Sunday, January 30, 2011
3 - Southern Sudan residents vote to form own country
Voters in the region known as Southern Sudan went to the polls a few short weeks ago to decide on whether or not they would form their own country. This region has been in turmoil for years now, and conflicts between those in the predominantly Muslim North and the area where the Christians live, in the South have been protracted.
The results that have been reported indicate that 99 percent of those voting (and the voter turnout was 99 percent) desire to form an independent state in Southern Sudan. So, very soon, perhaps this summer, the world's newest nation will be born.
The Christian relief organization, Samaritan's Purse, has been working very hard in the region of the Sudan to help fulfill the needs of those who are hurting. With the formation of this new nation, it gives an opportunity for the Samaritan's Purse ministry to bring needed hope, through the physical aid and the spiritual truth. Here is a blog post from the Samaritan's Purse website that paints a picture of the mood surrounding these elections.
2 - March for Life draws hundreds of thousands; states continue to reject taxpayer-funding of abortion
The pro-life momentum continued into the new week, as the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., drew hundreds of thousands to show solidarity with the unborn. With the number of abortions approaching 50 million, pro-life advocates continue to use the anniversary of the dreadful U.S. Supreme Court decision, Roe vs. Wade, to speak out and show their opposition to the taking of innocent, unborn life.
The March comes against the backdrop of a wave of pro-life legislation across the nation. Two bills were introduced into the U.S. House last week, and this week, another legislative body in another state passed a bill to prevent taxpayer-funded abortion in its state health care exchanges. This time, it was the Senate in Arkansas, moving that state closer to joining Arizona, Tennessee, Mississippi, Missouri, and Louisiana as states that have passed so-called "opt-out" legislation. Here is the story on developments in Arkansas from LifeNews.com.
There's quite a bit of action in the states, with legislation designed to place limits on abortion finding its way to consideration. Also, Kansas, with pro-life Governor Sam Brownback championing the cause, is considering legislation that would ban late-term abortions and require consent from both parents before a minor can have an abortion.
1 - Egyptian unrest brings prayerful response
Citizens have been flooding the streets in unprecedented numbers in Egypt, to protest the regime of Hosni Mubarak and call for his resignation. Even though many of the protestors would apparently be in favor of a more moderate form of government, in contrast to the relatively hard-line approach that Mubarak has staked out for some 30 years now, nevertheless there is concern that there are elements of the Muslim Brotherhood that are involved, which would advocate for an Islamic fundamentalist state. So, while America's leaders are weighing their words and calling for Mubarak to not resort to widespread violence in order to deal with protestors and to support freedom of expression, certainly it is not in the best interest of the U.S. to see a more radical governmental structure put into place.
Certainly, there are religious elements of the recent events, and there have been recent conflicts involving the Coptic Christians in Egypt. And, from the standpoint of Biblical prophecy, Egypt is one of those nations that could be involved in last-days opposition to Israel. Here is the link to commentary by Jimmy DeYoung of Prophecy Today...commentary regarding Egypt and other Arab cities was included in the January 28 edition.
An Islamic fundamentalist government ruling Egypt will add a new dimension of turbulence to the region, and provide even more dilemmas for the nation of Israel, which within the last 2 weeks has had to deal with a new government rising in power in Lebanon, its neighbor to the north. Factor in the threat by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the continued inflammatory rhetoric and military exercises by Iran and the entire region has become a potential powderkeg - but these are steps to Bible prophecy being fulfilled.
A number of Christians in the U.K. participated in a day of prayer regarding Egypt on Saturday. Here is the story from The Christian Post. We continue to remember the Christians in the nation, who have seemingly faced increasing marginalization and persecution.
Osteen's comments on homosexuality provide teachable moments
"The Rite" brings spiritual issues to the forefront (opens #1 at box office)
Sunday, January 23, 2011
3 - U.S. House votes to repeal health care law
As expected, the U.S. House of Representatives, by a substantial margin, voted to repeal the health care law that was approved by Congress last year. While many rate this as a symbolic vote, nevertheless it was an opportunity for lawmakers to weigh in on legislation that has been opposed by Christian groups for a number of reasons, such as: its provision to fund abortion using tax dollars, its increase in the size and scope of government, and its structure, that could lead to rationing, potentially penalizing senior citizens and the disabled.
