Author Archives: grelanmuse

Jesus’ resurrection: Fact or fiction?

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Jesus' empty tomb

By Rusty Wright
Special to ASSIST News Service

MOUNT HERMON, Calif. – At Easter, some might wonder what all the fuss is about.  Who cares?  What difference does it make if Jesus rose from the dead?

It makes all the difference in the world.  If Christ did not rise, then thousands of believers have died as martyrs for aJesus' empty tomb hoax.

If he did rise, then he is still alive and can offer peace to troubled, hurting lives.

Countless scholars – among them the apostle Paul, Augustine, Sir Isaac Newton, and C.S. Lewis – have believed in the resurrection.  We need not fear committing intellectual suicide by believing it also.  Where do the facts lead?

Paul, a first-century skeptic-turned-believer, wrote that “Christ died for our sins…he was buried…he was raised on the third day…he appeared to Cephas [Peter], and then to the Twelve [Disciples].  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred…at the same time, most of whom are still living.”  Consider four pieces of evidence:

  1. The explosive growth of the Christian movement. Within a few weeks after Jesus was crucified, a movement arose which, by the later admission of its enemies, “upset the world.”  What happened to ignite this movement shortly after its leader had been executed?
  2. The disciples’ changed lives. After Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, most of his disciples fled in fear.  Peter denied three times that he was a follower of Jesus.  (The women were braver and stayed to the end.)  Yet ten out of the eleven disciples (Judas committed suicide) were martyred for their faith.  According to traditions, Peter was crucified upside down; Thomas was skewered.  John was boiled in oil but survived.  What turned these cowards into heroes?  Each believed he had seen Jesus alive again.
  3. The empty tomb. Jesus’ corpse was removed from the cross, wrapped like a mummy, and placed in a solid-rock tomb.  A one-and-a-half to two-ton stone was rolled into a slightly depressed groove to seal the tomb’s entrance.

A “Green Beret”-like unit of Roman soldiers guarded the tomb.  Sunday morning, the stone was found rolled away, the body was gone, but the graveclothes were still in place.  What happened?

Did Christ’s friends steal the body?  Perhaps one of the women sweet-talked (karate-chopped?) the guard while the others moved the stone and tiptoed off with the body.  Or maybe Peter (remember his bravery) or Thomas (Doubting Thomas) overpowered the guards, stole the body, then fabricated – and died for – a resurrection myth.

These theories hardly seem plausible.  The guard was too powerful, the stone too heavy, and the disciples too frightened to attempt such a feat.

Did Christ’s enemies steal the body?  If Romans or Jewish religious leaders had the body, surely they would have exposed it publicly and Christianity would have died out.  They didn’t, and it didn’t.

The “Swoon Theory” supposes that Jesus didn’t really die but was only unconscious.  The expert Roman executioners only thought he was dead.  After a few days in the tomb, the cool air revived him.

He burst from the 100 pounds of graveclothes, rolled away the stone with his nail-pierced hands, scared the daylights out of the Roman soldiers, walked miles on wounded feet, and convinced his disciples he’d been raised from the dead.  This one is harder to believe than the resurrection itself.

  1. The appearances of the risen Christ. For 40 days after his death, many different people said they saw Jesus alive.  Witnesses included a woman, a shrewd tax collector, several fisherman, and over 500 people at once.  These eyewitness claims provide further testimony for the resurrection.

As a skeptic, I realized that attempts to explain away the evidences run into a brick wall of facts that point to oneRusty Wright conclusion:  Christ is risen.

The above does not constitute an exhaustive proof, rather a reasoned examination of the evidence.  Each interested person should evaluate the evidence and decide if it makes sense.  Of course, the truth or falsity of the resurrection is a matter of historical fact and is not dependent on anyone’s belief.  If the facts support the claim, one can conclude that he arose.  In any case, mere intellectual assent to the facts does little for one’s life.

A major evidence comes experientially, in personally receiving Jesus’ free gift of forgiveness.  He said, “I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him [or her].”

Worth considering?*     *     *

The New Testament resurrection accounts are in Matthew 27-28Mark 15-16,Luke 23-24, and John 19-21.  Suggestions for further reading:  J.N.D. Anderson, The Evidence for the Resurrection; Frank Morison, Who Moved the Stone?; Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict.

