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It could be a longer wait for your tax refund next year

WGRC News - Fri, 12/19/2014 - 1:03pm

It could take longer for you to get your income tax refund next year. The IRS commissioner John Koskinen says budget cuts enacted by congress means fewer agents will be auditing returns, and about half of the people who call the IRS for help won’t reach someone. He says the budget cuts could hurt taxpayer services and add time to when you can get your refund. . Congress cut the IRS budget by $346 million for the budget year that ends in September 2015. The $10.9 billion budget is $1.2 billion less than the agency received in 2010.

Categories: Local News

Don't Miss Christmas

Christian Post - Living - Fri, 12/19/2014 - 11:43am
This Christmas, don't miss the point of celebrating Christmas. Don't be like the innkeeper who missed Jesus because he was too busy (see Luke 2). Make time for the Lord. Don't be like King Herod who was too afraid to let Christ rule his life (see Matthew 2). Turn your heart over to Christ.
Categories: Christian Post

Bobby Schuller's 'Hour of Power' Undergoes 'Significant Changes' to Lead Non-Religious People; Added to NRB Network Lineup

Christian Post - Church & Ministry - Fri, 12/19/2014 - 10:36am
Christian television program "Hour of Power," featuring Shepherd's Grove Church pastor Bobby Schuller, has reportedly undergone "significant changes" in order to lead non-religious people "into a deeper understanding of scripture," and has been added to the NRB Network lineup for the upcoming year.
Categories: Christian Post

Christmas 'Undoubtedly' Has Pagan Roots 'But Having a Tree Isn't Worshipping a Pagan Idol,' Proclaims Christmas Enthusiast

Christian Post - Living - Fri, 12/19/2014 - 10:34am
One month after "Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas" hit theaters across the U.S., two experts added their own viewpoints on how the yuletide season's traditions came to be what they are today.
Categories: Christian Post

NJ Megachurch Plans 'Spiritual Flash Mob' on Christmas Eve; Thousands of Churchgoers May Participate

Christian Post - Church & Ministry - Fri, 12/19/2014 - 7:28am
New Jersey-based Liquid Church announced this week its plan to equip churchgoers to participate in a "spiritual flash mob" on Christmas Eve.
Categories: Christian Post

Shoes help kids matter

Mission Network News - Fri, 12/19/2014 - 5:00am

(Photo courtesy Haley Radeka? Buckner/SOS)

Ethiopia (BOC) -- Editor's Note: What follows is a blog post about Buckner International and one of their larger outreach efforts, Shoes For Orphan Souls. In 2006, Buckner was called to expand its African ministries, and Ethiopian President Wolde-Giorgis openly welcomed Buckner to aid his government and people. Buckner has continued to expand services in Ethiopia which now include adoption, foster/kinship care, a Family Hope Center, vocational training, formal schools for elementary age children, and medical clinics. The Buckner nongovernmental organization (NGO) in Ethiopia was officially formed in January of 2007 while merging with the Bright Hope Organization. Moges Feleke serves as the country director for the Buckner NGO in Ethiopia. Haley Radeka went to Ethiopia earlier this year on a shoe delivery trip with Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls and wrote about her experience here. In the following excerpt from her original blog post, she reflects on seeing the joy in children’s faces when they realized they mattered to someone: I was in the group with the youngest kids, all about 4-6 years old. We gave them coloring sheets and crayons and let them color their little hearts out. After about a minute of coloring, each kid would hold up their drawing and yell “Miss! Miss!” until you acknowledged them. When one kid did, the next immediately followed. They would yell to get our attention until we specifically addressed how amazing each painting was. Our translator taught us to say “Gobez!” which means “good job” and “looks great.” After another minute of coloring, the cycle would start again. Each one just wanted to be reminded over and over that they were doing it right and that we loved their masterpieces.

