'Courageous' Grosses Fourth At Weekend Box Office →

October 04, 2011

The Christian-themed film, "Courageous," opened in just 1,161 theaters this past weekend. According to, "Courageous" sits in the fourth position for the weekend with gross revenues of just over $9 million. It is a movie meant to inspire fathers to not leave their families, to love their children, to not fail. "Courageous," depicts four police officers who share a commonality both as fathers and in their effort to become better ones. Alex Kendrick, who co-writes with his brother Steven, says, "The reason we put it in a law enforcement setting was that, as you know, a motto from law enforcement is to serve and protect, and then we drew a correlation to what a father is supposed to do." "We drew that correlation and said, 'Wouldn't it be interesting if we put this in the context of police officers who are also dads, and they may be heroic on the streets but it also takes courage to be a great dad - not just a good enough dad.'"

China Not Pleased With US Senate Currency Manipulation Bill →

October 04, 2011

China expressed strong objections on Tuesday to a bill in the United States Senate that would threaten to impose higher tariffs on some Chinese goods over its currency policies. The tariffs would be in retaliation for what some American lawmakers and economists say is a Chinese policy of keeping its currency artificially depressed, to give its exports a price advantage. The Senate voted 79 to 19 on Monday to open debate on the bill, which would require the Treasury Department to determine whether China is manipulating its currency, and then order the Commerce Department to impose tariffs on certain Chinese goods as a punitive countermeasure.
- The New York Times

Russia Defends Syria at UN →

October 04, 2011

Russia, which sells weapons to Syria and maintains a naval base there, is poised to veto today a United Nations resolution threatening "targeted measures" against the regime headed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. European nations have been seeking UN action since April to stop a crackdown that has killed more than 3,500 since protests began in mid-March. The proposed resolution is "unacceptable" to Russia because it still contains the prospect of sanctions and amounts to interference in the internal affairs of a state.
- Bloomberg

Few Christian Young People Waiting Til Marriage →

October 01, 2011

Eighty percent of young, unmarried Christians have had sex. Two-thirds have been sexually active in the last year, even though, according to a recent Gallup poll, 76 percent of evangelicals believe sex outside of marriage is morally wrong. In spite of the perception that everyone is doing it, there are Christians who are successfully reserving sex for marriage. Even though most Christians believe abstinence is the right thing, something needs to change for believers to truly live out their faith and pursue holiness in every area of life.
- Relevant Magazine


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Christian Pastor In Iran Still Refuses to Recant - (Print)

A Christian pastor may be hanged within a few days under new provisions of Iran's penal code, provisions which officially codify the death sentence for abandoning Islam. Another young man has been arrested in Iran under suspicion because he has been pursuing graduate studies in America. Iran is not famous for its religious tolerance, but even those people remotely perceived as sympathizing with the West are under attack.

Christian Pastor:
Youcef Nadarkhani, 32, is an Iranian Christian pastor who was arrested in October of 2009 when he tried to register his church of 400 people as part of the Church of Iran. His great crime? At the age of 19, Nadarkhani converted to Christianity. Because Nadarkhani was raised by Muslim parents, his conversion has been labeled "apostasy." New additions to the Iranian penal code, provisionally passed in September 2008, give the Iranian government the authority to put adult men to death for leaving Islam.

Apparently, Iranian laws do not become fast and hard right away. They are given a "testing" period in which the law is tried out. Nadarkhani is reportedly being used to test out this law.

On September 27, Nadarkhani was once again brought into court for a hearing. He was told to recant his faith. He refused. He has been threatened with death repeatedly, but death has not yet been dealt. Instead, the Iranian government plays the waiting game, hoping they will force Nadarkhani to give up his Christianity before it's all over. It hasn't worked.

Nadarkhani actually considered himself an agnostic until he converted to Christianity. Under Iranian law, however, it is not necessary to have actually professed Islam in order to be considered an apostate or blasphemer. Being born to at least one Muslim parent is sufficient, and both of Nadarkhani's parents were reportedly Muslim.

"He is one of 300 Christians who have been arrested in last year. Some have been released. There's been a significant crackdown on Christians in the last year," said David Yeghnazar, the U.S. director of Elam, an organization that supports Iranian Christians.

The death threats and Nadarkhani's longsuffering faithfulness to Christ have not taken place in a vacuum. Nadarkhani's arrest has raised an international outcry that Iran was not ready to deal with. Now that he's become an embarrassment, the Christian pastor's charges have been changed. To what? Fars News Agency describes the charges against Nadarkhani to be rape and extortion, Zionism and threats to national security. In a bit of Orwellian news rewriting, Fars has accused the West of distorting the original charges against Nadarkhani to make Iran look bad.

