As the students go, so goes our nation! If we win the spiritual battles across our nation but neglect our college campuses, all our progress will be undone in a generation. Therefore, students today need our support and earnest prayers. However, college students don't just need more prayer, they need our UNITED prayer. Without a greater degree of genuine, unified prayer, our hopes and dreams for this generation may never be realized. According to Matthew 18:18-20, the greater the number united in faith and prayer, the easier the battle for this generation can be won. Just as a team of horses can move a heavy load faster and easier together, so our greatest barriers can be better overcome through united prayer.
This kind of unified prayer is usually born out of a sense of urgency and need. In times of great need, men are willing to lay aside their differences so they can find a sure path to safety and blessing. For the Church, that path is united prayer. "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of NEED." (Hebrews 4:16). A humble recognition of great need combined with great faith in Christ always awakens united prayer. When Jesus was moved with compassion upon seeing the needs of the multitudes, He urged His friends and disciples: "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray..." (Matthew 9:36-38). Biblically and historically, united prayer has always been the means of grace to bridge the gap between a great need and a great awakening! This generation needs our unified prayers — please join us in praying for America's college campuses!
"If added power attends the united prayer of two or three, what mighty triumphs there will be when hundreds of thousands of consistent members of the Church are with one accord day by day making intercession for the extension of Christ's Kingdom." —John R. Mott
Prayer Focus: First & Foremost on Jesus Christ
Most importantly, start your prayer meeting by reflecting on the person of Christ with a significant time of worship and adoration. This will build corporate unity and put you in the right frame of mind to effectively pray together. An undivided focus on Jesus Christ is the best way to start and sustain a meaningful and rewarding prayer meeting. May God richly bless you in all your prayer efforts for this generation!
A Three Phase Approach to Praying for a Student Awakening:
1) Pray for an Open Heaven — A Posture of Worship & Adoration
- Pray for the fullness of the power and presence of Jesus Christ.
- Pray for an accurate view of the glory and majesty of Jesus Christ.
- Pray for a renewed passion and an intimate affection for Jesus Christ.
2) Pray for an Open Heart — A Posture of Humility & Submission
- Pray for a response of faith, humility and surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
- Pray for a turning away from anything that would hinder a strong relationship with Jesus Christ.
- Pray for a revelation of the unfailing love, comfort and adoption of the Father through faith in Jesus Christ.
3) Pray for an Open Hand — A Posture of Joyful & Sacrificial Giving
- Pray for students to joyfully share the hope of Christ's love through generous acts of compassion and evangelism.
- Pray for students to defend the defenseless and care for the orphans and the widows.
- Pray for students to finish the remaining task of evangelizing every tongue, tribe and nation in this generation for the glory and pleasure of Jesus Christ.
Prayer focus: This is a promising and challenging intercessory opportunity! Praying for an Open Heaven, an Open Heart, and an Open Hand will provide an open window for God’s grace to “invade” many college and university campuses for evangelism and revival. Experienced intercessors will remember campus revivals of the past that led to widespread mission conferences. Thousands of students responded to God’s call to foreign and home missions that changed the world for Jesus Christ, nation by nation. May God move in such power once again!
“For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!’ But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’ So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:13-17)
Controversy surrounds the Prime Minister of Israel’s forthcoming appearance on Capitol Hill.
Invited by Republican House Speaker John Boehner to address Congress about the threat of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed this opportunity to share his country’s existential concern as the Iranian regime comes ever closer to achieving the capability of fulfilling its avowed goal of the total annihilation of Israel. But the White House has made known its displeasure. A growing number of Democratic lawmakers said they would boycott his talk. Vice President Joe Biden, who as president of the Senate would normally oversee Netanyahu’s address, said he would be out of town. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she hoped the speech “doesn’t take place.”
Why all this animosity toward the leader of a long-standing ally, the only democracy in the middle east, to whom President Obama has long pledged his unswerving loyalty? Because the administration has made clear its fury at a supposed breach of protocol. The White House insists it was not consulted before the invitation was given. That breach of etiquette, it stoutly maintains, trumps any benefit Congress might gain from the insights of the Prime Minister of the country to be most immediately and severely affected by the present negotiations being concluded with Iran.
This isn’t the first time the issue of protocol lies at the heart of an Iranian threat to destroy the Jewish people.
