Bible's teaching."

Second-generation Calvary Chapel leader and Whosoevers co-founder Ryan Ries agrees. "It works because Greg is in tune with the Holy Spirit," Ries told Charisma. "As he gives the words that God prepared for him, God does all of the rest. Greg is just the instrument. When people hear the plain Gospel they get hit by the Holy Spirit and come forward, and their lives are changed."

Indeed. As has been happening for 25 years, on each night of the crusade, Laurie gives a passionate altar call. He has shown people the problem of sin and the hope of an answer in Christ. And they respond by the thousands. From all over the stadium, even the nose-bleed seats, they come to the outfield grass to make a decision to follow Christ. Singer Jaime Owens-Collins once described the response as looking like a flow of lava. Once in the outfield, Laurie leads the new followers of Christ in prayer and then volunteer counselors give each one who has made a decision a Bible and additional help.

"This is when the battle is at its peak," Laurie told Charisma. "I pray for the right words as we call people to Christ. Each one is an answer to someone's prayer. It is a privilege to spread the gospel and call people to Christ."

A few years ago, 21-year-old Matt Denson attended a crusade. "I wasn't a Christian, and I didn't want to be one," Denson told Charisma. "It was the altar call that got me. I stayed in the stands. I listened to what Greg was talking about, and I repeated the prayer. I already had my own Bible. I grew up in the church, but I didn't want anything to do with it until I came to Harvest."

Today, Matt attends Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside and volunteered to be an usher at the crusade.

Another 21-year-old, Jessica Montano, was attending her 15th Harvest Crusade.

"I grew up at Harvest Crusades," Montano, who attends Calvary Chapel Chino Valley, told Charisma. "My family always came. We would always invite friends. And many have made decisions for Christ. It is easier to get my friends to come here than to come to church. This is like a concert at a stadium. People are used to it. Today people don't really know what a church is. This is more modernized, but we still preach the Bible. This is church, but it isn't church."

Xavier Cornejo was in Angel Stadium for the crusade, visiting from Ecuador to see if a Harvest Crusade would work in South America.

"It is amazing to see that these things still are happening in the U.S.," Cornejo told Charisma. "Greg isn't just having a fun time, he is actually doing the Great Commission. This happens when the church works together. It is the love of the people."

John Collins has been with Laurie since the first crusade and serves as executive pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship.

"The technology and our ability to reach so many more people has changed in 25 years," Collins told Charisma. "What hasn't changed is the message. Greg is faithful to the gospel."

Laurie's Sunday night message was on the hope of heaven, which had both broad and personal meaning. Harvest Crusade co-founder and Laurie's spiritual father, Chuck Smith, died last year, and this was the first crusade without him.

"Chuck helped us to get started. He laid the foundation for us," Laurie said. "He is just a reminder that all of us are here for just a short time, then we pass on. Our goal is to take as many people to heaven with us as possible."

Laurie will speak at a Harvest Crusade event in Dallas in October.

Steven Lawson Featured U.S. News Mon, 18 Aug 2014 18:00:00 -0400
'We Will Not Rest Until This Blasphemous Show Is off the Air'

American Family Association and its division is urging Christians who are concerned with the new Cartoon Network Adult Swim "comedy" Black Jesus to contact advertisers that are supporting the program via their advertising dollars.

About 2 million viewers watched last Thursday's episode, which contained at least 60 profanities in just over 20 minutes.

After the Aug. 7 debut of the show, AFA and One Million Moms contacted the show's key sponsors. Both Unisom (Chattern, Inc.) and American Eagle Outfitters announced they were pulling their ads after the first episode. And none of the advertisers AFA and One Million Moms contacted appeared during Thursday's late-night broadcast and overnight re-broadcast.

"Both American Family Association and will not rest until the disgusting, blasphemous show is off the air," said One Million Moms Director Monica Cole. "We will be vocal in urging Christians to contact the companies who choose to use their advertising dollars to keep filth like this on television—filth that is a direct attack on both Christians and African Americans."

Several new advertisers placed ads during last week's 11 p.m. episode, including Air Heads Candy, Progressive Insurance, Compound W, Dave and Buster's and Additional advertisers during the rebroadcast at 2:30 a.m. included Monistat, Xbox and Xfinity/Comcast.

Black Jesus features an African-American Jesus character who swears frequently, drinks and smokes marijuana as he interacts, sometimes violently, with friends and residents of Compton Gardens.

In response, both AFA and One Million Moms have been communicating frequently with their many supporters about the blasphemous show and the advertisers supporting it.

Deborah Hamilton Featured Culture Mon, 18 Aug 2014 17:00:00 -0400
Guess What Hotel Chain Is Banning Bibles Now

The U.K. nationwide hotel chain Travelodge has removed Bibles from all of its rooms, in a move criticized by the Church of England.

Bibles provided free by the Gideons have been taken away for "diversity" reasons.

The removals took place after refurbishment work across the hotel chain, which replaced the drawers where Bibles were being kept.

In response, a spokesman for the Church of England said: "It seems both tragic and bizarre that hotels would remove the word of God for the sake of ergonomic design, economic incentive or a spurious definition of the word 'diversity.'"

Writing on the Telegraph website, commentator Tim Stanley described Travelodge's decision as "an act of cultural vandalism upon a tradition that goes back 126 years."

A spokesman for Travelodge said: "The reason is because of diversity. With the country being increasingly multicultural, we didn't feel it was appropriate to just have the Bible."

He added: "People were also taking Bibles away and with the redesign of the rooms, it was felt that it would be better to remove them."

Travelodge is the only hotel chain in the country to have removed the Bibles, despite its never having  received a complaint from a guest.

Both Premier Inn and InterContinental Hotels, which owns the Holiday Inn chain, say that Bibles are being retained in their hotels.

A spokesman for Premier Inn said: "On the rare occasion that a customer does not wish to have a Bible in their room, they can request this to be removed ahead of their stay."

The practice of placing Bibles in hotel rooms dates back over 120 years, originating with the work of the Commercial Travellers' Christian Association.

In recent times, the work of distributing Bibles in hotels has been taken up by The Gideons International, which provides this service to more than 190 countries worldwide.

The Christian Institute Featured World News Mon, 18 Aug 2014 16:30:00 -0400
US Celebrates Freedom While Ignoring the Moral Obligations That Come With It

"When a government starts an earnest fight against terrorism, public opinion immediately accuses it of violating terrorists' civil rights."  –Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1978)

Two powerful essays by two very different individuals have challenged me to reflect on our moral obligation. The two men, now deceased, are Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel Prize-winning Russian author and critic of the Soviet system, and Charles Colson, the once-infamous Nixon attorney who became a committed follower of Jesus.

We are in the middle of a great debate about our moral obligation. Some of that debate will be included as we move into the fall election season. Some of that debate exists at any time of the year.

One of the most influential speeches of the 20th century was delivered by Solzhenitsyn at Harvard University's Commencement on June 8, 1978. Acknowledging Harvard's motto "Veritas" (truth), he prefaced his remarks by saying, "Truth is seldom pleasant; it is almost invariably bitter."

