After several vicious storms ripped through the South and Midwest, killing almost 40 people and leveling buildings, stories of survival and God’s protection have begun to emerge amid ongoing rescue efforts, reports The Christian Post. Storms left 19 people dead in Kentucky, 14 in Indiana, three in Ohio, and one each in Alabama and Georgia. The occurrences of deadly tornadoes that began Friday and continued into the weekend also affected about 17 million people from Texas to Indiana to North Carolina. Kenneth and Jeanene Jett of Kentucky learned about an approaching storm when they returned to the parsonage from an hour-long trip out of the city. Having seen a warning on television, the pastor yelled to his wife that they needed to take shelter in the basement of the church next door. Two church members who were cleaning the church and a neighbor joined them. As they ran for the basement stairs, they could see the funnel cloud approaching. “I just heard this terrific noise,” Jeanene recalled. “The windows were blowing out as I came down the stairs.” The building collapsed, but they were able to get out through a basement door. They sustained only minor injuries. Todd and Julie Money, residents of Scottsburg, Ind., are also thankful. As their house didn’t have a basement, they fled to the basement of a friend’s restaurant when a tornado struck. A school bus parked nearby was tossed several hundred yards into the side of the restaurant. “Unreal. The pressure on your body, your ears pop, trees snap,” Todd Money said. “When that bus hit the building, we thought it exploded.” Julie Money added that it was “petrifying.” “God put us here for a reason,” she said. In Henryville, Ind., the principal of an elementary school is thanking God for protecting about 40 students who couldn’t go home and prayed as twisters approached, according to CNN. “It’s a blessing. We praise God” that no one was hurt, said the principal, Glenn Riggs.
- Homeschool students in Virginia will not have the chance to participate in public school sports after the state’s Senate Education and Health Committee rejected the so-called Tebow Bill Thursday, in a 8–7 vote, reports cbn.com. Named after Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, opponents argued it would be unfair to allow students who haven’t met the school’s academic standards to play. But Sen. Stephen D. Newman, R-Lynchburg, one of the bill’s supporters, said the measure would have given local school divisions the option to allow homeschooled children to compete. “I would hope we as a committee would step out and hug these children,” Newman said. At least 15 states, including Florida, allow homeschool students to play sports at public schools. Tebow, who was homeschooled, led his team to a state title his senior year.
- An interview President Obama conducted in 2004 about his faith is getting a second look after being reposted on a popular website, reports Baptist Press, and it shows that on several major doctrinal issues—including sin, Heaven, and the gospel’s exclusivity—he steps outside historic Christianity. The one-hour interview by Cathleen Falsani was conducted when Obama was running for U.S. Senate, several months before he was introduced to the country during his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech. At the time, Falsani was a religion reporter for the Chicago-Sun Times. Although the interview formed part of a book, The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People, much of Obama’s answers were not included in it. She calls the interview the “longest and most in-depth he’s granted publicly about his faith,” and she made the transcript available at the popular Sojourners website in February. Among Obama’s most intriguing answers, he says he believes there are many paths to God. His answers on Heaven and sin, though, have drawn the most discussion: “What I believe in is that if I live my life as well as I can, that I will be rewarded. I don’t presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die. But I feel very strongly that whether the reward is in the here and now or in the hereafter, the aligning myself to my faith and my values is a good thing. When I tuck in my daughters at night and I feel like I’ve been a good father to them, and I see in them that I am transferring values that I got from my mother and that they’re kind people and that they’re honest people, and they’re curious people, that’s a little piece of heaven.” When asked about sin, Obama said it is “being out of alignment with my values.” Obama continued by saying he is a Christian but that he also draws beliefs from other religions: “So, I draw from the Christian faith. On the other hand, I was born in Hawaii where obviously there are a lot of Eastern influences. I lived in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, between the ages of six and 10. My father was from Kenya, and although he was probably most accurately labeled an agnostic, his father was Muslim. And I’d say, probably, intellectually I’ve drawn as much from Judaism as any other faith.” Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said after reading the transcript, he views Obama as being a “typical 21st century National Council of Churches, mainline Protestant.” “He certainly is someone who views the Bible as a resource, not as ultimate authority. And so he is a cafeteria Protestant. He certainly is not putting himself under the authority of Scripture.” Obama’s answer on sin, Land said, is well off target. “An orthodox Christian answer would be ‘being out of alignment with God’s values,’” Land said. “The contrast is stark.”
- A Wheaton College professor was arrested Thursday for possession of child pornography, reports The Christian Post. Police also found two unlicensed handguns and 1,600 rounds of ammunition in his home. Donald Ratcliff, 60, has been a professor of Christian Education at Wheaton since 2006. Carol Stream police found a “significant amount” of child pornography on six or seven computers in Ratcliff’s home with multiple hard drives on each computer, according to Carol Stream Detective Peter Chacon. Ratcliff has an educational background in childhood development and taught classes about children’s spirituality. He coauthored a book published in 1995 called Christian Child-Rearing and Personality Development and coauthored a chapter in the 2005 book The Handbook of Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence. He has been placed on administrative leave.
