Jews Ordered to ‘Register’ in East Ukraine

Jewish people in eastern Ukraine are being told they need to “register” with the separatist forces USA Today reports. Jews coming from a synagogue in Donetsk said that pro-Russian militants gave them pamphlets informing of the required registration.

Each Jew is allegedly to provide the pro-Russian forces with a list of property they own and pay a fee. The leaflets say the penalty for not cooperating is losing all possessions, citizenship, and deportation.

The government buildings in the city of Donetsk have been taken over by the pro-Russian forces, which call themselves an “anti-terrorist” group.

The pamphlets are marked with Denis Pushilin’s name, but the chairman of “Donetsk’s temporary government” denied his association with them.

Jews in eastern Ukraine feel a connection between these demands and the Nazi occupation of Ukraine in World War II. Jewish Donetsk resident Olga Reznikova said, “The text reminds of the fascists in 1941.”

Anti-Defamation League director of international affairs Michael Salberg fears that the distributed leaflets will serve as propaganda to turn people against the Jewish community. He says the message is “we’re going to exert our power over you.”

“Jews are the default scapegoat throughout history for despots to send a message to the general public: Don’t step out of line,” Salberg said.

Hobby Lobby President Launches Bible Curriculum in OK Public School

Hobby Lobby President Steve Green is making headlines again, but this time the news does not involve the birth control debate.

Green is set to launch a new high school curriculum centered around the Bible, emphasizing the historical elements and impact the book has had in society. The first high school to offer the class as an elective is Mustang High School in Mustang, Oklahoma, a stone’s throw away from Hobby Lobby’s headquarters in Oklahoma City.

The 2014-2015 school year will serve as a testing period for the new curriculum. Jerry Pattengale, head of Green Scholars Initiative, said that they hope to grow the program to 100 high schools by September 2016, and continue to expand from there.

Pattengale reports that the project will cost millions of dollars to implement, but the Bible class is not intended to make a profit.

Religion News reports that teaching Bible classes does not goes against the separation of church and state. The Supreme Court ruled against school-sanctioned prayer in 1963, but allowed a loophole for studying the Bible. The case reads, “Nothing that we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible…when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.”

The Oklahoma ACLU intends to examine the curriculum “to ensure no students…have their right of religious liberty compromised.”

Easter 2014: Best Christian movies to watch this Easter Sunday

After gathering with family and friends this Sunday for church services, fellowship, and dinner, why not watch a movie that celebrates the life and love of Christ? Here are some of the best films to watch this Easter.

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“The Gospel of John” is a three-hour epic film that comes straight from the book of John’s Good News Translation (GNT). The film depicts Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, in an inspiring and reverent way.

“Christians will come away with an even greater appreciation for their Savior and the love that prompted his mission on earth,” Christian blogger Mary Fairchild wrote of the film.

Though it strays quite far from biblical text, “The Greatest Story Ever Told” is a family-friendly, entertaining film. The star-studded cast includes John Wayne, Charlton Heston, Sidney Poitier, and Shelly Winters. The 1965 epic is over three hours in length and illustrates Jesus’ entire life—from birth through the resurrection.

A popular film shown during Easter and Passover is “The Ten Commandments.” The Academy Award-winning picture takes great liberties in the life of Moses and the events leading up to the Israelites exodus from Egypt, but it is a visually-stunning, dramatic film. “The Ten Commandments” was considered so culturally-significant that it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

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“Jesus”  has been called the “most watched movie of all time,” and “Campus Crusade for Christ credits it with saving 176 million souls,” according to the New York Times. The film is primarily based on the Gospel of Luke, and depicts Jesus’ birth, crucifixion, and resurrection. An edited version was made for younger audiences and called “The Story of Jesus for Children.”

“The Greatest Adventures of the Bible: The Easter Story” is one video in the children’s “Greatest Adventures.” The animated films follow three children who travel back in time to witness biblical events. The “Easter Story” is the last episode in the series, and young viewers will learn the story of Jesus– from the Garden of Gethsemane through His ascension.

