From time to time we reprint articles or commentaries on current affairs from trusted Christian sources. While Christians have been set apart, we still need to be engaged and informed if we are to be effective witnesses for the one true Savior of the world, Jesus Christ.
|Why the Hobby Lobby Win is a Victory for You
June 30, 2014. This is a great day for religious freedom.
The Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties cases is a much-anticipated and wonderful affirmation as the court process proceeds. It shows that religious freedom continues to be the lifeblood of a country founded on the inalienable rights afforded to us by our Creator.
We rejoice with the Green and Hahn families who are now free to continue serving the public, their loyal employees, and their God without having to compromise their faith.
These families’ stand for freedom benefits the many faith-based businesses faced with the same awful choice of deciding between their faith and livelihood. It also vindicates a higher principle, showing that government must tread carefully when it seeks to impose policies contrary to our most cherished rights.
Religious groups and business owners should not have to violate their faith in order to follow the law. It’s not the role of government to define what we believe or what our faith includes.
Fundamentally these cases were not about abortion or contraception: they were about whether government can require faith-based groups to violate deeply held beliefs.
By Jim Daly (Focus On The Family)
What to do When Forced to Perform ‘Gay Weddings’
6/16/2014 12:01:00 AM – Matt Barber
Churches in Denmark are now compelled, by law, to host same-sex “weddings.”
America is next.
Tyranny’s appetite is insatiable. The secular-left’s hunger for power and control over its detractors can never be satisfied. To outwardly succumb and affirmatively capitulate to their pagan demands will never be enough.
Thought control is the goal.
Case in point: Remember Jack Phillips, the Christian baker in Colorado? He exercised his First Amendment religious rights and politely declined to bake a “wedding” cake for a homosexual civil union. Colorado’s “civil rights” Star Chamber recently ordered Mr. Phillips to deny his faith and bake these fake cakes, “shut down” or face prison
He and his elderly mother (an employee) have additionally been “sentenced”to attend “sensitivity training” (read: re-education camp). There, some snot-nosed college grad with a degree in “feminist/gender studies,” or some other such nonsense, will endeavor to scrub all biblical notions of human sexuality and natural marriage from their minds, hearts and souls, reboot and upload Mozilla Moral Relativism 2.0.
As Mr. Phillips has indicated, he has no problem baking for homosexuals, but, as a Christian, he simply cannot and will not contribute his time and God-given gifts to bake a “wedding cake” that mocks and defiles God’s design for the immutable institution of legitimate marriage.
Nor would he bake for a white supremacist rally or any other similarly wicked event that likewise flouts biblical truth.
As a result, Phillips has said he will stop baking wedding cakes altogether.
I hope he’ll reconsider.
I hope that Mr. Phillips will bake on. I hope he’ll embrace the mantel of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and engage in civil disobedience. I hope he tells this “brood of vipers,” in a loving and Christian way, to get bent.
This is his Rosa Parks moment.
Then he should prayerfully consider attending the “sensitivity training” as a ministry opportunity and co-opt it for the glory of Christ. He should take it over with respectful questions and direct disagreement. He should refuse to waiver one iota on biblical truth and rebuke those who deny Christ and His truths.
He should educate the “educators” as well as everyone else in attendance.
That’s what it means to pick up your cross and follow Christ.
But that’s just some baker, right, pastors? Sure, it’s happening to photographers, florists, inn keepers and bakers, but at least the church is safe.
This is the issue. For some reason the enemy has chosen sexual immorality and faux “marriage” as a hammer to bludgeon the church.
Denmark was the first nation to imagine same-sex “marriage” as a matter of law. It’s now one of the first to compel, under penalty of law, churches to desecrate holy ground by hosting these sin-centric, pagan spectacles.
Columnist and AFR Talk radio host Bryan Fischer reports, “Well, the day we prophesied has arrived. Churches in Denmark – and the U.S. will not be far behind – have been ORDERED to perform sodomy-based weddings whether they want to or not.
According to the London Telegraph a new law passed by the Danish parliament ‘make(s) it mandatory for all churches to conduct gay marriages.’ No options, no exceptions, no choice. Homosexuals are to be married wherever they want, regardless of whose conscience is trampled and whose sanctuary is defiled in the process. …
“How long will it be before American churches will be ordered, as a condition of maintaining their tax-exempt status, to host same-sex ceremonies? How long will it be before American pastors are ordered to perform them?
