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Archive for April, 2013

Iranian Officials Throw American Pastor Saeed Abedini Into Solitary Confinement.


Saeed Abedini
Saeed Abedini

Already badly weakened by months of beatings and torture that have resulted in internal bleeding, American pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen, is facing perhaps his most grave situation since his imprisonment last fall.

Family members in Iran confirm that Abedini, along with nine other prisoners, has been placed in solitary confinement with new reports indicating that in addition to the severe internal bleeding he is experiencing—which has gone untreated—he is a now facing issues with his kidneys.

The American Center for Law and Justice has been able to confirm that the horrible conditions in Evin Prison led Abedini and a number of prisoners in Ward 350 to sign a letter expressing to prison officials their concern about the lack of medical care received and the threats and harsh treatment facing family members who come to visit. The prisoners expressed their dissatisfaction in a peaceful, silent protest in an outside courtyard at the prison.

That apparently prompted prison officials to retaliate, selecting 10 of the prisoners and placing them in solitary confinement. Sources indicate that Abedini is likely to be beaten again—in private, away from other witnesses and prisoners.

At the same time, there’s concern that his kidneys are no longer operating properly, the result of the internal injuries he has received over many months. Abedini has been told not to expect medical treatment or care for many months. When family members showed up at prison on Tuesday to visit Abedini, they were turned away and told he is no longer permitted to have visitors.

This latest very troubling development has Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, extremely concerned.

“Saeed has internal bleeding and now issues with his kidneys because of the beatings,” Naghmeh says. “We believe that he is being beaten in solitary confinement. We have no way of finding out about his health. There will be no more visitations allowed and we will have no way of knowing how Saeed is doing.

“Saeed had previously told his family that when he was in solitary confinement in the past, that was the hardest time in his life. That every hour was like one year and that he was losing his memory and his health was deteriorating quickly. Please pray for his health and healing. Pray for his release. Pray that the Lord would use this for His Glory and salvation of many.”

The ACLJ spoke with a former Iranian political prisoner, who spent 15 years in an Iranian prison—including some time at Evin—about Pastor Saeed’s solitary confinement. He said, “Saeed was most likely on a list of prisoners the prison wants to break.” He explained that the prison officials keep a list of prisoners who have stood their ground refusing to repent of their faith or confess to their crimes.

Prison officers use any prison resistance, regardless of whether the prisoner was involved in the resistance, to target and break those prisoners on their list,” he explained. “They took Saeed to solitary confinement to put pressure on his belief and faith. This shows that Saeed has stood strong for his faith.”

The latest developments underscore the brutality of Iran’s continued violation of human rights—imprisoning, torturing and refusing medical care for Abedini merely because of his faith. This treatment not only violates international law, but is abhorrent.

We know that a tactic used by the Iranians is to place prisoners in solitary confinement in an effort to get them to give into the demands of prison officials—in Abedini’s case, to recant his Christian faith. He continues to refuse to do so, and the only thing sustaining Abedini at this time is his Christian faith. We know that continues to provide him with strength and comfort during this most challenging time.

All of this is unfolding just days Abedini Saeed turns 33 on May 7. More than 42,000 people have already sent Abedini a birthday greeting—letters that we are personally delivering to Evin Prison. These are letters of prayer, support and encouragement. They are needed now more than ever. Please take a moment, if you haven’t done so already, and send a letter to Pastor Saeed today, his 216th day of imprisonment.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

JORDAN SEKULOW/ACLJ

Jordan Sekulow is the executive director for the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).

Gay Groups Want Laurie Banned From Day of Prayer.


 

Greg Laurie
Greg Laurie, the honorary chairman of the National Day of Prayer, believes America faces a spiritual crisis. (Courtesy of A. Larry Ross)

Gay rights groups are trying to bar Pastor Greg Laurie from events at the National Day of Prayer because of his biblical stance on homosexuality.

The Southern California pastor is set to lead prayer on Capitol Hill and at the Pentagon.

Now, a military group that supports gays says Laurie should be barred from the Pentagon because he has said that the Bible calls gay sex sinful.

Outserve SLDN says Laurie’s appearance would be wrong since gays can now openly serve and even get married in some military chapels.

The Human Rights Campaign says the pastor shouldn’t be allowed on Capitol Hill, either.

