Category Archives: National

Prayer room at Texas high school causes concerns

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Special to Inside The Pew

AUSTIN – In a letter sent March 17 to the superintendent of the Frisco (Texas) Independent School District, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office outlines legal concerns over Liberty High School’s prayer room, which may violate the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty.

Recent news reports have indicated that the high school’s prayer room is dedicated to students who practice Islam, while apparently excluding students of other faiths.

Muslim students at Liberty High School in Frisco have been allowed since 2009 to pray in a classroom that’s vacant for part of the afternoon.

“Liberty High School’s policy should be neutral toward religion,” reads the letter from Deputy Attorney General Andrew Leonie to Frisco ISD Superintendent Jeremy Lyon. “However, it appears that students are being treated different based on their religious beliefs. Such a practice, of course, is irreconcilable with our nation’s enduring commitment to religious liberty.”

While applauding the superintendent’s efforts to create an environment where students can freely practice their religion, the letter from Attorney General Paxton’s office reminds the Frisco ISD that, in the words of the U.S. Supreme Court, “one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another.”

However, according to the CBS affiliate in Dallas, said the room is open to all students, regardless of their religion.

The letter asks that school officials ensure that Liberty High School’s prayer room is accessible to students of all religious denominations, consistent with the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty.

In response to the Attorney General’s letter, Lyon said, “Frisco ISD is greatly concerned that this type of inflammatory rhetoric in the current climate may place the District, its students, staff, parents and community in danger of unnecessary disruption.”

Why we need reminders of God’s faithfulness

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By Carol Round
Special to ASSIST News Service

“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us’” 1 Samuel 7:12 (NKJV).

GROVE, Okla. – In a recent column, I made a mistake. I’d forgotten the importance of double checking facts, but a reader, who pointed out my error, reminded me I had been careless. In a hurry to finish, I’d accepted what someone else had written – and I had quoted – as correct.Watch All Girls Weekend (2016) Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

After I thanked him for emailing me, I had to smile. Why? Because the pointing out of my mistake was perfect timing for the topic God had already laid on my heart.

Several months ago, I received a thank you note from a group of women who had heard me speak at a conference in May 2016. While I’d forgotten the event in the midst of life-changing circumstances, the arrival of the card was perfect timing. I needed a reminder of what God had done in my life and what He was doing through me to encourage other women in their walk with the Lord.

God’s timing is always “on time.” However, we often forget His faithfulness in the midst of our struggles. So did the Israelites. In scripture, we see examples of reminders. In Joshua 4, after the Israelites had crossed the Jordan River through God’s supernatural provision, He commanded them to set up 12 stones as “a memorial to the children of Israel forever.”

In 1 Samuel 7:12, the prophet Samuel set up a commemorative stone and named it Ebenezer to serve as a reminder that “thus far the Lord has helped us.”

The particular site of Ebenezer as mentioned in 1 Samuel 4:1-11 and 5:1 is about four miles south of Gilgal, where the Israelites were twice defeated by the Philistines and the Ark of the Covenant was stolen. However, the site wasn’t named Ebenezer until after the Israelites had finally defeated the Philistines and taken back the Ark.

What does Ebenezer mean? According to “Strong’s Concordance,” the word originates from the Hebrew word for “help” put together with the Hebrew word for “stone” to create the word, Ebenezer. Thus defined by the etymological roots of the word, an Ebenezer is literally a “Stone of Help.” For the Israelites who finally defeated the Philistines, it was a reminder of God’s divine aid.

As a Christian writer and speaker, I love sharing my testimony with others, encouraging my readers and the audience with the wonderful, sometimes supernatural things God has done in and through my 63 years of life. Each time, I am also reminded of His faithfulness. When I receive a thank you card, an email or a verbal reply to the words I write or speak, I am encouraged. Those things become my Ebenezer, my “stone of help,” especially when I need them the most.

Encouraged by friends to put my stories of God’s faithfulness into a book, I have begun writing them down. Lest any of us forget, take time to create a list, an “Ebenezer” of sorts, as a reminder.

Photo cutline: Carol Round

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

 

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Human trafficking opponent in Houston to launch initiative

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By Tonya Whitaker
Inside The Pew

For seven Super Bowls, Nita Belles has brought attention to the troubling occurrence of human trafficking that takes in-our-backyard-human-traffickingplace during major sporting events. And this year is no different.

Millions are awaiting the big game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons, scheduled to take place in Houston, Texas, the host city of Super Bowl 51, on Sunday, February 5, 2017, but as in previous years, human trafficking is a real concern to many, especially Nita Belles.