Although his political references are somewhat antiquated (communism vs. the West), his cultural, social and moral critiques are as thought provoking today as they were a decade before the iron curtain fell. And he did not mince his words.

His message was deep and wide. He challenged the West's decline in courage and its legalistic life, shortsightedness, loss of willpower and humanism. He even claimed "...the press has become the greatest power within the Western countries, more powerful than the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. One would then like to ask: By what law has it been elected, and to whom is it responsible?"

Perhaps you recall the firestorm he created as he spoke from such an honored platform to the social ills of our day. His insights were immediately and hotly debated.

Some of his most sobering insights, though, came when he addressed the direction of freedom. "The defense of individual rights has reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless against certain individuals. It is time, in the West, to defend not so much human rights as human obligations."

Solzhenitsyn continued, "Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, motion pictures full of pornography, crime and horror. It is considered to be part of freedom and theoretically counterbalanced by the young people's right not to look or not to accept. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil."

Anyone who lives in a culture without an "objective legal scale" faces the dire unpredictability of its leaders. Solzhenitsyn experienced that under communism and called that society "A terrible one indeed" but he also said, "...a society with no other scale but the legal one is not quite worthy of man either. ... Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legal relations, there is an atmosphere of moral mediocrity, paralyzing man's noblest impulses."

He ended his speech by referring to the "disaster" that has befallen the West. He did not describe it as a "world war disaster" but rather "...the calamity of a despiritualized and irreligious human consciousness." Even in 1978, he believed we had "...approached a major turn in history."

No wonder his essay generated a huge reaction. With panoramic insight, Solzhenitsyn challenged that graduating class to accept its moral obligation.

About 25 years later, Chuck Colson (with Anne Morse) wrote in "The Moral Home Front" (Christianity Today, October 2004) a challenging claim that America's moral decline is encouraging our Islamic adversaries.

Colson's challenge must not be ignored. "We must be careful not to blame innocent Americans for murderous attacks against them. At the same time, let's acknowledge that America's increasing decadence is giving aid and comfort to the enemy. When we tolerate trash on television, permit pornography to invade our homes via the internet, and allow babies to be killed at the point of birth, we are enflaming radical Islam."

None of us wants to think that any part of our American way of life could possibly hinder how we are perceived by other cultures. We like to think we are a beacon of light in a very dark world. And, in many ways we are. But in other ways, our way of life can be very dark.

"Our hope," according to Colson, "is to make freedom so attractive that other Muslim countries will follow suit. But when radical Islamists see American women abusing Muslim men, as they did in the Abu Ghraib prison, and when they see news coverage of same-sex couples being "married" in U.S. towns, we make our kind of freedom abhorrent—the kind they see as a blot on Allah's creation."

Colson's words sound hauntingly familiar to the insights Alexander Solzhenitsyn gave in his famous Harvard speech in 1978.

We must not assume the problem is freedom. The problem is the effects of freedom without responsibility—without moral obligation. And when the West honors freedom but dishonors morality, some parts of our world get very upset. And so should we.

Colson calls this matter of U.S. decadence "an urgent priority." And he ends his essay with these words, "If our cultural rot continues unabated, a Talibanized West may no longer be a joke but a grim reality."

And now in 2014, open your eyes and ears; ponder what you're seeing and hearing.

We have a moral obligation to respond.

Don Meyer is president of Valley Forge Christian College in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, as well as a prolific writer and speaker, including ministry in more than 25 countries. He also is an ordained Assemblies of God minister and pastored a church in Franklin, Pennsylvania for seven years. Before coming to Valley Forge in 1997, Meyer was a professor and administrator at North Central University in Minneapolis for 21 years.

Don Meyer Featured Opinion Mon, 18 Aug 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Texas Gov. Rick Perry Could Face 99 Years in Prison for 'Abuse of Power'

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2016, said on Saturday an indictment against him for abuse of power was a political move that he intends to fight.

Perry was indicted on Friday by a grand jury in Travis County, a Democratic stronghold in the heavily Republican state, on two counts of abuse of power and coercion over a funding veto he made last year that was seen as being intended to force a local prosecutor to resign.

"This indictment amounts to nothing more than an abuse of power and I cannot and I will not allow that to happen," Perry told reporters in Austin, Texas. He added he stood by the veto that led to charges being laid against him.

A probe was launched last year after Perry vetoed $7.5 million in funding for an integrity unit that is part of the Travis County district attorney's office.

The veto was seen as hardball politics to force out county District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat, after she pleaded guilty to drunken driving and remained in office.

If convicted of the first-degree felony, Perry could be sentenced to between five and 99 years in jail while a conviction on the other charge can bring between two and 10 years in jail, a prosecutor said.

Perry is expected to survive the court battle but the trial could drag on for months, casting a shadow over his campaign and scaring away major donations, said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston.

In the short run, Perry could use the legal battle to win support during Republican primaries by portraying himself as a staunch conservative being targeted in a politically motivated prosecution launched by Democrats, Jones said.

"This comes as Perry was gaining traction due to the immigration issue that saw him rise from an also-ran to a third-tier candidate in the Republican presidential race," Jones said.

Republicans have long charged that they have been targeted by the Public Integrity Unit, run out of the Travis County prosecutor's office. The unit has investigated prominent Republicans including former U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

After flaming out in the 2012 presidential race, Perry had been mounting a political comeback that gained him national attention for attacking President Barack Obama by saying he had not done enough to secure the border with Mexico.

Perry, the longest-serving governor in the state's history and the first indicted in the state in about a century, was forced to exit the 2012 presidential race after gaffes including when he lost his train of thought during a debate and could not recall which government departments he wanted to abolish.

He is not seeking re-election as governor and will step down next year.

Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

 © 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Jon Herskovitz/Reuters Featured Politics Mon, 18 Aug 2014 15:00:00 -0400
You Won't Believe Who Accepted the Ice Bucket Challenge Now

On Sunday night evangelist and megachurch pastor Greg Laurie joined the ranks of people who have accepted the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Standing at home plate of Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California, and having just preached about the hope of heaven to a crowd of 47,000 people, he was doused with an orange Igloo cooler full of ice water.

The fun soaking came on the final night of his three-day "2014 SoCal Harvest" and only after the altar call, which saw thousands of people stream from the stands to the outfield grass in response to Laurie's challenge for them to accept Jesus Christ as savior.

The ALS Ice Water Challenge, which has gained popularity across the nation and raised millions of dollars to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (better known as Lou Gehrig's disease) in recent months, requires that a person dump a bucket of ice water over his or her head or donate $100 to the ALS Association. After being drenched with ice water, the person then challenges three other people to do the same thing and posts the event on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or another social-media outlet. Laurie accepted the ice bath and donated $100.

"This is a fun thing to do, but this is a serious disease," Laurie said, as the moment was streamed live around the world and posted on Twitter. "As a matter of fact, my own aunt died from it. So I hope anything I can do to draw attention to it will be helpful to fight this dreaded disease."

