Monday 31 July 2017

Doj Files Legal Brief Declaring Title VII Does Not Include Homosexuality

U.S. Department of Justice Files Legal Brief Declaring Title VII Does Not Include Homosexuality

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Justice has filed an amicus brief declaring that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not pertain to homosexuality.
“The sole question here is whether, as a matter of law, Title VII reaches sexual orientation discrimination,” it wrote. “It does not, as has been settled for decades. Any efforts to amend Title VII’s scope should be directed to Congress rather than the courts.”

The Department filed the “friend of the court” brief in the case of Zarda vs. Altitude Express, which centers on skydiving instructor Donald Zarda, who was fired by his employer following a complaint from the boyfriend of a female diver.
“Zarda often informed female clients of his sexual orientation-especially when they were accompanied by a husband or boyfriend-to mitigate any awkwardness that might arise from the fact that he was strapped so tightly to the woman,” legal documents outline.

Altitude Express told Zarda that he was fired because he “failed to provide an enjoyable experience for the customer” as David Kengle, the boyfriend of Rosanna Orellana, complained to the company about Zarda’s remarks.
Zarda sued his employer in 2010 for discrimination, but died in a skydiving accident before the matter went to trial. The executors of his estate decided to keep the case active, but a district court ruled that while the suit may proceed, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does not apply to homosexuality.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, and the argument is now being considered for an en banc-or full court-appeal.
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Title VII prohibits discrimination of the basis of race, color, religion, sex and national origin, and some have construed the inclusion of “sex” in the law to pertain to “sexual orientation.” However, others state that the original intent of including sex in the statute was to prohibit employers from treating female workers differently than male employees.

“The essential element of sex discrimination under Title VII is that employees of one sex must be treated worse that similarly situated employees of the other sex, and sexual orientation discrimination simply does not have that effect,” the Department of Justice contended in its amicus brief this week.
“Moreover, whatever this court would say about the question were it writing on a blank slate, Congress has made clear through its actions and inactions in this area that Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination does not encompass sexual orientation discrimination,” it said.

Homosexual advocacy groups have expressed disappointment with the government’s filing.
“In one fell swoop, Trump’s DOJ has provided a roadmap for dismantling years of federal protections and declared that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people may no longer be protected by landmark civil rights laws such as the Fair Housing Act, Title IX, or Title VII,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Council, in a statement on Wednesday.

“[The] filing is a shameful retrenchment of an outmoded interpretation that forfeits faithful interpretation of current law to achieve a politically-driven and legally specious result,” she asserted.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had sided with Zarda, but the Department of Justice says that the Commission was “not speaking for the United States.”

Cred:   Christian News

Christian Bridal Shop Closes Doors to Public

Christian Bridal Shop Closes Doors to Public After Receiving Threats for Denying Lesbian Wedding Dress

A Christian-owned bridal shop in Pennsylvania has temporarily closed its doors to the public and is now only accepting appointments after its owner received threats because the shop refused to serve a lesbian couple looking for a wedding dress, a source close to the situation told The Christian Post.

On July 8, a lesbian couple from West Pittston, Pennsylvania, traveled about an hour to the town Bloomsberg, where they paid a visit to W.W. Bridal Boutique. The couple, 30-year-old Julie Ann Samanas and 34-year-old Shannon Kennedy, were in search of a wedding dress for Samanas to wear for their March 2018 wedding.

However, the couple was told at W.W. Bridal, which had already experienced much scrutiny from LGBT activists and left-leaning media in 2014 for refusing an appointment for a same-sex couple, that the store could not accommodate their request because they were Christian.

According to Philadelphia Gay News, the couple and Samanas' sister tried to hand one of two women working at the boutique a form with their information on it but were told by an employee that "our faith doesn't let us believe in [same-sex weddings.]"

The couple took to Facebook to discuss how they were denied service and tagged W.W. Bridal in the post. According to PGN, the shop initially responded by issuing a Facebook post that has since been deleted.

"The owners of W.W. Bridal Boutique reserve the rights afforded to them by the First Amendment of the Constitution to live out our lives according to our faith," the W.W. Bridal post was quoted as stating. "We will continue to serve our customers based on the tenets of our faith."

Following the PGN report, nationally recognized left-leaning outlets such as the Huffington Post and Yahoo Style picked up on the article. The shop's co-owner, Victoria Miller, told the Huffington Post in an email that their refusal was based on a matter of religious beliefs.

"We have provided formalwear for our customers from all walks of life, including the LGBTQ community. We have always served everyone with respect and dignity," Miller wrote. "It is just this event, a same-sex marriage, which we cannot participate in due to our personal convictions."

"We simply ask that we be given the same ability to live our lives according to our convictions," she added.

Some LGBT supporters did not respond too kindly to the news of W.W. Bridal's refusal of service to Samanas and Kennedy.

According to Rich Penkoski, a West Virginia-based pastor who has been in contact with Miller and her family and has even taken over administration duties on the bridal shop's Facebook page, Miller has decided to close her shop temporarily and only accept appointments.

The decision, Penkoski said, was due in part to the fact that they have been threatened by a person angry with their choice to refuse service for same-sex weddings. Penkoski shared audio of a voicemail the shop received on Tuesday with CP.

"You stupid f****** bigots. We are coming for you and your family," a man declared in the voicemail. "We are going to tear your shop a part and make you feel as bad as you have made people feel. You f****** bigot scum. You are going down and so is all your employees and their families. You're done!"

Penkoski, who has also received his share of threats for running the online ministry and Facebook page "Warriors for Christ," told CP that Miller runs a family-run business and works with her daughters.

"They went through this in 2014 but this one for some reason is getting worse," Penkoski said on Wednesday. "They got a message from somebody today named Danny that said they have a 'few surprises' for them. That is kind of what prompted this."

"She did this back in 2014 as well until things blew over," he continued.

Penkoski stressed that he does not work for W.W. Bridal and is only trying to help the shop during this time. The Christian Post reached out to W.W. Bridal for comment but received no response by press time.

"I was moderating their page so that they can focus on their business without having to worry about all the negative comments on their Facebook page," Penkoski said.

Although some Christian business owners in other states have faced hefty consequences for refusing to provide products or services to same-sex weddings, the state of Pennsylvania's discrimination laws do not protect gays and lesbians from being denied service, being fired, or denied housing on the basis of their sexual orientation.

cred:  Christian Post

Spiritual Maturity

 4 Signs You're Becoming Spiritually Mature

There’s a passage in Ephesians that is basically a job description for pastors and ministry leaders. It
applies to a long list of leaders in the church, and the end goal is undeniably clear:

“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-13

Like verse 13 says, the goal is to be spiritually mature in the Lord. When I think about what that verse says, an image comes to mind of an empty outline of a person that is increasingly filled with vibrant color as they grow, develop their faith, are poured into by other believers, and are filled by God’s Word. I imagine that measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ would mean that person is completely filled to the brim with knowledge, light, beauty and wisdom that radiates outward for the glory of God. I think it’s a beautiful picture, and one we should take to heart as we seek to disciple other believers and become increasingly more like Christ.