Copyright © 2016 Rusty Wright

Harris: Nineveh, that great city

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Jonah the reluctant profit

By Jack Harris
Special to ASSIST News Service

IRAQ – “Yet 40 days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” (Jonah 3:4). Thus cried Jonah, the reluctant prophet. One man speaking against one of the mightiest cities of the day.

The result?

The whole city repented in sackcloth and ashes; from the throne room right down to the stables. Even the domesticJonah the reluctant profit animals were covered with sackcloth and ash. Both beast and man were called upon to fast before GOD under penalty of law. The book of Jonah thus records one of the most dramatic wide scale acts of public contrition and repentance in history.

GOD spared the city in that generation though it would later in history become one of Israel’s greatest enemies. This fact and the prophet’s foresight was the cause of his reluctance to bring GOD’S warning to the city. He preferred to see a whole generation of his people’s enemies perish rather than repent and experience GOD’S mercy.

I believe the Book of Jonah was placed in our scriptures by the Holy Spirit to have more meaning than to address the problems of those who run away from their calling, or to provide our Sunday Schools with a quaint story of a man and a big fish. However, I believe this is more about how we view our enemies.

I expect nothing different from the unbelievers among our countrymen than the fear and hatred I see whipped up to the point of frenzy by the media and politicians. But I’m shocked to the core when I see it in GOD’S own people, the very ones who claim to believe in the same Jesus Christ who said, “But I say unto you, ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;’” (Matthew 5:44).

The LORD rebuked an offended James and John who wanted to call down fire from heaven upon a small village that rejected their LORD’S message. He said, “You know not what manner of spirit you are of.” (Luke 9:55).

We seldom would think of such a spirit as antichrist but that’s exactly what it is. Jesus said, “You’re either gatheringThe_Walls_of_Nineveh with me or you’re scattering abroad.” (Matthew 12:30).

Just because you favorite politicos say such things on TV doesn’t make it right. Lest you misunderstand, I’m not a pacifist and I’ve no objection to taking up arms against evil or protecting one’s family friends and country. But I’m dead set against one size fits all racial or religious prejudice.

Recently, I sat with a young Kurdish woman in the government office in Northern Iraq, where she worked. We were waiting for some document I needed to come back from another office. As we talked, I could tell she was discouraged and worried about the future. Why wouldn’t she be? The border separating the Kurdish forces and ISIS was only mere miles over the horizon. I tried to assure her that many American people, especially we Christians were with them. She just looked at me sadly and said, I don’t think your people like us anymore because we are Muslims. I asked her where she got that impression. She said, “By watching American TV and hearing the hatred spoken toward Muslims on the air. These people are our friends, our allies and so far they’ve lost over 1500 of their soldiers in the fight against ISIS.”

I am no lover of Islam. I am, however, a lover of Muslim people, as is Jesus Christ. He died on the cross for their sins just as he did for ours. He was sent by the Father to save these people, just as he saved us. What don’t we get about this?

Abe Lincoln was once criticized for trying to befriend his political enemies rather than destroy them. He replied, Do I not destroy my enemy when I make him my friend?

This is what Christianity is all about or rather should be all about.

God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.

Potentially, the greatest harvest of souls in human history is right before us but are we too blind to see it? Are we too predisposed to pay attention to it? Will we, one day, wail over a harvest past and a missed opportunity as Jeremiah did because his generation did not heed his words?

GOD is moving in the Middle East but will we, his people, miss it? Israel missed their Messiah when Jesus came the first time. They were blind to the most significant spiritual event in their history.

Jesus asks an interesting question concerning his return.

Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?

We are witnessing nothing less than the spiritual rebirth of Christianity in the Middle East. As one very dear Muslim friend told me, “The religion of Islam is finished! People are disgusted with it.”

In Romans, Chapter Ten, we read, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?”

It’s this writer’s humble opinion that it’s high time to quite trying to prophetically second guess God with our clever eschatological assumptions and simply do what He’s called us to do and that’s to labor in the harvest until HE returns.

It’s almost paradoxical that the ancient ruins of Nineveh lay just four kilometers [about two-and-a-half miles] fromJack_Harris_on_a_missions_trip Mosul across the Tigris River a mere sixteen miles from the Kurdistan border. Mosul, a city of two million is still, at this writing, in the hands of ISIS forces. There is a planned invasion to liberate the city. Nobody knows exactly when, but it’s coming. Without GOD’S intervention. it’s likely to be a very bloody battle with the loss of a great number of lives.