A spokeswoman for Laurie says he still plans to attend the events.

Click here to read more about Greg Laurie’s plans for the National Day of Prayer.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

CBN NEWS

Why the Situation in Syria Is at a Stalemate.


Brian C. Stiller
Brian C. Stiller is global ambassador for World Evangelical Alliance. (Facebook)

Cedars are valuable for their lasting quality. Building material and dock lumber all attest to a cedar’s ability to resist wood rot. “Cedars of Lebanon” filled the list of building materials required by Nehemiah to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. Solomon eyed the magnificent and resilient cedars for building the temple in Jerusalem.

Today, be it rot from the inside or attack from the outside, the Lebanese, having survived wars and its many rumors, speak in quiet tones, wondering if listening ears from Syria or its minions—Hezbollah in the south—are plotting nefarious schemes.

Prized as the pearl of the Mediterranean, the choice site for oil in the Gulf, Beirut, until the civil wars of the late 20th century, was a premium choice for lifestyle, opportunity and political freedom.

Centuries before Christ, as pioneers in coastal trading, Lebanon’s marine culture stimulated trade, bringing it riches and envy. Conquered by Persia (present-day Iran), then Rome, Lebanon became central to the spread of the gospel in the first century. Seventh-century Muslim Arabs took over the country, while a minority of Maronites (under the Roman church) hung on. Smack-dab in the path of the Crusaders, the country’s connection with France shaped her European influence.

Following World War I, as European powers divided up much of the world, Lebanon’s borders were decided by France. This twist, added to the mix of Christians (Maronites) as 50 percent of the population, brought about an eightfold increase of Sunni Muslim and four-time increase of Shi’ite Muslims. In 1926, Christians made up 84 percent of the population in Lebanon; today, they are 39 percent.

Lebanon wrote a constitution based on religious powers, a remarkable feat of building a country founded on religious sectarianism but also a disaster in the making. It was unprecedented and, in the end, problematic. France promised to keep Lebanon Christian; these were political promises with little current reality.

The Lebanese government was so divided, and this remains today: The president has to be Christian and the prime minister always Sunni Muslim, although the president can veto legislation. Even though, by the early 1960s, Muslims outnumbered Christians, the formula still remains.

For decades, Lebanon has been the punching bag of Syria, the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel. Syria used Lebanon to get at Israel, with its latest effort being to supply arms (much from Iran) through Lebanon to Hezbollah in the south. Israel retaliated. Tens of thousands of Palestinians flooded Lebanon after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Now, it’s estimated that 300,000 Syrian refugees bulge the camps in the north and along the Beqa’a Valley. Between 1975-1990, civil war raged, and 100,000 died. Syria continued its political interventions and military presence.

Finally, a new government led by Rafic Hariri started rebuilding, but on Feb. 14, 2005, a massive bomb killed Hariri, with fingers pointed directly at Syrian President Assad as the assassin.

This historical overview is meant to put in place the important moment Lebanon faces today, for it is in this world that Christian faith seeks its witness and presence. While evangelicals are not implicated in the political trade-off of Roman Catholic Christians and Sunni Muslims, the precarious environment requires strategic thinking for living between the factions, knowing that at any moment, an unexpected move could destabilize the tenuous arrangements of life and liberty there.

It was to Lebanon I came to renew friendships with Lebanese Christian leaders, to hear their concerns of what the Syrian debacle might mean to them and to visit Syrian refugee camps in the Beqa’a Valley, just east of Mount Herman, the mountain famous from the Scriptures.

Visiting these camps, east of Beirut, the human tragedy of Syria is overwhelming. Alongside the more than 300,000 refugees (mostly Syrian, although some came from Iraq) that are now in Lebanon, all together, some 2 million Syrians are displaced in their own country.

The situation in Syria is at a stalemate while the West offers words, Russia and Iran provide money and munitions, and the Chinese continue to back President Assad.

I had wonderful times with a number of families while I was there, as well as groups of Syrians, as they gathered round once I began to talk, huddling outside their shacks, interested in what was being said. I began by asking how they were getting along and what they needed, and then for their own views of what was needed back home.

