Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Thanksgiving Praise

Tis the Eve before Thanksgiving Day.  A light coating of snow dots the landscape of the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities, reminding one of the words to that old Thanksgiving song: "Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go; the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifting snow..." 


So, what are you thankful for this Thanksgiving Day?  I am grateful that I live in the United States.  It is not a perfect nation - the riots in Ferguson, MO the past two nights illustrate those imperfections.  But America is still a blessed nation.  Our church sent a short term missions team that just returned from Ethiopia this past Sunday.  For some on that team it was the first time they saw the "third world" up close and personal.  Poverty and disease were common sights.  Children, who once slept on dirt floors upon straw mats, celebrating that they could now sleep in a bed with a mattress.  Oh, there is a lot I would like to see changed in our nation but I am grateful to God that this is my homeland.


I am grateful for family this Thanksgiving Day.  I am blessed to have a bride who has been my helpmate and closest friend for over 45 years.  I am grateful for my son and my two daughters and their families who have experienced the presence of God this past year as our daughter-in-law slipped into eternity.  But God has been good.  I am grateful for the music my grandchildren bring into my life - sometimes they could play a little quieter, but the music touches my heart.  I am grateful for their abilities to express themselves whether it is through drama, paints, hitting a home run, or putting the ball through the hoop.  I am grateful that my oldest grandson was privileged to go hunting with his Uncle Dan and his Dad, and for the second year in a row, he got a big buck.  And I am grateful that my children and grandchildren all love the Lord and have a desire to serve Him. 


I am grateful for my church family.  I feel incredibly blessed to serve one of the greatest churches in Minnesota.  I have the privilege of working alongside one of the best ministry staffs a pastor could ever hope to have.  What a carrying family Buffalo Covenant is.  And I am grateful that they have the same hunger and passion that I have - to go deeper into the Word of God and to love Him better and to serve Him with more joy and gladness. 


For the past several years I have challenged my church family to read Psalm 103 and Ephesians 1 in order to prepare their hearts for Thanksgiving.  Both David, in Psalm 103, and Paul, in Ephesians 1, identify several things for which we should give thanks: for our salvation - that God chose us and adopted us; for the forgiveness of sins - as far as the east is from the west; that God understands who we are - we are but dust, but He cares for us; for the coming inheritance which is ours through the promise of the Holy Spirit.  Friends, I would encourage you to sit down tonight or tomorrow - take a few quiet moments for yourself - and read Psalm 103 and Ephesians 1.  If those two passages of scripture do not ignite thoughts of thanksgiving to God within your heart, then you have a deeper problem that needs attention. 


So, "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me; bless His holy name.  Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits."  May your time of thanksgiving be a truly blessed one as you share with family and friends.  God is good all the time! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Synagogue in Jerusalem and a Cathedral in Washington: Is There a Connection?

Yesterday what can only be described as a horrific act of violence was carried out by two Palestinian men at an ultra-orthodox synagogue in Jerusalem while morning prayers were being said.  Armed with axes, butcher knives, and guns, the two Palestinian cousins entered the synagogue and, before they were shot to death by Israeli police, four rabbis had been killed and one police office who died from wounds received during the gunfire.  When news reached the streets of Gaza City, celebrations erupted and trays of candy were passed out as if this was a party atmosphere.  Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was quick to condemn the act and Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu vowed that there would be a swift response.  Three of the rabbis murdered were America citizens who had made their homes in Israel.  The fourth rabbi was a British citizen.  Last month a three-month-old baby, the child of an American citizen living in Israel, was murdered when a Palestinian drove his car into a crowded train station.  CNN reporter Jake Tapper tweeted that "More people with American citizenship have been killed by Palestinian terrorists in the last year than have been killed by ISIS." 


The attack yesterday in Jerusalem was the worst act of violence there since 2008.  The mood within Israel, especially in Jerusalem, is one edged with fear.  And fear is one of the great weapons of the terrorists.  They really don't have to do anything but instill within a people or nation the fear that something will happen. 


