Sunday, April 29, 2012

The 3 - April 29, 2012

This week on "The 3", my week-in-review feature, people are reading God's Word continuously in the nation's capital and other locales across the nation, leading up to the National Day of Prayer.   Also, residents of the South took a few moments to look back on the devastating tornadoes of April 27, 2011.   And, Christians were reminded of the power of the Internet and creative ways it can be used as a tool to share the gospel.

3 - Bible-reading marathon kicks off in nation's capital

In advance of the National Day of Prayer, which is coming up on Thursday, May 3rd, people have gathered in Washington, DC for the 23rd Annual U.S. Capitol Bible Reading Marathon, which will be attracting hundreds of people to Capitol Hill, each of whom are reading portions of God's Word.   The Bible reading in the nation's capital is one of a number of such events across the country and around the world, organized in association with Bible Pathway Ministries.

Terry Shaffer Hall, one of the directors for the DC Marathon, told The Christian Post that the purpose of the marathon was to promote biblical literacy and understanding.  She said that it was, "To call people to daily read their Bibles and look to it, as the inspired Word of God, for guidance, truth, hope, peace in troubling times...Standing on the West Steps of the Capitol looking westward and reading God's [Word] across this great nation fills your heart with hope for this country."

The Global Bible Reading Marathon will originate from Bible Pathway's headquarters in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and will continue until May 3rd and feature 95 hours streamed on the Internet.   Because of a Congressional scheduling conflict, the Washington event will conclude Tuesday; other marathons are scheduled through Thursday, the 3rd.   Organizers believe the Bible reading marathons lay a solid foundation for the National Day of Prayer.  To learn more, go to

2 - Christian and governmental leaders mark one-year anniversary of day of devastation
This past Friday, April 27th, was the one-year anniversary of a major tornado outbreak that caused death and damage across a number of Southeastern states.  The outbreak was the second-largest such event in history, with an estimated 349 people losing their lives, 239 of them within the state of Alabama, which experienced major tornadoes, such as the F5 which destroyed Hackleburg and Phil Campbell, and the powerful F4 that ravaged parts of Tuscaloosa and Birmingham.   Other communities that suffered significant damage included Cullman, areas close to Huntsville and Decatur, and cities in DeKalb County, such as Rainsville and Sylvania, as well as Elmore and Tallapoosa counties.  

Churches and ministry organizations were again on the front lines, bringing not only physical relief, but also a sense of hope through Christ.  To observe the one-year anniversary of the event, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley was part of a special prayer time on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery.   Franklin Graham, whose Samaritan's Purse organization worked extensively in the Tuscaloosa and Birmingham areas, returned to West Alabama for a special prayer breakfast.   And, The Alabama Baptist released a 56-page commemorative edition which highlighted some of the churches that were damaged and their rebuilding efforts, the work of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams, and the hope that was evident throughout the recovery effort. 

I highlighted 4 lessons that we could take away from the storms:
1 - We don't always know why bad things happen.  But, we can rest assured that crisis becomes an opportunity for the glory of God - we live in a fallen world, and adversity will come - the storms will blow through, as Jesus illustrated in the Sermon on the Mount. The question is: how will we handle them? If we respond in faith, then He will do amazing things either inside our hearts or around or lives - and if we don't respond properly, still God can show us by His Spirit how we can be ready the next time.

2 - We can always be better prepared. During this past year, people have evaluated their personal emergency plans. Organizations that provide relief are looking at ways they can respond even better. We can look for definite areas of improvement.

3 - Working together brings more effective results. There are great benefits when we as believers can lay down our differences - of doctrine, culture, ethnicity, or geography - and seek after the common goal of bringing relief to those who have been affected and glory to God. Partnerships have been key in the restoration effort.

4 - Our God is a God of restoration.  Even where lives have been devastated and livelihood destroyed, we can know that the Lord is a builder...He always brings hope, and His people are often called to be communicators of that hope - with our mouths, our hands, and our hearts. The display of the love of Christ is a powerful force in letting other people know that He is interested in them, He loves them deeply, and He desires to repair what is broken.

