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Mayor Fights Crime With Prayer

An Alabama mayor invited city residents to put on sacks and ashes and gather for a series of prayer rallies to repent. Photo: Mayor Larry Langford and his wife, Melva.
 
[05.06.08] An Alabama mayor pulled out an unusual weapon to fight his city’s worsening homicide rate: prayer. Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford invited pastors and city residents to put on sacks and ashes and gather for a series of prayer rallies to repent in an Old Testament-style revival.
 
“Man has made a mess of things,” he said. “Let’s try returning our city to God and letting him lead.” Langford, who has been in office less than a year, came up with the “sackcloth and ashes” idea after reading the book of Jonah. He was touched by the compassion God showed the city of Nineveh when they repented. “If it worked then,” he said, “it will work now.”
 
Roughly 1,000 people attended an April 25 rally held at Birmingham’s Boutwell Auditorium. During the prayer meeting, about 20 ministers dabbed everyone’s foreheads with ashes, then clothed them in burlap sacks the mayor had purchased. The lights were dim, and a CD playing actor James Earl Jones’ narration of the Scriptures filled the room. Banners read “Jehovah” and “Holy.” Large TV screens on each side of the stage displayed, “A City Not Forsaken.”
 
Olivia Turner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Alabama, told the Associated Press that her group received complaints about the prayer rallies and has been discussing them as a possible violation of church-state separation. A few days after the event, reports of another murder hit the news, but Langford wasn’t disheartened. “People were expecting an instantaneous miracle, but the miracle was all those people coming together to pray. I think we are going to see hearts changed.” —Marie A. Sutton in Birmingham, Ala.

J.I. Packer: Anglicanism Plagued by ‘Poisonous Liberalism’

Prominent theologian J.I. Packer recently left the Anglican Church of Canada, citing the church's reluctance to stop blessing same-sex unions as part of his reason. 
 
[05.02.08] Prominent theologian James Innell Packer of St. John’s Shaughnessy Anglican Church in Vancouver, B.C. reluctantly left the Anglican Church of Canada last week, reported the Vancouver Sun.
 
Educated at Oxford, Packer apparently agonized over the decision and said part of his reasoning for leaving was his belief that some Anglican bishops in Canada are “arguably heretical” for adhering to “poisonous liberalism.”
 
Packer also specifically pointed out his desire to no longer serve under Vancouver-area Bishop Michael Ingham, who has done little to stop blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples.
 
“He is a bishop who appears heretical,” said Packer, according to the Sun. The “Calvinist Anglican” and famous author of Knowing God, which has sold more than a million copies since its 1973 release, said he, along with 10 other British Columbia-based Anglican clergy, would now submit to the authority of an Anglican archbishop in South America.

Millions Expected to Pray Nationwide Thursday

Leaders of a national prayer task force are expecting millions to join them to intercede for the nation today.
 
[ 05.01.08] Leaders of a national prayer task force are expecting millions to join them to intercede for the nation this Thursday.
 
According to organizers of the National Day of Prayer, an annual event established by an act of Congress in 1952 to occur the first Thursday of each May, tens of thousands of prayer events are scheduled for small and large churches, homes and town squares across the U.S. The theme of this year’s prayer event is: “Prayer! America’s Strength and Shield.”
 
“America trusts in the abiding power of prayer and asks for the wisdom to discern God’s will in times of joy and of trial,” said President Bush, in a proclamation released last week. “We recognize our dependence on the Almighty, we thank Him for the many blessings He has bestowed upon us, and we put our country’s future in his hands.”
 
Shirley Dobson, chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, said the nation is in troubled waters and that it’s “critical” for Christians to pray.
 
“The biblical principles upon which America was founded are under attack. We pray God will raise righteous leaders for our country,” she said. Christian scholar and apologist Ravi Zacharias is this year’s honorary chairman.
 
To honor the esteemed role he was offered, Zacharias recently wrote Is There Not a Cause, a book that links Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the ancient walls of Jerusalem with the modern church’s mandate to reach the lost. Zacharias is scheduled to speak at two national observances on Thursday in Washington, D.C. 
 
Preceding the National Day of Prayer has been a Bible-reading marathon, in which participants have gathered at the U.S. Capitol since Sunday night. For 90 consecutive hours people will read aloud, without comment, every Scripture of the Bible beginning in Genesis and ending with the final chapter of Revelation on Thursday at 2 p.m..

Americans More Prayerful, Biblically Literate Than Europeans

Poll: Two-thirds of American respondents said they had read the Bible over the last 12 months while only 20 to 38 percent of European participants said they'd read the Bible in the last year.
 

[04.30.08] A new poll shows that Americans are more prayerful and biblically literate than citizens of other Christian-populated European nations reported Reuters.

Two-thirds of American respondents said they had read from the Bible over the last 12 months while only 20 percent to 38 percent of Poll: Two-thirds of American respondents said they had read the Bible over the last 12 months while only 20 to 38 percent of European participants said they'd read the Bible in the last year.  s from the other eight countries—Britain, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Russia, Italy, Spain and Poland—reported reading the Bible over the last year.

According to the study, conducted by GFK Eurisko research group for the Catholic Biblical Federation, nearly all Americans (93 percent) said they had a Bible at home, compared to the French who were the least likely to have a Bible at home (48 percent).