The underlying problem in the Middle East can be identified very simply: Israel wants to be recognized as a legitimate Jewish state and the Arab world, as expressed in the charters of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Fatah (formerly known as the Palestinian Liberation Organization - PLO) all demand the total destruction of the State of Israel.  This is what Palestinian children are taught both at home and in their schools.  The cycle of hatred is perpetuated.  Can peace be achieved?  Absolutely not!  Unless there is a change in the climate within the Arab world toward Israel.  The Arab world needs to recognize Israel for what it is: a Jewish State.  The Arab world needs to understand that the Jews want to live in peace with their neighbors, but cannot if the culture of their neighbors is one of hatred toward them.  As long as Palestinian leaders, including Abbas, continue to recognize terrorists as heroes, the culture of violence will continue, meaning more Palestinians and more Jews will be murdered. 


Will the time ever come when the "lion will lie down with the lamb?"  The Bible assures us that it will when the Messiah comes and reigns with peace, justice, and righteousness from His throne in Jerusalem.  You can read about this in Isaiah 11.


Returning to events within our own nation.  This past Friday, The Washington National Cathedral was turned into a virtual mosque.  Muslims entered, bowed toward Mecca being careful not to view the Christian cross within the sanctuary.  I encourage you to read the entire article at: www.wnd,com/2014/11/christians-muslims-conquering-washington-national-cathedral. According to the article, "Planners of the event said in a news release that they hoped 'people around the world will take note of this service and the welcome extended by the Cathedral so that Muslims everywhere will adopt a reciprocal welcome of Christians by Muslims."  The Rev. Franklin Graham said, "It's sad to see a church open its doors to the worship of anything other than the One True God of the Bible who sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to earth to save us from our sins.   Jesus was clear when He said, 'I am the way the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me' (John 14:6)."  The author of the article quotes several former Muslims about the symbolism of what happened last Friday.  Mark Christian, whose father and uncle are Muslim Brotherhood members and whose great-uncle was one of its co-founders in Egypt during the 1960s, said, "Islam has a 'supremacy problem' based upon the idea that Islam has perfected the religions practiced by Jews and Christians.  In Islamic tradition, supremacy is demonstrated to all by practicing Islam where Christianity and Judaism once reigned.  This is what animates the building of mosques on the holy sites of other religions.  It is a conqueror's philosophy."  Christian continued by relating that "the decision to allow a Muslim imam to conduct an Islamic service from the altar of the National Cathedral in Washington is to Muslims the functional equivalent of Islam standing supreme atop Christianity in America 'in our own house.'"  Here is what is so astonishing: "According to Pew Research Center, Muslims make up just under 1 percent of the U.S. population."  In today's world, at least in America, it seems that the "tail is always wagging the dog." 


Friends, is there a relationship between what happened yesterday at a Jewish synagogue in Jerusalem and what happened last Friday at the National Cathedral in Washington?  Think about it for a moment and you will discover that there is a connection.  In both instances a Jewish and a Christian place of worship was assaulted by Islam: in the instance of the synagogue, the attack was with violence; in the instance of the Cathedral, it was welcomed with open arms.  We have to remember that the ultimate goal of Islam is the dominance of the world through a newly created Caliphate.  And we are seeing in Syria and Iraq, through ISIS, just what that Caliphate will look like. 


Should we be plagued with fears?  Absolutely not because our hope and our confidence is in Jesus Christ.  Who will be the ultimate Victor?  Will be it be Christ or Mohammed?  Read Revelation 19-22 and you will find the answer that alleviates all fears.  I want to share a powerful passage of Scripture as I close today.  I have taken a few liberties with the text, for reasons you will understand: "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation [including any religion that has its roots in being a creation by man] will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  (Romans 8:38-39).  Amen!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

