Sunday, January 27, 2013

The 3 - January 27, 2012

This latest edition of my week-in-review feature, "The 3", includes an update on the plight of an American pastor born in Iran, who continued to do ministry in his home country - until he was arrested about 4 months ago...his trial was held this week.   Also, news from the nation's capital is atop the list of stories affecting the Christian community - Christian involvement in the Inauguration at the beginning of the week, and, at week's end, the March for Life, upholding a view of life in the womb consistent with a Biblical perspective.

3 - Iranian pastor's plight continues to confound

Last week, I reported to you about the plight of an American pastor who was born in Iran and had been doing some ministry work in the country.   On his most recent visit, in September, he was arrested on a bus and taken to prison.  The trial for pastor Saaed Abedini began this past Monday, and after two days, the judge in the trial said that he had moved the pastor, presumably for medical reasons.

According to Religion Today, Abedini was sentenced Sunday morning to eight years in prison, citing a Fox News report.  The American Center for Law and Justice said that Abedini was verbally sentenced in Tehran by Iran's infamous "hanging judge" to eight years in prison for threatening the national security of Iran through his leadership in house churches.   He will serve the time in Iran's notorious Evin Prison, known as one of the most brutal.

Saeed's wife, Naghmeh said: "With today's development I am devastated for my husband and my family." "We must now pursue every effort, turn every rock, and not stop until Saeed is safely on American soil."

ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow said: "Here's the troubling reality: we have a U.S. citizen, who has been beaten and tortured since his imprisonment last fall, now facing eight years in Evin Prison, one of the must brutal prisons in Iran. A harsh sentence in a notorious prison -- likely facing life-threatening torture and abuse at the hands of the Iranian regime. Simply because of his Christian faith."

According to The Christian Post, it had been unclear about the pastor's whereabouts - the judge in the case had said that he was undergoing medical treatment.  Yesterday, a family friend, who was earlier threatened by officials because he was assisting in obtaining bail for the pastor, went to court to retrieve some documents, a court administrator asked him to tell Saeed's lawyer that he needed to come to court because Saeed would be released soon.

Sekulow has said that Iranian officials cannot be trusted:  "The Iranian government repeatedly has lied about the case...A government that has engaged in physical and emotional torture in Pastor Saeed's case means every comment by the Iranian government must be taken as a grain of salt."

Saeed had told his wife in a letter last month that prison authorities were giving him mixed responses. "This is the process in my life today: one day I am told I will be freed and allowed to see my kids on Christmas (which was a lie) and the next day I am told I will hang for my faith in Jesus," Saeed wrote. "One day there are intense pains after beatings in interrogations, the next day they are nice to you and offer you candy."

On Friday, the U.S. State Department and the White House condemned the imprisonment of Saeed, calling on Iran to release him.

Pastor Saeed had appeared in the courtroom on the first day of his trial on Monday. Prosecutors alleged he has a politically subversive influence on young people and therefore poses a threat to national security.  The pastor and his attorney were barred from the court during a hearing on Tuesday, when lay church leaders were reportedly forced to testify against Saeed. 

2 - Inauguration presents opportunities for evangelical involvement

Even though the President highlighted initiatives not broadly supported by evangelical Christians in his Inaugural Address, which a number of experts have termed as unusually partisan in nature, and despite the withdrawal of Passion founder Louie Giglio from the actual Inauguration ceremony on Monday, there was still a significant evangelical presence in Inaugural events.

For instance, North Point Community Church pastor Andy Stanley was one of the speakers featured in a pre-Inaugural service at St. John's Episcopal Church.  Pastor Joel Hunter of Orlando, who has been one of the President's spiritual advisers, was also included.  Hunter had publicly declared his disagreement with the President on the topic of same-sex marriage.  And, in the National Prayer Service the following day at Washington's National Cathedral, the pastor of the largest United Methodist Church in America, Adam Hamilton of Kansas City's Church of the Resurrection, was the featured speaker.  

In the actual inauguration ceremony, a choir from Lee University in Tennessee, as well as the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir from New York City, provided special music.

