February 2015

David Platt: Counter culture with gospel

February 27 2015 by Erich Bridges, Worldview Conversation

It’s hard not to offend people these days, especially if you actually believe what the Bible says about right, wrong, sin and salvation.
 
Fearing the loss of friends, being dismissed as irrelevant – or worse, being called intolerant – many evangelicals jump on the bandwagon of popular social-justice causes, but lapse into uncomfortable silence on issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion. Some quietly abandon biblical positions on controversial issues altogether.
 
That path eventually leads to a deeper surrender, however. Because the entire foundation of biblical morality, not to mention the biblical basis of Christian missions, rests on the most “offensive” claim of all: the gospel itself.
 
“[T]he most offensive and countercultural claim in Christianity is not what Christians believe about homosexuality or abortion, marriage or religious liberty,” writes International Mission Board (IMB) President David Platt in his new book, Counter Culture: A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Persecution, Abortion, Orphans and Pornography. “Instead, the most offensive claim in Christianity is that God is the Creator, Owner, and Judge of every person on the planet. Every one of us stands before Him guilty of sin, and the only way to be reconciled to Him is through faith in Jesus, the crucified Savior and risen King. All who trust in His love will experience everlasting life while all who turn from His lordship will suffer everlasting death.”
 
That claim – and the idea that God became a man, died on a cross and rose again to embody it – is foolishness at best, anathema at worst to postmodernists, atheists, secularists, Muslims and other subsets of humanity comprising billions of people. It is increasingly costly, even dangerous in certain places, to proclaim it. Some cultures consider it blasphemy; others call it hate speech. That’s really nothing new if you peruse church history.
 
The main question for self-proclaimed Christians, Platt suggests, is this: Do we believe this gospel?
 
If we don’t, we should reconsider whether we really follow the Christ revealed in the Bible. If we do, everything else we believe and do must flow from it. We don’t get a pass on the toughest issues engulfing culture today, nor do we get to pick which ones to address. We must counter them all with the revolutionary, uncompromising love of the gospel. Hence the title of Platt’s book.
 
And the gospel is an equal-opportunity offender, as Platt has discovered in his personal spiritual life. He says God convicted him of his own silence about racism and abortion, among other issues. That’s why he’s speaking to other believers now.
 
“I sense a trend in the church among evangelical Christians – particularly younger evangelicals, but really broader,” he observes. “We have this tendency to pick and choose which cultural issues we’re going to stand up and speak out on and which we’re going to sit down and be quiet on, usually based on those issues that are most comfortable and least costly for us to speak out on. It is right for us to speak out against poverty and sex trafficking, and I’m thankful for increased awareness of issues like that and the way people are speaking out on those issues.
 
“The danger, though, is if we speak boldly on issues like that, but then when it comes to issues like abortion or so-called same-sex marriage – issues that are much more likely to bring us into contention with the culture around us – we’re much more likely to be quiet. Before we know it, our supposed social justice actually becomes a selective social injustice. … The same gospel that compels us to combat poverty compels us to defend marriage. The same gospel that compels us to war against sex trafficking compels us to war against sexual immorality in all of its forms.” (Hear Platt on “picking and choosing.”)
 
That kind of consistency won’t win us many popularity contests, but if we back up our words with lives of grace, truth and loving action, we will change culture rather than surrendering to it. (Hear Platt on whether addressing cultural issues hurts our witness.)
 
Why court controversy so early in his tenure as IMB leader? Platt began writing the book several years ago, while he was pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala. He submitted it to his publisher well before his election by IMB trustees last year. But he remains convinced the time is right for its message to an American church facing fundamental challenges.
 
“I trust that the Lord led me to write this and knew exactly where I would be when it came out,” he told IMB missionaries and staff in a recent message. “Further, I am completely convinced that these issues are not just American issues ... these are global issues ... . I want to use any platform the Lord has given to me to strengthen the church in this culture in order that we might send out and support brothers and sisters into other cultures with rock-solid confidence in God’s Word and with wisdom to apply the gospel to these pressing social issues.”
 
Only servants with that kind of confidence can make a real impact on the world’s lost, who suffer from the worst injustice of all.
 
“The greatest injustice in the world is the fact that a couple of billion people still don’t have access to the gospel,” Platt says. It is the gospel alone “that has the power not only to change cultures on this earth but to transform lives for eternity.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is a global correspondent for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

2/27/2015 12:47:30 PM by Erich Bridges, Worldview Conversation | with 0 comments



Can you love your enemies?

February 27 2015 by D.E. Parkerson, Guest Column

Several years ago in the Rocky Mountains a bighorn ram approached the home of a man named Ed Bailey while he was watching a football game on television. The bighorn stopped suddenly, seeing his reflection in an unbreakable plate glass window. Thinking it was another ram, he bowed his head, ready to charge. He backed up, and immediately saw that the other ram backed up also.
 