More News from a World Rapidly Preparing for the Coming of the King

I need to share with you more news from a world that is becoming increasingly more tolerant of everyone, except believers in Jesus Christ.  Two stories came to my attention this past week that I want to share with you.  The first can be found at: www.townhall.com/columnists/toddstarnes/2014/11/10/school-tells-kids-stop-praying-to-jesus.  The story centers around what happened to Chase Windebank, a senior at Pine Creek High School in Colorado Springs, CO.  "Three years ago he started meeting together informally with his classmates for prayer and religious fellowship.  The young people would meet in an unoccupied choir room to sing songs like 'Amazing Grace' and discuss the issues of the day from a religious perspective.  But all that changed on Sept. 29th when Chase was summoned to the office of Assistant Principal James Lucas.  'He was told that he could no longer pray with his fellow students during free time because of the separation of church and state,' said Jeremy Tedesco, an attorney representing the teenager.  'He was told that he could pray before the school day begins or after the school days ends but he could not do it during the school day.'  To make sure Chase got the message - he was hauled into Principal Kolette Back's office the following day where it was 'reaffirmed that his religious speech could not take place during the open time known as a 'Seminar' period."  It is interesting that the school did not say that Chase and his friends could not meet during that 'seminar' period, just that they could not discuss religious issues when they met.  Another interesting thing to consider is that Chase and his friends have been meeting for three years; why are they prohibited now from meeting?  Of course, the school does not have to supply an explanation - they just lay down the rules.


A second article can be found at: www.townhall.com/columnists/toddstarnes/2014/11/12/school-dumps-Christmas-to-appease-muslims.  "There's a new battleground in the war on Christmas - the suburbs of our nation's capital.  The school board in Montgomery County, Maryland has decided to appease Muslim families by making the school calendar - religious neutral.  That's bad news for all you Jews and Gentiles out there.  As of next year - all Christian and Jewish holidays will be removed from the calendar.  That means no more Christmas, no more Easter and no more Yom Kippur.  There's no word on whether the board will remove the Irish from St. Patrick's Day or the love from St. Valentine's Day or the trees from Arbor Day.  For years local Muslims had been urging the district to close schools for two of their holidays.  Many gathered outside the school board offices holding signs like 'Support Equality for Eid' and "Because...our children matter too.'  Instead, the school board opted to eliminate all religious holidays.  The school district says kids will still be able to celebrate the holiday formerly known as Christmas and the holiday formerly known as Easter.  Now - they'll be called winter break and spring break."  As I read this article I began to wonder: If I lived in Saudi Arabia, do you suppose I could go to their school board and say that I would like to have the school closed to celebrate Christmas?  How do you think they would respond?  This is America - the nation founded upon Judeo-Christian values, including the celebration of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Easter. 


Is it too late to take a stand for what is right and wrong?  I am almost wondering if it isn't too late?  The Church has compromised its principles for so long in order to seek the approval of the world in order to proclaim Jesus to the world.  And what has happened is that we have lost our platform for being heard.  It is sort of difficult to share how Christ can make a difference in a person's life when the life you are living is the same as that of your neighbor.  You have nothing that he doesn't already have.  The Early Church grew because it was so different from the rest of the Roman world.  People truly saw a difference and were either attracted to that difference or repelled from it.  Sobering thoughts.


Just an update on what is happening in Israel.  Even though there is a declared truce between Israel and Hamas, the violence has seemed to escalate in Israel.  The focal point of the violence is where it has been since the reunification of Jerusalem after the 1967 War - Jerusalem's Temple Mount.  Clashes there have increased with Israel cutting off access to the Temple Mount for everyone one day last week.  Jordan responded by recalling their ambassador from Israel for dialogues on how to respond.  (As you might remember, as part of the negotiated settlement following the Six-Day War, Jordan was given the custodianship of the Temple Mount, or as the Arabs call it, The Noble Sanctuary).  I was reading the paper today where Israeli forces are bracing for a tumultuous day on Friday during Muslim prayer services on the Temple Mount.  All Jews are prohibited from praying on the Temple Mount.  They may have access to the Mount, but cannot hold any religious services there upon the site where the two ancient temples once set.  There is a movement among some highly Orthodox Jewish leaders to allow Jews to have access to the Mount for religious services.  This really has stirred up the Arab World.  "Israeli media debated whether the country was on the verge of a new Palestinian uprising or Intifada, similar to those from the late1980s and the first decade of the 2000s that took hundreds of lives.  'This is the same soundtrack that we all remember from the days of the intifadas,' wrote Alex Fishman in Tuesday's edition of Yediot Ahronot newspaper (www.apnews.myway.com/article/20141111/ml--israel-palestinians-529b2f05fa.)


