Signs of the Times (4/7/15)

Franklin Graham Highlights Christian Persecution in Easter Message

Franklin Graham, President of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, addressed Christian persecution in his Easter Sunday message. “Today, untold millions of Christians around the world are celebrating the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And millions in many countries risk their freedom and their very lives to worship Him and claim His Name. Even under the threat of imprisonment, they faithfully follow, like pastor Saeed Abidini and scores of others,” Graham said. The church leader continued, “Despite the ever extending reach of the murderous hand of Islamist terror groups like ISIS, they continue to gather to pray as we saw in Kenya this week with 148 brutally killed in cold blood.” Graham said Christian persecution is increasingly occurring in the United States, as well. “Even in America there has recently grown an ugly, anti-Christian bias and intolerance that is changing our nation from the inside out, opening doors for all kinds of discrimination and loss of religious freedom that we hear about daily in the news,” he said.

  • Just as the Bible prophesied, end-time hostility toward Christians is rapidly escalating as ‘tolerance’ and ‘inclusiveness’ pertain to everyone except Christians

America—Then vs. Now. The Change is Almost Unbelievable

Charisma News reports that Newsweek magazine, on Dec. 27, 1982, in an article titled, “How the Bible Made America,” made this revealing statement: “Historians are discovering that the Bible, perhaps even more than the Constitution, is our Founding document.” If a proposed article for the Constitution was not supported by, or rooted in the Bible, it was not considered. In their early writings, many of the Founding Fathers quoted or referenced the Bible nearly four times more than any other source. Then: John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, said, “Unto Him who is the author and giver of all good, I render sincere and humble thanks for His manifold and unmerited blessings, and especially for our redemption and salvation by His beloved Son.” Then: Noah Webster, the Founding Father of American Scholarship and Education, said, “In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed ”

Now: Even though creation screams “Creator,” the Bible is mocked, ridiculed, and discarded. Now: Students can’t pray in the name of Jesus during school graduation ceremonies, the military is removing the cross from many base churches, and the Courts are trying to eradicate God from all areas of life. God help us! Now: Many students are criticized when they read their Bibles in public, or at school. Christianity is challenged, mocked and ridiculed while most other beliefs are accepted and embraced. Sadly, in order to be politically correct, Noah Webster’s Scripture references have been withdrawn from recent textbook editions.

  • To suggest that the universe was created by random chance and that humans came from primordial ooze, is the height of arrogance. “Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God'” (Psalm. 14:1). Charisma notes.

New York Assembly Passes Bill Allowing Atrocities against Unborn Babies

The New York state Assembly proved that promoting the best interest of women apparently includes pushing late-term abortions, reports LifeNews. In a vote of 94-49 the New York State Assembly approved passage of AB 6221 which would expand third-trimester abortions and allow non-doctors to perform abortions. The abortion bill would also allow an abortion procedure that has abortionists shooting poison through the hearts of unborn children to kill them. “Expanding cruel and brutal third-trimester abortions has long been a goal of the anti-life lobby who never met an abortion they didn’t like,” said Lori Kehoe, New York State Right to Life executive director. “With no regard for the fully developed unborn baby who is violently dismembered, or otherwise killed, the New York State Assembly once again put the abortion lobby above New York State women and their children.”

1,500 Medical Studies Declare Healing Power of Prayer Undeniable

A belief in God may make people healthier and happier, according to new studies, reports ChristianHeadlines.com. “Studies have shown prayer can prevent people from getting sick—and when they do get sick, prayer can help them get better faster,” Duke University’s Harold G. Koenig, M.D., told Newsmax Health. The analysis of more than 1,500 medical studies showed that “people who are more religious and pray more have better mental and physical health,” Koenig said. The results come from a study published in the Southern Medical Journal. “And out of 125 studies that looked at the link between health and regular worship, 85 showed regular churchgoers live longer,” said Koenig, director of Duke’s Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health.” Researcher and writer Tom Knox agreed with the findings. Knox was an atheist who became a Christian after studying faith and medicine. “What I discovered astonished me,” Knox said. “Over the past 30 years a growing and largely unnoticed body of scientific work shows religious belief is medically, socially, and psychologically beneficial.”

Obama Admits Iran will Eventually Produce Nuclear Weapons

Retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden was among many slamming the Obama administration’s framework for a nuclear deal with Iran telling Newsmax that it turns Tehran into an “industrial-strength nuclear state” that could have its own weapon within a year. Gary Bauer, president of the nonprofit American Values and a staunch supporter of Israel, said, “It’s time to start dealing with Iran’s expansionary activities throughout the Middle East over the last six years rather than worrying about a deal that won’t accomplish its main goal,” he told OneNewsNow. Bauer believes that not only have the last two years of negotiations brought little progress, “the Iranian government appears to have gotten everything that matters. It’s a foreign policy disaster in the making.”