Laurie then challenged Texas pastor Jack Graham, Chicago pastor James MacDonald and musician Chris Tomlin to also participate in support of ALS. Graham was present and accepted on the spot. After having a tub of ice water dumped on him at home plate, Graham in turn challenged Los Angeles Lakers rookie Julius Randle, Los Angeles Angels baseball player Josh Hamilton and Arizona State football coach Todd Graham.

Tomlin was on stage at Harvest leading worship and, as do the others, he has 24 hours to respond.

Harvest Crusade emcee Levi Lusko started the string of challenges. He accepted a challenge from Austin Thompson on Saturday night, also getting doused with ice water at home plate. Lusko in turn challenged Laurie, musician Phil Wickham and musician Sonny Sandoval of the group POD. Wickham was on stage singing Saturday night. He accepted the challenged and had his soaking on Sunday afternoon at the stadium. Sandoval had led the opening prayer on Saturday. There was no word as to whether he accepted, but it was likely that he did.

The New York Times estimates that 30,000 people have the disease, which affects nerve cells to the brain. With the Ice Bucket Challenge spreading, the ALS Association has received $13.3 million in donations since July 29, up from $1.7 million during the same time period in 2013, the Times reports.

Steven Lawson Featured U.S. News Mon, 18 Aug 2014 14:00:00 -0400
After Shocking Michael Brown Autopsy Revelations, National Guard Deployed in Ferguson

Missouri's governor said on Monday he will send the National Guard into the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson to restore calm after authorities forcibly dispersed a crowd protesting last week's fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen by police.

Gov. Jay Nixon signed an executive order deploying the state militia, saying demonstrators had thrown Molotov cocktails and shot at police as well as a civilian, a description of the night's events diverging widely from some eyewitness accounts.

"Tonight, a day of hope, prayers and peaceful protests was marred by the violent criminal acts of an organized and growing number of individuals, many from outside the community and state, whose actions are putting the residents and businesses of Ferguson at risk," Nixon said in a statement on his website.

A midnight curfew was imposed for the second night in the tense St. Louis suburb hit by racially charged demonstrations, violence and looting since unarmed Michael Brown, 18, was shot to death on Aug. 9 by white police officer Darren Wilson.

At around dusk on Sunday, hundreds of protesters in Ferguson including families with young children fled to safety after police wearing gas masks and body armor fired tear gas and smoke canisters to scatter them hours ahead of the curfew.

"The smoke bombs were completely unprovoked," said Anthony Ellis, 45. "It (the protest) was led by kids on bikes. Next you know they're saying, 'Go home, Go home!'"

The Missouri Highway Patrol said "aggressors" were trying to infiltrate a law-enforcement command post and that armored vehicles were deployed to ensure public safety.

"We ordered them back. We ordered them back again. After several attempts, we utilized the smoke to disperse these individuals," said Highway Patrol Corporal Justin Wheetley.

State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson told a late-night news briefing: "Molotov cocktails were thrown, there were shootings, looting, vandalism and other acts of violence that clearly appear not to have been spontaneous."

He was explaining the police tactics against what he said had to that point been a peaceful demonstration.

"Coordinated acts" by a few in the crowd were "premeditated criminal acts designed ... to provoke a response," Johnson said. "I had no alternative but to elevate the level of our response."

He noted most of the protesters were peaceful and blamed the trouble on "a few people bent on violence and destruction."

Johnson said the trouble began after police responded to the shooting of a civilian at 8:25 p.m., which was followed by gunfire directed towards police and Molotov cocktails being thrown. At least one other person was shot, and several were arrested. No police were injured.

Officials said Ferguson schools would be closed on Monday.

Private, Federal Autopsies 

A preliminary private autopsy, asked for by Brown's family, showed the teenager was shot at least six times, The New York Times reported on Sunday night.

Quoting Michael M. Baden, former chief medical examiner for the city of New York, the newspaper reported that Brown was shot twice in the head, and that the bullets that hit him did not appear to have been fired from very close range because no gunpowder was detected on his body.

Brown's family was set to appear with Baden on Monday morning in St. Louis to address the autopsy's findings.

Earlier on Sunday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder ordered a federal autopsy of Brown's body, seeking to assure the family and community there will be a thorough investigation.

Police say Brown was asked by Wilson to move off the road and onto a sidewalk and that Brown reached into a patrol car and struggled with Wilson for his service gun and was shot.

A friend of Brown's, Dorian Johnson, 22, and at least one other witness said Wilson reached out through his car window to grab at Brown and the teenager was trying to get away when shot. Brown held up his hands in a sign of surrender but Wilson got out of his patrol car and shot Brown several times, they said.

Police in Ferguson have come under strong criticism for Brown's death and their handling of the aftermath.

On Saturday night they also used smoke canisters and tear gas to drive away protesters who refused to leave the area when the midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew began. Seven protesters were arrested after failing to disperse.

As disturbances continued in Missouri, 500 people protested outside police headquarters in Los Angeles on Sunday over the shooting death of an unarmed black man in California a week ago.

That rally was peaceful, with many holding up signs reading, "Hands up, don't shoot," in reference to witness reports that Brown had his hands up when he was shot in Ferguson.

Additional reporting by Lucia Mutikani and Julia Edwards in Washington, Victoria Cavaliere in Seattle, Dana Feldman in Los Angeles and Chris Michaud in New York; Writing by Colleen Jenkins and Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Mark Heinrich

 © 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Ellen Wulfhorst/Reuters Featured U.S. News Mon, 18 Aug 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Flash: Christians Actually Far Less Likely to Divorce

This is a game-changer. Talk about "an old wives' tale." You've heard it said that 1) 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce, 2) most marriages that do happen to make it are, nonetheless, unhappy, and 3) Christians are just as likely to divorce as nonbelievers.

These claims, long understood to be research-based facts, never quite sat right with me. Still, admittedly, while these assertions do swim upstream against the flow of both our common sense and our common experience, we have, nevertheless, accepted them (present company included) as valid because—well, you know, because "social science ..."

As it turns out, your gut was right. It's all nonsense—urban legend of a sort propagated, most likely, by the same post-modernists who today seek to similarly undermine the God-designed institution of legitimate man-woman marriage by redefining it into oblivion.

Shaunti Feldhahn is a Harvard-trained researcher and author. In her recently released book, The Good News About Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and Divorce, Feldhahn details groundbreaking findings from an extensive eight-year study on marriage and divorce. Among other things, her research found:

  • The actual divorce rate has never gotten close to 50 percent.
  • Those who attend church regularly have a significantly lower divorce rate than those who don't.
  • Most marriages are happy.
  • Simple changes make a big difference in most marriage problems.
  • Most remarriages succeed.

In an interview with CBN News, Feldhahn shared that, like most of us, she had swallowed the anti-marriage propaganda hook, line and sinker. She believed, "that most marriages are unhappy and 50 percent of them end in divorce, even in the church."

