“God is in control:” A Nigerian Captive Defies Terrorists and Keeps her Christian Faith

Nata Sharibu, whose daughter was kidnapped from her Nigerian school last month, wishes his daughter was home, but He is proud of her defiance towards her captors by refusing to denounce her faith.

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Katy Perry’s Lawsuit Has Devastated These Nuns

One of the nuns embroiled in a fierce lawsuit with pop star Katy Perry has revealed that sky-high legal fees have plunged her into financial dire straits. The group of nuns, who are members of the order of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, filed a lawsuit against Perry after she cut a deal with the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles to purchase their former convent without running it by the sisters. The nuns claim that the expansive property has been owned by the order for 45 years insist that it is their right to sell it and nobody else’s.

Sister Rita Callanan, now 80 years old, said that just a few years ago she was well-off and looking forward to some peaceful final years. Now, she is broke, weary and uncertain about the future. Her fellow companion in the bitter legal case, Sister Catherine Rose Holzman, tragically passed away after collapsing at a court appearance March 9. With nothing but steely determination, Callanan has vowed to fight on.

"On March 9th, 2018, we tragically lost Sister Catherine Rose, my beloved fellow IHM Sister and original organizer of this GoFundMe campaign. She was my cherished partner in this ongoing legal battle to keep our convent," she wrote on the GoFundMe page. "I am very  sad to say it is we who are in terrible need." {eoa}

Click here to read the rest of this story from our content partners at Faithwire.

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Sentenced to Die in Pakistan, Christian Mother Receives Faith Gift from Pope

In the darkest circumstances, even a small symbol of faith can deliver so much hope and comfort.

We’ve continually kept you up-to-date about our international legal advocacy in support of Christian mother of five, Asia Bibi. Asia is currently locked in prison in Pakistan, sentenced to death for blasphemy. Her real "crime" was that she offered a Muslim co-worker a glass of water and reaffirmed her faith in Christ when the co-worker asked her to convert to Islam.

Throughout her plight, locked away from her family and loved ones in a windowless cell, Asia has continued to cling to her Christian faith, even if renouncing it may have helped her case. Recently, it was revealed that the prison authorities have allowed her to keep a rosary given to her by Pope Francis. It is the first symbol of her faith she’s been allowed to keep in prison.

According to The Christian Post, Bibi’s husband and daughter were granted an audience with the pope earlier this year:

The meeting between Bibi’s family and the pope was organized by Aid to the Church in Need. The rosary was finally given to Bibi when the husband and daughter met with her last Monday, according to the charity’s Italian branch.

"I received the pope’s gift with devotion and gratitude," Asia Bibi reportedly told Aid to the Church in Need.

Bibi said the rosary gives her "great consolation" because it brings her great comfort to know that Francis is praying for her.

The "rosary will be of great consolation for me, just as it comforts me to know that the Holy Father prays for me and thinks of me in these difficult conditions," Bibi added.

It is our hope that this gift is a sign that international leaders of all denominations, are not only praying for Asia, but have become aware of this clear human rights violation. An innocent woman should not hang because of her Christian faith. Sadly, hers is one of many violent and atrocious acts committed against Christians in Pakistan. Many have already died violently at the hands of extremists, while more are terrorized and driven from their homes.

The ACLJ will continue to work on behalf of Asia Bibi, as we wait for her appeal to be heard by the Pakistani court. We have mobilized our European affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) and our office in Pakistan as part of our international advocacy campaign calling for Asia Bibi’s release.

We will also continue to appeal to the U.N. to intercede with Pakistan and demand that they abide by their international agreements to protect religious minorities and bring violent agitators to justice.

Make your voice heard for Christians around the world. {eoa}

For the original article, visit aclj.org.

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Alabama Residents to Vote on Ten Commandments Amendment After Proposal Approved by Lawmakers

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Residents in Alabama will vote this November on a proposed amendment to the state Constitution that would expressly allow the Ten Commandments to be displayed in public buildings and schools. The Alabama House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved S.B. 181 on Thursday 66 to 19 after the measure likewise cleared the House last month with a…

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Christine Caine’s Ministry Launches International Campaign Fulfilling Isaiah 61

A new approach in the fight against modern-day slavery launches across the United States today, as global anti-human trafficking organization A21, with support from the U.S. Department of Transportation, rolls out a multi-platform media campaign designed to heighten public awareness across transportation hubs, networks and airports nationwide.

Can You See Me?, a series of confronting videos, billboards, posters and educational materials, depicts scenarios of the most common forms of modern-day slavery, and empowers members of the public who suspect human trafficking activity to call the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline or the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

The arresting videos and posters will appear in trains and railway stations across the Amtrak rail network nationwide, including Los Angeles Union Station, New York Penn Station and Washington Union Station, and throughout many of the country’s biggest airports including JFK, Chicago O’Hare, Newark, LaGuardia and others, in prominent public spaces and across all major social networks.

The campaign anticipates reaching over 30 million commuters via the Amtrak network alone in 2018.

When the Can You See Me? campaign was tested in the pilot area of Kent and Essex in the U.K., the U.K’s national hotline received a 300 percent increase in calls from members of the public to the police over six months.

The campaign is still live in airports throughout the U.K., including Heathrow and Gatwick. The attorney general of the United States played the first Can You See Me? video at the 2017 National Law Enforcement Training on Child Exploitation conference, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice, noting that this "video reinforces to the public the importance of recognizing the signs of child sex-trafficking and reporting suspected crimes," and emphasizing that "nothing less than a united effort will be enough to keep our children from becoming victims of exploitation."

"Can You See Me? is designed to empower members of the public in the fight against human trafficking," said Christian Elliott, Global Development Director, A21. "Everyone has an innate sense of suspicion; we all know when we’ve observed something that doesn’t seem right, but often it doesn’t feel worthy of a call to the police. This campaign exists to fill that space between people’s suspicion and a police investigation. Gathering small pieces of information that together could corroborate a police investigation makes all the difference."

