DOE Investigating School Over Bible and Homosexuality Comments By Jeff Schapiro , Christian Post Reporter

A federal investigation has begun in an Alabama school district  after a Junior ROTC instructor allegedly expressed his belief that the Bible  does not support the homosexual lifestyle during class.

The U.S. Department of Education recently sent a letter to Huntsville  City Schools Superintendent Casey Wardynski, informing him that the department  will be looking into the incident that occurred in April at Grissom High  School.

A female student in the class was offended after the instructor, 1st Sgt.  Lynn Vanzandt, expressed his beliefs about same-sex relationships. The  15-year-old student and her mother, Mia Gonzales, then contacted a local gay  advocacy group, GLBT Advocacy and Youth Services, which complained to the school on the  student’s behalf.

“My first thought was, ‘What if there was a gay student in that class that  looked up to that instructor?'” Gonzales told AL.com in August. “I’m not arguing  with what people believe. But what if this one student would have committed  suicide? That was a concern for me.”

On Nov. 21 the DOE sent a letter to James Robinson, director of GLBT Advocacy  and Youth Services, which says the department will be investigating whether or  not students were “subjected to a hostile environment  on the basis of sex or harassment based on failing to conform to gender stereotypes.” They will also seek to find out  if the school district “retaliated against the Student…by failing to respond  and take action reasonably calculated to stop the peer bullying.”

A statement from Huntsville City Schools, which was emailed to The Christian  Post by district spokesperson Keith Ward on Friday, points out that the letter  from the DOE’s Office For Civil Rights (OCR) indicates the department has not  yet come to any conclusions regarding the incident.

“The letter notes that the investigation ‘in no way implies that OCR has made  a determination with reqard to their merits,’ and that the ‘OCR is a neutral  fact-finder’ in analyzing the complaint,” the statement reads. “The district  will work with the OCR to provide any assistance to assure a prompt  resolution.”

In May an attorney from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based atheist organization, also emailed the district’s superintendent to complain about the situation. The email says Vanzandt “bullied” students and “preached” his beliefs to them, and claims at least one student left the class in tears.

It also acknowledges that Vanzandt apologized to students, but says an  apology isn’t enough.

In a letter of response, the attorney for the Huntsville City Board of  Education, J.R. Brooks, called the accusation of bullying “more than a little  over the top.”

“I am sorry…you do not believe that an apology is in the slightest way  helpful,” wrote Brooks in August. “The Superintendent disagrees with your point  of view. Absent further conduct of a similar nature, this matter is closed.”

According to sources that spoke with WHNT-TV in Huntsville, there are  conflicting accounts from other students of what happened during the classroom  conversation in April – specifically concerning the context of the conversation  and who said what.

http://www.christianpost.com/news/doe-investigating-school-over-bible-and-homosexuality-comments-85891/#bjfYMpHTDu6f3foR.99

What Can I Do to Help?

“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:1-2

A few years ago a friend of mine joined the staff of a large and growing church. He had admired and respected the senior pastor of that particular church for years and thought that he had almost made it to heaven when he became a part of the staff. The next time I saw him I asked, “Hey, man, what’s it like to work there?” His response was encouraging.

“It’s great,” he said. “The thing that is so remarkable to me is that when we’re in staff meetings and a problem comes up, our senior pastor always says, ‘What can we do to help?’”

Sadly, that’s not always our first response when we encounter trouble in the life of someone else, especially when it’s the result of sin.

It’s easy to want to blow off the problem so that we don’t have to get involved in it. We usually feel that we have enough burdens of our own and don’t need anyone else’s. Which makes it easy to respond with gossipy criticism like, “I knew it! That person has been headed for disaster for years.” Or we can’t wait to tell someone about the struggles of another, anxious to affirm our own self worth through a juicy tale or two. Other times our response is even more sinister. We give vent to a sense of self-righteous judgment: “That’s unbelievable! I certainly would never do that!”

Why is it that seeing trouble in the lives of others so often gives way to a sense of religious superiority as we draw the conclusion that we are somehow more worthy and less in need of grace than the person in the ditch? It’s so easy to forget that as rebellious, disobedient people, none of us deserves God’s favor and blessing.

