Author Archives: grelanmuse

Davis: Priorities in a race-charged culture

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By Laurel Davis
Special to Inside The Pew

Editor’s note: This article originally appears in its full length on Laurel’s blog, The Reluctant First Lady (http://www.reluctantfirstlady.com/all-souls-matter) under the title, “7 Reasons Why My Faith, Not My Race, Comes First.”

My two young adult sons have been called “nigger” too many times in their own neighborhood for me to be indifferent to the fact that racism is alive and well in America. I have before and will continue to “pull the race card” whenever it’s truly warranted. I’ve picketed, boycotted, stormed the castle, and held up signs about “Equal Rights for All” just like my maternal grandmother did during the Civil Rights Movement decades before me.

I get righteously indignant at hasty judgments against the nuances of Black American Culture that I identify with and find downright endearing. See just one movie, any movie, with a mostly Black audience. While some people may complain, “Why can’t they just act normal?” I celebrate what makes us unique. We are normal. Normal for us. And what’s normal for us is far beyond, far deeper and far richer than what’s portrayed in the media.

And while I respect that many well-meaning non-Blacks have their own perspective on 400 years of American slavery, Jim Crow laws, socio-economic discrimination, racial profiling, so-called “white privilege,” and why we Blacks can’t just let it go, I wish they knew what it feels like in the 21st Century to have to sit your teenage boys down to tell them what to do if they’re ever confronted by a cop or the neighborhood skinheads. To the extent it’s in their control, I don’t want my law-abiding, smart and well-nurtured sons to ever be mistaken as “just another angry Black thug” by someone with preconceived notions and a gun.

But, even as I say all of that, I am a Christian. And I am a Christian before I am Black.

People may see the Black in me before they see the Christ in me, but I hope it’s the Christ in me they walk away with more than anything Laurel Daviselse. Being Black is certainly part of what defines me in this life. But being a Christian defines me for eternal life to come.

It may be semantics, but Black is part of what I am, while Christian is all who I am. To me, it comes down to a matter of skin versus soul. My race doesn’t get me into or keep me out of Heaven. Neither does social justice or injustice and the degree to which I do or don’t take corresponding action. What gets me into Heaven and keeps me there forever is the grace of God through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, in whom I profess my faith. And just like Jesus doesn’t care that I’m Black, I don’t care that He’s not.

Jesus is worth infinitely more to me than the color of my skin, the brutal slavery of my ancestors, and the continued discrimination against my brothers and sisters in the flesh. Yes, #BlackLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter, but #AllSoulsMatter infinitely more. My faith reminds me, there’s something far more urgent to stand and fight against than another tragic death due to race, and that’s another tragic soul dying without Christ. That’s why, while as a Black person I can pick and choose my battles against racism and social injustice, as a follower of Christ I am called to be in battle daily for my faith, ready to defend it “in season and out of season” because of the growing global bombardment against it.

Racism will one day end, and it won’t be due to picket signs or die-ins. It will be because Jesus makes all things new, in His way and timing, as He wills. If I suffer as a Black person, I may never get the satisfaction of retribution. But if I suffer as a Christian, as the Apostle Paul says at Romans 8:18, “I consider that our present afflictions are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

Most importantly, not everyone needs racial sensitivity training, but everybody needs Jesus. I can help turn a non-Christian into a Christian, but never a non-Black person into a Black person. Sure, non-Blacks can reach an understanding of and respect for our ongoing history of struggle, but the satisfaction of knowing if they ever do pales in comparison to knowing you had something to do with leading a lost soul to eternal life in Christ.

Laurel Davis is a pastor’s wife in Los Angeles and also a Christian writer and women’s ministry speaker. Her blog, The Reluctant First Lady, is based on 2 Timothy 3:1 – 4:4 and takes a bold stance for God’s truth. Laurel and her husband have four grown children and a grandchild.

Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy announces 23 Blast Bowl viewing parties

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Special to Inside The Pew

LOS ANGELES – Super Bowl-winning coach and All Pro Dad national spokesperson, Tony Dungy, recently announced the 23 Blast Bowl in

Mark Hapka, left, and Alexa Vega

Mark Hapka, left, and Alexa Vega

conjunction with the family-friendly drama – currently the No. 1 sports movie on iTunes and available now on DVD and digital HD.

Dungy said in a press release that “23 Blast” is “a powerful movie about football and perseverance. The whole family will enjoy!”

Unlike the Super Bowl where sides will be taken and lines will be drawn, Dungy encourages everyone – families, teams and groups – to come together for their very own 23 Blast Bowl viewing party and discussion regarding the topics addressed in the film.

The event offers an entire night of inspiration that is simple to organize and implement in three easy steps.  Participants may buy the DVD at the local retailers or online at 23Blast.com, invite a group over to watch the film at their convenience and complete the night by using the free downloadable resources to begin a deeper discussion on the topics addressed in the film.

All resources for the 23 Blast Bowl can be found at 23blast.com/Bowl and include the official 23 Blast Bowl Event Guide, 23 Blast

Tony Dungy

Tony Dungy

Discussion Guide, 10 Ways For Children to Overcome Obstacles, 10 Ways to Motivate Your Child, 7 Signs of a Humble Athlete, and 6 Ways Your Kids Know You Believe in Them.

“23 Blast” features the story of blind football player Travis Freeman (Mark Hapka), a typical teenager growing up in a small town in Kentucky, who is a local hero on and off the field. In 1997, in the prime of his youth, Freeman is unexpectedly stricken with an infection that destroys his optic nerve; he becomes blind overnight. Under the influence of parents who love him, a physical therapist who challenges him, a coach who inspires him, and a best friend who he cannot bear to leave behind, Freeman shows us what true bravery is by competing on the gridiron, helping his Corbin High School team advance to the state playoffs.

Depicting a story of hope triumphing over despair, of courage and faith overcoming fear and of victory prevailing over adversity, “23 Blast” is designed to encourage and uplift audiences.

Distributed by Ocean Avenue Entertainment, Inc. in association with Toy Gun Films, the DVD features a multi-part “behind-the-scenes” Featurette with Dylan Baker, The Travis Freeman Story, descriptive audio for the visually-impaired, bloopers reel and discussion guide, among others. Having been featured in USA Today, The New York TimesThe Los Angeles Times, NBC’s Today and Dateline NBC, Freeman’s story was the winner of Heartland Film Festival’s Audience Choice Award for Narrative Feature.

In addition to Hapka, the film stars Stephen Lang (Avatar, Terra Nova), Alexa Vega (Spy Kids, Nashville), Max Adler (Glee), Bram Hoover, Kim Zimmer (Guiding Light, One Life to Live), Becky Ann Baker (Men in Black, Freaks and Geeks, A Simple Plan) Timothy Busfield (Field of Dreams, thirtysomething), Dylan Baker (Anchorman 2, Spiderman 2 &3, The Good Wife), and Fred D. Thompson (Sinister, Law & Order, Die Hard 2).

“23 Blast” is written by Bram Hoover and Toni Hoover, directed/produced by Dylan Baker (Spider-Man 2 & 3, 13 Days) and produced by Gary Donatelli and Toni Hoover.  Executive producers for the movie include Daniel Snyder (owner of the Washington Redskins), Misook Doolittle and Brent Ryan Green.

For the latest news and updates regarding “23 Blast,” visit www.23blast.com.

Pastors, faith leaders from around country gather in Dallas to promote racial healing

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By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST and the ASSIST News Service

DALLAS, TX – A racially, denominationally, geographically and generationally diverse representation of nearly 100 pastors, civic and faith-Alveda King and James Robisonleaders from across the country gathered for an unprecedented summit on racial reconciliation at The Potter’s House in Dallas on January 15.