Apparently, Andy Stanley's comments about Obama being the "Pastor-in-Chief" received quite a bit of reaction, and Mark Galli of Christianity Today spoke with pastor Stanley.   He explained the phrase this way, as he talked about the moment that he saw Obama reaching out to the people of Newtown:

I'm sitting there on my couch watching this, thinking, How is he doing this?  I would be exhausted after a single interaction with a family. All these classrooms. And he sits through all that, and then he gives his speech. I turned to Sandra, and said, "Tonight he is the Pastor in Chief, isn't he?"
[At the pre-inaugural service,] I knew that I didn't want to get up and just launch into a sermon. When you're in an environment where you have no personal connection with anyone in the room—and I certainly didn't—as a speaker, you want to find a personal connection. I thought, Well, here is something that I felt deeply and here we have all these clergy on this stage.
And, regarding the controversy surrounding his good friend Louie Giglio:

Anyone who has respect for our nation or the presidency would have done what Louie did, because at the end of the day, it was the inauguration of the President of the United States. Why would anyone want to do anything to detract from that? That was the honorable thing to do. The group that called Louie out on the message did the very opposite. Whatever you feel about their views, they leveraged their views to detract from the inauguration. They're saying, "Mr. President, how could you invite someone who doesn't believe like we do?" So I just have the utmost respect for Louie's decision. I just hate that it happened the way that it did.
Other church leaders were not especially complimentary toward the President.  Christianity Today, in taking a panoramic look at Christian involvement in the inauguration, said:

Mark Driscoll acknowledged the inauguration with this tweet: “Praying for our President, who today will place his hand on a Bible he does not believe to take an oath to a God he likely does not know...”

On Facebook, Driscoll’s remark—which is received quite a bit of media attention - had nearly 10,000 "likes" a day later.  CT also said:
John Piper, too, tweeted an Obama critique: “President Obama ‘spiritually blind’ or ‘evil hypocrite’ in claiming MLK and disregarding the weakest,” linking to a Washington Times editorial on the president's stance on abortion.
President Obama, while holding to a worldview that is different than that held by many Christians and advocating policies that many regard as unbiblical, has still chosen to reach out to the religious community.   I would hope that the evangelicals with whom he has made contact will speak the truth and have a profound influence on the President.  And, it's critical - and obedient to Scripture - to be in prayer for our President.

1 - March for Life in DC turns out hundreds of thousands to National Mall 

The week in Washington began with hundreds of thousands of people turning out to the nation's capital to view the Inauguration of President Obama.   The week concluded with hundreds of thousands of people in the same city to stand for life.   While the National Park Service does not estimate crowd size, there are some that have said that the March for Life could have drawn over a half-million people to the National Mall, in less-than-comfortable temperatures.

Dave Andrusko, writing for the National Right to Life website, stated:

...Watching the day’s glorious events, there were two more important conclusions that were as inescapable to me as they were welcomed.

First, we have written dozens and dozens of stories about the influx of massive numbers of young people into the Movement as a whole, and to the March for Life, in particular. As you listened to speakers from the podium, including one 19-year-old, you couldn’t help but smile. It was clear that they saw themselves not as part of the Movement but as the Movement!...

Second, all pro-lifers are aware of (and make use of ) modern technology to spread the gospel of the common humanity of the unborn. It was deeply symbolic at many levels that Pope Benedict XVI, tweeting in nine languages, wrote, “I join all those marching for life from afar, and pray that political leaders will protect the unborn and promote a culture of life.”

Finally, I would like to join all those hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers in attendance in praising the memory of Nellie Gray. In a Movement filled with unique and strong personalities, she was one of a kind.
We miss her.
Jeanne Monahan, who replaced Nellie Gray as the head of the march, now serving as President of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, addressed the crowd, saying, according to a report on the website:  "We are winning with young people. I see it right in front of me today."

Monahan later spoke about her activism in the pro-life movement: “One thing that has continued to resonate with me is that I have people who are close to me and have made an abortion decision and have regretted it profoundly,” she said. “I watch my friends suffer which led me to take the stand that abortion hurts the life of the child but hurts the mom as well.”

At this point, there is terrific passion for the lives of the unborn:  a new generation is embracing the cause, polling data is continuing to show strong pro-life sentiment, the number of abortion clinics in America has declined significantly over the past two decades, and the last 2 years have been significant in the number of pro-life bills that have passed state legislatures.  And, we each have opportunities in our communities to speak out for life, to share the truth about God as the creator of life.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The 3 - January 20, 2013

This week in "The 3", a notable sales record was set by a familiar Christian music artist and worship leader.  And, an American pastor who was born in Iran is set to face trial before a particular strict judge in that country - U.S. officials are demanding his release.   Religious freedom was the theme of an observance across America this past week, and that constitutes the #1 story for the week.

