Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Prosperity Gospel Ruined My Life

Syrian Christians Face Violence and Suffering, but Ministry Continues

SANTA ANA, Calif., Oct. 9, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ -- "The violence has pushed people out of their homes, fleeing for their lives. Many are displaced internally and many others are external refugees living in the most humiliating circumstances, deprived of even shelter, clean water, power, food and medical care."

That is the lament to Christians in the West from a Christian pastor in Syria, describing the deteriorating, horrific conditions in the war-torn country.

He adds: "Millions are not sleeping in their own beds, forced out of their homes to find themselves with their children homeless and living in public parks or in the wilderness. Others are not sure if they or their children and loved ones will see the light of a new day. Tens of thousands of families lost loved ones -- a child, a father, a mother or a husband.

"Hundreds of the injured died for lack of medical care. Thousands of children go to bed terrified of the sound of shelling. Hundreds of thousands are in camps in neighboring countries."

"My people are hurting. I can cry like Nehemiah because the walls of our cities are burnt and the people in great trouble and disgrace. I can weep like Jeremiah because of the intensity and the spread of evil. I can mourn like David because of the indiscriminate brutal killing of innocent people; children, women, elderly, youth subject to shelling or under the rubble of their homes."

Over the past 20 months the civil war between President Bashar al-Assad's forces and the Free Syrian Army has resulted in approximately 30,000 deaths, mostly civilians, according to several reports. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the country into such neighboring countries as Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, according to the United Nations. In addition, about 2.5 million Syrians need aid inside the country, with more than 1.2 million displaced domestically.

Places especially dangerous for Christians include the cities of Aleppo and Homs.

"A lot is being destroyed in Aleppo," one of Open Doors' contacts in the city says. "Extreme violence is being experienced in the last few weeks. You can see the results of it in the old city and in other neighborhoods and surrounding villages. There is a lot of destruction."

Many Christians in Aleppo have lost their houses or apartments. "We see that their apartments are easily confiscated by the rebels to be used for snipers," the spokesman states. "The Christian community is the only group that doesn't fight back or doesn't protect property with guns. So when the rebels search a place to stay or to use for their battle, they choose the houses and apartments of the softest target -- the Christians."

Based on information from Syria, Open Doors thinks that the number of internally displaced people "might be higher than thought," an Open Doors spokesman says. "For example, I heard that only from Homs and the surrounding villages about 275,000 people have fled."

The Christian pastor says outreach continues despite the terrible conditions.

"We are here for a divine reason; we trust and rely on our sovereign loving Lord. We believe that we are in the midst of a spiritual war. In this country there are many who are much more effective than us militarily, politically, economically and socially, but none have the privilege of being effective in this spiritual battle like we are.

"We thank God because the Church is united across the country in prayer 24 hours a day, seven days a week; praying for the glory of God to dwell in the Church, praying for an end to the bloodshed, praying for peace in the country, praying for keeping the church's faithful witness, to reach out to the suffering, to share the divine cure of the gospel, to speak the word of the Lord in all boldness."

Open Doors is supporting churches doing relief work in several Syrian cities.

The pastor adds: "We deeply appreciate the prayers of God's people everywhere; it is a rare time where the Church in Syria is feeling the true oneness of the body of Christ all over the globe. For this, we thank the Lord, for it is a great encouragement to us."

An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world's most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.

(For more information or to set up an interview, contact Jerry Dykstra at 616-915-4117 or email jerryd@odusa.org.)

Christian Newswire

One in five Americans reports no religious affiliation, study says

One-fifth of U.S. adults say they are not part of a traditional religious denomination, new data from the Pew Research Center show, evidence of an unprecedented reshuffling of Americans’ spiritual identities that is shaking up fields from charity to politics.

But despite their nickname, the “nones” are far from godless. Many pray, believe in God and have regular spiritual routines.