With over a million Syrian refugees and Iraqi IDP’s just across the Kurdish border and the cities of Domiz and Duhok, as well as many smaller towns clustered close by, there’s a sense of impending judgement and coming wrath that hangs like a dark cloud in the atmosphere. It’s palpable.

Yet 40 days! Jonah cries, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!

The Days of Prophetic Judgment are once more come to this region and we have a Jonah generation there right now, in place and standing up with the message of repentance and redemption.

* If you, YES, YOU! are ever going to pray for our people, Pray NOW!

* If you’re ever going to stand with us, then Stand NOW!

* If you’re ever going to give to help us, then Give NOW!

* That our brethren will have the resources, spiritual and material to win a harvest.

Easter a popular time to visit Israel

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By Michael Ireland
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

DALLAS – Tens of thousands of Christians are expected to visit Israel to celebrate Holy Week and Easter in theGarden of Gethesemane next two weeks and visit the very places described in the New Testament.

“There is nothing like experiencing Holy Week in Jerusalem,” according to Don Weitz, marketing and sales consultant with E.D.I. Travel Israel Tours.

“Celebrating the greatest events of salvation history and of Jesus’ life at the very sites where they occurred is a moving and unforgettable experience of faith for all believers,” he told ASSIST News Service.

“On Easter and the preceding Holy Week, Jerusalem fills will pilgrims from all over the world,” Weitz said.

“On Palm Sunday (March 20), more than 1,000 Catholic and Protestant pilgrims come streaming down the Mount of Olives singing hymns and bearing palm fronds, reenacting Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. A procession takes place in the afternoon, beginning at the Bethpage Church on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives and descending into Gethsemane and ending in the Old City at the Church of St. Anne’s. Olive Trees in Garden of Gethsemane,” he said.

Weitz said that another highlight is Maundy Thursday (March 24), when the faithful commemorate the Last Supper and the washing of the apostle’s feet by Jesus and his last hours prior to his arrest in Gethsemane.

“In the afternoon, a short Catholic prayer service in several languages takes place at the Cenacle, while the Anglican, Lutheran and Protestant denominations hold a procession from St. George’s Cathedral to the Redeemer’s Church and Christ Church, ending at Gethsemane,” Weitz stated.

Weitz said that on Good Friday a procession of thousands bearing crosses and led by the Patriarch, the Custodian of the Holy Sites, and other independent groups marks the Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem’s Old City to the Calvary in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

“In the evening, a burial procession is held in the Holy Sepulcher (Catholics), in the Old City churches and at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem (Protestants), where services are also held in English.”

Weitz described how, on Easter Sunday (March 27), when the faithful celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, the Latin Patriarch heads a procession to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for a multi-lingual reading of the Gospel of Resurrection and celebration of the Easter Masses.

He said Protestants partake in the Easter services in English at the Garden Tomb and several Protestant churches in Jerusalem.

Please see a schedule of Garden Tomb Easter events at this link

Photo: Ancient olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Former elected official pens book for citizens to boost their role in local government

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By Tonya Andris
Inside The Pew

In this election season, Americans are taking to the polls to perform the most treasured act granted in a democracy.

But, the election process is just one way for citizens to interact with government. And, according to Cynthia Northrop White, the best way for citizens to increase their knowledge of government is to get involvedCynthia Northrop and Women in Transportation at the local level.

“I truly believe if citizens are knowledgeable about how local government works and how different levels of government interact they will be more successful in finding solutions to issues important to them,” White said.

White, a former Denton County (Texas) Commissioner, recently celebrated the release of her first book, Make a Difference: Navigating the Maze of Local Government (Austin Brothers Publishing, $24.95).

Touted as a “local government for dummies” type book that takes a holistic approach by connecting the dots between the different levels of government and how they each inform the other, White points to her ultimate desire of motivating and equipping citizens to engage in their local communities.

“We don’t learn about local government in school. I’ve talked to many citizens during my time in office over the years and have found that the more information they get on how local government works the more they want to get involved because they begin to see they can make a difference,” White said.

The book covers the nuts and bolts of local government structure and includes practical information on knowing who and how to contact, how the federal government informs local government and perspective onMake A Difference by Cynthia Northrop White what make a community successful.

White, who holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of North Texas, stresses the importance of collaborative partnerships.

“I believe synergistic communities of cohesive local government, community-minded businesses, strong and supported non-profit community and informed and engaged citizens spell success.”

Denton County Commissioner Bobbie Mitchell and former Commissioner White’s served on the Lewisville (Texas) City Council for three years in the early 1990s and Denton County Commissioners Court from 2001 to 2008.