Exciting the Palestinians is a new Hamas song that glorifies the new terror trend of driving a vehicle into a crowd.  The song is called "Run Over the Settler."  This fall a number of Israelis have been killed as they stood in line at bus and train stations as Palestinians have driven cars and trucks into those crowds.  The words of this new Hamas song go like this: "Run them over, burn the next in line, Don't leave a single settler.  Wait for them at the intersection.  Let the settler drown in red blood." 


The flames of a new wave of violence have certainly been lit.  It only waits to be seen if something will cause those flames to become another raging inferno as in the past.  Aren't you glad that God is in control.  Our task is to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  May we do that well. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Good News for a Change

Today is a good day.  Funny how watching election returns can either be a painful experience (two years ago) or an exciting one (last night).  The pundits will now spend weeks trying to analyze all the data from yesterday's election and then tell us what happened.  Bottom line: the American people are tired of gridlock in our government.  Time will tell if the election will remove that gridlock or make it worse.  But, now the White House will have to at least attempt to work with Congress. 


I would like to share with you a very positive story.  I don't get to do that very often in this crazy, wacky world in which we live.  This story actually happened here in Minnesota and involved some teenagers.  The story was reported in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune newspaper this morning with these headlines: "Teens lose meet, but win respect."  The story was written by Mary Lynn Smith and Erin Adler, both staff writers for the paper.  The story begins: "Two Minnesota high school runners have emerged as heroes after being disqualified from the state cross-country race where they helped a competitor who fell."  The two runners who were disqualified were Kailee Kiminski, a senior at Esko High School, and Tierney Winter, a junior from Waterville-Elysian-Morristown High School.  During last Saturday's State High School Cross-Country Meet, held in Northfield, MN, these two runners came upon Jessica Christoffer, a freshman from Jackson County Central High School, who had stumbled about 50 meters from the finish line.  Without thinking, Kailee and Tierney stopped to help the fallen runner.  Miss Winter said, "We're almost done.  Come on.  Let's finish this race.  We're almost there."  After the race, both Miss Winter and Miss Kiminski were told that, according to the rules, they would be disqualified from the race.  The rules stipulate that a runner can receive no assistance during the race.  According to the article, Miss Kiminski replied, "It's much bigger than just a race.  It's more important to help people." 


The girls are being hailed as heroes, as well they should.  They did something that is rare these days.  They thought of someone besides themselves.  The article does not say whether other runners had gone past the struggling Jessica or not.  Perhaps some had.  They wanted to cross the finish line.  They chose not to get involved. 


As I read this story this morning, I was drawn to a story that Jesus told.  It is found in Luke 10.  We know it as the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  In that story, another person had fallen along the wayside - not in a race, but in a journey along a road home.  Jesus tells of at least two individuals who noticed the fallen man but chose not to get involved.  They had their excuses, but the bottom line was their focus was upon themselves.  Then, along came a Samaritan who stopped, gave comfort to the fallen man, and took him to a nearby inn where he could receive medical attention.  To get involved with this fallen man cost the Samaritan much time and some financial resources.  Yet he knew it was the right thing to do.  Life was more than just getting from point A to point B.  As Miss Kiminski said, "It's more important to help people." 


I applaud those two young runners.  I don't know anything about their background, but their actions speak volumes as to the type of instruction they have received at home.  Put others before yourself - always good advice for all of us. 


Friends, I share this story to remind each of us that there still is good in the world.  It often does not make the headlines, as did this story.  But there are people who are spending themselves in service for others.  That is what God has called us to do.  I trust we will do it as well as did Kailee Kiminski and Tierney Winter.  (You know, it is more enjoyable writing about something good for a change!)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

On Being an Ambassador for Jesus Christ

At my church, I have been preaching a series of messages going through the book of Second Corinthians.  We recently completed our study of chapter 5. As you might recall, Paul closes that chapter with a strong reminder that God has called us to be His ambassadors in a world that needs to hear the message that sinners can be reconciled to a holy God.  As ambassadors, our responsibility is to represent Jesus before others.  I reminded my congregation that, if we are God's ambassadors, then what we say and what we do are a reflection upon God.  When we speak, it is as if the world is hearing the words of God; when we act, it is as if the world is seeing the acts of God.  Pretty serious responsibility He has given to us. 


