Author Archives: grelanmuse

God at work: When community comes together, great things happen

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Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series on a collaboration that benefits one north Texas city.

By Lisa V. Cone
Special to Inside The Pew

Do you believe that giving is contagious? A group of McKinney, Texas, business owners and community leadersThe Word Church Repairs certainly do. Their generosity and charitable spirit not only helped people, but their giving has spurred a ripple effect of generosity across the community.

It all began with a small church that hosts worship services from an old building on the east side of McKinney — an area impacted by economic hardships and poverty. Many of the area’s residents struggle to find jobs and provide the basic necessities for their families. In the middle of so much darkness, The Word Church has been a source of hope, restoration, and light. Men, women and families come to the church not only to worship, but to receive a warm meal, clothes and even a place to sleep. In addition, the church offers job training programs, money management skills, counseling, job referrals and other resources to help those who need guidance and a hand-up.

“The goal for this church is to create a place where people in need can heal, be restored and connect with their families, their community, and, most importantly, with God. Our church hosts worship services and Bible study groups, but we want to be even more to those in need. A house on the adjacent lot provides transitional housing for single mothers and the working poor who are trying to make ends meet. We want to be a resource for the community while sharing the love of Christ,” explained The Word Church Pastor, Robert Dyson.

And even as their building was falling down around them, The Word Church was steadfast to heal and restore those in the community from the inside out. But to provide even more resources, the church building and house were in desperate need of repairs that were beyond what the congregation could provide on its own.

A Community United

Enter the C12 Group of Collin/Denton, a peer advisory forum for Christian CEOs and owners committed to building great businesses for a greater purpose. C12 members focus on critical business topics to strengthen their businesses while finding ways to honor God through ministry. This network of men and women who all own or lead a business in the area became aware of The Word Church eighteen months ago. The church’s needs were apparent. C12 members decided that applying their skills, time and energy was a way to bless their local community — and the outcome is beyond what anyone could have imagined.

C12 member, Sam Cuccia who owns a telecommunications consulting company, is one of the nearly dozen C12 members who have been part of the team helping The Word Church. From his perspective, it all started with a prompting from God. Cuccia recalls hearing a sermon at his church, Christ Fellowship Church, when Pastor Bruce Miller (also a C12 member) shared stories and a video clip documenting the poverty and heartache in McKinney’s east side.

“McKinney, Texas was named the best place to live in America by Money magazine. But if you travel to the east side, it is a different story. How can this be happening in my city and I don’t even know it? It shook me,” explained Cuccia. “After witnessing photos of poverty and loss, I wanted to do something, but I just wasn’t sure what to do. Perhaps this was the vision from God I was supposed to follow.” And so he did.

Brokenness Repaired

After speaking with his church, Cuccia was advised to meet with 3e McKinney, a ministry that brings care, hope andThe Word Church Stands Strong transformation to the city through the collaborative efforts of many churches. He learned about The Word Church and how Dyson wanted to make a difference to the east side. Cuccia soon discovered how this church was providing worship and support services to residents, but was having a difficult time operating out of their aging, dilapidated building.

“That’s when I asked fellow C12 member, Russell Polk, who owns a construction and remodeling company to come with me to meet with leaders of The Word Church,” Cuccia explained. The critical needs and opportunities were immediately clear. With a passion in their hearts to help, Polk and Cuccia discussed the opportunity to assist the church with all the C12 Groups in Collin and Denton counties. Many other members felt the same tug on their hearts and asked how they could help.

C12 members went to the church to meet with Dyson and his leaders. He immediately witnessed the power of giving through the C12 Group and calls them the catalyst for change.

“These men and women are busy running their own businesses but, they so selflessly donate their time, financial contributions and talents with repairing the building,” Dyson said. “They are hands on, in the trenches getting it done, working side by side, all while relationships are being created and strengthened.

“Giving, honoring God and blessing others through time and talents is exactly what these men and women are doing. We have a building that was falling apart, but this building is a source of guidance and healing for our community. If we can restore this building, then we can restore more people.”

And the Project Began….

Find out the details of the project, how the community got involved and the outcome of dozens of charitable hearts in part two.

Photo cutlines (courtesy of Lisa V. Cone):

Top: Volunteers renovate The Word Church in McKinney, Texas.

Bottom: Sign attached to church shows “The Word” stands strong. 

Lisa V. Cone is a writer for The C12 Group, America’s leading roundtable for Christian CEOs and owners dedicated to building great business for a greater purpose. She resides in Austin, and provides marketing and communications strategic support for non-profits and growing businesses across the country in various industries. 

