Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
(2 Corinithians 5:17)
Become New

Become a New Creature in Christ

Grace plus faith plus nothing.—That’s salvation. You don’t have to be good to get saved, and you don’t have to be good to stay saved. But this does not mean that you can just live as you please once you are saved. If you are really a Christian you will always be saved, but if you commit sins against the Lord and others which are unconfessed, unrepented of, and not made right, you will suffer for them in some way, “for whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.”1 But even if you are disobedient at times and are chastened by the Lord for your sins, if you are saved, you’ll always be saved.

When, as a young Christian, I read John 3:36, that ended all my worries. “He that hath the Son hath everlasting life.” That was it. I knew I had Jesus, and I knew He didn’t keep popping in and out of my heart. He was there all the time. He says, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”2 He says, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee,”3 and “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.”4

So thank the Lord that we can be saved and know it. And of course, if you really are, you’ll show it too. You’ll no longer be like everybody else in the world; you’ll be different. You’ll be a “new creature in Christ Jesus; old things will be passed away, and all things will become new.”5 There’ll be a change, a real change.

Jesus coming into your life not only renews and purifies and regenerates your spirit, but it also renews your mind, breaking old connections and reflexes and gradually rebuilding and rewiring you into a whole new computer system with an utterly different outlook on life, a new way of looking at the world, and with new reactions to nearly everything around you.

It’s impossible for men to really change themselves, but it’s possible for God to change anyone. And when Jesus comes into your heart, everything is changed. You are a new person.

If you are genuinely saved, born again, a new creature in Christ Jesus, old things are passed away and all things are become new. And if you “abide in Him and He abides in you, then you shall bring forth fruit.”6 If you are genuinely saved, if you are genuinely born again, if you have God in your heart, if you have salvation, if you have Jesus, you’re a new creature and you will be different.

So expect things to be different. Not totally different perhaps, as you’re still human. But you’ll find a change in your spirit, in your thoughts, in your heart and in your direction. You’ll be happy and overflowing with love. Because if you have Jesus, you have love. For “God is love.”7

Do you have Jesus? Have you taken Him into your heart and been born again by His Spirit? Are you truly changed, a new person, a new creature, one in which old things have passed away and all things have become new? You don’t have to walk down to an altar; you don’t have to stand up, sit down, turn over, or stand on your head. It has nothing to do with the position of your body. It’s all in how you position your heart. If your heart is humble before God and you know you’re a sinner and need His help, all you have to do is ask Him into your heart.

Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.”8 Salvation is so powerful, but God will not force it on you. His love is all-powerful, but He won’t make you receive it. Jesus knocks at the door; He doesn’t kick it in. He could break it down or pulverize it with one look, but He refuses to force His way into your heart.

He simply asks to come in, and you have to invite Him. That is the limitation He has set and the condition He requires. You have to let Him come in, but if you won’t invite Him willingly, He won’t force His way in.

He wants to save you, but He can’t do it unless you want Him to. You have to ask Him to come in. Gentle Jesus stands there, meek and mild, in loving patience, and perhaps has been for years, waiting at your heart’s door—knocking again and again by His Word, by His love, perhaps by some sad incident or the parting of a loved one, a death or sickness or pain.

But God has left the majesty of choice up to you as an individual, and nobody can ever force you to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. You alone can make that choice, if and when you want to. He certainly wants to be your Savior and He will come in, just as soon as you ask Him. But you must make the decision. He’s left that choice up to you.

Do you have Jesus in your heart? Then you are saved forever and bound for heaven and will never be lost. Are you saved? If you’re not sure, make sure right now and receive Him personally as your own Lord and Savior by sincerely praying this simple prayer:

Lord Jesus, please forgive me for all my sins. I believe You died for me. I believe You are the Son of God, and I now ask You to come into my life. I open the door and I invite You into my heart. Jesus, please come in and help me to love others and tell them about You, that they may find You too. Help me to read Your Word and understand it by Your Spirit. In Your name I ask. Amen.”

If you pray this prayer and mean it, Jesus will come in. Jesus promised that if you open the door to your heart, if you ask Him to come in, He will come in. Period.

True salvation is based on pure faith in God’s Word, not faith in feelings. Your feelings may change from day to day—sometimes good, sometimes bad—but the Bible, God’s Word, never changes. So put your faith in His Word, for “faith comes by hearing the Word of God.”9 The Bible is definite, so no matter how you feel, if you ask Jesus to come in, He comes in, because He promised He would.

Of course, being born again, receiving Jesus, will result in a change in your life, as you show your faith by your works.10 But it is not necessarily always manifested at the moment by a big emotional feeling or outward show—although it sometimes is. But regardless of your feelings, God’s Word is always the same and Jesus will always come in when asked.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”11 God bless you with His love and salvation—now and forever. By David Brandt Berg

Originally published March 1984. Adapted and republished March 2016.

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INDEPENDENT

Scientific paper which says the human hand was designed by a 'Creator' sparks controversy

The paper's perceived references to intelligent design have provoked anger and calls for a boycott of the journal

Doug Bolton

@DougieBolton

Thursday 3 March 2016

The language of the paper references a 'Creator', which some saw as an endorsement of intelligent design Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

A recent scientific paper on the movement of the human hand has faced strong criticism for referring to a 'Creator' throughout.

The paper, titled: 'Biomechanical characteristics of hand coordination in grasping activities of daily living' was written by a team of four researchers, three from Huazhong University in China, and one from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts.

Published in the PLOS ONE journal, the fairly conventional study looked at the mechanics of how we grasp things, and involved the measurement of the hand movements of 30 participants.

However, members of the scientific community have demanded the paper be retracted, for its several perceived references to the pseudoscientific theory of intelligent design and a possibly divine 'Creator'.

In the opening sentences of the study, it claims the link between muscles and hand movements is the product of "proper design by the Creator."