Belles is the founder of In Our Backyard (IOB) — http://inourbackyard.org/ — and Jan. 28 she officially announced the launch of the “Convenience Stores Against Trafficking” (CSAT) initiative. She did so during her appearance as keynote speaker at “Vulnerable: A Conference on the Issues of Gender, Race, Poverty & Human Trafficking,” held at South Main Baptist Church, 4100 Main St. in Houston. The free conference kicked off at 1 p.m.

“The Houston Super Bowl was the right time to launch the campaign,” Belles said. “Houston was very accepting and welcoming of the program. Greater Houston Retailers Association put CSAT materials and training out to 1,900 convenience stores.”

IOB will also work with local law enforcement and other groups responding to the anticipated increased sex trade activity in the Houston area. Days before the launch of the initiative, on Jan. 24, KTRK-TV, the ABC-affiliate in Houston, reported a 21-year-old woman — who said she was brought to Houston specifically for sex trafficking at the Super Bowl — was raped in downtown Houston by a pimp. According to the report, a Good Samaritan rescued the woman and took her to Ben Taub Hospital for treatment.

In addition, Belles said her organization have unveiled a major social media drive aiming to boost awareness of human trafficking during the events surrounding the February 5th game. The anti-human trafficking campaigner said she hopes for a quarter of a million shares of the new Thunderclap video, “Link Arms Across America,” during the first quarter. The short awareness message features former victims holding signs of things they were told by their traffickers.

“Thousands of women, children, and even some men across the country are caught up in the horrors of sex trafficking, convinced that there is no way out, and convenience stores can be a first line of help for these victims,” Belles said. “Businesses like these can be heroes in this fight; we’re so glad for their support.”

Since founding IOB in 2006, Belles has become widely recognized as a leading voice in the fight against human trafficking. A frequent speaker to law enforcement, medical, civic and community groups, she has also been an adviser on anti-trafficking legislation to legislators in several states and authored the authoritative book “In Our Backyard: Human Trafficking in America and What We Can Do to Stop It.”

“Human trafficking happens 24/7, 365 days a year, in every zip code in America,” Belles said. “But working together, we can bring an end to this atrocity.”

Belles said volunteers are being recruited for the event to help canvas convenience stores in the Houston area. Visit the IOB website (http://inourbackyard.org/) to sign up.

Connection between MLK Jr. and Martin Luther goes beyond names

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By Tonya Whitaker
Inside The Pew

Jan. 16 is the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. While churches and numerous organizations throughout the land will martin-luther-king-jr-and-martin-luthercelebrate this day, King’ legacy goes beyond his unselfishness to stand up against social injustice. Beyond his words, King is a solid rhetorician with the ability to communicate a powerful message orally (“I Have a Dream”) and in print (“Letter From Birmingham Jail”).

As a graduate student, I was fortunate to research and write an expansive study of Martin Luther King’s letter. I consider it a concrete piece of rhetoric; it is King’s best. Although the letter was intended to address the criticisms from fellow clergy members, the letter took on greater meaning for all readers.

The storytelling and direct reference to historical “extremists” (King’s reference) is impressive, to say the least.

  • Apostle Paul – “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”
  • Martin Luther – “Here I stand; I can do none other so help me God.”
  • John Bunyan – “I will stay in jail to end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.”
  • Thomas Jefferson – “We hold these truths self-evident that all men are created equal.”
  • Abraham Lincoln – “The nation cannot survive half slave, half free.”

King’s use of Paul, Luther, Bunyan, Jefferson, and Lincoln as extremists is part of the letter’s impressiveness. On this day, take a moment to celebrate King and read his letter in its entirety.

Martin Luther: 500 years of influence

The legacies of Martin Luther and MLK are forever linked, thanks to MLK Sr.

According to the organizer of the Luther commemoration, LutherCountry, Michael King, visited Germany in 1934. The elder King was moved by the life of the Protestant Reformation leader that Michael King Sr. changed his and his son’s names to Martin Luther King senior and junior.

MLK is one of many who found inspiration for their protests through Luther. This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, which began with the posting of Luther’s 95 Theses on the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church on Oct. 31, 1517. Luther’s 95 outlined his discontent with the Roman Catholic Church’s use of indulgences (selling salvation). He believed the only way to salvation is through faithfulness to Christ and adhering to his teachings, not by purchasing sacraments. Instead of accepting the punishment levied against him by the church, Luther stood behind the word of God.

“It is almost impossible to write the history of western civilization without mentioning Luther,” said Oxford University theologian Alister McGrath in “Martin Luther: Driven to Defiance.” We should stand up for things we believe. The idea that every person is precious in the sight of God.”

Luther’s protest in 1517 has inspired, and continues to inspire, Americans. Thousands are planning to visit LutherCountry in 2017, to walk in Luther’s footsteps. Those, who cannot travel to Germany in the celebration year, can still join in the commemorations in a very 21st century way: online.

