Charisma News | Breaking News. Spiritual Perspective. Sun, 21 Dec 2014 17:00:03 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Obama Offers Ominous Warning to North Korea After Sony Cyber Attack
President Barack Obama vowed on Friday to respond to a devastating cyber attack on Sony Pictures that he blamed on North Korea, and scolded the Hollywood studio for caving in to what he described as a dictator trying to impose censorship in the United States.
Obama said the cyber attack "caused a lot of damage" to Sony but that the company should have spoken to him before letting itself be intimidated into canceling the release of The Interview, a comedy portraying the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
"We will respond," Obama told an end-of-year news conference. "We'll respond proportionally, and we'll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose."
Two hours before he spoke, the FBI announced that investigators had determined that North Korea was behind the hacking of Sony, calling it an unacceptable act of state-sponsored "intimidation."
Obama said North Korea appeared to have acted alone. Washington began consultations with Japan, China, South Korea and Russia seeking their assistance in reining North Korea's cyber activities.
It was the first time the United States had directly accused another country of a cyber attack of such magnitude on American soil and sets up a possible new confrontation between longtime foes Washington and Pyongyang.
The destructive nature of the attack, and threats from the hackers that led the Hollywood studio to pull the movie, set it apart from previous cyber intrusions, the FBI said.
A North Korean U.N. diplomat said Pyongyang had nothing to do with the cyber attack. "DPRK (North Korea) is not part of this," the diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Obama said he wished that Sony had spoken to him first before yanking the movie, suggesting it could set a bad precedent. "I think they made a mistake," he said.
He added: "We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States."
Despite that, Obama's options for responding to the computer attack by the impoverished state appeared limited. The president declined to be specific about any actions under consideration.
North Korea has been subject to U.S. sanctions for more than 50 years, but they have had little effect on its human rights policies or its development of nuclear weapons. It has become expert in hiding its often criminal money-raising activities, largely avoiding traditional banks.
The FBI said technical analysis of malware used in the Sony attack found links to malware that "North Korean actors" had developed and found a "significant overlap" with "other malicious cyber activity" previously tied to Pyongyang.
But it otherwise gave scant details on how it concluded that North Korea was behind the attack.
U.S. experts say Obama's options could include cyber retaliation, financial sanctions, criminal indictments against individuals implicated in the attack or even a boost in U.S. military support to South Korea to send a stern message to North Korea.
It could also take the largely symbolic step of restoring North Korea to its list of countries designated as sponsors of terrorism, which carries automatic restrictions.
But the effect of any response would be limited given North Korea's isolation and the fact that it is already heavily sanctioned for its disputed nuclear program.
There is also the risk that an overly harsh U.S. response could provoke Pyongyang to escalate into cyber warfare.
The attack on Sony, more than three weeks ago, was conducted by hackers calling themselves "Guardians of Peace."
It brought down the computer network at Sony Pictures Entertainment, prompted the leak of embarrassing emails, and led to Sony's cancellation of the Christmas Day release of "The Interview," which culminates in a scene depicting the assassination of President Kim Jong Un.
U.S. movie theater chains had said they would not show the film after hackers made threats against cinemas and audiences. Many in Hollywood and Washington criticized Sony's cancellation as caving in to the hackers.
Former Senator Chris Dodd, now the head of the Motion Picture Association of America, called the cyber attack on Sony Pictures, a unit of Sony Corp, a "despicable, criminal act."
"This is unprecedented," said Dmitri Alperovitch, chief technology officer of cyber security firm CrowdStrike. "We have a dictatorial regime that attacked a private company on U.S. soil. Will we see a response from the U.S. government?"
Some of Hollywood's biggest names howled over the cancellation of the $44 million film, which stars James Franco and Seth Rogen, the latter also a co-director of the movie with partner Evan Goldberg.
© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.
Aruna Viswanatha and Steve Holland/Reuters Featured World News Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:00:00 -0500
What the Symbols In Your Dreams Really Mean

A guide to interpreting some of the most common objects and symbols in dreams

To decipher the meaning of objects and symbols in the Bible, a principle of biblical interpretation called the "law of first mention" can be used. It states that the first mention of an object, number, color or symbol in the Bible sets up a pattern of interpretation for it that holds true throughout the rest of Scripture. Listed below are the verses where the symbolic words first appear. The meaning or meanings provided for each symbol are based on the law of first mention. Please understand—these may not be the only meanings. 


First reference: Gen. 4:7: God told Cain, "Sin lies at the door."

Meaning: If the door is locked, it indicates a closed opportunity or a hindrance to your progress. An opened door is an open opportunity, or the opening you should travel (see Rev. 3:8; 4:1).



First reference: Ex. 25:31: Flowers are mentioned when describing the gold menorah and its beaten-gold flower design.

Meaning: Flowers indicate a fresh beginning, a passing of the old, and initiation of the new with a season of refreshing and rest. Flowers that have not bloomed indicate the early or infant stages of the new beginning.



First reference: Gen. 24:53: Rebekah was given jewelry of silver and gold from Abraham's servant.

Meaning: To dream or see precious stones or precious metals is a good sign that there is coming a great blessing in some form, including but not limited to financial blessing or rewards for your faithfulness.



First reference: Ex. 3:1: Moses was in "the desert" watching sheep.

Meaning: Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years because of unbelief (Deut. 2:7), and Christ was tempted of the devil in the wilderness for 40 days (Matt. 4:1-2). Evil spirits walk through "dry places" (Luke 11:24). A desert can refer to a trial or temptation that will be encountered. It can also mean isolation and a period of loneliness and standing alone in your faith.



First reference: 1 Kings 19:11: An earthquake shook the mountain.

Meaning: An earthquake is a shaking that usually causes disruption and damage. In a spiritual dream, an earthquake can refer to a sudden and unexpected shaking that will occur.



First reference: Gen. 7:20: The flood waters prevailed above the mountains.

Meaning: Sitting or living on a mountain can allude to a great victory or accomplishment. Attempting to climb a mountain can allude to a situation that will take time and effort. Mountains can be difficulties that need to be removed by faith (Matt. 17:20).



First reference: Gen. 14:17-18: Abraham met the king-priest Melchizedek in the Valley of Shaveh.

Meaning: Valleys can indicate a time of conflict, struggle and some form of clash.



First reference: Gen. 19:28: Smoke "like the smoke of a furnace" went up when the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were burning.

Meaning: Smoke is the result of a fire. Smoke is never a positive imagery because it represents the remains of something that has burned. Smoke can create discomfort and block what you are attempting to see. Where there is smoke there is a fire, and this can refer to a situation that creates stress and confusion.



First reference: Gen. 19:24: God rained down fire on Sodom and Gomorrah.

Meaning: A fire can refer to a trial, negative words being spoken, or a purging of someone or some situation that is going to occur.



First reference: Gen. 13:9: Abraham told Lot to chose between the left and right side of the land before them.

Meaning: The left hand refers to a time of trial or seasons where it may appear that God is not working for us.



First reference: Gen. 13:9: Abraham told Lot to choose the land between the right and left hand.

Meaning: The right hand is symbolic of having favor, receiving authority and position.



First reference: Gen. 32:25: The angel tohed Jacob, and his hip socket was out of joint permanently.

Meaning: When experiencing a limp, it means something that will affect your spiritual walk.



First reference:
2 Sam.15:30: David left Jerusalem in his bare feet, running from those out to overthrow him.

Meaning: Dreaming of being barefoot can represent not being prepared for a situation.

Perry Stone is the best-selling author of numerous books, including Purging Your House, Pruning Your Family Tree and How to Interpret Dreams and Visions, from which this article is adapted

Perry Stone Featured Opinion Sun, 21 Dec 2014 11:00:00 -0500
When Christians Struggle With Mental Illness

I recently read a handout from a conservative Christian college's psychology class likening sending someone with eating disorders to a eating disorder clinic to sending someone with a pornography problem to a pornography clinic. In so many words, it set up vomiting as a sin to be rebuked from Scripture like pornography. It was stunning to read, and my heart immediately ached for those struggling through very real mental health issues who were shamed away from secular medical intervention at that college. Though much good progress has been made on mental health issues and the believer by way of organizations like CCEF, there is obviously still a long way to go.

Here is the key: The brain, like the lungs, the liver, the kidneys and the heart, is an organ. It is the most complex organ in the human body, made up of blood vessels and tissues and an incredible number of nerve cells. Just as lungs need blood flow, the brain needs blood flow. Just as clots in the blood around the heart cause heart attacks, clots in the blood around the brain cause strokes.

The same physical dynamic that causes my mid and lower body to feel exhaustion after a night of missed sleep or a missed meal cause my brain to feel exhaustion. As a type 1 diabetic, the loss of my pancreas' ability to produce insulin that affects my kidneys also affects my brain. The brain is an organ, and as my heart, lungs, kidney and pancreas can suffer through specific biological issues, so can my brain.

But the brain, unlike my lungs or kidneys, is also the central processing unit for my faith. My liver doesn't consider temptation to sin. My pancreas doesn't consider the truth of God's Word. My lungs are not proud. My kidneys are not humble. But my brain is engaged in all of those feelings and thoughts.

The mix of biological function of an organ and spiritual function of the seat of faith is confusing to say the least. But it seems a lot more confusing for those who have never experienced biological malfunctions in the brain than those who do. My own experience as a type-1 diabetic has helped me.

When my blood sugar gets low, I first get depressed. If it gets really low quickly, I lose touch with reality while still walking around. Before getting my insulin pump, I had several scary episodes which included me saying weird things, pushing family away trying to help me, and being rude and angry with a good friend. I hated afterwards realizing how I had spoken to my friend. I owed her a sincere apology. But more than I needed to apologize, I needed to eatThere was going to be no help for my anger and no chance to repair my relationship with her until my blood sugar was no longer low. 

The thing about the interplay of biological issues and sin issues is that when the biological issues are addressed, much of the sin issues are immediately diffused. It's like the child having a screaming temper tantrum because they are exhausted after a long day of activities. Get the kid a nap, and then addressing the tantrum becomes a lot more effective.

When my blood sugar stabilized after the angry conversation with my friend, no one needed to lecture me on how I had treated her. And my temptation to anger with her was immediately removed. Dealing with the biological greatly aided the spiritual.

Going back to the young woman vomiting to lose weight—self harm is a spiritual issue ... deeply affected by a biological issue. God's gift of common grace to the world as a whole and His children in particular is growing knowledge of our brain as an organ. Just as new therapies in cancer treatment are gifts of God's grace to us, new therapies in the treatment of mental illness can be too.

Anorexia is a mental health issue. Note also that just as some cancer "treatments" are snake oil (we've had a recent case of this in Seattle), some mental health "therapies" are too. Not every idea is a good one. Not every treatment is a helpful one. But some are, and the reformed doctrine of common grace equips us to be open and accepting of mental health treatments that are research-based and approved by licensed professionals.

One thing I have noted in my own journey with biological issues that can affect my brain is that there is a big sin issue that tempts me again and again. The interesting thing is that it is the same temptation that all of us struggle with whether we have mental health issues or not. It is pride.

I am smart. I am educated. I am independent. And I do not want my mom encouraging me to eat healthy. I don't want my doctor to give me a new treatment plan. I don't want to face my diabetes at all some days, because it makes me feel frail and inadequate. That weakness scares me. It interrupts my independence and self reliance. But sometimes my body falls apart and my mind can't engage to fix it. As much as I hate that when it happens, I note that God gives grace to the humble.

He gives His common grace to the humble as He does His particular saving grace. Whether it's my mom or my doctor, my friend who read something online or my sister who hands me a glass of orange juice because I'm talking weirdly, my pride rouses up in resentment of the need while I desperately need to accept my weakness and humbly receive their help.

For anyone struggling with mental illness, your biggest temptation is likely self reliance when your greatest need is to humbly ask for help and receive it when it is given. It grieves me to think of Christian institutions heaping shame on those who are doing the right thing by seeking help, pointing them away from the gifts of God's common grace to help them in that moment.

It grieves me to think of unlicensed Christian counselors trying to "root out sin" among those seeking help instead of affirming the wise decision of the one struggling to seek help at all. The very fact they are seeking help, listening to doctors and family and pastors, is the indicator they are rooting out the greatest sin issue that exacerbates mental health issues—being too scared to believe you have a problem and too proud to receive help from those God has given to speak into your life. May our churches and ministries get this right for the good of those deeply struggling. 

For further reading:

Adapted from Wendy Alsup's blog, Wendy has authored three books including By His Wounds You Are Healed: How the Message of Ephesians Transforms a Woman's Identity. She is also a wife, mom and college math teacher who loves ministering to women.

Wendy Alsup Featured Opinion Sun, 21 Dec 2014 17:00:00 -0500
Uncover the Mystery of the Magi

It's a story you've likely heard thousands of times, but how much do you really know about the magi? Who were the magi? Why were these non-Jews interested in the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy? What about the sign of the star? Hal Lindsey dives into these questions and more in order to reveal the truth behind one of Christmas' most lasting mysteries.

Charisma Staff Featured Opinion Sun, 21 Dec 2014 15:00:00 -0500
When You Need Your Breakthrough Now

Jesus and His disciples were invited to a wedding in Cana, and Jesus' mother was also there. She came to Him and said, "They have no wine." So Jesus checked in with His Father. "Abba, how about it? Want Me to do something here?"

I imagine the Father's response must have been something like, "Not now. Too disruptive. Once You perform that first sign, it will tip the domino and there will be no going back. It will be full steam ahead toward Golgotha. It's premature. Let's hold off for now."

So Jesus turned to His mother and said, "It's not the right time."

But Mary wasn't about to accept no for an answer. She decided to push back. "We don't need wine tomorrow," I can suppose her saying to Jesus. "The wedding's not tomorrow, it's today. We need wine now." So she immediately said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it."

When I look at what Mary is doing here, it seems illegal to me. She is basically at loggerheads with Abba Father. The Father is saying, "Not now," and Mary is saying, "Now." Can you really have a difference with Almighty God and get what you want?

Maybe Mary pulled out her Mother card. "You know that Scripture says children are to honor their father and their mother!"

Whatever she did, Mary decided to leverage her relationship with Jesus. I can imagine her wondering, "How much relational equity do I have with You, anyway? I conceived You, carried You, pushed You into the world, nursed You, changed You, fed You, clothed You, protected You, trained You and raised You. Do I have enough equity in our relational bank to demand something of You when I need it?"

Relationship had made her bold.

Jesus' earthly mother and heavenly Father were at odds on the matter, and Jesus was caught in the middle. He looked over at His mother; then He looked up at His Father. "Abba, look at her. She's using her Mother card."

It's as though Abba shrugged and said, "Yeah, I know. What can You do?"

And Mary got her wine.

But she did more than just get an abundance of wine. She actually activated the advent of Christ's supernatural ministry. And what's really stunning is that she triggered it before its time. It was certainly due to come, but not just yet—as Jesus reminded her in John 2:4. Until Mary got into the mix, that is. She participated in what Peter later called, "hastening the coming of the day of God" (2 Pet. 3:12). What Mary did here was epochal. She initiated, through her audacity, a new era in God's calendar.

And all because she needed wine now.

If you're looking at something that God has no intention of doing, then you can't accelerate it through your boldness. But if it's within His will, and you know it's just a matter of time before He does it, then Mary's example tells us we can put pressure on God's timetable. If you, like Mary, have relational equity with Jesus, you just might get your wine before its time.

Bob Sorge Featured Opinion Sun, 21 Dec 2014 09:00:00 -0500
When the Holidays Hurt

I was 31, and it was Christmas Eve when we had "The Talk." Everyone thought we were the perfect match, and I'd already given him too much of my heart. So even though I put on a happy face, my heart reeled as he told me we should "just be friends."

We wished each other a merry Christmas; he walked out the door, and I fell apart. Then I pulled myself together again to join my family for Christmas Eve dinner—where loved ones joyfully announced their pregnancy. I rejoiced as I choked back soul-deep sobs.

Our Soul's Bitterness

My single years held many Christmases like that one—sweet joys in the midst of silent anguish, bitterness tangled up in beauty. The very things about the season that enchanted me also served to magnify my heartache: parties with everyone coupled up but me; romantic Christmas music and movies; and those annual Christmas letters brimming with friends' burgeoning families. It all reminded me of what I didn't have, of what I longed for with all my being.

My fight for contentment and hope was so much more intense through those holiday weeks. But I didn't have the corner on the market of pain. Others were also hurting and hoping for better Christmases to come.

Over the years I wept with friends who suffered the loss of a newborn baby, a parent's sudden death, a broken marriage, a barren womb and financial hardships. My heart grew tender toward those who lacked the very basic necessities of life: shelter, food and love—as well as those who suffered "smaller" pangs: strained family relationships, the betrayal of a close friend or the loneliness of living far from home and loved ones.

And while marriage and motherhood have taken much of bitterness' bite out of the season, my husband and I have navigated a job loss, flooded home, debilitating illness and other such stresses, all while celebrating "the most wonderful season of all."

Dear one, you've been here too, haven't you? You have fasted in the middle of the feast, and you've tasted the bitterness in the bounty.

The holidays, especially Christmas it seems, represent all that is generous and beautiful. We sing of peace and well-being and hope. We give thanks, and we exchange gifts. We cherish the idea of an invisible Santa Claus delivering wishes-come-true, of family gatherings around a festive feast, and of hot drinks sipped at the fireside with Bing Crosby's voice crooning in the background.

But we feel the deep disparity between this broken world we live in and the world we were made for. Our hearts long for unadulterated happiness and peace, but we are marred by brokenness and need.

Our Only Soul-Satisfier

And therein lies the greatest gift of all: This deep disparity brings us back to the true meaning of Christmas. Our heartaches, our have-nots and even the brokenness of the world around us—they drive us to the only one who can satiate our souls. And that longing within us for something more, that discontent that follows the feast and the gift-opening—it reminds us of the immeasurable gift God gave us in sending His Son Jesus to us.

To live with us.
To die for us.
To give us the infinite riches of Himself.

And not only did He give us His Son, but He also constantly works this brokenness and heartache for our good—our infinite, perfect, glorious good. Though I won't know the fullness of that good until eternity, I've experienced it here in a million ways. Do you know how thankful I am for those years when God didn't give me what I so desperately wanted? Oh, how I praise Him for that long wait that made me fall in love with Him, and for saying "no" to every other man so that I could marry the best man of all, Edward Chao.

These holidays are for us, dear one—for the hurting, the broken and the needy. Our culture is enamored with busy, expensive, indulgent, feel-good holidays. But God is always about us finding our highest good in Him, even when that requires us to suffer, to do without, or to wait an inordinate length of time. He loves us too much to let us settle for lesser loves.

This Christmas, may our silent aches and longings compel us to worship the God of the universe, who wrapped Himself in flesh and blood so that our lives would have meaning, so that we would know the Hope that does not disappoint.

(Scriptures referenced: Hebrews 13:14-15, Romans 8:32, 2 Corinthians 4:17, Romans 5:5)

Taken from Colleen Chao's blog post "When the Holidays are Hard." Used with permission.

Colleen Chao Featured Opinion Sat, 20 Dec 2014 17:00:00 -0500
How Billy Graham Passed His Faith Onto His Children

 I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother...and in your mother...and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God...   2 Timothy 1:5-6

I am asked repeatedly how my parents were able to pass on to me their faith in Jesus. Although there are several answers to that question, one underlying fact is that my parents were intentional about it. They did not leave the instruction of biblical trust to the pastor or Sunday school teacher or visiting evangelist to carry out. They did not assume that just because I was their child I would somehow "catch faith" like a contagious disease. They themselves, along with my maternal grandparents, accepted the privilege and the responsibility of teaching me God's Word in a way that was personal, relevant, and easy to understand. Then I had to choose to respond and make their faith my own, which I did as a young girl.

I am now seeking to help my daughter pass on our faith to my own three young granddaughters.  Over seven years ago, they went through the loss of my beloved mother – their great-grandmother – Ruth Bell Graham. I found that helping my granddaughters to focus beyond the grave helped ease their pain, comfort their fears, enlarge their faith, and gave us opportunity to talk about Heaven. As a result, I have written this book, Heaven: God's Promise for Me for them, and for you.

This Christmas, let's pass our faith on together. Give yourself and the children in your life a gift that lasts...the hope, love, joy and peace that the Baby of Bethlehem came to give us. 

Anne Graham Lotz is the founder of AnGeL Ministries. She is also the author of several books, Heaven: God's Promise for Me and Heaven: My Father's House.

Anne Graham Lotz Featured Opinion Sat, 20 Dec 2014 15:00:00 -0500
How to Produce Divine Fruit

Jesus explicitly described what happens when His disciples fail to bear fruit. But in calling us to abide in Him—like branches to a vine—He also revealed the keys to yielding the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

It might surprise you to learn that receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit doesn't automatically result in the fruit of the Spirit being formed in our lives. One who has yielded his life more fully to the Holy Spirit in receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit will obviously have the divine enabling to develop more fruit, much fruit and fruit that remains. But how much fruit we bear has to do with how closely we abide in Christ.

Because fruit-bearing is a direct result of abiding in Christ, this means there are deeply spiritual and fruitful Christians who have never displayed evidence of having received the Pentecostal experience of Holy Spirit baptism. On the other hand, it is sadly true that there are Spirit-baptized Christians who have not developed the fruit of the Spirit to any degree in their lives through consciously abiding in Christ. Both cases prove the reality that fruitfulness is not a result of receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit but is a result of abiding in Christ.

