Charisma News | Breaking News. Spiritual Perspective. Thu, 02 Oct 2014 02:07:13 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Algerian Christians: 'We Must Not Bow to Fear'

The assassination of a French tourist by militants in Algeria has raised the fear of new terrorist attacks in the country. Hervé Gourdel, 55, was beheaded on Sept. 24 by a radical Islamist group "Soldiers of the Caliphate," linked to Islamic State in Iraq, in the northeastern region of Kabylie.

Gourdel, who was an experienced hiker, was kidnapped on Sept. 21, along with five Algerians, but his companions were released 14 hours later.

His murder has sparked a wave of indignation and anger, notably via social media. It reminds Algeria and the world of the civil war of the 1990s, also known as ''The Black Decade'' when more than 150,000 people died violently, while thousands of others went missing. This followed the annulment of an election won by an Islamist group, after which the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) sought to gain power, opposed by the Algerian military. 

Now, members of the Christian community in Bejaia, one of the main cities in Kabylie, are particularly concerned over the threats posed by militants. "If we consider the fate reserved by IS fighters for Iraqi Christians, there is genuine reason to express concerns over the church in Algeria. That is why we must be vigilant,'' said Omar, 31, member of a Protestant church in Bejaia.

For Selma, 26, another Christian in Bejaia, the church constitutes a potential target for terrorists, who have shown "their desire to establish an Islamic theocratic regime everywhere they stamp their feet, to the cost of other beliefs.

"Frankly, I am worried. Christians should be mobilized in prayer against this approaching darkness.''

On Saturday, many Catholic believers gathered in Bejaia to address this issue among others. Reacting to the killing of the French hostage, the Rector of the Basilica of St. Augustine in Annaba (400 km east of Algiers, the capital), has strongly condemned the ''barbaric'' act.

"This is the first time I shed tears since I arrived in Algeria four years ago. I really cried when I heard the news of the decapitation of the French hostage. I was touched by his murder," said Father Ambroise Tshibangu Tshiasuma.

The death of Gourdel has brought back the memories of the murder of seven Cistercian Trappist monks of Tibhirine, killed in a similar way in 1996. The seven monks, all French men, were kidnapped on the night of March 26 to 27, 1996, in their monastery near Medea (90 km south of Algiers, the capital). They were well-liked, and, despite knowing the dangers they faced, chose to stay in Algeria and died at the hands of the GIA. Two members of the community escaped, and the last survivor wrote an account 'The Last Monk of Tibhirine'. This later became a moving docu-drama 'Of Gods and Men', which won the Grand Prix at Cannes Film Festival in 2010, and also awards for 'Best Foreign Film'.

Other Catholic clerics have also lost their lives in Algeria, notably the Archbishop of Oran, Mgr Pierre Claverie, killed in a terrorist attack in August 1996, and  four bishops known as "White Fathers," killed in their chapel in Tizi Ouzou on Dec. 27, 1994, by militants. 

Father Amboise has not forgotten the murder of his fellow clerics, but there is no need to yield to fear, he said.

"It is true that the presence of the terrorist groups raises a general feeling of fear, but we must not give in to fear. The church must remain calm and continue its work.

''I think militants constitute a bloodthirsty minority. All Algerian citizens are not involved in terrorists' activities. We must live by faith and trust God," he added.

Support to Iraqi Christians

On Sept. 20, a group of Christian and secular Algerians staged a rally in the northern town of Aokas, to show their support to the Iraqi Christians and other minorities in Iraq.

"Through this gathering, we want to express our solidarity and support to Iraqi Christians and the Yezidi community who suffer because of the terrorists of the Islamic State," said Abdelkader, a Christian from Aokas who attended. "Iraqi Christians are victims of genocide. We cannot remain silent about this horrible massacre."

A large banner: "Kabylie in solidarity with Iraqi Yezidi and Christians" was hung between two trees in front of a police station.

Terrorism and Identity Claims

Kabylie is a vast region—its size is similar to that of Denmark—in the northeast of Algeria, on the edge of the Mediterranean. It comprises the provinces of Tizi-Ouzou and Bejaia, among others. Kabylie is considered as a 'recalcitrant' region where a strong sense of regional identity and resistance to all forms of central control has developed over the years. Mainly populated by Berbers—while the rest of Algeria is predominantly populated by Arabs - the region has always had a tumultuous relationship with the central government in Algiers.

Kabylie is also the home of most of members of the tiny, but fast-growing Christian minority in Algeria.

Because of its landscape of forest and mountainous terrain riddled with caves, Kabylie provides fertile ground for guerrilla activities. The region used to be a refuge for fighters during the war of independence against the French colonizers. In the 1990s, at the heart of the civil war, the area became a hideout for the Armed Islamic Group's combatants. This group later mutated into Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), responsible for the kidnap of several Western nationals in Sub-Saharan Africa. The group, which is linked to al-Qaida, was strongly involved in the occupation last year of northern Mali, along much of its southern border.

The Algerian army, which regularly carries out searches in the region, has never been able to completely eradicate terrorism and banditry in Kabylie. The group calling itself 'Soldiers of the Caliphate' is a dissident group from AQIM. AQIM itself, formerly known as the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, has its roots in an Islamist militia involved in the civil war in the 1990s.

In a statement posted on the internet in mid-September, the Soldiers of the Caliphate officially pledged allegiance to IS in Iraq, becoming the first IS "wing" on the African continent. The kidnapping and murder of Gourdel then became the first major action of this hitherto unknown group.

Illia Djadi/World Watch Monitor Featured World News Wed, 01 Oct 2014 20:00:00 -0400
WATCH: Baker Who Wouldn't Serve Lesbians Bursts Into Tears Over Gay Marriage

The owners of a Christian bakery who refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple face hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines after they were found guilty of violating the couple's civil rights, Fox News' Todd Starnes reported earlier this year.

At the Value Voters Summit, though, the couple was anything but bitter. In fact, Melissa Klein broke down in tears on a gay marriage panel while she and her husband, Aaron, defended their right not to serve same-sex couples. Watch her emotional session:

Charisma News Staff Featured U.S. News Wed, 01 Oct 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Joel Osteen Takes Message of Hope to New Radio Show

SiriusXM is hosting "Joel Osteen Radio," which it bills as a "new exclusive channel headlined by the renowned spiritual and inspirational figure." SiriusXM channel 128 is available on satellite radios, through the SiriusXM Internet Radio App and at

Osteen is the senior pastor of Lakewood Church, America's largest Christian congregation. He opened the channel this week with a special Town Hall broadcast event from the SiriusXM studios in New York City alongside his wife. The couple answered questions from an audience of SiriusXM listeners for the inaugural broadcast on Monday.

"Victoria and I are excited to partner with SiriusXM and to bring a message of hope to millions of listeners," said Joel Osteen. "More than ever before, people are looking for hope in their lives.  I believe listeners will be uplifted and filled with an expectation that their best days are still out in front of them."

Joel Osteen Radio will showcase exclusive weekly call-in shows hosted by both Joel and Victoria. Joel Osteen Live will debut next Monday and air every Monday at 5 p.m. EST, giving listeners the ability to interact directly with Joel, who will offer advice and encouragement for leading a fuller life.

"The Osteens' new channel will deliver their message across the country, reaching listeners at a time in our world when inspiration is especially needed," said Scott Greenstein, SiriusXM's president and chief content officer.  

"From call-in shows with Joel and Victoria, to broadcasts of the weekly live services from Lakewood Church, to the archive of Joel's sermons, the depth of programming on the channel will be remarkable."

Victoria Osteen will begin hosting her weekly show, Victoria Osteen Live, on Wednesday, Oct. 8, at 12 p.m. EST. The program will feature Victoria taking calls from her listeners, sharing her perspective on family and faith, and talking with special guests.

Listeners will also get the exclusive live radio broadcast of services from Lakewood Church in Houston, on Saturdays at 7 p.m. EST, and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. and 12 p.m. EST.  Sunday's 12 p.m. service will replay at 3 p.m., giving listeners across the country an additional opportunity to tune in.


Andrea Davis Featured Culture Wed, 01 Oct 2014 18:00:00 -0400
Incest Law Should Be Scrapped, Says Top Government Committee

Laws prohibiting incest between siblings in Germany should be removed, according to a top government committee, which says it is "not appropriate for a criminal law to preserve a social taboo."

"The fundamental right of adult siblings to sexual self-determination is to be weighed more heavily than the abstract idea of protection of the family," stated the German Ethics Council.

The Council released a statement containing its recommendation after examining the high-profile case of a man jailed for incest in 2008.

Patrick Stuebing, who was adopted as an infant, met his sister, Susan Karolewski, when he was in his 20s and she was 16.

The couple have four children together, two of whom are disabled. Karolewski has retained custody of their youngest child, but the other three have been taken into care.

Stuebing was sentenced to more than three years in prison and has since failed in appeals to the Federal Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights to have the guilty verdict overturned.

Responding to the Ethics Council, a spokeswoman for Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, Elisabeth Winkelmeier-Becker, said that the abolition of the law against incest would send the wrong signal.

"Abolishing criminal punishment against incestuous actions within a family would go completely against protecting the undisturbed development of children," she added.

Stephan Mayer, interior policy spokesman of the CDU parliamentary group in the Bundestag described the recommendation as "scandalous."

"The Ethics Council must wonder if it is still up to its name and order with this immoral advance. The decision of the committee is absolutely unacceptable."

In a statement, the German Ethics Council, maintained: "Neither the fear of negative consequences for the family, nor the possibility of the birth of children from such incestuous relationships can justify a criminal prohibition."

Incest remains illegal in the U.K. and most European countries.


The Christian Institute Featured World News Wed, 01 Oct 2014 17:00:00 -0400
'Dumb Down' Drama's 'Offensive Religious Message' or Else, Says College Adviser

Alliance Defending Freedom sent Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, North Carolina, a letter on behalf of a student not permitted to perform his drama club production because of its Christian message. The club's adviser said he would only allow the production if the student agreed to "dumb down" the religious content until it was not "obvious."

"Public universities and colleges are supposed to be marketplaces of ideas, where all viewpoints—including religious ones—are welcome. College officials should know that the First Amendment protects students' religious speech, even if some people find it offensive. And it prohibits those officials from trying to purge student productions of all things religious," said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Travis Barham.

In September, the drama club adviser told Justin Graves, a dual-enrollment student at CFCC, that his production could not be performed because it has religious themes, even though it received unanimous approval from the drama club.

The adviser claimed that the production would violate the First Amendment if it included the religious themes, and he advised Graves to "dumb down" the religious content until it was not "obvious" to avoid any potential lawsuits or "offending" anyone. Ironically, the adviser allowed the drama club to sponsor other productions that could potentially cause offense, including ones that included rape and incest themes.

"Since at least 1981, the Supreme Court has clearly indicated that public universities cannot single out religious speech for special, detrimental treatment," the ADF letter explains. "Indeed, when 'the government targets not subject matter, but particular views taken by speakers on a subject, the violation of the First Amendment is all the more blatant.'"

"The 'Supreme Court has held time and again, both within and outside of the school context, that the mere fact that someone might take offense at the content of speech is not sufficient justification for prohibiting it,'" the letter states.

"Public colleges are perhaps the ultimate example of places that should recognize the constitutionally protected freedom of expression," added ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Hacker. "We are asking CFCC to lift its censorship of religious speech and allow this production to proceed."


Charisma News Staff Featured U.S. News Wed, 01 Oct 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Evangel University Announces Inauguration of Alumna Carol A. Taylor as 4th President

Evangel University has announced dates for the inauguration of Dr. Carol A. Taylor, its fourth president. Events will take place Oct. 9 and 10 during homecoming. The theme for the weekend is "Celebrate: Called to Serve!"

"A presidential inauguration is a significant moment in the life of any university," Taylor said. "I think it takes on special significance this year as we continue to experience what it means to be a comprehensive university with an embedded seminary. There are possibilities today that didn't exist before the consolidation."

Taylor will be only the fourth president in the university's 59-year history. 

She was selected in spring 2013 to serve as president of the consolidated Evangel University. During the 2013-14 academic year, Central Bible College and the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary joined with Evangel to form the comprehensive university. Taylor arrived on campus in July 2013 and served as president-elect and CEO during that academic year. She assumed full responsibility as president on May 1, 2014.

A 1973 elementary education graduate of Evangel University, Taylor also earned amaster's in cross-cultural communication from the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in 1978. She also took classes at CBC and earned a Ph.D. in multilingual/multicultural education from Florida State University in 1987. 

Taylor came to Evangel from Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, California, where she served as its ninth president from 2009-2013. Prior to that, she served as provost and vice president of academic affairs at Vanguard.

Before joining the Vanguard administration, Taylor served for seven years as the vice provost for undergraduate education at Biola University, 12 years in executive management at Educational Testing Service (ETS) in Princeton, New Jersey, and has taught in public schools and at several state universities at both the undergraduate and graduate school levels.

The inauguration ceremony will be held 10-11:30 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 10. The program for the installation of Dr. Taylor includes the procession, performances by the Evangel University Chorale and Chorus, the commencement of the authority of the university and presentation of the presidential medallion by Dr. George O. Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, an inaugural blessing by Chancellor Robert H. Spence, and the inaugural address by Taylor. Presidential charges also will be given by representatives from the board of trustees, the student body, and faculty and staff.

The event will take place in the Evangel University Spence Chapel and is free and open to the public. It will be live-streamed on the following

Charisma News Staff Featured U.S. News Wed, 01 Oct 2014 13:52:38 -0400
Mr. President, You Need to Apologize to Israel

This summer, as Hamas was raining rockets on Israeli civilians, storing munitions in civilian buildings, and firing rockets from mosques, schools and clinics, the Obama administration had the audacity to say that it was "appalled" by Israeli attacks that unintentionally killed civilians, even calling them "disgraceful."

In response, I observed that the administration holds Israel to a higher standard than it holds itself, demanding stricter rules of engagement for Israelis than Americans.

Now, as we drop our own bombs in Syria (and civilians die), the administration is further exempting itself from its own standards:

"The White House has acknowledged for the first time that strict standards President Obama imposed last year to prevent civilian deaths from U.S. drone strikes will not apply to U.S. military operations in Syria and Iraq," Yahoo News reported.

"A White House statement to Yahoo News confirming the looser policy came in response to questions about reports that as many as a dozen civilians, including women and young children, were killed when a Tomahawk cruise missile struck the village of Kafr Daryan in Syria's Idlib province on the morning of Sept. 23.

"The village has been described by Syrian rebel commanders as a reported stronghold of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front where U.S officials believed members of the so-called Khorasan group were plotting attacks against international aircraft.

"But at a briefing for members and staffers of the House Foreign Affairs Committee late last week, Syrian rebel commanders described women and children being hauled from the rubble after an errant cruise missile destroyed a home for displaced civilians. Images of badly injured children also appeared on YouTube, helping to fuel anti-U.S. protests in a number of Syrian villages last week."

To be clear, I applaud the administration for loosening its absurd rules of engagement. When an enemy hides among civilians, the resulting civilian deaths are the enemy's moral and legal responsibility, not ours. There must be no safe zones for jihadists, no place where they can lay their heads in peace.

Yet I can't help but notice the double standard. If Israel's acts of self-defense are "disgraceful," then how does the administration describe our own strikes?

The administration's rhetorical attacks on Israel were not only baseless as a matter of law, they were morally bankrupt. The president of the United States owes the men and women of the IDF—men and women who risked and sacrificed their lives fighting the same jihad—a heartfelt apology.

David French is a senior counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice. This article is crossposted on National Review.


David French Featured Opinion Wed, 01 Oct 2014 15:00:00 -0400
LGBT Activists Encouraging Students to Celebrate Killer as Role Model

A pro-parent group is alarmed by upcoming plans for schools across America to celebrate several highly questionable individuals as heroes, including someone recently released from prison for manslaughter.

The killer-turned-hero is just the tip of the iceberg, according to attorneys at Pacific Justice Institute, who are calling on parents to pay attention throughout October to what is being taught in schools as part of LGBT History Month.

"It is almost unbelievable who these activists think should be held up as role models," commented Brad Dacus, the president of PJI. "Every year, this celebration gets more disturbing and bizarre, but telling kids that a killer is a hero represents a new low."

The organizers of LGBT History Month annually select 31 "icons" of LGBT history that they urge schools and students to learn about and celebrate, one for each day in October. The list is posted at Perhaps most concerning to parents this year will be the inclusion of CeCe McDonald, who was released from prison earlier this year after serving time in the killing of a man who had insulted her.

McDonald was charged with second-degree murder and accepted a plea of second-degree manslaughter after fatally stabbing the man with scissors. McDonald is presented in LGBT History Month as a "prison reformer" who brought attention to the plight of transgender inmates.

Works by several of the other individuals included on this year's list would not otherwise be allowed in schools, or most homes. For example, a music video of "icon" John Cameron Mitchell has been deemed too explicit to be shown on MTV Europe; comedian "icon" Margaret Cho's routines are replete with vulgarity not permitted in school; and kids who want to learn more about "icon" Natalie Barney will read that she decried fidelity and instead advocated for adultery. 

Last year, the number of school districts officially celebrating LGBT History Month grew to include Los Angeles, Fresno, Philadelphia, Charlotte, North Carolina, and two counties in Florida. In most districts around the country, LGBT History Month is promoted with posters and other materials by the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) student clubs, and by individual teachers, without advance notice to parents. In 2011, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie suggested that a teacher should be fired for criticizing LGBT History Month on her personal Facebook page. 

PJI is urging parents to talk immediately to all of their children's teachers and school administrators to find out whether any promotion of LGBT History Month will be taking place over the next few weeks and to keep an eye out for posters promoting drag queens, radical activists, or "prison reformers" as historic figures.


Charisma News Staff Featured U.S. News Wed, 01 Oct 2014 14:00:00 -0400
Deadly Ebola Virus Hits America—Missionaries Respond

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas is treating the first patient to be diagnosed with the deadly Ebola virus in the United States. According to Reuters, a hospital spokesperson has said the patient—who has not been identified—is in "serious condition."

Two of the three American Ebola patients infected in West Africa and brought back to the U.S. for treatment worked with SIM USA. The ministry's president, Bruce Johnson, has released the following statement:

"We are sorry to learn of the confirmed case of Ebola in Dallas. This person did exactly the right thing—report to a hospital.

"Unfortunately, the vast majority of people of West Africa have little or no option of a clinic or hospital to seek help. We can control Ebola in America. But it's out of control across West Africa, and that's why we need more people and resources on the ground to care for them.

"Think if this person in Dallas had no clinic or hospital available to them to go to for care. The only care center was a three-day walk or drive from Dallas. That's the case for the majority of people in West Africa. There is scarce or no medical care available.

"I am grateful for what we have available in the U.S. We have seen the success and survival rate of Americans cared for in a well-equipped medical center. We need to help share this with the people of West Africa.

"We will be praying for the survival of this patient and that doctors will continue to learn at a quickened pace what will help fight this epidemic across West Africa."


Charisma News Staff Featured U.S. News Wed, 01 Oct 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Why You Shouldn't Be GLAAD About the Fall TV Lineup

The prince of the power of the air is celebrating his success this week using media to promote the gay agenda and subtly indoctrinate a generation with the message "it's OK to be gay (or lesbian or bisexual or transgender or intersex or questioning)." Of course, the politically correct twist sounds more like this:

"Television networks are playing a key role in promoting cultural understanding of LGBT lives around the world, and are now producing some of the best LGBT-inclusive programming we've yet seen. As they move forward with new programs and storylines, networks must also keep an eye toward diversity and strive to include significant transgender content comparable to those efforts being made by their online competitors, such as Netflix's Orange Is the New Black and Amazon's Transparent."

Those are the words of GLAAD (formerly Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) president and CEO Sara Kate Ellis as her group released two annual television reports on Wednesday showing how effective the prince of the power of the air has become in his efforts to mainstream ungodly lifestyles in prime-time television. GLAAD is giving major kudos to ABC Family, HBO and MTV and slapping the hands of A&E, the History Channel and TNT for failing to produce original programming that glorifies the LGBTIQ agenda.

GLAAD's Mad Demands

What's more, GLAAD officially announced that, "moving forward, networks must feature significant transgender content in their original programming in order to receive a grade of 'Excellent'" in its rankings. It's not enough that 3.9 percent of prime-time broadcast scripted-series regulars will be LGBT characters, which is up from 3.3 percent last year.

The stats go on and on from there, slicing and dicing LGBT coverage per network, by sex, by recurring and regular characters, and so on. Meanwhile, Christian personalities on prime-time television are largely missing or grossly mischaracterized.

I haven't seen an official study, but my own research makes it appear there are more LGBTIQ characters than Christian characters on television today. Turn the clock back 50 years, and you see a much more wholesome image of the American family with bedtime prayers and meetings with the pastor.

Here's How I'm Praying

As I mentioned in my column last week that looked at the mainstream media's obsession with LGBTIQ characters, when Christian characters do make their way to mainstream television shows, they are usually portrayed as judgmental jerks who run around condemning everyone to hell. By way of comparison, LGBTIQ characters are typically funny, cute and otherwise endearing.

Again, the truth is, not all LGBTIQs are funny, cute or otherwise endearing, and not all Christians are judgmental jerks who run around condemning everyone to hell like vice president Sally Langston on Scandal. And let's face it, Christian broadcasting doesn't always offer the best picture of a true Christian either. I'm grateful for Christian television networks, but the content is, at times, questionable with false prophets and merchandisers fleecing the sheep.

It's obvious from the success of programming such as 19 Kids and Counting and Duck Dynasty—and let's not forget The Bible miniseries that broke all the records—that there is an appetite for wholesome content on television and advertisers willing to support it. The best way to overcome darkness is with light. That's why I'm praying for open doors in media and voices to rise up that can write scripts that appeal to the masses without compromising with the spirit of the world.