Kent Hughes recently wrote an article for Ligonier Ministries on “4 Essentials for Spiritual Maturity” where he speaks directly to pastors and elders about the crucial elements of shepherding believers into that fullness in Christ. I think his advice can apply to all of us, though, regardless of whether we are leading a congregation of believers or raising a family or teaching a small group Bible study. I believe all of us as followers of Christ have a role to play in helping bring others closer to the cross, and all of us are on journeys toward more complete maturity in our faith together, too.

Hughes shares these four essentials:

“Preaching the mystery of Christ.” 

Colossians 1:25-28 is a key verse here-- the goal, Paul writes, is “to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to the saints… the mystery, which is Christ in you the hope of glory.” We must use our words, our platforms, and our times together with others to share the full gospel of Jesus Christ and point others directly back to him.

“Preachers must also struggle in preaching the mystery.” 

We often don’t like to admit our own struggles or shortcomings to others, but being honest and vulnerable about even the hard things in life and faith is essential to showing others the fullness of the Gospel message. Paul wrote this in Colossians 1:29: “We tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.” He is real about the fact that there will be struggles along the way in our ministry, but he reminds us that Christ is our strength in times of weakness.

“The believing community [must] be ‘knit together in love.’

In Colossians 2:1-3, Paul prays that the hearts of those he is writing to may “be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”  We cannot come to fully know or understand God solely on our own. When we remember the imagery of the body of Christ from 1 Corinthians 12, we are reminded that each of us are different and essential parts of the full body of Christ in the church-- we need all parts to function at our fullest and best. We can learn so much from each other, be encouraged by one another, be challenged by one another, and sharpen each other in our faith.

“Those who shepherd the church must be mature in Christ and demonstrate it in community.” 

Communities of believers shepherded by strong, mature, God-glorifying leaders will themselves grow into strong, mature, God-glorifying communities… and that’s the beauty of it all. “Over a period of time,” Hughes writes, “a congregation will often come to resemble and imitate its leaders. This is especially true where hardships are met with mature leaders whose hearts are informed and enriched with the full canonical mystery of Christ, who toil and struggle with the energy that God supplies, who minister with a steadfast love and commitment to the body of Christ, and who model maturity in Christ.”

Wherever you are in your personal spiritual journey, whoever you find yourself leading and shepherding, I hope and pray these essentials become increasingly more present and perfect in your lives and your faith. May we all remember in every step of the way that, like 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, that God’s grace is sufficient for us, that his power is made perfect in our weakness. May we boast all the more gladly about our weaknesses, knowing without a doubt that Christ’s power rests on us.

Cred: Rachel Dawson ; Editor, Bible Study Tools

Wisdom's Wealth

Today's Scripture: Proverbs 3

Proverbs 3 (KJV)

1 My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments

2 For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.

3 Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:

4 So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.

5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

7 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil.

8 It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.

9 Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:

10 So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.

11 My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction:

12 For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.

13 Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.

14 For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.

15 She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.

16 Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour.

17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.

18 She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.

19 The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens.

20 By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew.

21 My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion:

22 So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck.

23 Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.

24 When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.

25 Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh.

26 For the Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.

27 Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.

28 Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee.

29 Devise not evil against thy neighbour, seeing he dwelleth securely by thee.

30 Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm.

31 Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways.

32 For the froward is abomination to the Lord: but his secret is with the righteous.

33 The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just.

34 Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.

35 The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools.

Scripture Meaning

Exhortations to obedience and faith. (1-6) To piety, and to improve afflictions. (7-12) To gain wisdom. (13-20) Guidance of Wisdom. (21-26) The wicked and the upright. (27-35)

Verses 1-6: In the way of believing obedience to God's commandments health and peace may commonly be enjoyed; and though our days may not be long upon earth, we shall live for ever in heaven. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee; God's mercy in promising, and his truth in performing: live up to them, keep up thine interest in them, and take the comfort of them.

We must trust in the Lord with all our hearts, believing he is able and wise to do what is best. Those who know themselves, find their own understandings a broken reed, which, if they lean upon, will fail. Do not design any thing but what is lawful, and beg God to direct thee in every case, though it may seem quite plain. In all our ways that prove pleasant, in which we gain our point, we must acknowledge God with thankfulness.

In all our ways that prove uncomfortable, and that are hedged up with thorns, we must acknowledge him with submission. It is promised, He shall direct thy paths; so that thy way shall be safe and good, and happy at last.

Verses 7-12: There is not a greater enemy to the fear of the Lord in the heart, than self-conceit of our own wisdom. The prudence and sobriety which religion teaches, tend not only to the health of the soul, but to the health of the body.

Worldly wealth is but poor substance, yet, such as it is, we must honour God with it; and those that do good with what they have, shall have more to do more good with. Should the Lord visit us with trials and sickness, let us not forget that the exhortation speaks to us as to children, for our good.

We must not faint under an affliction, be it ever so heavy and long, not be driven to despair, or use wrong means for relief. The father corrects the son whom he loves, because he loves him, and desires that he may be wise and good. Afflictions are so far from doing God's children any hurt, that, by the grace of God, they promote their holiness.

Verses 13-20: No precious jewels or earthly treasures are worthy to be compared with true wisdom, whether the concerns of time or eternity be considered. We must make wisdom our business; we must venture all in it, and be willing to part with all for it. This Wisdom is the Lord Jesus Christ and his salvation, sought and obtained by faith and prayer.

Were it not for unbelief, remaining sinfulness, and carelessness, we should find all our ways pleasantness, and our paths peace, for his are so; but we too often step aside from them, to our own hurt and grief. Christ is that Wisdom, by whom the worlds were made, and still are in being; happy are those to whom he is made of God wisdom. He has wherewithal to make good all his promises.

Verses 21-26: Let us not suffer Christ's words to depart from us, but keep sound wisdom and discretion; then shall we walk safely in his ways. The natural life, and all that belongs to it, shall be under the protection of God's providence; the spiritual life, and all its interests, under the protection of his grace, so that we shall be kept from falling into sin or trouble.

Verses 27-35: Our business is to observe the precepts of Christ, and to copy his example; to do justice, to love mercy, and to beware of covetousness; to be ready for every good work, avoiding needless strife, and bearing evils, if possible, rather than seeking redress by law.

It will be found there is little got by striving. Let us not envy prosperous oppressors; far be it from the disciples of Christ to choose any of their ways. These truths may be despised by the covetous and luxurious, but everlasting contempt will be the portion of such scorners, while Divine favour is shown to the humble believer.