‘Blood Moon’ Sets Off Apocalyptic Debate Among Some Christians

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Could a series of “blood moon” events be connected to Jesus’ return? Some Christians think so.

In the wee hours of Tuesday (April 15) morning, the moon slid into Earth’s shadow, casting a reddish hue on the moon. There are about two lunar eclipses per year, according to NASA, but what’s unusual this time around is that there will be four blood moons within 18 months — astronomers call that a tetrad — and all of them occur during Jewish holidays.

A string of books have been published surrounding the event, with authors referring to a Bible passage that refers to the moon turning into blood. “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord,” Joel 2:31 says.

In the New Testament, Acts 2:20 echoes the same doom: “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord.”

Recent books capitalizing on the event include “Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs” by Washington state author Mark Biltz; “Blood Moons Rising: Bible Prophecy, Israel, and the Four Blood Moons” by Oklahoma pastor Mark Hitchcock; and ”Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change” by Texas megachurch pastor John Hagee.

Hagee’s book is drawing the most attention, with his book now No. 4 on The New York Times best-seller list in the advice/how to section, and No. 80 on USA Today’s best-seller list. The book by the controversial 74-year-old founder of San Antonio’s Cornerstone Church has also spent 152 days in Amazon’s top 100 books.

In his book, Hagee says something will happen to the nation of Israel due to the tetrad. The four eclipses occur on April 15 and Oct. 8, 2014, and April 4 and Sept. 28 next year. The ones in April occur during Passover, and the ones in October occur during the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles.

Jewish holy days revolve around a lunar calendar with Passover beginning on the first full moon after the beginning of spring, and the Feast of Tabernacles occurring on the first full moon after the beginning of fall. Hagee writes that every time a tetrad occurs on Jewish feast days, something traumatic and “world-changing” happens to Israel.

In 1492, the Jews were expelled from Spain and Christopher Columbus discovered America, giving the Jews a place to go. In 1948, the modern state of Israel was born, and in 1967, Israel won the Six-Day War and recaptured Jerusalem.

During the 300-year interval from 1600 to 1900, there were no tetrads at all, according to NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak.

This time, Hagee suggests that a Rapture will occur where Christians will be taken to heaven, Israel will go to war in a great battle called Armageddon, and Jesus will return to earth. Hagee planned a special televised event on Tuesday (April 15) on the Global Evangelism Television channel.

But NASA does not consider tetrads as especially rare, saying in a statement that there will be eight sets of tetrads before the year 2100. The most unique thing about the upcoming tetrad is that they are visible from all or parts of the United States, NASA stated.

A publicist for Hagee said the pastor was not available for an interview.

“When you see these signs, the Bible says, lift up your head and rejoice, your redemption draweth nigh,” Hagee said in a sermon, according to the San Antonio Express-News. “I believe that the Heavens are God’s billboard, that He has been sending signals to Planet Earth but we just have not been picking them up.”
Greg Boyd, a pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minn., called the predictions a waste of time, maybe even bordering on astrology.
“You have an entire population buying into this stuff so no congregation is immune to this,” Boyd said. “It can strike fear into people, which is so unnecessary and wrong.”

The Jewish holy days carry less theological significance than Jesus’ resurrection for many Christians, said Sam Storms, a pastor of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City. Any connection between the two events should carry less weight, he said.

“We need to stop giving into some of these sensationalist speculations,” he said. “Maybe Christians are more gullible. One has to twist the data to make it appear as if these are the fulfillment of some biblical prophecy.”

