Sunday, July 29, 2012

The 3 - July 29, 2012

What a strangely active and even unnerving week it has been...welcome to my week-in-review feature, "The 3".  And, the top story that is on the minds of so many believers this week concerns the vocal group of gay activists and their supporters that is taking Chick-Fil-A to task because of the pro-traditional marriage viewpoint of its leader, as well as the hundreds of thousands who have committed to eat at the restaurant this Wednesday.  The Olympics are getting quite a lot of attention, too, and Christian athletes are testifying to the presence of Christ in their lives, and ministries are getting involved in sharing His message of love and hope.   Also, we continue to see tax dollars going to an organization that specializes in abortion - we'll take a look at the state of North Carolina.

3 - Planned Parenthood receives Federal funds in N.C. after state pulls funds

Planned Parenthood is the nation's largest abortion provider, and according to the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life advocacy organization, it ended the lives of over 329,000 pre-born children in the year 2010 alone.   Sure, Planned Parenthood provides other services to women, but so do a number of other facilities, without performing abortions. 

So, the North Carolina legislature was wise when earlier this month, it directed some $343,000 in family planning funding away from Planned Parenthood to county health departments that provide comprehensive care.  Well, enter the Obama Administration, which awarded $426,000 in Federal grants to Planned Parenthood affiliates across the Tar Heel state.  

Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of the SBA List, said: “President Obama’s decision to overrule the North Carolina legislature today marks the third time this month – and the fifth time in the last year – that he has stepped in to contract directly with the nation’s largest abortion provider."

Here's the story from an SBA List press release.

The narrative to which Marjorie was referring really begins over a year ago in Indiana, when the Administration threatened to pull $4.3 billion in Medicaid funding from the state after the legislature voted to defund Planned Parenthood. Then we have these instances from other states:
  • New Hampshire: The Obama Administration contracted directly with Planned Parenthood after the state’s elected Executive Council voted to defund Planned Parenthood. (September 2011)
  • Texas: The Obama Administration pulled $30 million in Medicaid waiver funds from Texas after the state legislature voted to defund Planned Parenthood from the waiver program. (March 2012)
  • Tennessee: The Obama Administration bypassed elected officials in Tennessee and contracted directly with Planned Parenthood after they were defunded by the state. (July 2012)
  • New Jersey: The Obama Administration awarded $3.1 million in federal funds to Planned Parenthood affiliates and other family planning groups in New Jersey, bypassing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s veto of state funding. (July 2012)

When you use the phrase "federal funds", you are referring to taxpayer dollars.   State legislatures are deciding that they do not want to put their citizen's tax dollars into the abortion industry, but the Federal government is not acting consistent with the wishes of these state lawmakers.   This action in North Carolina is just another instance of the pro-abortion agenda that is held by the current Administration.

Another example of this agenda is the mandate that religious employers provide free contraception and abortion-inducing drugs through their health plans, and this week, there was a small victory on that front, according to CitizenLink.   A federal court ordered an injunction Friday halting the implementation of a mandate that would require a Catholic-owned business in Denver to offer insurance coverage for contraception and potential abortion-inducing drugs as a federal court case proceeds.

2 - Olympics open in London, athletes seek to please God, ministries swing into action

In the wake of the spectacular opening ceremonies that were highly-viewed on NBC television, the business of winning medals and athletes representing their home countries well has commenced in earnest, and their are two major ways that the faith element is present within these Olympic games.

The first involves the athletes themselves.   Christian athletes have been identified and profiled in the days and months leading up to the games, and now that they are in the spotlight, they have the opportunity to testify to the God Whom they are trying to please, the One who has given them the gifts and abilities to compete on the highest level. 

