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Fans Urged to Pray for Rock Star's Wife

Michael Sweet, lead singer of resurrected glam metal band Stryper, says prayer is desperately needed for his wife, who is suffering a two-year battle with stage four ovarian cancer.

[01.20.09] The frontman of a legendary Christian metal band says the pain and discomfort his wife has suffered since being diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer in 2007 is “break[ing] my heart into a million pieces.”

In an intimate letter written in a hospital by his ailing wife’s bedside, Michael Sweet, who formed hard rock band Stryper in 1983 with brother, Robert, told fans last week that that he and his wife, Kyle, are walking through the darkest time of their lives.

I constantly wrestle with the reality of this monster that invades [Kyle’s] body and I can tell you that it’s been a tremendous struggle to see my wife so sick,” Sweet wrote in his letter, which he later posted on his Web site. “I have felt so helpless and at times completely hopeless … we covet and cherish every prayer from everyone of you.” read more

Christian Businessman Killed in Iraq


The execution-style murder in Mosul has renewed concern about violence against the religious minority ahead of provincial elections on Jan. 31.

[01.20.09] A Christian businessman was killed execution-style in Iraq on Thursday, renewing concern about anti-Christian violence that saw thousands flee the area last fall.

The 36-year-old man, who owned an auto repair shop in Mosul, was shot in the head several times, police told the Associated Press (AP) on Saturday. No one took responsibility for the murder.

Another Christian, a city engineer, was kidnapped in early January but returned four days later when his family paid a $50,000 ransom, according to the AP.

Bassem Balu, an official with the Democratic Assyrian Movement, the largest Christian party in Iraq, said he did not think the violence would slow the return of Christians to northern Iraq, where more than a dozen Christians were killed in October. But he said he hoped the attack did not signal renewed violence against the religious minority, according to the AP. read more

Israel Calls Ceasefire in Gaza

Israel’s prime minister initiated a unilateral ceasefire over the weekend while also addressing the devastation faced by Palestinians in Gaza.

[01.19.09] Israel agreed to a ceasefire Saturday after its three-week operation in Gaza significantly disrupted anti-Israel military operations ran by Hamas, an Islamic militant group and U.S.-classified terrorist organization that violently seized control of Gaza in 2007.

“Conditions have been created [in Gaza] so that our targets, as defined when we launched the operation, have been fully achieved, and more so,” said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. “Hamas was badly stricken, both in terms of its military capabilities and in the infrastructure of its regime.

“Its leaders are in hiding,” he said. “Many of its members have been killed. The factories in which its missiles were manufactured have been destroyed. The smuggling routes, through dozens of tunnels, have been bombed. The Hamas’s capabilities for conveying weapons within the Gaza Strip have been damaged.” read more

Judge OKs References to God During Inauguration

Despite a legal challenge by several atheist organizations, President-elect Barack Obama will repeat the words “so help me God” when he is sworn in as president on Tuesday.

[01.19.09] A U.S. District judge denied a California atheist's request to remove references to God from President-elect Barack Obama's swearing-in on Tuesday.

After a two-hour hearing last Thursday, Judge Reggie B. Walton of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied plaintiff Michael Newdow’s request to bar Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts from administering the president’s oath with the words “so help me God.”

In their lawsuit filed in early January, Newdow and 11 atheist and humanist organizations also claimed that references to God in the invocation and benediction and the use of a Bible during the swearing-in ceremony violated the Constitution’s ban against respecting an establishment of religion and discriminated against them as nonbelievers. read more

President Bush Calls For Sanctity of Human Life Day

As one of his final acts as president, George W. Bush called on Americans to put aside this Sunday to honor the sanctity of human life.

[01.16.09] One of George W. Bush’s last acts as president this week was declaring Sunday, Jan. 18, the National Sanctity of Human Life Day. “All human life is a gift from our Creator that is sacred, unique, and worthy of protection,” Bush said from the White House on Thursday.

“On National Sanctity of Human Life Day, our country recognizes that each person, including every person waiting to be born, has a special place and purpose in this world. We also underscore our dedication to heeding this message of conscience by speaking up for the weak and voiceless among us.”

