City of Houston Subpoenaed Pastor’s Sermons

imagesThe title of this post is correct.  The the city of Houston Texas has subpoenaed local pastors sermons in a targeted witch hunt.  High profile pastors that oppose the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance known as HERO have been singled out in an attempt to smear their character.  This highly controversial measure dealing with gender and sexual identity is the latest front of the ongoing social battle raging across the nation.  Most conservative evangelical churches refuse to compromise their faith by denying the teachings of the Bible regarding the homosexual lifestyle.  Therefore, this is the latest yet unprecedented attempt to bully and intimidate the church.  The city of Houston is clearly trampling on the separation between church and state in a flagrant disregard for the self evident right of religious freedom recognized by the First Amendment.  Below is an appropriate response by the President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Church.

 

Russell Moore2During the 1960 presidential election, John F. Kennedy traveled to Houston to assure Baptist ministers there that he was, in fact, committed to religious liberty and separation of church and state. The fear was that he, as a Roman Catholic, might not recognize those principles. He did. Turns out, the Houston ministers should’ve been less worried about the Vatican and more worried about, well, Houston.

Reports coming out of Houston today indicate that city attorneys have issued subpoenas to pastors who have been vocal in opposition to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), a measure which deals with gender identity and sexuality in public accommodations. The subpoenas, issued to several pastors, seek “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”

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.

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. After an earthquake, sent by God, upturned the prison where Paul and Silas were held, Luke tells us that the officials sent the police to tell Paul and Silas they could go. Paul replied. “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned men who are Roman citizens and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly. No! Let them come themselves and take us out” (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. 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.

John Kennedy taught us, rightly, to ask not what our country can do for us, but what we can do for our country. Our country deserves our allegiance. But no government can set itself up as our god.

Remedy: Receiving the Gospel Cure

RemedySeveral hundred years ago, a great nemesis arose against the church in an attempt to silence the gospel witness of Christ. This adversary’s hatred of Christians was hot and his disdain for the church was strong. This formidable foe was unrelenting in invoking fear and trepidation upon Christian believers tempting them to compromise their faithfulness and quiet their visible response to Christ.

This opponent of the church was no back ally thug that crept about in dark shadows, rather this man was prominently positioned within the ruling class. He was extremely intelligent and highly educated. He had connections to high ranking officials. He had clout among those with authority and power. With his own drive, determination and ambition, he ultimately had a capacity to inflict great harm upon the followers of Jesus.

Therefore, he was bold in his action, daring in his vices and he made no effort to hide his destructive agenda to eliminate the church from this world. Therefore, much blood was shed and he tasted it in broad daylight for all to see. This man was not just a menace; this man was a monster that attempted to exterminate the church from the face of the earth!

Some people are pliable and easily molded, but not this man. His personality was cut from hard stone and iron. He would not bow to the established party line; he was inflexible and adamant regarding his own perspectives and religious positions. Therefore, his will was an unbridled force of destruction that no one could tame. So no one dared to stand in his way.

The whole idea that Jesus came to die on a cross was preposterous notion to him. The thought that Calvary was the answer to man’s problems (the remedy) was ludicrous. To believe that God would die on a tree was ridiculous blasphemy and anyone that suggested such was a heretic and they needed to die.

However, on one particular blistering hot day on a mission to put more Christian believers to death, Saul (better known to us today as the Apostle Paul, Saul once the greatest rival of the church), got saved.

Every conversion to faith in Christ is a miracle. When someone who is born in sin, shaped in iniquity, blind to truth, deaf to the gospel, dead to Christ and determined to go his own way comes face to face with the Risen Lord and enthrones Him as his personal Savior it is a miracle. However, when someone so antagonistic to the gospel comes to faith, it seems as if it is a miracle of a different degree.

Humanly speaking, everything was against Paul being converted. He was saved in spite of his heartless personality, in spite of the violence he perpetrated and in spite of the vindictive response to the message of the church. He was saved although he could not be reached with reason. He was saved though he was driven by burning hatred. Although he was “set in his ways” and possibly the last person we would ever think could be reached, Paul was saved.