Later, it says human hand coordination "should indicate the mystery of the Creator's invention," and concludes by again claiming the mechanical architecture of the hand is the result of "proper design by the Creator."

Naturally, the multiple references to intelligent design in a reputable journal like PLOS ONE have stoked anger in the scientific community, and many people, including researchers who work as editors for the publication, are now calling for it to be retracted.

The paper's authors appeared to acknowledge their mistakes in the comments section, saying the references to the 'Creator' were down to translation errors rather than a belief in intelligent design.

Other comments on the paper called its publication "unacceptable", and criticised the "sloppy job" done by the reviewers and editors. Some scientists said the journal should be boycotted unless amends are made.

WND

FRANKLIN GRAHAM RIPS 'WICKED AND FILTHY' TRANSGENDER ORDINANCE

Privacy blown to 'smithereens' in evangelistic association's hometown

Published: March 5, 2016

BOB UNRUH

A state lawmaker in North Carolina is warning that the city of Charlotte has blown privacy to “smithereens” and the speaker of the state House says there’s support for a special legislative session to correct that.

The fight is over the recent vote by council members in Charlotte, where the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is headquartered, that will allow “people to use the bathroom of their choice.”

The issue has played out in several other major venues across the U.S., most recently in Houston, where voters rejected out of hand a lesbian mayor’s imposition of the same transgender protection plan.

Charlotte’s adoption of the idea even drew the wrath of renowned Christian leader Franklin Graham, chief of Samaritan’s Purse and the BGEA.

“It’s not over though,” he reported on his Facebook page. “North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has been clear that this is a bad policy and said if the city passed it, immediate legislative action would likely be taken by the state.”

Graham wrote, “I hope they will take swift action to strike down this dangerous ordinance or bring it to a referendum for voters to decide. If this were put to a vote in Charlotte, I’m sure it would be overwhelmingly defeated by Democrats and Republicans alike.”

The ordinance means homosexuals and transgenders get legal permission, and, in fact, legal protection, for a man who says he feels like he’s a woman to be allowed to use a women’s restroom or locker room facility, even if it violates the privacy of women or young girls who also may be there.

In a report at NPR’s WFAE, House Speaker Tim Moore suggested an immediate legislative session to derail Charlotte’s plan, citing the imminent danger to public safety.

“Folks should have some sense of privacy when they go to the restroom, and this ordinance just blows that to smithereens,” Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Buck Newton told the station.

The change is to take effect April 1 and the General Assembly is set to meet starting April 25.

“Shame on Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts and the city council members,” Franklin wrote then. He said the ordinance “would allow people to use the bathroom of their choice, not based on their biological sex.”

He praised council members Ed Driggs, Claire Fallon, Greg Phipps and Kenny Smith “for having the courage to do the right thing and vote NO.”

Just ahead of the vote, he said, “It’s hard to believe that such a ludicrous law would even be seriously considered – and even harder to believe that at least 8 of 11 council members have said they would vote for it!”

“Are people just not thinking clearly? This law would allow pedophiles, perverts and predators into women’s bathrooms. This is wicked and it’s filthy. To think that my granddaughters could go into a restroom and a man be in there exposing himself … what are we setting our children and grandchildren up for? There’s not a public restroom in Charlotte that would be safe!” he said.

He said it should be inconceivable that Charlotte’s mayor and the council members “have succumbed to the pressures from depraved sexual activists and are willing to put women and girls at risk like this.”

He pointed out that the same plan was defeated a year ago and it shouldn’t even have been brought back by the mayor.

McCrory said the transgender provisions opening up public restrooms to all is a concern.

“It is not only the citizens of Charlotte that will be impacted by changing basic restroom and locker room norms but also citizens from across our state and nation who visit and work in Charlotte,” the governor said. “This shift in policy could also create major public safety issues by putting citizens in possible danger from deviant actions by individuals taking improper advantage of a bad policy.”

He said he would expect immediate state legislative intervention, and said he would support it.

WND reported only a few weeks ago that the coalition of pastors that defeated Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s transgender agenda at the ballot box were volunteering to help pastors in Dallas in the same fight.

Other cities, from Oregon to Maryland, under pressure of homosexual, lesbian and transgender activists, already have made the jump to open their public restrooms.

One of the key leaders in the Houston fight, Rev. Dave Welch, president of the Texas Pastor Council, said the change “not only opens but essentially removes the doors of women’s restrooms, showers and locker rooms.”

The Houston fight lasted nearly two years and ended late in 2015 when citizens, who were allowed to vote over the mayor’s objections and only by order of the state Supreme Court, soundly rejected Parker’s agenda, 62 percent to 38 percent.

Citizens already are working, under the banner of the North Carolina Values Coalition, to fight the special provisions designed to benefit transgenders.

BREAKINGISRAELNEWS

[BLOG] Raising Our Kids on Vampires, Satanism, Zombies, and Paganism

By Rhonda Attar March 3, 2016 , 2:22 pm

Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well.” Proverbs 5:15 (The Israel Bible™)

You might not have noticed vampires, Satanism and zombies on any elementary or junior high school curriculum, but your kids are probably so well versed they could pass a final exam in flying colors. The reason is simple – young adult fantasy has a basic menu replete with occult, witchcraft, Satanism, paganism, vampires, zombies, Greek mythology and similar fair. It might not be required reading or viewing, but it’s being marketed and targeted to teens who compulsively consume it with their insatiable appetite for fantasy.

As a concerned parent and as a TV executive that works with content on a daily basis, I found this situation extremely disconcerting. Why should our kids be fantasizing about werewolves, gruesome zombies or Greek pagan gods (i.e. the highly popular ‘Percy Jackson’ series) especially when they can find truly awesome content with life altering wisdom that’s even MORE entertaining in the Hebrew Bible? While that might sound like the wishful thinking of a predisposed parent, I do not use the word ‘entertainment’ lightly. I’ve launched 10 television channels into as many as 120 countries and value entertainment through the professional lens of Nielson’s ratings and Box Office ticket sales. Interestingly enough, successful entertainment is almost always based on the industry adage that ‘Content is King’.

