Sunday, November 28, 2010

The 3 - November 28, 2010

The Thanksgiving weekend edition of "The 3" includes a rather offbeat website surrounding a purported life-or-death choice, that has created controversy around the world. Also, a Christian legal advocacy group highlights retailers and their use of "Christmas" in their ads and stores. And, Thanksgiving provides the theme for the #1 story of the week.

3 - Abortion poll site admitted to be a hoax

It really had all the makings of a hoax website - a domain called, a couple with rather sketchy biographical information posted on the site, and the disturbing premise of encourging visitors to "vote" on whether or not an unborn baby should live or die.

Even after interviews in which the couple apparently was calling out to be taken seriously, the father of the real baby "Wiggles" (named because the baby was moving around so much in utero) has basically stated that the couple never intended to abort their baby, but did want to generate some discussion over the controversial topic of abortion. The mother, Alisha Arnold, who reportedly favors legalized abortion, and her husband, Pete, generated over a million votes for this fictitious "choice" - the baby is real, the ultrasound images apparently real, too, but the cover is blown and the parents will one day face the challenge of breaking the news to their child that they actually pulled this sort of stunt. Here's the latest narrative from

I guess you could say that the silver lining is that the website actually got people talking about the subject of abortion, but I don't think the couple actually used the site to credibly make the case for life - and have made themselves to be a laughingstock in the process. Sure, this is a topic that needs to be in the national dialogue, but this is definitely not the right way to go about it.

2 - Christian legal group releases "Naughty and Nice" list

Each year, there is a dynamic of the Christmas season that deals with how retailers commemorate the holiday. Another of the prevalent dynamics is how governmental entities allow Christmas to be celebrated, and I am sure there will be some instances that I will highlight throughout the next few weeks, such as the recent occasion in the beautiful city of Maryville, Tennessee (not far from where I went to college), where last year the reading of the Christmas story was banned from the annual city-sponsored event - that reading was restored this year, thanks to the involvement of Liberty Counsel, who wrote a letter to city officials underscoring the constitutionality of the practice.

Liberty Counsel, in addition to defending free speech surrounding the expression of Christmas greetings and exercises, annually calls attention to retailers who do and don't include the word, "Christmas" in their advertising and their retail stores and even websites. As part of their "Friend or Foe" campaign, the organization has released its "Naughty and Nice" list - highlighting the "naughty" retailers who do not acknowledge Christmas and the "nice" retailers who do. In fact, two retailers have flipped this holiday season - Best Buy and Dick's Sporting Goods, who initially were not including the recognition of Christmas, but who have indicated they intend to do so. You can find Liberty Counsel's list at this link.

Also, Rising Voice, the outreach to millenials from CitizenLink, an affiliate of Focus on the Family, has suggested shopping retailers who engage in "socially responsible" activities, such as donating a portion of their profits to charity. Rising Voice is also partnering with the ministry of Children's HopeChest to help rescue Russian girls who could possibly be incorporated into human trafficking. You can find Rising Voice at

1 - Christians usher in holiday season with Thanksgiving, charitable giving

Thanksgiving Day is a great time for Christian families to reflect on the blessings of God and to reach out to unsaved loved ones during family gatherings with the love of Jesus Christ. And, as we have been blessed by God, we reach out to others with his love as an expression of our gratitude for giving us the greatest gift of all, making salvation possible through Christ.

Just before Thanksgiving, Christians all across the U.S. took part in Operation Christmas Child and filled shoeboxes with school supplies, games, toys, hygiene items and more, to be distributed throughout the world through Samaritan's Purse. National Collection Week ended on November 22nd.

A number of Christians have begun to shop with an eye on charity through gift catalogs published by various organizations, such as Samaritan's Purse or World Vision. The good news is that apparently there is a significant number of Christians who are planning to reach out with gifts to charity...According to a World Vision survey, more Americans (7 out of 10) indicate they'll spend less on Christmas gifts this year, but just over half said that they would consider a charitable gift as a present this year. Here is more results and analysis from World Vision.

So for that dad who doesn't need another tie or the aunt who just might not want another statuette to sit around on some shelf, a gift to charity in their honor can warm their hearts and bless people in need.

Honorable Mention:

Asia Bibi released in Pakistan?