As I look out over the world today, I wonder how effective is our ambassadorship for God.   The world is becoming increasingly more hostile toward those who have resolved to live for Jesus Christ.  To be a Daniel today is not to win any popularity contests, but it just might cost you a job or some friends at school. 


I want to share a story from the pages of the Old Testament of a man whose life had no impact upon the community in which he lived.  This man had everything that the world would consider to be of value.  He was part of a dynamic family that had become very successful because of God's blessings.  And he, too, had experienced that success and had become almost as wealthy as had his uncle.  Yet he longed for even greater things and so separated himself from his family.  He traveled to a distant city that had a known reputation for immorality.  But, into the city he went.  How long he lived in this city the Bible does not tell us.  But, we can infer from the text that he lived there long enough that he became recognized as one of the city leaders.  Perhaps, it was during this stay that he had met his wife and she gave birth to two daughters that grew up in this immoral environment.  Again, the text does not tell us.  By now you have surmised that the man I am referring to is Lot, and you would be correct.  His story is told in Genesis chapters 13, 14 and 19. 


Now the Bible calls Lot a righteous man.  But what was his influence all those years while living in Sodom?  We get two pictures of that influence from the Scriptures.  First, in Genesis 18, God relates to Abraham, Lot's uncle, that He is about to destroy Sodom.  Abraham knows that Lot lives there and begins to intercede on behalf of the city.  He first asks if God would spare the city if there were 50 righteous souls there, and God said He would.  Abraham continued the intercession, each time reducing the amount of righteous souls within the city until he stopped with 10 righteous ones.  And God said that He would spare the city for 10 righteous souls.  You would think that, given the time Lot had lived in the city, that he would have shared his knowledge of God with at least 10 people.  But, alas, he had not! 


The second picture, in Genesis 19, is one that is almost too abhorrent even to describe.  On the evening of the arrival of the angelic guests into Lot's home - yes, he had given up the tenting life - a mob of men and boys assaulted the front door demanding that Lot bring out the two guests so that they could engage in homosexual acts with them.  Lot steps out of his doorway and, instead of offering the two guests for their immoral pleasures, he offered his two daughters who were virgins but about to be married.  Friends, when I think of that scene I cringe.  Lot, an ambassador for God, had adopted the practices of the community in which he lived.  Ten righteous people in Sodom?  There was only one - and his righteousness was suspect.


What a contrast with a Daniel!  Daniel dared to be an ambassador for God in godless Babylon.  Did Daniel's presence make a difference in the lives of those around him?  Absolutely because Daniel refused to become like Babylon; unlike Lot who chose to become like Sodom.  Interesting that we name our sons after Daniel; but I know of no person named Lot.  Was it easy for Daniel to be in that role of God's ambassador?  No - he was always under someone's microscope being examined for flaws.  But, I believe Daniel could lay his head on his pillow at night knowing that he had represented God well.  I question whether Lot ever had that evening of peaceful sleep.  How we need Daniels today.  It will not be easy.  It will not be comfortable.  It will not come without some costs.  But it will come with the peaceful assurance that we are doing what God asks of us. 


Now for a reminder of the need to be an ambassador.  The following news story can be found at: www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/10/27/school-nation-islam-handout-paints-founding-fathers-as-racists.  The article was written by Todd Starnes.  He tells the story of an eight-year old boy who came home from school one day with a handout from the Nation of Islam that portrayed the presidents on Mount Rushmore as being racists.  And he had received this handout at his school: Harold McCormick Elementary School in Elizabethon, TN.  His mother contacted the school teacher: "at first, she (the teacher) did not recall which paper it was.  Later in the day, she found and told me she didn't like what is said - and said she must have printed it by mistake."  The article then states, "The teacher also told Sommer that her son was not supposed to take the Nation of Islam handout home.  It was supposed to stay in the classroom.  That bit of news caused her great alarm."  Mrs. Bauer, the boy's mother, is quoted as saying, "I was caught off guard.  I reassured my son that he needed to feel safe enough to bring anything that the school gave him home to me.  Ultimately, while his teachers do care for him, his mother and his father have his absolute number one best interests at heart."  A very wise mother and father. 