Their numbers have increased dramatically over the past two decades, according to the study released Tuesday. About 19.6 percent of Americans say they are “nothing in particular,” agnostic or atheist, up from about 8 percent in 1990. One-third of adults under 30 say the same. Pew offered people a list of more than a dozen possible affiliations, including “Protestant,” “Catholic,” “something else” and “nothing in particular.”
For the first time, Pew also reported that the number of Americans identifying themselves as Protestant dipped below half, at 48 percent. But the United States is still very traditional when it comes to religion, with 79 percent of Americans identifying with an established faith group.
Experts have been tracking unaffiliated Americans since their numbers began rising, but new studies are adding details to the portrait.
Members can be found in all educational and income groups, but they skew heavily in one direction politically: 68 percent lean toward the Democratic Party. That makes the “nones,” at 24 percent, the largest Democratic faith constituency, with black Protestants at 16 percent and white mainline Protestants at 14 percent.
By comparison, white evangelicals make up 34 percent of the Republican base.
The study presents a stark map of how political and religious polarization have merged in recent decades. Congregations used to be a blend of political affiliations, but that’s generally not the case anymore. Sociologists have shown that Americans are more likely to pick their place of worship by their politics, not vice versa.


UN: One in eight of world population going hungry

While there is a decline in food insecurity, UN says it is slowed by an upwards trend in food prices in the last 5 years.

ROME - One out of every eight people in the world is chronically undernourished, the United Nations' food agencies said on Tuesday, warning that progress to reduce hunger has slowed since 2007/08 when high food prices sparked riots in several poor countries.

In their latest report on food insecurity, the UN agencies estimated that 868 million people were suffering hunger in 2010-2012, or about 12.5 percent of the world's population, down more sharply than previously estimated from about 1 billion, or 18.6 percent in 1990-92.

The new figures are lower than the last estimates for recent years that pegged the number of hungry people at 925 million in 2010 and 1.02 billion in 2009.

"That is better news than we have had in the past, but it still means that one person in every eight goes hungry. That is unacceptable, especially when we live in a world of plenty," said Jose Graziano da Silva, director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

"Most of the progress in hunger reduction was made until 2006, as food price levels continued to decline. With the rise in food prices and the economic crisis that followed, there have been many fewer advances," he warned.

Food prices have been on an upward trend over the past few months, fueled by drought in the United States, Russia and other major exporters, and FAO expects prices to remain close to levels reached during the 2008 food crisis.


Fireproof and Courageous Producer Visits Set of Christian Action Film

DETROIT, Oct. 8, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ -- The producer of the movies Fireproof and Courageous visited the set this week of Beyond the Mask, a new Christian action movie filming outside of Detroit. From Sept 30 to Oct 2, Stephen Kendrick, with his son Grant, encouraged the cast and crew of Beyond the Mask, during the half-way point of production. Sharing his heart and trademark humor through personal one-on-one talks and group Bible study, Stephen reminded the crew to honor God through their attitudes and efforts throughout the production. "It always inspires me to see the level of quality that can come from a united team of hard-working young people who love one another and who are willing to pray through their decisions," Kendrick explains.

Stephen Kendrick is best known as producer of the wildly successful Fireproof and Courageous films, which combined have grossed over $65 million at the box office. He has also authored the New York Times bestselling books, The Love Dare and The Resolution for Men, with his brother Alex Kendrick. Stephen credits the brothers' success to the Lord's grace and blessing over their "five loaves and two fish" efforts throughout each project.

Stephen comments of Beyond the Mask:
"After reading the script for Beyond the Mask and spending time learning more about the vision, faith, and commitment of Chad and Aaron Burns, I am really looking forward to seeing this movie and believe that the future is bright for these creative, young, Christian film-makers. They have demonstrated that they are devoted to Christ, walk in humility, pray through their decisions, are committed to good stewardship of their resources, and can carry a project to completion. I have high hopes for them and this movie!"

