Category Archives: International

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.

‘I got tainted’: Justin Bieber’s monumental return to Jesus

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Justin Bieber

By Mark Ellis
Special to ASSIST News Service

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA – In the last few years, singer-songwriter Justin Bieber’s bad-boy antics and run-ins with the law have alienated some of his Christian fan base and even led thousands to petition the White House to have the Canadian-born star deported. But recently, the 21-year-old pop sensation has reconsidered the error of his ways and made a stunning turnaround in his relationship with Christ.

In an interview with Joe La Puma for the Oct/Nov 2015 issue of COMPLEX conducted at the Montage Beverly Hills hotel, Bieber bares his soul about the dramatic restoration of his walk with Jesus.

“I forgot what I was about, what my mom raised me to be,” Bieber confessed to COMPLEX. “I veered off, and I got tainted. I came into the music industry at 13. I was trying to trust people and they’d break my heart at 15,” he says.

Bieber became disillusioned with people who took advantage of him. In response, he started to “do his own thing.”

“I got into a little bit of trouble,” he admits, “—nothing that other 20-year-olds don’t get into—just rebelling a little bit. Now, being 21, I’m coming into my own and around some pretty cool people who are not afraid to tell me what’s real.”

He says his behavior pushed the limits. “I was doing anything. I was doing so many things that I shouldn’t even be on the planet still. I think that it (my survival) was by the grace of God.”

During his time of rebellion, he says his manager, Scooter Braun always made sure he was safe and that situations didn’t escalate out of control. Sometimes Braun’s oversight as a “fixer” worked, and other times it backfired, he told COMPLEX.

The night he spent in jail was an unforgettable experience. “It’s freezing; it’s uncomfortable; there are people in there you just don’t want to be around. I had people who were yelling at me. They were saying, “Bieber! We f___ with you, bro! We love you! Aye! Keep your head up, bro!” It was kind of funny to hear that, especially from cats in jail.”

Bieber admits some people around him wanted him to rebel.

Following his epic break-up with Selena Gomez, his heart began to soften toward God. “Love is a choice. Love is not a feeling. People have made it seem in movies that it’s this fairy tale. That’s not what love is.

“You’re not gonna want to love your girl sometimes but you’re gonna choose to love her,” he continued. “That’s something in life that I had to figure out. I can’t lean on people. I got to lean on God. I gotta trust in Him through all my situations. Then, hopefully, my other relationships will flourish around me.”

After his turbulent adolescence, he also began to reflect on the limits of science and his place in the universe. “For a ‘big bang; to create all this is more wild [cq] to think about than thinking about there being a God,” he told COMPLEX.

“Imagine putting a bunch of gold into a box, shaking up the box, and out comes a Rolex. It’s so preposterous once people start saying it. At this point, my faith has gotten me to where I am. My faith has brought me to a whole other level. I love talking about my faith.”

Photo captions: 1) Bieber with Selena Gomez. 2) Justin praying with friends.

Mark Ellis is senior correspondent for the ASSIST News Service and also the founder of Godreports, a website that shares stories, testimonies and videos from the church around the world to build interest and involvement in world missions.

 

SAGU football standout spends semester in Zimbabwe, Africa

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By Natalie Tristan
Special to Inside The Pew

It wasn’t the way Southwestern Assemblies of God University football standout Jeremiah Maat pictured his junior Maat on mission tripfootball season going.  During spring ball over a year ago, the linebacker tore his rotator cuff.  It was a season-ending injury and it changed the course of the next year.

“Having to sit out last season was the worst for me,” Maat said, “It was the first time that I haven’t played and started football in my position since I began football in seventh grade.”

It didn’t take Maat long to readjust his focus. The mission’s major from Slidell, La., decided to take an internship in Zimbabwe, Africa. He spent three months oversees, completing a semester of school while getting invaluable hands-on experience, “I worked with the missionaries on the field, and was allowed to do many things on my own such as speaking engagements, prayer meetings, and just fellowshipping with local pastors who became good friends.”