The pro-life movement has commemorated the third Sunday in January as a sacred day to reflect on the value of human life ever since former President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the first ever National Sanctity of Human Life Day on Sunday, Jan. 22, 1984. Reagan designated the new national observance on the 11-year anniversary date of Roe v. Wade, the federal court case that legalized abortion. read more

Leaders of Todd Bentley's Former Ministry Break Silence

Months after the revivalist announced he was divorcing his wife and stepping down from ministry, the board at Fresh Fire Ministries gave their perspectives on Bentley’s current status.

[12.04.08] Leaders of the Canadian ministry evangelist Todd Bentley founded a decade ago say the one-time revivalist is “intent” on divorcing his wife and is yet to begin a restoration process.

In a six-page letter to ministry supporters, the board of Fresh Fire Ministries (FFM) released more details about the circumstances that led to Bentley’s departure in August from the Lakeland, Fla., revival meetings he led for four months.

“Todd Bentley has demonstrated himself unfaithful to his wife by entering into a relationship with another woman while still legally married,” the board said in a statement issued last Friday. “Todd has yet to enter into a clear system of accountability with the leaders he identified that would be involved in such a process.”

The leaders claim Bentley, 32, has no biblical grounds for leaving his wife, Shonnah, and their three children, and that the nature of his relationship with his children’s former nanny is “that of adultery.”

“The legal separation from Shonnah was initiated completely by Todd and he has not seen her or the children since the last week in July,” they stated.

“It also needs to be clarified that Shonnah has in no way initiated this divorce and has no present intention to do so at any time in the future. She is understandably hurt by Todd’s infidelity, but is not asking or pressing for a divorce.”

On Tuesday, Bentley said there had been no sexual immorality between him and the former nanny. He claimed that for two years no “spark or interest” in the former staff member existed, and that the two developed only an emotional relationship several weeks after July 1, when Bentley filed for divorce.

He admitted, however, that the budding relationship was “absolutely” bad timing.

“I would call it an inappropriate relationship, in the sense that it was too soon, too quick, and should’ve never happened the way that it happened,” Bentley said. “Emotionally, she had stepped in to comfort me as a friend would.

“But I never left my wife to be with another woman,” he said. “There was nothing premeditated or inappropriate in my heart. I had never even entertained the idea that I liked this girl. It never went there.”

Claiming to have gone through years of counseling with his wife, Bentley said he is divorcing her over “irreconcilable differences.”

He denied disconnecting from his children and told Charisma he is in constant phone contact with them and plans to see them as soon as he sorts out issues with his visa.

Bentley said FFM let him review the letter before they made it public and that he was unhappy with portions of it. He said he felt the letter implied that the breakup of his marriage could be blamed on his relationship with his former nanny and the pressures of leading daily nonstop revival meetings in Lakeland.

“I have the utmost respect for my team in Canada and we have had a lot of years together,” he said. “[But] I’m not in agreement with my board on this. The point is, [the former nanny] wasn’t the cause. And I don’t want to blame Lakeland. I want to blame a bad marriage.”

Bentley said he is willing to take 100 percent responsibility for his actions and that he readily admits he’s guilty of doing a lot of things wrong over the years. “In a lot of ways, the ministry has been my mistress,” he said. “That did destroy my marriage. That I have to take responsibility for.”

The FFM leaders said they had been on an “emotional rollercoaster” for several months before releasing the statement, seeking to persuade Bentley to abandon his relationship with the former nanny, return to his wife and children, and quickly embrace a process of counseling and accountability.

In the letter, the board thanked leaders of other ministries who have reportedly tried to help implement a process of restoration for Bentley. “But what we have come to realize is that ultimately, the buck stops with the FFM board of directors,” they said. “No one knows Todd better, or has more access to all the facts from both sides than we do.”

MorningStar Ministries’ founder Rick Joyner announced in October that he would be leading a team to help restore Bentley and would be assisted by Revival Alliance member Bill Johnson and Texas pastor Jack Deere, along with pastors John Arnott and Che Ahn serving as advisers.

Bentley said he is still involved at an emotional level with his former nanny and soon plans to move to Joyner’s headquarters in Fort Mill, S.C., to “fully embrace a healing and restoration process.”

