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.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The 3 - February 17, 2013

This week began with news out of Rome, as Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation.   That was no doubt the top story of the week.  And, the annual tradition that has its roots in the Catholic church but which has spread out to other people of faith, as well, began this week with Ash Wednesday.   And, the Lenten season also coincides with some other Christian efforts.   Another key story involves the attempt by the U.S. House of Representatives to change existing law that prohibits houses of worship from receiving Federal disaster aid.

3 - Ash Wednesday marks observance of various Christian efforts

This past Wednesday marked the beginning of a 40-day time period leading up to Easter Sunday known as Lent.   The season begins with Ash Wednesday and continues for 40 days, excluding Sundays.   Lent is characterized by an attitude of sacrifice, reflection, and repentance.    A variety of church traditions have incorporated Ash Wednesday and Lent into their practice leading up to Easter.

Also, there are concentrated efforts that track with the 40-day Lenten season.   One of these is "40 Days for Life", a pro-life effort devoted to bringing together the body of Christ in a spirit of unity during a focused campaign of prayer, fasting, and peaceful activism.  The purpose includes repentance, to seek God’s favor to turn hearts and minds from a culture of death to a culture of life, thus bringing an end to abortion.   The 40-day Fall Campaign last year resulted in 789 lives confirmed saved during the campaign, one Planned Parenthood abortion center closed down, and six workers leave the abortion industry.

This year's 40 Days for Life campaign is taking place in 261 locations across America.  In Alabama, that includes Auburn, Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile and Tuscaloosa.  The 40 Days for Life blog has a piece about a television feature done by Fox 6 in Birmingham, which interviewed Ed Carrick, the local 40 Days for Life coordinator.

The reporter noted that “this is going to be a peaceful movement with no yelling or screaming. They simply want to offer alternatives to abortions.”

Ed talked about his experiences when he first began praying outside the local abortion center.

“I watched as the women come out; they were pretty much devastated,” he said. “Some were in pain. They were definitely at a loss for why they were there and what’s happening to them.

“And I guess to see the pain and suffering in their face, I said I would really like to do something about this, so I kept coming.”

Ed added that churches in the Birmingham community have raised money to fund pro-life pregnancy centers so clients can be supported financially, spiritually, emotionally and medically.

Germantown, Maryland just started its fifth 40 Days for Life vigil outside a facility where LeRoy Carhart travels each week to perform late-term abortions.

According to several reports, 29-year-old Jennifer Morbelli arrived at the abortion center in Germantown from New York state on February 3.   She was also 33 weeks pregnant.  Jennifer was told her child had significant physical anomalies and she was advised to have an abortion.

Because of the very late stage of the pregnancy, the abortion was a multi-day procedure.  After 4 days, on February 7, she was taken to a hospital emergency room early in the morning...and died.

Michael Martelli, a 40 Days for Life leader who serves as director of the Maryland Coalition for Life, is calling on the state to close the abortion center and to suspend or revoke Carhart’s medical license. For now, the business remains open.

Maryland’s chief medical officer and the local police are investigating Jennifer’s death, at the same time when Maryland’s attorney general has just launched a criminal investigation of Carhart on an unrelated matter.

David Bereit, 40 Days for Life’s national director, attended the 40 Days for Life kickoff event in Germantown last fall — and met a baby who had been spared from abortion at Carhart’s facility.

The mother had showed up for her abortion appointment, but the building was not yet open. As people prayed on the sidewalk as part of 40 Days for Life, one of the volunteers asked the woman if she needed help. They directed her to the pro-life pregnancy resource center across the street, where she was told about the many support services available and encouraged to keep her baby.