The CBN story continues:

"'I didn't know. ... I've stood up on stage and said every one of these wrong statistics.'

"Then eight years ago, she asked assistant Tally Whitehead for specific research on divorce for an article she was writing. After much digging, neither of them could find any real numbers.

"That kicked off a personal, years-long crusade to dig through the tremendously complicated, sometimes contradictory research to find the truth.

"'First-time marriages: Probably 20 to 25 percent have ended in divorce on average,' the study revealed. 'Now, OK, that's still too high, but it's a whole lot better than what people think it is,' Feldhahn added."

CBN noted, "[T]he 50 percent figure came from projections of what researchers thought the divorce rate would become as they watched the divorce numbers rising in the 1970s and early 1980s when states around the nation were passing no-fault divorce laws."

So, in other words, and I wish I could say I long suspected this, the 50-percent divorce figure is simply a myth based upon decades-old (and woefully inaccurate) speculation. As it turns out, the shelf-life for marriages in the United States has taken a sharp turn for the better since the 1970s and '80s.

"'But the divorce rate has been dropping,' Feldhahn said. 'We've never hit those numbers [the 50 percent figure]. We've never gotten close.'"

"And it's even lower among churchgoers, where a couple's chance of divorcing is more likely in the single digits or teens," added CBN.

Additionally, the study determined that four-out-of-five marriages are happy. "That number flies in the face of the popular belief that only about 30 percent of marriages are happy."

"'Most people think most marriages are just kind of 'eeh' ... just kind of rolling along,' observed Feldhahn. 'And they're shocked when I tell them that the actual average is 80 percent: 80 percent of marriages are happy. ...

"'The studies show that if they stay married for five years, that almost 80 percent of those will be happy five years later,' she concluded."

Still, of the study's many myth-busting revelations, the fact I found most interesting (and instructive) was this: Of all marriages, Christian marriages prove the most durable.

"The Good News About Marriage also reveals the divorce rate among those active in their church is 27 to 50 percent lower than among non-churchgoers," noted the report. "Feldhahn's hope is that once people learn the truth that they will spread it far and wide."

"'This is a great chance,' she said, 'to stand up and say. We were all fooled. Not anymore.'"

Indeed, "Fool me once ..." and all that.

I've covered it before. Here's what marriage is: the God-ordained, lifelong, covenantal union between man and wife, designed to provide men, women and children optimal stability and overall well-being. Marriage is that biologically, spiritually and morally centered institution calculated to ensure responsible procreation and perpetuate the human race. Marriage, real marriage, represents the fundamental cornerstone of any healthy society (any society that hopes to survive, at least).

Here's what marriage is not: anything else.

In short, marriage is what it is.

It's encouraging to learn that, even under the increasing barrage of no-fault divorce and sin-centric marriage re-definition artillery, this cornerstone institution has, thus far, survived all efforts to destroy it.

It's even more encouraging to learn that, as with all things, marriages built upon the rock of Christ prove stronger still.

I agree with Shaunti Feldhahn: Let's spread the good news far and wide.

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, 18 Aug 2014 12:00:00 -0400
ISIS to US: 'We Are in Your State, Cities'

It's a frightening reality: Americans now live in a country that could be facing a terrorist threat worse than al-Qaida: the Islamic State.

U.S. intelligence officials warn that ISIS has now gained momentum that will be difficult to halt in Iraq and Syria. They say the ruthless Islamic terrorists intend to prove their power far beyond the Middle East.

Intelligence warns the Islamic State may attempt a major terrorist strike in Europe or the United States to assert itself as the true leader of the international jihadist movement.

ISIS -- sometimes known by its longer name, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria--is using social media to advance its in-your-face propaganda. 

Recently, a photo was tweeted of a hand holding an ISIS flag right in front of the White House. It was pictured with a hand-written warning attached: "A message from ISIS to U.S. - We are in your state. We are in your cities. We are in your streets," the Aug. 9 note read.

Another photo was shown in the same picture. It featured a handwritten note in Arabic held in front of a building with two American flags at an unclear location.

Translated, the note dated June 20, 2014 says: "Soldiers of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria will pass from here soon," followed by a verse from the Quran.

The Secret Service said it is investigating the matter.

"We have an intelligence division whose mission is to assess information that we receive every day for dangerousness or potential threat level. We are aware of the image and will take the necessary and appropriate follow-up steps," Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan told ABC News.

Meanwhile, a New Jersey man said he meant no offense when he flew a flag that looks like the ISIS flag in front of his home in New Jersey.

Mark Dunaway, from Winslow Place, New Jersey, said he was expressing his Muslim religion by flying the flag every year during Ramadan and every Friday.

"Every Muslim uses that black flag," quoted Dunaway. "You'll find it in any mosque in world. I am an American citizen and I love my country, but I am also a Muslim and I use that flag to say I'm a Muslim."

But a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations told ABC News Dunaway's flag isn't the Islamic flag.

The scare comes as President Obama announced there will be no need for the United States to rescue stranded Yazidis from Iraq's Mount Sinjar, saying U.S. airstrikes allowed most to escape.

"We broke the ISIL (ISIS) siege of Mount Sinjar," he said. "We helped vulnerable people reach safety, and we helped save many innocent lives."

But Yazidi leaders disagree, telling The New York Times the crisis isn't over. Despite Obama's assurances, the United Nations said the situation is still dire.

"The United Nations has declared a level three emergency for Iraq, the highest global humanitarian priority for the U.N. and partner agencies," U.N. spokesman Stephan Dujarric said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki broke the political power struggle in Baghdad, saying he's stepping aside after eight years as Iraq's premier.

Prime minister designate, Haider Al-Abdi, now has less than 30 days to form a new government. Iraqi political analyst Kareem Hassan Jabr said al Maliki's replacement will need to correct past mistakes.

"The new prime minister has two main tasks to achieve. The first is fight terrorism and the second is to fight the financial corruption which has prevailed in government institutions," Jabr said.

The new prime minister will also need to do more to stop the advance of the Islamic State in Iraq.

Gary Lane/CBN News Featured U.S. News Mon, 18 Aug 2014 11:00:00 -0400
How Should We Respond to Vicky Beeching?

Believers throughout the English-speaking world were shocked and saddened to hear that Vicky Beeching, a greatly loved songwriter and worship leader, has announced that she is gay. How should we respond?

1. This should not be about your own feelings. When you sing to God words of worship and praise that someone else has written, it's easy to feel betrayed when that person lets you down. So it's understandable that some believers are asking, "How could she do this to us?"

The fact is that she didn't do this to you any more than she wrote worship songs for you.

According to her story, her sexuality is something she wrestled with for years, and as much as her "coming out" as gay was a public event, it was also an intensely personal decision before God, and that's where our first focus should be: praying for her to align her life rightly with the Lord.