Convened by Bishops Harry Jackson and T.D. Jakes and Pastor James Robison, “The Reconciled Church: Healing the Racial Divide” summit focused on Seven Bridges to Peace and included four panel discussions in which the participants shared practical solutions that they have successfully implemented in their respective communities. They also strategized other initiatives that can be scaled for national roll out.

According to a news release from A. Larry Ross Communications, host Bishop Jakes welcomed attendees, saying, “The Church should lead the way; we can’t complain about Congress and community if we don’t communicate with one another. We all love our children; let’s talk about how we can make our country better for subsequent generations.

“We have one brief shining moment to say, ‘not on my watch,'” Jakes continued. “We cannot remain silent on this issue, because our silence is costing lives. I’m praying that we would care enough to do better with the resources and influence that we have.

“We can’t fix the problem today, that’s not even the goal,” Jakes added. “This is a forum for discussion and debate, but we need to focus on what we will work on, including education and the criminal justice system. We can do better regarding civic engagement in our churches.”

Bishop Jackson shared his vision for the summit, to encourage the Church to come together to address the three-fold problem of class, race and poverty. “Church leaders need to go up into the gap and be courageous and catalytic to make a difference,” he said. “We want to leave here with a declaration, a challenge and a prescription for our nation.

“The Church is divided black and white, and not as connected as we should be,” Jackson continued. “The first thing we can do is come together united as the Church. A group like this can shake the foundations of the nation – for God and for good.”

“With all my heart I believe the purpose of this meeting is to bring together the Body of Christ without all of the dissension, strife and division that keeps us apart and from fulfilling the will of God,” James Robison said.

Other key participants included Dr. Bernice King, CEO of The King Center in Atlanta and daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr.; legendary civil rights leader; Dr. Alveda King, niece of Dr. King, and a civil rights activist and Christian minister; former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young; Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference/CONELA; and Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, among others.

Several participants admonished the Church for not taking action. “Today’s complacency is tomorrow’s complicity,” Rodriguez said. “There is no such thing as a silent Christianity.”

This theme was echoed by Pastor Jack Graham, senior pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano. “There are a lot of good people in our churches who are sinfully silent,” he said. “It is our responsibility to engage them on what matters most.”

The timing of the summit was propitious, occurring on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, actual birthday, which was referenced by his daughter. Reminding attendees that her father was a pastor and that the Civil Rights movement originated in the Church, she thought it a fitting tribute to his legacy that faith leaders were once again taking the lead in the area of racial reconciliation.

“The Church was one of the institutions (my father) criticized in his letter from the Birmingham jail,” King reflected. “He was deeply disappointed that there was not more engagement by the Church in the issue of segregation in the South at that time. Unfortunately, we have had a stand-off posture since then, and 11 a.m. on Sunday is still the most segregated hour in America.”

“Today we had four ‘Cs’ of Christ, conversation and collaboration that will lead to change,” said African Methodist Episcopal Bishop Vashti McKenzie. “The Body of Christ came together in unprecedented conversation. We must be role models for people who look to us for leadership.”

The day’s events concluded with a worship and communion service at The Potter’s House, which was attended by more than 6,000 individuals.

Bradshaw: The draft

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By Sherry Bradshaw
Special to Inside The Pew

On Friday, 4 out of 5 of our family members saw “American Sniper” on the opening night of the movie. While homeschooling Brewer andSherry Bradshaw, author of The Front Nine: Making Your Shots Count in Life Thomas in middle school, their favorite subject was history. I distinctly remember Brewer being home on Sept. 11, 2001. The day that will be recorded in history as the most vicious and deadly attack on American soil. I vividly recall watching the horror on Brewer’s face as we watched, in utter shock, the “malicious and unthinkable” being played out on the news.

Friday as I watched the movie, sitting right beside Brewer, it brought back the thoughts and emotions I had on September 11. Knowing I had two sons, one of which was 12 at the time, I remember thinking this could mean a mandatory draft in the future and we have two sons! I realized we had never really studied the draft. I didn’t know everything but that day I looked it up.