Supported by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Polaris and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the Can You See Me? campaign will run nationwide throughout 2018 and 2019. Anyone who suspects human trafficking activity should call the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline on 1888-373-7888 or the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST


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France Attacker Kills 3 in Supermarket Takeover

French police killed a gunman holed up in supermarket in southern France where he had taken hostages earlier on Friday, a source close to the investigation said.

"The hostage-taker is dead, the source said, adding that he was killed during a raid on the supermarket. Two officers were wounded, the source said.

Earlier three people were killed in three separate incidents which the government is treating as an act of terrorism.

The attacker was a 26-year old known for petty crimes and possession of drugs, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb on Friday, adding that he acted alone.

Collomb named the attacker as Redouane Lakdim and said he was from nearby Carcassonne, a tourist hot-spot known for its medieval city center, where the attacks started.

"He was known for petty crimes. We had monitored him and thought there was no radicalization," Collomb said, before adding: "He was known for possession of drugs, we couldn’t have said that he was a radical that would carry out an attack."

Le Parisien newspaper wrote that Lakdim was of Moroccan descent and was known to French DGSI intelligence services. He was active in Salafist social networks, Le Parisien wrote, without naming its sources.

He was also suspected, without any certainty, of having traveled to Syria, Le Parisien said, adding that the family flat, where he would have been living with his parents and three or four sisters, was raided by police on Friday afternoon.

"This is a small, quiet, town. Unfortunately the threat is everywhere," Collomb told reporters in Trebes. {eoa}

© 2018 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

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A Warning to Preachers Engaging in Ministry Espionage

When I was a business and technology journalist, I wrote my fair share of articles about corporate espionage, cyberspying and violations of intellectual property. Let’s just say it’s big business—until you get caught.

Bizfluent.com defines corporate espionage as "the act or practice of spying to gain secret information on a government or a business competitor. According to the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals, corporations spent an estimated $2 billion spying on each other in 2004 alone. In the Internet world, it’s called cyberspying, and it’s all about tapping into someone else’s intellectual property to gain an advantage.

It doesn’t surprise me to see these types of activities in a Babylonian world. But it grieves me to see it going on in the church. Yes, we’ve entered the age of kingdom espionage; a world where teachers, preachers and pastors spy out the plans and strategies of other gospel ministers so they can race to the market with a copycat revelation, product or service that puts money in their bank accounts and adds credibility to their name.

While all revelation belongs to God and certainly God speaks the same things to many people, it’s clear to the discerning heart when copycat preachers tap into someone else’s innovation for their own increase. And it’s so unnecessary. God is not lacking in revelation, innovation or increase. He wants to pour it out on His children—but we have to seek it.

A Spirit of Innovation

As I said earlier this year, we are in an age of innovation and acceleration. Prophetically speaking, as part of this metamorphosis I see a spirit of innovation coming into the church. The see innovations throughout the Bible in the form of inventions, which are tied to our creator God’s wisdom impartations. Proverbs 8:12 (KJV) tells us, "I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions."

The Bible speaks of Jubal, the first of those who played the harp and flute (see Gen. 4:21) and Zillah, the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron (see Gen. 4:22). Second Chronicles 26:15 speaks of Uriah, who made engines of war invented by skillful men.

In modern times, many inventors credit God with their innovations. George Washington Carver, who invented at least 300 products from peanuts—including paper, soap, glue and medicines—said, "The Lord has guided me," and "without my Savior, I am nothing." Mary Hunter, an award-winning chef, insists all her recipes come from heaven: "I don’t have a cookbook. God gives me my own. Prayer is where I get 99 percent of my recipes."

Gary Starkweather, an engineer who invented the laser printer, said: "I believe that to a great extent, the creativity we possess is because the Creator put it there. God put things [in us] as tool developers and creative individuals and I think it has to please Him when He sees us use those faculties to make something completely new."

I agree with Starkweather’s revelation and we need to embrace this pure wisdom from above.

God is a Creator, an innovator and an inventor, and we were created in His image and in His likeness. John 1:3 proclaims, "All things were created through Him, and without Him nothing was created that was created." I believe this is still true; and that witty inventions, technologies, scientific breakthroughs and other innovations that make a positive impact on society are inspired by His Spirit, even if the inventor does not yet know Him.

The church has been lagging on the innovation front. Religion has offered us a form of godliness without its power (see 2 Tim. 3:5). When the power of God comes on the scene, eyes are opened to what was unseen, dreams come alive, and creativity is inspired. The Lord wants to bring a metamorphosis to the church that is innovation-driven so we can reach unchurched people who have rejected religion.

Copycat Preachers Corrupt Innovation

Here’s a friendly word to all the copycat preachers who steal prophetic words, mimic the ministry blueprints of others instead of getting their own innovation from God, and otherwise stand up to teach something of which they know nothing about: Repent.

Repent. Change the way you think. God wants to give you witty inventions and innovative ideas that set you apart. He wants to use you to change the world. If you want to see fruit that remains, do it His way.

Hear me: If you’re in ministry to build your personal kingdom by spying out the ideas of others, you will eventually fall on your face and hurt a lot of people. But if you press into your unique gifts and callings and seek His face for your messages, prophecies, books and programs, you’ll empower people to change their lives. That’s what it’s all about—helping people.

Repent. Don’t run your ministry the way the world runs mega conglomerates. God anointed Jesus to proclaim the good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, recovery of the sight to the blind and freedom to the oppressed (see Luke 4:18). God has anointed you to do something original—something unique. Don’t let the spirt of the world—or the spirit of competition—tempt you to bow to Babylon’s ways and become a cyberspy instead of a supernatural innovator.

