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eNews For The Week Of August 15, 2016

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Articles and Commentary


In The News

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God Before Gold: Rio’s 2016 Olympians and Their Faith

August 11, 2016

The petite gymnast, Madison Kocian, is the reigning world champion on the uneven bars, but she puts her faith in Christ first. Corey Cogdell is a trapshooter and two-time Olympic bronze medal winner from the 2008 and 2016 Summer Olympics. She calls herself a Christ follower, as well as an NFL wife on her Instagram. Kerry Walsh Jennings is an American professional beach volleyball player and a three time Olympic gold medalist in the 2004, 2008, and the 2012 Summer Olympics. After having a baby and getting back into training for the Olympics, Walsh told The Christian Post that she starts her day by putting her feet on the ground and reaching her hands “to the sky and to God.”

CBN News

How does people’s generosity around the world compare?

August 10, 2016

Do you live in a generous country? For the past six years, the Charity Aid Foundation (CAF) has compiled the World Giving Index, which ranks the generosity of nations. As part of the Gallup World Poll initiative, a representative sample, usually numbering 1000 people aged 15 and over, from 145 countries were asked whether, in the past month, they have given money, given time or helped a stranger. Here we pick out some of the most — and least — generous countries from the 2015 list.

New Scientist

ISIS TERRORIST Tells Feds He Has Jihadist Brothers in Mexico

August 10, 2016

Earlier this year a top ranking Homeland Security official acknowledged that Mexican drug cartels were helping ISIS sneak across the southern border to scope out targets for terrorist attacks. ISIS operative Shaykh Mahmood Omar Khabir has reportedly been training militants near the U.S. border near Ciudad Juarez for the past year.

The Gateway Pundit

Israeli athletes in Rio endure ‘shocking’ hostility, taunting by Muslim nations

August 10, 2016

The 2016 Olympic Games have been billed as an opportunity to put politics aside in the spirit of international camaraderie, but that’s not necessarily how it’s working out for Israeli athletes. Animosity toward the 47-member delegation has triggered a reprimand from the International Olympic Committee and alarm from Jewish groups such as the Anti-Defamation League, which issued a statement this week decrying anti-Israel “hostility” in Rio de Janeiro.

Washington Times

New Jersey Lesbian Couples Suing for Insurance to Cover Their ‘Infertility’

August 10, 2016

Two pairs of lesbian couples are suing New Jersey in order to get insurance coverage for their artificial insemination operations. Erin and Marianne Krupa and Sarah Mills and her partner Gloria Torres filed suit earlier this month against New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance Commissioner Richard Badolato. “This civil rights case is about family and the right of all New Jersey women who dream of becoming mothers to access the reproductive healthcare they need to realize that dream on an equal basis, regardless of their sexual orientation,” reads the lawsuit.

Christian Post

ISIS Threatens Miss Universe Pageant

August 10, 2016

The Islamic State has threatened to bomb the 2017 Miss Universe Pageant, scheduled to take place next year in the Philippines. Tourism officials are taking the threat seriously, reported the Times of Israel. The threat appeared in a video posted on a pro-ISIS social media channel which is tracked by the SITE Intelligence Group. The video apparently included instructions for creating bombs and explosive suicide belts; jihadis suggested the bombs be used to specifically target the Miss Universe Pageant.

Israel Breaking News

‘Minority Report’ computers may soon mark out children as ‘likely criminals’

August 10, 2016

Is it possible to predict whether someone will commit a crime some time in the future? It sounds like an idea from the 2002 science-fiction movie Minority Report. But that’s what statistical researcher Richard Berk, from the University of Pennsylvania, hopes to find out from work he’s carried out this year in Norway.

Daily Mail

Erdogan meets with Putin for first time since Russian warplane downed

August 09, 2016

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday after talks with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin that the two nations can rebuild their damaged ties and make them even closer, promising to back major energy projects with Russia.

Fox News

The Worst Mass Murder of All Time

August 08, 2016

A writer who exposed the deaths of millions of Chinese people during the Great Leap Forward says the Chinese Communist Party has released more and more documents detailing the bloodshed and famine. Tens of millions of people died during the Great Leap Forward, former Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong’s pet project from 1958 to 1962 — when he thought he could divert rural Chinese farm workers into mass collectives.