Remarkably, this is not the first time the issue of protocol lies at the heart of an Iranian threat to destroy the Jewish people. There is biblical precedent. Eerily echoing today’s story, the Book of Esther recounts the first recorded instance of attempted genocide against Jews in the ancient empire of Persia, today known as Iran. When, more than two millennia ago, Mordecai learns of Haman’s plot “to destroy, to slay and to exterminate all Jews, young and old, children and women, in a single day” (Esther 3:13), he prevails upon his adopted daughter Esther, now Queen, to intercede.
But Esther is afraid. If she were to approach her husband to appeal Haman’s decree, she would be breaking royal protocol. “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces are well aware,” Esther responds to Mordecai, “that if anyone, man or woman, approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned, there is but one law for him: that he be put to death, except for the person to whom the king shall extend the gold scepter so that he may live. Now I have not been summoned to come to the king for the past thirty days” (Esther 4:11).
Nonetheless, the Book of Esther tells us that after begging the Jews to pray and fast on her behalf, Esther chose to disregard protocol in the face of possible extermination of her people. Esther succeeded in averting the evil decree. As a result, Jews to this day around the world celebrate the Festival of Purim.
In Jewish tradition, the Purim story marks the commemoration of a different kind of miracle. In its unfolding, it is a miracle of coincidences so statistically improbable that they together speak to us of the hidden hand of the divine in human events. For that reason the book of Esther is the only one in the entire Bible in which God’s name is not to be found even once. Here God hides His face - but is as much involved as when He split the sea before the Jews fleeing the Egyptians. For Jewish commentators it is the message of the famous – and ironically anonymous – adage that “Coincidence is merely God’s way of choosing to remain anonymous.”
And so perhaps the most remarkable serendipitous aspect of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech is that it is scheduled for the very day before Jews will be observing the Fast of Esther and Purim this year, to recall a time when a heroic Queen decided that the survival of her people took precedence over protocol. (Contributor: By Rabbi Benjamin Blech for AISH)
Prayer focus: We commend Rabbi Blech for citing the analogy between Queen Esther’s courage and faith in her day and what Israel faces today. In both cases, demonic forces were and are involved in a determination to destroy the Jews. The historical settings differ, and the comparison won’t work if we seek a parallel between Esther and Prime Minister Netanyahu. But without divine intervention, the wicked Haman would have succeeded, and in today’s conflict, Israel is vulnerable unless God steps in. Pray much for Mr. Netanyahu’s U.S. visit and speech. Consider prayer with fasting as you are led.
[Jesus laments:] “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34)
“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.” (Rom. 10:1-3)
A legal challenge that threatens to unravel President Obama's health care law has been stricken by a series of ill-timed setbacks before next month's Supreme Court showdown.
The four plaintiffs' qualifications to bring the lawsuit have been cast in doubt because of their low incomes and potential eligibility for other government benefits. At least one of the four Virginians must show that the law constitutes a burden.
The legal theory behind the complaint — that Congress intended to deny financial aid to consumers in states that use a federal health insurance exchange — has been refuted by the law's authors. Officials from 22 states told the court they were never warned of that possibility.
The assumption that the administration, Congress or the states would rescue millions of purchasers if the court strips away their federal tax credits has been discredited (in the case of Congress acting anytime soon) or disputed (by officials in several states).
"Piece after piece after piece of evidence that they have put forward to try to support their far-fetched interpretation of the statute has fallen apart as we approach oral argument," says Elizabeth Wydra, chief counsel at the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center. "That's legally relevant, because it demolishes their claim that anyone thought the law works this way at the time."
Unlike 2012, when opponents came within one Supreme Court vote of killing the law before it ever was implemented, supporters have mounted a strong counterattack this time, from legal briefs to the blogosphere.
The question looming ahead of the oral arguments March 4 is whether any of the atmospherics will influence the nine justices who have Obama's signature domestic policy achievement in their hands. If so, they could once again uphold the law, or at least demand more proof of injury from the challengers.
"The Supreme Court decides things on the law, but they're not isolated from what's happening in the population," said Robert Weiner, a former Justice Department official who oversaw the earlier legal defense of the law.
That was evident during oral arguments three years ago, when Justice Antonin Scalia raised the "Cornhusker Kickback" — a Medicaid reimbursement offer briefly floated in an effort to win the vote of then-Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb. The battle for Nelson's vote was raised in the media, not in court briefs.