Yet, the Hebrew Bible possesses the all-time greatest source for content and it’s either completely overlooked, barely browsed or deliberately shunned. This is a great loss. There’s a massive untapped treasure chest of universal content that has all the entertainment dynamics to captivate the imagination of the world. Point in fact, every few years Hollywood will produce a blockbuster based on one of the more famous Biblical epics, but that doesn’t even scratch the surface. There’s literally a daunting amount of fantastic, mysterious and sensational content that is completely underexposed and that is what motivated me to write the Elisha Davidson trilogy. I wanted kids and young adults to be inspired by the truly phenomenal and to expose their imaginations to a source of life-enforcing light rather than steep it in violent occult darkness.

Of course, the Elisha Davidson trilogy is a fantasy story, but instead of ‘Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry’ or the never-ending variations of Transylvania High, the backdrop is Jerusalem, Biblical legacies and personalities. In fact, every page was created with meticulous adherence to authentic scriptural sources which are honestly so wondrous and compelling in their own right that vampires and zombies pale alongside it.

You might wonder: can this positive oriented content truly compete against the allure of the dark arts? Well, it does have to be packaged with the genre’s regalia of action, suspense and adventure, and then the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. The most encouraging reinforcement I’ve had is from the kids themselves. It’s wonderful to see how they get so wrapped up and excited about the stories.

I don’t think it matters how old or young you are, we all love to be transported into powerful and wondrous new worlds. With Elisha Davidson, the one BIG difference just might be whether you’re delving into fantasy or quite possibly discovering the real thing.

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CHRISTIAN TODAY (We can not vouch for the authenticity and motive of this article but thought you may find it interesting in its view points.)

How the Russian Orthodox Church is backing Vladimir Putin's new world order

A Russian serviceman, dressed in historical uniform, takes part in a military parade rehearsal in front of St Basil's Cathedral in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia, November 6, 2015.

The US presidential election race has focused attention on the role of religion there. Ostensibly a country that prizes freedom of religion, in practice its politicians who aren't seen to be "Christian" have a built-in disadvantage. The Republican nomination process in particular has highlighted the religious nationalism of many American evangelicals, who see patriotism and Christianity as deeply intertwined.

Thousands of miles away, however, there's an ideological synergy between Church and State which is just as unhealthy. Under its leader Patriarch Kirill, the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) has backed the aggressive expansionism of President Vladimir Putin, which has seen him extend Russian power into Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Kirill described Putin at a religious leaders' meeting in 2012 as "a miracle of God". It supported a government crackdown on "gay propaganda" in 2013. The ROC has made billions from trading concessions granted to it by the government. It is increasingly asserting its position as the largest of the 14 self-governing Orthodox Churches and is using its political muscle in support of Putin's aims. It's no friend to evangelicals, especially in the Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, seeing them as puppets of the West.

But how has it become so powerful – and how is it using its power?

The KGB, cigarettes and a Breuget watch

Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill leads an Orthodox Easter service in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow, Russi. Reuters

An answer has to begin with Kirill himself. An imposing figure, he looks – and plays – the part of a Russian Orthodox Patriarch to perfection. Ordained in 1969, Vladimir Mikhailovich Gundyayev, as he was then, rose through the ROC's heirarchy and was elected as Patriarch in January 2009.

According to material from Soviet archives, Kirill was also a KGB agent; as Patriarch he dedicated a church to the KGB.

While his political closeness to the regime has been criticised, he has also been tarnished by the ROC's financial dealings. After the fall of the Soviet Union the Church received special privileges, including the right to import alcohol and tobacco free of duty. It made massive amounts of money as a result through a string of companies with interests in areas ranging from TV to oil. Profits from the cigarettes operation alone – which ended in 1997 – were estimated at $4 billion by The Moscow News in 2006. Kirill has always denied profiting personally from the operations, though his credibility was undermined when he was seen wearing a Breguet watch worth $30,000 in 2012 – and further undermined when spin doctors made a clumsy attempt to airbrush the watch out in a picture on the ROC website.

Church and state in harmony

More important than his taste in wristwear, however, is Kirill's concept of how the Church and State should work together. Speaking at a conference on Ukraine in Lambeth Palace last April, participants highlighted the role of Orthodoxy in Putin's new world order. According to Mykhailo Cherenkov, a Ukrainian Baptist who is a Professor in Philosophy at Ukrainian Catholic University, the fall of the Soviet Union left Russia with an ideological vacuum.

What had held the USSR together, and Russia itself, was a belief in communism. When the Berlin Wall fell and Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms led to the abandonment of the communist enterprise, Russia needed a "new ideological binding agent". And, said Cherenkov, there was a tool ready to hand. The ROC fulfilled the same purpose as communism in giving Russians something to believe in. "It was Orthodoxy that served as the main ferment in the formation of a new Russian identity from the beginning of Putin's presidency. If, in Soviet times, the mark of the majority was political atheism, then now it is political Orthodoxy."

The Orthodox Church supports the state. It's patriotic to be Orthodox – and Orthodox to be patriotic. The Russian state's wars become holy wars. Cherenkov says of the Ukraine conflict: "The goal of the 'Holy War' is not seizure of territory, or change of power, or defeat of opponents, but the victory of faith over all lack of faith and false teaching, of the only right picture of the world over all wrong ones, of truth over all untruths. If Rus is Holy, then her faith and truth are the only Orthodox ones."