I will be perfectly honest fear and selfishness welled up in my heart that day. I was overcome with terror and fear and thinking hundreds of thoughts–one of which was selfishly thinking how these attacks could change not only the destiny of America, but the future of our two sons and many others. It was really kind of sick on my part to be relieved that Thomas had Type 1 diabetes knowing from my reading about the history of the draft that he wouldn’t qualify.

Getting back to the movie and the years that we have lived since, I have a whole different perspective on the draft, the military, being a citizen of this country and the freedom and safety I enjoy. This particular movie has done an amazing job of giving an accurate picture of what it must be like to serve on the front lines in our Armed Forces.

The “visual” multiplied my respect and gratitude and overwhelmed me with tears, and a pit in my stomach as this true story unfolded. After the movie, which by the way was packed with every seat filled; there was a hush in the audience. Everyone stood up and silently exited the theater. A hush of reality, sobering realization of real and true heroism like I have never witnessed.

A real and meaningful picture to me — I see very clearly that a civilian who  has never been trained or seen trained or been in combat, especially on enemy soil on the front lines —  make decisions and judgments of how things should be carried out. Simply stated it is ridiculous, absurd and irrational on all levels — to think we could possibly understand many things about soldiers, their lives, their actions, their commitment, their action in the face of fear and their sacrifice.

Underpaid is an understatement. When you compare what we value in America, according to where we spend our money and who we look to as our heroes, we as a nation are missing the mark; we are clueless. Numbers don’t lie, look where we spend our money.

From the beginning of time Scripture records stories of war — the falling and rising of nations. I believe the Bible to be the inherent Word of God that is true and infallible. A deep study of Scripture shows that no nation has survived when turning their backs and thumbing their noses at a Holy God. I could quote several passages from the Old Testament but let me give you just one example found in Jeremiah 18:8-10. “And if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.”

A true and accurate study of American history, includes sinful man, but it also clearly shows that we, as a nation, founded our country on and were guided by biblical principles, in reverence and reference to a Holy God.

Point of post, first, just a small way God has shown me that I can encourage readers of this post to love, respect, pray for and show gratitude to anyone who freely volunteers…to serve and protect the freedom we all enjoy.

Second, to hopefully encourage others to vote for people whose hearts are guided by biblical principles and willing to serve in political offices.

Third, to place a higher value on where we all spend our personal money and time. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” (Matthew 6:21). I want to encourage all of us to take a moment to reassess what is important to us, to God.

Forth, to possibly encourage someone to run for political office–which our media has turned into a battleground. Someone with a passion to uphold the principles on which our country has enjoyed freedom and God’s protection.

I love Dwight D. Eisenhower’s quote that I believe to hold truth, “A people that values privileges above its principles soon loses both.”

In closing, I now feel that one of the greatest things anyone can do is to serve in our military. I believe those who serve do it out of a true love for our country and a sense of call and desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves. It certainly cannot be for the large paycheck nor the fame — very few receive either.

To God be the glory for the few, the brave, the selfless!

Sherry Bradshaw is author of “The Front Nine: Making Your Shots Count in Life” and founder of Back 9 Ministries. Bradshaw, a native of Columbia, S.C., is a former first runner-up in the Miss America pageant. She speaks at corporate events, schools, churches, and community organization events.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s children battle over his Bible in court

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By Mark Ellis
ASSIST News Wire

A sad family legal battle will play out in an Atlanta courtroom this week over ownership of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s personal Bible –Martin Luther King Jr. and family the same one President Obama used to take his oath of office at his inauguration two years ago.

King’s estate, which is controlled by sons Dexter King and Martin Luther King III, is suing daughter Bernice King to recover the Bible and King’s Nobel Peace Prize medal, which she holds, so the estate can possibly sell them, according to the L.A. Times.

Bernice King says the well-worn Bible and the Nobel medal were two of her father’s most prized possessions. “There is no justification for selling either of these sacred items,” she said in a statement. “They are priceless and should never be exchanged for money in the marketplace.