- A pro-national defense activist says the recent decision by Pennsylvania judge Mark Martin to throw out an assault charge against a Muslim man based on sharia law is the perfect illustration of why states must enact statutes banning foreign law from American jurisprudence, reports onenewsnow.com. Martin recently dismissed charges brought against an Islamic man who attacked an atheist who was marching in a Halloween parade dressed like Mohammed. Martin has been accused of basing his decision on Islamic sharia law rather than on the U.S. Constitution. Brigitte Gabriel, founder and president of ACT for America and author of They Must Be Stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can Do It, says the Pennsylvania case is hardly an isolated incident. “Actually [there are] 51 cases in American court rooms where Islamic law was considered above the Constitution of the United States,” Gabriel says, “especially in domestic law and in family law. And that’s simply unacceptable.” Her organization is spearheading a petition urging states to pass legislation called American Laws for American Courts. “We do not single out sharia law,” Gabriel says, “even though sharia law does come under the general law that we are introducing. And this is why, in the states where we passed it already—Tennessee, Arizona, and Louisiana—those laws have not been challenged because the Islamic lobby knows that the law we are introducing is so bulletproof they cannot fight it.” Gabriel says 20 states are currently looking at ALAC, and she expects six states will pass it this year.
- Many churches today have become too obsessed with youth culture, idolizing whatever is new, fresh, and cutting edge, particularly in the area of worship, says Eryn Sun in The Christian Post. Concerned that a kind of “celebrity culture” is permeating into worship, detracting from Christ and His vision for the church, three experienced worship leaders came together on The Gospel Coalition to talk about the implications of the growing phenomenon and address ways that the church could challenge those idolatries. “I see congregations where there is such an attachment to all of the entrapments of youth in America and this fundamental belief that we’re not going to get old or that we can be both old and young at the same time,” Isaac Wardell, said the worship director of Trinity Presbyterian Church. Churches are stuck in a mentality that worship had to constantly be newer, fresher, and the next best thing, oftentimes losing focus on the message of the gospel as a result. The idolatries with youth culture, which has led to the selection of young, hip, and extremely talented worship leaders, inevitably cause many congregants to feel inadequate as well, discouraging them from using their gifts because they do not feel they “looked, dressed, or sounded the part.” “It has nothing to do with a local congregation,” Mike Cosper, the pastor of worship and arts at Sojourn Community Church, noted. “It has everything to do with this machine that’s being driven in there.” Illustrating a practical example of the “machine” in question, Wardell explained how when he first came to his own church in Virginia, he found that their whole worship volunteer team was between the ages of 25 to 36, even though the congregation was made up of many different age groups. “One of the things we said right away within the first year of our church’s worship ministry was to say we’re going to actively start recruiting people to be involved with our worship program that are not in that (25–36 years old) demographic,” the Bifrost Arts director shared. The fundamental problem for worship leaders today is that many of them do not see themselves as servants of the church, bringing their gifts to serve the congregation, but as artists instead. A tension between performance and worship exists, which could only be solved by adopting the mind of a servant, Cosper added. Quoting Michael Card’s Scribbling in the Sand, a book written to artists, the Sojourn pastor said, “Artists should think of themselves as using their gifts to wash people’s feet.” “This is not about us. This is about the cross, this is about the Gospel, this is about Jesus’ blood being shed for the sake of his church and I just think when you’re pounding that table, hitting that note week after week it’s kind of hard to be walking out on that platform going ‘well how’s my hair?’” Unfortunately, those dots often do not get connected, Kevin Twit, founder of Indelible Grace Music and campus minister of Reformed University Fellowship at Belmont University, responded. “It’s possible to preach a Gospel-centered message, and yet undermine it with the songs you sing and even with the things you do in the church,” he revealed.
- A documentary video has been released by CNSNews.com that they say will “shock and stun you!” They say, “Forget everything you may have seen and heard in the mainstream media. This video dares to show that contraceptives can actually be purchased near Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C.”
- There has been a perceived bias against Christians in the media in the western world, but now it’s more than perceived, reports Mission Network News. According to the Christian Institute in the United Kingdom, the head of the BBC, Mark Thompson, says the company would never mock Mohammed like it mocks Jesus. He admitted the religious bias suggesting that mocking Mohammed might have the “emotional force” of “grotesque child pornography.” But he claims Jesus is fair game because Christianity has broad shoulders and fewer ties to ethnicity. That’s not sitting well with Christians worldwide, especially evangelist Sammy Tippit,who travels all over the world. Tippit says it’s not good to mock any religion. He says it’s a dangerous precedent. “I think the type of attitude and philosophy that’s being expressed at the BCC prepares people for persecution.”
- Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice has issued a warning that the Obama administration is targeting Tea Party people through the IRS. “Conservative Tea Party groups are made up of law-abiding citizens who care deeply about this country,” said Sekulow. “They have followed the law and requested tax-exempt status for their activities just as Americans have done for a hundred years. President Obama’s IRS appears to be using this as an opportunity to intimidate—to silence—these law-abiding citizens from exercising their fundamental First Amendment rights. These letters from the IRS ask intrusive questions about who these Tea Party groups have associated with and who they may have ‘directly or indirectly’ communicated with. The Supreme Court has been clear: These abusive tactics are not only wrong, but violate the protections found in the First Amendment guaranteeing Americans the freedom of association. We are demanding Congress provide oversight of the IRS—an important check and balance that’s needed to reign in another intrusive Obama Administration agency. “
- The federal government’s only program aimed at preventing the discarding of “extra” frozen human embryos is itself in danger of being discarded, reports conservativebyte.com. In a move that pro-lifers are calling more evidence of the Obama administration’s “pro-abortion slant,” the White House has sought to defund the Embryo Adoption Awareness Campaign in its fiscal 2013 budget. The Department of Health and Human Services “is not requesting funds for this program” because “the Embryo Adoption program will be discontinued in FY2013,” HHS officials said in a February funding report to Congress. While some observers support this move as a way to free up funds for more urgent reproductive-health concerns, supporters of embryo adoption say this is the wrong time to abandon embryos that are sometimes called “snowflake babies.”