“Unless America’s pastors rise up as one, now, that day will arrive like a thief in the night, a day when each pastor will be told that he must solemnize sodomy-based marriages in his church or his church’s 501(c)(3) status will be revoked. At that point, he and his church will effectively be out of business.”
Mr. Fischer is right. It’s a foregone conclusion. We are no longer a constitutional republic. American pastors, like bakers, florists, photographers and every other citizen, will be confronted with a choice: Obey God or obey man. Pastors will be compelled, under threat of imprisonment, to participate in these unholy pagan rituals.
Pastors, priests, you will then face three choices: 1) Surrender, disobey God’s law and obey man’s, 2) Stand firm, disobey man’s law and obey God’s, or 3) Use the opportunity to serve, speak truth in love and glorify Jesus.
I like No. 3.
When you men of the cloth are inevitably put to this test, I suggest you do the following. It will take great courage and the strength of the Holy Spirit.
“Preside” over the mock marriage and speak the following truths in love:
“Let us begin with a reading from God’s Holy Word, Matthew 19:4-5:
“As Christ said, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’
“Do we dare call the living Christ a liar?
“I dare not!
“As it is written: ‘Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error (Romans 1:26).’
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here on this dark occasion because the government has threatened to imprison me otherwise. We are gathered here, presumably, to join ‘Party A’ and ‘Party B’ in ‘holy matrimony.’ I say ‘presumably’ because this cannot be. God’s infallible word calls this a farce and a lie. God’s Holy word calls this an abomination – a mortal sin.
“He loves you enough, ‘Party A’, ‘Party B’ – all who are gathered here today – to tell you the truth. I love you enough to tell you the truth.
“God warns, ‘Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.’ I will not call this evil good. You can persecute me, jail me or even kill me, but you cannot force me to deny Christ.
“I am a sinner and can cast no stone. Neither can I condemn you. But, as did Jesus, I can tell you this: ‘Go and sin no more.’”
“Repent, ask forgiveness and believe upon Jesus.
“Because your eternity depends on it.”
Then walk away and pray that these Holy Spirit-inspired words, these transcendent truths, pierce the hearts of those in attendance who labor under deception – who suffer under this “strong delusion.”
That’s what it means to pick up your cross and follow Christ.
February 20, 2014
Have We Lost The Culture War?
By: Todd Starnes
The culture war may be lost and religious liberty might not be that far behind, according to a new survey from LifeWay Research, the research arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Seventy percent of senior pastors at Protestant churches say religious liberty is on the decline in the United States, and 59 percent of Christians believe they are losing the culture war. Eleven percent consider the war already lost.
The survey results are staggering – indicating grave concerns about the moral direction of the nation from both the pulpit and the pew.
“Ten years ago we were talking about who would win the culture war, and now we’re talking about how will Christian rights be protected after the culture war,” Ed Stetzer, the president of LifeWay Research, says. “We’ve lost our home field advantage. There are going to be some things that are different.”
Stetzer said it’s a big shift, “and it’s a shift I would not have guessed.”
Over the past few years, hundreds of instances of religious persecution have been documented in the United States. And the targets have been exclusively Christians.
The military labeled evangelical Christians and Catholics as religious extremists. Christian organizations like Family Research Council and American Family Association were labeled by the military as domestic hate groups. Bibles were briefly banned from Walter Reed Medical Center.
The Internal Revenue Service targeted Christian ministries engaged in pro-life activities. The government demanded to know the content of one group’s prayers. A Wyoming church was ordered by government officials to turn over their membership roles. A Baptist newspaper in North Carolina was audited – as was America’s evangelist, Billy Graham.
The list of attacks on Christians goes on and on – from students ordered to stop praying in front of the Supreme Court to chaplains being told they could no longer pray in the name of Jesus.
In recent days, the battleground has pitted gay rights groups against Christian-owned businesses that cater to the wedding industry. Christian bakers, florists and photographers have been hauled into court and brought up on state discrimination charges for declining to participate in same-sex weddings.
And in every single instance, lower courts have ruled that gay rights trump religious rights.
Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research, said the concern is widespread.
“Half of Americans say that religious liberty is on the decline,” he said. “That’s a lot of people.”
Robert Jeffress, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, conceded that Christians are losing the culture war and they are losing ground every day.
“The primary reason Christians are losing the culture wars is that pastors are AWOL when it comes to informing and energizing their congregations,” Jeffress believes.
Unless Christians stand up and engage the political process, Jeffress said he fears there may come a day when religious liberty is extremely curtailed.
“A religious leader once said, ‘My successor will see the tax-exempt status removed from churches and his successor will go to jail,’” Jeffress said. “That is probably on the horizon.”
But there are some pockets of resistance – like the town of Greenwood in the Mississippi Delta.
Jim Phillips is the senior pastor of North Greenwood Baptist Church. He says that Greenwood still has a “very high respect for the historical Judeo-Christian ethic.”
“Every one of my son’s community college football games around the state last season began with a prayer on the loudspeaker – in Jesus’ name,” he related. “Will that eventually be challenged? I suspect so at some point.”
But right now, he said, “Pockets of religious boldness still exist.”
Phillips said national trends, though, are disturbing.
“Christians have slowly given away their impact on culture by becoming more and more worldly instead of confronting the culture to become more and more godly,” he said.
So who is to blame for the loss?
Phillips blames Christians.
“Sadly, Christians have often wimped out and grown silent instead of being bolder for the Gospel,” he said. “Christians get subdued into thinking they’re not supposed to rise up.”
Jeffress agreed with that assessment and said the church must involve itself in the political process.
“There are 50 to 80 million evangelicals in America,” he said. “Only half are registered to vote and only half of those voted in the last election.”
Jeffress said it’s imperative for people of faith to engage the culture.
“Every time we go to the voting booth we are casting a vote for righteousness or unrighteousness,” he said.
Pastor Phillips also urged his fellow pastors to step up to the plate.
“My calling is to keep leading the charge,” he said. “As a local pastor, my goal is to keep encouraging my church to seek to raise the bar and not lower it when it comes to confronting culture.”
Stetzer said he hopes the survey will spark a “fruitful national conversation about religious liberty concerns.”
“The perception was that the culture war was once a winnable war,” Stetzer said. “But it’s switched from an offensive battle to a defensive battle.”
Pastor Jeffress urged Christians to stand their ground.
“We ought to do everything we can to push back against this encroachment on religious liberty and protect our right to spread the Gospel,” he said.
I’m reminded of a quote by President Ronald Reagan:
“If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”
A few years ago, a New York public school teacher was ordered to remove that quote from her classroom wall. She was told that it violated the U.S. Constitution.
I’m afraid we may be “gone under.”
Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. His latest book is “God Less America”.
February 12, 2014
Still One Nation Under God
Dr. Ben Carson
We used to characterize the Soviet Union as a godless, evil empire. Like many societies based on communism or socialism, the Soviets saw fit to minimize the importance of God and, in many cases, wreaked unimaginable persecution on religious people.
Why is faith in God anathema to such states? It’s because they need to remove any authority other than themselves as the arbiter of right and wrong.
Interestingly, last year Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized Euro-Atlantic countries, including the United States, of becoming godless and moving away from Christian values. Some may bristle at such an accusation, but when you consider that many Americans are hesitant even to mention God or Jesus in public, there may be some validity to his claim. We also casually have tossed out many of the principles espoused in the Bible and have concluded that there’s no authority greater than man himself.
The separation clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is inappropriately applied to a host of situations that involve religion. By reinterpreting the law to mean separation of God and state, as opposed to the original intent of keeping the church from having undue influence over state affairs and keeping government from ruling the church, secular progressives have succeeded de facto in redefining part of the Constitution. Such success, however, can only be lasting if “we the people” continue to yield our values and beliefs in order to get along.
A number of years ago, some lawyers approached me to advise that we could not hang our “Think Big” banners in public schools. They claimed the “G” stood for God, and this would be tantamount to government endorsement of religion, which would be contrary to the First Amendment. I countered that the First Amendment also forbids government suppression of religious expression and suggested we pursue this argument at the U.S. Supreme Court.