Every time he moved, his reflection moved. Finally, after a three-hour duel, the ram shook his head and charged full force into the window, knocking himself unconscious.
 
That bighorn ram reminds me of a few people I have known through the years. I suspect that you have known such persons also – people who were born in the objective case, and live in a combative mood.
What makes them walk around ready to butt heads with everyone they meet – even though in the long run they are the loser for their negative attitude? I am reminded of the humorous story of a western cowboy who was known for being “the fastest gun in the west.” He was so fast, in fact, he could shoot before his gun left his holster. His name? “Footless Frankie!”
 
I suspect that most of us have shot ourselves in the foot at one time or another by being too quick to criticize, to condemn, to confront, to challenge or to chastise. I certainly have. We need to hear again the words of Jesus, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:32-36).
 
So what if you are good to your mother – big deal! Even Mafia mobsters look after their family and friends. Any person who would be a disciple of Jesus Christ must go further than that. We are challenged to love those people we ordinarily could not stand.
 
Any person who is serious about living the Christian life must learn to look at others through the eyes of Jesus – the eyes of compassion and understanding. Yes, this includes even those who are difficult to love.
When we look at people through the eyes of Jesus, we see them as individuals having infinite value. It is easy to view a young person in trouble – perhaps pregnant or on drugs – and cast a critical eye. But any parents who read these words know that it could be their child in trouble – and if it were, it would make a tremendous difference in the attitude they have.
 
We dare not treat any person with contempt, for he or she is a person for whom Christ died. To see every person through the eyes of Jesus is to see him or her, not as an object, but as an individual with hopes, dreams and aspirations equal to our own.
 
An unloving heart is a spiritual problem. Very often those who have the habit of butting heads with everybody they meet do so because they have never felt loved or accepted by others. Just as an abused child will often grow up to abuse his or her own children, so the person who has never felt loved or accepted will not be able to love and accept others. The spiritual answer for such persons is that they come to fully understand what it means to be loved and accepted by God. It is in knowing that we are loved and accepted by God that that we learn to accept ourselves and to love others.
 
As followers of Jesus Christ we are taught to “love our enemies.”
 
Can it be done? Is it possible? What does it mean? No other word has caused as much discussion and debate as the commandment to love our enemies. So, we must know what Jesus meant. The Greek word He used is agape.
 
It means that we must never allow ourselves to desire anything but the highest good for others – even our enemies. Obviously we cannot love an enemy in the same way we love those nearest and dearest to us, for that would be unnatural, impossible and even wrong.
 
But we can see to it that no matter what a person may do to hurt us, we should desire and seek nothing but his or her highest good.
 
Do you have a loving heart? If not, you can have one with God’s help. It is for your own sake, for your antagonist’s sake and demonstrates to others that you are “a child of the Father.” Retaliation is never redemptive in nature. In a world governed by a holy God, it can never be triumphant. It is when we love that we are most like God.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Del Parkerson is a retired minister who writes The Paper Pulpit, a blog at paperpulpit.wordpress.com. See BR's 'best blog' section every Thursday for updates.)

2/27/2015 12:37:10 PM by D.E. Parkerson, Guest Column | with 0 comments



The church & social media

February 26 2015 by Darrel Girardier, Baptist Press

I’ve worked in social media on a church staff for nearly two years and am having a lot of fun. The more time I spend with our staff and other churches, the more I get excited about the future.
 
Over these last two years, my opinions and assumptions have changed about social media. What hasn’t changed is my belief that the church can be a force for good on social media. I think the church is in a position for God to use social networking for some amazing things.
 
Here are some additional beliefs, opinions and observations:
 
1. We need to stop tweeting that our worship band “rocks.” Unless U2 is your worship band, I don’t think it rocks. Saying your worship band rocks on Sunday morning has become cliché. I think we can stop doing that.
 
2. We can speak truth in love in national moments. We can be the voice of hope and truth when our world seems to be falling apart.
 
3. We shouldn’t be negative. Pastors, if you don’t like your sandwich at Subway, don’t tweet about it. Why? Because there might be a chance that the kid working behind the counter at Subway goes to your church and will read the tweet. One bad sandwich, airline flight or customer service experience doesn’t warrant airing your grievances online.
 
4. Being online doesn’t mean you have to be everywhere. Don’t feel comfortable being on Snapchat? Don’t. Do you prefer Facebook over Twitter? Then use Facebook. Be online where you feel comfortable and where you’ll think you’ll succeed. Don’t chase something that isn’t you.
 
5. Tweeting Scripture isn’t always a good idea – it can be an easy way to get likes or retweets, but does it make a lot of sense to post a scripture then moments later post about a church event? Especially when the two aren’t related? If you’re posting Scripture, make sure you provide context as well (e.g., the Scripture you’re tweeting is tied to Sunday’s sermon).
 
6. You can buy Facebook likes and Twitter followers but you can’t buy influence. Influence is earned, not bought. Always has been, always will be.
 