Prayer requested in light of tensions on Korean Peninsula

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The 3 - November 21, 2010

This week's edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature, highlights the blasphemy laws in Pakistan, one of the countries mentioned in a new report from the State Department on religious freedom - the release of that report is this week's #2 story. And, at the top of the list, new regulations involving faith-based organizations who received Federal funds.

3 - Pakistan's blasphemy law yields woman's death sentence

In Pakistan, Christians and others who follow a religion other than Islam can face stiff punishment, including death. These so-called blasphemy laws have received international scrutiny and condemnation, nevertheless the Pakistani government continues to enforce these policies, which has resulted in unprecedented religious persecution in this predominantly Muslim country.

And now, another instance has brought even more international concern, as a woman - a wife and the mother of 3 children - has been found to be guilty of violating the law by merely speaking out against Islam in the face of those who apparently were trying to coerce her to renounce Christianity. Asia Bibi, a Christian, was accused of blaspheming Muhammed and defaming Islam and faces the death sentence. Open Doors USA has posted this story on its website.

Here again, this case is indicative of harsh punishment that awaits Christians in many countries around the world, simply because they stand for Christ in the face of intense pressure. Asia is the first woman to be sentenced to death under these laws in Pakistan. This calls our attention yet again to the plight of Christians in many countries, and can be a catalyst for us to pray and to become more aware of organizations that are intervening on behalf of Christian believers around the world.

2 - State Department releases religious freedom list

The U.S. State Department released a report earlier this week that indicates there are a number of countries in the world that are apparently not committed to ensuring religious freedom. In the International Religious Freedom Report 2010, we see that not only are there countries listed where minority religions suffer persecution while a majority or government-sanctioned religion is given preferential treatment. Plus, we see there are countries where extremist groups and intolerant groups make the practice of some religions difficult. Here is a nice summary from the Religion Clause blog.

There were 8 "Countries of Particular Concern" that were highlighted: Burma (interesting that the report should refer to this country by its more familiar name, rather than the military junta's name, Myanmar), China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan. In these countries, citations are made regarding U.S. involvement on religious freedom issues. There were a total of 27 countries that were covered in the report - some have seen improvement, apparently, in the eyes of the State Department, while other governments are continuing to promote or allow an atmosphere of religious intolerance. Also, U.S. opposition to a proposed U.N. resolution, promoted by a number of Muslim countries on "defamation of religions", was revisited in the report. Here is the link to the State Department's Executive Summary.

1 - President's faith-based initiatives under revised rules

When he took office, President Obama continued the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, a concept basically begun by his predecessor to recognize and reward the work of faith-based organizations who are doing work deemed to be beneficial to society. While President Bush's purpose seemed to be to reinforce the work that was being done by equipping those organizations with more Federal dollars, the purpose under Obama could be interpreted as to exercise governmental control of faith-based organizations who are doing work consistent with the government's goals.

Another round of regulations of these organizations receiving taxpayer funding was released this week, and while, as some pro-family groups had feared, hiring practices were not addressed, but there were a number of issues that could be perceived as lessening or separating the "faith" out of these organization's work. Here is a report from CitizenLink, an affiliate of Focus on the Family.

A religious organization receiving Federal funds is expected to keep its "religious" and "secular" purpose separate - and presumably government oversight would be in place to guarantee this is done. The difficulty here is that many organizations do good work, recognizing and depending on the power of how do they keep their religion out of it? Certainly, Federal grants can be helpful in carrying out ministry work, but if the government becomes increasingly burdensome, the law of diminishing returns is a factor, and the message of the life-changing power of the gospel could be diluted at the expense of the money. As we have seen in other sectors, where there is government funding, there is greater government control.

Honorable Mention:

Disturbing Online Poll: Whether or not to abort baby

New Jersey pastor tells church leaders: "No more Facebook"

Christmas Lights: Maryville, TN - City restores Bible reading!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The 3 - November 14, 2010

This week's edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature, spotlights a new sponsor and a new name for the "Day of Truth", a call to responsibility on Orphan Sunday last week, and reflections on Christian persecution in light of the President's Asian trip.