Epoch Times

Pakistan suicide bomb attack leaves at least 70 dead in ‘one of worst attacks in country’s history’

August 08, 2016

A suicide bomber has killed at least 70 people as they gathered to mourn a murdered journalist in Pakistan. The devastating attack took place at a hospital in Quettain, in the violence-plagued southwestern province of Baluchistan. The bomber struck as more than 100 grievers, mostly lawyers and journalists, crowded into the emergency department to accompany the body of a prominent lawyer, who had been shot and killed in the city earlier in the day.


Muslim Woman Devotes Her Life to Helping Christians Displaced by ISIS

August 07, 2016

Meet Dr. Sarah Ahmed, an Iraqi dentist who for the past few years has devoted her time to traveling all over Iraq to bring clothes, medicine, food, hygiene supplies and just about any other need imaginable to the Christians, Yazidis, Muslims, Shebeks and others who have been thrown from their homes, tortured and raped at the hands of the Islamic State.

Christian Post

‘Faceless Recognition System’ Can Identify You Even When You Hide Your Face

August 07, 2016

The ability to instantly identify anyone just by seeing their face already creates massive power imbalances, with serious implications for free speech and political protest. But more recently, researchers have demonstrated that even when faces are blurred or otherwise obscured, algorithms can be trained to identify people by matching previously-observed patterns around their head and body.



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Articles And Commentary

Building a Wall

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by Dr. Steve Elwart

The Brandenburg Gate behind barbed wire in 1962. (Image: The Blaze)

The Brandenburg Gate behind barbed wire in 1962. (Image: The Blaze)

Look! When the wall collapses, won’t it be said of you, ‘Where’s the coat of paint that you spread all over the wall?’ … “I’ll tear down the wall that you’ve smeared with whitewash, level it to the ground, and tear out its foundation. Then it will collapse—and you’ll perish with it! Then you’ll know that I am the LORD. That’s how I’ll vent my anger on the wall and on the ones who coated it with whitewash. And I’ll say to you, “The wall is gone and so are those who coated it.”

Ezekiel 13:12–15, (ISV)

Last week marked the 55th anniversary of a wall that proved a point, that walls are an effective way to keep people out of (or in) a country.

It was on August 12, 1961, the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) began construction of the Berlin Wall. East Germany, a client state of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), stated they built the wall to keep “capitalist agitators” from entering the country and disrupting the government. In reality the wall was built to stem the “brain drain” from East Germany heading into West Germany. By 1961 more than 2.6 million East Germans escaped to West Berlin or West Germany out of a total population of East Germany of 17 million. In July 1961 alone, over thirty thousand East Berliners fled to West Berlin.

The Berlin Wall came to symbolize the Cold War.

A Country Divided by War

Division of Germany after World War II (Image: Deviant Art)

Division of Germany after World War II (Image: Deviant Art)

During the Second World War, one of the major topics under discussion by the Allied Powers (Untied States, England, Soviet Union, and to a lesser degree, France) was how to deal with Germany after the war. Having suffered greatly as a result of German invasions in the First and Second World Wars, the Soviets wanted to make sure Germany would not be in a position to inflect those kinds of losses again. Joseph Stalin wanted all the industrial capability of Germany moved out of the country and the nation turned into an agricultural country. Both United States President Franklin Roosevelt and England’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill saw this as detrimental to Europe as a whole and a precursor to yet another war.

The Allies settled on dividing the country into four occupation zones. The Soviet Union would occupy the eastern half of the country, while France, Great Britain, and the United States would occupy the western part. In 1948, the western part of Germany became a joint zone of occupation, so Germany was essentially split into two sections with Berlin also split in two parts. In 1948, Stalin, in response to the merging of the three occupation zones of the Western allies, cut the access routes to Berlin, which until the end of the blockade was sustained by a largely American airlift.

As tensions between the West and the Soviet Union increased, the zones of occupation hardened and in 1949 Germany became two separate countries: East Germany, a de-facto Soviet client, and West Germany, pro-West in its attitudes and political alliance.

The Wall Goes Up

The Berlin wall being built. Image: Popperfoto/Getty Images

The Berlin wall being built. Image: Popperfoto/Getty Images

Over time, it became apparent life was better in West Germany than in its Eastern half. It was soon apparent that Germans were voting with their feet and leaving the Soviet dominated part of Germany for the West.

From 1949 until 1961 East and West Germans were allowed on either side of Berlin. However, the border between East and West Germany was closed in 1952 and geopolitical forces separated families in that divided country. However, the borders between East and West Berlin were not closed. Many East German citizens went to East Berlin and from there to West Berlin. Once arrived in West Berlin they stayed there or were fled to West Germany. By 1961 more than 2.6 million East Germans escaped to West Berlin or West Germany out of a total population of East Germany of 17 million. In July 1961 alone, over thirty thousand East Berliners fled to West Berlin.

