Signs of the Times (2/20/15)

Signs of the Times

More Churches Caving to Gay Agenda

There’s been a mass exodus of Bible-believing congregations from the Presbyterian Church USA since the denomination voted to allow its ministers to perform gay weddings in states where it’s legal last summer. Apparently, the Methodists aren’t getting the hint. The United Methodist Church could have openly gay pastors and pastors could officiate at same-sex marriages if a proposal affirmed by denomination leadership prevails, according to Charisma News. A United Methodist body of clergy and lay people that acts as a church counsel for the denomination is working to draft legislation that could serve as a “Third Way” in the church’s debate about homosexuality. The group has already voted to remove language that makes it a “chargeable offense” under church law for pastors to be “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” or to officiate at same-sex weddings, according to the report.

Author and former lead pastor of Michigan’s Mars Hill Bible Church Rob Bell reportedly said he believes the church is “moments away” from embracing same-sex marriage in an interview with Oprah. Bell was being interviewed alongside his wife Kristen to talk about their new book “The Zimzum of Love: A New Way of Understanding Marriage.” Bell also said that he thought churches would “continue to be even more irrelevant” if it continues to reject homosexuality. He stated his position saying, “I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed.”

  • The gay agenda is a key end-time marker of the “falling away” (2Thessalonians 2:3) and the decline in morality (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

Islamic Indoctrination Taking Place in American Schools

America’s schools, students, and faculty are being indoctrinated with so-called “diversity training” materials put out by Islamists at an alarming rate. In some cases, revisionist history is being used to assert that there have been positive Muslim influences on all societies for hundreds of years, reports Liberty Counsel. Citizens for National Security released a scathing report revealing that at least 30 public school textbooks just in the state of Florida contain instances of bias, inaccuracies, and “purposeful omissions”—all favoring Islam over Christianity and Judaism. One father of a Florida high school student recently revealed that a chapter entitled, “The Rise of Islam” makes this reference, “There is no god, but God. Muhammad is the messenger of God”Parents are reporting many incidents of Islamic indoctrination in our schools, including a Colorado high school compelling its students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic in February 2013. In this shocking incident, students replaced “one nation under God” with “one nation under Allah.” A high school in Maryland has now made concessions to allow Muslim students to pray on campus during specified times. Ironically, this same school system is among those which are hostile toward school prayer by Christians.

School Recants and says ‘God Bless America’ Not Unconstitutional

The Florida high school that told a student not to say “God bless America” during morning announcements said this week that the student did not violate the U.S. Constitution. “Upon consultation with legal counsel and review of legal advisories, the Nassau County School District has taken the position that a student’s use of the phrase “God Bless America” during the morning announcements at Yulee High School does not violate the Constitution of the United States,” the school district said in a statement. However, the student will still have to remain on-script during announcements. The unidentified student has not been named, and according to school officials, he was not punished.

  • And the script, of course, will not contain the phrase “God bless America” as our secular indoctrination centers continue to remove any trace of the Judeo-Christian God from the public school system

Obama Defends Soft Approach to Extremism

President Obama defended his administration’s approach to the terror threat at a White House summit Wednesday, standing by claims that groups like the Islamic State do not represent Islam — as well as assertions that job creation could help combat extremism. Obama, addressing the Washington audience on the second day of the summit, said the international community needs to address “grievances” that terrorists exploit, including economic and political issues. He also said no single religion was responsible for violence and terrorism, adding he wants to lift up the voice of tolerance in the United States and beyond. Obama’s statement came as Republican lawmakers and others criticized the administration for declining to describe the threat as Islamic terrorism. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf has also come under fire for suggesting several times this past week that more jobs could help address the terrorism crisis.

  • The failure to identify Islam as the basis for extremist terrorism several years ago has helped pave the way for the creation of the Islamic State

Judge Orders Halt to Obama Immigration Plan

A federal judge in Texas has ordered a halt, at least temporarily, to President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, siding with Texas and 25 other states that filed a lawsuit opposing the initiatives. In an order filed on Monday, the judge, Andrew S. Hanen of Federal District Court in Brownsville, prohibited the Obama administration from carrying out programs the president announced in November that would offer protection from deportation and work permits to as many as five million undocumented immigrants. The immediate impact of the ruling is that up to 270,000 undocumented immigrants nationwide who came to the United States as children will not be able to apply for deportation protection under an expansion of an existing executive program. A larger new program is scheduled to begin in May.