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



Jennifer LeClaire Featured Watchman on the Wall Opinion Wed, 01 Oct 2014 12:00:00 -0400
Islamic State Beheads 7 Men, 3 Women in Terror Campaign

Islamic State beheaded seven men and three women in a northern Kurdish area of Syria, a human rights monitoring group said on Wednesday, part of what it described as a campaign to frighten residents resisting the militant group's advance.

The head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdulrahman, said five anti-Islamic State Kurdish fighters, including three women, and four Syrian Arab rebels were detained and beheaded on Tuesday 14 km (8 miles) west of Kobani, a Kurdish town besieged by Islamic State near the Turkish border.

He said a Kurdish male civilian was also beheaded.

"I don't know why they were arrested or beheaded. Only the Islamic State knows why. They want to scare people," he said.

Reuters could not independently verify the information.

Islamic State fighters have carried out several beheadings of enemy fighters and civilians in Syria and Iraq.

The beheadings are often carried out in public and with a message that any violent or non-violent dissent will not be tolerated.

When fighting Sunni Mulsim tribes in eastern Syria, Islamic State have used beheadings to scare local leaders to withdraw from the battlefield. Islamic State has also beheaded foreign journalists and an aid worker.

Reporting by Oliver Holmes, Editing by Angus MacSwan

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Reuters Featured World News Wed, 01 Oct 2014 11:00:00 -0400
University of California Becomes 1st to Push This Perversion

The University of California will designate gender-neutral restrooms at its 10 campuses to accommodate transgender students, in a move that may be the first of its kind for a system of colleges in the United States.

University of California President Janet Napolitano's office said in a statement on Monday that the action stems from an effort to make the system more welcoming to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.

Under the plan, all single-stall restrooms at University of California campuses will be converted to gender-neutral facilities, officials said, and newly built and renovated campuses will also have such accommodations that can be used by everyone.

University of California officials do not have details on how many single-stall restrooms exist at the system's 10 campuses, which in total serve about 238,000 students, nor how much it will cost to convert them, said Brooke Converse, a spokeswoman for the system.

A slightly different policy already exists for students in the state's kindergarten-through-grade-12 system after California last year approved the first state law in the United States requiring public schools to allow transgender students to choose which restrooms they want to use.

University of California appears to be the first university system to move to designate bathrooms as gender neutral at all its campuses, Genny Beemyn, coordinator of the trans policy clearinghouse for the LGBT group Campus Pride, said in an email.

The recommendation was made by an LGBT advisory panel that Napolitano established in June.

In another change Napolitano has pledged to implement, students who have not legally changed their name will be allowed to use a different one on certain campus records, officials said in a statement. The step is expected to help transgender students with a male or female given name who want to use a different name.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.


Alex Dobuzinskis/Reuters Featured U.S. News Wed, 01 Oct 2014 10:00:00 -0400
WATCH: Megachurch Pastor Goes Homeless to Raise $100,000

Rick Cole may be a megachurch pastor, but his heart is with the homeless. The pastor of Capital Christian Center in Sacramento, California, has vowed to live on the streets for as long as two weeks until he raises $100,000 for a "winter sanctuary" program that offers food and shelter for the homeless.

"Tomorrow, I'm going downtown on light rail; I picked up my light-rail pass today. I've never ridden light rail in my life, not even once, not even for fun, and so that's gonna be my mode of transportation for the next two weeks, and we'll adjust as we go along the way, and we'll communicate to you as we go along the way," Cole said in his Sunday message, which you can watch below.

"That's what I believe God wants me to do and what we're gonna do together. I'd like us just to make our prayer about God's power to touch our city. This idea is not very old, probably about two or three weeks old, and every step along the way it's only gained momentum and excitement," he continued. "My wife even has grown OK with it. That was a miracle all by itself, so we are excited about the many things I think God wants us to do with this particular project and how we can grow and impact this community."



Jennifer LeClaire Featured U.S. News Wed, 01 Oct 2014 09:00:00 -0400
Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem Goes Mobile

The popular Instapray application has partnered with the Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem (DPPJ), the largest global, grass-roots prayer movement focused on prayer for Jerusalem. This year more than 500,000 congregations in 175 nations are planning to join in prayer for Jerusalem on Sunday.

This prayer movement has no political or denominational affiliation; rather, it seeks to reflect God's love and redemptive purpose for all people groups in the Jerusalem region by taking the time to pray for God's peace and blessings on Jerusalem and all of her inhabitants.

Throughout the last month, believers from around the world were able to pray for the peace of Jerusalem right from their mobile phone by using Instapray, the world's leading mobile prayer application. Instapray is a new social network that connects people of all different ages, cultures and backgrounds in prayer around specific congregations, topics or locations.

Instapray members post prayers and prayer requests that can instantly be read, prayed for and responded to by users in more than 195 countries. Instapray members are able to add pictures, hashtags and mentions to their prayers. This year prayers tagged for the peace of Jerusalem with #DPPJ will be archived together so that users can access these requests from various areas of the world.

"Our goal has always been to mobilize Christians around the world to fulfill our biblical mandate from Psalm 122:6 to 'pray for the peace of Jerusalem,'" says Robert Stearns, founder and co-chairman of DPPJ. "This partnership with Instapray will open up a new avenue for believers to lift up prayer in this critical moment in our world."

Instapray founder and CEO Fryderyk Ovcaric adds: "Our mission is to make the world a better place by facilitating exchanges of inspiration, compassion and care among people through prayers. We are happy to facilitate prayers for peace in the Middle East and hope that our technology platform can have a meaningful impact on mankind, spreading love, respect and support around the world."



Charisma News Staff Featured World News Wed, 01 Oct 2014 08:00:00 -0400
Does Alveda King's Prophetic Dream Hold Answer for America?

Several years ago I wrote an article, "The Church Can Turn The Tide" (see below). Well, the tide is turning, people are longing for revival. America is over 50 percent pro-life. We are looking to God for solutions, rather than the works of humankind. Let us pray more and seek the face of God for solutions to the pressing challenges we are facing.

The Church Can Turn The Tide

If one were to follow the current stream of events, we could only wonder where God is in all of this. Is Jesus still Lord? Is God still on the throne? Is the Holy Spirit still moving across the waters? The answer to all of this is an unequivocal and emphatic "Yes!" And yet, we must also wonder how did we end up in the mess that we are in? The American economic system is crashing. Wars and rumors of wars are covering the globe. The HIV/AIDS epidemic is sweeping the continents. Yet, people are turning on their televisions rather than falling on their knees. Has God failed America? No. Christians have failed America, and Christians are grieving the Spirit of the Living God.

Many would have us believe that we are embroiled in a political battle and faced with an impending global crisis. For many Americans, the answers lie in one political party or the other. Hundreds of books and millions of cyber-space postings blast one candidate while proclaiming another as the answer to all of life's problems. In the presence of all the hype, one factor is noticeably absent: God is neither a Democrat nor a Republican!

The Christian church is passing the buck on finding solutions to the moral crises that are spilling over into the lives of America's families. Christians are spending so much time arguing about whom to vote for, that they are forgetting whom to pray for. Christians spend so much time looking at television that they forget to read their Bibles. As one election cycle draws to a close, people are already gearing up for the next, forgetting all about mounting the next revival crusade that could lead millions to Jesus Christ and change the course of disaster we are currently experiencing.

The Christian church can turn the tide, but only if we are willing to pray. As it is written in 2 Chronicles 7:14: "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." We need to pray and see God's solutions prevail.

In October 2008, I had a dream. It was early in the morning. I was away on a spiritual retreat. While sleeping, I dreamed of two converging streams. One stream was the economy, the other stream was a deep, dark, stream with a powerful current. This stream was the spirit, whether of God or man, I could not see. This stream was a mystery. As I woke up, I realized that the streams represented today's dilemmas, the economy being the problem, the spirit the solution.

The economy stream was heading toward a huge vortex, where other streams were converging: broken marriages, drug abuse, AIDS/STD, failing school systems, sexual abuse and sexual dysfunctions, houses, businesses. I looked for abortion, knowing it had to be somewhere in the mix, but it was hidden. Major institutions were whirling in the vortex too: Wall Street, Planned Parenthood, banking systems, political systems, and sadly, what appeared to be religious institutions. I looked for the body of Christ, and found her in the spirit stream. Marriage, Life and Family are in the spirit stream, guided and guarded by Love.

I have a dream; it is in my genes. My Uncle Martin, my grandfather Daddy King had dreams too. Martin's dream was for the nations. One of Granddaddy's dreams saved me from abortion; another saved my son from the same fate.

This particular dream about the streams comes in the wake of a growing discontent in my heart with our present times. The body of Christ is in the spirit stream. The spirit stream is more powerful than the vortex, yet it is dark and mysterious, and most people don't trust what they can't see. Yet, those who are investing their prayers and yes, their money into the spirit are seeing something amazing—their efforts are staying afloat, not sinking, not converging into the vortex. The spirit stream converges somewhere too; it flows steadily into a river. There is a river whose streams gladden the city of God, the holy habitation of Elyon (Psalm 46:4).

So, this is a time to trust the Spirit of the Living God, to communicate with God in spirit and in truth. Our spirits can converge with His, if we are prayerful and wise. This could be a time to invest in the spirit and not in the flesh and material things. But seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matt. 6:33). End of the dream.

By building on things that are eternal, we can find hope in this present time of trouble. The thing is, we must not lose sight of moral priorities in the face of economic stress. Yes, these are troubled times, times of trouble. We need to anchor our faith in Jesus, through His love, so we remember what's important. What the current economic meltdown should teach us is that our hope is not in the things of this Earth but in God. If financial pressures cause us to stop loving our neighbors, to think only of ourselves, we will lose much more than money. If we stop giving to charity, cease donating our time to help others, or, in the extreme, abort a baby for financial reasons, we literally sacrifice the eternal for the temporary.

Ultimately, what brings us the greatest rewards or the worst scars are the choices we make that have spiritual consequences. In the end, we don't look back at our lives and think of refinanced mortgages or stock trades, but of those we loved. Let us trust God and love Him by loving others in good times and bad. As my uncle Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "The time is always right to do what is right."

If we are to do what is right, we must constantly pray and then act on what God reveals into our hearts. This revelation comes from relationship with God, spending time in prayer and in His Word. To squabble about political parties is a waste of precious time.

While it is true that the Republican Party paid a price in helping to free the slaves, that same party also has a history of erring on the side of caution in involving African-Americans in major policy procedures. Oh, there have been some major African-American political appointments, but historically, the Republican Party does not back African-Americans for state and federal races. The rationale is that the "unpredictable black vote" is better left undisturbed. A communication gap may be the major disconnect with blacks and the Republican Party. Case in point, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower did much to advance the civil rights of "Negroes" in America. He appointed the first black, E. Frederick Morrow, to a White House post. Yet when Eisenhower died, the GOP did little to include blacks in the three days of funeral and memorial events. Little to nothing was said of Eisenhower's historic role in the Little Rock school crisis. Decades later, yours truly was locked out of the RNC headquarters during a visit to the site for a prayer vigil.

On the other hand, the Democratic Party, the party secretly infiltrated by the Ku Klux Klan, also champion of the crippling welfare system and the abortion and anti-marriage culture, is considered to be the champion of black Americans. More blacks have been elected to public office as Democrats than in any other party. Many blacks secretly lauded Bill Clinton as "the first black president."

Obviously, both political parties, products of human government, have serious flaws. The Christian church must rise above political machinations and lead the way to spiritual reform through prayer. Morality cannot be legislated. The human heart must be changed by a Divine touch, and the church has the key, the responsibility of leading the way. Has the church fallen short? The answer is yes, and yet it is never too late to return to God.

Alveda C. King is the daughter of the late civil-rights activist, the Rev. A.D. King, and niece of Martin Luther King Jr. She is also a civil-rights and pro-life activist, as well as director of the African-American outreach for Priests for LifeClick here to visit her blog.



Alveda King Featured Opinion Wed, 01 Oct 2014 07:00:00 -0400
Are We Headed Toward Revival or Retribution?

Within the last three days I've received two very different YouTube messages from two senior charismatic prophetic leaders. The first leader, Rick Joyner, was citing a very vivid and frightening dream he recently had of terrorists coming across our southern border and carrying out unimaginable acts of brutality. So horrendous were these acts that Joyner stated he was not even going to describe them due to their violent and barbaric nature. (Only today we learned of the beheading of an Oklahoma woman by a recent convert to Islam.)

The other video centered around the "Appeal To Heaven" movement. Dutch Sheets, a well-known teacher and prophetic minister, was relating how our nation's first flag was that of a green pine tree on a white background bearing the words "Appeal to Heaven."

America during its first fledgling years knew the people's only hope for existence as a nation was sole dependency upon God. The point of the message was that several people through dreams, etc., believed that God was once again bringing us back to this place of absolute dependency upon Him; and that as we sought Him, He would bring about a Third Great Awakening in our nation.

My first reaction to these very different prophetic words was one of confusion. On one hand was the possibility of retribution while on the other, that of revival.

What was I to believe? As I pondered over these words I came to the realization that both were correct and that one was not necessarily in opposition to the other.          

Let me see if I can explain myself. I believe it's all a matter of timing or order.

Imagine if you were one of the many hundreds of missionaries who had given their lives to serve God in China prior to the Cultural Revolution under Chairman Mao Zedong. Once the revolution had begun, you were forced to leave—no doubt wondering in your mind what on earth was going to happen now that all the missionaries had been forced out. Fast-forward to the present, and we are now witnessing one of the greatest moves of God in recent history. What at first appeared to be a major disaster turned into mighty testimony to the power and grace of God.

The prophet Isaiah declared, "When the earth experiences Thy judgments the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness." He went on to say, "Though the wicked is shown favor he does not learn righteousness" (Is. 26:9-10). It is my personal belief that America is in for a time of judgment and that to be shown favor now would only delay God's ultimate purpose.

That said, I believe we are going to see an increase in violence, terrorism and natural calamities. God will use this to separate the carnal from the consecrated and in turn, produce a church that is truly Christ-centered. It would not surprise me in the least to see an underground church in America in the not-too-distant future—a church where every member functions in their God-given gifting and where everyone depends not only on each other but also holds fast to Christ their Lord and Head.

I truly believe that God wants to send revival to our nation, but revival now would simply cause the vast majority of believers to go on with business as usual.

I well recall during the first year of our ministry working with Brother David Wilkerson in Teen Challenge in Brooklyn, New York. One cold winter's day two drug addicts came in seeking shelter. Bro. David talked to them for a while and then I saw them leave. Bro. David said to me after they had left that he couldn't help them because they were not desperate enough to give up their drugs. He went on to say that all they really wanted was a bed for the night and a good hot meal. I somehow think that is what the church is looking for in revival—a good sermon, some great music, followed by some carpet time.

But I believe God's plans are radically different. He's looking for a pure, passionate, powerful people whose only desire is to extend His kingdom. A people who will love not their lives unto death, and whose first love is not the NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL, but Christ Himself.

We are nowhere near to having Christ as our first love. God must first produce a real CRY in His people. We cry when we are in pain and not until. King David said, "Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now I have kept Thy word" (Ps. 119:67, KJV). Or to put it another way, "Spare the rod and spoil the child."

The shakings have begun. Watch out for more. But remember, that while "no chastening seems to be joyful for the present ... afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness" (Heb. 12:11, NKJV, emphasis added).

I see Joyner's dream coming to pass first, and then followed by a great awakening.

That's my opinion, and time will prove me right or wrong.

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



David Ravenhill Featured Opinion Wed, 01 Oct 2014 06:00:00 -0400
NFL Admits Mistake in Penalizing Muslim Player for Praying After Touchdown

The National Football League admitted on Tuesday that Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah should not have been penalized for sliding on his knees and bowing in prayer after scoring a touchdown.

Abdullah, a devout Muslim, was slapped with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty after his touchdown during the Chiefs' 41-14 rout of the New England Patriots on Monday night.

NFL spokesman Michael Signora said players are not allowed to celebrate while on the ground but this was different.

"Husain Abdullah should not have been penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct following his fourth quarter touchdown," Signora said in an email to Reuters on Tuesday.

"The officiating mechanic in this situation is not to flag a player who goes to the ground as part of religious expression, and as a result, there should have been no penalty on the play," he added.

Abdullah, who scored during a 39-yard interception return in the fourth quarter, had said he believed he was penalized for the slide prior to his prayer.

"I just got a little too excited," Abdullah told reporters after the game. "I think it was for the slide."

Abduallah slid on his knees for several yards before touching his head to the ground at the back of the end zone.

Reporting by Steve Ginsburg; editing by Susan Heavey

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.


Reuters Featured Culture Tue, 30 Sep 2014 18:00:00 -0400
Was 2nd Beheading Scare Really a 'Bizarre Coincidence'?

The same day a woman was beheaded at a Moore, Oklahoma, food processing plant, a second beheading scare occurred in Oklahoma City in what some are calling a "bizarre coincidence."

The Oklahoman newspaper reports Jacob Mugambi Muriithi, who had been fired from his nursing home job, was arrested after a female co-worker said he threatened to cut her head off "with a blade."

The 30-year-old Kenyan native reportedly told her he represented ISIS and referenced killing Christians.

"We take these threats very seriously," Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said.

Muriithi remains in a county jail with bail set at $1 million. As of now there is no link between this incident and the Thursday beheading in Moore.


CBN News Featured U.S. News Tue, 30 Sep 2014 17:00:00 -0400
Chuck Smith Jr. Says Family Lawsuit 'Groundless, Deplorable'

Chuck Smith Jr. is speaking out on a lawsuit that has led to news headlines about a family feud over his megachurch pastor father's death.

Smith's daughter filed suit alleging elder abuse and neglect in connection with the pioneering pastor's last days. Smith went on to glory after a hard-fought cancer battle in October 2013.

Smith, who initiated the rise of Calvary Chapel movement of "Jesus People" that was featured in Time magazine in the 1960s, started pastoring Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa in 1965 and was known for his less formal and contemporary approach to worship and church services.

Smith's son offered this response to the suit:

"A year ago today I invited my brother and sisters into my home to meet with a mediator. My concern was that we agree to set aside our differences and commit ourselves to Dad's comfort and well-being in light of his declining health. After four hours of airing our feelings and grievances, everyone was on board. Sadly, we did not realize how short a time we would have to hold it together before Dad would leave us for heaven's brighter shore.

"The following evening I spent the night with Dad in the hospital and was there the next morning when his caregiver arrived and one by one his doctors came to tell him they had exhausted all their resources and were going to send him home to begin hospice care.

"For the record, I want it to be known that I do not support the lawsuit my sister Janette and brother Jeff have filed against Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. In my opinion it is groundless, deplorable, dishonoring to our father (and to his work, not to mention the people to whom he dedicated his life). It is another sad stain on the representation of Christianity. The only motivation I can see for the suit is malice and greed. Any pretense to honor my father's name or provide adequate care and support for my mother is nonsense.

"I do not know the woman who was interviewed by ABC outside of Calvary Chapel, but almost every word she spoke was false. She was not present when my father passed; I was. She did not speak with the paramedics that night; I did—and also to the police officer who took the report. I can guess where she got her information and I do not blame her, because I am well aware of what convincing stories her sources can tell.

"There were two registered nurses in my parents' home the night of my dad's death. Once everyone who was there has been interviewed it will be evident how ludicrous is the claim that his caregiver or anyone else put off calling for emergency help that might have saved his life. Dad had been sent home to die. One doctor told him (in my presence) that the cancer was too out of control and spreading too rapidly for them to do anything else for him.

"Also, contrary to one specific allegation, as incredible as it seemed to me (and I queried him several times in the hospital), Dad was not in pain or distress in the days and hours prior to his death. Several family members were in his home that day who can corroborate this fact. As for his passing, I posted last year how peacefully sublime was his transition from here to heaven.

"After Dad died, his caregiver called to notify the hospice nurse who was to come in later that morning. The hospice nurse instructed her to inform the police so that the coroner could confirm the time of death. It was the hospice nurse who advised us NOT TO CALL 911. She said that paramedics rushing as if responding to an emergency could be very disturbing for my mom. The caregiver explained this to the rest of us and one person present volunteered to make the call. For some reason, he chose to dial 911 (later that day, he attempted to raise my dad from the dead). After the paramedics hurried in with all their gear, they were not asking us why they weren't called sooner, but why they were called at all. It is not their job to tend to the 'deceased.'

"No one on this planet loved my father more or had greater respect for him and his ministry than his caregiver—who was at all times in Dad's employ and never my brother-in-law's. Her years of loyal service while living in my parent's home is evident in her presence with him in every doctor's appointment and the three-inch-thick volume of notes and medical reports that she maintained regarding both Mom and Dad. What is troubling to me is the way she was summarily dismissed. She also regularly medicated and dressed sores on my dad's feet and legs that were not healing properly and spoke up for him in doctor's visits or with nurses in the hospital when he failed to mention certain symptoms or health issues.

"I doubt the lawsuit will make it to a courtroom. Once the review of financial reports and bank statements has begun and depositions are taken, I suspect that the suit will quickly disintegrate. My heart goes out to anyone who out of love for my dad donates money to support what is in my eyes a scam that is being perpetrated mostly by my brother and surviving uncle.

"Some years ago I chose to live at a distance from Calvary Chapel for various personal reasons. Unfortunately, it is impossible to create the same distance from the antics of family members. I do not intend to sound off again on this ugly drama or provide running commentary. In time, the facts will speak for themselves. I suppose I'm old school in thinking that family matters are to be resolved within the family, and its dirty laundry is supposed to be left in the hamper or laundry room until washed and made presentable. I wish that none of the squabbles had been taken public, because now that there's a breach in the dam, I fear a flood of ugliness will follow. After all, who knows our flaws and failures better than family?