3 - Focus on the Family picks up "Day of Truth"

For a number of years, Christian students have been participating in the "Day of Truth", which is a response to the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) observance known as the "Day of Silence", where gay students and gay sympathizers are encouraged to remain silent as a reaction to what they perceive is cruel treatment. The Alliance Defense Fund initiated the "Day of Truth", encouraging Christian students to speak out, and to speak the truth about sexuality according to God's word. The responsibility for that day transferred to Exodus International, which is a Christian advocacy group that is involved in helping people who depart from homosexuality. Now, Focus on the Family has picked up the sponsorship, and has renamed it the "Day of Dialogue", emphasizing the importance of engaging in communication about the truth found in God's word regarding the freedom that Christ offers. A piece from Focus on the Family explains the new arrangement for the April 18 observance.

2 - "Orphan Sunday" encourages Christians to follow Biblical instruction

The Bible plainly tells believers in Christ to care for the widow and the orphan. There are millions of orphans around the world, and we as Christians have a distinct responsibility for getting involved in the lives of these children. In fact, indications are that there are well over 100 million orphans worldwide.

Many orphans live in substandard facilities after being either abandoned by the their parents, or perhaps becoming wards of the state because of the death of parents. And, in many areas, once those orphans become recognized as "adults", then they are turned out on the streets, and many become involved in trafficking and prostitution.

So, it is not surprising that a number of organizations have become involved in care for the orphans and promoting the adoption of children from countries around the world who face a bleak future. This past Sunday, November 7th, was designated as "Orphan Sunday", calling attention to the plight of orphans worldwide. Special events were held, and topic of care for orphans was encouraged to be addressed in churches. For more information, you can visit the website at

1 - President's trip to Asia highlights areas of religious tensions

President Obama has completed his Asian trip, and perhaps the stop of most interest to many Christians concerned about religious persecution is the visit to the nation of Indonesia, the nation with the world's largest Muslim population, where the President spent a portion of his childhood. And, as has been the case when Obama has visited countries with Islamic governments, he went out of his way to extol the virtues of that religion and leaders who embrace it and/or govern by it. Perhaps one of the most intriguing comments that Obama made was that, referring to the situation in Indonesia, "Islam flourishes, but so do other faiths." Here is a general news story from CBN News.

But could Christianity be considered as one of those other faiths? Christians in Indonesia might not think so. While the Christian population is apparently growing, the government is not allowing very many new churches to be built. Meanwhile, a national decree which has limited the growth of house churches has stifled the Christian church population. Here is a report from CBN News on the state of Christians in Indonesia. The actions of militant Muslims have become a real threat to Christians, who worship in many cases at their own risk.
So, while the President continues his outreach to Muslim governments, it is disappointing that he is not calling for these governments to pursue a greater degree of tolerance for Christians who live within their countries.

And, a further note: the President's visit to India can serve to remind us about the persecution of Christians in that nation, especially in the Orissa province. In fact, in that location, Christians are facing fear, as well as pressure to return to Hinduism. Here is the story from Compass Direct News.

Today is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. And, despite the knowledge of governmental officials in the United States, nations who endorse persecution of Christians, either actively (by supporting anti-Christian activity) or passively (by looking the other way) are seemingly not facing any possibility of being ostracized or sanctioned as a result of their intolerant actions. This is a matter of prayer for those Christians around the world who live under restrictions, fear of violence, and the threat of imprisonment and death.

Honorable Mention:

U.S. Supreme Court keeps lower court stay on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in place

Violence in Baghdad's Christian areas

Survivors of Iraq church attack flee

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The 3 - November 7, 2010

3 - Graham radio broadcast passes milestone, Graham celebrates birthday

The ministry of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association continues to deliver the gospel message through a variety of methods and voices. Just this weekend, people across the African nation of Malawi are participating in the "My Hope" outreach that is utilizing group leaders in homes across that nation, who invite people into their houses to view a message from the Association. The hosts also are called upon to share their own story of salvation through Christ. This has been an effective tool that has seen quite a harvest around the world. Franklin Graham also is wrapping up a crusade in Latvia. The ministry he founded, Samaritan's Purse, is preparing for its National Collection Week November 15-22 for Operation Christmas Child.