For further information, visit www.visit-luther.com, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

© 2017 Inside The Pew

Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank receives $1.4M from FEMA

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Special to Inside The Pew

The Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank has been able to continue its feeding mission with the help of a nearly $1.4 million FEMA grant.

The grant reimburses expenses to dispose of debris, clean and disinfect property and equipment and restoregreater baton rouge food bank refrigeration and freezing at the Choctaw Drive distribution facility damaged in the August flooding event. It also provides the food bank with a temporary facility to support its essential community service.

The nonprofit stores food at the distribution facility that faith-based and community groups then distribute to pantries, meal sites, homes, shelters and soup kitchens in the Baton Rouge area.

The funds were made available through FEMA’s Public Assistance (PA) program. The program reimburses expenses to eligible local and state government and certain private nonprofit entities in 26 designated parishes to repair or replace disaster-damaged facilities and infrastructure.

The 26 designated parishes eligible for PA funding are Acadia, Ascension, Assumption, Avoyelles, Cameron, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Evangeline, Iberia, Iberville, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, Livingston, Point Coupee, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Vermilion, Washington, West Baton Rouge, and West Feliciana.

FEMA typically reimburses 75 percent of eligible PA expenses. However, applicants will be reimbursed 90 percent of eligible PA expenses given the magnitude of the August floods. The federal portion is paid directly to the state, which then disburses the funds to the applicants.

How to deal with loneliness at Christmas

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The wonder of creation: Christian History magazine announces latest issue

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By Michael Austin
Special to Inside The Pew

Worcester, Pa.– Christian History Institute (CHI), publisher of Christian History magazine (CHM), announces its latest issue, titled: The Wonder of Creation: How Christians have responded to God’s ‘book of nature”.  The issue is a long-awaited homage to the grandeur of planet earth through the eyes theologians, church leaders, believers and a growing number of scientists.

CHM issue 119, contains 10 feature articles; a 2,000-year timeline chronology, an archive of rare artwork, photos, a “letters to the editor” section, and an extensive reading list compiled by the CHM editorial staff. The entire magazine is available online and can be read at: www.christianhistoryinstitute.org. The CHM archive collection of 119 issues can be searched, along with books and study-guides, using the website’s search engine feature. The CHM site, including a no-cost magazine subscription, is a study resource offered primarily for the home and homeschoolers, church libraries, middle/high schools, as well as to colleges & universities at no-cost. It is the mission of CHI donors and staff to make this resource as widely and freely available as possible – donations gratefully accepted.

Long before the birth of Jesus Christ, the prophetic words of the Bible honor the Father’s creation as if nature itself were a “second ‘book” of scripture, announcing, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech, night after night they display knowledge.’ – Psalm 19:1-2. Throughout history similar reverence has been repeated, as in the words of the monastic Antony (c.251-356) who said, “My book is the nature of created things. In it, when I choose, I can read the words of God.”

The famed American environmentalist and writer, who co-founded America’s Sierra Club, John Muir, said, referring to the simple beauty of a flower, “Now my eyes were opened to their inner beauty, all alike revealing glorious traces of the thoughts of God and leading on and on into the infinite cosmos.”

The impact, beauty and vast unknowns of nature combined with the desire of Christians for knowledge overChristian history magazine the centuries, spawned the disciplines of what we refer to today as formal higher education and learning, expressed through art and the professions.

Christian beliefs combined with the work of influential European believers, such as Johannes Kepler (1571-1630); Francis Bacon (1561-1626); Robert Boyle 1627-1691) and Isaac Newton (1642-1727), to name just a few, helped convert the study of theology and philosophy into an entirely new discipline, eventually called science. For them, this new revolution in thought introduced a new view of nature, a new view of investigation (the scientific method) and a new way to praise God.

Expressing the essence of this issue titled, The Wonder of Creation, managing editor of Christian History, Jennifer Woodruff Tait, said, “Christians have written poetry, prose, hymns and sermons explaining how contemplating God’s wonders led them to a greater love of God. They have created art to capture its beauty; they have worked to farm and tend that which God put into the natural order. And they have reminded us how one of the charges God gave us in the Garden of Eden was to till and keep this world (Gen. 2:15).”

“Christian history has been largely removed from the American public education system that Christian leaders began in the early years of this nation,” said Michael Austin, a Christian commentator. “After years of decline, our public schools no longer teach the Bible’s founding contribution to Western Civilization. Quakers have influenced our culture’s values regarding faith, freedom and mercy. Yet, today, faith in God is being openly questioned and attacked.”

