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6 WAYS ATHEISTS ACCIDENTALLY PROVE GOD EXISTS

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Frank Turek is a Christian speaker and apologist who is passionate about the truth. Determined to make a strong, well-reasoned case for God, he tackles the big questions of life and combats atheists head-on. In his book, “Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case,” Turek argues that much of the reasoning put forth by those attempting to disprove God is fundamentally contradictory.  In a new video posted to his Facebook page, Frank addresses the logical framework commonly used by atheists by taking us through a simple acronym: CRIMES. Causality, Reason, Information and Intentionality, Morality, Evil and Science.

In a short and snappy exposition of each element, Turek highlights the major flaws in atheist reasoning.

1. Causality

“Why is the universe so orderly, if there is no God, no mind out there ordering all this?” Turek asks. “Why are the natural laws and forces so consistent? Because there is a mind behind them. When atheists use this to try and disprove God, they are actually stealing from God to argue against him.”

2. Reason

“If we are just molecules in motion, and there is no immaterial realm, how does reason exist? We’re just reacting. We’re nothing but moist robots,” he explains. “So, ironically, atheists who claim to be beacons of reason have made reason impossible by their worldview of materialism.”

3. Information and Intentionality

Turek says information is the “idea that there is a message, and where there is a message it always comes from a mind.”

But, he notes, the “greatest message that’s ever been discovered is in the human genome — and atheists are saying that message doesn’t come from a mind!” “They write books filled with information, claiming information doesn’t come from a mind,” he says.

“Intentionality has to do with the idea that the world is goal-directed,” Turek explains. “Why doesn’t an acorn become a starfish? Because it’s goal-directed to become an oak tree. Why do the planets go around the sun? Because of gravity? Yeah, but why is gravity doing what it does? If you go back far enough, you are ultimately going to arrive at a sustaining creator who holds all this together.”

4. Morality

“There can’t be any objective right or wrong unless God exists,” Turek declares. “When atheists say they have certain moral rights, they are actually stealing from God to say he doesn’t exist.”

5. Evil

“They’re saying there is too much evil in the world,” he says. “Well, there can’t be evil unless there’s good, but there can’t be good unless God exists. So, when atheists are complaining about evil, they are actually proving God exists. God, by definition, is the “ultimate standard of good.” “They are stealing from God in order to argue against him,” he claims.

6. Science

“The atheists are saying ‘we are the champions of science.’ Science is impossible if atheism is true,” Turek says. “If materialistic atheism is true, and we are just moist robots, then we can’t really know anything about the real world. We can’t depend on the cause and effect nature of reality because there is no mind behind it.” Turek notes that if atheism is true, we have “no warrant to believe anything we learn from science.” “You know what makes science possible? God. So, when they are doing science, they are actually stealing from God in order to argue against him,” he says.

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CHILDREN NEED THEIR MUMS THROUGH THE MOST FORMATIVE YOUNGEST YEARS

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Editor’s note: Happy Mother’s Day to all our Mums.  We love you, appreciate you, and as the following article points out, we cannot live without you.

Jan emailed me a while ago saying “I hope you don’t mind my writing to you like this, but it seems that my generation is never given the chance of telling our side of our story.  We are not trying to criticise life now, just saying there is another side, and it was good.”  She wrote that she never felt a lesser person because she stayed at home with her three young children.  “In my mind, being able to stay with your children (at least when they are young) shows them that you think they are important and this gives them stability and roots.  Then you give them wings.  We all had our children when we were young, so by the time they were at high school we were still young enough to stretch our own wings, either by refreshing our own skills or taking up something new.”

Then Jan wrote something that I often think about when I look at my own three children.  She recalled that after her kids had grown into three remarkable young adults, a man asked whether she had spent a lot of time with them at home.  When she said, yes, he said: “Well, it shows.”  We, the current crop of women, have a lot to show for ourselves.  A stellar education, great jobs, careers that take us interesting places, enlightened men in our lives who parent more than their fathers did.  Increasingly, we have policies and workplaces that are, let’s face it, female-centric, checking in on women’s advancement.  We have bureaucracies and lobby groups that do our bidding, and senior businessmen who join the women’s bandwagon too.

Lots of people looking out for us.  And it shows.  While there are gripes at the edges over gender pay gaps and not enough women in parliament (maybe we have more sense than men), women have assumed centre stage, and why shouldn’t we?  There’s a lame joke about feminism being a great idea until something goes wrong with the car.  Maybe feminism was a great idea until something went wrong with the kids.  Women don’t need a man to fix a car.  Not as a matter of strict biology, anyway, though I’m grateful to the blokes in greasy overalls at my local garage.  But children, especially babies, do need their mothers.

Before feminists have conniptions and demand equality between the sexes and equal parenting, is it too much to check in on how children are going?  To check the science and to be reminded of our biology?  Not as a female guilt trip or an attempt to turn back time but simply to remind ourselves that motherhood is important and, for that reason, is one heck of a privilege, in all its messy, demanding, beautiful, frustrating ways.  I remembered Jan’s email when reading the reaction to a new book.  Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters, by American psychoanalyst and clinical social worker Erica Komisar.

This book made a splash for all the wrong reasons.  As reported in The Wall Street Journal, one agent told her: “No, we couldn’t touch that.  That would make women feel guilty.” A conference organiser who rejected her as a speaker said: “You are going to make women feel badly.  How dare you?” One woman at a charity gathering told her: “You are going to set women back 50 years.”  Komisar’s book is controversial only if overlaid with a weird and unnatural women-only filter that blocks out the welfare of children.

The 53-year-old Jewish clinician developed a passionate interest in the role of mothers in early childhood development when she started noticing more absent mothers and motherhood being undervalued, along with boys being diagnosed with ADHD and an increase in depression diagnoses in young girls.

Komisar also noticed more young children being diagnosed with “social disorders”, having trouble relating to others and lacking empathy.  Lots of studies tell us about babies suffering separation anxiety when their mother leaves them and babies reacting to strangers by producing increased levels of cortisol, the hormone associated with stress.

But the science that literally strikes at the heart is Komisar’s discussion about oxytocin.  This is a neurotransmitter known as the “love” or “trust” hormone.  Komisar explains that mothers produce oxytocin when they give birth, breastfeed and are emotionally present with their babies.  The more a mother engages with her baby through touching, gazing into newborn eyes and using sweet gaga talk, the more oxytocin she produces, and “the more oxytocin she produces, the more she bonds with her child”.  As adults, we know what it’s like to be loved and to love.  The physical and emotional power of intimacy, from spending time together, is palpable.

Oxytocin is rushing around us when we look at each other, even think of one another, when we hug or touch or have sex.  Oxytocin is the hormone that helps us bond with one another, it helps build trust and is described as an antidote to depressive feelings.  If oxytocin produces all this between two adults, why is it hard for us to agree that it bonds and benefits a mother and baby?  The release of oxytocin in the baby’s brain from being nurtured becomes a buffer against the negative effects of stressful events.

Elaborating to The Wall Street Journal, Komisar explains that “every time a mother comforts a baby in distress, she’s actually regulating that baby’s emotions from the outside in.  After three years, the baby internalises that ability to regulate their emotions, but not until then.”  It’s not the same with fathers because our magnificent biology means women produce more oxytocin than men.  Women love to talk about differences between men and women in the workplace, how women bring female attributes to the workplace because they are more collegiate, better listeners, more empathetic and so on.

Yet when we look inside the family, women, especially those who control the debate, only ever talk about shared parenting, shared parental leave and so on.  Biological difference is often ignored, along with the science that supports it.  That’s no surprise in women’s studies departments that routinely deny women’s biology in a blind rage to expunge difference.  But the rest of us could be more curious as to why it matters for a mother to be there more for a baby.  After all, we agonise over so much else about our kids.  Should we enrol our four-year-old in Kumon lessons to get ahead in maths?  What about piano lessons and taekwondo?  Should we stop our teenager playing video games because it normalises violence?

We are endlessly curious, too, about new and existing social disorders, to the point where the diagnostic bible of mental and social disorders keeps expanding in width.  Consider the current diagnoses for children, from neurodevelopmental disorders identified in early infancy to others such as disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit, hyperactivity disorders, reactive attachment disorder and disinhibited social engagement disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder.

Curiosity has its limits, though, at least among the political class, where it has become virtually verboten to discuss how mothers promote wellbeing in a baby.  As The Wall Street Journal reported, while Christian radio stations and Fox & Friends interviewed Komisar about her book, she wasn’t welcome on NPR, American public radio, and was rejected by the liberal press in her home city, New York.  She told the Journal that seconds before she appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America, the interviewer said: “I don’t believe in the premise of your book at all.  I don’t like your book.”

Plenty of women won’t like Komisar’s book because it unsettles the new normal where highly educated women work full time, long hours, carving out brilliant careers from a young age, and babies and young children are placed in daycare or have two nannies, the weekday one and one for the weekend.  Her call for a more child-centric society means demanding a government-mandated paid maternity leave and flexible work in a country that still denies that to the women who need it most, those who lack the financial power to stay home.