President Obama admitted Tuesday in a broadcast interview that his nuclear agreement with Iran only delays Tehran from eventually acquiring a weapon, which could come immediately after Year 13 of the agreement — leaving the problem for future presidents. Obama made the comments about Tehran’s so-called “breakout time” in an interview with NPR News that aired Tuesday morning. The president was attempting to answer the charge that the deal framework agreed upon by the U.S., Iran, and five other nations last week fails to eliminate the risk of Iran getting a nuclear weapon because it allows Tehran to keep enriching uranium. Obama said that Iran would be capped for a decade at 300 kilograms of uranium — not enough to convert to a stockpile of weapons-grade material. The stark admission — after his energy secretary even claimed the deal was a “forever agreement” — came as the president seeks to quiet a growing chorus questioning whether the deal he and world leaders have negotiated merely delays the certainty of a nuclear-armed Iran.

  • The truth sometimes seeps out from this ‘transparent’ administration when the President forgets to use his teleprompter

Disagreements Emerge over Terms of Iran Nuclear Deal

Four days after a framework agreement was announced in Lausanne Switzerland, sharp disagreements about key details have emerged, including diametrically opposed narratives between Iran and the US about the lifting of economic and political sanctions. Iranian officials are saying the agreement called for all sanctions to be lifted immediately, whereas the White House is saying the sanctions will be “phased out” only gradually in response to demonstrated Iranian compliance with the terms of the agreement. The US also insists on a mechanism to re-instate sanctions should Iran violate any of the terms, a clause Iran flatly rejects and Russia is also opposed to unless it is done through consultations at the UN Security Council.

Obama’s “Light Footprint” Approach to Counterterrorism Fails

President Obama has cited the battle against al-Shabab militants in Somalia as a model of success for his relatively low-investment, light-footprint approach to counterterrorism, reports the Washington Post. By some measures, it has paid dividends. U.S. drones have killed several of the Islamist group’s leaders, including two top planners in just the past month, a senior administration official said Friday. African Union troops backed by the United States have forced al-Shabab fighters to flee huge swaths of territory. But this week’s massacre of 148 people at Garissa University College, the deadliest terrorist attack on Kenyan soil in two decades, demonstrates the limits of the administration’s approach and the difficulty of producing lasting victories over resilient enemies. Only last fall, Obama was touting his counterterrorism strategy in the region as one that “we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.” The collapse of the American-backed government in Yemen forced the Pentagon last month to pull its Special Operations forces from the country.

  • Obama’s overall soft approach to Islamic terrorism has aided and abetted the enemy and given rise to the Islamic State

Obama, Congress on Collision Course over Iran Nuke Deal

President Obama appealed to lawmakers to reconsider contentious legislation giving Congress a say on an Iran nuclear deal, as the co-author of the bill vowed to hold a key vote next week. In an interview published Sunday, Obama said the newly agreed framework of a nuclear deal with Iran represented a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to prevent Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and move toward stabilizing the Middle East. Obama cautioned there are many details that still need to be worked out with the Iranians and there would be “real political difficulties” in implementing an agreement in both countries. The so-called P5+1 nations — the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — have until June 30 to agree on all the details of a final deal with Iran. But the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in an interview with “Fox News Sunday,” said Congress would exercise its “rightful role” to scrutinize and approve any agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting international sanctions.

Number of ‘Food Insecure’ Children Rising

More than half of students in public schools — 51% — were in low-income families in 2013, according to a study by the Southern Education Foundation. The number of low-income children in public schools has been steadily rising over the past several decades. In 1989, only 32% of children in public schools lived in poverty, the foundation says. Nationwide, one in five households with children are considered food insecure, which means people in the household are at risk of going hungry or missing meals or don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

Schools Becoming the ‘Last Frontier’ for Hungry Children

America’s schools are no longer just a place for students to learn their ABCs. More states are providing after-school meals in communities where at least half the children qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. A federal program covering dinner at school expanded to all states in 2010. Before that, only 13 states and the District of Columbia could provide dinner. The rest could offer only after-school snacks such as peanuts and popcorn. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs the program, estimates that 108 million after-school meals were served in fiscal year 2014, up from 81 million in fiscal year 2013. In addition, schools are opening permanent or mobile food pantries. Last year, 1,141 schools ran food pantries on their grounds, up from 834 the year before, says Feeding America, which runs 200 food banks across the country. Food banks are the warehouse operations that provide food to pantries. And more than a third of teachers, 37%, buy food more than once a month for students, according to a 2015 report by advocacy group No Kid Hungry. On average, teachers spend $35 a month to keep food in their classrooms for hungry children.

Economic News

The number of Americans 16 years and older who did not participate in the labor force–meaning they neither had a job nor actively sought one in the last four weeks–rose from 92,898,000 in February to 93,175,000 in March, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is the first time the number of Americans out of the labor force has exceeded 93 million. Also from February to March, the labor force participation rate dropped from 62.8 percent to 62.7 percent, matching a 37-year low.

  • The government’s unemployment rate severely understates the employment problem, ignoring those who’ve given up trying to find a job in its calculations. And many of those who have found jobs did so by accepting part-time employment or jobs with lower pay.