"I do hope that anyone who has made it to the end of this post will take heart. The man who had been 'Papa Chuck' to thousands of young people, consistently taught through the Bible year after year, led many people to the Christian faith, and sustained them in the love of God, was like everyone of us 'all too human.' His hope is the same hope we all share; namely, that when all is said and done, God's grace will have the last word."


Jennifer LeClaire Featured U.S. News Tue, 30 Sep 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Christian Business Owner Wins in Odd Same-Sex Wedding Dispute

A Pennsylvania banquet hall that refused to host a same-sex wedding because of the owner's Christian beliefs has come out victorious in a lawsuit.

Following its longstanding policy, Inne of the Abingtons in North Abington politely refused to host the wedding of a lesbian couple and suggested several alternative venues. After the Inne was unfairly shamed on social media for its stance, a heterosexual couple canceled their 100-guest wedding and reception event. Even though there was not enough time for the Inne to rebook the facility, the couple demanded the return of their deposit, which was nonrefundable under the industry-standard contract.

Having no contractual or legal grounds to force the Inne to take a loss on their cancellation, the couple sued the business anyway, seeking not only a return of the deposit, but triple that amount as damages. On the day of trial, the judge agreed with Liberty Counsel, who is representing the banquet hall, that the suit was improperly filed and should be dismissed.

Rather than let the judge enter a formal dismissal, the couple withdrew their lawsuit, essentially giving up in the face of Liberty Counsel's defense.

"We are happy to host dinners, birthday parties, or just about any other kind of event regardless of a client's sexual orientation, but not a same-sex wedding," said John Antolick, the owner of the Inne.

"I don't want to discriminate against anyone, but my conscience will not allow me to use my business to endorse an event that contradicts God's design for marriage," he added.

"A Christian business owner should not have his contracts dishonored or be hauled into court because he operates his business according to conscience," said Roger Gannam, Senior Litigation Counsel at Liberty Counsel. "This is a victory for religious liberty."




Charisma News Staff Featured U.S. News Tue, 30 Sep 2014 15:00:00 -0400
Jack Hayford Hands 'Israel-Christian Nexus' Baton to Robert Stearns

Robert Stearns has been unanimously voted as successor to Pastor Jack Hayford's leadership role at the Israel-Christian Nexus, it was announced Monday. The Nexus is a historic interfaith-cooperation organization based in the Los Angeles area.

The Nexus was started by the late General Shimon Erem, a colorful and beloved Israeli-born L.A. resident, who had wonderful cooperation with key leaders in the L.A. area, including Hayford, Chuck Smith and many others. Involved in various efforts, Erem was best known for cultivating dialogue and friendship between Jewish and Christian leaders, which has been the primary work of the Nexus.

"I am thrilled that the legacy of this great organization started by my close friend Shimon will continue, and I believe, even flourish to greater levels under the capable leadership of Robert Stearns," said Hayford. "I have worked very closely with Robert for 15 years. He has an unusual ability to build bridges of respect and cooperation for the greater good. The Nexus is in excellent care with him at the helm."

Hayford will continue in the organization as chairman emeritus.

Stearns, who is internationally known for his leadership of Eagles' Wings, a global organization based in New York that he founded 20 years ago, commented: "It is a great honor to follow my mentor, Pastor Jack, in this important role. The fact is that the Nexus has a wonderful leadership team in place with people like Rabbi Kalman Topp, Miri Shepher, Pastor Toure Roberts, Dina Leeds, and many others. I am confident that with this dedicated team, we can do great work in the L.A. area and beyond.

"Certainly, the need for religious communities to cultivate deeper understanding and friendship has never been greater, especially at a moment where Israel and the global Christian community face increasing intolerance and even persecution."

Consul General of Israel to Los Angeles, David Siegel, commented "Robert Stearns has a proven track record of progressive and strategic leadership. We are thrilled to continue working with him in his new leadership role at the Nexus."

Sammy Rodriguez, head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, weighed in on the appointment.

"Robert Stearns is a great friend to the Latino community and has a unique understanding of the special place Israel holds in the heart of the Latino community worldwide," Rodriguez noted. "He is an excellent choice to lead the Nexus given the unique demographics present in the greater L.A. area."

Influential Rabbi David Wolpe stated, "In my meetings with Robert Stearns over the years, I have found him to be a leader with great respect for traditions other than his own. I both hope and expect that his work with the religious community in Los Angeles will be successful."

Stearns commented that one of his first areas of focus will be cultivating young leadership on college and university campuses.

"College campuses, which should be a bastion of free speech and tolerance, are increasingly intolerant to those of a Judeo-Christian background, especially as it relates to Middle East issues. We look forward to continuing Shimon Erem's legacy of cultivating young student leaders who bring a balanced perspective to their universities."


Charisma News Staff Featured U.S. News Tue, 30 Sep 2014 14:00:00 -0400
Obama: I Stand With Muslims

In his book The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama stated of Muslim Americans, "I will stand with them should the political winds shift in an ugly direction."

With Islam now at open war with the West, the winds have, indeed, shifted, and Obama's pledge is being tested. Stunningly, despite multiple beheadings of civilians by Islamic terrorists, the murder this summer of a 19-year-old New Jersey man by an Islamic jihadist, and the beheading in Oklahoma just last week of a woman by a man who purportedly was trying to convert co-workers to Islam, the president still refuses to call Islam anything other than a religion of peace.

In a 60 Minutes interview that aired Sunday, the president admitted his administration had "underestimated" the threat from the Islamic State terrorist group, but instead of accepting responsibility, he laid the blame at the feet of his director of national intelligence, James Clapper. The White House quickly attempted damage control, claiming that the president was not seeking to lay the blame elsewhere.

Author and apologist Alex McFarland says the president's failures in leadership pose an extreme danger to the United States.

"Wise leadership is correctly perceiving what you're engaged in and having the courage to identify the enemy," noted McFarland, director for Christian Worldview and Apologetics at the Christian Worldview Center of North Greenville University in Greenville, South Carolina. "Are there Muslims who are not terrorists? Absolutely. But where are those peaceful Muslims, raising their voices en masse around the globe and denouncing terrorism? They are largely silent. Why? Because the core of Islam is not peace but jihad and the eradication of all those who do not follow Islam."

Addressing the U.N. General Assembly last week, Obama said, "We have reaffirmed that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam. Islam teaches peace. Muslims the world over aspire to live with dignity and a sense of justice. And when it comes to America and Islam, there is no us and them—there is only us, because millions of Muslim Americans are part of the fabric of our country."

"We've heard time and again of the threats against Christians in Iraq, who are being told, 'Convert, pay a fine or die,'" McFarland continued. "We need to understand—and our president needs to understand—that this threat is not only against Christians in Iraq but also against nations. Islam is literally telling America, 'Convert, serve Islam or die.' And jihadists on our own soil are beginning to carry out this threat.

"President Obama continues to claim that America is not at war with Islam, but the reality is that Islam is at war with America."

McFarland added that despite the president's unwillingness to acknowledge the imminence and immensity of the threat of Islam, there is still something Americans can do.

"Islam's message is, 'Convert or die,' but the message of Jesus Christ is, 'Repent and live,'" McFarland added. "Now is not the time for Christians to sit back and hope things turn out for the best. This is not a game we are engaged in. The future of our nation is at stake. Now is the time for Christians across this nation to get on their knees, repent of our individual and national sin, and pray that God would have mercy on our land. And now is also the time to pray that Muslims would have an encounter with the true God and turn to Jesus Christ."


Charisma News Staff Featured Politics Tue, 30 Sep 2014 13:00:00 -0400
What About Ex-Ex-Gays?

While speaking in Singapore at a seminar sponsored by Focus on the Family, I was asked the question: What about ex-ex-gays? Does their existence prove that it is really impossible for people to change their sexual orientation?

This past July, Time magazine ran a story entitled, "9 Ex-Leaders of the Gay Conversion Therapy Movement Apologize." The article stated that, "Former members of organizations that advocated therapy to 'cure' homosexuality have joined LGBT groups in rejecting the concept."

Last year, John Paulk, formerly a very prominent ex-gay married to his ex-gay wife, Anne, went back to his gay lifestyle after 15 years of marriage. (While working on my book A Queer Thing Happened to America, I wrote to John asking him how he was doing, and he replied that he was enjoying married life and raising his children. He has since left his wife.)

Do these significant failures demonstrate that change in sexual orientation is impossible? Certainly not.

First, for every well-known ex-ex-gay, there are 10 or 100 or 1,000 unknown ex-gays—meaning people who formerly lived as homosexuals but no longer do. Only God knows their numbers, but I run into them all the time, often smiling broadly as they share their stories with me after hearing me speak at a meeting.

These people are, by and large, not involved with ex-gay ministries and have nothing to prove by their stories and nothing to gain financially. They just want me to know about the new life they have experienced in Jesus, and quite a few are now happily married with children. (For a great example of this joy-filled new life, watch this five-minute video.)

Second, the term "ex-gay" has lots of different meanings (some leaders like the term, while others don't), ranging from, "I used to be involved in same-sex relationships, and I am no longer am," to, "My romantic and sexual desires have changed from homosexual to heterosexual," along with everything in between.

I know some ex-gays who are thrilled to be free from their old lifestyles despite the fact that they have not become heterosexual, and they are overflowing with contentment, living for God as celibate singles.

I know others who, through counseling or a deep spiritual encounter with the Lord, literally went from homosexual to heterosexual (this is more common than you might realize), and they have lived like this for decades now.

A former lesbian wrote to me, "I experienced God's love in a supernatural way after I chose to obey Him and deny my same-sex attractions. Those feelings have since disappeared gradually as my attention shifted from self-love to living for Jesus."

This is her story, and I believe her, just as I believe the stories of those who tell me they tried to change and could not.

Some fail, and some succeed. Some experience radical change, others do not.

But isn't this similar to what happens in many areas of life, where some people are greatly helped by a specific type of counseling or a unique spiritual experience, and others point to that same counseling or experience as being destructive in their lives?

The only fully documented, book-length, longitudinal study of the question of ex-gays, entitled Ex-Gays?, by Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse, came to very positive conclusions, despite being ridiculed by gay activists.

Third, there are often other factors involved in a person's failure to change, and it would be wrong to make generalizations based on their personal stories, even if they have much in common.

And since the Bible clearly states that change from all kinds of deep, life issues is possible (see 1 Cor. 6:9-11), and since many have truly experienced change, I find it far better to believe that change is possible while at the same time showing compassion to those who have struggled or fallen.

Fourth, plenty of people are not happy living as homosexuals, be it because of their spiritual convictions or because of relational or health issues. (For a recent documentary sharing powerful testimonies, see For Such Were Some of You.)

Do we tell them, "Hey, there's no reason for you to think about changing, since there are prominent ex-ex-gays saying that change is impossible"? God forbid.

Fifth, we need to emphasize holiness more than heterosexuality. As one former lesbian remarked, "God never said, 'Be thou heterosexual for I the Lord thy God am heterosexual,' but rather, 'Be thou holy for I the Lord thy God am holy.'"

Put another way, the Word of God does not say that without heterosexuality no one will see the Lord but rather, "without holiness no one will see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14).

If someone wants to get to the root of their same-sex attractions, I'm all for it. Some have been changed through the process of discipleship, some through inner-healing or deliverance, some through an unexpected spiritual breakthrough, and some through counseling.

But if we focus on changing someone from homosexuality to heterosexuality rather than from homosexuality to holiness, there is the possibility of great frustration and even disappointment and backsliding.

Sixth, human nature is frail and homosexual attractions are often very deeply rooted, to the point that people believe they were actually born gay.

That's why we must join together grace and truth when reaching out to those who identify as gay or lesbian, demonstrating compassion and longsuffering without compromising the truth of the gospel.

The bottom line is that homosexual practice, under all circumstances, is sinful, and nothing can possibly change that fact, but it is equally true that there is liberty and new life in Jesus, and those willing to take up the cross and follow Him will never need to look back.

Since I expect gay bloggers and ex-ex-gays to respond to this article critically, if you are one of the many who, by God's grace, have come out of homosexuality, please take a moment to respond here as well. It will glorify the Lord and encourage others too.

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


Michael Brown Featured In the Line of Fire Opinion Tue, 30 Sep 2014 12:30:00 -0400
US Government Suing Companies for Transgender Discrimination

A funeral home and an eye clinic that fired employees who had changed their sex from male to female were sued last week as the U.S. government filed its first-ever federal lawsuits for transgender discrimination.

The cases could lay the groundwork for more such actions in the future, legal experts said on Monday.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brought one lawsuit in Florida and another in Michigan on Thursday on behalf of two transgender employees.

"This will be a wake-up call to employers that they should take another look at their practices," Robert Weisberg, an EEOC attorney who helped bring the case in Miami, said in an interview. "Victims of transgender discrimination will become more aware there is a legal recourse."

The EEOC enforces federal laws against employment discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex and nationality under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

In one case, funeral home director Amiee Stephens was fired after she told her employer in Michigan she was undergoing a gender transition, the government alleged. The R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Home named in the complaint did not immediately return requests for comment.

In the other case, Brandi Branson—hired as Michael at the Lakeland Eye Clinic in Florida—claims he was ostracized after his transition and later told his position was eliminated. The complaint alleges that the company then hired a replacement.

"Lakeland Eye Clinic has not and will not discriminate against any employee because of gender transition, or any other basis," the clinic said in a statement.

More discrimination claims are being considered by the commission. In 2013—the first year the EEOC started separating out the data—the commission received 131 gender identity discrimination allegations, according to an EEOC representative.

The EEOC cases could set a precedent for other courts, said Kylar Broadus of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, who says he was fired from a job in the 1990s for being transgender although his case was dismissed.

"When individuals do it, it doesn't carry the same weight as the EEOC itself," he said. "The EEOC is what courts look to set policy. That's why this is monumental and historic."

In 2011, a Task Force study found 90 percent of transgender people surveyed reported harassment or discrimination on the job, with 47 percent saying they had been fired, not hired or denied a promotion because of their transgender identity.

The case law has been moving in the direction of more protections, the EEOC's Weisberg said.

In a 2012 administrative ruling on the firing of a federal employee named Mia Macy, the EEOC found gender identity discrimination qualified as sex discrimination.

Many cases have cited a Supreme Court ruling from the 1980s where a woman said she was told at her job at Price Waterhouse she was not "feminine" enough. The Supreme Court found in her favor, arguing her male colleagues were basing their decisions based on gender stereotypes.

Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Matthew Lewis

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.


Mica Rosenberg/Reuters Featured U.S. News Tue, 30 Sep 2014 12:00:00 -0400
‘The Good Lie’ Tells Story of Sudanese Christians who Became ‘Lost Boys’

A group of rag-tag Sudanese refugees who immigrated to the United States may have started out as "The Lost Boys." But in Hollywood's latest treatment of this real-life tragedy, they find love, support and the power of faith to believe in miracles.

Based on true events, a new film called The Good Lie, which is being released Friday, stars Reese Witherspoon as a strong-willed but emotionally detached Midwestern woman named Carrie Davis. As an employment agency counselor, Davis helps three young persecuted Christian refugees from war-torn Africa look for jobs after their relocation to the United States.

"I really hope the Christian audience can get behind this film," producer Molly Smith said in a telephone interview with Charisma News on Monday. "The story of the Lost Boys is an incredible story. They had to have faith to get through this journey. It's the ultimate triumph of the human spirit."

Christian themes promoted in the film include the idea that sacrifice is the ultimate act of love; loving the stranger; because believers have a Savior, we are not alone in this world; leaving the past behind to address the needs in front of us; and 'good lies' and honesty; according to the film's production notes.

The film's title comes from a lie that one of the Sudanese characters tells soldiers – that he is alone in tall grass – to protect his brothers who are hiding. Many boys captured during the Sudanese civil war were forced to fight as child soldiers. More than 2 million of them died.

Prominent Christian leaders such as Rick Warren have endorsed the film.

"There's two great stories in The Good Lie. One of them is the story that brings awareness to how millions of people are living in refugee camps around the world," said Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church in California. "The other story tells us you don't have to be perfect to make a difference. I'm going to tell my 5 million followers on Facebook to spread the word about this important film. I just love this story. The Good Lie is a beautiful movie ... well acted, brilliant cinematography. I think it's an Academy Award-quality movie."

The "Lost Boys of Sudan" is the name given to the more than 20,000 boys (and girls) of the Nuer and Dinka ethnic groups who were displaced and/or orphaned during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005); about 2.5 million were killed and millions more were displaced. The term was revived, as children fled the post-independence violence of South Sudan with Sudan during 2011-13.

Producer Smith, 33, was part of a team that was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in 2010 for The Blind Side, which starred Sandra Bullock, who won for Best Actress that year. Smith sees similarities between Bullock's mother-figure character and the more detached professional played by Witherspoon.

"I would say they're both brash American women who have incredible experiences that changed their lives," Smith said.

Witherspoon's character, Davis, starts out trying to find jobs for the four young men who have arrived in Kansas City after spending 15 years in refugee camps. But they keep turning up on her doorstep as they keep getting tripped up trying to adapt to American culture.

"Reese's character is a flawed woman," Smith said. "She's emotionally closed off, a little bit lonely. These guys showed up on their doorstep, keep showing up to thank her, and they her open her eyes" to the possibility that she should be more open to human contact.

"This movie will appeal to Christian audiences," Smith said, "because it's a story about family and love and sacrifice. We really hope the audience will connect with these values."

Mark Andrews Featured Culture Tue, 30 Sep 2014 11:00:00 -0400
Iraqis Get Spiritual Warfare Training Against ISIS

According to former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, Europe is edging closer to war.

Blair warns that airstrikes won't be enough to stop Islamic State terrorists and says "boots on the ground" may be necessary. Meanwhile, Iraqi seminary students helped by Open Doors USA are fighting a battle of their own.

On Sunday, Blair spoke with CNN about British involvement in the fight against ISIS.

"It's now very obvious—from Syria, from Libya, from everything that's happening in the world—that this problem isn't going away," Blair told CNN's Candy Crowley.

"You certainly need to fight groups like ISIS on the ground. It is possible that those people who are there locally and who have the most immediate interest in fighting ISIS can carry on the ground offensive against them. ... But I think there will undoubtedly be, over time, a need to hit ISIS not simply through an aerial campaign, but also on the ground.

"And the question will be, 'Can those people—if they're supported locally—do that job, or will we have to supplement that?"

On the ground in Iraq, ministry workers are waging war of a different kind. A few months before ISIS began its campaign of terror in Iraq, Martin* and Daniel* took an online pastoral course offered by Open Doors. Practical application would soon follow in the form of an ISIS invasion.

ISIS took Martin and Daniel's village over the summer when its Kurdish defenders took flight. The seminary students also ran for their lives and are taking refuge in a Kurdish city. With help from the Lord and their brothers and sisters in Christ, these pastors-in-training are making the most of their situation.

"Everything that I've learned at school and in the pastoral course I can now use to serve these people," says Martin about the refugee families he shepherds. Open Doors sends relief aid to Martin's church, and Martin helps deliver it to his fellow refugees.

As they care for spiritual and physical needs of refugees, gospel workers like Martin and Daniel often feel abandoned. But letters of encouragement, prayers and support from the worldwide church help these believers find a second wind.

"When I read the words of encouragement, I wanted to cry," said Daniel. "When you're in such a situation, you think that the world has forgotten about us. But now I see that our brothers and sisters are thinking about us and praying for us."

Click here to send words of encouragement to a persecuted Christian.

*Name changed for security purposes.

This article originally appeared on


Katey Hearth/Mission Network News Featured World News Tue, 30 Sep 2014 11:00:00 -0400
The Spiritual Attack Christians Can No Longer Deny

It's undeniable. And it shouldn't surprise you. But this might.

Despite 1,600 incidents documented this year—25 percent more than in 2013—there are still deniers, who believe that pervasive, unprecedented hostility to religion does not exist in America today. 

I know, it baffles the mind. If you read the comment section of our articles, you'll see more than a little hostility toward truth-bearers. 

Nevertheless, denial of these attacks continues to threaten fundamental religious freedom of people of all faiths. This is according to Liberty Institute and the Family Research Council's "Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America 2014 Edition." The survey was released during the Values Voter Summit Friday-Sunday. You can view and download a free copy of "Undeniable," follow this link:

Here's the backstory: In 2012, the Family Research Council began collaborating with Liberty Institute to document the frequency and the severity of hostility to religion in the U.S. Liberty Institute President and CEO Kelly Shackelford and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins write in the latest survey's opening letter: 

"We offer Undeniable 2014 to you, the American people, as an alarm bell ringing in the night. We believe the many public-opinion surveys showing that you, the people, are still a religious people. We believe abundant research shows that religion remains a cornerstone of morality, order, charity and freedom. If you allow the forces of intolerance to steal religious freedom, you will forfeit all these benefits for yourself your children and future generations."

Can somebody say amen?

Jennifer LeClaire Featured U.S. News Tue, 30 Sep 2014 10:00:00 -0400
Beware: This Invisible Food Hazard Is a Silent Killer

Do you love corn, nuts, peanut butter or even milk? While these foods give you a different feeling of satisfaction, did you know that they could potentially harm your body in the long run?

Believe it or not, there is one component that grows in these food groups that can pose serious health risk—aflatoxin. But before you panic, here are some things you should know about aflatoxin and why it is dubbed an invisible food hazard.

What is Aflatoxin?

Aflatoxin is a potent carcinogen that is produced by Asergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus molds. These molds typically grow on corn, peanuts, cottonseed, milk, walnuts, pistachios and Brazil nuts. This occurs when the crops of said foods are weakened by insects, drought or other adverse conditions or when foods are not stored properly.