“I was impressed by Commissioner White’s commitment to not only serving the citizens but to her passion for educating them as well,” said Commissioner Mitchell, specifically recalling White’s initiative in creating and initiating a Student Government Day for high school seniors, hosting town halls on specific topics of interest to her constituents, creation of a monthly transportation task force meeting designed specifically for residents of her precinct and the creation of the “380 Coalition.”

The book also includes a collection of columns on county issues White wrote while in office and distributed to community newspapers and through her own email distribution list.

“The release of Make a Difference: Navigating the Maze of Local Government allows me to continue my mission to provide a convenient and compact resource for citizens on how to understand, connect, and make a difference in their communities.”

The book is available at all major book retailers, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


Top: Cynthia Northrop White, right, makes a presentation during a Women in Transportation meeting.

Right: Book cover: “Making A Difference: Navigating the Maze of Local Government”

Copyright © 2016 Inside The Pew. All rights reserved.


Bubba Watson’s colorful journey with Christ

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By Michael Ashcraft and Mark Ellis
Special to ASSIST News

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA — He grew up wearing knickers sewn by his grandma, endured the rage of his Vietnam vet father, and learned to play golf smacking a wiffle ball around the house.

Bubba Watson, 37, arguably golf’s most colorful character, won the Los Angeles Riviera tournament Feb. 21, and he credited Jesus and the Bible with the win, his ninth PGA tour victory since 2010.Bubba Watson

“I have a lot of fears in my life, which, as I’m reading the Bible, I’m not supposed to have — but I do,” Watson told the New York Times. “Me changing as a person has helped my golf, not my swing.”

It wasn’t too long ago that Watson would lose games in his brain. He struggled with insecurity, melted down after a bad shot, and looked for people to blame when things went wrong. He used curse words and rankled other players with some unfriendliness.

But with the help of his wife, his caddie, and fellow Christian golfers (who meet weekly at a PGA Bible study), Watson is overcoming the temperamental side of his personality.

“We’ve been working on it, a hard, slow process,” Watson said in Golf Digest. “Instead of swing thoughts and swing, it’s all about the mind for me. It’s staying patient, and having Teddy (the caddie) in my ear. Teddy’s been a blessing. It’s been a struggle over five years, but we’re working in the right direction.”

His Twitter account is telling. Followed by 1.54 million, @bubbawatson describes him in this order: “Christian, husband, daddy, pro golfer.”

Watson told that he is “getting more in the Word and realizing that golf is just an avenue for Jesus to use me to reach as many people as I can.”Bubba_Watson_with_wife_and_adopted_child

His walk with Christ started when he was 19. A neighbor invited him to church. It was his first time in a service. “I went to church with her a few times,” he told CNN. “I listened, thought about, gave myself to the Lord.”

During college, his church attendance tapered off, but in 2004 he got baptized with his new wife, Angie, and renewed his faith.

On his first date with Angie, a college and professional basketball player, she advised him that she couldn’t bear children – and Watson told her that was fine. To date, they have two adopted kids, Caleb and Dakota.

After his baptism, he drifted away from God. Then his caddie yelled at him for his stormy behavior on the links, and Watson realized he needed to take things more seriously.

“I’ve been reading my Bible and getting stronger in my faith,” he said.

Today, Watson is a very visible and vocal Christian. After the won the Master’s at Augusta for the first time in 2012, he said, “I thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Famously, Watson never received any more golf instruction than from his dad when he was a tyke using a sawed-off club. That’s astonishing because the lefty hits the ball farther than pretty much anybody in the PGA (over 350 yards). And he can put spins on the ball that produce tree-rounding curves that will make you think he has Jedi powers.

To win the 2012 Master’s, Watson hit his ball out of some pine trees in a boomeranging hook that landed on the green only a few feet away from the pin of the second hole. It would seem that whacking that wiffle ball around the house taught him about spin.

Watson donates tons of money to various causes. When Ping fell short in raising money for a Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Watson gave $110,000 to reach the goal. He gave $35,000 to a high school and spoke emotionally about his own low self-esteem and poor grades. He helps earthquake victims and sick kids.

Watson loves Christian rapper LeCrae. “Lecrae said it the best. He doesn’t want to be a celebrity. He doesn’t want to be a superstar. He just wants to be the middle man for you to see God through him.”