This may have seemed like a bold and reckless statement, but it wasn’t. I knew I would be going to the Supreme Court the next week to receive the Jefferson award and figured I would bring up this issue while I was there. And I did.
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said we were nowhere near violating the First Amendment and that of course we could put up our banners in a public school without constitutional infringement. In this case, I did not back down in the face of bogus accusations, and we prevailed. We all must have the courage to fight for our beliefs, just as our predecessors fought for our future.
While there is no question that our Judeo-Christian values have taken a hit in recent years, we have not yet reached the point of a totally godless government that sets itself up as the supreme authority and giver of rights. As a nation, we must decide definitively whether we believe in God and godly principles. We must decide whether we revere the Bible and what it means when our elected officials take their oaths of office with one hand upon it. If we do nothing, we allow by default the elimination of God as a central figure in our culture.
As secular progressives try to remove all vestiges of God from our society, let us remember the godly principles of loving our fellow man, caring about our neighborhoods, developing our God-given talents to the utmost so that we become valuable to the people around us, and maintaining high principles that govern our lives. Our Judeo-Christian values led this nation to the pinnacle of the world in record time. If we embrace them, they will keep us there.
While we Americans are giving a cold shoulder to our religious heritage, the Russians are warming to religion. The Russians seem to be gaining prestige and influence throughout the world as we are losing ours. I wonder whether there is a correlation.
There are many well-documented stories about God’s intervention on behalf of our country during the War of Independence, but one of my favorites involves the Constitutional Convention in 1787. The delegates could not reach consensus on how the Constitution should be written, and the rancor threatened to destroy the fledgling union.
Benjamin Franklin, who was 81 years old, stood before the entire assembly and reminded them of their frequent prayers during the war against Great Britain. At his suggestion, they knelt and prayed — and then went on to put together a 16-page document known as the Constitution of the United States, one of the most admired documents in history. From that point forward, congressional sessions were started with prayer.
Second Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sins and will heal their land.”
These instructions are clear, and secular progressives will shun them. They may control much of the media, but we should not allow them to control our beliefs.
My friends, the case of Elane Photography v. Willock has been decided. As I tell you regularly, you will be made to care.
The case centered around Elaine Huguenin, a Christian in New Mexico who owned a photography business. She was asked to provide services to a gay commitment ceremony between two lesbians, Vanessa Willock and her partner. Ms. Huguenin and her husband declined to provide their services because they are Christians and the orthodox tenets of their faith tell them that marriage is between a man and a woman. See e.g. Matthew 19.
Note that the tolerance is one way. In the name of tolerance, Mrs. Huguenin can be compelled by state power on pain of punishment to provide her services to Ms. Willock against Mrs. Huguenin’s several thousand year old orthodox religious beliefs, but Ms. Willock is under no obligation to simply tolerate those who disagree with her and find someone who is happy to provide the service.
Ms. Willock proved herself vindictive. Imagine other angry gay rights activists willfully and consciously trying to seek out Christian photographer to either make them comply or drive them from business. Given Ms. Willock’s actions, and the actions of other gay rights activists in Oregon, Colorado, Kentucky, and elsewhere, this is not a hypothetical, but a reality.
The war over gay marriage is not over. Indiana is about to go through a constitutional fight on gay marriage. I hope opponents to gay marriage across the nation make Mrs. Huguenin and Ms. Willock’s names household names and show Americans the aggressive lengths gay rights activists will force their brand of tolerance on Christians.
That Christians should be allowed to refrain from providing goods and services to gay marriages they oppose is something supported by 85% of the American public. It unites men, women, blacks, whites, hispanics, conservatives, moderates, and a fair number of liberals. This battle may be lost, unless the United States Supreme Court steps in and reverses, but this decision gives Christians, Muslims, and orthodox Jews the ammunition to win the war for religious liberty. No longer is coercion of the religious by gay rights activists a hypothetical.
A small band of gay rights activists will not stop on the one way street of tolerance. My friends, whether you want to believe or not, you will be made to care. New Mexico shows again that gay marriage and religious freedom are incompatible. You will not be allowed to opt out.
There is one organization at the forefront of this. That is the Alliance Defending Freedom. They represented Mrs. Huguenin and are considering appealing to the United States Supreme Court. They are lone and brave warriors in this fight against the left.