American ‘Soldier of Christ’ says he is fighting ISIS in Iraq to answer Jesus’ call to protect the defenseless

March 4, 2015 by admin  
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Coptic Christians pray at a symbolic funeral for the 21 Egyptian ChristiansEgypt, February 25, 2015: A 28-year-old U.S. Army veteran from Detroit, describing himself as a “Soldier of Christ,” said that he is fighting ISIS militants on the front lines in Iraq to answer Jesus’ call to protect defenseless people.

“People ask me, ‘Why you?’ I come back and I say, ‘Why not? Why just me? Where’s everyone else at?’” the Army veteran, who requested to be identified only by his first name, Brett, told ABC News in an interview.

“Jesus says, you know, ‘What you do unto the least of them, you do unto me,’” he added. “I take that very seriously.”

ISIS has specifically targeted Christians on a number of occasions in its war in Iraq and Syria. Last week, the jihadists posted a video titled “A Message Signed With Blood to the Nation of the Cross,” which depicts the beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians.

Christian leaders, such as the Vatican’s Pope Francis, said that such crimes should unite all Christians everywhere across denominational lines.

“The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard. It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ,” the pontiff said.

“As we recall these brothers and sisters who died only because they confessed Christ, I ask that we encourage each another to go forward with this ecumenism which is giving us strength, the ecumenism of blood. The martyrs belong to all Christians.”

Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, the Coptic patriarch of Alexandria, also called the 21 murdered Egyptian Christians “martyrs for the faith.”

The U.S. and its allies have hit back against ISIS terror targets using air strikes, but have not sent ground troops in the region. Brett revealed that he is fighting alongside the Dweikh Nawsha, a local Christian militia under the command of the Kurdish peshmerga forces in Iraq.

Brett, who was raised a Roman Catholic but identifies simply as Christian, explained in his interview that he came to Iraq to fight for the defenseless, both for Christians and the many others who have been attacked by ISIS and the terror group’s mission to establish an Islamic caliphate.

Local forces and militias have protected some key cities in the region, such as the Syrian border town of Kobane, from falling under ISIS’ control. The terror group has continued expanding its territory and its army, however, with U.S. intelligence officials pointing out recently that at least 20,000 foreign fighters, including 150 American citizens, have attempted to join and fight for ISIS.

Nick Rasmussen, chief of the National Counterterrorism Center, said that the rate ISIS is recruiting foreign fighters is “without precedent,” while Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said that Syria in particular is seeing “the largest convergence of Islamist terrorists in world history.”

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Florist who refused gay wedding offered settlement

March 2, 2015 by admin  
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Gay Marriage Just MarriedWashington, February 23, 2015: After a judge ruled last week that Washington florist and Christian grandmother Barronelle Stutzman violated the law when she refused to provide arrangements for a same-sex wedding, Stutzman rejected a tempting settlement offer that would have spared her from losing her home and business, because it would have forced her to turn her back on God.

As Stutzman was found guilty of violating Washington’s non-discrimination law last Wednesday for declining to service the wedding of Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed in 2013 due to her Christian belief of marriage, Stutzman runs the risk of losing not only her business but her house and life savings once a summary judgement is reached.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson offered the 70-year-old Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s flowers, a settlement on Thursday that would have spared Stutzman the high, bankrupting legal costs that she could incur as a result of the summary judgement.

The settlement offer would have required Stutzman to pay just $2,001 in fines and legal costs. However, the settlement also would have required Stutzman go against her religious beliefs and agree service gay wedding requests.

“I am prepared to settle this matter for a penalty of $2,000 under the Consumer Protection Act, a $1 payment for costs and fees, an agreement not to discriminate in the future, and an end to further litigation,” Ferguson said in a statement.

The next day, Stutzman sent a letter to Ferguson rejecting his settlement and stating that the settlement would have required her to betray Jesus Christ, much like Judas did.

“Washington’s constitution guarantees us ‘freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment.’ I cannot sell that precious freedom,” Stutzman’s letter asserts. “You are asking me to walk in the way of a well-known betrayer, one who sold something of infinite worth for 30 pieces of silver. That is something I will not do.”

Stutzman’s letter added that Ferguson continues to prove that he does not understand the true meaning of “freedom.”

“Your offer reveals that you don’t really understand me or what this conflict is all about. It’s about freedom, not money,” Stutzman wrote. “I certainly don’t relish the idea of losing my business, my home, and everything else that your lawsuit threatens to take from my family, but my freedom to honor God in doing what I do best is more important.”

