January 2017

Rescue us from darkness

January 24 2017 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Matthew’s Gospel tells us that immediately after the temptation of Jesus, He began His public ministry quoting Isaiah 9:2, saying, “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death, Light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16).
Then Jesus immediately began to preach on repentance, according to the scriptures.
Darkness is an important word in the Bible. In creation, God conquered the darkness by making light. Throughout history, individual people and whole nations were described as people living in spiritual darkness.
Before we came to know Jesus Christ personally, we lived in darkness. But Paul said God “... rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,” (Colossians 1:13). When we followed Jesus’ call to repentance, God gave us His light.
It does not take much discernment to know that spiritual darkness is dominating the United States of America. As recent evidence, review the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21. At the event and at simultaneous rallies across the country, speakers were profane in their speech and vile in their message. Profound hypocrisy characterized the events.
Performing at the Washington march, the singer Madonna told the crowd she had “thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House” but that it wouldn’t change anything, in her opinion.
Everything about her message exuded darkness and confusion. Christian women had every reason to avoid the event and be offended by the bad characterizations of women the speakers painted.
Any responsible person would be cautious to make such careless comments.
So far, secular media has given Madonna a pass. Either they brush her off as irresponsible or they quietly agree with her.
It is obvious that Madonna, actress Ashley Judd – who also spoke at the Washington rally – and the women who lauded them are living in the same darkness, the same spiritual blindness.
In spite of the large number of protesters in many cities, the marches appeared to be little more than a platform for the ungodly to protest the ungodliness they see in President Donald Trump’s past.
If someone’s rights were violated, the women’s protests would be justified. Absent a decent reason to protest, we only see undisciplined anger and childish whining because they did not get what they wanted. What is the value in all of the noise? Has their behavior actually galvanized Trump supporters and pushed some borderline supporters firmly into his camp?
In contrast to the protests, John Piper, who is an author and retired pastor, prayed an impromptu prayer for the nation while in a small gathering of his staff at Desiring God ministry. The prayer has been widely circulated. I want to share a portion of it with you.
Piper asked the Heavenly Father, “... that [Y]our name would be hallowed in Washington, and hallowed by Donald Trump and his family, his cabinet, the congress; that [Y]our kingdom would come, that [Y]our will would be done there.
“To that end Lord, we ask that [Y]ou would bring Donald Trump out of darkness and into light. Give him a spirit of brokenness and humility. ‘Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 18:3). ‘Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God’ (John 3:3).
“I pray that you would break his heart, give him humility, show him what it feels like to be penitent and to admit he’s done wrong – to confess he was wrong, ask forgiveness from [Y]ou, and ask for forgiveness from the people that he’s wounded or people that he’s set a bad example for. He needs to be given the gift of faith and humility and repentance, and I pray that [Y]ou would give it to him.”
Piper prayed that God would “... surprise even [Trump] at what is able to be brought about. Protect him from the deceptions of the Evil One at the level of this providential governance of your way in the world, in America now. So God, I ask that the church would not rely on government and would not rely on a Trump presidency.
“I pray for evangelical leaders not to celebrate Donald Trump’s presidency with no apparent qualification, no tears, no brokenness, no sadness, that he set such an awful example for this land.”
We join Piper in his prayer.
There is darkness in the land and in the hearts of many leaders – politicians, singers, actors, business people, church people – the list is endless. The darkness can be defeated. We know because that is the testimony of every person who has welcomed the grace of God, repented of sin and experienced the new birth through Jesus.
There is much work ahead for our newly elected president and Congress. In spite of the displeasure of some, they are our leaders. We must move forward, seeking the face of God every day in the spirit of Romans 13.
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention recently published their 2017 Legislative Agenda. I would like to point out some highlights of the report and invite you to pray for this ministry and the leaders they influence in our country.
The opening paragraph says the agenda is not exhaustive, but “provides insight into the range of issues the ERLC will focus on this year.” The first category, labeled Sanctity of Human Life, itemizes six legislative initiatives. The first target is the defunding of Planned Parenthood. The summary reads, “The ERLC is committed to seeing the nation’s largest abortion provider (Planned Parenthood Federation of America) deprived of federal funds.”
Another Sanctity of Human Life goal is to see a pro-life Supreme Court nominee presented to the Congress. Four other goals are identified with the last one, the “Mexico City Policy,” which President Trump signed three days after his inauguration.
The second category is religious liberty. ERLC staff will push to repeal the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Mandate, support the Conscience Protection Act, oppose the Department of Education’s interpretation of Title IX, confront the sexual revolution dogma in the military and restore Russell Amendment protections.
The other categories are family and marriage, justice, and international engagement.
Targeted legislation includes women in combat, the Civil Rights Uniformity Act, Criminal Justice Reform, Payday Lending, the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act, reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and fighting global antisemitism. A complete copy of the 2017 Legislative Agenda is available at ERLC.com.
Pray for the leaders who serve us in Washington, our states and our communities. Pray for those who live in darkness. Our responsibility is to be the light and to introduce them to the One who is the light of the world.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).