Scripture Application

Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter making an application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Many applications can be made from each day's text. Today we continue with the Book of Proverbs with Chapter 3. In our text today we see that wisdom is extremely valuable. When we apply wisdom to our lives we will gain the steps to success.

In making application we see that if we make unwise decisions it will cost us time and resources. Since the Lord knows the best path for our lives and has given us His instructions in His Word, the Bible. It would benefit us to follow the Instructions of Wisdom. How about you? Do you follow the instruction of the Lord? Let us learn from our text today to see that following wisdom will give us the shortest distance to the wealth of blessings that He has for us.

Spreading Good News

Bible Verse of the Day: Romans 10:15

Romans 10:15 (KJV)

15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

Ways to Be a King in Business

Provide & Protect: Two Ways to Be a King in Business

Not only did God call us to enter His Kingdom, He called us to rule within His Kingdom. The first commandment given to humanity was to “subdue the earth and rule; take dominion” (Gen. 1:28). We are promised that “those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17).

As a marketplace Christian, you are a king, and a massive part of your domain is your sphere of influence in the marketplace. While our royal authority as children of God transcends the authorities among the kingdoms of the world, it should be revealed through our professional lives in the marketplace.

Let’s explore two of our primary duties as God’s kings in the marketplace.

1: Be a Provider

Kings have authority for the purpose of providing for those within their domains. As kings, what are some practical ways that we can provide for the needs of those in our spheres of influence in the marketplace?

Provide spiritual gifts - Whether your gifts are teaching, discernment, administration, prophecy, or any other, the marketplace needs your spiritual gifts to reflect the glory of God. God’s Word promises that He has made a place for our gifts. It is our responsibility to make those gifts available to those who need them.

Provide economic value - If you are getting paid to do what you do, you most likely have provided an equivalent amount of economic value. In the process, you served at least one person by providing for at least one need.

Provide economic opportunities - Whether you are have hired people or not, the economic value you provide for the marketplace creates opportunities for other people to offer value. When one need is met, new needs emerge. The solution to one problem creates new problems to be solved.

Provide alms for the needy - Do you have co-workers who are hurting financially? If you are a business owner, do you have customers who can’t pay? You may be the only one who knows about the impossible financial situations these people are in. Perhaps God is asking you to show mercy through providing some financial relief for that person.

As God’s appointed king in the marketplace, how do you provide for the people within your sphere of influence?

2: Be a Protector

Kings also are called to protect those within their domains. What are some practical ways that we can protect those in our spheres of influence in the business world?

Protect through making righteous decisions - Many of the decisions we make in business either will protect those in our spheres of influence, or they will hurt them. By making decisions in a way that protects those around us from financially, professionally, emotionally, relationally, or even physically harm-rather than protecting our own selfish interests-we can serve our co-workers, customers, and colleagues with the servant’s attitude of Jesus (Phil. 2:5).

Protect through life-giving words - On every economic level, the marketplace is extremely vulnerable to negativity and fear. As such, marketplace Christians have a significant opportunity and calling to protect those around us from this negativity and fear by speaking only “what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable… things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Phil. 4:8).

Protect through prayer - Through our prayers, we can guard our companies against loss, theft, bad business partners, bad business deals, adverse market swings, and more. Many of these things are beyond our control, but they are not beyond the control and intervention of the Holy Spirit.

You Are Royalty

When Queen Victoria was a child, she didn’t realize that she was in line for the throne of England. Her instructors trying to prepare her for leadership were frustrated perpetually because they couldn’t motivate young Victoria to take her schoolwork seriously. They knew she wouldn’t be able to lead others until she could lead herself.

Finally, her teachers admonished her, “One day, Victoria, you will be the Queen of England!”

Upon hearing this, Victoria said quietly, “Then, I will be good.”

The realization that she had inherited this high calling gave her a sense of authority, responsibility, and accountability that profoundly affected her conduct from that day forward.

Like Queen Victoria, we will always live in accordance with our understanding of who we are. As marketplace Christians, we are kings and priests who belong to God. This revelation will transform the business world as we walk in the fullness of our calling as marketplace Christians.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9).

Discussion: How is God asking you to provide for and protect those in your sphere of influence in the marketplace?

Written by  Darren Shearer

Sunday 30 July 2017

Christians Barred From Seeking Asylum

Christians Barred From Seeking Asylum After Leaving Refugee Camp Amid Harassment by Muslim Migrants

A Christian charity is pressuring the Greek government to change a policy that is preventing homeless Christian refugees who fled persecution, bullying and threats inside the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos from being able to apply for asylum and gain help via the United Nations.

The London-based British Pakistani Christian Association recently wrote to the U.N. and Greek authorities on behalf of Pakistani Christian refugees who fled from Lesbos Island's famous Moria asylum camp due to the level of persecution they experienced at the hands of Muslims inside the camp.

BPCA President Wilson Chowdhry told The Christian Post Monday that he has been told Greek authorities have put in place a "geographical restriction" that is effectively blocking asylum seekers who escaped persecution at one of the refugee camps on the Greek islands from being able to apply for asylum with the Greek authorities on the mainland without having to return to the very camp they were persecuted in.

Chowdhry explained that the only exception to that rule is if an asylum seeker has a severe health condition that qualifies as a mitigating factor to allow his or her asylum application to be assessed on the Greek mainland. Chowdhry said the policy is designed to make it easier to track asylum-seeking refugees.

He called on Greece's Ambassador to the United Kingdom Dimitris Caramitsos for help in seeking a change to the policy.

"I would like to bring to your attention several reports of persecution that have been raised with the British Pakistani Christian Association, relating to persecution of Christians within the Muslim-majority ... Moria Camp," Chowdhry wrote in an email to Caramitsos last Friday. "Christians are being prevented from holding church services, worshiping and praying by their Muslim neighbors. Moreover, reports of tents being burned down, violence, bullying, harassment and severe threats paint a very bleak picture of the quality of life for Christians caught up within the camp."

"The majority of Christian refugees escape but are being refused asylum by Greek authorities who only consider adverse health as a mitigating factor and not Christian persecution," Chowdhry's email continued. "We are seeking your help in obtaining a change in the current Greek policy in which the risk of proven re-persecution of Christians counts as a mitigating factor for asylum assessment for escapees of Moria Camp."

Caramitsos has not yet respond to Chowdhry's email.

Chowdhry explained that the failure to assess asylum seekers leaves them in a place of limbo with no status. This prevents them receiving statutory assistance from the Greek Authorities and help from UNHCR.

One of the Pakistani Christian asylum seekers suffering from the policy is Haroon Maqbool, who is father of two from Rawal Pindi, Pakistan.

Maqbool fled Pakistan, which ranks as the fourth-worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution according to Open Doors USA, in 2015 after being imprisoned and tortured.

