Author Archives: grelanmuse

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 BillyGraham.org 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 www.cogic.org.

Photos:

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 (http://aclj.org), 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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Round: Make the most of your new year

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“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well”—3 John 2(NIV).

By Carol Round
Special to Inside The Pew

A New Year has arrived and with it the usual resolutions to lose weight, get in shape and quit smoking. Some look for quick fixes through crash diets, new exercise crazes or so-called “magical” pills while others seek a solution through surgery, bringing with it a host of possible complications and side effects.

Growing up in the 50s and 60s, I don’t recall seeing as many overweight people as is prevalent today. I also don’t remember seeing a fast-food restaurant on almost every corner. MyCarol Round mother was a stay-at-home mom who cooked healthy meals. When we did eat out, it was a treat. Today, eating out seems to be the norm as the choice of restaurants and fast-food places have grown as fast as our waistlines and hips.

Instead of setting ourselves up for failure by making resolutions each January, what if we turned to scripture for a permanent solution to our health problems?  What if we chose to do the following?

Make wise choices concerning our health. Sometimes, it’s difficult to know what the wisest choices are when we get conflicting information via the media. We must educate ourselves through reliable sources, including those from reputable organizations. (see Proverbs 2:6)

Practice self-control.  With an abundance of food choices in our country comes stress. How is that possible? Just walk down a supermarket aisle and check out the options available. It can be overwhelming. Too many choices can lead us to make hasty decisions. We don’t take time to study labels nor educate ourselves about the best food for our bodies. (see Proverbs 25:28)

Honor God with our bodies. How do we do this? By choosing wisely what we eat and drink and letting go of bad habits that lead to disease and early death. (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Ask for accountability. If you’re trying to make healthier choices, seek an accountability partner who will help you stay on track until your new lifestyle becomes a daily habit. (see 1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Rely on God’s power rather than our own strength. A new year brings resolve to do better for most of us, hence the word ‘resolution.’ However, we usually set out to accomplish them in our own power. That’s why most people fail. (see Philippians 4:13)

Choose to exercise our bodies. Say the word “exercise” and most people run in the opposite direction. Why is that? Do we equate it with hard work? Is it because we don’t want to make the time, instead preferring to vegetate in front of the TV? Exercise should be fun. Fun? Choose something that interests you and will keep you motivated. (see Romans 12:1)

Quit making excuses. Just do it! (Luke 14:17-18)

Start your New Year right. Commit all of your goals and plans to the Lord. Ask for His direction and guidance for the coming year. Make the most of 2016.

Carol Round is an author, a columnist, and a speaker. To learn more about Carol and her ministry, visit  her website or connect on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Refugees from world’s hot spots share their culture, learn about Christmas in U.S.

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Dallas police officer with refugee

By Dan Wooding
Founder of the ASSIST News Service

DALLAS – With tensions about refugees running at a high point in the United States, a Dallas-based refugee outreach, has arranged for a uniqueRefugee children enjoying their gifts Christmas event for refugees that have settled in its region.

Gateway of Grace, founded by a refugee, has turned the tables on the traditional “helping hand” this Christmas. Instead of serving meals to the displaced in North Texas — the displaced will serve their homemade dishes to North Texans.

“The goodwill we celebrate at Christmas extends to everyone,” said Samira Izadi Page, founder and executive director of Gateway of Grace. “This Christmas, refugees in our communities can give us the gift of meals from their homelands, even as we reach out to them with gifts and an explanation of what Christmas is about.”

According to a news release from Lovell-Fairchild Communications, the event —a Christmas Party for Refugees called “Peace on Earth and Goodwill Toward Mankind” will be held Dec. 18, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Wilshire Baptist Church, 4316 Abrams Road in Dallas.

More than 200 refugees, their families and volunteers will be on hand for a potluck lunch of native food from around the world from countries likeDallas police officer with refugee Burma, Bhutan, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Senegal, Sudan, Congo and Syria, to name just a sampling of nations represented. And dishes will range from African rice to Uzbek stew to whatever the families bring.

“Each refugee family receives a gift card, and as live Christmas songs are sung, Santa Claus will share the story of St. Nicholas with children and explain what Christmas is about,” said the news release.

In 2014, of the 70,000 refugees arriving in the U.S., Texas received 11 percent – more than any other state, Page said. She knows their plight well. Her family fled Iran and sought political asylum in the U.S., where she eventually converted to Christianity, attended seminary and founded Gateway of Grace.