The forces behind the new challenge to Obamacare refuse to characterize recent developments as setbacks. In their final brief to the court, submitted Wednesday, they did not address the issue of their plaintiffs' legal standing to sue the government.
Rather, they have doubled down on their central thesis — that the 906-page law passed in 2010 specifies that federal tax credits will be offered in exchanges "established by the State." That language, they say, precludes such assistance in exchanges operated by the federal government in up to 37 states.
"The government cites nothing, in legislative history or elsewhere, supporting the notion that Congress did not 'intend' what its enacted language unambiguously said — nor rebuts the considerable contrary evidence," the challengers' attorney, Michael Carvin, argued.
Trying To Prove Injury
The plaintiffs' legal standing could be the biggest obstacle for the challengers to surmount.
In declarations filed with the federal district court in 2013, David King, Douglas Hurst, Brenda Levy and Rose Luck said that without subsidies, the most inexpensive coverage allowed under Obamacare would cost more than 8% of their estimated 2014 household income. That would allow them to go uninsured without paying a penalty.
During those court proceedings, the government contended that even with subsidies, King and Luck might have to pay more than 8% of their income, so they would not be subjected to the penalty.
"The entire premise of this lawsuit — which is that plaintiffs are injured by premium tax credits because, without those credits, they allegedly could obtain 'cheaper, high-deductible catastrophic coverage' — is incorrect," the government's appellate court brief said.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled that Hurst and Levy would have to choose between buying insurance under the law or paying a penalty, which it called an "actual or imminent" harm. Still, it ruled against the challengers, who then convinced the Supreme Court to hear the case.
Since then, The Wall Street Journal and Mother Jones magazine have raised more questions about all four of the plaintiffs — such as whether King and Hurst qualify for veterans' benefits and whether Levy and Luck would fare better under the health care law than without it.
"The flimsiness of the injury ... does highlight that this is not a remedial case," Weiner said. "It's a political case that is part of an overall political battle raised by opponents of the Affordable Care Act."
'Trifle' Of Harm Sufficient
The lawsuit's originators say there are millions of people who can claim harm under the 8%-of-income test — and it doesn't matter if the plaintiffs also are Obamacare opponents.
"There's tons of cases where you have ideological plaintiffs," Jonathan Adler, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University, said. "If this is what (proponents) are spending their time on, they must not have anything else."
Plaintiffs' legal standing has been an issue in three other cases pending against the federal exchange subsidies. In two, the states of Oklahoma and Indiana were approved only as employers who faced increased costs or penalties. In the other case, the only plaintiff found by the court to have standing would have paid less than $21 annually with the subsidy he refused to take.
"Those consequences may be small, but even an 'identifiable trifle' of harm may establish standing," the appeals court said.
Michael Cannon, a Cato Institute health economist who helped to conceive the court challenges, said the difficulty in finding plaintiffs stems from taking on the Internal Revenue Service.
"They don't want to get audited," Cannon said, "and this administration has a history of using the IRS for ideological purposes." (Contributor: By Richard Wolf for USA TODAY)
Prayer focus: IFA is not a partisan political organization but a ministry to encourage intercessory prayer for America and its leaders. We pray “for” or “against” issues when moral questions call for decisions that represent truth vs. evil or injustice. Many citizens believe they have been deceived in the confusion of the federal government’s health care law. Pray that the Supreme Court be led (or restrained) by God’s Spirit in their decisions for what is right and best for the U.S., based on God’s moral law. Pray for God’s will to prevail.
“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; they conceive evil and bring forth iniquity.” (Isa 59:1-2, 4)
At the old union hall here on a recent afternoon, Terry Magnant sat at the head of a table surrounded by 18 empty chairs. A members meeting had been scheduled to start a half-hour earlier, but the small house, with its cracked walls and loose roof shingles, was lonely and desolate.
“There used to be a lot more people coming,” said Magnant, a 51-year-old nursing assistant, sighing.
The anti-union law passed here four years ago, which made Gov. Scott Walker a national Republican star and a possible presidential candidate, has turned out to be even more transformative than many had predicted.
Walker had vowed that union power would shrink, workers would be judged on their merits, and local governments would save money. Unions had warned that workers would lose benefits and be forced to take on second jobs or find new careers.
Many of those changes came to pass, but the once-thriving public-sector unions were not just shrunken — they were crippled.
Unions representing teachers, professors, trash collectors and other government employees are struggling to stem plummeting membership rolls and retain relevance in the state where they got their start.