Komisar’s book is important in Australia too, even with our generous paid parental leave schemes.  A 2013 analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics figures by the University of NSW revealed that parents spent four hours less a week with their children than they did a generation ago.  And research by UNSW associate professor Lyn Craig suggests that parenting is now more intensive, with parents squeezing in activities to smarten their children.  Think Kumon for four-year-olds.  But as Komisar says, concentrating on your child’s cognitive development before their social emotional development is like putting on their shoes before their socks.

And parenting experts point to stay-at-home mums as often the most intensive parents.  Their vision is constantly directed outwards, to tightly timetabled activities, making sure Billy is in the best footy team and Lucinda is in the highest English class, and complaining when their young genius doesn’t get the mark that mum thinks they deserved.  New words catch this new generation of parents, helicopter parents who hover and lawnmower parents who clear the way for their kids, and they all mean well.

But if children aren’t doing so well, more boys on ADHD medications, more anxiety among young girls, a generation of young adults asking for safe spaces and trigger warnings at university, then perhaps it’s time to check in and ask whether we’ve moved too far from Jan’s generation, because maybe little children need to hang out more with mums who understand that motherhood is more than directing the daily traffic of activities.  Just asking.

Source: Article written by Sydney Columnist Janet Albrechtsen

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UNDERSTANDING THE SHIFT IN OUR CULTURE AND ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR OUR FUTURE

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Editors comments:  This article, covering political issues, is usually outside the gammet of the Prayer Network but as it seeks to help us understand the enormous shift that is taking place in our culture, and therefore the implications for our future, we decided it was worth putting out to our readers for prayer as we move towards one of the most crucial Federal Elections in our history.  Any political comments or inferences the writer makes are his and not necessarily those of the Prayer Network.  We are more focused on assisting our readers to understand the why and how of the cultural changes we are experiencing as a Nation and how they could shape the way people vote in the upcoming Federal Election.  Could it be that this election, more than any other in recent memory, will be fought in the spiritual realm (a battle for the hearts and minds of the Australian people and the soul of our Nation) rather than over political policies.  If it is to be that way, this is where the Prayer Network comes in, and underlies the reason for our re-producing this article. 

Australia is about to chart a new direction but the intriguing question is whether the public is making this choice by default or conviction.  Scott Morrison seems unable to cut through with a message that registers while Bill Shorten seems able to say anything and get away with it.  These are flip sides of the same story, an electorate that has clocked off politics yet is angry about its plight.  It is tempting to say the Coalition government has lost the battle of ideas.  But this misleads since beyond a minority of “insiders” there is no engagement with ideas anymore.  There is, however, the zeitgeist, the German view that each historical era is defined by its own spirit and values.

It is the zeitgeist that is bringing down the Morrison government and propelling the nation towards a Shorten government.  The zeitgeist, of course, is not separate from events.  Indeed, it is partly formed by events such as the chronic disunity of the Coalition, its lack of cultural power, its inability to sustain a message that resonates with the public and its failure to offer a persuasive explanation for the times.  The zeitgeist, however, is conceived in culture.  Its meaning transcends and can defy mere rationality, it is about the spirit, the mood of the times.  It can refer to an invisible force, part in the world, part defying the world because of its cultural power.

In Australia today the zeitgeist is tied to the age of disruption and confusion.  In particular, received wisdoms that have offered stability and predictability are in demise, some because they have failed, others because they are ideologically unfashionable.  Labor has far exceeded the Coalition in capturing the zeitgeist.  Its unifying theme is the turn of Australia towards a progressive mindset in economic, social and cultural terms.  This was not predicted six years ago.  Time will tell whether it is enduring or deceiving.

But the norms the Abbott government subscribed to after it won in 2013 are in eclipse.  These were rejection of radical action on climate change in order to safeguard the economy, using constraints on education and health funding to recover the budget surplus, new laws to curb trade union power, implicit faith in financial system integrity, free speech before an individual’s capacity to be offended, traditional marriage, honouring Western civilisation, American alliance fidelity in what became the Trumpian age and putting shared national values before the quest for race, gender or sexual identity.  Only border protection has survived and it is now under fierce assault.

As the ideas championed by the Coalition government came under assault, so did the government’s authority.  The country shifted while the Coalition held power.  Yet the Coalition missed the trend, its cultural antenna in dysfunction and its ability to persuade badly lacking.

Having a House of Representatives majority did not guarantee control of the nation’s mood.  When old ideas no longer work or are no longer tolerated, it is time for new ideas.  Established understandings have now broken down in a range of areas, consider wages, living standards, climate change, finance, industrial relations and education among others.

As economists, including our Reserve Bank governor, admit the past connection between unemployment levels and wage levels has shifted, much to the consternation of workers and unions.  As the past decade shows the record low interest rates have failed to reboot many Western economies, with monetary policy unable to restore previous levels of economic growth.  The local energy story is diabolical when Australia, a so-called energy superpower, relied on coal as its source of competitiveness only to find that coal was cast as a climate change demon to be put on the exit escalator.

The finance sector, the life blood of household prosperity, was exposed by the royal commission as an agent of greed treating customers as objects of exploitation in pursuit of self-interested financial rewards.  Having spent a generation achieving a more flexible labour market that worked brilliantly in the globalised age contributing to low unemployment, the nation is now lurching into reverse to embrace re-regulation and intervention in the cause of equity.  And in education, having proven that more school funding without a classroom revolution is tied to falling relative standards the political system seems ready to repeat the blunder on a truly massive scale with astonishing proposed increases in school funding devoid of core classroom reforms.

The breakdown of established norms has three consequences, new opportunities (think renewables), new challenges (how on earth to rekindle productivity to salvage living standards) and the revival of truly bad ideas (think the living wage, something we tried more than 110 years ago).  Perhaps there is no failure that does not deserve another try.  Anyone for socialism?  The political impact of the zeitgeist cannot be missed.  There is nothing as vulnerable as an idea targeted by the progressive forces; witness traditional marriage, coal and tax cuts for corporates.  And there is nothing so resilient as a failed idea to which the progressive class is attached; witness open borders, wage rises divorced from productivity and government intervention as a superior allocation mechanism to markets.

Shorten’s skill has been conspicuous.  Acting with audacity, he has picked much of the spirit of the times.  His populist slogans cut through from the “left behind society” to declaring the election to be a referendum on wages and embracing the notion of the “living wage”.  Who could disagree with such an attractive idea?  Shorten has endlessly stirred hostility towards banks and big business, mined the cult of grievance, backed a major redistribution of income through tax, mined community anxiety at inequality and injustice, given identity politics plenty of currency, ditched border protection in the cause of humanitarian rescue of people on Manus and Nauru, helped to demonise coal, worked to sink Adani and cast renewables as the universal saviours.

The zeitgeist is Shorten’s friend and Morrison’s enemy.  The evidence has turned into an avalanche since the August 2018 Liberal leadership crisis.  The latest norm to be violated occurs within the Liberal heartland, the middle-class revolt and disloyalty in the once blue-ribbon seats of its leaders, former leaders and future hopes.  Turnbull’s seat of Wentworth has been lost to progressive independent Kerryn Phelps, with no guarantee it can be regained at the election.  Tony Abbott’s seat of Warringah is under serious threat from progressive independent Zali Steggall.  Greg Hunt’s seat of Flinders is under assault from progressive independent Julia Banks and Josh Frydenberg’s seat of Kooyong is threatened by Julian Burnside, a well-known progressive, now running as a Green.

Each of these seats is vulnerable to progressive attack.  This is an unprecedented situation in the history of the Liberal Party.  The loss of support, however, seems to transcend the actual policy story.  It is not as though the Liberals under Malcolm Turnbull ignored climate change.  Turnbull’s removal, rather, has become the symbolic trigger for the release of progressive hostility towards the party.  The mood and the message is that the Liberals are violating the spirit of the age and need to pay the price.  Once this brand is applied it is extremely difficult to purge, a classic example being the Liberal Party’s women problem.

This, however, is not exactly what it seems.  In Julie Bishop’s safe seat of Curtin the Liberals have preselected an impressive woman, the former vice-chancellor of Notre Dame, Celia Hammond, who won convincingly.  Yet Hammond is now under challenge from a progressive independent, a lifelong Liberal voter, wealthy businesswoman Louise Stewart. Stewart says Hammond cannot represent the views of the Curtin electorate and her selection shows the party is “stuck in the past”.  It seems a conservative woman is no better than a man!  The point is that the real priority is progressivism.  A woman will be opposed unless she is progressive, displaying the “correct” stance on climate, feminism and asylum-seekers.

The government still has its April 2 tax-cut budget to rekindle its prospects but cynicism and indifference lie in its path.  The Coalition parties will seek to unite around the budget and take a strong economic message to the election.  But what should be the pivotal election issue is largely overlooked, the productivity and participation agenda to drive living standards.  On wages, Shorten continues with his quasi reckless “dual identity” tactics, prompted no doubt by the fact that emotion and populism largely run these debates.  On the one hand Shorten feeds the public truckloads of populism that “supply and demand” in the labour market no longer functions, that “everything is going up except people’s wages” (a falsehood), that the minimum wage should be a living wage and that the “fat cat” bosses who claim a connection between wages and jobs are wrong because “I don’t accept that a living wage causes unemployment”.

