Sunday, November 24, 2013

The 3 - November 24, 2013

In this week's edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature, I want to take a look at tragedy adversely affecting the campus of Liberty University in Virginia, which would not doubt have a devastating impact on students.  Also, a pro-life initiative in Albuquerque went down to defeat, but was still heartening to supporters.  And, it was a week of commemorations - including the 50th anniversary of the deaths of John F. Kennedy and C.S. Lewis, and the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

3 - Shooting at Christian university causes alarm, concern

Liberty University, the school founded by the late Dr. Jerry Falwell, and whose main campus is in Lynchburg, Virginia, was hit by a series of tragedies this past week.  According to The Christian Post,
early Tuesday morning, 19-year-old student Joshua Hathaway was shot and killed by a school security guard.  As the school's community was learning the details of incident, Jerry Falwell Jr., the current chancellor of Liberty, informed students that the twin brother of a current Liberty student was killed in a car crash.  A day after Hathaway was shot, a current student attempted suicide.

Grant Leasure, a senior at the school and its newspaper's editor-in-chief told the Post that, "People are in shock about all of the serious things that have happened involving Liberty."

A day after Hathaway's death, Colby Tallafuss, a resident assistant (RA) in the building where the slain student had lived, described the campus mood as "somber" and "introspective" and said that the incident had shaken his collegiate "aura of invincibility."

A search warrant was sought this past week by city police Detective Collin Byrne and filed in Lynchburg Circuit Court, stating that Hathaway allegedly violently turned on a security officer after informing the officer that he had been robbed of his vehicle.

"The security officer then began to investigate Hathaway's complaint but Hathaway then pulled out a hammer from his clothing and assaulted the officer," it stated.

WORLD reports that Falwell thanked the support Liberty has had from Lynchburg police, as well as from Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and presidents of other colleges, who offered prayers and services. He said that counselors had been made available to students.

Falwell stated, “It’s events like this where we feel like it’s our duty as a Christian university to pull together and to support everybody as much as possible."

Liberty is the largest evangelical nonprofit university in the nation.

2 - Albuquerque voters defeat proposed ordinance banning late-term abortion

This past week, voters in Albuquerque, New Mexico went to the polls to consider a ban on abortions after 20 weeks gestation, a point at which research has shown that an unborn child can feel pain.  According to, voters in the city defeated the nation’s first city-wide ban on late-term abortions. The reported final tallies are around 55-45% against the ban.

This comes at the conclusion of a monumental battle that saw national pro-life groups and abortion supporters engage in a furious fight in the state. Some pro-life advocates are asserting the results are something of a moral victory because Planned Parenthood and other abortion advocates were forced to spend $1 million or more on defending late-term abortions, though pro-life groups also spent considerable sums of more meager resources.

The loss came at the same time the Texas law to limit abortions — which has already closed or halted abortions at numerous abortion clinics — won a victory at the Supreme Court, as it refused to hear the appeal of a Federal appeals court decision not to halt the Texas law banning abortion at 20 weeks from going into effect. 

LifeNews speculates that the results may go to show that focusing on electing pro-life candidates and passing pro-life laws in Congress and state legislatures, rather than ballot measures, are the more successful route to stopping abortions.

1 - Significant anniversaries explore faith connections (Gettysburg, Kennedy, Lewis)

This week brought the commemoration of several notable events from history - on Tuesday, the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address was observed, and on Friday, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was noted in a number of ways, from a ceremony in Dealey Plaza in Dallas, where the tragic event took place, to an online replay of the CBS broadcast of the President's death.

And, somewhat overshadowed was the observance of an event that has some enhanced meaning for Christians, the 50th anniversary of the death of C.S. Lewis, who authored The Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, and The Screwtape Letters.  WORLD reports that Westminster Abbey in London remembered Lewis by adding a memorial to him in Poets' Corner, the burial place of Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, and numerous other famous British writers.

The memorial stone in Poets' Corner lies in tribute to Lewis’ life, faith, and work, bearing one of the author’s most quotable lines: “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen. Not only because I can see it but because by it I can see everything else.”

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, a great fan of Lewis, gave the main address at the ceremony to unveil the stone before 1,000 guests.

The weight of the Gettysburg Address was underscored by historian Ken Burns' Learn the Address Initiative encouraging people to memorize Lincoln's speech delivered at the National Cemetery that day.   Burns enlisted the assistance of former Presidents, the current President, and celebrities.   The inclusion of the words, "under God" in the speech became a topic of discussion after those words were omitted by Mr. Obama in his recording.  Burns' website and the White House say that the President was quoting from an earlier draft of the speech which did not include the words.