“While I love my brothers dearly, this latest decision by them … reveals a desperation beyond comprehension.”

Both parties filed motions to execute a summary judgment, and a hearing is set for Tuesday. If the judge does not rule in favor of one side or the other, or if King’s children do not reach a settlement, the case could go to trial in February, according to The Times.

King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 after he helped to lead the bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., and because of his recognition as a MLK Biblenational civil rights leader. While fighting for passage of the Voting Rights Act a year later, King helped organize the march from Selma to Montgomery that is depicted in the current movie hit “Selma.”

Barack Obama used King’s tattered Bible in his 2013 inauguration and also signed the book. Obama also used the Lincoln Bible in 2013, the one he used in his first inauguration in 2009, according to The Times.

In January 2014, the King estate’s board voted to order Bernice King to hand over the Bible and the Nobel medal. When she did not, the estate sued her in Fulton County, Ga., Superior Court. (Bernice King is a member of the board herself.)

The King estate has previously considered selling King’s property. In 2006, the estate attempted to auction his personal papers for as much as $30 million. But a group of philanthropists and corporate leaders bought the documents for an undisclosed sum and donated them to King’s alma mater, Morehouse College in Atlanta.

Bernice King and Martin Luther King III previously sued their brother, Dexter, alleging he improperly acquired money from the estate of their late mother, Coretta Scott King, and shifted it to his own company. That lawsuit was settled between the parties before it went to trial, according to The Times.

Jenkins: Take advantage of those opportune times to share Gospel

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By Dave Jenkins
Special to Inside The Pew

One of my passions has always been sharing my faith. In my younger years, I was very rigid in my approach in sharing the Gospel. I left very little room for the other person to have a right toCalm Gospel their opinion. As I matured, I learned that compassion was a major component in sharing your faith. Jesus showed this in Matthew 9:36.

So on the last day of 2014 my wife and I decided to have lunch at a new place. It was recommended to us by our youngest daughter. I was not feeling all that well, battling a sinus infection, but food!!! Well, that is an automatic cure even if not permanent to make me feel better.

The restaurant had a great feel to it, formal but not stuffy. The wait staff was great. Our waiter was a young man with a very polished demeanor. He was thin in size and medium build. However, there was something more to him that I could not figure out in the beginning. During our meal, he was not as attentive to our needs as he could have been. Several times he forgot items or did not focus on the task at hand. Since it was only 11 a.m. and there were not many patrons, I could not blame his poor performance on the work load. At one point, I wanted to pull him aside and mention a couple of things but for some reason I did not. I would later find out why I did not move on that thought.

At the end of our meal my wife asked him a question about his religious belief. He hesitated for a moment and then begin to explain that he had a relationship with God but was not enamored with the church. It was at that point it became obvious to me why I hesitated to comment about his service. Had I done so I probably would have severely negatively impacted my ability to say what the Lord gave me to share with him.

The first fact I shared with him was that even Jesus went to church (called the Temple) and surrounded himself with others. I then shared with him that there areDave Jenkins Jr some inherent problems we all face when we deal with being connected with others, and just because it is a church does not mean these problems don’t show up at church. I wanted to quote Hebrews 10:25 with him but the Spirit of God said to just teach him the principles.

He acknowledged what I shared but was also concerned about the rigid and formal systems he saw in church when he was growing up. I then asked him if he grew up in a particular denomination, and he confirmed that he did come out of that denomination. However, his mother had since converted from that denomination and he called her a Christian and not by any denominational labels.

My next point I shared with him was that heaven is a place where people are deeply and strongly connected in corporate Worship – so much so that he might be uncomfortable there. He laughed and stated that his mother told him some of the same things.

It was at this point he shared with us that this was not just luck that we were there but a divine appointment. He explained that he does not work on Wednesdays. He also asked, “Did my mother send you guys here?”

He said that he is willing to re-think his position and follow his mother’s advice concerning being connected to a church.

As my wife and I left the restaurant, we felt blessed to have met our young friend. More importantly we enjoyed being able to see the hand of God at work in connecting us to him at the right time.