Here in King, Magnant and her fellow AFSCME members, workers at a local veterans home, have been knocking on doors on weekends to persuade former members to rejoin. Community college professors in Moraine Park, home to a technical college, are reducing dues from $59 to $36 each month. And those in Milwaukee are planing a campaign using videos and posters to highlight union principles. The theme: “Remember.”
But recalling the benefits that union membership might have brought before the 2011 law stripped most public-sector unions of their collective-bargaining rights is difficult when workers consider the challenges of the present.
“I don’t see the point of being in a union anymore,” said Dan Anliker, a 34-year-old technology teacher and father of two in Reedsburg, a tiny city about 60 miles northwest of Madison.
The law required most public employees to pay more for health insurance and to pay more into retirement savings, resulting in an 8 to 10 percent drop in take-home pay. To help compensate for the loss, Anliker said he took an additional 10-hour-a-week job.
“Everyone’s on their own island now,” he said. “If you do a good job, everything will take care of itself. The money I’d spend on dues is way more valuable to buy groceries for my family.”
Sean Karsten, a 32-year-old middle and high school reading instructor in his first year of teaching in Reedsburg, said the unions are “just not something I concern myself with.”
“I just look to keep improving my teaching in the best way I can and try to keep my nose out of the other stuff,” he said.
Walker has pointed to the unions’ membership troubles as a victory — presenting himself as a conservative warrior unafraid of taking on big battles against liberal interests.
Walker’s administration has said forcing public employees to contribute more to retirement plans and health insurance helped local governments save $3 billion. The governor also has credited the 2011 law with saving homeowners money on property taxes while giving school districts the ability to make reforms that increased third-grade reading levels and high school graduation rates. And the law has emboldened Republican state lawmakers to further challenge Wisconsin’s labor movement this year by pushing right-to-work legislation that would allow private-sector workers to opt out of paying union dues — a measure Walker has said he would sign.
“We took the power away from the big-government special interests and put it firmly in the hands of the hard-working taxpayers,” Walker told Iowa Republicans recently. “That is what we need more of in this great country. The liberals don’t like that.”
Union officials declined to release precise membership data but confirmed in interviews that enrollment is dramatically lower since the new law was signed in 2011.
The state branch of the National Education Association, once 100,000 strong, has seen its membership drop by a third. The American Federation of Teachers, which organized in the college system, saw a 50 percent decline. The 70,000-person membership in the state employees union has fallen by 70 percent.
The decline is politically significant in Wisconsin, a presidential battleground where the unions have played a central role in Democrats’ get-out-the-vote drives.
John Ahlquist, a University of Wisconsin political scientist who specializes in labor movements, said Walker had “effectively dismantled the financial and organizing structure of unions in Wisconsin.”
“Although it is too early to tell if unions are near the end of their political power here, they are in a very vulnerable position,” Ahlquist said.
The mass protests that gripped the state Capitol have subsided, but anxiety remains high in union halls across Wisconsin.
At Magnant’s meeting in King on a frigid February afternoon, union members finally began trickling in, one by one, filling a few of the empty seats.
A groundskeeper at the veterans home complained that supervisors were no longer assigning overtime based on seniority because “there was no union.” Others complained that there were no longer enough nursing assistants on shifts, while management positions seemed to grow.
“This is what we are trying to live with,” Magnant said. “But we can’t continue like this.”
Dean Johnson burst through door with a big grin on his face. Johnson, 55, told the story of how he felt so bold at work that he yelled “Join the union!” in the middle of the veterans home. A stalwart union supporter, he vowed he’d do anything to keep the movement going.
But Johnson said he could no longer do it as an employee. He told the group he was retiring — prompting a discussion about the new mantra for those choosing to leave union work: “Goodbye tension, hello pension.”
While some union members have been energized by the fight, they say they notice a new, more vocal animosity toward them. It has been particularly pronounced in rural areas, where public-sector jobs were some of the most prized gigs in town.
In King, population 1,700, Magnant said she couldn’t change a sign at the union hall without someone giving her the finger. Farther west, in Stanley, prison workers said they ditched their favorite pizza pub because the owner stood by while other customers called them “leeches.”
In Reedsburg, that tension surprised Ginny Bourgeois, 52, who clerks at a local Kwik Trip. The community had always been divided, defined as much by the factories manufacturing car parts as it was by cornfields now blanketed in snow. Still, it was a place where the community got together for spaghetti and corn feeds and filled bleachers to watch the Reedsburg Beavers play. Now, she said, people were fighting over politics at gas stations.
