What a week! A major foreign policy address from President Obama, developments in the race to take his place, graduation location controversies grabbing headlines, and the rapture, well - NOT! But, nevertheless, we have plenty to discuss in this edition of "The 3"...so here goes:
3 (tie) - Obama delivers major speech on Middle East
This week, President Obama delivered a major speech on the Middle East. In addition to addressing the unrest present in a number of countries in the region, including Syria, where the most recent turmoil has emerged, the President stated what he claims has been U.S. policy for quite some time. He called on Israel to revert to its pre-1967 borders, which would essentially leave the regions of the West Bank and Gaza Strip under the control of someone else, presumably the Palestinians.
This suggestion was met with outright rejection by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who described those borders as "indefensible". And, Christian leaders who have voiced support for the nation of Israel in the past were unified in expressing concern over the President's declaration.
A full-page ad that was run in the Jerusalem Post today featured a letter of support signed by a number of high-profile Christians, including James Dobson, Tim Wildmon, Mike Huckabee, Lou Sheldon, General Jerry Boykin, and many others. Here is a background story from World Net Daily. The corresponding website address is www.israelyourenotalone.com.
Check out analysis from Jimmy DeYoung of "Prophecy Today" at this link: http://news.prophecytoday.com.
The Bible instructs us to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem", and it's an important principle of Scripture to stand with Israel and the Jewish people. Even as Palestinian groups were making a unity declaration this week that carries with it a denunciation of Israel's right to exist, Christians who recognize that God has a plan for the nation of Israel regard support for that nation an important Biblical concept.
3 (tie) - Huck & Daniels exit, Cain & Pawlenty move ahead
Recent announcements were made by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, considered a frontrunner for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination, and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, whose pro-life credentials had undergone scrutiny in light of his call for a "truce" on social issues. These two leaders made public that they would not seek the nomination this time around.
Evangelicals are continuing to search for a candidate around whom they can unite. Throw in Donald Trump, too, who announced this week he would not seek the Presidency - he had declared himself to be pro-life, sort of, since past statements did not put him in that category. Nevertheless, he had turned a few heads in the evangelical community.
Two candidates who might be considered to be attractive to evangelicals, even though polling data still puts them in the relative unknown category, include former Godfather's Pizza CEO and ordained minister Herman Cain, formerly an Atlanta talk-show host who fared rather well in a South Carolina debate that was minus a number of the frontrunners, such as Palin and Romney. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is also generating some talk as a formidable candidate who can attract evangelical support. Cain announced his intentions to seek the Presidency this week, Pawlenty is expected to declare his desire to move forward in the coming week.
Mix in another Minnesotan - Representative Michele Bachmann - along with Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich, who are attempting to appeal to religious, even evangelical voters, and you have a wide-open race with some challenging choices for Christians, who can be a powerful force at the ballot box - if they can unite behind a candidate or two.
2 - High school graduation controversies center on content, location
One of the noticeable trends regarding graduation ceremonies and religious freedom in the past years has been the emergence of restrictions that some school officials had placed on graduation speakers regarding the religious content of their messages. These attempts to limit the free speech rights of these students have led to intervention by Christian legal advocacy organizations and lawsuits in some instances.
That element of graduation controversy continues to proliferate across America, and now, a new area concerning graduation has developed - attempts to keep graduation ceremonies out of church buildings. One high-profile case gained quite a bit of coverage last year in Enfield, Connecticut, where a large church had been hosting graduations for a number of years. A Federal judge had, in fact, issued a injunction against the ceremony being held there.
Just this week, the Irving, Texas school district said that it would no longer use the facilities of The Potter's House church, pastored by Bishop T.D. Jakes, for its graduation ceremonies. In Lufkin, Texas, the practice of allowing certain school functions to take place in a church has been challenged. A Colorado Springs school that wanted to hold this past week's scheduled graduation in the large New Life Church facility had to suddenly relocate.
An Ocean City, New Jersey school planned its graduation ceremony in a church that has a 20-foot cross affixed to its exterior. The school district had come under fire there, even to the extent of the ACLU demanding that the cross on the front of the building be covered.
These and other instances are examples of a misinterpretation of the Constitutional concept of "establishment of religion". Just because an event sponsored by a governmental entity takes place in a building used for worship, that does not violate the so-called "separation of church and state". These are, unfortunately, baseless attempts to try to reduce the awareness of God from the consciousness of society.
1 - "Rapture Fail" raises questions
The better-known-than-it-should-be prediction of Harold Camping, the head of an organization of radio stations known as Family Radio, has now been proven false, and it is unknown what implications this might have for a multi-million-dollar broadcast network that has been seriously discredited by the failure of Camping's prediction of the "end of the world".
There are a few considerations that we can take away from this incident:
The willingness of media to concentrate on extreme religious views. By no means could Camping and his lot be considered to be mainstream Christians. But, because of the enormous amount of media attention, highly regarded Christian leaders were being asked to go on the record to share their views. The good news is that this coverage did give added exposure to traditional, Scriptural Christian thought. Camping had predicted the return of the Lord back in 1994, but I don't recall the amount of coverage then - but now, with the Internet and the huge variety of media sources, there was a groundswell of interest in the story, and Camping became repackaged as someone worthy of media attention. The story was met with skepticism and even mockery in some circles, but, if the broad brush is applied too broadly, the perception can be that Christians, in general, are a bit off-base, and could diminish the credibility of the true gospel message. I am thankful for the Biblical rebuttal that was reported in the midst of the proliferation of attention on the story.
The second coming of Christ became a discussion topic and could be an evangelism tool. So, as we return to our workplaces, schools, and places of influence this week, we do have an opportunity to discuss the truth of God's Word. The Rapture, Second Coming of Christ, Judgment Day, End of the World, whatever it was supposed to be - did not come, but that does not and should not divert attention from the last-days scenario that is laid out in the Scriptures. We are told that Christ will come again, and while no one knows the day or the hour, we can read the signs - and as Jesus laid out in the Olivet Discourse in Matthew chapter 24, we can see occurrences on the earth that are setting the stage for these predictions to be fulfilled. Judgment is coming, before a true and righteous Judge, and we can ask the question - when Christ returns for His own, can we stand before Him knowing that we belong to Him? The only way to know is to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior.
What if we could know...how would that affect our lives? Another interesting element is the self-evaluation that can take place in our lives. If we believe that Jesus will return, and that the church will be taken up into heaven 7 years prior to that time in the rapture, then how does that affect our lives? If we think that occasion is imminent, then how should that affect us? Would we be living with a sense of urgency?
And...if we were to know the day or the hour, if we knew we only had a few days to live - how would that change the way we live our lives? And shouldn't that be the way we live all of the time?
There was no shortage of coverage and commentary about this prediction. The Christian Post, not unexpectedly, had extensive coverage, including this sampling of evangelical leaders in advance of the May 21 date.
Noted Christian author and media observer Phil Cooke had these comments.
Blogger Timothy Dalrymple has attracted quite a bit of attention with this post.