To lash out at her now in immature ways will only drive her further from the cross. While it is fine to speak the truth to her in love—assuming she reads some of the comments addressed to her on blogs and social media—praying for the Holy Spirit to convict her of her error is even more important.

2. She will not be the last Christian leader to declare that she/he is gay. We are living today in a perfect spiritual storm in which biblical ignorance, moral compromise, and societal changes have combined to produce deep spiritual deception.

That's what opened the door for contemporary Christian music artist Jennifer Knapp to "come out," and that's what opened the door for Jars of Clay front man Dan Haseltine to voice apparent support for same-sex "marriage" as well as for influential leaders such as Rob Bell and Jim Wallis to advocate for redefining marriage.

That's also what opened the door for an evangelical publishing conglomerate to publish and aggressively promote a book devoted to promoting "gay Christianity."

At any other time in church history, ideas like this would not been countenanced for a split second among committed followers of Jesus who were grounded in the Word. But today, professing Christians are questioning some of the most basic scriptural truths about morality.

You can expect a lot more surprises in the coming days—both from pastors and musical artists—but as painful as this is to witness, it is a necessary separation that will ultimately divide those who seek to change the Word from those who seek to submit to the Word.

3. God's Word has not changed. If 10,000 pastors declared they were gay tomorrow, it would not change the truth of the Bible one iota. If 10,000 worship leaders declared that God had made them gay, it would not change a single scriptural truth.

As I have emphasized repeatedly, despite the increasing number of professing "gay Christians"–-by which I mean those who claim that you can follow Jesus and practice homosexuality at the same time--there are "no new textual, archaeological, sociological, anthropological or philological discoveries [that] have been made in the last 50 years that would cause us to read any of these biblical texts differently."

And so, once more, we see the fundamental error of "gay Christianity," namely, people interpreting the Bible through the lens of their sexuality rather than interpreting their sexuality through the lens of the Bible.

4. Boycotting Vicky Beeching's music is a matter of personal conviction. Although it appears that as a BBC broadcaster Vicky should be able to make a good living, she will lose royalties from the States if we no longer use her songs.

Should we attempt to punish her for coming out as gay? I don't believe so, if "punish" is the goal.

Should we continue to use her music? That's really a matter of personal conviction.

For some believers, it could be a serious distraction, putting the focus on Vicky Beeching and her sexuality rather than on Jesus the Lord and the glory of God.

For other believers, it is the truths and melodies of their favorite worship songs that help them connect spiritually, and they don't know (or care) who wrote what they are singing.

Either way, whether we use her songs or drop her songs, since she did touch many lives in the past, there are many people who should be praying for her.

5. Embracing "gay identity" is the real problem.

In her coming-out interview, Vicky stated, "What Jesus taught was a radical message of welcome and inclusion and love. I feel certain God loves me just the way I am, and I have a huge sense of calling to communicate that to young people."

Actually, what Jesus did in such a radical way was to reach out to the worst sinners of His day and change them by His presence and His words rather than affirming them in their sins. I call this "transformational inclusion" as opposed to "affirmational inclusion," which is not the gospel.

In an interchange with American family activist Scott Lively, Vicky claimed that denying her gay identity is what caused her so much torment over the years, and we need to accept our sexual orientation as a gift from God rather than battling with our own selves.

But as Pastor Kris Vallotton noted in an extensive Facebook post (that I cited in Can You Be Gay and Christian?) in which he described his years of pastoral counseling, "These experiences have taught me that when you define yourself by your temptations or your passions (instead of managing your appetite and resisting temptations), there is no bottom to that cesspool! The truth is that we all have temptations and appetites that are not healthy and must be managed, or we will live with a deep sense of shame no matter what values our culture tries to validate because God has written His own values on our hearts."

And so Vicky, if you will allow me to address you personally, you have told the world that you are same-sex attracted, but those attractions do not define you, and there are plenty of other Christians with deep-seated sexual desires that they have experienced all of their lives that are far more shameful than anything you have expressed.

And while it is absolutely true that God loves you even when you wrestle with same-sex attraction, He did not create you to be with other women. If He does not give you the grace to change your romantic attractions and sexual desires, then He will so fill you with His love and goodness and presence that His embrace will mean more to you than any human embrace.

I appeal to you, Vicky, to go back to God once again, to recognize that His Word really is clear in terms of homosexual practice, and that you can advocate for freedom and wholeness in Jesus without advocating for homosexual practice. (In fact, if you advocate for homosexual practice, you will bring people into bondage, not freedom.)

Perhaps the Lord wants to use you to bring liberation to others in a way beyond anything you yet know.

I know you have experienced a sense of a large burden lifting, but ultimately, it will prove to be more a natural euphoria than a spiritual one. So again, I appeal to you: Go back to the cross; go back to the secret place of worship; go back to the unchangeable Word; humble yourself in His sight, and He will give you grace.

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

Michael Brown Featured In the Line of Fire Opinion Mon, 18 Aug 2014 10:00:00 -0400
'The Fight Will Not Be Easy, but It Will Be Worth It'

It is a crime against humanity.

Every year millions of women and children fall into the hands of traffickers in their own countries and abroad. Almost every country in the world is impacted by this injustice. In 2012, the International Labor Organization estimated that almost 21 million people worldwide were victims of forced labor and trafficking. Many of them are young women and children, and many are victims of sexual exploitation.

Statistics like these spur a desire to help those trapped in slavery. Unfortunately, it's not an easy task. The abolition arena is filled with well-meaning individuals who have been overwhelmed by the enormity of the issue. But this Aug. 6-8, more than 1,000 abolition advocates learned about the power of perseverance.

At the third annual Exodus Cry Abolition Summit in Kansas City, Missouri, event attendees became equipped with skills and strategies designed to help them persevere and gain ground in the long-term fight against human trafficking.

Founded in 2008, Exodus Cry is a nonprofit organization committed to abolishing sex slavery through Christ-centered prevention, intervention and holistic restoration of trafficking victims. Exodus Cry is best known for its award-winning documentary film, Nefarious, Merchant of Souls released in 2011.

In 2015, the organization plans to release its next feature-length documentary about the demand side of the sex industry. Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution will reveal undiscovered fronts in the war on human trafficking and unexpected hope for victims around the world.

The 2014 summit included keynote addresses from leaders in the growing movement to abolish sex slavery, including Don Brewster, co-founder of Agape International Missions, an organization that is fighting the war against sex trafficking in Cambodia; Annie Lobert, a human-trafficking survivor and founder of Hookers for Jesus; and Benjamin Nolot, Exodus Cry founder and the director of Nefarious. The keynote presentations were enhanced by breakout sessions on public policy, online exploitation, deliverance and filmmaking. Worship sessions were led by prominent worship leaders and musical artists. Throughout all aspects of the event, the resounding theme was perseverance.

According to Brewster, some experts estimate that there are 1.2 million new people entrapped in slavery every year, or one new slave every 15 seconds. He acknowledged that those assessments can be defeating, and he stressed the need for unrelenting love in overcoming the obstacles faced by every abolitionist.

