Sunday, November 18, 2012

The 3 - November 18, 2012

This week, there is quite a variety of news stories affecting the Christian community, as I outline here in this week-in-review feature, "The 3".  First up, another challenge to the contraception mandate from the Obama Administration, and a court victory for a major Christian publisher.  Also, last Sunday, November 11th, was a significant day in order to honor and support 3 distinct groups of people - the persecuted church, orphans, and U.S. veterans.  The top story involves the nation of Israel - under fire and at's a series of events that is extremely relevant to principles in the Bible and to Christians and Christian organizations who stand with Israel.

3 - Bible publisher receives relief from court on contraceptive mandate

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' contraception mandate continues to make headlines, and this past week, a well-known Bible publisher that had filed suit concerning it received some relief in court.  Tyndale House Publishers joined the ranks of companies and Christian institutions filing suit against the mandate, and those ranks have swelled to some 40 lawsuits involving 110 plaintiffs.   Those who are challenging this mandate as part of the national health care law contend that being forced to provide free contraception and abortion-inducing drugs to their employees via their health care plans violates their religious freedom rights.   And, in the Tyndale case, a Federal district judge seems to agree.

According to a report on the Christian Post website, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton granted a preliminary injunction to stop enforcement of the mandate against Tyndale.  The judge wrote,
"Although there is arguably a public interest in the uniform application of the ACA (Affordable Care Act) and the contraceptive coverage mandate there is undoubtedly also a public interest in ensuring that the rights secured under the First Amendment and, by extension, the RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act), are protected...Indeed, First Amendment rights are among the most precious rights guaranteed under the Constitution."

The judge also said that, "The contraceptive coverage mandate ... places the plaintiffs in the untenable position of choosing either to violate their religious beliefs by providing coverage of the contraceptives at issue or to subject their business to the continual risk of the imposition of enormous penalties for its noncompliance. Such a threat to the very continued existence of the plaintiffs' business necessarily places substantial pressure on the plaintiffs to violate their beliefs."

The relief is only temporary, as Judge Walton issued a preliminary injunction.   But, it is clear that the judge recognized the contention of Tyndale, which is consistent with host of other Christian organizations who have been placed in a position of either compromising their beliefs or paying penalties.   

2 - Churches remember orphans, persecuted church, veterans

Sunday, November 11th was a day that was set aside to remember three groups of people who are significant, representing some ministry needs that the body of Christ, especially the church in America, can address.

The second Sunday of November is traditionally the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, and but some churches and organizations observed it on the 4th.  Open Doors and Voice of the Martyrs are two of the key organizations who reach out to persecuted believers around the world, and they observed the 11th, while the actually International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church website,, named the date as the 4th, but said the people were free to choose.

Regardless of the day, the cause is dire - believers are facing persecution at the hands of hostile governments around the world.  Through its website,, Open Doors is offering prayer wristbands in order to help remind people to pray for persecuted Christians.

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention reports these persecution facts:
  • More than 43 million Christians have been killed for their faith since the crucifixion of Jesus.
  • It’s been estimated that more Christians were martyred in the 20th Century than in all the prior 1,900 years combined.
  • There were more than 26 million documented cases of martyrdom in the 20th Century alone.
  • More than 200 million Christians in over 60 nations face persecution each day, 60% of these are children.
  • 150,000 to 165,000 are martyred each year.
ERLC states that Christians today are the most persecuted group in the world.  Persecution is on the rise because of Communism, the expansion of Islamic and Hindu extremism, and because of the sparsity of freedom-honoring governments around the world.

Also, last Sunday was commemorated by a number of churches as Orphan Sunday, as we are reminded that James 1 instructs us to care for widows and orphans.  Now, the Christian Alliance for Orphans had designated November 4th, but you can find a number of instances of churches celebrating that day on the 11th.  The Christian Alliance for Orphans is seeking to add a unified voice and coordinated effort to the many worthy efforts that preceded this year.

Here's a little background on Orphan Sunday:  While attending a church service in Zambia, an American visitor, Gary Schneider, was struck by the pastor’s passionate call to care for orphans in the local community, which had been ravaged by AIDS and poverty.  Members of the church faced deep need themselves.  But as the service ended, one after another stepped forward with money, food and other goods-some even taking off their own shoes and placing them in the offering for orphans.   Gary began to help Zambian leaders coordinate Orphan Sunday efforts in that nation, and efforts spread to the U.S. in 2003. 