(Photo courtesy Haley Radeka/Buckner International/SOS)

We broke for lunch and came back to our same groups to pass out shoes. I will never be able to describe the moment of cleaning a child’s feet and putting on a new pair of socks and shoes. It is so tender and beautiful and heart wrenching all at the same time. The school collected the shoes' sizes ahead of time so all we had to do was pick a pair and match them to a child. As we began and they started to see what we were doing, the shouting of “Miss! Miss!” started again. As we moved from child to child, I could see the panic in some of their eyes that their turn never would come. The joy that the last few children expressed as they received their new shoes was an amount of joy that I’m not sure I’ve ever felt before. They realized they were not forgotten about and that they too would receive a new pair of shoes. As 2014 comes to a close and you begin making plans for next year, take some time to prayerfully consider whether God is calling you to serve orphans and vulnerable children through a shoe delivery trip.  
Categories: Mission Network News

Pastor Saeed Abedini writes a letter home

Mission Network News - Fri, 12/19/2014 - 5:00am

American Pastor Saeed Abedini, a Muslim convert to Christianity, faces an 8-year prison sentence after his September 2012 arrest and indictment in Iran because of his religious beliefs. The Iranian government refuses to recognize his U.S. citizenship or make his charges public. Abedini's U.S.-based family is being represented by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). (Photos courtesy of The American Center for Law and Justice).

Iran (ACLJ/MNN) -- Christmas is generally a time of warmth, joy, and hope. However, there are people all around you missing loved ones even more during the holidays. This is true for Pastor Saeed Abedini and his family. While his situation is anything but warm and happy, he is finding hope, strength, and joy in the birth of Jesus Christ. The American Center for Law and Justice shares the following update: American Pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith, has written a heartbreaking letter from his prison cell. He talks about both the difficulty of spending Christmas trapped in a cold dark prison cell and how his faith in Christ is carrying him through this difficult time. He writes: These days are very cold here. My small space beside the window is without glass, making most nights unbearable to sleep. The treatment by fellow prisoners is also quite cold and at times hostile. Some of my fellow prisoners don’t like me because I am a convert and a pastor. They look at me with shame as someone who has betrayed his former religion. The guards can’t even stand the paper cross that I have made and hung next to me as a sign of my faith and in anticipation of celebrating my Savior’s birth. They have threatened me and forced me to remove it. This is the first Christmas that I am completely without my family; all of my family is presently outside of the country. These conditions have made this upcoming Christmas season very hard, cold, and shattering for me. It appears that I am alone with no one left beside me. But he also wrote what Christmas means to him in the midst of this turmoil: Christmas means that God came so that He would enter your hearts today and transform your lives and to replace your pain with indescribable joy. The same way that the heat from the earth’s core melts the hard stones in itself and produces lava, the fiery love of God, Jesus Christ, through the virgin Mary’s womb came to earth on Christmas to melt the hard heart of sin and wickedness of the world and removes them from our life.  The letter was sent to a family member. It was just last week that a relative was able to visit him--the first time a family member has been able to visit him in well over a month. He remains in need of medical care, suffering from increased pain from internal injuries sustained as a result of multiple prison beatings throughout the course of more than two years in a harsh Iranian prison. Yet even in the darkest of circumstance,s the light of Christ shines through. He concluded his message with this charge to everyone who reads his words: “So this Christmas let the lava-like love of Christ enter into the depth of your heart and make you fiery, ready to pay any cost in order to bring the same lava love to the cold world around you, transforming them with the true message of Christmas.” Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, and their two young kids, Jacob and Rebekka, are spending their third Christmas without their husband and father. Naghmeh said: Reading this Christmas letter is quite difficult knowing the harsh condition that Saeed is in and the adversity that he faces daily. Saeed...I wish you could see the lives that are touched and transformed because of you standing strong in your faith in Jesus Christ. The kids and I miss you and cannot imagine another Christmas without you, but we are proud of you and your endurance. Don’t give up hope. Many are praying and taking action to bring you home. This Christmas, as we celebrate our Savior, we must remember those who are in chains for their faith, in chains for the very Gospel--the Good News--we are celebrating. Please continue to sign the petition for Pastor Saeed’s freedom as we work to secure his release. And pray for Pastor Saeed to remain strong during this trying time. You can download Pastor Saeed’s letter here. To sign the petition, click here.
Categories: Mission Network News