It remains, then, that the key to the quantity and quality of fruitfulness in our lives is abiding in Christ, the Vine, in obedience to His commands. Let's explore this abiding principle together.

We Bear Fruit by Abiding

Perry Brewster makes this observation regarding fruit-bearing Christians in his book Pentecostal Doctrine: "Our likeness to Christ is definitely not something applied from without, as a cosmetic transformation produced by a formula of some religious make-up department. It is a genuine likeness produced by an intimate relationship with Him. Christ's own analogy of the vine and the branches upholds this (John 15:1). The branches are not merely vinelike; they are a part of the vine. Likewise the fruit does not merely resemble grapes, but possesses their inherent structure and taste."

Fruitfulness is the principal purpose for the existence of a tree. Jesus taught His disciples that fruitfulness was His purpose for them as well. He told them, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain" (John 15:16). In this great teaching, Jesus called Himself "the true vine" and His Father "the vinedresser" (v. 1). He called the disciples "branches" (v. 5)and told them to abide in Him so they could bring forth fruit (v. 4). He warned them, "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He [the Father] takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit" (v. 2).

Jesus cursed the fig tree because it did not bring forth fruit, and in the morning the disciples found the tree had died (Matt. 21:18-20). Does He not have the right to expect to find fruit on His tree of life in His garden? Thus, fruitfulness is a result of a relationship that is carefully cultivated. Jesus taught His disciples they could only be fruitful by learning to abide in Him.

The Role of the Holy Spirit

It is no accident that the Word calls the third Person of the Godhead the Holy Spirit. Holiness characterizes His divine nature. One of the supreme mandates of the Holy Spirit is to impart the holiness of God to us, to change us from glory to glory, giving us His divine nature and His character. As the Spirit works in each believer, He develops within us His character, which is identified by the fruit of the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23 describes this fruit as "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." Ephesians 5:9 says the "fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth." And Romans 6:22 says, "But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life."

I used to think the fruit of the Spirit was produced just like the gifts are: by the Holy Spirit. But then I realized it is not the Spirit Himself who bears the fruit but the Christ-life within us that produces the fruit of godly character in us. The Holy Spirit produces the Christ-life in us as we obey Him, causing the holiness and divine nature of our Lord Jesus to be manifest through us.

The fruit of the Spirit, then, is the true character of the Christian life that replaces the self-life, or old man, as the Scriptures label our sin nature. It is the fruit of the Tree of Life, Christ, who lives in the garden of our spirits.

Fruit Can Be Seen

The more one abides in Christ—and is therefore filled with the Holy Spirit—the greater the manifestation of the Spirit's fruit in that person's life and work. Only when a believer is full of the Holy Spirit, continually yielding to Him, can he exhibit the full fruition of Christian virtues. 

When Christ is formed in the believer through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, true Christlike character will be as natural a result as pears growing on a pear tree. The fruit of the Spirit is produced automatically when we are yielded to the Holy Spirit and walking in obedience to Him.

Spirit-filled men and women can be distinguished by their fruit in the same way that a carnal person can be identified by fleshly works. If we are abiding in Christ, the fruit of the Spirit will be manifest in our lives; it cannot be hidden. So also are the works of the flesh manifest in one who is not abiding in Christ. A carnal person is one who is not governed by the indwelling Spirit of God. This egocentric, self-centered life manifests the works of the flesh, while a Christ-centered life will manifest the fruit of the Spirit.

Works of the Flesh vs. Fruit of the Spirit

The principle of fruit-bearing is literally a life principle. Life develops from a life source; it cannot be manufactured. Fruit is not made; it grows as the requirements of the life principle are met. Therefore, fruit is born in our lives as we are connected to our life source, which is Christ.

In contrast, the works of the flesh as described in the Scriptures are a negative result of human effort without the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:19-23 describes the striking contrast between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit.

The early 20th-century Methodist minister Samuel Chadwick referred to this passage in his book The Way to Pentecost: "Work belongs to the workshop; fruit belongs to the garden. One comes from the ingenuity of the factory; the other is the silent growth of an abounding life. The factory operates with dead stuff; the garden cultivates a living force to their appointed end. Works are always in the realm of dead things. Every building is built out of dead material ... Fruit does not come of man's labor. It requires his diligence, but it is neither his invention nor his product. He does not make the flowers. No skill of his brings the golden harvest of the fields or the lush fruit of the trees. When man has done all he can do, then God begins and life proceeds. Fruit is God's work. The phrase 'fruit of the Spirit' assigns the graces of the Christian character to their proper source. They are not of man's producing."

The Scriptures clearly teach the life principle involved in bearing fruit. The flesh can produce nothing but evil works, while the Holy Spirit produces Christ-life fruit. The former requires self-effort and results in death; the latter requires obedience to the Holy Spirit and produces life and peace.

Not Our Work

Suppose we were to ask a branch on a grapevine, "How do you grow luscious fruit?" If the branch could talk, it probably would say, "I don't know. I don't grow any of it; I just bear it. If you cut me away from this vine, I will just wither away and become useless."

Just as without the vine the branch can produce nothing, so it is in our Christian lives. If we strain to work to produce the fruit of the Spirit ourselves, we will find ourselves fruitless and frustrated. But if we abide in Christ, maintaining a close, obedient, dependent relationship with Him, the Holy Spirit can work in us, creating and producing the fruit of the Spirit. 

This doesn't mean we instantly become mature, bearing all the fruit of the Spirit fully and immediately. Even after fruit appears on the tree, it takes time—during which the elements of wind and rain and even storms bring the fruit to maturity. This desired maturity is impossible without our continually abiding in the Vine.

Producing Fruit

How, then, does the Holy Spirit work in our lives to produce the fruit of a Christ-life character? Allow me to highlight at least five ways.

1. Through God's Word. The psalmist described the "blessed man" as a tree planted by the river of water that yields its fruit in its season (Ps. 1:3). He declares of this fruitful life that "his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night" (v. 2). The place we give the Word of God in our lives will determine our degree of fruitfulness.

For example, I knew a woman who was a faithful reader of the Word, and her life evidenced it by the fruit she was bearing. But for some reason she neglected her study of the Word for three or four days, and she began to be irritable and impatient. Her little 4-year-old daughter observed her mother's reactions for a day and then said to her, "Mother, why don't you get into the Word?" That 4-year-old understood this principle of abiding in the Word better than most of us. As we learn to abide in the true Vine, His life flows into us, producing the fruit of the Spirit to the Father's glory and to the blessing of others.

2. Through meditation. David doesn't say this blessed man simply reads the Word. He meditates on it as well. The word selah,found throughout the Psalms, means "to meditate, to stop and think about what has been said." A word picture of selah is the cow chewing her cud after eating to assimilate all she has swallowed.

As we read and meditate on the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit can convince us of sin that needs to be purged and can direct us to God's standard of holiness and righteousness for our lives. Apart from applying the Word of God, there can be no lasting spiritual growth and no fruit-bearing in our lives.

3. Through spiritual disciplines. Jesus said that abiding in Him was a prerequisite for bearing fruit; therefore we need to give ourselves to spiritual disciplines in our lives that will help cultivate this abiding relationship. These disciplines include not only giving ourselves to searching the Word of God, but also hearing the Word via anointed preaching, as well as spending much time in prayer and worship in the Spirit. These help us feed our inner man on Christ's life and help grace us in our relationship with Him. Fellowshipwith other believers is also an important spiritual discipline because it allows us to commune with Christ and to participate in His life indirectly through each other.

4. Through obedience. Obedience is almost an obsolete word in Christendom. We hear much about faith but so little about obedience. But Jesus said, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love" (John 15:10).

The secret to abiding in Christ is to believe in our spirits, obey in our souls and yield our flesh to the power of the Holy Spirit. This abiding obedience involves every aspect of our person. Obedience brings maturity and develops the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

5. Through pruning. If we do not abide in Christ, we cannot bear fruit and, according to Jesus' teaching, such believers will be cast away (v. 6). If a branch does bear fruit, the requirement made of the fruitless branch is that it endure pruning. Listen again to Jesus' words: "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He [the Father] takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit" (v. 2).

Leaves and foliage can be very beautiful. In the spring I can look out in the yard and the trees are verdant, luscious and lively. However, it is only by pruning that such foliage continues to flourish. The primary purpose of pruning a branch is to remove the wood that produced fruit in the last season in order to force the vine to grow new wood that will produce new fruit in this new season. God does not perpetuate the old; He prunes to force new growth.

If we have experienced some pruning in our lives, it is not because God is mad at us or that there is necessarily sin in our lives. It is that the Father is pleased we are bearing fruit, and He knows that to increase the quality and quantity of that fruit, we need to be pruned.

Abiding in the Vine

If abiding is the primary condition God sets before us to bear the fruit of the Spirit, then why do we seek to be fruitful in other ways? Why is it that the simplicity of God's way is always the way that seems so difficult for the flesh? It is, according to the Scriptures, because our spirits and our flesh are at war. Our flesh opposes the desire of the Holy Spirit to make us holy because it does not want to die.

Yet as we cultivate a fruitful relationship in Christ by spending time reading and meditating on God's Word and in prayer, the Holy Spirit continually reveals truth to us. Then, as we walk in obedience to that truth instead of obeying our fleshly desires, the Holy Spirit transforms us and we begin to bring forth His fruit by the power of the Spirit.

Every believer must have an unbroken relationship with Christ sustained by obedience. In unwavering faith in what Christ has done, we must acknowledge Him as the Vine and His Father as the "Husbandman," the divine Pruner.

God has preordained, foreordained and predestined us to bear fruit. As we consciously and continuously fellowship—abide—with our Lord, we will become fruit-bearing trees. Let us therefore be diligent to yield to the Holy Spirit, obey His commands and walk in His will so we may be fruitful.

Fuchsia Pickett, who passed away in 2004, was miraculously healed of a genetic, life-threatening disease in 1959, was baptized in the Holy Spirit and began to minister the Word of God worldwide. Known for her remarkable insight into Scripture, she was a Methodist professor and pastor for more than 50 years. She also wrote the best-selling book The Next Move of God, as well as other classic works such as Receiving Divine Revelation and Stones of Remembrance.

Fuchsia Pickett explains how to tap into God's divine purpose for your life at

Fuchsia Pickett Featured Opinion Sat, 20 Dec 2014 13:00:00 -0500
The Holiness of Being Still

Life is funny, you know? It's funny in ways that make me laugh and cry and hope and hurt. It's just funny. For several Christmases we have navigated the murky waters of this ALS storm. We have been treading water as we try to absorb the beautiful moments while anticipating a difficult future.

This year is different. This year, the difficult future has invaded our present. Steve's condition has rapidly declined over the past couple of weeks and he will be placed on hospice this week. We are grateful for the resources and support hospice provides. We are grateful for our kids and our friends and our home (which currently feels more hospital than house.) We really are grateful, but we are also weary and heartbroken. And while I've sometimes been able to wrap those emotions into hopeful words, right now I feel surrounded by a sacred sort of silence. It's not bad. It's just quiet here in my heart, where so many memories and dreams are swirling.

I am taking a leave of absence from my job for the month of December, so I can focus on Steve and my family during this important holiday season. I will write when I feel it and I won't when I don't. Today, I don't. But I do have something wonderful for you and it is this update from my friend, Michaela. Remember her baby, Florence, who is Steve's comrade on the neuromuscular disease battlefield? Well, Michaela's baby, Teddy (Theodore Brave!), is here and you should read this for a beautiful start to advent.

I hope your season is unfolding with grace and I am thankful for so many of the notes I've received to let me know you haven't forgotten us and are still praying. We do not sorrow as those without hope. Especially at Christmas.

 Bo Stern is a blogger and author of Ruthless: Knowing the God Who Fights for You, When Holidays Hurt and Beautiful Battlefields (NavPress). She knows the most beautiful things can come out of the hardest times. Her Goliath came in the form of her husband's terminal illness, a battle they are still fighting with the help of their four children, a veritable army of friends and our extraordinary God. Bo is a teaching pastor at Westside Church in Bend, Oregon.

Bo Stern Featured Culture Sat, 20 Dec 2014 11:00:00 -0500
"Warn My People to Avoid This Dangerous, Raging Cloud!"

In a prophetic dream I was shown a tiny cloud on the horizon. The Lord Jesus stated in an urgent tone, "Warn My people to avoid this dangerous, raging cloud!"

I was totally shocked at the alarm in His voice. I questioned, "Lord, how can this be such a dangerous cloud when it is so small and appears harmless?" He answered, "This cloud has the potential to devastate and steal every spiritual blessing from My people."

I inquired, "Lord, what is this cloud?" He quickly replied, "The cloud of doubt!" What had appeared so insignificant now became of utmost importance. When I asked the Lord how we can avoid and defeat this cloud of doubt, He offered the insights which follow.

This cloud of doubt is most effective when allowed to penetrate our mind. If allowed, it will erode and erase all the promises of God in our lives (see Is. 26:3-4). A vivid example of this is Israel's response to what they saw with their natural eyes in the Promised Land. The people allowed their natural vision to overrule what God had spoken.

So they brought the Israelites an evil report of the land which they had scouted out, saying, "The land through which we went to spy it out is a land that devours its inhabitants. And all the people that we saw in it are men of great stature.

"And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come from the giants, and in our eyes we were like grasshoppers, and so we were in their eyes" (Num. 13:33).

What the Israelite spies saw with their natural eyes quickly erased what God had promised—what they were asked to see through the eyes of faith. God had told them, "Take the land! It is yours!" Doubt entered in, however, and they returned, defeated by their own choices and actions of unbelief. As the Israelites perceived themselves, so did the inhabitants of the land perceive them.

Remember, as a person thinks within his heart, so is he. The Israelites perceived themselves weak—and thus their foe saw them as weak also. Doubt arose. Whenever doubt and unbelief cloud our vision, we can lose our inheritance. Doubt kept the people of God from obtaining their inheritance and promise for more than 40 years!

God Himself had declared and decreed that the land was theirs. Not only was the land their possession, but it was a land flowing with milk and honey. The land had great provision in store for them. When they saw the giants, however, every word of God's precious promises fell to the wayside. They chose to base their reality on what they saw rather than basing their reality on the promises of God. Once they saw the giants—and once they submitted themselves to fear—every word of God was forgotten.

How can we avoid this same disaster of doubt? One method is to quickly and forcefully, without hesitation, rebuke and renounce any and all thoughts that arise to oppose the Word of God.

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is complete" (2 Cor. 10:3-6).

In this very familiar passage of Scripture we discover some secrets to overcoming the cloud of doubt:

"And in the fourth watch [between 3:00 – 6:00 a.m.] of the night, Jesus came to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified and said, 'It is a ghost!' And they screamed out with fright.

"But instantly He spoke to them, saying, 'Take courage! I Am! Stop being afraid!' And Peter answered Him, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." He said, "Come!" So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water, and he came toward Jesus.

But when he perceived and felt the strong wind, he was frightened, and as he began to sink, he cried out, 'Lord, save me [from death]!' Instantly Jesus reached out His hand and caught and held him, saying to him, 'O you of little faith, why did you doubt?' And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat knelt and worshiped Him, saying, 'Truly You are the Son of God!'" (Matt. 14:25-33, AMP).

What an awesome exploit! Peter was a mere man, walking on the water! One point to ponder is this: If we fully follow the commands of Christ, we can overcome all limitations, even the laws of gravity. Peter was standing and walking on the word of the Son of God, who asked him to "Come!" What instigated Peter's sinking under the waves? He turned his eyes away from Jesus toward the natural situation and circumstances.

Peter began to focus on the winds and the waves, and opened the door to doubt—doubt that erased from Peter's heart the very fact that he was walking on water, making his way to Christ, standing on the Word of God. But Peter's advancement was suddenly halted. He was no longer walking at and upon the command of Christ—and was in need of rescue.

What lessons do we learn from this powerful experience between Peter and Jesus? Do not let your surroundings and the challenging events you are facing keep you from holding on to the command of Christ! Keep your focus on Christ, not the adversity occurring about you. As we keep our heart and mind focused upon Christ Jesus, our heart and mind are filled with abiding peace (see Is. 26:3-4).

Doubt is a dark, evil womb that gives birth to unbelief and fear—and both will rob you of the blessing of God. The fearful and unbelieving are cast into Hell (see Rev. 21:8).

Doubt and fear have devastating effects on our prayer life:

"Only it must be in faith that he asks with no wavering (no hesitating, no doubting). For the one who wavers (hesitates, doubts) is like the billowing surge out at sea that is blown hither and thither and tossed by the wind. For truly, let not such a person imagine that he will receive anything [he asks for] from the Lord, [for being as he is] a man of two minds (hesitating, dubious, irresolute), [he is] unstable and unreliable and uncertain about everything [he thinks, feels, decides]" (James 1:6-8, AMP).

Christ reveals that doubt will hinder answered prayer. As the disciples stand shocked at the dried, dead fig tree, Christ states:

"And Jesus, replying, said to them, 'Have faith in God [constantly]. Truly I tell you, whoever says to this mountain, "Be lifted up and thrown into the sea!" and does not doubt at all in his heart but believes that what he says will take place, it will be done for him. For this reason I am telling you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe (trust and be confident) that it is granted to you, and you will [get it]'" (Mark 11:22-24, AMP).

Jesus reminds us that if our prayers are to be powerful and effective, they must be spoken in steadfast faith. Notice the phrase "and does not doubt at all in his heart but believes that what he says will take place, it will be done for him."

Only believe! All things are possible—only believe!

What exactly is an antidote? I appreciate this definition: A substance that counteracts poison. What is the antidote for doubt? The best antidote for the dark cloud of doubt is the radiant light of God's Word. Faith is the force with which we fight against doubt—and faith comes by hearing the Word.

The supernatural power of God will drive away doubt. Note that John the Baptist in prison was immersed in the dark cloud of doubt. Doubt silenced this great voice for God! But also notice what Jesus communicates to him: "Go and tell John what you hear and see: The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them" (see Matt. 11:4-5, MEV).

Paul and Silas in prison drove back the dark cloud of doubt with shouts of praise and prayers of adoration.

Praise and thanksgiving, with an attitude of gratitude, can transform any situation!

"The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can people do to me?" (Ps. 118:6).

"In the day when I am afraid, I will trust in You" (Ps. 56:3).

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, turn from doubt as quickly as possible—don't let the enemy gain one foothold in your mind or heart. Meditate daily on Psalm 27, planting God's precious promises deep within your heart. In prayer and meditation, declare these words as true over your life and the lives of your loved ones. These precious promises of God will prepare you for adverse circumstances!

Psalm 27 (AMP)

[A Psalm] of David

1 The Lord is my Light and my Salvation – whom shall I fear or dread? The Lord is the Refuge and Stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When the wicked, even my enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.

3 Though a host encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, [even then] in this will I be confident.

4 One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek, inquire for, and [insistently] require: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord [in His presence] all the days of my life, to behold and gaze upon the beauty [the sweet attractiveness and the delightful loveliness] of the Lord and to meditate, consider, and inquire in His temple.

5 For in the day of trouble He will hide me in His shelter; in the secret place of His tent will He hide me; He will set me high upon a rock.

6 And now shall my head be lifted up above my enemies round about me; in His tent I will offer sacrifices and shouting of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.

7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud; have mercy and be gracious to me and answer me!

8 You have said, "Seek My face [inquire for and require My presence as your vital need]." My heart says to You, "Your face (Your presence), Lord, will I seek, inquire for, and require [of necessity and on the authority of Your Word]."

9 Hide not Your face from me; turn not Your servant away in anger, You Who have been my help! Cast me not off, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation!

10 Although my father and my mother have forsaken me, yet the Lord will take me up [adopt me as His child].

11 Teach me Your way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain and even path because of my enemies [those who lie in wait for me].

12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen up against me; they breathe out cruelty and violence.

13 [What, what would have become of me] had I not believed that I would see the Lord's goodness in the land of the living!

14 Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord.

Bobby Conner has ministered around the world for nearly five decades. After serving as a Southern Baptist pastor for 27 years, he founded Eagles View Ministries with his wife, Carolyn. The author of numerous books, he has ministered in more than 50 countries, averaging five speaking engagements per week for more than four decades.

Bobby Conner Featured Culture Sat, 20 Dec 2014 09:00:00 -0500
WATCH: This Pastor May Have Confessed Cancer Away

He's lying in his hospital bed, but pastor Julian Malone is still preaching peace in a video filmed before surgery. 

"Shalom," he begins, greeting his New Testament Church family, as well as saints all over the world. The pastor was diagnosed with an aggressive, inoperable form of cancer, according to Fox 6 Now. Rather than wallow in sorrow, though, Malone counted it all joy. 

"God has given me grace to practice Isaiah 43:1-2," Malone says in the video. "And James, chapter one, verses two and three, 'When, not if, when you fall into various trials, count it all joy.

"There are some things in which God wants to take us for His glory and for our good."

The prayers of the saints were heard. A few days after the surgery, the church received word their pastor was free of cancer. 