7. The church should take the lead on how to use social media. We should be the standard bearers of how to use social media. When someone asks, “How should I conduct myself online?” I hope they look at our church staff and see how to do it right.
 
8. The church shouldn’t be afraid to try new platforms. We can’t let fear of a new platform stop us from reaching people. Sure, people use Snapchat for the wrong reasons, but that doesn’t mean you should shy away from reaching people there.
 
9. Don’t argue online. No one wins and we all lose when we argue online.
 
10. Small is the new big. If you’re a small church, I think you have an advantage on social media. You can take your time to interact with your people online since you’re dealing with a smaller congregation. Large churches may have more resources, but smaller ones can be quicker and nimbler, which is a big advantage on social media.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE –Darrel Girardier is the digital strategy director for Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tenn., where he oversees the team that handles the church’s social media, Web and mobile presence. He blogs at darrelgirardier.com and is @dgirardier on Twitter.)

2/26/2015 11:28:16 AM by Darrel Girardier, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Is President Obama a Christian? It depends on what you mean

February 25 2015 by Justin Taylor, Religion News Service

Wisconsin governor and Republican presidential hopeful Scott Walker made headlines for the second time this month regarding worldview and religion. The first was when a journalist asked him during a trade mission to London whether he is comfortable with or accepts “the idea of evolution.” Walker declined to answer, protesting that it’s “a question that a politician shouldn’t be involved in one way or another.”
 
Last week he was asked whether he believes that President Barack Obama is a “Christian.” The first three words of Walker’s response – “I don’t know” – made all of the headlines. He went on to complain about gotcha questions that are out of touch with what voters want to know.
 
As an evangelical with conservative political inclinations, I am simultaneously empathetic with Walker’s complaints about these questions and also frustrated at his flat-footedness in answering them.

 
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RNS Photo by Josh Dennis
Justin Taylor is a doctoral candidate at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is publisher for books at Crossway. He runs the blog Between Two Worlds, hosted by the Gospel Coalition. With Andreas Kostenberger, he is co-author of “The Final Days of Jesus.” You can find him on Twitter at @BetweenTwoWorlds.

On the one hand, it is increasingly clear that the press treats Republicans and Democrats differently when it comes to moral and public policy issues related to religion. It took a pastor to ask Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama when human rights begin for human beings (he responded that the answer would be “above his pay grade”), and it took a reporter from a conservative opinion magazine to ask House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi about the moral differences between Kermit Gosnell’s widely condemned late-term abortions and legal late-term abortions that she supports (she refused to answer the question).
 
When evangelicals are asked these sorts of questions, there are at least two rules to follow in formulating a clear and compelling response: (1) speak the truth, or at least say nothing untrue, and (2) clarify the terminology, which often involves making distinctions.
 
When it comes to the question of who is and who is not a Christian, the governor should have remembered that clarity is often served by asking the questioner why the question is being asked. This prevents answering a form of the question that is not being asked (as may be the case here).
 
“Is the president a Christian?” can serve as shorthand for “Do you take the president at his word that he is a professing Christian, or do you think he is secretly a Muslim?” This is a legitimate question: A Gallup poll in 2012 showed that only 34 percent of Americans could correctly identify his religious affiliation, and 18 percent of Republicans believe he is a Muslim. There are ridiculous YouTube videos purporting to reveal that Obama’s own words indicate he is a Muslim. Wikipedia even has an entire entry devoted to “Barack Obama religion conspiracy theories.”
 
There is simply no evidence the president is a Muslim, and there is explicit evidence that he is a professing Christian. And although Walker’s spokeswoman quickly clarified that “Of course the governor thinks the president is a Christian,” the damage was done, and the fever swamps of conspiracy where unwittingly inflamed rather than dampened. It was an opportunity to speak truth to conspiratorial power, and Walker missed it.
 
I suspect – though I do not know – that Walker, as the son of a Baptist minister, was not thinking first and foremost about the way in which the president self-identified his religious affiliation. Rather, he may have been thinking of the second possible meaning of the question, namely, “Do you believe President Obama is a genuine Christian, one who shows the marks of being truly born again?” This is a question of theology, not sociology.
 
Claiming the name of Jesus does not a Christian make. Jesus himself explained that many who call him “Lord” and do works in his name will not enter the kingdom of heaven because they are not truly known by him (Matthew 7:21-23). The church has always held that it is possible to be a “Christian” who is not a “Christian.”
 
How do we tell the difference? Evangelicals would want to hear more from the professing Christian. How does he believe one enters into a vital relationship with God? What does he believe about the nature of sin? What does he believe Jesus accomplished on the cross? What role does the authority of scripture play in his life? Does the person evidence the fruit of the Holy Spirit that accords with genuine repentance?
 
These questions are difficult to answer from a distance. And while the president has been clear that he self-identifies as a Christian, the details of what he believes and what this looks like in his life appear to be something he is reticent to discuss in any detail.
 