Special commemorative events were held on Friday, bringing people together to reflect on their losses and to recognize the incredible efforts that were expressed by devoted relief workers.   This series of events, tragic as they may be, remind us of the dependence that we can have on Almighty God in those tough times we experience.

1 - "Internet Evangelism Day" encourages Christians to use technology to spread the gospel

Sunday, April 29th was set aside as "Internet Evangelism Day", which is an effort to recognize the power of technology to communicate the truth of the gospel, and to encourage Christians and their churches to be more involved in using technology in this way.   Tony Whittaker, IE Day coordinator in the United Kingdom is quoted by Christian Today as saying:  "At last it has become remarkably easy for any Jesus-follower to build relationships and discuss truth appropriately, especially within social networking platforms...Our digital communication culture has become highly visual and dialogue-based, and the sharing of conversation-starting video shorts on Facebook and Twitter is as easy as a mouse-click, though only if we know where to find them."

More information can be found at, and free e-books were made available on Sunday at that website. 

The opportunities to reach people through the Internet continue to expand - there are an estimated 2.3 billion people online and 4 billion mobile phone users.   And mobile apps are continuing to be released - some recent additions include:

Talking About Jesus, which is directly evangelistic and offers 18 short videos by insightful speakers such as Philip Yancey, Anna Robbins, Andrew White, Krish Kandiah, Nick Pollard and Gary Habermas.

A second new evangelism-related web app is called God’s GPS.   That app is designed to guide Christians on ways to share the good news appropriately and conversationally. The interface operates in 40-plus languages and explains the principles that Doug Pollock - author of God Space - offers in his books and seminars.

The ways to use technology to share our faith and to grow in our faith are increasing, and Internet Evangelism Day provides a reminder of the electronic tools that God has given us to share His truth.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The 3 - April 22, 2012

On this week's edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature, we look back at an event involving students across America who are devoted to speaking out about God's plan regarding sexuality, an awards ceremony recognizing quality in Christian music, and the loss of a legendary Christian leader.

3 - Ministry promotes "Day of Dialogue", encourages a breaking of silence over sexuality

This past week, the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network held its annual "Day of Silence", encouraging gay teens and those who sympathize with them to engage in not speaking during an entire school day, in order to call attention to their plight - presumably, they are trying to show that silence somehow contributes to the solution to alleged bullying of those that participate in homosexual behavior.   According to the Focus on the Family website,
Participating students take a “vow of silence” and distribute cards proclaiming they are a part of a “national youth movement bringing attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies … My deliberate silence echoes that silence …” Some students even wear duct tape as part of the protest throughout the school day. GLSEN encourages students celebrating this event to lobby for legislation supported by homosexual-advocacy groups and to pressure school officials to implement things such as a “queer friendly” prom.  During this event, GLSEN also encourages teachers to display homosexual-themed books and other materials about transgender topics in the classroom and to “Discuss Day of Silence with your students.”
Focus on the Family, with its public policy arm, CitizenLink, now sponsors a "Day of Dialogue", which took place on Thursday, April 19th, one day prior to the scheduled "Day of Silence".   The purpose of this day is to engage in discussion about sexual issues, including God's plan for sexuality.   This year, thousands of students in some 40 states across America participated.   As the organizers put it:
The Day of Dialogue is also meant to help students like you have a safe space and equal opportunity to express a faith-based viewpoint in a loving and respectful way. The event provides a critical opportunity for thousands of thoughtful teenagers, as well as college students, to be able to discuss more than one perspective on important social issues in our nation’s public schools.
In some cases, students would pass out conversation cards in order to stimulate dialogue.  Where permitted, students were encouraged to put up posters promoting the day.    The "Day of Dialogue" is an effort that is intended to build bridges and to encourage conversation about these issues free from confrontation or stigmatization.    It is a Day that is intended to perhaps change the tone of the debate regarding gender identity, while also seeking to promote Biblical truth.

2 - Christian music recognizes talent, achievement

This past Thursday in Atlanta, the Gospel Music Association recognized its talent and achievement during the 43rd Annual Dove Awards.   The actual awards ceremony, from the Fox Theatre, will be broadcast on Tuesday night, April 24th at 7pm CT and 9:00 Central on the Gospel Music Channel.  Plus, a host of awards were presented in a special Pre-Show event on Thursday afternoon.