Aflatoxin can be transmitted to people through milk products, meats from animal-fed contaminated field corn or nut meals or from eating peanut butter, cornmeal and grits. This can lead to liver cancer, a serious health risk.

Even if you consumed small amounts, the International Food Policy Research Institute warned that the effects can be cumulative, which can also lead to liver damage, gastrointestinal dysfunction, decreased appetite, slower reproductive function, and stunted growth.

Aflatoxin vs. the Government

Sometime in the early 1990s, federal inspectors found out that Midwestern corn and grains that were grown during the 1988 drought had high levels of aflatoxin. Although no safety measures were adopted during this time, at present, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration recognized aflatoxin as a serious health risk.

As a matter of fact, FDA has already set a tolerance for aflatoxin at 20 parts per billion. The amount may be small and unfortunately, the standards imposed by the FDA only apply to foods that cross state lines and are not applicable to foods produced and sold in the same state.

Tips to Reduce Aflatoxin Exposure

Here are some things you can do to minimize your risk of getting exposed to aflatoxin:

  • Go for fresh, frozen or canned sweet corn.
  • Avoid nut pieces or broken nuts since it is more likely to contain aflatoxin. At the same time, check if the nuts are already moldy, rotten or bitter. If they are, simply throw them away.
  • Stay away from grind-your-own peanut butter. Peanut butter-making machines, especially when not cleaned daily can be a breeding ground for Aspergillus molds. Hence, it can be contaminated with aflatoxin, and the peanuts inside the machine may likewise contain this toxin.

It may be the food industry's responsibility to self-monitor its products to make sure nothing is contaminated with this toxin. At the same time, the proper government agencies are also tasked to conduct regular inspections for public safety. But through these simple tips, you still will be able to reduce your risk of getting exposed to aflatoxin.

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 books sold. He is the Medical Director of the Divine Health Wellness Center in Orlando, Florida where he has treated more than 50,000 patients.

For the original article, visit


Don Colbert, M.D. Featured Opinion Tue, 30 Sep 2014 09:00:00 -0400
WATCH: Jewish Year 5775 and Proof that the US Is a Christian Nation

I've read numerous stories this week in which the subject is the Jewish New Year. What year is it, according to the Jewish calendar? It's not the year 2014 but the year 5775. Why? Simple. Because Israel is not a Christian country. Muslims have a different calendar system too. Why? Because they are not Christian countries.

In this segment, I offer another piece of proof that the United States is in fact a Christian nation.

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 Tue, 30 Sep 2014 08:00:00 -0400
The Antichrist and the Muslim Mahdi (Part 1)

Many people—religious and non-religious—are asking questions about a word they hear the media use when referring to ISIS and other Islamist jihadists. That word is apocalyptic, which is used when specifically referring to the fatalism of Islamists.

People wonder, why do so many Muslims (both Sunni and Shi'ite) operate with such an "apocalyptic," end-of-world mindset?

Our secular society, however, coupled with the media's carelessness, is bandying about words like apocalyptic without using them properly and without explanation. That creates a great deal of confusion for some, many of whom just throw up their hands in resignation and say, "I don't understand this."

But for those who want to understand, I am offering this two-part column, taking excerpts from my newest book, Jesus, Jihad, and Peace. I hope this will put things into perspective, so when the media says that an Islamist entity (such as ISIS, al-Qaeda, Iran, etc.) operate with an apocalyptic vision, you can make sense of it.

The word apocalypse does not, in fact, refer to a disastrous, catastrophic, end-of-world event. It's a Greek word, the root of which means revelation, or revealing things that are hidden. For instance, we know the last book of the Bible as Revelation, but in the original Greek language, it is Apokalupsae. It reveals what is happening in the heavenly realm, as well as events in the future.

The Concept of the Antichrist

Both the Old Testament and New Testament spoke of an end-times figure, the Antichrist, some 600 years or more before Islam came on the scene. That timing will be important when I explain Islam's "end of time" coming of a Mahdi in my next column.

The Antichrist is known by various names. Paul calls him "the lawless one,"  "the man of lawlessness," and "the man doomed to destruction" who "will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God" (2 Thess. 2:1-12). The most detailed description of the Antichrist is in Revelation 13, where the Apostle John refers to the Antichrist as "the beast." The Old Testament prophet Daniel describes the abominable works of the Antichrist, but gives him no name or title (Dan. 9:27).

Who, then, is the Antichrist, whose brief but terrible reign is predicted in both the Old and New Testaments? He will be a world leader of unparalleled political, military and religious power. He will be charming, persuasive and popular beyond measure. The world will not know him as the "Antichrist," but by some attractive name and appealing title. But just as the word "Antichrist" suggests, he will be the opposite of the Lord Jesus Christ in every way. Everything Christ is, the Antichrist is not; everything Christ is not, the Antichrist is.

Jesus came from heaven (John 6:38); the Antichrist comes from the Abyss, the spiritual domain of evil (Rev. 11:7). Jesus came in the Name of the Father; the Antichrist comes in his own name (John 5:43). Jesus was despised by the world (Is. 53:3); the Antichrist will be worshipped by the world (Rev. 13:3-4). Jesus came in humility as a servant (Phil. 2:7-8); the Antichrist comes in pride, claiming to be God (2 Thess. 2:4; Dan. 11:36). Jesus is the truth (John 14:6); the Antichrist is the lie (2 Thess. 2:9-11). Jesus is the Son of God (Mark 1:1; Luke 1:35); the Antichrist is the son of perdition (2 Thess. 2:3, KJV).

The Apostle Paul tells us that the mystery (or secret) of godliness is that God Himself has appeared to us in human flesh (1 Tim. 3:16)—and that the mystery (or secret) of lawlessness is that Satan has produced a counterfeit Christ, the Antichrist, Satan wrapped in human flesh (2 Thess. 2:6-8). Jesus is the true Shepherd; Satan will have his evil shepherd, the Antichrist. Jesus is the Holy One of God; the Antichrist will be the lawless one of Satan. Jesus is the Man of Sorrows; the Antichrist will be the man of sin.

One Antichrist and many antichrists

First of all, the Antichrist is coming—a lawless man who will come in Satan's power, demanding to be worshipped as God, destroying all those who love God. But John tells us that there are many other antichrists, lesser deceivers who are also self-exalting, evil and destructive. They are antichrists, but they are not the Antichrist.

Jesus tells us that, shortly before His return, the Antichrist will arise during a time of global chaos and confusion, when the world is in political, social, financial and ecological upheaval. The terrified people of the world, desperate for a strong leader, will turn to this man and give him control of the governments of the world.

Daniel tells us that the Antichrist will speak "boastfully" (Dan. 7:8), yet it is clear that these will not be empty boasts. The Antichrist will appear to possess superhuman brilliance. He'll be the ultimate smooth talker, the greatest con man who ever lived, and he'll unite the nations under his rule. At first, he'll seem to be a wise and benevolent dictator, bringing peace, prosperity and hope. But once he is firmly in control of the gears and levers of power, he'll reveal his true intentions.

The way has been paved for such a leader. Atheists, humanists, New Age mystics, Hindus, Buddhists and Islamists have little in common with each other—but they all share in the belief that Jesus is not the only way to salvation. There are even many self-styled "Christians" who deny the Lord's claim to be the only way to God. So it will be easy for the Antichrist to establish himself to many as an acceptable alternative.

In these days of muddled and confused worldviews, it is vitally important to know the truth. After all, Jesus said, "The truth will set you free." As events unfold, we need to see them not only through the camera's lens, but also through the lens of biblical revelation.

That the Antichrist is coming is known—only the timing is unknown. Although we know not the hour of night that the thief comes, we must be prepared nonetheless.

In next week's article (Part 2), we'll take a look at the striking parallels between the Antichrist and Islam's Mahdi (savior).

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 Tue, 30 Sep 2014 07:00:00 -0400
The Mystery of the Shemitah Revealed

It is well known that, for the nation of Israel, every seventh day was called "the Sabbath." The Sabbath was unique among days. The Israelites were commanded to keep it separate and distinct from the other six days of the week. It was holy. It was the Lord's Day. On the Sabbath all regular work and all worldly endeavors were to cease. The Sabbath was the day of rest, to be devoted solely to the Lord.

But what is not well known is that the Sabbath was not only a day but also a year. As every seventh day was the Sabbath day, so every seventh year was the Sabbath year.

The Sabbath year was likewise to be kept separate and distinct from the six years that preceded it. It was to be a holy year, a year specially devoted to the Lord. During the Sabbath year there was to be no working of the land. All sowing and reaping, all plowing and planting, all gathering and harvesting had to cease by the end of the sixth year.

During the Sabbath year it was not only for the people to rest, but also the land. The fields would lie fallow, the vineyards untended, and the groves unkept. The land itself would observe its own Sabbath to the Lord.

During the Sabbath year the people of Israel were to leave their fields, vineyards, and groves open for the poor. For the duration of the year the land belonged, in effect, to everyone. And whatever grew of its own accord was called hefker, meaning, "without an owner." So during the Sabbath year the land, in effect, belonged to everyone and no one at the same time.

Just as striking as what happened to the land during the Sabbath year was what happened to the people on the last day of that year:

"At the end of every seven years" refers to the last day of the Sabbath year. Elul was the last month of the Hebrew civil year, and the twenty-ninth day was the last day of Elul. So on Elul 29,

the very last day of the Sabbath year, a sweeping transformation took place in the nation's financial realm. Everyone who owed a debt was released. And every creditor had to release the debt owed. So on Elul 29 all credit was erased and all debt was wiped away. The nation's financial accounts were, in effect, wiped clean. It was Israel's day of financial nullification and remission.

In the Hebrew reckoning of time, each day begins not with the morning but with the night. This goes back to Genesis 1, when the account of Creation records that there was first darkness, night, and then the day. So every Hebrew day begins with the night before the day. And since night begins with sunset, every Hebrew day begins at sunset. Therefore the moment that all debts had to be reckoned as wiped away was the sunset of Elul 29.

In English, the Elul 29 command ordains that every creditor shall "grant a release." But the original Hebrew commands every creditor to make a "shemitah." In those first two verses of Deuteronomy 15 the word shemitah appears no fewer than four times. At the end of the second verse it is written, "Because it is called the Lord's release." In Hebrew it is called the Lord's "Shemitah."

The word shemitah is most often translated as "the release" or "the remission." The English word remission is defined as "the cancellation or reduction of a debt or penalty." The Shemitah of ancient Israel refers not only to the releasing of the land but also to the nullification of debt and credit ordained by God and performed on a massive nationwide scale.

Shemitah became the name of the last day of the Sabbath year, Elul 29, the Day of Remission. But it also became the name of the Sabbath year in its entirety. The seventh year would become known as the Year of the Shemitah, or simply, the Shemitah. The Year of the Shemitah would begin with the releasing of the land and end with the Day of Remission, when the people would themselves be released.

So the word shemitah covers both the seventh year and the last day of that year. There's a reason for that. That last day of Elul 29 is the year's crescendo, its peak and culmination— the remission of the Year of Remission. In a sense, everything about the Shemitah year builds up to that final day, when everything is released, remitted, and wiped away in one day—or, more specifically—to the eve of that day, to the final sunset.

This excerpt from The Mystery of the Shemitah by Jonathan Cahn was provided with permission by Frontline/Charisma House.

Jonathan Cahn, who stunned millions of readers across America and the world with the mysteries revealed in his New York Times best-seller The Harbinger, now uncovers and reveals a new realm of astonishing mysteries so big they lie behind everything from world wars, the rise and fall of nations, economic recession and financial collapse, and your future. Discover the never-before-revealed mystery of the towers, the key of cataclysms, the mystery of sevens, and much, much more. The Mystery of the Shemitah will amaze, stun, forewarn and prepare you for what lies ahead...and it may just change your life.

Jonathan Cahn Featured Opinion Tue, 30 Sep 2014 06:00:00 -0400
WATCH: Todd Starnes Offers 'Word of Warning' to America

Listen in to what Todd Starnes, author of God Less America, shared with attendees of the Value Voters Summit. Do you agree with his views?


Charisma News Staff Featured U.S. News Mon, 29 Sep 2014 21:00:00 -0400
WATCH: Mom of Oklahoma Beheading Suspect: 'My Son Was Raised up Believing in God'

Joyce Nolen, the mother Alton Nolen, is speaking out about her son with a heavy heart in a video appeal.

"That's not my son. There's two sides to every story, and we're only hearing one," Joyce Nolen said. "His family—our hearts bleed right now, because what they saying Alton has done. I want to apologize to both families, because this is not Alton, but I just—I'm praying that justice will prevail."


Charisma News Staff Featured U.S. News Mon, 29 Sep 2014 20:00:00 -0400
Muslim Suspect in Oklahoma Beheading Incident Expected to Be Charged With Murder

Oklahoma plans to file a murder charge as early as Monday against Alton Nolen, who is suspected of beheading a former co-worker at a food distribution center last week, officials said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also looking into Nolen's background for any potential religious ties to the attack after former colleagues said he had attempted to convert them to Islam. Police said Nolen had recently become a Muslim.

Nolen, 30, is suspected of attacking two women shortly after being fired on Thursday at Vaughan Foods in Moore, a suburb of Oklahoma City, police said.

Police said he stabbed and then severed the head of 54-year-old Colleen Hufford and attacked 43-year-old Traci Johnson before being shot by Mark Vaughan, the company's chief operating officer who is also a sheriff's deputy.

Johnson is expected to recover, police said.

The FBI investigation comes as Islamist militants fighting in Iraq and Syria have released videos that purported to show the beheadings of two Americans and a British aid worker.

A woman who said she was Nolen's mother took to social media to apologize to the victims of the attack.

"My heart is just so heavy right now," Joyce Nolen said in a Facebook posting over the weekend. "My son was raised up believing in God.

"I want to apologize to both families, because this is not Alton."

Megan Nolen, the suspect's sister, said in the same video that Alton was not a violent person.

Alton Nolen underwent surgery at a local hospital after being shot and was expected to survive, Moore police said.

Authorities waited until he was coherent and could understand the charges before placing him under arrest on Friday afternoon, they said.

Nolen had a non-violent criminal record, including drug-related arrests, a jail escape and resisting police, authorities said.

Writing by Jon Herskovitz; editing by Doina Chiacu

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.




Heide Brandes/Reuters Featured U.S. News Mon, 29 Sep 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Vicar of Baghdad: ISIS on Verge of Entering City

The Islamic State is on the verge of entering Baghdad.

Canon Andrew White, best known as the vicar of Baghdad, reported around 1 a.m. Monday (EST) that ISIS is within 10 kilometers (about 6 miles) of the city and killed more than 1,000 troops during the weekend. Here is White's firsthand report from his Facebook page:

"People are very fearful. The nation looks as if it has collapsed. The usual hectic and crazy streets were this morning almost empty. The news from our friends in areas surrounding Baghdad is equally worry the Islamic State. ISIS, or DAASH as they are known locally, are very close to Baghdad. We do not really know what is happening all we know is that people are very afraid. We know that civilians have been killed in air strikes; we know that there are huge battles with ISIS, and we know that our army is not very efficient.

"This morning I was with one of my soldiers who is assigned by the government to protect me. I asked him what he would do if he saw ISIS coming. He told me he would take off his uniform and run. So I asked if he took seriously his role as a soldier to fight and protect his people he assured he did not. He told me he just did it because he needed the money.

"Meanwhile yesterday at church I spoke on the subject of why we must love Israel. I posted the following brief posting:

'Why We Must Love Israel.'

"This was the title of my sermon today. Quite an interesting title for a sermon in Iraq. The sermon was based on Romans Chapter 11: "Do not boast over the root for the root supports you." The sermon was well received as I have been working on the issue for so long. Because Abraham is so important to us here the issue of the Yehudi and us is taken very seriously. Despite being in Iraq I love the Jews and Arabs. Israelis, Palestinians and Iraqis and G-d loves them all too.

"I received a barrage of postings from people whether they hated Israel and saw them as anti-Palestinian or they were totally for Israel. What most people failed to understand was that loving Israel was far more than love for a state, it was love for a people. Love for a people that the Lord Jesus ... came [to save].

"Though we can see that we are called to love Jews and Arabs alike but that loving Israel is not an option for those of us who love Yeshua we have to. We must not forget the history. We as Christians have got to accept that our theology was responsible for the development of anti-Semitism. I spent hours yesterday just answering questions on this subject. I am not going to answer any more."


Jennifer LeClaire Featured World News Mon, 29 Sep 2014 18:00:00 -0400
Why You May Not Want a Tax Refund This Year

Most Americans wouldn't dream of planning ahead to ensure that they won't get a tax refund. But for those who have chosen to go uninsured under the Affordable Care Act, it's in their best interest to have $0 in tax refunds coming to them for the 2014 tax year.

Why? Those who have not enrolled in Obamacare or any other approved plan in 2014, thus going without health insurance, are subject to a penalty tax—either $95 or 1 percent of their 2014 income, whichever is higher.

Twila Brase—president and co-founder of Citizens' Council for Health Freedom, a Minnesota-based national organization dedicated to preserving patient-centered health care and protecting patient and privacy rights—has told her readers and radio listeners that the IRS has only one method to collect this penalty tax: from Americans' tax refunds.

Brase added that citizens will be in violation of the law if they choose not to pay the penalty, but that making sure that they have no tax refund coming to them will protect them from the IRS taking an incorrect amount of penalty tax from their refund.

"As in matters of the government in general, it's better for Americans to be in control of their own financial responsibility, rather than a federal agency like the IRS deciding what the penalty amount should be and then taking it," Brase said. "They could be wrong. It's better that we determine the penalty and pay it ourselves. With the back-office financial and accounting operations of not yet built, there are too many open doors to error if we give the IRS leeway to determine the penalty and withhold the refund."

Because there are just three months left in the 2014 tax year, Brase suggests that those who went without insurance this year contact a tax professional or employer human-resources representative who can advise them of any adjustments that need to be made to avoid seeing a refund, from which the IRS can withdraw penalties.

With the next Obamacare open enrollment period beginning on Nov. 15, Brase said that there are three legal ways to avoid signing up for government-run health-care coverage altogether, which puts Americans' private medical data at risk, compromises care, ties the hands of medical professionals, and takes more money out of Americans' pockets.

  1. Buy private insurance outside of the government exchanges, such as a private policy, employer-sponsored coverage or a private insurance exchange.
  2. Pay the penalty tax in 2016 for being without coverage in 2015. In 2015, the penalty tax increases to 2 percent of net income or $325, whichever is greater—still less expensive and less risky than high government premiums.
  3. Claim one of the nine Obamacare exemptions, or one of the 14 hardship waivers.


Deborah Hamilton Featured Marketplace Mon, 29 Sep 2014 17:00:00 -0400
Family Feud Arises Over Late Chuck Smith’s Megachurch

When Pastor Chuck Smith passed away last year, few expected a family feud. But that appears to be what's going down in Orange County, California. is reporting a family fight over control of the megachurch that has morphed into an all-out legal battle.

Smith's daughter has filed suit alleging elder abuse and neglect in connection with the pioneering pastor's last days. Smith went on to glory after a hard-fought cancer battle in October 2013.

"It's still a shock. It's almost a year later and still I can't really process it. Why didn't they help my dad?" Janette Manderson, Smith's daughter, told on behalf of her 87-year-old mother, Kay, who suffers from dementia.

The suit names Smith's son-in-law, Brian Broderson, as a defendant. Broderson is married to Cheryl, Smith's youngest daughter. According to the report, the lawsuit alleges Smith's "death was hastened" and he suffered "significant pain and anguish" the night he had trouble breathing and died from a heart attack.

"Nobody had called 911 until my nephew finally stepped in and did it. The nurse wouldn't do it and told him not to call 911," said Manderson.

Smith, who initiated the rise of Calvary Chapel movement of "Jesus People" that was featured in Time magazine in the 1960s, started pastoring Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa in 1965 and was known for his less formal and contemporary approach to worship and church services.

Smith's ministry continued to grow until his death. In 2012, after he announced to his congregation he had been diagnosed with lung cancer, Smith established a 21-member leadership council to oversee the Calvary Chapel Association, a fellowship of more than 1,600 congregations in the United States and worldwide.

The lawsuit claims that board members took over Smith's office and computers and gained control of The Word For Today Incorporated property within 24 hours of his death. Word for Today spans books, DVDs and radio broadcasts. Manderson claims the church cut off Kay's $10,000 monthly annuity benefit after Smith passed away.

"The board is holding on to everything of dad's and not giving it to us," said Manderson. "It makes me sad, it makes me feel that they're dishonoring my dad and disrespecting his wishes."

Let's pray that the family can reconcile any differences and move forward in unity. 


Jennifer LeClaire Featured U.S. News Mon, 29 Sep 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Kirk Cameron Film Has New Mission: Saving Christmas

Kirk Cameron visited Liberty University on Friday to meet with students of the Cinematic Arts, Zaki Gordon Center and announce his partnership with Liberty for his latest film, Saving Christmas.

Last year, Cameron hosted a live broadcast from Liberty's Vines Center as more than 150,000 people in 700 theaters nationwide watched Cameron's Unstoppable.

"I loved it," Cameron said of the event. "I loved being able to unwrap Unstoppable and help students further understand some of the more difficult things about God in a cool, creative way that they helped to make successful. And we're going to be doing that again with Saving Christmas."

During Friday morning's convocation, Cameron introduced his upcoming project, showing clips from the movie and the trailer. The family-friendly film, set to premiere Nov. 14 in 400 theaters across the country for a limited two-week engagement, seeks to help viewers reunite the sacred and secular elements of Christmas.