Love and how it will heal Baton Rouge

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Montrell Jackson with baby

By Grelan Muse Sr.
Inside The Pew

BATON ROUGE – I begin this column by sending my condolences to the families of the three wounded officers and the loved ones of the three Baton Rouge peace officers who lost their lives on July 17: Montrell Jackson, 32, Matthew Gerald, 41, and Brad Garafola, 45. My city has been a place of turmoil since the shooting of Alton Sterling on July 5. However, in the midst of the turmoil, I see a Baton Rouge that is capable of making change.

After reading Montrell Jackson’s Facebook post, written on July 8, we were all confronted with a man who felt heMontrell Jackson with baby was not respected on either side of the fence. Despite all the nasty looks Jackson contented he received, he adopted the only emotion that is kind, unselfish, and perseveres: love.

It is the only thing that will help us mend a wounded Baton Rouge.

Somewhere along the way, we have become numb to the concept of respecting life. Jesus came to do away with all evil acts (1 John 3:8). Now, more than ever, is the time to adorn the façade of Christ: Stand up against the enemy. Instead of attempts to play the blame game, now is the time to pray ask for forgiveness. Remove the political and selfish agendas. Once all that is gone, we have common ground.

Remember what the Bible says about love? Ask for our Father to restore us with agape love. The greatest commandment that we love one another as He loved us (John 13:34). Ask God to restore us as a people and a nation.

When we focus on loving each other, healing begins. Speaking of agape love, we have a generation who believeGrelan Muse Sr. bloodshed is the only way to express themselves. Youth know a cold world. Mentors of youth: Let’s listen to lesser-known voices and show them positive steps toward unity and understanding while simultaneously showing discontent. I recall Martin Luther King Jr. achieving a lot without harming a soul. Young men and women have it within them, but they need role models to show the young an effective way to express their anger. Channel that anger for change that is beneficial and life-changing. The answer isn’t violence.

Solomon wrote there is a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-9). Now is the time, Baton Rouge, for us to plant seeds of positivity and to harvest love for all.

Photo cutlines:

Top: Slain Baton Rouge police officer Montrell Jackson.

Right: Grelan Muse Sr.

Grelan A. Muse Sr., a Baton Rouge resident, is founder of Inside The Pew and Pew Talk Radio.

© 2016 Inside The Pew

Louisiana among 8 states to benefit from AmeriCorps, DRA partnership

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Corporation for national and community service

Special to Inside The Pew

A new partnership for national service, DeltaCorps, will help address economic and social needs of local communities in the eight states of the Mississippi River Delta region, leaders from the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) and Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that administers AmeriCorps.

Announced July 14, DRA and AmeriCorps plan to deploy the first group of DeltaCorps members in fall 2016 to each of the eight states of the DRA footprint: Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee. This deployment will coincide with a national commemoration of the one-millionth participant to serve in AmeriCorps.

This partnership, valued at $1.6 million, will deploy up to 100 AmeriCorps members to the Delta region over the next year.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/videoseries?list=PLZ54wDoDlX7cAjIze5irZH_5C6oi8Oa-M&hl=en_US

DeltaCorps: a program of AmeriCorps and the Delta Regional Authority will deploy AmeriCorps members to local organizations to help them improve economic opportunity in their communities. DeltaCorps members will serve with nonprofit organizations that have distinguished themselves as powerful catalysts for change in the Delta region. The program will utilize a diverse portfolio of models that develop stronger local economies through workforce training, health and wellness, emergency preparedness, and additional focus areas.

“Our communities in the Delta region are in need of increased capacity to their existing assets so that they can better address the numerous challenges and harness economic opportunities for Delta workers, families, and businesses. We are looking to the existing, proven model of success in AmeriCorps and investing our resources to deploy interested service members that will help these organizations create jobs, build their local communities, and improve the lives of the 10 million people in the Delta region,” said Chris Masingill, federal co-chairman of the DRA.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

The added capacity that DeltaCorps brings to community organizations will help them expand and reach into traditionally underserved communities. As DRA recognizes the important role national and community service plays in the economic development of the Delta region, the program also elevates the culture of service and civic engagement in the Delta. Region-focused leadership training for the DeltaCorps members will develop future leaders for the Delta region while also increasing the positive impact young residents can have in supporting their local communities.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Delta Regional Authority, which shares our belief in improving economic opportunity through unique and innovative partnerships like the one we announced today,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. “For more than 20 years, AmeriCorps has helped organizations meet critical needs in communities around the nation. Through the new DeltaCorps partnership, AmeriCorps members will continue to address some of the most pressing social and economic challenges facing the Mississippi River Delta Region.”