3 - New Chris Tomlin album tops Billboard album sales chart

For the second time in less than a year, a Christian music artist has topped the Billboard 200 album sales chart.   This past week, it was announced that singer-songwriter Chris Tomlin's latest release, Burning Lights, had sold 72,000 copies during its first week, enough to place it in the #1 position.   In September, tobyMac's Eye On It, was atop the weekly chart.
This is only the fourth time a Christian CD has ever reached that milestone.  The first, Bob Carlisle's "Butterfly Kisses (Shades of Grace)" was the first Christian music album to hit #1, back in 1997.

According to a piece on the website, Burning Lights is the second-highest selling Christian album after Casting Crowns’ Come to the Well sold 99,000 during its first week release in 2011.  Billboard said Tomlin’s first-week sales were helped by this month’s Passion conference in Atlanta, where Tomlin has performed since 1997. Sales from Passion-related purchases and church sales made up 40 percent of the album’s numbers.

2 - Iranian pastor faces trial, U.S. government demands release

Saeed Abedini, a native of Iran and a naturalized American citizen, is expected to enter one of Iran's revolutionary courts Monday to face accusations that he is a threat to national security.  His attorneys say he faces a lengthy prison term and even the death penalty at the hands of one of Iran's most notoriously severe judges.   Saeed was arrested in September by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Abedini had moved to the United States in 2005, but continued to visit Iran, under a 2009 agreement with Iran's intelligence police, according to the Christian Examiner, quoting Tiffany Barrans, international legal director for the American Center for Law and Justice, who said that Abedini was allowed to come and go from Iran to build an orphanage, but only if he stayed out of church planting.  By last July, he had visited Iran eight times.
 On Sept. 26, Abedini was arrested by Revolutionary Guard soldiers, and has been kept at Evin prison, where many political prisoners are held.   The Guard soldiers snatched him off a bus, confiscated his passports, and threw him in prison. Since then, supporters say, the pastor has been subjected to solitary confinement and beatings.

Sometime between that eighth and ninth visit, Barrans said, police jurisdiction over Iranian Christian life shifted from the politically controlled intelligence police to the religiously controlled Revolutionary Guard, which answers directly to Iran's grand ayatollah. 

The U.S. government has become involved now, and the White House on Friday called on Iran to release Abedini.  On Friday, U.S. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor issued a statement demanding Abedini's release.
“We remain troubled by the case of U.S. citizen Saeed Abedini, who was arrested by Iranian officials more than three months ago on charges relating to his religious beliefs," Vietor said in the statement. "We call upon Iranian authorities to release him immediately.”

Earlier in the week, On Tuesday, 11 members of the U.S. Senate and 37 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging the U.S. to bring whatever diplomatic pressure it can to persuade Iran to release Abedini. The United States and Iran do not have diplomatic ties, so any pressure would have to be applied indirectly.

Also,the Commission on International Religious Freedom, comprised of presidential and congressional appointees, demanded Abedini's release in a statement issued Wednesday:
“The national security charges leveled against Mr. Abedini are bogus and are a typical tactic by the Iranian government to masquerade the real reason for the charges: to suppress religious belief and activity of which the Iranian government does not approve,” Commission Chairwoman Katrina Lantos Swett said.

1 - Religious Freedom Day brings acknowledgement of heritage

This past Wednesday, January 16th, was "Religious Freedom Day", marking the passage of the 1786 Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. The statute, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, formed the basis for the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom.   According to the website,, quoted by CitizenLink, the day is a call for Americans to participate in events and activities in their homes, schools and places of worship.

“Religious Freedom Day is particularly poignant this year — it’s very timely,” said Eric Buehrer, president of Gateways to Better Education, a national organization promoting greater awareness of the day.   Buehrer added, “Wednesday will be a perfect time to give students a civics lesson about their religious freedom at school.”

Candi Cushman, education analyst for CitizenLink, was quoted as saying: “It is ironic that even as the president is expected to make this religious freedom proclamation when there are more than 40 cases involving lawsuits from schools, business and organizations battling with the government over their religious freedoms...They are fighting not to have to implement health care policies in a way that violates their deeply held religious beliefs.”   Indeed, the President did make a Religious Freedom day proclamation, and he was taken to task for making it while the Administration is being sued by more than 110 plaintiffs in 44 cases. 