Reuters reports that Americans also prayed far more than members in other countries. Most Americans prayed (87 percent), while the French prayed the least (49 percent).

Chinese Christian Bookstore Owner Re-arrested

A bookstore owner in Beijing has been re-arrested for publishing Bibles and Christian literature after he had been released in January due to "insufficient evidence."
 
[04.29.08] A bookstore owner in Beijing has been re-arrested for publishing Bibles and Christian literature after he had been released in January due to "insufficient evidence," according to Compass News Direct.

Shi Weihan, a 37-year-old father of two, was re-arrested March 19 and has been held without any family visits allowed, according to his wife, Zhang Jing. Shi was first arrested on Nov. 28, 2007, and held until Jan. 4.

His wife said she had received no word on her husband's condition, and had been prohibited from bringing him any food or change of clothing since his re-arrest. Zhang said she was "very concerned" about her husband's health, because he has diabetes.

According to Compass News, the arrest of Shi appears to be part of a crackdown on religious groups that the government fears could raise dissident voices during the Olympic Games set to begin in August.

Related News

 Chinese House Church Leader Released

Yoko Ono Sues Producers of 'Expelled'

The former wife of Beatles legend John Lennon, has filed a lawsuit against the makers of 'Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed', disputing the film's use and critique of Lennon's song "Imagine."
 
[04.28.08] Yoko Ono, the former wife of Beatles legend John Lennon, has filed a lawsuit against the producers of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, challenging the film's use and critique of her late husband's song “Imagine.”
 
The film, a documentary starring Ben Stein, which claims that proponents of intelligent design are being cut out of the scientific community, plays 15 seconds of the song while showing the lyrics on-screen and criticizes its message to end religion. Premise Media, which produced Expelled, claims its use of the clip is protected under fair use.
 
"The fair use doctrine is a well established principle that gives the public the right to freely use portions of copyrighted materials for the purposes of commentary and criticism," said Logan Craft, executive producer and chairman of Premise Media. "While some may not like what we have to say or how we say it, we have the free speech right to do so."

Box office numbers continued to be strong for Expelled despite the criticisms. The film, which has tapped into the Christian retail channel for promotions, finished at No. 13 in its second weekend, taking in more than $1.3 million, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com. It has brought in a total of $5.28 million so far.

Thousands Convened to Repent

On Saturday, thousands convened in Washington, D.C., and in 116 satellite venues nationwide for four hours of worship, prayer and personal repentance.
 
[04.28.08] Thousands convened Saturday on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for four hours of worship, prayer and personal repentance.
 
Hosted by Arizona pastor Walt Kallestad and his daughter, Shawn-Marie Cole, the ReignDown event was broadcast live on God TV and on the Internet, and was simulcast to 116 satellite venues nationwide. “We need to cry out and repent, to turn from our wicked lives,” Cole told the crowd.
 
The event was the result of a vision in which Cole saw “seas of people, crying out to [God], saying, ‘Lord, we need you.’” Christian musician Michael W. Smith led worship times, which were interspersed with prayers of repentance and Scripture readings by Kallestad, Cole and Cindy Jacobs, co-founder of Generals International with her husband, Mike. “I believe God wants to change my life tonight,” Jacobs told the crowd. “We’ve got to first remove what’s in our own eyes.”
           
Participants were led in repenting of such issues as racial division and spiritual apathy, and were encouraged to seek God about individual concerns. Prayer tents were stationed throughout the Mall for people to seek personal prayer ministry.
         
 “Most of the people here [seeking prayer] are Christians, but they’re tormented [by] divorce, mental conditions, husbands leaving,” said Sarah Townsend, an intercessor from Alexandria, Minn., who was one of at least 60 prayer counselors on hand at the event. “The body of Christ is sick.”
           
Actor and evangelist Stephen Baldwin and Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona were among the event’s special guests. Both men said their purpose for attending was simply to call the nation—and the church—back to God. “More than anyone else, the body of Christ needs to turn its heart back to the Lord,” Baldwin told Charisma.
 
“When you look at the messages and the media—‘your best life now’—there really isn’t a message of following Christ and counting the cost of repentance. The gospel has become this other thing. There will be a revival, and there will be a movement of the Spirit that reminds everyone of that,” he said.
Jacobs said she believes ReignDown is a continuation of a holiness revival that began last fall. “We’ve been praying for another holiness movement, and we’re in it,” she said. “The presence of God is going to visit us so much, He’s going to clean us up—a supernatural sanctification of holiness.”
 
At the close of the event, Jacobs prayed that God would rain down His healing power: “We speak creative miracles—be healed in Jesus’ name. Get up out of wheelchairs, blind eyes be opened. … AIDS, leave … schizophrenia, leave. … bipolar disorder, go.”
           
Kallestad, senior pastor of Community Church of Joy in Glendale, Ariz., said testimonies were flooding in from people worldwide who watched the event on God TV. He said there were reports of healings and other miracles. “People got out of wheelchairs,” Kallestad said. “We were told by God TV that they never had such a real-time response. God was just so good.”
 