Cancer and its treatment are violent, but Malone was spared some of the more threatening side effects of treatment. According to Fox, Malone never felt nauseated or lost his hair, and Malone believes it's because he professed God's name through all of treatment.

Watch the video below to see how God uses this man through his trials. 

Jessilyn Justice Featured Culture Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:00:00 -0500
Bubbaclaus, Er, Golf Champ Bubba Watson Throws Down Christmas Rap

Bubba Claus, Gumby and an elf walk into a recording studio and the result is a fantastical mash up of holiday spirit and bringing God glory. 

Pro-golfer Bubba Watson tries his hand at rapping, saying, "I thank God every day for the moves that I've made."

"Thank you, baby Jesus, who was born in a manger," he says over a "Hallelujah" chorus.

Watch the video for a heart-warming laugh.  

Jessilyn Justice Featured Culture Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:00:00 -0500
Wal-Mart Uses Corporate Dollars to Promote Gay Agenda
Walmart is increasing capitulating to the homosexual-bisexual-transgender agenda. So says the Americans For Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH).
The group is calling on Americans to urge Wal-Mart to stop promoting homosexuality and gender confusion (transgenderism) with its corporate dollars.
"During the Christmas season, we should focus on honoring God and His Son, Jesus, who came to earth to die for our sins," says AFTAH President Peter LaBarbera.
"Wal-Mart has done much good in the world, but celebrating politically correct sins—homosexuality and transsexuality—only dishonors God and incentivizes Walmart's own workers to embrace immoral and confused behavior patterns in their lives. Walmart needs to get out of the sin promotion business and at least return to neutrality on the homosexual/transgender issue."
Here's the backstory: Wal-Mart is now publicly pro-"gay" and giving major grants to homosexual/transgender events and organizations, including $25,000 to $50,000 to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund—a group that helps elect "out" homosexuals to political office, mostly Democrats.
Giving corporate dollars to "gay/trans" groups like GLVF helps Wal-Mart increase its score on the rigged "Corporate Equality Index" (CEI) put out annually by the homosexual group Human Rights Campaign.
Wal-Mart's pro-homosexual/transgender CEI score is now 90 percent—up from 40 percent in 2008. The world's largest company has embraced a pro-homosexual/bi/transgender agenda in recent years, especially after granting homosexual "domestic partner" employee benefits in 2013.
The CEI scoring system is completely biased against social conservatives: If Wal-Mart were to give a grant to a pro-family group like AFTAH that opposes homosexual "marriage" and male "transgenders" using female restrooms, it would lose 25 points according to HRC's rigged CEI scoring system.
The only way for Wal-Mart to get the 10 points it needs to reach a perfect "100-percent" score on the CEI scorecard is for it to provide "transgender health benefits"—paying for or subsidizing body-mutilating sex reassignment surgeries as an employee "health" benefit. AFTAH is calling on Americans to urge Wal-Mart to stop promoting homosexuality and gender confusion (transgenderism) with its corporate dollars.
TAKE ACTION: Call Wal-Mart's headquarters at 479-273-4000 or use their Contact Page to politely express your concerns about Wal-Mart "going gay" and turning its back on godly morality and traditional marriage.
Charisma News Staff Featured U.S. News Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:00:00 -0500
Why These Christians and Muslims Are Scared This Christmas

Christmas is an occasion mostly associated with joy and celebration. But since the start of the holiday season, India's minority religious groups of Christians and Muslims have been especially under pressure.

The Indian Parliament has hardly functioned since the start of December because several opposition lawmakers have been protesting a series of attacks against the nation's religious minorities. The protagonists are Hindu nationalists emboldened by India's largest political party Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a member of the BJP. The party controls a majority in Parliament and expresses a commitment to Hindutva, an ideology that defines Indian culture in terms of Hindu values.

On the morning of Dec. 1, St. Sebastian's church at Dilshad Garden—a large Catholic church in a crowded middle-class area of Delhi—went up in flames. The interior of the church was destroyed before half a dozen firefighting trucks managed to extinguish the blaze.

Hours after the fire, a Minister for food processing industries Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, who has been handpicked by Prime Minister Modi, stunned the nation with a provocative statement.

Speaking at a BJP rally in Delhi, ahead of state elections, Jyoti encouraged the audience to make a decision, saying "People of Delhi have to decide if they want a government of Ramzaadon (followers of Ram—a major Hindu deity) or a government of those who are Haraamzadon (illegitimate)."

The Minister swiftly made a public apology, but the storm over her using an expletive to brand the religious minorities of the country ended only after Prime Minister Modi himself appeared in both houses of Parliament and urged the opposition to accept the apology tendered by saying she is a 'first-time MP from rural background.'

Conversion of Muslims

A week after these incidents, 57 migrant Muslim families were 'reconverted' to Hinduism before the media by a Hindu fundamentalist outfit in Agra, a city famous for the Taj Mahal, 200 kilometers south of New Delhi. Nand Kishore Balmiki, the organizer of the reconversion, boasted to the media that they "will purge society of foreign faiths," the largest of which in India are Christianity and Islam.

The media reported that reconverts—comprised mainly of impoverished waste pickers—were encouraged to attend the ceremony by being offered ration cards, voter identity and a Below Poverty Line card that would entitle them to government welfare schemes.

Christmas Day conversions

Further intensifying the situation, on Dec. 10 the Regional Head of another group of extreme Hindu nationalists, Rajeshwar Singh, is reported to have declared that 5000 Christians and Muslims will be 'brought home to Hinduism' on Christmas day at Aligarh—160 kms south east of New Delhi—also in Uttar Pradesh state.

Singh represents Dharma Jagram Samiti (DJM), a group supported by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (the RSS). The RSS is an extreme Hindu nationalist voluntary organization and the ideological fountainhead of the Hindu nationalism that the BJP espouses.

The RSS has been linked to violent attacks against minorities over the past 20 years or more.

The group's initial claims stated that the 'ghar vapsi' ('home-coming') campaign would be the largest to date and that it would be led by BJP Parliamentarian Yogi Adityanath - known for his aggressive Hindu nationalist rhetoric.

Under pressure from the Prime Minister, the RSS has now forced the DJS to call off the ceremony.

However today (Dec. 18) The Hindu reports that the DJS says the ceremony was postponed, not cancelled "in the strategic interest of the cause" and that the work of re-conversion will "continue slowly and steadily, but cautiously."

Rajeshwar Singh had claimed that Christmas has been chosen for the reconversion because the event is a 'test of strength' for both religions.

"If their religion is better, they can stop them. It is a test for both of us. If they come to us on Christmas, it is the biggest rejection of the faith," Singh was quoted as saying in the Economic Times on Dec. 10.

India's Parliament has been especially heated over the conversion debate, with opposition targeting the BJP. The party responded with a strong counter-offensive in support of Hindu fundamentalist's stance on reconversions.

Unfazed by the barrage of criticism in the Parliament and the media, Venkaiah Naidu, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, on Dec. 13 called for national and state level anti-conversion laws. At the moment, five of India's 29 states have laws that forbid coercing someone to change religions.

'Good Governance Day'

The most controversial element of the conversion campaign emerged Dec. 15 when the Times of India unearthed a government circular of the education department attempting to shift children's attention from Christmas to 'good governance' by recognizing a new Indian holiday on Christmas day.

Good Governance Day is being established to encourage students to celebrate the birthdays of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a former Prime Minister of India, and Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, a Hindu nationalist, educationist and politician.

The circular encourages schools and colleges to organize various student competitions such activities including narratives, essay and quizzes on promoting the message of 'good governance.'

"The situation is alarming. This Christmas looks like it is not a pleasant one," Bishop Simon John of Delhi Diocese of the Believers Church told World Watch Monitor following the alleged Christmas day circular to schools.

"Mark 'good governance day' on Christmas, government tells schools" said the Times of India in its lead story sparking more vociferous protests in Parliament and outside. It published a photocopy of what it claims to be the government circular.

The federal Human Resource Development ministry promptly denied allegations that it is requiring schools to now remain open on Christmas day.

Christmas 2014 'Evokes Not Joy but Fears'

On Dec. 10, International Human Rights day, the Justice, Peace and Development Commission of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India expressed the anguish of the Christian community.

"The most distressing is the situation of the religious minorities whose right to religious freedom is ruthlessly rubbished and trampled upon by the militant majoritarian groups that apparently enjoy utmost impunity in the new political ambience," the Commission said.

Alarmed by the developments including the Christmas 'insult' to the Christians by the federal government itself, the National council of Churches in India (NCCI) has taken an unprecedented step by deciding, for the first time, not to invite the Chief Minister of state for its annual Christmas prayer meeting.

"We used to invite the chief minister every year. But to protest what is happening, we have decided not to invite him this year," Rev. Christopher Rajkumar, Executive Secretary of NCCI's Commission on Justice, Peace and Creation told WWM from Nagpur on Dec. 16.

Headquartered at Nagpur, the second capital of Maharashtra state, NCCI consists of 30 Orthodox and mainline Protestant churches. Maharashtra state came under BJP rule after the state elections in October.

"This Christmas evokes not joy but fears. It should not happen. But is happening," Rajkumar said.

Anto Akkara Featured Culture Fri, 19 Dec 2014 12:00:00 -0500
WATCH: What's the Meaning of Creflo Dollar's Prophetic Dream About Myles Munroe?

When televangelist Creflo Dollar stood to eulogize Myles Munroe, he revealed a prophetic dream that came mere days after Munroe's death. 

"Three days after the incident, I had a dream," Dollar says. "And Dr. Myles was in the dream." 

In the dream, Dollar says, they were in the Bahamas with other ministers for the leadership conference. Munroe was directing the ministers where to go and what to do.

"I'm going to show you how this ought to be done," Munroe tells Dollar in the dream.

Watch the video to find out more about and let us know what you think this dream means for the body of Christ in this hour.

Jessilyn Justice Featured Culture Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:00:00 -0500
What Did Ben Carson Pray Over Jerusalem?

As the presidential race for 2016 gets closer, likely candidates start visiting key locations. In addition to Iowa and other states, there is also an important international stop. 

This week, Dr. Ben Carson took the opportunity to visit America's closest ally in the Middle East. This was the retired neurosurgeon's first visit to the Holy Land.

"It's really a fact-finding mission. And you hear so many things and read so many things but until you can actually experience it yourself and see for yourself, you really don't have the proper perspective," Carson said.

To get that first-hand perspective, Carson paid a house call to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, Israel's premiere hospital. He also met one of the victims of the recent Har Nof terror attack, in which four rabbis and a policeman were murdered.

"I looked at your scan and you're very fortunate to be alive," Carson told the patient.

During his fact-finding mission, Carson said Israelis told him they're concerned about relations between Israel and the United States.

"I don't think I've met any Israeli since I've been on this trip who didn't think that the relationship was in jeopardy," Carson said.

Carson used a schoolyard analogy to describe the current state of affairs between the two countries.

"It's sort of like your brother is going to school in a real tough neighborhood and you want to make sure he gets there safely and gets home safely, so you walk with him. And then suddenly you say; 'You're on your own. Call me if you have problems,'" Carson told CBN News in an interview. "That seems to be how our relationship has gone."

One criticism of a potential Carson candidacy could be his lack of foreign policy experience. But he says leadership requires wisdom.

"The book of Proverbs in the eleventh chapter, fourteenth verse, [says] 'In the multitude of counselors there is safety,'" he said.

Carson hasn't made any official announcements. He came to Israel with a non-political group called The Face of Israel (LINK). He added that the trip gave him food for thought.

"It will impact significantly as we consider what our future course of action will be," Carson said.

Like many dignitaries Carson visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City.

He placed a note in the wall and prayed.

"A continuation of God's blessing and wisdom," Carson said of what he prayed. "You know Solomon was here, the wisest man who ever lived. And (I'm) asking for Solomonic wisdom to know what to do with the opportunities I've been granted."

Chris Mitchell/CBN Featured Culture Fri, 19 Dec 2014 11:30:00 -0500
Yet Another Major Denomination Moves Towards Ordaining Openly Gay Pastors

The Church of Scotland has taken a significant step towards ordaining practicing homosexual ministers, after a majority vote by local bodies.

Out of a total of 45 regional presbyteries, over 30 are thought to have voted in favor of allowing congregations to appoint gay ministers who are in civil partnerships.

The issue has already caused 18 ministers and hundreds of members to leave the denomination.

A final decision will be made after draft legislation is passed to the Church of Scotland's General Assembly in May.

The proposal affirms the church's traditional stance on marriage but allows congregations to "opt out" and ordain practicing gay ministers if they want to.

There has already been extensive opposition to the move.

Today, a protest group called Covenant Fellowship is being launched to campaign for a traditionalist stance within the Church of Scotland.

Rev. Professor Andrew McGowan, a member of the group, said that the church is in the "midst of a severe crisis."

He hopes that the protest will "grow to become an effective campaign group within the Church on behalf of those who believe in Christian orthodoxy."

Last month Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone, who is a member of the church, said that the move would "ultimately weaken" the church.

Rev. Richard Buckley, of evangelical group Forward Together, echoed this sentiment saying it was as if "an ax had been set at the root of the Church of Scotland."

In October this year, every Church of Scotland congregation on the Isle of Lewis, the largest island in Scotland's Outer Hebrides, opposed the move.

A spokesman for the Lewis Presbytery warned that the proposal risked causing "further disunity" within the denomination.

The issue has already caused division within the church.

Last year, Rev. Dominic Smart of Gilcomston South church in Aberdeen resigned from the church and began holding separate services in a hotel.

He described ordaining gay ministers as a "clear and deliberate move away from the authority of Scripture as the Word of God and our supreme rule of faith and life."

Jessilyn Justice Featured Culture Fri, 19 Dec 2014 11:00:00 -0500
A Message to Atheist Activists Warring Against Christ This Holiday Season

It seems not a day goes by when the Freedom From Religion Foundation or some other atheist, secularist or humanist group isn't attacking a Christian prayer meeting, demanding the take down of a nativity scene or working to ban some other form of Christian expression. Indeed, the war on Christmas is raging even now.

American Christians aren't looking to trample your rights to believe (or not believe) whatever you want to believe (or not believe). So why are some atheist activists so driven to wage war against all things Christian each and every Christmas season? And why does that battle have to continue throughout the year at football games and other public events where Christians simply want to display a Bible verse on a sign? Why are you fighting so hard against a God you don't believe exists?

If you are American atheist, you should count your blessings.

According to a study from the International Humanist and Ethical Union, any public expression of atheism can be viewed as blasphemy and carry criminal penalties in countries like Russia. The "Freedom of Thought Report," claims that the "hate speech" against atheists does not come exclusively from reactionary or radical religious leaders, but increasingly from political leaders, including heads of state.

"In 2014, in addition to laws such as those targeting 'apostasy' and 'blasphemy,' we have seen a marked increase in specific targeting of 'atheists' and 'humanism' as such, using these terms in a broadly correct way (the users know what they are saying) but with intent clearly borne of ignorance or intolerance toward these groups," the report reveals.

I stand for Jesus Christ, which means I don't stand for humanism, atheism, secularism and all the other "isms" that are coming against the gospel of Christ and separating people from God's love. That said, I'm not against atheists or your God-given right to believe what you want to believe (or not believe). And I am imploring you to stop spending your time trying to chip away at the foundations on which America was built, which include freedom of speech and freedom of religion that allow you to deny Christ without going to prison.

Think about it for a minute, if America becomes more like other nations in the world, you may very well face more persecution here. America is a free country. Why do you work so hard to make it less free for Christians, who would be among the first to defend your right to believe—or not to believe—whatever you choose?

Atheists, you are welcome to shun Jesus Christ and even to kick against the goads (see Acts 26:14). Like Franklin Graham recently said, the war on Christmas is a war on Christ—and you can't win that war. God highly exalted Jesus, and and gave Him the name which is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:9-11).

Although Jesus died for you, He will not force His will on you. He loves you and He's given you freedom of religion—or freedom from religion if that's what you want. But I'm praying that His love will encounter your heart in an undeniable way and you would become like Saul-turned-Paul on the road to Damascus, turning away from persecuting Christians to preaching the gospel with passion.

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

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Jennifer LeClaire Featured Watchman on the Wall Opinion Fri, 19 Dec 2014 10:30:00 -0500
Give Children in Haiti Some Hope This Christmas

Christmas is a time for giving. One of my earliest Christmas memories was giving some toys to a family in our church whose dad had lost his job. I shared this story at our Charisma Media Christmas banquet last week when I said that experience made an indelible impression on me as a child. Now as an adult, I annually try at Christmas to give an offering that's at least 10 percent of what I spend on Christmas for others.  

This week I received an email from my long-time friend Danita Estrella Watts. Her ministry Hope For Haiti was given a huge boost 15 years ago when we wrote an article in Charisma about how as a single woman she tried to help orphans in Haiti with virtually no support. The readers of Charisma generously donated more than $80,000, which turned out to be the seed money to help her get started.  

Today, Hope For Haiti Children's Center houses over 100 orphans and provides education to over 300 children. Over 18,000 meals are provided each month through the feeding program that employs 13 full-time missionaries and over 80 staff members.  

At Christmas, I'm giving a generous offering to Danita's Children and I encourage you to do the same. For more information on how to donate, please click on the link below, which will take you to her website.

Often, we raise the money through our nonprofit partner Christian Life Missions, but this time it is probably just easier and quicker to give directly to Danita's Children and Hope For Haiti Children's Center.

However, if anyone wants to give through Christian Life Missions, here is the address: 600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida, 32746. We will pass along 100 percent of everything designated for her ministry to be sure that Danita gets it before Christmas.

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

Steve Strang Featured Opinion Fri, 19 Dec 2014 10:06:57 -0500
Ex-Church Usher Found Guilty of Hiring Hitman to Kill His Wife
After a two-month trial, a Detroit jury on Thursday found a suburban businessman guilty of hiring his handyman to kill his wife.
Robert Bashara, 57, was convicted of first-degree murder and four additional charges in the death of his wife, Jane, a marketing executive. He faces life in prison. Prosecutors said Bashara told handyman Joseph Gentz to carry out the killing.
After Jane Bashara's body was found in the backseat of her Mercedes Benz SUV on Jan. 25, 2012, in Detroit, her husband blamed her death on urban street violence, prosecutors said.
Gentz, the handyman, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the killing and is serving 17 to 28 years in prison.
Bashara is also already in prison, serving a sentence of six to 20 years after pleading guilty to trying to have Gentz killed.
During the trial, prosecutors said Bashara spent months trying to find someone to kill his wife before he picked Gentz. The defense argued that Bashara had sought to have Gentz killed because he was the confessed killer of his wife.
The case has captured a national audience, in part because of the bizarre nature of the accusations against Bashara, who is from the wealthy suburb of Grosse Pointe Park.
Prosecutors said Bashara, a former church usher and Rotary Club president, wanted his wife dead so he could engage in a lifestyle of bondage, discipline and sadomasochism with his girlfriend.
© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.
Serena Maria Daniels/Reuters Featured U.S. News Fri, 19 Dec 2014 10:00:00 -0500
China Arrests U.S. Christian Aid Worker Near North Korea Border
China arrested on Friday a Korean American Christian aid worker who was being held near the country's border with North Korea, signaling a toughening crackdown on Christian activists in the sensitive region.
Peter Hahn, 74, is being charged with embezzlement and counterfeiting receipts, his lawyer, Zhang Peihong, told Reuters.
Zhang said he believed authorities were targeting Hahn because of his Christian faith and because he ran a non-governmental organization.
"The charges leveled against him are just excuses," Zhang said.
Hahn, who ran a vocational school in the border town of Tumen, had been under investigation for months, along with several colleagues. In an interview last month, Hahn's wife, Eunice Hahn, said the building that houses the school was a "mission base camp for our missionaries."
Eunice Hahn said those under investigation among Hahn's staff included two U.S. nationals and three South Koreans. Both Zhang and Eunice Hahn said Hahn had aided North Korean defectors more than a decade ago, but he was no longer doing so.
China has long worked to curb the flow of North Koreans who flee persecution and poverty in their homeland and illegally enter China before going on to other nations, usually ending up in South Korea.
A spokesman for the U.S. embassy said he could not comment on the matter. Both Zhang and Eunice Hahn said U.S. consular officials had been able to meet Hahn.
In August, sources told Reuters hundreds of Christian missionaries had been forced out of China, most by having their visas refused, in a far-reaching crackdown.
China said in August it was investigating a Canadian Christian couple who ran a coffee shop in Dandong, further south near the North Korean border, on suspicion of stealing state secrets.
China's Foreign Ministry confirmed the charges against Hahn in a statement, but said he was criminally detained. Zhang said law enforcement authorities in Yanbian prefecture, where Hahn is being held, told him on Friday Hahn had been formally arrested—a more serious status than criminal detention.
Zhang said police had been allowing Hahn to see a doctor regularly. Eunice Hahn said her husband had diabetes and had two strokes this year.
"I just want to bring this to some sort of conclusion," she said.
Eunice Hahn said she had asked a U.S. diplomat to deliver a letter to her husband with Christian messages but Hahn had not been allowed to read it.
© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.
Megha Rajagopalan/Reuters Featured World News Fri, 19 Dec 2014 09:30:00 -0500
10 Rites of Passage to Spiritual Influence and Authority

By rites of passage in this particular article, I am referring to a person's transition from one status or phase to another. In the church we have various ceremonies that mark different phases of spiritual and biological maturity: for example, baptism, first communion and confirmation. 