I asked if I could pray. You should have seen their faces light up. It was as if I had given them a priceless gift. I told them I was a Christian and would pray in the name of Jesus. Before I began, I reminded them who Jesus is, as noted in the Quran, and then in my prayers (and my prayers were not short), I prayed about Jesus and to Jesus. In the prayer, I reminded those listening that he, too, was a refugee, fleeing with his parents to Egypt. This resonated with them.

At the close of the prayer, I asked the leader in the camp to step into the center, and then I put my hands on him for a special blessing. When I finished, their hand-signs told me how much it meant. One leader, Ibrahim, asked us into his shack for tea, which is a common sign of hospitality. A dentist from Damascus, he began asking about Jesus as we sat drinking tea with him.

The young man I was with from a local and creative ministry called Heart for Lebanon, (a good group to help) who love to tell others of the Lord, began with gentleness and care. He took it only as far as appropriate, and then said he would be back in a few days with a Bible.

I was most interested in knowing who else was there to help the refugees. They knew of Heart for Lebanon and World Vision. Then I asked where their Muslim organizations were. One man looked at me, turned his head and spit. “We’ve seen no one. No one has come here. Only Christians.”

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

BRIAN C. STILLER

Brian C. Stiller is global ambassador for World Evangelical Alliance.

Christian Leaders Convene in Malaysia to Discuss Church’s Next Steps.


Steve Strang
Steve Strang speaks at a leaders’ meeting in Malaysia.

A group of top business leaders from six continents concluded last week that business leaders must see themselves as ministers who may usher in a badly needed spiritual revival. They also concluded that political corruption is the No. 1 issue Christian businessmen face worldwide. Most of the leaders signed a pledge to be “unashamedly ethical” as part of a movement started in South Africa that is going worldwide.

During round-table discussions in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the group identified that corruption in government is one of the most difficult problems Christian businessmen face. Graham Power from South Africa is heading an initiative he calls “Unashamedly Ethical,” and most of the attendees signed a pledge not to give or accept bribes or other forms of corruption.

Power also read a list of the countries with the most and least corruption. New Zealand is rated least corrupt, and Singapore second. Somalia is considered most corrupt—No. 182, just behind North Korea. (Where is the United States on the list? It’s rated the 24th least corrupt nation, with a score of 7.1 out of 10.)

There were stories—especially from developing countries—that told how many of these very wealthy businesspeople see business as a ministry rather than the dichotomy between the two we see in the West, where professional clergy do “ministry” while businesspeople do business and are merely seen as donors by ministry leaders.

The group heard reports on many world problems: the rise of Islam, the increasing persecution of Christians, the onslaught of gay marriage and the declining influence of the church in the West.

Charisma Publisher Steve Strang was one of the participants. Click here to read his personal e-newsletter report.

Strang wrote, “I was encouraged as I heard the stories and learned of ministries and outreaches in countries where I had little idea of what is happening. Even in the Muslim nations, there were very good reports. It proves once again that the body of Christ is alive and well on planet Earth.”

Before the group ended, reports were given regarding next steps on what the church needs to do. The steps included:

  • Be more unified.
  • Encourage the church to address social issues.
  • Try to change perceptions of Christians in culture as loving rather than being judgmental or hating.
  • Forming Christian “cartels” to work together to accomplish Christian goals.
  • Have better branding for the Christian message and better PR in worldwide media.
  • Focus on restoring families worldwide.
  • Usher in a revival through businesses and businessmen.
  • Work to improve education and ease poverty in developing nations.
  • Encourage Christians to boldly proclaim their faith rather than retreat from the public square.

The 100 business leaders were part of Global Kingdom Partners Network, which is the vision of Elias Dantas, a Brazilian who is now a part of Nyack College in New York. The informal group that met for its second year last week began several years ago as an almost secretive meeting of megachurch pastors from around the world (including some from Muslim nations) to see how they could collaborate in spreading the gospel and encourage each other.

The marketplace initiative that convened in Malaysia last week is a spinoff of the pastor’s group and is less secretive because what these businessmen do to fund the gospel and witness doesn’t get the same persecution from governments who may be hostile to Christians.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

CHARISMA NEWS STAFF

125-Mile Pro-Life Walk Underway in Canada.


Back to Life Canada
Twenty-five women are walking from Montreal to the Supreme Court in Ottawa in an abortion harassment awareness initiative. (Faytene Grasseschi / Instagram)

Twenty-five women are walking from Montreal to the Supreme Court in Ottawa in an abortion harassment awareness initiative that launched Sunday.