The Christian Post has listed 10 Christian Athletes To Watch in the Olympic Games. who are representing Team USA.  They are:
1 - Kevin Durant, Basketball
2 - Charlie Houchin, Swimming
3 - Amy Rodriguez, Soccer
4 - Sanya Richards, Track & Field
5 - Jonathan Horton, Gymnastics
6 - Kendrick J. Farris, Weightlifting
7 - Arielle Martin, BMX Cyclist
8 - Jennifer Nichols, Archery
9 - Jared Frayer, Wrestling
10 - Brittany Viola, Diving

But there are quite a few other believers who are competing, as well.   Another Christian Post piece shared the faith statements of athletes such as:
  • Track and field star Lolo Jones, who has attracted attention because of her decision to remain abstinent until marriage, said in a Tweet:  "As I arrive in London for the Olympics, I'm overwhelmed with emotions. Thank you Lord for another chance and for holding me as I waited."  She has also corrected fans who think her motivation in competing is simply to win a medal.  "Sadly ppl think they prayed 4me to win Olympics & getting tons of rude tweets. Same prayer as last Olympics: to be an inspiration & honor God," Jones has shared, adding: "I never have prayed to win a gold medal at Olympics and never will. The Lord is my Shepard and I shall not want. May His will be done."
Other spotlighted athletes include:
  • Allyson Felix, also a track and field competitor, who said on Twitter, "It's official...I'm going to London!! All glory to God! I'm so thankful for the love, support & encouragement."
  • Archer Brady Ellison, who has consistently given God the glory for helping him in his journey to the Olympics.  He tweeted Friday ahead of the opening ceremony: "Here we go four years of sweat and blood and hard work to prepare for today. Thank you Lord for lettin me [be] here this week. Lets do it."
  • Marathon runner Ryan Hall caught the public's attention when he told the New York Times that he has long considered God as his coach. He shared with curious fans ahead of the Olympics how he starts out his days. "I like to start off every morning by asking God how He sees me," he tweeted.
  • Another track and field star, Bryan Clay, has also let fans know where his priorities lie, although he failed to qualify this year for the decathlon competition during the 2012 Summer Games, tweeting in May: "God first. Family second. Track third."  Clay received the 2012 Eric Liddell Award for outstanding "character at home, in the community and on and off the field of competition."
  • Soccer champ Lauren Cheney revealed the perspective she holds as she prepares to compete in London, tweeting this week: "We weren't given these talents to be mediocre. Our God is great – He deserves greatness." Her bio on Twitter refers to 2 Chronicles 16:9, which includes the passage: "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him."
Another faith aspect of the Olympics is the number of ministry organizations who are involved in efforts to share the gospel in London.   While Athletes in Action has a significant outreach to those who are competing, there are numerous outreaches that have been organized in order to reach out to those attending.
1 - Chick-Fil-A chief affirms marriage, gay rights advocates protest

It's been quite a week for the Chick-Fil-A corporation.   The week began amid emerging reports of company President and CEO Dan Cathy's comments affirming the traditional, Biblical view of marriage.   He had made the comments to a Christian publication, The Biblical Recorder, and then the media went back and found Dan's comments on a radio show that airs once a week on a radio station in Gainesville, GA that is broadcast on the Internet.   On the Ken Coleman Show, Cathy said that: 
"As it relates to society in general, I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, 'We know better than You as to what constitutes a marriage...I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about."
And, that is Dan Cathy's Biblically-informed opinion.   He has a right to it.  And, it is not unexpected from the Cathy family - their business, and their lives, have been heavily influenced by the Bible.

I believe that one reason that Chick-Fil-A has been enormously successful is that it has been founded on Christian principles.  Their being closed on Sunday reflects their commitment to Christ.  The way they treat their customers reflects an unusual devotion to going the extra mile, which is a principle taught by Jesus Himself.  And, as they stated on their Facebook page, the company has said, "going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena".  They desire to "treat every person with honor, dignity and respect -- regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender."

Isn't that the way we as Christians are to conduct our lives?  I like what the owner of a new Chick-Fil-A franchise that had its grand opening this week said, according to the Los Angeles TimesHe plans on "treating everybody with honor, dignity and respect. ... We just want to serve everybody in Laguna Hills."

There were some protestors that showed up at the grand opening, and the restaurant had to change up its tradition of offering free food to customers who generally come and camp out prior to the opening of a new location.