However, in the context of this article, an ROP (Rite of Passage) is more of a test that is part of a process God uses to bring believers into another stage of maturity before assigning them into another level of kingdom service. Biblically, we see great leaders who have gone through different stages of their life that prepared them for something greater they were called to do. For example, the patriarch Joseph, one of the sons of Jacob, had various tests and experiences before he was made second in charge to the Pharaoh in Egypt; Moses was in the wilderness for 40 years before God called him to be the deliverer of Israel.

King Saul persecuted David and hiding in the wilderness for many years before God elevated him to be the King of Israel. Even Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days, being tested by Satan, before He began His public ministry; He also had to endure the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane before He was ready to go to the cross and be raised from the dead.  

The following are some ROPs I have observed as a believer for almost four decades. 

1. The ROP regarding dependence upon God instead of upon man 

The higher the calling you have, the greater the tests and more intense ROP you will have to go through. As we look at the most effective leaders in the Bible, they all had one thing in common—their utter dependency upon God to fulfill their calling. The more you grow into your higher calling, the more fragility there is along with so many moving parts that you have to trust God to bring everything together every day just so you can survive. This is the only kind of person He can release to the highest levels of spiritual leadership.

2. The ROP regarding learning courage in the face of fear 

One thing I learned many years ago was that, obedience to the will of God meant that I had to leave a predictable life and live a life of risk based on faith. You live on the edge so much in so many areas that it sometimes takes courage just to get out of bed in the morning! God cultivates courage during an intense ROP in our life to prepare for the next kingdom assignment.

3 The ROP regarding obscurity

One of the greatest ROP is being willing to obey God without the accolades of men. God cannot thrust us into the public eye if we cannot first serve Him faithfully in obscurity. 

4 The ROP regarding adversarial circumstances 

One of the most common ROP is during times of testing where everything in your life is under attack. I have had seasons in my life lasting more then several years at a time in which I experienced major push back and conflict in every area of my personal life and ministry. 

I knew this was my ROP because it always came right before God wanted to bring me into another level of my divine assignment.

5 The ROP regarding financial lack 

Sometimes there is no immediate provision for a divine vision. God uses these times to test our hearts to see if we want to do something for Him based on financial gain or for His glory. He also wants to know if we will continue to move forward in obedience even if we do not see a long-term financial solution. The children of Israel were required to continue to obey God even when they did not know where there next meal was coming from when they were in the wilderness for 40 years.  

6 The ROP regarding silence from heaven 

There are times of testing in which there are long periods when we do not continue to receive clear words of affirmation or confirmation regarding a calling from God He gave us a long time ago. It is always much easier to keep on going when we receive ongoing prophetic encouragement and or divine endorsements through others—but maturity and preparation is often cultivated more inside of us when the heavens are silent for a period of time and we have to live totally by faith.

7 The ROP regarding loving those who hurt and abuse you 

One of the hardest ROP is during periods of time when there are many relational conflicts and misunderstandings from those closest to you. This is a very important ROP that involves learning how to love unconditionally through the insults, abuse, neglect and persecution. If God can trust us to walk in forgiveness and love the unlovely unconditionally, then He can trust us to demonstrate His heart to others in higher levels of leadership no matter what the circumstance or response.

8 The ROP regarding faithfulness during the mundane

It is probably much easier to demonstrate faithfulness to God when there are big events, a crisis, and or great movement replete with incessant action. I believe more people fall into unfaithfulness when things get boring and mundane. This is a key ROP that teaches the believer to cultivate the joy of the Lord during slow, boring days and seasons in your life. Consider Moses' 40 years in the wilderness of Midian, which prepared him for the last 40 years of his life that was replete with non stop action as he became the deliverer of Israel.

9 The ROP regarding finding contentment only in God

Ultimately, the greatest ROP is to learn to get ultimate satisfaction in honoring and worshipping Him. Every person and everything we have or accomplish in this life is soon passing away—and God will often work to strip out of our heart every secondary thing we depend upon for happiness and fulfillment. God releases His highest calling to those who delight themselves in Him. 

10 The ROP regarding prioritizing our mission and focus 

One of the greatest ROP for accomplished leaders is the ability to say no to good opportunities and open doors. God will often test us to see what we will say no to—before He brings better opportunities He wants us to say yes to. 

Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church and Christ Covenant Coalition in Brooklyn, New York. Visit him at

Joseph Mattera Featured Culture Fri, 19 Dec 2014 07:00:00 -0500
Intercessors, Will You Respond to This Call From God?

The setting was festive with Christmas décor and cookies but the discussion was holy. I was sitting in the governor's mansion with about 75 pastors and leaders from around the country—including Mike and Cindy Jacobs, Pastor Jim and Rosemary Garlow, Paul Tan, and E.W. Jackson—to hear what was on Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's heart about the United States of America.

Although he's a successful politician, Jindal understands that leadership in America will not come from a politician or a movement for social change. After sharing his powerful testimony of how Christ found him, Jindal pointed to the need for a "spiritual and transforming revival" that would help us recapture the vision of American pioneers who on the Mayflower signed, "In the name of God and for the advancement of the Christian faith."

With that Jindal invited us—and Americans across the country who are crying out for mercy over judgment even in the face of a brittle economy, raging immorality and an uncertain future—to join him at The Response in Baton Rouge on Jan. 24.

"These are historic and defining times, a new world order of chaos is being driven by militant Islam seeking to impose Sharia Law worldwide. Our nation is faced with fatherless homes, an epidemic of drugs and crime in our inner cities, a saturation of pornography, abortion, racism—Jesus Christ, Son of God and Lord of Life, is America's only hope. We need a spiritual transformation," says Jindal. "There is good news; Scripture reminds us that as we come before the Lord in a posture of humility, honesty and repentance, then 'The Lord will hear from heaven, forgive and heal our land.'"

I can hear the skeptics now, saying, "Another day, another prayer rally." I understand—but do not agree—with that sentiment. The naysayers point to the houses of prayer all over the world—some of them are filling the bowls 24/7—without any discernible change. Others point to Lou Engle's TheCall, Faytene Grasseschi's TheCry, OneCry, Cry Out America, Broken Before the Throne or even the National Day of Prayer and figure we've done all we can do to fulfill 2 Chronicles 7:14. But we can't give up now!

As more saints intercede in alignment with the heart of the Father, the prayer movement becomes like a proverbial snowball rolling down a hill—eventually the bowls of prayer will tip over (see Rev. 5:8). We can't merely look at the results in the natural to gauge our impact in the spirit. The results will eventually become visible if we remain faithful to believe God's Word doesn't return to Him void (see Isa 55:11).

Let us not become weary or faint in praying for God's will. We will reap a harvest from our faithful prayers if we do not give up (see Gal. 6:9). And reaping a harvest of prayer results can sure light a fire in the heart of a believer who wants to see God's kingdom manifest—who wants to see the "spiritual and transforming revival" that's also burning in Jindal's heart.

As that fire spreads, so does God's will across the earth. We can see transformation in this land. We really can. God wants to bring transformation. I'm not the only one who believes that. In my upcoming book on transforming revival, I received insight from Dutch Sheets, Billy Graham, Reinhard Bonnke, the late Steve Hill and many others about God's will for our nation. It brought hope to my heart and courage to my soul for the days ahead.

I believe all prayer rallies are significant. I believe they all make an impact. I believe where two or three gather in the name of Jesus, He is there in their midst (see Matt. 18:20). I believe if one puts a thousand to flight, two can put 10,000 to flight (see Deut. 32:30). And I believe when thousands gather despite race, culture, denomination or agenda, it touches the Father's heart and He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions we have asked of Him (see 1 John 5:15).

That's why I'll be at The Response: a Call to Prayer for a nation in Crisis with Jindal and many others, in a posture of humility and honest repentance, asking the Lord to hear from heaven, forgive and heal our land. You can join me on Jan. 24, 2015, at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana—or watch it streaming live at

As Jindal put it, "People from all ages, denominations, ethnic and racial backgrounds will gather to pray and fast for America, asking God for mercy and grace for what we Christians have allowed in our nation. May His church have a corporate heart awakening to bring healing to the soul of America." Amen.

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

Jennifer LeClaire Featured Opinion Fri, 19 Dec 2014 06:00:00 -0500
The Christian Attack Culture Is Alive and Not So Well

There's no question that the Internet has brought Christianity many wonderful things. Today we have online education available to virtually everyone, social media that encourages people to support great causes, and online communication tools that allow us to connect from the four corners of the earth. But it's also created something I believe is tearing at the very fabric of our faith. It's created a culture of attack.

Rarely does a day go by that Christian news sites, social media streams and other web platforms feature some Christian "correcting" another Christian—and calling them out by name. It can range from arguments over worship music, to theological squabbles, to disagreements over ministry styles, to charges of outright heresy, and the barrage of criticism has grown exponentially. While there are qualified theologians, pastors and other leaders we should respect and listen to, there's also a tsunami of armchair theologians, angry ex-church members and wannabes who are convinced their criticism du jour needs to be shared.

Aside from feeling comfortable "correcting" a brother or sister publicly when we've never met the person, or know little about the background of what we're criticizing, a significant culprit is the technology itself. With 24/7 news, and a constant barrage of blogs and social media, the Internet is bombarding us with information overload, and what may be worse is the ease of responding. As soon as we read something we don't like, all it takes is a click to send an angry reply, post a heated comment or write an op-ed piece.

I'm as guilty as anyone, and it's taken me a long time to learn to not react immediately just because I can.

The Internet has given us the illusion of intimacy. We read someone's books, articles or sermons, or we watch their videos online, and we feel we know them, so why not share what we think is wrong? But that illusion of intimacy is just that—an illusion. It distracts us from the important principle of reaching out to them personally first, and making the sometimes difficult effort of keeping it private and saving the relationship.

But then again, it's just too easy to rip them open online in front of everyone and be done with it.

The Internet is a powerful tool, and if we use it wisely, it can have a dramatic impact on helping us inspire and motivate this generation of believers to share the message of the cross with this culture. But the choice is ours. We can use it to build up, or use it to tear down.

Writer Jason Morehead put it this way: "The same questions should be considered by us all: Are we using the powerful, disruptive technology at our own fingertips to encourage, to think critically and compassionately, to spread shalom and create a 'meaningful society'? Or are we using it to sow seeds of discord and hatred, spread vitriol and thoughtlessness, and give license to our own pride and avarice?"

That's a pretty good question...

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

Phil Cooke Featured Opinion Fri, 19 Dec 2014 09:00:00 -0500
Billy Graham's Daughter Shares Secret to Dad's Focus on the Gospel

Billy Graham is four years away from celebrating a century of life, and he's still one of the strongest figures on the evangelism circuit.

"He's not yet lost focus on the gospel and reaching people for Christ," says his daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, to Premier. "My father is a very humble man, and I think that comes from his walk with God."

Lotz continues, praising her father's humility and roots, noting that the famous Graham, who has led millions to the Lord through his crusades and organizations, does not forget that his father was a dairy farmer.

 "That humility, that focus and that faithfulness to God's call on his life I would want," she says. 

Lotz also praises her mother, who was a deeply passionate woman, for her influence on both Lotz's and Graham's lives. 

If the faith were strictly for appearance' sake, Lotz says, she would have been turned off years ago. But the genuine devotion of the Graham family has sparked revival across the world.

Jessilyn Justice Featured Culture Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:00:00 -0500
12 Last-Minute Christmas Gift Ideas for Your Favorite Health Fanatics

If your childhood Christmas experience was anything like mine, then perhaps you can recall digging through your stocking without a whole lot of holiday cheer.

The first thing I used to do on Christmas morning, after making sure Santa ate his cookies and drank his milk, was unhook my stocking and try as hard as I could to feign gladness and glee at the sight of new socks and underwear, country-western CDs, and pieces of fruit. However, looking back on it, I probably should have been more appreciative of the latter gift, considering that it reinforces my notion that stocking stuffers create a wonderful opportunity to give the gift of health and wellness to our loved ones.

I have nothing against folk music or undergarments, but why not throw in at least one of the 12 health-related items below into a stocking or two? Who knows—it could be the gift that the recipients light up about the most, or perhaps it will be what inspires them to start 2015 on the right fitness-focused foot!

Food and Drink

1. Vega Protein Smoothie: Being lactose intolerant, I steer clear of whey (a protein found in milk) protein, which is unfortunate considering whey makes excellent post-workout fuel. But I can honestly say that since finding and trying Vega, I don't miss my whey shakes one bit! Vega Protein boasts 15 grams of protein that come from whole food ingredients like kale, spinach, broccoli (one scoop equals two servings of veggies) papaya extract, brown rice, pea, hemp and SaviSeed. The blend is soy, dairy and gluten-free, and it comes in delicious flavors like chocolate (my favorite!), vanilla, tropical and berry! Price per single pack: $1.99, per pouch: $15.99

2. Raw Revolution Bars: There is a plethora of bars on the market, and sad to say, most of them are heavily processed and filled with unhealthy ingredients, such as artificial flavors and sweeteners and GMOs. I personally love Raw Revolution because their bars are not only organic, but also mostly vegan and completely gluten-free, making them perfect for individuals with certain food allergies and sensitivities. The bars come in over a dozen flavors, my favorites being Spirulina Dream (made with cashews, dates, spirulina powder and agave nectar, just to name a few ingredients) and Chocolate Crave (which features organic cocoa and almonds). Price: $1.89

3. Numi Tea: Who doesn't love a warm, comforting cup of tea during the holiday months? Tea is known for its amazing health benefits, from improving digestion to preventing certain diseases. But it turns out that some brands of tea can do more harm than good, brands that are laden with toxins, pesticides, artificial flavors and sweeteners, and GMOs (genetically modified organisms). I'm a fan of Numi Tea because it's an organic and non-GMO certified company, is fair trade certified, and helps supply clean drinking water to needy people around the globe. Last, but certainly not least, they offer dozens of delicious teas to suit any taste, like Carrot Curry and Chocolate Mint! Price: $7.99

4. Dark Chocolate: What's a stocking without a little something sweet to eat? The abundant research on the health properties of dark chocolate is music to a health nut's ears because it proves that eating chocolate can not only be OK, but beneficial! Dark chocolate is an outstanding source of antioxidants and has been proven to lower the risk of heart disease, improve cognitive function, lower blood pressure, and even provide UV protection for our skin! There are several excellent, organic varieties you could go with, such as Endangered Species, Sweetriot, Taza, and Giddy YoYo, but whatever you choose, make sure the label doesn't say "processed with alkali," as this process diminishes the amount of healthy, naturally occurring flavanols of chocolate.


5. Gefu Spirelli Spiral Slicer: If you haven't noticed, julienned cucumbers and carrots and gluten-free, low-cal veggie noodles are all the rage! They're a fantastic, fun alternative to plain ol' roasted or steamed veggies and can almost convince you that you're really eating carb-heavy, processed pasta! To use the Spiral Slicer, you simply place a vegetable into the end of it and twist! It's made of stainless steel and plastic and is dishwasher safe! Price: $29.99

6. OXO Good Grips Apple Divider: I'm all about convenience and healthy snacks. Put those two things together, and you've got one must-have stocking stuffer. This product makes slicing an apple into perfectly sized wedges as easy as one smooth stroke. Then all you have to do is bag them up and carry them out the door on your way to work or school. You'll make vending machine stops a ghost of Christmas past! Price: $10.00

7. Microplane® Herb Mill: This little contraption makes prepping fragrant, tasty and healthy herbs a cinch! All you do is place herbs inside, twist the handle, then presto! The sharp scissoring blades have minced away, providing you with heaps of herbs to use for seasonings, sauces and salad dressings. Price: $19.99

8. Ninja Express Chopper: This small yet powerful beauty is at the top of my Christmas wish list this year! (I hope my husband is reading!) It evenly chops vegetables, minces garlic and herbs in seconds, purees like a dream (so I've heard), and it's BPA-free and dishwasher safe! Price: $19.99

Nifty Gadgets and Accessories

9. Tea Bag Buddy: Traveling tea drinkers, rejoice! The Tea Bag is a terrific on-the-go device that will keep you from dripping hot tea on yourself and your stuff. It's made of 100 percent pure silicone that helps insulate your cup to preserve the brewing temperature. Then, when your tea is ready, you simply pull the string, lift and turn, then squeeze your tea bag with zero mess! And it protects your fingers too! Price: $5.99

10. Sip n' Go (BPA-Free) Spill-Proof Collapsible Bottle: This lightweight, BPA-free, dishwasher safe, fits-in-your-pocket bottle is great for taking both to the gym or on hikes and long, leisurely strolls. Designed with a durable snap, it folds neatly and easily into a purse or pocket. What's more, it's freezable, so your drink stays cold. Another nice touch is that you can write your name on it so it doesn't get mixed up with anyone else's bottle. Price: $7.99

11. WristSTASH: This zippered pocket wristband handily stores your essentials, such as keys, money, and credit cards, as you run. I like it because it's comfortable, convenient, woven from soft recycled cotton terry, machine washable and comes in several cool colors and patterns. Price: $14.99

12. SKLZ Accupoint: This ergonomic, spine-friendly little tool was designed to relieve sore parts of your body through trigger release massage. I love it because it's compact, easy to store, easy to clean and has a super-cool double-ball shape that wonderfully cradles the spine. Price: $14.99

I hope these gift ideas have been helpful! I pray you and yours enjoy a healthy, happy and very Merry Christmas!

Diana Anderson-Tyler is the author of Creation House's Fit for Faith: A Christian Woman's Guide to Total Fitness and her latest book, Perfect Fit: Weekly Wisdom and Workouts for Women of Faith and Fitness. Her popular website can be found at dianaandersontyler.comand she is the owner and a coach at CrossFit 925. Diana can be reached on Twitter.

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Diana Anderson-Tyler Featured Marketplace Thu, 11 Dec 2014 16:00:00 -0500
Samuel Rodriguez Sounds Off on Obama’s Controversial Cuba Shift
After over 50 years of a painful embargo, President Obama on Thursday set out to change America's relationship with the communist nation.
"We are recognizing the struggle and sacrifice of the Cuban people, both in the U.S. and in Cuba, and ending an outdated approach that has failed to advance U.S. interests for decades. In doing so, we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries," Obama said. "I was born in 1961, just over two years after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, and just as the U.S. severed diplomatic relations with that country."
Obama has instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to immediately begin discussions with Cuba to re-establish diplomatic relations that have been severed since 1961. Going forward, Obama plans to re-establish an embassy in Havana, and high-ranking officials will once again visit Cuba.
"Second, I have also instructed Secretary Kerry to review Cuba's designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism—a review guided by the facts and the law," Obama said. "At a time when we are focused on threats from ISIL and al Qaeda, a nation that meets our conditions and renounces terrorism should not face such a sanction."
Third, Obama is moving increase travel, commerce and the flow of information to—and from—and Cuba. Obama says these steps will make it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba and for Americans to conduct authorized trade with Cuba, including exports of food, medicine and medical products to Cuba. 
He continues, "And they will facilitate increased telecommunications connections between our two countries: American businesses will be able to sell goods that enable Cubans to communicate with the United States and other countries."
As a Christian, the normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba prompts both concern and hopeful expectations for Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Leadership Council, the largest Hispanic Christian organization.
"First, I am concerned that normalizing diplomatic ties without addressing the horrendous human rights record of the Castro regime serves as a defacto endorsement of one of the most oppressive regimes in recent history," Rodriguez says.
As a result of Castro's totalitarian rule, he notes, millions live in poverty and thousands lie in prisons while others lost their lives. What's more, he continues, people live with their God given rights held hostage to governmental persecution. 
Rodriguez concludes, "Nevertheless, if this controversial step results in the alleviation of hunger and opens the door for God-given freedoms to flourish, then I pray that this decision will serve as a prophetic step in unleashing the church of Jesus to be the church both inside and outside of the island nation addressing the spiritual and physical needs of the Cuban people."
Jennifer LeClaire Featured U.S. News Thu, 18 Dec 2014 16:00:00 -0500
Bold Pastor Confronts Prostitutes in Hotel Rooms With 8-Minute Message

A former cop turned pastor is taking his influence to the streets in a new reality show for A&E.

The network that brought you Duck Dynasty is now telling the story of Kevin Brown, a pastor who surprises escorts in their hotel rooms and takes eight minutes to try to convince them to give up their lives as prostitutes, according to Entertainment Weekly

"This is one of those great shows that was actually happening whether anybody was shooting it or not," Executive Producer Tom Forman tells EW. "Brown told his congregation that for 20 years he's had to arrest these women when what he's really wanted to do is help them. It launched a drive within his church to run these undercover operations. We read that and thought somebody should put a camera on this, it's the most incredible thing I've ever heard."

According to EW, Brown specifically targets those who are forced into a life of prostitution and trafficking. "Even if this all seems OK to you right now, it's quickly going to become something very different," he tells them.

A former prostitute will then join Brown, saying, "I was right where you are, I was scared my pimp would find out and beat me, I didn't know if I could trust [Brown], I didn't like the idea of leaving my stuff behind and running away in the middle of the night, but I said yes and my life has never been the same," according to EW.