All of this is plausible background for why Walker responded, “I’ve actually never talked about it, or I haven’t read about that. I’ve never asked him that. You’ve asked me to make statements about people that I haven’t had a conversation with about that. How (could) I say if I know either of you are a Christian?”
 
Ambiguous questions yield ambiguous answers, neither of which serves the cause of clarity and truth. Both the media and the candidates can do better on both fronts, which will lead to more fruitful conversations about the issues that matter most.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Justin Taylor runs the blog Between Two Worlds, hosted by The Gospel Coalition. You can find him on Twitter at @BetweenTwoWorlds.)

2/25/2015 12:18:05 PM by Justin Taylor, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



Spurgeon on Christians who rail against the times

February 23 2015 by David Prince, Prince on Preaching

The current conspiracy theory, sky-is-falling, outrage culture can’t be reconciled with what the Bible says about living in the already of Christ’s Kingdom. Christians ought to be the last people to fall prey to doom and gloom hopeless theology, but sadly, it is thriving in contemporary evangelicalism. The problem is exacerbated by our minute-by-minute social media news cycle. The prophets of outrage, despair, and conspiracy often position themselves as courageous truth-tellers. But do not be fooled: the evangelical outrage industry is often more about building donor lists than it is about truth.
 
Few have ever questioned the courage and theological fortitude of the prince of preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. His theological convictions were out of step with most of his ministry contemporaries, and the media often vilified him. In January 1888, after fighting for the doctrinal integrity of the Baptist Union in the Downgrade Controversy, Spurgeon was publicly censured by the Union. He acknowledged, “Men cannot say anything worse of me than they have said. I have been belied from head to foot, and misrepresented to the last degree” (159). With the vicious scorn and ridicule he often faced, it would have been easy for him to adopt a bitter and skeptical perspective on life and ministry, but he did not.
 
In addresses to students at Spurgeon’s Pastor’s College he warns them against adopting a doom and gloom perspective by constantly railing with outrage against the times. In 1872, he began his Annual Conference for these young preachers at which he customarily delivered a presidential address. The most outstanding of these addresses were reprinted after his death in the book An All-Around Ministry. These addresses brought the best out of Spurgeon and exposed his pastor’s heart. They are as helpful for Christians today (if not more so in the age of social media) as they were to those who originally heard them.
 
Make no mistake; it is the best time in human history to be a Christian. We are the privileged people “on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).
 
Consider Spurgeon’s wise gospel counsel about railing against the times in the excerpts from An All-Around Ministry below.
 
What have you and I to do with the times, except to serve God in them?
 
Come fair or work come foul, my comrades, hold ye the fort. Some men attempt to excuse their own negligence by blaming the times. What have you and I to do with the times, except to serve God in them? The times are always evil to those who are of a morbid temperament.
 
A scholar tells us that he once read a passage from a book to a worthy gentleman of the desponding school; it described “these days of blasphemy and rebuke,” – I think that is the correct expression, – and lamented the failure of the faithful from among men. “Ah, how true!” said the worthy man, “it is the precise picture of the times.” “What times?” exclaimed the scholar. “These times, of course,” was the reply. “Pardon me,” said the scholar, “the sentiment was delivered about 400 years ago; examine for yourself the date of the volume.” The benefit of railing at the times it would be hard to discover, for railing does not mend them (52).
 
What have you to do with the times? Do your own work
 
What have you to do with the times? Do your own work. If God has made you a house-cricket, and bidden you chirp, you could not do better than to fulfill his will. As he has made you a preacher, you must abide in your vocation. Even if the earth should be removed, and the mountains should be cast into the midst of the sea, would that alter our duty? I think not. Christ has sent us to preach the gospel; and if our life work is not yet finished, (and it is not,) let us continue delivering our message under all circumstances till death shall silence us (52).
 
Every year is an exceedingly critical time and has people who gain a following by crying “Woe! Woe!”
 
So far as I remember, every year has been an exceedingly critical time; and so far as I can see in history, almost every six months some fervid spirit or another has written about “the present solemn crisis.” There are persons who always believe in the imminent peril of the universe in general and of the Church of God in particular, and a sort of popularity is sure to be gained by always crying “Woe! Woe!” (64).
 
We must not be “Woe! Woe!” Christians. We must be “Grace! Grace!” Christians.
 
Prophets who will spiritually imitate Solomon Eagle, who went about the streets of London and the time of the plague, naked, with a pan of coals on his head, crying “Woe! Woe!” are thought to be faithful, though they are probably dyspeptic. We are not of that order: we dare not shut our eyes to the evils that surround us, but we are able to see the divine power above us, and to feel it with us, working out its purposes of grace.
 
We say to each of you what the Lord said to Joshua in the chapter we have just read, “be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” Our trust is in the living God, who will bring ultimate victory to his own cause (64).
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Prince is the Pastor of Preaching and Vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky. This post originally appeared on his blog at davidprince.com)

2/23/2015 2:25:43 PM by David Prince, Prince on Preaching | with 0 comments



Should we pray for the defeat of ISIS, or conversion?