By the end of the week, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee's call for positive reinforcement for Chick-Fil-A, scheduled for this Wednesday, had resulted in now over 400,000 people pledging on Facebook to attend.   The mayors of Boston and Chicago have apparently walked back their threats to keep Chick-Fil-A out of the city and the mayor of New York had warned his fellow mayors not to try to restrict business because of the views of their corporate leadership, a position shared by the ACLU.    Unfortunately, in the midst of it all, long-time company spokesman Don Perry died of a heart attack on Friday - whether or not it is related to the media firestorm will perhaps never be clear, but Chick-Fil-A has had the gargantuan task of communicating a clear, consistent corporate message, and I believe it has responded to the protests in a positive, appropriate manner.  

We see corporate leaders express opinions all the time, and while people will have honest disagreements about a variety of issues, it is quite offensive to be subjected to name-calling and threats just because you express an opinion that differs from that of someone else.   Now, we do have to be careful as believers not to respond in kind to those who would attempt to villify us.  We must speak up, I believe, on relevant issues of the day, but we do so by affirming Scripture and not denigrating fellow human beings.

Chick-Fil-A is going to keep on doing what it has been doing - serving up delicious food and treating customers with friendliness and "second-mile service".  And for those who charge Chick-Fil-A with discrimination - you will definitely not find its restaurants refusing to serve someone because he or she has a different opinion on marriage or homosexuality or anything else than the Cathy family.  

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The 3 - July 22, 2012

On this edition of my week-in-review feature, "The 3", I spotlight how some Christian leaders and ministries responded to the deadly attack at a Colorado movie theater early Friday morning.   Also, a major restaurant chain is facing opposition just because its leader dared to stand for traditional marriage.   And, thousands gathered in Orlando for the annual gathering of people involved in Christian retail.

3 - Christian leaders, ministries respond to Colorado Batman shooting

In the wee hours of the morning on Friday, as moviegoers across America went to midnight showings of the new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises", dark and troubling images began to emerge from Aurora, Colorado, as a masked gunman opened fire in a packed theater, taking the lives of a dozen and wounding over 50 more.   A suspect, James Holmes, has been taken into custody.

While the details were still being sorted out, ministry leaders began to speak out and to get involved in ministering to those affected by the massacre.  The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, which was already in Colorado to minister to the victims of the wildfires there, immediately travelled to Aurora to try to bring some peace and comfort to the community.  Greg Steir of Dare 2 Share, a Colorado-based ministry that reached out in the aftermath of the Columbine shootings, offered his thoughts in The Christian Post.  

The leader of another ministry in the state, Focus on the Family, spoke out.  Focus President Jim Daly is quoted by The Christian Post as saying:  "What happened up in Aurora ... was the product of pure evil. It was the result of a depraved individual taking his free will to the extreme..." 

In another Post article, it was noted that author and apologist Lee Strobel adjusted his scheduled message for this weekend at Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch:  "The community has been terribly shaken by the tragic shooting in Aurora. Christians have been responding with prayer vigils and reaching out to hurting families with support and counseling...Our church swung open our chapel for prayer and scrapped plans for our Sunday services. I was supposed to speak on the topic of marriage,  but we've postponed that so I can address the question on many minds: Why does God allow tragedy and suffering?"

Strobel went on to say that, "it's important for people to understand that God is not the creator of evil and suffering; that even though suffering isn't good, God can use it to accomplish good; that the day is coming when suffering will cease and God will judge evil; that our suffering will pale in comparison to what God has in store in eternity for His followers; and that we need to decide whether to turn bitter or turn to God for peace and courage."

Dr. Chris Hill, senior pastor of The Potter's House of Denver, opened the church for special prayer at 12 noon on Friday. Pastors and grief counselors were available to counsel with anyone in need.

Dr. Marc Newman, President of Movie Ministry, offered some thoughts on the theater tragedy and some of the dominant, spiritually-oriented themes in "The Dark Knight Rises" in this conversation from The Meeting House on Friday, July 20th:

2 - Chick-Fil-A president offers viewpoint on values, gay marriage

The fast-food restaurant chain that has been established on Christian values and is closed on Sunday has encountered some opposition for several years now.  Chick-Fil-A appeared on some gay activist groups' radar when it gave free food to a FamilyLife "Art of Marriage" conference being sponsored by a Pennsylvania organization that has a history of standing strong for traditional marriage.  This resulted in the chain being targeted on a few college campuses because of its activities regarding this conference, which promotes God's blueprint for a strong marriage - a one-man, one-woman marriage.