There is no reason to think Shorten, given the zeitgeist, will suffer any penalty from his pitch.  Meanwhile the ACTU, the chief advocate of the “living wage”, proposes an increase in the minimum wage of 11.5 per cent over the next two years or more than $70 a week at a time when the economy is weakening.  The idea this would not hurt jobs is absurd.  “I won’t turn my back on the workers of Australia,” Shorten declared as he asserted the government would fix the wages problem, a throwback to several decades ago.

On the other hand Shorten said he would rely on the Fair Work Commission to adjust the minimum wage (sticking by the orthodoxy), declared the Fair Work Commission (FWC) had a “great track record” (if so, then what’s the problem?), refused to nominate any percentage increase (being sensible and not backing the ACTU numbers), raised the prospect Labor would change the legislation governing the FWC minimum wage deliberations (but wouldn’t give details) and made clear the guidelines would be altered.

In summary, Shorten raises expectations sky high with his rhetoric but then brings them back to earth because he doesn’t want to wreck the joint.  This is his standard tactic.  He plays to the zeitgeist and then plays to reality.  He feeds the union and Labor interest groups loads of red meat but then stops short of table commitments that would ruin his government in office.

It is a risky contradiction that runs across almost everything Shorten touches.  If he wins, how Shorten will pacify the progressive interest groups, wind down their expectations yet implement the litany of specific tax, spending, regulatory, climate change and constitutional reforms he pledges, is anybody’s guess.

This week the Business Council of Australia chief Jennifer Westacott played the reality card on Labor’s 45-50% targets for emissions and renewables: “We don’t have a plan to do this.  How are we going to do this?  If it’s economy wide, what is the mechanism by which we are going to do it?  Is it a cap and trade system?  Is it the national energy guarantee?  Is it a base-loading credit system?  Are we going to exempt the trade-exposed sector?  Are we going to allow the ‘carry over’ for Kyoto?  I think the Australian people are entitled to understand how these things will be achieved.

This is the history of this problem, people say stuff, then they try to implement it and everyone goes ‘oh, hang on, we didn’t actually mean for those jobs to be gone’,  now we’ll have to have a compensation scheme.  Then we stop and then we go backwards and then we make no progress.  This is the history. ” Yet nothing Westacott said, policy realities that must be faced by any Shorten government, impinge on the current climate change mantras that dominate our public debate.  Just listen to the independent progressives crusading on climate change in leafy Liberal seats to grasp how much this debate has regressed over the past 15 years.

They talk endlessly about saving the planet and the urgency for Australia to do more, as though the policy and political obstacles of the past 15 years never happened.  Such climate change invocations are firmly within the zeitgeist but there comes a time when the spirit of the age and the reality of the age come to their inevitable day of reckoning.  This raises the question: is the country choosing its change of direction or merely getting ready to vote out a government that misread the culture?

Source:  Paul Kelly, Editor at large for the Australian Newspaper

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FASTING: MANY CHRISTIANS HAVE NEVER BEEN TAUGHT HOW OR WHY TO FAST

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Many Christians practice fasting during Lent.  As Lent is now upon us, some theologians are drawing attention to the fact that the practice of fasting might be waning because many Christians have never been taught why it’s necessary or even how to do it.  But it’s undoubtedly biblical and its importance has not disappeared just because fewer Christians now practice it, they say.  Fasting is completely out of step with the way the West approaches Christianity (and religion as a whole), and, because the world has so penetrated the church, this may well be the primary reason why fasting is so unfamiliar to Western Christians in the 21st century.

Guy M Richard, assistant professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta, in a piece published in the November 2018 edition of Tabletalk magazine said “We need to remember that Jesus is not interested in Christians’ simply going through the motions.  He is not looking for mere rote performance of fasting, any more than He would be looking for mere rote performance of giving or praying or anything else,” Richard added. Fasting is a “game-changer,” and that is because it’s a form of unbroken intercession, says author Jennifer Eivaz, in her book Glory Carriers: How to Host His Presence Every Day, which was recently released.

“When Jesus spoke to His disciples and He asked them some questions in connection to the Lord’s prayer, He didn’t just ask them questions, He made some very clear statements.  And He said ‘when’ you pray, and then He said, ‘when’ you fast,” Eivaz explained.  That language is clear, she noted, as it’s understood that prayer and fasting are essential disciplines for followers of Christ. “When you are fasting, and that is in connection with prayer, too many people don’t realize that you are making your own physical body a sacrifice and when you do that you are literally in a continuous prayer.

“Just because you may not be verbalizing something in the moment, that act alone is a continuous prayer,” Eivaz, who pastors at Harvest Christian Centre in California, explained.  Imagine the power of fasting for an entire day, she continued.  That is 24 hours of straight prayer.  Such discipline yields breakthroughs and answered prayer on much higher levels than when people pray ordinarily.  Eivaz believes that many Christians, especially those who do not fast, have simply never had solid teaching on it and leaders have not called people to fast.  Meanwhile, Scripture is replete with examples of prophets, speaking for God, both calling people to and teaching them how to do it.

Pastors and lay leaders should revisit this whole concept and its accompanying spirituality, the author urged, particularly given what Jesus says in Mark 9:29, speaking of a demonically tormented boy.  Mark 9:29 reads: “He told them, ‘This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.'” “So if there’s someone with a spiritual oppression and you can’t break it, well, fast and pray and then you will break it,” she said.  “We’ve lost contact with some of the spiritual dimensions of fasting.  We’ve become more flesh-oriented, entertainment-oriented, and we’ve neglected the spiritual realm.”

When dealing with distinctly spiritual forces, both good and evil, how can people not practice it if they care about the advance of God’s Kingdom, Eivaz asked, “because you will deal with things that require fasting.” God honours a Christian who fasts to seek His will and pray for breakthrough and will also do so in communities who fast together.  When people mix their prayers with fasting it brings speed to answered prayer, she said, citing Isaiah 58:8.  When fasting is done as God prescribes, “Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.”

While the Bible shows there are different kinds of fasts, the prophet Daniel fasted choice meat and wine, for example, they all centre around going without food, Eivaz said. “In a lot of Christian circles they are having negativity fasts or maybe they’ll turn off their phones for a season.  I think all of that is helpful, but it’s not a biblical fast,” she said. “Me, having the body type that I have where my blood sugar just goes nuts [if I don’t eat], I train my body to fast one hour at a time.  I just added an hour just to stretch myself.  You have to work with what you have and the Lord honours that.”

Donald Whitney, a professor of biblical spirituality and associate dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, concurs.  “Fasting appears in the Bible more often than something as important as baptism,” he said, “by my count, fasting is mentioned about 77 times versus 75 times for baptism.”  People are not going to do what they have not been taught to do, he said, echoing Eivaz.  “It’s hard to be an advocate for something from the pulpit you’re not doing,”

Whitney said. “It’s hard to get up to urge people to fast if you’re not fasting.  The same is true for family worship or any other practice.”

He explained there are many purposes to fasting, but the most common one is to strengthen prayer.  For fasting to be done right, there must be a biblical purpose, he emphasized.  If not done with such a purpose, it will only be something to endure.  “It’s not the church’s idea, it’s God’s idea,” he stressed, adding that “we don’t manipulate God by doing it and we don’t gain anything necessarily by doing it.” “If, when you get hungry and your stomach growls and your head aches and you say, ‘Man, I’m hungry,’ and your next thought is ‘Oh, that’s right, I’m fasting today,’ and then your next thought is ‘How long until this is over?’ you’re doing it wrong.”

For it to be done right the thought that should follow the hunger pangs and remembrance that one is fasting is, for example, remembering to pray for one’s spouse or for someone’s conversion. “Your hunger serves your larger purpose,” Whitney reiterated, “and without that it is just something to be endured and we think that we are impressing God by making ourselves suffer and somehow that earns us points.  That’s just a works-based, not Gospel-based view of fasting.  And that’s probably the most common mistake by those who do fast.” He regards the practice as so important that he requires his students to fast twice per semester.

He doesn’t rigidly enforce as he always has pregnant or diabetic students who will endanger their health if they do not eat. “We want to make sure that we always cover our bases in saying that we never want to ask people to do anything that would cause them or an unborn child any kind of harm.” “But I have found that where there is a will there is way,” he said, noting there are ways to give up food in order to still feel the hunger and a sense of lack that inclines them to pray while simultaneously maintaining a nutritional intake that will enable them to function.  Whitney is the author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, which explores the purpose of fasting.

Source: Christian Post

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ONLY A UNITED NATION CAN MEET THE CHALLENGES OF A CHANGING WORLD

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As we approach another election and the debate heats up, many Australians despair of our future, with good reason.  Research shows that we are distressingly distrustful of one another, of our once-revered institutions, and of governments and politicians in particular.  Furthermore, we are polarised as perhaps never before as social activists, infused across our society, dominate much of today’s divisive public discourse.  The advent of social media has provided a rudimentary global public square, which Australians have taken to using with enthusiasm.  However, the level of abuse, emotion, hatred and splintering that it is producing has led economic historian Niall Ferguson to observe that it is so destabilising it may yet render our societies ungovernable.

Yet there is little narrative around the major and very threatening challenges confronting us.  Economic and geopolitical, these are largely external to our country, but the threats are real and blind to our tribalism.  They demand a recognition of our shared interests, and national unity, if our complacency in confronting them is not to destroy our cherished freedom, harmony and prosperity.  Only when we identify the serious need for a national response to the challenges will we be able to leave behind the attacks we seem to be conducting on one another.