Only one Russian world

Another contributor, Antoine Arjakovsky, also from the Ukrainian Catholic University, cites Kirill's view that there's only one "Russian" world, which includes the historical territory of Ukraine. The Moscow Patriarchate has spiritual jurisdiction over all of it. He refers to a film made by senior cleric Metropolitan Hilarion in 2013 entitled The Second Baptism of the Rus. "Patriarch Kirill appears and says his priority is to gather together the lands of Holy Russia," says Arjakovsky. "There is even a parallel between the Trinitarian God and the trinity of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. President Putin also appears in person to tell how he was secretly baptised as an infant."

Kirill's notion is that Church and state function harmoniously together, each supporting the work of the other, in what Orthodoxy calls 'symphonia'. But his critics say this approach is fundamentally flawed. According to Michael Bourdeaux, who founded the Keston Institute to monitor religious freedom in the Soviet Union during the Cold War and is a leading expert in the field, this symphonia is "a betrayal of the basic Christian – and democratic – belief in freedom of conscience".

Why the Church doesn't criticise the Kremlin

Speaking at the same conference, Bourdeaux referred back to the establishment of the Moscow Patriarchate by Stalin during the Second World War after its abolition by Lenin. Part of the deal, he said, was that it would never criticise the Kremlin. Keston understood the pressure the Church was under and did not criticise it – though, he said, they were "stunned" to discover, in the early '90s, the extent of collaboration between the Church leadership and the atheist state.

When Communism collapsed, he said, "the Church leadership saw its opportunity to re-establish itself as a leading player in the new Russian state".

He concluded: "Now free from Soviet constraints, church leaders might have been expected to write dispassionately about the troubled history of the Soviet period. But this is far from happening. There's been no act of repentance for the collaboration with the Soviet regime. Those who fought for religious liberty during the later Soviet period have been largely edited out of history, even though many lost their freedom – and some their lives – in the cause of freedom."

And, says Bourdeaux: "These attitudes explain why the Moscow Patriarchate hasn't been willing to use its voice to attempt to rein in the forces leading to the Kremlin's aggression in Ukraine and the Crimea. My prayer is that, one day – and one hopes sooner rather than later – the Russian Orthodox Church would discover a prophetic voice and use its immense in influence in an attempt to reach a just resolution of the conflict in Ukraine."

A fake patriotic religion? Reuters

This statement is echoed by Joshua Searle, a lecturer at Spurgeon's College and Visiting Professor at Ukrainian Catholic University. He told Christian Today: "It needs to be made clear that the ROC hierarchy is essentially a political construct. The church structure is based not on gospel values of freedom, truth and enlightenment, but on fear, authoritarianism and the promotion of nationalism under the guise of religious zeal. This kind of fake patriotic religion deifies the State and gives divine sanction to a nation's imperialism.

"The ROC can even invoke the name of "God" as an idol who has bestowed a special blessing and favour on Russia, which then allegedly gives 'Holy Russia' the right to invade and conquer neighbouring territories and subdue their peoples. Such a sham Christianity, which is a denial of Christ and the gospel, will always refuse to accept any higher power and will ruthlessly destroy any forms of genuine Christian faith that go beyond cultural or national identity."

Evangelical Christians are suffering disproportionately in the Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, he says; the ROC "regards evangelicals as 'sectarians' or even as 'Western spies' and as a dangerous presence on its 'canonical territory'". For Searle, this is "idolatrous, nationalistic official Christianity, which encourages war and hatred towards other nations, is inimical to the gospel and is under the control not of Christ, but of the dark 'powers and principalities' to which the author of Ephesians alluded".

After 1,000 years, a meeting in Havana

It's against this background that the meeting on February 12 at Havana airport between Kirill and Pope Francis has to be seen. The encounter was widely, and generally warmly, reported; moves toward healing a thousand-year rift make good headlines.

Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, embraces and kisses Russian Orthodox Patriach Kirill in the first meeting for nearly 1,000 years Reuters

Francis and Kirill released a joint statement afterwards – prepared by their 'sherpas' and agreed in advance, obviously – which was largely uncontroversial. It referred to the terrible persecution faced by Christians, the desirability of unity, poverty, inequality and the family.

It also referred, as it could hardly avoid doing, to Ukraine. Francis, as head of a sovereign state, is accountable to no one in his diplomatic initiatives, but Kirill – whose visit had to be sanctioned by the Kremlin – the wording of these sections would have been hugely challenging.

That's not to say that it wasn't a diplomatic test for Francis too. Observant readers will have noticed that three of the theologians quoted are linked to the Ukrainian Catholic University (though they are not all Ukrainian Catholics). The Ukrainian Catholic Church derives from Orthodox bishops who re-established communion with Rome in 1595. They're regarded as schismatics by the ROC and there is constant tension over their buildings and property.

The Ukrainian Catholic problem

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk speaking on the Ukraine crisis at the Vatican Radio headquarters in Rome.

So the meeting between Kirill and Francis was deeply problematic for the Ukrainian Catholics, whose Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said the text of their agreement had caused "deep disappointment" for them and that he had not been consulted. While it expressed the hope that "our meeting may also contribute to reconciliation wherever tensions exist between Greek [ie Ukrainian] Catholics and Orthodox", it also said it was "clear that the past method of 'uniatism, understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church, is not the way to re-establish unity" – a clear challenge to the Ukrainian Catholics and an extraordinary concession by the Vatican.

It also said that "the ecclesial communities which emerged in these historical circumstances have the right to exist" – a half-hearted gesture by the ROC. The Ukrainian Catholics are not 'ecclesial communities', which is a dismissive expression also used of Protestants, but a Church.

According to the Catholic Herald, Shevchuk said the two sides "existed on two completely different planes and were pursuing different goals", with Francis experiencing the meeting as a spiritual event while "From the Moscow patriarch, one immediately sensed that this wasn't about any Spirit, or theology or actual religious matters."

Shevchuk said the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, which drew up the declaration, had been "exploited" during the drafting process by the Russian Orthodox Department of External Affairs.