And, not too far from Germantown, a Washington, DC pastor has initiated a prayer effort to coincide with Lent.  Mark Batterson, Senior Pastor of National Community Church, is the author of a book called, The Circle Maker, and according to the Christian Post, the Circle Maker prayer challenge is a 40 day emphasis on calling out to God.   Batterson says,
Prayer is much like a contract...Those who pray in the will of God and for His glory are creating binding contracts backed by Jesus Christ. It is as if God co-signs the contract, and when people pray together it is as if they are notarizing each other's prayers.
This is an initiative that can help call attention to the importance of prayer in our lives.  There are a variety of resources that can help facilitate spiritual growth during this season.  For instance, has a Bible reading plan for Lent.   We can take advantage of this special time period to reflect and revitalize our walk with Jesus Christ.

2 - House passes bill allowing FEMA aid to churches affected by Superstorm Sandy

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Wednesday that would allow houses of worship to receive federal aid for damage resulting from Superstorm Sandy, as well as future disasters.

According to the Christian Post, the "Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act" was passed under suspension of the rules, which meant it needed a two-thirds vote for passage.  It easily met that threshold with 354 members voting in favor and only 72 voting against the bill. The bill will have to be passed in the Senate and signed by the president for it to become law.

The issue came to light after Hurricane Sandy.  Houses of worship were unable to receive the same federal assistance from FEMA as other non-profits who also were aiding victims after disaster.

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State had opposed the bill.  Spokesperson Vanessa Wolbrink wrote that, "Such funding would entangle religion and government by forcing taxpayers to fund religion with which they may not agree, violating the separation of church and state."

Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey contends that FEMA's policy is discriminatory:  "It's about those who helped feed, comfort, clothe and shelter tens of thousands of victims now being told they are ineligible for a FEMA grant. It is unconscionable that foundational pillars of our communities damaged by Sandy – synagogues, churches, mosques, temples and other houses of worship – have been categorically denied access to these otherwise generally-available relief funds. Current FEMA policy is patently unfair, unjustified and discriminatory and may even suggest hostility to religion."   It is hoped that such a strong sentiment on behalf of these houses of worship as expressed in the House vote will carry over to the Senate, as it takes up this bill.

1 - Pope Benedict announces resignation

It was a major piece of news that came unexpectedly and brought immediate, widespread response on Monday - the news that Pope Benedict XVI, who had served in that position since 2005, was resigning effective the end of February.   At the time of the announcement from the Vatican, the Pope was quoted as saying:
After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.   I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.
According to, on Sunday, the Pope appeared at his study window overlooking St. Peter's Square at 11 local time - during the appearance, Benedict urged followers to "renew" and "refocus" on God.
"The church calls on all its members to renew themselves ... which constitutes a fight, a spiritual battle, because the evil spirit wants us to deviate from the road towards God," he said.

At mid-week, the Pope presided over the traditional Ash Wednesday ritual.

Gregory Erlandson, president of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, publisher of many of the pope’s books, shared some comments on the website.  He said that Pope Benedict...
...continued and made a centerpiece of his pontificate the New Evangelization first proclaimed by John Paul II. He saw clearly that the Church itself needed to be reinvigorated and renewed, and it was in this spirit that he assembled the recent synod of bishops in October.
He also wrote:
At the same time, he has been a great theologian pope, and he had his own agenda. During his eight-year pontificate, he used the Chair of Peter as a pulpit from which to address the challenges and the hopes of modern society. His three encyclicals, "God is Love," "In Hope We Are Saved" and "Charity in Truth," all spoke to his concerns, and revealed both a solicitude for modern men and women in the midst of immense cultural transformation and an unshakable faith that our hope remained always and essentially in Christ.
The resignation of the Pope is important to all Christians, according to John Stonestreet on Friday's Breakpoint commentary:
...If nothing else, the Catholic Church provides people with a Christian ideal to oppose. Or, to put it in biblical language, the Catholic Church, when it’s at its best, serves as a “sign of contradiction” to the dominant worldviews of our age.

As Russell Moore, a Baptist theologian, wrote in First Things, Benedict “stood against the nihilism that defines human worth in terms of power and usefulness.” He did this in his defense of then unborn and elderly life as well as marriage. And he did this by opposing the sexual revolution, religious persecution, and torture of prisoners...