Renowned Mathematician Releases New Book: “Why Science Does Not Disprove God”

According to the report, Aczel is a well-known mathematician with a Ph.D. in statistics from the University of Oregon. Other credentials include his work as a visiting scholar at Harvard, research fellow at Boston University and a regular writer for Discover magazine, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

In the books description, we’re told “A highly publicized coterie of scientists and thinkers, including Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens, and Lawrence Krauss, have vehemently contended that breakthroughs in modern science have disproven the existence of God, asserting that we must accept that the creation of the universe came out of nothing, that religion is evil, that evolution fully explains the dazzling complexity of life, and more.”

Aczel argues that scientific discoveries all “leave open the possibility—and even the strong likelihood—of a Creator.”

Though Aczel does not promote Christianity or any other religion, he rebukes atheists for using science as “a weapon in cultural debates.” Aczel hopes his book will be used as “an essential corrective” for people to balance science and faith.

Pastors in Bhutan Jailed without Charges

Police arrested M.B. Thapa (aka Lobzang) and Tandin Wangyal in Khapdani village in Samtse District on March 5. Minister of Home and Cultural Affairs Damcho Dorji said at a recent press conference that the two pastors were trying to coercively “proselytize” and had not obtained permission to hold a public gathering, though area Police Officer in Charge Pema Wangdi reportedly ruled out a proselytizing charge.

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Wangdi told Business Bhutan that police had eliminated the possibility of charges of coercive proselytizing after questioning the two pastors and 30 Christians.

“We found no evidences to show they were [forcibly] converting,”Wangdi said, adding that the only basis for their arrest was alleged failure to procure prior approval to conduct a gathering in the village.

The two pastors, who are still awaiting formal charges from the Office of the Attorney General, spoke at a March 4 ground-breaking ceremony for construction of a new house at the invitation of another Christian. The next day they were arrested.

“The constitution gives the freedom to practice your own religion but bars anybody from forcefully converting others,” Minister Dorji said at the press conference. “On the other hand, they had not obtained permission from local authorities. This is a crime under the penal code amendment, so if you have violated this provision, it does not matter whether you are Buddhist, Hindu or Christian, then the law will take its own course.”

The family of Pastor Wangyal has appealed to the office of Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay to ensure that the case is not delayed any longer, members said.

“We don’t have a clue why they are taking too long,” the pastor’s wife, a mother of three, told Morning Star News.

Sources told Morning Star News that the attorney general’s office is still investigating the case.

“I don’t know why the investigation is taking so long when police OC [Wangdi] personally told me they had done the investigation and submitted the report,” a relative of Pastor Thapa said. “Why is the OAG taking so much time to file a charge sheet?”

Bhutan, a Bhuddist-majority nation of over 700,000 people, transitioned to a constitutional democratic monarchy after a century of absolute monarchy in 2008. Its constitution provides for religious freedom, with Section 4, Article 7 stating that citizens shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. It adds that no person “shall be compelled to belong to another faith by means of coercion or inducement.”

The country’s estimated 19,000 Christians are not legally recognized, while only Buddhists and Hindus can register their associations to become legal entities. Christians, therefore, confine themselves to closed-door house churches.

Christianity is generally seen as a Western faith, and those who convert to Christianity are viewed with suspicion. Officials at times show hostility towards Christians. On July 31, 2012, a sub-divisional officer, Pema Wangda, in Gelephu town in southern Bhutan, reportedly beat pastor Pema Sherpa. The officer reportedly threatened to kill the pastor after he refused to temporarily halt his church’s worship services.

Bhutan seeks to preserve and promote the state-endorsed religion of Mahayana Buddhism and its distinct culture through its policy of Gross National Happiness (GNH), which measures the nation’s progress in terms of the well-being of its people and has earned Bhutan a global reputation.

While Christians wonder if GNH is inclusive of minorities, a relative of one of the jailed pastors remained hopeful.

Palm Sunday Photos 2014: Christians Celebrate Around The World

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Christians around the world celebrate the beginning of Holy Week with Palm Sunday; a day that commemorates when Jesus entered Jerusalem and was greeted by followers waving palms as described in the Christian Gospel of John.

They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (John 12:12-13)

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