Apparently, that rap has influenced the country boy from the Florida Panhandle. Watson and three other pro golfers formed the rap group “Golf Boys,” which is more antics than lyrics. Their single “Oh Oh Oh” is sponsored by Farmer’s Insurance Group, which gives $1,000 to charity for every 100,000 views.

Watson has his zany moments, cracking jokes on his Twitter account as frequently as he shares the gospel. He recently purchased the Dukes of Hazzard car called the General Lee and outfitted a golf-cart “hover craft” which floats on water. He comically refers to himself in the third person: “a guy from Florida named Bubba.” He has one pink driver shaft among his clubs.

Around his golfing schedule in Los Angeles, he managed to watch Justin Bieber rehearse and give his son an impromptu drum lesson. Incredibly, he also passed a kidney stone. He acted in a bit part for the T.V. show “Girl Meets World.” Is it ADD or does he use distraction to de-stress?

For the win at the Riviera, it all worked.

Photo credits:
Top, Bubba Watson takes a swing. Bottom, Bubba Watson and his wife, Angie, with their first adopted child.

COGIC Charities gives water, baby formula to Flint residents

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By Grelan Muse Sr.
Inside The Pew

In wake of the ongoing Flint water crisis, the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) Charities recently announced it is sending water and ready-made baby formula to Flint residents.

According to a press release, several COGIC churches in Flint will serve as distribution centers providing much-needed water and babyFlint Water formula to thousands of Flint residents for the next couple of months or until supplies are depleted.

“There are more than 60 Church of God in Christ congregations in Flint, Mich. When we heard about the crisis, we immediately began to mobilize and strategize how we as an organization could help our members and residents,” said Charles E. Blake, Sr., COGIC presiding bishop. “The leadership of the Church of God in Christ cannot stand silent as the innocent children of Flint and their parents suffer the ravages of poisonous water. We stand with these parents, and with all the residents, to call for the speedy, permanent restoration of clean, drinking water.”

The following COGIC congregations in Flint will distribute water and infant formula free of charge: Greater Holy Temple COGIC, 6702Flint Deliveries North Dort Highway; Cathedral of Faith COGIC, 6031 DuPont St.; International Inspiration Gospel Ministries COGIC, 901 Brown St.; Pentecostal Tabernacle COGIC, 401 Carton St.; Open Door COGIC, 3925 North Term St.; Lively Stone COGIC, 1023 Pettibone St.; Redeeming Grace Ministries, 802 E. Baltimore Blvd.; Greater New Bethel COGIC, 925 W. Atherton Road; Faith Temple COGIC, 5802 Fleming Road; Born Again Ministries COGIC, 3302 Lewis St.; and New Jerusalem COGIC, 617 Stockdale St.

For more information about COGIC Charities’ “Water For Flint,” visit


Top: COGIC Charities has donated water and ready-made baby formula to residents of Flint, Mich. Courtesy of Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press.

Right: Charity donations were delivered by U-Haul trucks and cars.

Copyright © 2016 Inside The Pew. All rights reserved.

Epic biblical drama ‘Risen’ seeks to answer, ‘Can a Roman soldier prove Resurrection was a hoax?’

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By Michael Ireland
ASSIST News Service

LOS ANGELES – In a fresh take on history’s biggest event, seen through the eyes of a high-ranking Roman military officer, RISEN is an imaginative retelling of what happened Risenafter Jesus was crucified and resurrected.

Following the crucifixion, Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth) assigns Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) to find Jesus’ missing body and disprove any resurrection.

RISEN stars Joseph Fiennes (SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE), Tom Felton (HARRY POTTER), Peter Firth (PEARL HARBOR) and Cliff Curtis (LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD). Kevin Reynolds (ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES) directs with Steven Mirkovich editing (THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST).

RISEN is an epic biblical story of Jesus’ crucifixion and the weeks following, through the eyes of the unbelieving Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), a high-ranking Roman military officer. Clavius and his aide Lucius (Tom Felton) are assigned by Pontius Pilate to ensure that Jesus’ radical followers can’t steal his body and claim a resurrection. Within days, however, the body is missing, putting Clavius on a mission to find it, to disprove the rumors of a risen Messiah and to prevent an uprising in Jerusalem.

RISEN picks up where THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST left off. Here is why a ragtag group of disciples fanned across the Roman empire and changed the course of history. Politically, historically, spiritually … and seeks to answer the question: ‘Why is this story still so important?’