The Daily Caller points out that the draft most often taught to American school children — and listed on Ken Burns’ website as the preferred draft for the video project — is the Bliss Copy, which says:
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” (emphasis mine)
Historians do believe that Lincoln honed the address in later drafts after he delivered it, but there is little disagreement about whether Lincoln uttered the words “under God” when he spoke at Gettysburg.

“Every stenographic report, good, bad and indifferent, says ‘that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom,’” wrote historian William E. Barton.  “There was no common source from which all the reporters could have obtained those words but from Lincoln’s own lips at the time of delivery.”

And, while the commemoration of Kennedy's death did not generate a great deal of coverage or emotion in the Christian media that I follow, we still cannot ignore the impact of that day in Dallas some 50 years ago on the trajectory of our nation of that day in Dallas.  There were some faith components that intersected the work and life of Kennedy.  Kennedy's Catholic faith had been an issue in the 1960 campaign in which he was elected, and an issue in which he was deeply involved - the civil rights cause - was heavily influenced by faith leaders.

Kennedy had met and talked with Billy Graham on occasion, although accounts seem to indicate that Graham may not have been as close to Kennedy as some of the other Presidents to which he ministered, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times, which recounts that in 1963, “Sometime toward the end of the second week in November, I unaccountably felt such a burden about the presidential visit to Dallas that I decided to phone our mutual friend, Senator Smathers, to tell him I really wanted to talk to the President...all I wanted to tell him and the President was one thing: ‘Don’t go to Texas!’ I had an inner foreboding that something terrible was going to happen.”

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The 3 - November 17, 2013

This week's edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature, includes news out of China that some might find encouraging on first glance, but it is really just a small tweak to a policy that many pro-life individuals and groups find objectionable.   Also, the state of Hawaii is the latest to legalize gay marriage.  And, the top story involves Christian organizations responding to the devastation in the Philippines due to Typhoon Haiyan.

3 - China relaxes one-child policy

This week, the news agency Xinhua proclaimed, with this headline, “China to Ease One-Child Policy.” While this may sound encouraging upon first glance, if you look just a little deeper, the truth of the matter is that China will now lift the ban on a second child, if either parent is an only child.

Reggie Littlejohn of Women's Rights Without Frontiers, writing for, says,

All the reasons for this adjustment are economic or demographic: China’s dwindling labor force, the country’s growing elderly population, and the severe gender imbalance. Completely absent from the discussion is the issue of human rights violations. China has not promised to end forced abortion, forced sterilization or forced contraception. The coercive enforcement of China’s One Child Policy is its core.
She goes on to make the point that, while we are glad for the second children who will be allowed to be born, the problem with the One Child Policy is not the number of children “allowed.”   She writes that, "Rather, it is the fact that the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) is telling women how many children they can have and then enforcing that limit through forced abortion, forced sterilization and infanticide. Even if all couples were allowed two children, there is no guarantee that the CCP will cease their appalling methods of enforcement."

Pro-life individuals and groups continue to speak out against China's one-child policy, and this narrow exemption may save some lives, but the reality of the threat of forced abortion remains for a large number of families in that nation.

2 - Hawaii legalizes same-sex marriage

With the vote of the Hawaii Senate and the signature of Governor Neil Abercrombie this week, the state is now the 15th to legalize same-sex marriage.

CitizenLink quotes Jim Hochberg, president of Hawaii Family Advocates, said the law will do more than create same-sex marriage. It will also infringe on religious freedom.

He said Christian business owners — including wedding photographers, cake makers and florists — will lose the freedom to turn down same-sex ceremonies.  He stated that also, “...churches are only protected from being forced to participate in solemnization or celebration of marriages, but not other things related to marriage..."  For instance, marriage counseling would not be protected.

If a church opens its facilities to any outside group, it will be forced to allow its property to be used by anyone, even those who do not support what the church believes.

The legislation would also create special divorce rights for same-sex couples.

The report says that Hawaiians have not been silent regarding their support for marriage. On Oct. 28, the first day of the special legislative session, about 10,000 people rallied for marriage at the state capital.

In addition, an unprecedented 5,000 people signed up to testify. Eighty-seven percent were in opposition to redefining the institution, according to the House Minority Office, responsible for registering those who testify.

CitizenLink's Stuart Shepard discussed the Hawaii gay marriage law on a recent edition of The Meeting House.   Commentary on the law is found beginning at 23:11.