Super-Sneaky Malware Found in Company Computers Worldwide

A shadowy hacking group has infected computers at companies, universities and governments worldwide with the sneakiest malware ever. That’s according to a report Monday by Internet security company, Kaspersky, which described a hacking campaign “that exceeds anything we have ever seen before.” The mysterious group, which researchers nicknamed “the Equation group,” uses malware that’s unusually quiet, complex and powerful. It planted spyware on computers’ firmware, the programming that lives permanently on hardware. It’s an unheard-of move that means the malware can avoid detection by antivirus software. Reinstalling a computer’s operating system or reformatting the hard disk won’t even fix the problem. The Equation group uses a hacking tool called “GROK.” That’s a tool used exclusively by the NSA’s elite cyber-warfare unit. The Kaspersky report is the latest to depict a world engaged in constant cyber espionage.

Whites have 12 Times the Wealth of Blacks

The typical white family had accumulated more than $134,200 in wealth in 2013, while black families scraped together a little more than $11,000 and Hispanic families $13,700, according to a new Urban Institute report. Whites now have 12 times the wealth of blacks and nearly 10 times more than Hispanics. In 1995, the spread was only 7 times for blacks and 6 times for Hispanics. Blacks and Hispanics are less likely to be homeowners or participate in retirement accounts, which build wealth. And the earnings gap between the races makes it harder for blacks and Hispanics to save.

California’s Oranges are Rotting on the Docks

California’s famous navel oranges and Washington’s apples are rotting in the hot L.A. sun on port docks. Meanwhile, Japanese electronics and Chinese clothing items are bobbing in the ocean within view of the shore. The Pacific Maritime Association has accused the International Longshore Workers union of creating a work slowdown that has turned harbors into parking lots and shipping containers into putrid garbage bins. Negotiations between the management of twenty-nine West Coast ports and the longshore union began when the contract for around 20,000 port workers expired in July. Honda said on Monday it would stop or reduce production at six facilities over the next week because of parts shortages. Toyota and Subaru also said they would modify their operations. Among the largest exports from these ports are meat and dairy products, followed by other foods like produce and canned foods. The North American Meat Institute said its industry is losing $85 million every week.

Economic News

The U.S. government reported a big drop in unemployment claims last week. The total was 283,000, a drop of 21,000 from the previous week’s total of 304,000. The government said the four-week moving average was 283,250, a decrease of 6,500.

U.S. homebuilders slowed the pace of construction in January, breaking ground on fewer single-family houses ahead of the spring buying season. Housing starts slipped 2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.07 million last month, down from 1.09 million in December, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Leading that decline was a sharp 6.7% monthly drop in starts for single-family houses. Single-family starts had climbed 18.7 percent over the past 12 months. However, apartment construction surged 12.1% in January and 24.5% over the past 12 months with Millennials leaving the nest once again. Employers are adding workers at an annual clip of 2.3%, the fastest rate in the more than five-year recovery from the Great Recession. The improving labor market is expected to trigger greater demand to buy homes, boosting prices and then causing builders to ramp up construction.

Investors often see gold as a safe haven when inflation looms or when the value of the dollar tumbles on international currency markets. But inflation clocked in at 0.8% in December, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s including the volatile food and energy components. Without food and energy, the CPI rose 1.6% in December. More troubling for gold, however, is the relentless march upward by the U.S. dollar. A euro now costs $1.14, according to FactSet, down from $1.21 at the start of 2015 and $1.38 a year earlier. Worries about a Greek default and war in the Ukraine have only pushed the dollar higher — and gold lower. The 10-year U.S. Treasury bond currently yields 2.09%, vs. 0.34% in Germany and 0.39% in Japan. Higher rates draw money to the U.S., which props up the dollar and drives down gold.

Debt-strapped Greece still doesn’t have a deal with its creditors after talks broke down Monday. An abrupt end to talks Monday between Greek’s new government and eurozone finance ministers hasn’t sparked a catastrophic reaction in global financial markets. It appears that investors around the world still are hopeful that both sides will eventually seal a deal and avoid negative outcomes such as a Greece default and an exit from the eurozone. Both sides are expected to continue talking in hopes of ending the impasse. Debt-strapped Greece and its European creditors on Friday sought to bridge major differences over Athens’ request for a six-month loan extension that might keep it from falling out of the euro.