Overall awards in major categories such as Song of the Year, Male & Female Vocalist, Group, and Artist of the Year were given out.   Plus, there were category-specific (or sub-genre-specific) awards, ranging from Rap and Hip-Hop to Rock, Urban to Southern Gospel, even Country and Bluegrass.   Other areas of recognition included Praise & Worship, Instrumental, Children's, Special Event, and even Short- and Long-Form Videos.  In most style categories, a song and an album were showcased.

And, the awards presentation was packaged in a way that showed the breadth of gospel, or Christian music, and effectively communicated that though there is a wide range of styles, these artists seek to glorify the same Lord and shared the same message. 

The combinations of artists during the televised awards show effectively contributed to the narrative that there are different styles, but the same Lord, and that these styles can come together in creative ways.   When you see Crystal Lewis, Yolanda Adams, Angie Stone, and Karen Peck on the stage at the same time, accompanied by a choir, you really gain a sense of the unity these artists have in Christ and how artists can combine from different perspectives and backgrounds to achieve a creative mix.   In another example, Michael Tait (Newsboys, DCTalk), Todd Smith (Selah), Group1Crew's Blanca, and Rawsrvnt put together an entertaining tribute to music inspired by "The Story".

Some of the major awards presented include:
Song of the Year - "Blessings" by Laura Story (winner of 4 Doves)
Male Vocalist of the Year - Jason Crabb (also, Artist of the Year)
Female Vocalist of the Year - Natalie Grant (5th time!!)

Group of the Year - NEEDTOBREATHE (won 3 Doves)
New Artist of the Year - Jamie Grace

Artists who had a big night included Kirk Franklin and Karen Peck and New River, each taking home two Doves - their first ones!   Todd Smith of Selah and rapper LeCrae were recipients of 3 awards, including recognition for their part in "Music Inspired by 'The Story' - the Special Event Album of the Year. 

This was the first time I had ever "covered" the Dove Awards, and while it is quite a glamorous evening, with plenty of cameras clicking and a plethora of accolades to go around, I would hope that the main purpose is to point to the God who has gifted these artists with talent to be used to glorify Him.

1 - Colson passes away at age 80 following brain surgery

On Saturday afternoon, legendary Christian leader Chuck Colson died as the result of a brain hemorrhage at the age of 80.  Mr. Colson had fallen ill at the Wilberforce weekend conference a few weeks ago, and had taken a turn for the worse this past week.  

Chuck Colson, who had gained a reputation as a hard-nosed, ruthless White House counsel - Nixon's "hatchet man" - had accepted in 1973 as the result of Tom Phillips, then the president of the Raytheon Company, witnessing to him.

According to a release by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Assocation, Phillips himself had accepted Christ at a Billy Graham Crusade at Madison Square Garden in 1968.  “This is how the Gospel spreads, from Graham to Phillips to Colson,” wrote Colson in the book Billy Graham: A Tribute from Friends by Vernon K. McLellan.    Graham is one of the host of Christian leaders who have paid tribute to Chuck Colson, saying: "When I get to Heaven and see Chuck again, I believe I will also see many, many people there whose lives have been transformed because of the message he shared with them."

Colson was incarcerated as the result of Watergate-related charges - he served seven months in prison, and spent time at the Maxwell Federal Prison in Montgomery, where the Lord essentially called him into prison ministry.   Answering the challenge of a fellow prisoner who basically said that Colson would forget them once he left, the seeds of what would become Prison Fellowship were planted in his heart, and the ministry was established in 1976.    From Prison Fellowship came Angel Tree, which provides Christmas gifts for the families of prisoners, which also has Alabama roots.

Chuck Colson's observations about how prisoners actually became involved in crime were instructive in showing him that the condition of the human heart, a life without Christ, led to people ending in prison.   He became a leading voice for Biblical truth, challenging Christians to apply a Biblical worldview perspective in their lives and to engage the culture.  Through his daily radio commentary, "Breakpoint", his involvement in the Manhattan Declaration, upholding the bedrock principles of life, marriage, and religious liberty, and in founding the Chuck Colson Center for Biblical Worldview, equipping Christian people to become more influential in the culture, Chuck Colson has established a remarkable legacy that has inspired many.    For more information, you can go to

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The 3 - April 15, 2012

This week's edition of "The 3" highlights the need for prayer for the nation of North Korea, a gathering attracting thousands this week at which attendees were encouraged to devote themselves more fully to the gospel, and a shift in the GOP Presidential race that directly affects many Christians.

