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May 19 - 25, 2019

Israel Celebrates Its 71st Anniversary Days after Violent Attacks

Israel celebrated its 71styear as a modern state. They celebrated with parades, military flyovers, and an annual torch-lighting ceremony.

This year’s jubilation was set against a dark backdrop as communities near the border with Gaza are still reeling from a violent weekend that left four dead. The Israeli Air Force, which puts on a show in which jets, transport places, and helicopters fly over the country doing “acrobatics and stunts,” paid homage to the communities who are recovering from the violence. Wednesday had been a Memorial Day dedicated to victims of Palestinian terror and fallen Israeli soldiers.

Israel was reestablished as a modern state in 1948. In the wake of the violence against Jews during World War 2, the United Nations passed Resolution 181, which divided Britain’s Palestine mandate into Jewish and Arab states. The new Israeli government organized on May 14, 1948 and President Harry Truman recognized the new government amidst much opposition from high-ranking officials of his administration.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein honored the Israeli people for their perseverance at the opening ceremonies on Mount Herzl. He said, “Against all odds we returned to our homeland.” He continued, “Continue to believe in yourself, continue going forward against all odds. You will one day stand here and light a torch for the glory of Israel.”

President Reuven Rivlin hosted a ceremony honoring the Israel Defense forces and told a group of 120, “You, who are not afraid of challenges, who are ready for the unexpected, who pull harder and stronger than anyone, you are Israel’s hope and spirit that beats within us, that leads us.”

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'Lord Save Us! Lord Help Us!' Powerful Earthquakes Strike Philippines, Operation Blessing Steps in to Help

A series of recent earthquakes in the Philippines has left people there homeless and in need of help.

Maritess Romualdo shares that when a recent 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck, she quickly ran to her children to shield them from falling debris. In saving them, she suffered injuries as part of the ceiling fell on her.

At that moment she said she was shouting, "Lord save us! Lord help us!" She added, "At that point, there is no one to turn to for help but the Lord. Our house was the fruit of my husband's years of hard work abroad. Now it's gone. But despite the loss, I am still thankful because we are all alive."

Maritess is convinced that coming out of the rubble alive was a miracle. She did not have broken bones, only bruises, wounds and a sore back. It was only then that she knew she was pregnant! And she praises God for saving her baby as well.

Maritess is among 200 families whose houses were destroyed during the earthquake. They are now living in makeshift tents appealing for urgent aid. They need food, water, and other supplies.

They belong to an indigenous people group called Aetas. They live in the mountains where farming is their primary source of income. The earthquake forced most of them to abandon their farmlands.

Pastor Danny dela Cruz who is also an Aeta testified their root crops were destroyed because of deep cracks caused by the strong tremors. They are also afraid of landslides that can happen when another earthquake strikes again.

The Aetas are in desperate need of help. Given the mountainous region, help was slow. But their hopes lifted when an Operation Blessing Philippines team came to their villages with food, rice, and canned goods, mats and blankets.

Pastor Danny dela Cruz said their people are very thankful for the pails of blessings they received. He said, "Thank you Operation Blessing. You are the first to give us so much food and supplies."

Operation Blessing also conducted trauma counseling activities among the children to help them overcome their earthquake experience.

Operation Blessing staff, Famela Eblacas explained, "We have several activities like singing and coloring where the children can express their feelings. Most of them are still afraid. We teach them that only Jesus can take away the fear in their hearts. He loves them and will never leave them."

Maritess' daughter, Sheila Mae is happy to be able to join the activities. She said she is no longer afraid because she learned from the trauma counseling that God loves her and will never leave her.

Maritess is very grateful. She said, "Thank you Operation Blessing for all the help you gave to us. And for encouraging us to put our trust in God. I will not waste this second life He has given me."

More than 600 families in the Aeta villages received relief goods, prayer and also heard the gospel. Operation Blessing is going to more villages to distribute more food, water and other supplies to the earthquake survivors. They will also conduct Medical Missions in the coming days.