1 - Christian organizations respond to typhoon in Philippines

The death toll continues to increase in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, which roared through the island- based nation, leaving a death toll of over 3600 people confirmed as of Sunday afternoon and others feared to be dead.   And, as we see so often, Christian and ministry-based organizations are stepping in to help provide relief for the thousands who are in need, having lost homes and property and facing an uncertain future.

According to a report on The Christian Post website, over 1.8 million are estimated to have been displaced, with over 9 million having been affected in some way.  The Post quotes a statement from Indiana-based Church World Service (CWS), which says:  "Tragic stories of loss are emerging every day – mothers searching for their children, families torn apart...The people of the Philippines and other regions damaged by the storm desperately need our prayers and financial support."

CWS is working in the central Philippine city of Tacloban, the capital of Leyte province, where Haiyan destroyed about 80 percent of structures in its path.

There are estimates of sustained winds of up to 195 miles per hour and gusts of up to 235 in some parts of the nation.

Philippines' President Benigno Aquino is being criticized for lack of preparation on the part of his government for the storm, as well as the slowness of aid delivery.

The Post reports that about 18,000 people are involved in the rescue and relief effort, according to BBC, which also reports that the flow of aid to the affected area has increased dramatically over the last two days thanks to international aircraft, ships and personnel, including a U.S. aircraft carrier group.

Christian relief agencies World Vision, Convoy of Hope, and Samaritan's Purse are all on the ground.  Also, there is a consortium of agencies called the Integral Alliance, which, according to another recent Christian Post story, is an international network of 19 Christian relief organizations and an affiliate of the World Evangelical Alliance.  It has launched a joint disaster response with 18 of its members, working either directly on-ground in the Philippines or through fundraising efforts in other parts of the world. Fiona Boshoff, International Director of Integral Alliance, told The Christian Post that right now the most immediate needs of Typhoon Haiyan victims are "water, food, medicine and shelter."

She said, "Our members are responding to the needs they have found, and co-ordinating with the government and other agencies, as well as with local NGOs and church and ministry networks wherever possible to bring a holistic response to those in need..."   The road back will be long for these displaced victims and others adversely affected by the storm, but faith-based organizations provide not only needed supplies, but that incredible intangible element - hope.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The 3 - November 10, 2013

This edition of my week-in-review feature, "The 3", includes a key Supreme Court case regarding prayer before governmental meetings, in which arguments were conducted this week.   Also, for the past week or so, churches and individual Christians have been challenged to pray for persecuted believers around the world.   Plus, the top story includes not on the 95th birthday of a spiritual pioneer, but an evangelistic effort in which thousands of churches are participating.

3 - High court examines prayer before government meetings

This past Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court held oral arguments in a case involving a city in New York state that had routinely had area clergy come in and deliver an opening prayer before its council meetings.   Because of the demographic makeup of the city of Greece, New York, Christian clergy were the ones delivering the prayers, which apparently "offended" 2 ladies, who filed suit against the city.   The town had even gone to the extent of soliciting representatives of other religions, including Wicca, to say the opening prayers.   A lower court had sided with the town; however, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found in favor of the plaintiffs and the case ended up at the high court.

Brett Harvey of the Alliance Defending Freedom offered some analysis of the proceedings in the courtroom on Wednesday in the case Town of Greece v. Galloway.  He writes that:
The core questions are whether the Constitution permits meetings to open with an invocation for Divine guidance; if so, do individuals retain the liberty to choose for themselves how to pray; or must the government censor prayers, or exclude the devout whose faith calls for specific types of prayers?
Harvey relates that attorneys arguing on behalf of the town's policy, including a representative of the Solicitor General of the United States, made their presentation first:
Allied Attorney Tom Hungar... stepped up first to defend the town. The Justices peppered Tom with questions about where the prayers were taking place and the whether the constitutional line depends on the type of government meetings taking place or the manner in which people pray. Next, a representative of the Solicitor’s General office made it clear to the court that the U.S. government believes that prayer givers must be given the freedom to determine how they pray.
Harvey goes on to say that University of Virginia Professor Doug Laycock, representing the challengers, faced questions from several justices, including Justice Alito, who requested an example of a prayer that would be acceptable to people of all faiths, which he did not answer.  In response to a question from Chief Justice Roberts, the challengers admitted that a governmental official should tell clergy how to pray, according to Harvey, who also stated that, "Justice Kennedy repeatedly expressed concern over government officials censoring prayers."

You can hear a conversation with ADF Vice-President for Religious Liberty Kevin Theriot here.

Harvey says that a ruling in the six-year battle is expected from the high court in the spring.