ReignDown is one of several prayer events being organized this year. On the same day as ReignDown, roughly 6,000 intercessors prayed at state Supreme Court buildings across the United States, and a team including Jacobs and Lou Engle, founder of TheCall and the Justice House of Prayer, prayed at the U.S. Supreme Court building. Thursday, May 1, marks the National Day of Prayer, and the Global Day of Prayer is being held May 11. In August, Christians are expected to again gather in Washington, D.C., for TheCall.
 
Engle said in a season “of such crisis,” God is mobilizing solemn assemblies that impact different segments of the church. TheCall will be hosting another prayer event on the National Mall on Aug. 16. “We’re going after the national sins,” Engle said. “We are coming believing that abortion’s going to end and the greatest adoption movement of the church is coming.”
           
A Web site, RepentBelieve.com, has been established to continue ReignDown’s mission of calling people to repentance and faith in Christ. “We believe God’s message to the church is repentance,” Kallestad said. “The reason He’s doing that is there’s no revival without repentance. Nothing happens without His dealing with the log in our own eyes.” --Adrienne S. Gaines

Casting Crowns, Mark Hall Wins Big at Doves

Casting Crowns collected seven trophies Wednesday at the 39th Annual Gospel Music Association Dove Awards. The group will be featured as the cover story in the June issue of 'Charisma.' 
 
[04.24.08] Casting Crowns and lead vocalist and songwriter Mark Hall collected seven trophies Wednesday at the 39th Annual Gospel Music Association (GMA) Dove Awards, including Song of the Year and Pop/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year for "East to West."

Hall's participation on the multi-artist worship project Glory Revealed brought him individual honors for Special Event Album of the Year as well as Inspirational Recorded Song of the Year for "By His Wounds," the Associated Press (AP) reported.

Casting Crowns also had four nominations and won three: Group of the Year, Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year for The Altar and the Door and Pop/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year for "East to West."

"I'm so thankful just to get to be part of the songs," said Hall, who led all nominees with six nominations.

Charisma recently sat down with the group for our June cover story. During the interview band members discussed how they balanced thriving youth ministries, their successful singing careers and family. Charisma's June issue featuring Casting Crowns will hit news stands May 26.

TobyMac won Artist of the Year and took home Doves for Rock/Contemporary Album of the Year for Portable Sounds and short-form video for "Boomin."

"Are you kidding? This is crazy, man. I thought I was Mr. Pre-Televised awards," joked TobyMac, who also won Artist of the Year in 1996 as a member of dc Talk, the AP reported. "God has been faithful time and again to surround me with people that sharpen me and that make me better."

For the third consecutive time, Chris Tomlin won Male Vocalist of the Year and Natalie Grant was awarded Female Vocalist of the Year. Brandon Heath won New Artist of the Year, while Cindy Morgan nabbed the Songwriter of the Year award-her eighth Dove trophy.

The Contemporary Gospel Album of the Year award went to Israel & New Breed for A Deeper Level, while Ricky Skaggs and The Whites collected Bluegrass Album of the Year for Salt of the Earth.

The evening's performers included American Idol alum Phil Stacey, Chris Sligh and Mandisa with Amy Grant in a musical tribute to Michael W. Smith, the AP reported. Switchfoot played "This Is Home," a song from the soundtrack of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, scheduled to open in theaters May 16.

Closing out GMA Music Week, the awards, held at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, was broadcast live for the first time on XM Satellite radio and on the Gospel Music Channel.--Eric Tiansey

Photo Credit: www.samfotos.com 

Americans Say Churches Do Enough for Poor

New poll shows that two-thirds of Americans believe their churches are doing enough to help the poor in their communities. Yet current census and economic data do not support this.
 
[04.24.08] A new poll shows that two-thirds of Americans believe their churches are doing enough to help the poor in their communities.
 
The survey of more than 2,800 adults comes at a time when the United States Census Bureau statistics shows consistent increases in the numbers of Americans living in poverty.
 
The national poverty level increased from 11.7 percent in 2001 to 13.3 percent in 2005. In addition, increased usage of food stamps indicates a rising level of poverty in the country.
 
"These results, when combined with current census and economic data, expose a discrepancy between Christians who believe they are doing enough and the reality that Christians are just scratching the surface in our communities," said Steve Haas, vice president for church relations at World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization.

Chinese Christian Bookstore Manager Released

The house church leader jailed since last August for receiving three tons of Bibles was recently released, after a court determined that there was not sufficient evidence of wrongdoing.
 
[04.22.08] A Chinese house church leader jailed since last August for receiving three tons of Bibles was recently released, according to China Aid Association (CAA).

Zhou Heng was recuperating at home after a court determined on Feb. 19 that there was not sufficient evidence of wrongdoing. Heng is also the manager of Yayi Christian Book Room, a registered bookstore that sells Christian-related books published legally inside China. His bookstore was shut down after his Aug. 31 arrest for possession of 5,184 copies of illegally published Bibles.

The Bibles were reportedly donated by South Korean churches and were intended for local believers. However, the Chinese government only allows officially sanctioned churches to print and distribute a limited number of Bibles each year.

If convicted of the charges, Heng would have received a 15-year prison sentence. According to CAA, Heng has been beaten in prison severely by other inmates and prison guards.

