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Florida school shooting: America must ‘call on the Lord’ after 17 killed in deadly attack

At least 17 people are dead in yet another horrific school shooting in the US after a teenage gunman opened fire on Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, with an AR-15 assault rifle.

The suspect has been named as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former pupil who was expelled from the school. It is the 18th school shooting incident in 2018 alone and the deadliest since 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook school in 2012.

Three were shot dead outside the school when the attack began at 14.30 local time (19.30GMT) before the attacker went inside the building and killed another 12, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters. Another two later died in hospital. Some victims are still being identified and three people remain in a critical condition while three others are in stable condition.

‘It’s catastrophic. There really are no words,’ Sheriff Israel tweeted later.

President Trump offered his ‘prayers and condolences’ and tweeted that ‘no child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school’.

Evangelical leaders also expressed their horror in the aftermath of the shooting. Out of Trump’s primary evangelical advisers, no one raised the question of whether tighter gun laws might have prevented the attack.

Paula White, who pastors New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Florida, and is Trump’s closest spiritual adviser, said it was ‘horrifying’ to see another school shooting.

‘As a mother and a grandmother, I grieve for the victims who have had their lives and futures stolen from them, and for the families who are left to cope with the aftermath of this terrible tragedy,’ she said in a statement. ‘We pray that God would be close to the brokenhearted, as He promises us in scripture He will be, and that the community of Parkland will be comforted in their time of need.’

Dr Ronnie Floyd, president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, said America must ‘call on the Lord’ in response.

‘Let us pray for the victims of this terrible attack and their families the way we would like others to pray for us,’ he said in a statement. ‘It’s in times like these when we need God’s presence and comfort the most. May God be with all of us and our nation.’

Rev Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said he was ‘heartbroken and deeply troubled’ for America in the wake of the attack.

‘Let every American stop what he or she is doing, and call out to God on behalf of all of America’s students, that God would spare our nation of ever again having to mourn such a senseless loss of life at our children’s schools,’ he said.

The attack is the 18th on or around school premises so far in 2018 alone, according to research by by Everytown for Gun Safety, and the sixth school shooting incident in 2018 that has either wounded or killed students.

One student, Bailey Vosberg, said: ‘I heard what sounded like fireworks and I looked at my friend and he asked me if I heard that.’

He added, according to the BBC: ‘Immediately, I knew. I didn’t say anything to him, I just hopped over the fence and I went straight to the road that our school is located on – and as I got there there was just Swat cars and police units, police vehicles just flying by, helicopters over the top of us.’

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Getting the most out of our gifts

I’m superstitious, and I have my rituals.

When I write, I take several minutes to think about what I want to put on the literary canvas — and what to leave out.

When I talk on the lecture circuit, before I’m introduced I go to the restroom and splash cold water on my face.

When I host radio shows, before I utter a word I perform the sign of the cross and ask God to let me speak clearly.

When I go on television, if I’m in New York, I’ll duck into the quiet and stillness of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I’ll sit in a pew and pray that, when the red light goes on, I’ll be able to communicate what I think and feel — in four minutes.

And when I need help with the big things — love, life, faith, family — I call a preacher.

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is the leader of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which he founded in 2000 and which now represents more than 40,000 Evangelical Hispanic churches in the United States. The son of Puerto Rican parents is a former high school teacher who taught government and civics in the same Pennsylvania city in which he grew up, a place appropriately named Bethlehem.

Rodriguez is also my go-to-guy for personal growth and spiritual coaching. He started in that role a couple of years ago when, after interviewing him for a column, I meandered into a confession. I told him that — as a Catholic — I was trying to find my way back to God. Pastor Sam — as he is called — listened so passionately that I could feel the intensity coming through the phone line. Then he gave me some advice that helped.

Now I needed his advice again. What weighed on my mind was the task of making a living, and supporting one’s family, while using God’s gifts.

Last year, I turned 50. And I’m clear about what the ledger looks like. God didn’t give me musical, artistic or athletic ability. But he gave me this: the ability to communicate, in written or spoken form.

For that, I’m grateful. From that, I’ve built — from scratch — a good career as a national columnist and media commentator, becoming one of the few Latinos in the country who can lay claim to those titles. Not bad for the son of a cop, and the grandson of farm workers.

Now, my main industry — newspapers — is contracting, and newsrooms are shrinking. In nearly 30 years of writing for newspapers, hosting radio shows, offering TV commentary and the like, I’ve had more than two dozen jobs; I’ve lost six of them.