The Greatest Manhunt in History

High-ranking Roman military officer Clavius is on the detective assignment of all time: to disprove news of Jesus’ resurrection. RISEN filmmakers cast the story of Jesus’ life, deathRisen Poster and resurrection from a skeptic’s point of view, and the result is an exciting and fresh take on one of the world’s most-known stories.

AFFIRM Films is known for faith- and family-friendly classics such as WAR ROOM, SOUL SURFER, COURAGEOUS and WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL. AFFIRM Senior Vice President Rich Peluso leads the creative team behind films that satisfy the faith audience and go beyond to widely inspire, entertain and engage.

Early reviews suggest a new biblical epic hitting theaters this week is picking up where “The Passion of the Christ” left off.

“Risen” tells the story of Jesus’ crucifixion through the eyes of Clavius, a Roman military officer who is on a mission to prove the resurrection did not happen. Actor Joseph Fiennes stars as Clavius. Fiennes shared more about the film with CBN News’ Efrem Graham.

“A big attraction for me was the way his mind worked, but to get to his mind I found I had to take a physical route. I went to gladiator school in Rome. I stayed long enough to never want to go back,” he told CBN News.

“I spent the good part of a week working with a brilliant set of guys, and what I learned from a military standpoint was a way into the man was conditioned and the way that he thought,” he said.

Clavius is an ambitious Roman soldier who first tries to keep Christ’s body from being stolen after his crucifixion. He then sets out on anmi_CLAVIUS_and_Lucius_02-25-2016 angry journey to find the body after it disappears from the sealed and guarded tomb. He’s a bit of a detective.

Director Kevin Reynolds shot the film in Spain and Malta, where Fiennes had no contact with the actor who played Christ until their first scenes together.

“We had a wonderful team of actors, and they were all very present and dedicated to the narrative. Like any great narrative in any great movie, it’s about relationships,” Fiennes shared. “I think your average good actor gets that and knows it and preps accordingly.”

“So, the disciples as a group of actors were incredibly bonded. They were a unit and a family. And I was very much polarized and outside of that, but when I got invited into the group, it was kind of like the arc of the film was the arc of my existence with them,” he continued.

“I wouldn’t have contact with them until we had made those scenes where we had contact. So that became quite emotional that journey,” he said.

“I think a big component in the movie for me and what I connect to with Clavius is the sense of the second chance, even if it is in the subconscious, which hasn’t quite bubbled to the surface or he has worked out, so I love that component.”

That second chance is exactly why Christ suffered, died and was “Risen.”

“Risen” opened in theaters February 19.

Photo captions: 1) Jesus crucified along with other convicted criminals in RISEN, in theaters nationwide, Feb. 19, 2016. Photo: Columbia Pictures. 2) Advertising poster for RISEN. Photo: Columbia Pictures. 3) Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) and Lucius (Tom Felton) execute orders from Pontius Pilate in RISEN. Photo: Columbia Pictures.

Heart attack victim raised from the dead!

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By Charles Gardner
Special to ASSIST News Service

DONCASTER, UK — A man from the Yorkshire town of Doncaster in the north of England, was restored to life after being clinically dead for nearly an hour during hospital treatmentRaised_from_the_Dead has been speaking about his experience at Christian meetings around the country.

But in an exclusive interview with this journalist, Joe Stevenson has now shared his amazing story for the purposes of newspaper coverage.

The “miracle” happened six years ago, and has been verified by the surgeon involved.

Joe was admitted to Doncaster Royal Infirmary for a total knee replacement but, at the initiation of physiotherapy the day after surgery, he suffered a massive heart attack.

For the next 55 minutes he had “no cardiac output and no respiratory effort other than what was maintained by the resuscitation team,” according to Consultant Orthopedic Surgeon, Mr. A. S. W. Bruce.

When informed by the patient’s son-in-law that Joe had died, his church friends began to pray – not for the Lord to raise him up, but for his family to be comforted.

Then, amazingly, his heart started beating again – “spontaneous cardiac output and respiratory effort were returned,” said Mr. Bruce – and he was in a coma for the next 72 hours. But there was no brain damage and, although initially suffering acute renal failure, this completely settled in time.

“Having seen him in clinic, he has made an uneventful recovery,” Mr. Bruce added in a letter dated Jan. 25, 2011.

Now 75 and in continuing good health, Joe lives in Coniston Road, Askern, with his wife, Wilsie.