Persecution Watch

A Washington woman who refused to make flower arrangements for a gay wedding in 2013 has been found guilty of discrimination. Christian Today reports that Barronelle Stutzman, who operated Arlene’s Flowers, refused to provide the floral arrangements for Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed’s wedding because her Christian beliefs prevented her from doing so in good conscience. After two years of legal proceedings, Stutzman was found guilty of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Stutzman will be likely fined, though the damages sought by the couple will be determined at a later date. Legal group Alliance Defending Freedom represented Stutzman in the suit; a statement from the group said that the attorneys intend to appeal the court’s decision. Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Kristen Waggoner said in a statement, “You put your home, your family business, and your life savings at risk by daring to defy a government mandate that forces you to promote views you believe are wrong.”

A truck driver claims he was fired for writing Jesus was his co-driver. Ramiro Olivarez wrote “Jesus” as his co-driver in all his log books because the books only require, “driver’s full signature and then just a co-driver name. It says nothing about a signature, just a name,” he told KRGV. Olivarez filled it in with the name of man he knew was always with him, and his trucking company is now saying he was falsifying his records. Olivarez’s termination letter says he was told to stop “submitting incomplete documentation and falsifying legal documents,” and that writing in Jesus’ name as co-driver violates both Texas and federal trucking regulations.

Islamic State

ISIS is under pressure in parts of Iraq and battling a variety of adversaries in Syria, but it’s metastasizing at warp speed elsewhere, most dangerously in Egypt and Libya. Since exploding onto the world stage as a conquering force in Iraq a year ago, the Islamic State has expanded its reach across the Middle East despite a U.S.-led bombing campaign that has killed thousands of militants and destroyed tons of their equipment. Signs of the influence of the Islamic State have emerged throughout the Middle East. Some extremists in the Sinai, where militants battle the Egyptian government, have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State. Groups affiliated with the militant organization have popped up in Algeria and Tunisia. It also has support in Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The perception is that the Islamic State is the closest thing jihadists have to actual success. The group’s model for expansion is simple. It makes no effort to impose central control over far-flung affiliates. That allows the Islamic State to take credit for expansion and gives affiliates the clout that comes with their ties to a jihadist group on the rise.

Anbar provincial council chairman Sabah Karkhout said he was advised by his field commanders near the al-Baghdadi front line that ISIS militants killed at least 45 Iraqi police officers and tribesman, and that most of the victims were burned alive. ISIS seized control of most of the town last week. It’s located just nine miles north of the Ayn al-Asad airbase, where some 400 U.S. military personnel are stationed to train Iraqi pilots in the fight against ISIS. The teachings and beliefs of radical Islam have always been severe, but the Islamic State militant group shocked the world again with reports that they poured acid on the faces of 15 women for not properly wearing the niqab, a hijab which covers the entire face except for the eyes.


New images released online Wednesday show large numbers of Islamic State militants patrolling streets in the Libyan city of Sirte. Kalashnikov-wielding fighters in beige fatigues, their faces covered in black balaclavas, ride in a convoy of pick-ups trucks waving the group’s black flags. The images are clearly aimed as a show of force — an announcement that the Islamic State is now a power in Libya. The release comes one day after a similar attention-grabbing move: a mass beheading of 20 Egyptians near Sirte. Islamic State operatives are believed to have arrived in Libya as early as last summer — around the same time the group’s fighters overran a large part of northern Iraq in a sweeping offensive, a security official told The Wall Street Journal.


Ukrainian government troops and Russia-backed separatists failed to start pulling back heavy weaponry from the front line in eastern Ukraine as the deadline to do so passed. Under a cease-fire agreement deal brokered Thursday in Minsk, Belarus, among the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany, the warring sides were to begin withdrawing heavy weapons from the front line on Tuesday. The strategic railway hub of Debaltseve in eastern Ukraine fell to Russia-backed separatists Wednesday after weeks of fighting. The strategic railway hub of Debaltseve in eastern Ukraine fell to Russia-backed separatists Wednesday after weeks of fighting. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on his official Twitter account earlier that the Ukrainian army withdrew 80% of its troops and two more columns were yet to leave. Separatist rebels fired on Ukrainian positions nearly 50 times in the past 24 hours and Russia is sending more tanks into Ukraine despite a cease-fire that was supposed to take effect five days ago, a Ukrainian military spokesman said Friday.


A suicide bomber trying to enter a police complex in eastern Pakistan killed five people Tuesday, officials said, in a rare attack on the relatively peaceful city of Lahore. Initial reports suggested a man on foot ran toward the gate of one of the main police buildings in Lahore and blew himself up. The city is the power base of Pakistan’s prime minister. The bombing claimed by a Pakistani Taliban splinter group further destabilizes a country already struggling to deal with its militancy problems following the assault on a school in December that killed 150 people and horrified the country.