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Clean-Cut, All-American Image for This Organization Crumbles Before Our Eyes

Girl Scouts USA (GSUSA) has become a politically divisive, pro-abortion organization that has abandoned its mission years ago. GSUSA is the largest member organization of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), which aggressively promotes abortion and promiscuous sex on behalf of its 10 million members.

WAGGGS states that "anyone who is a Girl Guide or Girl Scout is automatically a member." GSUSA pays about $1.5 million annually to WAGGGS.

The WAGGGS delegation for the Commission on the Status of Women advocates the following for Girl Scouts and Girl Guides around the world: "We demand access to comprehensive sexuality information, services and supplies for all young people. We need it today—and today needed to be yesterday." WAGGGS participated in the 2016 Women Deliver Conference, which focused on "health—in particular maternal, sexual, and reproductive health and rights." Content for the conference included "Safe Abortion as a Human Right," "Safe Abortion Saves Women’s Lives," with keynote speakers Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards and Catholics for Choice founder Frances Kissling.

GSUSA also maintains memberships in other pro-abortion organizations such as the Coalition for Adolescent Girls and works alongside International Planned Parenthood Federation, Marie Stopes International, and numerous organizations that push for unrestricted abortion rights. In fact, all Girl Scout councils and individual troops are encouraged to partner with their local Planned Parenthood. The former GSUSA CEO Kathy Cloninger said, "We partner with many organizations. We have relationships with our church communities, with YWCAs, and with Planned Parenthood organizations across the country, to bring information-based sex education programs to girls." 

In addition, all Girl Scout councils sell GSUSA’s official curriculum series for girl members, which promotes prominent pro-abortion women and organizations, including Gloria SteinemBetty Friedan, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Population Council and many  others. A list of speeches by "Eloquent Women" is provided to assist the girls with their public speaking badge. Recommendations include Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger’s speech advocating for a women’s right to birth control, Lady Gaga and Sally Field both advocating for same-sex "marriage."

GSUSA encouraged and celebrated girls participation in the Women’s March, a vulgar and profanity-laden event that clearly stated "safe, legal and affordable abortion and birth control for all people" among its core principles. Across the country, local councils involved the Girl Scout brand and the members in partisan and political advocacy. A 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign ad featuring Clinton and uniformed Girl Scouts, filmed at a Girl Scouts of Kentucky’s Wilderness Road council shop, was widely shared on her media accounts. Immediately following the presidential election, Girl Scouts of Greater New York partnered in protesting President-elect Donald Trump.

Girl Scout cookie sales fund troops, local councils and GSUSA. A Girl Scout troop keeps an average of just 10 to 20 percent of the money collected from selling cookies. The local council receives an average of 65 to 75 percent of the money collected by all local troops. GSUSA collects a royalty payment based upon its licensed trademark on every box of cookies produced. With approximately 200 million boxes of cookies sold annually, this amounts to millions of dollars of funding for GSUSA every year, much of which goes toward aggressively promoting youth reproductive/abortion and sexual rights to innocent girls.

How does all this fit into the GSUSA mission statement when part of the Girl Scout law is to encourage girls to "make the world a better place?" Ironically, since 1912, millions of young girls in America have taken an oath that states simply:

"On my honor, I will try: To serve God and my country, To help people at all times, And to live by the Girl Scout Law."

"The once great Girl Scouts USA took a tragic fall when it became a political advocacy group that promotes abortion and sexual promiscuity to innocent girls," said Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver. "It’s important that people understand that the profits from cookie sales go toward harming young girls rather that helping them. I encourage people to say, ‘no, thank you’ to Girls Scouts and support alternatives that encourage Christian values such as  American Heritage Girls. This organization has partnered with Trail Life USA, a rapidly expanding alternative to the Boy Scouts." {eoa}

For the original article, visit lc.org.

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Austin Pastor: How to Respond in the Aftermath of Serial Bombings

The Austin serial bomber took his life once surrounded by police officers in Round Rock, Texas, north of Austin.

Leading up to his identification and death, his actions killed two African-American men in East Austin after two package bombs exploded. The families of Anthony Stephan House and Draylen Mason lost their loved ones due to a cowardly act of senseless violence.

Before these tragedies, the two families knew each other, having family members who all attended the same church. These men were dearly loved and remembered fondly by friends and family.

On the same day Draylen died and his mother was injured, 75-year-old Esperanza Herrera was injured by a package bomb. Apparently, the package was addressed to a different house number.

These first three bombs were all placed on the doorsteps of homes in East Austin. All three bombs injured or killed people of color.

Now, while the police are sorting out the 23-year-old bomber’s motives, the nation is left wondering why. During the investigation, the police did not call these crimes an act of terrorism —while they gathered evidence —nor a hate crime —to keep the investigation broad. I don’t know the semantics of labeling crimes, but regardless of the official designation: These bombings were fueled by hate. These bombings were an act of terror.

In the past couple of days, another bomb injured two young white men who were walking around their neighborhood in Southwest Austin. Apparently, a trip wire set off this bomb, and yet another bomb exploded in a Fed Ex facility an hour outside of Austin. Investigators think it may have been sent from the Fed Ex on Brodie Lane where my daughter and I often go to work on photo albums. These last few bombs led police to the perpetrator.

Targeting Austin?

I love Austin. It’s a beautiful, vibrant, artistic and an increasingly diverse city.

At the same time, as one of the fastest growing cities, it can also be a lonely place.

As the site of South by Southwest, the Austin City Limits Music Festival, and headquarters for several international tech companies and startups, Austin is known for innovation, live music, and amazing food.

Yet, in spite of its progressive reputation, Austin has also had a history of segregation, gentrification, and division. These bombings have exposed some of these past wounds, leaving our communities of color mourning the loss of loved ones and grieved over what appears to be racial targeting. As followers of Jesus, we too should deeply care about this.