While the conventional wisdom is that the bill will die in the Senate or perhaps not even be brought up, there are procedures that could be utilized that could result in the bill coming up, forcing lawmakers to state their position on the legislation...again. 1/3 of the Senate will be up for re-election in 2012, so it could be a bit uncomfortable for those Senators in favor of the health care law to be made to show how they stand, realizing the widespread unpopularity of the bill. The repeal keeps the bill in the national discussion, and will continue to keep forcing lawmakers who supported it to defend their position.
In another development this week, over half of the 50 states have filed suit against the health care bill, as 6 states just this week joined the Federal lawsuit filed in Pensacola, Florida, claiming the mandatory health insurance is unconstitutional.
With a summary of these recent developments, here is a piece from CitizenLink.
2 - Chinese leader's visit leads to discussion of China's human rights record
President Obama hosted Chinese President Hu Jintao at the White House this week. While there was a strong emphasis on economic issues during the series of meetings, there were many advocates who hoped that Mr. Obama would address human rights concerns, including the religious persecution that is taking place there, and indeed, Mr. Obama did make a brief mention of the topic in his press conference remarks.
A few weeks ago, the organization ChinaAid had called attention to a new policy that seems to be placing a heightened level of pressure on house churches and their leaders. In press conferences surrounding President Hu's visit, the wife of Chinese dissident and human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng spoke out about the imprisonment and alleged torture of her husband, ChinaAid President Bob Fu called for a change of course in U.S.-China relations, incorporating a human rights component, and an organization called All Girls Allowed protested China's one-child policy, which has resulted in widespread abortions throughout the country.
Meanwhile, some members of Congress decried the fact that the Chinese President was treated to a state dinner in light of the human rights record of China.
1 - 2 new pro-life bills introduced into Congress in advance of March for Life activities
This week, two bills were introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives that are intended to prevent taxpayer funding of abortion. One of the bills, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, is designed to permanently prohibit taxpayer funds from being used for abortion. The Protect Life Act would certify that the health care reform law itself does not include taxpayer funding of abortion - this is basically a re-introduction of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment that was added to the House version of the health care reform bill, but was not included in the Senate version and not part of the final version that was passed.
The Susan B. Anthony list, which was deeply involved in trying to elect more pro-life individuals to Congress and in defeating so-called "pro-life" lawmakers who supported the health care reform bill, posted this piece on its website.
This pro-life legislation was introduced just days before the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision that essentially made abortion legal in America and before the annual March for Life, which is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of pro-life attendees to the nation's capital on Monday, January 24th. Last year, the crowd was estimated at 300,000 people and more are expected this year.
Meanwhile, numerous events related to the sanctity of life are being held across the nation. The Walk for Life West Coast event, on Saturday, the 22nd, drew some 40,000 people in San Francisco.
U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear case involving D.C. marriage vote
Alabama Governor apologizes for remarks about Christians being his "brothers and sisters"
Sunday, January 16, 2011
3 - Pro-life advocates prepare for Sanctity of Life Week activities
Next Saturday, January 22nd, is the 38th Anniversary of the dreadful decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court known as Roe vs. Wade, legalizing abortion in America. Now, after more than 53 million babies who have lost their lives, and numerous women who have experienced the pain and guilt in the aftermath of an abortion have told their stories, there are some positive and negative signs with regard to this cornerstone issue in our society.
On the positive side, there was a significant number of pro-life lawmakers who were elected to Congress in the last election. These people are now in a position to send a message in the U.S. House of Representatives with respect to life issues, as well as to attempt to halt taxpayer funding of abortion, as reflected in the health care law.
According to CitizenLink, there are 35 states that have opted out or are in the process of considering legislation to opt out of including abortion in their state-maintained health exchanges, provided for in the health care reform bill.
Also, a positive sign is that polling data shows a significant number of Americans who are pro-life. However, the decline in the abortion rate that has been observed over the past few years may have stalled a bit, according to new data released last week by the Guttmacher Institute, an arm of Planned Parenthood. But, fortunately, in looking at the big picture, there is a marked decline in abortions over the past decade. Here is some analysis from Dr. Michael New at LifeNews.com.
So, while one baby losing his or her life is too many, there is plenty of hope on the horizon for a reduction in the number of abortions in America. As thousands plan to take part in pro-life events during Sanctity of Life Week, such as the anticipated 35-50,000 in San Francisco on the 22nd or the hundreds of thousands who are expected to gather in the nation's capital on the 24th, there is a great amount of motivation to continue to speak out on behalf of the innocent children in the womb.