In August 2016, Maqbool arrived in Lesbos on a boat with other asylum seekers and the group was taken to Moria camp to register for asylum.

According to the BPCA: "Muslim's pushed the Christians to the back of the queue and told them not to enter the camp or they would be killed."

BPCA reports that Maqbool and the other Christian men in the group "realized they would not survive long in the camp." Even though they submitted their fingerprints at the camp, the group did not complete their asylum applications before they escaped the camp and the island.

"Haroon became bullied straight away and all the Christians left the camp ... and escaped by ship rather than be harrassed and bullied everyday," Chowdhry told CP in a phone call.

Even though it's been nine months since Maqbool fled the camp, the policy has prevented him from completing an asylum application on the Greek mainland, where he now lives as an illegal immigrant at risk of being arrested for overstaying his visa.

"In Haroon's case, you have a clear case of how the system is not working," Chowdhry asserted.

BPCA is helping aid as many as seven Pakistani Christian asylum seekers who were found homeless on the Greek mainland by another charity and are accepting online donations that will provide much-needed aid to homeless Christian refugees in Greece like Maqbool.

"The victims had no recognised status as they had fled Moria Camp due to persecution and bullying. The camps are severely under-policed and Christians were being told they were not allowed to hold worship services or pray to God," Chowdhry told CP. "Moreover through threats, intimidation and bullying attempts were being made to forcibly convert these Christians who had fled their homelands to be free of such oppression."

"To date many still have not been registered for asylum as they refuse to return back to Moria camp on Lesbos island, where they first entered Greece," he added.

Chowdhry asserted that it's not just Moria camp where Christians are being persecuted, adding that many Christians flee from refugee camps on the Greek mainland also. He noticed during a visit to a refugee camp on the Greek mainland earlier this year that there was very little policing inside the camp.

In addition to the persecution, refugees face dire and inadequate conditions inside the camps that force them to live in squalor.

"Many just choose to be homeless rather than return back and stay at those camps," Chowdhry said. "Those camps are extremely terrifying."

Chowdhry has been informed that UNHCR is compiling a list of cases like Maqbool's where asylum seekers are too frightened to return to island refugee camps to complete their asylum applications.

"We hope that that report will help redefine accepted mitigating factors for registration for escapees from asylum camps on the basis of religious persecution," Chowdhry said. "In the meanwhile, we have written to the Greek Ambassador to the U.K. and have asked him to intervene on behalf of Haroon Maqbool and other Pakistani Christians."

Cred: Christian Post

Smiling and Laughter

Bible Verse of the Day: Job 8:21

Job 8:21 (KJV)

21 Till he fill thy mouth with laughing, and thy lips with rejoicing.

Wisdom's Warning

Today's Scripture: Proverbs 2

Proverbs 2 (KJV)

1 My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee;

2 So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;

3 Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;

4 If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;

5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.

6 For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.

7 He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly.

8 He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints.

9 Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path.

10 When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul;

11 Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:

12 To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things;

13 Who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness;

14 Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked;

15 Whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths:

16 To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words;

17 Which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God.

18 For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead.

19 None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life.

20 That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous.

21 For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it.

22 But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it.

Scripture Meaning

Promises to those who seek wisdom. (1-9) The advantages of wisdom. (10-22)

Verses 1-9: Those who earnestly seek heavenly wisdom, will never complain that they have lost their labour; and the freeness of the gift does not do away the necessity of our diligence, (Joh 6:27). Let them seek, and they shall find it; let them ask, and it shall be given them.

Observe who are thus favoured. They are the righteous, on whom the image of God is renewed, which consists in righteousness. If we depend upon God, and seek to him for wisdom, he will enable us to keep the paths of judgment.

Verses 10-22: If we are truly wise, we shall be careful to avoid all evil company and evil practices. When wisdom has dominion over us, then it not only fills the head, but enters into the heart, and will preserve, both against corruptions within and temptations without.

The ways of sin are ways of darkness, uncomfortable and unsafe: what fools are those who leave the plain, pleasant, lightsome paths of uprightness, to walk in such ways! They take pleasure in sin; both in committing it, and in seeing others commit it. Every wise man will shun such company. True wisdom will also preserve from those who lead to fleshly lusts, which defile the body, that living temple, and war against the soul.

These are evils which excite the sorrow of every serious mind, and cause every reflecting parent to look upon his children with anxiety, lest they should be entangled in such fatal snares. Let the sufferings of others be our warnings. Our Lord Jesus deters from sinful pleasures, by the everlasting torments which follow them. It is very rare that any who are caught in this snare of the devil, recover themselves; so much is the heart hardened, and the mind blinded, by the deceitfulness of this sin.

Many think that this caution, besides the literal sense, is to be understood as a caution against idolatry, and subjecting the soul to the body, by seeking any forbidden object. The righteous must leave the earth as well as the wicked; but the earth is a very different thing to them. To the wicked it is all the heaven they ever shall have; to the righteous it is the place of preparation for heaven. And is it all one to us, whether we share with the wicked in the miseries of their latter end, or share those everlasting joys that shall crown believers?

Scripture Application

Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter making an application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Many applications can be made from each day's text. Today we continue with the Book of Proverbs with Chapter 2. In our text today we see that wisdom is from the Lord and His Wisdom will keep us from a lot of heartache.

The Bible says that anyone who lacks wisdom should ask of God who gives wisdom liberally and abraideth not. In making application we have God's Words on the Pages of the Bible and Proverbs is full of God's Wisdom. If we apply the Bible's text to our lives - then we too will avoid the heartaches to come. How about you? Do you seek the Wisdom of the Lord? Let us learn from our text today and listen to the Word of God for His Direction for Wisdom's Warnings.

Saturday 29 July 2017

Iran Cracks Down on Christian Converts

Iran Cracks Down on Christian Converts, Sentences Believers to 10-Years in Prison

Authorities in Iran are increasingly targeting Christian converts with arrests and imprisonments, according to the New York-based Center for Human Rights In Iran.

"In less than two months, since June 2017, Judge Mashallah Ahmadzadeh of Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran has issued long prison sentences to at least 11 Christian converts and the former leader of the Assyrian Pentecostal Church in Iran," CHRI said in a report.

"Christians are recognized as an official religious minority in Iran's Constitution, but the state continues to persecute members of the faith, especially converts," said CHRI's executive director Hadi Ghaemi. "The state must respect its own laws and international obligations and allow Christians and all religious minorities full freedom of worship."

On July 6, the judge sentenced four Protestant Christian converts to 10 years in prison each "in a trial completely lacking due process," the group said, quoting Mansour Borji, the advocacy director of a London-based group, Article 18, which defends Christians in Iran.

The four converts - Yusif Farhadov, Eldar Gurbanov and Bahram Nasibov from Baku in the Republic of Azerbaijan, and Iranian national Nasser Navard Goltapeh - were arrested at a reception hosted by their Christian friends in Andisheh last June.