To promote their rescuing efforts, Brown co-founded Safe Passage OC with another former police officer, Greg Reece. The team, which includes former prostitutes, has about a 50 percent success rate, with some women anxious to leave and others wanting to stay. They use to contact the women and let God do the rest. 

"I love the intersection of drama and transformation and faith—without making an overtly faith-based show. This is a church group ... these are real people giving up weeks of their lives and putting themselves at real risk to save somebody who hasn't asked for their help. I'm blown away by what they do," Forman tells the International Business Times.

The series was inspired by a Los Angeles Times article.

Jessilyn Justice Featured Culture Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:38:29 -0500
7 Arguments Some Christians Use to Support Abortion Rights

Since the Bible clearly is against abortion, why do some Christians—and, in fact, some mainline denominations—favor abortion? Let me highlight the main arguments of pro-choice advocates here and also provide a Christian response to each one.

Abortion is acceptable because it is legal. There is a difference between what may or may not be legal and what may or may not be moral. The fact that abortion is currently legal in the U.S. does not by definition make it morally right.

Biblical evidence against abortion is lacking or absent entirely. Pro-choice advocates say that if God wanted us to be against abortion, both the Old and New Testaments would contain clear statements against abortion, but they don't. But just because the Bible may be silent on a matter does not mean that it approves of the matter in question. Ancient Jews and Christians may not have felt the need to include an open statement against the pagan practice of abortion, because they inherently found it repulsive and assumed there was no need to include a direct statement against it.

What other arguments are used to support the pro-choice view? Scott Rae offers the following arguments, which I include here with my own commentary on each point:

1. A woman has the right to do with her own body whatever she chooses. This takes us back to the overarching debate over abortion—the question of rights. Those who favor abortion see the woman's right as supreme, while those who oppose it champion the rights of the unborn—not by denying the rights of the woman, but by acknowledging that the rights question has to do with two people, not just one.

2. If abortion becomes illegal, we'll return to the dangerous days of the back-alley butchers. This is not a valid argument against abortion per se, but against the seeming consequences that will supposedly happen if abortion is made illegal. It fails to address the central question—is the fetus a person or not?

3. Forcing women, especially poor ones, to continue their pregnancies will create overwhelming financial hardship. Again, this argument doesn't address the key question about whether or not the fetus is a person.

4. Society should not force women to bring unwanted children into the world. Simply because a child is unwanted does not mean that the baby is not a person or does not have any rights.

5. Society should not force women to bring severely handicapped children into the world. Percentagewise, very few on-demand abortions that are done fall into this category. This argument also avoids the question of personhood—if the fetus is a person, even one with a deformity or other disability, does that mean such a disabled person doesn't have rights? This line of reasoning puts us dangerously on the path of eugenics—controlled breeding or even the elimination of people deemed not worthy of life. Also, who are we to say that a baby with a deformity or other disability can't live a meaningful, fulfilling life and make positive contributions to society?

6. Society should not force women who are pregnant from rape or incest to continue their pregnancies. Do you see a pattern here? This argument also sidesteps the question of whether or not the fetus is a person—an innocent human being with rights of his or her own. No one is saying that rape and incest are acceptable—they most certainly are not—but as the old saying goes, two wrongs don't make a right. Why kill a child made in God's image?

Remain Neutral

Remaining neutral can be tempting for Christians who, out of a desire to avoid tension, don't take a stand on issues like abortion. But abortion involves serious questions about matters of life and death. God has called us to engage culture and use our minds to seek to understand His will in this world. If we remain silent and neutral on crucial questions of our day, we're hardly being the salt or light God has called us to be.

But what can Christians really do about abortion? Here are some actions we can take:

1. Because abortion is a significant issue of our time, we should seek to understand it and not be afraid to engage in calm discussions of the issue with those who are in favor of it.

2. We should seek to lovingly understand one another on the question of abortion. We should take seriously the biblical insights on abortion, as well as key theological principles such as the image of God in human beings.

3. We should not neglect the power of prayer when it comes to the issue of abortion, as well as the issue of getting along with one another.

4. We should make sure that every woman considering abortion receives the wise biblical counsel she deserves, and every woman should be made aware of other—and far less drastic—measures available to her (the possibilities of adoption or keeping the child).

Whatever action we decide to take, we should always by motivated by genuine Christian compassion, not the desire to win an argument.

Alex McFarland is an author and evangelist, and he serves as Director of the Center for Apologetics and Christian Worldview, North Greenville University, located in SC. His websites include:, and

Alex McFarland Featured Culture Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:00:00 -0500
Pastor Drops Dead in Pulpit Singing Pharrell's 'Happy'

A pastor reportedly dropped dead in the pulpit after singing Pharrell's song "Happy."

Sunday, as reported by the Christian Post, Pastor Gordon A. Humphrey was preaching in Chicago when he suddenly collapsed at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church of Chicago. 

"I'm not sure if they determined the cause of death but it's been said he may have had a heart attack," says pastor Greg Hunter. 

He says the congregants called the paramedics immediately.

"We are putting emphasis that he passed doing what he loved to do, and he loved preaching and that's the relationship he had with God, and when he preached he gave it his all. So he passed doing the thing that he loved to do and that is [to] share the Word of God and minister to the body of Christ," Hunter told CP. 

At the time of his death, Humphrey was pastoring three churches: Olivet Church in Stockton, California, Olivet of Oakland, California, and Shiloh Missionary in Chicago.

Posts of support poured in on the Shiloh Missionary Facebook page.

"Bless you Rev. Humphrey, rest from your labor and as you sang yesterday, your name is on The Christian Jubilee. Preaching, singing man of God," one person wrote.

"Awesome Man of God. Traditional preaching, ministry and gospel music with the ability to reach this modern world. Rest in Heaven Pastor Humphrey Jr.," wrote another. 

Please pray for the pastor's family and his church.

Jessilyn Justice Featured U.S. News Thu, 18 Dec 2014 13:00:00 -0500
Angry Atheists Seek Financial Pay Off for This Prayer Meeting

Acts of violence riddle communities across this nation, and while many have questioned how to stop the senseless crime, law enforcement officials in the City of Ocala, Florida, decided to engage with the community to try to bring an end to a spree of shootings that, within the span of just a couple of weeks, left three small children injured. And for their efforts, which included supporting a prayer vigil organized by concerned citizens to unite the community in seeking peace and justice, the City, its mayor, and its police chief have found themselves embroiled in a lawsuit filed by the Washington, D.C.-based American Humanist Association (AHA) and four of its members.

According to the AHA complaint, not only should the government and its officials be vilified for encouraging citizens to attend the community vigil and assist law enforcement in making the city safer for its residents, but the mayor and police chief should be forced to pay the atheist plaintiffs monetary damages for such "offensive" conduct. Availability of monetary relief against these individuals is limited to those circumstances in which they should have known that their actions would clearly violate constitutional rights. Apparently the AHA and its members believe that government officials should be well aware that working alongside members of the community to bring about peace and justice becomes an affront to liberty if prayer makes its way into those efforts. (Never mind those cases in which courts, including the United States Supreme Court, have upheld governmental prayer practices as lawful, or, equally important, the constitutional injury that would result if law enforcement officials had done as these atheists requested and canceled the private citizens' vigil.)  

The ACLJ is defending the City of Ocala, its mayor and its chief of police and will argue for dismissal of the claims against them, as this type of community engagement and support is precisely what law enforcement should be doing, and is certainly not justification for reaching into the pockets of these individual officials for monetary damages.

Carly Gammil/ACLJ Featured U.S. News Thu, 18 Dec 2014 12:00:00 -0500
Cyberwars and Rumors of Wars: Sony Cancels ‘The Interview’

When it comes to the last days, Jesus spoke of wars and rumors of wars but where do cyberwars fit into the end-times paradigm? After all, a hacker attack on our nation's infrastructure could cripple our power supply or worse.

In an usual and high-profile example of the power hackers have to disrupt commerce, Sony Pictures Entertainment is engaged in a battle like one we've never seen before.

Hackers—who broke into Sony's computer systems in early December, stole and distributed embarrassing private emails between executives and producers, and accessed the private information of employees—threatened terrorist attacks if the movie giant dared to release a comedy called The Interview on Christmas day.

The film shows the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. American intelligence officials are pointing to the North Korean government's role in attacks on Sony computers. Some industry watchers are calling it an act of war.

Movie theaters across the country pulled The Interview from holiday showings after terror threats from hackers, leaving Sony little choice but to kill the film.

"In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned Dec. 25 theatrical release," the company said in a statement. "We respect and understand our partners' decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers."

Darren Hayes, an expert in computer forensics and security who has been a consultant on legal cases involving digital evidence, says Sony's decision to cancel its release of The Interview movie has set an unsettling precedent.

"One can only imagine that the threats of violence by North Korea were backed up by government intelligence, which prompted Sony to pull the screening of this movie," says Hayes, who is also an Assistant Professor and Director of Cybersecurity at Pace University's Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems in New York.

"This should be a wake-up call for everyone that the recent escalation of cyberattacks will threaten the lives of Americans," Hayes continues. "North Korea may be hesitant to launch ground warfare but a cyberattack can be even more devastating."

Hayes points to the Obama administration's work to bolster our critical infrastructure as many expect cyberattacks will inevitably threaten our safety on public transportation and perhaps our water system or electric grid.

"The repercussions of a nation state-sponsored attack on the entertainment industry took all of us by surprise and it will prompt companies, like Sony, to potentially censor future movies in addition to reviewing their network security protocols," Hayes says. "This of course is not the first high-profile, politically-motivated attack on Sony; in 2011 Sony's PlayStation Network was breached by hacktivists who stole the personal information of 77 million customers."

Hayes' conclusion: Unfortunately, he says, the United States is left more vulnerable compared to many other countries as it would be illegal for the U.S. government to hack back on behalf of a company.

Jennifer LeClaire Featured U.S. News Thu, 18 Dec 2014 11:42:19 -0500
Christian Professor Suspended Without Pay Over Gay Rights Debate
A professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee has been suspended after he publicly chastised a teaching assistant on his blog for discouraging a discussion in her classroom regarding gay rights, the school said on Wednesday.
Political science professor John McAdams was suspended with pay from his faculty and teaching duties at the Catholic university and barred from being on campus during the school's investigation, according to university spokesman Brian Dorrington.
The controversy began on Nov. 9 when McAdams criticized philosophy class instructor Cheryl Abbate on his blog.
According to McAdams, the instructor challenged a student's opposition to gay rights and told the student "homophobic comments" would not be allowed in the class. She also suggested the student drop the class if he did not like it, according to McAdams.
McAdams wrote Abbate was using a liberal tactic to dismiss any opinion that does not fit into their views.
"Opinions with which (liberals) disagree are not merely wrong, and are not to be argued against on their merits, but are deemed 'offensive' and need to be shut up," he wrote.
Loyola University professor John Protevi wrote an open letter to Marquette in support of Abbate. In it, he called McAdam's actions a "one-sided public attack" that is a threat to academic freedom.
Neither Abbate nor McAdams were immediately available for comment.
Gay rights continues to be a hotly debated topic in the United States where more than 30 courts have ruled in favor of gay marriage over the last couple of years.
McAdams also took the Catholic institution to task on Tuesday, writing that the school was attempting to censor him and that the investigation is a form of harassment.
"Marquette ... has again shown itself to be timid, overly bureaucratic and lacking any commitment to either its Catholic mission or free expression," he wrote.
Dorrington did not address the controversy directly, but referred to a letter president Michael Lovell sent to the university community in November addressing personal attacks and harassment on campus.
© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.
Brendan O'Brien/Reuters Featured U.S. News Thu, 18 Dec 2014 11:00:00 -0500
Why We Do What We Do

Why do I take the stands that I take? What motivates me to swim against the tide of cultural decline?

On Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014, a concerned mother from Massachusetts called my radio show. Her son, a freshman in high school, came home from school and informed her that all the students had been required to attend an assembly, one that had not been announced in advance.

The assembly was sponsored by the Gay Straight Alliance and it had one goal only, namely, promoting homosexuality as perfectly normal and acceptable, even for Christians and people of faith. The mother, who always taught her son to be kind to others and not to bully, was shocked at the news and asked me what to do.

The next day, while I was speaking at a Christian leaders gathering in Queens, New York, a pastor told the group that his son, also in high school, came home from his sex-ed class with some upsetting news. One of the students asked the teacher, "How do you know if you're gay?" and the teacher responded, "You should try it out for one month and see."

Yes, a public school teacher encouraged these impressionable students to experiment with homosexual practice for a month in order to discover if they were gay. This pastor also asked me how he should respond.

Then, a young woman, perhaps in her twenties and attending the meeting with leaders from Teen Challenge, shared her own experience, speaking with tears. As a girl, she was given up for adoption, after which she was adopted by a lesbian woman who then raised the child with her lesbian partner. The lesbian couple ultimately raised three daughters, all of whom—including the woman who shared her story with us—came out as lesbians.

It was only in 2010, when this young woman came to faith in Jesus, that her life was transformed (she also had a serious drug problem in the past) and she left lesbianism behind. Does it strike you as odd that all three daughters raised by this lesbian couple themselves became lesbians?

I asked her what her adoptive parents thought about men, and she responded firmly, "We didn't talk about men in the home."

In other words, like many other lesbians, these women had a very negative attitude toward males, virtually guaranteeing that that bad attitude would be passed on to the daughters, who would never see how a husband and wife should interact in the home or how a man should treat a woman.

And so, while it is commendable that these women wanted to adopt needy children, it is tragic that they also deprived these girls of the mother-father nurture and example that they so desperately needed. 

A few days after this pastors meeting, I received a request from a new website,, asking if I would participate in a written debate on whether consensual, adult incest should be legal.

The website, which focuses on the younger generation and is strongly pro-LGBT, features debates on topics like polyamory and pornography, along with other, more mainstream topics, also covering different stories in the news.

When the interviewer from DebateOut called me to respond to her questions about incest, she mentioned that, of course, this was a big topic of discussion these days.

Did you get that? The question of whether adult incest should be legalized was now a major topic of debate, just as we have warned for some years now. The debate was posted on Dec. 16, and out of the 5 participants in the debate, I was the only one who stated that consensual adult incest should never be legal. All the other participants, including a professor and a psychoanalyst, advocated for removing the laws against consensual adult incest.

Are you surprised?

The same day the debate was posted, I was speaking in Malaysia at a church retreat for believers from Singapore. One of the topics they asked me to address was gay activism, and after hearing one of my talks, a church member said to me, "In our media, we are getting bombarded with gay activist articles. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, there was an article on gender being a social construct"—meaning, that "male" and "female" are merely concepts created by the society rather than being realities in themselves.

And on and on it goes, as I hear from concerned believers day and night, both from America and around the world, and this is a large reason why we do we what do, regardless of how unpopular our stands might be with some sectors of society.

Thankfully, we also hear wonderful reports on a regular basis, like the email I received from another young woman who had been caught up in lesbianism.

While watching a YouTube video where I was interviewed about these subjects, the light began to go on in her life, and when I met her one year later, she was a brand new woman.

I still have the letter of appreciation she handed to me when we met, and it is absolutely priceless. The truth is that whole books could be written—and have been written—on these pressing, moral, cultural and spiritual issues, but enough has been said here to explain some of what drives me to do what I do.

I continue to believe that truth and love will triumph, and I'm convinced that together, we are making a difference.

(If you have been helped by our articles, radio broadcasts and videos over this last year, please take 5 minutes to watch this special announcement.)

Michael Brown is author of Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message 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.

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Michael Brown Featured In the Line of Fire Opinion Thu, 18 Dec 2014 10:30:00 -0500
5 Things Every Christian Should Do About 'Exodus' Movie

Exodus: God and Kings is stirring plenty of controversy this holiday season. Some Christians are supporting the film while others are calling out the flawed perception of the Flood and other biblical events. Here are 5 things you should do about this Bible-based movie:

1. Consider

Exodus was made by Christians and non-Christians alike. It takes hundreds and many times even thousands of people to get a movie like Exodus developed, produced, filmed and distributed. Among those many people are Christian individuals who put an immense amount of creative, physical and emotional energy into the movie. Hollywood is made up of people, and God calls us to love these people. Be slow to anger and gracious in word and thought regarding the filmmakers.

2. Pray

The best way to keep a godly perspective on things is to pray. Pray for the unbelieving filmmakers that desperately need Jesus. Pray that God would use Exodus as a reminder of his power and magnitude. Pray that the accurate elements would further His kingdom and that the inaccurate parts won't detract from the main message. Pray that everyone who watches will realize their own enslavement to sin and will see that God, just as he did with the Israelites, sets the captives free.

3. Read

God's holy and infallible word is truth. Make sure that Exodus feeds your desire to read the Scripture, and doesn't replace it. Even though Noah had many many issues, Bible Gateway revealed that the movie Noah resulted in a 223 percent increase in people reading Genesis 6-9. Pray that Exodus causes the same desire for people to read the Bible.

4. Watch

Exodus isn't a perfect movie, but it's also not an attack on the Christian faith. Instead of boycotting it, watch it, knowing that it is an imperfect artistic interpretation of Scripture made by fallible humans. Understand that even the actors who portray the lead characters don't fully realize the importance of what they're doing because they don't understand the gospel and God's redemptive narrative through history. For a detailed analysis of both the content and theological aspects of Exodusclick here.

5. Act

If a movie causes us to do one thing, it should move us to action. This might look different for every person because everyone takes away different things from movies. It might convict some to reflect on God's goodness to them or others may be inspired to write better, more biblical screenplays than the ones that are getting produced (if that's you, be sure to contact us). Who knows, someone may watch Exodus and be moved to be a modern day Moses to free children enslaved in sex trafficking. The possibilities are endless, but only if we let God move us so we can take action.

This article originally appeared on movieguide.orgWant to know what God's doing in Hollywood?

Ben Kayser Featured Culture Thu, 18 Dec 2014 10:00:00 -0500
California Church Service Turns Deadly, Leaving 3 Victims
Three people were killed and at least nine others injured when a driver ploughed into a group of pedestrians leaving a holiday church service in a southern California city of Redondo Beach on Wednesday night, police said.
The driver ran into the crowd, who were taking the crosswalk after leaving St. James Catholic Church, before crashing head-on into another car around 8 p.m. local time, police said in a statement.
Emergency workers treated about 12 people, including at least one child, at the scene who were then transported to hospitals, police said. Some of those victims were critical.
Three of the victims, including 81-year-old Mary Anne Wilson and 87-year-old Saeko Matsumura, both of Torrance, died of their injuries, police said.
Police said they could not provide an exact tally of the injured as some may have taken themselves to hospitals for treatment.
The driver was arrested on felony charges of driving under the influence and manslaughter and is being treated for her injuries, police said.
Local media reported that the crowd had just attended a Christmas concert at the church. Footage broadcast by local news network ABC7 showed shoes and other personal items strewn across the street near the crashed sedan.
Redondo Beach is a city of some 66,750 people roughly 19 miles (30 km) southwest of Los Angeles.
© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.
Curtis Skinner/Reuters Featured U.S. News Thu, 18 Dec 2014 09:30:00 -0500
For All Those Who Had a Rotten 2014

Remember New Year's Eve almost 12 months ago? Were you holding high hopes it would be your best year yet?

Amid the jubilant celebration were you lifting praise to God for anticipated success and breakthrough in your life?

Looking back over the year do you have to admit things just didn't turn out the way you had hoped? Unexpected setbacks, financial reversals, disappointments, failures, mistakes, betrayals ... Need we go on?

As 2014 comes to a close, it's a great time for reflection and learning from errors, plus pursuing God for direction and fresh motivation going forward.

A primary component for success in the coming year is remembering the importance of perseverance. Jesus told us in the parable of the sower that it was only by perseverance that an individual reaps the desired harvest (Luke 8:15).

President Calvin Coolidge once said, "Nothing in the world will take the place of persistence. Talent will not; the world is full of unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. The slogan 'press on' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."

Here's the deal: With some exceptions, success and achievement are only achieved through persistence. Adversity comes to us all but will we press on when we're tempted to throw in the towel?

Let's draw inspiration from these examples of people who could have quit but succeeded by persevering.

Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, founded his company in 1971. I've been in that original store. Do you know that 16 years later the company had fewer than 10 stores? He persevered through the difficulties and today Starbucks has more than 21,000 stores in 63 countries and more than 160,000 employees.

Rush Limbaugh was fired four times and told by a senior executive at ABC radio, "If you want to stay in this business, you had better go into sales because you just don't have the talent. You're never going to make it!"

Recently Rush celebrated the 25th anniversary of the No. 1 talk-radio show in America, which reaches over 20 million people each week.

Last week Meryl Streep was on the David Letterman show. She began her career trying for the lead in King Kong by Dino DeLaurentis. After her audition the director said: "Why did you send me this pig? She is so ugly! Blech!" Overcoming the insult, she persevered and today has three Academy Awards, 16 Oscar nominations, 23 Golden Globe nominations and is called the undisputed best actress alive."

John Grisham had 30 publishers reject his first novel until a publisher finally relented to print 5000 copies. John bought 1000 of them and tried to sell or give them away. Overcoming the obstacles he persevered and today has sold 275 million books worldwide.