Brewster paraphrased 1 Cor. 13: "An abolitionist without love is nothing but an annoying sound," he said. "Until you experience the love (of God), you won't experience real transformation. When you pay the price to persevere in love, when you sacrifice to do that, then you get to be a part of God's miracle."

Corey Russell, a senior leader at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, urged attendees to overcome the angst that abolitionists often feel as witnesses to oppression and to embrace the compassion that God is calling them to by becoming people of prayer.

Russell emphasized that the dialogue of prayer—both in speaking to God and in listening for His Heart for others and ourselves—is a critical piece of becoming fully committed to the difficult work of abolition. He also charged attendees to personal holiness, warning them about falling prey to temptations.

"We have no power in heaven when that which we want to bind has bound us," Russell explained. "This burden started with God, and He has brought you up, into His heart."

Nolot reaffirmed the need for perseverance. He empathized with the feelings of many abolitionists who are immobilized when they become aware of just how big the task is. But Nolot also outlined a healthy picture of an abolitionist.

He recounted two of Moses' battles: one fighting for the freedom of a Hebrew slave and the other standing with his people at the Red Sea awaiting certain slaughter. Nolot noted that while the circumstances were similar, Moses' heart was different. In the first scenario, Moses ran scared. In the second, he stood in faith, transformed by God after his time in the wilderness. Nolot challenged abolitionists to embrace their wilderness season as a time to wait on God and grow in Him, so that when difficulties come, they will be able to persevere.

The Abolition Summit did more than charge attendees with a list of tasks; it provided the formula for maintaining a life in God and fighting the battle against human trafficking until the day when every person is truly free.

While human trafficking remains a global crisis, positive developments in Exodus Cry's departments of Prevention, Intervention and Restoration offer additional motivation to persevere.

Exodus Cry safe homes, or Lighthouses, continue to provide victims with a haven for seeking restoration, and a screening of Nefarious on Capitol Hill resulted in new anti-trafficking legislation. In addition, Exodus Cry concluded Liberdade this summer. The initiative—designed to bring freedom to the women and children trafficked in Brazil through prayer and outreach—resulted in heightened awareness about sexual exploitation and the training of Brazilian abolitionists who are now better equipped to fight trafficking in their own country.

"We want to do more than just talk about human trafficking. We want to abolish it," Nolot noted. "We are making progress, but we can't do it alone. We need each other, and we need God's intervention and direction. The fight will not be easy, but it will be worth it."

Randy Bohlender Featured U.S. News Mon, 18 Aug 2014 09:00:00 -0400
Mainstream Media Vilifies Israel, Ignores Hamas' War Crimes

When observers describe or denounce Israeli military actions against terrorists in Gaza as "disproportionate," they glibly assume sweeping legal conclusions without sufficient proof or analysis. But the evidence shows that Israel has acted with disproportionate decency, while Hamas has committed war crimes.

Hamas' indiscriminate rocket and missile attacks—which now total about 3,500 in the last month—target primarily Israeli civilians. The effects of Hamas' attacks have been serious--contrary to what most media reports suggest:

1. Increasing premature births

2. Shutting down Israel's biggest airport, blocking 90 percent of incoming and outgoing passengers

3. Forcing about 8 million people to live on the edge 24/7, fearing that if their missile-defense system or scramble to shelters falters, they could die

4. Constant interruptions throughout the day and night with as little as 10 seconds to find shelter

5. Billions of dollars in economic damage

The principle of distinction requires belligerents to distinguish between combatants and civilians. Hamas' violations of this principle amount to a double war crime: first by targeting Israeli civilians, and second by using Gazan civilians as human shields for these attacks, thereby making it much harder for the IDF military response to distinguish Gazan combatants from noncombatants.

Hamas exhorts Gazans to act as human shields, and its combat manual encourages this war crime while admitting that Israel avoids civilian casualties—an avoidance that Hamas exploits for tactical advantage. Legal scholar Alan Dershowitz deftly highlights yet another proof of Hamas war crimes: Hamas chooses to locate its military efforts in the most densely populated parts of Gaza, instead of in the far less populated areas nearby—a decision calculated to maximize Gazan civilian deaths. Cynically breaking all rules, Hamas even uses ambulances to transport fighters and converts Gaza's hospitals into command centers, weapons depots, and rocket-launch sites.

Hamas perfected suicide bombing and is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and Europe, so its war crimes are unsurprising, even if the media concealed Hamas' barbarism for the last month. But what of the oft-repeated but seldom questioned claim that Israeli military actions are "excessive" or "disproportionate?"

The first duty of any state is to provide security to its citizens. Adjusting for size differences (the U.S. has about 473 times Israel's land mass, and 40 times Israel's population), what would be the U.S. military response if Al-Qaeda took over Mexico and launched about 47,300 projectiles per day at the U.S. mainland, killing 120 U.S. civilians and 2,560 soldiers and causing significant property damage, widespread insecurity, and travel shutdowns? Such a comparative context supports those proclaiming that the IDF and Benjamin Netanyahu deserve a Nobel Peace Prize for their restraint during such a challenging war.

As of Aug. 9, Israel's military had attacked about 5,000 targets in Gaza (4,762 during the first 29 days of Operation Protective Edge and a few hundred more since) resulting in 1,915 deaths (according to the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health). Even if this total were accurate and represented entirely civilian deaths, the strike-to-kill ratio absurdly implies that Israel's military needs about 2.5 attacks to kill one person.

But if Israel's goal were just to kill Gazans, it could kill well over 1,915 with a single airstrike. Why spend so much on intelligence gathering and precision-guided bombs (or force Israeli citizens to endure so many costly weeks of war) when the IDF could raze half of Gaza in an hour? The fact that the IDF has struck so many times with proportionately few casualties shows the extent of its restraint and precision while destroying the terrorist infrastructure threatening Israelis.

Israel has made extraordinary efforts to minimize civilian casualties—despite Hamas' plan to maximize them. Israel aborts airstrikes that will result in excessive civilian casualties, warns civilians to clear areas that will be targeted, and loses ground troops in densely populated areas like Shejaiya to avoid airstrikes that would kill far more Gazan civilians. Israel chose not to target Gaza City's main Shifa Hospital, even though it knew that Hamas leaders were cynically hiding there, and an airstrike could have substantially harmed Hamas' military leadership.

As this article explains, Israel sacrifices blood and treasure to minimize harm to Gaza's civilians. And yet somehow Israel is still accused of deliberately targeting civilians even when Hamas' misfired rockets are responsible or when an IDF mistake happens. But as Colonel Richard Kemp argues, "Mistakes and malfunctions happen in all fighting armies and in all conflicts. Do those who condemn the killing of Palestinian civilians as deliberate acts by the IDF suggest that ... incidents in Gaza [in which the IDF accidentally kills Israeli soldiers] are also intentional?"

Some of the same media outlets that rushed to portray Israel as using disproportionate force have belatedly acknowledged that fighting-age men are vastly over-represented among Gaza's dead, strengthening Israel's claims all along that it has done its best to target combatants and avoid civilians.