Prosecutors couldn't produce any evidence to show the converts had acted against national security, Borji said. Yet they were convicted of being "Zionist Christians" who "acted against national security with the intention of overthrowing the state in a soft war."

Iran Court Confirms 5-Year Prison Sentence for Christian Convert
Two weeks earlier, the same judge had given Christian converts Yousef Nadarkhani, Mohammadreza Omidi, Yasser Mossayebzadeh and Saheb Fadaie 10-year prison sentences for propagating house churches and promoting "Zionist Christianity."

The lawyers of these four Christians are preparing to appeal the verdict.

A ruling is still overdue for a decision on an appeal by Omidi, Mossayebzadeh and Fadaie against a sentence of 80 lashes each for drinking wine during a communion service.

The Christians were arrested May 13 during a series of raids by security service agents on Christian homes in Rasht.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was recently reelected largely due to his promises to improve civil and political rights in Iran, Ghaemi said. "Yet we're seeing an increasing number of arrests of religious minorities, as well as activists, by the Intelligence Ministry, which is supposed to operate under him. … Rouhani must use all his authority to reign in the ministry and ensure it stops its trampling of citizens' rights."

The U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide has also criticized the government of Iran for persecuting converts.

"We are deeply disappointed by these excessive sentences, which are based on spurious charges and are clearly part of an intensified campaign of judicial harassment aimed at intimidating members of minority faiths," CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said in a statement.

Thomas added: "We reiterate that the national security charges leveled in all of these cases amount to the criminalization of the Christian community for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief, and that this is occurring despite the fact that the Iranian constitution recognizes Christianity. We urge members of the international community to extend the sanctions still in place against Iranian individuals to include members of the judiciary who are implicated in ongoing and severe harassment and persecution of religious minority communities."

Christians face severe persecution in the Shia Muslim country, including regular crackdowns and jail sentences due to their faith.

House churches are not permitted, and Christian converts are beaten and arrested for gathering to worship.

Cred: Christian Post

Algeria President gives Partial Pardon for Imprisoned Algerian Christian

Algeria- Algerian Christians are grateful that Slimane Bouhafs, imprisoned since September 2016 for blasphemy, has received a partial pardon.His three-year sentence was reduced by 16 months on July 5, the national day of Algeria, following a decree by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, which provided clemency to several prisoners on account of good behavior in prison. As a result of the partial pardon, Slimane has nine months remaining on his prison sentence.

Family members have again requested his release. According to Slimane’s daughter Tilleli, this request will be considered on 18th July. Slimane was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on 7th August 2016 (reduced on appeal to three years on 6th September 2016) after he posted information on Facebook which was considered blasphemous against Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.

Slimane was initially imprisoned in Sétif, then in Constantine, and for almost two months has been in prison in Jijel. A request by his family to transfer him to the prison in Bejaia, closer to their home, was turned down. With support from human rights activists, family members have consistently demanded Slimane’s release and condemned the arbitrary judicial process leading to his sentencing and imprisonment.

In October 2016 his family appealed to the President to pardon Slimane, whose health has deteriorated significantly since his imprisonment. According to Tilleli, Slimane has also suffered aggressive treatment from other inmates because of his Christian faith, particularly during his time in prison in Constantine. Tilleli comments: “My father is ill and we are worried about him.”

Cred: Middle East Concern

Teens Record, Mock Disabled Man as He Drowns

Teens Record, Mock Disabled Man as He Drowns, But Will Likely Not Face Criminal Charges

COCOA, Fla. - A group of teenagers recorded a disabled man as he slowly drowned in a Florida detention pond earlier this month-swearing, laughing and calling out to him that no one was going to help him get out of the water.

“They were telling him they weren’t going in after him and that ‘you shouldn’t have gone in there,'” Yvonne Martinez, spokesperson for the Cocoa Police Department, told reporters “He started to struggle and scream for help, and they just laughed,” she lamented. “They didn’t call the police. They just laughed the whole time. He was just screaming … for someone to help him.”

The incident occurred on July 9, as Jamel Dunn, 32, went out for a walk following an argument with his girlfriend. Dunn used a cane as a walking aid, and for unknown reasons, he waded into the water.

Five teenagers, ages 14-16, who had been at the park smoking marijuana, saw Dunn enter the pond. However, instead of answering his cries for help, they turned on their cameras and began mocking him.“Get out of the water, you gonna die,” one called out. “We’re not going to help your [expletive]. You shouldn’t have got in,” another teen exclaimed. “Ain’t nobody going to help you, you dumb [expletive].”

Dunn soon went under the water, and one remarked, “Oh, he just died,” to which the youth broke out into laughter. They continued to watch the pond, noting that the man had not resurfaced. None of the teens called 911 or attempted to help him, but instead uploaded the footage to Facebook.

After Dunn’s girlfriend reported him missing, police found his body in the pond on July 14. A friend of Dunn’s soon also discovered the recording on social media and contacted authorities.
The teens were identified and questioned by police, but did not express any regret or sorrow.
“There was no remorse, only a smirk,” Martinez told Florida Today.

However, although police and prosecutors are horrified by the situation, they state that the teens will not likely face criminal charges as they cannot find any statutes that would be applicable.

“While the incident depicted on the recording does not give rise to sufficient evidence to support criminal prosecution under Florida statutes, we can find no moral justification for either the behavior of persons heard on the recording or the deliberate decision not to render aid to Mr. Dunn,” the office of Brevard County State Attorney Phil Archer said in a statement. “We are deeply saddened and shocked at both the manner in which Mr. Dunn lost his life and the actions of the witnesses to this tragedy,” it said.

Dunn’s sister has launched a GoFundMe page in an effort to raise $20,000 for his funeral expenses. He had two daughters, ages 11 and 6.

Cred: Christian News

Deeper understanding of God's grace

Bible Verse of the Day: 1 Corinthians 2:12 (KJV)

12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

Prayer Requests

Today's Prayer Requests

Vera Bankston-Jones | FATHER GOD, Father never want to be a burden to anyone let alone myself. Yet when I call on your name you are there to say me from me and everything around me! Forgive me my sins and continuously bless me with your grace!....... Selah

Frances | Pray for me: I been diagnosed with MS and I rebuke this disease in Jesus name. Please help me through prayer for me to behealed in Jesus name amen.

vijay aggarwal | Plz pray for money in abundance for a comfortable life

gift ngosa | I need a break through in my life and family

Kevin Jeanes | Please pray for my friends Ryan and Luke who just left rehab early before there program was suppose to be over. Please pray for my recovery as well and anxiety spells. thank you so much!