And the events in Houston, TX continue to unfold.  This coming Sunday evening, there will be a community-wide rally in Houston to stand in solidarity with those churches and pastors who have been at the center of the ire of Houston's lesbian mayor.  The meeting will be held at Grace Community Church in Houston and will be simulcast across the country.  If you would like to be a part of this event, I would encourage you to go to the www.istandsunday.com website and get the information of how you can participate from your own home.  It is time for us to be like Daniel - to resolve to take our stand for Jesus. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Another Revisiting of the First Amendment

I want to revisit the assault upon the First Amendment this week.  But before I look at the assault, I thought perhaps it would be good for all of us to just re-read that First Amendment to our United States Constitution, passed by Congress in 1789 and ratified in 1791.  The First Amendment reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."  It seems to be rather straightforward in what it says, and yet the First Amendment has been the topic of more confusion than perhaps any other section of the Constitution.  And the assault upon it's foundational truths continues yet today.  Here are a few examples:


In Idaho, Pastor Donald Knapp and his wife Evelyn have owned The Hitching Post wedding chapel for 25 years.  Both are licensed ministers.  They have been informed by their city government that refusing to "marry" a same-sex couple will cause them to be sent to jail.  Earlier this month the State of Idaho approved same-sex marriage and, as in other states where similar measures have been adopted, problems for those who hold to a biblical view of marriage become evident.  According to an article in Tony Perkin's Washington Update, dated October 20, 2014, "For Donald and Evelyn, there was never any question what the duo would do.  Unapologetically Christian, the husband-and-wife team is overtly religious, marrying couples with faith-driven vows, and even offering marriage sermons on CD to newlyweds."  Yet the city authorities have said that unless they conformed to the new law, they would be fined up to $1,000 a day for every day they refuse to perform the ceremony and have 180 days in jail. 


"FRC (Family Research Council) warned this movement was coming, but even we didn't expect the government to move this quickly.  'The other side insisted this would never happen - that pastors would not have to perform same-sex marriage,' ADF (Alliance Defending Freedom)'s Jeremy Tedesco told Fox News's Todd Starnes.  'The reality is - it's already happening.'  Government officials are making it clear that they'll use their power to punish anyone who opposes the agenda of homosexual activists.  It's a scary turnaround for a nation founded on the same free exercise of religion, which is now punishable by six months in prison.  When there are plenty of other options for homosexuals seeking a marriage license, why should they be able to use the power of government to force Christians to participate?"


Then there is the case of a young student attending the University of New Mexico who was punished for criticizing lesbians.  The article is posted at: www.wnd.com/2014/10/judge-rules-on-student-punished-for-criticizing-lesbians.  The article was written by Bob Unruh and posted on October 20.  "The University of New Mexico and one of its professors will face trial on a charge of violating the constitutional rights of a student punished for expressing her opinions about lesbianism in a class described by the instructor as having 'controversy built right into the syllabus.'  Chief U.S. District Judge M. Christina Armijo denied a motion by the university to dismiss a case brought by student Monica Pompeo, who claimed she was improperly dismissed from the class for describing lesbianism as perverse in an assigned critique of a lesbian romance film.  The course, 'Images of (Wo)men: From Icons to Iconoclasts,' was taught by professor Carolyn Hinkley in 2012.  Judge Armijo, in her Sept. 29 order, wrote that the First Amendment 'violation in this case arises from the irreconcilable conflict between the all-views-are-welcome description of the forum and [the professor's] only-those-views-with-which-I-personally-agree-are-acceptable implementation of the forum.  "Hinkley wrote in the syllabus: 'It's quite clear that we do not expect anyone to necessarily agree with the positions and arguments advanced in our work.  There's controversy built right into the syllabus, and we can't wait to hash out our differences.  But when she assigned students to watch and write about 'Desert Hearts,' a 1985 lesbian romance film, Pompeo said Hinkley refused to read beyond the first two pages of her harsh critique.  The professor described Pompeo's opinion as 'inflammatory and offensive' hate speech and said it would be in her best interest to drop the class."