We can’t miss what Paul is saying here. He gently reminds the Galatians that the responsibility of the believer, when faced with a sin-snared life, is to “restore.” Pause here for a moment. Paul doesn’t say to “condemn.” Paul doesn’t say, “Preach against.” He doesn’t say, “Tell someone else.” Rather, he tells us to “restore.” In fact, he tells us how to restore—“gently.”

When a friend, loved one, family member, or fellow Christian is snared in sin, the first thing that should be on our lips is, “How can I help?”

Paul goes on to remind us that we are all in need of grace—that we must be on guard, as well, against the same snares that entangle others. He also reminds us that “carrying one another’s burdens” is part and parcel of what it means to live as a Christ-follower. Sin struggles in the life of a fellow believer are not a “them” issue, they are an “us” issue, as we come alongside and gently restore each other to the joy of walking in Christ’s light.

That’s why my friend’s senior pastor impresses me so much. His response to the problems people face in his church is Christlike. Instead of responding with feelings of criticism or pronouncements of theological judgment, he responds with compassion—“What can we do to help?” It’s that kind of response that paves the way for God’s glory to be displayed. When God’s people intersect troubled lives with compassionate action, it leaves behind irrefutable testimonies of Christ’s transforming work.

Chances are some family member, friend, or co-worker in your life is in trouble. These situations are prime opportunities for the glory of a rescuing God to be displayed through your life. All you have to do is ask the question, “What can I do to help?”

YOUR JOURNEY…

  • Has this lesson brought to mind a particular sin that has ensnared you? Who are some trusted friends in Christ that can help you bear this burden and “restore you gently”? Turn today toward the freedom and joy that Christ offers in setting you free!
  • Are there people in your life who are caught in sin? What has been your response? Has your attitude toward these individuals been Christlike, or has it reflected self-righteousness and pride?
  • Ask the Lord to give you a heart of compassion in each of the situations that you have identified. Then consider asking the individuals what you can do to help them. Pray that God’s glory would be seen in your response!

http://getmorestrength.org/daily/what-can-i-do-to-help/

The Law and the Gospel

Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all —James 2:10

The moral law does not consider our weaknesses as human beings; in fact, it does not take into account our heredity or infirmities. It simply demands that we be absolutely moral. The moral law never changes, either for the highest of society or for the weakest in the world. It is enduring and eternally the same. The moral law, ordained by God, does not make itself weak to the weak by excusing our shortcomings. It remains absolute for all time and eternity. If we are not aware of this, it is because we are less than alive. Once we do realize it, our life immediately becomes a fatal tragedy. “I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died” (Romans 7:9). The moment we realize this, the Spirit of God convicts us of sin. Until a person gets there and sees that there is no hope, the Cross of Christ remains absurd to him. Conviction of sin always brings a fearful, confining sense of the law. It makes a person hopeless— “. . . sold under sin” (Romans 7:14). I, a guilty sinner, can never work to get right with God— it is impossible. There is only one way by which I can get right with God, and that is through the death of Jesus Christ. I must get rid of the underlying idea that I can ever be right with God because of my obedience. Who of us could ever obey God to absolute perfection!

We only begin to realize the power of the moral law once we see that it comes with a condition and a promise. But God never coerces us. Sometimes we wish He would make us be obedient, and at other times we wish He would leave us alone. Whenever God’s will is in complete control, He removes all pressure. And when we deliberately choose to obey Him, He will reach to the remotest star and to the ends of the earth to assist us with all of His almighty power.

http://utmost.org/the-law-and-the-gospel/

Girl, 15, ‘beheaded’ in Afghanistan after her family turned down marriage proposal

 

Girl, 15, ‘beheaded’ in Afghanistan after her family turned down marriage proposal

  • Two men have been arrested following the death of the teenage girl in Kunduz province, northern Afghanistan
  • Victim, named as ‘Gisa‘, was beheaded by her cousin after she and her family turned down his marriage proposal, a police spokesman said

By Kerry Mcdermott

PUBLISHED:05:08 EST, 29 November 2012| UPDATED:11:54 EST, 29 November 2012

A teenage girl was beheaded by a relative in northern Afghanistan after she turned down his marriage proposals, according to reports.