Dr. David Garrard, a senior lecturer at the Assemblies of God Bible College at Mattersey, Doncaster, and a fellow member at the time of the Reachout Christian Fellowship at Christ Church in central Doncaster, said: “The miracle of the resurrection power of Christ is evidenced in what happened to Joe.”

Joe was admitted for his operation [surgery] on Dec. 9, 2009. The op itself went smoothly, but it was the following morning, as he lay recovering, that he suffered a cardiac arrest.

Wilsie called their five children, who immediately dropped everything and raced down from all over the country. Then the doctor announced: “We have a pulse, but don’t build your hopes.”

“The medical team had fully expected Joe to be a vegetable due to no oxygen supply to his brain for all that time,” Wilsie recalled. “And though his kidneys were not initially functioning, with regular dialysis on the cards, they eventually returned to normal, to the delight of the medics.”

Joe has since revealed that he had a series of extraordinary visions during his hour of “death.”

This included a scene of “total chaos on the earth” with everyone struggling for power and some arguing over clothing and possessions which had become worthless as money no longer had any value.

“The Lord showed me armies fighting one another, even beginning to kill their own people; young men and women taking people into alleyways, killing them at random and running away, laughing. I saw pillaging and rapes.

“Then I saw millions of dead bodies inside a massive lean-to, all in different uniforms. And giant earth-moving machines pushing the bodies into a quarry – something like a picture of Armageddon described in the Bible.” (Revelation 14.20)

Dr. Garrard explained: “I have no difficulty at all accepting what Joe communicates [of his visions] because… they can be backed up by many portions of Scripture.”

Joe and Wilsie are currently members of the Millennium Christian Fellowship in Hemsworth [a former mining town in West Yorkshire], meeting at the YMCA.

Joe said that in the weeks leading up to his surgery, he had sought a much closer relationship with God as a result of which he experienced “a deep cleansing and a strengthening of spirit.”

He now realizes that we all need to get back to basic Bible principles of loving one another as one body, with Jesus as head.

Belles: Super Bowl sex trafficking is not a myth

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By Tonya Andris
Inside The Pew

Now that Super Bowl 50 is history, one organization continues its call for more awareness on sex trafficking that occurs during the annual game and other large events.Nita Belles

Nita Belles, founder of In Our Backyard, recently took her fight for victims to San Francisco, taking issue with journalists and supporters of the sex industry who called increased sex trafficking during gatherings of this sort as an urban myth.

“An urban myth? Are they serious?” questions the human trafficking expert. “There is no myth about it.

“Traffickers smell the money present at the Super Bowl celebrations and bring their victims here to exploit them and take the money. We are not talking about voluntary prostitution,” said Belles, author of a book that bears the same title of her organization. “The fact is that adults and children are being forced into sex trafficking. Human trafficking is the second largest and fastest growing crime in the world—and that includes the United States. It is happening 365 days a year in every ZIP code. Trafficking, and even the recruitment of new victims, absolutely escalates around large events that draw big crowds like this week’s Super Bowl.”

Belles lead a team of professionals who worked non-stop to ensure that those who are being trafficked have a fighting chance at freedom and that the sex buyers and traffickers will be brought to justice.

“There’s a saying that prostitution is the oldest profession in the world,” Belles said. “But it’s the oldest abuse in the world. Here is my request to the media: Don’t be quiet. Don’t fall prey to the lie that human trafficking is not increasing.  All the traffickers ask is that we keep quiet and perpetuate the myth that it doesn’t happen here. I ask for the media’s help in making it hard to be a trafficker.”

A 2014 study by the University of Arizona about increased sex trafficking during large events stated that “The Super Bowl, or any large event which provides a significant concentration of people in a relatively confined urban area, becomes a desirable location for a trafficker to bring their victims for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation.”

After last year’s Super Bowl in Arizona, the FBI announced that Arizona police departments and law enforcement officers conducted recovery operations for six months leading up to the Super Bowl, where agencies recovered numerous juvenile victims, ranging in age from 13 to 17, as well as adult victims who had been subjected to physical abuse by their traffickers.

Overall through their efforts arrests included 360 customers of commercial sex, 68 traffickers and the recovery of 30 juvenile victims.  Belles said that in 2014, 45 arrests were made around the New Jersey Super Bowl, with 16 juveniles recovered.  In New Orleans the year before, 85 arrests made and five victims recovered.