Getting paid $10-an-hour is a welcome lift for Walmart (WMT) and McDonald’s (MCD) workers. But the 13 CEOs of a group of well-known retailers and restaurants haul in an average $5,859 an hour according to a USA TODAY analysis. The biggest CEO payout goes to the co-CEOs of Chipotle Mexican Grill who pulled down more than $13,000 an hour apiece. Compare that with the average $9.15 an hour paid to Chipotle crew members, according to Glassdoor.com.

Islamic State

Mass graves believed to hold Iraqi up to 1700 soldiers have been discovered in newly liberated Tikrit. ISIS claimed to have executed that many soldiers captured in June outside Camp Speicher, a fortified Iraqi base near Tikrit. Iraqi soldiers and Shiite militias retook Tikrit a few days ago after a fierce battle.

Newsweek magazine examined the atrocities committed against Syrian Christians in its most recent cover story. In the piece, “The New Exodus: Christians Flee ISIS in the Middle East,” writers Janine Di Giovanni and Conor Gaffey looked in-depth into where the mass exodus from the region began, and how Christians are surviving now. Newsweek reports that 4 million Syrian refugees have been uprooted from their homes and now live in Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. An addition 6.5 million have been displaced internally. A report by the Center for American Progress said, “Some of the oldest Christian communities in the world are disappearing in the very lands where their faith was born and first took root. Christians have migrated from the region in increasing numbers, which is part of a longer-term exodus related to violence, persecution, and lack of economic opportunities stretching back decades.”

Iran

Eight Iranian border guards have been killed in clashes with unidentified militants near the border with Pakistan, Iranian state media reported. Three of the militants who crossed into the country from Pakistan were killed by Iranian forces in the fighting Monday. Southeastern Iran borders the restive Pakistani province of Balochistan, where a number of terrorist groups are active. Some militants from Sunni-majority Pakistan have carried out attacks across the border in Shiite-dominated Iran.

Yemen

The Saudi-led coalition smashed parts of Yemen’s Defense Ministry Central Command in the capital over the weekend, senior Yemeni officials said. Under the rain of coalition bombs, the Houthis, who are Shiites in a majority Sunni country, still control Sanaa, the capital. The electricity has gone out on 16 million Yemenis living in Houthi-held areas, the Yemeni officials said. Many fear they will lose access to clean water as well. But the airstrikes have hurt them and destroyed a lot of infrastructure. Since the bombing campaign and intense fighting began just over a week ago, some 600 people are estimated to have been killed. Many more have been wounded, and tens of thousands have fled the country. Yemeni officials said Saudi airstrikes targeting a military base on Tuesday hit a nearby school, injuring at least a half dozen students. Al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate is expanding its footprint amid the chaos in the country and now providing guidance to the Somalia terror group that claimed responsibility for last week’s deadly terror attack at a university, an intelligence source told Fox News.

Kenya

Kenyan jets blasted two Islamic militant camps across the border in Somalia on Monday in retaliation for a terror attack in Kenya last week that killed 148 people, Kenyan military officials said. No casualty reports related to the airstrikes were immediately released. The Somalia-based al-Shabab militant group has taken responsibility for the attack Thursday at Garrissa University College. “We bombed two Shabab camps in the Gedo region,” Kenyan army spokesman David Obonyo told AFP. “The two targets were hit and taken out, the two camps are destroyed.” Also Monday, Garissa Township MP and National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale called for closure of Somali refugee camps in Kenya, saying they were being used to plan attacks against Kenya. More than 300,000 Somalis live in the camps, which Duale told the Daily Nation have become centers for assembling and training of terror networks. Duale said the United Nations refugee agency can relocate the camps across the border.

Venezuela

President Obama declared Venezuela a “national security threat” and hit the country with economic sanctions last month. In response, And so, President Nicolas Maduro is drumming up a petition, to be signed by Venezuelans opposed to the measure, to hand Obama in person at the Summit of the Americas in Panama April 10-11. The man handpicked by the late Hugo Chavez to continue his “Bolivarian” socialist revolution claimed to already have 6.2 million signatures. But for Maduro, with an approval rating of just 22%, that sounds like an exaggeration representing one out of five Venezuelans, including children.

Weather

The historic California drought hurts the rest of the nation as well. That’s because California is a significant breadbasket to the nation, growing more than a third of its vegetables and nearly two-thirds of its fruits and nuts. While not as bad as California, Texas and Oklahoma are also seeing extreme and exceptional drought — the two worst categories — in several parts of their states, the U.S. Drought Monitor said this week. As a result, consumers paid a whopping extra 12.1% for beef and veal in 2014, the USDA reports. Farmers are drilling wells at a feverish pace and pumping billions of gallons of water from the ground, depleting a resource that was critically endangered even before the drought, now in its fourth year, began, reports the New York Times.

A change in the weather pattern will bring rain and snow to the northwest early this week. The jet stream has now shifted with a trough, or a large southward dip in the jet stream, moving into the West. This will allow rain and snow to continue along the northern West Coast the next few days. Rainfall, however, will generally be light and won’t be of much help to the ongoing California drought.

Separate tropical storms that have swept through parts of Bangladesh have left at least 36 people dead and scores injured. The storms have also uprooted trees, damaged electricity distribution lines, while hundreds of homes, shops and schools have been flattened in parts of the South Asian nation.

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