Israel's restraint is all the more remarkable given the genocidal intent of its enemy, as clearly stated in the preamble to Hamas' covenant and demonstrated by Hamas' genocidal missile attacks on Israel's nuclear reactor (for more on Hamas' genocidal plans, see this article by Jeffrey Goldberg). Would the U.S. military be as careful as Israel has been to avoid civilian casualties when confronting an enemy trying to kill millions of Americans and destroy the United States.?

The knee-jerk assumption that Israel uses disproportionate force oversimplifies complex situations requiring deeper analysis and overlooks the powerful factors limiting Israel's military:

1. Internally, Israeli democracy subjects leaders to checks and balances from a vigorous political opposition, independent investigations (such as the Winograd Commission), and a defiantly free press and protest culture (including anti-war protests in Tel Aviv); so when about 90 percent of a normally fractious democracy supports military action, the country clearly faces very serious and legitimate threats.

2. Externally, the military actions of Israel are more scrutinized than those of any other country (as Bret Stephens brilliantly highlighted in 2009), and therefore always carry a greater risk of war-crimes accusations, anti-Semitic attacks abroad, and unprovoked attacks from neighboring countries (over a dozen rockets were fired at Israel from Lebanon during the current conflict in Gaza). Such realities compel Israel to use force judiciously.

In the end, Israel must protect its citizens from an Iran-backed terrorist army that is disproportionately willing to kill Israeli and Gazan civilians. It continues to face disproportionate blame despite its disproportionate efforts to defend its population more humanely than any state in history has. Only if Israel decisively defeats Hamas can real peace come to Gaza—one more reason to let Israel's soldiers finish the job before granting them the Nobel Peace Prize.

Noah Beck is the author of The Last Israelis, an apocalyptic novel about Iranian nukes and other geopolitical issues in the Middle East.

Noah Beck Featured Opinion Mon, 18 Aug 2014 08:00:00 -0400
4 Hilarious Ways to Improve Your Health Right Now

What is a sure-fire way to improve your health that is free? Laughter. It's one of the most often overlooked ways we can, and should, live better.

Yes, the ability to laugh seems to come naturally to some people. But everyone, even the most serious personality types, can develop a funny bone. It's a wonderful way to stay healthy.

As researchers examine the keys to longevity, they are now discovering overwhelming evidence that living long has less to do with exercise and eating right than the way we THINK.

Just look at the majority of centenarians, and you'll notice they have a zest for life, a natural curiosity and, yes, a sense of humor. You'll notice a lightheartedness among people who've outlived their counterparts.

This is all about stress. Stress is far more devastating than most people realize. It literally debilitates your entire system. Anger, fear, unforgiveness and yes, a sour attitude, all contribute to stress.

Conversely, letting go of anger, resentment and not taking ourselves too seriously immediately contribute to stress relief and an overall healthier you. Research shows:

1. Laughter improves your heart. Our blood vessels function more efficiently when we laugh because blood flow increases, which protects us against heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems.

2. Laughter is a natural painkiller. Just as when we exercise, when we have a good laugh, our body releases endorphins, nature's painkillers. They are those feel-good chemicals that make us feel happy ... some say it's like a "natural high." In fact, scientists say endorphins are so powerful, they rival the impact morphine has on our body, but with only good side effects.

3. Laughter relaxes the body. It's a natural stress reliever. In fact, the effect of a good laugh lingers for 45 minutes in the form of less physical tension and greater muscle relaxation.

4. Laughter also boosts the immune system. Tickling the funny bone causes ugly stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline to diminish. When that happens, your body increases its production of disease-fighting antibodies, which kill all those pesky bugs that circulate during cold and flu season.

So, are you one of those people who take life too seriously? You can change. Just make an effort to lighten up, and it will get easier.

So how do you laugh more?

1. The first step is to smile. Smiling leads to laughter. One thing you'll notice right away is that when you smile at people, they smile back.

2. Take it a step further, and you'll notice that laughter is contagious too. If you spend time around a bunch of people who are constantly uptight and frowning, just remember, you can single-handedly turn things around. Make it a point to joke and smile, lighten the mood whenever possible, and just watch how others will follow suit without even knowing it.

3. Seek out people who laugh and smile, and spend more time with them.

4. Watch funny television shows, movies or listen to funny podcasts or CDs in your car. Watch funny YouTube videos. But make sure they're clean and edifying. They are out there.

5. Look at the humor in yourself and in less-than-perfect situations.

Don't be surprised if you suddenly have more friends. Everyone wants to be around people who have mastered those skills. And it only takes practice.

Laughter is a fantastic way to defuse conflict. In the morning, make a conscious effort, a vow if you will, to joke about yourself and sticky situations in the day ahead.

Having a good sense of humor isn't just about adding levity to stressful situations. It can be a way of commenting on the everyday situations as well.

I am so very grateful for the jokesters in the CBN News room. Recently on The 700 Club, we aired two stories about James Brown, who had an amazing Christian testimony. One of the stories was about the new biopic based on his life and the other was the re-airing of an interview James Brown did with The 700 Club, back in the 1980s.

One of the women in the newsroom, Andrea Garrett, in honor of our recent emphasis on James Brown, sent an email around with a link to the hilarious James Brown parody that Eddie Murphy performed on Saturday Night Live, which at the time was so wildly popular it became a pop-culture phenomenon. What a laugh we all had.

For the original article, visit

Lorie Johnson/CBN News Medical Reporter Featured Opinion Mon, 18 Aug 2014 07:00:00 -0400
Sending Kids to Concerts: Do You and the Obamas Have a Clue?

Malia Obama has turned Sweet 16. Like many her age, a rite of passage is going to a concert or music festival with friends to enjoy the songs, atmosphere and just have some good, clean fun.

Picture President Obama and Michelle sitting in the Oval Office giving her some parting instructions: "Sweetie, your outfit is so cool, and I know you'll have a good time. Stay close with your friends and don't worry, the bodyguards won't embarrass you. Lollapalooza, Grant Park—Chicago's music festival has some of the biggest names, even though Beyoncé, our favorite, won't be there. The weekend is going to be a blast!"

A hug, a tender kiss on the forehead and off she goes like multitudes of teens today. Maybe the first lady brushes aside a salty tear and smiles faintly as her reassuring hubby gives her a wink and a nod telegraphing, "Everything's gonna be OK."

Twelve-year-old Sasha cuddles her teddy bear, watching admiringly in the background and thinks to herself, "It won't be long till I can go with Sis. She promised to bring me back some of the band's "merch"—maybe a CD, hoodie or a poster."

What can be more wholesome than the above scene: the sweetness of a young lady's innocence; the adventure of exploring the musical landscape of the pop scene; and sentimental parents looking on approvingly?

Fast forward to Grant Park in the middle of 300,000 screaming, musical aficionados.

What Can Go On At These Events?