Hong Kong, yellow umbrellas, and the blame game

Mission Network News - Fri, 12/19/2014 - 5:00am

(Photo credit Leung Ching Yau Alex via Flickr)

Hong Kong (MNN) -- Hong Kong's Yellow Umbrella protests have ended. The "Occupy Central" movement, also known as Yellow Umbrella protests, was originally formed in opposition to China's rules for the Hong Kong's 2017 elections. In 1997, Hong Kong was transferred from British to Chinese rule under a "one country, two systems" strategy, and a 50-year term was imposed on the plan. While Hong Kong theoretically has a right to develop its own governance, China imposed its own rules for voters at the end of August. The enactment kicked off two months of civil opposition, with many protestors carrying trademark yellow umbrellas. "Some of the leaders of the democracy movement are committed Christians, but that's not necessarily the case of all of the leaders," notes John Bachman of the Haggai Institute. Though they were mostly peaceful, the demonstrations represented one of the biggest challenges to China's authority since 1989's Tiananmen Square protests. Bachman says it could put pressure on the Body of Christ. "China has looked at political unrest around the world and noted that the fall of the Iron Curtain had a lot of prominent Christian leaders behind it. They also have made note that some of the prominent, high-profile leaders of the Yellow Umbrella movement are Christians," he states. "That is also a 'concerning' element to them." Haggai teaches indigenous Christian leaders how to present the message of Christ in culturally-sensitive ways. Learn more about Haggai's work here. While helping with a Haggai training session in Hong Kong last month, Bachman says their staff and students were largely unaffected by the protests. "We heard about what was going on, on the news, but were not physically able to see it," Bachman shares.

(Photo credit Neerav Bhatt via Flickr)

However, it remains to be seen how the long-term effects of these protests will impact the Church. Activists and politicians told Reuters earlier this week: "China is likely to embark on a sweeping but covert campaign across the territory's judiciary, media and universities to ensure there is no recurrence." Will you keep this issue in your prayers? Hong Kong protestors promise their activities are far from over. Pray that demonstrations will remain peaceful. Pray that Christians are not blamed, and pray for Gospel outreach to be unhindered by political actions. Pray also for Haggai alumni as they bring the Good News to their spheres of influence. "The most influential individuals are those who are in leadership positions who are followers of Jesus Christ and are then influencing others to follow Him, too," Bachman notes.
Categories: Mission Network News

Pray for Kenya

Mission Network News - Fri, 12/19/2014 - 5:00am

(Photo courtesy Open Doors)

Kenya (MNN) -- Would you take a moment to pray for Kenya's believers? Amie Cotton with Christian Aid Mission, your link to indigenous missions, says al-Shabaab sympathizers are trying to drive Christians out of northern Kenya. Earlier this month, "36 quarry workers, who were known as Christians, were paraded out and killed. And one of our ministry leader's friends -- it was one of their sons. They had to bury their son," Cotton shares. Churches in the region are closing down, and many Christians are relocating to Army barracks; some are vowing never to return. "Despite all of this, we still have reports that ministry is ongoing in multiple cities," says Cotton.

In Kenya, a Rendile woman in Korr leading in a song.
(Photo, caption courtesy Christian Aid)

Christian Aid partners with 7 indigenous mission groups in Kenya whose scopes of ministry focus range from well-digging to church-planting. No matter what physical need the ministries are meeting, they each carry a desire to introduce their fellow Kenyans to Christ. "They go out every day, on the edge, knowing that terrorists have infiltrated. But they're willing to go for the cause of Christ," Cotton notes. NGO shut-down Earlier this week, Kenya's government shut-down over 500 charity organizations in an effort to cut-off terrorist funding. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, fake non-government organizations (NGOs) are a popular funding method used by many terrorist groups. Generally, the fake NGO will present a cause or social need to solicit donations. Then, they secretly funnel the money to terrorist groups like al-Shabaab. So, how can you know Christian Aid or their ministry partners aren't doing the same thing?