The first challenge is the inevitable global economic downturn, next time Australia will not be immune.  The debt crisis that went within an ace of collapsing the global economy a decade ago has not been resolved.  It has been kicked down the road by vast new levels of public debt, running at unprecedented levels in the West.  We sailed through the past event because of extraordinarily sound public finances, care of the Coalition government, and because China, relatively unaffected at that time, continued buying many of its raw materials from us.

Although significant progress has been made by this government in winding back our annual deficits, we have a debt-to-GDP ratio of about 30 per cent in net terms, not comparable to the horrific debt problems of the US and Europe but fast approaching the point at which they lost control of their economies a decade ago.  Therefore, economic management is an absolute priority.  We want the strongest and most resilient economy we can manage, securing jobs and opportunities, and able to pay for the services and infrastructure that we expect.

Another challenge, and increasing the likelihood of economic trauma, is our move to a completely new global power setting.  We complacently believe the dominance of the West, and in particular its leadership, both economic and military, by the US, will secure our stability and safety.  For the first time we no longer can take for granted that the most powerful nation will necessarily be able to come to our aid, or maintain global order in the event of adventurism by one or more of the new troublesome power centres such as Russia, Iran or North Korea.  Nor can we take lightly the possibility of miscalculation between the reigning superpower and the rising superpower.

It is high time we found a deep sense of national unity and common purpose for the sake of peaceful harmony and co-operation as a people.  Although it has been hardly reported or analysed in Australia, the Americans have effectively signalled a new cold war with China.  Their trade war with China is under way but this is about a great deal more than the belief, both by Republicans and Democrats, that the Chinese are not trading fairly.

Vice-President Mike Pence has charged China with stealing US commercial secrets on an industrial scale, meddling in US politics, seeking influence in US institutions such as universities and engaging in debt-trap diplomacy with the Third World to gain global influence and displace America, particularly from the western Pacific.

We simply are not prepared to cope with these extraordinary new dynamics.

Every major country in the region, including Australia, does more trade with China than it does with the US, and that trade is critically important to global prosperity, including our own.  Yet, strategically, China is boldly flexing its muscle, including in the South China Sea, where it has built military bases in contested waters aimed at controlling the world’s most important sea lanes, and key western approaches to Taiwan, Japan and Korea.  It is plainly seeking to displace the US, with which we are so aligned, as our region’s major power.

This is not just a change in the “software” of international trade and relations in our area, it is a change in the “operating system”.  It poses enormous challenges, the likes of which we have not seen since the 1940s.  If we get this wrong, we will end up poorer, weaker, fragile and more vulnerable.  In the face of this, we need to have a sober, mature and foresighted debate about what is truly important to us, about what makes us different and sets us apart.  In any contest, you need to know what you mean to keep; what’s not negotiable.  But we’re not having that debate; instead, we’re pretending that everything will go on as usual.

This complacency is evident in the decade spent struggling to sign contracts for 12 submarines that we are told are such a vital deterrent.  At the earliest, the first may reach us by the middle of the 2030s, the last perhaps in the 2050s.  It was seen as a priority in 2009, making it all the more staggering that there has not been greater urgency recently, given the dramatic change in our strategic environment.  Perhaps an even more frightening reflection of our complacency is that we have not built the strategic fuel reserves that we committed to having in place under the terms of the International Energy Agency.

We have little liquid fuel self-sufficiency any more, and 40 to 45 ships are heading towards Australia at any given time carrying the vital fuel supplies that are absolutely critical to the functioning of our economy.  Many of those ships pass near the southern end of the South China Sea, where the potential for miscalculation, or worse, cannot be discounted, with an interruption to shipping leaving Australia almost crippled within a matter of days.  It is high time we found a deep sense of national unity and common purpose for the sake of peaceful harmony and co-operation as a people.

It also happens to be the case that these great issues before us must be, and can be, the clarion call for the redevelopment of a commitment to the common good, and the restoration of our trust in and regard for our freedoms, and the institutions that underpin them.  I believe thinking Australians would agree that these are the most pressing issues to address at the next federal election.

Source: John Anderson former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and Leader of the Nationals from 1999 to 2005.  His Conversations series, made up of video discussions about pressing issues, with opinion leaders from Australia and abroad, can be found at www.johnanderson.net.au

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GOD’S GRACE OVER AUSTRALIA

By Feature Articles

It is encouraging as well as instructive to look at some of the godly elements displayed in Australia’s colonial  history, and its foundations.  Our oldest parliament in NSW opens with this prayer. “Almighty God we humbly beseech thee to vouchsafe thy blessing upon this parliament, direct and prosper our deliberations to the advancement of thy glory and the true welfare of the people, our State and Australia. Amen.”

A similar prayer is said in our Federal Parliament.  Our Australian Constitution was prayed over continually by the man mainly responsible for its passage through the House of Commons.  Alfred Deakin, who was later to become Prime Minister, regarded the Federal Constitution as providential and that it only came into being through a series of miracles.  The Constitution Preamble states: “Whereas the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland; and Tasmania humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and under the Constitution hereby established….” This preamble was in response to numerous signed petitions from people from every colony represented in the Federal Convention.

Our Constitutional Christian Monarchy likewise expressed the Lordship of Christ when the Queen was presented with the Bible: “to keep your Majesty ever mindful of the law and the Gospel of God as the rule for the whole of life and government of Christian Princes, we present you with this Book, the most valuable thing this world affords. Here is wisdom; this is the royal law; these are the lively oracles of God.” When the Orb was delivered to the Queen the Coronation Service stated: “Receive this Orb set under the cross, and remember that the whole world is subject to the power and empire of Christ our Redeemer.”

Our Australian flag has four Christian crosses.  In the Southern Hemisphere God has placed the Southern Cross which is specially incorporated into our national flag, along with the crosses of St Andrew, St Patrick and St George.  As Christians we need to reflect on our foundations and recognise the hand of God in the commencement of a Christian nation in the Pacific within reach of the great Asian nations.  While many Australians look to a convict past with its fear of authority and feeling of inferiority and isolation, there is another history;  that of our Christian forefathers and their faith and contribution to the kingdom of God, a positive affirmation of a nation with a providential destiny.

It was Portuguese Catholic, Magellan who opened up the South Seas to the Europeans.  Magellan’s main purpose was to convert the barbarous nations to Christ.  It was his faith that sustained him through terrible deprivations until a strait was found into the Pacific.  Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, another Portuguese Catholic, was also seeking to convert the Inhabitants of the south seas to Christianity and believed he finally had discovered “Australia Del Espiritu Santo”—a land he dedicated to the Holy Spirit—which he described as being the region of the south as far as the pole.  Since he in fact discovered Vanuatu( the New Hebrides) the region he described includes all of Australasia, which encompasses New Zealand as well.

Abel Tasman was the first European to sight New Zealand and Tasmania and on his return wrote in his journal “God be praised and thanked for this happy voyage.”  Tasman was encouraged by the voyages of Christopher Columbus who stated: “…It was the Lord who put into my mind, I could feel His hand upon me, the fact that it would be possible to sail from here to the Indies.  All who heard of my project rejected it with laughter, ridiculing me…. There is no question that the inspiration was from the Holy Spirit, because He comforted me with rays of marvellous illumination from the Holy Scriptures… For the execution of the journey to the Indies I did not make use of intelligence, mathematics, or maps. It is simply the fulfilment of what Isaiah had prophesied … No one should fear to undertake any task in the name of our Saviour, if it is just and if the intention is purely for His Holy service… the fact that the Gospel must still be preached to so many lands in such a short time—this is what convinces me.” (“Book of Prophecies,” Christopher Columbus).

The first Christian minister came with the First Fleet. He was recommended by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel.  John Newton and William Wilberforce, two members of the Eclectic Society persuaded England’s Prime Minister, William Pitt to accept Richard Johnson’s nomination.  Johnson an evangelical churchman, took with him many Bibles, Books of Common Prayer, Psalters and numerous booklets against common sins, and on Sunday 3rd February 1788 he conducted the first Christian Service on Australian soil using as his text Psalm 116:12: “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me.”

The Evangelical Awakening in England also had its effect in Australia and the South Pacific.  People such as William Carey were awakened to the need for evangelism of heathen lands through reading “Captain Cooks Voyages.”  Many Englishmen became aware for the first time of lands in the Pacific and Asian regions.  Commencing In 1784, as part of the Evangelical Awakening, first Baptists, then other non-conformists throughout the Midlands began meeting for one hour on the first Monday in each month to pray for revival which would spread the gospel to the most distant parts of the globe.

This marked the beginning of the greatest period of expansion of the Christian faith since apostolic times.  Many missionary organisations were formed, one being the London Missionary Society. By 1826 Carey was responsible for the translation of the Bible into 30 languages in the Pacific and Asian region.  A missionary ship called the “Duff” sailed from England In 1796 to Tahiti with Rowland Hassall and his family.  In 1798 the Hassall family arrived in Australia after endangering their lives in Tahiti.  Within a short time Rowland Hassall had preached the gospel in all the districts of the colony.