2 - Churches reflect, pray about persecuted church

The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is historically observed during November each year, and interestingly enough, this year, there are some organizations that have chosen the traditional date, the second Sunday of November, as well others who have commemorated the day on the first Sunday of the month.   The website designates November 10th as the day, and it states that:
IDOP is a time set apart for us to remember thousands of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world who suffer persecution, simply because they confess Jesus Christ as Lord.

Also, on the site, it reminds us that:
Believers in countries such as Egypt, Eritrea, India, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan and Vietnam face violence, imprisonment and even death because of their faith in Jesus Christ. There are other places in the world such as North Korea where acts of persecution take place, but we don’t see or hear of it. Brother Andrew of Open Doors once said: 'Our heroes are not with us simply because they are in prison.'
Godfrey Yogarajah, Executive Director of the Religious Liberty Commission of World Evangelical Alliance, writes:
The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) gives us the privilege of joining together with over half a million churches in 150 countries to pray for the suffering church. It plays a vital role in encouraging and strengthening the persecuted church and also awakening churches in places where there is no persecution.

Let us unite in prayer for the persecuted church, in the spirit of oneness that Christ commanded: 'For, if one suffers, we all suffer.'
Open Doors, which is an advocacy organization on behalf of persecuted Christians worldwide, encouraged people through its website to observe the Day of Prayer on November 3rd.   No matter when churches and ministries chose to observe the day, it underscores the importance of remembering and standing with fellow believers who are experiencing persecution around the world - and that should not be limited to one day a year, for certain.

1 - Billy Graham celebrates 95th Birthday, "My Hope" initiative spreads nationwide

The stories are beginning to come in to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association about its latest evangelistic initiative, "My Hope America with Billy Graham", which rolled out last week.   And, a massive "My Hope" event in Asheville, North Carolina, close to where Dr. Graham resides, featured some 800 people who gathered to celebrate his 95th birthday on Thursday, November 7.   "My Hope" events commonly have a host, also known as a "Matthew" who invites people into homes or churches, and on this occasion, the "Matthew" was Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham and President and CEO of the BGEA.   And, just like the smaller events that are being sponsored by some 25,000 churches nationwide, the video featuring Dr. Graham, "The Cross", was shown.

According to
And on a day where all eyes were on his 95th birthday and his new message was airing in primetime on FOX News, Mr. Graham wanted his celebration focused on one thing: 
The cross.
“He’s the most humble man you’ll ever know,” North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said. "He knows it’s not about him. It’s about the cross.”
The website reports that the evening program wrapped up with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin sharing about her mother making a decision to follow Jesus through a televised Billy Graham Crusade, which impacted her entire family for Christ.

Gov. Palin is quoted as saying that, “Billy Graham has been able to articulate this message more than anyone else...He reminds us that Jesus is the only answer.”

Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae and lead singer of the Christian rock band Flyleaf, Lacey Sturm, who shared a portion of their stories on "The Cross" video, were present and were invited to be part of a "Happy Birthday" group singing, along with Michael W. Smith, Kathie Lee Gifford, and Ricky Skaggs.

Mr. Graham addressed the crowd twice at the end of the program. First, to thank his ministry partner and dear friend, Cliff Barrows, “for all that you have meant to me through all these years.” The second, to recognize his grandson, Edward Graham, an Army Major. “We’re so proud of you,” he said.

Even though some media reports characterize the message, "The Cross", as perhaps Billy Graham's last message, we can be reminded of the incredible longevity of this man of God and the tremendous determination he has to be used of the Lord.  God's definitely not finished with Billy Graham, and when he leaves this world, his ministry will certainly be far from finished - he has left a strong impact that the BGEA is devoted to carrying on and expanding upon - in fact, the "My Hope" initiative is described as the largest yet for the organization.  

Sunday, November 03, 2013

The 3 - November 3, 2013

This week's edition of  "The 3" includes news of a massive prayer movement in the nation of Indonesia. Also, the Texas pro-life bill passed this summer was set to go into effect this week, and some last-minute court action threatened to prevent two provisions from moving forward, but a higher court allowed those to be implemented, as well, albeit temporarily.  And, churches across America and around the world celebrated Orphan Sunday this weekend.

3 - Prayer movement gains traction in Indonesia

An estimated five million Christians in Indonesia are participating in a non-stop effort of intercessory prayer encompassing some 500 cities.  Indonesia is home to 13 percent of the world's Muslim population and only 15 percent of the people in the island nation identify as Christians.  According to The Christian Post, organizers hope that the initiative will result in improved relations between Islam and Protestant believers.