Tony Robbins was raised in a home with an alcoholic mom and four different dads. His childhood was "incredibly violent" as he cooked the family meals. His mother chased him out of the home with a knife, and all alone he worked as a janitor. Today his motivational seminars help people overcome fear and made him a best-selling author, speaker and life coach to people like Oprah, Bill Clinton and the late Princess Diana. His conglomerate brings in $6 billion a year and his foundation has fed 42 million families. "I did it purely by persistence!"

Katie Couric auditioned for her first job at CNN and the network president said he never wanted to see her on the air again. "I was told time and time again, I'd never make it in broadcasting." She persevered.

James Dyson labored for three years trying to get a manufacturer to consider his vacuum cleaner without a bag. Rejected repeatedly one of them told him, "A vacuum without a bag will not sell!" Persevering, James launched it himself and in 18 months it became the No. 1 selling vacuum cleaner! He's now a billionaire. "I love mistakes!"

Tyler Perry lived in poverty, never completed high school and attempted suicide. Flat broke he lived in the backseat of a compact car with his 6-foot-5-inch frame. Finally he snapped out of it by praying, persevering and using his creativity to become the actor, producer, director, author and entertainment mogul he is today. Forbes magazine called him, "The highest paid man in entertainment" as he made $130 million in a year!

Oprah started in Baltimore as a news anchor and was terminated. Elvis was fired after his first performance and told, "You're never going to make it as a singer." Walt Disney was let go from his first job for not being creative enough. Woody Allen flunked his first film course in college. J.K.Rowling was rejected 12 times with Harry Potter, which eventually sold 400 million books. C.S. Lewis had 800 book rejections. Barbra Streisand opened on Broadway and closed the next night. Steven Spielberg was rejected three times by the UCLA film school. Jay Leno worked at McDonald's and was told he'd never make it as a comedian unless he fixed his face lest he scare children. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. He said, "I've failed over and over again in life. That's why I succeed."

One final example: Ken Taylor was dejected. His children were bored during his Bible reading. So he pursued a dream for 16 years to paraphrase the Bible in easier-to-understand language. Committed to being scrupulously faithful, he was so stressed that his vocal chords deteriorated and he could barely speak for 15 years. Eventually five publishers rejected his work so he published it himself, running off 2000 copies and promising all royalties to God. Tyndale House publishing was born and today the Living Bible has sold over 43 million copies worldwide. 

Proceeding into the new year, let's remember these words: "Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal to the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let those of us who are mature be thus minded. And if you think differently in any way, God will reveal even this to you." (Phil. 3:13-15).

Larry Tomczak Featured Here's the Deal Opinion Thu, 18 Dec 2014 09:00:00 -0500
Was There Life on Mars? Here's What NASA Discovered

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has found carbon-containing compounds in samples drilled out of an ancient rock, the first definitive detection of organics on the surface of Earth's neighbor planet, scientists said on Tuesday.

The rover also found spurts of methane gas in the atmosphere, a chemical that on Earth is strongly tied to life. Additional studies, which may be beyond the rover's capabilities, are needed to determine if the organic compounds and/or the methane gas were produced by past or present life on Mars or if they stem from geochemical processes.

"We have had a major discovery. We have found organics on Mars," Curiosity lead scientist John Grotzinger, with the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, said during a webcast press conference at a science meeting in San Francisco.

"The probability of any of these things being sources (from life) ... we just have to respect that it is a possibility," he added.

Curiosity picked up hints of organics in its earliest chemical analysis of rocks in Gale Crater, a 96-mile (154-km) wide impact basin where the rover made a sky-crane landing in August 2012.

Last week, scientists published research showing the crater was once filled with water, with sediments building up over time to form three-mile (5-km) high Mount Sharp, which rises from the basin's floor.

Shortly after Curiosity landed, it found that the planet most like Earth in the solar system had the right chemical ingredients and environmental conditions to support microbial life, fulfilling the primary goal of the mission.

The methane detections were a big surprise, said Curiosity co-investigator Chris Webster, with NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

A year ago, scientists reported that after eight months of searching, Curiosity had found no detectable methane in the atmosphere around Gale Crater.

The rover continued to take air samples and in November 2013 it hit pay dirt with a methane spike 10 times higher than background levels. The methane patch remained around the rover for the next 60 days and then vanished.

Curiosity scientist Sushil Atreya, with the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, told reporters his team suspects the methane was produced somewhere around the rover and then dissipated in the wind.

The methane detections by Curiosity follow a series of observations by Earth-based telescopes and Mars-orbiting spacecraft that found mysterious but fleeting plumes of methane.

"We're really not in a position from these data to say one way or the other what the origin of the methane is," Atreya said.

"Because we are seeing signals here it's worth coming back and doing more work," Grotzinger added.

The research was released at the American Geophysical Union conference. The methane study will be published in this week's issue of the journal Science. (Reporting by Irene Klotz in Cape Canaveral, Florida; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Irene Klotz/Reuters Featured Culture Thu, 18 Dec 2014 07:00:00 -0500
Obama Moves to Normalize Relations With Cuba

President Barack Obama took the first steps to normalize U.S.-Cuba relations Wednesday.

In a televised White House statement, President Obama announced steps to re-establish a U.S. embassy in Havana, restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba broken in 1961.

"Isolation has not worked," Obama said. "It's time for a new approach."

He also announced measures to increase travel, financial remittances and commercial sales and exports to Cuba.

The president stressed his continuing commitment to promoting democracy, human rights and the free flow of information for the Cuban people.

Watch President Obama's full statement below:

Stan Jeter Featured World News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 20:00:00 -0500
Taliban Justify Attack That Killed 132 Children, 10 Adults

The nation of Pakistan is mourning Wednesday after Taliban gunmen killed 132 children and 10 adults at a military-run school.

The funerals have already begun for those who were killed Tuesday when seven Taliban gunmen, with explosives strapped to their bodies, stormed the army public school in the city of Peshawar.

"They started shooting them indiscriminately. And after that they started spreading into other wings of the school where they were contained," Pakistan military spokesman Maj. Gen. Asim Bajwa said.

The school massacre marks the deadliest slaughter of innocents ever seen in Pakistan and has horrified a country where extremist attacks have become normal.

"They killed kids. They are cowards," Peshawar resident Mohammad Saleem said.

The White House and countries around the world were quick to condemn the attack.

"The depraved decision that one has to make to storm a school of innocent children and open fire on them, I think is a testament to how cold-blooded these extremists are," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Across the country, officials and school children are holding special prayer services for the victims.

This northwest corner of Pakistan has long endured violent clashes between the Taliban and Pakistani forces, who are supported by the United States.

The Taliban said Wednesday that the massacre was justified because the Pakistani army has killed the children of its fighters—and it's vowing to continue such attacks.

But the government of Pakistan said it will step up a military campaign that along with U.S. drone strikes, targets the militants.

Heather Sells/CBN News Featured World News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 19:00:00 -0500
5 Signs There's Idolatry in Your Church

The greatest sin in the Bible by far is the sin of idolatry. Idolatry is the main reason why God rebuked and judged the nation of Israel. (Read the major and minor prophets as well as the books of Kings and Chronicles.) Idolatry is when we violate the first of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:3), which says, "You shall have no other gods before Me." It is when we put something or someone first in our life, before the living and true God. Idolatry is the root cause of all other sins—which is why the first two commandments dealt with this. While the church today is focusing on various sins related to human sexuality and lifestyle choices—many in the church who may not fit into these two categories may be deluded into believing they are OK even though they may be breaking the greatest commandment.

The following are five signs of idolatry in the church based on my perspective of serving as a lead pastor for 30 years as well as extensive extra-local apostolic ministry to churches.

1) The idol of celebrity preachers: There are believers who run all over the country attending conferences of well-known preachers. Often, when they meet them in person, they fawn all over them and almost faint. Some well-known ministers cannot even go out in public without constantly getting stopped by admirers so they can take "selfies" with them. (Since I know and have worked with many of them, I have seen this first hand.) Although I am a proponent of having a culture of honor and respect for those leaders who labor among us (Heb. 13:7, 17), some people have stepped over the edge into idolatry. They follow everything they say without question and irrespective of scandal, and they do not search the Scriptures themselves to see if what is preached aligns with God's Word. When Cornelius met the apostle Peter and bowed down before him, Peter rightly told him to get up, that he was only a man like himself (Acts 10). There is nothing wrong with emulating or following a leader, but there is something wrong with idolizing a Christian leader. There is such a pervasive "celebrity preacher" culture in the body of Christ today that some huge churches and enterprises have literally closed down when their celebrity preacher stepped down. If churches and ministries would build according to the New Testament pattern in which the whole body exists to edify and minister to one another in love, then we would not depend merely upon one leader for the congregation to function (Eph. 4:16; 1 Cor. 12). 

2) The idol of worship/entertainment: There are many believers who flock to churches that have skilled singers and music primarily to get entertained. Consequently, many of the believers don't realize that they are putting self-gratification and entertainment before true worship. Years ago, many churches would not even have musical instruments and people would flock to churches anyway—even though the congregation only used hymnals and sang a cappella for worship. Now, it is very common for pastors to budget a large amount of money to pay for professional singers and musicians in order to fill their church services with people. In my opinion, even though we are called to worship with excellence and skill—we have gone too far in the church and have mingled as a core value the entertainment culture of the world. At the end of the day, whether we have worship performed by professionals, use merely a CD or sing a cappella, congregations should worship and adore Him just the same—in spirit and truth—which is the only kind of worship God seeks (John 4:23-24). Those who leave their local church to attend another church with better "worship," in my opinion, are often guilty of idolatry since they cannot worship God from their heart without being entertained by professionals.

3) The idol of personal prosperity: There are believers whose main motive is to use their faith to leverage influence with God for personal gain. Although God delights in blessing all of His children (3 John 2), Jesus told us to seek first His Kingdom and righteousness for our material needs to be added to us (Matt. 6:33). Many attempt to use the benevolent character of God to live a myopic life in which Christianity orbits around the universe of self. God has given us power to get wealth so we can spread His covenant to the whole earth—not merely so we can live a life of ease. I believe that using our faith to put our own needs first is a form of idolatry. 

4) The idol of objectifying God: Although this point is similar to the previous point, I felt there was enough of a distinction to separate them. Through the years I have seen many in the church preach and promote an "I," "me" and "my" culture. That is to say, much of the preaching deals with self-actualization, fulfillment and therapy rather than sound, biblical theology calling believers to live a life of service. Pastors have often fed into the cultural idolatry of the people in order to attract people into the church—something that displeases God (see Ezek. 44:10, 12). I have observed that there are too few "cross-carrying" disciples attending churches—but many use God when they need Him. Many come to church to "feel" the presence of God but are not committed to knowing and loving the "person" of God. Many come to church merely to feel good instead of being equipped to do good works (Eph. 2:10). Many come to "get a word" instead of coming to "give a word" of edification to somebody (Is. 50:4; Eph. 4:29). Many come to listen to rhetorical messages that excite the emotions with no intention of walking out the word. Many come to shout amen, being deceived into believing that because they shouted, they have already obeyed. Consequently, there are many believers who live no differently than their unbelieving neighbors, which is why megachurches do not always result in "megacultural" influence, and why church growth doesn't always result in personal and societal transformation. Although many have attended church for decades, they have never matured and are still drinking pabulum, never having digested the meat of the Word (1 Cor. 3:1-3).

5) The idol of ethnicity: There are many believers who have allowed their ethnicity and culture to trump the Word of God. Jesus said culture is even stronger than the Word of God in some people's lives (Mark 7:7-8). Consequently, people read the Scriptures through their Caucasian/Western, Afro-centric, Hispanic or Asian lenses. One of the most important things to do in regards to receiving the Word of God for personal transformation is to attempt to take ourselves out of our own skin and read the Bible through the eyes of the authors original intent—something only the Holy Spirit can accomplish. There is no such thing as a Western European Caucasian Bible or an Afro-centric Bible. We need to stop reading the Scriptures merely through our ethnic lens because the truth is that the Bible was written with a Hebraic mindset and it is foolish to think we can fully understand it with our contemporary ethnic mindset. Consequently, believers often act and react no different from non-believers in regards to things that happen in contemporary society. White, black and brown believers have generally reacted far different from one another when it comes to interpreting immigration reform and the tragedies of the Ferguson shooting and Eric Garner death. Truly, I believe that the gospel is so powerful that it is possible for diverse Christians to come together with one voice and prophetically interpret, speak into  and bring solutions to these painful and controversial issues!

God is not color blind, since He made humans black, brown, yellow, red and white in His own image. Hence, He designed us to have distinctions in culture regarding food, dress, language and other things based upon ethnic nuances. However, these distinctions are not where believers should derive their primary identity or anchor their biblical ethics, for in Christ there is neither male nor female, black, white or brown, for we are all one in Christ (Gal. 3:28). When our ethnic thinking trumps our biblical thinking, we are guilty either of ignorance or ethnic idolatry. Unless or until the body of Christ gets over its idolatry according to ethnicity, we will never become the generation that can disciple the nations (or in other words, ethnic people groups as shown in Matthew 28:19). Since there is no neutrality, either the church will disciple the nations or the nations will disciple the church!

Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church and Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, New York.

Joseph G. Mattera Featured The Pulse Opinion Thu, 18 Dec 2014 08:00:00 -0500
Pastor Jeffress Calls Out NPR for 'Blasphemous' Joke

Radio host Peter Sagal cracked a joke on his NPR show, "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," that took aim at a Catholic advertisement, but some Protestants were offended, as well.

Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, told Fox News' Bill O'Reilly he could see the joke as "blasphemous."

"I don't want to speculate what was going through that sick mind, but what I do want to point out, Bill, this is illustrates the hypocrisy, the double standard of the secular media when it comes to Christianity," he tells O'Reilly. "I can guarantee you one thing that if this host had been ridiculing Mohammed or Islam, he would have been out overnight. Look at what they did to Juan Williams just a few years ago. But when it comes to Christianity, it's open season."

Context is key, though, Jeffress says.

"I think the context to me is something that at the very least is dirty, and possibly could be blasphemous," he says. 

O'Reilly counters: "I truly hope that his comment about Jesus was not salacious, all right? I truly hope that maybe he was saying that Jesus' hands were nailed to the cross and that's why, maybe. You know. I mean, it's Christmas, Pastor. I want to be as charitable as I can to this man. If indeed, it was salacious what he was trying to get at with Jesus, then that is—he should be fired immediately. I don't know if we can prove that or not."

Whether it was blasphemous could be left to interpretation. However, Jeffress says, "NPR at the very least is ridiculing Christianity."

Jessilyn Justice Featured Culture Wed, 17 Dec 2014 17:00:00 -0500
Jesus Never Told Us to Get People Born Again

"What? Heresy!" I can hear the cries already.

Stay with me.

"'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.' Amen" (Matt. 28:19-20).

Jesus told us to make disciples. Being born again is the first step, but discipleship is a process.

Notice the command of Jesus in Mark's Gospel.

"He said to them, 'Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved. But he who does not believe will be condemned'" (Mark 16:15-16).

Jesus told us to preach the gospel. Then those who believe should be baptized.

Then signs would follow those who believe (Mark 16:17-18). The true believers are identified by these signs:

If you compare the Great Commission in both gospels above, the only similarity is in water baptism. Water baptism is the beginning of discipleship and being a follower of Jesus Christ. This Christian practice has been underestimated in the church today.

I was baptized in water the day I got saved. It made a huge difference for me. It stuck to me. It was real. I was alive from the dead. The old man died when I was immersed in the water (symbolic I know, but there's a reason Jesus commanded it) and the new man reigned when I came up out of the water.

Water baptism is similar to the laying on of hands. It is a doctrine of Christ (Heb. 6:1-2). It helps our faith. There is a reason why more people were healed under the ministry of Jesus through the laying on of hands than anything else. They had faith in it. It was easier to believe. The physical touch and relating with something people can feel and see helps them grasp it and apply their faith to it.

Water baptism is the same way. It is to be a bridge between the new birth and discipleship—a first step of observing the commands of Jesus.

Jesus commanded us to make disciples—baptizing them first and then teaching them to observe His commandments. He never told us to get people born again. He told us to preach the gospel and then baptize those who believe, and then make them disciples.

Sinners are saved and called by the preaching of the gospel. The foolishness of preaching is what God has chosen to save those who believe (1 Cor. 1:21). But the proof of true believing is in observing and obeying the commandments of Jesus (Mat. 28:19).

In the West we have focused on getting a confession or a prayer out of sinners, and then chalking it up as a new birth. A few years ago I did an outreach at a church where 200 names were amassed of people who prayed the sinner's prayer. Weeks later none could be found. None were a part of any of their lives and gatherings.

Microwave salvation failed miserably again.

It takes time and relationship to make disciples. It takes patience and a laying down of our lives. But what joy when you see them grow!

I have been mentoring a new believer in my home town for the last four years. He is a married man and father of two teenagers. Because of his night job he has not been able to attend any church services on a regular basis. Nonetheless, he is growing.

He reads his Bible, prays in tongues, heals the sick, casts out devils, and bears witness of the gospel every chance he gets. Yet he has not attended church very much. I am discipling him, but once he got filled with the Holy Spirit his learning capacity multiplied manifold as the Spirit truly became His teacher.

Once someone is water baptized he should be baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Remember this is another doctrine of Christ called baptisms (Heb. 6:1-2). "And these signs shall follow those who believe ... in My Name they shall speak with new tongues" (Mk 16:17b).

In the West we are taught to turn new believers over to the church system instead of personally disciplining them ourselves. If you lead them to the Lord, you are responsible for them. If you invite them to a church service and they receive Christ, you are responsible for them. Jesus commanded you to make a disciple out of them.

The Ephesians 4:11 equipping ministry gifts in no way excuse us from our personal responsibility of making disciples. This is the work of every church member. There has to be a greater responsibility shift in the process of discipleship from the ministry gifts to the believer.

Until that transfer happens, we will have more converts than disciples, more fans than followers, more false converts than true.

Jesus never told us to get people born again. He commanded us to make disciples.

Being born again and baptized in water is the first step in the process.

Bert M. Farias, revivalist and founder of Holy Fire Ministries, is the author of several books including the newly released My Son, My Son—a beautiful father-son journey co-written with his son Daniel for the purpose of enriching and empowering parents to train their children in God's ways. He is also the co-host of the New England Holy Ghost Foruma school of the Spirit. Follow him at Bert Farias and Holy Fire Ministries on Facebook or @Bertfarias1 on Twitter.

Bert Farias Featured The Flaming Herald Opinion Thu, 18 Dec 2014 07:00:00 -0500
Rediscovering Jesus in the Christmas Madness

I've often wondered what extraterrestrial aliens would think if they came to earth during December and watched people celebrate Christmas. Would they be able to figure out what this holiday season is about? I doubt it.

Today the story of Jesus' birth is pretty much buried under tons of stringed lights, crass materialism, political correctness and songs about cold weather (which is odd, considering the fact that most people in the world celebrate Christmas in warm climates). Somehow we forgot the point of this celebration.

I proved this last week when I went to a large store to find a nativity scene. This well-known discount retailer had rows and rows of Christmas trees, Disney ornaments (because anything with a Frozen theme sells), Hello Kitty ornaments, martini ornaments (Christmas is about drinking?), inflatable penguins, Santa Claus toilet seats, Darth Vader nutcrackers, reindeer oven mitts and battery-operated Christmas hats.

But no nativity scene. When I asked a manager why they didn't have any, he said apologetically: "You're right. We should probably stock those."

But I'm not going to depend on Target, Wal-Mart or Macy's to show me the real meaning of this season. I always read the gospel accounts of Jesus' birth in Matthew and Luke during the month of December so I can rediscover the miracle of the Incarnation.

I encourage you to study those passages as well. And as you do, meditate on these seven different names of Jesus that are recorded in the Christmas story:

1. He is the Son of David (Matt. 1:1). Matthew's gospel, which was written primarily to Jews, stresses that Jesus was in the royal lineage of Israel's kings. The genealogy that appears in Matthew 1 traces Joseph, the husband of the virgin Mary, to David's line—and then back to Abraham. Even though Jesus was not the biological son of Joseph, He could legally claim the family name. He was King of the Jews in the truest sense; yet unlike the sinful kings of Israel, Jesus was the perfect ruler—and His kingdom will never end.

2. He is the Son of Adam (Luke 3:38). Luke's gospel, written to a Gentile audience, focuses on Jesus' humanity. And the genealogy that appears in Luke 3:23-38 is not about kingly succession. Instead, it traces Jesus' lineage through Mary's family tree and goes all the way to Adam—establishing the case that Jesus was a descendant of the first man. Through the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, God's eternal Word impregnated Mary, making her child both God and man. Yet Jesus, unlike Adam, never disobeyed God. He remained sinless so He could sacrifice His life for us.

3. He is Emmanuel (Matt. 1:23). An angel told Joseph in a dream that Mary would conceive a son miraculously—and that His name would be Emmanuel, which means, "God with us." Wrapped up in this name is the mystery of the Incarnation. Jesus is, as John's gospel emphasizes, the Word that "became flesh" (John 1:14). He was with God before the creation of the world as the glorious firstborn Son, but He left the glory of heaven to dwell among sinners on earth.