Even as only 13 percent of the city attends a local church, the level of cooperation between churches from different denominations and different ethnic backgrounds is quite remarkable, and something I have observed and valued while leading a local congregation in south Austin.

Together, people of faith can be the mobilizing force for healing.

So how should we respond?

As we’re left with: Why Austin? Why this? Why these communities? We should also ask ourselves: How should we respond? How can God be using this for our good and his glory? In light of the hope we have in Jesus, how would he have me care for others in the midst of this situation? Here are a few ways to respond this and other heartbreak in our social fabric: 

  1. Grieve for the loss in Austin and other tragedies the country has recently experienced. 

From cover to cover of the Bible, we see God’s people lament, sometimes individually but often corporately. With the constant flurry of our modern news cycle, it’s easy to become callused toward the events going on around us. For Austin, this month’s events are a little too close to home. The reality of the injustice toward innocent people should cause our hearts to grieve: grief for the past injustice toward racial minorities, grief for the lives lost here in Austin, Parkland and others, grief for the brokenness sin has caused in our world. 

  1. Turn to God.

Tragedies like this remind us how powerless we actually are as human beings. Life is fragile. Life is precious. God is bigger than our circumstances. Our lamentation should propel us toward a big God.

If you are afraid, ask God for courage. He can help us step out in faith.

If you are angry, tell God. He can handle our emotions.

If you are mourning, let yourself mourn.

At a recent memorial for the victims of these bombings, the community who came in support of the families of those who were victims of the attack sang "Amazing Grace," a beautiful reminder of God’s love for us even when love is so lacking in our world.

Our society is sick. Bombings and school shootings are symptoms of our brokenness.

  • God can bring peace to those of us who have lost someone we love.
  • God can bring healing to those who are hurting, anxious and angry.
  • God can forgive us and heal us as we turn to Him.
  • God can bring justice in this terrible situation.

Instead of first going to social media and sending #thoughtsandprayers, we should actually pray. Pray that the Lord will break our hearts for the things that break his. Pray that our communities will be reconciled along racial lines and that true healing will come where wounds once prevailed, especially among fellow believers. Pray that in the midst of real, unimaginable, unfair tragedy that those far from God will know, hear and see his kindness through the people of God.

  1. Know your neighbors. 

You can live in Austin for years and never know your neighbor. This can be true in other big and fast-growing cities. We need to get off the couch and walk across the street to meet our neighbors.

Invite them into your home. Hear their story. Find out their passions, their hopes, their dreams and find out ways you can serve them. When the time is right, ask how you can pray for them.

We are hard-wired to know and be known. It’s how we were created and one way we look like our creator. So seek out the people God has placed in your circles of influence, both literal neighbors and neighbors in the cubicle next door, the mom whose child your kids play with, the people who frequent your favorite café and beyond. Rather than binging on Netflix, turn one night of the week into a time to connect with your neighbors.

  1. Take care of each other.

We can start by serving those who have been directly affected by the bombings.

Rather than hiding in our homes, we need to engage with others around us. We need to be vigilant and intentional. Who are the people in our lives who are hurting, who need a meal, a listening ear, someone to weep with or gentle arms to fall to? God’s love for us is extravagant, and because of this, our love for humanity too should be extravagant.

  1. Long for Christ’s return.

In our fallen state, tragedy will come. With a heavy heart, repentant of the rebellion that first started in the garden, we should long for the return of Jesus. Our cry should be: Come Lord Jesus, and our response should be to love those who are different from us, kindly sharing with them the grace through faith in Jesus.

This broken world needs us to become the people God created us to be. We can turn what was intended to foster hate to mobilize us to love. We can turn what was intended to foster fear and terror to mobilize us to bring peace. {eoa}

Dr. Eric Bryant serves with Gateway Church in Austin along with senior pastor John Burke. Previously, Eric served with Erwin McManus at Mosaic in Los Angeles, a church known for its creativity and diversity.

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Student Ideals Clash Over Proposed Walkout at California School

Students at a California high school are calling on their peers to protest abortion in a national school walkout.

Brandon Gillespie, a student at Rocklin High School, is using social media to drive the campaign.

"I have officially announced the pro-life walkout that I am organizing. It is going to take place on Wednesday, April 11th at 10:00 am. The walkout will last for 17 minutes. We encourage students across the country to participate in a stand for #life," he wrote on Twitter.

Gillespie told CBN News the event is meant "to honor the lives of the millions of children who fell victim to abortion."

"I want to test and see if there is a double standard in the school district," he added.

Gillespie decided to plan the walkout after Julianne Benzel, a teacher at Rocklin High School, was placed on administrative leave after questioning the recent national walkout for gun control.

She asked the students if they thought the school administration would let another group of students protest a cause like abortion. The next day, she was placed on administrative leave.

Although she was reinstated just two days later, it was enough to inspire Brandon Gillespie to take action, who says the movement is growing at his school.

"It’s starting to become a lot bigger on our campus. … So far everybody that has come up to me is very supportive," he said.

Not all students are on board with the anti-abortion protest.

"Abortions aren’t really anything that has to do with school or students here," Naeirika Neev told CBS 13.

Neev is the editor of the school newspaper. She’s using the hashtag "enough is enough" to promote peace and challenge the pro-life movement on her campus.

"The comparison of a protest against gun violence and that of an abortion is a logical fallacy—a false equivalence," she recently wrote in the school newspaper.

"Due to the First Amendment, those who wish to hold protests on abortion, or any other matter, have the freedom to do so. However, the controversy of abortions has nothing to do with the school administration or the school environment. Therefore, it is unreasonable for such protest to take place on school ground, during school time and unreasonable to make such comparison," Neev added.

Rocklin High School’s principal plans to meet with Gillespie about the protest Friday.