Most of the colonies early leadership came from the evangelical Christian community, many being chaplains.  Governors such as Hunter, Macquarie and Brisbane, and a number of officials such as the Judge Advocates, Wylde and Ellis Bent, the editor of Australia’s first newspaper, were strongly committed to Christian views, as were the school teachers.

Governor Macquarie was always trying to improve the moral and religious well-being of the colony, hoping that those in his care would become good Christians.  He personally promoted the British and Foreign Bible Society and the Sunday School Movement.  He also encouraged other Christian groups such as the Auxiliary Bible Society, and spoke at the Inaugural meeting.  Macquarie particularly encouraged Christian Education commencing a number of schools under the supervision of the Government Chaplains, so that by 1817 the most common discussion in the pages of the Sydney Gazette, was on the merits of Bible reading.

James Stephen, the Permanent Under Secretary of the Colonial Office believed God was going to sovereignly use Australia as a Christian Nation and he was influential in the choice of many Christian leaders to the colony.  Amongst them was George Arthur, who shared with James Stephen, the vision of Australia as a base in South East Asia and the Pacific to reach the Chinese, Hindu and Muslim nations to the North.  Captain Charles Sturt was a great Australian pioneer and heroic inland explorer.  Sturt was a man of considerable courage, faith and prayer and was responsible for opening up most of Southern Australia to free settlement.  Sturt loved the majesty of the Australian bush and on a number of occasions his life was only spared, due to what he acknowledged as divine intervention.  Throughout the pages of his journals Sturt shared his faith constantly, especially when writing to his wife. He used to pray continually for guidance, committing each day’s journey to God.

For many years South Australia’s capital was known as the Holy City, but today it is known as the City of Churches.  Adelaide in its formative years couldn’t seat all the parishioners in their churches.  During Adelaide’s first eight years there were more preachers and places of worship than in the first decade in New England, U.S.A. From the time of South Australia’s settlement in 1836 to 1915 more children attended Sunday School than attended school.  In one of the first schools opened by George Fife Angas the sole textbook was the bible.  Angas had distributed millions of gospel tracts in his lifetime.  Many of South Australia’s founders were Christians.  Such people as Robert Torrens who stated in a House of Commons speech In 1827 that “We are cooperating in the scheme of Providence and are the favoured Instrument In causing Christian civilization to cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea.”

At that time one had to virtually be a lay preacher to be a director of the South Australia Company.  Robert Gouger, the Colonial Secretary was a devout evangelical. Even E.G. Wakefield acknowledged that without him South Australia would not have been settled as early as it was.  It was Gouger who wrote a “Sketch of Proposal for Colonizing Australia”.  He organised the first public meeting for the free settlement of the South Australian coast, attended by 2,500 people in a Christian Centre, Exeter Hall in London. Many others instrumental in the formation of S.A. were Christians such as Lt. Col. George Gawler who was determined to establish a Christian settlement: Sir George Grey, Capt. John Hindmarsh, Charles Mann, David McLaren, Capt. Barker, Edward John Eyre and clergymen such as T.Q. Stow as well as Lord Glenelg of the Home Office.

Hebrews 11:32 says ‘and what more shall I say?  I do not have time to tell about Gideon. Barak, Samson, Jephthah.  David, Samuel and the prophets who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised….” So also we could continue about many of the early pioneers.  People such as Matthew Flinders; or Capt. John Molloy with his wife Georgiana, “The Madonna of the bush,” who settled in Western Australia, and were prayed over prophetically by other Charismatic Irvingite Christians before coming to Australia.  There was of course the remarkable Caroline Chisholm, who in six years settled eleven thousand people as servants and farmers in N.S.W.; the Moravian Missionary Latrobe family of Victoria.  Ludwig Leichhardt, who explored much of Australia’s north; and the Rev John Flynn, who founded the Flying Doctor Service and the Australian Inland Mission, whose Presbyterian Ministers were known as the boundary riders of the bush, and which was responsible for establishing communication through the inland by pedal wireless, giving a mantle of support and protection over inland Australia, the size of Western Europe.

Australia’s first Prime Minister, Edmund Barton, and another Prime Minister, George Reid, were trained in public speaking and inspired to enter public life through the vision of a Christian minister, Dr Steel. Evangelical Christians have also been responsible for the creation of some of Australia’ s foremost inventions. John Ridley, a devout Christian, created the labour saving stripper, and the famous “Sunshine” Harvester was invented by H.V. McKay, who named it in honour of the “Son”.  It was manufactured in what was to be the largest factory in Australia for many years.  In recent times in Australia we find committed Christians involved in major areas of human endeavour such as in Government, Business, Education, Health, Entertainment, Sport & Welfare.  Christians have also been at the very forefront of community awareness campaigns, and public movements active in preserving Australia’s Constitutional heritage and democratic freedoms.

Thus we can see that Australia’s discovery, settlement and growth can easily be explained in terms of God’s intentions for our nation.  He has used His men and women to lead in so many areas of development that even the most humanist historian could have difficulty explaining away the mass of evidence at which this article only hints.  Law and Parliament Common Law have been based on the Christian faith, exemplified by the statue of Jesus occupying the central place above the entrance to the Royal Courts of Justice in London Jesus pictured above the circle with Moses and Alfred the Great towards the side.  An enlarged picture of Jesus (below) can be found here  www.artandarchitecture.org.uk/images/conway/145ad2a2.html and by many statements by scholars such as one Chief Justice who declared: “Christianity is parcel of the Common Law of England and therefore to be protected by it.  So whatever strikes at the very root of Christianity tends manifestly to the dissolution of civil government.²

If the past is misinterpreted then so is the significance of the future.  It is important that we don’t continue to be deceived by the secularization process which denies the sovereignty of God in history, and be like Esau who sold his birthright for a meal when Psalm 61:56 says: “You have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.”  Australian’s can rejoice in the contribution of our Christian forebears and confidently step out in faith aware of God’s great intentions for our great island continent.

For further information on our Christian Heritage or National Christian Heritage Sunday on the 3rd of Feb 2019 please visit www.chr.org.au

Source: Dr Graham McLennan Christian Historian and Head of the National Alliance of Christian Leaders

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Another Amazing APN International Watchmen Bootcamp in Israel

By Feature Articles

We could not have imagined just how life-changing and impacting our Australian Prayer Network International Watchmen Bootcamps would be.  Discipling ordinary people in ‘how to pray for nations’ and giving them a ‘bigger vision for Israel and the Middle East’ has to be some of the most rewarding ministry I’ve ever been involved with.

As a Pastor, if I could take my whole congregation through this immersive discipleship program having now led three of these Bootcamps with over 120 people, I’d reckon that they would receive an accelerated growth in these two weeks equivalent to more than 5 years of average church life.  Make no mistake, it is God who transforms us into the likeness of Jesus as we align ourselves with His kingdom prayer inviting Him to ‘let your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven.


In two words the Bootcamp was life changing. It has given me a new zeal and focus for praying.  For those contemplating Bootcamp 2019: You will be blessed beyond your wildest dreams and return home with an intense love for Israel, her people and her neighbours, and the knowledge of what to pray for. AC, Hunter Region NSW

It was all so life changing!!! We really see ourselves in a NEW SEASON now, even though we have returned home. TS & RS, Tomingley, NSW

Experiencing Bootcamp in Israel was life changing for me as a Christian, it brought the Bible to life, opened doorways that would have not been possible otherwise.  The amazing team that led us were such a blessing.  I would summarize the journey as “Road to Damascus” a life changing event. SJO, Perth, WA

For me, the Bootcamp brought the Bible to life.  It helped me get “inside” Israel, some of her people & her history.  It helped me get a clearer understanding of the meaning & significance of the Isaiah 19 Highway & brought hundreds of years of history more into focus.  It made me aware of how timeless & alive God’s word is.  If you want a typical “tourist trip”, don’t go on the Bootcamp because we bypass many of the touristy sites.  But if you want to meet real-life Israelis and put into practice what you learnt at the Australian Prayer Network schools, this is the trip for you. RW, Blackall QLD


A House of Prayer for All Nations

Prayer is central to everything we do on the Bootcamp, but it also changes people in their whole Christian walk.  The Bootcamp takes the teaching of the APN’s Watchmen Schools of Intercession (WSOI) and allows participants to apply what they’ve learned not only in praying for Australia, but to practically equip the church in Australia to become a house of prayer for all nations.


Regarding the WSOI a number of Pastors have said, “where has this teaching been for the past 20 years” and “I want to ensure that every person in my congregation gets to hear this teaching.” Another stated, “this is not just about prayer, it is about real life.”

More than 12,500 people have now completed the
Australian Prayer Network’s WSOI Foundation School


The Jewish and Arab ministries we partner with in Israel often comment on the maturity of our teams.  Every participant on the Bootcamp has already completed 3 levels of Watchmen Schools of Intercession: Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced.

In a nutshell what do you do on the Bootcamps?

Our Bootcamps are not a typical tour of Israel.  Our aim is to ‘understand the past, connect to the present and shape the future.’  This is our basic template for every prayer journey we undertake in the nations.  Everything we do is established on the bedrock of Scripture.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. Hebrews 11:8 NIV

Our program begins at the place where Abraham was called to, the wilderness around Beersheba (modern day Be’er Sheva).  As we reflect on Abraham, the father of our faith, we understand the essence of the Christian faith is about total availability and radical obedience.  The wilderness too holds special meaning in Hebrew as the place where God speaks (Hosea 2:14).