(Photo credit Christian Aid via Facebook)

"We have been in existence for over 60 years, and we have relationships with grass-roots Christian ministries that are indigenous to their cities and to Kenya as a whole," Cotton answers. "In fact, our Africa Director just got back from a trip; he meets with the leaders, he sees the work that's going on. We know that these ministries are legitimate, and they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. "They are risking their lives to go out and share the Gospel." You can help with the financial needs of persecuted Christians in Kenya here. "Pray for security," Cotton requests. "Pray for those that are out on the edge; they ask for wisdom and discernment from the Lord as to how to reach seekers and how to encourage Christians."
Categories: Mission Network News

New US-Cuba relations helps, hurts

Mission Network News - Fri, 12/19/2014 - 5:00am

President Obama announces normal relations with Cuba.

Cuba (MNN) -- In a surprise move, United States President Barak Obama announced the normalization of USA-Cuba relations. That announcement was greeted with mixed emotions by politicians, Cuban Americans, and the missions community. President Obama is being criticized by both Democrats and Republicans. U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat and usually an Obama ally, says, "President Obama's actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government," Menendez wrote Wednesday. "Trading Mr. Gross for three convicted criminals sets an extremely dangerous precedent. It invites dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans serving overseas as bargaining chips." Son of a Cuban immigrant, Republican Senator Marco Rubio agrees calling it "disgraceful." "The White House has conceded everything," Rubio said at a news conference just moments after the president spoke, calling Obama the "worst negotiator" who has ever taken occupancy at the White House. He's referring to the release American Alan Gross. In 2011, Gross was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison for attempting to set up an Internet network for Cuban dissidents "to promote destabilizing activities and subvert constitutional order." In exchange for his release, three convicted Cuban spies were released from U.S. Federal Prison. The missions community has mixed feelings about President Obama's decision. FARMS International operates six micro-enterprise businesses creating lending projects in Cuba.

This is a FARMS loan-supported hog project. Pictured is the family, with two workers and two FARMS board members. (Bill Wingenroth photo on right)

Farms President Joe Richter says on one hand, he's hoping poor Cuban Christians will have more opportunities to earn a living. But he's also concerned about what will happen with U.S. Christian flood into the country. "Many come in mainly with money, and that has a real corrupting influence many times on the church, and especially stifling self-support and indigenous oversight of the church." FARMS board member Bill Wingenroth just returned from a trip to Cuba. He was surprised by Obama's decision. Wingenroth says in one way, it's good. "It will make it easier for us to probably go in and out of Cuba. It may be easier for us to bring things into the country. We're not sure. We're still checking on those regulations." He is concerned for the average Cuban citizen. "We don't see how that is going to benefit private Cuban citizens, as far as their freedoms." He's talking about basic human rights: free speech, free press, religious freedom, and more. Since the Castro regime owns most national businesses, the normalized relations will only benefit Cuba's elite. Wingenroth is thinking positively. In one he visited in Cuba, "the average person was earning $10 a month. I'm excited that there's the possibility of them earning additional money from corporations that start doing business there." FARMS will also continue with its six loan projects in Cuba. This allows Cubans to start cottage businesses in agriculture, tailoring, and other similar work. "People who have started these projects are able...with pride to support themselves and their families better. They're able to tithe to their churches, which has made a great difference in evangelism." FARMS needs additional funding to expand the program, especially with relations easing between the U.S. and Cuba. If you'd like to support the work of FARMS in Cuba and around the world, click here.
Categories: Mission Network News