Another round of opposition to Chick-Fil-A's Christian values has come recently regarding comments made by Dan Cathy, President of the company and son of its founder, Truett Cathy, who celebrated his 91st birthday in March.  Dan was interviewed by the Biblical Recorder, and here is an excerpt, reprinted by Baptist Press:

Some have opposed the company's support of the traditional family. "Well, guilty as charged," said Cathy when asked about the company's position.

"We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that."
Mainstream media outlets took those comments, as well as comments made by Cathy on the Ken Coleman radio show back in June, and began to use words like "anti-gay" to describe the practices and philosophy of the restaurant chain.  Baptist Press quoted Dan as saying on the radio show:

"As it relates to society in general, I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, 'We know better than You as to what constitutes a marriage,'..."I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about."

According to Baptist Press, the company issued a statement Thursday (July 19) telling its customers that "going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena" and that its tradition is "to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect -- regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender."  It also noted that it has applied "biblically-based principles" to business management and will continue to do so.

The statement was posted to the company's page and has received (as of mid-Sunday afternoon) over 63,000 likes and over 20,000 comments.   Family Research Council shared a positive Facebook post which has received over 4,500 likes and over 1,000 comments, as well.

The same article quoted Glenn Stanton of Focus on the Family, who said:
" we have the CEO of a clearly on-the-record traditional values company simply saying he supports the traditional family and how tampering with it is contrary to God's will. And the split-second reaction from these activists is to slander him and his company in the press and blogosphere. It just takes one company taking an alternative position to make the gay activists and liberal press hit the ceiling. But that's where we are today."
Stanton said the message by some opponents of Chick-fil-A apparently is, "Speak up for the natural, traditional family and we will come after you."  

Chick-Fil-A is being portrayed in a negative light simply for its leader reaffirming Biblical values.  As these groups have a right to express their own opinion, so Mr. Cathy should have the same right to share his Biblically-informed views. 

1 - Christian communicators and retailers converge on Central Florida for major convention

This past week in Orlando, CBA (formerly known as the Christian Booksellers Association) presented its annual International Christian Retail Show, bringing together Christian retailers, distributors, and publishers, as well as a variety of authors, filmmakers, musical artists, and others for the purpose of education, motivation, and fellowship.  The event took place in Orlando at the massive Orange County Convention Center, and thousands attended.

Curtis Riskey, Executive Director of CBA, visited the Faith Radio/The Meeting House display outside the exhibit hall, where I was conducting interviews during the conference:

According to CBA, sales of Christian products by CBA member suppliers through all distribution channels are valued at more than $4.63 billion.   CBA is the trade association for approximately 1,700 Christian stores, including independents, regional and national chains, church-owned stores, franchises, and marketing groups, plus more than 500 book publishers, record companies, gift companies and other product suppliers.

Riskey is quoted on the CBA website as saying that, “This Channel sells more Christian products than all the other channels combined...Christian retail’s unparalleled assortment means increased choice for the customer and greater exposure for the supplier. Suppliers understand that Christian retailers are joined with them in their mission, and are committed at a heart level. For us, ‘Christian’ is not a category; it’s a store-wide commitment.”

The event provided a great opportunity to interface with a number of high-profile Christian communicators.   You can listen to or download audio through the Meeting House website at or go to   An album of pictures from the event (special thanks goes to my son, Eric) can be found here.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The 3 - July 14, 2012

This edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature, includes a controversy involving a pastor in Arizona who began a jail sentence this week for hosting Bible studies on his property - or is he running a church there, as city officials contend?    Another story involves another major mainline Christian denomination that has approved a liturgy that can be used in a same-sex marriage ceremony.   And, the top story - lawmakers took another vote - the latest in a series - on the topic of health care, the first since the Supreme Court issued a ruling on the constitutionality of the law.