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County Votes 5-0 to Keep Courthouse Crosses, Despite Atheist Group’s Demands

A small Texas town is rejecting demands from an atheist organization to remove crosses from the county courthouse, and it’s getting the support of the state attorney general’s office, too.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter in late April to officials in Coldspring, Texas, asserting that four white crosses on the sides of the building violate the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on government establishment of religion.

But the San Jacinto County Commissioners voted unanimously, 5-0, to keep the crosses on the courthouse, KPCR-TV reported. More than 600 residents attended the commissioners’ meeting. The population of Coldspring, Texas, is about 900.

The Texas Attorney General’s office applauded the commissioners’ decision and pledged its legal support if FFRF files suit.

“If that occurs, we look forward to supporting your lawful decision to retain the crosses,” Jeff Mateer, the state’s first assistant attorney general, wrote.

The crosses have lights that are turned on at Christmas. Dwayne Wright, chairman of the San Jacinto County Republican Party, posted a picture on Facebook showing the crosses lit up after the commissioners’ vote.

“THIS is how we roll in San Jacinto County!” Wright wrote.

Residents had said FFRF’s demands might face resistance.

“I don’t think it’s going to go over very well here,” Rhonda Martin told the TV station. “It’s a Christian community.”

An FFRF letter called the crosses “a blatant violation of the Establishment clause.” That clause reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

“These crosses unabashedly create the perception of government endorsement of Christianity,” the FFRF letter said.

FFRF said it had the support of legal precedent. Mateer did, too.

“We want to make it clear that your county may display historical religious symbols, like crosses, without violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment,” Matter wrote in his letter to county officials. “You should know that you can reject FFRF’s demand to impose its anti-religion bias against San Jacinto County.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation calls itself a church-state watchdog and voice for “freethought,” which it defines as atheism, agnosticism and skepticism.

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Why So Many Multisite Churches in the U.S. Are Choosing to Become More Autonomous

Pastor David Chadwick was torn when he raised the question as he stepped down from Forest Hill Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, in the final weeks of winter.

“Churches all over the country are doing it with videos shown on the screen in other places,” he said in March. “Elevation (Church) is probably the primary example here in Charlotte. You know, I just began to wonder more and more — how effective is that?”

For nearly 40 years, Chadwick had led the 4,000-member, six-campus ministry which he had built from a 180-member congregation. As he ended his tenure at the church, however, Chadwick revealed he had started to have doubts about Forest Hill’s multisite model where lead pastors mainly connect with the congregation through video.

“I know I’m a good communicator … I can have people come and listen. But doesn’t a pastor need to speak to his people? I began to struggle with that,” he admitted.

At the time, said Chadwick, Forest Hill had already begun considering making each of the church’s campus pastors more autonomous.

As of 2012, multisite churches – congregations that host worship services at more than one physical location – numbered more than 5,000 in the U.S.

While Chadwick and several leaders of multisite congregations contacted by The Christian Post have declined to publicly comment on a growing discussion among the cohort on transitioning to autonomous churches, experts with knowledge of the industry say it is happening.

The popular multisite NewSpring Church in South Carolina, which struggled after founder Perry Noble was fired in 2016 for alcoholism and other failures, declined to speak about their own experience with the model.

The church’s chief communications officer, Suzanne Swift, said, however, that she is aware that “many [multisite] churches are considering” transitioning to autonomous congregations.

Concerns

Paul Marzahn, senior pastor of Crossroads Church, a multisite operation in Lakeville, Minnesota, said that he and other ministers have been studying the phenomenon for a while. He highlighted several reasons why he believes many multisite churches are looking at transitioning to autonomous churches.

“It’s a valid concern on a couple fronts. One is, some fairly large churches have had moral failures, and if you have your whole system based on one person primarily, … if that person fails then the whole system goes down,” he said, acknowledging ongoing turmoil at Willow Creek Community Church and more recently Harvest Bible Chapel in Illinois.