We also remember our ANZAC diggers of 101 years ago and identify with their incredible courage in the Beersheba Light Horse charge.  In a spiritual sense, we ask are we prepared to lay our lives down to set the captives free?

In order to understand the foundation of the modern nation of Israel founded 70 years ago, we visit Ben Gurion’s desert homestead.  As Israel’s first Prime Minister we reflect on his leadership and his dream to see the Negev Desert bloom and feed the population.  He humbly gave up power in government and moved to a small hut in Sde Boker to serve that vision, which today has become a reality.

That’s just our first day, full of ‘onsite with insight’ experiences to build a framework for both personal spiritual growth and in-depth understanding of prayer for nations.


I would recommend future Bootcamps as there is insight
you cannot get unless you’re on site. FN, Geelong VIC


In brief: we move from our time in the wilderness where we allow God to strip us back, speak to us and prepare our hearts to see the fulness of His unchanging Kingdom plan to save the nations; along the way we engage with a daily devotional built around the Beatitudes and have regular times of prayer and worship; as we consider the suffering of Jews at Masada and in the Holocaust, we contemplate on Jesus as the suffering servant on the Cross through an inspired sculptural artwork, and then in a private Gethsemane garden we reflect personally on his prayer where he cried out “not my will but yours.

While in Jerusalem: we hold our Isaiah 19 Highway: A Bigger Vision for the Middle East two-day residential teaching conference with our team and local guest speakers at Christ Church, the oldest Protestant church in the Middle East; a heart-touching highlight is handing out care packages to Muslims, working with an Arabic evangelical church in the Old City; praying in a 24/7 house of prayer with views of Mt Zion and the Temple Mount is spectacular; plus visits to the Garden Tomb and Western Wall.

Up north in the Galilee: we have onsite exegetical teaching at Megiddo; enjoy a sabbath rest at a lakeside resort; hear from Arabic Pastors and pray for the church in Nazareth; visit young troops at a kibbutz on the northern border with Lebanon; visit Jesus’ hometown of Capernaum with illuminating teaching on the shore of the Galilee; hear plumbline teaching on Jews and Gentiles from the leaders of a Messianic Congregation whose ministry reaches out to the poor; prayer-walk the city of Haifa and pray over it on the slopes of Mt Carmel following onsite teaching.

The Bootcamp concludes: as we visit a house of prayer dedicated for the church to pray over the Tel Aviv metro area with nearly 4 million residents; after more strategic prayer looking up the coast from the old city of Jaffa, we head to our Judean Hillside retreat to wrap up our discipleship journey and reflect on our rewarding times of rich fellowship, reverent focus and rollicking fun.


Bootcamp was a good mix of prayer, praise and worship, new teaching and putting into practice what we learnt. It provided opportunity to see significant sites and visit many ministries in Israel all the while having a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the opportunity to work alongside both Messianic and Arab believers. The Leadership trusted our ability to hear God in our lives and was willing to let us “have a go”. I believe I have grown in my Christian walk as a result. The relationship building throughout was amazing. I attended Bootcamp knowing no one and left with many new friends. RS, Sydney NSW


How Can I Join the Bootcamp in 2019?

Simply complete the 3 levels of APN Watchmen Schools of Intercession (WSOI): Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced.  Visit our School Calendar for 2019  for more details on available schools.  You are eligible to apply to join our 2019 Bootcamp if you have completed or are registered to complete an Advanced School prior to the trip during 31 October – 15 November 2019.

For information on our next Watchmen Bootcamp take a look at our APN-Bootcamp 2019 Brochure and to apply complete our Bootcamp Application Oct-Nov 2019.

Intermediate & Advanced Watchmen Schools of Intercession planned for early 2019

MARCH 1-2         Intermediate Servants of Jesus Sydney NSW
MARCH 7-10       Intermediate Mt Pleasant Baptist WA
APRIL 12-14        Intermediate Toowoomba QLD
JUNE 14-16         Advanced Bindoon WA
JUNE 21-23         Intermediate Canberra ACT
JULY 5-7              Advanced Albury VIC/NSW
JULY 12-14           Advanced Blacktown NSW

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WHAT IS THE FUTURE WHEN CHRISTIANS ARE AFRAID TO STAND OUT AND DISTRUST IS GROWING

By Feature Articles

Source: by Stoyan Zaimov of The Christian Post

As the religious landscape of America continues to change and those identifying with faith continues to decline, the fear of standing out as a Christian is growing.  And that is impacting evangelism efforts.  There’s a greater apprehension among those who do count themselves as Christians to not only share their faith but to even appear differently from the rest of society, according to Bo Rice, assistant professor of evangelism and preaching at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.  They’re too afraid to stand for beliefs that might be seen as offensive to others in a diversifying culture.

“I believe in the politically correct, politically charged climate of our culture today, believers are afraid to take a stand and to look different for fear of being accused of being intolerant toward others.  Unfortunately, we have reached a point in history where Christians are afraid to speak biblical truth in love out of fear of retribution,” Rice said. “Many Christians have just assimilated into the culture of the world, so they won’t ‘offend’ anyone.” New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Charles “Chuck” Kelley Jr., laments that Christians are simply blending in with the secular world.

While it can be argued that the older generations might have been “overchurched,” the reality today is that some people have “never stepped foot in a church,” said Noel Heikkinen, lead pastor at Riverview Church in the Lansing, Michigan.  Many people in the current generation don’t have the church experience that previous generations were exposed to. As a result, “their view of Christianity is what they have seen in pop culture, and what we are seeing even more so is that it’s derived from social media,” Heikkinen explained.  He said that for a lot of younger people, “their whole perception of Christianity is not about the Gospel, or Jesus, or any of that.”

Unlike previous generations, young people today “have very much an ‘a la carte’ approach to spirituality,” meaning that they want to “pick and choose what strands of their spirituality are important to them,” the Michigan pastor said.  “Even if they hear a preacher say Scripture has to be the ultimate authority in their lives, there is always going to be an “asterisk” next to that, and they will turn to their “own truth” if they hear something they disagree with, he noted.  For many young people, “there is no real truth that lies outside of their own personal experiences, biases and assumptions.”

“The self becomes the arbitrator of personal truth; personal truth becomes greater than absolute truth,” Heikkinen said. Rice also believes that the number of people who have never heard of Jesus Christ is growing.  “We are seeing and hearing of more stories of people coming to faith in Christ after hearing about Jesus for the first time.  However, I also do agree that we often encounter those who are ‘disillusioned’ with ‘religion’ altogether,” Rice said. Many polls have painted a complex picture of the religious landscape in America and the west as a whole.

One overarching trend that has emerged in most surveys and analyses is that the proportion of those identifying with Christianity, especially young people, is shrinking.  A study by Gallup has found that while 71% of Americans identified with a Protestant denomination back in 1955, the percentage decreased to less than half (47%) of the population in 2017.  Roman Catholics retained a more stable rate of identification, making up 22% of the population in 2017, compared to 24% in 1955.  Young people were found to be one of the chief drivers of the rising “nonreligious” demographic, with 33% of those aged 21 to 29 stating that they follow no religion.

J Warner Wallace, a cold case detective, author and senior fellow at the Colson Centre for Christian Worldview, chronicled more than 50 similar surveys back in January and concluded: “Fewer people claim a Christian affiliation than ever before, and those who claim no religious affiliation are the fastest growing group in America.”  Researcher George Barna of the American Culture & Faith Institute noted, following a survey of 9,273 American adults in November 2017, which found that only 31% of adults identify as born-again Christians, that faith is undergoing a “substantial challenge.”

“The Church at-large is not likely to grow in the future unless some fundamental changes in practice are made,” Barna warned.  The survey found that people are most likely to accept Christ as Saviour before they finish high school, with two out of every three individuals who say they are born again revealing they made the choice before the age of 18.  Currently, evangelism, defined as the act of proclaiming the message that Jesus Christ is Lord, is in what Rice calls a “confused” state.  One of Merriam Webster’s definitions of confusion is “a state or situation in which many things are happening in a way that is not controlled or orderly.”

“I believe that this is a good picture of evangelism today.  We are not seeing the large-scale, structured evangelism campaigns emphasized as strongly in present-day churches like we have in the past,” Rice, who is also the dean of Graduate Studies at the Southern Baptist Convention-affiliated NOBTS, observed.  “So we have lost the ‘controlled’ aspect of systematic approaches and more accurate reporting of numbers.”  Evangelism is still being done by individual churches and individuals but for Rice, the main question is whether their approach is effective in “reaching people for the Kingdom of God.”

Heikkinen is involved in another approach to evangelism: church planting.  He serves as the U.S. Midwest network director for Acts 29 Network, which focuses on planting churches where there is “a lot less Gospel influence.”  There are pockets in America where there’s been a good response to church planting and evangelism. “Some of the most successful efforts in the past 30 years” have been “in suburban areas,” Heikkinen noted.  “It’s been a much easier place to plant churches.”  He acknowledged that churches in America are “declining faster” than they are growing and church planters are struggling to plant in an urban context as well as in small rural towns.