My prayer is that the work of the Holy Spirit today will propel him into greater places in 2015.

Dave Jenkins is an ordained minister and leadership and relationship teacher. Jenkins, a former chaplain for the Allen (Texas) Police Department, is a graduate of Grambling State University in Grambling, La., and earned a master’s of Christian leadership from Criswell College in Dallas. He also received advanced counseling training from Amberton University. Jenkins and his wife, Phyllis, are hosts of their own weekly family relationships show, “Marriage Monday,” on KGGR 1040 at 5 p.m. CST. Follow him on Twitter at @IamDaveJenkins and “like” him on Facebook (IamDaveJenkinsJr). Learn more about his ministry at www.davejenkinsjr.com.

Round: Do you know God’s will for your life?

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By Carol Round
Special to ASSIST News Service

CLAREMORE, OK – “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well“-Matthew 6:33 (NRSV).

We humans are a selfish bunch. We want everything our way. We want God’s blessings but we don’t want to surrender anything, includingRound Gods Will our time, talent and treasure.

We want to know God’s will for our lives-at least some of us do-but we don’t want to take the time to discover what His will is. That would mean sacrifice on our part.

Recently, our pastor’s sermon series was titled, “How to Know the Will of God for your Life.” Although I’d read articles and books on this topic, I needed a reminder. We easily become distracted by busyness and the chatter of life. Pastor Ray’s five-part series included the following:

First, we have to seek God’s kingdom, remembering we are coming on His terms, not ours. Matthew 6:33 says, “But strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Second, we need a plan that offers better reception, meaning if we can’t hear t hat still, small voice we need to examine our Christian practices like prayer, meditation and worship. These three are like phone plans designed to help us stay connected and communicate more clearly with God. Psalm 32:8 says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.”

Third, we have to invest ourselves in God’s kingdom. This takes a commitment. Pastor Charles Swindoll reminds us that “More than onceCarol Round Jesus deliberately addressed certain issues that quickly diminished the number of onlookers. It was commitment that thinned the ranks.”

Don’t run ahead of God. This is where my patience is tested. Remember Abraham and Sarah who didn’t want to wait for God’s promise of a son? The couple took things into their own hands and what a mess they created. While waiting, we need to seek Godly counsel, meditate, pray and read the Bible. Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let you r heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

Don’t lag behind. Although we are urged to wait on God, we must not lag behind either. When God told Abraham to go, he did. Moses argued with God about returning to Egypt, but he obeyed. It requires taking that first step and trusting God even when what He is calling us to do might be scary. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Another Swindoll quote says, “Your call will become clear as your mind is transformed by the reading of Scripture and the internal work of God’s Spirit. The Lord never hides His will from us. In time, as you obey the call first to follow, your destiny will unfold before you. The difficulty will lie in keeping other concerns from diverting your attention.”

What is God calling you to do?

Round is available to speak at women’s events or to lead prayer journaling workshops. Email carolaround@yahoo.com

 

CBN reporter in voluntary Ebola quarantine; Pham back in Dallas after release from Md. facility

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George Thomas

By Dan Wooding
Founder, ASSIST Ministries

BETHESDA, MD (ANS) — CBN News’ George Thomas revealed Oct. 24 that he has placed himself in a 21-day ebola quarantine after reporting fromGeorge Thomas Liberia.

On his Facebook page, Thomas said, “I am 99.99 percent sure I’m Ebola-free but out of an abundance of caution for others, I’ve checked into an Ebola quarantine apartment in an undisclosed foreign location. Not sure how this all works, but I’m going to miss my family.”

Meanwhile, Dallas nurse Nina Pham, who became the first person to contract Ebola on U.S. soil, is now free of the deadly virus and returned home to Dallas on Oct. 25.

Pham was discharged from a special facility at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

In a news conference Oct. 24 outside the facility, she thanked her family, God, and her medical team, and said she is looking forward to being reunited with her pet dog.