“The negative portrayal of refugees these days causes them to feel unwanted, to feel shame, insecurity, anxiety and fear,” she said. “With all that is going on in the world, this year, more than any other time, the message of Christmas is relevant in imparting dignity and worth to refugees. To shareSamira Izadi Page the joy of Christmas with refugees who have never experienced Christmas is a great way of removing some of the fear and anxiety and bringing healing into their lives.”

The event still needs volunteers for transportation and to provide gift cards plus necessary items for the refugee families including winter coats, baby formula and diapers.

To learn more or to volunteer, call Gateway of Grace at 469-324-8825 or go to http://www.gatewayofgrace.org.

Note: Samira Izadi Page is the founder and Executive Director of Gateway of Grace Ministries. She was born and raised in Iran as a Muslim. Samira and her family fled Iran due to persecution and obtained political asylum status in the U.S. Samira converted to Christianity and earned her Master of Divinity from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University and is currently pursuing her Doctor of Ministry in Missional Church Studies at Perkins at SMU.

Samira has committed her life to bringing the hope and love of Christ to those whose hope, dignity, and humanity have been taken away by oppressive governments and circumstances. She frequently speaks nationally and locally at conferences, churches and other venues on issues of interfaith relations, Islam and Christianity, and refugee outreach. Samira works cross-denominationally with pastors and mission leaders and moves local congregations into new ways of mission and outreach.watch full L’ora legale 2017 film

VISION of Gateway of Grace:

To see the practical and spiritual needs of refugees in our communities met through compassionate, meaningful, Christ-centered relationships with the local Church

MISSION

To educate, equip, and mobilize the Church to bridge socio-cultural gaps between Christians and refugees so that refugees can know the hope of Christ through words and deeds of compassion.

SERVICES

Gateway helps refugees start over, many of them survivors of severe trauma, with donated furniture, pocket money, groceries, baby showers, job assistance, language lessons, and more. Most important, perhaps, Gateway trains volunteers and churches to adopt refugee families, the point where friendships form and assimilation begins.

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Book review: Authors trace history of Middle East, ISIS’ formation

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By Cynthia Northrop
Special to Inside The Pew

In light of the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., it is more critical than ever to be informed aboutISIS Crisis the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Proverbs 19:2 says it this way, “Desire without knowledge is not good – how much more will hasty feet miss the way.” As news reports drift farther from reporting and closer to slanted commentary from myriad perspectives, it is helpful to include other sources to help understand and guide us as we pray.

If you want a brief, easy-to-understand primer on the Middle East then go pick up the book, The ISIS Crisis: What You Really Need to Know by Charles H. Dyer and Mark Tobey (Moody Publishers, $10.39). In a short and smart 136 page read you will gain perspective on the history, religion and politics of the Middle East players; the difference between the Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims, trace the history of the Ottoman and Assyrian empires and discover the genesis of Al-Qaeda and its metamorphosis to ISIS.

From that vantage point the authors seamlessly connect the dots through the economic and political motivations and clearly present the struggle for oil and water and the overall implications for end-time prophesy from a biblical perspective minus the fear-mongering hyperbole.

As American’s we tend to get caught up and consumed in the everyday rat-race of life; raising families, playing the chauffeur and fighting congested roads to get to work and school. Our technological society has gained us precious little time and the information age we live in has reduced our news to a limited perspective and controversial sound-bits.

It’s no wonder the complexities of the endless conflicts in the Middle East are beyond us save for the blip on the radar screen known at 9-11 when it came to American shores. As the authors link history and the underlying religious and political motivations they quote Saddam Hussein’s observation of the same, “Americans are foolish. They don’t understand anything in the world. They never travel. They don’t know anything outside the area.”

Thankfully, the authors have made it easy and convenient for us to get up to speed, examining how the outcome inCynthia Northrop dividing the spoils (of land) after World War I set the stage for the rise of the Mujahedeen from Afghanistan, the Taliban, Al-Qaeda in Iraq and ISIS, or as President Obama refers to ISIL which stands for the Islamic State and Iraq and Levant, which the authors explain, “The Levant is an early geographical term referring to the land between Egypt and Turkey, which today includes Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel.”

