October 2014

Is Houston coming to your door next?

October 20 2014 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

When news broke out of Houston, Texas, Oct. 15, most of us were thinking, this cannot be true. It must be a cruel joke.
Houston’s city attorney issued subpoenas demanding certain pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or with the city’s first openly lesbian mayor, Annise Parker.
This heavy-handed government bullying is in response to pastors who are resisting the city’s new non-discrimination ordinance that allows transgendered individuals to use any public restroom or locker room that fits their perceived gender identity, thus subjecting children and women to sexual predators. The law is tagged the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO).
This action has created a new ground zero of the assault on religious freedom. It must not to be ignored by anyone who treasures basic constitutional freedoms.
Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., called the action a scandal. “This is a breathtaking violation of religious liberty – and it is political thuggery at its worst,” he said in his blog.
“The very fact that the subpoenas were issued at all is scandal enough. ... But the actual wording of the subpoenas is draconian – almost unbelievable. The attorneys working for the city demanded all sermons ‘prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession’ on matters that included, not only the mayor and the ordinance, but homosexuality and gender identity,” Mohler said.
“This is the kind of scandal that would lead most elected officials to backtrack like crazy, but Mayor Annise Parker is standing her ground, even as she tries to escape the heat by a mere change in the coercive language. What she is doing amounts to raw political intimidation.”
The president of Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Russell Moore wrote a blog titled, “Houston, we have a Constitution.”

In it he said, “I am simply stunned by the sheer audacity of this. ... The preaching of sermons in the pulpits of churches is of no concern to any government bureaucrat at all. This country settled, a long time ago, with a First Amendment that the government would not supervise, license or bully religious institutions. That right wasn’t handed out by the government, as a kind of temporary restraining order. It was recognition of a self-evident truth.”
Moore recommended, “The churches and pastors of Houston ought to respond to this sort of government order with the same kind of defiance the Apostle Paul showed the magistrates in Philippi” (see Acts 16:37).
“A government has no business using subpoena power to intimidate or bully the preaching and instruction of any church, any synagogue, any mosque, or any other place of worship,” Moore continued. “The pastors of Houston should tell the government that they will not trample over consciences, over the First Amendment and over God-given natural rights.
“The separation of church and state means that we will render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and we will. But the preaching of the church of God does not belong to Caesar, and we will not hand it over to him. Not now. Not ever.”
Rit Varriale is the pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby and author of Reformation in Responsibility. He said the events in Houston, “... highlight the reality that the left is playing a zero-sum game when it comes to their religious intolerance. They will not stop when same-sex marriage is legal in every state. They will not stop when they control our private businesses under the guise of anti-discrimination laws. They will not stop when the only people speaking out against the LGBTQ community are a few courageous pastors. They will go right into the pulpit and seek to silence the church.”
He believes Christians must be prepared to be comfortable with a new level of conflict.
“The civil disobedience demonstrated by the Houston pastors is the way forward,” Varriale said. “We serve Christ, not Caesar. When the government asks us to violate our commitment to God, our only recourse is civil disobedience. 
“We should have been disobedient when they started telling us what we could not say from the pulpit politically. We should have been disobedient when they told us to stop praying with our children in the schools paid for by our tax dollars.”
Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte said the chaos in Houston “is a perfect example of what we have warned could be faced. Once government, through the courts or any other means, sanctions same-sex marriage, anyone who opposes such a lifestyle, even based on the teaching of God’s Word, is seen as a bigot, and in favor of discrimination.
“Pastors must awaken, stand strong together in their communities, and keep their congregations informed and alerted to what is happening around us,” Harris said. “Can you imagine the day when simply standing and reading Romans 1, even without comment, just reading the text out loud, could land you in trouble with the government in this country?”
Every Christian in the United States should tremble. Every business owner, magistrate, pastor and church should be deeply fearful. These will be the targets of government discrimination and intolerance against their faith if the Houston scandal is not confronted quickly and decisively. Indeed, every person who holds a faith of any kind should be enormously troubled.
We need to ask a question that confronts the issue at its core. Who elected the mayor and the City Council of Houston? The answer is not the people of Houston. The answer is the voters in Houston. That’s right. The voters.
Which puts two additional questions on the table. First, are you a voter? If you are not a voter, but you are a Christian, there is a fundamental conflict between your actions and the teachings of Jesus. His followers are salt and light. Salt is applied to prevent decay. Light’s sole function is to dispel darkness. Voting serves these functions.
Second, are you a voter who blindly votes for those who do not hold Christian values?
There is no room in the Christian worldview for ignorant activity of any kind, especially when it comes to the selection of those we entrust to lead our towns, cities, states and nation. Learn the values of the candidates – not just what they say, but their basic moral values. If you are not willing to do that, expect the Houston scandal to hit your community soon.
Vote Nov. 4, or sooner if you practice absentee or early voting.