3 - Prayer focus turns to North Korea in light of rocket launch, leadership change

The eyes of the world were focused this week on the planned launch of a rocket from a site in North Korea, the purpose of which their government said was to put a satellite in space, but that much of the geopolitical community felt was to prepare to deploy a nuclear warhead - the attempted launch was reportedly a failure. This event and others give Christians the unique opportunity to call attention to the isolated nation so that we can pray for it and its people. Open Doors USA, which has North Korea on top of its "World Watch List", on Sunday encouraged a different sort of launch, the deployment of prayers before the throne of God on behalf of North Korea.

As the country is celebrating its "Day of the Sun", and as a new leadership structure is being put in place, believers are being called to pray. We read on the Open Doors website that:
Christians in North Korea are bracing themselves for the April events as they wake up every day in a country that is full of the idolization of its leaders. Even worse is the increased terror level of the government. One church leader described this in his letter, “All executives, citizens and even students are forced to attend meetings. Between December 30th and January 8th there have been thorough investigations to find anyone who has not participated sincerely or has not participated at all in the national mourning of the death of the leader. Therefore all criticism meetings and self-reflection classes are being closely watched and secret agents are seen everywhere. All these movements are to prevent any sort of individual dangerous elements who may not devote themselves to the ‘military first’ policy and protest against its current system. It seems like it is part of an extreme reign of terror just to create a terror atmosphere. It is very difficult to speak our minds, even to our friends and family. There is a good chance we will be arrested if we speak freely.
According to an interview with Dr. Carl Moeller, President & CEO of Open Doors in The Christian Post, "For Christians inside North Korea their fear has increased as the government has mandated all the people to bow down to the gods of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un and participate in the celebration...scrutiny of the estimated 200,000 to 400,000 brave underground Christians has increased during the last few months. Some have been thrown into prisons. There are 50,000 to 70,000 Christians of the estimated 150,000 to 200,000 people living under horrific conditions in those prisons. Also, many North Koreans are chronically malnourished and unemployed."

For more information, you can go to The nation of North Korea represents not only a challenge to those it perceives to be its enemies, but its government is an enormous threat to the thousands of Christians within its borders who wish to worship God in an atmosphere of religious freedom.

2 - Christian leaders gather in Louisville for biennial "Together for the Gospel" conference

In 2006, four long-time friends -Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, C. J. Mahaney, and Albert Mohler - joined together to create a conference called Together for the Gospel, in order to encourage other pastors to stand together for the same gospel, the gospel of Christ. The conferences were repeated in 2008, 2010, and in 2012, with another scheduled for 2014.

This year, some 7500 to 8000 came together in Louisville to hear the 4 friends as keynote speakers, in addition to Thabiti Anyabwile, Matt Chandler, Kevin DeYoung, David Platt, and John Piper. The messages were centered around a theme of the "The Underestimated Gospel". There were also a number of breakout sessions that were offered, as well as worship through music.

Prior to the conference, it was announced that Chandler, Pastor of The Village Church in Highland Village, Texas, would be assuming the leadership of the church planting network known as Acts 29, replacing Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll, who also stepped down from his board position at The Gospel Coalition, which is a network of pastors and speakers who are devoted to a strong adherence to the gospel and the proclamation of Biblical truth. You'll actually find that many of the keynote speakers of Together for the Gospel are also associated with the Coalition.

During the Together for the Gospel conference, the announcement was made that the entire library of preaching by noted theologian Martyn Lloyd-Jones would be made available for free download through the website of Lloyd-Jones' trust, which is found at There are some 1600 recordings that are available.

1 - Santorum's withdrawal forces many Christian voters to evaluate Romney

It was an improbable candidacy to say the least - a two-term U.S. Senator, who was defeated in his re-election bid by double-digits, experiencing single-digit numbers in polling data leading up to just before the Iowa caucuses, then out of nowhere winning Iowa, then scoring wins across the Midwest before taking his campaign to the South and pulling out wins in Alabama and Mississippi. However, Rick Santorum was greatly outspent by the presumptive nominee Mitt Romney, and lost some big states like Michigan and Ohio and was actually trailing in the polls in his home state of Pennsylvania.