Like Beyond the Mask on Facebook:

Christian Newswire

FaithVillage Launches with 50 Shades of Evangelicalism

Unique Social Media Site Offers Content, Connection, Commerce for Today's Diverse Evangelical Community
PLANO, Texas, Oct. 8, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ -- FaithVillage.com throws open its virtual doors Oct. 8 inviting an increasingly diverse community of evangelical Christians into a unique social media site for individuals, churches and related organizations. FaithVillage will be the premiere online home for the Christian community with its relevant, vetted content; resources for spiritual development; trustworthy products; and plenty of room to connect online in public or private groups.
"Quite simply, there is no other web address for Christians like FaithVillage.com," said Brad Russell, senior editor and COO. "The driving vision is to provide a vibrant online community that expands personal faith, fosters robust sharing of the best ministry resources and deepens collaboration among Christian causes."
Evangelical Christians comprise the largest group of people who claim a religious affiliation in the United States--about 26 percent of U.S. adults, according to the Pew Forum. But many people--often including the media--see evangelicals as a monolithic bloc of like-minded individuals sharing opinions on politics, science and world affairs. The truth is, as PatrolMag.com editor Jonathan Fitzgerald has said, "It's more like there are shades of evangelicalism."
FaithVillage.com creates the one place online where evangelicals from various backgrounds can meet in a safe environment to share, learn and grow. At the recent Religion Newswriters Association annual conference, Russell led a panel discussion--50 Shades of Evangelicalism--geared toward helping journalists understand the diversity among evangelical Christians. In addition to Fitzgerald, the panel featured Robert Jones, CEO and president of Public Religion Research; Patton Dodd, executive editor of Bondfire Books; and Christianity Today Online Editor Sarah Pulliam Bailey.
FaithVillage.com leverages emerging social media technologies to provide a safe, encouraging online space for people of faith to connect, collaborate and share ideas. It offers a shared publishing platform where a variety of content producers, book publishers, church resource organizations, causes and churches can work together to create mutual benefit and serve broader faith-related purposes. Beginning in fall 2012, the site will also feature an online bookstore as the first of several e-commerce venues. The result is a sustainable online media model providing free services to users and churches while offering significant value to content partners and sponsors.
"FaithVillage.com fills needs of the faith community unmet by Facebook," Russell said. "While research indicates Christians enjoy engaging with the general online world, many also seek a faith-friendly online space where like-minded believers can gather and share their Christian experience."
Designed for Christians active on social media in the 18 to 44 age range, a world-class development staff crafted the site after three years of planning and testing. Its novel "virtual village" design creates simple, visually appealing navigation. Behind the virtual "buildings" awaits a bounty of content and connectivity. A few examples of FaithVillage's buildings, intersections and gathering places:

  • Personal Social 'Loft' Space--Individuals, groups, churches and organizations, can create a social "loft" where they can post photos, videos and audio, network blogs and feature articles; "like" and share information; share calendars and hosted files; and enjoy a newsfeed of activity from others they follow.
  • FaithVillage Newsstand--Relevant, timely news and information from a variety of sources plus original content.
  • Grove Theater--Videos from site members; Christian artists and musicians; churches and ministry organizations.
  • JavaJuice Blog House--Bloggers on a range of topics.
  • Over 20 thematic buildings serving as content channels for leadership, youth, collegiates, moms, faith & culture and more.

A non-profit organization, FaithVillage.com offers its content free to everyone. Content Partners and advertisers help support FaithVillage.com with sponsorships and ad spending in exchange for branded pages and advertising, all approved by FaithVillage staff and relevant to FaithVillage members.
For more information, to take a tour or to sign up, which takes only minutes, visit: FaithVillage.com
And visit Lovell-Fairchild.com/pressroom for:
  • FaithVillage FAQs
  • FaithVillage Walking Tour
  • FaithVillage Fact Sheet
  • FaithVillage Staff Bios
  • FaithVillage Backgrounder
  • FaithVillage Endorsements
  • Questions for Journalists

For interviews, contact: Monique Sondag Monique@Lovell-Fairchild.com 214-536-4319.

Christian Newswire

Bishop Harry Jackson Speaks Out Against Same-Sex Marriage

MILL CREEK, Wash., Oc.t. 8, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ -- As Harry Jackson explained in a recent column, reprinted below, children need a mother and a father, and the current definition of marriage is the one that best encourages that social good.
    Kids need both a mom and a dad!