1/24/2017 1:35:54 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Defund Planned Parenthood now

January 9 2017 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Jan. 22 is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. The day gives pause for all Americans to reflect on more than 50 million lives lost and countless others damaged by the national license to conveniently destroy human life at will.
From the more positive perspective, followers of Jesus Christ use the day to honor the gift of life because it is the unique creation of God. We cannot be weak in the issue of life. Loyalty to scripture does not allow for neutrality on the subject. Our convictions must be expressed. Our voices must be heard.
Since the Supreme Court’s grievous Roe v. Wade decision on Jan. 22, 1973, two presidents of the United States who were members of a Southern Baptist church did not stand on pro-life principles. Some Baptists in the Congress joined them. I find that embarrassing and unconscionable.
The shortage of biblical preaching on the value of life in the past five decades is perhaps more troubling than the positions of political leaders. Too many preachers have been more concerned about offending church members and less interested in following the call to bold, prophetic proclamation of truth.
It is commendable that in the 33 years since the court’s Roe v. Wade decision, preaching on the sanctity of life has increased in evangelical pulpits. And I believe most of that preaching is growing in the balance of truth, grace and compassionate action.
The impact of truth has now reached the halls of Congress. House Speaker Paul Ryan announced Jan. 5 that defunding the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) will be included as part of a bill to repeal ObamaCare.
According to a report in The Hill, “Ryan said cutting off federal funds to the organization will be included in a ‘reconciliation’ bill that also repeals the core of ObamaCare. The reconciliation process prevents Democrats from launching a filibuster against the measure, meaning Republicans won’t need 60 votes to win on defunding.”
“Planned Parenthood legislation will be in our reconciliation bill,” Ryan said, without providing any more details, The Hill reported.
It’s about time! Planned Parenthood is a private organization that should never have been funded by taxpayers. Although they deny it, the facts show they are a major abortion provider and money-making machine. They must be defunded now.
Bill O’Reilly, whose evening show on the Fox News network boasts the highest cable ratings in prime time, said on a recent program, “People who don’t believe in abortion, who believe it is the taking of a human life, are then forced to participate in abortion, because that money goes to Planned Parenthood, which performs, or makes possible, about 350,000 each year. So it’s more of a ‘look, abortion is legal in the USA, but I don’t want to pay for it, and I shouldn’t be forced to pay for it.’ That’s the beef.”
Well, that’s part of the problem, Mr. O’Reilly. The greatest issue is that it’s simply wrong! It violates every standard of human decency, dignity and civility. It is immoral.
O’Reilly offered a simple solution. He suggested that private donations could fund PPFA saying, “if all the true believers … who believe in abortion want Planned Parenthood around, certainly those donations will make it possible.”  
I agree! Let the entertainment and media elites who believe in PPFA spend less of their energies forcing the rest of us to pay for it and more of their resources to pay for it themselves.
Many states have already removed Planned Parenthood from their budgets. It’s time for our debt-ridden federal government to defund PPFA.
The Biblical Recorder reported in 2012 that in the previous year, eight states passed legislation that diverted a combined $61.7 million in family-planning funds from PPFA to state or county agencies for health screenings and other services that don’t include abortion. Soon after that, the Obama administration bypassed the law in Tennessee to directly fund Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis.
In 2012 North Carolina, Arizona, Iowa, Ohio, Oklahoma and New Hampshire defunded PPFA according to the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA), which has assisted all the states in the move to defund the abortion seller.
A story on the popular pro-life Live Action News website said, “Defunding Planned Parenthood is about taking money from a scandal ridden organization which does not deserve to be a monopolizer of funds for legitimate health services, especially when those health services have decreased over the years, and there are Federally Qualified Health Centers outnumbering Planned Parenthood locations 20 to 1 which provide more comprehensive care and are more deserving of federal funds.”
The Daily Signal website posted a story on Jan. 4 titled, “6 Alarming Findings in House Panel’s Planned Parenthood Probe.” The report exposes the raw immoral code of conduct that is common in the abortion industry. It is very disturbing.
The first finding reads, “Several Planned Parenthood affiliates made a profit from the transfer of aborted body parts and other fetal tissue, in violation of federal law prohibiting that.”
The second item in the report says, “It didn’t ‘bother’ a Planned Parenthood executive that one vendor, StemExpress, appeared to make a 2,800 percent profit on a baby’s brain harvested from a Planned Parenthood clinic.”
The sixth statement is “Planned Parenthood affiliate clinics ‘routinely’ violated privacy regulations imposed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, seeking to ease the process of harvesting body parts and other fetal tissue.”
More Americans are pro-life than at any time since the passage of Roe v. Wade. They are demanding action at the federal level on the matter.
Much helpful information on pro-life issues is posted on the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s (ERLC) website.
I encourage every Southern Baptist to read the resourceful article by Travis Wussow and ERLC president Russell Moore titled, “6 pro-life priorities for the president and Congress in 2017.”
The writers said, “We work for protections, in law, for the unborn, because we believe every person is created in the image of God and has dignity and worth. So we are encouraging our elected officials to highlight these six pro-life priorities ... .”  
Number four on the list reads, “Eliminate all funding for Planned Parenthood from the federal budget.”
Wussow and Moore add, “... we will work with Congress to use the next available budget measure to defund Planned Parenthood.
“We were supportive of the defund effort that was vetoed by President Obama, and we will continue to work to support this effort in the coming Congress.”
As you and your church family honor God’s gift of life, pray for your pastor and other church leaders to stand together and strong on the sanctity of life for the glory of God.
Pray for everyone who serves us in government at every level. Let them know you are praying for them.

1/9/2017 4:19:06 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 1 comments