Still, she felt unions needed to sacrifice.
“Everyone knows teachers’ insurance was some of the best you could get,” Bourgeois added.“They do fairly well around here, and they do a good job teaching. But everyone in this town has had to tighten their belts. They should too.”
Judy Brey, a 58-year-old speech therapist who taught in the community for 22 years, said such sentiment hurt teachers’ morale. She said she grew up admiring her dad, who put six children through college on his union-supported job as a forester. “ ‘I don’t make a lot, but we’ll be okay with retirement,’ ” she said he told her. That, she was taught, was the reward for public service in Wisconsin.
“Now I’m always nervous that everyone will think they’re moochers,” Brey said. “That I’m a moocher....” (Contributor: By Robert Samuels for The Washington Post)
Prayer focus: Intercessors, be alert! As you know, IFA is not a political voice. However, we remind readers that now, early in 2015, the 2016 presidential campaign is already “unofficially” underway. We offer readers this example: former Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, has not said he is a presidential candidate, though he is “out there” making speeches and has become a “target” for liberal news outlets, including The New York Times and The Washington Post. In the past week alone, the Post has run six anti-Walker stories. One calls him “spineless” (Feb. 22). It will get worse. An ideological war is waging. IFA is neither for nor against Governor Walker. Other conservatives will be pilloried. We will report. Please pray as you are led.
“For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (Jas. 3:16-18)
With the barbaric murder of Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh -- the Jordanian pilot locked in a cage and burned alive by operatives of the Islamic State, for all the world to see -- Jordan’s King Abdullah faces the most dangerous moment since ascending to the throne in 1999.
ISIS jihadists in Syria and Iraq have publicly threatened to invade Jordan and “slaughter” the Abdullah, whom they denounce as a “tyrant.” Extremists inside Jordan took to the streets last summer shouting, “Down, down with Abdullah!” The latest ISIS propaganda video attacks the king as an “ally of the crusaders.” One figure in the video proclaims, "all Arab tyrants should…be burned."
While Jordan has remained a source of calm in the region, the roots of radical Islamic extremism run deep there. A Jordanian, Abu Musab Zarqawi, was the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq -- the precursor to ISIS -- before he was killed by a U.S. airstrike on June 7, 2006. Today, an estimated 2,000 Jordanian nationals are fighting with ISIS. What happens when they come back to Jordan?
Meanwhile, 1.3 million people, mostly Muslims, have fled Syria and are currently residing in Jordan. Some 600,000 are contained inside refugee camps. The rest are freely moving about the country. How many are plotting against the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and how advanced and sophisticated are their plans?
The urgent question right now is whether American leaders fully understand just how catastrophic it would be for Jordan to fall to ISIS.
The good news is that King Abdullah understands full well that he is in a winner-take-all showdown with ISIS, which he describes as “a Third World war.”<http://www.cbsnews.com/news/jordan-king-abdullah-on-isis-middle-east-conflict/> As a descendent of the Prophet Muhammad, the king sees himself as a moderate Arab reformer. He believes Islam is the answer to the challenges facing his region, but he does not believe violent jihad is the way forward. He has built good relations with the West, maintains a solid peace treaty with Israel, and has worked hard to protect Christians in Jordan. But he is acutely aware that the jihadists are gunning for him. Indeed, upon hearing the news of the pilot’s murder, he immediately cut short his visit to Washington and returned to Amman to launch an “earth-shaking” military response to ISIS.
The urgent question right now is whether American leaders fully understand just how catastrophic it would be for Jordan to fall to ISIS, and whether they are truly committed to taking all measures necessary to crush ISIS and stand firm with Jordan, one of our most important Arab allies.
Friends and enemies alike have pointed out that President Obama has been indecisive and inconsistent in responding to the turmoil caused by the extremists. U.S.-led airstrikes have slowed the jihadist advance in Iraq, but ISIS is steadily expanding its control of Syria. Yet inexplicably, the White House has failed to set forth a clear strategy to defeat the Islamic State in either Iraq or Syria, even as the rest of the neighborhood -- from the shores of Tripoli to the Hindu Kush -- is falling apart before our eyes.