February 19 2015 by Russell D. Moore, ERLC President

A pastor friend told me last week that he had church members enraged with him when he suggested from the pulpit that we ought to pray for the salvation of Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists. The people in his church told him that he ought to be calling for justice against them, given their brutal murder of Christians, not for mercy.
 
I thought about my friend a few days ago when these murderous fiends beheaded 21 of our brothers and sisters in Christ because they refused to renounce the name of Jesus. I was not just angry; I was furious. Can such fury co-exist, though, with the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)?  When we pray about such evil, how should we pray?
 
The complexity of the Christian calling in the world was seen even in social media. One friend of mine posted that the slaughter of Christians overseas calls for the world’s only remaining superpower to take action. Another said, quoting singer Toby Keith, that it was time to “light up their world like the Fourth of July.” To that, I say, “Amen.” Another friend, a former student of mine posted, “Oh, that there might be an ISIS Saul standing there now, holding the cloaks, whose salvation might turn the Arab world upside down with the gospel!” To that I say “Amen,” too.
 
These are not contradictory prayers.
 
Jesus says to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). The Spirit of Jesus in the prophets and in the apostles also tells us that those who turn a blind eye to the killing of others are wrong. The fact that we feel contradictory praying both for justice against the Islamic State and for salvation for Islamic State terrorists is partly because we fail to distinguish between the mission of the state in the use of the temporal sword against evildoers (Romans 13:4) and the mission of the church in the use of the sword of the Spirit against sin and death and the devil (Ephesians 6). But that’s not, I think, the main problem.
 
The main problem is that we sometimes forget that we are called to be a people of both justice and justification, and that these two are not contradictory.
 
It sounds awfully spiritual, at first blush, to say that we should not pray for the defeat of our enemies on the field of battle. But that’s only the case if these enemies are not actually doing anything. This terrorist group is raping, enslaving, beheading, crucifying our brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as other innocent people. To not pray for swift action against them is to not care about what Jesus said we should seek, what we should hunger and thirst for, for justice. A world in which murderous gangs commit genocide without penalty is not a “merciful” world but an unjust horror show.
 
As Christians, we ought to be, above all people, concerned with such justice. We not only have the common grace standing of caring about stopping murder and injustice, rooted in the image of God and the law written on the heart. We also have the personal implication here. It’s our household being wiped out in the Middle East, the very place where our church started. For us, this isn’t a matter of “them;” it’s a matter of “us.”
 
At the same time, praying for the salvation of our enemies, even those committing the most horrific of crimes, is not a call to stop praying for justice against them. The cross, after all, is not forgiveness in a contemporary therapeutic sense – in which one is merely absolved of wrongdoing as though it were all a misunderstanding. No, that’s precisely the Apostle Paul’s point in the Book of Romans.
 
The gospel does not say, “Don’t’ worry about it; it’s okay.” The gospel points us to the cross where sin is absorbed in a substitute. God’s righteous condemnation of sin is there. He does not, and cannot, enable wickedness. And God’s mercy is there in that He is the One who sends his Son as the propitiation for sin. He is both “just and the justifier of the One who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). The gospel doesn’t leave sin unpunished. Every sin is punished, either a the Place of the Skull, in Christ, or in the judgment of hell, on one’s own.
 
The thief on the cross – a Middle Eastern terrorist by Rome’s standards – in his act of faith did not believe that his salvation exempted him from justice. He confessed that his sentence was justice, and that he was receiving “the due reward for our deeds” (Luke 23:41) even as he cried out to Jesus for merciful entrance into the kingdom of Christ (Luke 23:42).
 
We ought, indeed, to pray for the gospel to go forward, and that there might be a new Saul of Tarsus turned away from murdering to gospel witness. At the same time, we ought to pray, with the martyrs in heaven, for justice against those who do such wickedness. Praying for the military defeat of our enemies, and that they might turn to Christ, these are not contradictory prayers because salvation doesn’t mean turning an eye away from justice. We can pray for gospel rootedness in the Middle East, and we can pray to light up their world like the Fourth of July, at the same time.
 
We are, after all, the people of the cross.

2/19/2015 11:18:28 AM by Russell D. Moore, ERLC President | with 0 comments



Don’t do it Charlotte!

February 18 2015 by Tami Fitzgerald, North Carolina Values Coalition

Should Christian photographers in Charlotte be required to photograph a same-sex wedding ceremony?
 
Should a Christian t-shirt printer be required to print t-shirts for a gay pride parade?
 
Should a Christian adoption agency be required to place a child with a same-sex couple?
 
No, of course not.
 
Unfortunately, Charlotte businesses could soon be forced to make the difficult choice between providing services and promoting messages that violate their religious beliefs or facing legal harassment and financial penalties.
 
Next week, the Charlotte City Council is set to vote on a sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) ordinance that we must stop! Basically, these ordinances function by expanding the list of already protected classes like sex, race, and nationality to include sexual orientation, gender identity, familial status and gender expression.
 