While this apparent bickering over jurisdiction and ancient Church history might seem trivial in face of the suffering – now largely ignored in the West – of Ukraine, it's very characteristic of the ROC's concerns. In the bewildering array of Ukraine's competing Churches, it's also in dispute with the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and the Kiev Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Each of these bodies was the product of post-Revolutionary politics in the region. The point, however, is that as far as the ROC is concerned, it's the only legitimate Church. It wants to reclaim the territorial authority of which it believes it was wrongly deprived – a desire that puts it right alongside the neo-imperial ambitions of Vladimir Putin.

Russians, the ROC and the future

And in a sign of how well the ROC is playing in Putin's Russia, a survey just released by the Levada Centre shows more than half (56 per cent) of Russians are satisfied with the role played by the Church and religious NGOs in state politics. Furthermore, growing numbers of Russians want to see the Church increase its influence on the maintenance of public morality, with 47 per cent of respondents in favour of this idea in February 2016.

According to Levada Center sociologist Karina Pipiya: "The authorities are constantly articulating the important role of Orthodoxy as one of the components of 'special national identity,' in contrast with Western values and patterns, and people willingly support this idea, especially during periods of worsening relations between Russia and the West."

On both sides of the Atlantic, religion is playing a role in politics. In neither case does it appear to be a particularly healthy one. And while there is, in the US, a system of checks and balances to control it, things are very different elsewhere. It remains to be seen how religion will continue to shape Putin's Russia.

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Nigerian SCOOP

RUSSIAN CHURCH TO PAY $11,500 DEBT IN PRAYERS FOR CONSTRUCTION COMPANY

Writen by Admin 2 days ago -

It appears that in some parts of the world, prayers have legit market value. For example, a church in Russia is getting away with a $11,500 debt by promising to pray for the good health of the creditors instead.

The Nizhny Novgorod diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church owed 916,000 roubles to construction company Era for designing a heating system for one of their buildings. The church was only able to settle half the amount, and the company decided on taking legal action. But the owners of the company happen to be religious people, so the church was able to convince them to agree to a pre-trial settlement in which the loan would be written off and the church would pray for them in exchange.

Although it is common to make financial donations to Russian churches in exchange for a prayer, this is perhaps the first time such a legal agreement has been reached. In fact, the diocese’s legal department was rather taken aback when the company readily accepted the offer. “We had an agreement on the design of the heating in a building that belongs to the diocese, and which houses the pilgrim center,” a church representative said. “It turned out that there were financial difficulties. But we ourselves were surprised when the plaintiffs before the court suggested to make a settlement agreement in place of prayers. They even constituted the wording themselves.”

It seems that the company was more than willing to withdraw charges when they realized that the goodwill of the church was at stake. It obviously was a great deal for them – perhaps they thought that the church’s prayers might bring them far more benefit than the amount in question.

Since the company had no objection to the settlement the court ruled that it does not violate the law, asking the church to repay the remaining 258,000 rubles ($3,244) for the heating system, and 65,000 rubles ($817) towards fines and legal fees, in the form of prayers. “The defendant promises to offer prayers for the health of God’s servant Ivan Arsenyev and God’s servant Sergei Lepustin,” the decision signed by the judge read. It also added that the prayers would go out to “their families, and for their well-being in all their good works and deeds.”

But the company doesn’t plan to check if the church is actually holding up the prayer agreement or not. “We respect the diocese and we are all Orthodox believers,” said Era sales manager Andrei Lepustin. “It’ll be on their conscience if they don’t, but we trust them and have already felt the fruits of their prayers, as prosperity indicators for both the company and its employees are growing.”

Legal experts in Russia are calling the settlement a “historic first” for the nation. “For the first time in the modern history of Russian law, in the international agreement concluded within the framework of the arbitration process, it included a condition of offering prayers for the health of your opponent,” the St.Petersburg Legal Portal wrote on their website.

Sources: O' Central, Znak, Gazeta.ru

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EXPRESS

EU chiefs BEG Vladimir Putin to solve migrant crisis as Eurocrats admit they face RUIN

EUROCRATS are seeking a desperate deal with Vladimir Putin as they make a bid to stop Russia sending the migrant crisis into meltdown.

By JACK FENWICK

PUBLISHED: 04:12, Fri, Mar 11, 2016 | UPDATED: 09:26, Fri, Mar 11, 2016

The move comes as the number of refugees entering the bloc through Russia has risen sharply during the past year.

Officials in Moscow have been warned that the country’s relentless bombing of Syria is forcing refugees to pile into Europe

Under-fire EU chiefs vowed to make a desperate plea to Putin at a behind closed doors meeting in Brussels last month.

Migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos warned fellow bureaucrats of the “growing migratory pressure” brought about by Russia.

Vladimir Putin could make demands before agreeing to a deal

Minutes of the urgent meeting revealed Mr Avramopoulous “referred to the growing migratory pressure faced by Finland on its border with Russia".

It added: “[He] supported the idea of establishing a dialogue on migration with the Russian Federation as soon as possible, before the EU was confronted by a new influx of migrants on its Eastern border.”

A European Commission spokesperson said: “The Arctic route and the fact that a number of migrants have been seen coming from Russian borders is something that we’re aware of.”

The EU is to hand more than £4.7billion to Turkey after it agreed to take back migrants apprehended in the Aegean Sea.

But Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned European leaders that his country’s involvement in curbing the flow of migrants would come at an even greater cost.

He demanded the EU bosses let his almost 80million citizens travel visa-free across Schengen zone countries from June if he is to help.

Mr Davutoglu also wants Turkey’s application to join the bloated Union to be fast racked through.

Many in Europe now fear that Putin may put forward similar demands if he is to help stop the flow of migrants.