Although Stutzman has been portrayed by some media outlets as being an intolerable bigot for refusing to serve a gay wedding, Stutzman served Robert Ingersoll for over 9 years before he asked her to provide floral arrangements for his gay wedding. Even though Stutzman had built a great relationship with Ingersoll, she could not in good faith put her full heart into making floral arrangements for Ingersoll’s wedding and thought it would be best to decline to Ingersoll’s request.

After much social media uproar, Ferguson’s office filed a lawsuit against Stutzman, although no official complaint was filed against her. After the state filed a lawsuit, the couple filed a lawsuit with backing from the American Civil Liberties Union.

“I pray that you reconsider your position. I kindly served Rob for nearly a decade and would gladly continue to do so. I truly want the best for my friend,” Stutzman’s letter stated. “I’ve also employed and served many members of the LGBT community, and will continue to do so regardless of what happens with this case. You chose to attack my faith and pursue this not simply as a matter of law, but to threaten my very means of working, eating and having a home.

“If you are serious about clarifying the law, then I urge you to drop your claims against my home, business, and other assets and pursue the legal claims through the appeal process,” Stutzman added.

Stutzman further added that the state’s laws present a double standard when it comes to protecting citizens’ differing beliefs on marriage.

“Our state would be a better place if we respected each other’s differences, and our leaders protected the freedom to have those differences,” Stutzman wrote. “Since 2012, same-sex couples all over the state have been free to act on their beliefs about marriage, but because I follow the Bible’s teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, I am no longer free to act on my beliefs.”

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Rome priests: Pope said ordaining ‘married men is in my diary’

February 27, 2015 by admin  
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married priestRome, February 23, 2015:Pope Francis has reportedly suggested that he may be open to the idea of married men being ordained priests in the Catholic Church, saying that the issue “is in his diary,” reports The Tablet.

Francis was quoted by priests from the Diocese of Rome who met him at the Vatican on Thursday. The Bishop of Rome traditionally meets the priests of his diocese during Lent.

The Pope addressed them on the theme of homiletics and then took questions.

Francis reportedly told the priests that last week he celebrated Mass with five priests who were marking the golden anniversary of their ordination, and that five priests who had left the priesthood to marry were also present.

According to the Italian bishops’ paper, L’Avvenire, the Pope addressed the issue of married priests. A priest and theologian who supports the ordination of married men, Giovanni Cereti, recalled the case of the Eastern Churches, where married men can be ordained priests, unlike in the Latin Rite. In his reply Francis reportedly said “the issue is in my diary.”

Another priest who was there told an American news agency recalled Francis’ words as: “I would not store this question in an archive”.

The Holy See press office has released eight minutes of audio from the two-hour meeting, but no official summary or transcription..

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Former megachurch Pastor Rob Bell tells Oprah the church is ‘Moments Away’ from embracing gay marriage

February 22, 2015 by admin  
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Kristen Bell (L), Oprah Winfrey and former Mars Hill Bible Church pastor and best-selling author Rob Bell (R)U.S, February 17, 2015: Former Mars Hill Bible Church pastor and best-selling author Rob Bell told media mogul Oprah Winfrey on Sunday that the American church is “moments away” from embracing gay marriage and thinks “it’s inevitable.”

Bell made the statement during a Valentine’s weekend episode of Winfrey’s “Super Soul Sunday” television show where he appeared with his wife, Kristen, to discuss marriage and their new book, The ZimZum of Love: A New Way of Understanding Marriage.

The same-sex marriage discussion portion of the episode, which can be viewed below, starts at around the 29-minute mark where Kristen begins reading an excerpt from the book.

“Marriage, gay and straight, is a gift to the world because the world needs more not less love, fidelity, commitment, devotion and sacrifice,” she noted.

Winfrey then tells the couple that she thought it was great that they made a conscious choice to include gay marriage in the book, and asked them why?

“One of the oldest aches in the bones of humanity is loneliness,” replied Rob Bell. “Loneliness is not good for the world. Whoever you are, gay or straight, it is totally normal, natural and healthy to want someone to go through life with. It’s central to our humanity. We want someone to go on the journey with.”

His response then prompted Winfrey to ask: “When is the church going to get that?”

“We’re close,” he began, answering slowly before his wife interjected “I think it’s evolving.”

He then added: “Lots of people are already there. We think it’s inevitable and we’re moments away from the church accepting it.”

Bell warned that if the church keeps resisting same-sex marriage it would “continue to be even more irrelevant.”