Maat worked hand in hand with local missionaries, helping to build churches, visiting villages and speaking toMaat and Group congregations. One all-night prayer meeting stood out in his memory, “We arrived at what I can only describe as a brick and mud hut. It had two rooms and no water or electricity. We had a small lantern for light and our voices for music. It was me and these amazing African people worshiping God in a hut the entire night. We sang and danced at times, cried out to God, and just sat in his presence at times.”

The semester overseas was life-changing for Maat as he came to realize people, at the core, were all the same, “It’s those moments when you make a friend despite color of skin, continent you grew up on, or amount of money you have. Those are my favorite moments.

Maat is back in the United States preparing for what will be his final season of football, “I have never worked out harder in all of my life as I am now. My shoulder is getting stronger than it has ever been, and there is no doubt in my mind that I will come in this season in my best shape.”

Being in his best shape ever is exciting news for SAGU football. In 2013, Maat helped lead his team to a 6-4 record and a Central States Football League Co-Championship, averaging nine tackles a game as a sophomore.

Maat’s immediate goal is focused on his strongest football season ever, but his long-term goal is to make it back to the mission’s field, “My time overseas has changed my outlook on life a lot. I have a deeper perspective on what poverty is and what is necessary for happiness.  I learned just to love people no matter what because that is what Christianity is at the core of it all.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu to stay second night in hospital

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Desmond Tutu and wife

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST News Service

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA (ANS) – The BBC is reporting that South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu will spend a second nightDesmond Tutu and wife in hospital for treatment of a “persistent infection,” his family said.

Archbishop Tutu thanked “everyone who had sent love and prayers” since his admission to hospital in Cape Town, his daughter Reverend Mpho Tutu said.

The family hopes he will be able to return home “in a day or two,” his daughter said in an earlier statement.

He retired from public life in 2011 but continues to travel widely.

The 83-year-old Nobel peace laureate cancelled a planned trip to Rome in December following another infection.

“The admission is not thought to be linked to Archbishop Tutu’s treatment for prostate cancer, which has afflicted him for more than a decade,” according to the BBC.

His hospitalization comes a few days after he renewed his wedding vows to his wife Leah Tutu to mark their 60th wedding anniversary.

The BBC says that Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe may have described him as “evil,” but Archbishop Tutu remains a much-loved figure across the world – principally for his role in South Africa’s struggle against apartheid.

During the long years that Nelson Mandela was in prison, Archbishop Tutu spoke out against the regime – and won the Nobel peace prize in 1984 for his efforts.

He was chosen by President Mandela to chair South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and investigate the crimes committed by all sides during the apartheid regime.

At 78, “the Arch” – as he is known – has remained irrepressible and influential both in his native South Africa and on the global political stage.

He is chairman of a group of former world leaders called The Elders, launched on Nelson Mandela’s 89th birthday in 2007 with the aim of tackling some of the world’s most pressing problems.

Photo cutline: Desmond Tutu, left, and his wife, Nomalizo Leah Tutu, have four children and seven grandchildren together (Getty Images).

Communities of faith to converge for TogetherLA; Tebow hits links for charity

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Tim Keller

By Jacob Trimmer
Inside The Pew

Feb. 26-Feb. 28

In Los Angeles: Key leaders from non-profits, churches, businesses, and communities in the Los Angeles area will convene beginning Thursday, Feb. 26 forTim Keller real-time collaboration, prayer, networking and strategic partnering. The free gathering is set to take place at West Angeles church of God in Christ, 3045 Crenshaw Blvd in Los Angeles.

Dr. Timothy Keller, lead pastor of Manhattan’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church, is the slated main speaker for the three-day conference as well; all other speakers will be active leaders in the Los Angeles area. Speakers include Bishop Charles Blake, Dr. Barry Corey, Mark Labberton, Mayor Aja Brown, Efrem Smith, Caitlin Crosby, Tim Chaddick, Albert Tate, Larry Acosta, La Verne Tolbert, Michael Mata, Tom Hughes, Father Greg Boyle, and many more.

For more information, go to www.togetherla.net or email connect@togetherla.net.

March 15

In Ponte Vedra, Fla.: Tickets for the annual Tim Tebow Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic are still available online. The event will take place at TPC Sawgrass inTebow Foundation Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Gates open at 9 a.m., with shotgun starting at 10 a.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for 18 and under.