"While we can’t speculate the outcome of this meeting, we support students’ exercise of their First Amendment right to free speech in compliance with the law and our Board Policy," a spokesperson for the Rocklin High School District told CBN News.

Gillespie says his meeting with the principal Friday will be "the big deal breaker" to see if he’ll be able to follow through with his plans.

Reprinted with permission from CBN.com. Copyright The Christian Broadcasting Network, all rights reserved. {eoa}

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Megachurch Pastor Bill Hybels Responds to Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Bill Hybels, founder of the Willow Creek Community Church, is heartbroken over a recent article that alleges sexual misconduct against the pastor.

"This is one of the most heartbreaking and frustrating things I’ve ever experienced—for me, for my family, for our church family," Hybels says in a statement posted to the Willow Creek website.

The Chicago Tribune reported this week that Hybels has been accused of sexual misconduct, including suggestive comments, extended hugs, an unwanted kiss and invitations to hotel rooms.

The report states

Last year, elders retained a Chicago law firm that specializes in workplace issues to look into allegations against Hybels involving three women. According to communications from the law firm reviewed by the Tribune, that investigation was also to include any other evidence "of sex-related sin, whether conducted or condoned by Bill Hybels," and be limited to his time as a church minister.

So far this year, two women have told the Tribune that they had been contacted by an elder to participate in a review. One of those women, Vonda Dyer, declined to participate, citing concerns about the process. Dyer, a former director of the church’s vocal ministry who often traveled with Hybels and whose husband also worked at Willow, told the Tribune that Hybels called her to his hotel suite on a trip to Sweden in 1998, unexpectedly kissed her and suggested they could lead Willow Creek together….

Many of the women who spoke with the Tribune were loathe to come forward for fear of betraying a man who had encouraged their leadership in a way that no other pastor had before and undermining a ministry that has transformed thousands of lives. But when they heard there were other women who had similar stories to tell, even in the last year, they said their silence could not last.

"That was a bit of a tipping point for me," said Nancy Beach, the church’s first female teaching pastor and a prominent leader in the evangelical community. She recounted more than one conversation or interaction she felt was inappropriate during moments alone with Hybels over the years.

"He changed my life. I wouldn’t have the opportunities I’ve had," she added. "I know that. I’m very clear on that. I credit him for that. But then there’s this other side."

The Willow Creek board of elders flatly denies these allegations.

"Several years ago, an allegation was made against Bill. The elders thoroughly investigated it. They even sought outside counsel to conduct a thorough and independent investigation. After doing so, we found no concerns, nor did outside counsel. To be clear, there is no ongoing investigation of wrongful conduct. We have looked into every allegation that was brought to our elders," elders spokesperson Pam Orr says. "We have full confidence in Bill’s character, and we look forward to him continuing in his role as senior pastor until he transitions as planned in October of this year."

Orr says the elders investigated the misconduct claims, which the accuser retracted.

According to the elder statement: 

When the elders reached out to the woman, she apologized forthrightly for making a false statement and wrote a full retraction that the elders have on file. She spoke with an elder three times and apologized for her lies. She also met with Bill’s wife, Lynne, and apologized personally to her. In the woman’s retraction, she freely admits to having become "very angry at Willow," so much so that she could no longer attend the church. Additionally, in an email to a friend, she said, "Now I have to tell everyone that I am a liar, which I basically am. I lied to you and I am so sorry. I wanted to tear [Bill] and Willow down and get it out of my system."  

However, John and Nancy Ortberg, who were on staff at the time, asked the elders to do a more thorough investigation of the issue. While one account was retracted, others surfaced.

Hybels says he is pursuing God in the midst of the struggle.

It’s damaging not only to me, but to my family and to our church as well.

I hate that the leaders of our church have had to spend so much time and energy on these matters. I’m heartbroken that my family—my children and grandchildren—have had to endure this. I hate the way these lies have affected the wider church community. I can’t tell you the frustration this has caused me, but I have to leave it in God’s hands. It’s the only thing I can do.

In the midst of a dark situation, I’ve asked God to show me what I can learn and what I need to change moving forward. As a result of this situation, I have resolved to be increasingly diligent to avoid being in a situation where a false allegation could be made against me. But be clear, I will continue to work side by side with competent women and men on the teams that I lead.

The allegations made major waves within the Christian community.

"I highly respect both Bill Hybels and John Ortberg. They both have influenced me in some form or fashion. These allegations shocked me—to say the least. But they have not shocked our God. In his book Love Beyond Reason, Ortberg notes: ‘God sees with utter clarity who we are. He is undeceived as to our warts and wickedness. But when God looks at us that is not all He sees. He also sees who we are intended to be, who we will one day become.’  (Luke 8:17)," Nick Pitts, executive director of the Institute for Global Engagement at DBU, says.

In response to the allegations, Orr says the elders have developed a plan to move forward.

"We know that many of you here in our church community have been contacted by these couples. You have been asked questions that may have caused you to question your trust in Bill or in us as elders. You may have heard rumors that made you uncertain about our leadership or Bill’s integrity. It’s not right that a small group of people with a stated desire to tarnish one man’s reputation have sown seeds of distrust throughout our community. We’re so sorry," Orr says.

"We, the church, keep being the church. We walk together, pray together, worship together, serve together. This church family is not now, and has never been, about one person. It’s about God’s vision for our church and what He’s doing here," Orr says. "We as elders are committed to continuing to shepherd this community through this situation. If there’s more you need to know, we’ll tell you. If there’s more work we can do, we’ll do it. We are as committed as ever to this church, to the integrity of our community, and to what God is doing here and around the world."

Hybels announced his intention to step down as senior pastor last year. He will be succeeded by Heather Larson and Steve Carter.

