Sunday, January 06, 2013

The 3 - January 6, 2013

The first edition of  "The 3" for 2013 features another call to stand with a Christian family-owned company, one that is being required by the government to violate its core beliefs.   Also, the topic of adoption has been elevated, in light of a new Russian policy against American adoptions, as well as a permanent extension of tax relief for adoptive families.  The top story is the annual gathering of young adults in Atlanta which drew a very large crowd this year, challenging those attending to make Jesus famous.

3 - Hobby Lobby Appreciation Day shows support for company's stand for religious freedom

Tens of thousands were expected at Hobby Lobby craft stores across America this past Saturday, standing in solidarity with a company whose leadership has decided they will not violate their consciences in the face of a government mandate to provide free contraception and abortion-inducing drugs in their health care plan.

The mandate came down last year, and while religious non-profit organizations were given an exemption from the law going into effect for them, for-profit companies had no such luxury - they would have to provide these drugs or face fines beginning January 1, 2013.   Hobby Lobby, which is owned by the Green family, who are devout Christians, was one of the over 100 organizations filing lawsuits against the Department of Health and Human Services, claiming the mandate violates their religious freedom.   So far, according to the Becket Fund, out of 13 for-profit companies that have filed lawsuits, 10 have received a temporary exemption from having to comply, pending the outcome of their case.

Unfortunately, Hobby Lobby was not one of those, and as of last Tuesday, they were accruing $1.3 million in fines per day, after their appeal of a lower court decision for a temporary injunction was rejected and Supreme Court justice Sotomayor turned back their request to grant relief.  According to the Christian Post, the Hobby Lobby Appreciation Day campaign is being organized by Joe Grabowski, who hopes "the numbers of support on Saturday will at least send a message to the Obama administration and our other elected officials – as well as, hopefully, to the justices on the bench waiting to hear this case..."  By Saturday, some 60,000 people had signed up to be a part of the show of support.   Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who had championed the Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day in August, also encouraged people to visit Hobby Lobby on Saturday.

2 - Congress passes adoption tax credit in fiscal cliff deal, U.S. families respond to Russian adoption ban

Prospective parents who were in the process of adopting children from Russia were dealt a severe blow the Friday after Christmas when President Vladimir Putin signed a law that banned American families from adopting Russian children.  This is believed to be retaliatory action against criticism by the U.S. of Russia's record on human rights.   Writing for Baptist Press, pastor Tony Merida stated in these excerpts:

-- "In 2011, about 1,000 Russian children were adopted by Americans, more than any other foreign country, but still a tiny number given that nearly 120,000 children in Russia are eligible for adoption."

-- "According to David Satter of the Hudson Institute, 'Russia has more orphans per capita than any nation in the world. Of the estimated 650,000 orphans, an estimated 95 percent are 'social orphans' who have been abandoned by their parents or taken away from them.'"

-- "Americans adopt more children than every other country in the world combined, notes Adam Pertman, executive director of the New York-based Donaldson Adoption Institute."

-- "Americans have adopted over 60,000 Russian children since the fall of the Soviet Union."

He writes that, "Sadly, many families are already in the adoption process and have already spent a significant amount of money, time and energy only to now be shut down by the Russian government."

Citing the New York Times, he writes that adoption agency officials in the United States who work regularly with Russian orphanages said there were about 200 to 250 sets of parents who had already identified children they planned to adopt and would be affected.

Against this backdrop, there was some encouraging news for parents who wish to adopt children.   According to CitizenLink, in the fiscal cliff deal that was passed by Congress and signed by the President this past week, there was a provision that extends the adoption tax credit, set at $10,000 per year. The provision also makes the tax credit permanent.

“In years past, the adoption tax credit was extended on a yearly or semi-annual basis, making a less secure benefit for adopting families,” said Carrie Gordon Earll, senior director of Issues Analysis for CitizenLink. “The change to permanent status is key for making adoption possible for the more than 100,000 children in U.S. foster care, and the millions of children worldwide who need a family of their own.”

Many Christian families are responding to God's call to minister to orphans by getting involved in adoption.  This financial relief can be a useful provision for families who desire to open their hearts and homes to these children.   Also, pray for the situation in Russia to be reversed so that thousands of orphan children will be able to find permanent homes in America.

1 - Passion Conference in Atlanta draws in and sends out thousands of college students and young adults

Last year, some 43,000 college students and young adults attended the first Passion conference to be held in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.  It was announced at that time that the seating arrangement at the Dome would be reconfigured and the seating capacity would be increased.   This year, some 60,000 students from over  2000 colleges and universities from all 50 states and 55 countries came to worship together, to hear from high-profile speakers who would challenge them in their Christian walk, and to give toward the cause of reducing human trafficking - modern-day slavery.   And, indeed, over $3 million were given by this large group to that particular cause.

Some highlights of the conference included messages from these speakers (quoted in The Christian Post):
Francis Chan - "I want the joy of knowing that I am doing something with my life, the joy of battle...It has been a rough year for me and I'm actually grateful for that. I come out of it and say it was a great year. It was difficult, but God has done amazing things, and man, was it good."  Chan said that "If you really want to experience God, go and make disciples..."

Louie Giglio - "The wonderful living Word of God is more precious than anything else that we have...We are praying that at the end of these days you will be astounded by God; that it will not be about Passion or anyone that has been at Passion, but that it will be about the Lord and the fact that He has done something in our lives that no one else can do."

Beth Moore - "Not only is the Gospel good news, it is glad news...Until you receive it, you don't really realize what God has done for you. Today I'm not asking you 'Is it good news?' I'm asking, 'Is anybody glad?'"   She also said, "What Jesus did is enough. And because it is enough, I am glad. God's mercies are new every morning, Christ will come back and He will claim his kingdom, and there is a world coming where there will be no more bad news. As Psalm 126:3 says, 'The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.'"

And, a couple of quotes from John Piper's Twitter feed:
"Our worship is the subjective echo of Jesus' objective worth. The intensity of our gladness echoes the immensity of his glory."   And, "The universe exists for the glorification of Jesus in the admiration of his people"
Christianity Today's website reported that Passion Conference attendees gathered in Atlanta's International Plaza Thursday night for a candlelight vigil honoring the victims of human trafficking worldwide. Nearly 60,000 students surrounded a digital projection promoting the "End It Movement," featuring a spotlight "reaching up to the heavens to proclaim the glory of God."

The beam reached approximately three miles into the sky, and the illumination required Federal Aviation Administration clearance.

In his closing message, based on Ezekiel 37 and the image of the valley of dry bones, Giglio challenged those gathered:  "The issue in the world today is not about you and me waiting on the Lord—it's a lot more about the Lord waiting on you...God is waiting on you right now to get up and stand on your feet—your freedom is for freedom."

Passion 2014 is scheduled to meet again in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta during a weekend in late January or early February 2014.

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