In a rare victory, Judge Armijo ruled on behalf of the plaintiff, Ms. Pompeo.  She wrote, "Plaintiff has made out a case that no reasonable educator could have believed that by criticizing lesbianism, plaintiff's critique fell outside the parameters of the class, given the description of the class set out in the syllabus.  The court questions whether a university can have a legitimate pedagogical interest in inviting students to engage in 'incendiary' and provocative speech on a topic and then punishing a student because he or she did just that.  Simply because plaintiff expressed views about homosexuality that some people may deem offensive does not deprive her views of First Amendment protection.  Plaintiff has made out a plausible case that Hinkley ostracized her because of Hinkley's personal disagreement with plaintiff's ideology, and not for legitimate pedagogical purpose."  May this judge's kind increase.


And the battle continues in Houston.  The Mayor changed the language of the subpoena last week, dropping the word "sermon" and replacing it with the word "speech."  In effect, it did not change the subpoena at all.  But the nation, despite the lack of any media coverage, except by Fox News, has rallied around those five pastors.  Former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee, encouraged pastors across America to send Houston Mayor Annise Parker a sermon, and perhaps send her a Bible as well.  Martial arts champion and television star, Chuck Norris, said the action of the Houston Mayor reminded him of the words of Forrest Gump and his mother, "Stupid is as stupid does."  In an article, posted at www.wnd.com/2014/10/houston-5-pastor-sermon-fight-hit-nerve-for-america, Bob Unruh quotes from Pastor Wilfredo De Jesus of the New Life Covenant Church in Chicago: "It's a sad day in the United States of America, in the land of the free, when the First Amendment rights of religious leaders are being trampled on by a mayor for political gain and/or exposure.  I accept the fact that what I preach may be considered by some as controversial and not accepted as popular.  What I will not accept is a government body deploying bullying tactics that perpetuate an environment of hate toward Christians and bigotry toward Christian beliefs."  Stay tuned - this conflict in Houston is not over, yet. 


I want to close with a reference to some thoughts from Billy Graham.  You can find the entire article at: www.cnsnews.com/mrctv-blog/michael-w-chapman/rev-billy-graham-america-just-wicked.  Dr. Graham states, "Even though America is just as wicked as Sodom and Gomorrah ever were, and as deserving of the judgment of God, God would spare us if we were earnestly praying, with hearts that had been cleansed and washed by the blood of Christ.  The problems of the world will never be settled unless our national leaders go to God in prayer.  If only they would discover the power and wisdom that there is in reliance upon God, we could soon see the solution to the grave problems that face the world.  Today the world is being carried on a rushing torrent of history that is sweeping out of control.  There is but one power available to redeem the course of events, and that is the power of prayer by God-fearing, Christ-believing people."  And to that I will said a hearty "Amen!"

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Another Wake-Up Call in the Battle for Truth

If you have been following my blog for the past seven years, you will remember that I have stressed that the day will come when Christians will be put under the microscope and condemned for what they say and do in the name of Jesus Christ; that the day will come when pastors will be arrested and put in jail because of the truths they proclaim from the Word of God.  Friends, that day is getting closer than we realize.  Allow me to share a story that was reported on several of the conservative news sites yesterday.


