Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Roe v. Wade of Religious Liberty

Jack Phillips, Masterpiece Cakeshop
On Tuesday, December 5, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. 

This case has been called the Roe v. Wade of religious liberty.  As you know, Roe v. Wade is the infamous Supreme Court case in 1973 that legalized abortion in all fifty states during all nine months of pregnancy for any reason whatsoever.  Since that time, more than 60 million babies have been killed.  So to call this current case the Roe v. Wade of religious liberty should get your attention.  This is big.  Really big. 

The case is about the clash between religious liberty and same-sex marriage.  Jack Phillips is the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado.  He is a Christian, and as a Christian he has always sought to integrate his faith into his work.  Part of what that means is that he only designs cakes that would glorify his "Master" -- Jesus Christ.  Therefore Jack has turned down Halloween cakes, cakes that celebrate divorce, racist cakes, atheist cakes, anti-American cakes, or any kind of cake that dishonors God.  And for him, that means he cannot design a same-sex wedding cake.  Jack serves gay people all the time; he just cannot design a cake that dishonors God.

So in 2012 when a same-sex couple asked him to design a cake for their wedding reception, Jack had to decline.  He told them he could sell them pretty much anything in the store, but he could not in good conscience make a same-sex wedding cake.  The same-sex couple cursed him out and flipped him off.  About 20 minutes later he started receiving hateful, threatening phone calls that didn't stop for several weeks.  They initiated a boycott and a protest against his business.  The state of Colorado ordered him to either bake the cake or stop making wedding cakes altogether.  As a Christian, Jack had to choose the latter.  This cost him forty percent of his business, and he had to lay off 6 of his 10 employees, two of them family members.  So now, Jack's case has finally made it to the Supreme Court, which will hear oral arguments on December 5. 

Here's what's at stake.  Will creative professionals continue to have the right to create artistic expressions that are consistent with their convictions, or will they be forced to create expressions that violate those convictions and to celebrate religious ceremonies that violate their religious faith?  This is not just about Christians.  And this is not about your beliefs about same-sex marriage.  This is about people of all faiths and convictions having the right to live out those convictions not just at church and at home, but in the marketplace.

Kristen Waggoner, ADF
Here's what we're going to do as a church.  Our Christmas Offering kicks off on Sunday, November 19, and we're going to try to raise $1,000 for his case.  As well, on Monday, December 4, the day before the oral arguments, we're going to fast and pray together.  Please consider joining us.  And start praying right now for Jack Phillips and his attorney at ADF, Kristen Waggoner.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

4 Words of Encouragement After Losing Mrs. Rita Mann

The funeral service for Rita Mann was yesterday.  This has hit my family hard, but it has also hit our church family hard.  She was a core member; an integral part of our church family.  We loved her dearly at Church Acadiana, and she loved us.  In just a short amount of time she made some dear friends at church. 

I can see in my mind where she sat on Sunday mornings and during Home Group.  I can see Lydia and the kids walking her back to her car down the street after Home Group.  I can see her wearing her pink CA Kids volunteer shirt.  I can see her big smile as she walked into church every Sunday. 

This is probably the first major death that our young church has experienced.  There have been other members who have passed away, but none so closely connected and deeply plugged in as Ms. Rita. 

So I wanted to take a moment and jot down the four words of encouragement that I mentioned in the funeral service to encourage our church family in this time of loss. 

The first word of encouragement is BETTERBecause Ms. Rita is now in a better place.  The Bible teaches that the moment a Christ-follower passes away, they wake up in the wonderful presence of Jesus Christ (Phil 1:21-23).  We're mourning, but Ms. Rita is rejoicing, because she just got the biggest promotion of her life! 

The second word of encouragement is GODBecause God is going to take care of us.  Ms. Rita was a huge asset to our church family.  But God is going to provide for us (Phil 4:19; Ps 16:8; Ps 23:1; Mt 6:33).  He is going to take care of us.  He is going to meet our needs.  Ms. Rita has left us in good hands. 