In a letter obtained by CAA, Heng said he wanted to thank "all sisters, brothers, and friends in China, America, Europe and all around the world ... for the care and prayers for me during the time I was arrested and put into prison."

'Expelled' Has 'Robust' Opening

'Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed' finished at No. 9 in its opening weekend. The documentary-style film took in $3.2 million from 1,052 theaters to crack the top 10.
 
[04.22.08] Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed finished at No. 9 in its opening weekend, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com. The documentary-style film, which challenges Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and tapped into the Christian retail channel to help promote the launch, took in $3.2 million from 1,052 theaters to crack the top 10.

Premise Media Corporation-the film producers-hired Motive Entertainment, which handled much of the grass-roots marketing of Mel Gibson's The Passion of The Christ, to reach out to faith-based communities.
Hosted and co-written by comedian, economist and author Ben Stein, Expelled-which generated media attention for its controversial topic-received mixed reviews.

"Expelled... fared better than prerelease tracking had signaled," The Los Angeles Times observed. "Its opening was robust for a documentary, though it was far from the Michael Moore-type blockbuster the producers had been hoping for. ... But it could dwarf forecasts with even a fraction of the faith-based crowd that turned The Passion of The Christ into a cultural phenomenon in 2004."

With production and marketing budgets in the single-digit millions, Expelled had the widest documentary release ever, the Times reported.

Gary Weyel, marketing and communications strategist for The Parable Group, told Christian Retailing that Parable “has been working with our stores to help promote the film.”

Motive Entertainment sent all 190 Parable stores resource materials designed for students, teachers, pastors, youth leaders and organizations to help build awareness, said Weyel, noting that the resource kits included a leader's guide, poster, flier and video trailer.

"By providing some simple tools to help stores reach out to their community, we hope to both promote the film and provide a link to the local store for any related product sales in the future," he said.--Eric Tiansay

Christians Summoned to Day of Repentance

Dubbed ReignDown USA, the three-hour prayer meeting will be held April 26 at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Organizers believe it could lead to a national revival.
 
[04.22.08] Christians across the U.S. are being summoned to a time of prayer and repentance this weekend for what organizers believe could lead to a national revival.
 
ReignDown USA (reigndownusa.com), a three-hour prayer meeting, will be held April 26 at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and in satellite venues in 31 states. Participants will worship, pray and repent of their own sins.
 
"We're not pointing out the speck in our brothers' or sisters' eyes, but we are dealing with the log in our own, and we're ... saying, 'Start with me first, Lord,'" said Shawn-Marie Cole, who is organizing the event with her father, Walt Kallestad, senior pastor of 10,000-member Community Church of Joy in Glendale, Ariz. Cole, a homemaker with two young children, said the idea for ReignDown was birthed from a vision she received in 2005.
 
"It was gathering the body of Christ together in unity, humbly coming before our Lord, seeking His face and ... asking for Him to be placed back in the center of our lives and our nation," she said. Although 2008 is an election season, Cole said ReignDown would have no agenda beyond personal repentance. "We're just going to worship, and as we hear what the Lord is saying, someone will get up and read Scriptures," she said. The prayer meeting will be broadcast on television and carried live on the Internet.
 
Representatives from ministries such as Prayer Watch International (PWI) will be on hand to pray with participants.
 
"We can't point our finger at a nation and say you're not holy if we're not holy," said Cindy Jacobs, co-founder of Generals International with her husband, Mike, and a ReignDown supporter. "It's about holiness. It's about being a pure bride. It's a time to come back to the centrality of the cross. No personalities, just the cross."
 
Although there have been many corporate prayer events emphasizing repentance on behalf of the nation, "This is just repentance, and it's our repentance," said Phil Munsey, pastor of the Life Church in Mission Viejo, Calif., and a ReignDown supporter.
 
"The qualification to say something that day is to be willing to repent—not for the nation, not for anyone else, but personal repentance," he said. "I feel that we can't get past that. Until we do this, there's really nothing else we can do to have any influence on this country."
 
Prayer leader Bjørn Pedersen, founder of Arizona-based PWI, said a year before Cole told him her vision he began to feel that God was going to move in North America. He believes revival comes as a result of the repentance. "But it's up to our country how we respond, and that depends on the church," he said.
 
Cole said in her vision she saw miracles happening as a result of the prayer and repentance. "It was an unprecedented move of God that took place and swept the entire nation," she said. "But it didn't just happen here, it ended up rippling and affecting other nations."
 
Kallestad said Christians in the Philippines, Haiti, Canada, Germany and various parts of Africa have agreed to join in prayer for the U.S. on April 26. He said there are no plans to make ReignDown an annual event or to duplicate the efforts of ministries such as the Global Day of Prayer or the National Day of Prayer.
 
"What we are calling for is that the body would come united," he said. "It doesn't matter if you're charismatic or non. What we are saying is we need to come together as a body of Christ, and we need to simultaneously stand together in unity. There are no speakers; there's no draw. We are just coming to hear the Lord." --Adrienne S. Gaines

Lakeland Revival Intensifies

Twice daily meetings in Lakeland, Fla., move into fourth straight week of revival. Starting Apr. 24, the meetings are being moved to Auburndale Life Church about 10 miles from Lakeland.
 