Jeffrey Petrus, an organizer of the movement, according to, said that, "24 hours a day, we are praying for the churches in Indonesia, all pastors and leaders. No single hour or day passes without prayers for our country."

Prayer organizers have commissioned multistory buildings throughout the country for the multi-denominational initiative where several bunks have been set in place for intercessors. At the prayer sites, participants are able to take on four-hour shifts at a time with the option to rest then recharge for prayer again.

The World Prayer Assembly reports that the spiritual awakening effort has been taking place since 2009.  In 2012 alone, 100,000 Christians, including 20,000 trained child intercessors and 20,000 youth, gathered at the national stadium of the nation's capital city, Jakarta, for a large-scale prayer meeting that was televised live in 200 cities throughout the country.

Leslie Keegel, from the World Prayer Assembly, has said, according to the organization's website, "The nation of Indonesia in particular is the Asian nation God has chosen to be the epicenter for the world impacting global revival He is planning on sending on the nations. God has heard the cries of the Indonesian Church, seen the tears and the blood of her saints poured out like a river."

The Post report indicates that Christians still feel threatened by the Indonesian government even though they can exercise their right of religious freedom. Contributing factors for their concerns include the difficulty to register their churches versus the less challenging process for mosques. In addition, Muslims who convert to Christianity often times leave Islam as their religion on their identification cards in order to not be ostracized.

2 - Texas pro-life law goes into effect; 2 parts initially struck down, then upheld by appeals court

Last summer, the Texas Legislature, after an unprecedented blocking move by pro-abortion advocates toward the end of its regular sessions, passed a pro-life bill which not only banned abortion at 20 weeks gestation, which is the point in an unborn child's development at which he or she feels pain, but also enacted new restrictions for abortion clinics.

On Monday, the day before the entire law was scheduled to go into effect, a Federal district court struck down the provisions that abortionist have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of their clinics and that they follow FDA procedures on the administering of abortion-inducing drugs.

On Thursday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that the two provisions that had been previously blocked could be implemented as the case against those portions of the law, filed by Planned Parenthood, moves forward.   According to CitizenLink, the 5th Circuit said the state demonstrated “strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits of that part of the law concerning admitting privileges.”   Fox News reports that the panel's decision means as least 12 clinics in the state would not be able to perform the procedure due to the admitting privileges provision.

The CitizenLink piece quotes Americans United for Life Action (AULA) President Charmaine Yoest as saying that, “Asking abortionists to follow the laws created for out-patient medical facilities is a low bar for an invasive medical procedure that can have life-threatening complications.”   AULA reports also that more than 2,200 have faced complications from chemical abortion drugs. Eight of these women died from severe bacterial infections that would not otherwise place healthy women in danger.   

1 - Churches celebrate Orphan Sunday

This weekend, thousands of churches across the country are observing Orphan Sunday.   According to the initiative's website, the purpose of the day is for churches across America and beyond to celebrate the love of the God who “places the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6) and calls us to do the same.  Ultimately, Orphan Sunday seeks to make the Gospel visible as Christians explore and respond to God’s heart for the orphan in adoption, foster care, and global orphan ministry. 
According to, the campaign is getting a public boost from Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman. He and his wife, Mary Beth, adopted three little girls from China and lost one in a tragic accident.
The Chapman family has a ministry, Show Hope, that offers guidance to people considering adoption and to help them face the unexpected challenges.

CBN quotes Jodi Jackson Tucker, the international director of Orphan Sunday, who said adoption is one way Christians can care for needy children. Tucker has adopted five children.

"When you adopt a child, under the biblical view that is a covenant relationship that can never be broken," Tucker told the Associated Press.

To that end, she said it's important to make sure Christians adopt orphans for the right reason. And that reason is to offer them a committed, loving family.

On the website of the originators of Orphan Sunday, the Christian Alliance for Orphans, Jedd Medefind reported on some of the plans for the celebration.

For example, he relates that a number of churches will be celebrating Orphan Sunday for the first time in Nigeria this year. For instance, a gathering in the city of Jos included eleven pastors of churches in the region, who met to discuss, among other things, the major cultural and practical barriers to local adoptions and how to create a culture of adoption in churches.

In Nepal, Orphan Sunday will be celebrated there for the first time also.  A group had planned to print and distribute some 5000 posters, as well as requesting churches to pray and do something for orphans.

The blog reports on other churches that are involved in celebrating Orphan Sunday, some for the first time.

These and so many efforts are continuing to spread the awareness of the Biblical admonition to take care of widows and orphans and to, as Isaiah 1 says, "defend the cause of the fatherless".