4. He is Jesus, the Savior (Matt. 1:21). The angel told Mary she would give birth to the "holy child" and that she would call him Jesus, which is the Greek form of the name Joshua (or Yeshua in Hebrew). Jesus means "the Lord saves." Just as Joshua in the Old Testament succeeded Moses and took God's people across the Jordan into the Promised Land, Jesus led us out of the wilderness of sin and ushered us "by grace" and "through faith" (Eph. 2:8) into the blessings of salvation.

5. He is the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6). Angels said to the shepherds in Bethlehem: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased" (Luke 2:14). This harkens back to Isaiah's ancient prophecy that the Messiah would institute peace on earth. The gift of Christ was, in fact, the greatest peace treaty ever enacted. Wherever the true gospel of Christ is preached and believed, hatred is uprooted in human hearts and wars and violence cease.

6. He is the Light of the Gentiles (Luke 2:32). Simeon, the old prophet who met Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus outside the temple in Jerusalem, recognized that the long-awaited Son of God was not sent just to Israel but to all people. Jesus' mission was a global one. This was also confirmed by the visit of the mysterious magi—wise men from a Gentile country who bowed before the Christ child and honored him as a true king. They knew that some day this King would be worshipped everywhere.

7. He is the Messiah, Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11). This is how the angel described Jesus when he spoke to the shepherds in Bethlehem. The word "Christ" means "the anointed one"; the Hebrew word is Ha-Mashiach, or Messiah. It speaks of the Deliverer God promised to send to earth. Abraham saw Him from a distance; King David sang and prophesied of Him; Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Micah, Haggai, Malachi and many other prophets foretold His coming. He was not only anointed by the Holy Spirit to heal the sick and raise the dead during His short time on earth; He was anointed to die on the cross for our sins and to be raised from the dead so that we could live with Him forever.

Amid this crazy holiday madness we endure every year, let's simplify. Filter out all the noise about snow, elves, gift cards, holiday sales and buying sprees and instead rediscover the point. Find the manger scene again—and put Jesus in the middle of your Christmas.

J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady (He finally found a manger scene at Michael's craft store).

J. Lee Grady Featured Culture Thu, 18 Dec 2014 06:00:00 -0500
'19 Kids and Counting's' Josh Duggar Makes His Mark on D.C. Politics

Powered by conservative values, Joshua Duggar is taking his new life in Washington in stride.

The executive director of the FRC Action, the legislative affiliate of Family Research Council, Duggar first gained fame through his family's TLC reality show, 19 Kids and Counting. Now, he's moving in the political circles, where his name brings added value to his work. Based in Arkansas, the family is known for their their wholesome lifestyle, from courting relationships to dress codes (the girls wear skirts to or below the knees at all times) to limited physical contact.

Christ remains at the center of it all, and Duggar uses this momentum for political gain.

"People know who our family is, that it's built on strong faith and caring for people," he tells the Washington Post. "It's been a great fit, it's an extension of who we are."

Through the FRC Action, Duggar is making an impact in politics. The organization travels across the country, promoting politicians with traditional American values. Eighty-eight percent of the candidates the FRC backed in midterm elections won, the Post reports. 

According to the FRC Action, typical candidates support a renewal of Judeo-Christian morality, restoration of the Constitutional balance between church and state, and Constitutional protection for all stages of life, from conception to natural death.

Duggar is especially passionate for pro-life causes, as his wife is currently pregnant with their fourth child.

Jessilyn Justice Featured Culture Wed, 17 Dec 2014 16:30:00 -0500
WATCH: Tim Tebow Shocks Wal-Mart Shoppers

Christmas is next week, and excited shoppers are returning to stores to collect their gifts from layaway.

In stores such as KMart and Wal-Mart, shoppers meet with a pleasant surprise. In this case, Tim Tebow ... but why is he there?

Watch the video to see!

Jessilyn Justice Featured Culture Wed, 17 Dec 2014 13:00:00 -0500
7th Heaven Star Stephen Collins Confesses to Sexual Abuse: 'I Deeply Regret' It

Stephen Collins, perhaps best known as his role as Reverend Camden on 7th Heaven confessed to molesting underage girls, according to The magazine has his full statement, which will hit newsstands this weekend. 

"Forty years ago, I did something terribly wrong that I deeply regret," Collins says. "I have been working to atone for it ever since. I've decided to address these issues publicly because two months ago, various news organizations published a recording made by my then-wife, Faye Grant, during a confidential marriage therapy session in January, 2012. This session was recorded without the therapist's or my knowledge or consent."

According to the article, Collins will sit down with Katie Couric for an interview that will stream Friday through Yahoo! and air on 20/20 on ABC.

"I did have an opportunity to do so with one of the women, 15 years later," Collins tells People of apologizing to his former victims. "I apologized and she was extraordinarily gracious. But after I learned in the course of my treatment that my being direct about such matters could actually make things worse for them by opening old wounds, I have not approached the other two women, one of whom is now in her 50s and the other in her 30s."

Collins' abuse reports first hit media earlier this year, when TMZ released a recording of one of Collins' counseling sessions.

The abuse reportedly happened between 1973 and 1994. "I have not had an impulse to act out in any such way" in the last 20 years, he tells People.

Jessilyn Justice Featured U.S. News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 12:00:00 -0500
After Ominous Hacker Threats, New York Premiere of 'The Interview' Canceled
The New York premiere of The Interview, a Sony Pictures comedy about the assassination of North Korean President Kim Jong-Un, has been canceled and a source said one theater chain had scrapped plans to show it, after threats from a hacking group.
The hackers, who said they were also responsible for seizing control of Sony Corp's computer system last month, on Tuesday warned people to stay away from cinemas showing the film starring James Franco and Seth Rogen, and darkly reminded moviegoers of the Sept. 11 hijacked plane attacks on the United States in 2001.
"We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time," the hackers wrote.
"(If your house is nearby, you'd better leave.)"
A spokeswoman for Landmark, which was to have hosted a premiere of the film at its Sunshine Cinema in Lower East Side, New York, on Thursday, said by email that the screening had been canceled, but did not explain why.
A Sony spokeswoman had no immediate comment on the threat.
Sony executives had earlier told theater owners it would not pull the film but added they would not object if they decided to cancel screenings, according to a person familiar with the discussions.
Carmike Cinemas, operator of 278 theaters in 41 states, informed Sony late on Tuesday that it would not show the film, the person said. Carmike executives were not immediately available for comment on Tuesday evening, a spokesman said.
An official at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and another U.S. security official said investigations had found nothing concrete so far to substantiate the threat.
"At this time there is no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters within the United States," the DHS official said.
Police departments in Los Angeles and New York, however, said they were take the warning seriously.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told a news conference that officers would be taking extra precautions to make sure movie theaters were "as safe as we can make them". He said the threats were "done to put terror" into U.S. audiences.
The North Korean government has denounced the film as "undisguised sponsoring of terrorism, as well as an act of war" in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Internet news company BuzzFeed reported that Franco and Rogen had canceled all planned media appearances on Tuesday, the day they were scheduled to appear at a BuzzFeed event. Representatives for the actors did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
U.S. security agencies are investigating a hacking group that carried out the cyber attack in November that severely damaged the movie studio's network and published damaging internal emails, unreleased films and employee data online. The group published what appeared to be more internal emails on Tuesday.
Marc Maiffret, chief technology officer of cybersecurity firm BeyondTrust, said he believed it was the first time a film screening had been pulled in the wake of a high-profile cyber attack.
"If they pulled the premier because of the hacking it's troubling. The moment you start reacting is the moment you give them more power," said Maiffret.
Sony is already reeling from the disclosures in documents released by the hackers, which have publicly exposed internal discussions important to the company's future.
Reuters has not been able to verify the authenticity of the more than 100 gigabytes of documents that have been distributed via the Internet. The company has confirmed that at least some are authentic, apologizing for the loss of sensitive employee data and some comments made by executives.
The newest file published on Tuesday appeared to be emails from Sony studio chief Michael Lynton. One email showed Lynton consulted with a senior official in the U.S. State Department in June this year, days after North Korea threatened "merciless countermeasures" over the release of the film.
Several rounds of leaks of emails have prompted apologies for disparaging remarks that executives made about celebrities. The leaks have included a James Bond script, high-quality digital copies of films that have yet to be released and private employee data.
Sony has also been sued by self-described former employees who accuse Sony of failing to properly protect their personal data. Sony declined comment on the lawsuit.

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Jim Finkle and Mark Hosenball/Reuters Featured U.S. News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 11:30:00 -0500
Was Bill Cobsy Just Vindicated in 1974 Sex Abuse Allegations?
Comedian Bill Cosby, who has been the subject of more than a dozen sex abuse allegations over the past two months, will not be charged in connection with a 1974 molestation claim, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office said on Tuesday.
Prosecutors concluded allegations that The Cosby Show star sexually molested a 15-year-old girl at the Playboy Mansion were too old and surpassed the state's statute of limitations for either a felony or misdemeanor charge.
"Given that 40 years have passed since the alleged incident, prosecution ... is declined due to the expiration of the statue of limitations," the official charge evaluation document states.
The accuser, Judy Huth, now 56, has also sued Cosby in Los Angeles, alleging that Cosby made her drink beer before molesting her in a bedroom at the Los Angeles mansion.
Cosby, 77, has yet to be charged and the allegations against him, which date as far back as the 1960s, are too old for most criminal charges or civil complaints.
Cosby's attorney, Marty Singer, has called allegations against the trailblazing African-American comedian "discredited" and "defamatory."
Singer and Cosby's publicist did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment on Tuesday about the prosecutor's decision.
Cosby's wife and one of his four daughters have defended him in public statements over the past two days.
Evin Cosby, 38, said in a statement that Cosby "is the father you thought you knew," echoing the statement of her mother, Camille Cosby, who publicly defended her husband for the first time on Monday.
The statements by Camille and Evin Cosby have drawn on the comedian's affable TV persona as the wholesome father Dr. Cliff Huxtable on the top-rated series The Cosby Show.
The comedian, who has largely remained silent, has had two television projects shelved and several stand-up performances canceled since the numerous allegations started last month.
In 2006 Cosby settled a lawsuit alleging sexual misconduct. Another accuser, Tamara Green, has sued Cosby for defamation.
Cosby's highest-profile accusers include models Janice Dickinson and Beverly Johnson. Dickinson alleges that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in 1982 while Johnson alleges Cosby drugged her in the mid-1980s.
 © 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.
Eric Kelsey/Reuters Featured U.S. News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 11:00:00 -0500
Atheists Couldn't Stop This Flash Mob of Amazing Grace
When one lady asked for volunteers to join her at a Rivertown Mall in Grandville, Michigan, to sing "Amazing Grace," 250 people responded with RSVPs, and over 1,000 showed up at the mall. 
What makes this different from other "flash mobs" is that the lyrics were given out in a high-quality gospel tract form (so that anyone could join in with the singing). 
"Fortunately the singing at the Rivertown Mall was video-taped, and it brought tears to my eyes," says Ray Comfort, who came up with the idea. "In the clip you can see people holding the tracts as they sing, and at the beginning security guards are walking through the crowd not knowing who to stop.
"I believe that the average American loves the original message of Christmas, and they're tired of whining atheists threatening to sue those who display nativity scenes, etc., in public places. So here is one way they can proclaim their faith and no one can stop them. These song bursts are taking place throughout the nation. May someone do this on Capitol Hill and state properties all over the country and bring a bit of joy to the nation."


Jen Thompson Featured Culture Wed, 17 Dec 2014 10:30:00 -0500
Billy Graham Producers Tell the Rest of Louis Zamperini's Story
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association will release a new documentary film on Dec. 25 called Louis Zamperini: Captured by Grace. Zamperini is also the subject of Universal Pictures' Unbroken, the movie based on the best-selling book of the same name by Laura Hillenbrand.
Captured by Grace is a compelling, documentary-style film that chronicles Zamperini's remarkable journey—from Olympic runner to WWII prisoner of war—all the way to his return home and encounter with Jesus Christ at a Billy Graham Crusade in Los Angeles in 1949. The film includes recent interview footage of Zamperini sharing his complete story in his own words.
"I started to leave the tent meeting, and I felt awful guilty about my life," Zamperini says about his experience at the 1949 Billy Graham Crusade held in a constructed tent on the corner of Washington and Hill streets in Los Angeles. "Yes, I had a lot of great times, a lot of great experience, a lot of escape from death, but I still didn't like my life after the war. I came home alive. God kept His promise. I didn't keep mine, and so I went forward and accepted Christ.
"The heart of this story is when I found Christ as my Savior," Zamperini continues. "That's the heart of my whole life."
Captured by Grace can be viewed online starting Dec. 25, and will be available via DVD as an offer of appreciation with any contribution to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. For more information, to watch a short trailer for the film, or preorder a copy, visit
Zamperini, who passed away earlier this year, visited Billy Graham in June 2011 at his home in Montreat, North Carolina. At age 94, he also visited the Billy Graham Library where he signed copies of the New York Times best-seller Unbroken and greeted many WWII veterans. Up until his passing, Zamperini was an inspirational speaker and shared his life-changing testimony at several of Graham's Crusades, including San Francisco (1958) and Los Angeles (1963).
This coming New Year's Day, Will Graham, at the request of the city of Torrance, will represent his grandfather Billy Graham at the 126th Rose Parade on Zamperini's hometown float. The parade's theme for 2015 is "Inspiring Stories." Zamperini was selected earlier this year to be the Grand Marshall of the annual event, and despite his passing, the Tournament of Roses Committee decided to use the opportunity to honor his life.
Brent Rinehart Featured Culture Wed, 17 Dec 2014 10:00:00 -0500
Church of England Just Overturned Centuries of Tradition
The Church of England appointed its first female bishop on Wednesday, overturning centuries of tradition in a Church that has been deeply divided over the issue.
It named Reverend Libby Lane, a 48-year-old married mother of two, as the new Bishop of Stockport in northern England.
Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: "Congratulations to Rev. Libby Lane on becoming the first woman bishop in the Church. An historic appointment and important day for equality."
Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, spiritual head of the Church, said she was a "wonderful choice."
After long and heated debate, the Church of England governing Synod voted in July to allow women to become bishops and formally adopted legislation last month.
Women have served as priests in the Church since 1994, a decision that prompted some 470 male priests to leave in protest, many for the Roman Catholic Church.
"It is an unexpected joy for me to be here today," Lane said in her acceptance speech. "It is a remarkable day for me and I realize an historic day for the church."
She added: "I am conscious this morning of countless women and men who for decades have looked forward to the time when the Church of England would announce its first woman bishop."
The issue of women bishops has caused internal division ever since the Synod first approved female priests.
It has pitted reformers, keen to project a more modern image of the Church as it struggles with falling congregations in many increasingly secular countries, against a conservative minority which says the change contradicts the Bible.
Two years ago, opposition from traditionalist lay members led to the defeat of a vote in the Synod to allow women bishops, to the dismay of modernizers and the Church hierarchy.
Women serve as bishops in the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand but Anglican churches in many developing countries do not ordain them as priests.
Lane is married to Reverend George Lane, Coordinating Chaplain at Manchester Airport, and they have two grown up children.
A Christian since the age of 11 when she used to go alone to a small church in rural Derbyshire, Libby (Elizabeth) Lane has worked for the last 14 years in the diocese of Chester in northwest England.
She lists her interests as being a school governor, encouraging social action initiatives, learning to play the saxophone, supporting Manchester United, reading and doing crosswords.
Phil Noble/Reuters Featured World News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 09:30:00 -0500
6 Ways to Stay Healthier in 2015

Men are notoriously bad at taking care of themselves. They often need a nudge from their spouse, partner or doctor to keep them healthy.

Dudley Seth Danoff, M.D., FACS, men's urologist and expert for more than 30 years, says that men have a tendency to ignore health issues and hope they go away on their own.

Of course, this doesn't happen. For that reason, here are some suggestions for men to stay healthier in the coming year. Of course, some of these principles can apply to women.

1. Reduce stress and learn to relax. Men in today's business world work long hours without enough sleep, exercise or relaxation. They are often psychologically drained and physically exhausted when they get home. If you are feeling anxious or worried, then having sex is the best antidote. Vigorous sex increases the volume of oxygen in your lungs, quickens your heart rate and raises your effective circulating blood volume, all of which benefit your general health.

2. Pay attention to what you eat. A diet low in saturated fat and high in fiber is very effective in helping men maintain their sexual prowess. A great sex life depends on clean arteries—so don't gum up the works by ingesting saturated fats and bad cholesterol. Wining and dining can be romantic, but too much dining will leave you sluggish, heavy and tired. Reliable evidence supports a low-fat, high-fiber and high-protein diet, in addition to regular exercise, as part of an overall regimen to keep your prostate healthy.

3. Moderate your intake of alcohol (and other intoxicants). The drugging of American men—including the use of alcohol, nicotine and prescription medications—is a major factor in the decline of male sexual health. Drug and alcohol abuse and addiction can cause everything from temporary erectile dysfunction to long-term impotence. There is nothing dangerous about moderate, judicious drinking. But overdoing it with alcohol or illicit substances makes it more difficult for a man to become aroused. Overindulgence delays ejaculation, reduces the pleasure and intensity of orgasms and greatly diminishes the firmness of erections.

4. Get a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) blood test. The PSA blood test is the male equivalent of the Pap smear and mammogram in women. This is a routine, painless way to potentially detect cancer in time to treat it effectively. A PSA test is recommended as part of a routine annual screening for men over 45. Published data has shown that screening using the PSA in conjunction with a standard, digital rectal examination doubles the detection rate of early prostate cancer.

5. Consider serum testosterone blood screening. Progressive testosterone deficiency in aging men can lead to osteoporosis, decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, mood changes (the "grumpy old man syndrome"), and the dreaded middle-age paunch. Men who are experiencing some of these symptoms should ask their physician about serum testosterone blood screening, which allows a physician to determine if a patient needs testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). If a man's serum testosterone is below 200 ng/dl (nanograms per deciliter), TRT is recommended.

6. Ask your doctor about cystoscopy. More than half of all men over the age of 50 develop a frustrating and sometimes painful condition known as benign enlargement of the prostate, or benign prostate hypertrophy (BPH). BPH causes discomfort, incomplete bladder emptying, frequent urination (particularly at night) and a weak urinary flow. Cystoscopy allows doctors to examine the entire length of the urethra, the prostate and the bladder; check for tumors, polyps, stones and other causes of irritation; and assess the degree of prostatic obstruction. This procedure is relatively painless and can be done in the office in about 30 seconds.

An author and requested guest on national radio and television shows, Dr. Dudley Danoff is a graduate of Princeton University and Yale University Medical School. He has taught on the clinical faculty of the UCLA School of Medicine for more than 25 years and is the founder and president of the prestigious Cedars-Sinai Tower Urology Medical Group in Los Angeles. Urologist to many Hollywood stars and the recipient of national and international honors, Dr. Danoff is also senior attending urologist at the Saban Community Clinic in Los Angeles.

Dudley Danoff/M.D., FACS Featured Opinion Wed, 17 Dec 2014 08:00:00 -0500
5 Reasons Revivalist George Whitfield is So Popular 300 Years After His Birth

If YouTube had existed in the 1700s, George Whitefield, hailed by scholars as the best-known evangelist of that century, would have been all over it.

Whitefield (pronounced WIT-field), who was born in England 300 years ago on Dec. 16, 1714, is regarded as a catalyst for the First Great Awakening. Here are five reasons why he remains a potent influence and a cautionary tale for U.S. evangelicals:

1. He was the master of mass media.

"A major part of his success is that he mastered the new media of his day," said Thomas S. Kidd, author of the new book George Whitefield: America's Spiritual Founding Father. Whitefield's sermons and theological thoughts were spread broadly through newspapers, journals and prolific letter-writing.

Unlike many journal-writing Puritans who came before him, Whitefield chose to share his journals publicly.

"It's like celebrities using Facebook," said Michael A.G. Haykin, director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Future evangelists—most notably Billy Graham—followed a pattern set by Whitefield of making the most of the media available in their time.

2. He had his critics.

Media coverage of Whitefield wasn't all favorable, but it expanded his fame beyond the thousands who sometimes heard him preach in churches in England and in fields in New England.

"Between 1739 and 1742 total output of colonial presses doubles and the whole new half is all Whitefield: It's all Whitefield or anti-Whitefield," said Kidd, a history professor at Baylor University, which held a symposium on the itinerant evangelist in November.

Actors felt threatened when Whitefield, an actor-turned-evangelist, decided to build a church called the Tabernacle in London just down the street from the theaters.

"He's lampooned in really popular plays, the most famous being the 'Dr. Squintum' play, which is just a total sensation in Britain," said Kidd of Whitefield, who was cross-eyed after a childhood ailment.

He had rotten eggs, turnips and stones thrown at him and once was saved from a stoning by his beaver hat, wrote Kidd.

3. He supported slavery.

In his early visits to the U.S., Whitefield condemned the beating of slaves by their masters and encouraged evangelizing slaves. But he later became a slave owner.

"I think he probably shares in some respect the sort of failure ... of evangelicals as well as the larger culture to understand the horrors of slavery," said Haykin, whose seminary held a conference on Whitefield in October. "He was the man directly responsible for the introduction of slavery into Georgia."

Some scholars wonder what difference Whitefield could have made if he had condemned slavery—as fellow evangelist John Wesley did after Whitefield's death in 1770.