Obama is now asking for congressional authorization for his half-hearted war on ISIS. Yet his very request shows how unsure and unserious he is. Congress should pass a resolution authorizing the use of "all means necessary" to defeat the enemy. But the president's draft explicitly rules out any serious use of ground forces, even if America's military leaders deem them essential.
Obama specifically refuses to put an adequate number of U.S. special forces and technical advisers on the ground to help Iraqi forces retake their country. Last month, retired four-star U.S. Army General Jack Keane testified before Congress that at least 10,000 U.S. special operators are needed in the theater to prosecute an effective war against ISIS. Thus far, the administration adamantly disagrees.
At the same time, President Obama refuses to directly and adequately arm the Kurds in their fight against ISIS, despite their heroic efforts on the battlefield. Obama should be providing Jordan and the Iraqis far more arms and other resources to fight ISIS, but he hesitates.
Meanwhile, he exhibits a dangerously dysfunctional attitude toward two key American allies in the region, namely Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Like Jordan’s King Abdullah, both Netanyahu and al-Sisi clearly see the grave threat posed by the Shia brand of radicalism advanced by Iran and Hezbollah, and the similarly ominous threat posed by the Sunni brand of violent extremism advanced by ISIS, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Netanyahu and Sisi are quietly but actively working together – and with Jordan – against these threats. Yet Obama’s public disdain for the Israeli and Egyptian leaders in the midst of a hot war is both counterproductive (the Egyptians are now turning to Moscow for help) and risks undermining the trust and confidence of Jordan’s leaders, as well as that of other Mideast allies.
With so many other major challenges in the Middle East at present, it would be easy for American policy-makers to overlook Jordan’s importance -- easy, but a mistake. Jordan is the cornerstone of any future Arab-Israeli peace plan. If it fell to ISIS, Jordan would quickly become a launching pad for terrorist attacks against America and its allies.
Fortunately, the American people instinctively understand the magnitude of the threat posed by ISIS. In a recent survey 74 percent of Americans said they worry ISIS will launch a “catastrophic terrorist” attack inside the U.S. if they are not defeated soon. Nearly as many Americans (72 percent) worry ISIS will soon try to launch a massive attack against the State of Israel. At the same time, 65 percent are afraid ISIS “will also try to overthrow the King of Jordan – an important, moderate Arab ally of the United States – and use Jordan as a base camp to launch terrorist attacks against America and Israel.”
Not surprisingly, therefore, Americans want President Obama and congressional leaders to work closely with America’s most trusted allies in the Middle East – including Jordan -- to crush ISIS quickly and decisively. God help us if the president does not start making the right moves before it is too late.
Joel C. Rosenberg is a New York Times best-selling author of novels and non-fiction books about the Middle East. His latest political thriller, The Third Target, centers on an ISIS plot to attack the U.S., Israel and Jordan. (Contributor: Joel Rosenberg for Fox News)
Prayer focus: Thankfully, Joel Rosenberg is a friend of truth and an insightful and fair reporter. The situation in Jordan is, as he explains, complicated, intense, and dangerous. We urge intercessors not only to pray but to share your intercessory vision with Christian friends and church leaders. God will respond to the effectual, fervent, and unified prayers of His people. Pray for the Church to have a great awakening and renewed vision to help change the world through united prayer and fasting. Pray that international leaders receive an infusion of divine wisdom to handle the threat to Jordan.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (Jas. 1:5-8)
The Italian government is on high alert after threats from the Islamic State called Italy "the nation signed with the blood of the cross." And the country would probably need help to confront the militant group.
Italy is one of a handful of major Western counties that has not been victim of a large-scale terror assault since the Sept. 11 attacks in the USA. The Vatican — the de facto seat of worldwide Christianity — is in Rome, so the city could be a target.
Italian officials fear extremists could enter the country amid the growing tide of refugees arriving by boat from North Africa. About 500 extra troops have been stationed to guard symbolic targets in Rome and monitor the streets of the capital for suspicious activity.
The video threat, released with images of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt who were beheaded this month, warned that Islamic State forces were "south of Rome," in Libya. At its closest point, Libya is little more than 100 miles from the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia.
This comes four months after the Islamic State's propaganda magazine Dabiq ran a cover photo of the militant group's flag flying above the obelisk in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican with the headline: "The failed crusade."
"The risks are real," said Sabrina Magris, president of the International University School of Rome and Florence, the only European institution that prepares negotiators for hostage and terror threats. "The goal may be an actual attack of some kind or simply using threats to create an atmosphere of fear. But the risks shouldn't be underestimated."