By adding “sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status and familial status” to the list of protected characteristics in the city’s non-discrimination law, the city will require many businesses, non-profits and public facilities to promote messages and ideas and take actions that are contrary to their religious beliefs about human sexuality – such as promoting marriage as something other than the union of one man and one woman.

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Tami Fitzgerald is the executive director of the NC Values Coalition. She will be one of the speakers at the Don’t Do It Charlotte Rally on Monday Feb. 23. outside the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center at 4:15 p.m.

 

This expansion of Charlotte’s non-discrimination law would not only threaten the religious liberty of Christian business owners, but it will also threaten the safety of women and children in Charlotte’s public restrooms because it will require public restrooms to be open to use by persons of any sex. This means that any man claiming to identify as a woman would be allowed to use a public women’s restroom!
 
Everyone in North Carolina should be concerned about the possibility of this ordinance being passed by the Charlotte City Council. Equality NC and the Human Rights Campaign are on a mission to get city councils around our state to enact these dangerous SOGI ordinances.
 
They successfully got the Greensboro City Council to pass an ordinance in January, and now they have set their sights on the Charlotte City Council. If they are successful in Charlotte, it could set off a domino effect for city councils across the state.
 
In other cities across the country where these SOGI laws exist, Christian business owners have been harassed by lawsuits, forced to pay exorbitant fines, and some have even had to close their businesses.
 
In Idaho, wedding chapel owners and pastors Donald and Evelyn Knapp are in legal proceedings against their town, fighting the claim that by not performing same-sex weddings they have violated the town’s non-discrimination policy.
 
In Washington, the owner of Arelene’s Flowers, Barronelle Stutzman, is fighting a lawsuit because she declined to provide a wedding bouquet for a same-sex couple. Barronelle has had a nine-year customer relationship with one of these men, but providing flowers for a same-sex wedding violated her religious beliefs. Even though Stutzman referred the couple to another flower shop where they were able to purchase a wedding bouquet, they are still suing her for violating Washington’s non-discrimination law, which includes a SOGI provision.
 
The owners of an Oregon bakery who turned away a lesbian couple who sought a wedding cake were found to have violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws. The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries ruled that Aaron and Melissa Klein, who own Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Gresham, Ore. will have to pay the lesbian couple up to $150,000, even though participating in the same-sex wedding violates the Klein’s religious beliefs.
 
The same is true for countless Christian florists, print shop owners, wedding venue operators, photographers, bakeries and other businesses across the country in towns and states that have SOGI provisions in their non-discrimination laws.
 
On the surface, SOGI ordinances may seem innocuous, but in reality they provide gay or transgendered people with a vehicle to sue and bully Christian business owners.
 
The potential impact on public restrooms by SOGI ordinances is equally concerning.
 
In Olympia, Washington, where the town has a SOGI provision, a man who identifies as a woman frequently uses the women’s showers and locker room at a local state college that shares its facilities with a children’s swim club. Despite frequent complaints about indecent exposure in front of girls as young as 6 years old, the non-discrimination law prevents the college from banning this man from the women’s locker rooms.
 
Stories just like these could be on their way to Charlotte – and the rest of North Carolina – if we do not stop the Charlotte City Council from voting to pass this non-discrimination ordinance next week.
 
We need your help urgently. Here are seven things you can do right now to help us stop the Charlotte City Council from passing a SOGI ordinance:
 
1. Inform your network! Please forward this email to every friend, family member and pastor that you know in Charlotte. It is crucial that we get the word out about this before next Monday.
 
2. Attend the rally! To show our unified opposition to the ordinance, there will be a rally on Monday, Feb. 23 at 4:15 p.m. outside of the Charlotte City Council meeting. Please attend if you are able. Even if you don’t live in Charlotte, your presence at this rally could have a major impact on stopping SOGI ordinances from spreading across the state. As a bonus, you’ll get to hear from a wonderful group of leaders including Tami Fitzgerald, the Benham Brothers, Pastor Mark Harris, and author and apologist Frank Turek.
 

Don’t Do It Charlotte Rally
Monday, February 23rd
4:15 p.m.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center
600 East Fourth Street, Charlotte, NC

 
3. Attend the City Council meeting! Plan to attend the Charlotte City Council meeting after the rally. We want to have a huge crowd in the room at the Council meeting so that the City Council members will have no choice but to acknowledge our concerns!
 
4. Speak at the City Council meeting! You can sign up to speak at the meeting on Monday. Directions for doing so are provided here. If you are a pastor, mom, business owner, or someone who frequently travels to Charlotte, we urge you to consider voicing your concerns publicly at the meeting!
 
5. Email City Council members! Email the Charlotte City Council and voice your concern.
 
6. Write letters to local newspapers! Submit letters to the editor of the Charlotte Observer.
 
7.  Use our hashtag on social media! #DontDoItCharlotte
 
We must stop this dangerous non-discrimination ordinance from passing in Charlotte!  PLEASE TAKE ACTION TODAY!