“I feel fortunate and blessed to be standing here today,” she said. “Throughout this ordeal, I have put my faith in God and my medical team.”

She also thanked Dr. Kent Brantly, the American Christian physician with Samaritan’s Purse, who also survived Ebola, for donating his plasma to her while Nina Pham she was sick.

“The nation saw a cheerful and composed Pham, dressed in a bright turquoise top and matching necklace, when she strode to a bank of microphones moments after Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said she was free of the virus,” said CNN.

Later, President Barack Obama met Pham in the Oval Office and gave her a big hug.

Pham, 26, is one of two nurses who contracted the Ebola virus while caring for Liberian Thomas Duncan at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

The news came one day after a doctor returning from Guinea tested positive for Ebola in New York City.

At least 4,800 people have already died from the virus – and at least 9,900 cases have been recorded. But the World Health Organization (WHO) says the true numbers may be three times higher.

Inside the Pew staff contributed to this report.

Davis: 7 confessions of a Bible-toting, scripture-quoting Christian

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By Laurel J. Davis
Special to Inside The Pew

I was called out once for being “one of those Bible-toting scripture-quoting Christians.” Crazy thing is, it was by a fellow Christian! My immediate response was, “Aren’t you?”  I didn’t take it personally, though. Sure, I got the “twang.” But it’s a compliment to be called a Bible-toting scripture-quoting Christian. It means I’m being bit like those in the Bible who staked everything on what “thus saith the Lord.”

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:3a). Something’s terribly wrong in the church when a believer risks ill will from a fellow believer for daring to think, dialogue and live according to God’s Word, and to encourage others to do the same.

That’s why I’ve come up with seven confessions for being a bible-toting scripture-quoting Christian. God wants us to be close to Him. But how can we be close to anyone we take little time to get to know? How can we really love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength as He commands (Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27) if we’re not also hanging on His every word?

Confession #1 – Even after 30 years as a Christian, I still have plenty of room to grow in my personal relationship with the Lord. Being a Bible-toting, scripture-quoting Christian at heart is foundational to that growth (2 Peter 3:18).

Confession #2 – I love Jesus more than my own family. But He’s not tangible in this earth realm in the same way they are. The best way to show Him how much I love Him over anyone and anything else is to know, share and obey His Word.

Confession #3 – I am helpless, useless and hopeless without Jesus and His Word. Our very eternal salvation is affirmed by God’s inspired Word (cf. 1 John 5:11-13; 2 Timothy 3:15), our spiritual well-being and witness are dependent upon it (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and Christ’s empty tomb seals the deal when it comes to the all-sufficient, eternal hope it alone unfolds for us.

Confession #4 – I’m afraid of my own folly and shame. It is folly and shame to belittle the very thing that sanctifies us: “Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Knowing the Bible helps keep me from the folly of complaining that a fellow Christian is acting like a Christian.

Confession #5 – I don’t want to be deceived, and I don’t want to be deceiving (2 Timothy 3:13). Toting and properly quoting the Bible helps to shield God’s people from false doctrines and the false teachers who use it to manipulate the vulnerable.

Confession #6 – When someone challenges my faith, they don’t care what I feel in my heart, what I’ve personally experienced, what subjective vision I think I had after eating that left-over pizza, or what my pastor thinks. Sometimes they really are seeking true understanding, and God’s Word provides something solid, something objectively verifiable, something independently credible, something not so easily dismissed.

Confession #7 – Relying on God through His Word has gotten our family and ministry through some very hard trials (e.g. Psalm 119:92).Laurel Davis  That’s why no one can ever be too much of a Bible-toting scripture-quoting Christian — except if you always quote it out of context, cherry-pick verses to suit your own preferences, or possess knowledge but lack love (1 Corinthians 13:2).

Praise God for the authority and reliability of His written Word, the Holy Bible! Even when heaven and earth pass away, His Word will stand forever!