“There’s an economic and just kind of a practical aspect. The system is set up pretty much on a personality of one pastor who is highly effective, but if that highly effective pastor has any moral issues or even dysfunction – depression, alcoholism – it can really shut down all the campuses,” he said.

While some multisite churches, like Rick Warren’s global Saddleback Church based in California, have systems in place to deal with stressors that can affect leadership, some don’t, said Marzahn.

“I think there has been some exceptions to that. For example, Rick Warren, I know him personally. When his son committed suicide, he almost took a whole year off but he had a system in place to handle that. Not every multisite does,” Marzahn explained.

He noted too that the typical multisite church model may not always serve young church leaders well.

“At the doctoral study level, we’re talking about how do you train, raise up and even disciple the next generation of teaching pastors and effective pastors? And this kind of sidesteps that approach. It’s sort of like saying we’re not going to take the time to mentor and train and raise up other really effective communicators. We’re going to take our best communicators and just multiply that by campuses [aided] by video screens,” he said.

“Personally, I’ve tackled that one where I started with some video screen campuses and now through internship programs, mentoring and teaching, I’ve seen the value in raising up the next generation of teachers. I think Andy Stanley has been doing that too; it’s a great example of kind of having a common theme or element that all the campuses are doing but allowing the live preaching to take the major tenets of that message,” Marzahn explained.

The Minnesota leader said he believes many multisite church leaders are avoiding discussing the issue publicly because they do not want to be seen as having a problem.

“I think there is a fear factor. Organizations like that, if you’re breaking up, something’s wrong because there have been ones that have had moral failures, there have been ones who are breaking up because of a problem that they don’t want that association maybe. I think they should just be bold and say, ‘Hey, we’re thinking we’re changing our model,’” he said.

“Willow Creek came out with a survey several years ago called ‘Reveal.’ They realized that their … approach wasn’t producing disciples and they finally said, you know what? You’re right. We’re a shallow church, we need change and they just owned up to it and said our model isn’t working and so because this model isn’t producing disciples we’re going to change our model. And I think there are some campuses that aren’t producing disciples.”

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Promise Keepers to Re-Launch Men's Ministry with First Stadium Rally in 20 Years

After years of fading and stagnation, the once popular evangelical men’s ministry Promise Keepers is ushering in a “new era” with plans to host its first national stadium event in over two decades next summer in Texas.

On July 31, 2020, Promise Keepers aims to convene 80,000 people at AT&T Stadium in Dallas for the official relaunch of the national men’s gathering, which once saw hundreds of thousands from various denominational backgrounds gathered at its 1997 “Stand in the Gap” rally in Washington, D.C.

“Promise Keepers struggled. It really needed a new board and fusion of energy, a new vision,” Promise Keepers Chairman Ken Harrison said. “It has all those things now. Promise Keepers had to get back to the basics of what it was. … For Promise Keepers, we had to realize what is its brand and identity.”

For Promise Keepers, Harrison said, its identity is really as an “NFL stadium event with the greatest speakers in Christiandom coming together.”

However, he said, the organization hasn’t held a stadium event since 1998.

“[I]t went down to arenas for a while. And then it went down to churches,” Harrison explained. “Quite frankly, for the last four or five years, it's done almost nothing.”

Over the last few years, the organization has undergone a restructuring. The ministry’s founder, Bill McCartney, passed the mantle of the ministry over to Harrison in April 2018.

“The one thing I've heard so many times from literally hundreds of men is there's nothing like the sound of 70,000 men singing 'Amazing Grace' together,” said Harrison. “Guys are just completely raw and real for two days. So you can't recreate that anywhere else besides in an NFL Stadium. What we had to do is get back to who we are and do the NFL stadium event.”

In addition to the event in Dallas in 2020, Harrison says Promise Keepers plans to host annual gatherings on the last weekend in July in a different city every year.