    The current controversy concerning marriage may be one of the biggest distractions in this election season. It is often categorized as a divisive "social issue." Many Americans realize that the definition of marriage, the controversy about abortion, and America's support of Israel are huge spiritual and moral issues which will determine the kind of America we will create for the generations that follow us.

    Same-sex marriage advocates love to talk about the freedom to love and their own interpretation of "rights." The truth is that none of us need a legal contract to love - we are all born with that freedom. Marriage is not really about the desires of adults. It should be about endorsing the kind of families that will be the best for kids and supporting those unions with public policies, even though other living arrangements may exist.

    The reason that legally defined marriage is important is because of children. It takes a mother and a father to conceive a child, and children have a God-given right to have a relationship with both their biological mother and their biological father. Children also have a God-given right to have both a male role model and a female role model in their homes. There are certainly times when tragedy takes a parent from a child, but what about the much more frequent times when adults put their own fleeting desires ahead of the God-given rights of their children? Desires change, as the breakups of both heterosexual and homosexual relationships testify. As our nation continues to wrestle with the meaning and precise definition of marriage Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered activists consistently dismiss the issue of children. Same-sex marriage advocates insist that children of homosexual couples have the same or better outcomes than children of heterosexual couples. Unfortunately for them these assertions are based more on philosophy than hard science. For example, a 2010 study by Dr. Walter Schumm of Kansas State University confirmed that adult children raised by homosexual couples are (unsurprisingly) two to five times as likely to identify themselves as homosexual as children of heterosexuals. But the nation is divided as to whether that is an important outcome or not.

    More specifically, whenever the topic of children reared by gay parents is raised: the assertion is made that there are no special problems or disadvantages because of their parents' choices of "partners." But this image (if remotely true) represents a tiny, disproportionately wealthy fraction of the gay population. Most of the scientists who have researched the children of such families admit as much.

    Common sense would remind us that the results of any particular study depends both on how one defines a household headed by an LGBT couple, and what factors one evaluates when looking at "outcomes." Dr. Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas, Austin, recently set out to hear the stories of the adults living in America today who were raised by parents in homosexual relationships. LGBT activists have fought vigorously to malign and suppress his findings. In short, he learned that, on "25 of 40 different outcomes evaluated, the children of women who've had same-sex relationships fare quite differently than those in stable, biologically-intact mom-and-pop families, displaying numbers more comparable to those from heterosexual stepfamilies and single parents".

    This study included controls for age, race, gender, and the impact of being bullied as a youth, or the gay-friendliness of the state in which they live. Yet the respondents of same-sex parents were more apt to become unemployed, be less healthy and more depressed. They also were more likely to have cheated on a spouse or partner, have more male and female sex partners, experience more sexual victimization, and were more likely to reflect negatively on their childhood family life. Those raised by same-sex couples also were more likely to smoke marijuana and have trouble with the law.

    At this point in our nation, no one is debating the right of consenting adults to do what they wish with each other in private. But redefining the ancient institution of marriage is an entirely different matter. This will set the stage for more and more children to grow up without a mother or a father, simply to placate the desire of adults. We must fight to preserve the traditional definition of marriage for the sake of these children.

    An amazing team of pastors, educators, and public policy specialists and I are conducting a 7 swing state tour promoting traditional marriage. Plan to join us for a summit near you. We will host them in Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia during October. You can get information and register at our website - www.thetruthinblackandwhite.com. If we are not coming to a town near you, check out our materials and host your own summit in your city. Do it for the children!

    Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr. is the senior pastor of Hope Christian Church, a 3,000-member congregation in the Washington, D.C., area. He is also founder and president of High Impact Leadership Coalition, which exists to protect the moral compass of America and be an agent of healing to our nation by educating and empowering churches, community and political leaders.

    Preserve Marriage Washington is a coalition of community and faith groups and hundreds of thousands of citizens who support marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Christian Newswire

Disabled Wrestling Champ Unstoppable With God

Who's in Charge of Church Choices: God or Money?

CHAMPAIGN, Ill., Oct. 9, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ -- Is the church in the U.S. serving God or Money? That's the choice highlighted by Jesus Christ in Matthew 6:24. The new edition in The State of Church Giving series suggests church member giving and membership patterns can help answer that question.