March 22-March 29

Aboard Freedom of the Seas: Back to the Bible Canada, a world-wide ministry based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, will hold its second annual Bible Canada/Laugh Again ministry cruise. Author, speaker, and humorist Phil Callaway will serve as a special guest for the voyage. The seven-day cruise will leave you smiling, refreshed, inspired and renewed in your walk with Christ. To register, http://www.laughagain.ca/cruise-2015/.

Direct Relief jets deliver supplies, medications to West African health facilities affected by Ebola

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By Tonya Andris
Inside The Pew

Direct Relief-chartered Boeing 747 jets departed Los Angeles International Airport on Feb. 4 carrying more than $7 million in prescriptionDirect Relief Ebola Supplies medicines as well as supply modules to sufficiently equip 83 health facilities in Liberia and Sierra Leone that affected by Ebola, according representatives for the nonprofit organization.

The supplies – expected to supply the facilities for several months – will help restore medical facilities weakened by the worst outbreak of Ebola in history.

With the substantial decrease in new Ebola cases in recent weeks, the airlift represents a pivot toward helping local health facilities deal with both the pre-existing health challenges exacerbated by the outbreak as well as the still serious threats that Ebola presents.

According to Andrew MacCalla, director of emergency response and international programs for the nonprofit medical relief organization, dozens of primary care facilities shuttered during the crisis; malaria and other conditions went untreated; vaccination programs were suspended, prompting a recent measles outbreak; and pregnancy-related complications saw an uptick as more women gave birth at home.

“As the focus shifts to long-term health systems strengthening in West Africa, these items will help restore confidence in health care for both providers and people seeking care,” he said.

Each module contains 36 of the essential supplies needed to operate a functional medical clinic for two months, including items such as surgical gowns, gloves, masks, lanterns, medical disposal bins, and non-contact thermometers. The contents were developed in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Ministry of Health of Liberia, and Last Mile Health.

The supplies contained in the modules were donated, in part, by the city of Yokohama, 3M, BD, California Nurses Foundation, and OneMillionLights. Additional supplies were purchased through a grant from The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

Another 17 modules will ship later in the month for a total of 100 modules. In Liberia, 40 modules will be distributed by Last Mile Health. In Sierra Leone, 10 modules will be distributed by Wellbody Alliance and 50 modules will be distributed by Medical Research Centre. Prescription medicines contained on the airlift will also be delivered to all three of these partners, as well as to Africare in Liberia.

The pharmaceutical supplies were made possible by Accord Healthcare, Inc., Actavis Pharma, Inc., Bayer Corporation – USA, Baxter International, Inc., GSK, Hospira, Inc., Mylan Laboratories, Inc., Prestige Brands, and Teva Pharmaceuticals.

Since Direct Relief began responding to the Ebola outbreak last spring, the organization has sent 40 shipments of Ebola relief aid valued at $25 million (wholesale), which have been distributed to more than 1,000 clinics and health centers in West Africa, in coordination with partner agencies.

Mother on death row for marrying Christian says baby daughter is fine

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Meriam Ibrahim, her husband Daniel Wani and baby Maya are pictured inside the US embassy in Khartoum where Meriam is waiting to hear when she can leave Sudan.

By Jeremy Reynalds
ASSIST News Service

KHARTOUM, SUDAN (ANS) – The Christian mother put on death row for refusing to become a Muslim has revealed that herMeriam Ibrahim, her husband Daniel Wani and baby Maya are pictured inside the US embassy in Khartoum where Meriam is waiting to hear when she can leave Sudan. baby girl has not been damaged after she gave birth whilst shackled to the floor.

According to a report by Antonella Napoli for a MailOnline story, Meriam Ibrahim said that 2-month-old Maya will undergo an ultrasound in the coming weeks to confirm that she will be able to walk.

It had been feared that, like her father Daniel Wani, a U.S. citizen who has muscular dystrophy, she could be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

MailOnline said Ibrahim, 27, spoke to Italian journalist and activist Antonella Napoli who visited her and her family in the library of the US embassy in the capital Khartoum which has become their makeshift home while they wait to leave Sudan.

Four camp beds have been put down in the floor and the family are being attended to by embassy staff in the cramped building.