The victim, named as Gisa, was decapitated with a knife in the Imam Sahib district of Kunduz province on Tuesday, local police said. She is believed to be around 15-years-old.

A police spokesman said two men, named as  Sadeq and Massoud, had been arrested following the teenage girl’s murder.

The two men are understood to be close relatives of the victim that live in the same village.

Local police sources have said the men behind the attack wanted to marry the girl, but their advances had been turned down by victim’s father.

Violence: The teenage girl is understood to have been beheaded after she refused a relative's repeated marriage proposals (FILE PHOTO)Violence: The teenage girl is understood to have been beheaded after she refused a relative’s repeated marriage proposals (FILE PHOTO)

Gisa is understood to have been attacked as she returned to her home in Kulkul village after going out to collect water from a nearby well.

Her father told a local news agency he had not wanted his daughter to get married because she was too young.

Afghanistan’s Taliban regime – notorious for its oppression of women in the country – was ousted in 2001, but extreme violence against women is still rife.

In 2009 the Elimination of Violence Against Woman law was introduced in Afghanistan, criminalising child marriage, forced marriage, ‘giving away’ a girl or woman to settle a dispute, among other acts of violence against the female population of the ultra-conservative Islamic nation.

 But the UN has said there is a ‘long way to go’ before the rights of Afghan women are fully protected.

Comprehensive official statistics on the number of incidents of violence against women in the country are difficult to establish, with the majority of cases going unreported. However in the year to March 2011, Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission registered over 2,000 acts of violence against women.

The NATO-led International Security and Assistance Force has given high priority to re-establishing women’s rights that were eradicated under the Taliban as part of its efforts to create a security strategy for Afghanistan.

But with the deadline for international troops to pull out of the country – scheduled for the end of 2014 – looming, activists have warned that the outlook for the female population remains bleak.

Human Rights Watch has said women’s rights are increasingly at risk in the run up to the scheduled draw-down of NATO forces, with early and forced marriage, impunity for violence against women and lack of access of justice among the long list of challenges they still face.

'Beheaded': The teenage girl is understood to have been attacked as she returned to her home in the Imam Sahib district after fetching water from a nearby well‘Beheaded’: The teenage girl is understood to have been attacked as she returned to her home in the Imam Sahib district after fetching water from a nearby well

 

While Afghan women have won back some basic rights since the Taliban was toppled 11 years ago, so-called honour killings remain relatively commonplace in the war-torn Islamic nation.

HONOUR KILLINGS IN AFGHANISTAN THIS YEAR

The summer of 2012 saw a spate of so-called honour killings in Afghanistan.

In July a father shot his two teenage daughters dead in the Nad Ali district of Helmand when they returned home four days after running away with a man.

Earlier that same month shocking video footage emerged of a 22-year-old Afghan woman being gunned down with an AK47 in front of a crowd of baying villagers in Parwan province.

Thought to have been married to a member of a hardline Taliban militant group, the woman, known only as Najiba, was executed after being accused of having an affair with a Taliban commander.

Her murder followed a horrific case in Ghazni province in which a man beheaded his ex-wife and two of their children.

Serata’s former spouse barged into her home and decapitated her in front of their eight-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter.

He then killed the children because they had seen, police said.

This year the country’s Independent Human Rights Commission recorded 16 incidents of honour killings in March and April alone, the first two months of the Afghan new year.

During the month of July a spate of brutal killings in the country – which left four women and two children dead – attracted international attention.

The Independent Human Rights Commission warned last month that Afghanistan has seen a sharp rise in cases of both honour killings and rape, adding that many incidents of murder and sexual assault go unreported to authorities.

The ever-present threat of violence at the hands of men in a patriarchal society has also led to an increase in cases of Afghan women taking their own lives.

Dozens of women commit suicide in the country each year, often to escape failed or abusive marriages.

Divorce is still taboo in Afghanistan, and women who flee their marriages, if caught, face stringent prison sentences.

A family court established in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, in 2003 offered a semblance of hope for women in the country that are trapped in forced marriages or subject to domestic violence – but it still adheres to Afghanistan’s version of Islamic sharia law.