Mikaela | I am putting my boyfriend before god. I need insight on how to put god first while keeping a happy relationship........ God Bless

Jesse James carter | Please pray for continued help keeping my sin at bay and to lead my family toward the light. Also we are in desperate need of finances. I was suspended from work because of my sins. Now my family is paying the price. We are being evicted  iday. And we have no where to turn. No food. Only a car on a donut and some faith. Please ask the Lord to give us strength to get through what I caused. I go back to work next week. Glory to him. But the landlord will not work with me. Eviction is filled. I know God will see us through. Im worried though. Pray for my faith. Thank you and bless you.

Sins Enticing Trap

Today's Scripture: Proverbs 1

Proverbs 1 (KJV)

1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;

2 To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding;

3 To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity;

4 To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.

5 A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:

6 To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.

7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

8 My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:

9 For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.

10 My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.

11 If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause:

12 Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit:

13 We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil:

14 Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse:

15 My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path:

16 For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.

17 Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.

18 And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives.

19 So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.

20 Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets:

21 She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying,

22 How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?

23 Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.

24 Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded;

25 But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof:

26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh;

27 When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you.

28 Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me:

29 For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord:

30 They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.

31 Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.

32 For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.

33 But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.

Scripture Meaning

The use of the Proverbs. (1-6) Exhortations to fear God and obey parents. (7-9) To avoid the enticings of sinners. (10-19) The address of Wisdom to sinners. (20-33)

Verses 1-6: The lessons here given are plain, and likely to benefit those who feel their own ignorance, and their need to be taught. If young people take heed to their ways, according to Solomon's Proverbs, they will gain knowledge and discretion. Solomon speaks of the most important points of truth, and a greater than Solomon is here. Christ speaks by his word and by his Spirit. Christ is the Word and the Wisdom of God, and he is made to us wisdom.

Verses 7-9: Fools are persons who have no true wisdom, who follow their own devices, without regard to reason, or reverence for God. Children are reasonable creatures, and when we tell them what they must do, we must tell them why. But they are corrupt and wilful, therefore with the instruction there is need of a law. Let Divine truths and commands be to us most honourable; let us value them, and then they shall be so to us.

Verses 10-19: Wicked people are zealous in seducing others into the paths of the destroyer: sinners love company in sin. But they have so much the more to answer for. How cautious young people should be! "Consent thou not." Do not say as they say, nor do as they do, or would have thee to do; have no fellowship with them. Who could think that it should be a pleasure to one man to destroy another! See their idea of worldly wealth; but it is neither substance, nor precious.

It is the ruinous mistake of thousands, that they overvalue the wealth of this world. Men promise themselves in vain that sin will turn to their advantage. The way of sin is down-hill; men cannot stop themselves. Would young people shun temporal and eternal ruin, let them refuse to take one step in these destructive paths. Men's greediness of gain hurries them upon practices which will not suffer them or others to live out half their days. What is a man profited, though he gain the world, if he lose his life? much less if he lose his soul?

Verses 20-33: Solomon, having showed how dangerous it is to hearken to the temptations of Satan, here declares how dangerous it is not to hearken to the calls of God. Christ himself is Wisdom, is Wisdoms. Three sorts of persons are here called by Him:
1. Simple ones. Sinners are fond of their simple notions of good and evil, their simple prejudices against the ways of God, and flatter themselves in their wickedness.
2. Scorners. Proud, jovial people, that make a jest of every thing. Scoffers at religion, that run down every thing sacred and serious.
3. Fools. Those are the worst of fools that hate to be taught, and have a rooted dislike to serious godliness. The precept is plain; Turn you at my reproof. We do not make a right use of reproofs, if we do not turn from evil to that which is good.

The promises are very encouraging. Men cannot turn by any power of their own; but God answers, Behold, I will pour out my Spirit unto you. Special grace is needful to sincere conversion. But that grace shall never be denied to any who seek it.

The love of Christ, and the promises mingled with his reproofs, surely should have the attention of every one. It may well be asked, how long men mean to proceed in such a perilous path, when the uncertainty of life and the consequences of dying without Christ are considered? Now sinners live at ease, and set sorrow at defiance; but their calamity will come.

Now God is ready to hear their prayers; but then they shall cry in vain. Are we yet despisers of wisdom? Let us hearken diligently, and obey the Lord Jesus, that we may enjoy peace of conscience and confidence in God; be free from evil, in life, in death, and for ever.

Scripture Application

Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter making an application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Many applications can be made from each day's text. Today we start the Book of Proverbs with Chapter 1. In our text today we see the outline for this book which is wisdom that keeps a man from sin.

We see these warning signs to keep a person from sins destructive. In making application we see the voice of wisdom as it speaks from the past failures of those who have fallen before. Today the world is enticing us to fall into this trap of sin. Verse 10 tells us if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. How about you? Do you see sins trap of sin? Let us learn from our text today to see the wisdom of learning from those who have fallen before in sins enticing trap.

Friday 28 July 2017

Transgender military ban: Religious reactions to Trump banning

WASHINGTON  - Religious leaders were quick to react to President Trump’s tweeted announcement that transgender people will not be allowed to serve in the U.S. military.

“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow … Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” he wrote Wednesday (July 26) in three tweets. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming … victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.”
Cheers and condemnation poured forth from religious leaders:

Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council

“I applaud President Trump for keeping his promise to return to military priorities - and not continue the social experimentation of the Obama era that has crippled our nation’s military. The military can now focus its efforts on preparing to fight and win wars rather than being used to advance the Obama social agenda.”

Tim Wildmon, president of American Family Association

“AFA applauds President Trump for his courageous decision to end the usage of our military for social engineering and political correctness. American families deserve a military that is focused solely on readiness and national defense.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

“It’s a sad day when the President of the United States declares that transgender Americans are unwelcome in the United States military. This policy is deeply objectionable - it devalues individual Americans and is blatantly discriminatory. We’ll fight against this unpatriotic ban of transgender troops. We cannot let bigotry stop Americans from serving their country.”

Roy Speckhardt, executive director, American Humanist Association

“President Trump is dragging America backward with his attacks on transgender patriots in the military.”

Jason Torpy, president, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers

“There is little justification to oppose open Transgender service as well as full health care support for servicemen and veterans for full sexual reassignment. This order serves to harm military readiness and deeply insults already-serving transgender patriots in the military.”

Rabbi Jack Moline, president of Interfaith Alliance

“President Trump’s outrageous and bigoted ban on transgender people in the military is a gift to the Religious Right and an affront to the Constitution. Thousands of transgender Americans serve admirably in our nation’s armed services. The President’s announcement is a cruel and gratuitous attack on these service members who want nothing more than an equal opportunity to serve their country.”

Tom Spoehr, Emilie Kao and Ryan Anderson, analysts at the Heritage Foundation

“At a time when growing foreign threats are stretching our military’s resources, our priority should be on maintaining military readiness and directing taxpayer funds towards mission-critical purposes. Respecting the dignity of all people does not mean subjecting taxpayers to the tremendous medical costs of sex reassignment and allowing the enlistment of individuals whose resilience to the rigors of combat is uncertain.”