Related Stories:

Drop pastor subpoenas, Texas AG to city atty.
Houston subpoenas pastors’ sermons
Houston sermon subpoenas unite Baptists
Floyd: Stand up for Houston pastors

10/20/2014 2:34:16 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 2 comments

The powerless church

October 7 2014 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Is your church experiencing the power of God in weekly worship services and in the ministries of the church throughout the week? When the people in your community look at the church, do they immediately think of the mighty power of the God you serve?
I gave some serious thought to these questions as I listened to Mel Blackaby, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Ga., preach from Matthew 17. At the Baptist State Convention of N.C.’s “Beholding His Glory” regional prayer conference recently at Englewood Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, Blackaby gave some convicting insights into the biblical text.
In verses 15-16 Matthew tells the story of a man who came to Jesus because his son was regularly harmed by severe seizures. The desperate father begged for mercy from the Lord Jesus. He had turned to Jesus’ disciples for help, but the sad truth was summarized with these words, “I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.” The disciples were powerless.
Since the focus of the conference was prayer, Blackaby pointed to the vital role of prayer in this story. Jesus responded to His disciples’ powerlessness with a statement about their unbelief in verse 20 and an essential truth in verse 21. He said, “However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” Blackaby said, “There are some things in this world that require prayer and fasting, and nothing else will help. There are some things in this world that will never change unless we get serious about prayer. No matter what we are doing, it will be ineffective unless we have adequately prayed and fasted.”
He shared a personal experience that illustrates the powerlessness of God’s people.
“One Sunday my daughter and I went to KFC to buy some chicken to take home for lunch. When we walked in, the girl behind the counter immediately said, ‘Can I help you?’”
He said, “Yes, I want a family size bucket of chicken.” The woman said, “I’m sorry sir, but we’re out of chicken.” He tried to understand. “Do you mean the chicken is cooking, just not ready to serve?”
“No sir,” she said. “We are actually out of chicken today. We have green beans, mashed potatoes and many other side items. What can I serve you?”
Blackaby said, “Are you kidding me? There is only one reason I come to Kentucky Fried Chicken and that is to buy some chicken.
“If there is no chicken, why are the doors open? Why don’t you just lock the door?”
She said, “I’m sorry sir. We have no chicken.”
The circumstance begs the question: Why would anyone want to come to KFC if there is no chicken?
“Let me ask you something,” Blackaby said. “Ought people expect when they come to church they will find the power of God? There are many things people can enjoy when they come to church, but the main reason they come to church is that they might meet God.”
The power of God is as essential to the church as chicken is to KFC. The church is not a community organization. The church is not simply a religious institution. We are the people of God, responsible for demonstrating the power of God to a world that desperately needs divine intervention.
Like the man who brought his son to the disciples for help, and found no answer, Blackaby said, “We’ve lost a generation of children because their fathers brought them to church to be set free, but there was no power.”
He emphasized that wherever Jesus is, His power is present. No church should operate apart from Jesus or apart from His power.
We may look at the condition of our nation and ask, “What can we do?”  Blackaby said, “Well, Jesus told us. There are some things that will never change in our nation unless God’s people get serious about prayer and fasting. If there was ever a time in America when we needed God’s people to pray, it is now.”
Some are praying for revival. Revival comes when we cry out to God in desperation and there is no other remedy to the problems that engulf us. “Jesus is the head of the church and wherever He is, His power is present,” he said.
While we may think revival will come through the blessings of prosperity, it is a fact that God has never brought revival through prosperity. Prosperity tends to drive us away from God, not closer to Him. Blackaby pointed to the drift away from biblical teaching and godly living in the church. The drift is clearly reflected in the world around us. He said one evidence of the social drift is that a person is “fined $25,000 for destroying an eagle’s egg, but you get government assistance for destroying human life in the womb.”
Sexual sin, confusion about marriage, crippling debt – all of these show how the church in America is powerless, compromising God’s Word, lured into the temptation of the world, abandoning the place of prayer, Blackaby said.
“We cannot blame our problems on Hollywood anymore. It’s us!”
The people around us need a place where they can experience the power of God and be set free. Will our church look like the powerless disciples, or will we listen to Jesus? This kind requires prayer and fasting.

10/7/2014 9:28:49 AM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 1 comments