A health scare involving his 3-year old daughter brought the Santorum family to their home and before the throne of God to evaluate their campaign. And, after admittedly a great deal of prayer, Rick Santorum suspended his quest for the Republican Presidential nomination.

One group that had supported Santorum and brought energy to his campaign was evangelical Christians. Even though he is a Catholic, his devotion to oppose abortion and gay marriage, and pronouncements that he made, such as quotes about the source of rights - from God, not government - brought him a great deal of support from that group. There were also a number of evangelical leaders who had galvanized behind Santorum, as well. Looking ahead, we do know that Mitt Romney already has a measure of support from evangelicals, and combined with likely a good deal of Santorum's evangelical support going to Romney as the nominee, he should have a sizable amount of that voting base.

Now, Newt Gingrich still enjoys some pockets of support from evangelical Christian voters, but his polling numbers and financial numbers suggest that he is incapable of mounting a significant challenge to the former Massachusetts governor.

But will there be enthusiasm for evangelicals as a whole to support Romney? There has been quite a bit of debate regarding Romney's Mormonism, as well as his positions on abortion and gay marriage, which seem to have shifted. And, people will have to weigh and pray about those issues.

One thing that has been very beneficial to Romney all along is that he has been perceived as the candidate who is best position to defeat Barack Obama, and evangelicals who do not want to face a second Obama term, it is thought, will turn out for Romney (although a new Barna poll does show that Obama may do better with evangelicals this time around).

So, it appears the general election campaign season has begun, and it's important that Christians are in prayer regarding the upcoming choice in November - not only for the man to inhabit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but those who will serve down the street in Congress.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

The 3 - April 8, 2012

On this Easter weekend edition of "The 3", consisting of 3 stories of relevance to the Christian community, I wanted to highlight the story of a sidewalk counselor in Florida who has been released from an overbearing lawsuit, students in Oklahoma who are now free to promote their events in the same manner as other organizations, and the ultimate freedom in Christ, proclaimed in pulpits and by the lives of parishioners on Easter weekend and beyond.

3 - Lawsuit against sidewalk counselor dropped

According to Liberty Counsel, after 18 months in court, the Justice Department has dropped its appeal in a lawsuit against a sidewalk counselor in Florida, Mary "Susan" Pine. The U.S. Justice Department had sought thousands of dollars in fines against Susan, as well as a permanent injunction banning her from counseling women on the public sidewalk outside the Presidential Women’s Center abortion clinic.

Federal Judge Kenneth L. Ryskamp had stated that Attorney General Eric Holder had failed to present any evidence of wrongdoing, and identified what was described by Liberty Counsel as a "cozy" relationship between the DOJ and the clinic. He also mentioned the joint failure to preserve video surveillance footage of the alleged “obstruction". Judge Ryskamp wrote, “The Court is at a loss as to why the Government chose to prosecute this particular case in the first place...The Court can only wonder whether this action was the product of a concerted effort between the Government and PWC, which began well before the date of the incident at issue, to quell Ms. Pine’s activities rather than to vindicate the rights of those allegedly aggrieved by Ms. Pine’s conduct.”

Mathew Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, commented, “It is irresponsible for the U.S. Department of Justice to place politics above principle when deciding to prosecute, and thus attempt to silence, a pro-life sidewalk counselor without any evidence of wrongdoing. When the nation’s highest law enforcement officer files suit against any citizen, the suit must be based on the law coupled with compelling evidence. Anything less is an abuse of the high office. Susan Pine will not be silenced or detoured from her mission to save the lives of innocent children.”

The DOJ also agreed to pay $120,000 in legal fees, taxpayer-funded of course (not that Liberty Counsel shouldn't be compensated, but Susan Pine should not have been in court in the first place). Pro-life sidewalk counselors go to clinics all across America, and some face rather adverse circumstances. 2 Montgomery, AL counselors will be in court soon to defend themselves in a lawsuit filed against them because they dared to step on a clinic's property in order to avoid sprinklers that had been used against them.