“Any time you have a large number of people gathering in one place with a party atmosphere—especially males, it’s prime ground for sex trafficking,” Belles said. “I know of animals who are treated with more respect than those who are trafficked. They are forced into horrendous acts that we don’t even want to imagine. Prostitutes are usually victims,” she says, “and ‘john’ is too nice a word for someone who should be called a ‘sex buyer.’ She adds, “Those who are being trafficked are precious children of God and deserve to live free of modern slavery. That is why I do what I do.”

Belles explains that escape is difficult because victims are closely watched and often traumatically bonded to their captors. Those that are rescued are hoping that they can get the help needed to find a new, safe, happy life.  Sex trafficking victims, particularly minors, have a tough road in front of them, even under the best circumstances. They need trauma-based treatment, kindness, understanding, a stable and non-threatening environment, and lots of time.

“Many will need professional counseling and medical or mental health services to recover from the atrocities that have happened to them,” Belles said. “Those recovered in the anti-trafficking efforts in the Bay Area will be offered that help.”

Copyright © 2016 Inside The Pew. All rights reserved.

The long wait is over: Saeed Abedini back on U.S. soil

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By Dan Wooding
Founder of the ASSIST News Service

NORTH CAROLINA – The long wait is finally over for Saeed Abedini, the 35-year-old American pastor imprisoned in Iran, when the plane he was traveling in, touched down onSaeed_Abedini off plane U.S. soil Jan. 22 at a North Carolina airport, and he was able to wrap his arms around his parents and sister.

A huge smile spread across Abedini’s when he deplaned and was warmly greeted by his family, and also Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, after spending more than three traumatic years in jail in Iran for his Christian faith.

Iran-born Abedini, who converted from Islam to Christianity, had traveled to Iran in 2012 on a mission to build an orphanage. But he was detained in July 2012 on charges of evangelizing and sentenced to eight years in prison.

The judge said Abedini’s activities were “threatening the national security of Iran.”trailer movie J. Cole: 4 Your Eyez Only 2017

Abedini was freed from the Iranian prison along with three other Americans last week. The release was part of a prisoner exchange between the United States and Iran.

Besides Abedini, the Iranians also released Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian; Amir Hekmati, a former Marine from Flint, Mich.; Nosratallah Khosravi-Roodsari, a businessman; and Matthew Trevitthick, a student.

“Pastor Saeed Abedini is safely back and will be a guest at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove [the 1,200-acre retreat center in the N.C. mountains] in Asheville, N.C., as he re-acclimates and spends time with his family,” Graham shared on Facebook on Jan. 22.

In a statement, Franklin Graham, who is also CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), which operates the Asheville center, said that “we want to provide him aFranklin_Graham_with_Saeed_Abedini quiet place to rest and visit with family.”

Franklin, who played a leading role in the campaign by evangelical Christians to press for Abedini’s release, added: “None of us in America can begin to understand or appreciate what Saeed has endured after being imprisoned in Iran because of his Christian faith.”

CBN News reported that Saeed’s attorneys said the charge also stemmed from his prior involvement with Christian house churches in Iran.

Until his flight back to the United States, Saeed Abedini had been in Germany undergoing medical evaluation at a U.S. military hospital.

“During his imprisonment… he was beaten, threatened, suffered internal injuries, denied medical treatment and was separated from his wife and two children,” added CBN News.

His wife, Naghmeh, 38, who fought tireless for him, has announced that she and their two children, Jacob and Rebekka, will joining him at the The Cove on Jan. 25.

Naghmeh added that she will continue working to promote religious freedom and bring attention to Christian persecution.

One media report stated that Luke Caldwell, a family friend and son of the founder of Calvary Chapel Boise, where the Abedinis attend church, described their reunion as a “complex situation” that requires “a lot of prayer and support.”

“You wish it was as easy as, everyone’s fine, but 3-1/2 years of separation and disconnection,” he said. “Ultimately, they need to reunite that love and that connection.”

Meanwhile, Saeed has been speaking out about what it’s been like for him to finally be free.

The ACLJ (, has worked on Saeed’s behalf to advocate for his freedom since he was thrown in prison by the Iranian regime, who many believe had doubled-crossed him by initially telling him that he could return to the land of his birth to help set up an orphanage. But then, after crossing the border from Turkey, they promptly arrested him, and he was later sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment on charges of evangelizing.

Photo credits: Top, Saeed Abedini is greeted in North Carolina by his mother as his father and sister look on. Bottom, Franklin Graham, left, with Saeed Abedini.

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