In the major cities, people, especially in economically disadvantaged zones, are “suspicious of those coming in from outside” and would ask “why are you here?”  Suspicion against the church has intensified with the rise of the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements.  People are seeing churches “as a place to cover up” sexual assault and to “protect those who are hurting vulnerable people,” Heikkinen added.  Church planters are encountering a lot of that sentiment, particularly from the younger generation.  Both the Protestant and Catholic world have been mired in sexual abuse cases.

The sexual assault accusations against, and downfall of, high-profile megachurch pastor Bill Hybels, as well as Andy Savage in Tennessee, have prompted much discussion on accountability in evangelical circles.  While the Catholic Church has faced scandals worldwide, decades of clergy sex abuse and institutional cover-ups were revealed in Pennsylvania and other states earlier this year.  Underlying those scandals have been the thousands of #ChurchToo stories shared in online circles by people, mostly women, who say they have suffered rape and other forms of sexual abuse by Christians in leadership and others within churches.

All of this has a direct consequence on how Christianity is perceived and creates challenges for evangelism, both Rice and Heikkinen affirmed.  “When a believer falls, especially clergy and lay leaders, it’s a deterrent to the advancement of the Gospel,” Rice commented.  “Satan uses the ‘fall’ of leaders through the abuse of innocent children or women, or adultery, to name a few, to attempt to destroy the credibility of all believers and the Gospel.  Their sin is magnified and these ‘Christians’ are made out to be ‘worse than the world’ so that all who see their fall and who do not know the story of Redemption through Christ have no desire to be associated with them.

“However, it is our job to make sure we preach the Redemptive portion of the story.  We need Jesus because of those very sin issues.”  Heikkinen reflected that there is mistrust in the U.S. toward authority in general, and that mistrust “bleeds into the church,” especially when it comes to cases of sex abuse.  Looking at just how many people have been accusing Christian leaders and churches of varying degrees of abuse and cover-ups, the Michigan pastor said that he can’t claim to be surprised.  “But I would say I am heartbroken,” Heikkinen said.

“I want our churches to be a light to this world,” Heikkinen emphasized, admitting that “it’s hard right now to be a voice in our culture” due to the scandals. Christians need to regain trust and the universal Church has to take big steps in that regard.  He pointed to 2 Timothy in the Bible, where the Apostle Paul says in part: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my Gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal.  But the word of God is not bound!  Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”

Rice turned to Acts 1:8, which reads: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth.”  Rice insisted that the future of evangelism is not bleak.  “If the believers of Christ will look to Him for His promised Spirit, direction, and power, then we will see Him accomplish great things through us,” he underscored.  “In short, evangelism will be successful because Jesus is on His throne, and He still desires to use His people to bring about His purpose and will.”

Traditional methods of evangelism include preaching on the streets, which was popular in the ’70s, but it might not be as effective as before.  For Heikkinen, the most effective way to spread the Gospel message and bring people to Jesus is through relationships.  ”I think what we are discovering is that evangelism is about being friends with people,” speaking with them honestly, and not hiding one’s own sins, he explained.  Rather than starting with theological teachings right away when engaging with nonbelievers, he emphasized the importance of building friendships with them first.

When something happens in their lives and they need someone to talk to, the Christian friend can step up and share how their beliefs have helped them, he said.  “Some of the people I have personally been able to lead to faith in the last several years have all been my friends first,” he revealed.  Heikkinen noted that the opportunity presents itself when something happens in people’s lives, and then they think of him: “He is a pastor and a Christian, I should talk to him.”  That strategy is also discussed in Friend of Sinners: An Approach to Evangelism by author and pastor Harvey Turner, also of the Acts 29 Network.

The book details how the approach mirrors the ministry of Jesus Himself, who had conversations with everyday people and chose to be a “friend of the sinners.”  Rice noted he also tries to practice what he called “Gospel conversations,” namely “taking the time to develop relationships with people and then transitioning to a Gospel presentation in regular conversation.”  And that presentation must be the “full truth,” Rice stressed.  “To many, the Gospel and biblical principles are controversial and offensive.  But we are called to be witnesses of the full truth, not just the parts of the Bible that make us ‘feel good’ or ‘comfortable,’” he said.

“So yes, the culture is changing, and the context of ministry might be more difficult in our postmodern world, but that doesn’t mean we should water down biblical truth just to make it ‘easier’ for us because if we do that, what Gospel are we preaching?  Our own?  May we never make a mockery of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross in such a way.”  Christians must also not forget to extend a clear invitation to respond to the message of Jesus Christ.  Rice observed that in recent decades, fewer evangelicals ask for an “explicit response to the Gospel.” “Some no longer extend an invitation because they are fearful it might come across as manipulative,” he cautioned.

“I believe we must never use any form of manipulation in calling people to respond to the Gospel, but we must call for a clear and decisive response of people to repent of their sins and trust in Christ as Saviour and Lord.  We must plead and urge people to respond to the truth.”  Heikkinen often wonders what the state of Christianity will look like in the future.  “The trend that I see happening, and I hope I am wrong, is that American churches will continue declining in influence,” he said.  But that doesn’t leave him pessimistic in seeing more people in America gain salvation through Jesus because the work of evangelism will still go on, but not always from within.

There’s another trend that can’t be ignored, the Christian faith is growing overseas, such as in China and in parts of Africa and South America.  And they will send a new “generation of missionaries to come to the nations of the west and preach,” Heikkinen said.  Those overseas churches are earnestly praying for faith in the west, he highlighted. “God is going to use that.”

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WE CANNOT LET THE AGGRESSIVE SECULARISTS DRIVE OUT RELIGION

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The Machiavellian leaking of “fake news” out of the Ruddock review of religious freedom during the Wentworth by-election and the emotionally charged reaction raises yet again the issue of how 25 million people are going to live together with their deepest ideological and religious beliefs in the vastly different Australia we now live in.  In short, the question is how we are now going to respect diversity and still promote liberty while maintaining the harmony that has been so much the hallmark of our national life.  We must face up to the urgency of the problem: we are atomising and fracturing in the context of the rise of powerful ferment over beliefs and ideologies across the globe.

Far from this being “the end of history” or an age of secularism, we are witnessing a global resurgence of religion and ideology.  We are also living through a clash of Western traditions within our own civilisation, between liberal traditionalism and cultural Marxism, both of which emerged out of the Enlightenment.  Add to this the emergence of social media, which was supposed to create a virtual global public square, but in the process has also created virtual global tribes, and we a have vast new machinery for transforming civil disagreement into civil hate.  These forces are potentially so destabilising that they may threaten our governability.

If we beneficiaries of liberal democracy and human rights better understood our history we wouldn’t be so reserved about affirming religious freedom.  History teaches that the long arc of Christian influence on society has proven to be hugely beneficial.  No doubt it is easy to find serious moral blemishes in Christian history, but it was also out of Christianity’s capacity for reform that the solutions evolved.  Perez Zagorin in his classic book How the Idea of Religious Toleration Came to the West shows that religious freedom, the beginning of liberalism, largely emerged from Christian tradition in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The great myth is that all of our most cherished values came out of some secular Enlightenment.  On the contrary, notions of human dignity and equality arose in the Judeo-Christian tradition hundreds of years before the Enlightenment; and, in any case, for the most part the Enlightenment was not secular.  The great Enlightenment document affirming human rights, equality, and liberty, Thomas Jefferson’s 1776 Declaration of Independence, based these ideals on the notion that “all men are created equal” and are “endowed by their Creator” with these rights.  To this day secularists have not found a better foundation.

The anti-slavery movement, perhaps the greatest human rights achievement of all time, drank deeply at the well of Christianity, with the strong religiosity of African-Americans to this day testifying to a collective awareness of Christianity’s emancipatory potential.  The early feminist movement was also made up of many individual Christian women, including the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, which was the major agent behind women getting the vote in South Australia in 1894.  Evangelicals were at the front of 19th-century movements to improve the conditions in factories: Catholic social thought influenced Justice Henry Higgins in the Harvester judgment of 1907, which introduced a minimum “living” wage in Australia.

None of this is even to mention the huge social utility of religion in Australia today, particularly in the founding of charities and levels of charitable giving, as outlined in Greg Sheridan’s brilliant God is Good For You: A Defence of Christianity in Troubled Times.  Society benefits from religion, even if not all individuals know it, and thus it is at our collective loss if we hinder religion’s efforts to maintain strong institutions and have a public influence.  But strong religious institutions are made up of strongly religious individuals, that is, individuals who honour the principles of the institution in thought and deed.

For this reason as long as we recognise the importance of allowing religious institutions, churches, schools, charities, to exist we must allow them to discriminate in their membership, lest our commitment to freedom of religion and association is just an empty gong.  It cannot be doubted that individuals can be hurt by the exercise of the rights of religion and conscience, just as people can be hurt by other rights such as freedom of speech, association, we all exercise the right to exclude individuals from our circle of friends, and even free trade.  The best way to address this is within the paradigm of liberal freedoms themselves.

In a liberal democracy, if a clash of interests can be resolved without limiting anybody’s freedoms then it should be the preferred way.  In the case of religious schools in a highly developed country like Australia, most people have the option of more than just one school to work or study in.  Furthermore, as the Ruddock review recommends, schools can develop strategies for making their doctrinal and moral expectations clear from the beginning in a sensitive way, seeking to avoid any unnecessary hurt.  Interestingly, this reflects the diversity of political parties in our system as a vital part of the machinery of our freedom.