The work of sidewalk counselors is being used of the Lord to bring a saving knowledge of Christ to abortion-minded women. In fact, in the midst of her court case, Susan Pine counseled a woman outside of the clinic and convinced her not to have an abortion, thus saving the life of the child and possibly the mother as well. Her email to Liberty Counsel read, “We saved a life today.”

And, in another abortion clinic note, Birmingham's New Woman All Women clinic will be closing next month, due to its continued failure to meet the standards of the state department of public health.

2 - Settlement reached in case involving students' ability to promote Christian events

On Monday, the Alliance Defense Fund announced it had settled a lawsuit involving the Kids for Christ club in Owasso, Oklahoma, which had filed suit against the school district because it had in place a policy that stated, “No literature will be distributed that contains primarily religious, objectionable, or political overtones which may be beneficial to any particular group or business at the expense of others.” Based on this policy, the Owasso Kids for Christ club was not allowed to promote its activities to the community, even though other groups such as the Boy Scouts, YMCA, and local businesses were able to promote their activities to students. Here is the story from the Alliance Defense Fund website,

The district has revised the policy that the plaintiffs had claimed to be unconstitutional. According to ADF, the settlement stated that the club could post fliers on a community bulletin board and place them on a literature table in each school. Also, the club can participate in an information night held each semester for community groups to promote their activities and have announcements made over the public address system regarding cancellation of club meetings, just as other groups are allowed to do.

So, here is a case where a school district did not allow a Christian club the equal opportunity to promote its events that other clubs and organizations had. Thinking that they had to protect themselves from some sort of Establishment Clause violation, the district put in place a policy that denied the Kids for Christ club their constitutional rights - all across America, school administrators erroneously think they have to keep religion out of their schools...but this denies students their First Amendment free expression rights.

1 - Christians around the world mark the resurrection of Jesus

Across the nation and around the world, Christians celebrated Easter Sunday, or as it has come to be called in some churches, Resurrection Sunday. And on this occasion, we can think about how we can demonstrate the power of the resurrection - we can do that by living a life that shows that we love and know Him, allowing Christ to live His life through us. And, we live out the resurrected life not only in our personal holiness, but also in the way that we serve others.

According to a new Rasmussen poll, 77% of those surveyed believe that Jesus rose from the dead. 86% of American adults believe the person known to history as Jesus Christ walked the Earth 2,000 years ago. Just seven percent (7%) don’t share this belief. So, the question becomes: if over 3/4 of the population says they believe that Jesus rose from the dead, then why do we sense that the Christian faith is losing ground here in America? If 77% truly believed in the resurrection and demonstrated the power of it in a transformed life - well, imagine the possibilities!!

Palmcroft Church in Phoenix believes in the power of resurrection...they have organized a campaign to raise thousands of dollars to bring clean water to the poorest of the poor in Haiti and Ethiopia. On Thursday of this week, college students gathered for a 12-mile walk to raise funds and bring awareness. During its Easter services on Saturday and Sunday, Palmcroft brought the campaign to thousands - participants were given the opportunity to walk a 100-yard course carrying 47 pounds of water in a five gallon jerry can, in order to experience the average daily four-hour walk that most these kids have each way to get dirty water.

On Easter Sunday morning attendees were given a bottle of "Dirty Water" and encouraged to drink nothing but water for three weeks. On April 29th, people will bring back the money they saved on coffee, soda and other drinks and give it towards the clean water projects. This is one of many examples of churches that live out the power of Christ's love and His resurrection.

2 professional athletes lived out the power of the resurrection on Easter Sunday - NFL quarterback Tim Tebow spoke to some 15,000 people at an outdoor Easter service in Georgetown, Texas (near Austin). And, a professional golfer named Bubba Watson celebrated His Savior's birth by winning the Masters. Here is a profile from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Christians celebrated their Savior's birth in Jerusalem, including a number of Coptic Christians who are, for the first time since Pope Shenouda's death, visiting Jerusalem.