"No one was more influential than Whitefield at the time. What if he had crusaded against slavery instead of advocating for it?" wrote blogger Alan Cross, author of When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus, in SBC Voices. "Would the United States have begun differently 30, 40 years later?"

4. He fostered friendships with influencers.

Just as Graham became an adviser to presidents and made connections with sports figures and Hollywood's elite, Whitefield surrounded himself with influential people in the secular world—including Benjamin Franklin in the 1730s.

"He was far more famous than Franklin when they first met," said Kidd of the mutually beneficial relationship that lasted for decades. "Franklin kind of hitches his wagon to Whitefield's star."

Across the Atlantic, the evangelist befriended members of the British aristocracy.

"Whitefield had connections even within the royal family in Britain," said Kidd. "At one point, Whitefield was getting death threats and got an order from the king to investigate the situation."

5. He disagreed with other evangelicals.

The battles that continue between Calvinists and non-Calvinists erupted between Whitefield and Charles and John Wesley, who like Whitefield were Church of England ministers who started the Methodist movement.

"His most famous falling out is with John Wesley and it's over theology," with Whitefield in the predestination camp and Wesley believing in free will, said Kidd. "He just was constantly falling out with other evangelical leaders and in some ways creating a pattern that persists through today."

In the end it was Wesley and Jonathan Edwards, another key leader of the Great Awakening, who became better known through the ages: Wesley had the legacy of the Methodist denomination, while Edwards' theological writings remain influential.

"His brilliance was in that moment," Kidd said of Whitefield.

Adelle M. Banks Featured Opinion Wed, 17 Dec 2014 09:00:00 -0500
Is War-Time Torture Biblical or Not?

War is, and always has been, a nasty business. Now the Bible is not anti-war, not in the least. In fact, God Himself is described in Exodus 15:3 as "a man of war." Lest we think of Jesus only as "gentle Jesus, meek and mild," we're told that when he returns, he will come as a warrior with his own "robe dipped in blood" (Rev. 19).

There are, according to the Bible, wars that are unjust but others that are entirely just.

Jesus' command that we are to "turn the other cheek" was given to individuals, not to the state. In fact, the state has precisely the opposite responsibility in the face of evil: Its job is most decidedly not to turn the other cheek but to strike the cheek of the offender in punishment.

That's what keeps our society from degenerating into the chaos of vigilante justice: we can choose not to take matters into our own hands, believing that God has promised to take vengeance on our behalf through the state and has delegated his authority to it for exactly that purpose (Rom. 12-13).

The Bible understands that things are permitted in a time of war that are not permitted in a time of peace. David was wroth with Joab because he killed Abner in a time of peace as retribution for Abner's killing Joab's younger brother in a time of war (1 Kings 2:5). Blood spilled in a time of war is different than blood spilled in a time of peace.

Much criticism has been directed at our intelligence community in recent days over the issue of enhanced interrogation techniques, even though they are not life-threatening. The techniques used would make any ordinary human being squirm. In a time of peace they would be criminal acts. But when such techniques are used to protect innocent lives in a time of war, they are entirely justified.

We know for a fact that every technique used was carefully reviewed by the Department of Justice and all were deemed to be permissible under American law. And we know that congressional leaders—including some who are today's loudest critics—were fully briefed on these methods and registered nary a complaint.

We know from the testimony of former CIA directors that these techniques were not only legal, they were effective. They led to the killing of Osama bin Laden, for instance, and to the apprehension of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the 9/11 attacks.

Students of Scripture are well aware of some of the grisly things done by God's warriors in the heat of battle. Ehud, for instance, arranged a private meeting with the king of Moab and ran him through the gut with a sword until the king's fat folded over the hilt of the sword, which Ehud left as a calling card (Judges 3). He was both an assassin and a war hero at the same time.

And the hero of the war against Sisera was Jael, who lured the commander of Sisera's charioteers into her tent where she hammered a tent peg all the way through his skull into the ground while he napped. She is not vilified in Scripture for her brutality, she is lionized as a heroine and immortalized in song (Judges 4-5).

The left, if they had enough familiarity with the Bible to even know these stories, likely would be aghast at such behavior and be inclined to throw Ehud and Jael into Gitmo along with throat-cutting Muslims.

War indeed is a nasty business. But the Scripture says that the state "does not bear the sword in vain" (Rom. 13:4). One of the purposes for which God has authorized the state to use force is to keep us safe in a time of war.

Perhaps this is all we need to know about today's left: They likely would drag the Bible's heroes before the courts at Nuremberg and charge them with crimes against humanity. Maybe the American left needs a values adjustment more than the CIA.

Bryan Fischer Featured Opinion Wed, 17 Dec 2014 08:00:00 -0500
Islam Is Anything if Not Ironic

"When the sacred months are over slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them." —The Quran, Surah 9:5

Islam is anything if not ironic.

"A teenaged bomber on Thursday targeted a Kabul auditorium packed with people watching a drama condemning suicide attacks," reports Reuters. "Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the bomber targeted the event because it was staged 'to insult Islamic values and spread propaganda about our jihad operations, especially on suicide attacks.'"

And so, in defense of "Islamic values" and to dispel "propaganda" about "suicide attacks," Muhammad Jr. blows himself into pork-sausage, killing one and wounding 16.

Ah, Islam.

Merriam Webster defines "phobia" as, "an exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation."

"Progressives" are crafty little buggers. One of their favorite sleights of hand is to disingenuously brand as "phobic" anyone with reasoned moral disapproval of their very unreasonable and immoral social deconstructionism.

It works like this: Take any objective evil, say, homosexual sin. State its prefix, "homo." Just add "phobia," and voila! The person who holds to the millennia-old precepts of authentic biblical sexual morality is no longer a "Christian," but, rather, is magically transformed into that mythical creature called "The Homophobe."


The same applies to so-called "Islamophobia." It's not an "illogical fear" if they really are trying to kill you. Islam is the "religion of peace" in the same way that rape is snuggling. A central tenet of Islam is to convert, enslave or kill the infidel. An infidel is anyone who is not Muslim or, depending on who's doing the killing, belongs to a different sect of Islam. Those who fall into that minority category tagged "moderate Muslim," are also infidels.

"Moderate Muslim" is a contradiction in terms. It is intrinsically oxymoronic. Whereas "moderate" (read: liberal) "Christians," such as those belonging to the PCUSA, embrace certain apostasies that run directly counter to the biblical teachings of Christianity (which is the true "religion of peace"), "moderate Muslims," likewise, embrace an apostate version of Islam that runs directly counter to the clear teachings of the Quran.

Whereas devout followers of Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate, are characteristically peaceful; devout followers of that child-raping, woman-beheading "prophet" Muhammad, who was demon incarnate, are characteristically violent.

Islam is Christianity's photo-negative. While Christianity brings eternal life to those choosing to surrender to Jesus, who alone is "the Way, the Truth and the Life;" Islam brings eternal death to those who surrender to "Allah," who is "the best of deceivers" ("[A]nd Allah was deceptive, for Allah is the best of deceivers" [see Surah 3:54]).

It's worth mentioning here that the Bible similarly calls Satan a deceiver. Revelation 12:9, for instance, explains that he "deceives the whole world." Even though it is often claimed that Muslims, Christians and Jews "worship the same God," nothing could be further from the truth. Allah is not God. Allah is the deceiver, and insofar as Christianity, true Christianity, spreads peace, love and truth—Islam, true Islam, spreads violence, hate and deception. Allah is definitely real. He's just not God. Though he wanted to "ascend above the tops of the clouds" and "make [himself] like the Most High" (see Is. 14:14), Allah, most assuredly, is not God.

Which brings us to ISIS—Head-chopping, man-sodomizing, child-torturing, Jew-killing, Christian-sawing, women-enslaving ISIS. The Islamic State is not the exception to the rule; the Islamic state is the rule. ISIS is Islam and Islam is ISIS.

The aforementioned secular "progressives" love Islam. While the mainstream media won't adequately cover it—it doesn't fit their narrative—you need only look to the new media to see that the Middle East runs red with the blood of Christian and Jewish martyrs. These are peaceful men, women and children, no different from you or me, being slaughtered by the tens-of-thousands at the wicked hands of the Islamic faithful.

And so the media busy themselves with Kim Kardashian and "hands up don't shoot!"

While there are exceptions, the left is overwhelmingly anti-Semitic, anti-Christian and pro-Muslim. Liberals and Islamists, such as those belonging to the American-Islamic terrorist group CAIR, as well as Obama's pals in the Muslim Brotherhood, have forged a bizarre and notably incongruous sociopolitical partnership I call the "Islamo-'progressive' axis of evil." The only explanation for this, as far as I can tell, is best illustrated by the maxim: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

The common enemy, of course, is likewise signified by an alliance. It consists of Christians and Jews worldwide. It too is built around a shared cause. But this cause, unlike that of the Islamo-progressive axis, intends freedom, not tyranny—representative democracy, not control. Most importantly, this Judeo-Christian cause is built upon the rock of truth given us by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The God of the living, not the dead. The great "I Am."

The common enemy to both the Muslim and the "progressive" is truth.

The common enemy is Christ.

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 Wed, 17 Dec 2014 06:00:00 -0500
This Nation Banned Christmas and New Year's for One Good Reason

The government of Sierra Leone banned public Christmas and New Year's celebrations because they may exacerbate efforts to eradicate the Ebola virus.

President Ernest Bai Koroma said that despite immense help from the international community, the number of people infected with the virus continues to rise.

Ebola infections in Sierra Leone recently surpassed those of Liberia and Guinea.

"The illness started at the border and now is in the cities and close to 2,000 people have died from the outbreak,'' Koroma told reporters. He asked traditional leaders and tribal chiefs to quit performing rituals in hopes that will help curb Ebola.

The majority of Sierra Leone's 6 million people are Muslim, but Christmas is widely celebrated among the 27 percent of people who are Christian.

Officials said soldiers will be deployed on the streets and people are advised to stay at home with their families.

Ebun James-Dekam, general secretary of Sierra Leone's Council of Churches, said Christians should be allowed to pray in churches on Christmas and New Year's Day, and then go back home.

"If we have a quiet Christmas, that does not make us less believers,'' she said. "We must break the chain by avoiding body contacts.''

Meanwhile, Nigeria's Roman Catholic Church lifted the ban on shaking hands and receiving the Communion wafer on the tongue. It also ordered the refilling water fonts at church entrances.

The practices were suspended in August over Ebola. The World Health Organization declared Nigeria Ebola-free in October. 


Fredrick Nzwili/RNS Featured World News Tue, 16 Dec 2014 19:00:00 -0500
ORU Professor Takes Lead Role for New Modern English Version Bible Translation

TULSA, Okla.—Since 2009 Edward Watson, Oral Roberts University professor of Biblical literature and practical theology, has been working to complete a labor of love. Watson shared his considerable expertise with Charisma House to produce a new Bible translation known as the Modern English Version (MEV). Watson served as editor-in-chief of the New Testament for the MEV Bible, which was released earlier this year.

Watson was first approached about the project in 2009 by the Military Bible Association, an organization comprised of military chaplains who desired to create an updated version of the King James Version Bible to help military personnel understand the Bible more clearly. Charisma House then came on board and expanded the vision with their hope to see the MEV made available worldwide.

"Our goal as scholars was to be faithful to the spirit, poetry and beauty of the original King James Version (KJV) Bible, while making a translation that is more readable to a modern audience," said Watson. "My hope for the MEV is to see this faithful translation be made available to Bible readers who are loyal to the old KJV but who have had difficulties interpreting the meaning of the unfamiliar language and idioms found in the KJV."

The MEV Bible is the most modern translation produced in 30 years. The word-for-word translation maintains the beauty of the KJV Bible, yet provides clarity for a new generation of Bible readers. The MEV also accurately communicates God's Word anew as it capitalizes references of God, "maintaining reverence" for the Scriptures. Most Bible translations are preferred for either study, reading, or devotions while the MEV seeks to fulfill all these needs in one Bible. For examples of the new MEV Bible, visit

ORU Professor of New Testament Jeffrey Lamp also aided in the creation of the MEV Bible. Lamp translated Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, Romans, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus.

For more information about the MEV Bible, visit

For more information about ORU, visit


About Charisma House

Charisma House is best known for its magazines such as Charisma, Ministry Today and Christian Retailing. But its book group, now called Charisma House, has grown rapidly in recent years with 10 books on the New York Times best-sellers list and has become the largest part of the company. The Spanish group, called Casa Creación, was the fastest-growing part of the organization in 2010. And the company is moving boldly into digital products that include a free Charisma News app, electronic books, many e-newsletters, a robust website and digital editions of its magazines that have readership in the top tier of digital magazines nationally. For more information about Charisma Media, visit


About Oral Roberts University

Oral Roberts University is a world-renowned Christian university located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Founded in 1963, ORU serves students from 50 states and more than 80 countries, representing over 40 denominations. ORU offers more than 65 undergraduate majors, 14 master's programs and two doctoral degrees, plus NCAA Division I athletics. For more information on ORU, visit

Oral Roberts University staff Featured U.S. News Tue, 16 Dec 2014 17:30:18 -0500
American Pastor Writes Heartbreaking Christmas Letter From Iranian Prison

American Pastor Saeed Abedini—a U.S. citizen imprisoned for his Christian faith—has written a heartbreaking letter from his prison cell.

He talks about both the difficulty of spending Christmas trapped in a cold dark prison cell and how his faith in Christ is carrying him through this difficult time.

He writes:

These days are very cold here. My small space beside the window is without glass, making most nights unbearable to sleep. The treatment by fellow prisoners is also quite cold and at times hostile. Some of my fellow prisoners don't like me because I am a convert and a pastor. They look at me with shame as someone who has betrayed his former religion. The guards can't even stand the paper cross that I have made and hung next to me as a sign of my faith and in anticipation of celebrating my Savior's birth. They have threatened me and forced me to remove it. This is the first Christmas that I am completely without my family; all of my family is presently outside of the country. These conditions have made this upcoming Christmas season very hard, cold and shattering for me. It appears that I am alone with no one left beside me.

But he also wrote what Christmas means to him in the midst of this turmoil:

Christmas means that God came so that He would enter your hearts today and transform your lives and to replace your pain with indescribable joy. ...

The same way that the heat from the earth's core melts the hard stones in itself and produces lava, the fiery love of God, Jesus Christ, through the virgin Mary's womb came to earth on Christmas to melt the hard heart of sin and wickedness of the world and removes them from our life.

The letter was sent to a family member. It was just last week that a relative was able to visit him, the first time a family member has been able to visit him in well over a month. He remains in need of medical care, suffering from increased pain from internal injuries sustained as a result of multiple prison beatings throughout the course of more than two years in a harsh Iranian prison.

Yet even in the darkest of circumstances the light of Christ shines through. He concluded his message with this charge to everyone who reads his words: "So this Christmas let the lava-like love of Christ enter into the depth of your heart and make you fiery, ready to pay any cost in order to bring the same lava love to the cold world around you, transforming them with the true message of Christmas."

Pastor Saeed's wife, Naghmeh, and their two young kids, Jacob and Rebekka, are spending their third Christmas without their husband and father. Naghmeh said:

Reading this Christmas letter is quite difficult knowing the harsh condition that Saeed is in and the adversity that he faces daily. Saeed ... I wish you could see the lives that are touched and transformed because of you standing strong in your faith in Jesus Christ. The kids and I miss you and cannot imagine another Christmas without you, but we are proud of you and your endurance. Don't give up hope. Many are praying and taking action to bring you home.

This Christmas, as we celebrate our savior, we must remember those who are in chains for their faith, in chains for the very gospel—the good news—we are celebrating.

Please continue to sign the petition for Pastor Saeed's freedom as we work to secure his release. And pray.

You can download Pastor Saeed's letter here or read it in its entirety below.

Rajai Shahr Prison 2014

Merry Christmas!

These days are very cold here. My small space beside the window is without glass, making most nights unbearable to sleep. The treatment by fellow prisoners is also quite cold and at times hostile. Some of my fellow prisoners don't like me because I am a convert and a pastor. They look at me with shame as someone who has betrayed his former religion. The guards can't even stand the paper cross that I have made and hung next to me as a sign of my faith and in anticipation of celebrating my Savior's birth. They have threatened me and forced me to remove it. This is the first Christmas that I am completely without my family; all of my family is presently outside of the country. These conditions have made this upcoming Christmas season very hard, cold and shattering for me. It appears that I am alone with no one left beside me.

These cold and brittle conditions have made me wonder why God chose the hardest time of the year to become flesh and why He came to the earth in the weakest human condition (as a baby). Why did God choose the hardest place to be born in the cold weather? Why did God choose to be born in a manger in a stable, which is very cold, filthy and unsanitary with an unpleasant smell? Why did the birth have to be in such a way that it was not only hard physically, but also socially? It must have brought such shame for Mary and her fiancé that she was pregnant before marriage in the religious society of that time.

Dear sisters and brothers, the fact of the gospel is that it is not only the story of Jesus, but it is the key of how we are to live and serve like Jesus. Today we like Him should come out of our safe comfort zone in order to proclaim the Word of Life and Salvation though faith in Jesus Christ and the penalty of sin that He paid on the cross and to proclaim His resurrection. We should be able to tolerate the cold, the difficulties and the shame in order to serve God. We should be able to enter into the pain of the cold, dark world. Then we are able to give the fiery love of Christ to the cold wintery manger of those who are spiritually dead. It might be necessary to come out of the comfort of our lives and leave the loving embrace of our family to enter the manger of the lives of others, such as it has been for me for the third consecutive Christmas. It may be that we will be called fools and traitors and face many difficulties, but we should crucify our will and wishes even more until the world hears and tastes the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas means that God came so that He would enter your hearts today and transform your lives and to replace your pain with indescribable joy.

Christmas is the manifestation of the radiant brightness of the glory of God in the birth of a child named Emmanuel, which means God is with us.

Christmas is the day that the heat of the life-giving fire of God's love shone in the dark cold wintry frozen hearts and burst forth in this deadly wicked world.

The same way that the heat from the earth's core melts the hard stones in itself and produces lava, the fiery love of God, Jesus Christ, through the virgin Mary's womb came to earth on Christmas to melt the hard heart of sin and wickedness of the world and removes them from our life. In the same process, the work of the Holy Spirit is a fiery rain of God's holiness and mercy that flows into our body, soul and spirit and brings the light of Christ into us and through us making this dark, cold, wintry world into radiant burning brightness. He is turning our world into a world full of peace, joy and love that is so different than the dark, cold and wintry world that we used to live in. Hallelujah!

So this Christmas let the lava-like love of Christ enter into the depth of your heart and make you fiery, ready to pay any cost in order to bring the same lava love to the cold world around you, transforming them with the true message of Christmas.

Pastor Saeed Abedini

Soaking in the lava love of Christ

American Center for Law and Justice Featured World News Tue, 16 Dec 2014 18:00:00 -0500
Would America Elect Another President Bush?
Jeb Bush is actively exploring a run for the U.S. presidency in 2016, making the former Florida governor with the famous political last name one of the first major Republicans to formally move toward a possible candidacy.
Bush, 61, said on Tuesday he will establish a political action committee in January, a step that an aide said will allow him to engage politically with supporters and potential donors and determine whether sufficient support exists for a run.
To be successful, Bush will have to overcome opposition from increasingly powerful conservatives in the Republican Party in order to best what is expected to be a crowded Republican field in 2016.
He will also have to gauge whether Americans would support another president named Bush. He is the son of former President George H.W. Bush and the brother of former President George W. Bush. He served as Florida's governor between 1999 and 2007.
By jumping in early, Bush puts potential competitors like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul on notice that they would have to get past him to win the nomination.
"It's extremely clever because he will be the talk of holiday tables all across the country," said Saul Anuzis, a former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party. "By coming out early, he establishes the bar for everybody else to meet and immediately ties up a tremendous amount of the financial community."
A Bush candidacy could set up a classic clash of two American political dynasties.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, wife of former President Bill Clinton, is the early favorite to be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016, creating the possibility of a Bush-Clinton rematch of the 1992 election between Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, won by Clinton.
A final decision on whether Bush will seek the Republican presidential nomination will come at some point next year after he travels to key states and talks to voters.
"In the coming months, I hope to visit with many of you and have a conversation about restoring the promise of America," Bush wrote.

Family Concerns

Bush had shied away from running for president out of respect for family considerations. He appears to have settled any concerns that his wife Columba has about his re-entering the political fray. In a Facebook posting, Bush said he had discussed the country's future with his family.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents released Tuesday shows Bush running first in a Republican field without Romney, though not leading by a statistically significant margin. He gets 15 percent, compared to 11 percent for both Paul and Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
In a field with Romney, Romney leads Bush 20-10 percent, with Paul at 9 percent and Ryan at 8 percent.
Bush will likely face resistance from conservatives for his moderate positions on immigration reform and education policy. Bush has backed legal status, but not full citizenship, for illegal immigrants, and supports a controversial Common Core education plan.
"Will it be a disqualifier? It depends on how he runs his campaign," said Katon Dawson, a former Republican Party chairman in the key state of South Carolina. "He has the talent to do that. But he'll be running against some major competition."
Bush is fluent in Spanish, and his wife was born in Mexico.
Steve Holland and Gabriel Debenedetti/Reuters Featured U.S. News Tue, 16 Dec 2014 17:00:00 -0500