Chuck Colson would have agreed with that assessment. And while Evangelicals share these concerns, we often tend to see them as a series of disconnected battles. We’ve missed something that connected them and provided a comprehensive alternative to the nihilism Moore mentions.

That “something” is the belief that human beings are created in the image of God. The culture-wide “dehumanization” that Benedict and his predecessor opposed is, at root, a rejection of God Himself. By putting this rejection in its proper context, we can not only oppose its demonic consequences but offer a life-affirming alternative vision of what it means to be human.
What's next?  There will be a conclave of cardinals that will take place soon after the resignation of Pope Benedict becomes effective.  It is anticipated that a new Pope could be in place in order to perform Mass on Easter Sunday, which is on March 31.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The 3 - February 10, 2013

This week's edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature, includes a "he said, she said" scenario between a major northern university and a Christian club that claims that it was removed from campus.   Also, the ongoing saga of the Boy Scouts' reconsideration of their long-standing beliefs concerning gays in leadership and membership had another significant step this week.  The top story, from this year's National Prayer Breakfast, involves a well-known neurosurgeon that commented on health care, among other things, sharing a stage with President Obama.

3 - University of Michigan reinstates booted Christian club - well, maybe

The ongoing story regarding the standing of Christian clubs on a university campus yielded another chapter this week, as the University of Michigan had informed the Asian InterVarsity Chrisitan Fellowship that it had slightly revised a policy that would have forced the club to relocate off campus.

Here's the backstory: according to a Religion Today piece, members of AICF were summoned last December before university officials, who told them there was an issue with the section of their club constitution related to leadership.  In order for students to be InterVarsity leaders, they must sign a statement of faith, but the university said that requirement violated its nondiscrimination policy.  

InterVarsity member Sara Chang said the group was given the option of submitting a revised constitution, but she and the other students decided to stand firm in their faith.  As a result, the club says that the university de-recognized the group -- forcing them to relocate off campus.  But, the University is saying that the  chapter did not complete its annual re-registration process by the Sept. 30 deadline, a requirement of all student organizations.  Greg Jao, an InterVarsity national field director, called the university's claim "factually inaccurate," saying the group had not submitted its constitution because the university would not recognize it.

Jao told CitizenLink that the school e-mailed the group Monday with news of an “exception” to the policy for religious organizations.   He said that while the change is encouraging, it is not enough.  Jao related that,  “They have said that the exception affords us no protection if someone complains against the rule...”  Jao said, "This leaves tremendously big hole” in the policy.

AICF will meet with school officials next week to ask for more protection in the revised policy, Jao said.

This is not an unusual scenario - universities, both public and private, have attempted to force Christian organizations to comply with "non-discrimination" or "all-comers" policies.   Because state universities are governmental entities, the organizations have more of a recourse than at a private school, where the respective boards can set their own policies for Christian groups.   But, in attempting to force religious organizations to allow leaders and members that do not reflect their values, it places these groups in an unenviable position and shows the universities to be less-than-respectful of the religious liberties of the members of these various organizations.

2 - Scouts delay decision on gay leaders and members

It was last week's #2 story, and the consideration by the Boy Scouts of America about revising their membership and leadership policies to include gay scoutmasters and scouts continues to generate response and make news.   It was anticipated that the national board of the Scouts would make a decision this week, but instead it decided to "kick the can down the road" - opening the potential policy change up to its national council.

According to the Family Research Council, one of the leading voices encouraging people of faith to get involved in contacting the BSA board and expressing concern about this possible change, the Scout leadership has stated:  "In the past two weeks, Scouting has received an outpouring of feedback from the American public. After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America's National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy."