Iranian President Hassan Rouhani underlined that the country doesn’t take permission from anyone to make progress in different scientific and technological fields, and said Tehran has accelerated its peaceful nuclear activities. ‘We have made highly important progress in the nuclear field, but the negotiations receive so much attraction and hue and cry that they overshadow these activities, otherwise, we are running at a higher speed,’ Rouhani said, addressing a ceremony to commemorate the space technology day in Iran on Tuesday. He underscored the country’s progress in different aerospace, genetics, medical and other scientific fields, and said, ‘We don’t and will not take permission from anyone to make progress in science and knowledge.’ He referred to the enemies’ attempts to seek excuses to pressure Iran and block the country’s scientific development, and said his government is and will continue efforts to defuse the enemies’ plots and show that their excuses and allegations are baseless.”


Rebels in Syria have captured 32 soldiers and pro-government gunmen near the northern city of Aleppo, where fighting is raging as the two sides try to grab new territory ahead of a possible truce. More than 170 fighters have been killed from both sides in the clashes, according to the Observatory. The fighting comes as U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura is trying to broker a truce for war-ravaged Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. On Tuesday he said in New York that Syrian President Bashar Assad has expressed willingness to suspend bombing of Aleppo for six weeks.


One suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into the gate of a hotel in Somalia’s capital, and another went through the gates and blew himself up, killing at least four people on Friday, including the mayor and a legislator, officials said. The country’s deputy prime minister was also among those wounded by the bombings at the Central Hotel near the presidential palace. Al-Shabab, an Islamic insurgent group, claimed the responsibility for the attack.


UCLA reported Wednesday that nearly 180 patients were exposed to a potentially deadly “superbug” on contaminated medical instruments that infected seven patients and may have contributed to two deaths. A total of 179 patients at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center were exposed to antibiotic-resistant carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, during endoscopic procedures between October and January, the university said in a statement. Similar outbreaks of CRE have been reported around the nation. They are difficult to treat because some varieties are resistant to most known antibiotics. By one estimate, CRE can contribute to death in up to half of seriously infected patients.


Japan has issued a tsunami advisory after a magnitude-6.9 earthquake struck off its northeastern coast. The quake struck shortly after 8 a.m. Japan time Tuesday at a depth of about 6 miles. The Japan Meteorological Agency issued an advisory for a possible 3-foot tsunami. Japanese broadcaster NHK warned people to stay away from the shore. The earthquake struck in the same region hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.


Winter Storm Octavia dealt a hard blow to the South Monday, leaving hundreds of thousands without power and killing four people due to its icy blast. Tuesday, as residents cleaned up from the mess left behind, they had to deal with brutally cold temperatures invading some of the hardest-hit areas. From widespread snow in Kentucky to icing in Tennessee, north Georgia, northern South Carolina and North Carolina, travel conditions across the south were treacherous Tuesday morning. In Middle Tennessee, temperatures didn’t rise above freezing on Tuesday. Several Alabama schools announced Friday closures or delayed starts due to the bitter cold weather

Wednesday highs were up to 30 degrees below average in the Midwest, with highs mainly in the single digits and teens. In fact, Minneapolis topped out at just 2 degrees Wednesday. Daily record lows were set in several cities on Thursday morning. Lows in the single digits were recorded as far south as northern Georgia and northern Alabama. Widespread subzero lows were reported as far south as Kentucky and Tennessee. Georgia cities shattered record cold temperatures for the state Thursday, including Atlanta, Athens, Columbus and Macon. Hypothermia killed at least seven people as the arctic blast pushed through the Central and Eastern parts of the nation.

Winter Storm Octavia hit states along the Eastern seaboard starting through the night Monday and into Tuesday. A snow emergency went into effect in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday at 7 a.m. and federal offices were closed for all non-essential workers. D.C. public schools were closed as well. A state of emergency was declared in Tennessee, where emergency officials have asked the National Guard to deploy a 10-person crew with Humvees to check on stranded motorists. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency says motorists were backed up on Interstate 40 and part of I-24 was closed due to an earlier backup. The agency said that 55,000 people were without power late Monday.

While it’s been a rough winter so far for people in the north-central and northeastern U.S., both December and January were actually warmer than average across the country overall. The U.S. is having its sixth-warmest winter on record, according to data from the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), which has records back to 1895.

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