“I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense, when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles, and co-workers and neighbors, and they love each other and just want to go through life,” he said.

“There are churches who are moving forward and there are churches who are almost regressing and making it more of a battle,” added his wife.

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The most frequent burdens Pastors face

February 20, 2015 by admin  
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pastorIn my years of church consulting, I have spent hours talking to local church pastors. Much of the conversation revolves around church structure, vision, etc., but seldom does the conversation stay at that level. Pastors, it seems, long for someone to listen to them. They want someone to share their burdens, even if only for a few minutes.

Listen to the topics of pain I often hear, and take a minute to pray for your church leaders.

1. Declining church growth – No pastor I know wants his congregation to be plateaued or in decline; however, the majority of churches in North America are in that state. A pastor may put a hopeful veneer on that truth publicly, but I’ve wept with pastors who grieve privately over their church’s decline.

2. Losing the support of friends – Losing the backing of a Christian brother or sister is a unique pain. God-centered relationships are a miraculous gift, the melding of hearts at a level the world cannot understand. When those bonds are severed, particularly over matters that are seldom eternally significant, the anguish is deep.

3. Grieving a fall – Pastoral love is not a guarantee against failure. In fact, even Jesus had close followers who fell into sin and rebellion. When our pastoral calls for repentance go unheeded, it’s difficult not to take that rejection personally.

4. Sensing that the sermon went nowhere – For many of us, our ministry is centered around the Sunday sermon. Ideally, hours of preparation end in focused exposition that leads to life transformation—but that result doesn’t always happen. Few pastors have a safe place to express candid concerns about their own preaching.

5. Losing vision – A pastor who has lost his vision for the church is leading on fumes. To admit that condition, though, is risky. Not to admit that reality is even more dangerous. Little will change until that pastor can honestly share his lack of focus.

6. Being lonely – Pastors bear others’ burdens, but they do so confidentially. They share both the struggles and the joys of life, from birth to death. Sometimes, previous pain has made it difficult for them to open up to others. Consequently, they carry the weight of many on the shoulders of one.

7. Dealing with unsupportive staff – Facing contrary members weekly is hard enough, but facing unsupportive staff every day is an ongoing angst. Correction is difficult, and firing can be agonizing. Some pastors simply hope for change while not knowing the best next steps to take.

8. Remembering failures – Not many of us easily forget that disorganized sermon, that rotten counseling advice, that disruptive team meeting, or that hasty staff hire. Perhaps we can laugh at some of yesterday’s failures, but others still haunt us because we never want to fail God or His people.

9. Dealing with death recurrently – Few responsibilities are as serious as officiating at a funeral. Even when burying a believer, pastors, too, grieve the loss of friends. Burying someone who was apparently not a believer is even more gut wrenching. Ministry amid such pain without becoming calloused is difficult indeed.

10. Facing personal jealousies – I wish no pastor dealt with personal or professional jealousies, but I know better – both because of my own sinfulness and my pastoral conversations. Coming to grips with the rawness of our depravity is never easy.

11. Balancing family and ministry priorities – No pastor sets out to lose his family. Few leap into the inattentiveness that often precedes adultery; instead, they almost imperceptibly slide into sin. One reason for that failure is their lack of mentors and colleagues who help them prioritize family while fulfilling ministry responsibilities.

12. Responding to criticism – Continual criticism is wearying. Learning how to hear any sliver of truth in criticism while not growing angry is challenging. We can indeed be better ministers through healthy criticism, but few of us learn that truth in the midst of controversy.

I love pastors. I have been a pastor. I would return to the pastorate with excitement if the Lord so called me. Accordingly, I challenge us to pray for pastors today.

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Franklin Graham says ‘Imagine outcry if Christians beheaded 21 Muslims,’ asks why Obama ‘continues to protect Islam’

February 19, 2015 by admin  
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President Obama affirmed religious freedom in a speech last weekU.S., February 18, 2015: Evangelical preacher Rev. Franklin Graham has responded to the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians at the hands of terror group ISIS by criticizing President Barack Obama’s response, which he says “continues to protect Islam.” Graham also asked people to “imagine the outcry” if it was Christians beheading Muslims.

“Can you imagine the outcry if 21 Muslims had been beheaded by Christians? Where is the universal condemnation by Muslim leaders around the world? As we mourn with the families of those 21 martyrs, we’d better take this warning seriously as these acts of terror will only spread throughout Europe and the United States,” Graham said in response to a video of the beheadings titled “Message to Nation of the Cross,” released earlier this week.