Saving Christmas tells a story that gives the audience a biblical basis for Christmas celebrations, and the inspiration to stand strong as the culture looks to trivialize and even eliminate the faith elements of this holy season.

"Our richest Christmas traditions ... are so full of truth, if only we had eyes to see them," Cameron said. "We need to infuse old symbols with new meaning."

Referencing Lecrae Moore's visit to convocation last year, when Moore warned students to avoid seeing the world through bifocals that separate Christianity from the rest of culture, Cameron encouraged students to think differently about holiday consumerism. Instead, he said, students should embrace all aspects of the Christmas season in order to show that Christ is worth celebrating.

"Remember, this is the celebration of the eternal God taking on a material body," Cameron said. "So it is right our holiday is marked with material things. Things we can see with our eyes, touch with our hands, and look upon."

After convocation, Cameron gathered with film students for an exclusive Q-and-A session about how to honor God through Hollywood filmmaking. During the session, Cameron offered advice to aspiring filmmakers from his years of experience as an actor and producer.

Cameron said he enjoys being able to interact with the students and that it is a natural fit for him to partner with Liberty on his projects.

"I really feel that Liberty University and I have the same goals, and that is to train Christians in this generation to be excellent, to be champions," he said. "Not to be escapists, not to be complainers, but to be leaders. And Liberty isn't just talking about it, they are doing it ... So that's why I am excited and proud to be partnering with Liberty University in a field that lines up with my experience: making movies." 

He added that the campus never ceases to impress him and that the atmosphere is especially inviting. Cameron explained that students are exposed to "world-class" learning opportunities, worship, spiritual renewal, and guest speakers—the sort of things he hopes his children will get when they go to college.



Liberty University News Service Featured Culture Mon, 29 Sep 2014 15:00:00 -0400
Convicted Rapist, Murderer Asks for Euthanasia to Avoid 'Creating Further Victims'

A convicted rapist and murderer, who is not terminally ill, has been granted permission to end his life under Belgium's euthanasia laws.

Frank Van Den Bleeken filed a request for euthanasia citing "unbearable psychological anguish," and said he did not want to leave prison as he would "risk creating further victims."

This is the first time that Belgium's euthanasia laws have been extended to a prisoner since the procedure was legalized in the country 12 years ago.

But the decision, which has resulted in 15 additional inmates immediately lodging requests for euthanasia, has been widely criticized.

Carine Brochier, project manager at the European Institute for Bioethics, said the law in Belgium was "uncontrollable" and that it was becoming increasingly "fashionable" for the sick, elderly and mentally ill to ask to die in this way.

Paul Moynan, director of CARE for Europe, said that Belgium was at the "forefront of making euthanasia available on demand."

He added: "The door was first opened in 2003, and every year since then the demand for euthanasia and its practice has increased. This is not a slippery slope, but a rapid avalanche by this culture of death. As Christians, we should be the first to recognize that it is not for us to decide when we die; and so in every country we should fight any attempt to weaken laws that protect life."


Christian Concern Featured World News Mon, 29 Sep 2014 14:00:00 -0400
WATCH: Cindy Jacobs Responds to Rick Joyner's ISIS Warning

Many of you have seen the prophetic word circulated by Rick Joyner. It was undoubtedly a sobering and urgent word, and many people have asked Cindy Jacobs, founder of Generals International, for her thoughts and response. 

When such a message is delivered, it can be easy to allow spirits of fear and heaviness to grip us, but that is not the purpose in God's heart when He communicates these things to His people. Jacobs' response offers additional insight and guidance on how we should respond to the word of the Lord.


Charisma News Staff Featured U.S. News Mon, 29 Sep 2014 13:00:00 -0400
6 Truths You Need to Know About Islamic State

While Islamic State is wreaking havoc in Iraq and Syria, its ambitions do not stop there. Moreover, several world leaders are saying it is one of the biggest threats they are facing. But exactly how does Islamic State fit into the global picture of Christians under pressure for their faith worldwide?

  1. What is Islamic State?
  2. How does Islamic State fit into a process of global Islamization?
  3. How does Islamic State fit into the picture of Christians under pressure for their faith worldwide?
  4. Why is Islamic State so successful?
  5. How might Islamic State advance in the region?
  6. What does this mean for Christians in the region and worldwide?

1. What is Islamic State?
Islamic State (IS) is a group of Sunni militants who have set up a self-pronounced Caliphate at the end of June 2014. The group stems from radical groups formerly affiliated with al-Qaeda and aims at setting up a strict form of Sharia law in its state. According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, Islamic State has 50,000 fighters in Syria and 30,000 in Iraq. Many of Islamic State's fighters are from the region but, for example, an estimated 11,000 to 12,000 jihadis are said to have come to Syria from abroad, of which about 3,000 are from Western countries, according to New York-based Soufan Group and the London-based International Centre for the Study of Radicalization. Especially after the declaration of the Caliphate, the number of foreign jihadis rose considerably, they say.

2. How does Islamic State fit into a process of global Islamization?
Islamic State is not an isolated "lone wolf." It is an integral part of a well-established Islamist spectrum. This Islamist spectrum bridges into mainstream Islamic groups who cherish the same key concepts, even though they often do not actively wish to push them to their extremes. That is what makes Islamic State so dangerous.

Islamic State is a typical example of 'violent rejectionists', the most radical expression of Islamism. Islamism can be defined as "forms of political theory and practice that have as their goal the establishment of an Islamic political order in the sense of a state whose governmental principles, institutions and legal system derive directly from the Shariah."

Violent rejectionists, often referred to as jihadists, are individuals and networks that, often linked to or inspired by al-Qaida, reject participation in the democratic system and use violence to advance their goals.

The other two expressions of Islamism are the "non-violent rejectionists," such as Salafists, and the "participationists," such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

According to Lorenzo Vidino, Senior Fellow at the Centre for Security Studies ETH Zurich "Non-violent rejectionists are individuals and groups such as Salafists and Hizb ut-Tahrir which openly reject the legitimacy of any system of government not based on Islamic law, but do not, at least publicly and openly, advocate the use of violence to further their goals."

He sees "at the bottom of the Islamist pyramid the numerically most significant component of political Islam in Europe: the Muslim Brotherhood and other 'participationist' Islamic Movements. Participationists are individuals and groups which adhere to that strand of Islamism that advocates interaction with society at large, both at the micro-level through grassroots activism, and at the macro-level through participation in public life and the democratic process," explains Vidino. "Unlike rejectionists", he says "such organizations have made a conscious decision to avoid unnecessary confrontation and have instead opted for a clever and flexible policy of engagement with the European establishment."

So while we need to recognize that Islamic State, as "violent rejectionists," are at one end of the Islamist spectrum, that spectrum reaches from there into the more "participationist" groups, which are much more identifiable within European and Western democratic societies. 

3. How does Islamic State fit into the picture of Christians under pressure for their faith worldwide?

The regime of Islamic State is the strongest possible expression of Islamic extremism, which is the most global 'engine' of persecution. All people under this regime are subjected to an absolute application of Shariah law. This is done by an excessive use of violence, which adherents believe is sanctioned by the Quran.

The evolution of the persecution pattern driven by IS has been typical for Islamic extremism, although it developed very fast. Typical are the extremely high levels of pressure for Christians (and other non-Muslims) in all spheres of life, and the extremely high level of violence. Once IS has established itself, the high level of violence should, in theory, drop because Christians will either have been killed, have fled or have conformed to a hard-core 'dhimmi' contract, by which they pay a 'protection tax' and are treated as second class citizens. 

The contract is an integral part of traditional Islamic sharia law dating back to medieval times and requiring non-Muslims, in this instance Christians, to pay protection money which only allows them to gather for worship in churches. 

Under the dhimmi contract, public expressions of Christian faith are not allowed. These prohibitions include: Christian wedding and funeral processions; ringing of church bells; praying in public and scripture being read out loud for Muslims to hear; Christian symbols, like crosses, cannot be displayed openly; churches and monasteries cannot be repaired or restored irrespective if damage was collateral or intentional; and Christians are also not allowed to make offensive remarks about Muslims or Islam. The dhimmi contract also enforces an Islamic dress code, like the veiling for women, and commercial and dietary regulations, including a ban on alcohol. 

Muslims who convert to Christianity, though, would undoubtedly be killed.

4. Why is Islamic State so successful?
Currently, Islamic State holds an area as large as the country of Jordan. The advance of Islamic State through Iraq did not come as a big surprise. It was a time when the parliament was preoccupied with forming a new government after the elections and when the army was demoralized due to low salaries and previous Islamic State attacks. In this vacuum, IS seemingly could march to Baghdad without real opposition.

Lastly, another factor to take into account is the lack of affirmative action from the West until now. In the time it took for Western political leaders to determine a strategy and take action, Islamic State had succeeded in taking over considerable parts of Iraq and Syria and taking root in the region in a nation building project that seems to sketch the outlines of a truly Islamic 'Reign of Peace'. 

5. How might Islamic State advance in the region?
For the near future, however, it is likely that Islamic State will experience difficulties expanding further south in Iraq, since this area is majority Shi'ite. The Shi'ite population will not accept Sunni Islamic State as have done their Sunni counterparts in the north west of the country. Moreover, Iran will not allow Islamic State to touch Shi'ites and approach Iran. Furthermore, the USA and a number of allies have stepped up their interventions to hamper IS after the beheadings of three Westerners and the threat of the same fate for a British IS captive.

Nevertheless, hindering Islamic State's advancement in Iraq might actually trigger it to open up new horizons in the region, for example in Jordan and Lebanon. Already, Islamic State elements are present in those countries, shown by the IS murders of two Lebanese soldiers and a pro-IS rally held in the Jordanian city of Ma'an at the end of June.

It turns out that Islamic State is not only holding its ground but also has ambitions going beyond the Iraqi and Syrian borders. This was indicated by IS' previous name: ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which covers Syria and Iraq but also Jordan, Lebanon and Israel, including the Palestinian Territories. This region seems to be Islamic State's first priority. Nevertheless, Islamic State is also making clear that it wants the caliphate to reign over the entire globe. This is expressed by the name change to IS, meaning 'Islamic State', which exceeds geographical boundaries. 

6. What does this mean for Christians in the region and worldwide?
Where Islamic State has gained power, their reign of terror is driving all Christians and other minorities out. Before Islamic State began its rampage, about 3000 Christians had been living in Mosul, down from 35,000 after the 2003 war. Now, there are virtually no Christians left. The mainly Christian town of Qarakosh has been abandoned as well, along with other villages; the last Christians have left the northern town of Bartella. Tens of thousands of Christians have become internally displaced, fleeing to the Kurdish region, with cities like Erbil and Dohuk taking in thousands of them. A Christian mother voices the feelings many Christians are sharing: "If we stay, this will happen over and over again. First we wanted to stay in Iraq, it's our home, we love this land, but it's too much. We can't live like this anymore."

But what is perhaps even more worrying is what many of them take with them. While fleeing their homes and leaving behind everything but the clothes on their backs, Christians—adults and children alike—take with them fear. It is a fear that haunts their days and fuels nightmares. Children wake up screaming in the night: 'IS is coming, IS is coming!" It is a fear based on reality. In its efforts to set up and maintain a pure Islamic caliphate, Islamic State is using all means necessary, including the use of extreme violence. Affected and targeted are the majority Muslims, but also non-Sunnis, such as Shia Muslims, Yazidis and Christians. Islamic State itself has made no secret of its intentions, as is shown by a statement of IS after conquering regions where large communities of Christians had been living for hundreds of years: "We offer them three choices: Islam, the dhimmi contract (involving paying a security tax called 'jizya'), and if they refuse this they have nothing but the sword."

Moreover, the IS movement has a strong potential to spread beyond Iraq and Syria through the foreign jihadis. Jihadis are returning to their home countries and there are real fears they'll continue to spread their ideas or actions there. These fears already came true in a shooting attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels on May 24, leaving four dead. The attack was carried out by a French jihadist who had returned after spending one year in Syria. It is a realistic perspective to expect that more returned jihadis will turn against Christian, Jewish or Western influences in Europe and worldwide. Additionally, in their efforts to curb the travel of jihadis to Iraq and Syria, (as well as their possibly radicalized influence in their home countries), governments could be in danger of overreacting, thus hindering the freedom of religion or expression of Muslims too much. That could create a vicious cycle of frustration and resentment, which may fuel further violence against these Christian, Jewish or Western influences.

In the midst of this chaos, fear and danger, there are sparks of hope. Confronted with a large number of refugees, Christians in northern Iraq have taken on the task of taking in refugees and setting up relief. Church leaders are taking the lead to inspire church members to help. They try to look to the future and see the importance of caring for the children. For example, child-friendly spaces are set up in tents and available rooms to give children a place to play and have fun. 

Even though the recent crisis is the latest in decades of fighting and war and people despair, a number of Christians are rediscovering what it means to hold on to their faith in Christ and to receive God's peace in their hearts and minds. Also, some Muslims have converted because the only people helping them were Christians; others have become disgusted with Islam because of Islamic State's atrocities. And maybe, the small number of completely disillusioned and returning jihadis could be a drop in the ocean, to eventually counterbalance the appeal of Islamic State. For instance, one such man, a Syrian, spoke to the BBC on 16th Sept, and gave insights into how Islamic State operates.


World Watch Monitor Featured World News Mon, 29 Sep 2014 12:00:00 -0400
Why I'm Praying for Teens Who Listen to Nicki Minaj

As kids, many of us eagerly awaited the next hilarious episode of Jed Clampett and his Beverly Hillbillies. Parents never gave a thought that there might be something objectionable on the popular TV sitcom. 

Today moms and dads who care about wholesome entertainment for their children and teens have to be ultra-vigilant with the TV and computers due to disturbing trends in today's decadent culture.

Recently, USA Today commented, "Booty is the latest trend that music fans are getting behind—and the numbers back it up. In just three weeks, Nicki Minaj's 'Anaconda' video has seen nearly 170 million views on YouTube, snatching the record for most views in a day from Miley Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball.'" (On Monday, the figure exceeded 212 million views.)

The latter featured the former "Hannah Montana" swinging completely nude on a wrecking ball while provocatively licking a hammer (it garnered the award for the best music video of the year). Minaj tells us, "I'm going to push the envelope," and goes deeper into the cesspool by not only highlighting her derriere in raunchy gyrations but offers a pornographic display that defies sensibilities.

Pastors and parents, it's time to wake up! Nicki Minaj, Miley Cyrus, Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga and a parade of vixens being put before our youth needs to be exposed once and for all.

This is NOT a harmless trend treated with a wink and a nod and a little chuckle. What's happening in the music industry is undermining morality while promoting promiscuity. Our assignment is clear: Monitor our children's entertainment while making young disciples who know how to "extract the precious from the worthless" (Jer. 15:19). 

Here's the Deal: This is Pornography!

In our day we are literally witnessing the outworking of Psalm 12:8, "The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men." And Isaiah 3:9, "They parade their sin like Sodom, they do not hide it."

Pastors and parents, we must be alert to the schemes of our adversary and identify his current activity. We must also speak up charitably yet boldly for righteousness, or there will be no conviction of sin that hinders God's presence in our homes and churches. 

These modern-day Jezebels need our prayers to be delivered from their deception and to rescue them from judgment. Let's also pray for other, more wholesome female artists who can be influenced not to go a more edgy and risque way to remain "cool" as they age.

I think specifically here of Taylor Swift, who has just left our Nashville area for brighter lights in New York City. She's left country music and found a new friend in the "loose as a goose" Lena Dunham of Girls cable fame. Swift is currently on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine looking over her shoulder with an alluring "come-hither" look, tousled hair in a soaking wet T-shirt. "The Reinvention of Taylor Swift" is the title of the article. Time to intercede. 

Many of these performers purport to be Christians! They literally join hands and pray before their concerts. Under the guise of artists and entertainers, they shamelessly strut their stuff while naively being applauded by people as influential as our own first lady. Mrs. Obama extols Beyoncé as a "true role model for children" and thanks her publicly for "being a role model kids everywhere can look up to."

Minaj says she is a "Christian" whose "dad went to rehab, started attending church and got saved!" She tweets about Jesus and declares that God is her "hero." She tweets gratefully that her current hit featuring a barrage of buttocks is "A$$mazing."

Your children may be her followers because she's camouflaged herself very cleverly. She endorses Pepsi, Adidas and MAC cosmetics. She's been an American Idol judge; voice actress for the animated Ice Age kids film; and, dresses in attention-getting, ultra-colorful outfits. The New York Times says Minaj is "the most influential female rapper of all time."

Parents, beware. Her blockbuster music-video song "Anaconda" peaked at No. 2 on Billboard's top 100. Her last hit, "Stupid Hoe," achieved a rarity in that BET banned the video deeming it too raunchy even in these permissive days. When your kids put on their headphones, could they be listening to her catchy music?

I care deeply about young people. We have four children, four grandchildren and one more on the way. I am passionate about informing and challenging pastors and parents to awaken to the cultural realities of our generation as we increasingly awaken to our desperate need for heaven-sent revival before it's too late. The future of our families and nation hang in the balance.

I have just returned from a 10-day tour of Indiana where evangelist Joe Oden and I challenged 400 pastors and wives in Assemblies of God churches. When confronted with the urgency of the hour and cultural realities like I'm unfolding in this commentary, scores of leaders and young people repented of compromise and sinful practices that undermine a visitation in our day.

Parental Advisory: God Help Us Protect This Next Generation

While in Indiana I walked through the lobby of a Marriott hotel where there were a number of booths set up for some type of children/youth education fair. The very first booth was highlighting the LGBTQ agenda. The gay man seated at the table was giving out literature and told me that their organization provided a "safe place for children 12 and up to be affirmed as self-identifying gays and lesbians." Young people with same-sex attraction need to be helped in this discovery process, he told me. 

In case you're wondering, you can be assured that I engaged the man for at least 15 minutes while I elevated my voice in a civil way so four or five other individuals manning booths could hear as I shared truth to dispel the lies and false information he was disseminating. Christians are called to be "salt" and "light," and that's exactly what I was.

Over dinner that evening Joe and I engaged our waitress and discovered that she had been living with her fiance for years, they had a 2-year-old son, and, of course, she was a faithful church-going "Christian." While we were as loving and kind as we could be, giving her a generous tip and calling over her manager while she was present to commend her for her excellent service, we took the opportunity to tell her privately that she was living in sexual immorality and that God could not bless her relationship. We lovingly appealed to her to repent and get right with God.

Our nation is at the tipping point. We are in a meltdown, and barring a transformative revival our nation will not survive. God is giving us a lifeline of opportunity to see things turned around as we humbly pray, speak up for righteousness, and carefully protect the young ones entrusted to our care. 

Are you a candidate?

Larry Tomczak is a best-selling author and cultural commentator with 42 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, 29 Sep 2014 11:00:00 -0400
Obama Admits Underestimating Islamic State—What Now?

The head of Syria's al-Qaida branch said militants will attack the West in retaliation for U.S.-led air strikes in Syria and Iraq, and President Obama acknowledged U.S. intelligence had underestimated the rise of Islamic State fighters.

U.S.-led air strikes hit a natural gas plant controlled by Islamic State fighters in eastern Syria, a monitoring body reported, part of an apparent campaign to disrupt one of the fighters' main sources of income.

The monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said planes also struck a grain silo in northern Syria killing civilians. This could not be immediately confirmed.

U.S.-led strikes have so far failed to halt an advance by fighters in northern Syria on a Kurdish town; fighting raged between Islamic State militants and Kurdish forces near Kobani on the border with Turkey, where the past week's battle caused the fastest refugee flight of Syria's three-year civil war. Turkey returned fire after shells hit its side of the frontier.

The United States has been bombing Islamic State and other groups in Syria for nearly a week with the help of Arab allies, and hitting targets in neighboring Iraq since last month.

European countries have joined the campaign in Iraq, where the government has asked for help, but so far not in Syria.

Islamic State, a Sunni militant group which broke off from al-Qaida, alarmed the West and the Middle East by sweeping through northern Iraq in June, slaughtering prisoners and ordering Shi'ites and non-Muslims to convert or die.

It is battling Shi'ite-backed governments in both Iraq and Syria, as well as other Sunni groups in Syria and Kurdish groups in both countries, part of complex multi-sided civil wars in which nearly every country in the Middle East has a stake.

The head of Syria's al-Qaida branch, the Nusra Front, a Sunni militant group which is a rival of Islamic State and has also been targeted by U.S. strikes, said Islamists would carry out attacks on the West in retaliation for the campaign.

"Muslims will not watch while their sons are bombed. Your leaders will not be the only ones who would pay the price of the war. You will pay the heaviest price," Abu Mohamad al-Golani said in an audio message posted on pro-Nusra forums.

The U.S. strikes have created pressure on Nusra to reconcile with Islamic State, a move that would potentially create a single Sunni Islamist force in Syria and widen territory under its control.

Obama has worked since August to build an international coalition to combat the fighters, describing them last week in an address to the United Nations as a "network of death."

His acknowledgment in an interview broadcast on Sunday that U.S. intelligence had underestimated Islamic State offered an explanation for why Washington appeared to have been taken by surprise when the fighters surged through northern Iraq in June.

The militants had gone underground when U.S. forces quashed al-Qaida in Iraq with the aid of local tribes during the U.S. war there which ended in 2011, Obama told CBS's 60 Minutes.

"But over the past couple of years, during the chaos of the Syrian civil war, where essentially you have huge swathes of the country that are completely ungoverned, they were able to reconstitute themselves and take advantage of that chaos."

Some of the U.S. president's opponents at home have seized on a remark he made in January using a sports metaphor to dismiss Sunni militants in Iraq and Syria, comparing them to a low-level school basketball team posing as professionals.