Writing exclusively for MailOnline, MailOnline reported that Napoli said Ibrahim and Wani wanted to thank the public for all their support which played a huge part in getting her out of jail.

Napoli wrote, “Meriam knows that her and her family will be safe only when they will be very far from away from Sudan.”

MailOnline said Napoli is one of the few journalists to speak to Ibrahim in person since she was freed on June 30 after spending eight months behind bars in a women’s prison in Khartoum.

Ibrahim had been sentenced to death and 100 lashes for apostasy and adultery for marrying Wani, as they are both Christian and a court wanted her to convert to Islam.

During her time in jail Ibrahim gave birth to Maya. Her son Martin, 21 months, was with her during the entire ordeal.

Vigil held for Christian Sudanese woman who faces death for not marrying Muslim man

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Meriam Ibrahim and Daniel Wani

By Jeremy Reynalds
ASSIST News Service

LONDON (ANS)A variety of Christians from numerous minority groups met outside the Sudanese Embassy in London on June 6 and demanded justice and freedom for imprisoned Christian believer Meriam Ibrahim.

According to a story on the blog of the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), people came to the protest after hearing Ibrahim’s tragic story.

Ibrahim is facing death and up to 100 lashes for apostasy (converting from Islam to Christianity), and for “adultery,” marrying a man who is not a Muslim. That despite Ibrahim being raised by her mother as a Christian.

Ibrahim is considered Muslim according to Sudanese law because her father was Muslim. As a result, courts have ruled her marriage to be illegal.

Ibrahim has just given birth to a daughter in prison, and also has a 2-year-old son with her husband, Daniel Wani.

She has continually refused to renounce Christianity. Her commitment to her faith has resulted in a court decision of execution after staying in prison for two years to nurse her baby. The date of her flogging is not yet known.

The event was organized by the BPCA in Partnership with Christian Voice.

Stephen Green, national director of Christian Voice, said in the BPCA story, “We call on President Omar al Bashir to direct the Sudanese Courts and government to drop all charges and release Meriam Ibrahim immediately, to allow freedom to convert to Christianity in law, and to guarantee the safety of Christians and the ancient Sudanese church.”

Wilson Chowdhry chairman of the BPCA said in the story, “Christian persecution in the Islamic world has reached unprecedented levels. Extremist ideology has been endorsed by fanatical religious leaders and knitted into the fabric of their societies, through stigmatized national curriculum within these intolerant states. This has bred hatred towards minorities and culminated in alienation and conflict.”

BPCA said he added, “Christians have now become the most persecuted faith adherents in the world. Moreover, the effect of these acts of violence and oppression has been an increase in the societal differences in our own communities.”

Lyn Julius, leader of HARIF a group that represents Middle Eastern and North African Jews, said in the BPCA story, “I was moved by the suffering of innocent Meriam Ibrahim. There was once two million Jews in the Middle East and North Africa, now only around 400,000 remain. The conditions faced by minorities living in the region has reached (its lowest point).”

A petition was signed by all attendees at the vigil. BPCA said, “However, despite his promise the Sudanese Ambassador failed to receive the petition, opting for it to be left at the reception area.”

 

Shields of Strength to share God’s word at Sochi Olympics

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By Tonya Whitaker
Inside The Pew

An athletic ministry and a Christian jewelry company have found the perfect way to put Christ on the minds of the athletes who arePhilippians 4:13 taking part in the Sochi Winter Olympics.

Shields of Strength, along with Athletes in Action (AIA), a ministry of Cru (formerly called Campus Crusade for Christ), will minister to coaches and competing athletes by providing spiritual, emotional, and mental support in the multi-faith center of the Olympic Village.

Team member and Olympic Chaplain Carl Dambman has been ministering to Olympic athletes in both the summer and winter games for the past 33 years. He said a dozen AIA staff and volunteers will distribute the shields to athletes who are seeking God’s word.

“The world’s eyes are on heroes of the sports fields, and we want to strengthen and encourage them as people watch them relying on God as their Creator, their Savior, and the One who gave them the talents to perform,” Dambman said.

“If the Shields of Strength can help them in their walk with the Lord, then we’re all for partnering with whoever wants to lift up Christ.”