Laurel Davis is a pastor’s wife in Los Angeles and also a Christian writer and women’s ministry speaker. Her blog, The Reluctant First Lady, is based on 2 Timothy 3:1 – 4:4 and takes a bold stance for God’s truth. Laurel and her husband have four grown children and a grandchild.

Shape what your Father gave ya!: Dove Foundation gives seal of approval to exercise DVD

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By Tonya Whitaker
Inside The Pew

Kristy McCarley is not one to question God, but she still finds it hard to believe that she – a woman with two engineering degrees and aThe Shazzy Fitness team of Vira, left, Kristy, Apollo, and Leslie sport red shoes in honor of the blood Christ shed for us. limited choreography background – has produced two well-received exercise DVD’s.

Two years ago, McCarley, founder and CEO of Shazzy Fitness, decided to create a family-friendly exercise DVD’s for the masses. In August, she reaped the benefits of sacrifice and obedience when the Dove Foundation recognized Shazzy Fitness by giving it a seal of approval.

“I wanted the music to be fun and for people to get excited about fitness,” McCarley said. “Shazzy is good for people who want to do something good for their body and for their spirit.”

The Dove Foundation described Shazzy Fitness’ Christian hip-hop dance workout videos as a “wonderful workout that not only exercises the body but the mind and soul alike.”

Furthermore, in August, the workout DVD was the top seller in the fitness category for Shazzy’s distributor, Total Fitness DVD’s.

“The fact that an independent faith-based video is leading all other secular dance fitness video sales is just incredible and so very humbling,” said the creator of the fat-burning (cardio) and dance DVD.

The invigorating choreography from Apollo, Leslie, and Vera mixed with the sounds of award-winning Christian hip-hop offerings from Da’ T.R.U.T.H., Breezy Brown, E.Dot, and Jai have won over parents and exercise enthusiasts.

“One thing moms said is that they can do it (Shazzy Fitness) with their kids,” said McCarley, who is a wife and mother of two girls. She decided to create a Shazzy Fitness to bring family-friendly exercise DVD’s to the masses.

McCarley said Shazzy is short for Daniel’s Babylonian name, Belteshazzar (Daniel 1:7).

According to the company’s website, “The Hebrew prophet, Daniel, is a model of the power of faith. Despite dire circumstances, Daniel never let fear override his commitment to God. If Daniel were alive today, his hip-hop nickname just might be … ‘Shazzy.”

McCarley, a longtime professional in IT management, was laid off from her job in late 2011. Instead of finding a job that replicates her Kristy McCarley, center, works with the guys from her production team, ECG Production, on video editing.background, she opted to take a not-too-distant memory from 10 years ago and make it a reality.

“During a ‘spin’ class, a Kirk Franklin song was played. I had never heard that type of music in an exercise class,” McCarley said. “I just enjoyed how it made me feel not just during the class but after the class. It made my soul feel good. It made difference to me; it made a lasting impression. We need more of this.”

She wanted to do a live class in the Atlanta area, but she figured it would limit visibility. At the suggestion of others, she decided to produce a DVD.

McCarley pumped up her pursuit. She did her research, found a production company – ECG Productions – and choreographers to make inspiration a reality.

Diversity in the video is important to McCarley. The video’s participants vary in age and race.

“Christian hip-hop transcends race, gender, and age” she said. “Everybody can do this; it is not just for one group of people. Plus, good music is a universal language.”

McCarley said her organization is also aggressively seeking churches, schools, dance studios, non-profits and community organizations that are interested in becoming Shazzy Fitness ambassadors – meaning they are interested in partnering with them to bring their faith-based dance classes to their communities, events, and dance studios.

A question that consistently pops into the mind of the self-professed reluctant entrepreneur is, “Lord, what are we doing?”

“This is purely a walk of faith,” McCarley said. “I remember you can do all things through Christ. There are days when I ask myself, ‘How are we gonna make it?’ The only answer is Jesus.”

Learn more about Shazzy Fitness at www.shazzyfitness.com. Also, follow Shazzy Fitness on Twitter and Facebook.