The State of Church Giving through 2010, published by empty tomb, inc., in October 2012, analyzes congregational reports aggregated and published by denominations.

The new edition updates church member giving through 2010, including for a Composite Set of denominations for the period 1968-2010, for 11 denominations for 1921-2010, and trends both past and future. For example, as a portion of income, church member giving declined from 2009 to 2010.

The book's analysis of giving by all Americans in the 2010 US BLS Consumer Expenditure Survey found that 76% of giving went to "church, religious giving" compared to "charities and other organizations," "educational institutions," or "gifts to non-Consumer Units."

The special focus chapter considers the choices of church leaders and members in light of Jesus' statement in Matthew 6:24 that one can serve only God or Money.

According to the new book, if native-born church members supported international missions at the same level that foreign-born people in the U.S. send money overseas, they would have spent an additional $370 billion on global missions in 2010, amounting to $3.7 trillion over ten years.

The authors suggest that church leaders identify "triage" needs to set a "positive agenda for affluence" for church members. Triage sets priorities based on both the degree of need and the ability to impact that need.

One "triagic" need, the book suggests, is the number of "unengaged unreached people groups," described as having inadequate access to a presentation of the claims of Jesus Christ. One estimate suggested $200 million more a year -- less than $12.50 per church member in one denomination -- could fund the additional cross-cultural missionaries needed.

Another "triagic" need suggested is the reduction of child deaths globally among children under the age of 5. This Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 is behind its planned rate of progress, according to an analysis in the new book. Church leaders and members, the authors assert, are in a unique position to help improve progress so that MDG 4 can achieve its 2015 target of reducing, by two-thirds, the rate of under-5 child deaths between 1990 and 2015. At an estimated $5 billion a year, the cost would equal $50 from each of 100 million church members in the U.S. for each of the next three years, sent through each member's own denomination for programs generally already in place but underfunded. The church could provide moral leadership to encourage world leaders to keep their MDG 4 promise to address what the late James Grant referred to as "the silent emergency."

The State of Church Giving through 2010: Who's in Charge Here? A Case for a Positive Agenda for Affluence (22nd edition, October 2012) is available from Internet booksellers and www.emptytomb.org/pubs.html. ISBN 978-0-9843665-2-1

Christian Newswire

It's true, Christians should be tough – like Jesus

I inadvertently stirred up quite a theological controversy. I happened to, in a sense, agree with Donald Trump when he advised the Liberty University student body  to “not let people take advantage of them.”
Instead, he said, “get even.”
Or, in its greater oratorical context, “Be tough. In the end – win.”
At least, that’s how I, and lots of other people, took it. I didn’t assume that “getting even” had to imply mal intent; I interpreted the phrase through my own evangelical worldview, and I understood that within the dog-eat-dog world of corporate America you have to be fiercely determined, and competitive, to be successful.  I do not believe that success is a sin.
Of course, as a Bible-believing evangelical, I do not believe that Christians should treat people maliciously, take revenge or fight with others arbitrarily. I believe we should show extraordinary restraint. But, when someone asked me if I thought God would “get even” with people, I decided to make a nuanced, theological point: “God would, and he did, get even.”
In the end, God won.
They must have expected me to react the way some liberal reporters responded in the aftermath of Mr. Trump’s speech.
It’s high time that Christians toughen up a bit. Christians shouldn’t be malicious, but they also shouldn’t let people run all over them.
The liberal press, which obviously couldn’t bear the thought of Jerry Falwell, Jr., and Donald Trump working together to halt the current assault on the American free enterprise system, immediately took to the Bible to try to drive a wedge between these patriotic allies.  They wanted us evangelicals to go ahead and stay put (and quiet) in our nice little box.
After all, it’s much easier to take advantage of us that way.
Yet, I believe, it’s high time that Christians toughen up a bit. Christians shouldn’t be malicious, but they also shouldn’t let people run all over them.
Is it heretical to believe God is, and God wants us to be, tough?
Read the Bible.
It’s filled with God pursuing justice, settling scores with folks who messed with him, or who messed with his people, and – believe it or not - Jesus is “Exhibit A.”