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New Documentary Celebrates Beloved Christian Entertainer Fred Rogers

Fred Rogers may have been best known for his children’s show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but he was also known for his deep Christian faith—which motivated all his work. He was an ordained Presbyterian minister. In an interview with Charlie Rose, Rogers said, "Jesus said to the people around him, ‘Please let the little children come up here. I want to learn from them.’ He might not have said those words, but I think that’s what he meant. I want to be involved with these innocent people who make up the kingdom of Heaven." A new documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, honors Rogers’ life and work. Watch the trailer here.

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Can faith and reason coexist – for anyone?

TWO WINGS: Integrating Faith & Reason, by Gonzaga University professors Dr. Brian Clayton and Dr. Douglas Kries, seeks to give the reader a non-dogmatic look into the contours of the relationship between faith and reason, showing that a relationship between the two can lead to a more complete view of human existence.

from Religion News Service http://ift.tt/2IJAIBO

The Palms, the Temple, and the Nations

What made Jesus explode in the Temple on Monday is actually related to his Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday.

The black Baptists of the South are not known for their adherence to a liturgical calendar, but we do know Palm Sunday and Easter. Palm Sunday is the tremor before the earthquake of our resurrection celebration, the birth pangs. Palm Sunday, then, is not the time for the best songs, suits, or dresses. The palms and shouts of hosanna are a preparation for something greater, the acclamation that Christ is risen.

But as the Palm Sundays have stacked one upon the other, more questions linger. What did Jesus want to teach us when he entered Jerusalem astride a donkey to the shouts of hosanna? Did he do it so that we would have a nice liturgical action of palm-waving to entertain the kids on the verge of Eastertide?

Immediately following Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem amid waving palm branches, Matthew, Mark, and Luke record that his next stop is to clear out the Temple. What does the clearing of the Temple have to do with palms and the parade from earlier? Last and most importantly, what do these two events have to say to us as we prepare to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus in churches divided by race and class?

The Temple and palms do speak with a common voice. They reveal God’s vision for peace between the ethnicities and our reconciliation under the universal kingship of Jesus. To hear that common voice, we must pay close attention to the Scriptures that Jesus uses to interpret his actions on that fateful on the first two days of Holy Week.

Beyond Humility

Palm Sunday begins with Jesus on the outskirts of Jerusalem instructing his disciples to bring him a donkey to ride into the city. The gospel writers make it clear that this royal gesture is a dramatic enactment of Zechariah 9:9. The section quoted in the Gospels …

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What Will You Do Each Day to Make Our World—and Those Around You–Better?

What if we challenged ourselves to shift our focus from self-improvement to fostering community?

As what all too quickly happens, the New Year pizazz motivates us to make some positive changes or accomplishments with our lives and year ahead, and then quickly dims into tiredness, excuses, or disappointments as only about 8% of us actually keep our resolutions. But what if we were to have a different focus this year which might last the whole year through?

What if we challenged ourselves to shift our focus from self-improvement to fostering community? What if each day this year, we woke up with this challenge running in our veins, motivating us to make a positive impact right in our own homes, neighborhoods, and communities?

And what if this challenge was fueled by a deep love for Jesus and a desire to show and share his love with others?

This is something the Billy Graham Center is all about—showing and sharing the love of Jesus in this broken and hurting world. It’s a place I’m grateful for as both a world hub of evangelism training and a team to be serving on. This team of outstanding professionals love Jesus and desire to make him known as we train and inspire others to carry out the Great Commission, reaching our world with the love of Jesus in winsome and creative ways.

As I was chatting with a close friend recently, I was inspired by one way her family had found to share the love of Jesus in a very creative, yet simple way to those around them. It is through a daily challenge to focus on giving instead of receiving. So often in the busyness of life, we are just trying to get from one activity to the next.

Instead of hoping for all the lights to be green, the closest parking spot to be ours, or the fastest checkout lane to open up as we head to the counter, what if we looked for opportunities to give instead? …

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Powers and Principalities: The Truth About Martin Luther King Jr.’s Fiery Pentecostal Roots—Part 1

This is part one in a two-part series.

"I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions" (Joel 2:28).

The night before his death, Martin Luther King Jr. preached his last sermon in Mason Temple. A monumental brick-and-stone edifice in downtown Memphis, Mason Temple is the mother church of the second-largest black denomination in the United States, known as the Church of God in Christ. Near where King was standing was the marble tomb of the church’s founder, Bishop Charles Harrison Mason, who had been born a slave and had gone on to become black America’s foremost Pentecostal leader.

Pentecostalism, now the fastest-growing branch of Christianity, emphasizes the power of the Holy Spirit to transform every aspect of the believer’s life. The movement originates in the multiracial Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles in 1906. Just months after the revival began, Mason traveled to California to see what was happening with his own eyes; it proved to be the turning point of his life. As Mason would later recount, "The Spirit came upon the saints and upon me…. Then I gave up for the Lord to have his way within me. So there came a wave of glory into me and all of my being was filled with the glory of the Lord."

Mason, having now been "baptized with the Holy Spirit," as Pentecostals describe such a conversion experience, became a fearless evangelist for the new movement. By the time of his death seven years before King’s sermon, the Church of God in Christ counted 400,000 members in 4,000 churches in the United States and around the world.

Your Sons and Daughters Will Prophesy 

This sanctuary, then, was the place in which King rose to deliver his farewell "Mountain Top" address: at an epicenter of global Pentecostalism. In retrospect, this seems powerfully symbolic. For Pentecostals, a central Scripture is the promise of the prophet Joel, which the apostle Peter quoted at the first Christian Pente­cost in Jerusalem: "I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions" (Joel 2:28). Heard in this context, King’s last sermon can be understood as a fulfillment of this ancient promise. He, too, was one on whom the Holy Spirit had been poured out, one empowered with the gift of prophecy.