And, the World Changers organization in Florida observed the day by distributing Bibles in two counties in the state - a court ruling in favor of the ministry paved the way for World Changers to make Bibles available in Collier County, which had attempted to halt the distribution, as well as Orange County, which had allowed the Bibles to be passively distributed in the past.   Not unexpectedly, in response, an assortment of secularist/atheist groups demanded that their materials be made available, as well, which is apparently a provision of the court decree.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The 3 - January 13, 2013

This week's edition of "The 3" includes a response, issued this week, to a secularist group's attempt to have prayer removed from certain occasions at West Point.   Also, a Christian pastor who was invited to pray at the inauguration ceremony for President Obama has stepped aside.   And, the top story - an advocacy group that spotlights persecution of Christians has released its annual list of the top countries where Christians are at risk.

3 - Prayer debate underway at West Point

A prayer controversy involving one of the military's premier academies took another step this week, when the Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter this past Wednesday on behalf of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty to the United States Military Academy at West Point.  Americans United for the Separation of Church and State had sent a letter to the school, claiming that invocations at West Point events, including Plebe Parent Weekend, Ring Weekend, Thanksgiving Dinner, the Martin Luther King Award Dinner, and graduation, were unconstitutional and coerce cadets to participate in and endorse religion.

According to an Alliance Defending Freedom website, the letter sent to the Academy stated, “The historical practice of offering prayer, especially at military and university functions at West Point, does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”  ADF mentioned a ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stating that invocations such as the ones offered by West Point chaplains and cadets, “solemnize public occasions, express confidence in the future, and encourage the recognition of what is worthy of appreciation in society.”

The letter also explains that, contrary to AU's accusations, “West Point does not require cadets to participate in the invocations or even listen to them” and “two federal courts of appeals rejected the notion that prayers at significant public university events coerce attendees to participate in religion.”

This is another case of a traditional practice that has religious significance that has been challenged by a secularist group.   The Chaplain Alliance has wisely and assertively enlisted the efforts of ADF in order to remind officials that the free expression of religion should not be impeded.

2 - "Giglio Imbroglio" raises questions about role of Christians in the public square

Louie Giglio and the work of the Passion conferences to end modern-day slavery in the form of human trafficking caught the attention of President Obama, and Giglio, pastor of the Passion City Church in the Atlanta area was asked to preside over the Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House last April.  According to a story on The Christian Post website, at the recently concluded conference in Atlanta, Giglio recently inspired students to raise $3.5 million to support more than 20 global projects that focus on prevention, rescue, and restoration for the 27 million men, women, and children who are victims of slavery.

So, it was not surprising the Giglio was invited to give the benediction at the President's Inauguration Ceremony on January 21st.   After the announcement, it was discovered that in the mid 90's, he had delivered a sermon enunciating orthodox Christian teaching on the topic of homosexuality.  Sensing that this would be potentially be a controversy that would create a distraction and possibly serve to divert attention from the incredible work of Passion, Giglio agreed to step away from the ceremony.

"Though the President and I do not agree on every issue, we have fashioned a friendship around common goals and ideals, most notably, ending slavery in all its forms," Giglio remarked in a letter sent to the White House earlier this week.   There is speculation that there was some pressure from the inauguration committee for Giglio to step down.

Christian leaders stood with Giglio, such as Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, who said:
"Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, and Orthodox churches all actively proclaim that sexual intimacy within the marriage of one man and one woman is the only biblically-sanctioned human sexual behavior.  Are the scores of millions of Americans who affirm these teachings no longer welcome at the inauguration of our president?
"What is shocking is the intolerance of the Obama team that put such a high priority on forced acceptance of homosexuality that they totally disregard Pastor Giglio's life work combating human trafficking. What we are seeing is the inauguration of a new era of religious intolerance in America.
So, a litmus test has been established - any member of the clergy who is invited to a government-sanctioned event must apparently have a history of not speaking against homosexual behavior.  Honestly, it should not be surprising that an evangelical pastor would hold these views.  Apparently, the President's words about disagreeing agreeably, which he spoke 4 years ago to defend Rick Warren's participation in the inauguration ceremony after Warren faced similar opposition, have vaporized in the wake of his "evolution" on the topic of gay marriage.