Rape and Zionism are also punishable by death in Iran. Whether Nadarkhani is convicted as a Zionist, an apostate, an extortionist, or a rapist, Iran wants an excuse to kill a Christian pastor inside its borders. Please keep praying for Youcef Nadarkhani. He needs the continued strength and peace of Christ, as well as wisdom about how to answer every man who seeks to understand his source of hope in the middle of great suffering.

Optics Student:
In the meanwhile, an Iranian student pursuing his graduate degree at the University of Texas went on trial Tuesday for the mere fact that he was studying in the United States. Omid Kokabee has plead not guilty, but if he is convicted he could earn up to 10 years in prison. He was arrested at the Tehran airport in February when he attempted to catch a flight back to the United States after a break at home. He has been charged with having a relationship with a hostile country.

Kokabee's studies did not involve dangerous, clandestine work. He was studying optics and had experience working with lasers, according to one of his advisors. A number of Iranians studying in the United States have faced arrest upon returning to Iran. The Iranian government believes that the United States is promoting dissension in Iran.

The truth is that the United States does not have to be actively fostering discontent in Iran. Filled with fears and suspicions, Iran continues to slap human rights in the face, turning its own citizens against their government. When people live in the kind of environment in which pastors are thrown in jail and accused of rape when nothing else looks good, then the freedom in America certainly offers an appeal to those weary of oppression.

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The Honest Trifles Of Darkness - (Print)

"Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God." - Lev 19:31 ¶

Shakespeare's Macbeth is famous for its witches. These three crones are not out producing butterflies and gum drop forests. They are cauldron-fillers who consult with evil spirits, who use baboon's blood, nose of Turk, and Tartar's lips in their foul brews. In the end, their words deceive Macbeth and direct him on a path that eventually leads to the demise of him and half the cast. As we enter the time of year when young people are tempted to visit graveyards and conjure spirits, to play with ouija boards and consult the dead, it's vital we remember that these spooky pursuits may seem like harmless Halloween fun, but can open doors that allow in evils far more real than Macbeth's witches.

The Exorcist:
In 1973, The Exorcist terrified audiences by portraying a little girl possessed by demons and the efforts of two priests to cast out the spiritual forces and free her. William Blatty's tale was inspired by a teenage boy from a Washington suburb in Maryland who was reportedly exorcised in 1949. The Washington Post offered one of many reports on the story August 20, 1949 in an article entitled, "Priest Frees Mt. Rainier Boy Reported Held in Devil's Grip." In it, Bill Brinkley writes:

"…In all except the last of these, the boy broke into a violent tantrum of screaming, cursing and voicing of Latin phrases-a language he had never studied-whenever the priest reached the climactic point of the ritual, 'In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, I cast thee (the devil) out.'"

Despite the horrifying content, movie goers flocked to The Exorcist as well as to other movies like Poltergeist (1982) and The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005). Demon possession and the paranormal fascinate audiences.

I Am ZoZo:
The Indy crowd is capitalizing on the paranormal too in an independent film called I Am ZoZo shot on San Juan Island off the Washington coast last autumn. While it will not likely arrive in local theaters across the country, this film interestingly enough shows the dangers of playing with spirits. It is supposedly based on a true story of a group of teenagers who use a Ouija board and meet an evil spirit called ZoZo that is out to harm them. The movie web site's header declares, "Warning: ZoZo is an evil Ouija spirit! – this Super8 Movie is based on a real Ouija Board experience gone wrong."  (As though they can go right?)

Darren Evans tells about his true-life experiences with an entity named ZoZo, whom he met through the use of a Ouija board. He states, "Too many times to count, it has at first pretended to be a nice spirit, or pretend to be whomever I was trying to contact. (italics ours) But eventually it showed it's [sic] true self, cussing me, threatening me and others present in the room." Evans describes his ZoZo-related poltergeist activities and his small daughter's various maladies from near-drowning to an iron-tongue affliction. One day, Evans exclaimed, "I rebuke this curse in the name of Jesus Christ!" The disturbances stopped… until re-invited.

It is easy to get too interested in demonic activity. In the Bible, Jesus told demonic forces to be quiet before he cast them out (Luke 4:35). He did not engage them in conversations past finding out their names (Mark 5:7-13). The law repeatedly orders the children of Israel to stay away from occultic activities:

"There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee." (Deut 18:10-12).

The Truth About Evil Spirits:

Messing with spiritual forces we don't understand is dangerous and completely foolish. We might be able to win a fight with demonic powers, but it doesn't mean the wrestle won't leave scars.