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BREITBART

Hungary Declares State Of Emergency, Deploys Thousands Of Troops To Border

4AFP / Getty

by CHRIS TOMLINSON10 Mar 20161,624

Hungarian Minister of Interior Sándor Pintér announced in Budapest on Wednesday that Hungary is officially in a “state of emergency” because of the migrant crisis and has called up thousands of troops to the border with Romania.

Announcing the deployment of troops, the minister said: “we don’t know exactly what reactions those refugees and illegal migrants will have, [those] who are already inside the neighbouring countries. Therefore the government has decided that to prepare for this situation Hungary will strengthen protection of its borders, and we declare a crisis situation due to migration for the entire country.”

New fears of migrants passing through both Romania and Bulgaria to get to Hungary triggered the move, with the unpredictability of the migrant crisis and the migrant flow being a huge cause for concern for the Hungarian government, reports Kronen Zeitung.

The Hungarians are also worried about the growing number of migrants who are stuck in Greece along the border with Macedonia and Bulgaria. There are concerns the tens of thousands now stuck along the Balkans may attempt to force their way through borders, as has been observed in Greece.

Some border regions of Hungary have already been in a state of crisis, but this is the first time the whole country has been placed on an emergency footing. The move has not gone without criticism in Hungary, with opponents of Prime Minister Viktor Orban saying that such a move in not necessary given the flow of migrants has dwindled since border controls were introduced last year.

The Interior Minister replied to the criticism, remarking: “At the moment we are not seeing illegal migrants arriving from the direction of Romania. However, we are getting prepared for the possibility of this occurring so that we can built a closure of the fence as fast as possible.” Breitbart has reported that while crossings fell substantially since the fence was completed last year there is a resurgent trend of illegal incursions.

Also causing concern are events in Greece, where “No Borders” activists have attempted to arm migrants with bolt cutters and other tools to physically dismantle the border fences along the Macedonian border. Hungary has serious worries that growing numbers and the actions of groups like No Borders could have a domino effect that many smaller countries along the Balkan route may not be able to handle.

The Bulgarian government in Sofia is also concerned about the build-up of migrants in Greece, fearing migrants may try to push through their country to find an alternate way to Europe. The Bulgarian Interior minister vowed to make sure it does not happen remarking on state television: “we have recognized this risk and will take any action against it”.

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RT

Erdogan accuses journalists of ‘biggest attack’ against Turkey, says court is ‘against country’ too

Published time: 11 Mar, 2016 19:50

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at a ruling by the country’s constitutional court that released two journalists who, according to Erdogan, had written a news report attacking Turkey, warning that it may threaten the court’s existence.

“This institution, with the involvement of its president and some members, did not refrain from taking a decision that is against the country and its people, on a subject that is a concrete example of one of the biggest attacks against Turkey recently,” the state leader said at a rally on Friday, as quoted by Reuters.

Erdogan: 'I don’t respect court ruling to free Cumhuriyet journalists'

In late February, the constitutional court ruled that the detention of two editors from the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper was “unlawful.” The arrest of Can Dundar, the paper’s editor-in-chief, and Erdem Gul, its Ankara bureau chief, violated their individual freedom and safety, the court found.

“I hope the constitutional court would not again attempt such ways, which will open its existence and legitimacy up for debate,” Erdogan said in his public speech, adding that he is “obliged to ensure that the state organs work in harmony.”

In November of last year, the Cumhuriyet journalists were arrested and charged with intentionally aiding an armed terrorist organization and publishing material in violation of state security following a report by the newspaper alleging that Turkey’s president and intelligence officials were in on a deal to transport weapons to rebels in Syria.

The editors still face trial on March 25 for offenses that could bring them life sentences, as their release is not equal to acquittal, according to a presidential spokesman. They remain under judicial supervision and are banned from leaving the country.

Just after the journalists’ release, Erdogan said he didn’t “obey or respect the [court’s] decision.” Their case “has nothing to do with press freedom,” he said, accusing them of “spying.”

The president spoke out against the ruling again this week, saying the top court has exceeded its jurisdiction and “had difficulty explaining the justification.”

“The constitutional court placed itself in the position of a primary court. It is not right,” AFP cited the president as saying on Wednesday.

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MEM

Israel announces support for Kurdish independence

Friday, 04 March 2016 14:12

Ron Dermer, Israeli Ambassador to the US. [File photo]

Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer expressed Tel Aviv’s support for the Kurdish people’s aspirations for independence in the Middle East.

Israel’s Maariv newspaper reported yesterday that the ambassador’s statements were made during an interview with a Kurdish television station. Dermer said: “Israel has another people in the Middle East who truly love freedom, and they are fighting for their freedom; that is the Kurdish people.”

“We feel very close ties with them - both between Kurdish and Jewish people; and between Israel and [Kurdistan]. We wish them well.”

He went on to say: “Militant Islam is not just a threat to Israel, it is a threat to [all] people[s] throughout the Middle East [including], minorities, Christians, Kurds and also Muslims everywhere.”

Politicians in Israel fear that the ambassador’s statements regarding the Kurds may lead to the disturbance of the Israeli-Turkish reconciliation, especially since the Turks are in confrontation with the Kurds.

Many reports have confirmed the presence of old and strong relations between the Kurds and Israel, and the latter’s military training of the Kurds and supplying them with weapons. In addition to this, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not hide his support for an independent Kurdish state in Iraq, which he openly said during a conference organised by the Institute for National Security Studies.

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ANTIWAR.com

Sadr Demands Ouster of Iraq Govt; 200,000 Supporters Rally Outside Green Zone

Sadr Aide: Govt Dragging Its Feet on Reform

by Jason Ditz, March 04, 2016

Key Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr spoke today before a crowd of some 200,000 demonstrators outside Baghdad’s Green Zone, demanding the ouster of the Abadi government, and the fulfillment of previous pledges to tackle corruption.

Sadr is an influential religious leader, as well as the leader of Iraq’s second largest political bloc, which holds 34 seats in parliament. With Abadi already under fire by a number of other factions, this adds pressure for him to step down, potentially leading to new elections.