3 - AZ pastor begins jail sentence

What constitutes a "church building"?   That is the issue surrounding Michael Salman of Phoenix, Arizona, who began a 60-day jail sentence on Monday, after being found guilty of some 67 code violations regarding tthe use of his property for church services.  He was also fined over $12,000.  At issue, apparently, is a 2000-foot building that he constructed on his property, which city officials contend is being used as a church, and therefore must comply with the local codes.

Salman and his attorney, John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute, contend that the city is engaging in religious discrimination.  Read the reaction in The Christian Post.

Whitehead is quoted as saying on Fox and Friends that, "The key is – the Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of religion … the right to assemble and talk to each other wherever you want to be – in public or in your home."

According to a Post report, Michael Salman is an ordained pastor of Church of God in Christ and founder of Harvest Christian Fellowship.  He has argued that he has the right to worship at home on his private property. He and his wife can't understand why they are being targeted for gathering at home for religious purposes when in homes across America, people are gathering for parties, poker nights, and football games. In spite of holding weekly meetings to worship and study the Bible, Salman has maintained that the building used for his gatherings is not a church.

Phoenix officials have countered with a timeline of their own in the tug-of-war with Salman, contending they are attempting to enforce local regulations. 

The concern here is the use of private property.  Whitehead has pointed out that the early church met regularly in homes.   And one has to ask how big a gathering has to be in order to be considered a "church".   Recently, in California, officials fined the leaders of a home Bible study - they sued the city, but withdrew the suit after the city was beseiged by bad publicity, and it agreed to revise its policies.

It is a bit unnerving when a pastor or a Bible study leader has legal action taken against him or her - in America - where freedom of speech and freedom of association are cornerstone principles.   When you read about the tremendous work of God that has taken place in home groups, and how common this type of activity is across America, there could certainly be concern if this type of action is taken by other municipalities.

2 - Episcopal delegates approve ceremony for same-sex marriage

There has been unrest in the Episcopal Church in the United States as the result of the ordination of an openly gay bishop.   Many Episcopals who wished to remain affiliated with the Anglican Communion formed a new entity called the Anglican Church of North America. 

According to Baptist Press, delegates at the U.S. Episcopal Church's triennial convention adopted a provisional liturgy, "Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant", which will debut in December and can be used for commitment ceremonies for same-sex weddings in states where such unions have been declared legal, according to the church. Delegates approved it July 10.

David Virtue, president of Virtue Online, the Anglican communion's largest orthodox Evangelical Anglican online news service, minced no words in describing the vote.

"It's shocking, it's terrible. They're doing something that's never happened in 2,000 years of church history," he said. "They are legitimizing a behavior and offering rites to that behavior that is untenable, unbiblical, unscriptural, theologically unacceptable to both Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical Protestant churches."

The Institute on Religion and Democracy reports that 12 traditionalist Episcopal Church bishops have released a statement dissenting from the actions of the 1.9 million-member U.S.-based church after officials at the governing General Convention certified the "provisional" rite.

"We believe that the Scriptures clearly teach that God's vision for sexual intimacy is that it be exercised only within the context of marriage between a man and a woman," the statement reads in part. The minority report states that the bishops took an oath at ordination declaring scripture "to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation."   The dissenting bishops name the new liturgy as "for all practical purposes same-sex marriage."

This action by the Episcopal Church follows a narrow vote by delegates to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s annual convention to continue to define marriage as one man and one women.  These are certainly disturbing trends in 2 of America's mainline denominations, and reflect a radical departure from the teachings of Scripture concerning the sanctity of marriage.  

1 - House votes to repeal health care law...again

The change in the landscape and language of the health care law resulted in another vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal the massive legislation.   This represents over 30 times that the body has taken a vote to repeal at least some part of the law.   Speaker of the House John Boehner is quoted by CNN as saying, "....we've voted over 30 times to repeal it, defund it, replace it. And we are resolved to have this law go away and we're gonna do everything we can to stop it."   