"If a JV (junior varsity) team puts on Lakers uniforms, that doesn't make them Kobe Bryant," Obama told the New Yorker magazine in January.

Battle on Border

Islamic State's advance has not been halted in Syria, where it is fighting Kurdish forces near the border city of Kobani, where 140,000 refugees fled a week ago.

Gunfire rang out from across the border and a plume of smoke rose over Kobani as periodic shelling by Islamic State fighters continued. Kurds watching the fighting from the Turkish side of the border said the Syrian Kurdish group, the YPG, were putting up a strong defense.

"Many Islamic State fighters have been killed. They're not taking the bodies with them," said Ayhan, a Turkish Kurd who had spoken by phone with one of his friends fighting with the YPG. He said Kurdish forces had picked up eight Islamic State bodies.

At Mursitpinar, the nearby border crossing, scores of young men were returning to Syria, many saying they would join the fight. Other returning refugees hoped fighting would soon end.

"If there's no fighting we'll stay, but if the fighting starts in Kobani we'll come back. Of course we're afraid," said one man, Khalil, crossing with his young daughter.

Turkey has not permitted its own Kurds to cross to join the battle: "If they've got Syrian identity or passports, they can go. But only Syrians, not Turks," said one Turkish official at the border where security has been tightened.

The Turkish general staff said on its website two mortar shells fired from Syria had strayed across the border on Sunday afternoon. The Turkish military "responded with fire in line with its rules of engagement."

A NATO ally with the most powerful army in the area, Turkey has so far kept out of the U.S.-led coalition, angering many of its own Kurds who say the policy has abandoned their cousins in Syria to the wrath of Islamic State fighters.

Obama Still Seeks Downfall of Assad

The U.S.-led coalition includes Sunni Arab states who oppose Syria's Assad, but does not include Assad or his main ally Iran, even though Islamic State's sway in Syria grew from the revolt against Assad's government.

Obama, who nearly ordered air strikes against Assad's government a year ago only to cancel them at the last minute, said he recognized the apparent contradiction in opposing Assad while bombing his enemies. He still wants Assad to leave power, but considers Islamic State the more urgent threat.

"For Syria to remain unified, it is not possible that Assad presides over that entire process," he said in his interview.

"On the other hand, in terms of immediate threats to the United States, ISIL, Khorasan group, those folks could kill Americans," he said, using an acronym for Islamic State and the name of a separate cell of al-Qaida figures targeted last week.

Saudi Arabia, the regional Sunni power which has joined the U.S.-led strikes, blamed other countries for supporting Islamic State, although it did not name them. Riyadh has in the past criticized Qatar for supporting Islamist movements.

Islamic State was formed not in a "haphazard fashion but under the auspices of states and organizations with all their capabilities and bad intentions," Saudi Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef said. "We will firmly face this organization and others."

The Syrian Observatory, which monitors the conflict with a network of sources on the ground, said U.S.-led strikes had hit a Conoco gas plant controlled by Islamic State outside Deir al-Zor city in eastern Syria, wounding several fighters.

The plant feeds a power station in Homs that provides several provinces with electricity and powers oilfield generators, the Observatory said.

The observatory also said warplanes had hit mills and grain storage areas in the northern Syrian town of Manbij, killing civilian workers. It was not immediately possible to verify the information and there was no immediate comment from Washington.

U.S.-led warplanes also hit areas of Hasaka city in Syria's north east and the outskirts of Raqqa city in the north, which is Islamic State's stronghold. Syria's state news agency also said U.S.-led forces had carried out strikes in Raqqa province.

Some of Assad's opponents worry that the U.S.-led bombing will help the Syrian leader stay in power by hurting his most powerful Sunni foes. Syria's military has intensified its own bombing campaign in the country's west, even as Washington has struck in the east. Overnight, Damascus carried out air raids in Aleppo province and in Hama, the Observatory said.

Additional reporting by Sylvia Westall in Beirut, Angus McDowall in Riyadh, Doina Chiacu and Peter Cooney in Washington; writing by Sylvia Westall and Peter Graff

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.


Mariam Karouny and Jonny Hogg/Reuters Featured World News Mon, 29 Sep 2014 10:00:00 -0400
African-American Minister: ‘I’m Praying for Godly Fear to Grip Our Hearts’

Note: The following is a first-person account by Pastor Pat Chen, founder and president of First Lover Ministries International Prayer Center in San Ramon, California, of last week's White House African-American Faith Leaders Briefing. Approximately 120 African-American ministerial leaders attended the event in Washington, D.C., as a prelude to the 44th annual Congressional Black Caucus.

To my surprise, I recently was invited to the White House African-American Faith Leaders Briefing by Ashley Allison, associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. She has spent only three months on the job after replacing Paul Monteiro, who now is a presidential appointee. Ms. Allison said that she would follow up with the attendees with a phone cal or email communication.

I shared with her that prayer was a huge part of my ministry, and that I continually pray for President Obama and our nation's leaders. She asked me to remain in prayer for her as well. 

The other key person in organizing the event was Melissa Rogers, executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnership. Ms. Rogers is also new to her position after replacing Joshua Dubois, who, since leaving his role at the White House, has written a book with the devotions he compiled for President Obama every morning. I have not seen the book yet, but I plan on reading it soon. Although there was a room full (approximately 120) of pastors, preachers, and church organization leaders present, there was no opening or closing of prayer over any issue discussed. But, I was honored to receive the invitation and to pray privately as I listened to the topics and discussion.

At the time of the briefing, President Obama was at the United Nations. However, two of his Cabinet members came in to speak, one of whom announced that President Obama would return shortly from the U.N. to make the official announcement of the resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder. Most everyone (mainly African Americans) in the room seemed very sad to hear this news, but other Christians that I spoke with outside this meeting (Caucasian Christians) were gleefully happy with the news. We still have such a cultural divide and come from different perspectives, even in the church.

The issues that were discussed during the briefing were social and cultural in nature that are important to the African-American community, including the recent shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The discussion included "police reform efforts" and "patterns and practice investigations," among other things. The White House has set a director representing the Faith-Based office in almost every government agency including the Department of Justice, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Labor/Commerce and Small Business Administration, etc. Each one had key personnel represented at this meeting.

ISIS was not mentioned, but the Ebola outbreak was mentioned very briefly. ISIS, for the most part, is not on the top of the minds of many in the African-American community. The concerns and issues were centered around the economy, jobs, poverty, prisons, police, justice and racism, especially as it relates to Ferguson-like situations. There were several people from Ferguson present, and they spoke a lot about trust—or the lack of it—with their police and government officials.  

My prayers are for God's mercy on America for the saved and unsaved, for His grace and wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do what we know to do when He tells us. I'm praying for revival for the church and spiritual awakening for our nation and its leaders. I'm praying for godly fear to grip our hearts and godly leaders to be raised up.

 I'm praying for His truth to prevail and the love of God and of people will be manifested in the church and in every race and cultural divide. We, as a society, seem to call good evil and evil good these days. We are confused and deceived, and we are far away from biblical thinking. I'm praying for new mindsets and God's presence in this country.

I don't know how or why my name got on the list to attend this event. This is my second time I have attended a White House briefing of this type. I attended the first year of President Obama's first term, and it was good that I was there to meet new people and hear what they feel is important to share with African-American leaders.

I have to say that the Lord put me there regardless of the who, why or how. My role was to listen and to pray, and I want to keep a low profile so that I can continue to get invited to these key assignments.

As important as the subjects were that were discussed, the most important issues, from my opinion, were not discussed because they were of a spiritual nature—issues that would literally change and revolutionize everything and everybody.

President Obama appointed Broderick Johnson to be Cabinet Secretary, Chair of My Brother's Keeper Task Force. Secretary Johnson seemed to be a brilliant, sensitive and caring man and gave us an update on My Brother's Keeper Task Force. He said that one of his best friends was Eric Holder, and he was heartbroken with Holder's resignation. Whether we agree with his sentiments or not, it was a privileged moment for us to be in the room to hear this top leader sharing his heart so tenderly.

I'm praying for a Holy Visitation to come from a Holy God, and that we are transformed by the renewing of our mind with the Word of God. Only a great spiritual awakening can bring us to the point of being our brother's keeper by lifestyle in the biblical sense.

Pat Chen Featured U.S. News Mon, 29 Sep 2014 10:30:00 -0400
A Lesbian’s Eyes Opened: 'You Don't Hate Us!'

"Projections have shown that if current trends continue, half of all gay and bisexual men will be HIV-positive by age 50," The Wall Street Journal reported last week.

This jaw-dropping revelation is based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest assessment of the homosexual lifestyle. The WSJ report further warns: "Gay and bisexual men represent an estimated 2 percent of the U.S. population but more than half of all people living with HIV and 66 percent of new HIV infections. They are the only population group in the United States for which HIV infections are rising."

What do you say of an adult or adults who, for selfish political reasons, encourage sexually confused children to adopt a sex-centric identity and lifestyle laced with a 50-50 chance of HIV infection? I'd say they're guilty of child abuse. Adults are supposed to protect children from touching the red-hot stove, not push their face down on it.

This is true hate.

Scripture admonishes, "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). Unnatural behaviors beget natural consequences. It is hateful to promote a sin-centered lifestyle to children, to anyone for that matter, which leads to disease, death and, unless repented of, eternal separation from God.

It bears repeating: "[H]alf of all gay and bisexual men will be HIV-positive by age 50."

The wages of sin is death.

Yet in today's upside-down world, it is we who are disingenuously accused of "hate"—those of us who remain compassionate and bold enough to warn our fellow fallen human beings of the spiritual, emotional and, yes, even the physical death that comes as a natural consequence of unnatural behaviors. A toxic cloud of political correctness distorts reality, choking off any honest appraisal of these self-destructive sexual behaviors. We truly live in a dark age that calls evil good and good evil.

Homosexual conduct is always sin. It always has been. It always will be. It is never good, healthy, normal or natural.

The wages of sin is death.

I'm honored to say that I'm one of those "haters" called by God to sound the alarm. While folks do send me positive and encouraging notes on a regular basis, I likewise receive a steady stream of hate mail—chiefly when I write (or speak) on the issues of marriage, God's moral law and His natural order for human sexuality.

While the positive correspondence is always heartening, it is, believe it or not, the nasty stuff—the uglier the better—that especially lifts my spirits. Christ's promises are true: "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake" (Matt. 5:11).

When God calls you to be an instrument of His truth, the biblical harmonies you play will often strike sour with those in rebellion against Him, sending them into blind rage and deep denial. This is a spiritual battle as old as time itself. It is between good and evil. It is sublimely humbling to be used of God in this way. All we, all you, can do as faithful Christians is to speak truth in love and pray that those truths plant a seed that bears fruit in the hardened hearts of lost souls.

I have seen this happen many times.

One example occurred in October 2009. I was keynoting a fund raiser for the pro-family group Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH) in suburban Chicago.

Outside the event, and watched closely by police, was a mob of angry "LGBT" protesters. A young woman who claimed to be with the press was present at the banquet. It was quickly discovered that she was actually with the mob outside and had somehow managed to sneak in. Rather than kick her out, Peter LaBarbera, founder of Americans for Truth, asked her to stay and join us for the banquet. He requested only that she put away her video camera, which she did.

This young woman, who identified as a lesbian, sat at a table with some of the most loving and godly women I know. They showed her the love of Christ. Among them was Sandy Rios, my dear friend, Fox News contributor and AFR talk radio host.

After I gave my remarks, this young lady—we'll call her Marie to protect her from being hanged for high treason by the "equality" crowd—rushed over to me with tears in her eyes. "They lied!" she exclaimed of the protest organizers outside. "You don't hate us. You don't hate me. You really do care. And you're funny!" she added of some of the humor I typically, though not always successfully, weave into my writing and speaking.

"I'll admit it," she continued. "What you said was hard to hear. But they lied to me. You don't hate anyone."

A number of us then prayed for this priceless daughter of God the Father. She stayed around and visited with us until well after the event ended. Sandy Rios and I then walked her out, where we were greeted with scowls and profanity-laden taunts by the activists outside.

"What are you doing with them!" demanded one of the protesters of our new friend. To even my surprise, she ignored them, reached over and gave me a big hug.

She saw that we loved her. She saw that Christ, in us, loved her. He died for our sins, her sins, and for the sins of each of her fellow protesters.

We learned that her friends, her ride home, had abandoned her and, as I recall, Sandy drove her home that night, continuing to minister to her along the way and for some time thereafter.

Yes, they lied. We don't hate you.

This is the true face of the vast majority of so-called "anti-gay" Christians. This story is but a microcosm for the larger movement.

It is truth.

And it is love.

But sadly, truth is hate to those who hate truth.

To you homosexual activists, I say this: We will not be daunted. We will not be intimidated. We will never quit.

We do this in obedience to the Holy Spirit.

As He did before us, we are going to love you.

But, as did He, we are also going to tell you the truth.

And we're going to do it whether you like it or not.

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, 29 Sep 2014 09:00:00 -0400
Zechariah 1 Holds a Key to a Third Great Awakening

The sound of dancing like muffled rain drops on a tin roof can be heard in the distance. The heralds have their songs muted by the utterly chaotic noise of a confused generation, but make no mistake, they are singing still. They bear on the wings of their song the blessing of God's sovereign timing and the joy of His soon appearing. The Lord Himself is coming with banner and torch in hand lighting the way for all who will soon be awakened in the morning of His greatest harvest.

Do not allow fear to capsize your heart, disturb your mind, or distract you from the magnificence of this moment. He has heard the cry of the foolish and the appeal of the wise. He is choosing to come as no respecter of persons. He is coming as a Father to reveal the fierceness of His love and the fire of His holiness. Our Father, the King of Glory, is coming, and He will reign forever and forever.

The question is not of His coming but of our awareness of His approaching and our preparation for His arrival.

In Zech. 1:1 we are introduced in a single verse to the power of repentance and the hope of the King's appearing. Tucked away in the neatly scribed names of Zechariah and his fathers we discover a glimmer of light preceding the dark words, "The Lord was very angry with your fathers." (Zech. 1:2) We read, "Zechariah, (which means "God remembers), the prophet, the son of Berechiah (which means "God blesses"), the son of Iddo (which means "At the appointed time") saying ..."

The message begins with the incredible reminder that God remembers and He blesses at the appointed time. Has history stumbled upon a time for such an encounter with the King of Glory as though He was unaware of her staggering? Might we even be so bold to ask if it is possible He was watching her stagger all along that she might fall into the arms of His embrace?

Are we in such a time of revival and awakening? Are we at such a time for the message of repentance and holiness to be sounded again from the pulpits of America without affection for fee or favor? Are we at such a time when the fierceness of His love and the fire of His holiness are being manifest and people's hearts are being flayed before Him in secret? Are we at such time when the sound of dancing in the distance and the muted song of the heralds is being heard—though it is muffled?

Are we at such a time that the great cloud of witnesses are anticipating the reactions of our generation to the times in which we live? Are we at such a time that the synergy of generations is rising before us like a tsunami of His holiness? Is awakening afoot?

The Lord is visiting His people with banner and torch in hand. The noise that produces fear is like a cluster of chaotic and confusing sounds, but the sound that accompanies His coming is as the mist upon a rooftop or songs carried on the wings of hope. Fear causes us to fail to hear the gentle steps of His approaching like a breeze among the myrtle trees or a whisper of assurance that His eyes are upon us. It is not difficult. Zechariah continues the Word of the Lord, "Thus says the Lord of hosts, 'Return to Me,' declares the Lord of hosts, 'that I may return to you,' says the Lord of hosts." (Zech. 1:3).

Zechariah yields his life to bend toward us releasing the message of the hope of His coming. The Lord warns Zechariah, "'Do not be like your fathers ... they did not listen or give heed to Me,' declares the Lord. Your fathers, where are they?" (Zech. 1:4). We hear easily in the times of shouting, but what of the times of whispering?

I propose to you the sound of His coming is at hand. The demand on us is not to manipulate His coming but to surrender to His arrival. The moment of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 was not determined by the disciples gathered in the Upper Room. Their responsibility was simply to recognize the sound of His arrival and surrender to the accompanying fire. The Lord Himself had orchestrated the affairs of men to be in the right city at the right time where the maximum number of people could receive the manifest glory of His appearing. He is orchestrating these days as well.

One of the early sounds of true awakening is the rapid and resplendent sound of people praying and seeking Him in different places at the same time. Suddenly you begin to realize it is not about this city or that, this church or that church, this region or that region, but it is the sound of His angel armies riding like horsemen across the land quickening hearts to arise and the wind of His Spirit blowing among the myrtle trees. (Zechariah 1). The sound of the hunger of His people being fed by prayer.

The sound of revival along the Gulf Coast during the past six months has been one of the most incredible times of my life and ministry. We have really sought to "prefer one another more than we preach to one another." A number of pastors from very different backgrounds and expressions of local congregations are seeking to "move together" throughout the region carrying the banner of hope and harvest in one hand and the torch of His holiness in the other. We have seen thousands respond to altar calls, and we have seen incredible miracles as we moved from city to city and church to church. Not everyone understands it, and many doubt the effectiveness of the model, but for those of us laboring together it is an incredible journey and I personally believe it is the hope of what is to come in the nation.

True awakening can never be contained in a building and will not be controlled by a single ministry! Why not allow the Holy Spirit to release the fire of His holiness that permits us to value each other for the gift He is in us and allow our message to transcend the scope of personal preference or prejudice and walking in humility to make the Name of Jesus famous in the earth? It has been said of the Welsh revival, "The outpouring of the Spirit came dramatically, with precision, in the second week of November 1904 on the same day—both in the North and in the South."

It was March 16, 2014 for me when through a vision I saw the Lord step into the sanctuary, and my life will forever be marked by that moment. However, it was a moment, though the vision lasted for nearly six hours, others were experiencing their own encounters and visions that I knew nothing about. My vision in no way diminishes the significance of theirs—quite the opposite: I have learned the Lord is moving all over the nation and in many other nations at precisely the same moment. He is beginning a movement birthed out of moments of encountering His glory. For a dear friend of mine it started in a truck stop when the glory of God fell and people were saved, healed and filled with the Holy Spirit right on the spot. For another pastor friend it began in his kitchen floor! The story goes on and on, but it must be celebrated as a collective and received with the hope of His appearance.

If you are reading this and feel as though you are still waiting for the moment when you encounter His glory, do not be distracted by a sense of delay. "Behold, He restrains the waters, and they dry up; He sends them out, and they inundate the earth" (Job 12:15, NASB). He chooses to restrain the water that it might come forth to transform the earth! In the revival of the 1890s there were regions in the British Isles that did not come into revival for a year or two, but when they did it was often a wider and deeper move of the Spirit.

You know you are getting close to revival when the level of your expectation demands the discipline of your preparation.

Prayer movements are being refreshed and renewed. Expectation is arising in the hearts of a people who are less concerned about their future than they are confident in the faithfulness of the Lord to respond to the appeal of His people. Regions are beginning to connect, and laborers are meeting in the field to reap a harvest no one can reap alone. Ministries are collaborating by the joining of hands until our hearts begin to become one.

We are living in unprecedented times, and unprecedented times provide unparalleled opportunities. My confidence is that we will witness thousands of churches of varying sizes, strengths and assets come together in these unprecedented days to witness the miraculous move of the awakening that is afoot.

Rick Curry was born in Richmond, Kentucky, and has been involved in full-time ministry all of his adult life. He is the lead pastor of King's Way Church in Pensacola, Florida, and provides apostolic oversight to its affiliate congregations. He is currently leading with other key leaders a significant revival that is quickly spreading all along the Gulf Coast and in many other regions of the country.


Rick Curry Featured Opinion Mon, 29 Sep 2014 08:00:00 -0400
6 Reasons Haiti May Be Closer to Revival Than the US

After a week of "fire" in Haiti, it's clear to me why they may be closer to revival than we are.

As a revivalist for the last 23 years, it's usually quite easy for me to discern the spirit of revival. When it's there, it overwhelms me, and when it's not, I'm grieved. Until last week, I've been grieved for years.

I preached 16 times over eight days in suffocating heat and was wrecked as I watched hundreds of precious people aggressively contend for the fire of the Holy Spirit. Their worship was explosive, and their commitment was remarkable.

In April, I encountered the spirit of revival for the first time in years. The last time I felt it was during an event with Brian Simmons in Detroit several years ago. It quickly faded however, and I've been outside of a revival atmosphere since—until Easter morning in Haiti, that is.

Nearly 2,000 people packed that church in 85- to 95-degree heat and worshipped with fire!

Monday saw hundreds of people return, and by the end of the week we were at 2,000 radical Haitian revivalists dancing and interceding deeply.

Here's why Haiti may be closer to a sweeping revival than the United States is:

1. Hunger

The entire week was filled with hundreds of people contending for freedom and an encounter with Jesus. People kept coming to me, some in tears, telling me in broken English, or in French with an interpreter how thankful they are for encountering Jesus. One amazing young lady was absolutely transformed after I prophesied to her on the first day. She went from a stoic, emotionless disposition to joy and tears on the last day. I told her I'd never forget her after watching what God did in such a powerful way in her life. She simply said through an interpreter, "I'll never forget the fire you gave me." I was wrecked again.

Their hunger wasn't for a new car, a new house or for promotions or to discover their ministries. They simply wanted Jesus. The average income in that part of Haiti is about $70 a month. To honor me as a man of God (his words), one person gave me Haitian money that equated to $12, and I was deeply moved. That was possibly 1/6th of his monthly income. That translates to several hundred dollars when compared to our American economy. His hunger for Jesus resulted in thanks and honor of the messenger—and this messenger was probably more moved by him than he was by me.