As we mark a half-century since King’s death, few tributes acknowledge that the spiritual and political movement he led was a movement of the Holy Spirit. Yet secular accounts of his life and message are inadequate to explain what happened to and through him. Nor do they recognize that the forces he opposed—white supremacy, economic oppression, and militarism—are spiritual realities in their own right, demonic powers that must be combatted with spiritual weapons. As the New Testament puts it, "For our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12).

This is not just a matter of historical interest. Whether or not the Holy Spirit inspires our political and cultural activism is of urgent importance today. The virulence of white supremacist discourse is at a new low, while white supremacist action is at a new high, with innocent people being attacked in Charlottesville, Virginia, and at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina. This reality demands that the church reclaim the power of the Spirit to discern the most effective response. We must name, unmask and engage the invisible powers that threaten human existence.

King the Christian

Throughout the 1960s, King waged a political struggle against the macrostructural forces arrayed against black people. His genius was to recognize the power of the black church for organizing resistance to white supremacy, a dynamic that none of the secular intelligentsia had foreseen. None of the social scientists, black or white—W. E. B. Du Bois, E. Franklin Frazier, Gunnar Myrdal, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. —had predicted this. King insisted that the word "Christian" be part of the title of what was originally the Southern Leadership Conference, because he knew that blacks in the South would be strengthened by Christian solidarity, and that for them the church would be the most powerful organizing base. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference went on to become one of the leading institutions in the civil rights movement.

Just as insightful was King’s commitment to the Christian ethic of love, based in the teachings of Jesus. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught nonviolence, love of enemy and unconditional forgiveness. For King, Jesus’ way of love had a deep kinship with the strategy of nonviolent resistance he learned from Mahatma Gandhi.

There is no doubt that King sincerely believed in the principles of nonviolent action. But the strategic brilliance of using Gandhi’s methods is also unquestionable. In the American South, with its terrorist, totalitarian Jim Crow regime, nonviolence was the perfect weapon.

The gains that the civil rights movement achieved as a result were unprecedented—and God-given. Yet by the end of the 1960s, King’s reliance on Gandhian ethics alone was proving insufficient. A Protestant liberal by training, he was only dimly aware of the invisible principalities and powers that lay behind the violence of white supremacy. In the end, this restricted theological vision limited the longevity of the movement and its ability to adapt to radically different political circumstances, such as urban life outside the South.

The Influence of Liberal Theology

Martin Luther King Jr.’s liberalism, in fact, might be seen as an accidental byproduct of the supremacist totalitarianism of the American South. Raised in his father’s church in Atlanta, Ebenezer Baptist Church, he was taught to believe in the authority of the Bible. But his understanding of the New Testament’s teaching about the Holy Spirit, with all its potential political implications, remained underdeveloped. He was educated at Morehouse College, the favored institution for the training of elite black men, where he was mentored by the legendary but theologically liberal Benjamin E. Mays.

He then went on to Crozer Theological Seminary in Upland, Pennsylvania, where he absorbed the theological liberalism of 1950s Northern Protestantism. Here he was taught a low view of biblical authority—and a suspicion of the miraculous and supernatural. The historian Taylor Branch, in the first volume of his Pulitzer Prize–winning trilogy, Parting the Waters, captures the theological world of the young King as a Crozer seminarian. The ­standing joke among Crozer students who survived the first term was that "the biblical image of Moses was destroyed in the first term and Jesus was finished off in the second." This milieu distanced King from a purely biblical vision of the Holy Spirit.

"For our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12).

There is, however, more to this story of King’s theological evolution. In the 1950s South, theologically conservative seminaries, regardless of denomination, were largely segregated. Unlike Northern seminaries, they claimed to hold a high view of the Bible—and used it to justify Jim Crow by interpreting Noah’s curse on his son Ham’s descendants as referring to blacks. Thus, they espoused young earth creationism while also, with rare exceptions, tolerating if not endorsing the terrorist program of the Ku Klux Klan.

Herein lies an amazing irony, that the racism of white Southern seminaries drove the most talented future black leaders to integrated Northern seminaries, which were at least less explicitly racist. In this way, conservative Christians’ sin of white supremacy planted the seeds of resistance in the hearts of a rising generation of black church leaders. Not surprisingly, however, these precocious black students emerged with a decidedly liberal theological and social orientation. Thus, for the first half of the 20th century, the intellectual leadership of the black church would be educated in an environment that inhibited them from fully tapping into the Pentecostal movement’s radically biblical vision of the power of the Holy Spirit.


Eugene F. Rivers III is the founder and director of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies.


This article originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of Plough Quarterly, "America’s Prophet." Request a free trial issue.


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How to Make a Stronghold Weak

Most Christians know that the weapons of our warfare are not physical but spiritual weapons: "Mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds" (2 Cor. 10:4b). To "pull down" means to demolish, to destroy, to hunt down and to overcome. The devil’s not always after you—you can go after him! But how? Pastor Shane Idleman breaks it down here.

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Debunking 11 Main Arguments Against Divine Healing—Part 2

In this two-part series, we will explore debunking eleven primary arguments against divine healing. Click here to read part one. The following are the last six arguments:

6. The book of Job 

Some point to Job’s sickness as a way to say that sometimes it’s God’s permissive will to allow a person to be sick. The book of James carries over the book of Job into the New Testament age which shows that God’s sovereignty—even in regard to sickness and allowing adverse circumstances—can still providentially take place for His glory. That being said, we have to must remember several things:

a. Job was eventually healed and did not stay in his miserable condition.

b. It says in Job 42:10 (KJV) that "God turned the captivity of Job" when it described his healing and restoration. Luke also says that Jesus came to make the captives free (4:18).

c. It is clear that the physical infirmity and attacks Job received came from the devil—not directly from God, and Scripture says that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8; Acts 10:38) through a better and more excellent covenant founded upon better promises (Hebrews 8:6).

Consequently, the use of the book of Job only leaves room for us to believe that in God’s sovereignty, He sometimes allows adverse circumstances in the believer’s life, but it does not in any way undo faith in Jesus to eventually bring healing and restoration after an initial test.