Churches are using this occasion to mobilize their members in reaching out to children in need, through prayer for those without parents around the world, through encouraging Christians to provide foster care or support for foster families, and actually adopting children from countries around the world, including here in America.   In following the Biblical call to care for orphans, there is a growing trend in churches to promote these and related opportunities.

I think it's interesting that there may have been some disparity about the dates these occasion were commemorated - because, it is true that it's more about the cause than the date.   And, these are areas of need that transcend a particular day.

Finally, November 11th is always Veterans Day, a time to recognize the sacrifices that brave men and women have made and continue to make to preserve our freedom and promote the cause of freedom around the world.   This day can serve to remind us about the contributions of our military, our veterans, and our Guard and Reserve units, as well.   We can also reach out to families to have faced deployment, and help to minister to those who are left behind.   Our military friends understand, in a unique way, the concept of service, and we appreciate the way that they serve not only in their military duties, but in their communities, as well.

For instance, I am reminded of the way that Christians in the Maxwell Air Force Base community partner with a variety of ministry and other charitable organizations to do good in the name of Christ, and how military and other Federal employees support charities, including Faith Radio, with their dollars given through the Combined Federal Campaign.  We greatly appreciate how they partner with our area!   By the way, the Heart of Alabama CFC is winding down, and state employees can still participate through the end of the year through the Alabama State Combined Campaign. 

1 - Christian leaders and organizations stand with Israel in light of attacks

The violence in Israel is something that is quite relevant to Christians, for several reasons.   The Bible tells us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and we recognize the spiritual significance of the land and people of Israel, God's original chosen people.   Even today, there are Christians and Christian organizations who are encouraging us to stand with Israel.  Here are some of the developments reported by author and Bible prophecy speaker Joel Rosenberg, founder of the Joshua Fund, who has been in Israel.

* All signs point to Israel preparing a massive ground invasion of Israel (sic). Massive numbers of Israeli Merkava (chariot) tanks, armored personnel carriers, and combat engineering equipment is being moved hour by hour to the Gaza border. When several colleagues and I were driving north to Galilee today, we passed mile after mile of Israeli military vehicles heading south towards Gaza from their bases along the Lebanon and Syrian borders. Some 75,000 Israeli reserve soldiers are being mobilized as we speak. What’s more, Israeli officials are telling the nation to prepare for at least 7 weeks of fighting...

* That said, Israel is awash with rumors tonight of an imminent truce (“hudna” in Arabic) – some media reports are speculating a cease fire could begin soon.

* There is also much speculation that the Egyptian leadership is pressing Hamas hard to stop firing at Israel. The Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil visited Gaza on Friday to meet with Hamas leaders. During a press conference Saturday with Turkish leader Erdogan, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi said “there are some indications a cease fire could be soon.”

* Israel, however, says it is “not interested” in a cease fire — has many more terror targets still to hit and destroy. (Times of Israel)

* Meanwhile, Hamas and other terrorists in Gaza have not stopped firing missiles and rockets at Israel — about 100 rockets were fired at Israel on Saturday.

Hundreds of rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza this week, and the missile defense system, the Iron Dome, has intercepted a significant number of them.  Israel has responded by carrying out hundreds of air strikes this week.

Christian organizations are declaring their support for Israel.  Christians United for Israel is providing regular briefings on the situation in Israel through its website at   Also, an organization that has involved a number of evangelical leaders, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, founded by a Jewish rabbi to facilitate cooperation between those two religious groups, is offering daily updates, and has responded with a $2.7 million aid package.

Not only are Christians speaking out on Israel and its right to defend itself, but we also must recognize the prophetic significance of these events.   For instance, when you read Ezekiel 38, you see that in the last days there will be an alignment of nations that will stand in opposition to Israel - it will be invaded, and God Himself will turn back the invasion.   After that occurrence, Israel will turn to the Antichrist for protection - ultimately, the Antichrist will occupy a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem.

This incursion demonstrates the hostility that seems to be mounting against Israel - Hamas, which is the authority in the Gaza Strip, is supported by some powerful allies, such as Iran and Egypt.  Some of the rockets that have been launched into the suburbs of Tel Aviv were manufactured by Iran.  This is an explosive situation, and it calls for prayers and vigilance.  Many Christians are hopeful that the United States will provide the necessary support for Israel in the face of violent opposition.

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