East Germany was hemorrhaging.

The flight of East Germans was problematical for the Soviet Union. The mass migration from East to West was a very public rebuke of the atheist, communist Soviet-style of living and was humiliating to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. It also represented a major loss of skilled workers.

The East German government saw no other way to prevent its people from escaping to the West via Berlin than closing the border between the two cities in August 1961.

“I don’t understand why the East Germans don’t close their border,” Senator William Fulbright mused publicly in early August 1961. At about the same time President Kennedy told Walt Rostow:

Khrushchev is losing East Germany. He cannot let that happen. If East Germany goes, so will Poland and all of Eastern Europe. He will have to do something to stop the flow of refugees — perhaps a wall. And we won’t be able to prevent it. I can hold the Alliance together to defend West Berlin but I cannot act to keep East Berlin open.

In the early morning hours of August 13, 1961, the people of East Berlin were awakened by the rumbling of heavy machinery barreling down their streets toward the line that divided the eastern and western parts of the city.

Groggy citizens looked on as work details began digging holes and jackhammering sidewalks, clearing the way for the barbed wire that would eventually be strung across the dividing line. Armed troops manned the crossing points between the two sides and, by morning, a ring of Soviet troops surrounded the city. Overnight, the freedom to pass between the two sections of Berlin ended.

Running across cemeteries and along canals, zigzagging through the city streets, the Berlin Wall was a chilling symbol of the Iron Curtain that divided all of Europe between communism and democracy. Berlin was at the heart of the Cold War. The wall was a mass of concrete, barbed wire, and stone that cut into the heart of the city, separating families and friends. For 28 years it stood as a grim symbol of the gulf between the Communist East and the non-Communist West.

In 1962, the Soviets and East Germans added a second barrier, about 100 yards behind the original wall, creating a tightly policed no man’s land between the walls. After the wall went up, more than 260 people died attempting to flee to the West.

Tear Down This Wall?

Some demanded that the Western Allies tear down the wall. Although Kennedy briefly pondered the suggestion, he realized it was impractical. “We could have sent tanks over and knocked the Wall down,” he mused. “What then? They build another one back a hundred yards? We knock that down, then we go to war?”

Kennedy quickly realized that the wall was less a problem than a solution. “Why would Khrushchev put up a Wall if he really intended to seize West Berlin?” he said privately to his aides. “There wouldn’t be any need of a Wall if he occupied the whole city. This is his way out of his predicament. It’s not a very nice solution, but a Wall is a lot better than a war.”

The wall transformed the Cold War. “From this point on it is possible to trace the start of the European détente, based upon a shift in West Germany’s foreign policy to a tolerance of the territorial status quo and a readiness to open up lines of communication to the East,” wrote Lawrence Freedman. “Almost casually, Kennedy tended to write off East Berlin, paying little attention to allied rights there. The communists were in control and nobody was suggesting a direct challenge. Though he had obligations to the whole city, it was already divided in Kennedy’s mind.”

Most U.S. political leaders agreed.

Signs of Light in a Darkened World

Signs of God’s hand in events became evident after the wall was put up.

They Gave What They Had to Give

One morning, some East Berliners came and dumped a truckload of garbage on the west side of the wall. Greatly angered, the people there thought they would return the favor. Instead, they had a better idea! They filled a truck with canned goods, medicine, clothes, and other nonperishable items, then took it over to the east side. They stacked it up neatly beside the wall and put a sign near it, which read, “Each gives what he has to give!” If garbage is what you’ve got, garbage is what you’ll give; but if love is what you’ve got, love is what you’ll give! Love is the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22) and you can bear fruit only as long as you “abide in the vine” (John 15:4).

Two Prisons, One Faith

In 1963, Rüdiger Knechtel, a 21-year-old border guard on the newly built Berlin Wall, was haunted by the joking of his comrades. They were laughing about those killed trying to escape. Rüdiger made a silent vow to never shoot border jumpers, and he quietly convinced other guards to do the same. But when word reached the authorities, Rüdiger was arrested and sentenced to hard labor in a military prison. His wife meanwhile fell in love with another man, and Rüdiger returned home to a shattered life.

In time, he discovered Christ as Savior and started working with recovering alcoholics. As a livelihood, Rüdiger began collecting and selling antiques and fine art, eventually amassing a fine collection of his own. Still the Stasi kept him under surveillance, sending informants and spies to entrap him.