Billy Graham's Focus on the Gospel Remains Strong at 96, Says Daughter

Christian Post - Church & Ministry - Thu, 12/18/2014 - 1:53pm
Billy Graham is still focused on spreading the good news found in the Bible, says his daughter Anne Graham Lotz. "He is 96, he has not yet lost his focus on the gospel, reaching people for Christ," she described.
Categories: Christian Post

Williamsport budget expected to pass

WGRC News - Thu, 12/18/2014 - 1:06pm

Williamsport City Council is expected to approve tonight a budget of $22 million dollars for 2015 after a resolution was passed last week containing a 1 mill tax increase. In addition, Council will hear more about a proposed $10 million dollar Liberty Arena which is expected to replace the former Arena along Elmira Street.

Categories: Local News

6 people homeless after fire

WGRC News - Thu, 12/18/2014 - 1:05pm

An Amish family of six are now homeless after a fire destroyed their Clinton Township home. The blaze broke out just after 9am at the home on Davis Lane. Firefighters had trouble getting water to the site as they had to tank in water from the river and lay hose across a set of railroad tracks. Firefighters say a propane fueled refrigerator malfunctioned, causing the fire. No one was injured and damage is estimated in excess of $100,000 dollars.

Categories: Local News

A Godly Testimony

Christian Post - Living - Thu, 12/18/2014 - 12:17pm
Christians have adopted a narrow definition of the word testimony. But sharing Jesus is much more than telling our conversion story or talking about God's work in our life, although these things are important. We need to be prepared to meet unbelievers at the point of their spiritual need, even if our own story is very different.
Categories: Christian Post

Is Having Children Evil? Is God Wrong for Creating Humans in a World of Suffering? Oxford Apologist Challenges Skeptics (Part 2)

Christian Post - Living - Thu, 12/18/2014 - 11:29am
Oxford Christian apologist Vince Vitale recently released a book he co-authored with theologian Ravi Zacharias that deals with suffering, why it exists and how Christians can explain it.
Categories: Christian Post

NewSpring Megachurch Gives Over 7,000 New Balance Shoes to Underprivileged Students; Parents' Face 'Priceless'

Christian Post - Church & Ministry - Thu, 12/18/2014 - 8:41am
South Carolina megachurch NewSpring gave away over $215,000 worth of shoes and gift cards to students and teachers in underprivileged schools earlier this month. NewSpring Public Relations Director Suzanne Swift said the donations are a no-strings-attached way to show the community they care.
Categories: Christian Post

Russell Moore on Racism and Southern Baptists: God Is Giving Us a Second Chance

Christian Post - Church & Ministry - Thu, 12/18/2014 - 7:29am
God is graciously giving the Southern Baptist Convention a second chance to get it right on racism issues, Russell Moore offered while noting the growth in non-white Southern Baptists.
Categories: Christian Post

Ruble falls, Russian economy in trouble

Mission Network News - Thu, 12/18/2014 - 5:00am

View from Red Square in Moscow. (Photo by Greg Yoder)

Russia (MNN) -- Russia's key government leaders are doing all they can to prevent an economic tailspin in their country. In his State of the Nation address last week, President Vladimir Putin failed to offer solutions that will turn the economy around. Many believe it's sliding toward recession after being hit by Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis and by a fall in the global price of oil, which is foundation to the Russian economy. President of Slavic Gospel Association Bob Provost says, "What going on in Russia today is very reminiscent of what was going on in Russia in 1990 and 1998, when there were two prior economic collapses." Provost puts the situation in perspective. "In these last few weeks, the ruble has fallen from 30[rubles] for one dollar, to 80 [rubles] for one dollar. And oil has fallen from $100 a barrel to $55 a barrel. That's down 45%." Since much of the Russian economy is dependent on oil, Russia is hit hard. While the ruble has recovered somewhat as the government pressured exporters not to hoard foreign-currency earnings and the central bank announced a hike in interest rates, trouble isn't over. Economists predict a protracted recession unless things turn around. With interest rates climbing from 13% to 17% overnight, there isn't much hope of that. Provost says the economy not only threatens everyday life, but the future. "When you go into the supermarket, prices have doubled. There's [also] been a great brain drain. In the first eight months of this year, more than 200,000 people left Russia--a lot of them highly-educated people." Despite the economic collapse, President Putin remains popular.