 
[04.22.08] Thousands of people longing for a physical or spiritual touch from God are flocking to central Florida for ongoing revival meetings that some have dubbed the “Lakeland Healing Outpouring.”
 
The services, which are being broadcast live daily on GOD TV to millions of potential viewers, reveal the excitement radiating from this area of the Sunshine State, prompting some people to jump on planes and fly in from across the country and even from abroad.
 
Todd Bentley, the 32-year-old Canadian healing evangelist with a boyish grin responsible for the meetings, reported on Friday that people’s faith alone has healed them even while they were booking their flights online or boarding planes bound for Lakeland, a city of about 90,000 between Orlando and Tampa along Interstate 4.
 
The 700-seat sanctuary of host pastor Stephen Strader’s Ignited Church can no longer contain the crowds. More than 1,000 worshipers stood inches apart at Friday night’s service, jamming every aisle and altar area. Their bodies rocked back and forth, and their faces wore peace-filled, lovesick and euphoric expressions.
 
The cars parked outside were also inches apart, with every grassy parcel of land on bordering properties used for overflow. During worship, song lyrics on PowerPoint were replaced with a warning to drivers parked at a nearby store that their cars would be “towed immediately.”
 
“We are all shocked that each night a minimum of 60 percent [are] first time [visitors],” Strader said yesterday.
 
Fire marshals locked the church doors at last night’s meeting, forcing 400 people to remain in front of the church. The crowd watched the service on a large TV, and more than 200 waited until midnight for Bentley to come out and pray for them, Strader said.
 
John Arnott, who pastored the historic revival ignited at his Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship in 1994, wrote in a letter last week to Bentley: “Todd, you need to keep going in these meetings as long as the Lord is moving. I feel that this is a prophetic sign that another wave of revival is coming to North America.”
 
John Kilpatrick, who pastored Brownsville Assembly during the Pensacola Revival of the 1990s, told Charisma today that he wants to visit Lakeland as soon as possible in order to encourage Bentley. “It saddened me that many weren’t willing to at least come and check things out,” he said of his early meetings with revivalist Steve Hill. “I made a vow before God that if revival ever broke out again, no matter where it was, that I’d at least go.”
 
Kilpatrick added that revival is not something that can be controlled and that people hungry for God need to simply ask Him to touch them. “I feel in my spirit very strongly that there’s another wave of the Holy Spirit coming, a tidal wave of the glory of God,” he said, stifling his sobs on the phone. “I’m sorry, there’s nothing like the presence of God. It has ruined me for life.” 
 
Wendy Alec, co-founder of GOD TV, just released a prophecy to Bentley in which she said God has called what’s happening in Lakeland “just a warm-up party” that would eventually go global.
 
After long periods of worship, Bentley invites to the stage all those with testimonies, much like the late healing evangelist Kathryn Kuhlman did in her meetings.
 
At Friday night’s meeting, the mother of a 6-year-old girl said her daughter broke her elbow about two weeks ago and was healed after a word of knowledge from Bentley. The little girl told the crowd: “Jesus came out of heaven and touched my elbow.” The girl’s before-and-after X-rays are posted on YouTube
 
Amber, a thin 15-year-old girl born with scoliosis, said she was healed and could now carry her schoolbooks as well as bend over and touch the floor, which she did publicly during the meeting. One man said he was healed of Hepatitis C. An elderly woman said she went to the doctor for confirmation first before telling the crowd she was healed of glaucoma.
 
Others on Friday night said they were healed of rheumatoid arthritis, panic attacks, ruptured discs, deafness, post traumatic stress disorder, cancer, leukemia and emphysema.
 
After a half hour of testimonials Bentley asked the crowd “to give the Lord the glory.” For at least 40 minutes people continually cried the words “holy” and “glory” in a chorus.
 
Some worshipers fell to the floor weeping. From behind his keyboard, a blonde-locked worship leader named Roy Fields led the procession, his face beaming heavenward.
 
“What is happening is so much bigger than anyone in this building,” Bentley said from the stage where he was kneeling. “I hear the angels joining in. … The Holy Spirit is taking over.”
  
Bentley, who looks more like a gang leader than the founder of a Christian ministry, came to Lakeland on April 2 and has shown no sign of leaving since an angel, he said, visited him the day after he arrived.
 
Prophetic minister Bob Jones told Bentley he believed the angel’s name was “Winds of Change”--the same angel, Jones said, that visited healing evangelist William Branham in the 1940s.
 
Aside from heavily reverential moments of worship, services can turn comical, as Bentley listens to accounts of healings and becomes filled with anticipation. He asked one woman on Friday, “Why are you here?” and after she responded, “I have a tumor on my rib,” he cried: “Good! That’s good!”
 
One man brought his small son to Bentley, saying the youngster was in need of a kidney. “Where does it hurt, boy?” Bentley asked before praying for the child and seeing him fall out.
 
The boy lay motionless on the platform, and his father bent over him, pressing his forehead to his son’s. “I feel he’s in some kind of vision or something,” Bentley told the crowd. When the boy got up five minutes later he said bright angels had come to him and “put their hands on me.”
 
