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Mosul Christian: Thanks for Changing Your #WeAreN Photo

Believers in Iraq rally around label that forced them out of their homes and churches.

Editor's note: In the reflection below, a young Christian from Mosul writes about the takeover of her hometown by the extremist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the recent international support shown through the #WeAreN campaign on social media. She has been living in the safer Kurdistan Region in the northern part of Iraq for the past few years and works with refugee relief efforts supported by Open Doors International as Mosul's remaining Christians flee north.

I can't believe what's happening now. And it's all happening all so fast. 2,000 years of Christian history and presence is being destroyed. I am confused and sad. Everybody is. On the news I saw the extremists replaced the cross on our church in Mosul with the black flag of the Islamic State. They are doing a call of Islamic prayer from our church. They have turned it into a mosque.

I can't believe it. I wanted to cry when I saw this on the news. This past weekend, the Islamic State gave Christians in Mosul an ultimatum: convert, pay a high tax, leave before Saturday at noon, or die. All Christians chose to leave. This is what we have feared for a long time.

My aunt and her sons were the last of my family to flee from Mosul. They left after the threat of the Islamic State last weekend and are staying with family here in the north now. They are devastated. My aunt kept crying. Her husband died a long time ago, and she has raised her children on her own. She cried, "What do I do now? I have nothing left. They even took my house."

Two other houses of relatives have also been taken. They left one of the houses a while ago. They asked a Muslim neighbor to live in it because they knew it would be protected if a Muslim ...

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Amid Israel-Hamas Violence, Reconciliation Between Palestinian Christians and Messianic Jews Continues

Musalaha participant: "I am sending this message over the walls with no rockets attached to tell you I pray for you."

As violence flares anew between Hamas and Israel, which is preparing for a ground invasion of Gaza in response to Hamas rocket attacks reaching as far as Tel Aviv, CT checked in with Jerusalem-based reconciliation ministry Musalaha for an update on reconciliation efforts between Palestinian Christians and Messianic Jews.

In 2009, CT reported how three weeks of Israel-Hamas fightingwhich killed 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelisleft Gaza's beleaguered Christians beginning 2009 in their worst situation since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. However, reconciliation work between Palestinian Christians and Messianic Jews continued.

Salim Munayer, executive director Musalaha, offered CT the following update on what, if anything, has changed since 2009:

What we see is that individuals who have been active in Musalaha for more than 2 years are writing statements to each other, such as the following:"Brothers and sisters in Jesus, In this time of trials and tribulations, let us not lose sight of what Jesus came to the earth to teach us. And that is Love. The greatest power that conquers all. Only God's love can teach us how to love and forgive our enemies, even if they trample you under their feet. ... I pray that the Lord shows all of us what love really means through His eyes and that He brings comfort to those with shattered hearts. Much much LOVE to everyone!" Deborah Holtz, Israeli participant"Hi brothers from the other side of the wall, are we both doing the same mistake, by watching and listening to the media that is making us look only at our people? I hope not, for I have done that, and look at me making sure only my people are doing well and praying for them. For I am sorry that I am doing that, and I am sending the message over ...

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Morning Roundup 7/24/14

Religious Freedom vs. LGBT Rights?; New Calvinism; Charismatic Catholics

Religious Freedom vs. LGBT Rights? It's More ComplicatedJohn D. Inazu

This is a very important article and I exhort you to take the time to read it.

Naming the New CalvinismTimothy Paul Jones

This is helpful to understand more about New Calvinism.

Nashville's charismatic Catholics want more from churchHeidi Hall

If you want to read more about the charismatic movement, take a look at this series (here, here, and here). Heidi Hall provides a fascinating look at Charismatic Catholics in Nashville.

Download this week's edition of The Exchange Podcast with Derwin Gray.

Matt Carter, Pastor of Preaching & Vision at the Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas, joined me to talk about church culture, small groups and missional communities on this episode of The Exchange. In this clip, Matt explains about how Austin Stone does missional communities. Don't forget to join me every Tuesday at 3:00 PM Eastern for The Exchange.

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Mosul Christian: Thanks for Changing Your #WeAreN Photo

Believers in Iraq rally around label that forced them out of their homes and churches.

Editor's note: In the reflection below, a young Christian from Mosul writes about the takeover of her hometown by the extremist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the recent international support shown through the #WeAreN campaign on social media. She has been living in the safer Kurdistan Region in the northern part of Iraq for the past few years and works with refugee relief efforts supported by Open Doors International as Mosul's remaining Christians flee north.

I can't believe what's happening now. And it's all happening all so fast. 2,000 years of Christian history and presence is being destroyed. I am confused and sad. Everybody is. On the news I saw the extremists replaced the cross on our church in Mosul with the black flag of the Islamic State. They are doing a call of Islamic prayer from our church. They have turned it into a mosque.

I can't believe it. I wanted to cry when I saw this on the news. This past weekend, the Islamic State gave Christians in Mosul an ultimatum: convert, pay a high tax, leave before Saturday at noon, or die. All Christians chose to leave. This is what we have feared for a long time.

My aunt and her sons were the last of my family to flee from Mosul. They left after the threat of the Islamic State last weekend and are staying with family here in the north now. They are devastated. My aunt kept crying. Her husband died a long time ago, and she has raised her children on her own. She cried, "What do I do now? I have nothing left. They even took my house."

Two other houses of relatives have also been taken. They left one of the houses a while ago. They asked a Muslim neighbor to live in it because they knew it would be protected if a Muslim ...

Continue reading...

IRS to Atheists: Okay, We'll Investigate Pulpit Freedom Sunday Pastors

Tax agency and FFRF announce settlement, but Milwaukee church disputes the lawsuit's dismissal.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has agreed to investigate the political activity of churches after reaching a settlement with an atheist legal group. But a court has yet to decide whether or not to close the case.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) and the IRS jointly asked a Wisconsin federal court last week to dismiss a 2012 lawsuit, FFRF v. Koskinen. The FFRF had alleged that the IRS failed to have a policy in place for investigating political activity at tax-exempt churches and religious organizations, nor did the agency enforce its 501(c)(3) codes against electioneering.

Meanwhile, more than 1,600 churches have deliberately broke the existing law since 2008, endorsing political candidates from their pulpits during Pulpit Freedom Sunday events organized by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). The next "showdown" will be October 5.

"This is a victory, and we're pleased with this development in which the IRS has proved to our satisfaction that it now has in place a protocol to enforce its own anti-electioneering provisions," said FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor in a press release.

However, the case has not yet been closed. Father Patrick Malone of Holy Cross Anglican Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, had been granted permission to intervene on the side of the IRS, and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (which represents Malone) has asked the court to dismiss the case but "with prejudice." In other words, Becket argues the FFRF should not be able to sue the IRS again on this particular issue, while the FFRF argues that it should be able to do so.

Regardless of the court's final decision, the IRS won't be free to investigate churches until a moratorium ...

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