Pro-Life Gets a Face-Lift -- Youth and Families to Pack Iconic Dodger Stadium

Live Rock Concert, Carnival Games and Rally to Bring New Look, Feel, Excitement to Pro-Life Movement

Event Scheduled for Sunday, November 18, 2012

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 9, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ -- LIFESoCal, the producers of last year's walk4LIFE at the Rose Bowl, is proud to present "go2bat4LIFE," an upbeat, celebratory event at Dodger Stadium on November 18, 2012.

A charitable organization founded by L.A.-area high school and college students and their parents, LIFEsocal has designed a new kind of pro-life gathering for its second year. Go2bat4LIFE will be a large, diverse, interfaith celebration of LIFE that builds bridges and motivates young people to value life, to be proud, outspoken supporters of the movement, and to make responsible choices in their personal lives.

Popular Baptist Pastor Walter Hoye II will emcee the event and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles is blessing the event with his support. Professional athletes and high-profile surprise guests will pump up the crowd and top Christian bands will perform on the Dodger infield stage. Guests will enjoy baseball-themed games, a zipline, carnival rides, LA's best food trucks, Dodger Dogs and more.

In addition to athletes, celebrities and musicians, a number of teenagers will share stories about their unplanned pregnancies, the choices they made, and how their lives were impacted. One student from a Texas university will share an inspiring story about placing her baby in an adoptive home. Another is an abortion survivor who will tell a remarkable story of forgiveness. Another is a post-abortive young man who will describe how his life and perspective were changed by the death of his son.

"Go2bat4LIFE will send the message that -- not only is it OK to be pro-life -- but it is fun, and it's cool as well. This is not your parents' pro-LIFE rally!" explained Carol Golbranson, co-founder of LIFEsocal. "Young people speaking to young people is what will make our event unique -- along with a joyous tone that will convey the beauty, fun and normalcy of being pro-life!"

Churches and schools from all around Southern California are invited to attend. Musical acts will include chart-topping Christian bands Christafari and Lincoln Brewster. Celebrities from the worlds of sport, stage and screen will be announced in the coming weeks.

Check-in begins at 11:30am and the event will take place from 1:00-4:30 pm, beginning with an energetic one-mile walk around the perimeter of Dodger Stadium. The cost to attend the event is $10 per person; 10 & under are FREE. The carnival rides and baseball-themed games will be offered in exchange for game tickets. Game tickets will cost $1.00 each, or 30 tickets for $20.00. Proceeds from the game ticket sales will benefit local pregnancy help centers and other pro-LIFE ministries.

For more information visit the event's official website, go2bat4life.com, or on Facebook at facebook.com/LIFEsocal, or call LIFEsocal at (626) 755-7323. An exciting call to action, go2bat4LIFE is a big vision and a reason to rejoice in these confused times. Register online now! LIFEsocal encourages churches and faith organizations to bring their entire memberships!

Dodger Stadium is located at 1000 Elysian Park Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

Christian Newswire

Audio Adrenaline - Kings and Queens Exclusive Music Video Premiere

Audio Adrenaline - Kings and Queens (Exclusive Music Video Premiere) from audio-adrenaline on GodTube
Multi-GRAMMY® award-winning band Audio Adrenaline is back with a new single and a common goal: to be the voice for orphans in Haiti and around the world. The official music video for "Kings & Queens" was filmed in Haiti among the Hands & Feet Project, a non-profit organization founded by the band to care for orphaned and abandoned children with the love of Christ. All net proceeds will go to Hands & Feet Project to continue growth and support of the nearly eight-year-old charity.

"It's just an incredible song about this idea of when we love the least of these, God wraps these little orphans in his majesty and they can become kings and queens. It gives you that idea that these are God's favorites, these little kids that have been forgotten. There's going to be a special place in heaven one day because of what they've been through here. It's just a triumphant, majestic song that just connects so deeply with Hands & Feet and the message of Audio A right now." -Mark Stuart