Sunday, February 24, 2013

The 3 - February 24, 2013

This week's edition of "The 3" features a development in the tragic story of an American pastor being held in an Iranian prison - a letter that he was able to release to his wife and supporters.   Also, a young American sports legend attempted to avoid controversy and ended up eliciting more controversy this week.  Plus, the top story involves the passing of a legendary Bible teacher, author, and professor, who has taught and mentored a number of top Christian leaders.

3 - Pastor Saeed releases letter from Iranian prison

The eyes of Christians and some key political leaders across the nation are fixed on an American pastor who continues to languish in jail, where he faces brutal torture and pressure to renounce his faith in Jesus Christ.   According to the American Center for Law and Justice, the 32-year-old pastor, husband, and father was able to release a letter to his wife and supporters recently.

Pastor Saeed Abedini has now been imprisoned in Iran nearly five months.  He describes how the “the psychological warfare, a year of not seeing my family, physical violence, actions committed to humiliate me, insults, being mocked,” extremists and other bullying groups in Evin “create another prison within the prison walls.”

According to the ACLJ, Pastor Saeed acknowledges that the beatings and torture are designed to get him to recant his Christian faith – something he says he will never do.  “They are only waiting for one thing…for me to deny Christ,” he wrote. “But they will never get this from me.”

In one instance, a fellow cellmate “attacked” him because he was singing praise songs.

As Pastor Saeed writes, “It is during these harsh conditions, that I deeply need God’s Saving Grace so that I can be the fragrant scent of Christ in the dark house of Evin prison.”

Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, told said that, "our worst fears have been confirmed...Saeed is an American citizen who is being pressured and falsely promised freedom if only he will deny his faith in Jesus. We have seen this tactic used in the past. Saeed will never recant his faith in Jesus - even if it means continued torture and abuse. Our primary concern is for his health and well-being with each passing day...The most important thing we can do is pray, continue to raise awareness of his case and continue to work for his freedom."

A petition drive has been launched by the ACLJ, asking the United Nations, European Union, and Council of Europe to mobilize their resources to require Iran to honor its treaties and its constitution.   You can find out more at

2 - Tebow announces withdrawal from Dallas church ceremony

First Baptist Church of Dallas scheduled 4 special speakers to celebrate the dedication of its new $130 million dollar facility in April.  As far as I know, three of the speakers - James Dobson, David Jeremiah and Jim Cymbala - are in.   One, as the result of false vilification of the host church and personal and professional concerns, apparently, is now - out.   Former Heisman Trophy winner and outspoken Christian Tim Tebow withdrew from the event in the a wake of sports media outcry about the football star speaking at a church that has been characterized as "anti-gay" and "anti-Semitic".   Tebow tweeted out Thursday morning:  "While I was looking forward to sharing a message of hope and Christ's unconditional love with the faithful members of the historic First Baptist Church of Dallas in April, due to new information that has been brought to my attention, I have decided to cancel my upcoming appearance."

Senior Pastor Robert Jeffress, who has been a guest several times on my radio show, was careful not to denigrate Tebow, but he was clearly concerned.  He told The Christian Post told that Tebow informed him in a telephone call Wednesday evening that he was backing out of speaking at the church in April. Tebow reportedly told Jeffress he "needed to lay low and steer clear of controversy" because of both personal and professional issues.  

The pastor says the media has made both he and his church out to be anti-Semitic, anti-gay and hate-filled.  He calls such reports a "complete mischaracterization," and says his beliefs are "hardly radical ideas."  He said, "Those have been mainstream Christian teachings for 2,000 years, and I believe the reason these statements are so controversial is not because the Word of God has changed, but because culture has changed."

He also says Tebow never expressed any concerns about the church's doctrine during their extensive conversations with one another.

"He never mentioned anything he disagreed with about our message at all, but he talked about the controversy, and I think it was related to what was going on in his professional career, and continues to go on," said Jeffress.

By the way, Pastor Jeffress received a standing ovation from his congregation as he stepped to the platform to speak on Sunday.  Todd Starnes of Fox News quoted Jeffress:

“It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done — you can be forgiven of your sins if you trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior,” he told the church. “That’s not a message of hate — that’s a message of hope.”

Jeffress said he experienced a moment of personal revival during the controversy of the past week.

As long as I am the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas — we are not going to kneel before the altar of political correctness and convenience,” he declared. “We’re going to stand up and boldly proclaim the grace of God and the truth of God without compromise — so help me God that is my commitment.”
So, you can't really regard Tebow's withdrawal as a rejection of traditional Christian teachings on the exclusivity of Christ and Biblical marriage.   His home congregation, First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, holds to the same beliefs, according to Mac Brunson, the Senior Pastor who once led First Baptist, Dallas.  He is quoted in the Baptist Press, citing the Florida Baptist Witness:  "We need to pray for Tim. I spoke with Timmy recently and he still believes deeply in the Gospel we all hold dear. As an NFL football player, God has blessed him with a platform to share the love of Jesus Christ with millions. He will address other issues in his time," Brunson said. "We need to pray for the good people and pastor at First Baptist Church of Dallas. They too have taken a courageous stand for our Lord," Brunson said. "Christ Himself told us that we would be hated by the world because the world hated Him. These are days to be bold for Christ and to love one another."

1 - Hendricks, professor and mentor to host of pastors and church leaders, passes away

For 60 years, Dr. Howard Hendricks served on the faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary.  He passed away on Wednesday at the age of 88.  He was highly regarded as a professor and mentor to a number of prominent Christian leaders.

Hendricks authored or co-authored some 23 books and taught more than 10,000 students. He also served as a chaplain of the Dallas Cowboys football team from 1976-1984.   According to a piece on the Christian Examiner website,  Rick Warren called Hendricks a “friend and mentor to so many of us” upon learn of his death.

Many of Hendricks' students went on to become even more well-known than he was. Among them: Tony Evans, David Jeremiah, Erwin Lutzer, Chuck Swindoll, and the aforementioned Robert Jeffress.

Chuck Swindoll, who is chancellor of  DTS and whose church will host the memorial service on Saturday, March 2nd, said Hendricks "is the one man who has had the greatest impact on my entire life. And there is no doubt in my mind that since the late 1950s to the present day, no other teacher at Dallas Seminary has been more influential to more of our graduates, or more magnetic to more potential students than Dr. Hendricks."

This is truly a man that was so dedicated to his students, and made significant deposits in the lives of his students.   He can be a source of inspiration to all of us as we seek to pour our lives into others, especially younger people, so that they might relate Christ to their generation.

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