UPDATE: The Biblical Recorder has learned that the Charlotte City Council has moved the council meeting to Monday, March 2 at 6 p.m.


Related Stories:
Charlotte City Council to vote on transgender policy

2/18/2015 12:16:30 PM by Tami Fitzgerald, North Carolina Values Coalition | with 0 comments



Preparing for the ‘Big Day’

February 17 2015 by David Jeremiah, Baptist Press

That famous uninvited guest named Mr. Murphy (of Murphy’s Law) shows up at many weddings, for if anything can go wrong it usually does.
 
So to avoid unplanned problems, more couples are using wedding planners. Planning for a wedding takes time, organization and effort – so preparation is the key to a successful event.
 

His planning

Imagine, then, the plans going into the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
 
Legions of angels will be present. Heavenly choirs will be ready to sing anthems of unrestrained praise. Clouds will be summoned to reflect the glory of the Bridegroom. Graves will burst open. The bride’s eternal home, the New Jerusalem, will be ready for immediate occupancy. The arrangements for the judgment of the lost at the Great White Throne will be readied as the books of the ages are opened. Satan and his cohorts will try (and fail) to disrupt the proceedings. The plans have been made.
 
In John 14 Jesus told His followers, “I go to prepare a place for you.” If we could peer into the highest heaven and see Jesus right now, what would He be doing? I believe we’d see Him seated on the throne of heaven, overseeing the preparations for New Jerusalem and for the New Heaven and the New Earth, the home of His bride forever.
 
I think we’d see Him interceding for His bride, praying for us as we await that day. I think we’d see Him receiving the souls of those who enter heaven before us, just as He did for Stephen in Acts chapter 7. We’d see Him ruling in the affairs of men and directing the earthly work of His church as the clock counts down to the Big Day.
 
The perfect Wedding Planner is finalizing the plans for the greatest wedding in the history of the universe. Those who know Jesus Christ are the bride!
 

Our planning

That means we have some planning to do, too. Jesus told us to “occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13, KJV). We are to stay busy, to work hard, to occupy our time with what He has called us to do – populating heaven by sharing the gospel.
 
We’re to be living with joy because of our coming hope. We’re to be caring for others, for as we do something for the least of humanity, we’re doing it as unto Him. We’re to be worshipping and working in His church, for that’s good practice for eternity.
 

Watch for the Bridegroom

The story was told of a nobleman whose only child was a beautiful young lady of marriageable age. The father invited all the young noblemen in the country to come for a week of entertainment at his castle. Great preparations were made. Strolling musicians were hired, minstrels were engaged and appetizing foods were prepared.
 
On the day of their arrival, knocking was heard at the gate. It was a deformed man on crutches. A few crusts were thrust at him as the gate slammed in his face. He continued to knock. “What do you want?” someone asked.
 
“Isn’t this the day the guests seek the nobleman’s daughter? I’ve come to beg for her hand.” Peals of laughter echoed as cooks, servants and soldiers gathered.
 
Hearing the noise, the daughter asked what was happening and went out to see him.
 
“What is it you want?” she asked the beggar. He fixed an earnest look on her.
 
“I have seen you while I myself was unnoticed, and I love you and have come to ask if you will marry me?”
 
“Yes, I will marry you,” she said as the crowd shrieked.
 
“Very well,” the beggar said. “I will return in a year and a day.”
 
He did return, but not as a beggar. The beggar was the prince, the son of the king. The young maid joyfully became his bride. One of the bride’s attendants asked, “How did you know that the beggar was the prince in disguise?”
 
“I looked into his eyes,” the bride said, “and listened to his voice and I knew he was indeed the son of the king.”
 
The Lord Jesus also came in humility – many did not recognize who He was. But His chosen bride knew He was God’s Son. We are that beloved bride – and one day He will come for us as well.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God and pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif. For more information on Turning Point, visit DavidJeremiah.org. This column has been approved by Turning Point for redistribution in Baptist state newspapers.)

2/17/2015 2:05:20 PM by David Jeremiah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Are you missing something?

February 16 2015 by Jonathan L., Radical.net

Be honest. You like being part of whatever is going on. Podcast finales, award shows, social events, holiday specials, viral Youtube videos, TV premiers. And I think marketers are playing to our weakness for anything popular. If everyone else is doing it, we feel as though we’d be counterfeit humans to not be privy to – if not totally taken by – whatever it is. Whether in person or not, we’ve got to be there. Why?
 
You may have heard of what people now not-so-jokingly refer to as FOMO: fear of missing out. Researchers say it’s a real form of social anxiety. In 2011, New York Times said that FOMO referred to “the blend of anxiety, inadequacy and irritation that can flare up while skimming social media.” In an article in The Guardian about a week later, Hephzibah Anderson said of FOMO, “It’s nothing new, of course, but what was formerly known as ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ has been magnified by new technology. Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare – they all broaden our scope for comparison.”
 