Along with the reigniting of the Promise Keeper’s brand, the ministry will incorporate advancements in technology to modernize the ministry and help it sustain impact in the lives and families of men who attend the rallies.

According to Harrison, “it’s the difference between analog and digital.” He said Promise Keepers looks to get men “digitally integrated” — a reality that was not possible during Promise Keepers’ peak in the 1990s.

“What about when men leave the stadium and go home?” Harrison asked. “Many things were tried, but it just wasn’t possible to effectively network, encourage and strengthen men at home.”
Harrison said that one of the areas where Promise Keepers needed improve was on “follow-up.”

“So when these guys leave this mountaintop experience, we've got to be able to connect them,” he stressed. “So we're actually right now building an app and a computer platform.”

Harrison said that the platform could be used on any device. It will allow users to find “promise keepers” in their local area. The platform aims to be a resource to allow community members to plan Bible studies, fellowship gatherings, mentorships and other relationships.

“The friendless American male is a major problem in America today,” Harrison explained. “Very few men have friends that are really true friends.”

Promise Keepers promotes a complementarian view of marriage and the family, a view that is often criticized because it holds that the Bible calls for wives to “submit” to their husbands while the husbands are called to lead the family and put his wife before himself in Christ-like sacrificial love.

Promise Keepers furthers the idea that men should be servants of God who act with a sense of biblical “masculinity” — whether by laying down their lives for their wife and kids or by offering help to distressed strangers in need.

At a time when some health experts argue that traditional masculinity can be “psychologically harmful,” Harrison believes that men today are confused about what masculinity even means and how they are supposed to act. He believes that the “generations are at war with each other.”

“When I was younger, masculinity was sort of depicted by James Bond — a promiscuous man who drank a lot, didn't have any feelings. He would just kill somebody and make a witty comment and walk away,” Harrison said.

“I think the world saw the disgustingness of that depiction of masculinity. And so now its way to the other side. It's really feminism. It's taken away all the attributes that make a man a man. Satan doesn't care. He's gonna push this whichever way he can as long as you don’t know what true masculinity is.”

Harrison authored the recent book The Rise of the Servant Kings: What the Bible Says About Being a Man.

“We [Promise Keepers] tell guys that it is our responsibility to take care of those who are within our sphere of influence. So a promise keeper’s job is to be loyal to his wife and to care for her needs,” Harrison said, pointing to the call in Ephesians 5 for husbands to love their wives like Christ loved the church.

“Christ loved the church. He laid down his life for the church. He was tortured to death for her."

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Florida Teens Stranded at Sea Call Out to God, Rescued by Captain of Ship Called 'The Amen'

Two Florida teens are thanking God for their lives for being rescued after they were stranded at sea.

Tyler Smith and Heather Brown were spending the day swimming at Vilano Beach, when they realized they had drifted two miles from the shore.

Being so far from the shore, the two knew they were in danger, so they began to call out to God.

Smith told Fox 30, “I cried out, 'if you really do have a plan for us, like, come on. Just bring something.'"

The two – growing tired – proceeded to wade in the water for some time when in the distance they saw a vessel approaching.

Captain Eric Wagner of a boat called “The Amen” sailing from South Florida to New Jersey spotted the teens in the water.

Brown told Fox 30 that she took off swimming toward the boat, determined to get help.

She said, “I started swimming towards it. I was like, 'I'm going to get this boat. Just stay here. I'm going to get this boat. We are going to live.'"

Wagner and his crew were able to pull Smith and Brown out of the water.

He told Fox 30, “Over all the wind, waves, and engines, we thought we heard a desperate scream. Exhausted and near the end, the boy told me he called out for God's help. Then we showed up."

He continued, “I told them the name of the vessel, that's when they started to cry," Wagner said. "The young couple was gracious and grateful to us and to God. It was the latter all along."

Smith told Fox 30 that is was clear that God had saved them. He said, “From us crying out to God for Him to send someone for us to keep living and a boat named 'Amen,' there's no way that it wasn't Him."

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