"C'mon you hot m----- f---ers! Give it up for the real Slim Shady ... EMINEM!!"

For the uninitiated, this Detroit rapper, from the duo "Bad Meets Evil," has sold 115 million albums. He's a headliner. His life is a tale of debauchery, drugs, assault, arrest, divorce and promotion of violence against women. His mother sued him. His best friend was shot in the head after killing someone. He's been addicted to drugs and alcohol, consuming 40 to 60 Valium in a day. He overdosed on methadone—the equivalent of four bags of heroin. He was two hours from dying. He's trying some rehab.

His songs are foul and profane, from the gutter. He peppers rhyming lyrics with the f-word and multitudes of obscenities while celebrating masturbation, violence and references to a woman's intimate parts.

  • "Kill You": "Slut, you think I won't choke no whore/vocal cords don't work in her throat no more?"
  • "We as Americans": "F--- money! I don't rap for dead presidents. I'd rather see the president dead."

If this was one of his selections, I wonder how that went over with our impressionable young lady?

"I can't hear ya, Chicago! Outkast is in the house! They've got that social stigma so let's make 'em feel right at home you (expletive) monsters!"

Again, for those not so clued in, these X-rated hip hop "artists" with attitude roll out a degree of depravity not comprehended by scores of adults. Sample some of the titles from their explicit album overflowing with profanities, The Love Below:

  • "Hootie Hoo"
  • "She Lives in My Lap"
  • "Toilet Tisha"
  • "Gangsta Shxx"
  • "2 Dope Boyz"
  • "Where Are My Panties?"

Picture "you-know-who" plunged into the middle of this cesspool surrounded by partygoers galore, many of whom are drunk, high on drugs, groping each other out in the open while lacing their dialogue with profanities and suggestive remarks.

Not every band sinks this low, but these were the headliners. Not everybody is in an inebriated stupor, but it's all around. There's nudity along with sex; 21 felony arrests—most drug-related; cleanup of 250 tons of trash—drug paraphernalia, vomit and unmentionables. And all this in an atmosphere where police usually turn a deaf ear and are encouraged not to be aggressive but let people "have a good time." Last time Lady Gaga performed, she launched her near-naked body to crowd-surf the riotous crowd.

BREAKING NEWS: 'Rape and Sexual Assaults on the Rise at Concerts, Experts Say'

As I was working on this commentary, a friend sent me an article that could not have been more timely. You can read all the details on

As you read some of the excerpts, should it surprise us that what is conveyed on the platform is then carried out in the crowd?

Heather McKay opened her well-researched and documented article with these words: "Gone are the days when the worst thing a woman had to worry about at a concert was getting her purse snatched. Experts we talked to say sexual assaults at concerts and music festivals are on the rise, the product of lax security, drugs and alcohol."

She went on to survey what is happening. Here are some examples she cited:

  • Sexual battery at a Beyoncé/Jay-Z concert.
  • Teenager allegedly raped in broad daylight at Keith Urban concert while others watched. Attorney justifies behavior as "consensual."
  • At one event there was a woman raped and robbed; a teenager assaulted in a porta potty; a parking lot attendant raped a girl; etc.

Experts say that organizers don't want to spoil the atmosphere with security "snooping around." They also point out that "most victims don't report crimes and many can't recall details due to drug/alcohol impairment."

Recently Billboard magazine ran an article entitled "17 Deaths and Counting: Festival Fatalities on the Rise." Even the music industry's bible is raising the red flag! Are parents, including our president and the first lady, paying attention?

Even if there are no rapes, assaults and felony gun charges cited, what are a parent's responsibilities in releasing a child or teenager into this kind of "free-for-all" environment? Remember where we started in citing the profanity, drugs, drunkenness, sexually-charged lyrics and example.

Just days ago, Miley Cyrus returned to her Nashville, Tennessee, home for a packed concert of primarily teenage girls and those in their early 20s. Our local newspaper reported there were no parental chaperones in sight.

This mixed-up exhibitionist for whom we should pray opened saying she wanted "some (expletive) noise!" and that she was going to "show them why I'm so (expletive) crazy!" She added, "School starts back tomorrow, so don't get too drunk tonight."

The former Hannah Montana leads her followers down the broad road to destruction as she endorses drug use, spews profanity, swings naked in her videos and sits spread eagle on the stage like her promo shot for the tour squatting, grabbing her crotch.

Our local entertainment magazine chuckles at her antics and dismisses them as harmless, edgy and basically reminiscent of Elvis. Hardly.

Time to Wake Up and Smell the Stench

I wonder what report Malia gave her parents when she came home. If I had my wish, I would respectfully sit down with the Obamas and read them this commentary, as I would like to do with every American family facing the same challenges. But since they are the First Family and should model something for the rest of us, I close sharing something of what I'd tell them.

"Mrs. Obama, you may be BFF (best friends forever) with music's No. 1 female megastar, Beyoncé, extolling her as a 'true role model for children' and 'a role model kids everywhere can look up to,' but should you as the first lady be setting this kind of example by taking your vulnerable and precious daughters to one of her concerts as you've done in addition to letting Malia go to Lollapalooza?

"The 'Queen Bey' exhibits a seductive image, prancing about in barely there clothes, doing over-the-top sensual dance moves. She goes on tour in her see-through bodysuit and gyrates like someone in a strip club. Her signature song is "Bootylicious," and her last album is basically a graphic ode to sex. Uber-liberal Rolling Stone magazine said, 'She hits nasty highs through the album.'

"I say this respectfully: Mrs. Obama this is not the kind of example you should be setting as our nation's 'First Mom.' I ask you to change course before it's too late.

"President Obama, while I continue to pray for you every single day, do you realize how you have abdicated your responsibility as leader of your wife and daughters in this realm? Sir, I beseech you to take decisive action and lead your three beautiful ladies on a righteous path. It's not too late."

How about you?

Not all pop singers and songs are perverted and immoral. Not every concert or festival is a haven of hedonism. If you look hard and research carefully, you may find a rare few. But be careful and don't compromise-–your children's future is at stake.

The founding father of rock n roll is Little Richard, and he has something to add to the conversation. His life became a cesspool of heroin, cocaine and sexual promiscuity. Let's let him give the parting shot as today he serves the Lord Jesus Christ as a minister of the gospel.

"This music does not glorify God! You can't drink out of God's cup and the Devil's cup at the same time. I was one of the pioneers of that music, one of the builders. I know what the blocks are made of, because I built them."

"Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-–if anything is excellent or worthy of praise-–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me, put it into practice. Then the God of peace will be with you" (Phil. 4:8-9).

Larry Tomczak is a best-selling author and cultural commentator with more than 41 years of trusted ministry experience. His passion is to bring perspective, analysis and insight from a biblical worldview. He loves awakening people to today's cultural realities and responses needed for a restored, influential church. Please visit and follow him on Facebook or at @larrytomczak on Twitter. 

Larry Tomczak Featured Here's the Deal Opinion Mon, 18 Aug 2014 06:00:00 -0400