Anderson couldn’t be more right. Although FOMO has been “magnified by new technology,” it is neither new nor unique to social media. And Christians are not exempt from it. Despite trying to keep a godly and eternal perspective, our flesh is naturally inclined toward comparison, greed, and self-exaltation, all of which can lead to an ugly fear of missing out. It is this fear that leads us to our obsessive and insecure attempts to insert ourselves into whatever is going on: a live TV event, a new restaurant that “everyone” is talking about, or (quick, check your phones) that latest thing everyone is tweeting about right now.
 
Before going on, it’s worth pausing to say that enjoying good things in community is not bad. There’s no reason to wage war on popular restaurant recommendations, or for that matter, on keeping up with friends via social media. And longing for relationships is a good thing; there is nothing virtuous about being lonely.
 
But we can effortlessly slip into idolatry when we become obsessed with the latest fad or when we are constantly checking our phone just to be sure we don’t miss anything on Instagram. What’s worse, the more we entertain our idolatrous heart with the ever-changing “whatever is going on,” the bigger our appetite grows for more. Of what? It doesn’t matter. Wherever the masses are focusing their attention is good enough for us. In fact, it becomes the only thing that will satisfy, though it never really does. It’s a cotton candy diet.
 
The cycle is hard to break, too. It’s hard to be still and it’s hard to be silent, and we practice far too little of both. It’s much easier to check your phone when you’re bored than it is to feed yourself the only thing that will ever truly satisfy you – God (Revelation 3:20).
 
Deep down, even though we know that it is neither holy nor healthy to get wrapped up in our FOMO culture, we often succumb to it. But thanks be to God, there’s good news for that. Not news that is breaking or trending, but an ancient message with eternal relevance. For our purposes, it may be best captured in 1 Corinthians 15:58. Having just encouraged people with the glorious truth of resurrection and eternal life, Paul says, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
 
We are freed from the temporal “work” of busybodies (2 Thessalonians 3:11) by this eternal promise of God in Christ: our labor is not in vain. We can stop keeping up with the Joneses because the work of the Lord is all that matters, and he has promised that it – and only it – will last. We will not miss our Twitter accounts in heaven. Live TV specials will not matter. But things like prayer, sharing the gospel, and worshiping God will. If we keep an eternal perspective in all that we do, not only will we do the right kind of work ... God will see it through. And if we and take God up on his offer to daily commune with us, always acting “in the Lord,” we’ll be free to engage our culture without being dependent on it.

2/16/2015 11:06:41 AM by Jonathan L., Radical.net | with 0 comments



All you need is love

February 13 2015 by Abby Edwards, Embrace women’s ministry

During the month of February, it doesn’t take long in a store like Target to see all the different things that you can purchase for Valentine’s Day for your special someone. Though it can be fulfilling to give things to those special people in our lives and show them how much we care for them during this holiday, should we not take the time to think about how we may better love not only those special persons, but people in general throughout the year?

This makes me think about the significance of the “one another” verses found throughout the New Testament. Just take some time to read through these commands below and their originating verses.

  1. Be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50)

  2. Do not grumble with one another (John 6:43)

  3. Be of the same mind with one another (Romans 12:6)

  4. Don’t envy one another (Galatians 5:26)

  5. Gently, patiently tolerate one another (Ephesians 4:2)

  6. Be kind, forgiving and tenderhearted toward one another (Ephesians 4:32)

  7. Bear with and forgive one another (Colossians 3:13)

  8. Seek good for one another, and don’t repay evil for evil (1 Thessalonians 5:15)

  9. Don’t complain against one another (James 4:11)

  10. Confess sins to one another (James 5:16)

  11. Love one another (John 13:34)

  12. Through love, serve one another (Galatians 5:13)

  13. Be devoted to one another in love (Romans 12:10)

It is my conviction and belief that love goes beyond good feelings but tangibly shows itself through these actions above. After all, Christ exhibits these actions towards us every day. So ask yourself, do you try to actively show love by following these commands? What is the realistic state of your family relationships, friendships, romantic relationships, work relationships and church relationships? Are we more focused on ourselves instead of others? It is not until we focus on ourselves less and others more that we will really be taking the “one another” verses seriously.

Paul Tripp makes an interesting point about Christians becoming glory junkies. He talks about essentially what happens when we forget about the “one anothers.” Our concentration on ourselves ultimately takes away from how God intended us for us to live. I encourage you to check out his article. It certainly was convicting for me.

On this Valentine’s Day let’s not only think about how we can show love in those romantic relationships, but let’s also consider how we might better love those individuals in our other relationships also. Are we loving people in all of those types of relationships well? Where are we lacking? Let us never forget the command that comes from Romans 12:10 – Be devoted to one another in love. Happy Love Day!

2/13/2015 2:05:50 PM by Abby Edwards, Embrace women’s ministry | with 0 comments



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