FRC goes on to say that:
Fortunately for the millions of active Scouts, the BSA intends to involve a much larger group of true stakeholders in its decision. "The roughly 1,400 voting members of the national council will take action on the resolution at the national meeting in May 2013," the organization said. That's welcome news for parents and local councils, who were reluctant to leave the policy's fate in the hands of corporate executives with political ties that run counter to the time-honored values of the Scouts. Although the road to May will be a rocky one, the decision now rests where it belongs: with the people who best appreciate the risks--and the Scouts' longstanding principles.
Christian organizations will no doubt be diligent in encouraging individuals, families, and the numerous churches which host Scout troops, to share their opinion on this critical matter.   For over 100 years, the Scout organization has upheld Christian values, encouraging "duty to God" and moral behavior.    Under intense pressure, the organization is making what many feel is an ill-advised and unnecessary consideration.

1 - National Prayer Breakfast features renowned neurosurgeon

Each year, the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington is an event that brings together people of power connected to the nation's capital, and the President of the United States is one of the two speakers.  The other speaker, the keynote, is someone who has demonstrated an ability to communicate and apply faith to his or her endeavors.  The overall event is designed to place a spiritual emphasis related to activities in Washington.  Although the past speaker list has not been exclusively Christian, the last 3 speakers have been identified with evangelical Christianity - filmmaker Randall Wallace in 2011, Eric Metaxas last year, and this year, a return engagement with famed pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson of Johns Hopkins University.

This was Carson's second address to the gathering.  His first was in 1997, in the presence of then-President Bill Clinton.   If you're familiar with Carson, you expect him to be direct, compassionate, and outspoken.   And, in the presence of President Obama, whose key accomplishment in his 4+ years in office has been the burgeoning health care law, Dr. Carson made some choice comments care.

According to the Drudge Report, he said:
Here's my solution: When a person is born, give him a birth certificate, an electronic medical record, and a health savings account to which money can be contributed -- pretax -- from the time you're born 'til the time you die. When you die, you can pass it on to your family members, so that when you're 85 years old and you got six diseases, you're not trying to spend up everything. You're happy to pass it on and there's nobody talking about death panels.
On debt, according to the Heritage Foundation's blog, The Foundry, Carson said:
“One of our big problems right now is our deficit,” Dr. Carson states. “Our national debt, 16 and a half trillion dollars—you think that’s not a lot of money? Counting one number per second, you know how long it would take to count to one trillion—507,000 years.”
Dr. Carson continued:
I don’t like to bring up problems without coming up with solutions… What about our taxation system? It is so complex, there is no one who can possibly comply with every jot and tittle. That doesn’t make any sense. 

What we need to do is come up with something that’s simple. The inherently fair principle is proportionality: you make 10 billion dollars, you put in a billion. You make 10 dollars, you put in one. Of course, you have to get rid of the loopholes.

Some people say, ‘That’s not fair! It’s doesn’t hurt the guy who made 10 billion dollars.’ Where does it say you have to hurt that guy? He just put a billion dollars into the pot!
And, The Blaze cites this daring line:

“When I pick up my Bible, you know what I see? I see the fairest individual in the universe — God — and he’s given us a system. It’s called tithe.”
While Dr. Carson may not have the persuaded the President to see things from his perspective, what he has done is elevate the national discussion about debt, the deficit, health care, and more.  The coverage of this event has been extensive, and when you recognize Dr. Carson's deeply held Christian beliefs, you see that his approach and demeanor reflect the principles and character of Christ.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

The 3 - February 3, 2013

This week's edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature, includes new developments concerning the government mandate that all employers, regardless of religious objections, provide free contraception and abortion-inducing drugs to their employees.   Also, the Boy Scouts' announcement that their leadership  could be deciding about whether or not to allow local troops to permit gay leaders and members has generated strong response from the Christian community.   The top story: the top football game of the year and elements of faith related to it.

3 - Administration releases HHS mandate exemption policy; Christian legal groups not impressed

Late last week, the Department of Health and Human Services, which has even stated in court that it was planning some sort of religious exemption to its mandate that employers provide free contraception and abortion-inducing drugs in their health care plans, issued a small change in its policy.   Over 130 plaintiffs have filed over 40 lawsuits, and according to a CitizenLink report, the Obama Administration has won in only 4 cases where a temporary exemption has been applied for - those filing suit have won at least 10 temporary injunctions from the mandate. 