Stosh Cotler, CEO of Bend the Arc Jewish Action

“President Trump’s disgusting move to ban transgender people from military service is made especially appalling by its timing, with today being the 69th anniversary of the desegregation of the U.S. military. We must call out this decision for what it is - discrimination against transgender people and a cheap attempt to gain electoral victories in 2018.”

The Rev. James Martin, Jesuit priest and author

“Transgender people are beloved children of God, seeking their way to union with God, and to self-understanding, just like all of us are.”

Rachel Held Evans, Christian author

“Every week of this administration has been awful, but this week nearly takes the cake. Transgender friends: You are loved & valued & whole.”

Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church Dallas

“I applaud President Trump for exercising his judgment as Commander-in-Chief to make America safer and more secure by allowing our armed forces to concentrate on ‘decisive and overwhelming victory’ rather than serving as a petri dish for social experimentation.”

James Dobson, president, Family Talk

“It is heartening to have a commander-in-chief who puts the expert opinions of his generals and military officials ahead of the destructive forces of political correctness and identity politics. I support the president’s decision and commend this administration for having the courage to protect our military from what would only amount to an enormous and costly distraction.”

Set Leaders Free

What it takes to let leaders lead

We all have high hopes for our small groups. We want to see people growing closer to God and each other. We want to see this growth translate into the fruit of character, good works, and new people coming to faith in Jesus. Unfortunately, our desire for change and growth doesn't mean we'll see them.

While there are many factors that contribute to healthy and impactful groups, one key is having capable leaders who are given the freedom to lead. Conversely, one thing sure to stifle group health and impact is micro-managing a leader. Real leaders want to lead. When they're merely puppets, they'll become frustrated and irritated. When leaders are micromanaged, your ministry's most effective leaders will quit taking leadership positions.

To create an environment where leaders are given the freedom to lead and leaders are aligned with the mission of the church, coaches and staff must do four essential things.

Be clear about the things that are important for your church.

Creating an environment where leaders are given the freedom to lead begins long before they start leading a group. However your church has communicated what's truly important (whether you call it your mission, purpose, or DNA), you should communicate it so well that everyone in the church understands-not just your leaders. Then by the time people are ready to lead, they already understand what your church is about, and their group members have the same understanding without any additional teaching.

It's not enough, though, simply to communicate what your church is about. You need to make sure that people moving toward leadership are, in fact, aligned with your church. You don't have to give them a multiple-choice test, but you should at least have a conversation that clarifies their understanding and agreement with the core values of the church.

You'll never feel comfortable giving away leadership to someone unless you believe you're on the same page. A basketball coach wouldn't put a player on the court who couldn't articulate the play. In the same way, we can't put people into leadership positions if they can't articulate how our church has chosen to pursue the mission of Jesus together.

When you're confident someone understands this and is prepared to lead within your church's framework, it becomes much easier to let them lead.

Have a good method for selecting and training leaders.

At our church, this process is pretty organic. We don't have a 10-step process for leadership selection, but we have identified characteristics we look for in small-group leaders. Depending on the ethos of your church, this process may look like a series of conversations or a leadership class people need to complete. There is no one right way to select and train leaders, but there is a wrong way.

Here's what the wrong way looks like:
"Hey, small groups start up in two weeks and we need to offer a couple more groups."
"Okay, umm, what should we do?"
"Well, I just thought we could make an announcement on Sunday and see if anyone volunteers. If they don't, we could call people until we
find someone."

Your small groups are too important to throw just anyone into leadership! In a smaller church like ours, we can pretty easily watch people's behavior and get a good idea of who would be capable of leading. We also identify people who aren't prepared to lead right now but show many characteristics that would make them good leaders in the future. Then someone from our Leadership Team intentionally connects with them to help them develop. Larger churches may need a more delineated process for identifying and developing future leaders.

When you're confident in a person's character and abilities, it frees you to take your hands off and let them lead. On the flipside, if you believe a leader is untrustworthy or incompetent you will naturally be looking over his or her shoulder.

Cred: Trevor Lee of smallgroups

Peculiar Mercies

Why did God harden Pharaoh's heart?

So you see, God chooses to show mercy to some, and he chooses to harden the hearts of others so they refuse to listen. - Romans 9:18
Let's be clear. There is a mystery in God's story that we will never fully solve. That mystery begins in the fact that God is "rich in mercy" (Eph. 2:4), yet doesn't give his mercy to all people with the same measure. Upon some he lavishes his mercy. With others, he withholds mercy.

Romans 9 refers, in particular, to the example of God's mercy as seen in the Exodus. He showers his mercy upon Moses and the Israelites, while choosing to harden Pharaoh's heart. On the surface, this might seem capricious and unfair. But we must remember, first of all, that Pharaoh participated in the hardening of his heart. He was not a victim of divine whim, but someone who chose to reject God's will.

Moreover, we should know that God's purpose in hardening Pharaoh's heart was to display his power and fame throughout the earth (9:17). In other words, the hardening of Pharaoh's heart was part of God's plan to let the whole world know him in truth. God was working through Pharaoh so that all people might see him and ultimately be drawn to him. We will never know for sure why God chose to harden rather than soften Pharaoh's heart. But our trust in God's goodness allows us to live with this mystery.

Moreover, God chooses to show mercy according to his own will, and this fact reminds us to be grateful for what we have received. God hasn't showered his mercy upon us because we deserved it, but because of his inscrutable grace.

Mark D. Roberts is the author of several books including Can We Trust the Gospels? His article is adapted with permission from the original article "The Mystery of God's Mercy" at All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures quoted are taken from the New Living Translation.

Prayer Requests

Today's Prayer Requests

Gloria | Please pray for me , I don't want to lose my home I been looking and looking for work and still no luck, and I don't have a clue how I'm going to pay my bills, it's a person leaving me high and dry, that is unappreciative of what I done , for him and his child now I'm left without nothing , my family at each other throats because of one evil family member which is my niece, please please please send your prayers to the Lord for me , because sometimes I feel like he just don't listen to me anymore ...signed: So heart broken .

Step w |  I'm asking God to continue to use me n prepare my tools while on my Missouri I'm asking him to financially bless me so- I can bless others

Paul Molun Hrangbung  | Please pray that Short Stay Home established for HIV+ people of Meghalaya, India may abound with the require financial supply-like the rent money, food needs etc and also that those who come & stay for a while may receive the love of Jesus as we share with them. Thank you.

Josiah Chambers || Salvation for me

Everything Praises the Lord

Today's Scripture: Psalm 150

Psalm 150 (KJV)

1 Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.

2 Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.

3 Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.

4 Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.

5 Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.

6 Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.