The third word of encouragement is EXAMPLEBecause Ms. Rita provided an example for us to follow.  Let's not miss this opportunity to learn from Ms. Rita's life.  She was a wonderful woman who has a lot to teach us.  One of her distinguishing qualities was her joy -- she was always cheerful, positive, and upbeat.  What was the source of her joy?  First, she walked closely with Jesus, and that leads to overflowing joy (Ps 16:11).  Second, she devoted her life to selfless service, and that, too, leads to joy (Acts 20:35).

The third word of encouragement is FAITHBecause Ms. Rita is in heaven today because of her faith in Jesus Christ.  Ms. Rita is not in heaven because she was a good person; she would be the first to tell you that she was an undeserving sinner in need of grace.  She is in heaven because of her faith in the good work that Jesus Christ did for her on the cross when He died in her place, for her sins, and then rose again (Jn 3:16).  She is in heaven because she knew her ABCs.  A -- Admit you are a sinner in need of a Savior.  B -- Believe in Jesus Christ's death for your sins.  C -- Call on Jesus to come into your life to be your Savior and King. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Love Your Church Family

Two weeks ago I preached about loving your church family.  My text was 1 Peter 1:22 (CSB).  "Since you have purified yourselves by your obedience to the truth, so that you show sincere brotherly love for each other, from a pure heart love one another constantly."  Well, this week my church has lived it out much better than I ever preached it. 

Most of you know that Lydia's mother, Rita Mann, passed away on Friday.  Our church family has shown us such overwhelming love and care and support.  They are bringing food, and sending gifts, and visiting, and calling us on the phone, and writing kind notes and emails and texts and messages on social media.  They are hugging our necks.  They are going the extra mile at church to lighten our load.  They pretended to enjoy my sermon on Sunday to make me feel good.  I can go on and on!

I'm so proud of our church.  We're not the perfect church (mostly because of me).  But this week I can see and feel us acting like a true, Biblical Christian church.  Love.  Generosity.  Service.  Sacrifice.  Looking out for the interests of others.  Weeping with those who weep.  Sharing burdens.  This is what church is supposed to look like.  I'm grateful.  I'm humbled.  I'm inspired.  I'm proud. 

If you're not plugged in to a good church, then you're missing out.  Get connected.  Remember, if nobody knows you, then nobody can care for you.  Get involved in a church so that you are known.  Attend weekly.  Show up a little early and leave a little late so that you can build relationships.  Find a way to volunteer.  Plug in to a small group.  And when you and your family are hit with the storms of life, you'll have an entire support group in place who will rally around you and lift you up and hold you tight.

Friday, September 15, 2017

YOU Can Change the World

Don't underestimate your potential.  You have the ability to change the world.  It's been said that one person with purpose makes a majority.  Think of the amazing difference single individuals have made throughout history.  And you don't have to be wealthy or famous.  Ordinary people can make an extraordinary difference.  Consider the following story told by Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas.

Edward Campbell was a mere carpet salesman in Boston in the 19th century.  And he taught a Sunday school class at his church for high school boys.  Just an ordinary Christian.  There was one young man in his class, 18 years old, who he was especially concerned about.  So one day Mr. Campbell decided to go to the boy's place of work, which happened to be a shoe store in Boston.  Mr. Campbell asked the young man if they could talk for a moment, and so they went to a back room, and Mr. Campbell led the young man to give his life to Christ.  That young man was Dwight L. Moody, who went on to become the greatest evangelist of the 19th century.

Under the ministry of D.L. Moody, another man came to Christ by the name of J. Wilbur Chapman, who went on to become a pastor and evangelist.  Under the ministry of J. Wilbur Chapman, another young man came to Christ -- an ex-baseball player by the name of Billy Sunday.  Billy Sunday went on to become one of the biggest evangelists in America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  In 1924 Billy Sunday led a crusade in Charlotte, NC, and as a result an organization of Christian business men was formed.  It was called the Charlotte Christian Business Men's Club.  Ten years later, in 1934, that club sponsored another evangelistic crusade in Charlotte, and they invited an evangelist to speak by the name of Mordecai Ham.  During that crusade, a young teenage boy became a Christian.  His name was Billy Graham.  God used him to preach to more unbelievers than anyone else in history.