1 - Open Doors announces latest list of leading persecutors of Christians

This week, the dynamics of Christian persecution around the world were highlighted as Open Doors released its 2013 World Watch List, which ranks the top 50 countries in terms of their treatment of Christians.   Even though North Korea remained as the country that is the #1 persecutor of Christians, there was significant upward movement by African nations.  According to the Open Doors website, one nation on the continent, Mali, is a newcomer on the list and holds the No. 7 position.  Tanzania (No. 24), Kenya (No. 40), Uganda (47) and Niger (No. 50) also moved onto the World Watch List.  Ethiopia is one of the strongest risers on the list, moving from No. 38 to No. 15.  In addition, the small African country of Eritrea made the Top 10 for the first time at No. 10.   Libya climbed from No. 26 to No. 17.

Fundamentalist variations of Islam have rapidly gained influence on the continent. On the one hand, this was due to focused attacks, such as Boko Haram in Nigeria (No. 13). On the other, the influence of Islam increased through infiltration in different social and economic areas. Open Doors saw a similar pattern in several African countries. 

The top 10 countries on the World Watch List were:
1) North Korea
2) Saudi Arabia
3) Afghanistan
4) Iraq
5) Somalia
6) Maldives
7) Mali
8) Iran
9) Yemen
10) Eritrea.

Syria was just outside the top 10, at #11.

Mali has just undergone a coup, and there is continued unrest in the nation.   Mali was once a French colony, and French troops have moved into the country to try to ease the violence perpetrated by Islamic terrorists.
According to CNN, a new round of French military raids targeted Islamist rebels in Mali on Sunday, and both sides of the battle said they were determined to win.   Islamists control large areas of land and have implemented Sharia law.

The French Defense Ministry said in a statement that, "France's goal is to lead a relentless struggle against terrorist groups...preventing any new offensive of these groups to the south of Mali."

Christians are persecuted in at least 60 countries for their faith. They suffer interrogation, arrest and even death in some of the most dangerous and restrictive countries in the world. For 58 years, Open Doors has supported and strengthened believers worldwide through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development and prayer and presence ministry. 

Sunday, January 06, 2013

The 3 - January 6, 2013

The first edition of  "The 3" for 2013 features another call to stand with a Christian family-owned company, one that is being required by the government to violate its core beliefs.   Also, the topic of adoption has been elevated, in light of a new Russian policy against American adoptions, as well as a permanent extension of tax relief for adoptive families.  The top story is the annual gathering of young adults in Atlanta which drew a very large crowd this year, challenging those attending to make Jesus famous.

3 - Hobby Lobby Appreciation Day shows support for company's stand for religious freedom

Tens of thousands were expected at Hobby Lobby craft stores across America this past Saturday, standing in solidarity with a company whose leadership has decided they will not violate their consciences in the face of a government mandate to provide free contraception and abortion-inducing drugs in their health care plan.

The mandate came down last year, and while religious non-profit organizations were given an exemption from the law going into effect for them, for-profit companies had no such luxury - they would have to provide these drugs or face fines beginning January 1, 2013.   Hobby Lobby, which is owned by the Green family, who are devout Christians, was one of the over 100 organizations filing lawsuits against the Department of Health and Human Services, claiming the mandate violates their religious freedom.   So far, according to the Becket Fund, out of 13 for-profit companies that have filed lawsuits, 10 have received a temporary exemption from having to comply, pending the outcome of their case.

Unfortunately, Hobby Lobby was not one of those, and as of last Tuesday, they were accruing $1.3 million in fines per day, after their appeal of a lower court decision for a temporary injunction was rejected and Supreme Court justice Sotomayor turned back their request to grant relief.  According to the Christian Post, the Hobby Lobby Appreciation Day campaign is being organized by Joe Grabowski, who hopes "the numbers of support on Saturday will at least send a message to the Obama administration and our other elected officials – as well as, hopefully, to the justices on the bench waiting to hear this case..."  By Saturday, some 60,000 people had signed up to be a part of the show of support.   Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who had championed the Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day in August, also encouraged people to visit Hobby Lobby on Saturday.

2 - Congress passes adoption tax credit in fiscal cliff deal, U.S. families respond to Russian adoption ban

Prospective parents who were in the process of adopting children from Russia were dealt a severe blow the Friday after Christmas when President Vladimir Putin signed a law that banned American families from adopting Russian children.  This is believed to be retaliatory action against criticism by the U.S. of Russia's record on human rights.   Writing for Baptist Press, pastor Tony Merida stated in these excerpts:

-- "In 2011, about 1,000 Russian children were adopted by Americans, more than any other foreign country, but still a tiny number given that nearly 120,000 children in Russia are eligible for adoption."