Scripture Meaning

A psalm of praise

- We are here stirred up to praise God. Praise God for his sanctuary, and the privileges we enjoy by having it among us; praise him because of his power and glory in the firmament. Those who praise the Lord in heaven, behold displays of his power and glory which we cannot now conceive. But the greatest of all his mighty acts is known in his earthly sanctuary.

The holiness and the love of our God are more displayed in man's redemption, than in all his other works. Let us praise our God and Saviour for it. We need not care to know what instruments of music are mentioned. Hereby is meant that in serving God we should spare no cost or pains. 

Praise God with strong faith; praise him with holy love and delight; praise him with entire confidence in Christ; praise him with believing triumph over the powers of darkness; praise him by universal respect to all his commands; praise him by cheerful submission to all his disposals; praise him by rejoicing in his love, and comforting ourselves in his goodness; praise him by promoting the interests of the kingdom of his grace; praise him by lively hope and expectation of the kingdom of his glory. 

Since we must shortly breathe our last, while we have breath let us praise the Lord; then we shall breathe our last with comfort. Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord. Such is the very suitable end of a book inspired by the Spirit of God, written for the work of praise; a book which has supplied the songs of the church for more than three thousand years; a book which is quoted more frequently than any other by Christ and his apostles; a book which presents the loftiest ideas of God and his government, which is fitted to every state of human life, which sets forth every state of religious experience, and which bears simple and clear marks of its Divine origin.

Scripture Application

Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter making an application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Many applications can be made from each day's text. Today we continue in the Book of Psalm with Chapter 150. In our text today we see theme of a closing hymn of praise and we see God's creation praises Him everywhere in every way. 

In making application we see how we should join this rejoicing song of praise simply for who He is...He is Lord, He is our all and all, and He is worthy of our praise. Today we see everything praising the Lord.How about you? Do you Praise the Lord? Let us learn from our Psalm and text today to remember that everything that hath breath should praise the Lord simply because of who He is.

God needs our love! Why does God need our love?

Bible Verse of the Day: John 13:34-35

34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Thursday 27 July 2017

Praise and Worship

Today's Scripture: Psalm 149

Psalm 149 (KJV)

1 Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints.

2 Let Israel rejoice in him that made him: let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.

3 Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.

4 For the Lord taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation.

5 Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds.

6 Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand;

7 To execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people;

8 To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron;

9 To execute upon them the judgment written: this honour have all his saints. Praise ye the Lord.

Scripture Meaning

Joy to all the people of God. (1-5) Terror to their enemies. (6-9)

Verses 1-5: New mercies continually demand new songs of praise, upon earth and in heaven. And the children of Zion have not only to bless the God who made them, but to rejoice in him, as having created them in Christ Jesus unto good works, and formed them saints as well as men. The Lord takes pleasure in his people; they should rejoice in Him.

When the Lord has made sinners feel their wants and unworthiness, he will adorn them with the graces of his Spirit, and cause them to bear his image, and rejoice in his happiness for ever. Let his saints employ their waking hours upon their beds in songs of praise. Let them rejoice, even upon the bed of death, assured that they are going to eternal rest and glory.

Verses 6-9: Some of God's servants of old were appointed to execute vengeance according to his word. They did not do it from personal revenge or earthly politics, but in obedience to God's command. And the honour intended for all the saints of God, consists in their triumphs over the enemies of their salvation.

Christ never intended his gospel should be spread by fire and sword, or his righteousness by the wrath of man. But let the high praises of God be in our mouths, while we wield the sword of the word of God, with the shield of faith, in warfare with the world, the flesh, and the devil. The saints shall be more than conquerors over the enemies of their souls, through the blood of the Lamb and the word of his testimony.

The completing of this will be in the judgement of the great day. Then shall the judgement be executed. Behold Jesus, and his gospel church, chiefly in her millennial state. He and his people rejoice in each other; by their prayers and efforts they work with him, while he goes forth in the chariots of salvation, conquering sinners by grace, or in chariots of vengeance, to destroy his enemies.

Scripture Application

Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter making an application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Many applications can be made from each day's text. Today we continue in the Book of Psalm with Chapter 149.

In our text today we see theme of Praising the Lord in a Victorious Celebration. In our praise an expression of joy we see the Lord Pleased. In making application we see true praise and worship is pleasing unto the Lord. Today many of us go to Church but rarely engage in true worship.

How about you? Do you worship the Lord? Let us learn from our Psalm and text today to remember that our Lord is pleased when we whole heartily praise the Lord.

Prayer Requests

Today's Prayer Requests

 sandra | I  need   prayer   for  clean  water in my home. Financial blessings   and  healing  for my  daughter   and  myself.


vijay aggarwal | DEAR GOD.No more life.only is painful

N Ghauri | thanks you I am very happy you links with us
I request you prayers my family and me.
shereese clark | i need god to bless me with 1000 dollars for my rent

Made Complete in Christ

Bible Verse of the Day: 1 John 4:12

12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Wednesday 26 July 2017

Chinese Provinces Seek to Eradicate Sunday Schools

Chinese Provinces Seek to Eradicate Sunday Schools, Christian Summer Camps

HANGZHOU, Zhejiang (China Aid) - As China clamps down on the freedoms of its state-run churches, officials in the country’s eastern Zhejiang province have recently issued orders aimed at closing Sunday schools and keeping children from Christian events over the summer months.

“For a long time, teenagers and students have not been allowed to participate in religious activities,” a local Christian surnamed Zhang said, referencing a Chinese law that seeks to control religion among children by forbidding them from attending religious events.

“However, the Three-Self Churches and house churches would usually hold summer camps during the summer vacation. The government then emphasized … that even the Sunday schools would be closed down. The government’s major intention is to shut down the Sunday schools.This crackdown comes in the wake of a recent order from the Henan Provincial Three-Self Patriotic Committee and the Henan Provincial China Christian Council arbitrarily forbidding churches from organizing summer camps for minors and students, citing high temperatures as a possible health risk.

A Christian from Henan said the government’s behavior is atypical, since such camps have been allowed in previous summers, and the government would originally only interfere if they received a tip-off about the event.

Likewise, Zhang argued, “The government is trying to control ideology. During [Chinese Presidents] Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao’s time, the government was tolerant toward preaching and missionary work. After Xi Jinping came into power, the government’s grip on religion has strengthened.”

In order to further their control, the Nanyang Municipal Religious Affairs Bureau, located in Henan, ordered all 20,000 registered house church members in the province to join the Three-Self Church. Many Chinese Christians disagree with the Three-Self Church based on theological discrepancies and rampant government censorship, making the forced merging of these two branches a violation of religious freedom.

Additionally, Henan has recently begun making Three-Self Churches seek approval for all large-scale religious activities.

ChinaAid reports abuses, such as those suffered by churches in Zhejiang and Henan, in order to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians and promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law.

Cred: China Aid

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