Twenty years later, Dr. Graham did a crusade in Dallas, TX, where Dr. Robert Jeffress's parents lived.  Dr. Jeffress's father was a Christian, and a member of FBC Dallas, but his mother was an unbeliever and refused to even attend church.  (One reason was that she hated the pastor, Dr. Criswell.)  But she agreed to attend the crusade, and one evening she got saved.  It was announced at the crusade that Billy Graham would be preaching at FBC Dallas the next Sunday, so she finally agreed to visit the church with her husband.  That Sunday, after the service, Billy Graham joined the church (and remained a member of FBC Dallas for the next 54 years).  When he did that, Dr. Jeffress's mother said, "If it's good enough for Billy Graham, it's good enough for me," and she joined the church.  A year and a half later Dr. Robert Jeffress was born.  And years later he would grow up to become the pastor of that very church.

The point of the story is that many, many lives were impacted and transformed because of the faithfulness of an ordinary Christian, Edward Campbell; a carpet salesman; a high school boys Sunday school teacher.  Don't ever underestimate your potential to impact the world for Christ.  Stay faithful.  Keep planting the right seeds.  Nothing you do for Christ is wasted.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

If Abortion Were Criminalized, Should We Punish The Mothers?

If you keep up with the abortion debate, then you know that one of the tactics that is often used by pro-abortionists is to ask the question, “If abortion were criminalized, should we punish the mothers?  If so, how?”  I guess the goal is to make pro-lifers look cruel by showing that they "hate" women.  This question was posed to Donald Trump by Chris Matthews as he was running for president in 2016, and his answer was that women should be punished, although he didn’t specify what the punishment should be.  After he was criticized for his answer by those on the right and on the left, he “clarified” his position, saying that what he meant was that if abortion were outlawed, it is the doctor who should be punished (you can read the transcript of the exchange HERE).

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, seems to take the same position – while abortion should be illegal, the law should focus on shutting down the industry, not punishing the women.  According to Moore, the women seeking abortions are just as much the victims of abortion as are the unborn.  (Read Moore’s take on the issue HERE.)

But I disagree with Moore.  I think President Trump’s first answer was the right one.  Our God-given sense of justice tells us that the punishment should fit the crime.  So the question is what kind of crime is abortion?  If abortion is criminalized, it will be because states decide that it is murder.  So if the crime of abortion is murder, then shouldn’t the punishment for abortion be the punishment for murder?

Let me put it another way.  What do we call it when a mother kills her six-month-old child?  We call it murder.  And it doesn’t matter what her reasons are.  We don’t give her a pass because she might be single, or because she might be poor, or because she might be young, or because she might be a victim of rape or incest.  We might feel sorry for her, but we don’t give her a pass.  We certainly don’t see her as just as much a victim as her dead child.  She is guilty of murder, and she should bear the full weight of the law.  Now let’s compare that to abortion.  If an unborn child is a human being, and if aborting an unborn child is murder, then shouldn’t the mother and the doctor be punished for murder?

The only reason that the crime of abortion should not receive the same punishment as the crime of murder is if the law does not equate abortion with murder.  But if abortion is not murder, then why would it be criminalized at all?

Regardless of which road you take the abortion debate always ends up in the same place:  What is it?  Is it a human being, or is it just a clump of cells?  If it is a human being, then abortion is murder, and murder is the most serious crime of all and should be punished as such.  If it’s just a clump of cells, then an abortion is no different than the removal of a mole.

So the next time you are discussing the issue of abortion and the question of punishment comes up, get to the heart of the matter with the more important question:  Is the unborn child a human being or not?  If it is, then the issue is not whether to punish women for abortion, but whether to punish women for murder.  I don’t want to live in a society that allows abortion, but I also don’t want to live in a society that recognizes abortion as murder but does not punish the murderer.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Quoteworthy: Finances

"It's not so much what you earn as what you do with what you earn."