The Notice of Federal Funding Availability has been posted on both agencies’ websites at DRA.gov/DeltaCorps/ and NationalService.gov/DeltaCorps. The program is accepting applications on a rolling basis. Organizations with existing infrastructure to support the AmeriCorps program are invited to apply for DeltaCorps member slots.

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Meet the Author: Deanna Nowadnick

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deanna nowadnick

By Deanna Nowadnick
Special to Inside The Pew

Just for the record: I’m still getting used to the title, author. I never expected to write anything beyond an annual Deanna Nowadnick--Author PhotoChristmas letter. When I started Fruit of My Spirit, I thought I was going to be sharing a single story with my sons about how I met their father. Instead many stories emerged about how the fruit of God’s Spirit has been with me through the joyous, sad, cringe-worthy, heartwarming, forgettable, memorable moments in life. In Book 2: Sign in Life, you’ll learn about driving disasters. Again—my antics have been able to connect with Bigger (yes, capital B), more important lessons of God’s love and faithfulness.

Favorite Books Growing Up?

Nancy Drew! Carolyn Keene gave me my first “can’t put it down” experience in reading.

Favorite Author?

Anne Lamott. Bird by Bird still inspires me to write and to keep writing. I attended a writing workshop with her in May. I WAS SO EXCITED!

What advice do you have for other writers?

Write. Write. Write. And then write some more. Find someone you trust to offer advice and counsel. I’d like to thinkSIL front cover that a great story will just happen, but it takes work. It’s like exercise. Some days I’m stiff and tired. Some days I feel unstoppable. Every day I try to do a little more, a little better.

How have your reflections helped you to grow?

My two books are memoirs of stories. Looking back I was able to see that a loving, merciful God was with me at all times in every way. The reflections have given me confidence. I just don’t fret about the stumbles that may come.

What Bible verses inspire you?

Different verses speak to me at different times. My inspiration for Book 2 is from Psalm 25: “Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Amen.

Coffee or Tea?

Grande iced mocha first thing in the morning. I shower, brush my teeth, add a dab of mascara, and head out with wet hair to my local coffee shop.

Guilty Pleasure?

Dreyer’s Slow Churned Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream. They now make mini sizes. They’re the perfect evening treat.

Guilty Pleasure #2?Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

Downton Abbey. Beautiful people in beautiful clothes, upstairs/downstairs intrigue, English accents in the English countryside. What could be better?

Guilty Pleasure #3?

People Magazine. I was only slightly embarrassed when I won the prize at recent bridal shower. We were given a list of celebrities and asked to name their significant other. Where are my priorities?

Hidden Talents?

I knit. I play violin. The first should not remain hidden, the second one should.

Most Annoying Habit?

I insist on telling people what to do and how to do it, whether I know or just think I know (see Book 2). Most of the time, it’s the latter. My husband has the patience of Job (who really wasn’t that patient).

Most Endearing Habit?

I tend to over tip. I was a waitress for four months after college. I will be forever grateful for the service of others. Trust me, I was not an endearing part of the restaurant’s wait staff.

Photo cutlines:

Top: Deanna Nowadnick
Center: Cover of Signs in Life: Finding Direction in Our Travels With God

Learn more about Deanna at www.deannanowadnick.com. Twitter: @deannanowadnickLinkedIn: Deanna Nowadnick, and Facebook: Deanna Nowadnick – Author/Speaker.

Prayer vigil brings solace after Dallas police shooting

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By Tonya Andris
Inside The Pew

DALLAS – Mourners of all faiths converged on Thanksgiving Square in Dallas on Friday to pray for the city and individuals directly impacted by the attack on Dallas and Dallas Area Rapid Transportation (DART) police officers. The attack, called the deadliest attack on U.S. law enforcement since 9-11, left five officers dead and seven other officers and two civilians injured.

During his closing prayer, Bishop T.D. Jakes asked for spiritual guidance and asked for men and women to gain courage to take on other people’s burdens.

“If we agree, we can turn this nation around. Our country is laying on the edge of destruction, but just because it is on the edge doesn’t mean it has to fall over. Let that which unites us be greater than that which divides us.

“We were made from one blood. We have different skins. We have different styles. We have different philosophical ideologies, but by one blood that you made all men.”

Local and national leadership, Jakes said, should resemble the same love, compassion, and wisdom of the Almighty.

More hugs

One man in attendance wore his feelings for everyone to see. An unidentified man wore a shirt that read, “Free Hugs.” During an interview with a FOX 4 Dallas reporter, he said “This is what this city needs right now.” He wasn’t alone, as you can see from this video posted on Twitter by Kristen Hampton from WBTV in Charlotte, N.C.