Traditional Afghan culture places no onus on a man who wants to leave his spouse to go through legal proceedings – he can divorce his wife without any approval of the justice system. In the court in Kabul, a woman must plead her case before judges and lawyers, and she must have five male witnesses willing to attend in support.

A recent case saw a 17-year-old girl forced to accept a marriage proposal from a man she despised successfully argued for her engagement to be scrapped by the court, according to The Washington Post.

Tragically for Farima, who dreamed of becoming a doctor, the decision did not mark a return to the life of relative freedom she enjoyed before her engagement. Before taking her battle to the court, the desperate teenager had thrown herself from the roof of her Kabul home.

Farima broke her back in the fall, but survived. Her fiance insisted that their planned marriage must still go ahead, leading the now disabled teenager to take her battle to the family court.

Following the case, the 17-year-old is back in her childhood home. Her family did not allow her to return to school, and the injuries she sustained in her failed suicide bid mean relatives fear she will be unlikely to marry in the future. While she managed, against the odds, to free herself from a fate she dreaded, the future for this defiant Afghan girl still looks bleak.

Girls in rural parts of Afghanistan are often forced into marriage at a young ageChallenges: Afghan women have won back some basic human rights since the fall of the Taliban, but there is still a ‘long way to go’, activists say (FILE PHOTO)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2240220/Girl-15-beheaded-Afghanistan-family-turned-marriage-proposal.html?printingPage=true

God Cares For The Boy Ishmael

Jehovah remembered what he had told Sarah, and he did as he had promised. So Sarah had a son, and when the child grew up, Abraham made a great feast on the day that he was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian and of Abraham playing with her son Isaac. And she said to Abraham, “Drive out this slave girl and her son, for the son of this slave girl shall not be heir with my son Isaac.” This request was very displeasing to Abraham because the boy was his son. But Jehovah said to Abraham, “Do not be displeased because of the boy and because of your slave girl. Listen to all that Sarah says to you, for Isaac only and his children shall bear your name. But I will also make of the son of the slave girl a great nation, because he is your son.”

Then Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar; and he put the boy upon her shoulder and sent her away. So she set out and wandered in the desert of Beersheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she left the child under one of the desert shrubs and went a short distance away and sat down opposite him, for she said, “Let me not see the child die.”

While she sat there, the boy began to cry; and Jehovah heard the cry of the boy, and said, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for Jehovah has heard the cry of the boy. Rise, lift him up, and hold him fast by the hand, for I will make him a great nation.” And Jehovah opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. Then she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

And Jehovah cared for the boy; and when he grew up, he lived in the wilderness of Paran and became a bowman. And his mother secured a wife for him from Egypt.

http://kids.ochristian.com/Childrens-Bible/God-Cares-For-The-Boy-Ishmael.shtml

“Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion; and unto thee shall the vow be performed.” Psalm 65:1

What a sweet thing it is to bless and praise God! There is no feeling upon earth equal to it. But how often are we in that state when we can neither pray nor praise, when sullenness, frowardness, and peevishness seem to take such complete possession, that, so far from praising God, there is no power even to seek his face; and so far from blessing him, there are even dreadful things working up in the heart against him, which awfully manifest the enmity of the carnal mind. Those who are painfully exercised with such feelings are certain, therefore, that it is God’s work to enable them to praise and bless his holy name. And does not the heaven-taught soul come sometimes into this spot, “O that the Lord would give me something to praise him for, would bring me out of this trial, break this wretched snare, remove this awful temptation, lift me out of this providential difficulty, bless and water my soul, comfort my heart, strengthen my spirit, give me some sweet testimony of his covenant love!” “O,” says the soul, “how I would then bless and praise him! I would spend all my breath in exalting his holy name.” But when the Lord withholds from the soul the blessings it so eagerly covets, it can only look at them at a great distance, view them wishfully, and long to experience them. But it says, “Until they come with power, until they are brought in with sweetness, until they are sealed upon my very heart, so as to take full possession of my breast, I cannot, I dare not, bless and praise God’s holy name.” O what a dependent creature a heaven-taught soul is! How it hangs upon the Spirit of God to work in it that which is well-pleasing in his sight; how convinced it is that it cannot feel sin nor confess it, that it cannot breathe forth prayer nor praise unless the “God of all grace” create by his own powerful hand these blessed fruits of the lips (Isaiah 57:19). Are you so helpless in your feelings as this? Are you such complete dependents upon sovereign grace? Then you are spiritually taught of God; for it is God’s teaching in the soul which brings a man to an experimental knowledge of his own complete helplessness before him.

http://devotionals.ochristian.com/j-c-philpot-daily-portions.shtml

 

Do We Matter To God?