Alliance Defending Freedom had two court victories last week - The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit issued a preliminary injunction on Wednesday that blocks enforcement of the Administration’s abortion pill mandate against family-run Grote Industries, an Indiana-based vehicle lighting manufacturer.  And, on Friday, the the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit issued a temporary injunction that blocks enforcement of the mandate against a Minnesota family-run business in Annex Medical vs. Sebelius.  

On Friday, the "new" HHS proposal, according to CitizenLink, explains how “religious” employers like universities and hospitals can receive an accommodation from the mandate based on religious grounds. These employers could opt out of the mandate, which would mean their employees would receive separate contraceptive coverage with no co-pays, but supposedly at no cost to the religious organization.

This is essentially the same proposal that President Obama offered in a speech a year ago. It was highly criticized by opponents of the mandate as nothing more than an “accounting gimmick” to obscure genuine conscience violations.

And the proposal does nothing to protect Christian for-profit business owners.

“The president gave absolutely no relief from the mandate to families who want to earn a living in business and don’t want to violate their faith under a government order,” said Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). “Instead the government is picking and choosing who can exercise religion.”

In a press release, the Christian Medical Association's CEO, David Stevens, is quoted as saying:  "This latest version of the contraceptives and sterilization mandate remains unacceptable. Since when does the government get to pick and choose which groups will get to enjoy First Amendment protections? Our founders intended the First Amendment to protect every American's freedom to act according to one's conscience. They didn't specify that only groups deemed religious will be afforded this protection; freedom of conscience applies equally to all Americans."

So, Administration officials are appearing that they are trying to try to appease some faith-based groups without actually backing down from their commitment to provide these objectionable drugs.   And, with the court success so far, it appears that there continues to be momentum in favor of plaintiffs who are fighting for their rights of conscience.

2 - Boy Scouts consider changing policy to allow gay members and leaders

The Boy Scouts of America have been under intense pressure to remove a prohibition on gay membership, as well as homosexuals serving in leadership, a policy that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.  The BSA has now indicated the policy might change - this week, the BSA released a statement saying that, “Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation. This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs.”  The national board of the Boy Scouts will make a decision on this policy at a meeting in Dallas next week.

According to a report by Warren Smith of WORLD News Group, who has a longtime association with scouting:
The BSA celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2010. It has long excluded both homosexuals and atheists because the Scout Oath requires both “duty to God” and that a Scout keep himself “physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” The BSA’s position has made it a target of both atheist and pro-homosexual groups. In recent years, pro-homosexual groups have also brought pressure on corporations that support the Boy Scouts with matching gift programs and other financial support. In recent months, UPS, Intel, and Merck announced they would no longer support the organization. 
Christian leaders were swift to speak up about this proposed change, and the phone lines at Boy Scout national  headquarters were jammed.   The Family Research Council went as far as to publish the contact information for board members for the BSA.   FRC said: 
The BSA national leadership were not prepared for the thousands of Americans who were shocked to hear that an organization that could always be counted on for standing for what's right was about to cave-in to homosexual activists and corporations which have been threatening the organization's funding.

For generations, the BSA has shaped our nation's moral character by teaching young men to do their duty to God and country.
According to Baptist Press, leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, which serve a hosts for numerous Scout troops across the country, were likewise outspoken...

Executive Committee head Frank Page:  "I believe this will be a death blow to Scouting.... I think this is a self-inflicted wound."

In a Jan. 30 column for Baptist Press, Page called for Southern Baptists to pray Sunday, Feb. 3, the established date for Scout Sunday, for the BSA board to defeat the recommendation.

"Focused prayer on Sunday; board meeting on Monday," Page wrote. "What a divine moment!"