Almost eight years ago, I lost the highest paying job I’d ever had; two-thirds of my family’s income went out the window. But I hustled, picking up other part-time jobs to add to the ones I had. My wife went back to work. We pulled through.

But it hasn’t been easy. I often feel like that guy in the circus, spinning a dozen plates at the ends of sticks.

I could make a nice living in a cushy corporate job, where I could use my skills to sell soft drinks. I don’t want to do that.

Which led me to my question for Pastor Sam. If these things are my gifts, I asked him, then why isn’t it easier to get the most out of them.Shouldn’t I be able to follow the path that God has laid out, I asked, and still support my family?

First, Rodriguez reassured me that I wasn’t alone, that many people struggle with the same question. He also agreed that I was doing what God wanted me to do, and that my voice was unique and valuable — even if it did make some people feel uncomfortable at times.

Next, he said, we’ll confront, in life, open doors and closed ones, too. God leaves open the doors he wants you to go through, but closes the ones that lead you astray. You can stubbornly push on the closed doors, but they won’t open. The trick is to listen to, and trust in God — and follow your path.

Finally, Rodriguez said, looking back on his own life, he was grateful for the open doors but also for the closed ones.

It was just what I needed to hear, and I thanked him for his counsel. Then I asked him to pray for me, so that I might be a better listener, a good provider and a more faithful servant.

“I will say a special prayer for you,” he said, “so that you will know your path. God bless you.”

Thank you, Reverend. He already has — abundantly so.


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World Congress of Families speakers lament sexual revolution, family breakdown

On the third day of the World Congress of Families meeting in Salt Lake City, stirring speeches about assaults on the family from the government and media, costs of the sexual revolution, and the urgent need to protect religious freedom rang through the Grand America ballroom.

The family was “ordained of God,” the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez said in a plenary session of the international gathering Thursday morning. “In essence, it is the heart of God by which we experience the fullness of God’s glory.”

The idea of the family “does not stem from a political ideology,” said Rodriguez, who ministers to a multiethnic evangelical congregation in Sacramento, Calif., “and I don’t believe the U.S. Supreme Court has the power and authority to redefine it.”
Close, loving families led by a mother and father provide, he said, the “antidote to poverty, gang violence and economic disparities. … It is a God-ordained firewall against so many ills.”

An attack on the institution, Rodriguez said, “is an attack on communities that need it most.”

Jennifer Roback Morse added her voice to the chorus of worried Christians, sounding the alarm about the aftermath — and victims — of the so-called “sexual revolution.”

Morse — who was named one of the “Catholic Stars of 2013” along with Pope Francis, Pope Benedict XVI and others — was so troubled by what she sees as the decline of marriage that she launched the nonprofit Ruth Institute in 2008 to raise awareness about the costs.

The list of those victimized by the family breakdown includes children of divorce, children of unwed mothers, women who have been abandoned and children of same-sex couples, she said. “Men, women and children have been harmed … by the lies [about marriage].”

Society’s view of sexuality “is a totalitarian ideology,” the Catholic scholar said. “Even [its] most ardent opponents don’t know how insidious the revolution is.”

Morse then challenged the gathering to speak against sexual freedom and its consequences.

“We are up against powerful people in our world,” she said, “but Bill Gates and George Soros do not have enough money to silence all of us.”

The Rev. Paige Patterson, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and current president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, tackled the topic of religious freedom.

It began, he said, when God created the first couple — Adam and Eve.

“God could have created automatons,” the Baptist preacher said, “but our progenitors were created with the freedom to reject God or honor him.”

The Constitution’s First Amendment outlaws any government-established religion and forbids limits to the “free exercise of religion” — unless the state has a compelling interest to do so.

“Those concerned about the future of the family can no longer lend support to any candidate who doesn’t vigorously support the First Amendment or is seeking to impose restrictions on religious freedoms,” he said. “All such [office seekers] must be resisted.”

Without religious freedom, Patterson said, “all other freedoms become relatively meaningless.”

The Utah gathering wraps up Friday. The 10th World Congress of Families is tentatively scheduled for May 16-18, 2016, in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.

Original story can be read here: http://www.sltrib.com/home/3116379-155/world-congress-of-families-speakers-lament?fullpage=1

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Restoring the natural family

SALT LAKE CITY — Riding on the bright, efficient light rail through the downtown, a visitor can feel the vibes of a shifting urban environment, plus some spectacular mountains. It’s a little like cruising the wide, clean streets of Disneyland, except that instead of Goofy and Mickey, you might spot a few homeless people here and there.