The meetings have been extended due to swelling crowds. Bentley announced Friday the revival would continue daily through at least May 4. He also said he believes the same revival will hit Kansas City, Mo., next. —Paul Steven Ghiringhelli in Lakeland, Fla.

Bible is America's Favorite Book

The Bible is America's favorite book, according to a new survey. While the Bible is No. 1 among different demographic groups, there is a large difference in the No. 2 favorite book.
 
[04.21.08] The Bible is America's favorite book, according to a new survey. It came in first in a Harris Poll of nearly 2,513 adults, but the second choice in the survey was not as clear cut, Reuters reported.

"While the Bible is No. 1 among each of the different demographic groups, there is a large difference in the No. 2 favorite book," Harris said in a statement announcing the results.

Men chose J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and women selected Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind as their second-favorite book, according to the online poll. But the second choice for 18- to 31-year-olds was J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series, while 32- to 43-year-olds named Stephen King's The Stand and Dan Brown's Angels & Demons.

Picks for second-favorite book also varied according to region. Gone With the Wind was No. 2 in the Southern and Midwestern states, while easterners chose The Lord of the Rings and westerners opted for The Stand, Reuters reported.

Film Explores Debate Over Origins of Life

The makers of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, which premieres nationide today, say scientists who question Darwin’s view are being persecuted. The film premiers nationwide today.  
 
[04.19.08]The debate over intelligent design will hit the big screen today when Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed opens in theaters.

Starring comedian, economist and author Ben Stein, the documentary explores what filmmakers say is discrimination within the academic community against educators and scientists who question evolutionary theories on the origins of life. The film cites several examples.

At George Mason University, biology professor Caroline Crocker said she was forced out for briefly discussing problems with Darwinian theory in her class and for telling students that some scientists believe there is evidence of intelligent design in the cosmos. Astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez was denied tenure at Iowa State University for his affiliation with the intelligent design movement.

"Scientists are supposed to be allowed to follow the evidence wherever it may lead, no matter what the implications are," Stein said in a news release. "Freedom of inquiry has been greatly compromised, and this is not only anti-American, it's anti-science. It's anti- the whole concept of learning."

Produced by Premise Media, the documentary was culled from interviews with more than 150 scientists including both intelligent design supporters such as renowned microbiologist David Berlinski and William Dembski, author of Design of Life, as well as evolution advocates such as biologist Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, and Eugenie Scott, head of the National Center for Science Education.

Last fall, Dawkins and other scientists interviewed for Expelled, including biologist PZ Myers, claimed they were misled about the purpose of the documentary. The film was originally titled Crossroads: The Intersection of Science and Religion, which interviewees were told would examine "the disconnect/controversy that exists in America between Evolution, Creationism and the Intelligent Design movement," according to a letter Myers posted online.

"At no time was I given the slightest clue that these people were a creationist front," Dawkins told The Guardian newspaper.

However, Premise Media co-founder Logan Craft said his company never misrepresented its intentions. "When they heard that it wasn't necessarily pro-Darwinian, that's when they decided to make these attacks," he said. "They all signed releases. They were all paid for their interviews. I think those charges were vacuous."

Expelled has been shown to Christian leaders nationwide in hopes of creating grass-roots support for the documentary. Churches are being encouraged to buy out local theaters when the film opens and use resources posted at GetExpelled.com to further the debate about intelligent design.

"Expelled is a must-see film," said LIFE Today host James Robison. "Any thoughtful Christian will appreciate the questions asked by the film and find inspiration in the answers that point to the truth."

But more than advocating for intelligent design, Premise Media CEO Walt Ruloff said he hopes the film will promote greater academic freedom for scientists. In cooperation with the Discovery Institute, an intelligent design think tank, Premise developed a petition posted at academicfreedompetition.com supporting scientists' right to research alternative scientific theories.

"We really are not validating one particular position," Ruloff said. "What we're really asking for is freedom of speech, and allowing science and students ... to have the freedom to go where they need to go and ask the questions."
Adrienne S. Gaines

Revival Fever Breaks Out in Florida

In Lakeland, Fla., thousands are packing a church every night for the past two weeks looking for a taste of what could be a major spiritual outpouring.
 
[04.16.08] Meeting in a converted storefront on a highway in Lakeland, Fla., thousands are packing a church every night for the past two weeks looking for a taste of what could be a major spiritual outpouring.
 
Pockets of the Christian community in this area and beyond are buzzing over what could be compared with the early meetings revivalist Rodney Howard-Brown held here 15 years ago at Carpenter’s Home Church two miles down the road.
 
With an almost palpable sense of expectation hanging in the meetings, wild stories of healings have been lighting up the blogosphere, from reports of permanent scars disappearing off bodies to tumors disintegrating in stomachs.
 
Word of the meetings has spread across the globe via GOD TV’s live Web stream, and will air live on the network every night this coming weekend.
 
If hunger, as in the outpourings in Toronto and Pensacola during the 1990s, is a characteristic of revival, then believers here appear starved. “I’m just here for the presence of the Lord,” said one young man last night.
 
In loud heart-crying worship, one song lyric in particular—“healing is the bread of your children”—has become an anthem of the meetings being held in Lakeland by Todd Bentley, a Canadian revivalist and founder of Fresh Fire Ministries.
 