A top Sadr aide, also speaking at the rally, accused Abadi of dragging his feet on reforms, with a promise to replace certain political officials with technocrats going unfulfilled. He warned the public wasn’t going ro keep accepting promises that don’t lead to reforms.

This is the second week in a row Sadr supporters have organized a major rally. Last week’s saw 100,000 people, and the significant growth of this week’s crowd suggests that calls for reform are a winning issue for Sadr, and will likely oblige Abadi to make some sort of move to placate the public.

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yournewswire.com

PUTIN EXPOSES VACCINES

March 5, 2016 by Dane Arr

Russian president Vladimir Putin says that Western governments are enslaving humanity through vaccines.

‘When your children are barely human, psychologically-altered bots, their nerve cells and synapses failing to connect, and their neurodevelopmental processes dulled to the point of restricting them to sub-human level repetitive grunts and gormless stares, what are you going to do then?’

An insider from the Ministry of Health in Russia has revealed that an explosive report is being prepared that will be presented to the Kremlin on Tuesday regarding the huge vaccination cover-up being perpetuated by the US government agencies and its regulatory bodies, which is having disastrous consequences around most of the world.

It is understood President Putin personally requested the report. He instinctively mistrusts the vaccine agenda and wants the report to investigate the state of play regarding vaccines, Big Pharma, and

Western governments, in order to formulate a solid, direct response that will stand his people in good stead for the future.

According to the Ministry of Health insider, the report validates President Putin’s suspicions. There is a huge conflict of interests between the government agencies which regulate vaccines and the corporations that approve and implement the vaccines.

This investigation, involving internationally respected scientists and leading medical professionals, won’t be a laughably corrupt affair involving a payroll of ‘scientists’ who are willing to say or do anything for a dollar or two. Considering the fact that leading scientists and doctors who have dared voice concern about state-enforced vaccinations have been dying under mysterious circumstances in the US in recent years, kudos must be given to those brave enough to continue speaking out.

It is claimed the report will declare the situation a ‘self-perpetuating criminal racket.’ Educational institutions and scientific bodies are also ‘motivated by greed and generally corrupt.’ A recent study by the University of Bristol that declared diet soda to be healthier than water (a study covertly funded by the Coca Cola Company) is presented as an example of the absurd situation in the West at the moment, and is held up to ridicule.

The report says that President Putin believes the next stage of human evolution is currently in “grave risk” and that Western and global powers are “intentionally decelerating the process for their personal gain.”

“We as a species have the choice to continue to develop our bodies and brains in a healthy upward trajectory, or we can follow the Western example of recent decades and intentionally poison our population with genetically altered food, pharmaceuticals, vaccinations, and fast food that should be classified as a dangerous, addictive drug.”

“We must fight this. A physically and intellectually disabled population is not in our interests,” the report states.

Describing the average government-controlled Westerner as an “intensively vaccinated borderline autistic fat man slumped in front of a screen battling a high-fructose corn syrup comedown,” the report states that such tactics used by governments to subjugate their citizens are not only “dark/evil” but “counter-productive in the medium to long term.”

Russia under President Putin has been giving away land for free in the past few years to people willing to farm organically and sustainably. The goal is to become the world’s “leading exporter” of non-GMO foods that are based on “ecologically clean” production.

The Security Council report comes just months after the Kremlin announced a stop to the production of all GMO-containing foods, which was seen by the international community as a major step in the fight against multinationals like Monsanto. Russia continues to lead the way in the realm of natural, organic farming.

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BBC

Cheap oil is taking shipping back to the 1800s

The plummeting price of oil on international markets has had many effects – one of which is that it may be cheaper for ships to travel right around Africa than go through the Suez Canal.

By Chris Baraniuk

4 March 2016

The Suez Canal was one of the most significant engineering projects of the 19th Century. It was a gargantuan task that took nearly 20 years to build and an estimated 1.5 million workers took part – with many thousands dying in the process. But when it finally opened in 1869, ships could travel from the Red Sea – between Africa and Asia – to the Mediterranean, cutting weeks off a journey. It was a revolution for trade.

Ever since, passage through the canal has been considered more or less vital to global business. Shipping firms pay what amounts to several billion dollars every year to the Suez Canal Authority, an Egyptian state-owned entity, for the privilege of travelling via the canal.

To take an example, it cuts a modern journey from Singapore to Rotterdam in the Netherlands by nearly 3,500 nautical miles (6,480km) – saving vessel owners lots of time and lots of money.

Travelling through the canal can cost shipowners nearly £250,000 ($350,000) (Credit: Getty Images)

However, more and more some ships are deciding not to take the Suez route. Instead, they are travelling around the Cape of Good Hope, right at the southern tip of Africa. Over 100 ships did this between late October 2015 and the end of the year.

“I’ve been covering shipping for the last eight years,” says Michelle Wiese Bockmann, from oil industry analysis firm OPIS Tanker Tracker. “It is very rare to see this volume going round the Cape.” Right now, she’s keeping tabs on half a dozen diesel and jet fuel-carrying ships on this very route.

One of the big factors here, explains Bockmann, is the low price of oil. This means that “bunker fuel” – the thick, heavy fuel the ships themselves run on – is currently very cheap. Indeed, Singapore prices for such fuel have fallen from around $400 (£286) per metric ton in May 2015 to around $150 (£107) today.

As a result, sea journeys aren’t as costly as they have been in recent years. But is there any sense in taking longer than you need to? Ship manufacturer Maersk estimates that a vessel travelling at 13.5 knots will take an extra 11 days to go via the Cape. Why bother?

For one thing, there are steep fees for using the Suez Canal – Maersk says these can be approximately $350,000 (£249,000) per ship. There are other costs, too. Rose George, author of Deep Sea and Foreign Going, was on board a ship using the Canal a few years ago. She notes that vessels must agree to taking on a Suez crew for the transit.