Founded in 1847 by Brigham Young and other Mormon pioneers, the city feels safer than most, and the clean-cut Mormon influence is substantial. But the city has not been immune from the cultural decline of families and resultant government dependency. Utah’s capital (pop. 192,000) is progressive and Democrat, while its suburbs with a million residents are among the most conservative Republican strongholds in the nation.

This past week, the city became the de facto capital of the world for conservative international groups dedicated to restoring the natural family and delegitimizing the sexual revolution.

With 200 speakers and 3,300 total attendance from more than 50 countries, the World Congress of Families IX (WCF9) felt like a massive rock in a fast-flowing cultural stream. Progressive elites insist that the mom-dad family is no longer necessary, replaced by whatever adults want to do to gratify themselves. Well, maybe not.

First, God is not dead, and to emphasize the point, Movieguide Publisher Ted Baehr hosted a screening of the film “God’s Not Dead 2,”made by the producers of 2014’s “God’s Not Dead,” which pitted a Christian college student against an atheist professor. That movie racked up more than $66 million at the box office, making it the 7th highest grossing Christian-themed film. This time around, a public high school teacher is put on trial via an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit for answering a student’s question about whether Mahatma Gandhi’s preaching of nonviolence was similar to statements by Jesus Christ.

No spoiler alert here but suffice to say, if you’re not a fan of the ACLU, you might enjoy this movie.

Among the speakers were Rafael Cruz, an evangelical pastor and father of Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who got a standing ovation for pledging civil disobedience over the Supreme Court’s June ruling declaring a new right to same-sex “marriage.”

Family Research Council Legal Advisor Cathy Ruse predicted the Court’s ruling would eventually give way to the common-sense notions that marriage will always be the union of male and female and that children need a mother and father. She noted that more than 50 million Americans in 31 states voted to protect marriage in their laws, and that of the 293 countries in the United Nations, only 20 have changed the definition of marriage, with two of the largest, Brazil and the United States, doing so via court rulings, not popular vote.

“No matter our nationality or creed, the World Congress of Families has shown that the family continues to be the seminal issue to so many throughout the world,” WCF9 Executive Director Janice Shaw Crouse said Friday.

Some speakers linked economic problems and government growth to the collapse of the natural family. Others reviewed new scientific findings about the marriage-ruining effects of pornography on the brain, comparing it to drug addiction and showing how viewing porn carves neurological pathways.

Ruth Institute founder Jennifer Roback Morse, author of the new book “The Sexual Revolution and Its Victims,” said that the cultural elites who run a majority of Western governments are callously indifferent to what’s best for children and instead are “dedicated to reducing the inconveniences for adults that arise from their sexual activities.”

The sexual revolution, she said, is anchored by three falsehoods: sex has nothing to do with babies; marriage has nothing to do with sex, and men and women are interchangeable. The sexual revolution, far from being liberating, is a “totalitarian ideology” because “it takes a lot of force to sustain these lies.”

Family historian and founder of the Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society Allan Carlson sounded a positive note when he said that societal support for marriage and families in the United States has been cyclical, with decades of decline followed by restoration. America’s current crisis, marked by easy divorce, abortion, an explosion of pornography, the advance of “alternative families” and an avalanche of destructive outcomes, may have run its course.

Dissolute periods usually last about 50 years, he said, and America’s latest slide toward decadence began roughly in 1970. That means we may be on the cusp of a revival of marriage and family in about five years. Well, it is hoped. Even the new Muppets show is squirrely with adult themes. A delegate from Africa told me that they were constantly battling the negative effects of Western entertainment.

Many speakers told stories about loss and recovery, such as abortion-bound mothers who changed their minds. Perhaps the most compelling was Australian motivational speaker Nick Vujicic, who was born without arms or legs and who generated tears and laughter with his narrative about coping, falling into suicidal depression and then being plucked from despair by the love of God. Through his Life Without Limbs ministry, the 35-year-old has spoken all over the world about how Jesus can help anyone overcome adversity.

Speaking of which, many speakers echoed Rev. Cruz’s defiant spirit. One of them was the Rev. Sammy Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, who said that “Uncle Sam may be our uncle, but he will never be our heavenly father.”

Chiding pastors for remaining silent while the courts were redefining marriage, he warned that “today’s complacency is tomorrow’s captivity . I am not drinking the Kool-Aid.”

Original article can be read here: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/nov/1/robert-knight-restoring-the-natural-family/?page=all

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