The Back to Life Walk is an authentic women’s movement that aims not only to raise awareness about abortion harassment, but also to pray for a shift in Canadian culture on this issue. The 25 culturally diverse women walking 200 km (about 125 miles) represent the 25 years of no laws on abortion in this nation.

“Abortion harassment” is the coercion of women into abortion when they do not want one. Studies indicate that as many as 64 percent of women in Canada who have had abortions would say they were badgered into it. The women walking are particularly interested in the issue because many of them have a personal harassment story to share. Many of them were pressured into unwanted abortions by boyfriends, family members and, unbelievably, even doctors. Video interviews of the walkers telling their stories are getting strong viewership online.

Organizer Faytene Grasseschi explains, “Many of the walkers have very painful abortion stories to share. What is troubling is that we are finding that their stories are representative of thousands of women—this really is the untold story of abortion in Canada.”

Back to Life walker Ashley Williams shares, “I was pressured into abortion when my baby was 5 months old. I could already feel it moving. My boyfriend told me I was going to do it. I honestly felt trapped. It was like my voice on the issue didn’t matter to him.”

Ironically, while she was on the abortion table, her boyfriend had a change of heart and tried to stop the procedure. He was resisted by medical staff, who told him he had no right to interfere with her “choice.” Ashley woke up on the other side of the abortion, devastated.

Grasseschi emphasizes the loving tone of the walk: “With every step we take, we are walking for our own restoration, our mothers, our sisters, our friends and our future nation. We count it an honor to share our stories in the hopes it will help other women and open many eyes in Canada.”

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

BILL ROBERTS

President Ignores Gosnell Atrocities, Speaks at Planned Parenthood Fundraiser.


 

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to address the Planned Parenthood National Conference on Friday.

In the wake of the horrific murder trial of late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell, President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to addressthe Planned Parenthood National Conference.

“While the abortion giant performed a record 333,964 abortions last year, the president spoke to Planned Parenthood for 12 minutes and never uttered the word abortion but touted cancer screenings, counseling, contraception, education and other deceptive rhetoric,” explains Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel.

While ignoring the atrocities against women and children performed by Gosnell, Obama promised the giant pro-abortion crowd, “No matter how great the challenge, no matter how fierce the opposition, there’s one thing that the past few years have shown: Planned Parenthood is not going anywhere … I want you to know that you’ve also got a president who’s going to be with you, fighting with you every step of the way.”

“President Obama’s deafening silence about the Gosnell infant-killing atrocities, combined with his fundraising speech at Planned Parenthood, show that President Obama is more willing to defend Planned Parenthood than women and children,” says Staver. “Minimum health and safety standards for surgical facilities are ignored, and abortion clinics around the country are allowed to function in squalid conditions because politicians are more interested in political contributions than women’s health.”

“In state after state, investigators have found abortion clinics failing to ensure sterile, sanitary surgical equipment; killing aborted babies born alive; performing abortions past the point of viability without documentation of a maternal health reason; arranging abortions for victims of sex-trafficking; misleading women about the risks and dangers associated with abortions; aborting children for sex-selection; violating biohazard waste disposal regulations; violating informed-consent laws; and many other atrocities while government officials turn a blind eye,” Staver adds.

While the president gives lip service to wanting abortions to be safe and rare, every year abortion ends the lives of hundreds of thousands of children—and the president is working to increase that number by requiring taxpayers to fund abortions through Obamacare.

“That principle is at the heart of the Affordable Care Act,” the president told those attending the conference.

“It is time for Americans to say ‘Enough is enough!'” Staver argues. “We must put an end to the butchering of women and children!”

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

ANN CARROLL

Is the Great Falling Away Already Underway?.


deceived
(istockphoto)

While in prayer over the vision God gave Steve Hill about the “spiritual avalanche that could kill millions,” an alarming question nagged my soul: Could thegreat falling away already be underway? Could we be witnessing the first fruits of the great falling away even now? Are we at least seeing a shadow of the Great Apostasy?

There is much talk about Christ’s soon Second Coming. But we know that Jesus will not return for a church without spot or wrinkle unless the falling away comes first … (1 Thess. 2:3). Although it’s nothing entirely new, we are indeed witnessing a fast-progressing departure from sound doctrine and a holy life.