Richard Land:  "[W]ith the admission of homosexual Scout leaders, the BSA would place men, who by their own definition are sexually attracted to men, in close, supervisory proximity to teenage boys, which invites real human tragedies. We are not saying homosexuals are pedophiles," Land wrote. "However, how many parents would send their teenage daughters on camping trips with heterosexual male troop leaders? They would not -- not because they believe that such heterosexual men are pedophiles, but because they realize that under such close, supervisory care of men who by definition are attracted to women, human tragedies could, and inevitably would, occur."

So, as the national board opens up its annual meeting this week in Dallas, it could be a very pivotal moment for the Scouting movement, as they face the possibility of redefining their values in a manner that contradicts their moral viewpoint of the past 100 years because of cultural - and corporate - pressure.

1 - Faith on display at the Super Bowl 

Before the 49ers and the Ravens squared off for Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, there was already an established pattern of faith-related events and statements of Christian devotion by those involved in the game.

On Friday morning, the annual Athletes in Action Super Bowl Breakfast featured the Bart Starr Award being given to Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.   Witten was named the award winner over fellow finalists Matt Hasselbeck and Justin Tuck.  According to the Christian Post, Witten's SCORE Foundation has funded several building projects in Texas and his home state of Tennessee, and has launched a number of different outreach programs. One program, SCOREkeepers, combats the cycle of domestic violence by placing male mentors in Texas battered women's shelters so the children living in those shelters can have a positive male influence on their lives.   Witten was also named the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award winner during the weekend.

Meanwhile, gospel music was another element of the Super Bowl festivities, as the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration on Friday night was a featured event.   According to report at, it was held at the arena at the University of New Orleans, and musical artists included Donnie McClurkin, Pastor Marvin Winans, Myron Butler, and Lecrae.   The popular NFL Players Choir, made up of current and former players, also performed.   The celebration was hosted by "The View" co-host Sherri Shephred and Grammy winner Kirk Franklin.

Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens received The Lifetime of Inspiration Award for his faith-filled determination to overcome trials and tribulations on and off the field, as well as his remarkable football career. This is only the second time the award has been given.  Tony Dungy, who was featured in FamilyLife's "Stepping Up Super Saturday" event for men at some 1000 churches across America, was the previous winner.

And, as the Christian Post reports, a Christian advocacy group against the commercial sex trade and human trafficking has launched a social media campaign to coincide with the millions of people who will be interacting online during this Sunday's Super Bowl in New Orleans.

Shared Hope International says that, in 2012, there were 12.2 million Super Bowl related posts on social networking websites during and after the game. "As a matter of fact, the halftime show alone garnered 862,000 comments," officials stated.

The organization said that these types of large numbers related to the game means there is "a chance for us together to get in the game and create awareness for the fight against human trafficking, through online advocacy."

Justin Holcomb of Mars Hill Church, writing in the Post, points out that The Super Bowl and other large sporting events like the Olympics and the World Cup are increasingly being recognized as magnets for sex trafficking and sex trafficking and child prostitution. The 2010 Super Bowl saw an estimated 10,000 sex workers brought into Miami, while the 2011 event resulted in 133 prostitution-related arrests in Dallas.

Of course, there are the players themselves, from Ray Lewis on the Ravens, who has admitted the error of his past choices and affirmed his faith in the Lord, to Colin Kaepernick, who has Scripture incorporated into his multiple tattoos.  And, I came across a blog called, "Prayers and Apples", which has a list of faith statements and perspectives from some of the players in the Super Bowl, compiled by writer, Jessica Walters.

Sports Spectrum offered an outreach tool called, "Power to Win 2013", featuring the stories of 3 Super Bowl Champions from the New York Giants: Chase Blackburn, Chris Canty, and Justin Tuck. The DVD was available for Super Bowl ministry events.

There is a strong faith element to major sporting events, and these different intersections of faith with sports can be platforms that God can use in order that He can be exalted and give His people opportunities to share truth.