In another Facebook post, Graham said that Obama refuses to “acknowledge the truth” and “call Islamic extremism what it is.”

He pointed out that in the White House statement responding to the news of the beheadings, the Obama administration identified the victims as “Egyptian citizens” but did not point out that they are Christians.

“The truth is — their barbaric murderers openly said they killed them because they were ‘people of the cross.’ Why is the president seemingly continuing to protect Islam and refusing to open his eyes to the truth?” Graham asked.

On Monday, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins pointed a similar accusation at Obama, saying that it’s “troubling” that Obama did not identify the Egyptians as Christians.

“ISIS made very clear in this video that this was an execution of ‘people of the cross.’ ISIS apparently has no difficulty saying ‘Christian,’ while the White House has a very difficult time,” Perkins told Fox News.

Other conservative politicians, such as former Baptist pastor and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, have also previously said that Obama has “undying support” for Muslims.

“Everything he does is against what Christians stand for, and he’s against the Jews in Israel. The one group of people that can know they have his undying, unfailing support would be the Muslim community. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the radical Muslim community or the more moderate Muslim community,” Huckabee said.

The remarks were a response to Obama’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, where the president used the Crusades and the Inquisition as an example of people who committed “terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

Graham has said that the “evil of ISIS” should not be a shock for Christians, because “it is fully in keeping with their ultimate agenda of hastening a final apocalypse.”

“God’s Word tells us that there will be a final battle one day, but it will result in the defeat of Satan and all those allied with him,” the preacher said on Facebook.

“One thing is for sure — one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

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‘First I’m going to pay my tithes’

February 16, 2015 by admin  
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Does the Bible permit Christians to play the lotteryUS, February 13, 2015: A North Carolina woman with four children says that the first person to get a cut of her $188 million Powerball lottery win will be the Lord “because I wouldn’t have none of it if it wasn’t for God.”

Marie Holmes, a resident of Shallotte, claims she is among the three people who were lucky enough to buy a winning Powerball ticket. The actual jackpot total is $564 million, so Holmes’ piece of the pie rounds out to about $188 million, according to WECT-TV in Wilmington.

The 26-year-old single woman has four children, one of whom has cerebral palsy. WECT-TV reports that Holmes previously worked at McDonald’s and Wal-Mart but had to be at home full time in order to take care of her children.

Asked what she plans to do with her millions, Holmes said, “First I’m going to pay my tithes because I wouldn’t have none of it if it wasn’t for God.”

Holmes will also reportedly organize college funds for her children and a buy her family a new house. According to WECT-TV, she was seeking advisement from lawyers and a financial adviser before submitting the winning ticket.

The two remaining Powerball winning tickets were purchased in Princeton, Texas, and Puerto Rico. The winning numbers were 11, 13, 25, 39, and 54. The Powerball number was 19.

NBC News reports that the $188 million figure is before taxes, and would be paid over a 30-year period. Holmes, and the other two winners, could also choose a lump sum payment of $127 million.

Holmes is presumably a Christian since she plans to donate a tithe, or a tenth of her Powerball winnings. Her participation in the lottery and presumed Christian faith raise the question — does the Bible permit Christians to play the lottery?

Pastor John MacArthur has said that he doesn’t believe Christians should play the lottery or gamble in any fashion, although the Bible does not “explicitly” prohibit it.

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Gay marriage ‘Graver Threat’ than divorce, cohabitation – Rick Warren, other evangelicals, Catholics declare

February 4, 2015 by admin  
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Gay MarriageU.S, January 30, 2015: Influential megachurch Pastor Rick Warren and 49 other Catholic and Evangelical scholars and intellectuals have signed their names to an eight-page declaration that opposes society’s growing acceptance of same-sex marriages and labels homosexual unions as a “graver threat” to marriage than widespread divorce and cohabitation because it is a parody of marriage.

The declaration entitled “The Two Shall Become One Flesh: Reclaiming Marriage” was written by the alliance called Evangelicals and Catholics Together and is set to be published in the March edition of the religion journal First Things.

Although the Catholics and Evangelicals involved in the writing of this overarching declaration against sexual sin still hold differences when it comes to the legitimacy of divorce and use of contraception, their differences were set aside as they focused on tackling what they consider to be the biggest problem facing marriage in society today.

Although divorce rates are increasing and society has grown more accustomed to loose sexual behavior before and outside of marriage, the declaration, which The Christian Post obtained a copy of, declares that it is the acceptance of same-sex marriages that ultimately “degrades humanity.”