2. Commitment

Nobody drove to the church. In fact, you nearly would need a four-wheel-drive to navigate the roads that led to the church. They were extremely rocky and broken up with deep holes. Everybody walked to the church—many for up to two hours, and then, after a three-hour service, they would walk home, another two hours, in pitch darkness (no street lights at all) and often in a massive downpour (it was the rainy season when I was there).

The Sunday service lasted six hours in extreme heat, and then, after a break, most returned Sunday evening for more. Then, their commitment was so intense that they returned every single night that I was there. Eight nights in a row!

There were no competing, "more important" activities such as ballet, baseball, movies, relaxation or ANYTHING at all! There was nothing better or more important than going to worship Jesus at the church. They were committed to the corporate gathering, and that in itself may be enough to see revival launch there.

In America we all drive, yet most wouldn't think of sitting down in an air-conditioned car for two hours to drive to church every night. The commitment we have in this nation just isn't comparable.

3. Honor

I have never, in all of my years, seen a church honor its pastor with such passion, humility and love. It would be impossible for me to overstate what I experienced. One young emerging leader told me in broken English, "I love my pastor, and he loves me. I love to stand next to him." It was precious. The pastor and his wife are so humble yet unapologetically bold and focused on seeing transformation come to Haiti—and everybody there honors that devotion.

They had a special service to show their appreciation this past Sunday, and for six hours people sang songs to them, presented fruit as gifts, shared testimonies and literally laid out a red carpet as thousands gave them a long standing ovation. The pastor and his wife never would have asked for this, but the people exhibited their hearts of honor for them in a memorable way.

4. Boldness

Finally I found a church where you could preach convicting, challenging messages, and the people actually rejoiced! This pastor isn't playing games, and he refuses to entertain apathy or a casual approach to God or the church. He just gave a 30-day ultimatum. Either become 100% committed to attending regularly, to giving financially and to serving in ministry—or leave. You are either all in, or you are out. And guess how people responded. Yep, they are in.

Sadly in America we are so independent that any ultimatum like that would most likely result in most people checking out. The pastor would be accused of being controlling instead of appreciating his determination to accomplish the mission.

These Haitians are radically devoted to seeing their nation experience revival and transformation. They aren't in the church for the sake of their own experience. They are craving for God to move, and they embrace the sharp, difficult messages that are required to see this revolution come.

5. Supernatural

Demons are everywhere, and they know it. They experience such unbelievable supernatural realities that it doesn't take much to ready them for a move of God. I asked a jam-packed altar full of people how many were experiencing nightmares. This prophetic word was burning in me, but I had no idea what kind of response I'd get. Over half of the massive crowd raised their hands. One-third said they were specifically aware of demons. Voodoo is rampant in the area, and the power is real.

So, if the enemy is that real, then it's easy to understand just how real and supernatural God is.

This being the case, everything just feels much more powerful. The intercession and worship is intense. The atmosphere is alive. They understand deliverance, and they expect other-worldly encounters.

6. Desperation

The earthquake in 2010 killed 225,000 people. The region is devastated, and poverty is extreme. It's a Third World country that seems to have more needs than can ever be met.

The situation feels hopeless. In a remote region I asked the pastor how in the world the police would find us if there was a problem. He said,"You don't want to need the police." That wasn't very comforting! I realized how much they actually have to rely on God.

The police or an ambulance cannot come to our rescue. That's the situation in a nation where medical care in poor and emergency systems are nearly nonexistent. As I stated before, the average income is $70 a month.

The pastor told me about a critical prayer meeting that he held just prior to the earthquake. Fourteen hundred people showed up. Not one of them died in the earthquake. Three people from the church who didn't attend the meeting did die.

They understand the realities of life and death, and they are extremely desperate for Jesus. The prayer meetings are full. In fact, the pastor just added another weekly prayer meeting with the expectation of revival breaking out—and the desperate are coming.

How Can America See Revival?

I am so disinterested in most strategies, round-table sessions or great ideas.

I want prayer meetings.

Lots and lots of prayer meetings with hundreds and thousands of people in attendance.

The prescription of revival is simple:

"Congregate the people who are willing to make a total surrender. Pray and wait. Believe God's promises. Hold daily meetings." —Evan Roberts

Is anybody ready to fully surrender, pray, wait, believe and attend daily meetings in America? If not, revival will have to wait.

John Burton has been developing and leading ministries for over 20 years and is a sought-after teacher, prophetic messenger and revivalist. He has authored nine books, has appeared on Christian television and radio and directed one of the primary internships at the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City. Additionally, he planted two churches, has initiated two city prayer movements and is currently directing a prayer- and revival-focused ministry school in Detroit called theLab University. John also has a web- and graphic-design business and is continually developing new and exciting ventures. He and his beautiful wife, Amy, have five children and live in the Detroit area. He can be reached via his website at



John Burton Featured Opinion Mon, 29 Sep 2014 07:00:00 -0400
How Will Christians Use Media for God in the Future?

The changes in the media world are fast-paced. We hear how terrorists are using media, including social media, to advance their aims. We see examples every day of how the radical left is pushing its social agenda on the nation through media.

I am encouraged when I see examples of Christians rising to the challenge to use media to advance the gospel because it's important for Christians to use media to fulfill the Great Commission, to influence the church and to impact culture.

Last week I had the privilege of attending Celebration 2014 at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, where they dedicated a very impressive Communication Arts Building worth $10 million. This is where Lee University is educating students to learn to use the media for God. This year they have 400 students, but think of future generations of students that will be educated in this facility.

With 5,104 students and 600 staff, Lee University is one of the largest Pentecostal/charismatic universities in the nation. It is listed as one of "Charisma's Best Christian Universities, Colleges and Schools" and is ranked high by U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review's "Best Colleges."

I have a long been an admirer of Lee University and Paul Conn, its capable and respected president for the past 28 years. In fact, I knew him before he became president, when he was a successful author who had just finished his doctorate at Harvard University.

I feel a bond with Lee University because I am an "alumnus."  In 1995, Lee conferred an honorary doctorate on me. Of all the honors I've received, this is one of the greatest. Journalists don't often use "doctor" in the way a minister might, but when I'm in an academic setting as I was last week, I'm called "Dr. Strang." 

Over the years I have seen the transformation of the Lee University under Conn's leadership; it is truly impressive. I've had other college presidents tell me that they have been inspired by what they've seen at Lee, so their influence is much wider than the Church of God that owns the 98-year-old institution located in Cleveland since 1947.

While at Lee last week, I was impressed with the caliber of students, with the faculty I met and even the high caliber of donors and church leaders who also attended the Celebration 2014 event. Everything was excellent and the attention to detail was impressive.

The Communication Arts Building has 41,000 square feet. It includes a film screening and editing room, a television studio and sound stage, eight video editing suites, a student journalism lab, computer labs with 41 Macs and a black box theater with a capacity of 175. The Communication Arts Building is part of a "Find Us Faithful" campaign to raise $25 million to also build a chapel, a new men's dormitory, a School of Nursing and much more.

When I spoke to the students, I mentioned that my journalism education at the University of Florida happened before the invention of the personal computer; we learned on manual typewriters. I wanted them to appreciate the high-tech quality that Lee has provided them. I also told them to expect changes in the future even more drastic than I've experienced in my career.

More importantly are the changes that are eminent in society and in the church in the coming decades. These students aren't simply preparing for their first jobs. They are preparing to make a major impact.

Students like the ones at Lee University are the future of the business of disseminating the news to the general public. I encouraged them to ask the Lord how they can be used to create and use media to further His kingdom on earth.

Indeed the media—social media included—is a powerful tool in our technologically crazed society. Just think about what could be righteously accomplished by future generations if its sole purpose was to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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


Steve Strang Featured Opinion Mon, 29 Sep 2014 06:00:00 -0400
What the Python Spirit Really Wants

I didn't realize how strong is the spirit of python's chokehold on my region until I started to personally experience the effects of its presence. One of the only named spirits in the Bible, the python spirit is a coiling spirit that works to squeeze out the breathe of life (the Holy Spirit) and cut off your lifeline to God (prayer).

To accomplish its deadly agenda, this spirit will remind you of wounds from your past, surround you with ungodly influences that tempt you to compromise the Word of God—or just barrage you with circumstances that knock the wind out of you.

Symptoms of a python attack may include weariness, a loss of passion to worship and pray, feeling pressured, overwhelmed, helpless and even hopeless. The severity of those symptoms depends on how long this enemy has been coiling itself around you and how much pressure it has applied.

Let me show you this spirit in the Bible. You'll find it in Acts 16:16 when Paul encounters a girl possessed with a spirit of divination. The word divination in this verse comes from the Greek word for puthon, which translates in English as "python." Vine's Dictionary explains how Greek mythology believed the Pythian serpent guarded the oracle of Delphi until Apollo slew it (and then took on the name Pythian). The word was later applied to diviners or soothsayers, inspired by Apollo.

Attacking Your Prayer Life

Python can attack anyone. You don't have to be in sin to find python trying to slide under your door. Paul was a man of prayer. The Bible says he spoke in tongues more than anybody else in the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 14:18)—and probably more than anybody else in the early church.

Despite Paul's relationship with Christ and a strong prayer life, he still had to wrestle against principalities and powers and rulers of the darkness of this age and spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (see Eph. 6:12). Paul had to wrestle against python—and so may we. Let's look at Paul's encounter with the python spirit.

"Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, 'These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.' And this she did for many days" (Acts 16:16-17).

The python spirit had a stronghold in Philippi. When the man of prayer started heading for the house of prayer, this spirit launched its first attack against him—a distraction followed by a full-blown trial that aimed to take him out of his purpose. Python knows it has no authority in a city that prays in the presence of God, so it works to distract people from praying so they can't fulfill their purpose.

Python would rather watch you lick your wounds than pray to a healing God. Python would rather hear you complain or gossip than take your problems to a miracle-working God. Python would rather distract you with attacks, trials and persecutions than see you press into a gracious God for deliverance. Again, python's ultimate goal is to put you in bondage and thwart your purpose. You may be going through the motions but you feel dead on the inside because python has squeezed the life out of you.

Loosed From Python's Grip

When you rise up in your Christ-given authority against python, the battle ensues. Paul cast the demon out of the girl, which meant her masters could no longer profit from her false prophecies. "They seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities" (Acts 16:19). From there, they were falsely accused, had their clothes torn off, were beaten with rods and thrown into prison with stocks on their feet.

Paul and Silas were in physical pain. They had been publicly humiliated. They were slandered and maligned. And they were in the grip of the python spirit. At this point, they had several options: They could lie there and lick their wounds. They could complain to one another about their situation. They could meditate on the persecution and decide to abandon their purpose in exchange for being set free. But they didn't do any of that. Thank God, they left us a model for how to break free from the python spirit.

"But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed" (Acts 16:25-26). Prayer and praise are what python is trying to stop, but prayer and praise will set you free.

In next week's article, we'll take a closer look at the python spirit and what it takes to combat it in a region. Florida has 43 houses of prayer across the state—more than any other state—but the python spirit is so active that the Everglades are overflowing with these dangerous snakes. In a state known for prayer, why is python so dominant? More on that next week.

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

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


Jennifer LeClaire Featured Opinion Sun, 28 Sep 2014 17:00:00 -0400
Are You Wearing a Spiritual Mask to Church?

There are great churches with great programs, great ministries, and outstanding volunteers. We all love churches like that. But more than what a church has to offer me, what I really want is to feel connected with a group of people, to find a place of belonging, and do life together.

A few days ago I asked on my Facebook page:

Do you feel like you have a "core" group of friends? Friends that are always available in time of need, and for whom you are available in turn? Or do you feel like those relationships are lacking in your life? 

The overwhelming response was that these relationships were lacking, yet everyone wished they had them. Perhaps loneliness is more common that we realize.

I wonder if, at the core of who we are, we are desperate for friendship. Longing to connect with someone with whom we can share the deep places of our hearts. With whom we can be vulnerable, honest, transparent, real. Someone that is willing and wanting to listen.

So I think about the Church, and the people that walk through church doors. Sending their children to the Kids' programs, participating in a great worship/music service, and listening to a gifted preacher. But what if at the end of that Sunday morning service they're as alone as they were when they came in?

Because my husband is a pastor, we have left family behind. My girls are growing up away from their grandparents, their cousins, their aunts and uncles. It also means that my husband and I are away from our parents, our family. And the thing is, while we have each other, we also need other people in our lies. We need that connection, we need community!

Church, of all places, should be the place where we come to find the friendship, support, connection, acceptance, and sense of "family."

What good is a church with outstanding programs and ministries if our hearts continue to feel lonely?

What good is it for us to preach about "loving our neighbor," when we fail to reach out to the person sitting by us in the pews?

What good is it for us to talk about a "Church family" when there is no sense of actually doing life together? Of getting to know each other? Of investing in each others lives?

What good is it to attend a church if we feel like we have to be "perfect" or have it "together" rather than allowing people to see our messy and our broken? We are all messy and broken, all of us.

As a church, should we not model what it means to belong? To be accepted? To find meaningful friendships? To do life together?

If we did this, we would not need church programs, we would not be scrambling to find volunteers. We would do life, hand by hand, covering the needs as they come.

We follow Jesus, we talk about His unconditional love, about His sacrifice for us. It should change us, it should make us more loving and accepting. It should change the way we interact with people.

Church is the place where we grow in our relationship with God, where we learn, where we pray... together.

If life is tough right now and you cannot pray, then I can pray for you. If your child is having surgery, then I want to come and sit with you in the waiting room as we wait and pray and laugh (because everyone needs a friend to bring you a smile or a laugh when you are waiting during surgery). If you don't live close to family, then I want you to sit at my table for Thanksgiving. If you need someone to talk to, what is a good time for you to come over to my always messy home? We can talk amidst naked Barbies on the floor and a dirty kitchen sink.

If we are the "salt of the world" then let's do this, let's start doing life together. With so many people hungry for authentic relationships, let's have the church be the place where people find a real sense of belonging, a core group of friends, a family, and the unending, never-changing hope of Christ.

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


Ellen Stumbo Featured Opinion Sun, 28 Sep 2014 15:00:00 -0400
4 Ways to Deal With Criticism From Christians

Have you ever heard the phrase, "Christians are the only ones who shoot their wounded"? If we were sitting down over a cup of coffee, I would love to know your thoughts about that comment.

I had a great conversation with a friend the other day about how to respond to comments said about other believers. My friend was in a spiritual conversation with a girl who was describing her experience with Christians. The girl said a pastor had told her she was "the spawn of Satan." Everything in us wants to jump to the girl's defense and bash the pastor who would say that.

It's also common to hear Christians and non-Christians alike talk bad about "other Christians," lumping every believer into a category of being judgmental, legalistic, cheesy, dorky ... etc. It's easy to passively nod in agreement about those "other" Christians being so ______.

But ...

Didn't Jesus say people would know He is God by our love for one another? He didn't say the unbeliever would know Jesus was God by our taking their side and joining them in pointing the finger at the Christians they came in contact with. 

Rather, people will know Jesus is God by our love, our unselfishly choosing for another's highest good, of other believers, even believers we don't know, even believers we don't agree with or necessarily relate to all that much. How beautiful it would be to see bashing and belittling Jesus' bride come to an end.

Here are 4 practical ways to deal with criticism from believers. 

1. Pray for them. There was a time I was unjustly criticized, and I got angry. I was so angry I just stormed off and neglected my responsibilities and went to vent to God about the person. I started praying for them things like, "God, you show them what you think!" "Show them how wrong they are ... convict them!" But gently the Lord spoke to me to really pray for them, to pray the hardest things for me to pray and pray for their best interests. I didn't want to pray for their good; I wanted God to get 'em! But eventually I did, not because I felt like it, but out of obedience. As I kept praying for this person and for God to give them an incredible ministry someday and other super hard things for me to pray, a crazy thing happened. My heart softened. The anger subsided and I was able to forgive them, even when the person didn't ask for it. The next week this person said they were sorry—making me the first person they had ever said sorry to in their entire life.

2. Sort out good and bad. Dr. Henry Cloud wrote a great book called Changes That Heal that describes this really well. Basically it says we have a tendency to think in terms of all good or all bad. If we like something or someone, we lean toward thinking it (or they) is all good and can do no wrong. Or if we don't like something, we tend to think nothing good could come from it. When we receive criticism, we need to process with the Lord what's good and true about what is being said and be able to separate that from what is not true.

3. Clarify and communicate. When we (or others) are criticized, we need to communicate in a healthy way about the issue. We need to share what we heard (or think we heard), what we felt and thought about it, our desires and then also share what we'd like to see happen in the future. Here's a great tool to help with this process. 

It is also very helpful to ask questions and reword what you think someone is saying to help clarify what you think someone is saying, because the majority of conflicts are a result of miscommunication.

4. Remember what's true about you and "them."
 We fail, and if you're anything like me, it's easy to demand mercy for my mistakes yet justice and wrath for others, forgetting that Jesus died for their mistakes too.

When another believer messes up, our knee-jerk reaction is to point the finger and accuse. But here's the reality (italics mine), "Once you [and they] were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your [and their] evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you [them] by Christ's physical body through death to present you [them] holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation." (Col. 1:21-22).

The more we understand our true identity in Christ, we should understand that same identity as given to other believers in Christ as well.

Laura Krokos is the founder and host of Missional Women. Laura and her husband have been missionaries to college students for 11 years serving with Master Plan Ministries. Laura is the Staff Women's Development Coordinator and has discipled more than 150 girls, led over 30 Bible studies and speaks 10 to 20 times a year. Laura is the award-winning author of a 12-week Bible study on First Samuel, Beholding Him, Becoming Missional, recently released Reach; How to Use Your Social Media Influence for the Glory of God, and A Devotional Journey through Judges, and a devotional to accompany the free online Bible study at


Laura Krokos Featured Opinion Sun, 28 Sep 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Prophecy: Posture Your Hearts to Receive Power at 5:55

The coming year will be a time that God is calling those with ears to hear and eyes to see to set aside this time to posture and position yourself for the grace of His unlimited empowerment to be fully embraced.

On Sunday, Sept 14, while assembling with the household of faith at The CityGate Southaven, Mississippi, L. Shoshana Rhodes, an author and Messianic Jew, felt a prophetic stirring to exhort us based on having been awakened twice at 5:55 a.m. Her word was about the breaking of a brand new day and how the Breath (Ruach) of God was there for the new day and new season that is coming upon God's people.

As she released this revelation, the Holy Spirit began to download some prophetic words and insight into me about how to enter the New Jewish year that began this week and the New Season that is at hand. Her 5:55 began to jump out at me in that 5 is the completed covenant number of grace! I knew by the Spirit that God was saying that this new season and New Jewish Year Rosh Hashanah could be the beginning of an unlimited empowering of His great grace. I received a spiritual understanding that there were the days that contained 5:55 as sunset and sunrise would be significant.

After some research I have found and received some instruction from the Lord about the significance of the dates that contain 555 or grace with unlimited empowerment. The next time that sunset fell at 5:55 p.m. non-daylight saving Central time was Sept. 23. That gave us 24 hours plus 5 minutes to posture and position our hearts! This will be a time that God is calling those with ears to hear and eyes to see to set aside this time to posture and position themselves for the grace of His unlimited empowerment to be fully embraced.

The Lord is beckoning the "first of the first fruits." It is important for us to understand that we can only enter into the new season and New Year in that same manner we have postured ourselves in the last season and year! You will never be prepared for the season that is coming if you despise the season you are in. In the movie Rookie there was the quote that "sometimes you have to do what you have to do until you get to do what you desire to do!"

Your gratitude is about the past season, but your attitude is about the upcoming season. Position your gratitude on the goodness of God's provision, and posture your attitude into the new season and year taking the limits off God's ability to provide exceedingly abundantly above anything you think or ask.

The second date that is significant is Oct. 1 as sunrise comes at 5:55 a.m. non-daylight saving time. This is the sunrise of the eighth of the 10 days of awe! This is just before Yom Kippur and at the ending of the 10 days of testing where God determines whether you live or die! The beginning of Yom Kippur in Israel's history was the one day of the year when the High Priest was allowed into the Holy of Holies!

Based on the spiritual understanding God has downloaded to me, I feel a release of a prophetic charge that we need to set 5:55 a.m. Oct. 1 to posture and position ourselves for the release of grace that will establish the potential of embracing the unlimited empowerment of Christ's purpose through surrendered lives! This new unlimited empowerment will result in God's remnant not ministering from just their personal anointing and gifting and shifting into ministering from the Ruach breath of God!

Is. 55:5 reads, "And now I'm doing it to you: (my emphasis "empowering") You'll summon nations you've never heard of, and nations who've never heard of you will come running to you because of me, your God, because The Holy One of Israel has honored you."

James 4:7 says, "Submit yourself to God, resist the devil and he shall flee." It is time to get our eyes on the workings of God by the Holy Spirit and lead responsive offensive lives rather than being so negatively programmed and reacting to what the devil does in a defensive mode.

The weapons of our warfare in the prophetic from the past season will no longer be sufficient for this new season! There are new weapons that God has prepared for this time, and we must be "re-tooled" with them to move into offensive responsive warfare and move away from defensive posture of the last season.

God's great grace is His empowering us to be who God has called us to be. His amazing grace empowers us to be "victors" and not victims; to be sons and not slaves; to be joint heirs and not orphans.

The Hebraic Year 5775 will be seen as a year of the double government of heaven impacting earth. 7+5=12 & 7+5=12! Twelve being God's number of authentic authority. Is. 9:7 says, "Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and over His Kingdom, to order and establish it with judgment and justice. From this time forward, ever forever. The zeal of the Lord will perform this."

It is a time to stir up your passion for the ways of God! Your passion and submission will be some of your greatest weapons in this new year!