The stocky tattooed minister called out various ailments and diseases for several hours last night. Clusters of the more than 1,000 feverish believers responded to his words of knowledge, and later claimed healing.
 
A young teenaged girl testified the lump on her neck had disappeared. A woman with osteoarthritis of the knees kicked the air and ran across the stage. Several people declared hearing for the first time out of deaf ears.
 
“We’re still hungry,” the crowd worshiped, “we’re receiving, there’s got to be more, got to be more, got to be more.”
 
One five-year-old boy named Corey, accompanied by his parents, wanted prayer for his heart, which was irregular since infancy. His mother said it beat three times faster than normal, “like a washing machine under his skin” to the touch, she said.
 
As Bentley prayed, the boy swayed softly, eyes closed, eventually drifting into what appeared to be a trance-like state. Several minutes later Bentley asked the boy what he was feeling, but he was unresponsive.
 
“Are you there? Can you hear me?” Bentley said, snapping his fingers by the boy’s ears. “Hello? Hello? Can you hear me?”
 
The expression on the child’s face was as if he had disappeared. A man in the congregation shouted: “He’s in heaven! He’s getting a new heart!”
 
Standing behind his son, the boy’s father began weeping. “I think he’s in heaven,” Bentley whispered.
 
When he finally opened his eyes the boy’s mother held him, cried over him, and joyfully reported to the large crowd that her son’s heartbeat was now normal. “This is the first time it doesn’t beat like that pitter patter!” she said.
 
The current situation in Lakeland is apparently traceable to April 3, when Todd Bentley says an angel visited him. He was in Lakeland for one of his normal itinerant conferences scheduled from April 2-6.

He said the encounter wrecked his plans. Bentley cancelled his global itinerary and extended the meetings at Stephen Strader’s Ignited Church to daily daylong events. He said the meetings would continue at least through the end of April. —Paul Steven Ghiringhelli in Lakeland, Fla.

Trial of Christian Publisher’s Slain Workers Postponed

Plaintiff lawyers demand judges be replaced, accusing them of bias and obstructing justice.
 
[04.23.08] The trial of a group of Muslims accused of murdering three employees of a Christian publishing house in Turkey has been continually delayed.
 
Lawyers representing the families of the Christians slain last year recently demanded that the three-member bench of judges hearing the case be replaced, accusing them of being biased, Compass Direct News said.
On April 18, 2007, five young Turkish Muslims entered the Malatya offices of Zirve Publishing and tortured and then slit the throats of Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel, both Turkish Christians who had converted from Islam, and German Christian Tilmann Geske. Compass, which covers persecution of Christians, ranked the savage attack among its top 10 stories of 2007.
 
Turkish press reported that four of the five young men arrested, all 19 to 20 years of age, admitted during initial interrogations that they were motivated by both “nationalist and religious feelings” as well as protecting Islam from Christian missionaries.
 
In a demonstration against the Christian publisher more than two years ago, local protesters claimed its publishing and distribution activities constituted “proselytism” among Muslims and should be closed down, Compass reported.
 
In a TV interview the day after the massacre, one of the men’s wives forgave her husband’s killers, following the example of Christ who pardoned His murderers and citing Jesus’ prayer: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
 
Zirve re-opened last May after being sealed off for more than a month for the police investigation, the Turkish Daily News reported.
 
Addressing the Malatya Third Criminal Court in late February, plaintiff lawyer Özkan Yücel Soylu declared that the “impartiality and independence” of the court was in jeopardy, as the judges were obstructing justice by withholding evidence and refusing to record the high-profile murder case, Compass reported.
 
During the court proceeding, Soylu objected to the court’s refusal to grant access to the killers’ computer records, photographs from the autopsies and crime scene and security camera films from one suspect’s hospital room, Compass reported.
 
However, the fourth trial hearing against the Turks scheduled for March was postponed until April 14 after court clerks mysteriously failed to file the plaintiff lawyers’ request to replace the judges, Compass reported.
 
Meanwhile, the murder of a Christian bookseller has been featured in a controversial Turkish TV series.
 
In one episode of The Valley of the Wolves, a young man—posing as a panhandler—enters a Christian bookstore, approaches a clerk or owner and holds out a coin, Asia News reported. The young man then fires a gun, instantly killing the bookstore worker.
 
The show continues with the discovery of a printing press that publishes gospel materials with a cover identical to the books commonly provided to Christians who attend churches in Turkey, Asia News reported.---Eric Tiansay for Christian Retailing

People 'More Interested' in Spiritual Matters

With 11 Christian titles on the 'The New York Times' best-sellers lists, some are suggesting that people are more interested in spiritual matters. 
 
[04.15.08] Christians have been encouraged to take heart from the The New York Times best-sellers lists.
 
With 11 Christian titles on the newspaper's various lists in the April 20 report, it seems that "people are more interested in spiritual things now than ever," observed Thomas Nelson President and CEO Michael Hyatt in his From Where I sit blog.
 
The apparent rise in interest in spiritual issues is "good news for Christian publishers and for Christian retailers," he wrote. "Despite what we hear through the media, we should take heart. This is a moment in time that I believe is very significant and very unique."
 