“An easy acceptance of divorce damages marriage; widespread cohabitation devalues marriage,” the declaration explains. “But so-called same-sex marriage is a graver threat, because what is now given the name of marriage in law is a parody of marriage.”

With most states now accepting gay marriages, the American political climate is continually growing more accommodating toward same-sex unions, while becoming less accommodating to those who defend to the traditional Christian view of marriage as being between just a man and a woman.

The alliance’s statement declares that society’s push in the last decade to legalize gay marriage and make it more widespread could easily lead down a slippery slope, ultimately causing the destruction of the traditional family.

“The law no longer recognizes the primordial, complementary natural roles of mother and father. The natural family as the fundamental context defining where we have come from and who we are is set aside,” the declarations states. “The family becomes a creation of the state, and where the family is a creation of the state, children become, in important legal respects, the property of the state.”

“Instead of freely accepting God’s gift, we seek to dominate (and even alter) nature, constructing our own moral truths,” the document added. “The result is a deceptive pseudo-freedom that degrades our humanity.”

Notable signers supporting the alliance’s declaration include Warren, founder of the California megachurch Saddleback Church; Robert George, professor at Princeton University and vice-chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedoms; Maggie Gallagher, conservative commentator and former president of the National Organization for Marriage; and Robert Gagnon, associate professor of New Testament at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, did not sign the agreement because of scheduling conflicts. ERLC spokeswoman Elizabeth Bristow told CP that Moore has read the declaration and “has no objections to anything in it.”

Although the statement goes out of its way to label the same-sex marriage as a “graver threat” to marriage than either divorce or cohabitation, President of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Daniel Akin, who also signed his name to the document, told CP that he does not think that “homosexual sin” is any worse than “heterosexual sin.”

“Do I think this statement is trying to isolate specifically one particular manifestation over another? No,” Akin said. “What this statement is trying to do is address the political legalization of same-sex marriage, which is a real concern for both Catholics and Evangelicals. We do not believe that it would be wise for our government to legalize same-sex marriage.”

One such secular reason for objecting to same-sex marriage is how such marriages will alter the dynamic of the parent-child relationship.

“This proposed change has happened with great rapidity, in about a decade or so, and it is hard to predict how damaging it may be, especially for children who will no longer have a mother or father, but as new marriage documents read, parent 1 or parent 2, (or in California, parent 3 and parent 4),” Dean of the Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, Timothy George, who also signed the document, told CP. “Pope Francis spoke to this issue recently when he said that every child deserves to have a mother and a father.”

Gagnon told CP that this document does not serve just a political purpose but also is designed to debunk analogies used by gay supporters who reason that since divorce and cohabitation is increasingly accepted in many churches, churches can accept homosexual marriages, as well.

“This is a faulty use of analogical reasoning,” Gagnon asserted. “One can’t logically and reasonably move from limited accommodation in lesser offenses to full accommodation in greater offenses.”

The declaration also calls on all Christians to defend the Biblical definition of marriage and to not affirm same-sex marriages politically.

“As Christians, we must state, unambiguously, that same-sex marriage contradicts the Gospel,” the declaration reads. “Christians who wish to remain faithful to the Scripture and Christian tradition cannot embrace this falsification of reality, irrespective of its status in law.”

Akin explained that Christians who affirm same-sex marriages do not hold an authentically Christian points of view.

“I don’t think a consistent follower of Jesus can ever willingly knowingly accommodate what the Bible calls sinful behavior, whatever that happens to be,” Akin said. “I think that is what the intent of the [declaration] was. It’s not questioning in the sense that if you affirm same-sex marriage you are not a Christian, I don’t think it is saying that. I think it is saying that to affirm same-sex marriage is a non-Christian affirmation.”

Gagnon agrees that affirming same-sex marriages is not a faithful Christian view.

“Christians can hold unfaithful positions. In my view this is a significantly unfaithful position, comparable to, or worse than, promoting adult-consensual incest,” Gagnon writes. “It promotes egregious immorality, behavior that God finds particularly abhorrent.”

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Does God care who wins the Super Bowl? Pastor Joel Osteen responds

February 2, 2015 by admin  
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Does God care who wins the Super Bowl?U.S , January 31, 2015: As the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks are geared up to battle for Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday in Arizona, megachurch Pastor Joel Osteen was asked whether God cares who wins the NFL championship.