Erwin Lutzer, senior pastor of The Moody Church in Chicago, concludes his remarks in the forward of the ISIS Crisis by sharing a most compelling need to read the book, “The third and most compelling reason to read this book is that all of these events are discussed against the background of the Scriptures.” Although the authors do not believe that the antichrist will arise out of the Islamic religion, we are treated to a general framework of Middle East prophecy. No surprise to us, it is clear that in the end, Jesus win! ISIS represents a crisis for us, but not for the One who will be declared King of kings and Lord of lords.”

Cynthia Northrop, of Dallas, is owner of Northrop Communication, and author of Make a Difference: Navigating the Maze of Local Government.

Copyright © 2015 Inside The Pew. All rights reserved.

Bradshaw: Bragging rights

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Editor’s note: No. 1 Clemson defeated South Carolina, 37-32, on Nov. 28.

By Sherry Bradshaw
Special to Inside The Pew

As I write this blog…I am sitting in my bed…fire going…listening to the hustle and bustle in our home as everyone gets ready for the Clemson-South Carolina game. Biggest game ofSherry Bradshaw the year in most South Carolinians hearts…if they are honest… 🙂

Yes, I am a Clemson graduate and a Clemson fan…of course I am. Since I married a former USC football player some ask if I am still a Clemson fan. In my mind I say, “Really?” and wonder why they would think I am not a Clemson fan. After years of being asked this question I have come to the conclusion that because I live in Columbia, and don’t go to every Clemson game, and I don’t heckle people about “whose team is better,” many others have concluded that I must have “crossed over!”

To set the record straight–always have been and always will be a Clemson fan. But I can honestly say that my identity does not rest there. In fact, having our identity wrapped up in what team you pull for or what school you go to or graduated from is absurd to me. I am not at all saying “don’t be a fan or be proud of your school choice!” By all means be a huge fan, supporter and cheerleader for your school…nothing at all harmful about that.

But when it defines you…
your happiness meter is based on wins and losses and
it separates you from being friends with people who don’t see things the way you do…
then there is a REAL PROBLEM in my opinion…
that is when…we need to check the “idol status” in our lives.

Yes, I do love my team and my school. I have observed something over the last 5 or 6 years. I have found it interesting to watch how people, on both sides of the fence, act when their school is on top or on bottom. I have watched, in particular, some of the biggest fans for Clemson and South Carolina as the successes of both schools have varied drastically in the last couple of years.

I especially love to see who wears their colors after the game in the weeks to follow and who still flies their flags. Is it based on wins? Or true love no matter the outcome? I can honestly say that in the last few years of living in Columbia I wore my orange to the gym for four years straight after losing to South Carolina. Yes, on the Monday after the game I continued to sport my colors. My love meter didn’t rest in the win/loss tally.

Where am I going with this…..??????

Don’t let wins/losses determine your joy, your friends, your loyalty. Watch your words…your posts. Check your “idol meter!”

Of course idolatry can be many things…but “sports and the success of OUR team” is a big one. Funny…how hot and cold I have heard the same people be on Coach Spurrier and Coach Swinney.

Love one year and hate the next.

Wow…just Wow…the mentality: “I will love you now if you are winning.”

I am so glad I am not hated or loved by family and friends based on my performance. I encourage you first, to remain a “loyal and true fan to your school, win or loss”. Second, what really comes from boasting? Can’t we just let the record speak in any year without “showboating” like we were the ones who suited up and did the work?

Everyone is going to know the outcome and the score. Do we really have to “roar” or “cock-a-doodle-doo” when our team wins?

If you disagree…oh well…. just saying…… true peace, joy, and contentment in life isn’t at all derived from wins from your team. It is fleeting, not lasting at all. If you are a Clemson or a Carolina fan, just look at the last few years. Both have won and both have lost. What is your joy meter based on? Where does your joy come from?

I encourage you to look for joy and contentment in things that last….that aren’t fleeting. I encourage you to “re-purpose your fan-ship” into a growing and thriving relationship with Christ. One that could bring you to “raising your hands in worship on Sunday” instead of just in the “stands on Saturday”.

Six years ago it was apparent to me that I could not say I was a bigger fan of the Lord than Clemson if I treated one differently in my praise. “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks….” (see Luke 6:45). I needed to examine my actions and I realized that when others looked at my life they would probably have said…”your actions are so LOUD…I can’t hear what you are saying!”

What is your heart? It will always overflow into your words and actions! Psalm 33:1, “Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him.”

Columbia, S.C. native Sherry Bradshaw is author of The Front Nine: Making Your Shots Count in Life (Life Bridge Books), and founder of Back 9 Ministries.