One of the most telling lines in Macbeth is spoken by Banquo shortly after he and Macbeth first encounter the witches.  The witches correctly called Macbeth "Thane of Glamis" out on the heath, and Macbeth soon learns he's been named Thane of Cawdor, just as the witches predicted.  Certainly, he would therefore be king as they promised as well?    Banquo recognizes the supernatural power at work, but he's suspicious.  He says, "And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray's in deepest consequence."  Banquo's distrust turns out to be well founded.  Macbeth is tricked with honest trifles, which sends him on his way to the dragon's mouth.  

Macbeth is just a story, but the same tactic is found in the Bible.  Satan tempted Jesus in the desert using the scriptures themselves, but Jesus quoted the scriptures right back. This is why it's so vital we study the whole word of God and test the spirits as 1 John 4:1 describes.

As Christians, we do not have to fear demons. Jesus Christ has authority over all spirits. Yet, we should absolutely not allow ourselves or our children to treat spiritual things lightly, even if they are packaged as an innocent-looking cardboard game from Parker Brothers.  As 17th century Dutch jurist Hugo De Groot once said, "Ignorance of certain subjects is a great part of wisdom."

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The Fall Feasts: The Feast of Tabernacles - (Print)

"Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the LORD... Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God." – Leviticus 23:34, 42-43

Egypt banned all harvesting and exporting of palm fronds midway through September, causing a scramble in Israel to find other sources before next week.  Palm fronds are not a great commodity most of the year, but tens of thousands of them are waved ceremonially throughout Israel on the holiday of Succoth, the Feast of Tabernacles, along with citrus, myrtle and willow branches.   No specific reason was given for the ban on the date palm branches, but it ultimately doesn't matter.  If Israel cannot get palm fronds from Egypt, it will turn to Jordan and even the Gaza Strip.  Israel has previously imported some 70,000 palm fronds per year in the days leading up to this fun fall feast, and domestic crops are being harvested at higher rates than normal.

Yom Kippur starts this Friday at sundown, beginning the solemn day of fasting and repentance.  A few days after Yom Kippur, though, comes the joyous holiday of The Feast of Tabernacles, or Succoth.  This year Succoth will begin at sunset on Wednesday, October 12 and run until sundown on the 19th.  The word Succoth (also 'Sukkot') means "booths", a reference to the temporary dwellings that are built and inhabited during the festival. The Feast of Tabernacles is a time of feasting that commemorates God's provision during the 40 years the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land.

It is fascinating to visit Israel at this time and observe the temporary shelters built in the traditional way, leaving deliberate gaps in the branches to view the stars at night and to let the wind blow through during the day.

At the end of the eight days, the Jews leave their temporary dwellings to return to their permanent homes. (This is one of the reasons some suspect that this feast, rather than the Feast of Trumpets, is suggestive of the Rapture of the Church.) This day, traditionally, is the day that Solomon dedicated the first Temple.

In the time of Jesus, Succoth involved a daily processional to the Pool of Siloam to fetch water for the Temple. This ceremonial procession is the setting for the events of John 7, where Jesus offers his listeners "living water."   To this day, water drawing celebrations last until dawn, accompanied by music and dancing.   

The holiday also involves waving four types of branches: the willow, the myrtle, the palm, and a citrus (Leviticus 23:40). The willow has no smell and no fruit. The myrtle has smell, but no fruit. The palm has no smell, but bears fruit. The citrus has both smell and bears fruit.  In Judaism, these four branches represent different personalities and kinds among the people of Israel.  However, these descriptions can also be matched in the four soils of the first "kingdom parable" of Matthew 13.

As Christians we may not celebrate many of the traditional Jewish holidays, yet they hold great spiritual and prophetic significance. Colossians 2:16-17 says, "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come." [emphasis added]

Most observers note that the three feasts in the first month of the religious year - Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, and Feast of First Fruits - are prophetic of the Lord's First Coming. They each were also fulfilled on the day they were observed.

Between these three feasts and the final three feasts is the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, which is predictive of the Church. (It is also the only feast in which leavened bread is ordained!)

It is believed that the last three feasts, in the seventh month, are prophetic of the Lord's Second Coming. It seems little coincidence that the seventh day of Succoth is called Hoshanah Rabbah - "Great Salvation".  Many believers are particularly watchful each fall in the hopes that "this" will be the year these final three feasts are fulfilled.   Even if Egypt wants to hold out on delivering its palm fronds.  

For more background, review our briefing package The Feasts of Israel.

[Editors Note: This is the final installment of a three part series on the fall feasts of Israel.]

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The views and opinions expressed in these articles, enews and linked websites are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views held by Koinonia House. Koinonia House is providing this information as a resource to individuals who are interested in current news and events that may have an impact on Christian Life and Biblical trends. Koinonia House is not responsible for any information contained in these articles that may be inaccurate, or does not present an unbiased or complete perspective. Koinonia House disavows any obligation to correct or update the information contained in these articles.

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