Billy Graham team arrives in Dallas

ASSIST News Services reported Friday the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team has been deployed to Dallas less thanBilly Graham RR 24 hours after the mass shooting.

“It’s hard to know what to say in the face of all of the violence we’ve seen in recent days. Our hearts are broken,” said Jack Munday, international director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team in a Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Rapid Response Team news release.

“Please pray for this entire situation, stretching from Minneapolis to Baton Rouge to Dallas. We’re sending chaplains into Dallas to offer a ministry of presence to a community in crisis.”

Michael Ireland of ASSIST News contributed to this report.

Photos

Main: Crowd gathers in Thanksgiving Square in Dallas for the Interfaith Prayer Vigil on Friday. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Campos.

Copyright © 2016 Inside The Pew. All rights reserved.

 

 

Tax time, an uncertain time for the homeless

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2016 Tax Deadline and homeless people

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.With tax season and filing time being upon us, I wondered how our Joy Junction guests felt about taxes.

After all, while you can never escape from the long arm of the Internal Revenue Service, so to speak,Homeless people and filing taxes when you’re looking for a place to stay and a meal, taxes tend to take a second place, right?

But there are a number of reasons why homeless people should file, even though anyone making an annual income less than $10,150 as a single person or $20,300 as a married person filling jointly is under the threshold for filing taxes and therefore not required to file a tax return.

My staff asked a few of our guests whether they plan to file this year and for those who do file, how much any potential refund they’ve received helps them out.

When confusion about taxes reigns for those of us who do have a job and a stable living situation, it’s not surprising that uncertainty about filing was prevalent among those homeless guests to whom we spoke.

One guy newly homeless said he has never filed.

He added, “I have heard that if you haven’t earned more than $5,000 that you are not able to file taxes. Also the time I did work I never received my W-2 to file taxes. I just don’t know how to file taxes, or what I would need to file as a homeless person.”

However, between Feb. 1 and the end of tax season, Joy Junction is blessed to have Phil’s Tax Service twice weekly provide help for our guests.

Shelter Case Manager Carl Valles said the business has been a blessing.

“Phil’s has great enjoyment and passion providing free tax preparation to the homeless. I also notice their diligence of doing the preparation correctly, and following up with residents who were unable to complete their taxes due to missing documents. They also help resident acquire missing paperwork.”

Valles added, “The residents recognize Phil’s Tax service as friends who provide a most important service to them for free and in a respectful manner.”

Another guy appreciated his refund. “Because the government is helping us from starving. I believe it is a social responsibility of all citizens to care for all other citizens, otherwise it would be chaos.”
In addition, he added, “It is a way of keeping track of the homeless population and how tax dollars are distributed.”

Someone else said he was employed last year and filed taxes.

However, he added, “I was unaware of being able to file taxes as a homeless person. Receiving a refund is better than nothing. We should be thankful for what we receive.”

Another man said he hasn’t filed for five years because he has been unemployed and homeless. He said he tried last year, but was told he didn’t make enough to file.

Someone else said he didn’t believe the refund was much help.

He added, “And without dependents, you did not get that much back.”

Weighing heavily on his mind was this thought, “To get your taxes done they charge a lot, and to do it yourself is too complex. I would have to say that I got more (refund) money being homeless here at Joy Junction then we did last year not being homeless. Also, we had our taxes done for free here at Joy Junction.”

Someone else said, “Now that I’m in New Mexico I wasn’t sure if I was going to file. Phil’s Tax Services came here and did it for free, so I filed. I received $54 from federal taxes and was not (required to file) state taxes, because I have not lived in New Mexico (long enough) to qualify. So, the bottom line is it wasn’t much, but a lot when you do not have much.”

One woman said while she filed taxes last year, she received a letter from the IRS “stating they need proof that I am who I say I am.”

Someone else said she didn’t know the tax laws for the homeless.

While not directly answering the question, one poignant comment was from a guy who was incarcerated for 16 years. His answer went beyond just the filing of taxes and what he thought about (potential) refunds.

“I am new to all these things going on in society … Mentally I am still institutionalized and unable to understand my freedom, and how other people take it for granted. I am just thankful to receive anything at all.”

If you employ homeless workers, here’s a handy guide.

And for those of you who just want to know more about filing your taxes, click here.

Happy filing!

Photo caption: Homeless people gathering on the sidewalk on 6th and San Julian streets in downtown Los Angeles. (Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News).

 

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 www.gardentomb.com/easter-2016

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.

Photos:

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”

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