The article can be found at www.wnd.com/2014/10/major-u-s-city-demands-oversight-of-sermons.  The author of the article is Bob Unruh, one of the featured writers with WND.  Allow me to quote from the article.  "Officials with the City of Houston, Texas, who are fighting for a controversial ordinance that would allow men to use women's restrooms there now have demanded to see the sermons preached by several area pastors.  The recent move came in a subpoena from the city to pastors for copies of their sermons - and copies of other communications from the pastors to their congregations - in the city's fight over a 'non-discrimination' plan that allows 'gender-confused' people to use whatever public restrooms with which they identify.  A legal action challenging the city's move has developed because the city allegedly violated its own charter in the process of adopting the Equal Rights Ordinance, which in May designated homosexuals and transgender persons as a protected class.  Critics say the measure effectively enables sexual predators who dress as women to enter female public bathrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities.  And a coalition of activists that includes area pastors filed suit Aug. 6 against the city and lesbian Mayor Annise Parker after officials announced a voter petition to repeal the measure didn't have enough signatures to qualify for the election ballot." 


So, let's just stop right here and ascertain the gravity of the situation.  The city council of Houston, Texas, adopted an ordinance that made it possible for persons who are confused about their gender to use any public bathroom facility that they choose.  The people of Houston strongly disagreed with that ordinance and filed a petition signed by many of its residents urging the city council to repeal the ordinance.  And, several of the area pastors spoke out against that ordinance through sermons, e-mails, blogs, etc. to their congregants.  What was the response of the Mayor and the Council?  They challenged the signatures on the petition and they decided to subpoena the sermons and other forms of communication from those pastors on record as opposing the ordinance.  The Mayor and the Council members are not interested in hearing the Gospel; they just want to know if what is said from the pulpit aligns with the will of the Council. 


The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorney working on behalf of the pastors said that "the city is illegitimately demanding that the pastors, who are not party to the lawsuit, turn over their constitutionally protected sermons and other communications simply so the city can see if the pastors have ever opposed or criticized the city.  'City council members are supposed to be public servants, not 'Big Brother' overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge,' said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley.  'In this case they have embarked upon a witch hunt, and we are asking the court to put a stop to it.'"  ADF Litigation Counsel Christiana Holcomb said, "The city's subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented.  The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions.  Political and social commentary is not a crime; it is protected by the First Amendment."


Friends, this is a very serious matter.  I have been teaching a class on Church History on Monday evenings in my church.  I have been noticing an interesting trend when it comes to the conflict between the teachings of the Gospel and the world.  What happened in the Book of Acts when the disciples dared to proclaim boldly the resurrection of Jesus Christ?  They were arrested and threatened by those who opposed that message.  In fact, we read where James was arrested and martyred, and a similar fate awaited Peter, except for the divine intervention of God.  The Apostle Paul knew the difficulties of opposing those with divergent positions: imprisoned, beaten, and even stoned.  The world is frightened when confronted with the truth. 


And, as one continues in the study of the history of the Church, the assault upon truth is obvious.  Our great nation was founded by those who were being persecuted because of the truths they held regarding the Word of God.  And, as a consequence of that persecution, when this nation was founded, one of its foundational principles was that truth should not be quieted by government.  This is the reality of the First Amendment. 


And yet now that foundational principle is being assaulted.  If the courts rule in the favor of the Mayor and Council of Houston, Texas, then pastors in this country will be faced with the reality of choosing whether to: a) continue preaching the truths of the Bible and speaking boldly those truths, knowing that to do so will most certainly lead to a jail sentence, or b) to compromise on biblical truth so as to preserve their freedom from jail.  And the issue that will create this dilemma will be that of homosexuality and gender equality.  We have seen it already in Canada and places in Europe.  Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have already embraced the transsexual agenda.  It is on our doorsteps, and the situation arising in Houston is a strong clarion call that the battle is now engaged. 


It is becoming increasingly clear that my role as a pastor/teacher is to proclaim the truths of the Scriptures as clearly and as powerfully as the Spirit of God gives the ability.  And then to help the families within my church to own those truths as their own so that they, in turn, can instill them into the hearts of their children.  If America is to be saved, it will only come through a cooperative and dedicated effort on the part of homes and churches strongly committed to knowing and proclaiming truth, even if it means a sacrifice might be required.  I challenge you to re-read the book of Daniel, especially those first six chapters.  "Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone; Dare to have a purpose firm, dare to make it known."