2 - Haiti earthquake anniversary observed
Christian organizations from across the globe have poured in people and supplies since the January 12, 201o earthquake in Haiti that resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and incredible property damage. Franklin Graham held a crusade in Haiti last weekend, and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse continue to be on the leading edge of reaching out to the victims. Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll spoke to some 50,000 people in Haiti last week outside the collapsed capitol building. Driscoll and Chicago pastor James MacDonald have co-founded the Churches Helping Churches effort, which is active in the island nation.
There is much work to be done in this impoverished nation, and with the Haitian government still in a state of instability, there are many Christ-centered organizations that are stepping up to provide needed assistance and to build a sense of hope in the hearts of the people.
1 - Faith thread permeates Tucson recovery
I have often related how tragedy becomes an opportunity for the faith community. And, in the Tucson area, people experienced the pain and fear of the mass shooting that took place at a town hall meeting sponsored by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who clung to life for several days after suffering head injuries. 6 people lost their lives in the incident, including a Federal judge, John Roll, who was apparently a devout Christian who was at the shooting site to have a conversation with the Congresswoman about an issue with which he was concerned.
In the memorial service that was held at the University of Arizona this past Wednesday night, President Obama quoted from Scripture and reportedly consulted with area clergy prior to his remarks. He also indirectly addressed some of the attempts to attach blame for the tragedies on the tone of political rhetoric. These attempts, in my estimation, were inappropriate and inaccurate. Inappropriate, because the blame game takes the focus off the victims of the tragedy and their families, who need prayer and support. Inaccurate, because while we are still unsure of what would have been Jared Lee Loughner's motives for attempting to take the life of Rep. Giffords and the crowd surrounding her, there is evidence that he was not ideologically aligned with conservative talk radio or politicians and in fact, may not have even listened to talk radio. On the ideological scale, I would characterize Loughner as an extreme left-wing ideologue, placing him far to the left of moderate Democrat Giffords.
But, the focus now is for prayers for the recovery of those that were injured, comfort for the families of those who lost loved ones, and relief for the residents of Tucson and beyond who have faced emotional pain in the wake of this tragedy.
Sunday, January 09, 2011
I would like to take a moment to remember those who lost their lives in the shooting outside a Tucson, Arizona, grocery store. U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords was critically wounded and feared dead in the attack. Federal Judge John Roll lost his life, along with 5 others.
Now, this week's edition of "The 3":
3 - Proposition 8 question goes back to the California Supreme Court
This week, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals referred the issue of standing in the Proposition 8 challenge back to the California Supreme Court. Basically, the question of standing involves who is eligible, in the court's eyes to defend in court the Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as one man for one woman. Under normal circumstances, this would be under the jurisdiction of the Governor and Attorney General of California, but since neither the current Governor (former AG Jerry Brown) or current AG support Prop. 8, the defense of the amendment rests with other proponents, such as the ProtectMarriage.com group, which was assisted by the National Organization for Marriage.
Confused? Here's some clarity from the NOM website.
Now, the California Supreme Court, which had ruled prior to the passage of Proposition 8 that the state's gay residents had a right to marry, will be left to decide who, if anyone, is recognized legally to defend this amendment and represent the over 7 million voters who approved Prop. 8. But, apparently, noted liberal judge Reinhardt has voiced some concern about allowing one Federal judge to decide this critical issue.
2 - U.S. appeals court rules large cross memorial in San Diego unconstitutional
More activity from California and the 9th Circuit - the 43-foot Veterans' memorial cross on a mountain in the San Diego area has been in place for over a half century. When a legal challenge was brought, citing concerns about the establishment of religion, the city of San Diego did not think it had the resources to carry out a court challenge, so the land the memorial stands on was signed over to the Federal government, and a Foundation was charged to provide maintenance and security for the cross. A lower court judge had upheld the constitutionality of the cross on Mt. Soledad, but this week the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided that this memorial did represent an establishment of religion.
Liberty Institute represents the American Legion, which is working to preserve these types of veterans memorials. Their perspective is included in this report from Baptist Press.