When I consider Your heavens,” wrote the psalmist, “what is man that You are mindful of him?” (Ps. 8:3-4). The Old Testament circles around this question. Toiling in Egypt, the Hebrew slaves could hardly believe Moses’ assurances that God would concern Himself with them. The writer of Ecclesiastes phrased the question more cynically: Does anything matter?

I was entertaining that same doubt myself when I received an invitation to address a conference on the theme: “I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands” (Isa. 49:16).

God made this stirring declaration to people suffering through a low point in their history as Isaiah prophesies that they would be taken away captive to Babylon. Hearing this, the people lamented, “The Lord has forsaken me, and . . . forgotten me” (Isa. 49:14). To this lamentation God gave a series of promises—the Servant Songs (Isa. 42–53)—in which He sets the stage of hope for deliverance from hostile enemies. He foretells of the incarnation and sacrificial death of the Servant.

Do we matter to God? Christmas memorializes God’s answer: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (7:14).

Love brought Him down from the glory, Love made Him come from the sky; Love in His heart for the sinner Led Him to suffer and die. —Anon.
The fact of Jesus’ coming is the final and unanswerable proof that God cares. —Barclay

Waiting and Hoping by Mark D. Roberts

I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits,      and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord      more than watchmen wait for the morning,      more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Today is the last day of the year. Yes, yes, I know it’s the first day of December, and the calendar doesn’t change for another month. But, today is the last day of the Christian year (sometimes called the liturgical year or the church year). The yearly cycle of worship, Scripture, and prayer that centers in the life of Jesus is coming to an end. Tomorrow, a new year begins with the season of Advent.

I thought I might focus on Advent in today’s reflection so as to help you get ready for observing this four-week season of the year. At the bottom of this reflection, you’ll find a number of resources to help you understand and celebrate Advent. You may be especially interested in a new Advent devotional written by my colleagues at Laity Lodge Youth Camp and Laity Lodge Family Camp and me. This devotional guide is meant for gatherings of families and friends, but you can use it on your own if you prefer. If you’re interested in this or the other resources, just follow the links at the end of this reflection.

Psalm 130 helps us get ready for Advent by highlighting two of its most profound themes: waiting and hoping. Even as the psalmist waits for the Lord with his whole being, so do we, especially in Advent. We remember the Israelites as they waited for the coming of the Messiah. We also attend to our waiting for the second advent (from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming” or “visit”) of Christ, when he will fully and finally usher in the kingdom of God.

As we wait, we do so with hope, just like the writers of Psalm 130. Our hope is not wishful thinking or mindless positivity. Rather, it is based solidly on the word of God, on his revelation in Scripture and on his promises. Thus, our waiting is not dour or desperate. Rather, it is confident and even joyful.

As Advent begins tomorrow, I invite you to join me and millions of other Christians as we wait hopefully on the Lord together. Perhaps there are particular areas of your life in which you are waiting for God to act. Advent is a season to bring those yearnings before God as we get ready to welcome the birth of our Savior.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Are you waiting on God for anything in particular these days? Are you feeling hopeful? Are you wrestling with despair or discouragement? How do you feel about the beginning of Advent?

PRAYER: Gracious God, as we come to the end of the Christian year, we thank you for your faithfulness in all things. Tomorrow, as Advent begins, may we turn our hearts toward you in a special way. Help us, Lord, to get in touch with our yearning for your kingdom. Revive in us a hope that will not disappoint. May this season of Advent be a time for us to turn toward you, even as we prepare our hearts for your coming to be among us in the Word Incarnate. Amen.

http://www.thehighcalling.org/reflection/waiting-and-hoping