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Federal help comes for Baton Rouge area residents impacted by floods

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By Grelan Muse Sr.
Inside The Pew

BATON ROUGE, La. – Like many who have seen the flooding in the Baton Rouge area, the images are startling. ForBaton Rouge residents stand in line at for assistance from the American Red Cross. local residents, the disaster is shocking.

“I’ve been here all my life, and I have never seen anything like this before,” said State Rep. Pat Smith (D-Baton Rouge).

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced Aug. 15 that federal disaster aid has been made available to the state of Louisiana to supplement state, tribal, and local recovery efforts in the area affected by severe storms and flooding beginning Aug. 11, and continuing.

The president’s action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in East Baton Rouge, Livingston, St. Helena, and Tangipahoa parishes. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

Federal funding is available to the state and eligible tribal and local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work as a result of the severe storms and flooding in East Baton Rouge, Livingston, St. Helena, and Tangipahoa parishes. Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

Smith said the help is available for affected residents, but they must remain patient as FEMA process requests.

“They must follow the application process through. It is a long process, but they must follow it through.”

Individuals and business owners who sustained losses in the designated area can begin applying for assistance tomorrow by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).  Disaster assistance applicants, who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY, should call 1-800-462-7585 directly; for those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.

Walmart announces $500,000 toward La. flood relief efforts

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have made a commitment to provide support through cash and in-kindWalmart prepares to deliver one million water bottles to affected areas across Louisiana. donations of $500,000 to organizations helping with relief efforts for those affected by the floods in Louisiana. Working closely with the Salvation Army, American Red Cross and the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, coordination efforts are being made with elected officials and governmental entities across the region to meet the needs of those affected by the overwhelming flooding in the Louisiana region this week.

With widespread flooding and thousands of people displaced from their homes, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have coordinated efforts as part of the $500,000 donation to send truckloads of water to affected areas of the state, anticipating over one million bottles of water to be delivered in the coming days.

We are deeply saddened by the devastating floods in Louisiana and the catastrophic effect it’s having on our associates and members of the community,” said Mark Cooper, Senior Director of Emergency Management for Walmart. “We are fully committed to the relief efforts and will continue to work closely with local officials to do everything we can.”

Photo cutlines

Top: Baton Rouge residents stand in line at for assistance from the American Red Cross. (The Pew/Grelan Muse Sr.)

Bottom: Walmart prepares to deliver one million water bottles to affected areas across Louisiana.

Medical doctor’s heart attack led to near-death experience in heaven

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By Mark Ellis
ASSIST News Service

As a staff physician at the University of Texas Health Center he was well acquainted with the symptoms of a heart Landry-Gerry-259x300attack. But this time, the M.D. wasn’t examining someone else – he was grappling with troubling signs of his own.

At home, Dr. Gerry Landry, 55, felt overwhelming fatigue and crushing pain in his chest for more than an hour.

“Denise! This is serious! Please pray!” he called out to his wife.

His wife began to pray after she called an ambulance. She also called Christian friends to pray. “We committed the situation to Almighty God and asked Him to heal me,” he says.

In spite of the excruciating pain, a wave of peace washed over the doctor and his wife after they prayed, a peace that defies understanding (Phil. 4:7).

“All I remember during the ride to the hospital was calling out the name of Jesus, over and over again,” the doctor recalled.

A few years earlier, praying for God’s help would have been last on his to-do list. He was a nominal Christian, devoted to his church, but praying for his patients was not part of his life.

But that changed one day. “I witnessed a young couple praying for a patient of mine, I actually felt God’s presence in the room and was strangely moved. They prayed as though God was their closest friend. I envied them. It started me on a journey, a search for a true, deep, personal relationship with God,” he said.

“Before long, I met Christians who taught and prayed for me to receive the Holy Spirit. After that, Jesus became real to me, and the words of the Bible suddenly came to life.”

Landry entered the same Emergency Room where he had treated hundreds of patients. The doctor in charge showed him his EKG: His inferior coronary artery was completely knocked out.

“The cold clamminess of my hands warned me of collapsing veins,” he noted. “Yet, the sweet presence of Jesus continued to enfold me with His peace.

But as his wife prayed quietly by his side, his heart suddenly stopped beating. “I became acutely aware of my spirit separating from my body and I died – pronounced ‘clinically dead’ at 4:13 p.m.”

Immediately he found himself transported to heaven — a place of dazzling beauty!

“A multitude of radiantly beautiful people surrounded me. In spite of the crowd, I looked around and actually recognized some of my late relatives, as well as some historical figures who had preceded me a long time ago.   We were in the Eternal Now, without past or future and I was perfectly at ease, full of joy.

Read more here.

Photo cutline: Dr. Gerry Landry