Among the titles making the Times lists Hyatt referenced are Dead Heat by Joel C. Rosenberg, Mistaken Identity by Don and Susie Van Ryn, and Newell, Colleen and Whitney Cerak, with Mark Tabb and 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper and Cecil Murphey.
 
Hyatt also referenced the inclusion on the lists of other "spiritual books" that some would not consider evangelical, including Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana by former best-selling vampire novelist Anne Rice.
 
Hyatt's post prompted a response from Rice, who wrote that everywhere she traveled to promote her new book, she found "believers. We are not a post-Christian nation, not by any means and anyone who thinks so is simply out of touch. People care passionately about their faith and how it informs their lives and their every decision."

Christian Publications Barred From Saying ‘Allah’

A Catholic newspaper and evangelical church have filed lawsuits against the Malaysian government, which argues that a Christian newspaper using the term "Allah" could confuse Muslims. 
 
[04.14.08] Catholic newspaper and an evangelical church have filed lawsuits against the Malaysian government after authorities ruled against use of the word “Allah” in Christian publications.
 
The Herald, a 13-year-old Catholic weekly, sued the government in December for prohibiting it from using the word “Allah” to refer to God, Compass Direct News reported. The government had argued that use of the term might cause confusion among Muslims, who make up about 60 percent of Malaysia’s population, Compass said.
 
The government had threatened the Herald with closure or revocation of its printing permit. But following protests by the Christian community, the Herald’s printing permit was renewed just two days prior to expiration.
 
The Rev. Lawrence Andrew, the editor of the paper, said that the Herald was still using the word “Allah” as the case was waiting to be heard in court.
 
“It is difficult to understand why the government says that the word ‘Allah’—when used by non-Muslims—will confuse Muslims,” Andrew said. “All publications irrespective of religion or ideology are scrutinized. It is a way of monitoring peace in the nation.”
 
The Evangelical Church of Borneo (ECB) in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah has also sued the government for prohibiting the import of Christian educational materials for children containing the word “Allah.” Authorities withheld two other titles the church was trying to import, Compass reported. An out-of-court settlement has failed, and ECB is proceeding with the case.
 
Meanwhile, the government recently confiscated English-language Christian children’s books with illustrations of prophets as well as books that use the word “Allah,” according to the Malaysian online news agency Malaysiakini.com.
 
The illustrations were deemed offensive to Muslims since Islam, which shares some prophets in common with Christianity, prohibits the portrayal of prophets, Compass reported.
 
The Rev. Hermen Shastri, general secretary of the Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM), questioned how the books could be offensive to Muslims when they were not meant for them. Shastri urged the government to take immediate action to stop such seizures, Compass reported. 
 
The Malaysian government also recently banned 11 books, including Don Richardson’s Secrets of the Koran, for misrepresenting Islam by linking it to terrorism and the mistreatment of women, Assist News Service reported.
 
The Malaysian Internal Security Ministry issued the ban in January based on the Printing Presses and Publications Act of 1984, which requires all print media in the country to obtain a license and abide by its strict regulations.
 
In another example of the government curbing religious freedoms, a customs officer confiscated 32 Bibles from a citizen returning from a trip to the Philippines Jan. 28, according to Malaysiakini.com.
 
Juliana Nichols produced a letter from her parish priest stating the English Bibles were meant for use in her church, but the customs officer told her the texts needed to be cleared with authorities, Compass reported.
 
Sunni Islam is the official religion in Malaysia, where there is growing pressure for the Asian nation to become more Islamic and introduce harsher Islamic laws, according to the latest edition of Operation World. Ethnic Malay Muslims make up about 60 percent of the 27 million people.
 
In April 2005, Prime Minister Abdullah bin Ahmad Badawi declared that copies of the Malay-language Bible must have the words “Not for Muslims” printed on the front, and could be distributed only in churches and Christian bookshops, according to the International Religious Freedom Report. ---Eric Tiansay for Christian Retailing

Copeland Requests an IRS Audit

Earlier this week, Kenneth Copeland Ministries said the Senate Finance Committee should request an IRS audit in order to retain any financial records from the church.
 
[04.11.08] Sen. Charles Grassley’s “most appropriate” course of action for obtaining information into the financial history of Kenneth Copeland Ministries (KCM) is to use procedural channels that exist between Congress and the Internal Revenue Service, stated a letter sent earlier this week to the IRS by attorneys at KCM requesting a church tax inquiry.
 
After the 90-day inquiry, the letter stated, “[KCM] is confident … the IRS will conclude that it is unnecessary to pursue a church tax examination.” 
 
In a letter written earlier this month to the two top-ranking senators on the Senate Finance Committee, KCM expressed its concern over Grassley’s investigation possibly infringing on the ministry’s First Amendment rights. It also noted that the senator’s probe targeted six televangelists who all “share a common theology.”
 
Grassley has repeatedly denied insinuations that his problem is with theology. In addition, the finance committee’s chairman, Sen. Max Baucus, joined Grassley’s investigation last month, helping to alter any public perception that Grassley was acting unilaterally.
 
“This ought to clear up any misunderstanding about our interest and the committee’s role,” Grassley said last month. “We have an obligation to oversee how the tax laws are working for both tax-exempt organizations and taxpayers.”
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