Pope Francis waves to people from his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square during the Angelus noon prayer at the Vatican on Feb. 22. (Photo: Riccardo De Luca, AP)
The Vatican has made no official comment about being a potential target for the Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, or other extremist groups, and Pope Francis resists many security measures, delving into crowds whenever possible.
At Sunday's Mass at St. Peter's Basilica, extra security was evident. Police patrolled the area and were stationed around the Vatican's perimeter.
The people on hand said they didn't mind.
"It's a dangerous world, and the pope and the Vatican have a very high profile," said Karen Phifer, 44, a teacher from Philadelphia spending a year in Italy while on sabbatical. "Every step that can be taken to protect them should be taken."
Italy responded to the latest threats by boarding up its embassy in Tripoli, the Libyan capital. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi warned extremists not to provoke Italy and threatened military action.
According to the Ministry of Defense, although Italian intelligence services are among the best, major military cutbacks in 2013 mean only about 5,000 troops are ready for deployment, making a preventive military strike against the Islamic State unlikely.
Within days of his initial remarks, Renzi backed away from warning of any unilateral action and called for the international community to intervene against the Islamic State in Libya.
"The last thing Italy and Renzi need right now is a foreign policy crisis," said Sebastiano Sali, an Italian doctoral candidate with the War Studies Department at King's College in London.
Massimo Blanco from the National Association of Public and Private Security Experts called the Islamic State's threats against Italy and the Vatican a kind of "psychological war" that may be having its intended effect.
"It's something people in Italy are talking about," Blanco said. "But if the government is forced to take major steps in response to the threats, whether big controls or disruptions to regular life, then it's already a kind of victory for these groups."
Blanco said that despite the threats, Italy and Europe remain more focused on Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Greek debt crisis and anemic economic growth across the continent.
"I still don't think the Islamic world is a high enough priority for Europe and Italy," Blanco said.
Italians say they are aware of the threats, but fear is not having an impact on their daily lives.
Italo Fienelli, 77, owner of a tobacco shop near the Pantheon in Rome, said he keeps an eye out for suspicious activity but has not changed his day-to-day routine.
"I was a child during World War II and have seen good and bad times since then," he said. "I have learned it is important not to overreact to either extreme."
Alessandro Tivoli, 29, a tour guide, said, "You can't live your whole life in fear."
Some Italians have used social media to fight the threats with humor by using the Twitter hashtag "#We_are_coming_o_Rome" to suggest specific restaurants or sites for the would-be invaders and to predict the militants would be brought to their knees by Italian bureaucracy or oppressive traffic.
"You have to laugh," said Raffaelle Caruso, 78, a retired technician. "It helps prevent you from being frightened." (Contributor: By Eric J. Lyman for USA TODAY)
Prayer focus: We include this article is to emphasize that international terrorism knows no limits and honors no national or spiritual boundaries. Whether threatening Pope Francis and Italy or ruthlessly murdering humble Christians in the most barbaric way — and all without a vestige of conscience — the radical Islamist terrorists show themselves to be demon-driven and without restraint. Pray for continued conversions to Christ among Middle East Muslims who are also victims. Pray that Protestant and Catholic Christians come together to intercede for God’s mercy. Political leaders of all persuasions in the U.S. are urging President Obama to give full recognition to this terrorist threat.
“Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Col. 4:2-6)
Across the U.S. Midwest, the plunge in grain prices to near four-year lows is pitting landowners determined to sustain rental incomes against farmer tenants worried about making rent payments because their revenues are squeezed.
Some grain farmers already see the burden as too big. They are taking an extreme step, one not widely seen since the 1980s: breaching lease contracts, reducing how much land they will sow this spring and risking years-long legal battles with landlords.
The tensions add to other signs the agricultural boom that the U.S. grain farming sector has enjoyed for a decade is over. On Friday, tractor maker John Deere cut its profit forecast citing falling sales caused by lower farm income and grain prices.
Many rent payments – which vary from a few thousand dollars for a tiny farm to millions for a major operation – are due on March 1, just weeks after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated net farm income, which peaked at $129 billion in 2013, could slide by almost a third this year to $74 billion.
The costs of inputs, such as fertilizer and seeds, are remaining stubbornly high, the strong dollar is souring exports and grain prices are expected to stay low.