Even a quick comparison between what Scripture tells us about the last days and the manifest sin that has penetrated our generation should serve as a wake up call to every believer: Don’t ignore the signs of the times. In His discussions on the end of the age, Jesus warned us not to let anyone deceive us (Matt. 24). If it weren’t possible to get caught up in the Great Falling Away, Jesus wouldn’t have issued such a strong warning to His followers and left a record of it for you and me.

Discerning Doctrines of Demons

Paul wrote, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Tim. 4:1-3).

Some have indeed departed from the faith because they have engaged with deceiving spirits and embraced doctrines of demons. We’ve witnessed more than one man of God with a major ministry platform bow a knee to doctrines like universalism, deceiving and being deceived with this deadly heresy. Despite many in the church lifting their voice against heretical teachings, these deceived ministers hold fast to their demonic doctrine.

We’ve also watched famous pastors speak lies in hypocrisy—lies that left many hurt, wounded, and disillusioned—and yet they remain adored and adorned in the megachurches that made their name great. Clearly, the conscience of some influential church leaders has already been seared with a hot iron (see 1 Tim. 4:2). Some have become the proverbial blind leading the blind.

And would you believe it? Some modern-day, Spirit-filled churches even reserve the right to tell you whom you can or can’t marry (along with many other details of your personal life). I’ve known folks who have nervously gone to ask the pastor for permission to marry another congregant, hoping that their request wasn’t denied and their love wasn’t dashed. And this wasn’t during the Shepherding Movement, this was recent.

Living Idolatrous Lifestyles

Paul wrote, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Tim. 3:1-5)

Paul’s laundry list of idolatrous ingrates is not particularly new, but the love of many has certainly grown colder. Many pastors ignore the homeless (and the widows and the orphans). All the while, they spend multiplied thousands on sermon props and video announcements that rival MTV so they can entertain an idolatrous generation on Sunday mornings.

Some pastors offer a 20-minute sermonette and afterwards neglect the opportunity to lay hands on the sick, get people filled with the Holy Spirit, or otherwise open up the altar for believers seeking a touch from God. This form of godliness does not make room for God’s power. Pleasure has taken its place.

Scratching Itchy Ears

Paul also warned, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Tim. 4:3).

We see some of this among congregations even now. Beyond universalism, there’s the prosperity gospel that only demonstrates one side of the cross. There’s the grace message that perverts the gospel. These are fables. Billy Graham once filled stadiums with his bold preaching on subjects like hell and holiness. Today, seeker-friendly preachers fill stadiums to hear a motivational message followed by a call to give. Many modern believers may cringe if they had to endure a Billy Graham sermon on hell. Again, some deny the existence of hell.

The Great Falling Away

Victorious believers will overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony—and the fact that they did not love their lives even unto death (Rev. 12:11). I fear there may be fewer victorious believers at the end of the age than some may think.

The Bible tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). We need to get at it because this is sure: Jesus is coming back for a glorious church without spot or wrinkle (Eph. 5:27). I believe the spots and wrinkles will fall away before His return. The gates of hell are trying to prevail against the church and will ultimately fail, but not before enticing some believers into heresy, idolatry and other sin.

I don’t believe in once-saved, always-saved doctrines. I believe you can lose your salvation. I don’t think it happens overnight. I think it’s a slow progression down the slippery slope of deception. I often ask people who are deceived this question: “How would you know if you were deceived?” I’ve never met one who was deceived find an answer for the question. Rather, they insist that they cannot be deceived or that they would know if they were. If we don’t think we could be deceived, we’re deceived already. And if we are deceived, we wouldn’t know it unless the Holy Spirit broke in and opened the eyes of our heart.

So is the Great Falling Away already underway? Only God knows. At the very least, I think we’re seeing the shadow of this turning. We’re seeing the hints of this apostasy. And I pray. I pray that the Lord would count me faithful, that I would not be deceived in these last days, and that I might be a pure vessel the Lord can use to sound the alarm. What about you?

JENNIFER LECLAIRE

Jennifer LeClaire is news editor at Charisma. She is also the author of several books, including Did the Spirit of God Say That? You can email Jennifer at  jennifer.leclaire@charismamedia.com or visit her website here. You can also join Jennifer on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

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