Supporters of the law say that the Republican leadership should begin to focus on creating jobs.   However, because of concerns over how the new regulations will affect small business, there is a reasonable thought that fewer jobs are being created.   Now that the penalty for not buying health insurance is considered a "tax", one has to think of how it could negatively impact the entire economy.   

The repeal stands almost no chance of passage in the Senate and would definitely be vetoed by the President, but the House vote did get lawmakers on record with respect to health care, which was thought to be a pivotal issue delivering the chamber into Republican hands in 2010.  

Christians continue to be concerned over the amount of their tax dollars that could go to fund abortion.   And, the mandate that health insurers provide free contraception and abortion-inducing drugs continues to be a sore spot and the source of multiple lawsuits that are in various stages of litigation.   Concern over the size and scope of government, as well as the availability of health care services to the most vulnerable among us are other issues that have motivated a number of Christians to stand in opposition to the plan.

The health care issue will no doubt be a major issue in the Presidential campaign and other races this year.   Elections have consequences, and that is why it's so important that people of faith are active in politics and vote their values in the voting booth.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

The 3 - July 7, 2012

This week's edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature, points to legislation in California that could further contributes to the redefinition of the family there.   Also, a major denomination wrestles with approving a new definition of marriage to include same-sex marriage.  And, a large conference in Australia draws Christians from dozens of nations around the world. 

3 - Gay-friendly parenting measures advance in California

There's an unfortunate saying that states that if you want to see the future in your state and area, just look at what's going on in California.   And, indeed, in the name of being progressive and even futuristic, lawmakers in the Golden State are considering more measures that serve to redefine the traditional family and legitimize alternative family structures, consistent with the homosexual agenda.

CitizenLink reports on 2 bills making their way through the California Legislature that attempt to redefine what it means to be a "family":
SB 1476, authored by San Francisco Democrat Mark Leno, seeks to allow any number of adults to share legal custody of a child. The bill has already passed the Senate and at least one committee in the General Assembly, and could soon come up for a floor vote in that chamber soon.  The bill would, according to the text, "in the case of a child with more than 2 legal parents, require the court to allocate custody and visitation among the parents based on the best interest of the child, including stability for the child.”

Glenn Stanton, Focus on the Family’s director of family formation studies, pointed out how such arrangements may actually harm children, rather than help them.   He said, "You talk about the ping-ponging between (a divorced) mom and dad?...Now it’s three parents, four parents, five parents — and that is crazy for the kid.  If the family breaks up, it will create a very difficult situation for the child.  Increase that by more numbers, and you’ve got a horrible situation.   He added that, "No new family form that we have seen has elevated any form of important child well-being...They’ve all harmed it. This is just another one of those changes that will hurt children and is driven simply by an adult desire to have them.”

Stanton reminds us, "No family, no culture anywhere has found a family alternative that is more effective at raising good children than the mom-and-dad family.”

Another bill that could advance the gay agenda in the state is pending before the state Senate, after already passing the General Assembly.  According to CitizenLink, under the proposed legislation, those who wish to be foster parents would be required to first spend 40 hours in the classroom learning how to become more sensitive to children who may be confused about their gender or sexual orientation.

Author Dale O'Leary is quoted as saying that the bill would likely drive Christian couples away from becoming foster parents, and have a serious impact on children struggling with their sexuality.    She contends that the bill is based upon the false - and harmful - premise that sexual orientation is an immutable, fixed trait.  She says, "It’s very scary because children in foster care have already been seriously damaged.  You don’t get into foster care because you’ve had a perfect life...A child who’s been sexually abused by a person of the same sex, (particularly if the child is a boy), is going to have doubts about his identity...And he needs help to get through that...If we push homosexuality on him, or these gender-identity ideas, it’s just going to confuse him.”

These and other measures introduced and/or passed in the California Legislature represent attempts to redefine marriage and the family.  In an age where we need the structure and security that comes from a  Biblically-based definition of family, these lawmakers, and those who hold the same philosophy across the country, are contributing to further erosion of the traditional family unit, and a less stable society as a whole.  