The good news of Jesus changed everything and when Paul received the gospel cure he discovered the remedy. Jesus is the answer to all that ails you in life.  That is how Paul could boldly declare in the first chapter of Romans, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes.” (Romans 1:16)

Packing Love for Foster Care Children

Below is another article that appeared in the Dayton media market regarding the incredible gesture of students from LIFT camp and Cedarville University.  I hope this inspires you to go do something and impact your community with the love of Christ.

Lift logo2

CEDARVILLE — More than 800 high school and middle school students, attending LIFT camp at Cedarville University this week, are making a difference in our local communities.

On Thursday at Cedarville University, more than 100 suitcases were given to children in the foster care system from Butler County. There are 455 children in the foster care system in Butler County and 130 are waiting to be adopted.7-18-cedarville-foster-bags_21264

Cedarville University is partnering with LIFT camp and Butler County Children’s Services to raise awareness for foster care children and families. Butler County Commissioner Cindy Carpenter and a representative from Family Services of Butler County attended Thursday’s services, along with many foster care families and children who will be presented with the luggage.

With Butler County foster children in attendance, Cedarville University President Thomas White detailed the University’s full-tuition scholarship for one foster student. Cedarville began its foster student scholarship last year with Trina Jones of Xenia being awarded the scholarship.

Cedarville President, Dr. Thomas White, feels strongly about adoption. He and his family have been personally engaged through the adoption of their daughter Rachel.

“Adoption is at the heart of the gospel,” says White. “The Gospel allows orphans to become heirs and slaves to become sons of God through Jesus Christ.” Additionally, White said, “Through Cedarville University’s Foster Care Scholarship, we answer God’s call to care for the widows and orphans by providing a student with an education from a biblical worldview and welcoming them into the Cedarville family.”

On Wednesday evening, the Lift camp students raised $3,400 to purchase suitcases, and some students chose to give the suitcase they brought to camp this week for the cause. “Most of these [foster care] children are packing their belongings in trash bags and moving an average of 12 times over the course of 15 years.” said LIFT camp regional director Rob Rosenbalm. “This reality has moved us to do something.”

LIFT camp has been hosted by Cedarville University for 15 years and is sponsored by LIFT Student Ministries of Dallas, Texas. The camp averages 800 students each year who gather for one week to engage in Scripture and minister to the community in various ways. LIFT Student Ministries has served nearly 50,000 students nationwide since 1994 years.

 

The Love of Christ on Display

This was a fabulous moment that made headlines in our community.  Below is the local front page article that appeared in the weekend paper written by Denise Callahan.

Lift logo2BUTLER COUNTY —

Hooking up churches with Butler County Children Services appears to be a match made in heaven.

Usually, when social workers come to remove a child from a home, belongings are packed in garbage bags. About 800 students who were attending LIFT camp at Cedarville University near Dayton this week raised about $3,400 to buy 130 suitcases for foster kids in Butler County. Some even chose to donate their own suitcases and will return home with their belongings in trash bags.

“They said we’re going to donate our luggage and we’re going to give some money for luggage for these kids because they have to put all their stuff in garbage bags when they are yanked out of their homes,” Children Services Executive Director Jerome Kearns said. “We’ll give them something they can call their own. So all these kids that are up at Cedarville at camp are taking their clothes in garbage bags, because they gave their luggage to these kids.”

The connection between a camp for middle and high school kids at Cedarville University and Butler County foster kids germinated when Kearns held a series of community meetings at the start of the agency overhaul process in February. Pastor Rob Rosenbalm at the Fairfield West Baptist Church attended the meeting of faith-based organizations Kearns and his executive team held. He also is the regional director of the LIFT camp.

His church held a series of “Summer Slam” fun events at the church for about 100 foster children, families and others from the community this week and the LIFT camp kids came to help.

Cedarville University President Thomas White said about 20 foster children came up to the university Thursday night for the suitcase presentation.suitcase

“It was an amazing night,” he said. “It was a great, amazing time.”

White said the event was also an opportunity to let the foster children and others learn about the relatively new scholarship program the university offers for foster children in Ohio. Last year, the university awarded the first full-ride scholarship to Trina Jones of Xenia. The scholarship is worth about $120,000 and includes everything.

Rosenbalm said the LIFT camp kids took off with the suitcase idea as soon as he mentioned it. Other than making sure the foster children don’t have to tote their whole lives around in a trash bag, he said it was also a way to help raise awareness of the whole foster care and adoption issue.