This deals a potentially chilling blow to such memorials nationwide, since many monuments and other structures honoring veterans incorporate religious imagery. In an effort to try to preserve an atmosphere of neutrality, there are organizations that are promoting unfortunate steps to eradicate symbols of our rich religious heritage from the American landscape. I believe this directly conflicts with the guarantees of free expression of religion in the First Amendment.
1 - Pakistani governor who supported Christian woman assassinated
I have been closely following the case of a 45-year-old Pakistani Christian women, Asia Bibi, who had been sentenced to death under Pakistan's blasphemy laws, because she allegedly made derogatory comments about the prophet Mohammed. After the sentence was handed down, a provincial governor, from the Punjab province, showed his support for her and declared that he thought that the president of the nation would overturn her sentence. That governor was assassinated this week. Here is the story from Christianity Today.
So Governor Salman Taseer was murdered by his bodyguard, who has been hailed as a hero in some segments of Pakistani life. This is yet another indication of the type of adversity that Christians, and those who support them, face, especially in the areas where radical Islam is prevalent.
This week, Open Doors USA released its World Watch List, which shows that numerous countries with Islamic fundamental governments are leading persecutors of Christians, even though North Korea is in the #1 position again. Here is the latest list.
It's important to continue to pray for Christians who are facing the threats of persecution, even to the point of death, for their faith in Christ. And, we can hope that our State Department and other national leaders will speak out in defense of those who are persecuted, addressing human rights abuses in their dealings with these nations.
Sunday, January 02, 2011
3 - Apple rejects Manhattan Declaration app...again
One of the stories I've been following over the past few months has been the relationship of Apple, the makers of the iPhone, and the Manhattan Declaration, a strong affirmation of Biblically-based morality that upholds the sanctity of life, sanctity of marriage, and religious liberty.
This document has been signed by around half a million people, including an impressive cadre of Christian leaders. However, a group far smaller by comparison decided that the Declaration fostered an atmosphere of intolerance and was offensive to those people - subsequently, Apple pulled its Manhattan Declaration app just weeks after approving it with flying colors.
The leadership at the Declaration, including Chuck Colson and others, decided to resubmit the app, eliminating a "quiz" that they thought might be causing some of the problem. This week, it was announced that the Apple braintrust had rejected the app again.
Here is an excellent, thorough piece at Baptist Press which covers the latest rejection and the history of the controversy.
But the Declaration leaders are not sitting still, announcing plans to go before a review board and continuing to gather thousands of petition "signatures" to reinstate the app - you can go to www.manhattandeclaration.org to sign on.
2 - Passion opens in ATL
It's become a movement among college students and young adults, and has developed into a yearly gathering that represents an opportunity to reevaluate, recharge, and recommit their lives to Jesus Christ. Under the leadership of founder Louie Giglio and supported by speakers such as Andy Stanley, Beth Moore, and John Piper and worship leaders Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, the David Crowder Band, and others, Passion events have offered students to take another step in their walk with God.
The Christian Post offers this summary of the latest event, which opened New Year's Day in downtown Atlanta at the Philips Arena and Georgia World Congress Center and continues through Tuesday.
Through the work of Passion in America and internationally, students and young adults have been energized for the mission to which God has called them. This time of spiritual encouragement has been motivational for so many over the years since the first Passion took place in Austin, Texas in 1997.
1 - Christians prepare for new year with prayer, fasting, Bible study
The new year has begun for many Christians on their knees, as many believers are taking stock of their lives and maybe hitting a "reset" button for the year to come. The new year represents a time to put into place new initiatives and perhaps to set spiritual goals.
The Awakening America Alliance is one of those organizations calling for concentrated prayer and fasting during 21 days in January. Here is the website where you can find more information. According to The Christian Post, churches representing over a million members have committed to this effort.
Furthermore, Christians are setting Bible reading goals for the new year. I have been using The One-Year Bible and found its reading plan to be efficient in keeping me on track. There are a number of individuals and churches in my area who are using the E-100 Challenge, developed by Scripture Union in association with the American Bible Society, which involves reading the essential 100 storylines in the Old and New Testament. Both these plans have downloadable outlines available. Also, these are just 2 of a host of plans available through the app available for iPhone and Android called YouVersion - find out more by going to www.youversion.com.
Also, I have found an excellent audio version of the Bible, which just surpassed the one million download milestone - it's found at www.bible.is, and it's even available in a number of different languages!
2011 has the potential to be a dynamic year of spiritual growth. Making God's word a priority in your life is a key element in growing in Christ.