There are many churches who utilize a host of creative elements in order to illustrate the story of Jesus and His death and resurrection. As attendance at churches swelled this past weekend, it gave an opportunity for pastors to not only proclaim truth from the pulpit, but for the people in the pews to be challenged to live out the power of the resurrection.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

The 3 - April 1, 2012

On this edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature, a health update on a major evangelical leader who became ill and had surgery this weekend, plus faith-based movies making an impact in theaters. And, the top story involves activity at the U.S. Supreme Court this week concerning the massive health care reform law.

3 - Colson taken ill at Wilberforce conference, has surgery

According to The Christian Post, Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, was hospitalized during the Wilberforce Weekend Conference in Virginia, which was sponsored by the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He had surgery Saturday morning and reports are that he is resting and should be released early in the coming week. The Conference is designed to "encourage Christians to break the spiral of silence when it comes to the sanctity of human life, traditional marriage, and religious freedom." Well-known advocate for people with disabilities Joni Eareckson Tada received the 2012 William Wilberforce Award at the conference this year.

2 - Faith-based movies make an impact at hundreds of theaters

The life-affirming film "October Baby" remained in the top 12 of movies over the previous weekend, which was led yet again by "The Hunger Games". Showing in less than 400 theaters, "October Baby" depicts a young girl who, after learning that she was adopted and an abortion survivor, goes on a protracted search for her birth mother. "October Baby", produced by the Birimingham-based brothers Jon and Andy Erwin, still held to a per-screen average of over $2000. The movie will likely roll over the $3 million mark in total box office this week. Check out the website at

Meanwhile, last Tuesday, over 500 theaters hosted a special live event coinciding with the release of the film from Kirk Cameron, "Monumental: In Search of America's National Treasure". The event featured a message from Kirk, as well as a screening of the film, which debuted at a selected number of theaters this past weekend, including the Rave in Montgomery. The film is a documentary that traces the philosophy of some of the founders of our nation and is designed to illustrate some of the Christian principles upon which the nation was built. For more information, go to

These films, along with the anticipated release of "Blue Like Jazz", based on the Donald Miller book, which is coming up in a couple of weeks, continue to illustrate that there is an interest in films that are consistent with the Christian faith - now, it's important that these types of films are supported, in order to reinforce what the distributors are sensing.

1 - Supreme Court considers national health care law

It was a series of court sessions greatly anticipated ever since the passage of the massive national health care law two years ago. Christians and Christian organizations had expressed concern over the expansion of government control into health care decisions, as well as the use of taxpayer money to fund abortions. The structure of the law could lead to rationing of care, which is a threat to some of the most vulnerable Americans, including the elderly and those with disabilities. Two Christian legal advocacy organizations, Liberty Counsel and the Thomas More Law Center, had filed lawsuits against the law, as did 27 state attorneys general. Polling data shows that the law is unpopular with the American people.

So, against this backdrop, the U.S. Supreme Court held 3 days of oral arguments in appeals of lower court decisions. The first day's testimony concerned where the penalty for those who do not purchase health insurance could be considered a "tax" - if so, a challenge cannot be filed until it is collected. The second day concerned the constitutionality of the individual mandate - i.e., can an American citizen be forced to buy a particular product? And, on the final day, the court considered the so-called "severability" of that mandate - could the law go into effect, even without that mandate, which is intended to provide the funding for the law? And on the third day, the court considered how states' Medicaid funds would be affected by the law.

There are plenty of experts to go around on this case, and judging from reports of the questions and comments from the justices, there is compelling evidence that the individual mandate could be struck down. But, how that would affect the implementation of the health care law is unclear. The justices are presumably writing their opinions after voting on Friday on how they would rule, and it does seem that if they strike down the mandate, then the law will be sent back to Congress to rewrite the law so that it would work without that mandate.

It does seem to be a slippery slope - if Americans can be told one day that they have to buy health insurance, then what will the government tell them they have to purchase the next day? There certainly is an element of our basic freedom that is at stake here. I believe that, from a Christian perspective, if we are told we have to purchase something, even items, such as contraception or abortion-inducing drugs, that are against the dictates of our consciences, then it opens the door for a centralized power to force us to make other decisions that we may find objectionable. And, overall, this law can contribute to the whole mindset of a greater dependence on government, rather than a reinforcement of our own individual liberties, including our right to depend on God.