When the faith-based organizations met with Kearns, they all were excited to help the agency with recruiting foster and adoptive families and mentoring. There are currently 455 children in foster care. Rosenbalm said he has been meeting with Kearns and others to get a handle on how the whole system works so he can educate and encourage families to become part of the system.

“We want to recruit, we plan on recruiting, we want to make sure we raise up those who can be parents within the foster care system. We want to raise up adoptive parents as well,” he said. “It is clear to me it is a compassionate response that I believe many in the faith community would be willing to journey in, if we take the time to faithfully explain it.”

 

 

Take God At His Word

blogJohn 20:30-31“And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”

As I read that, one thing in particular jumps out. It takes more than me. It takes more than me to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. It takes a credible witness to believe the good news of Jesus. It takes the sworn testimony of another to substantiate the gospel claim. Like the lawyer who presents his case in a court of law by calling forward an eyewitness to testify. It is this eyewitness account, this preponderance of evidence that the case is built and ultimately rests upon.

Continue reading

Open Your Eyes

Jake Title Slide

We can’t drive around our town without recognizing that we live in a great community. This is a wonderful place to live. Fairfield is a great place to raise a family. At the same time, we cannot live in this town (or any town) without recognizing that life can be hard. We all face challenges. We all have struggles and we all want to do something about those trials that confront us and complicate our lives.

Well let’s do something together. I want to open your eyes by drawing from a young man’s example of courage and faith. Jake Olson is overcoming what we would characterize as an overwhelming hardship and in return God has giving him a national platform in which to speak.

This past week, we were pleased to host and welcome Jake Olson and McKay Christensen.  Jake lost his sight to cancer at the age of 12. However, in his own words, Jake says that “losing his eye sight is what enabled him to see.” Jake’s remarkable story has been featured in three ESPN documentary films, the CBS This Morning, and Fox & Friends. Jake has also been a guest commentator on College Game Day and was a part of the Super Bowl pre-game broadcast last year.

Jake wrote a book with co-author Dr. McKay Christensen entitled Open Your Eyes.  Dr. Christensen is the President of a billion dollar consumer products company and business school professor at the Marriott School of Management. Jake and McKay presented Jake’s story to several hundred that gathered at the Performing Arts Center located on the campus of Fairfield High School this past Thursday and was picked up by local news agencies. http://www.journal-news.com/news/news/blind-teen-golfers-message-open-your-eyes/nfnZf/

Jake and McKay told their tale and shared many life principles together. However, the final word came from Jake that pointed everyone to faith in Christ. Let me encourage all to grab Jake’s and McKay’s book and open your eyes.

 

God is Not Dead, He is Alive

jesus saves_std_t_nvGod is not a silent. God speaks to man. The opening words of Hebrews indicate that God has spoken to man in many different ways in ages past.  However, in these modern times God has elected to speak to man through His Son, the living Word.   The Written Word of Scripture reveals the Living Word our Savior. This is God’s final process in speaking to man.  (Hebrews 1:1-3)

Therefore, it could be said that Jesus is the Author and finisher of faith. He is the exalted Son of God who is the exact copy of His person. (Hebrews 1:3) Jesus is Lord of lords because He is God in the flesh. Jesus Christ is King of kings because His person faithfully describes Him that way. He upholds all things together with just His word. (Hebrews 1:3)   Jesus Christ purged our sins conquering death and the grave. (Hebrews 1:3) He is exalted to a high and lofty position; the right hand of the Father. There is no other name in which man might be saved.

Therefore, man must not neglect or be careless regarding his salvation. Believers must pay close attention unless they drift like a ring slipping off a finger or food going down the wrong pipe. The Hebrew writer speaks of drifting away perhaps like a boat adrift at sea.

Indeed, believers can neglect their salvation. Any man who seeks salvation by any other means than Christ is neglecting his salvation. The Lord Himself said, “I am the way the Truth and the Life, no man comes unto the Father but by me.” (John 14:6)

This means no one will be justified in the eyes of God unless Christ is received by faith. This also suggests means which are sought to “save” man’s life outside of Christ is futile and void of eternal significance. The Hebrew writer is writing to remind the faithful of what really matters and seeks to remind them of their commitment to Christ alone. Let me encourage you to do the same for, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation..?” (Hebrews 2:3)