In the early hours of July 28, 1982, seven men appeared at his door, arrested him, and seized his most valuable paintings. Among numerous charges filed against him, he was accused of not paying a special tax on his paintings. That accusation was true, for Rüdiger had dodged a particular levy on his art works. “You haven’t paid your taxes,” prosecutors taunted, “yet you claim to be a Christian. What kind of Christian is that?”

The question hurt Rüdiger because he knew Luke 20:25. He should have rendered to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, even though the regime was corrupt. “It was a terrible feeling,” he recalls. “It became clear to me how far from real faith I had lived.”

Rüdiger Knechtel emerged from his second imprisonment determined to live in renewed moral obedience to God — and this made him all the more dangerous to the Stasi. In 1989, he helped lead the movement to defeat Communism in his country; and still today he is at work, caring for the sick and dying.

Quiet End to a Cold War

In 1953, the key East German city of Leipzig was the site of violent protests against Communist rule, and these protests were crushed by Communist forces. Violence accomplished nothing when it came to trying to gain freedom in East Germany.

But in 1989 people in Leipzig tried a different approach. What became known as the Monday Demonstrations began with prayers for peace in the historic Nikolai Church in the heart of Leipzig. The prayer meetings grew into peaceful candlelight marches of ten thousand, thirty thousand, fifty thousand, and then half a million people strong. And those in Leipzig were joined by a million more in Berlin. For ten years Christians in Leipzig, East Germany, gathered at a church to pray for the fall of the Wall. In the final months before the breakdown of communism and the collapse of the Wall, thousands of Christians gathered to pray daily, some of the meetings spilling over into gigantic demonstrations. God always has a plan, and that plan always includes faithful, obedient people.

Finally, prayers for peace accomplished what violence had failed to do. In November 1989 the Berlin Wall was taken down. The symbol of the fruits of a godless society yielded to the power of prayer. It is amazing that a movement begun by a tyrannical Nazi Führer, a movement that oppressed millions of people, was brought to an end by a movement started by another führer — by Pastor Christian Führer of the Nikolai Church in Leipzig. A movement that began with people on their knees in a church found ultimate expression in the feet of millions of prayerful marchers seeking freedom in the streets. As the French novelist Victor Hugo wrote, “There are moments when, whatever the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees.” This was one of those moments.

Those who prayed down the Berlin Wall must have taken the words of Jesus Christ very seriously:

Truly, I tell all of you emphatically, the one who believes in me will also do what I’m doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I’m going to the Father. I’ll do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it.

John 14:12–14 (ISV)

Further Reading

The Ultimate Olympic Coach

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by Dr. Steve Elwart

Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics. (Image: Voice of America News)

Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics. (Image: Voice of America News)

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13, ISV

You ever notice how every Olympian has a story? Whenever an athlete is about to compete in an event, the narrator will add a “color piece” or back story to that athlete. It may be how they had an unfortunate childhood or it may be about the hardships their families endured to help the athlete achieve Olympic status. It may also be about the phenomenal coach they have helping them along the way. All these stories are uplifting and of great importance not only to the audience, but to the athletes themselves.

There is one backstory though that largely goes unreported. It is the story about the Coach many of them had and they acknowledge they would never be in Rio de Janeiro if it wasn’t for Him.

That person, their ultimate coach, is God.

The Greatest Olympian

As of this writing, Michael Phelps has earned 28 Olympic Medals, making him the most decorated Olympian of all time (23 gold, 3 silver, and 2 bronze.) If Michael Phelps was a country, he’d be ranked 32nd on the all-time medal count. He has more Summer Olympic medals than 160 countries.

In the months and even years leading up to this year’s Rio Olympics, however, much of the news about Michael Phelps was bad. In November 2004, at the age of 19, Phelps was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in Salisbury, Maryland. In February 2009, publication of a photograph of Phelps using a bong resulted in the loss of the Kellogg Company as a sponsor, as well as a three-month suspension by USA Swimming. In September 2014, he was arrested again, on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol and speeding in Baltimore, Maryland. As a result, USA Swimming suspended him from all competitions for six months, and stated he would not be chosen to represent the United States at the 2015 World Aquatics Championships in August.

It seemed Phelps’ best days, both in and out of the pool, were behind him.

As we know now that’s not how it turned out.

Phelps carried the American flag during the opening ceremonies of the Rio Olympics. Then he burnished his already stellar Olympic career.

Both of these were unlikely less than two years ago.