Jim Rohn

Friday, August 11, 2017

How To Talk To a Leftist

Leftists, progressives, liberals... label them how you want.  If you are a student of political science then you know who I'm talking about.  They are our fellow citizens (and sometimes relatives) who practically view the government as god.
"There's no problem the government can't solve.  There's no problem the government shouldn't solve.  Government is the answer, the solution, the savior.  The government should take money from the rich and give it to the poor.  The government should control and oversee everything because people aren't smart and virtuous enough to run their own lives.  The government is never the problem; the problem is that people have too much freedom.  But we can trust the government, because the government is god.  If we only gave the government more money and more control, we could achieve utopia!"
Since the leftist view of the government strongly conflicts with that of America's founders, leftists call themselves progressives rather than conservatives.  Progressives want to "fundamentally change" America from its original design.  (Conservatives on the other hand have deep respect and affection for the first principles of our founding -- freedom, limited government, natural rights, federalism, and the unbreakable link between religion, virtue, and freedom.)

Because leftists practically view the government as god, then to them religion is not very important, and is sometimes even viewed as a threat.  To a leftist, everyone must put the government and its goals of equality and social justice above everything else, including religion.  This is why leftists are the ones fighting to get God out of the schools, out of the courtroom, out of city hall, out of the military, and out of the workplace.

As well, because leftists worship government instead of God, they tend to reject traditional Christian morals, and they also tend to undervalue religious liberty and see it as much less less important than the highest goal of all -- sexual liberty.  To a leftist, religious liberty is not genuine, but only a mask to conceal hatred, bigotry, and discrimination against the LGBT community.  (This is why leftists view evangelical Christians, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox Jews as hate groups for their beliefs against gay marriage, abortion, and transgenderism.)

So the question is, How do you talk to a leftist?  They definitely need help.  They are wrong on many accounts, and their ideas are damaging our nation and culture (hopefully not beyond repair).  To persuade those on the left, we need to be able to talk to them.  But how?  If you've ever tried to talk to a leftist, then you know how challenging it can be.

All you need to effectively talk to a leftist is to understand one thing.  Leftists do not want to discuss ideas, they want to discuss how hateful you are.  Leftist ideas don't make sense.  They are not based on science, on history, on logic, on the Bible, or on reality.  Therefore leftists don't want to discuss ideas.  If they did they would lose.  So leftists have one tactic when they confront disagreement:  Avoid discussing ideas and attack the person.

For example, if you say that you are against legalized abortion, a leftist will attack you for hating women.  If you say that you are against affirmative action, a leftist will accuse you of racism.  If you say that you are against welfare, a leftist will accuse you of not caring about the poor.  If you say that you are against gay marriage, or that you think a wedding vendor should have the freedom to not participate in a gay wedding, a leftist will accuse you of homophobia.  In other words, leftists won't attack your ideas, they will attack you.  They want to change the topic from legalized abortion to your hatred for women.  And before you know it, rather than debating abortion you are debating whether or not you are a bad person; you are spending all of your mental energy on defending your character rather than defending the right to life!

The goal of the left when using this tactic is two-fold.  Number one, steer the conversation away from ideas so that they don't have to defend their views.  Number two, label you as such an evil person that they are justified when they become uncivil and when they avoid genuine discourse.  "You're not worthy of a conversation, and you deserve to be reviled until you repent of your views."

The key to talking to a leftist is simply to understand their tactic.  As soon as they change the topic from abortion or gay marriage to how hateful you are as a person, simply ignore their personal attacks and steer them back to the discussion of ideas.  If you can do this with gentleness and respect (without raising your voice and resorting to insults), then you will be able to plant some seeds that have the potential to bear fruit down the road.

Speaking to the left is scary.  They hit below the belt, and they hit hard.  They will not hesitate to unfriend you on Facebook and ban you for life from their social circle.  But our country is at war.  It's a civil war.  It's a battle of ideas.  And if we don't speak up, then the left wins, and we forfeit the greatest country in the history of the world.