How many people are walking away from leases they had committed to is not known. In Iowa, the nation's top corn and soybean producer, one real estate expert says that out of the estimated 100,000 farmland leases in the state, 1,000 or more could be breached by this spring.
The stakes are high because huge swaths of agricultural land are leased: As of 2012, in the majority of counties in the Midwest Corn Belt and the grain-growing Plains, at least 40 percent of farmland was leased or rented out, USDA data shows.
"It's hard to know where the bottom is on this," said David Miller, Iowa Farm Bureau's director of research and commodity services.
Signs Of Trouble
Grain production is, however, unlikely to be affected in any major way yet as landowners will rather have someone working their land, even at reduced rates, than let it lie fallow.
But prolonged weakness in the farm economy could send ripples far and wide: as farms consolidate, "there would be fewer machinery dealers, fewer elevators, and so-on through the rural economy," said Craig Dobbins, professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University.
Possibly Also Fewer New Farmers.
Jon Sparks farms about 1,400 acres of family land and rented ground in Indiana. His nephew wants to return to work on the farm but margins are tight and land rents high. Sparks cannot make it work financially.
"We can't grow without overextending ourselves," Sparks said. "I don't know what to do."
Landowners are reluctant to cut rents. Some are retirees who partly rely on the rental income from the land they once farmed, and the rising number of realty investors want to maintain returns. Landlords have also seen tenants spend on new machinery and buildings during the boom and feel renters should still be able to afford lease payments.
"As cash rent collections start this spring, I expect to see more farm operators who have had difficulty acquiring adequate financing either let leases go or try and renegotiate terms," said Jim Farrell, president of Farmers National Co, which manages about 4,900 farms across 24 states for land-owners.
Take an 80-acre (32 hectare) farm in Madison County, Iowa, owned by a client of Peoples Company, a farmland manager. The farmer who rented the land at $375 an acre last year offered $315 for this year, said Steve Bruere, president of the company. The owner turned him down, and rented it to a neighbor for $325 -- plus a hefty bonus if gross income tops $750.
There are growing numbers of other examples. Miller, of the Iowa Farm Bureau, said he learned about a farmer near Marshalltown, in central Iowa, who had walked away from 650 acres (263 hectares) of crop ground because he could not pay the rent. Just days later, he was told a north-central Iowa farmer breached his lease on 6,500 acres.
Courts or Loans
Concern about broken leases has some landlords reviewing legal options, according to Roger A. McEowen, director of the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation. His staff began fielding phone calls from nervous landowners last autumn.
One catch is that many landlords never thought to file the paperwork to put a lien on their tenants' assets. That means landowners "can't go grab anything off the farm if the tenant doesn't pay," McEowen said. "It also means that they're going to be behind the bank."
Still, farmers could have a tough time walking away from their leases, said Kelvin Leibold, a farm management specialist at Iowa State University extension.
"People want their money. They want to get paid. I expect we will see some cases going to court over this," he added.
To avoid such a scenario, farmers have begun turning to banks for loans that will help fund operations and conserve their cash. Operating loans for farmers jumped 37 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014 over a year ago to $54 billion, according to survey-based estimates in the Kansas City Federal Reserve bank's latest Agricultural Finance Databook.
Loans with an undefined purpose -- which might be used for rents, according to the bank's assistant vice-president Nathan Kauffman -- nearly doubled in the fourth quarter of 2014 from a year earlier to $25 billion.
Total non-real estate farm loan volumes jumped more than 50 percent for the quarter, to $112 billion.
"It's all about working capital and bankers are stressing working capital," said Sam Miller, managing director of agricultural banking at BMO Harris Bank. "Liquidity has tightened up considerably in the last year." (Contributor: By Jo Winterbottom and P.J. Huffstutter for Reuters News Service - editing by Tomasz Janowsk)
Prayer focus: Nothing is more basic to a country’s stability than its food production, starting with farming. Perhaps you have seen a bumper sticker proclaiming, “If you ate today, thank a farmer.” This is a serious matter for intercession. If you pray for “the land,” pray also for our nation’s farmers. How desperately America needs to return to God, both to honor Him and to receive His blessings. Modern Israel has yet to experience the full restoration promised through Joel. Pray that an awakened Church will intercede in unity, display a broken and repentant heart, and reap a portion of that blessing today.
“‘Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, ‘turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him—a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God?’” […] “‘So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you; and My people shall never be put to shame.’” (Joel 2:12-14, 25-26)