Apostle Clay Nash has become a powerful prophetic voice declaring the Kingdom of Heaven in people's everyday lives. As an apostle, he has founded and led numerous assemblies of believers as well as a network of relational covenants with ministers throughout the world. Clay serves on the team of Network Ekklesia International along with Dutch Sheets and Ken Malone as well as Global Spheres with Chuck Pierce and C. Peter Wagner. He has a doctorate in theology and is married to Susan, his wife of 41 years. They have three children, four grandchildren and countless spiritual sons and daughters.

Clay Nash Featured Opinion Sun, 28 Sep 2014 11:00:00 -0400
Great Revival Fire Will Now Begin to Burn

The alarm clock of heaven is now ringing on the night stand of a sleeping church; time to rise, time to rise to the occasion, time to get up! The Lord says, "I have lions hidden in My remnant, not wolves. They will now rise to patrol and remove the defeated ones, wolf packs, that have come to scatter My flocks. My lions will be fierce, bold, aggressive and unintimidated. They will not flinch when adversaries advance. They will stand strong," says the Lord, "and fearless. 

"A new roar will be heard from My tribe announcing territorial dominion. A roar claiming geographical and spiritual jurisdiction shall now sound from My remnant; a roar establishing that the throne of the territory is occupied and guarded. A rule against hell's power shall be sounded. A roar of authority in My Name shall come against hell's intrusions. My called-out ones, My sent ones, will now become step-forward ones.

"They will move forward in My power. They will manifest their rights as sons and daughters of God ruling and reigning with Me. As intended, My heirs are stepping from the shadows of cultural bondage. They shall now display disdain of enemy princes, mights, thrones, dominions and rulers of darkness. No longer will they compromise in shared rule; no longer settling for cohabitation, no longer accepting shared occupancy.

"Passive appeasement has now been replaced with backbones of steel, lips set on fire with Holy ingots, and a shout of the King is in their voice indeed. Jericho's shout decree is in their mouth. Determined faith shall now be seen in My faithful ones as they march to remove demon philosophies and doctrines of devils from the land. No shared rule," says the Lord.

"My rule, My rule shall prevail. My words shall prevail. Power to prevail is being poured out. Power to prevail is soaking My remnant. Power to overcome hell's strategies; power to overcome demon doctrine and rebel government; power to more than conquer demon tactics is being released. Those who stand with Me shall see hell's fire misfire.

"So arise and rule. Rise and roar with My authority. I will fill your enemy's mouth with sand and their hearts with quicksand. They will find themselves stuck in their own mire. Roar with My freedom. Roar with My liberty. Let rejoicing roar out of Zion. March in to battle with confident peace.

"Great revival fire will now begin to burn through intercession-soaked regions as My awakening begins to roll. The regions will now become activated by My glory. My shaking has come. I am shaking earth. I am shaking heaven. Walls, strongholds, obstacles and hell's defenses are being shaken down, and My remnant is being shaken free. My shaking will open ancient wells of revival. The revival in the womb of My intercessors will now be birthed.

"The revivalist mantle is descending upon My righteous evangelists. The fire shut up in their bones will now become words of fiery passion. With My gospel, I will shake open the capped wells of evangelism. I will shake open the ancient healing wells. Miracles will multiply. My angels are pumping those wells and they are opening new wells, new roads, new inroads, new mantles, new vision, new harvest. Behold I will do a new thing, and you will see it. Now it will spring forth.

"Because your cries have come before Me, because you have pursued My Presence," says the Lord, "because your worship has become sweet savor—the Lord of angel armies decrees over His remnant people, you shall now begin reality church—no more acting, no more actors, no more pretending. Real church, real disciples, real Christianity, real worship, real power, real glory, real miracles, real healings. It is ordained reality church.

"I am now removing arrows shot into My royal priesthood. Arrows of betrayal, arrows of Jezebel, arrows of Absalom, arrows of deceit and gossip borne by lying spirits, arrows shot by those bound by religious demons. I Your God am removing arrows. You will be free. You will be healed. You will be restored, and you will be on fire with My Presence for I have said 'I will make My ministers a flame of fire.' It is ordained, your place of pain shall now be gain, and where you reign you will rise and rule with Me.

"I am now coming to My remnant. And I am now coming as Lord Sabaoth-Lord of Angel Armies. Because of alignment with My purpose, I will now align My hosts to assist aggressively. There is now a convergence of the angel armies and the church's prayer army into a divine coalition; the coalition of My willing; those who run to battle, not from it.

"My earth and My heaven's armies will now challenge thrones of iniquity, thrones of idolatry, thrones of rebellion, thrones of witchcraft, thrones of humanism and antichrist dominions. Battalions are dispatched and await the decrees of My word through the saints to overthrow iniquitous thrones so My saints can sit with Me.

"My greatest campaign on Earth is due. Decree it," says the Lord. "Align your words with Mine, and angel forces shall align with you. Align with angel forces in your regions, and I will accelerate an alignment within your nation. Yes, revival is now. The harvest is now," says the Lord. "Victory is now," says the Lord. "Arise and pursue My cause. Arise and roar. Arise and fight. Arise and shine. Your light has come, and the glory of your God shines upon you."

Tim Sheets is an apostle, pastor and author based in southwestern Ohio. A graduate of Christ For the Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas, he returned to Ohio in 1979 to pastor The Oasis, a CityGate Church, in Middletown, Ohio. The site is one of the largest in the Cincinnati-Dayton area and is host to many ministries and conferences. His vision is to raise up people who will authentically demonstrate the church on the Earth and passionately evangelize the world. His heart is for awakening and reformation in America. He has written three books, Armed and Battle ReadyBeing Led by the Spirit and Heaven Made Real. Dr. Tim Sheets resides with his wife, Carol, in Lebanon, Ohio.


Tim Sheets Featured Opinion Sun, 28 Sep 2014 09:00:00 -0400
WATCH: The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind

Romans 12:2 calls for believers to be transformed through the renewing of our minds. Bill Johnson explains how this can look for you today in a powerful way. Check it out!


Jeremy Burns Featured Opinion Sat, 27 Sep 2014 17:00:00 -0400
3 Keys to Answering God's Call

This week my wife, two sons and I arrived in Norway and officially embarked on an adventure only the Lord could have started. We spent the last couple of months literally giving away, selling or packing up everything we own and saying goodbye to family and friends.

The reason? We're obeying the Lord's call to follow Him wherever He goes and to do whatever He wants us to. That's a call every follower of Jesus has, but right now our assignment looks a little different than most as we arrive in the Land of the Midnight Sun, where 82 percent of the population considers themselves Christian yet fewer than 1 percent are actively involved in a church.

Almost two years ago my wife, Amber, and I sensed God calling us to be missionaries to the nations. I grew up as a missionary kid in Hong Kong, where my parents served for more than 30 years, and from an early age Amber knew she'd be a missionary overseas someday. So this isn't exactly a "foreign" concept for us. Looking back at our lives, we marvel at how God has equipped us—from skills to practical resources to ministry vision—for this call.

Still, nothing prepares you more for a journey like this than actually leaving behind everything and going. And as we've counted the cost and prepared as much as we could, here are a few things we've already learned about the missionary journey before we ever set foot on Norwegian soil.

1. Faith is everything, yet certainty isn't.

We know that without faith it's impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). And faith, by its biblical definition, is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (v. 1). So blind faith—the kind that involves trusting God while you walk a path you can't see—arrests God's attention and captivates His heart.

That's a good thing, because right now my family is facing more that's unseen and uncertain than tangible and secure. I recently left a job at Charisma Media that had influence (both among the masses and with kingdom matters), challenged me to grow every day, and brought security. That's a sweet gig by any measure, and it certainly doesn't seem logical to quit a job when you're at your prime. I don't know exactly how we'll pay for everything in the coming days. I don't fully know what kind of work I'll be doing or how everything will work out. In fact, we're getting used to not having an answer for lots of questions tossed our way: What denomination or missions organization are you going with? What will you be doing? Where will you be? How long will you stay? How will you support yourself?

Thankfully we can answer some of these questions. Though this next year is an exploratory one in which we'll intentionally "scout out the land," we know we'll be working at a Bible school in Hemsedal through November and then head far north to Tromsø for several months to help a church develop its family ministry and train young leaders. But past that, we don't know. There are open doors in other nations, and we're sure more will open for us in Norway in the coming days.

Yet this uncertainty isn't just fine, it's a good thing. Our pastors, Ron and Sandy Johnson—who've walked with us since the beginning of this journey and, as former missionaries in England, know firsthand what it's like—have continually reminded us that it wouldn't be faith if we had everything planned out and knew every detail about what lay ahead. Faith is all about what you can't see. If we want to walk in the kind of faith that pleases God, we'll adapt to depending on the true Light to guide our steps—even if we can't see where our foot is landing next.

2. The bulk of going is in the leaving.

Years ago while I was in college, the Lord spoke to me in a near-audible voice: "Go and I will lead you," He said. I was facing a future with many possible career paths and needed to make a decision, yet this phrase was so simple yet profound it became a touchstone point in my life. God didn't clear the heavens and tell me to go to this job or that one; He didn't say to head to China or Norway or Fiji. As He did with Abraham and has done with countless others, He simply said "Go." The rest would be a matter of faith.

Often we fail to move even an inch while waiting for God to tell us how many miles we should travel in His Name—even when He's already commanded us to go. But where, God? is our immediate response. Yet more often than not, the whereof our going is secondary to us actually obeying and going anywhere. God has already promised to lead us; He just wants us to go. Why? Because leaving is often the greatest obstacle we'll face in our journey—and the greatest faith-builder. As we overcome that initial obstacle, we begin to develop the faith necessary to take us through the rest of the journey—which is what pleases God in the first place (remember point No. 1?).

Since taking the initial steps to leave everything behind for the gospel, Amber and I have experienced God's overwhelming presence everywhere we turn. He's supernaturally guided and provided for us. He's filled our family with love, joy, peace, grace ... the list goes on and on. We sense it like never before. But whether we're walking under a shower of seemingly unending blessings or through a lonely, dry, uncertain path, the command is the same: Go. And whether that "go" is Norway or next door, it's up to each of us whether we'll obey.

3. You need friends, not just supporters.

I originally thought we'd be going to Norway as marketplace missionaries—meaning I planned to use my media skills as a freelancer in the secular arena to help financially support our missionary work. I'll admit: As the editor of Charisma, I had read too many update letters from Christian ministries beating the same drum to their partners. Send us your money. Every bit of communication landed on the same request for money. It became obvious that these were not partners, they were donors footing the bill. Having admittedly grown cynical of this approach, I cringed at the word partner and didn't want to ask people for money.

But then God cornered me. In one weekend several friends—all of whom knew nothing about God calling us to the mission field—approached Amber and me out of the blue and said they would love to support us if we ever became full-time missionaries. Again and again, He made it obvious to us that partnership is really all about relationship.

"There will be times when the last thing you need from those who support you is money, but their friendship will be invaluable," He said to me. "You'll need someone you can call at 2 a.m. for counsel, someone who will pray for your family at the drop of a hat, someone who will be there for you when you need them."

Obviously, missionaries need money to accomplish their mission. But at the heart of what we do are people—both those we're ministering to and those who are helping us minister. Amber and I know that our task will not and cannot be completed without having true friends truly supporting us rather than just sending a monthly support check. Because just as much as there are those assigned and anointed to go, there are those assigned and anointed to send. We're all part of the same Great Commission calling; we just serve different functions in that as partners with God.

Despite our calling to the mission field, our heart for missions and our personal missionary backgrounds, Amber and I have so much to learn as we begin this adventure. Thankfully, we serve a God who is not only patient to teach us what we should know but also provide us with everything we need as He leads us.

Marcus Yoars is the former editor of Charisma magazine and editorial director for Charisma Media. You can keep up with his family's journey at

Marcus Yoars Featured Opinion Sat, 27 Sep 2014 15:00:00 -0400
Why God Sends You Through a Season in the Desert

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

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

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

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

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

Hindsight revealed that daily provision meant they were rich and well supplied. Did they feel that they had to wear the same old clothes for years and years? Hindsight revealed that their clothes stayed new, so really they had new clothes every day. Did they resent the long, arduous walk through "that vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land?" Yet, hindsight reveals that with all that walking, their feet never swelled. They might have been carried, as far as the condition of their feet goes.

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

No change on the horizon. No evidence of the Promised Land anywhere in sight. Obedience by obedience, they followed the Lord.

Small acts of faithfulness every day for 40 years. As Moses recounts it and refreshes their memories, he doesn't softsoap the hard edges. It was tough. It was vast and terrible.

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

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

Moses says that all this training and desert traveling was "so that in the end it may go well with you." Have you ever known anyone who achieved all they ever dreamed of, then lost it all through their own actions and choices? Moses tells the people that not only is God about to release the fullness of the promise into their lives, but He has prepared their hearts to live large in the abundance of His provision.

Small Change

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

Excerpt from The Power of Small by Jennifer Kennedy Dean.


Jennifer Kennedy Dean Featured Opinion Sat, 27 Sep 2014 13:00:00 -0400
The Mystery of the Trumpet Call for Those Left Behind

"This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11).

Several months ago, I posted a blog entitled, "Starting a Conversation: A Message for Those Left Behind." In it I said that I could almost hear the Last Trumpet being tuned for the one blast that will announce the beginning of the end.

I asked readers in that blog, when that moment comes, and they are caught up to meet the Lord, what they would wish they could say to those who are left behind. I want to answer my own question now in a series of four messages in these days leading up to Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish Feast of Trumpets.

First Message: What is the Mystery of the Trumpet Call?

The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, refers to a mystery when the trumpet sounds. He gives a little more detail in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, but once again refers to the "trumpet call of God" that announces the return of Jesus Christ for those who have placed their faith in Him.

Because of the reference to the "trumpet," many believe when Jesus returns for those who belong to Him, He will do so on the Feast of Trumpets. It seems reasonable to assume that if He was crucified on the Feast of Passover, buried on the Feast of Unleavened Bread, raised on the Feast of the Firstfruits, that the pattern would continue, and He would return on the Feast of Trumpets. 

Interestingly, the Feast of Trumpets is also called the "Hidden Day," because no one knows the exact day or hour of Rosh Hashanah. The only certainty is that it is one of the designated days. This year those days are Sept. 24, 25 and 26.

Whether or not Jesus returns on this year's Feast of Trumpets, we do know without doubt that there is coming a day when all people in the world who have put their trust in Jesus Christ as personal Savior and Lord are going to be suddenly removed. Caught up in the air to be with Jesus forever.

While His followers will be experiencing the joy of His visible presence, those left behind are going to be plunged into worldwide grief and fear, chaos and confusion.

In light of this, God has placed on my heart several messages I want to give to those who would be left behind if the rapture occurred today. In addition to this message, I will post three more on the next three days.

Anne Graham Lotz is the founder of AnGeL Ministries. She also is the author of several books.

Anne Graham Lotz Featured Opinion Sat, 27 Sep 2014 11:00:00 -0400
When Your Teenager Wants to Have Sex in Your Home: A Biblical Response

I know our culture has shifted away from a biblical view of sexuality. I know that many teenagers are having sex. I know that things are radically different for our kids than they were for us.

I know all this and more. Radically shifting values about sex (and the negative impact these shifts are having on the strength of our families) are the reason I wrote The Talks. Our kids need guidance, and parents are the ones who must guide them.

But I didn't know it had come to this.

The "this" I refer to is the article that middle school minister extraordinaire Chris Trent forwarded me yesterday.

The Huffington Post published an article entitled "When Your Teen Wants to Have Sex in Your Home." You should read it. Like right now. If you doubt that our culture is moving away from any semblance of health and wisdom regarding teens and sex, the article is truly eye-opening.

To summarize briefly (which I shouldn't have to do because you have already taken a minute to read the article), the writer applies the same stupid logic to sex as some parents do to drinking: "My teens are going to drink, so I would rather them do it safely. I will therefore buy alcohol for my kid and their friends and allow them to get hammered in my home." Forget any values-based objective of training your kids to see the foolishness of drunkenness (and the illegality of underage drinking) and enabling them to embrace these values for themselves. No, our kids will drink. It is pointless to plan for anything else.

In the same way, the author of yesterday's article suggests that we live in a world where teens inevitably are going to have sex. They are powerless to resist. And if our kids are having sex, wouldn't we rather they have sex in the privacy, safety and comfort of our homes?


Forget the fact that most 16-year-olds are self-centered to the point of being borderline narcissistic (and thus unable to offer a mature, selfless love to another). Forget the fact that parents are trusting kids who can't remember to take the trash out to practice safe sex (even if there is such a thing). Forget the fact that every sexual partner before marriage increases a person's likelihood of divorce later in life. No, let's forget all that. Let's encourage our kids to invite their partners to sleep over.

Note that this article wasn't published by some unknown writer on the fringe of society. It was posted on Huffington Post, a website that the Guardian ranked as the world's most powerful blog just a few years ago.

This is the direction our advanced society is headed. Sadly, I think there is little we can do about the culture as a whole. The momentum toward removing any higher or better standard to our corporate behavior is just too great. People have been trying to legislate morality for years, and it hasn't been all that effective.

While the impact I can have on the culture is limited, the influence I can have on my kids is immense. Likewise, the influence you have on your kids is powerful. You have 18 years to equip them to think differently from the world; to train them to see the wisdom of trusting that God's ways are best; to lead them to embrace values that will give them a life of joy and purpose.

Sure, we are Imperfect and Normal Families, and your kids have Imperfect and Normal Parents. There are times we will mess up. We will get it wrong. But we cannot stop. We must keep counting on Christ to empower us. We must keep looking to Scripture to guide us. And we must keep trusting in the grace of God to sustain us when we fail.

Don't settle for what the world has to offer. Don't encourage your kids do it either. The only way our kids will learn to act and think and believe differently from the world around them is if we teach them how. So let's get going. Our kids are counting on us!

Barrett Johnson is the Minister to Families at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Atlanta. He is also the founder of INFO for Families and the author of The Talks: A Parent's Guide to Critical Conversations about Sex, Dating, and Other Unmentionables.


Barrett Johnson Featured Opinion Sat, 27 Sep 2014 09:00:00 -0400
Former Muslims: ISIS Not Islamic? We Beg to Differ

U.S. and Arab warplanes continued to hit Islamic State targets in Syria Friday, targeting the stronghold of Raqaa.

The coalition is also drying up the terror group's money supply by bombing oil refineries that generate millions of dollars a day.

Meanwhile, the debate over President Barack Obama's strategy to take down ISIS continues, with some even questioning the way he views the terror group.

When he announced his plan to defeat ISIS earlier this month, he made it a point to declare the Islamic State is not Islamic.

"Now let's make two things clear. ISIL is not 'Islamic.' No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL's victims have been Muslim," Obama noted in his Sept. 10 speech. 

It may not be the Islam the president wants, but some former Muslims say the religion and practices embraced by the Islamic State come straight from the Quran. 

"They are following Islam's Prophet Muhammad in every detail. They imitate him by growing their beards, shaving their mustaches and in the way they dress," Brother Rachid, a former Muslim who grew up in Morocco, said. 

Rachid, who hosts the television show Daring Questions, gave the following response to Obama's claim.

"I can speak with confidence that ISIL speaks for Islam," he said. "Allow me to correct you Mr. President. ISIL is a Muslim organization. Its name stands for Islamic State so even the name suggests that it is an Islamic movement."

"Their leader, Abu Bakr Al Bagdadi, holds a Ph.D. in Islamic studies," he noted. "I doubt you know Islam better than he does."

"You think that ISIL does not speak for Islam because they beheaded an American and they killed whom those they consider infidels," Rachid continued. "In the same way Islam's Prophet Mohammad beheaded in one day between 600 and 900 adult males in a Jewish tribe."

"In fact, beheading is commanded in the Quran in Sura 47, the 4th verse. It says when you meet the unbelievers and fight; smite at their necks," he quoted the Quran.

And former Muslim Nonie Darwish says it all leads toward the ultimate goal stated in the Quran. 

"This idea that what ISIS is doing is un-Islamic is not true at all. It's pure Islamic," she told CBN News. "The goals of the Islamic State is to empower itself to control the whole of the Middle East and expand to achieve the goals of Islam of converting the whole world into one Islamic state forcing Islam on the rest of the world." 

Rachid adds that just because these radicals kill other Muslims, it does not make them un-Islamic. 

"You might ask why does ISIL kill other Muslims. The answer is that they consider them infidels, not Muslims," he explained. 

Both Rachid and Darwish warn that political correctness masks the true danger of ISIS and puts the whole world at risk. 

"Our children in the next 20 years might be fighting door-to-door in America with ISIS on the streets of America," Darwish warned. "People have to wake up because the essence of our Judeo-Christian values and our way of life is at stake."

"And it's not just Israel," she added. "It's not Israel. Israel is just the front line. This is all of the Western civilization, and we are getting into a very dark period of history."


Chris Mitchell/CBN News Featured World News Fri, 26 Sep 2014 17:00:00 -0400
Victory Prayer Results in Punishment for Football Coach

A high school football coach in Arizona is serving a two-week suspension for praying with his team.

Tom Brittain, head varsity coach at Tempe Preparatory Academy in Tempe, Arizona, prayed with his team after they won a game.

Officials say the coach violated school policy at the publicly funded charter school and despite some students' support and the outrage of some parents, "staff can't appear to condone religion."

Dr. David Baum, the school's headmaster, says it boils down to protecting separation of church and state.

"He is a man who likes to pray, and I don't object to that. Just, he can't do that with our students. That's the only prohibition," Baum told KPHO-TV.

"He directed students to lead a prayer and he joined the students in that prayer and did so in view of everyone," he added.


CBN News Featured U.S. News Fri, 26 Sep 2014 16:00:00 -0400