And, against the backdrop of Dr. Graham's 92nd Birthday today (November 7th), the ministry is celebrating a notable milestone. 60 years ago this week, the flagship radio broadcast, The Hour of Decision, which is heard on almost 600 radio outlets across America, made its debut on ABC Radio. This became the foundational program for the broadcast ministry of BGEA. Here is Assist News Service's profile of the program.

There are quite a number of Christian radio broadcasts aired in America and around the world, and so many owe a debt of gratitude to that pioneering broadcast of The Hour of Decision, as the gospel message was made available to a growing audience through the medium of radio. The Association has greatly expanded its ministry, from radio to TV to Decision magazine to the Internet, and to a wide variety of platforms, with the purpose of sharing God's truth with a world that so desperately needs to hear the message of salvation through Jesus Christ.

2 - Dozens die in hostage crisis at a church in Iraq

At least 58 people lost their lives, and perhaps as many as 75 were injured, as a group of terrorists entered a Catholic church in Baghdad and took hostages. Iraqi security forces stormed the building and ended the hostage situation, but there was a terrible loss of life. Open Doors USA has this report.

The state of the Christian church in Iraq continues to be a declining situation. The Christian population there in the years since the U.S.-led invasion has reportedly been reduced by half. Iraq has been a nation that has been on Open Doors' World Watch list because of the persecution of Christians there. Christians sense very little protection or sympathy from the government, and have become the subjects of persecution by Muslim groups.

The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is coming up next Sunday, November 14th, and it gives Christians around the world the opportunity to stand with those who face persecution and even death as a result of their faith in Christ. More information can be found at

1 - Evangelical turnout rises, pro-life candidates win

The voters spoke out in the most recent election, this past Tuesday, and the U.S. House of Representatives will now have a Republican majority. The Senate will have a more balanced makeup as a result of the vote. A number of governor's races went to Republicans, as well, plus state legislatures are seeing an increase in Republican representation.

But is this a Republican resurgence? Not necessarily. One can interpret that the election represented a repudiation of the current course of our government. There was a definite anti-incumbency and anti-establishment feel in the results. Polling data showed that voters were distressed with Democrats, but not necessarily enamored with Republicans, either. The clear signal was that voters wanted a change, and definitely not the type of "change" that had been the mantra of the campaign in 2008.

The attitude of change and a call to governmental responsibility in the face of seemingly uncontrolled, or at least excessive, spending has been personified in the "Tea Party" movement, which is generally thought of to be an economically-based thread of our nation's populace. But many of the "members" of the grassroots movement also possess strong evangelical credentials. In fact, a poll released by the Faith and Freedom Coalition shows that 52% of self-identified Tea Party members are also evangelicals.

The influence of "values voting", and more specifically, faith-based voting, was greater in this year's election that in 2008.
According to that survey, the largest single constituency in the electorate in the 2010 midterm elections was self-identified evangelicals, who comprised 29% of the vote and cast 78% of their ballots for Republican candidates.

And while much of the general news coverage focused on how economic factors would affect the 2010 vote, the life issue definitely played a significant role. The Susan B. Anthony List proclaimed this year "The Year of the Pro-Life Woman", and a number of the female candidates it supported were successful in their election bids. The List also sponsored its "Votes Have Consequences" project, in which it was active in races in districts where so-called "pro-life" Democrats who supported the health care reform legislation, which contained taxpayer funding of abortion, were running for re-election.
The results are impressive: 15 of 20 of those Democrats proclaiming themselves as pro-life while supporting health care reform lost their elections. has this guest column. You can also visit to learn how SBA List-supported candidates fared on Election Day. And, here's a summary of the election of pro-life women from

I made the point in a recent interview with former U.S. House member Marilyn Musgrave, who headed up the "Votes Have Consequences" project, that candidates that have a foundation of being pro-life tend to hold a Biblical view on other issues, such as marriage and even the economy. A number of the Tea Party candidates, who spoke forcefully on economic issues and governmental restraint and stewardship, were at their core socially conservative, as well. Pastor Jim Garlow spoke with me and discussed that he believes that Christians, especially Christian pastors, will be speaking out increasingly on economic issues, including the concept of government within its means. Perhaps this election can send the message that a Christian view of government and public policy can yield effective solutions to the daunting issues that we face as a country.