As Phelps told ESPN, following his announced retirement in 2012 he struggled to “figure out who he was outside the pool:”

I was a train wreck. I was like a time bomb, waiting to go off. I had no self-esteem, no self-worth. There were times where I didn’t want to be here. It was not good. I felt lost.

His solution at the time was to self-medicate and alcohol was his drug of choice.

In the immediate aftermath of that DWI arrest, he cut himself off from family and other loved ones and “thought the world would just be better off without me … I figured that was the best thing to do — just end my life.”

At a time of his life when he was at his low-point, God sent him help in the form of former All Pro linebacker Ray Lewis, whom Phelps considers a kind of “older brother.” Seeing the hopelessness and despair in his young friend, Lewis, an outspoken Christian, told him, “This is when we fight … This is when real character shows up. Don’t shut down. If you shut down, we all lose.”

Lewis gave him unconditional love and encouragement. He convinced Phelps to enter rehab and helped turn his life around. As Phelps told ESPN, Lewis “turned me into believing there is a power greater than myself and there is a purpose for me on this planet.”

Michael Phelps’ story is a reminder that no matter how bad your situation is in life, God is still there. It’s also a reminder of the role that God’s people are called to play as bringers of hope and agents of restoration.

Many Other Stories of Faith and Hope

Michael Phelps is not the only one who let God turn his life around. Similar stories abound.

Olympic Gymnast: Madison Kocian

Madison Kocian won first place for team USA on the uneven bars, but she puts her faith in Christ first. She recently shared her faith with NBC saying she goes to church every Sunday with her family after making them breakfast.

“I like going to different churches when I travel to different states and countries. Faith is a big part of my life, and I love seeing the unique architecture and decoration.”

In that interview she also said, “My mom gave me a cross keychain that says ‘faith’ before I left for the 2015 World Championships’ Selection Camp. I kept it on my backpack for every competition in Glasgow.”

Olympic Volleyball Player: Kerri Walsh Jennings

A tweet from Kerry Walsh (Image: Twitter)

A tweet from Kerry Walsh (Image: Twitter)

Kerry Walsh Jennings is an American professional beach volleyball player and a three time Olympic gold medalist in the 2004, 2008, and the 2012 Summer Olympics. (As of this writing, Jennings and her teammate April Ross have advanced to the beach volleyball semifinals.) Walsh calls herself a “believer, wife, mother, athlete, lover of life, chaser of dreams; grateful for it all” on her Instagram. After having a baby and getting back into training for the Olympics, Walsh told The Christian Post she starts her day by putting her feet on the ground and reaching her hands “to the sky and to God.”

She also caused a controversy by saying being a mother was more important and rewarding than being a gold medalist. Many thought the comment was inappropriate. They did not buy into the concept that being a mother was a higher calling than Olympic glory.

Track Star: Allyson Felix

Allyson Felix has won her first round 400m heat in 51.24 seconds in her debut race in Rio and posted the top time in 400-meter semifinals. In 2012 Felix won a gold medal in the 200 meters in the London Olympics. She also won gold in the women’s 4x400 meters relay and silver in the 200 meters in Beijing in 2008 and the silver in the 200 meters in Athens in 2004.

Felix, a devout Christian, told the Los Angeles Times last week, her Christian faith is the reason she runs. She gives God all the credit for the athletic abilities:

Faith leads my life, I definitely feel like I’ve been blessed with this gift, and so that’s something that helps me to see the bigger picture. It’s so easy to get caught up in winning everything and just the kind of the grind of what professional sports is, but it definitely helps me to kind of pull back and see that there’s a greater purpose.

A Team Dedicated to Christ

Fiji Rugby team celebrating their victory. (Image: Getty Images)

Fiji Rugby team celebrating their victory. (Image: Getty Images)

Such stories are not limited to just the U.S. athletes.

One of the most poignant moments in the Olympics was when the rugby team from the tiny nation of Fiji won the first ever Olympic medal for that country… and it was golden.

They celebrated their victory as they have in all their matches, by giving the glory to God.

News outlets reported the team gathered and sung “a traditional [Fiji] hymn.” They did not report the title of the hymn nor did they repeat the lyrics.

After their 43–7 win over Great Britain, with tears in many of their eyes, they huddled together and sang the gospel song called “E Da Sa Qaqa” in both English and Fijian translates to “We Are Winners Because Of This World.”

A part of the song’s lyrics are:

We have overcome
We have overcome
By the blood of the Lamb
And the Word of the Lord
We have overcome.

The world’s finest athletes have been gathered in Rio these past days, and with them, their Maker, their Strength, and their Coach.

Further Reading


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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