-- "According to David Satter of the Hudson Institute, 'Russia has more orphans per capita than any nation in the world. Of the estimated 650,000 orphans, an estimated 95 percent are 'social orphans' who have been abandoned by their parents or taken away from them.'"

-- "Americans adopt more children than every other country in the world combined, notes Adam Pertman, executive director of the New York-based Donaldson Adoption Institute."

-- "Americans have adopted over 60,000 Russian children since the fall of the Soviet Union."

He writes that, "Sadly, many families are already in the adoption process and have already spent a significant amount of money, time and energy only to now be shut down by the Russian government."

Citing the New York Times, he writes that adoption agency officials in the United States who work regularly with Russian orphanages said there were about 200 to 250 sets of parents who had already identified children they planned to adopt and would be affected.

Against this backdrop, there was some encouraging news for parents who wish to adopt children.   According to CitizenLink, in the fiscal cliff deal that was passed by Congress and signed by the President this past week, there was a provision that extends the adoption tax credit, set at $10,000 per year. The provision also makes the tax credit permanent.

“In years past, the adoption tax credit was extended on a yearly or semi-annual basis, making a less secure benefit for adopting families,” said Carrie Gordon Earll, senior director of Issues Analysis for CitizenLink. “The change to permanent status is key for making adoption possible for the more than 100,000 children in U.S. foster care, and the millions of children worldwide who need a family of their own.”

Many Christian families are responding to God's call to minister to orphans by getting involved in adoption.  This financial relief can be a useful provision for families who desire to open their hearts and homes to these children.   Also, pray for the situation in Russia to be reversed so that thousands of orphan children will be able to find permanent homes in America.

1 - Passion Conference in Atlanta draws in and sends out thousands of college students and young adults

Last year, some 43,000 college students and young adults attended the first Passion conference to be held in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.  It was announced at that time that the seating arrangement at the Dome would be reconfigured and the seating capacity would be increased.   This year, some 60,000 students from over  2000 colleges and universities from all 50 states and 55 countries came to worship together, to hear from high-profile speakers who would challenge them in their Christian walk, and to give toward the cause of reducing human trafficking - modern-day slavery.   And, indeed, over $3 million were given by this large group to that particular cause.

Some highlights of the conference included messages from these speakers (quoted in The Christian Post):
Francis Chan - "I want the joy of knowing that I am doing something with my life, the joy of battle...It has been a rough year for me and I'm actually grateful for that. I come out of it and say it was a great year. It was difficult, but God has done amazing things, and man, was it good."  Chan said that "If you really want to experience God, go and make disciples..."

Louie Giglio - "The wonderful living Word of God is more precious than anything else that we have...We are praying that at the end of these days you will be astounded by God; that it will not be about Passion or anyone that has been at Passion, but that it will be about the Lord and the fact that He has done something in our lives that no one else can do."

Beth Moore - "Not only is the Gospel good news, it is glad news...Until you receive it, you don't really realize what God has done for you. Today I'm not asking you 'Is it good news?' I'm asking, 'Is anybody glad?'"   She also said, "What Jesus did is enough. And because it is enough, I am glad. God's mercies are new every morning, Christ will come back and He will claim his kingdom, and there is a world coming where there will be no more bad news. As Psalm 126:3 says, 'The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.'"

And, a couple of quotes from John Piper's Twitter feed:
"Our worship is the subjective echo of Jesus' objective worth. The intensity of our gladness echoes the immensity of his glory."   And, "The universe exists for the glorification of Jesus in the admiration of his people"
Christianity Today's website reported that Passion Conference attendees gathered in Atlanta's International Plaza Thursday night for a candlelight vigil honoring the victims of human trafficking worldwide. Nearly 60,000 students surrounded a digital projection promoting the "End It Movement," featuring a spotlight "reaching up to the heavens to proclaim the glory of God."

The beam reached approximately three miles into the sky, and the illumination required Federal Aviation Administration clearance.

In his closing message, based on Ezekiel 37 and the image of the valley of dry bones, Giglio challenged those gathered:  "The issue in the world today is not about you and me waiting on the Lord—it's a lot more about the Lord waiting on you...God is waiting on you right now to get up and stand on your feet—your freedom is for freedom."

Passion 2014 is scheduled to meet again in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta during a weekend in late January or early February 2014.