Bob Provost, Slavic Gospel Association President

What does all this mean for ministry in Russia? "Whenever there's something really bad happening," says Provost, "if you can look behind the scenes, you'll find that inevitably something great is happening spiritually." That is the case in Russia, says Provost. "People are becoming panicky and desperate as they were in the 90s. People are actually asking anyone who they think knows about God to tell them about God. So, it's a wonderful spiritual time." Because of that, Slavic Gospel Association it trying to get an emergency printing and shipment of the Christmas version of the Gospel of Luke. "The cost of that is going to be just about $1 each [to print] these Gospels of Luke and get them shipped across Russia." The recent problems between the United States and Russia have resulted in animosity toward Russia, creating unintended consequences. Donations to ministries working in Russia are down. "It doesn't cause people in America to grow in their love for Russia. So we as believers we have to be mindful that the Lord allows things to happen and He's in control of the nations; and through it all, wonderful spiritual opportunities are looming behind the bad news." If you'd like to support SGA's work in Russia during this economic downturn, click here.
Categories: Mission Network News

A Christmas for children in Burma

Mission Network News - Thu, 12/18/2014 - 5:00am

What can you give the child that has nothing? (Photo by Partners Relief and Development)

Burma (MNN) -- For many children in Burma, having a childhood is not an option. According to Partners Relief and Development, the reality for many children includes no health care, no education, and little chance of a brighter future. Children also suffer displacement due to ethnic conflicts. Sometimes children are even subjected to the horrors of life as a child soldier. Partners works to provide relief, healthcare, education, and community development. They address immediate needs with a vision for long-term, holistic solutions. They are advocates for the children of Burma, letting the rest of the world know their plight and how their needs might be addressed, all the while searching for a country-wide change. Too often these people groups are looked over or oppressed in some way. Partners hopes that through their actions of love, these hurting people will be compelled to know Christ.

(Image by Partners)

This Christmas, Partners is suggesting some interesting Christmas gifts you can purchase for children and their families in Burma. These gifts not only express love to these children, but they also will help with community development and sustainability. Is this something you'd like to be a part of? You can find out more information here. Pray for these children to see the love of Christ through Partners' care. Pray they would want to know more about Jesus and that God would draw them to Himself.
Categories: Mission Network News

Typhoon Hagupit: praise and prayer

Mission Network News - Thu, 12/18/2014 - 5:00am

(Photo by Baptist Global Response)

Philippines (BGR/MNN) -- Please take a moment to praise God with us that the recent typhoon in the Philippines did far less damage than Typhoon Haiyan. Baptist Global Response updates: Forecasters originally classified Typhoon Hagupit as a “super” typhoon, and many worried that it would follow the same path as Haiyan last year. However, when the storm hit on Dec. 6, it weakened as it moved over the country, according to news reports, and it moved north of areas destroyed in the previous storm. Christian workers in the area even said the reconstruction projects on which Baptist volunteers recently worked withstood the typhoon just fine. However, Hagupit still caused damage. At the moment, BGR rapid assistance teams are making their way through the current aftermath, assessing damage and responding to needs with emergency supplies such as food, water, and other necessities. These teams are comprised of experienced and trained people, and BGR isn’t currently seeking U.S. volunteer teams to support recovery efforts. We ask you to pray for both Hagupit survivors and families still struggling to rebuild their lives from last year's typhoon. Please pray tthat BGR’s teams will be able to see and interpret situations, discern the Holy Spirit’s direction, and know where and how to begin disaster relief. You can help BGR respond to disaster needs by donating to the Disaster Response Fund here. Ask God to reveal Himself to both BGR workers and the Filipinos through this extended time of recovery.
Categories: Mission Network News