2 - Presbyterian denomination affirms traditional definition of marriage

The biennial General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) had another issue concerning homosexuality on its agenda in Pittsburgh this week.   A church committee had voted to change the wording of its definition of marriage from "between and woman and a man" to "between two people".   After that 28-24 vote, the proposal was put to the entire body, which rejected the change by a narrow vote of 338-308, according to a report in The Christian Post

This was the latest proposal coming before the denomination dealing with various elements of the gay agenda.    Back in 2010, a majority of the presbyteries ratified a constitutional amendment at the General Assembly to remove the 1996 standard that required "fidelity in the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness".  That opened the door to "partnered gay clergy", a move that has resulted in the defection of at least 100 congregations from the denomination in recent years, according to the Presbyterian News Service.

This year, some presbyteries had called for the restoration of the 1996 standard for all clergy.  Five other presbyteries sought an authoritative interpretation of the constitution that would allow pastors to officiate at wedding ceremonies in states where same-gender marriage is legal.

Earlier in the week, the vice moderator of the General Assembly, the Rev. Tara Spuhler McCabe, resigned  after realizing that her recent participation in a same-sex marriage was going to be disruptive.   She had just recently been elected to that high position in the denomination.

Some of the more liberal denominations are in various stages of tolerating gay clergy and accepting gay marriage.  This year, the PCUSA has taken a significant step to reject the attempts of many leaders in the denomination to embrace the gay lifestyle, behavior which is viewed by many as contradictory to Scriptural teaching.    

1 - Hillsong conference in Australia attracts high-profile speakers, scores of believers

From Sydney, Australia, a worldwide movement has grown, centered on the ministries based at the Hillsong Church, including Bible teaching and worship.   Each year, the Hillsong Conference draws thousands from across the globe to hear world-class speakers and musicians.   Christian Today (Australia) reported that there were some 72 nations represented in the conference, which is headquarted at the 25,000-seat Allphones Arena in Sydney Olympic Park.

In the last 25 years, Hillsong Conference leaders say their main focus has been to "create a place for people of all ages who are passionate about their local church and to empower them with purpose for the Kingdom of God."

Speakers included Steven Furtick, founding pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, who told the gathering on its second night that, he was not ready to accept God's call for his life, but he responded to the Lord anyway.  He said, "I've never been ready. I wasn't ready when we started the church. I didn't feel ready when the church started to grow, thousands of people were coming to Christ, but the church got bigger than the town I grew up in. I wasn't ready for that."

He went on to say that, "Since God doesn't need you to feel ready – news flash – He just wants you to obey and follow Him. God doesn't need you to feel ready for what He's calling you to do."

Passion movement founder Louie Giglio recounted a low point in his life when he was struggling with stress and depression.  He told the story of how God gave him a song in his heart:  "...Just four lines: Be still my soul there is a healer. His love is deeper than the sea. His mercy is unfailing. His arms a fortress for the weak," he said. "And then this little phrase, 'I lift my hands to believe again.' I'm thinking that from two o'clock to 4 o'clock that night I sang that song."

Giglio's difficult time came during the middle of a church plant and the death of loved ones, said that although things became better for him after his first prayers and singing to God, there were many daily struggles yet to overcome.

He said he eventually did receive help from a doctor, but...It was a weapon of praise that led me out of the darkness and back into the land of the living. It was praise that ripped open that cloud and allowed the light of God's love to shine in and draw me back up into the symphony of all creation."

Other speakers included Joyce Meyer and Joseph Prince. Guest worship leaders included Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman. The Hillsong leadership team is composed of Brian Houston, Bobbie Houston, Joel Houston, Reuben Morgan, Joel A'Bell, and Julia A'Bell.

It makes a significant impact when thousands of Christians from all across the globe become energized and motivated in their walk with Christ, and the ministry of Hillsong has been used significantly to draw believers closer to Christ and help them to develop a greater passion for him.  

The Hillsong Live worship team has released a new project, "Cornerstone", videos are available at, and the team will be touring the U.S. this fall.   One stop is in Birmingham, AL on September 18th at the Boutwell Auditorium.  You can find tour information at that Facebook page, as well.