Politicians argue that voters should have choice, and we as voters embrace choice every time we decide whom to vote for.  The rhetoric of an often aggressive secularism which seeks to drive religion out of the public square fails to grasp that secularism is merely one voice in the pluralist crowd.  Contemporary secularists need to accept that while Australia is not as religious as it was a generation ago, it is not the secularist nation they would like.  If secularists rejoice that the 2016 census reported that 30 per cent of Australians register “no religion” they must also acknowledge that around 50 per cent of Australians identified as Christian, with continued immigration coming from countries that are less secular than Australia.

Thus, calls for the withdrawal of public funding for religious schools that discriminate are seriously flawed.  Such calls covertly define the Australian “public” as secular, as though the religious parents who send their children to religious schools aren’t themselves members of the same public that contributes the funds from which Australian schools are supported.  Once we acknowledge that the Australian public remains to a significant degree a religious public, as the 2016 census indicated, then religious schools have as much right to public funding as non-religious schools.

Sir Robert Menzies said that “democracy is more than a machine; it is a spirit. It is based upon the Christian conception that there is in every human soul a spark of the divine.”  For Menzies, democracy could work only if we remember that “with all their inequalities of mind and body, the souls of men stand equal in the sight of God”.  In the ridiculing and mocking of the Christian God and his expulsion from the public square, we have also lost the compelling narrative that Menzies so plainly understood for respecting one another that arises from the Christian insistence on loving your neighbour as yourself, even when that neighbour is your enemy.

In the all-too-common circumstances when we find we profoundly and genuinely disagree, we now resort to such levels of hate speech that it is hard to avoid the conclusion that we are faced with a civic crisis.  The aggressive secularists who insist on burning down what remains of our cultural house have proved totally unable to point the way to a better dwelling.  The 20th century showed us just how hideous secular utopianism can be.  Modern Australia could surely use an infusion of some things traditionally Christian, for example Christianity’s emphasis on humility.

When you replace humility with a culture of narcissism and self-righteousness, those with whom we disagree become wicked in our minds.  But as Russian dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said: “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts.”  We are also seeing how superficial progressives’ commitment to multiculturalism actually is, for the cultural integrity of religious schools, Christian or otherwise, seems to have no moral force when it comes to the diversity movement.

In fact, the demands of diversity are a new form of assimilation.  Dare to disagree on cultural grounds with the reigning orthodoxy on gender politics and you’ll immediately find yourself branded a lesser Australian.  Much as I dislike the racial and sexual discrimination architecture in this country, it appears that an overarching religious discrimination act may be the only way to secure as a positive right an acceptable degree of religious freedom in contemporary Australia.  It would need to be very carefully thought through and drafted in order to properly enshrine religious freedom, associational rights, and freedom of conscience as human rights.

Ironically, this is necessary to bring us into line with the very international obligations so beloved of today’s social activists.  We are fortunate that in Australia there is indication of a decent majority that values freedom of conscience and religious liberty.  The submissions in favour of religious liberty and freedom of conscience to the Ruddock review into religious freedom were overwhelming and, according to polls conducted during the 2017 same-sex marriage debate, a very large majority of Australians are in favour of the protection of religious liberty.

I don’t hear anyone arguing for an extension of religious liberty; rather, it has become patently obvious that effective measures are now needed to simply preserve the freedoms we’ve taken for granted and exercised for so long in laissez-faire Australia.  That is because our society is now plainly infused with activists who are determined to use every tool available to enforce their views on others, no matter the cost.  And as a result, our cherished social harmony really is now at risk.

Source: John Anderson, former deputy prime minister of Australia and leader of the National Party from 1999 to 2005.

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MY ANGEL IS NO CENTREFOLD

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What do Metallica’s James Hetfield, a church pastor and a group of college students have in common?  They’re part of an unlikely alliance raising awareness of the damage pornography is doing. After the death of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, pornography made its way out of the shadows and into the spotlight.  Public response was divided: some saw Hef as a champion of sexual liberation, while others slammed the mogul for destroying lives.  It’s rare that someone’s death divides society so dramatically, but when it comes to the founder of a multi-million-dollar pornography empire it’s no surprise.

Which is why I was shocked when I found the middle ground taken by a church pastor.  And not just any pastor.  It was Craig Gross, the founder of anti-porn movement XXXchurch.  Gross’s entire career is based around the concept that “Jesus Loves Porn Stars”, and he has spoken to countless people in the sex industry about the dangers of pornography and how to overcome addiction.  If anyone was going to glory in this hit to the Playboy Empire, I would expect it to be him.  Gross had taken his own tour of the Playboy mansion years ago and had heard from an inside source that Hef kept a copy of Rick Warren’s faith-based book The Purpose Driven Life beside his bed.

It gave him the congenial respect to post this in response to Hefner’s death: “I don’t know if Hef is looking down on us right now or not, but my faith is just big enough to hold on to the hope that this brilliant mind who started at Esquire and went on to build an empire was smart enough to pick up that Christian book on his shelf and possibly could have found his true purpose.”  Gross’s choice to reach out to those affected by Hugh Hefner’s death rather than dispense morality-based judgment is the calling card of a new generation of anti-porn crusaders.  And while crusaders may sound like strong language, it’s appropriate.

Because this fact-based movement, which listens to people’s stories, observes how porn changes the brain, damages relationships and harms children, believes they are fighting what could be the most damaging drug of our times: pornography.  As in the magazines you used to sneak out of your parents room as a kid.  Except now porn isn’t just in print: it’s online.  And technology has exacerbated porn to the point where it is more efficient, violent, cheaper and more accessible than ever before.  This means young people are increasingly accessing porn, the median age they first see it is 11, and boys aged between 14–17 years are the most frequent under-age consumers of porn.

But porn isn’t just damaging the lives of children, it’s also impacting adults.  In 2006, a study found that 82% of 18–49-year-olds looked at pornographic magazines, 84% viewed pornographic films, and 34% viewed pornography online.  Experts anticipate this has risen in the last decade.  “As porn becomes more violent and degrading, so do the real-life requests of boys and men,” Michelle Brock told Relevant Magazine, reflecting on what she learnt after creating the anti-porn documentary Over 18.  One mum in tears, told us her 14-year-old daughter had been asked by several guys in her class for naked pictures of herself which would then get traded between boys during recess.”

Filmmaker Justin Hunt heard about even more tragic behaviour in children when he was making his film Addicted to Porn: Chasing the Cardboard Butterfly.  Narrated by Metallica front man James Hetfield, the cultural significance of the film is almost unprecedented.  “[Porn is] getting down to very, very young kids and it’s poisoning the roots of community and of family and of society,” Justin tells Warcry.  “We’re not just talking about what the actual act of doing or watching pornography is doing, but how it ripples out.  With technology, a lack of public education, more porn as they get older, then they get into relationships and they expect it to be like that and it’s not.

Then the family falls apart, and it all goes back to way back to when they were looking at porn as kids.”  Addicted to Porn documents the thoughts of experts famously for and against porn, and how porn is perceived by people across the globe.  Notably, it also delves into a heart-wrenching case study of a mother whose marriage to her sweetheart fell apart due to his life-altering addiction to pornographic content.  “She began to explain to me the depth of her husband’s addiction, he wanted to poke his eyes out, because when he looked at her, she felt the projection of all these naked women on her,” Justin shares.

This is a human issue. You don’t have to have a certain set of beliefs to acknowledge that you can’t be pro-porn.  “Previously I couldn’t fathom that would be a reason someone would get divorced, it just became very apparent that this was doing damage, and someone needed to step up and do something about it.”  Pastors, musicians and directors aren’t the only ones stepping into the ring to take on porn, young people around the world have also taken on the fight.  Fight the New Drug, a non-profit, non-religious movement started by a group of college kids in 2009, uses science, facts and personal accounts to educate people about the harmful effects of pornography.

They are adamantly “pro-love and pro-healthy sex” which is why the facts they share are so compelling.  “We want to educate as many people as possible so that they can have a real shot of finding love before porn impacts their lives,” the organisation told Warcry.  “Pornography can rewire reward pathways in the brain and become addictive, contribute to a variety of mental and emotional disorders like depression and anxiety, can warp one’s sexual template and inhibit the ability or desire to connect with a real partner.”  Fight the New Drug aren’t afraid to highlight the connection between porn, human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

In fact, they regularly feature blogs about previous porn stars in an effort to destroy the facade that porn is just harmless fun.  “This is a human issue.  You don’t have to have a certain set of beliefs to acknowledge that you can’t be pro-porn,” they say.  “You don’t have to be a woman to recognise that porn is more often than not incredibly degrading and violent against women.  You don’t have to be a man to struggle with pornography.  You don’t have to be any particular race, religion, gender, sexual orientation to care about what the multi-billion-dollar porn industry is doing to our culture.”

Few topics are as polarising as pornography, but wherever you sit, consider this your invitation to learn more.  Because when it comes to the facts, the truth is that temporal pleasure is creating a lifetime of pain for countless people.  To learn more, visit www.fightthenewdrug.org Addicted to Porn: Chasing the Cardboard Butterfly is available now on iTunes.

Source: Warcry (USA)

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