“Well you know, I think God cares about us being our best, and obviously somebody’s gonna lose, somebody’s gonna win, so I don’t know,” Osteen, co-pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, said when USA Today asked whether God cares who wins the game.

“I think my thing is … I’d encourage people to pray your skills would come out to the full, and you’d be your best,” added Osteen, the pastor of one of the largest churches in America.

“You know I just love watching the game. I love competition…,” he said, adding that he grew up watching and playing football so it’s fun to see it.

Pastor Osteen also said he loves Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, a Christian.

Victoria Osteen, his wife, said she likes to see how different teams play and the strategies they use, and how anything can change any time in the game.

Seattle will be battling for its second consecutive title, while New England will be seeking its fourth Lombardi Trophy of this century.

After the Seattle Seahawks beat Green Bay in the NFC championship game last week, Wilson attributed it to God.

“That’s God setting it up, to make it so dramatic, so rewarding, so special,” Sports Illustrated’s Peter King quoted Wilson as saying. “I’ve been through a lot in life, and had some ups and downs. It’s what’s led me to this day.”

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, also a Christian, responded by saying God is not a football fan.

“I don’t think God cares a whole lot about the outcome,” USA Today quoted Rodgers as saying. “He cares about the people involved, but I don’t think he’s a big football fan.”

Rodgers had earlier said, “We all have a platform, we all have a message in our lives. I just try to follow Jesus’ example, leading by example,” according to Baptist Press. “God always has a plan for us, a path. Sometimes we wish we knew it sooner, but He always shows up His way.”

There are other outspoken Christian football players, including Tim Tebow and Kurt Warner.

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Obama meets Saeed Abedini’s wife & children; Promises to do all he can to free pastor

January 28, 2015 by admin  
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Rally for SaeedUS, January 22, 2015: President Barack Obama met on Wednesday with Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of imprisoned Pastor Saeed Abedini, and their two children in Boise, Idaho. Abedini said that she had been praying a long time for such a meeting, while Obama promised the family to do all he can to bring the pastor home.

“I am extremely thankful the president took the time to meet with our family and told us that securing the release of my husband is a top priority,” Naghmeh Abedini said following the meeting.

“The president was focused and gracious — showing concern to me and my children. I know that this meeting could not have occurred without prayer, and I am grateful to the many people around the country and world who continue to pray for Saeed’s release. The president repeated his desire to do all that he can to bring Saeed home. That means the world to me and my children and has given me a renewed sense of hope.”

Pastor Abedini is serving an eight-year sentence in Iran, after having been arrested in September 2012 while working on an orphanage. The American Center for Law and Justice, which represents Naghmeh Abedini and the couple’s children, has said that the pastor, who was born in Iran but became an American citizen, is being punished for his Christian faith.

During the meeting, which occurred in an office at Boise State University, Obama promised 6-year-old Jacob and 8-year-old Rebekka that he will do all that he can to bring their father home. Abedini told Obama that she prays for him, and believes that their meeting is a result of fasting and prayer.

When Obama announced that he will be visiting Boise this week, Abedini wrote him a letter expressing her hopes that he will decide to meet with her.

“My heart leapt with hope when I heard that you would be visiting my hometown of Boise, Idaho. Since the Iranian government took my husband, Saeed Abedini, almost three years ago, I have been praying and wanting to meet with you,” the letter read.

The ACLJ noted that during the meeting Jacob asked Obama the question: “Mr. President, can you please bring daddy home for my birthday?” Obama then asked the young boy when his birthday is, and after Jacob told him it is on March 17, the president promised he will make every effort to grant his wish.

Hundreds of thousands of people around the world have joined together in prayer and signed petitions calling on Iran to release Abedini, who has faced beatings and other mistreatment while in prison. Obama has spoken to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani over the phone about freeing the pastor, but the ACLJ has said that more must be done if that goal is to become a reality.

Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ, said that the law group is grateful that Obama took the time to meet Abedini’s family.

“Pastor Saeed has been wrongly imprisoned for nearly two and a half years. He has been separated from his wife and children. The pain experienced by the Abedini family is impossible to imagine. The meeting between President Obama and the Abedini family is a very welcomed development,” Sekulow reflected.

“It demonstrates the president’s concern and compassion for this family. It also underscores the importance of Pastor Saeed’s case, a U.S. citizen imprisoned in Iran merely because of his Christian faith. The face-to-face meeting elevates pastor Saeed’s plight on the world stage — and should send a powerful message to the Iranians — it is time to release pastor Saeed so he can return home to his family.”

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