Joyner confirmed that the process could begin as early as January. He did not confirm if abandoning his relationship with the nanny was a precondition Bentley would need to agree to before entering a healing process led by Joyner.

Joyner did express disappointment with FFM’s recent statement about Bentley and said he tried to persuade them not to send the letter in its current form.

“There is almost always another side to a story, as there is to many of the things they presented in this letter,” Joyner said. “Sometimes the truth is found somewhere between the two sides, but if we're going to ever get to real healing and reconciliation I don't think this kind of thing helps.”

The FFM board said they decided to send the letter to supporters after spending months of silence “in deference to [the] leaders” involved in trying to lead Bentley through a restoration process. “We struggled for a while with the question of how to satisfy two important obligations—that of honoring Todd, while believing for his restoration, and at the same time, our obligation to be completely honest and open with you.”

Although Bentley experienced a moral failing, the FFM leaders said the Lakeland Revival he led was an authentic move of God. “Through the weakness and failure of man, the enemy seeks to defame and discredit what God has done,” they said. “[But] Lakeland was and is an authentic move of God. God poured Himself out in Florida and through the Internet and television around the world.”

FFM is in the process of restructuring its ministries with assistance from Johnson’s church in Redding, Calif., and Joyner’s ministry in South Carolina.

Their letter also stated that Bentley has officially resigned and that the Abbottsford, B.C.-based FFM is searching for another leader. “We love Todd dearly, [and] it is our deep desire that our brother should be restored,” they said.

“Please let us make it clear, that although what Todd has done is inexcusable, it is not unforgiveable. We do not judge him unworthy of a second, third or even fourth chance.” —Paul Steven Ghiringhelli read more

Atheists vs. Creationists

Today there is growing hostility toward belief in a Creator.

Ken Ham says that when talk-show host Bill Maher traveled to the Creation Museum two years ago, the outspoken atheist used devious means to secure an interview.

Maher then used footage of his visit in his 2008 documentary Religulous-which mocks a variety of faiths and takes aim at Ham, founder of the Kentucky-based ministry Answers in Genesis.

The museum, located near Cincinnati, has attracted more than 600,000 people since it opened in 2007. And despite Maher's criticism, Religulous didn't stem the flow of visitors.

Religulous grossed $12 million its first month. But the film generated less attention among Christians than Expelled, the documentary by Ben Stein that questions the truth of evolution.

Yet Ham doesn't expect harassment of his $27 million museum to cease, especially with this year's anniversaries of Charles Darwin's birth and his book The Origin of Species.

There is growing hostility in our culture toward creationism. Secular humanists fought Ham's attempts to acquire property several years ago, and many universities host lectures on how to oppose creationist groups.

"That's the sort of thing we see happening with education groups and museums," Ham said. "As far as the media is concerned, the worst ... is the BBC and the British press. They have a real agenda to mock Christians and denigrate those who believe as we do."

Other creationist organizations have faced legal battles. Two examples:

¥ The Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research is appealing a 2008 decision by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to deny its application to grant masters of science degrees in the state. A lawsuit is possible if the appeal fails.

¥ In December of 2007, professor Nathaniel Abraham filed a federal lawsuit against the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, saying he was fired soon after telling a superior he didn't accept evolution as scientific fact. Though a court dismissed the suit, an appeal is pending.

Still, not all Christians agree with the young-earth views that Ham espouses. One example is British professor Denis Alexander, whose book Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose? released in the U.S. in January.

The director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion at St. Edmund's College in Cambridge, Alexander says creationists hold less sway in England. There, he says, many Christians accept evolution as an explanation of God's creative process.

Although Alexander believes God created the world, the professor argues that early church fathers believed Genesis was written in metaphorical language rather than literal. For example, he points out the word "day" is used in three different contexts in Genesis 1-3.

"I think Genesis 1 is saying that God has carried out creation in an orderly way, and a way that is always good in bringing order out of disorder," Alexander says.

Ham doesn't agree, insisting the Bible is the starting point for explaining the earth's origins. "As soon as you believe in an old earth, you didn't get it from the Bible," Ham says. "An old earth comes from man's interpretation of the evidence."

—KEN WALKER read more

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