“[The Suez crew] seem to do nothing but listen to tinny radio and try to sell souvenirs,” says George, adding the ships often have to pay a cigarette ‘tax’.

“On each voyage, Suez costs a ship about £400 ($560) of cigarettes, as well as dozens of chocolate bars from the bond locker.”

These irritations aside, there is also the tricky economics of oil and shipping markets.

More and more oil and refined oil products are being kept at sea or in storage as traders wait for prices to rise again

For one thing, at the moment traders are playing with what’s called a “contango” – more and more oil and refined oil products are being kept at sea or in storage as traders wait for prices to rise again. Currently there is an oversupply of crude oil around the world, and while we have more crude than we need, the demand for gasoline – a refined oil product – is quite high. This situation has led to volatility in the market and that’s where traders are making their money, says Bockmann.

“One of the trading strategies would be that they haven’t sold the cargo and they need additional time,” she points out. She also adds that ships can sometimes be anchored offshore – a situation known as “floating storage” where they simply wait for the market to favour what they have on board. “Floating storage hit a five-year record in December and it hasn’t really dropped that much since then,” Bockmann says.

The Suez Canal was built so that ships did not have to negotiate the challenges of the Cape of Good Hope (Credit: Getty Images)

For ship owners, then, the ball seems to be mostly in their court. They can choose to be at sea longer in certain cases and they can take longer routes, even shopping unsold cargo round various ports in Asia, Africa and Europe, in an attempt to find the right buyer at the right time. The ships must be the right size for a given port, and the products on board need to meet required standards in the local market – but as long as someone suitable does, eventually, buy that cargo at a favourable price, then the traders will do well. If not, they could lose money.

For now some ships have decided to take those additional thousands of miles round the Cape, hoping that at the end of the voyage they’ll come out in profit. It may seem strange – but in the world of oil, sometimes you’re better off taking the long way round.

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SPUTNIK

Into the Hole: River Into the Hole: River Dries Up Overnight in Mexico

12:03 04.03.2016(updated 17:11 04.03.2016)

The Atoyac River, which crosses eight municipalities in the central mountainous area of eastern Mexican state of Veracruz, disappeared overnight after a giant crack opened up.

“On Monday we saw that the water had disappeared and went to see what was happening. When we reached the riverbank we saw a large hole there that was blocking the river,” Juana Sánchez, a woman who lives nearby, told the Spanish news agency EFE.

The provincial authorities said that the hole was 30 meters long and 20 meters wide.

“These cracks appear deep inside the Earth’s crust and keep getting wider and wider,” the local environmental services said in a report.

The hole in the ground that crosses the riverbed appeared three kilometers away from the estuary of the Atoyak River, which is the source of the fresh water supply for over 10,000 families and sugar industries in the region.

“Trying to find out what happened we moved downstream and found a huge hole the water was falling into,” Juana Sánchez said.

Agustin Mollinedo, a membner of the Atoyak Municipality, called on the people to make every effort to save the river.

The Atoyac flows into the Rio Verde which empties into the Pacific near Laguna Chacahua, in Lagunas de Chacahua National park, 90 kilometers west of Puerto Escondido.

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Medical Daily

Vitamin D Deficiency Linked To Spread Of Breast Cancer; What It Means For Prevention

Mar 2, 2016 01:00 PM

By Lecia Bushak

Stanford researchers found that vitamin D deficiency led to worse prognoses for mice with breast cancer, but they also warn of the dangers of taking too many supplements.

Vitamin D-deficient mice with breast cancer are more likely to experience a spread in tumor growth compared to mice who have enough of the vitamin, a new study out of Stanford University School of Medicine finds. The study suggests that maintaining vitamin D levels could act as a protective factor against cancer, a notion that has been investigated in past research.

The researchers linked vitamin D levels to the ID1 gene, which at high levels of expression is associated with breast cancer tumor growth. Past studies have shown that vitamin D is linked to inhibiting the expression of this gene, and that low vitamin D levels have been associated with more aggressive tumors.

In the study, the researchers gathered mice with breast cancer into two groups: The first group was given a diet lacking vitamin D for 10 weeks, and the other was given a normal diet with adequate vitamin D. The mice who consumed a diet without vitamin D ended up developing tumors seven days sooner than the other group, and they also ended up growing larger tumors. To examine how this was happening, the researchers focused on ID1, which was expressed more in tumor cells when vitamin D was lacking in the diet.

This study isn’t the first to analyze vitamin D’s link to cancer. Adequate levels of vitamin D have been shown to lower the risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancers. But varying results among studies have made scientists cautious of touting the benefits of vitamin supplements, as they still technically haven’t been proven to work consistently.

There are plenty of contradicting opinions and studies on the efficacy of vitamin D supplements when it comes to treating or preventing health problems, and the current study’s researchers are aware of them. They note that taking vitamin D supplements often does more harm than good, especially if the person already has enough vitamin D. It’s tough to determine how much a person needs, because sun exposure changes throughout the year, and everyone absorbs the vitamin from the sun's UV rays differently based on where they live and their skin color. Too much vitamin D has been linked to kidney, heart, and other organ damage. This is perhaps why most researchers and the National Cancer Institute can agree that the evidence behind vitamin D’s link to cancer prevention is “inconclusive.”

Regardless, it can’t hurt to make sure you get a few minutes of sun every day, and take vitamin supplements if your doctor deems them safe for you. Take steps to improve your vitamin D intake only if you've been diagnosed with a deficiency.

“Although much more research needs to be done, research from our lab and others suggests that people at risk for breast cancer should know their vitamin D levels and take steps to correct any deficiencies,” Dr. Brian Feldman, assistant professor of pediatrics at Stanford University, said in the press release.

Source: Feldman B, et al. Endocrinology, 2016.


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