7. There have been many phony healing evangelists 

There have also been many phony pastors and teachers, as well as bad policemen, politicians and medical doctors. Does that mean that we do away with everything related to them? This is a foolish argument indeed.

8. We don’t know if it’s God’s will 

As already said previously in this article, I have found that if you do not start off believing that it is generally the will of God to heal the sick, you will not have a foundation of faith on which to build upon to see any results.

That it was assumed it was generally the will of God to be in health was shown in the fact that it was even included in a common greeting from the apostle John to Christians in the first century (3 John 2). James clearly states that it is the prayer of faith that heals the sick (see James 5:15). Jesus healed all who were sick who came to Him, as we see in numerous passages, including Matthew  8:16, 17; Matthew12:15, 14:36; Luke 4:40, 6:19;  Acts 10:38 and many more.

That it was God the Father’s will to heal the sick was made clear by Jesus when He said that the works He did was done by the Father in Him (John 14:10) and that if someone saw Jesus they saw the Father (John 14:7-9).

Scripture says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb.13:8). Consequently, to start off saying we don’t know if it is God’s general will to heal is not founded upon Scripture.

Furthermore, Matthew 8:16,17 connects the prophetic messianic passage in Isaiah 53:4-6 with Jesus taking upon Himself our sicknesses and diseases and the Apostle Peter looking back on the cross says, "by His wounds we were healed" (1 Pet. 2:24, MEV). Hence, not only did Jesus heal all who came to Him, but these passages indicate healing is not only through the cross but in the cross—part of the finished work of Christ.

Of course, certain things like unforgiveness, sin that has not been repented for and unbelief can hinder a person from receiving answered prayers (Mark 11:24; John 5:14; Matt. 13:58). The confidence we have in Him is that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us; however, there are some who have gone too far in their disobedience and have sinned the sin unto death (1 John 5:14-16); in which case we cannot pray in faith for their restoration.

Some also were sick and died because of causing division in the church (1 Cor. 11:30, 31) and Paul said he was going to hand an unrepentant believer over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh so his spirit can be saved (1 Cor. 5:1-5).

Consequently, although our default position should always be to assume it is the will of God to heal the sick we should also be open to the promptings of the Lord to disclose to the recipients of our prayer anything possibly hindering them from being healed. The need for discernment in regard to the above is especially the case when praying for believers who are held to a higher standard than those not yet part of the family of God.

9. Jesus only healed to prove His divinity

At times, Jesus did miracles to reveal His divinity; however, he was also motivated by compassion to heal the sick—in which case He even told some people not to tell anybody what He did for them but to keep it a secret (Mark 1:40-44).

10. The supernatural is only for the time of the apostles 

The verse cessationists use to back this view up is found in Hebrews 2:1-4 (God testified about the gospel with supernatural signs worked by Jesus and the apostles, but nowhere does it imply that He stopped testifying with said miracles after the original disciples passed away).

This view, primarily purported by cessationists, is quickly fading because 70-80 percent of the growth of Christianity in Asia, Latin America and Africa is through those with a Pentecostal experience (they practice the supernatural gifts of the Spirit, which include divine healing; 1 Cor. 12:4-8). In other words, if the devil is the one behind speaking in tongues, prophecy and supernatural healings, then Satan is divided against himself globally and his kingdom cannot stand!

Consequently, any denomination or believer who is involved in missions in the above continents will probably either believe in supernatural healings or resign and come home. Also, the theological basis some give that believe the gifts of the Spirit ceased with the death of the original apostles has no merit.

My reasons for rebutting this point can fill up numerous books, however I will just cite a few here:

a. Jesus commissioned 70 to heal the sick not just the original 12 (Luke 10:1-9).

b. The book of Acts said the apostles and believers (including non-apostles Philip and Stephen as shown in Acts 7 and 8) used healings as a testimony that Christ was risen (read Acts 3, 4, 14 and 19). If the apostles and early church depended upon miracles to demonstrate the truth of the gospel, how much more do we in this day and age need the same power to witness for Christ.

c. Church history and extra-biblical documents (like the first century document "The Didache") illustrate that there have always been streams of healing and supernatural gifts after the time of the original apostles, from the early church till the present time.

d. Scripture teaches all believers to pray for the sick and move in the power of God, not just the apostles (Mark 16:15-19; James 5:15; Gal. 3:5).

e. The ministry gift functions, which include apostles and prophets, will continue in the church until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ (read Eph. 4:11-13). A state of maturity in the church, all honest people should be able to say, does not yet exist today in the body of Christ; hence, we still need apostolic and prophetic leaders in the contemporary church age.

f. Cessationists cling to a passage in 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 that says tongues will cease when that which is perfect comes (they claim the perfect here is referring to the complete canon of scripture which supposedly ends the need for the supernatural gifts of the Spirit).

A few things to take note are this:

  • Most scholars and Bbible commentaries in church history indicate the "perfect state" to refer to heaven, not the completion of the canon of Scripture.
  • If tongues ceased already, then the context demands that knowledge will also not be needed (truly we still need knowledge in this day and age).
  •  Paul, referring to himself, says in verse 12 (ESV) "then I shall know fully, even as I have been full known." Since the apostle Paul was not alive when the canon of Scripture was completed (he died before the apostle John wrote the book of Revelation) he could not be talking about the completion of the Bible. It has to be talking about when he sees Jesus face-to-face in heaven (much more can be said about this passage).

11. Not everyone keeps their healing

Although it is true that not everyone keeps their healing, it is also true that not everybody who makes a commitment to Christ stays in the faith. (See Mark 4:1-20.) Does that mean that salvation is not true because there are some who backslide? The same way, just because some do not keep their healing doesn’t nullify the fact that God still heals today.

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