Kenny Vaughan, founder of Shields of Strength, said that the company has donated over one million of the three million shields they produced to individuals, the U.S. military, churches, and ministries such as AIA. Both Vaughan and Dambman find that the organizations’ new partnership works well.

“Our missions align well because we can give them a tool to help them share Christ through a one-on-one relationship,” Vaughan said.

Vaughan said he understands the fear and pressure that Olympians experience during competition. While trying to win a U.S. Nationals for the water ski long jump, he described a comparable feeling that he was insufficient.

“The unique thing about an athlete, especially in the Olympics, is that they are prepared for pressure,” he said. “But until that momentJoshua 1:9 when you should be disciplined, it’s then when you find yourself saying, ‘God I need you.’ Right then is when you’re even weaker than you realized.

“Athletes in competition think if they have enough courage, they can overcome fear. But really that thought is the trap of life. And it’s not courage, but love that overcomes fear. It’s the courage to love that makes us courageous. That’s the message of God’s word, and Athletes in Action is taking advantage of this opportunity to share that truth.”

During his time of doubt and fear, Vaughan’s girlfriend (now wife), Tammie, wrote scriptures on his ski equipment, which, through God’s power, found their way into his heart and eased his fears. This led Vaughan to inscribe verses onto dog tags and wear them underneath his shirt.

From that first shield, Shields of Strength has grown to also include women’s jewelry and other accessories, like key chains and athletic tape. Seventeen years later, the company hopes that the shields can help Olympians as they face the same trials during competition.

“Love doesn’t always guarantee a win in life; it just ensures we compete with all we have and that gives us a better chance to win,” Vaughan said.

According to Vaughan, the shields have be found on the battlefield and the football field, providing encouragement as a simple reminder to new and established Christians alike.

Learn more about Shields of Strength at www.shieldsofstrength.com.

Charity sale of Pope Francis’ Harley-Davidson causes media storm

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By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

ROME, ITALY (ANS) — Since the announcement at the beginning of January that Bonhams auctioneers is to sell Pope Francis’ Pope FrancisHarley-Davidson and leather jacket, the news has reached more than 50 countries worldwide and generated more than 500 articles of international news coverage.

A news release stated that to mark the 110th anniversary of the motorcycle brand, Pope Francis was presented with the 1,585cc Harley-Davidson Dyna Super Glide and a motorcycle jacket in June 2013.

This rare and exceptional opportunity to own what was the property of the “People’s Pope” has captured the world’s imagination, generating a huge amount of interest in the items, which are to be auctioned for charity by Bonhams at the Grand Palais in Paris on Feb. 6.

The Sale, which is taking place as part of the capital’s Rétromobile Week, will see the motorcycle and the jacket raise funds for Caritas Roma, which works on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church to support those in need around the world.

They were donated to the charity by Pope Francis, who is famous for his work with the poor and his preference for modest modes of transport. Keeping charity and transport at the forefront of his mind, the Harley-Davidson, which has an estimate of $16,000-$20,000, is to be sold with no reserve in aid of Caritas Roma.

Funds raised by the sale will go towards the renovation of the charity’s Don Luigi di Liegro hostel and soup kitchen based at Rome’s Termini railway station.

The hostel opened 30 years ago to help the homeless, jobless and the poor, and the money raised by the Harley-Davidson’s sale will allow it to continue to provide food and accommodation to more than 1,000 people in need every day.

Signed on the fuel-tank by his Holiness at a special ceremony at the Vatican in November, the machine is offered with a Papal Certificate signed by his Holiness’s personal secretary and a certificate of conformity from Harley-Davidson.

James Knight, group director of the Bonhams motoring department, said: “This is an almost unheard of opportunity to those who wish to support such a worthy cause. In return for supporting the charity, the winning bidder will be the proud owner of a unique and desirable collectors’ item of memorabilia. We have customers who have expressed a desire to own both the motorcycle and jacket, but others with a preference for just one item. It will be interesting to see if both stay together.”

The Harley-Davidson and leather jacket will be sold on Feb. 6 as part of Bonhams’ Les Grandes Marques du Monde sale at the Grand Palais in Paris.

Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world’s largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale.